- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003


The Northwest city where it actually doesn't rain all the time, Seattle, has been the subject of a lot of travel writing recently. The city and its suburbs have a fine tourist agency. And the folks whose job it is to publicize the area have a great product to sell.

First home to a variety of American Indian tribes, Seattle became home to fur traders.

Then timber quickly became the mainstay of the area, economically. But because the city grew so fast there was no time for urban planning. As a result, buildings were built in the largely near-sea level areas of the city. Downtown was constantly being flooded, and not just with rain water.

Seattle spent millions to raise the town up a level while "knocking down" some severe hills that, in its early days, gave Seattle the look of a "second San Francisco."

What remains now is an extensive, well-preserved enclave of underground buildings. One of the great "spooky" tours in this country is the tour of Underground Seattle.

The skyline's trademark remains the Space Needle, built for a World's Fair in 1962. And a remnant of monorail remains.

By the way, city fathers are in the midst of a debate as to whether to revive the monorail and light-rail systems to provide better access from the suburbs to the central city area.

A look at the city's coffee industry in another report.



Riders on Amtrak's popular high-speed Northeast Corridor trains are being offered a special promotion. The national passenger rail carrier, on its Internet site — amtrak.com — says that if you book on either the "tilting" Acela Express or older Metroliner trains for two round trips you'll get a coupon for a third round trip for free.

Amtrak, still hanging on with continuing Congressional funding, also has its own "frequent flier" program. Check the Web site for information on that promotion, too.

The carrier's toll-free number is one of the best in the business: 800-USA-RAIL.



The best way to book a car overseas is to take care of all the arrangements before you leave the states. Again, Hertz is offering some special rates for the upcoming spring travel season.

For example, at participating locations in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland a compact car with manual transmission is available for $37 a day, with advance reservations.

In the same countries, the same size car is now listed for $185 per week.

Several other countries are involved in promotions with slightly higher prices. Among them are Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Although there are many car rental agencies on all parts of the globe, booking before you leave with an American-based company makes sense for several reasons. Several companies, including Hertz, will help you keep in touch with friends and family back home though special toll-free numbers.



Using Amtrak between major cities on the East Coast is a great way to get from point A to point B and also to show support for the country's only remaining rail system. For example, for many who live in Washington (or frequently visit the East Coast) it's easier to take that city's mass transit system to Union Station, then Amtrak to downtown Manhattan, than it is queuing up at Reagan National Airport, flying to LaGuardia Airport, then taking a taxi downtown. And it's less stressful.

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