The glass sculptures were astonishing. Just once in my life I had visited a glass blowers’ studio, accompanying my daughter’s school study trip. Yes, I had seen the demonstrations of the glass being melted, blown and shaped into a delicate form. But nothing prepared me for the dazzling spectacle in front of my eyes.
My family and I were on our first trip to Seattle and I had already been enchanted by the magical juxtaposition of man and nature that this city offers. We decided to focus on some of the sights that the Emerald City is famous for as I knew that not everything could be visited in the three days we had at our disposal and so we picked and chose.
Chihuly Garden and Glass Works
Dale Chihuly is the preeminent American glass artist whose work forms the basis of the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum located next to the Space Needle, the iconic destination in Seattle. Although a lot of tourists choose to go up the observation deck and consider this place as an afterthought, we visited the needle after some rethinking and concentrated first on Chihuly Garden and Glass which turned out to be a wonderful decision.
The museum has eight galleries, a glasshouse, a garden and also a theater that shows videos of Chihuly’s working methods. Each gallery is a sight to behold and pretty soon I was confused as to where to concentrate albeit in a good way. To say that each gallery was a kaleidoscope or a riot of colors would be an understatement. The installation titled “Mille Fiori” was a dreamlike lighted garden of brightly colored glass; a dense, illuminated vegetation of standing tentacles, orbs, flowers, and myriad ornamental shapes springing from a smooth, black mirrored platform in faultless beautiful harmony.
In the next gallery we saw small, wooden boats overflowing with bright hued glass spheres in an array of sizes while in another display a blue and white tower of glass icicles filled us with awe. Other galleries had his smaller works on exhibit, items like baskets, bowls and vases, each of which was spectacular even though much smaller in size. We stood under his famous “Persian Ceiling” and awaited our turn to click a photo.
More Delights in Glass…
Then it was time to enter the space which held the museum’s center of attraction. The “Glasshouse” is a capacious sculpture of individually blown glass flowers in red, yellow and orange, 100 foot in length and spans the ceiling of a glass conservatory. While I stared at the ceiling, my eyes traveling the entire stretch, I noticed the next sculpture, a tree of pointy curved tentacles in yellow with flecks of red and blue, located outdoors.
So we stepped into the outdoor glass garden to once more marvel at Dale Chihuly’s incredible skill with glass now integrated into a real garden. There was the tower of large, pink crystals looking like cotton candy, the sweep of sparse forest in blue upright thin tentacles and orbs in various azure hues, the slightly distant red flowers on stems evoking blown away dandelions and last but not the least green, spiky glass that to me looked like alien worms poking their heads out from the soil.
Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle
The next day we admired the work of another ingenious mind, the architect Frank O. Gehry and his vision in metal, the Museum of Pop Culture, which on its inside is a tribute to the creative expressions in life. Originally a nonprofit museum known as the Experience Music Project, it was opened up in 2000 by the Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen as a salutation to pop culture and music. I felt that the building though sometimes derided by critics as a monstrosity did also evoke the aura of rock n’ roll through its varied textures, colors and undulating shape both on the exterior and interior, evoking a guitar body according to its architect. I was awestruck to see the Monorail track designed to go right through the building exterior.
We walked through exhibits highlighting the music worlds and the movie worlds of fantasy, science fiction and horror. My daughter and I oohed and ahhed over Dorothy’s blue dress from the beloved “Wizard of Oz “and smiled at the display of costumes from one of our family’s favorite movies, “The Princess Bride”. There are three floors of exhibits of original props, manuscripts, costumes and more from all genres of blockbuster Hollywood movies.
In the Sky Church, an expansive, large gallery space with a gigantic LED screen, I and my family watched the video of a Jimi Hendrix performance. The activity space is named so after Hendrix’s concept of a gathering place for people brought together by music.
Bainbridge Island and Viewing Mt. Rainier
The afternoon highlight was a ferry trip to Bainbridge Island, one of the many islands that dot the scenic Puget Sound waters. Though the downtown area, Winslow, was charming with quaint shops and eateries, the best part of the ferry trip was to stand on the deck to enjoy the breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier and the glowing cityscape under the setting sun.
I caught sight of a Ferris wheel which I later learnt was called the Seattle Great Wheel, with 42 cabins which would of course provide spectacular city views but we had already experienced those views from the Space Needle so I was not disappointed.
Klondike Gold Rush Museum, Seattle
The following day we chanced upon the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, a hidden treasure that we came across while walking among unique galleries, boutiques and eateries in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. The museum is a National Historical Park and is housed in the Cadillac Hotel, itself a gold rush era building.
The exhibits inside showed how in the years 1897-1898, close to 100,000 people left their homes enticed by visions of golds and riches in Canada’s Yukon region. I was fascinated to learn how in 1896, a few people discovered gold in the tributary of Klondike River in the Yukon that led to this massive movement of people who boarded ships in Seattle and other nearby cities, heading towards Alaska, ready to face diseases, deaths and the wraths of nature in the hopes of striking a fortune.
After resting our tired feet at the nearby Occidental Park, replete with totem poles, bocce courts, giant chessboards and tourists such as us taking a break, it was time to move on to the next place of interest.
Pike Place Market
This of course was a sight that no one ever misses while on a trip to Seattle, namely Pike Place Market and even if one is not a coffee lover, the first Starbucks. A first time visitor can easily spend a whole day at the market browsing through hundreds of stores selling everything from one of a kind local arts and crafts, books and collectibles to flowers, fish and produce. I along with my family joined a throng around a fishmonger’s stall to watch the fish toss, wherein a large fish is thrown from one side of the heavily laden fish stall to another. What started out as a time saving routine is now a fan favorite and a highly entertaining show at the Pike Place Market. And though I’m not much of a coffee drinker, it was still fun to brave the crowds milling about at the entrance to the first Starbucks store, located opposite the Pike Place Market and ponder about the worldwide popularity of this chain.
Seattle turned out to be an ideal vacation destination and I realized it was more so because of something out of the ordinary. Known for its incessant rains, the weather gods smiled on our short, coveted holiday time making it possible for us to truly enjoy each of its unique attractions.
Written by: Susmita Sengupta
Susmita Sengupta, an architect by background, from New York City, loves to travel with her family. Her articles have been published in Travel Thru History, Go Nomad, Go World Travel, Travel Signposts, Travelstoke App, In the Know Traveler and Intrepid Times.
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