The Museum of Glass

If you ever find yourself in Tacoma, Washington, I highly recommend that you pay the Museum of Glass a visit. It’s been around since 2002, and it’s a place where you can experience all things glass. Its very existence revitalized that charming city.

I suggest that you approach the museum by crossing Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass. It’s an otherworldly riot of color that will leave you wondering how it could possibly be topped by the indoor exhibits. There’s the ceiling display called the Seaform Pavillion, then a wall of vase-like objects that are lit up at night, called the Venetian Wall, and then two large blue sculptures that can also be seen as you drive beneath them on the freeway, called the Crystal Towers.

The building itself is a tilted, stainless steel cone, and it’s fun to stand in front of it, tilted yourself, for a memorable selfie. (I’d show you ours, but I have a modest husband.)

Upon entering the building, check out the hot shop first. That way you can cool off afterward in the exhibit area, because to say that the hot shop is hot is an understatement. But there you can watch glass artists in front of the scorching hot ovens, honing their craft. It’s really magical to watch something transform from a baseball sized lump to a stunningly designed, extremely intricate vase. And there is always someone on hand who can answer your questions about each step of the process.

Glass Hotshop

Next I recommend that you take a peek down a glass fronted hallway called Art Alley, where the “Kids Design Glass” exhibit is. This is a delightful concept. Kids under 12 can go to the website and fill out a Kids Design Glass Entry Form. The entry includes the child’s drawing, and their own little story that inspires the drawing. Then, once a month, one entry is chosen, and the hot shop invites that child to watch them make two copies of the glass sculpture inspired by that drawing. One copy goes to the child, and the other one is put on display. What fun!

The museum often has workshops where you can experience glassmaking firsthand, and there are also docent-led tours of the exhibits, or you can explore them on your own. In addition, there’s a docent-guided Chihuly Walking Tour around downtown Tacoma on some days. And there are a lot of one-day events throughout the year. Check the website for days and times.

There’s a permanent Dale Chihuly exhibit, and a few rotating exhibits and short term exhibits.

I’m hesitant to tell you about the amazing exhibit we saw, entitled Raven and the Box of Daylight, because by the time you read this, it will be gone. It was based on a Tlingit story about Raven’s journey as he transforms the world, bringing light to the people via the stars, moon, and sun. It was otherworldly. You experience it through the glass, the story, the music and the lighting. I was a feast for the senses. I’m so glad that photography was allowed (see below), or it would have felt like it was all a dream.

And every good museum has a store. I wanted one of everything. But I’m trying not to accumulate stuff.

Check out the Museum of Glass. You’ll be so glad you did!

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Traveling with Tab

I once went camping in Europe and the people setting up the tent next to me pulled out of their van, I swear to God, a TV, a wooden fixed-leg table with matching upholstered chairs, an electric stove and oven combo, a rotating fan, and a futon.

Seriously? What’s the point of tent camping if you’re going to bring your whole house with you? I think we as a species have gotten very soft.

I am imagining rich people from the Elizabethan era packing all the comforts of home in gigantic trunks and piling them onto the roof of their coaches as they flitted from one mansion to the next.

Nowadays that’s all of us (except for the part about the mansions).

Don’t agree with me? Come on. Who among us hasn’t seen someone go into a full-blown panic if he or she doesn’t have access to a smart phone? Lest we forget, for the better part of human history, those things weren’t a necessity.

Years ago I was traveling overseas with someone who had never been out of the country before. He insisted he was going to bring eight 6-packs of Tab with him, because that was all he would drink. It took a lot to convince him that the hassle of lugging all that soda from pillar to post would not be worth the thirst it might quench. I finally got him to see reason, but he did insist on eating at McDonalds in foreign countries for as long as I knew him. I was appalled.

We all have our gadgets and tchotchkes. We love our satin neck pillows and our squatty potties and our hair straighteners and all manner of technology. We insist upon different shoes for every occasion and Little Mermaid DVDs to appease our children. We are awash in lotions and unguents and supplements and sprays. We pack 14 shirts for a 3 day trip, because you just never know.

We no longer know how to rough it. We want what we want when we want it. Is it any wonder that airlines now charge a premium if you exceed your luggage weight limit? Otherwise some of us would want to bring our favorite recliners.

I urge you to experience the joy of traveling light. If there’s something you require in a foreign country and you can’t obtain it there, you might ask yourself how an entire country has managed to survive without that thing. And the pursuit of that item might even be one of your more memorable travel experiences. Anything that makes you actually interact with the natives can only enrich your trip.

Remember, people survived for centuries without a hair straightener. It’s a nice luxury, but it’s still a luxury.

luggage

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Looking Back on a Massive Change

Five years ago today, I arrived in Seattle, knowing no one. I’d never been here before. I knew nothing about the place. I may as well have landed on the moon. The very first thing I did was sit in a public park with my dogs. I felt very overwhelmed. I remember thinking, “Now what?” But I was also excited about the possibilities. Hanging on to that feeling is what saw me through the more challenging times.

I had spent the bulk of my life in the conservative South, where I always felt like a liberal turd in a republican punchbowl, so to say that Seattle was a culture shock was putting it mildly. I didn’t know my way around. I hadn’t even heard of the Seattle Freeze yet, so I had no idea about all the extra hurdles I’d have to jump through to make friends. (I must confess that I struggle with that to this day. I find many people out here to be flakey, unreliable, standoffish, and confusing. It takes a lot of effort to find the gems amongst the unyielding rocks, but that tends to enhance their value.)

At one point, an obnoxious distant relative accused me of running away. I wrote a furious blog post about that. Starting fresh is not always a massive avoidance scenario. Sometimes you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. But on that first day, I had no idea what the gains, if any, would be.

Every time I pass that park where I first sat, I wish I could go back and hug that girl and tell her everything will turn out okay. My, my, how time does fly. I can now say with complete confidence that moving here was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my life, I’m relatively financially stable. More often than not, I love my job. I purchased a house. I’ve had a lot of adventures, the greatest of which was finding love and getting married. I’m exactly where I should be.

Sometimes you have to take a leap and hope the net will appear. That’s what I did. Thank goodness it turned out well. I could have just as easily landed with a massive, irreparable splat. So three cheers for nets!

Incidentally, if you’d like to read about my epic journey across the continent, start here. And if you’d like to read other posts about my transition, do a search within my categories section for My Jacksonville to Seattle Do Over. (That category includes the epic journey, but contains many other posts as well.)

me cross country

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A Romantic Day Trip

I often think of one of my favorite movies, As Good As It Gets. And one of my favorite quotes therein is by Carol, played by Helen Hunt:

“I want your life for one minute where my biggest problem is someone offering me a free convertible so I can get outta this city.”

We all need a change of scenery every once in a while, don’t we? I think the most romantic thing you can do for a person is provide them with that, if even for just an afternoon. Experiencing something different together, being able to breathe a little deeper, having the opportunity to set your worries aside and gain new perspective, is how you make wonderful memories. And wonderful memories are the bedrock of a relationship.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be a walk in the woods with a picnic basket. It should just be a brief respite from the every day.

Of course, I’m not opposed to expensive, either. Recently, dear husband and I drove along one of my favorite scenic byways, Chuckanut Drive. It stretches along the coast of Washington State between Bellingham and Burlington. The views are just gorgeous. We decided to stop for lunch at a delightful restaurant called The Oyster Bar and indulge in an incredible dining experience.

First of all, this restaurant is perched on top of a cliff, and overlooks an actual working oyster bar. When the tide is low you can see the oysters. You can also see them on your plate.

We had an appetizer of baked oysters, topped with pancetta, heirloom tomato, chives, creamed spinach, and herbed bread crumbs. If the portion had been larger, I’d have been satisfied if this where my entire meal.

But for the main course, we decided to go with seafood stew, which included mussels, clams, prawns, scallops and fresh fish, simmered in a coconut/curry/lime broth with shitake mushrooms, snap peas, and basmati rice. The Salish Sea on a plate. Yum.

Even reading this makes me forget my troubles. What a memory. I highly recommend getting “outta” your city to make some memories of your own.

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Cities from the Water

Anytime I’m visiting a city that’s on the water, I make an effort to take advantage of their ferries and water taxis. Since these modes of transport are often used by the locals, they are usually reasonably priced. In addition, the face of a city that is gazing upon the river, canal, lake, or ocean is often its best side, and gives you a perspective you wouldn’t have otherwise. It also gives you an opportunity to rest your weary feet while still sightseeing.

Recently, I visited Vancouver and enjoyed riding on the False Creek Ferries. You can get a 16 dollar day pass and ride to 9 different stops along the shore as many times as you like. They share 8 of those stops with a competitor named Aquabus.

False Creek Vancouver

But upon reflection, I’ve done this type of thing many times throughout the years. Here are some other trips I’ve taken.

In Istanbul, I took a ferry across the Bosporus from Europe to Asia and back. You get some amazing palace views that way. I also took a car ferry from Selçuk to Istanbul and that was kind of a cultural crossroads experience.

Also while in Turkey, I took a boat from the city of Side to Manavgat Falls. It was a lovely, lazy trip on an old teak vessel equipped with hammocks. The water was so turquoise (a color description that originated in Turkey) that it almost made my eyes hurt.

From Side to Manavgat Falls in Turkey

If you ever visit Toronto, Canada, I highly recommend the Central Island Ferry. It gives you some unforgettable views of the city from Lake Ontario. And Central Island is a delight.

TN1_003SkylineFromCentreIslandFerry.JPG

One of the first boat trips I took out here was from Edmonds to historic Port Townsend, Washington. What a gorgeous town from the water and on dry land. Highly recommended.

Port Townsend

I’ve also been to Vashon Island, Washington a few times now. What a treat!

Vashon Island Ferry

If you ever get a chance to go to Venice, Italy, and don’t get out on the water somehow, if only by Water taxi, then you haven’t done it right. But I really recommend that you spring for a gondola ride. It’s the trip of a lifetime.

Gondola Venice.JPG

To get to Venice in the first place, I took a ferry from Piran, Slovenia, across the Adriatic Sea. That was an amazing trip.

Venice from the Ferry.JPG

I’ve also cruised down Rhine River in Germany, and gazed at the many castles along the way. But that trip was so long ago that my photos, alas, aren’t digital, and I’ll probably never get around to scanning them.

I was thrilled to discover that you can take a ferry down the entire coast of Croatia for next to nothing. I actually felt guilty. At the time, it was less than 5 dollars. I hope they’ve wised up since then.

Croatian Ferry

And I took a hydrofoil from Fethiye, Turkey to Rhodes, Greece. That was amazing. (The tiny boat next to the two large cruise ships was our hydrofoil. And that’s me standing in the water.)

Hydrofoil at Rhodes

If you want to see the very best of Seattle on an amazing vessel, I highly recommend that you charter the Mallory Todd, through the Seattle Locks. Check out my post about that here.

Mallory Todd Through the Locks

And what better way to experience the Mississippi River than to ride on paddle boat from Hannibal, Missouri, hometown of Mark Twain?

Hannibal Missouri

I also recommend checking out the canals in Utrecht and Amsterdam, Holland. There’s nothing quite like that.

Holland.JPG

Any city on the water should be experienced on the water. You’ll be glad you did.

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A Celebration of Light

One of the things I’ll never get used to here in the Pacific Northwest is that there is nearly 8 hours less sunlight per day in the winter than there is in the summer. In Florida, the difference is only 4 hours. But that means that people here really appreciate the daylight when they have it. It can’t be taken for granted. There is a definite morale change from summer to winter, and with it comes a lifestyle change. People seem to hibernate here in the wintertime.

Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that Vancouver, Canada, our neighbor to the north, has a three day celebration of light each summer. The funny thing is, this celebration takes place at night. That’s because it is a fireworks competition.

Each year, three countries are chosen to put on a fireworks display over English Bay on three separate evenings. These displays are set to music, and they’re judged. They’re always spectacular. The event comes with food trucks, too, and usually draws about 400,000 people per night.

This year, India, Canada, and Croatia competed. Canada, the home team so to speak, won. Croatia won the people’s choice award. (Click on the country names to see full Youtube videos of the events. They’re incredible.)

I was lucky enough to experience Canada’s effort, and I must say that it was, without a doubt, the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life. I saw at least 5 types of fireworks that I’d never seen bfore. They were wonderfully creative, surprising, and delightful.

If you’re ever in the Vancouver area in late July, early August, don’t miss the Celebration of Light. But please don’t bring your dog. If I lived in Vancouver, I’d probably take my dogs and leave town during this event. War veterans might want to give it a pass, too.

But everyone else… wow. Just wow. Three cheers for light!

Celebration of Light 2019

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Vancouver for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

I just love Vancouver, Canada! I’ve visited once a year since I moved over to this side of the continent, and I suspect that will be a long-standing tradition for me. It’s a ridiculously short drive from Seattle, and it feels familiar and exotic at the same time.

It’s such a vibrant big city, full of art and quirkiness, and you hear so many different languages on the street that you genuinely feel that you’re at a cultural crossroads. Each neighborhood has a different style and personality, which makes it a great deal of fun to explore. And the food… My God, the food…

I’ve been a visitor in this fair city enough times to have discovered several dining favorites. What follows are my picks for all three meals of the day.

Breakfast:

Le Petit Belge. I stumbled upon this little restaurant because it was a short walk from my hotel. It got quite a few bonus points for also serving delicious food in a delightful setting. This place makes very light, flavorful Belgian waffles, and offers a variety of toppings. I tend toward the sweet toppings, such as strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate, mixed fruit, or ice cream. But they also offer savory toppings such as prosciutto, asparagus, salmon, avocado, cheese, and bacon. In addition, they serve other breakfast fare such as eggs, omelets and breakfast bowls. And you get to eat these delectable things while sitting in their cute little dining room and watching the city’s denizens walk by. A great Vancouver experience.

Lunch

For lunch, I suggest two possibilities.

If you’re looking for a casual and filling meal, and are not averse to fried seafood, then you absolutely have to check out Go Fish. It’s a little outdoor establishment on the banks of False Creek. Their menu is simple. Eat your crispy cod, salmon or halibut, fresh off the dock, with the delicious fries, or try their Tacones, all while gazing at Granville Island, just across the way. The only down sides are that they are closed on Mondays, and since the seating is outdoors, you’ll want good weather for this dining experience.

If you’d prefer something healthier, I highly recommend the Granville Island Public Market, which is open 7 days a week. You’ll be overwhelmed by the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, and your mouth will water when you contemplate the abundance of desserts. You can also pick up fresh baked bread, cheeses, and meats, and create your own picnic, right on the spot. Or if you’re feeling lazy and want someone else to do the food prep for you, there’s an international food court with some wonderful options. After you’ve eaten, you can shop for unique gifts amongst the stalls that are overflowing with handcrafted art.

VancouverFood

Dinner

I discovered this restaurant on my most recent visit. Since Vancouver is known for its seafood and Asian cuisine, and since I had enjoyed Go Fish for lunch, I asked my hotel concierge for his recommendation for a Chinese restaurant. Without hesitation, he recommended Peaceful Restaurant on Seymour Street. (They have several locations. That just happened to be the nearest one.)

Oh. My. God. This turned out to be the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. It made me want to move to Vancouver, just so I could eat there once a week. Specializing in very flavorful Northern Chinese cuisine, this place has gotten several awards.

I was anxious to try one of their noodle dishes. You have a choice of “hand-pulled” noodles which are thick and round, or the “knife-bladed” which are, of course, flat. I had the stir fried beef and veggies with hand-pulled noodles, and my goal in life is to fill my above ground swimming pool with the stuff, and just dive in every night at around 5pm. Dear husband had the Peaceful House Stir fried noodles with spicy seafood and pork. The menu is extensive at this place, and the Dim Sum gets raves as well, but we didn’t try it this time around.

At the end of the meal, dear husband practically had to peel my fingers off the door frame and carry me away, kicking and screaming in protest.

Incidentally, they have franchising information on their website. If someone in Seattle takes them up on this opportunity, I will kiss that person on the lips, on camera, at the top of the space needle.

I have no idea why I left Vancouver. Please remind me.

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