The Des Moines Marina

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I talk a lot about all of the neat stuff in Seattle proper but there many amazing things in the towns that surround the city. One of the prettiest places I’ve found is the Des Moines Marina, about twenty minutes south of Seattle.

Since I do not own a boat I do not use the moorage services offered by the marina but that is only one of the reasons to visit. The main reason I personally like to go is for the walk—it’s a short but gorgeous walk along the dock area before turning to follow a jetty out into the Puget Sound. I like to go down there just to catch a breath of fresh sea air and some space, along with having a nice place to walk where I can see water and boats rather than construction and cars, which seem too common in the areas that I usually trek. Plus there is something wonderfully stress relieving about just seeing a new vista once in a while.

In January I was at the Marina when I grabbed this shot. As you can see on a sunny day Mt. Rainer is visible and, if you’re looking the other way, you can also spot the Olympic mountains. If you like to look at boats this is an excellent watching spot. Along with the vessels docked at the marina, a mix of sailing yachts of various sizes and fishing boats, you can also see some of the ferries from Seattle and other sailboats moving around on the water. You’re also close enough to SeaTac airport to see planes either taking off or landing depending on the direction that the airport is flowing that day (On some days the planes take off over Des Moines and come in for landings over Seattle. Other days they switch this pattern).

Parking is free at the Marina in the marked public parking areas. Driving directions are at http://www.desmoinesmarina.com if you would like to come on down and check out the walk at the next sunny day we have! Or a rainy day…it doesn’t really matter. No matter the weather the Sound is always pretty and it is always a real treat to get out and walk along it for a bit!

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!

Seattle Central Library

Christmas has settled into the past and now we face the long, bleak days until spring returns again. I think, no matter where you live in the Western Hemisphere, the winter months drag on until the hope that spring will comes again begins to fade.

Still there are ways to beat even the most insistent case of rainy-day blues! One of my favorite ways to cope is to hide in the library—and Seattle offers one of the most beautiful public libraries on the West Coast.

The Seattle Central Library, with the main entrance on 4th Street right between Spring and Madison, is the central hub for the Seattle Public Library system. It is a magnificent steel-and-glass building that Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus designed in 2004, and in 2007 the American Institute of Architects placed it at #108 on their list of “150 Favorite Structures in the US”. The library is 11 stories tall and it can hold over one million books and other media, including DVDs, magazines, and newspapers. On the top floor one can find the Seattle Room—a reference room filled with antique maps and many, many books from historical accounts to copies of Washington State and Seattle City censuses and legal documents. It is a treasure trove for the history buff, the historical novelist or even just a local history fan.

One of the most interesting features of the building is the Book Spiral on floors six through eight. These floors house the non-fiction section of the library and are designed as a spiral so that the Dewey Decimal System filing system would not broken up—if you start at the bottom of the spiral you can wander all the way to the back of the eighth floor without being interrupted.

If you like fiction you’ll find the Children’s’ section on the first floor and the Teen and Adult fiction are on the third floor. I’ve wiled away many a rainy afternoon curled up among these shelves with a murder mystery or thumbing through a graphic novel or two. Often it’s the only way to spend a few hours—a wonderful break in a busy day.

The library is free to anyone who wishes to come in. If you are hungry or thirsty there is a coffee shop on the third floor called Chocolati. It sells prepackaged sandwiches, baked treats, a variety of hot drinks, and hand-made chocolates. Naturally food and drink is limited to the coffee shop tables and chairs, it is not allowed in the book or computer areas of the library. Right next to the coffee shop is a gift shop that focuses on items for book-lovers and readers. It also features arts and crafts created by local artists.

The library is open seven days a week. Every day but Sunday it opens at 10 am, on Sunday it opens at noon. Monday through Thursday it closes at 8 pm. Friday through Sunday it closes at 6 pm.

Enjoy your visit—if you do go be sure to stop by Chocolati, you’ll need the energy to explore the library in the fullness that it deserves! Have a good time!

The Robots of Christmas

Seattle is an amazing and endlessly amusing city. While its quirky character is always visible year-round I found it in a very colorful form while I was out at Westlake yesterday. As you can imagine everything is decked out for Christmas—trees and red flowers are everywhere, Santa Clauses sit in the malls and welcome small children up to say ‘hello’, and lights bedeck every tree and building in sight.

Still two stores, Macys and Nordstrom’s, went just a bit and beyond the call with their window decorations. Both department stores had the usual window displays of mannequins in gorgeous clothing with cut-out snowflakes or piles of fake presents around them. Still if you went a bit further off of the main Pine Street corridor you find two special displays. On the corner of 4th and Stewart I found the Macy’s display. It is a whole corner window that has been turned into an elaborate train scene with multiple trains running all kinds of routes through lit villages and snow-capped mountains. For the train enthusiast each engine is marked by a company with a Union Pacific engine and a Santa Fe Railroad engine being just two of the companies represented. It was a gorgeous little display that enchanted a whole group of us on the street corner. No matter how advanced our technology gets people are always going to be fascinated by train sets it seems!

A few blocks up the prize for most ‘Perfectly Seattle Christmas Display” went to Nordstorms. In the main window at 6th and Pine they had set up their Santa Claus set. He was quite busy that afternoon while people on the street could glance in at the classic scene of family Christmas photos. I walked past that display, a bit further down 6th Avenue, and I found the display in the next two windows after Santa.

A whole army of little robots had been arranged against a city backdrop with alien ships in the sky. I missed the beginning of the recording but apparently, according to what I could gather about the display, alien robots help Santa deliver presents to the people of Earth. Some of the robots held signs declaring such things as “There’s nothing artificial about my intelligence” and “I’m nuts (and bolts) about you!”.

Odd? Yes.

Unusual? Very.

Completely Un-Christmas-like? Most likely.

Very typical of Seattle? Definitely!

Let that be a fair warning to you all! In Seattle we decorate for Christmas by using robots and we consider it quite expected and completely awesome. If that’s your kind of style you’re going to love it up here!

Christmas Eve Photo Event!

I’m so sorry for not having a photo blog up last Wednesday but, the truth is, I’m saving up my photos for a big ‘Christmas in Seattle’ photo blog that will be going up Christmas Eve! I’m very excited about it and I am hoping that you’ll all love it to!

Also in the spirit of Christmas, travel and getting to know our own backyards better, if you have any Christmas photos that you’d like to share please do so in the comments! I would love to see them!

Have a good week–I’ll see you on Sunday!

A Christmas Double Feature–Garden D’Lights and Snowflake Lane

The nights grow chilly here in Seattle. As they do they glow with the twinkling lights wrapped around trees and adorning houses. A few people like to get more creative with their light displays though—here enters the Garden D’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. Over half a million lights transform the Gardens into a glowing, twinkling wonderland. The trees and bushes are turned into cascading walls of light as all kinds of creatures, both normal and mythical, come alive in and around the still-growing flowers and plants.

When my sisters and I went last Christmas we wandered along the marked path and where treated to beautiful peacocks fanning out their tails, a dragon surveying its domain, and fairies and sprites exploring their world alongside many Christmas-themed presentations such as Santa in his workshop and elves popping up at fun moments. I found it charming for anyone of any age—around us small children, parents and grandparents were all chattering with delight as every curve in the path revealed a new wonder to us all.

Tickets are $5.00 per person. All children 10 and under are free—they do not need a ticket. You can buy your tickets on-line at http://www.gardendlights.org and skip the ticket lines. The website also has information about how the gardens are put together and directions to the event.

Now if, when you’ve reached the end of the path, you haven’t had enough Christmas Spirit yet you can always follow the plan my sisters and I took that evening: Instead of heading home we headed back into downtown Bellevue. Right outside on the sidewalks of the Bellevue Collection (Officially Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place and Lincoln Square) at 7pm the whole area is transformed into Celebration and Snowflake Lane for a parade and show. Dancers, stilt performers, and a band all turn out to help the crowd get into the holiday spirit. This performance is nightly, at 7pm, until December 24th. It is completely free but you’ll want to arrive early. The crowds can be large. Parking is at the local malls or street parking—their fees can vary. For more information about the event, directions and services in the local area you can heck out this website here: http://www.bellevuecollection.com/SnowflakeLane/index.php

At least one night this season you should definitely check out this amazing double-feature. It’s fun, charming and a great, big taste of Christmas joy—it’s just like dunking a sugar cookie in hot cocoa and taking a big bite from it!

Have a great time checking out the city hanging out on Seattle’s East side and getting a big boost of Christmas joy!