Sunday, April 14, 2019

Adventure 9/50 : the Amazon Spheres

In this year of 50@50 adventures, they don't *all* have to be big ones, right? This little adventure is right in our home town.


In June 2015 Amazon broke ground in downtown Seattle not for a new office building, but for a massive greenhouse. The Spheres took shape quickly, with the outer steel structure complete in March 2016. The structure -- made up on repeating shapes known as a pentagonal hexecontrahedrons (phew!) -- was built in pieces in Oregon, then shipped up to Seattle for assembly. Seattleites giggled and called them "Bezos's Balls". Meanwhile, plants were already growing in a greenhouse so that there would be mature specimens from the beginning -- so it would feel like "year five on day one". ("Day one" is a big Amazon phrase...)


The last pane of glass was installed in December 2016, and the first plant installed in May 2017. The next months the Spheres' largest plant -- a Ficus rubignosa nicknamed Rubi -- was installed after a long trip from a nursery in California. Rubi is so large they needed to remove the top of one of the Spheres and crane her inside.


In October 2017 the living walls were planted ... and in January 2018 the Spheres opened.


Now I know what you're thinking -- why did Amazon build them?


Amazonians are known to work really long hours ... and the Spheres are a different kind of workspace, where employees can go to work, collaborate, or just relax. And, really, wouldn't it be great to have a meeting in here?


The Spheres are also open to the public on the first and third Saturday of every month. Reservations are free, but have to be made in advance for specific times -- and they do "sell out". I had been wanting to visit for a while, but the timings never worked out, until the first Saturday in April.

I booked my tickets on the day they became available, just in case -- 30 days in advance. I booked a 3:15 slot, as I wanted to time it in conjunction with something else-- about which more later.

You enter from the lowest level, and immediately the warmth and humidity hits you -- along with a planty-jungley small. Because the plants are all around you!


The structure is interesting, divided up into a number of areas spread over four stories. And this amazing living wall stretches all the way up!


I loved the juxtaposition of the lush greenery with the complicated architecture -- and glimpses of the skyscrapers all around. 




There's a pond or two, and a big fish tank, and even a small cafe (which was closed when we visited) -- but the stars are clearly the plants. 









I apologize for not knowing the names of any of the plants -- but there were horticulturalists on hand to help identify plants if requested! 

Lots of lovely flowers, too:



We went up and up, doing rings around the building to see all the different plants. 




At the top we noticed they were misting the living wall:



After a little break in the "lounge" at the top (how could you not want to nap up there???), we wound our way back down to the ground floor and on to our next stop.

I had wanted to visit Deep Dive -- a swanky little cocktail lounge in the basement of the Spheres -- since I heard about it. So it was the perfect choice for a post-adventure drink. We timed it just right, arriving a few minutes after they opened and getting a nice pair of seats at the bar.


The bar is like a medieval Cabinet of Curiosities -- it reminded us of a high-end Octopus Bar. If the Octopus Bar is a sailor's bar on land, Deep Dive is the Captain's Quarters.


We ordered two of the fancy cocktails -- Wil a Paddington because it had marmalade in it; me a Clover Club because I love a classic cocktail with egg white.


The bartenders were very showy -- lots of exaggerated pouring from the sky, speedy shaking, and a clear enjoyment of their craft. And the results? Spectacular.


I don't know that we'll return often -- largely because the space is small and probably full 90% of the time it's open. But it was a real treat to have such finely-crafted cocktails and quietly talk about our visit to the Spheres. 



Sunday, April 7, 2019

Swan Stitch-a-Long, part 10


Just a quick update today as there's really no progress to speak of. A tiny bit of work on the right border, and a tiny bit of work on the main background. Other projects and adventures got in the way ... and it's not even summer!

Things should be a little calmer in this next three-week stretch; my plan is to fill in the light blue background and -- wait for it -- stitch at least one swan head and neck!

Okay, sure, I didn't do a lot this time, but the other stitchers in this stitch-a-long have undoubtedly accomplished more on their amazing projects. Check out their blogs to see all of their amazing work:

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, LindaHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Megan, CatherineDeborah, Connie, Clare, Mary MargaretRenee, Jenny, Carmela, Jocelyn, and Sharon.




Saturday, April 6, 2019

China memories, part 7 : Beijing farewell

On our final day in Beijing, we decided to spend time in our favorite places.

We admired the Red Lantern House hostel in the morning light, and gave the managers our Beijing guidebook. 



We went to the Qing Feng Steamed Bun Shop for our last dumplings. We learned that President Xi Jinping had visited a branch of Qing Feng in December 2017, causing a huge spike of interest in the chain. We just really liked the dumplings -- and the fact that each location had a picture window into a kitchen where a group of women were making the dumplings by hand. Exquisite!



We splashed out and had sides -- a cold noodle dish, and some amazing pickled cucumbers.


Then we walked to the lakes one last time, gorgeous in the morning sun. 







Oh, and of course I did a little shopping -- going back to the store with the lovely Lord Rabbits, admiring their lions, and buying some Lord Rabbit pieces. 


Oh, and my favorite qilin statue, of course!


Finally, we headed back to our hutong, where I finally captured some of the lovely art. See, each hutong is decorated differently ... ours had custom art on every electric box, whether it be an air conditioner, a power monitor, or whatever. #besthutongever












Then it was time to head to the airport. We took the subway and then the airport express train, which were easy and seamless. 


The airport is big and beautiful...



We had some time to kill before we could check in, but it went smoothly... and we finally bought some of the famous Beijing dried fruit as a souvenir!


Then through "Emigration" and security -- hardcore patdowns, bag checks, etc... and then into the serenity of the airport lounge... where we whiled away a couple of hours before getting on our plane and flying home!




China was beautiful -- so modern, so bustling. I'm so glad we were able to go (thanks again, Scott's Cheap Flights!) and see multiple stretches of the Great Wall.