Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Museum of Flight, Seattle

Do you have to force... bribe... your kids to get some culture in their lives?
I use persuasive coercion on my son, He's 16.

We had to travel from Olympia, WA to Seattle on many occasions so that my son could see specialist doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital. When we would go to the city, my 16 year old boy would complain about being in the city, he would say he wants to go to the hospital and then go straight back home. Now I don't know if you have ever been to Seattle, but we aren't talking about some huge metropolis with endless cars and streets, we aren't talking Manhattan here. Seattle is a small city, with the feel of being quaint, and with around 700,000 people, it's not too big. But the way my son see's things, I am torturing him with city life. He's a cowboy boot wearing country boy, but that didn't stop me from telling him we were going to do something, and that he needed to pick a Museum or tell me anywhere he wanted to go. Lucky for him, his 13 year old sister, who is obsessed with airplanes, said she wanted to go to the Flight Museum.
Plans Made.
16 year old continues to complain.
16 year old insists he will wait in the car.

When we arrived and my son started to see that this place wasn't just about airplanes, when he saw NASA and a 3D space movie offered. He was elated. Isn't it just funny, mom knows best. I knew that if I physically GOT him to the museum, he would go in, there was no way that kid was going to sit in the car for hours while we look around a museum.

I can only think of one word to describe this place... "Cool", I mean really really cool! The flight museum covers all aspect of flying, from Space Ships to Airplanes to Droids.
(I'm so glad that flight has improved from this one man flying apparatus!)
I really enjoyed reading about the first woman in space, and loved that my daughter was able to connect with this history, especially since she talks non-stop about being a pilot.
A representation of Valentina Tereshcova and the seat she would have sat in. Valentina was the first woman in space.
The kids loved riding in the flight simulator.
The simulator cost $9 a person, and $7 for a 2nd ride.
Above Photo borrowed from the Seattle Flight Museum Website
We sat through a movie about the nearly forgotten Cassini-Huygens -- Mostly referred to as "Cassini", Cassini was a collaboration between NASA, The Italian Space Agency & The European Space Agency. Cassini was a space probe that launched from Earth in 1997 and crashed in 2017 on one of Saturn's Moons. It took several photos, and it's actually quite moving and sad when Cassini ended it's journey. The photos the probe took during it's shoot around the sun and through our galaxy are breathtaking. Oh... And Earth is round y'all! 🌍🌍🌍🌍 Cassini got a lot of great shots. Not that I doubted the Earth was round, but you know, in case any Flat-Earthers read. 😁 The movie was only an additional $3 per person, and worth the 40 minutes.
For me, it was very surreal seeing a real helicopter from The Vietnam War, I can't imagine hanging off of the side of it, like you see in the movies. It's easy to forget our past wars until you're reminded with such a fierce realism glaring at you.
The museum is actually 2 MASSIVE buildings, they are opposite each other off of East Marginal Way S. There is a sky way that makes for easy access and connects both buildings. It's in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery that houses some of the most amazing large Airplanes, I get all giddy thinking about it. I love flight, and the idea of it... watching planes fly, flying on planes, reading about planes, being on planes-- You get my drift.
There is a replica of the Space Shuttle, as well as a lot of the equipment that NASA uses.
 I feel claustrophobic when I see what the Astronauts actually wear, fly in and work in.
For instance, coming back to Earth in THIS...
I have so much admiration and respect for Astronauts, but I could NOT get in this thing and shut the door!
Space Toilet... Use your imagination.
It was also neat to see The original Air Force One. President's Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon all flew aboard this flying oval office. Did you know that it's only called "Air Force One" if the President is on board? Other wise, it's "SAM", Special Air Missons. It's currently on loan to the flight museum and you can read more about it on the Museums Website.
You are able to walk around inside all of the airplanes that are in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.
I'm pretty sure this was the best of the best back in the 60's, but I'm also pretty sure our recent Presidents don't sleep on a bunk.
And... THE CONCORDE! What a cool trip that would be, flying to London from New York in like, what? 2 hours? Of course, as long as it doesn't, you know, crash. Most likely why it's sitting here in Seattle, and not on the runway. Still very cool.
There are so many different planes to enjoy and walk in.
The Dreamliner is one of my favorite planes to fly on, It's easy to forget how enormous some planes are when comfortably sat inside of it. It still makes my brain mesmerized that they are even able to get off of the ground! The engines are huge!
The gift shop. So much Coolness! (Cool-- It's just the word you will be saying throughout this Museum). When doing a bit of research for this post, I just realized they have an online store, I don't know how it compares to the store in the Museum, but the kids got some great souvenirs like Astronaut food and Airplane Replicas.
Dried strawberry anyone?
I couldn't pass up one of the Coffee (Tea in my case) cups.
There was only one negative thing in this whole place. The Cafe. The food was disgusting. It was expensive and gross. The chicken wings were barely cooked, the baked potato raw and the fresh celery and carrots smelled of mold. I'm not even kidding-- Bring a lunch or eat before you go. $45 for food we didn't eat.
       Entrance free for the Museum is $22 a person (18-64), $19 (65+), $14 (5-17), Under 4 is free.
                                                            Museum of Flight
                                          9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108

Expect to spend 4-5 hours at the Museum to see everything, more if you see a movie. There is free parking and the Museum is opened 7 days a week, 10am-5pm. There is free admission in the evening of the first Thursday of every month from 5pm-9pm

Needless to say, my 16 year old son that refused to go to a Museum, had the best time and asked to go back! My 13 year old daughter also wanted a 2nd trip. We have since moved to Texas, but we still have family in Washington, so I see another visit in our future. It was THAT much fun, not a museum that kids only want to visit once.

Aren't Museums one of the best things about travel?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mount Rainier, Washington State

There are many places across the globe that I would travel to, just to see one small part of it. 
For instance, The Rome Coliseum in Italy--The Louvre in Paris-- The crystal clear ocean in Fort Lauderdale--The Giraffe Manor in Kenya-- The Great Barrier Reef in Australia-- This list can go on and on! Mount Rainier in Washington State is one of those places. If you travel to Washington State to see only one thing, it should be Mount Rainier. In fact, if you traveled 5,000 miles to see Mount Rainier, I promise that you would not regret it. 

Mount Rainier is located about 59 miles Southeast of Seattle. We visited in July of 2018, though people do visit in the winter time, there are many roads that are closed off when it's cold. We saw many hikers and bikers, but we drove up the mountain. The roads are very well maintained, but many of them have very steep drop offs. My brother was driving a Mini Van when we went, and looking down off of the side, while he was driving, made my stomach flip more than a few times. My brother is a good driver, but that doesn't mean I didn't hold my breath on a few of the turns!
 This photo might look like a ditch, but I added this photo to show just how crystal clear the water is, this ditch is full of water. It's absolutely pristine on this mountain.
I have been a few places around this globe, and I believe it's fair to say, that Mount Rainier is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places I have ever been. There are parking places on the way up the mountain, gift shops and visiting centers. So you don't have to just peer out your car window for a view. One of the stops we made, is called "Paradise"-- There is a reason for that. It's like a view from Heaven. 
I found the air a little bit thin and had to take a couple of deep breaths, but no one else seemed to notice. We were at one point, in the clouds, like actually surrounded by clouds. 
Mount Rainier is an active volcano, which hasn't been active since the late 1800's. It is the highest mountain in Washington and can be seen over a hundred miles away. 

I love the outdoors, I don't actually do things like fish or sleep in the woods, but I love a good hike and nothing can replace an extraordinary view. With the fresh air and pristine water, there are endless outdoor activities. We ran into a family that had been out hiking for 7 hours, they were returning to their truck, all of them had a backpack and their walking sticks, the youngest looked about 9. We were there all day as well. There is so much to do and see, you will want to spend hours exploring. Adults and children alike love this mountain.

As I mentioned we visited in July, and there was still a lot of snow on the ground. I suggest a hoodie, maybe even a pair of jeans, we stayed until about 10pm. It got very cold!
Sandals and snow... 
It cost $30 per car load to get on the mountain. A small fee for 6 of us. 
We took a lot of snacks and food as well, we had a cooler full in the van, it goes without saying, that outdoor activity leads to hungry teenagers, of which we had 3. 
Keep in mind, your cheetos will blow at high altitudes 😃
I took most of these photos, but my sister (in-law) took some as well. I love hanging out with my family and it was such a pleasure to explore the mountain side with them.
I encourage anyone that loves the outdoors or loves a breathtaking view, to visit Mount Rainier. A good location is never too far to travel to.

If you want to check out the weather on the mountain before you travel, you can look at the many webcams on Mount Rainier.
My dad, my brother, sister (in-law) and my niece still live in Washington, so I will be returning, and I know, that I will revisit this beauty again. She truly is spectacular.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

St. Dunstan in the East -- A Hidden Gem in London

To I think about the number of times that I have walked passed this serene place in the middle of London, not even knowing it was there. I read about this hidden gem a couple of years ago, I actually tried finding it in 2015 but there was construction everywhere and I couldn't get across the street. (Lame, I know).

Only once in the last 23 visits to London, did I not go see Tower Bridge. When I went this past May, everything was re-routed and blocked along the river Thames. When walking from Tower Bridge to London Bridge, I used to always walk right along the river front, but now I walk behind the buildings on Lower Thames Street. I'm not really sure why the river walk is blocked now, but I think some of the new buildings might be private flats. Regardless of the reason, I hope the Thames walkway near The Tower of London opens up again soon.

It's been 10 weeks since I was there and I am already pining to go back. London definitely has my heart.

It was when I was in London this last time, that I decided to go poking around for St. Dunstan in the East. I was walking down Lower Thames Street, Looked to my right, and I knew the beautiful architecture staring back at me was the little piece of heaven I'd been looking for.
The Church has really taken a beating over the years, even Sir Christopher Wren had a go at a little remodel of it after the Great Fire of London. But after WW2, it was pretty much a goner. As much of London was. But like a lot of England, they take great pride in their historical buildings, what was left standing, had a beautiful garden put in around it. It is literally an Oasis in the middle of the city. When you sit on the benches, you would never know the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, it's quiet and serene. The gardens are beautiful.
When I visited, there was a photo shoot going on, models dressing up and lots of photos being taken. The Garden is big so it wasn't a bother, it turns out that anyone can rent the space at St. Dunstan. I think that's pretty cool, I don't know what the prices are, but what a beautiful place for a party! The website for St. Dunstan in the East has all of the details. Because of the fashion shoot, I didn't go through all of the gardens, I will next time. I'm excited that I still have more to explore.
There were a few people in the gardens, just sitting quietly having lunch and reading a book. It's the perfect picnic spot.
When you're at Tower Bridge next, keep in mind about this hidden gem, it's worth the visit.
Don't get turned around like I did...
                                                       St Dunstan's Hill, London EC3R 5DD, UK

Every time I post about London, I get another itch to go back. What is it about Londinium? I think it might be time to do some searching on Skyscanner!