I have discovered the perfect gift for any native Seattleite who thinks he/she has done everything in this city. Two words: Seaplane tour ($87.50 per person for a 20-minute flight departing from Lake Union; seattleseaplanes.com).
Even the smuggest local can’t remain aloof at this height, taking in gorgeous views, sweeping around the Space Needle and downtown, spotting your house from up high and, yes, even ogling Bill Gates’ ridiculous bunker.
There’s something about being in a tiny aircraft, buzzing high and free above the congested roads you'd normally be stuck on yourself, that induces childish, open-mouthed glee. An added bonus, if you're giving the tour as a gift, is watching a favorite Seattleite in your life get reintroduced to their city, as if it were the first time. Highly, highly recommended.
Other things I learned on this first amphibious flight:
1.The inside of a seaplane looks a lot like an old pickup truck. Well-used vinyl bench seat in the back. Simple seatbelts. Thin walls. Lots of big windows (including a rear windshield). The not-so-faint smell of fuel (that’s normal, right?). All the customary safety accoutrements and procedures are there…but I couldn’t shake this unspoken rule I sensed: Look, lady, there’s only so much to be done if you’re in a tiny airplane and you suddenly fall out of the sky. So try to think about something else. And that’s exactly what I did.
2. Seaplanes keep their gas in their wings! Also, seaplane pilots measure their gas with a highly sophisticated tool: a wooden dip stick with some lines drawn on it. Amazing.
3. If a door flies open during flight, just pull it back in. (That is almost a direct quote from our pilot.)
4. Over 40% of Seattle is water. I didn't really grasp that fact until I saw it from above and in 360 degrees. Seattle is a community of island hoppers, peninsula crowders and bridge crossers. And we are lucky for it.