The Queen Mary Tearoom

There’s nothing better in the world then a cup of tea.

Tea is my favorite beverage and I like finding tea-houses where I can enjoy a cup and some dessert or a meal. I’ve already talked about taking Afternoon Tea at the Empress in Victoria but there are many, lower-key tea rooms in Seattle perfect for a casual outing.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining my sister Lori at the Queen Mary, a tearoom up by the University of Washington. It is the oldest operating independent tearoom in the United States, opening its doors in 1988 and it is an absolutely charming establishment.

The tearoom is a small, cozy space—the tables are close together and decorated with mix-and-match teacups and flowers. A cheerful waitress will take your coats for you back into the coatroom and then, as you settle in, you’ll be given the menu. Breakfast is served from 9am until 11am. Lunch is served from 11am until 4pm, when last seating is. On the weekends last seating is at 4:30pm. You can order afternoon tea at any time that you’d like. The tea selection is vast, running the full course from the usual Back, Green and White teas into specialty teas like Oolong and Rooibos. There are many varieties to suit every taste and style.

Lori and I came up for lunch and tea on a quiet rainy afternoon in January. As we settled in to enjoy our meal and drinks we were soon in a very enjoyable conversation with the older ladies next to us. The tables were close enough that conversation could flow easily between table-mates and near-by tables, giving the room a pleasant feeling. The guests were varied—couples on dates, some people enjoying birthdays or another kind of celebration and friends out to have a fun afternoon.

After Lori and I were quite full from our amazing lunch, a salmon salad for her and a vegetable quiche for me with both a fresh vegetable salad and a fruit salad, we were given the dessert menu. After asking we found out that we could take dessert home with us and ended up picking up some macaroons for both ourselves and our family members at home.

We did not get a chance to stop at the Queen Mary Tea Emporium down the street from the tearoom but I plan on stopping by there the next time I come up. That is where they sell the tea and tea dishes. Inside of the tearoom they do have recipe books, some dishes and other items for making tea such as infusers, and toys for children, including tea sets and adorable stuffed corgis, for sale.
While the prices at the tearoom can run rather high for some budgets, they are similar to many other specialty shops in the area. If you wish to get a cup of tea and dessert it will be very reasonably priced and quite delicious (really the raspberry macaroons are mind-blowing and my family gave me good reports on the lemon and mango ones as well). It is the perfect place for a special outing with a few dear friends and you will be guaranteed a very lovely time.

Doug Aitken’s “Mirror”

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On 1st and Union you will find the new entrance to the Seattle Art Museum. Regulars call it the ‘new entrance’ because when the downtown museum first opened in 1991 the main entrance was near the Hammering Man statue on 1st and University. The museum underwent renovations and when it re-opened in 2007 they moved the main entrance.

The museum is a living building, constantly undergoing changes—both interior ones as exhibitions come and go and exterior ones on the building itself. One of newest changes is a huge moving mural on the outside of the building, right behind the SAM sign that faces onto 1st Avenue. The display, “Mirror” by Doug Aitken, opened in March 2013. It features hundreds of hours of footage of people, environments, landscapes, and locations in Seattle that travel across the panels above the museum doors. The environment affects the display—what pedestrians are doing, the current weather and atmosphere conditions, and traffic and activity on 1st avenue all can alter the mural in different ways.

If you would like to come view “Mirror” you can see it from the street. If the weather is good one of the best viewing places is an open area right between the Four Seasons Hotel and the Pike Place Brewery—both of which are located across the street from SAM. If the weather is a bit mucky you can always view “Mirror” from one of the shops right across the street from the museum—I have been told that Fran’s Chocolate is an excellent viewing point. They also reportedly make a fantastic cup of hot chocolate, so I’ve been told!

However you choose to view “Mirror”, and whether hot chocolate is involved or not, have fun doing so! Until next time happy adventures and travels!

A Blast From the Past at the Science Center

I should apologize for the silence—my internet was down for an annoyingly long time last week, blacking out my Wednesday update and my ability to double-check dates and prices. Everything has been fixed however and now we are back on schedule!

And speaking of being on schedule Pacific Science Center is getting ready to bring their next exhibit in and it promises to be a fantastic one! This is its last stop in the U.S. for “Pompeii: The Exhibition” before it returns to Italy so you’ll definitely want to see it during its three-and-a-half month run.

Pompeii, near Naples, Italy is the site of one of the greatest natural disasters in recorded Human history. Sometime in 79AD the large volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the town of Pompeii, along with many near-by communities and villas in meters of hot ash. Many, if not all, of the citizens in the area, and in Pompeii in particular, were killed by the extreme heat and the ash and gas clouds that came from the eruption. Still what had been so thoroughly destroyed by the volcano was also preserved by it.

For almost 1,500 years the site was untouched until, quite by accident, some walls were revealed in 1599 while a crew was digging an underground channel for the Sarno river. Some excavation was done but ultimately the remains were covered up again. Again Pompeii remained undisturbed until 1748 when the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre intentionally began to uncover it. From that point on regular excavations and study of Pompeii became regular and since the early eighteen hundreds it has been a tourist attraction, starting out as a stop on the Grand Tour. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This exhibit is one of the few times that pieces and artifacts have left Italy. Many of the artifacts that will be shown are details of everyday life in a Roman city including artwork, armor from guards and gladiators, religious figurines, currency, and personal belongings such as jewelry or hairpieces. There will also be ten full body casts made from the hollows in the hardened ash—the skeletons of the deceased usually decomposed but they left imprints in the ash. Plaster was poured into those shapes and archeologists were able to recreate the forms.

One area of the display will be marked with a ‘mature’ warning—it will be a representation of a brothel. This display will be in its own area and will be visibly blocked from the rest of the exhibit—adults may use their own discretion in going in themselves or allowing younger members of their family to enter. There will be a by-pass route available should you choose not to view it.

There will also be an immersive CGI section where guests can experience a recreation of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius—there will be some shaking of the ground and walls. Guests who are prone to motion sickness will wish to exercise some caution during this part of the experience.

Once you travel through the whole exhibit there will be an exhibit-specific gift shop at the exit. This one is separate from the main Science Center gift shop.

The exhibit will be in Seattle between February 7th and May 25th, 2015. Tickets are already on sale and may be purchased in advance on-line. Tickets will be dated for specific dates and times of entries so that the exhibit will not become over-crowded. Prices for entry vary with ages and between weekends and regular weekdays. The website will have all of the most current ticket prices. Purchasing on-line is an excellent idea—when the King Tut exhibit was on display at the Science Center in 2012 the lines were quite long for at-the-gate purchases. Advance purchasing allows you to skip these lines.

This show looks to be a fantastic one and an amazing chance to see these artifacts in the United States. After this exhibit leaves Seattle you will have to travel to Italy to see them. I think, personally, it would be best to see this exhibit, let it whet your appetite and then plan a trip to Italy visit the sites of the disaster in person. Whether this will be just a fun day trip in Seattle for you or the launching-off-point for a European adventure I hope you have a fantastic time!

Once the exhibit opens I will be posting a follow-up blog focusing more on the history behind Pompeii and the artifacts inside. This will be part of a new segment I will be working on, a once-a-week post focusing on the history behind exhibits and sites in Seattle!

The Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum–Seattle’s Hidden Museum

Pioneer Square is a treasure trove for Seattle history, being one of the oldest areas of the city. At 317 3rd Avenue South, about a block from the train station and the International District Link Light Rail station, you can find the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum. This is a small museum where the general public can access most of the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff Department’s histories. I cannot say ‘all’ of the history since most of the records and photographs from the departments’ early histories (prior to June 1889) was lost in the Great Seattle Fire which I will probably do a whole blog on since that disaster really shaped the face of the ‘modern’ city. They have only been able to locate one photograph of the department before 1889—it was found in a private collection and, as of the time I visited, it was in the museum.

It is not a large museum compared to many in Seattle but it is the largest privately funded police museum in United States. Inside of the museum the exhibits focus on related photographs and documents from the history of the area, displays on weaponry, uniforms, and badges as they progressed. There is also a vintage communication section and a jail cell for visitors to explore.

I originally headed to the museum to research a Steampunk novel I was working on. I was able to spend a very pleasant afternoon wandering around the displays and chatting with the elderly lady at the front desk. She was one of the few volunteers who help keep the museum open—it is a small affair and sometimes it gets passed over more than it deserves.

As she showed me the museum is laid out in a chronological order, starting with the Sheriff’s department that covered the territory before Seattle was officially incorporated. With gaps for the information lost in the fire (the original police station burned down) it moved into the 20th century, discussing the back-and-forth tensions between the Sheriff’s department and the Police department. Bootlegging came up next and the Prohibition—slowly it moved into the Depression, and then the changes the department went through during World War II. Along the way they discussed how the police department grew and changed as the area grew bigger and more small towns were incorporated in. Finally it moved into modern times and some of the more well-known crime histories in the area. The interactive displays like a 9-1-1 dispatcher console are located in a side room toward the back of the museum—they’re really fun to take a peek at!

Since this museum is often passed over except by researchers like myself, or visitors to Seattle who’ve seen it on a map and are curious, you do not need to worry about fighting large crowds. I was alone in the building for over an hour before a small group of travelers came in to check out the displays.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Anyone 12 and older are considered adults and their admission is $4.00 per person. Children 11 and under, along with handicapped guests, are $2.00 per person.

If you are a researcher the museum does have access to a research library. However it is not open to the public due to the delicate materials being stored there. Requests for information may be submitted to the museum by either calling the museum or writing to them. They will need an explanation of what you are looking for and the reason why—once they have that information they’ll help you as best they can. More information about the library can be found on the website: http://www.seametropolicemuseum.org/default.html

Now you all go out and have a good time exploring one of Seattle’s over-looked gems!