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Seattle. Home of Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks, to name but a few. We have never heard a bad word spoken about Seattle and so we decided to see for ourselves what it was about. We lucked out with perfect weather in the Pacific Northwest, which was an auspicious start in itself. Apparently October is their driest month, but with temperate rain forest climates, you just never know!

Our first day was spent gathering information for the next day when our friends would join us, so that we could make the most of our subsequent three days. Don wanted to visit the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as he is doing some writing and work in the area of philanthropy at the moment. There was a very interactive display where I learned more about the Foundation’s work. It is a large complex and one can only imagine the ideas that were being contemplated within its walls on that Thursday morning.

The EMP Museum (see above photos), designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry, was a case of serendipity, neither of us being aware it was there. But it was the building itself that mesmerised me, its contents of Pop Culture not being my strongest interest. If you are into Star Wars and Nirvana, though, you are in for a treat!

One of the places near the top of my list to visit was the Seattle Public Library–but not for books, for the architecture. I have never ever been in a library like it. It was truly inspiring and were it not for Ailsa’s recommendation I would have probably not known about it.

Renoir painting, SAM-Impressionist Exhibition

Renoir painting, SAM-Impressionist Exhibition

The surprise of the stay was the newly opened Impressionist exhibition at SAM (Seattle Art Museum). Due to the renovations happening in the National Gallery in Washington DC, paintings from the areas under construction were being circulated around the country. Any time I can see Edouard Vuillard, Manet, Cezanne, Pissarro Bonnard, Renoir and others, is a good day. I do invoke my one hour rule, however. It has been my observation over many years of visiting museums, galleries and architectural masterpieces, that after an hour my brain is sodden with information, dripping out my ears and onto the floors. I simply cannot absorb any more at one time. So my only choice is to see whatever I can as often as possible. Nasty job, but one to which I’m willing to sacrifice myself.

If the Impressionist exhibition was the surprise of the visit, then it is fair to say the Seattle Aquarium was the jewel in the crown. It was the most stunning aquarium any of us have ever seen. It was as close to seeing the Pacific marine life, via deep sea diving, as you could get on dry land. There were even pools created with waves washing over the live anemone and coral, some you were even allowed to touch with bare hands! There was a live octopus, a tank of jelly fish, sea otters and sea lions, eels and on and on.

Dusk view from Space Needle, Seattle

Dusk view from Space Needle, Seattle

A little known characteristic of mine–I do not feel the need to climb or elevate to great heights to ‘enjoy the view’. Taurus, the bull, is an earth dweller, so that may have something to do with it. I’m not worried about heights, I’m just not particularly interested, or moved by them, either. Odd thing? I love climbing to the top of the small rocky outcrops nearby our house, but that is the extent of it. My travel companions seemed more keen to see what was at the top of the Space Needle, so I went along–the first time. I opted out of the second time when the queue was long and tedious and I wanted to be taking photos and having a drink. The Space Needle was erected for the 1962 World’s Fair as an example of architecture of the future. Small problem… it is a hugely inefficient use of space! Still, it distinguishes Seattle’s skyline and judging from the queue, attracts many visitors into the city.

I need to say a word about glass. Chihuly. (pron: che-hoo-lee) If you have never seen or heard of Chihuly’s glasswork, it is truly unique. He is a genius with glass. We have seen numerous of his works over the years and we would never miss an opportunity to see more. His permanent Glass and Garden Exhibition in the middle of Seattle was amazing.

In between all these spectacular things, was the spectacular time with our friends. It was three days we will never forget.

My silhouette looking at a projected image of the room in which I actually stood in the Hermitage three years ago.

Only a projected image of the room in which I actually stood in the Hermitage three years ago, but it evoked fresh emotion.

But wait, there’s more… there is the return to OZ. This time we decided to stop for a couple of nights in Melbourne to shake the travel dust from ourselves and have a look around. As luck would have it, the Exhibition from the Hermitage was at the National Gallery of Victoria and so once again, our eyes feasted on some of the greatest art our species has to offer. We actually saw a couple of the same pieces IN the Hermitage a few years ago and there was something deja vu and goose-bumpy about it all. That is twice in one trip that I was brought to emotional response from beautiful art. What a privilege.

We always enjoy Melbourne for its uniquely European/Asian/Australian vibe. There were times when I wondered where I was–fresh off the plane and with the exotic faces and languages around me. I was reminded what a ‘yarn bomb‘ looks like! It’s a real thing and it was happening in Melbourne, and apparently, all over the world. If only I could knit.

Also we had a look inside the Bank Museum–boring name for a very interesting place. The original ANZ bank building has been thoughtfully conserved, retaining much of its character, but brilliantly attached to the new, very modern, headquarters. In the photo above you can see the new tower’s architectural nod to the original building. I just love it when cities mindfully restrain themselves from destroying everything old and replacing it with new.

And so, what does cheesecake have to do with travel? I will leave you with this photo of my dear, lovely, funny Mother, who says (and I quote)

Eat cheesecake and break a few chairs”

The photo that will haunt my mum

The photo that will haunt my mum

Travel is my metaphorical cheesecake, and breaking of chairs. My life has been greatly enriched from it, though I don’t mind telling you, a few pieces of real cheesecake have been consumed along the way… once, even in a limo in New York City. Oh yeah.