Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Three Days in Seattle -- A Waterfall, Aquarium and Butterflies!

I may have to post this in parts, because I have a lot of pictures to share.

Recently Nigel took a week and a half of vacation time, and we spent three separate days gallivanting all around Seattle, doing all the touristy things we would have done if we had just come here for vacation, instead of moving here permanently like we did three years ago. So now I am doing my bit for Seattle tourism by telling you all about it and posting my photos.

Not everything has to do with gardening, but some of it does.

Our first stop was the Waterfall Garden, a small public garden with a huge waterfall. The Waterfall garden was built to honor the workers of United Parcel Service. You can read more about the Seattle Waterfall Garden here.

With bistro tables, the Waterfall Garden is a great place for workers in the area to sit and eat lunch.

The waterfall actually gets turned off at night.

Our next stop on our very first day was a Seattle Underground tour, and it was fascinating! In June 1889 a fire that was started by glue boiling over spread throughout a large part of Seattle, resulting in 32 city blocks being burned to the ground. The city was rebuilt from brick and stone, instead of wood, and was built on top of the old cellars, resulting in an entire underground part of the city that seldom gets used or sees the light of day. We learned quite a lot about the history of Seattle on this tour, led by a very talented raconteur who really managed to make it sound interesting and exciting. You can read more about the Great Seattle Fire here on Wikipedia.

Dark and gloomy, but fascinating!

A stained glass grid on the sidewalk above allows light into the underground, enough for ferns and mosses to grow.

After a quick food court lunch, we took off for a short cruise on a paddle-wheeler, from which we could view lots of the sights of the South Lake Union area, including this view of the floating house where Tom Hanks and his son lived in the movie Sleepless in Seattle.

That was a very full first day! We came home very tired, with aching feet and legs from all the walking.

On our second day, we went to the waterfront to check out the Seattle Aquarium. We had fun checking out the hands-on exhibits, where we could touch tidepool denizens such as starfish, and look at cool creatures such as octopi, seahorses, jellyfish, otters and seabirds.

The jellyfish were fascinating, as they swam so languidly under colored fluorescent lights.

I found Nemo!

Puffin preening

One amazing feature of the Aquarium is this cool domed room with a tank overhead, where you can watch fish swim through sunlit kelp beds.

The otters were adorable as they lay on their backs and basked in the sun.

We followed the Aquarium trip with a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, an enormous ferris wheel with enclosed air-conditioned cars that give you an awesome view of the waterfront area. You can read articles about its construction and opening here. If you're looking for tickets, you can buy them here.

Seattle's Great Wheel

View of the waterfront

View of the Space Needle from the Great Wheel

After lunch at Mee-Sum Pastry at Pike Place Market, we walked up to Westlake Center and hopped on the monorail for a ride to Seattle Center, where the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center and  Chihuly Garden and Glass are. The monorail, the Space Needle and the Science Center are all left-overs from the 1962 World's Fair. They are celebrating 50 years of operating this year. You can read about the history of the monorail here.

Seattle's monorail arrives at the station.

View of the Space Needle from below

Pacific Science Center

Our destination that day was the Science Center. They currently have a big King Tut exhibit installed there, but our purpose was not to see that. We saw a major King Tut exhibit many years ago at the Boston Science Museum, when we were living in Massachusetts.

No, our goal was viewing butterflies! The Science Center has a Tropical Butterfly House, a large greenhouse room full of tropical plants and exotic butterflies. They were so beautiful! I've seen swallowtails lately flitting around my garden, but they never light long enough on anything to take pictures. These butterflies seemed totally unperturbed by the presence of so many people, and many stood absolutely still on flowers and rotting fruit, just waiting for their adoring public to take their picture!

We hadn't been planning to check out the Chihuly Exhibit, we didn't have enough time left on that second day, because we had to catch a commuter train back home. Chihuly Garden and Glass beckoned us from behind a wall of green, offering nothing but tantalizing glimpses! I've bought and installed the work of glass artist Barbara Sanderson of Glass Gardens Northwest in my own garden, and have written about it here and here. But this post is getting rather long, so I'll write in my next post about my visit a few days later to the Chihuly exhibit...which was really quite astounding.