Posts Tagged ‘travel sights’

Since our cruise took off from Vancouver and our cruise line offered a convenient transfer there from the SeaTac airport, we decided to go a little early and spend some time in Seattle.   It was a city which we enjoyed immensely during our past Navy life when Jim was stationed at Bremerton, right across Puget Sound from Seattle.  We used to take the ferry across and spend a day there dinking around Pike Street Market, enjoying a beer somewhere.   Often we would by a couple of dungeness crabs, have them split, and take them home with crusty french bread for dinner.

All I can say is that tourism has pretty much ruined Pike Street Market.   I’m sure in the off season it is still a fun place to shop, but during the cruising season it is a zoo packed with people who are there to experience it, but not actually interested in buying anything.   The amazing displays of food, flowers and art are viewed as entertainment.   I’m sure that there is stuff being sold, but if you actually want to buy seafood, it is better to go across the street to the less popular market which is not crammed with tourists watching the fishmongers throw fish across the aisles.  Whatever.

We had scheduled a hot air balloon ascent, but it was cancelled due to foul weather.   This is still on my bucket list.   As Jim said, we just need to get out to Albuquerque when the hot air balloons are there.    The same company we scheduled with in Seattle area runs a branch in the Albuquerque area during the fall and winter.   I’ll bet they don’t get weathered out so often there.

So we took our rental car and went for a drive instead, out to Whidbey Island, where Jim served two tours of duty early in his Navy career.   He showed me the very first house he lived in there off base, and we were both impressed that it is still there 40 years later.    Drove across the Deception Pass bridge and down along the I-5 corridor to the winery area north of Seattle.   We enjoyed tasting wines at the Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wineries, purchased three bottles to take with us on the cruise which we shared with our cruising companions.   After the wine tasting, we headed back to Seattle with plenty of time to return the rental car before we got charged for another day.

Ha ha ha ha ha.   It has been a long time since we experienced a big city rush hour traffic congestion situation.    I hope it is even longer before I do again.   It took us over 7 minutes to go around the block to get to the rental car place.

As is our usual custom, extensive research was conducted before we left on this vacation.   Despite the fact that we lived in the area for a while, that was twenty-five years ago, and much has changed in the interim.   One of the things that has been established since then is Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center.  Dale Chihuly is an internationally reknowned artist in glass.  I was aware of his existence when we lived in the Seattle area, and I wish to heck now that I had purchased some of his work at that time, when it was still affordable.   At the museum gift shop they had Chihuly bowls for sale, the cheapest one was about 8 inches in diameter and they “only” wanted $4000  for it, and NO, I do not have the quantity of zeros wrong.

A few years ago, Chihuly did an installation at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.   I visited that, and blogged about it.

When I was up in Seattle with my mother and sisters back in late May, I suggested that we might want to visit this exhibit.   When the price of admission was mentioned, $19 for all day entry and re-entry after dark, my mother deemed it “too expensive.”    The upshot was, we Smith women did not experience the Chihuly exhibit, which is a shame; I think we would have all enjoyed it.  Jim and I determined to go, and as far as I am concerned it was WELL worth the price of admission.

Even though Chihuly no longer does a lot of work due to injuries, he has a group of glass artists that carry out his visions.    And visions they are.  The museum contains pieces that date back to his earliest work, when he was inspired by North American Indian basketry.





Once you leave this room, you enter a room that is inspired by the ocean and the myriad creatures that inhabit it.   Now I have to say, this was an extremely difficult thing to photograph, what with the hordes of people surrounding it and the rather vast size of the installation.


To give you a little concept of scale, this is one of the creatures on that vase shape of glass.   It is about 6 inches long.


Also in the room were numerous smaller pieces depicting crabs, shrimp, and my favorite, the octopi:


I really had a hard time getting great shots in this room.   The lighting was designed to highlight each individual work, some of them were large and had lots of shadows.   I did not have the right equipment, and so many of the images remain in my memory rather than in digital form.  There were plenty of others that were good enough to delight.

This is one of the huge glass balls that supported one of the octopus creations.


The next room contained the Persian ceiling.   Now I honestly have no clue as to why Chihuly chose to call these sorts of things Persians.   Anyway, these sorts of forms occur all through the exhibit.   Here, there was a glass ceiling that had the pieces stacked all over it, some on top of others and the whole thing lit from above.   It was magic.    I could have shot 500 pictures in here and never gotten it all.   We spent a long time looking up in this room.  Amazing.


You walk out of the Persian ceiling into another very large room that contains an installation inspired by Chihuly’s mother’s garden.   Another one that was difficult to shoot:  large large large and surrounded by people oohing and aahing (just like we were).   The phantasmagoria of botanically inspired shapes was… well… amazing.   Sorry.  I just don’t have words.

A side note here:  more than once as I progressed through this collection of shape and color I wondered what it would be like to be on some sort of psychedelic drug while experiencing this art work.




At spots in the exhibition, there were what was referred to as design walls.   Chihuly discovered paint somewhere along the way in his glass blowing career, and began working out designs using all sorts of media on water color paper.



You can see his chandeliers in the above design wall.




Another room was inspired by an installation where he was floating glass balls in some river, sorry, don’t remember which one.   Anyway, there were people out in small boats catching the balls  at the end of town after they floated down the river,and Chihuly liked the idea of boats full of balls.  Incidentally, that boat is a real boat and about 20 feet long.


He also did a boat full of floral forms.   This is a detail of one of the flowers in that boat.


The last inside room was one that contained several giant bowl forms.   They were very large, around a meter in diameter.  I can’t imagine how many of these were spoiled during the annealing process of the glass blowing.    Absolutely incredible.




After all this intense color in black rooms with brilliant spot lights, we emerge into the Glass House, inspired by the great conservatories of the world.


Frankly, I thought it was more magical at night.


The informational signs claim that many of the forms here were inspired by the Space Needle.



I can see it.    I was fascinated by the huge botanical form, an installation of many Persians.



Outside, in the gardens, I see another inspiration for the Persians in the hardy geraniums.


The Space Needle shows up all over the place.



And now, the gardens.   Both in the grey afternoon and at night, illuminated.   I felt that some of these installations would have benefitted from being lit from underneath the actual glass piece rather than having spotlights on them.   But that is a mere quibble.   Everywhere was color, fantasy forms, details of color and light.










Last image, probably my favorite despite the blur.  There were installations on the installations; the art had become habitat.   This was the home of a little spider, all upset because my camera was so close to her, shaking her web so that maybe I would not notice her…


I hope you have enjoyed this tour of Chihuly’s visions in glass.    It was extremely difficult to cull the hundreds of images I acquired along the way through this positively fabulous collection.   There were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of glass, every one of them was beautiful.

“Even the orchestra is beautiful….”

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One of the things I have always wanted to do was to walk on a glacier.

Actually, I have done this previously.   When I was a little girl living in the wild mountains of Colorado, we used to hike up into the high places quite frequently.   I walked on the St. Vrain glacier, and also the Arapahoe Glacier.   Nowadays, the tiny remnants that remain of both of these glaciers makes me wonder how in the name of sanity people are still able to convince themselves that there is no problem going on as regards to global climate change, or global warming (which seems to be a term that is in disrepute for some reason).

As I read the news of the disappearance and retreats of glaciers world wide, my internal need to walk on these ancient ice fields becomes more and more urgent.   When we decided to go on the seven day Inside Passage cruise up to southeast Alaska, I knew that I really really wanted to experience being on a glacier, before it was too late and there aren’t any left.    I mean, it is hard to believe that they might actually all melt world wide.   They are so massive, and there are so many of them.    People used to think that the Passenger Pigeon was so numerous they could not be hunted to extinction either.

Oh darn.   I was just going to tell you about my wonderful walk on the Herbert Glacier.   Then I went all poignant and scientifical and thoughtful on you.   Sorry.

Lets see.   We booked a tour up on the Mendenhall Glacier about four months before we went.  That is Juneau ahead of us, all decked in typical Southeast Alaskan weather.   Rain.


Because of the low ceiling at the Mendenhall Glacier, our tour was cancelled.  I am not ashamed to admit that I went to my cabin on the ship and cried like a little child over the disappointment, but the day was saved by Chris with Juneau Tours , who was able to book us on a tour with Coastal Helicopters that went later in the day and to a different glacier that was not weathered in.

(I really can’t say enough good things about the staff of Coastal Helicopters.   They were dealing with two different groups, ours and one which spoke only Hebrew and had a translator, going to two different sites in three helicopters.  They were pleasant, professional, efficient, friendly, and went out of their way to get us what we wanted, even when they had to run across the tarmac in the rain to the warehouse to secure a t-shirt in the style and size I wanted.   

And the pilot!   Wow.   I want a helicopter now.   Okay, I’ll be honest.   I want the pilot too… but I’m already taken and he’s probably way too young for me.   Still, cute!  And professional.   And a great pilot.)

Okay.   Now the pictures.   When we got to the airport where the helicopters were, the clouds opened and an omen appeared.


After a safety briefing, we were taken out to the helicopters in single file like a bunch of baby ducklings being shepherded along by their concerned Mama.  After we were all strapped in and equipped with our headphones, through which we could actually talk to the pilot, our little group of helicopters took off.


Even though none of our craft were gunships, all of us thought of the movie Apocalypse Now for some reason as our group headed off up the valley.


We flew past the Mendenhall Glacier.   Still socked in but beautiful anyway.



You can see the big terminal moraine where the glacier has receded in the past few years.  We flew over some mighty pretty country, on the lookout for wildlife.  But we didn’t see any.


It seemed like only moments, and we reached the Herbert Glacier.   Our pilot took us on an exciting little ride up over the terminus, along the glacier itself and through a small cirque off to the side where the glacier that created it was gone, centuries past.

DSCF8628 DSCF8629






It was a thrill ride.   I’m sure we were never taken closer to the rock walls of the cirque than was safe, but it felt like you could have reached out and touched them.   The helicopter tilted and rose like a magic carpet.   Finally we descended to the glacier itself and landed.


We de-coptered and our pilot strapped on crampons, and suddenly became our glacier tour guide.


First thing he took us to was a moulin.  This is a place where melt water pours into a hole that tunnels through the glacier, flowing down to the rocky bed under the glacier.   At this particular spot, the glacier was about 1500 feet thick (about 450 meters or thereabouts).    The hole, about 10′ in diameter, was plenty big enough to swallow a human if she was so careless as to slip and fall in.



“Anybody want to get close?” our intrepid guide asked.  Of course I did!   With a good hand to wrist grip on each other, he dug his crampons into the ice and I edged my way to within a couple of feet of the edge so I could get my shots.   What a rush.

After that, he led us across an ice bridge, and allowed us to peer into a deep crevasse.   “Don’t fall in that, please.   We don’t have ropes that are long enough to reach you to save you if you do,” we were instructed.   Needless to say, we approached that abyss gingerly.

This is the ice bridge.  Jim is on the bridge, our guide is down in the cave below it.



I wished I had real crampons and not the silly studded overboots I had been given by the tour operators.   Our intrepid guide helped me go down to the cave safely.




Yes.   It REALLY IS that blue.

Back out of the cave, across the bridge after looking around at some more cool stuff.  Then the obligatory shot proving that We Were There.  We were also very glad that we both had on long johns, boot socks, coats, hats and gloves.   Believe me it felt really silly to pack those things here in Missouri when it was 90 degrees.  It wasn’t so silly when we were on the glacier!


I believe that there must be a required course in operating every kind of camera known to man for all tour guides.   I have never met one that had any trouble getting a fine documentary shot of my presence at a feature.  Our guide was no exception.

All too soon our time was up; our pilot had to get us back to civilization.  As he tried to round up his four chicks, I managed to get another couple of shots.

This is a hole that is mostly full of melt water.   I guess it to be about six feet deep.


Jim looks at the view.



Back in the air, we get another juicy little roller coaster ride down to the end of the glacier.   Lots of fun.



Came around the shoulder of the mountain and BAM!   Right in front of us was spread the Lynn Canal, in all its sunset glory, complete with holes in the clouds and rays shooting down.    Unbelievable.   I was unable to get a good shot because we were heading back to Juneau and the pilot, the instruments, and the curved bubble of the copter were all in my way.

Plaintively, I asked if he could just turn the helicopter towards that view for me, please?

“Just for a minute,” was the reply.  I know we were way late, so I snapped away as he kindly held the attitude for me.



So grateful for that minute, aren’t you?

Then back to the airport, where the other groups had been landed several minutes and the rest of the tour operator staff were figuratively tapping their toes in impatience to finish their day.


It was a glorious day.

I walked on a glacier.   I am so blessed.

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Went on another cruise… this time with Jim.    We did the Inside Passage tour out of Vancouver on Holland America.    We went to Juneau, where we helicoptered up to the Herbert Glacier and got to hike around on it.   Then off to Skagway, where we took the White Pass Railroad up through the White Pass to Frasier, Canada after which we biked down from the White Pass back to Skagway.    Our final stop was Ketchikan, where the six of us in our little family reunion chartered a fishing boat and went out in the rain and actually caught fish:    5 coho salmon and 4 pink salmon.

Last night out Jim’s brother Bob went to the bingo game and won a free 7 day cruise for two…  Lucky guy.   He bought the wine that night at dinner.

Got home to discover that sometime in the last week someone went into the electrical service closet off our carport and hit the light switch.   That is what our two freezers are plugged into.   Unfortunately, when the light did not go on, the person did not hit the switch a second time, so when we came home the freezers were off and completely defrosted.   We turned them back on again immediately;  doesn’t look like anything spoiled but they still aren’t re-frozen completely yet after 24 hours.  Needless to say, I have a pretty good idea who did this, but no one is admitting to anything…  and making accusations could cause friction with the neighbors who did actually look after the place pretty well.   Oh well.   So all my vegetables and fruit are now frozen in lumps rather than individually they way they were before.   I could be throwing them all away right now… along with half a beef…

So, for right now, I will leave you with the shot I took of my souvenir t-shirt from the Skagway adventure.   I was highly amused by the logo of the Sockeye Cycle company which rented us our bikes and guided our coast down from the White Pass.



Apparently, a fish can ride a bicycle.   If you have a good enough imagination….

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Georgia…. Georgia on my mind…  It is beautiful there.


Continuing the peripatetic way that was outlined for me at the beginning of the summer, I made a solo trip to Georgia to visit my son, his wife and the new grandbaby, James.  You will pardon me if I do the typical Grandma thing and immediately post a picture of the paragon.


I have a feeling that he is going to grow from being extremely cute to being Way Handsome.

It was a lot of fun, really.    The town home community they live in hosts Mississippi kites, kingfishers, numerous other birds and at least one alligator.  There were tree frogs and geckos hunting on their porch.


There was an egret rookery on Ft. Stewart to admire.



I visited the Atlantic coast at  Jekyll Island, a barrier island that shows exactly how the river of sand flows in slow motion.






On Ft. Stewart, near the rookery, is a very beautiful pond that is a recreation area for the soldiers there.


The “kids” took me to nearby Savannah, and we enjoyed eating at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.   Wonderful hamburgers.   We walked along the river in the old part of a very lovely city.


I got to bond with James.


Gratifying is the word that comes to mind.   What was so extremely gratifying was not just the wonderful child that the two of them created, although that was pretty gratifying.   The really great thing was seeing how our son has grown into a tender father and supportive husband.   I got to see first hand the wisdom of his choice of wife; for not only is she very pretty, she is also extremely intelligent, focused on her desire to be a good mother, wise beyond her years, and a fiercely loyal mate.

I also witnessed this very manly man completely involved in the nitty gritty details of housekeeping, sharing the chores of housekeeping.   Even more, he agreed wholeheartedly that since his wife was the main food source for the baby, his main part of the job was going to be the clean-up brigade.   He did that chore with no sign of disgust; but rather with relish, delighted to help make his baby clean and comfortable.   He cooked us dinners, too, following the example his father set.

Who says that only women can be nurturing?







Oh, it was wonderful in the extreme to witness the only major disagreement they had while I was here.   Someone  (I’m not sure whether it was me or Jesse) congratulated her on the excellent job she did of producing this baby.   She objected.   Her position was that Jesse had a lot to do with creating the baby, too.   He disagreed.   I loved the way he put it:  “Babe, all I did was contribute the leavening agent.   You did all the rest.”   Truly, that was the closest I saw them getting into an argument in the almost two weeks I was there.


They are not only parents, they are soldiers.   Both of them.   I found the uniforms and boots by the door to be touching and sweet.    His and hers, together.


I am so proud.  And so blessed.

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That old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”  also applies to working hard.

I did indeed go to Alaska.  We cruised for three days up the Inside Passage to Juneau and Skagway.   It was beautiful.



We went whale watching and did see whales, both humpbacks and orcas.  All those amazing photos you see of whales?   Taken by professionals who got 5000 shots just like mine:


Out of focus and not very interesting.   But the experience was fantastic.

We also saw the Mendenhall Glacier.


There was a glacially carved pond along the walk way to the view point.   I loved this.


I was entranced by the moss/lichen forests.


The area right below the view point for the glacier was roped off from visitors.   The arctic terns were nesting there.   I watched a pair in their mating dance; the male flew down to the glacial lake and brought his intended a little tiny salmon.   She accepted it.   Farther down the beach there was a female who was deep in the process of incubation.


We went on a bus tour of the inland part of the state, starting in Canada and crossing into Alaska near Tok.   On to Fairbanks, where I did the tourist things I never did while I lived there:   sailing on the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena to the Tanana River, visiting a gold dredge and learning to pan for gold.   It was fun.

Then we took the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park.   There were more mountains than it seems possible.   And wildlife.   Mostly moose.  This was taken on our wildlife tour in the park.   This mama had twin babies.   They were less than 24 hours old.


When I got back home, there was a 60th birthday to celebrate, which was done appropriately.   Apparently I am not quite done with my birthday.   Yesterday in the mail I received a beautiful ammonite fossil that someone anonymously ordered off Etsy and had shipped to me.   I feel special and loved.

While we were aboard the ship, we sat for professional portraits.   I believe this is a good way to demonstrate how 60 looks.


Back at home, I had plenty of work waiting for me.   I got my day lily bed north of the stroll garden cleaned out, much to the day lilies’ relief.  They were being swamped by goldenrod, violets, wild iris and sundry other volunteers.   That took a few days.

I also had to catch everyone up on their massages, and I have been very busy with that ever since we got home.

Last night Jim mentioned that he thought we ought to rake the algae out of the pond that has been forming.  I went out there to do some of that this afternoon.  I decided to be circumspect about it, rather than just wholesale rake in clumps of algae.   I am very glad I did.   It is being used by literally dozens of tiny salamander newts.   They were not too happy to be fondled and photographed by the local paparazzi.


You can see his gills and tiny legs.   I believe we may  be leaving the algae alone.

Of course the robins have been very busy too.  This fellow was outside my massage room window the other day, chirping loudly to his parents to induce them to feed him.   They were just as loudly exhorting him to move his butt off the juniper and learn to hunt for himself.   He won the day that afternoon, but I saw him out on the lawn a couple of days later, following his papa around and learning to find bugs for himself.   This is so gosh darned cute.


When I left in mid May, the vegetable garden only had the cool weather crops in, and so since the beginning of June I got the squash, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and I don’t know what all else planted.   It is doing just fine.

We’ve been feasting on beautiful salads.


This is how the garden looks today.   Notice the wooden boxes rather in the middle.   Those are the potato towers.   I’ll let you know how the crop is.


Just in case I thought that all this belonged to me, the wren was there to set me straight.


Well, that catches you all up a bit, I hope.   It is a long summer still.   Now I believe I shall hang out ANOTHER load of laundry and then take Ruby for a walk.

It won’t be a moment too soon for Mallory, who is trying to take a nap on the chair behind me and wishing I would move my derriere off Her Chair so she can get comfortable.  Cats.   Always willing to put your importance into perspective.


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