Photo Byte Friday: Entrances

Gateway to Napa Valley Wine Country.
Gateway to Napa Valley Wine Country.

This week’s FriFotos theme is “Entrances.” For me, that means passageways into something new and exciting, or catching a glimpse of beauty.

Outside a chalet in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.

The entrance to Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, Washington.

A peek through the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.

A glimpse into a beautiful cave along the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii.

Entrance into a garden at Middleton Place in Charleston, South Carolina.

A moment captured from the entrance to a vineyard in Finger Lakes Wine Country, New York.

And just for fun, I’m standing at the entrance to Google in Palo Alto, California!

Ghost Tours: Exposing the Dark Side of Our Favorite Cities

Ghosts in the Cemetery, Plymouth
Ghosts in the Cemetery, Plymouth

I love taking guided tours whenever I find myself in a city for the first time—and ghost tours are a really interesting way to dive into the legends and folklore that give a city character. Although I can’t say I buy everything you hear on them, they certainly are a unique way to discover a new place. Since this week is Halloween, I thought I’d do a roundup of ghost tours I’ve been on, and a couple more that are on my short list.

Before I met Kyle, I would have been hard pressed to come up with many things I wanted to do less than go on a ghost tour. But early in our relationship, I learned Kyle had a thing for the supernatural. A desire to find something to watch with my then-boyfriend led to my curiosity being piqued after one too many episodes of Ghost Hunters.

Pilgrims and the Paranormal in Plymouth

I decided to surprise him with a ghost tour during a college break trip to Plymouth, Mass. Neither of us had ever been, and I figured what better place to hunt for ghosties than in one of the oldest, most storied cities in the U.S.? We did the “Twilight Lantern” walk with Dead of Night Tours, and I tried my best to put on a brave face and will the spirits to stay away from me.

It was genuinely creepy; walking down dark, narrow pathways while a guide recounted tales of tragedy and mystery was certainly enough to send shivers up your spine. We strolled along one of the oldest streets in the country, leading to the city’s Town Square, which, legend has it, is forever cursed by King Philip. One of the best/worst parts of the tour for me was our time on Burial Hill, the final resting place of Pilgrims, after they were moved from nearby Cole’s Hill. Tombstones date back to the 1600s, and there’s a story behind each one of them. Our guide was fantastic, encouraging us to take some pictures in the darkness to try to “capture spirits.” I’m not sure how much I buy into it, but I can’t deny some strange orbs with almost face-like structures when zoomed in on.

Kyle fondly remembers a little encounter of his own on this tour. Supposedly the spirit of a young girl likes to pick on the guys in the group, and as he was bringing up the rear, he felt something tug on his jacket. He turned around to find nothing but cold night air. “Spoopy,” as he puts it!

The Dark Side of the Venetian Lagoon

Our second ghost tour came when Kyle visited me for a weekend in Venice during my study abroad in Italy. We got engaged that weekend—how better to celebrate than with a ghost tour?! It was, again, my surprise to him. This time, it had a lot less to do with the creep-factor of ghosts, and a lot more to do with the eeriness that Venice takes on after dark—and on a rainy night, no less! We huddled under an umbrella and strolled the back alleyways of this hauntingly beautiful city, listening to centuries-old stories that are entangled in Venetian history.

Eerie Edinburgh

I took a third ghost tour with my friend Ali when she and I ventured to Scotland for a weekend during our study abroad. It seems for me that weather really sets the tone of the tour. This time, it was snowing, and Edinburgh was absolutely enchanting. The tour, geared toward students, started at Starbucks, so we loaded up on hot chocolate before setting out into the night, armed with little flashlights provided to us. As with all ghost tours, we learned about the darker side of the beautiful city we’d been exploring in the light. We heard about grave robbing, witch burning, and vampire bites. I remember walking up a steep hill to a cemetery overlooking the city. It was dark, cold, and utterly eerie. Although we didn’t encounter any spirits on our walk, we happily found some in the pub where the ghost tour ended.

Here are a couple more ghost tours that are on my short list:      

The Unseen Seattle

We visited Seattle during our honeymoon, and I could kick myself now for not doing a bit more research for our activities. (It wasn’t like I was planning a wedding, or anything!) Naturally after returning home, I learned of Bill Speidell’s Underground Tour, specifically the Paranormal Experience. Oh yes, lurking beneath the Emerald City’s surface is a series of passageways and basements that made up the ground level of mid-19th century Seattle. The streets were elevated, and the lower level was no longer used. It’s a fascinating story—one of condemnation, speakeasies and opium dens—and now, only a portion of the Underground has been made safe for guided tours. This particular tour gives you a “hands-on, lights-off” experience with the unseen side of Seattle.

Final Resting Place in the Big Easy

New Orleans is an inherently creepy city. My friend Lindsay and I spent only an evening there during a whirlwind road trip in college, and I’ve always wanted to go back for a longer visit. Even if you’ve never been, you hear the stories and you see the city depicted in movies; there’s something oddly alluring about it. This tragically beautiful city, draped in Spanish moss and dotted with tombstones, would undoubtedly make a brilliant setting for a spine-tingling ghost tour. The French Quarter was my favorite bit of the city, and that’s why I’ve added French Quarter Phantoms to my list of must-try ghost experiences. It’s been named the #1 ghost tour in the city, and has been listed in the top 10 in America. This company lets you choose from four different itineraries, one of which explores St. Louis No. 1, the oldest cemetery in the city, taking up an entire block, and playing host to more than 100,000 residents, resting for eternity in above-ground vaults. Guides recount tales of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, buried here. I’d imagine taking a stroll through this cemetery would be eerie, yet beautiful—perhaps that’s why in 2010, actor Nicolas Cage bought a pyramid-shaped tomb to be his future resting place. Creepy.

Have you been on any of these ghost tours? Are there more you’d add to my list of must-try paranormal adventures?

Places

Dead of Night Ghost Tours

Plymouth Rock, Water Street, Plymouth, MA, United States
508-866-5111

Original Venice Ghosts and Legends Walking Tours

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
+39.041.970499

Edinburgh's Murder and Monsters

124 The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
+49 30 510 50030

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Doc Maynard's Public House, 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA, United States
206-682-4646

French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours

630 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA, United States
504-666-8300

Dead of Night Ghost Tours

Plymouth Rock, Water Street, Plymouth, MA, United States
508-866-5111
http://www.deadofnightghosttours.com

Original Venice Ghosts and Legends Walking Tours

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
+39.041.970499
http://tours-italy.com/tour-106/original-venice-ghost-walk

Edinburgh's Murder and Monsters

124 The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
+49 30 510 50030
http://www.newedinburghtours.com/daily-tours/the-dark-side-edinburghs-murderers-and-monsters.html

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Doc Maynard's Public House, 1st Avenue, Seattle, WA, United States
206-682-4646
http://undergroundtour.com/index.html

French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours

630 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA, United States
504-666-8300
https://www.frenchquarterphantoms.com/cemetery-tour

Magical Gardens: Chihuly Garden and Glass

I have always had a special place in my heart for glass. I grew up in Corning—America’s Crystal City—and worked at The Corning Museum of Glass through high school and college (and coincidentally am now working there again!) Glass is a truly magical material. There’s so much beauty in its fragility. So much technique goes into the creation of every piece, yet so much happenstance went into the creation of glass itself. If you’ve ever seen someone blowing glass, you know how easy they make it look. If you’ve ever manipulated glass yourself, you know there’s nothing farther from the truth. That’s why I have a keen appreciation for glass, and am always thrilled to see a new exhibit.

Dale Chihuly is one of the greatest master glassblowers alive today. Even people outside the glass world have heard of him—or at least seen his work in the ceiling of Vegas’ Bellagio or on cruise ships. His work is easily identifiable; so whimsical in nature.

Kyle and I spent a few days in Seattle following our Alaskan cruise on our honeymoon, and I was beyond delighted to discover the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit situated conveniently beneath the Space Needle.

The Space Needle has been an integral part of Seattle’s skyline since the city played host to the World’s Fair in 1962. The structure is managed today by the Wright family, children of Howard S. Wright II who constructed it. Seattle Center needed to be reinvigorated, and the Wright family asked Northwest native Dale Chihuly to exhibit a collection of his work. Chihuly leapt at the opportunity, as he had always been a fan of the Space Needle. The exhibit opened in mid-2012, and consists of an exhibition hall, a garden installation, and a glasshouse.

We began our visit with a lunch stop at Collections Café, representing Chihuly’s other passion—amassing great collections of everything from accordions to old cameras.

We spent a great deal of time in the exhibition space. I was completely blown away by the bright colors and the shear enormity of some of the sculptures. I’d seen Chihuly’s work before, but never anything of that magnitude. One room was entirely filled with glass—it was like being in a mystical garden. Everywhere you looked, you could see small details you hadn’t noticed before. Seriously, you could spend all day in there and still be fascinated.

The adjacent room, however, was stark white—and completely empty. But the ceiling was filled with colorful objects, displacing the light so beautifully on the walls. That’s the thing I love about glass. It’s such a friend to light. Most museums are relatively dark—the light is very controlled so as not to harm the artwork. But glass and light share a kinship where one simply enhances the other. Seeing the way the colors danced on the walls was truly incredible—and it made you appreciate Chihuly’s genius even more.

Then it was on to the greenhouse, only this greenhouse was like none I’d ever seen. I’d heard about Chihuly’s glass gardens, but this—this was something truly incredible. So many fragile objects open to the elements, and all located beneath such an iconic structure in this great city. It was unbelievable to stare up through the glass sculpture on the ceiling of the greenhouse and see the Space Needle towering above us.

If you have any appreciation for glass—or even if you don’t—I highly recommend a visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass. I promise, you’ll never look at glass the same way again.

Here are some other amazing spaces in the exhibit:

What to know if you go

General admission: $21 for adults; Combo ticket with Space Needle: $39

Places

Chihuly Garden and Glass

305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109
(206)753-4940

Chihuly Garden and Glass

305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109
(206)753-4940
http://www.chihulygardenandglass.com
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