Seattle, Je T’Aime

You can’t afford the City of Lights. But you don’t have to.

King County's Metro is no Paris Metro. True, it may move at the speed of escargot, but our Metro is a bus rather than a subway, and doesn't go anywhere near the Louvre.Still, at far less cost (no flight or hotel, for example), a Metro rider here can view a parallel universe of Paris sights. Our revered West Point Treatment Plant out at the tip of Discovery Park, for example, can be seen as an upscale version of the egouts, Paris' infamous open-sewer tour. And with treatment taking place mostly behind tanks and pipes, West Point does not expose the visitor to actual merde bobbing in murky waters.Likewise, our Space Needle is not only a Jetsons-style stand-in for the Eiffel Tower, its builders were smart enough to put the restaurant on top. The Underground Tour in Pioneer Square is a catacomb in its own right, but without the depressing stacks of old bones you see in subterranean Paris. And Lake View Cemetery, home of father-son Bruce and Brandon Lee, is a counterpoint toPère-Lachaise, the Paris home of Edith Piaf and Frederic Chopin—who weren't even related!Paris has Hemingway's Les Deux Magots, Seattle has Tom Robbins' les un Blue Moon.I've been to both and saw a lot more French-kissing at the Moon.But don't take my word for this. The French themselves are taking advantage of our Parisian-like attractions and lifestyle. "Thousands of French nationals" now live in the Seattle area, according to Crosscut.com.The French are increasingly lured here by high-tech jobs, the casual pace, and of course our French toast. They've even established a French-language online site, seattlefrancophone.info, listing all the hot spots for crepes.Of course, they want to see the WTO ruins. But mostly they come because it's less cramped. "Here, you have such room!" one newcomer is quoted by Crosscut. Paris may be the city of light, but Seattle is the city of sky, partly cloudy though it may be.So for newcomers and indifferent natives, here's a poor man's tour of Paris Seattle-style; we depart on the downtown Metro for:West Point Usine de Traitement (No. 24 bus from Fourth Avenue to the southwest entrance at Discovery Park, then on foot down to the western waterside location): There will be no tour guide to remind us that Inspector Javert fictionally chased Jean Valjean through the slimy tunnels, as my egouts guide did in Paris. Nonetheless, behold what appears to be a sparkling 32-acre corporate campus occupying one of the city's most scenic beaches, all in the name of sewage. The West Point plant hums away 24/7 turning wine (and other excretions) to water, nearly drinkable. It's part of a regional system that treats 178 million gallons of sewage daily. Run by King County, the plant's three treatment levels produce an outflow that is 85 percent pure ("disinfection" destroys "most" remaining pathogens, the county says, before the water is released through a diffuser into Puget Sound). Free tours, with two weeks' advance notice, are available Monday through Saturday, 9a.m. and 4 p.m. There is beach access, but I have yet to see anyone swimming out there. 1400 Utah St. W., 263-3800.L'Espace Aiguille (Bus routes 1, 2, and 13 from Third Avenue to Seattle Center): The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet from its antenna down, with a view of 425-foot Montmartre. The Space Needle is just 605 feet spire to earth, but with a view of 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. So there. (On a clear day, you can see the Cabaret de Paris on Fifth Ave.). The Needle was—attention please, Paul Allen, Mariners, Clay Bennett, et al.—privately financed and built for the 1962 World's Fair. Hotelman Eddie Carlson conceived the design in a sketch on a cocktail napkin, later rendered in steel by architect John Graham. It sways in the wind, but it's pretty sturdy: A powerful quake in 1965 merely sloshed water from its toilets. To show there's no jealousy, the Space Needle not only serves French fries, but last year awarded its 45-millionth visitor a free trip to—for real—the Eiffel Tower. Open daily. 400 Broad St., 905-2100.Le Sous-Tour (Any free bus downtown, to Doc Maynard's Public House on First Ave. in Pioneer Square): Down you go, spike heels and all, on assorted flights of stairs to see Underground Seattle, the catacomb city as it somewhat looked a century ago when Mayor Greg Nickels first took office. Of course Paris was already in its fifth or sixth set of ruins, but we had our own devastation going on: The city was recovering from the Great Fire of 1889, when everything burned down except for a couple of Starbucks. Included on the tour are the innards of old buildings that once sat at street level. Unlike the Parisian ossuary, there are no skeletal remains arranged in a happy fossilized decor. But you can count on small piles of rat bones. Daily tours year-round. 608 First Ave., 682-4646.Vue Sur le Lac Cimetière (No. 10 bus from Fourth and Pike to 15th Avenue East and East Galer): Lake View Cemetery has Paris' Père-Lachaise beat by the length of a horse: A man is buried with one at the Capitol Hill graveyard. No one will actually admit to this, since burying people and big animals together is illegal. You can be assured the Lees—the martial-arts film icons—do lie in rest, their markers located on the east center side of the circular driveway. Bruce died mysteriously in 1973 after filming Enter The Dragon, and son Brandon was killed accidentally while filming The Crow in 1993. Martial-art and film fans leave as many flowers and mementos at their graves as rock fans do at Jimi Hendrix's tombstone in Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton. Though Père-Lachaise may have Gertrude Stein, Lake View has Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Seattle, whom many considered the Alice B. Toklas of her day. Open sunrise to sunset daily. 1554 15th Ave. E., 322-1582.La Lune Bleue (No. 72 or 74 bus, among others, from the downtown transit tunnel—our sorta-subway!—to N.E. 45th and University Way N.E., then walk a few blocks west on 45th). Tom Robbins, the quintessential Northwest novelist and menace to society, once phoned Picasso in Spain, dumping a small fortune into the Moon's pay phone, but Pablo refused to take the call. Next time, said a ruffled Robbins, he'll call collect! On the Moon's stools, you once could spy three Pulitzer-winning poets in a row—Carolyn Kizer, Theodore Roethke, and Stanley Kunitz—along with lesser poet John Pym, who, getting up a head of steam, took a flying dive off a shuffleboard one day and crashed through the front window. Hemingway may have liberated the Ritz's wine cellar during WWII, but did he run naked through the frat-boys' bar next door as writer Darrell Houston did? BTW, I don't see one of Papa's peeling, yellowed columns on the Moon's walls, but I do see one of mine. That should tell you what kind of place it is. Go anyway. Daily till 2 a.m. 712 N.E. 45th St., 675-9116.randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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