The Sheriff of Nottingham in USA – Part Fourteen – New York – Day One

Boston Logan airport is a laid back place. Rather than the racks upon racks of plastic seating, they have rocking chairs. How cool is that.

Airports, laid back Boston style
Airports, laid back Boston style

They also have food chains I have never heard of but would love to see in England. The one I ate at was called U Food Grill, which worryingly seems to be backed by George Forman. Anyway, for fast food it was actually pretty good.

UFood Grill - Home to the Unfries and grilled chicken Bruschetta
UFood Grill - Home to the Unfries and grilled chicken Bruschetta

I seem to have accidentally upset some of the good people of Boston. Not sure why though, because I loved the place, but I had the audacity to ask a policeman for directions and then try and follow some non existent road signs and got some good old fashioned national stereotyping thrown at me as well as a few who made the effort to read the article.

Criticism of any sort can only be constructive if it’s well intentioned and comes from someone who’s seen seven cities in ten days (Nottingham, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and now New York). You’re much better off hearing it from someone who cares enough to tell you than not to hear it at all. You can read the ongoing debate about my typical British character and the various attractions in Boston here on what has to be Boston’s most popular blog.

So, onto New York. So good they named it twice apparently, but if first impressions of La Guardia Airport are anything to go by, I thought I was going to hate it. It’s like East Midlands Airport used to be before it saw the light and called itself Nottingham East Midlands and then lost its nerve and backed down again – because everyone knows where the east midlands are don’t they? Err no, but Nottingham and all its worldwide connections is without doubt a better name on which to hang it, if they want anyone else in the world to have heard of it and fly there on a whim.

The drive here was an exercise in swerving honking and seeing who could be the most aggressive. Considering there are signs up at every intersection saying ‘No Honking $350 fine’ it has to be the most ignored street furniture ever and the loudest drivers city anywhere. But at least they do have Hybrids now, although you have to pay a $4.50 premium on your fare to travel in them!

They even have hybrid taxi's in New York now, but you have to pay extra for the privilege of using them
They even have hybrid taxi's in New York now, but you have to pay extra for the privilege of using them

The hotel we’re staying at is the Gem Hotel in SoHo (South Houston) which gets good Tripadvisor ratings but has the tiny rooms so typical of any budget hotel in a major city. It’s a great place in the heart of where it’s happening and has a feel of the Ibis Hotel in the Pod on the edge of the Lace Market.

We wanted to see the Top of the Rocks at the Rockerfeller Center. It’s another massive viewpoint that gives you a view across the City and we really need to understand how they do these sorts of things US style.

So, it was off down Bleecker Street for the walk to Rockerfeller. We called in at the Greenwich Village Bistro for a few lovely beers at the roadside and took in the buzz of the place. It is so similar to or own London Soho and if we could create that sort of buzz in the Lacemarket in Bildurn’s Lace Market Square, we’d have one hell of a destination for people to come and enjoy their time in the City.

And then to John’s Pizzeria for tea. This place looks an utter dump but creates the most beautiful pizza. Two were shared across the six of us and we all left full, they were that big. It’s a bit of a celebrity hang out with pics of Frank Sinatra and Joe Frazier of the wall. All the wooden benches are scratched with dates, names and times and the waiters are all grungy Muscle boys. But it’s brilliant.

John's Pizzeria of Bleacker Street
John's Pizzeria of Bleacker Street

We had a long talk about what they’d done right over dinner and concluded that they’ve stuck to their knitting. They do pizza and that’s it. No slices and cash only. It’s like a much rougher version of Pizza Savai. Great food, really sensible prices and still family run. It also brought on the discussion about how few non-chain pizza places we have to eat at in Nottingham. Surely there has to be room for another good one or two?

We then braved the New York Metro, which was stiflingly hot until you got on the trains themselves. They’re all air conditioned. They’re much longer and wider than the London Underground trains and the mapping as to how to find your way around it seems to an outsider, random to say the least. It may be a scale thing as Manhattan Island is so massive, but there were barely any maps inside the trains and it’s assumed you know where you’re going.

The New York Metro - Possibly the most difficult underground system in the world
The New York Metro - Possibly the most difficult underground system in the world

So, onto the Rockerfeller’s Top of the Rocks. Built in 1929 it’s huge at 850 feet tall and the advantage it has over the view from the Empire State Building is that you get a view of the Empire state Building, with the Chrysler Building thrown in free.

You follow a route through an exhibition about its building and then walk into the lift, which literally flies up its 68 floors. If you want to, you can still walk up another two in order to be at the very top. The views are amazing.

The view of the Empire State Building from Top of the Rocks
The view of the Empire State Building from Top of the Rocks

These shots just don’t do it justice. The scale is just awe inspiring and one that could only really be recreated if Nottingham expanded to such a degree that it was connected to Derby and Leicester. It’s that big. Here’s another with the black area in the middle being Central Park.

Central park from Top of the Rocks - Awe Inspiring
Central Park from Top of the Rocks - Awe Inspiring

The trip back to the hotel was far more challenging with express trains overtaking local ones. Serious confusion set in and it was three changes before we got back to where we should be.

I’m a bit behind on my writing, so tomorrow, I’ll be writing about our last day on official duty tomorrow and we’ll be off the amazing new Highline Project, the Cupping room, Ground Zero, Chelsea Market, Central Park, The Natural History Museum with its planetarium and other stuff I’ve seen on the way.

See you then.

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The Sheriff of Nottingham in USA – Part Thirteen – Boston to New York

For what was supposed to be a really relaxed morning, it turned into another early start and manic morning. We separated into three groups.

Stephen Barker and the Sheriff went over to Essex County to meet Sheriff Cousins and his team. Tim Garratt and Nick Hammond took the walking tour and myself and the Sheriff’s Lady, Adela took a walk to the world famous Cheers Bar (which was closed as it was too early in the morning) and then onto the Museum of Science, based on the waterfront. Tim will write a guest blog that I’ll add below, but first I need to finish up on yesterday’s visits, with our tour of the USS Constitution.

It was built in 1795 and could carry up to 55 huge guns. It’s currently in the process of a very major restoration, which is being part navy funded and part public funded. It still sails four times a year.

Old ironsides - The USS Constitution - Officially the oldest warship afloat and still an operational US Navy ship
Old ironsides - The USS Constitution - Officially the oldest warship afloat and still an operational US Navy ship

The word authenticity is everything and we were give the opportunity to climb right down into the gunpowder store. In its heyday, this would have been the workplace for 20 hours a day for up to three young boys who worked as gunpowder runners, delivering the powder to all of the cannons on the higher decks. It was horrifically small, amazingly claustrophobic and stiflingly hot – and that is when its sitting in a dock. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the height of battle in the early 1800’s

The gunpowder store at the bottom of the boat and the workplace for 20 hours a day of three boys - in this photo, the resting place for two boys
The gunpowder store at the bottom of the boat and the workplace for 20 hours a day of three boys - in this photo, the resting place for two boys

A nice small fact that came out from our bright young tour guide was that if you are in the US Navy and brave enough to win a Medal of Honour, it will have been made from some of the copper rivets on the USS Constitution that are replaced in rotation to prevent fatigue.

The learning from this is probably less so than some of the others places we have visited, other than the quality and knowledge of the guide. He is a serving Navy junior and has a two year rotation on this ship before transferring over to Florida to start his training in Avionics, in order to become a aircraft mechanic, working on the aircraft carriers. Whether it’s just the American way or just the Navy way, but he seemed genuinely proud to be serving (even if his role was mainly as a tour guide) on such an important part of American Naval history.

So, Cheers Bar. About a mile from our hotel, so we walked it. Boston like most US cities isn’t exactly geared up for walking, but it was worth doing, to see the beautifully clean streets which look like the most grand merchant areas of Manchester and Liverpool. They were mostly flats now, but they were all immaculate. No peeling paint, no scruffy steps and no litter anywhere. Funnily enough, there were no ‘for sale’ signs either. This may be a local byelaw, but it could also be that people never sell them.

Cheers Bar is in the Beacon Hill district and is actually a bar called the Bull and Finch Pub. In truth it looks slightly tired, but we didn’t get to see inside as we arrived a good while before they open at 11am.

Er, the closed Cheers Pub - or as it's real name is, the Bull and Finch pub
Er, the closed Cheers Pub - or as it's real name is, the Bull and Finch pub

It’s interesting though that whilst I was never a particular fan of Cheers and haven’t seen sight nor sound of it on TV in years, I was still pleased to be able to see it.

Cheers, The Pub from the TV series in the lovely Beacon Hill District of Town
Cheers, The Pub from the TV series in the lovely Beacon Hill District of Town

With our own Trip to Jerusalem pub, we have one of the (if not the) oldest pubs in the world and I wonder whether we actually make enough of it as a tourist attraction. I know when we did some research about what people knew about the City, what it stood for and what made it stand out, it was rarely if every mentioned in the 768 responses we got back from the extremely broad sample we poled. I understand it’s a commercial venture and a licensed commercial venture at that, but this place needs to be used far more centrally in the marketing of the city.

As we have seen with the USS Constitution being the oldest boat afloat and the Pilgrim hall being the oldest museum being the oldest museum that’s operated continually as a museum, we have to find its angle even if it is a little contrived. If we can mark it out as clear and demonstrably different, then people will come, just to be seen at the oldest inn in Britain.

After Cheers, Adela and I kept walking towards the Museum of Science, which is huge, has its own IMAX cinema and began life in 1830 as the Boston Society of Natural History.

Museum of Science, Boston
Museum of Science, Boston

The walk there was quite a tough one for quite a few reasons. Firstly there is no signage at all for a pedestrian. Considering this place has been around for such a long time and it is quite so huge, it would seem logical to me, that they include even a few signs for how to get there.

Secondly, even without the signs, there is no logical way to walk. You are constantly crossing, recrossing and doubling back in order to get to an area that is anything other than along the side of a freeway. And that water. You can see it from certain places, but you can’t walk along the side of it to get there. In the two l=miles we walked from Cheers to MOS, there could not have been more than 100 metres of waterside walk. It makes me appreciate what a great job they’ve done on the side of the Thames and how little we make of our riverside.

And thirdly, there are too many commercial ventures to protect. At the side of the Museum is a huge queue of ducks dragging people in for $30 a time for tours around the city. They are a hop on, hop off event and there are loads of them. Boston had more walkers than other US cities, but there still weren’t many of them, so between the duck companies and the controlling authorities they seem to have ‘tied’ the market up.

Maybe you can't really walk there because the city tourism is run by the 'ducks'
Maybe you can't really walk there because the city tourism is run by the 'ducks'

Inside the museum, there were a few brilliant things. The Foucault clock was slow, and mesmerising and could be watched for hours (if you weren’t rushing)

The Foucault Pendulum at the Museum of Science, Boston
The Foucault Pendulum at the Museum of Science, Boston

But my favourite bit and sorry for the quality of the pic, but it was all behind glass and not brilliantly lt for photography, was at the back of the IMAX, where the projection room was part of the display. For a geek like me, who loves this type of machinery, to get to see the working projection room was priceless.

The IMAX projection equipment is part of the display
The IMAX projection equipment is part of the display

Anyway, its off to the hotel, via the most tortured Subway system I have ever seen and then off to New York.

Firstly though, Tim Garratt and Nick Hammond did the Freedom Trail around Boston, a sort of walking trail through some of its historical regions and Tim has kindly written me a guest blog, which is here below.

Guest blog – Tim Garratt – 15 September 2009

Billed as “The Freedom Trail”, Boston has a historic walk which runs for 2 ½ miles and takes in 16 sites.

It starts at a Visitor Center on the edge of Boston Common (a sort of Central Park thing) – and then weaves through the old part of the town.

You have a choice of DIY or escorted. Both follow a red brick or painted line in the pavement and eat each interest point there is a brass plaque set in the pavement where you stop and take in the sight.

The brass plaque of the freedom Trail
The brass plaque of the freedom Trail

We picked up a $3 map and guide – which is badly laid out and reminds you of the old paper origami maps – easy to take apart but impossible to put back together! Fortunately it wasn’t raining – we would have had a soggy mush to help us along.

The first stop was very impressive Massachusetts State House – complete with real 23ct gold topped roof. Not sure Nottingham is ready for this! It cost $133,000 in 1798 – five times over budget.

The Statehouse with it's 23 Carat Gold roof - is Nottingham ready for this?
The Statehouse with it's 23 Carat Gold roof - is Nottingham ready for this?

We then meandered through the ancient streets until we happened upon the Kings Chapel – built originally in 1749. Inside it houses the oldest pulpit in the USA, but the best feature were the individual pew boxes – which were sold to wealthy families! Washington came here in 1789.

The Kings Chapel

Back on the Street we continued towards the USS Constitution and stopped by the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770. The site is marked by a stone circle – we were somewhat underwhelmed by the monument. It’s a traffic island!

The stone circle to mark the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770
The stone circle to mark the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770

Out of time we opted out of the tour at this point and headed back into town. So our impression. It’s a great idea – and the pathway is something that can transfer. But the destinations are mixed and we walked past a few. At the Kings Chapel we were invited to part with cash; so if you do this at each tour stop it can be quite expensive. The guide was expensive and rubbish – it would have been a liability in rain. It also very clearly marked us a tourists and I couldn’t help but wonder about being targets as we concentrated on finding things. If I am really honest we got bored. I (as a surveyor) found interest in the buildings but the story seemed a bit disjointed. Perhaps we would have been better with the uniformed tour guide.

TG

The Sheriff of Nottingham in USA – Part Twelve – Boston and Plymouth

I’m really conscious about how many times I’ve used the word ‘amazing’ on this trip so far, but today has been, well, amazing.

The position of the Sheriff of Nottingham has real significance in Plymouth. We have been treated like royalty, right down to the fact that our own Sheriff Leon, was curtseyed by some of the staff as we arrived at the Mayflower II in Plymouth – a beautiful town north of Boston and home to our very own Scrooby based ancestors.

We took the train from Boston South Station at 08.56, which to us was still well before 6am after out three hour time change last night. It’s a busy chaotic station and the home to Amtrak and the more commuter based double decker trains. Obviously we sat on the top deck (because it was there) and the trip to Plymouth was cheap and very efficient.

The Sheriff Leon on the train to Plymouth
The Sheriff Leon on the train to Plymouth

Even whilst we were arriving at the station, we were grabbed by a man called Evert Lanman, who has lived in Plymouth all his life – apart from the four years he served in the US Navy – he could not have been more proud (and surprised) to be meeting the real sheriff of Nottingham.

The Sheriff, his Lady and the lovely Evert Lanman at Plymouth station
The Sheriff, his Lady and the lovely Evert Lanman at Plymouth station

We were met by Deputy Phil Huang, our driver for the day in his blacked out van, more used to transporting people between court appearances than driving people between tourist attractions I suspect.

The Mayflower II is a 1957 reproduction of the original Mayflower that brought the Original Settlers to the USA.

The Mayflower II in Plymouth Harbour in all its glory
The Mayflower II in Plymouth Harbour in all its glory

It’s very much a ‘living’ history visitor attraction. The line that summed this up best came from Shelley Jo, who worked at the attraction, and was one we have to use somewhere in our attraction.

‘We don’t have artefacts, just attitudes’

This was incredibly evident. The exhibition panels were very much of the traditional variety, but when you step onto the boat, the people who work on there are completely in character and try as you might, you cannot break them out of it. They not only dress for a character of their time, they speak, eat and behave as a character of their time. Robert Coppen, the ships mate appeared genuinely shocked that someone would want to shake his hand upon our arrival as it was a custom that had not yet begun.

John Coppen, Ships Mate aboard the Mayflower II - He doesn't do shaking hands yet
John Coppen, Ships Mate aboard the Mayflower II - He doesn't do shaking hands yet

The waiter at the Cabby Shack, where we went for lunch told us that as kids, it used to be a game they play, where they’d go down on the boat and try and trick them into breaking character and answering in a modern way.

We’ve spent a long time since discussing this. Can we really recruit people who will get in character and stay in an unbreakable character? It’s a level of authenticity that we don’t normally see in the UK but one we have to learn from. These people aren’t just doing a job, they are really living the character whilst they are at work, and clearly researching the history of the characters of the time when they aren’t. And that’s for a salary of around $8 per hour. The British way has been to laugh at this, but if we are going to deliver an authentic experience, we have to learn from this and embrace what they are doing so well.

The Mayflower II gets around 1/2 million visitors per year spread throughout the year. They have many from Britain, but also from as far as Japan, the West Coast, Canada and Australia. Most have some British heritage and want to see where the US adventure began.

It was then off to the Pilgrim Hall Museum, just down the main street. We bumped into British visitors, over here from Warrington and touring New England, who like ourselves are amazed by the quality of the museums and exhibtions that are dotted throughout the region. This is the Longest continually running museum in the US, having originally been built and opened as a museum in 1824. The words ‘continually running’ are important here as there is one in Salem called Peabody Essex Museum, with a shout for the ‘oldest’ in the US having history dating back to 1799, but they can’t claim the ‘continuous’.

Pilgrim Hall Museum, proudly claiming to be the oldest 'continually running' museum in the USA
Pilgrim Hall Museum, proudly claiming to be the oldest 'continually running' museum in the USA

It’s a smaller exhibition that sees 30k visitors per year and follows a more traditional, but historically accurate route. It has a curator, a learned board of Directors and could easily be a direct reproduction of how Nottingham castle is run today.

Speaking to Phil Cripps, the Director of Plymouth County Convention and Visitors Bureau, they are in the process of landing a huge new inward investment to the region, which will bring them thousands more visitors each year. They are in the process of delivering the biggest production studio in the world. It’s two years away, but it will bring with it 14 stand alone sound stages, a 300 room 5 star hotel.

It will be called Plymouth Rock Studios and will become the Hollywood of the East Coast. It’s a huge deal ad will no doubt change the face of the region completely. You can see more about it here.

Perhaps most surprising is that in a non binding referendum in the town, the people of Plymouth voted 87% in favour and then in the town meeting to finally approve its arrival, they voted 97% in its favour. I somehow don’t see the people of Nottingham being this much in favour of such a huge change to the face and shape of a region.

After lunch it was off to Plimouth Plantation. The deliberately misspelt and historically accurate of what life would have really been like for the early settlers to the USA. As with the Mayflower, historical accuracy is everything. The people live and breathe their characters. It’s a totally enchanting place that oozes history. It could easily be mistaken for a Romanian Village and its beauty is in its simplicity and relative order.

The Beautiful simplicity of Plimouth Plantation - an historically accurate town from our past
The Beautiful simplicity of Plimouth Plantation - an historically accurate town from our past

We were introduced to many people in the village, but the first was Elder Brewster, who talked of the history of the place and referred to his ‘knees’.

Elder Brewster, the wise man of the village, who had been to Cambridge
Elder Brewster, the wise man of the village, who had been to Cambridge

At this point in history they were called ‘knees’ but the k was really emphasised so they sound like ‘kinees’. In history it was about this time, when the ‘k’ in your knees got softer and so the older cast members are using the traditional expressions and the younger ones adopting the more modern approach. This level of detail and historical accuracy as we have seen on many of he places during this tour is priceless. It is the reason they are successful. At Getty it was the one in 14 leaves being removed every three weeks and at the Museum of Tolerance it was the chilling walk from room to room.

If we are to build anything world class ourselves, we have to gain from this experience and ensure that we deliver this detail when we come to design and build our own attraction.

Again, volunteers were very much in evidence. These two here are both retired and want to be involved because as they said to us, ‘they simply love the feeling of the place’. If we can create something that brings this emotion to our region, we will have a huge success on our hands.

Volunteers form an important part of the staffing at Plimouth Plantation
Volunteers form an important part of the staffing at Plimouth Plantation

And then we were away. Back off to the City for our scheduled tour around the USS Constitution.

Boston is a beautiful place. A green and clean city, that maximises its water front. We’re splitting off into groups to see different things, so more to report later.

The Sheriff of Nottingham in the USA – Part Eleven –Seattle to Boston

Okay, a packed morning with lots of new discoveries about Seattle, what makes it famous and what we can learn from it.

After one of the worst breakfasts I have ever had in a hotel anywhere in the world, we set off to travel the Space Needle. Seattle’s landmark since it opened in 1962 for the World fair.

But back to the breakfast for a second. Have you ever heard of Sausage Gravy? Well if you see it, don’t rush to eat it. It’s a sort of sausage porridge and is so close to what I would imagine gruel to have been like in Oliver’s days it’s unbelievable. The breakfast was complementary from the hotel, the first we have seen so far. They shouldn’t have bothered. Serving vile regurgitated porridge, does far more damage to a brand than the goodwill of a free meal creates. It was Best Western by the way and everything else about the place had been fine. It’s an inappropriate use of porridge thing.

So onto the Space Needle. Reading the background to it, it’s clearly a project that nearly never happened. They seemed to miss every deadline they set themselves in order to get it built in time for the World’s Fair, but yet it still happened in time and is just as popular today as in the weeks it opened. Perhaps the world Cup bid for Nottingham could be the same sort of catalyst for the city if we were lucky enough to win the chance to bid with the country and then the country be lucky enough in turn to win the hosting.

We keep coming back to this thing about iconic or landmark buildings. The numbers are staggering. It cost $4m to build in 1962 (which was when the $ was at a 4-1 ratio to the £) so it cost about £1m. It’s 520ft tall (159M) and costs $16 (9.50) for an adult to go on it. Going on it, entails queuing for a lift that whizzes you to the top in 41 seconds. Very quick by today’s standards, lightning in the 60’s I would presume. It too 467 trucks full of concrete weighing 5850 tons, just to build the 30’ deep foundations (which doesn’t sound that deep for something 520 ft tall to me)

The entry to the Space Needle is a walk around a ramp and onto a lift
The entry to the Space Needle is a walk around a ramp and onto a lift

During the queuing, they nab you for a picture again. I didn’t fancy a picture against another printed background, so I took a picture of this family who had come from Texas as part of their holiday on a cruise and wanted to see the ‘Needle’.

Bud, Chuck and Candy do the Space Needle - or rather a picture of the Space Needle
Bud, Chuck and Candy do the Space Needle - or rather a picture of the Space Needle

At least this time it was fully digital, so they weren’t wasting print after print on non buying visitors. It’s not really a surprise if they didn’t buy it, as I didn’t see the place to get them on the way out anyway. Even more surprising was the fact that it was an Apple Mac based system that is being used in the home of Microsoft. That must Needle them.

At the top, it opens out into a large circular viewing platform with an unrestricted view of All Seattle has to offer, looking right out to the Olympic Mountains and beyond. It is a huge view. This is about 120 degrees of it showing the boats running in and out and the huge container port beyond.

It is a massive and wonderful view. Breathtaking and utterly simple as a concept.

the view from
the view from
Needle
Needle
the Space
the Space

The team who owned it, really struggled to get the money together in order to build it. They missed the deadlines because they didn’t have the cash and then even more problematic, they didn’t have the land. It was freed up just in time. The developers were paid back with $2.3m visitors by the closure of the words fair each paying their $6 to see it. They paid off their mortgage in 18 months.

They do have the advantage of 1m visitors per year, largely delivered via 3 cruise ships coming in 3 times per week, bringing 3,000 visitors at a time, but as Nick Hammond in our party pointed out, we also have away fans arriving for the football rugby, ice hockey, cricket, test matches (and hopefully the world cup) and all sorts of other visits coming too. We have 50,000 students who will all be keen to show their parents the best view of the city. If we have the ambition to do something on this scale, we can easily generate the footfall to make it pay.

The merchandise is very mixed. One real stand out was a very cheesy snow dome thing that had been made in China by a manufacturer who was clearly knocking them out for all of the US tourist attractions, based on their obvious confusion between the Space Needle and the Statue of Liberty.

A Space Needle Snow thing
A Space Needle Snow thing
Which is obviously easy to confuse with the statue of Liberty
Which is obviously easy to confuse with the statue of Liberty

The rest was a mixture of models, mugs t-shirts of varying degrees of wearability – from okay to a new level of awfulness. Glasswear, photo frames, Wine, hats, Space Needle Coffee, golf balls, Lego models, paper models, metal models, pewter models, glass models, pottery models, – In fact pretty much anything. And my personal favourite Space Noodles.

Space Noodles - The future of quality tourist related dining
Space Noodles - The future of quality tourist related dining

So from one landmark to another. The Space Needle sits right above the EMP and it looks almost as weird/impressive from above as it does from floor level. It must hsve had to be part of the design consideration that it was a great looking building from the top of the Sky Needle. That can’t happen too often in design briefs!

From one landmark to another
From one landmark to another

It was back into the EMP for a more detailed look and the chance to go on the audio tour. EMP was completely funded by Paul Allen, one of the original Microsoft partners. A real life billionaire. It does seem easier to make a massive landmark attraction a reality with a billionaire behind you. If only Robin Hood had kept some of what he took, it may be worth that in interest now, but he probably wouldn’t be as famous if he robbed from the rich and sensibly invested it.

Paul Allen is the founder and the funder
Paul Allen is the founder and the funder
with a little help from his mates such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame
with a little help from his mates such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame

The lobby area is huge and grand, with the exterior design, leaking into the interior and creating its reflections throughout the whole building. There is a giant screen that dominates one whole wall. It has to be 200ft wide and another 100 ft tall. It’s not a projector either, but looks like an LED screen like the ones you sometimes see at the footie or the races. Only this one is even bigger and is made up of strips about 1 ft wide, which creates a striking effect.

The Lobby with the shiny bits from the outside coming inside massive LED screen and odd floating unbrellas on the roof
The Lobby with the shiny bits from the outside coming inside massive LED screen and odd floating unbrellas on the roof

The audio tour, was for me, less impressive. Again it was iPod based (you had to hand over id in order to be able to get it) and unlike the system at Alcatraz, it was totally freeform. You could go where you wanted. This made it a real pain to get into anything. There were hundreds up on hundreds of files, most of which seemed to be 15-30 seconds. It too as long to find them as it did to hear them. And that was after you had found the actual numbers it related to. Anyone over 40 would really struggle with this as the numbers were too small, the screen was too small and the whole process to fiddly. Oh for a bit of logical linearity.

Some of the interviews that you could sit and listen to were incredible. I sat through Jimmy Cliff, Kid Creole, George Lucas Grandmaster Flash and my favourite was Wonder Mike from the SugarHill gang, where it went on to play the whole 15 minute song afterward. Just the licensing must have been an amazing deal for this place, let along gathering all these extraordinary interviews. And the headphones were simply superb too. Everywhere, the sound quality was exceptional. But they should be if it’s a billionaire funding it.

The SciFi museum was far more traditional fayre, with a stamp on the left hand by the grumpy staff (as they’re not allowed to sit down at any point), giving you free movement between the two exhibitions.

If this isn’t Paul Allen’s personal obsession, I’m Hans Christian Anderson. It looks like someone who has been collecting Sci Fi memorabilia for years and can now play with the big boys. His collecting grew out of his home and he needed to move it into here to cope.

The Sci Fi museum has much more traditional but beautiful exhibits
The Sci Fi museum has much more traditional but beautiful exhibits

The Robot from Space Family Robinson was my favourite, but there was little to lift it from the mundane other than the sheer wonder at how complete the collection is in the world of TV based Sci Fi programmes and films.

But jumping back a stage. What else is Seattle famous for?

I answered some of these yesterday, but we’ve found out another now. Jimmy Hendrix is one of its most famous sons as we should have guessed by the amount of material dedicated to him in the EMP.

And lastly about the EMP and the Sci Fi Museum, I have to mention the advertising and branding. I just love this simple ad, which is shown all around the place to show that it’s the meeting of music and Sci Fi. What a lovely simple piece of branding.

The advertising of music meets Sci Fi is brilliant
The advertising of music meets Sci Fi is brilliant

And so to Boston. We’re coming right from the West Coast to the East. Losing another three hours sleep and hitting another packed programme tomorrow.

See you there.