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Karpeles Manuscript Library — Old Maps and a Victorian Greenhouse

We were pumped to visit the Karpeles Manuscript Library, but became quickly deflated when we learned that the documents currently on exhibit were maps. The thought of viewing century old maps seemed dry … in other words boring. Boy where we surprised ... the exhibit was absolutely fascinating. We started out with little knowledge or appreciation of cartography but left the exhibit feeling our IQs had jumped up a few points. Most notable was our introduction to Gerardus Mercator, the 16th century mapmaker who solved the problem of how the earth could be faithfully rendered on a flat surface. The technique he developed was so visionary that it is still used by NASA to map Mars. The Karpeles Libraries are national treasures and we look forward to visiting the other sites as we travel across the country.

Across the street from the library are Wright Park and the Victorian Seymour Conservatory. We couldn’t help but zone out and enjoy the serenity and beauty of the parks wide green vistas and manicured landscaping (many of the original 1890 plantings still survive). While strolling through the small turn of the century glass and steel Seymour Conservatory (one of three surviving Victorian style conservatories in the West) we were transported  to a world of colorful, fragrant and lush subtropical plants.


No visit to Tacoma is complete without visiting Point Defiance Park. This is one of the largest urban parks in the US and with its gardens, ferns, and remnants of old growth forests makes for a very scenic drive. We stopped to enjoy sweeping vistas of the Puget Sound, browse the Fort Nisqually gift shop and tour the Zoo. Perhaps we are jaded, but the Zoo seemed small and uninteresting. We missed the feeding of the sharks (had visions of a bloody frenzy) … but got over the disappointment when we learned that the feeding process was actuality quite a civilized affair … but without salad forks and napkin rings.


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Maps encourage boldness. They're like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible.

— Mark Jenkins —