Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Museums, Shopping, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Back to Naples

Happy nappers on the way back to Naples

TRAVEL THERE: WRAPPING UP THE DAY

Our ten and a half hour baptism by tourism was drawing to and end.  We were treated to one more shopping opportunity.  This one had to do with Limoncello liquor and came with another restroom visit, but this restroom required an entry fee.  Bill didn’t realize that when he he headed up the stairs.  A small personal drama ensued.

Lost in Pompeii

So, we heard all about the wonders of Limoncello and several people bellied up to the bar to take some home.  Bill headed to the restroom, but I didn’t need to go, so I browsed around the little shop near the bottom of the stairs.  Bill was supposed to get me on his way out, but somehow a restroom that required euros damaged his thought process.  He headed out of the place and forgot all about me.

After I’d looked at everything in the store about 75 times I started to wander around a bit.  I had someone check the restroom to see if Bill was inside.  I walked every inch of the building several times.  I kept telling myself that he wouldn’t have left without me, but it became apparent that he actually had.

The ‘being lost’ rule in my family had always been, stay where you last saw someone, because if you start wandering around you’ll never be found.  The lesson had stuck with me and even though it was apparent Bill was nowhere in the building I kept walking around looking for him.  Problem was, Bill was not in my family of origin, so he didn’t know the rules.

I finally worked up my nerve and wandered outside to look for him.  He was nowhere in sight.  I finally saw some people from our bus, but no one that I knew.  I strolled over to chat them up, hoping my desperation didn’t show.  Before too long other people from our own little group began to show up, but none of them was Bill.  I was relieved, because others had seen him since I had, but I still wanted my husband.

He showed up happy as a clam unaware that I was on the edge of being distraught.  He hadn’t missed me, didn’t realize he’d abandoned me in the shop and he felt no remorse about the terror I had been dealing with.  It was all well and good to tell me everything was alright, but it wasn’t doing anything for the adrenaline pumping through my veins.

We climbed back on the bus to go back to Naples and I tried to get back into the rhythm of having fun, but it had been pretty upsetting. I did eventually get over it, but if you’ve had a similar experience, you know that you really, really want to be mad at someone for something, even though you know there’s really no need for your angst.

Back on Board

Once back on board the ship, some of our group visited the always-open Oceanside Buffet for an afternoon snack, but food didn’t even sound good to me.  I went back to the cabin and got gussied up for the evening.

Bill and I love on board entertainment, so we caught an evening performance in the theater called Kaleidoscope.  It was much better than the Whitney Houston thing – very Cirque de Soleil.  I know the Bagleys were still very much involved in the whole Art Gallery scene.  They were always showing up at the last minute saying they’d been there picking out frames or arranging shipment or whatever.  I’m not sure what the girls got up to, but they really liked having drinks and people-watching.

Dinner was at the Tuscan Restaurant, which meant we ate Italian.  Exhaustion had set in and I couldn’t tell you what I ate or whether I liked it or not.  My journal says we had a perfectly lovely evening, so I’ll have to leave it at that.  After the meal, some of us went to Eden to see something called Revelation, but it was late and we were tired, so we didn’t stay long.

The next morning was our day at sea, the one in which we’d celebrate our 25th Anniversary with a Vow Renewal.  Come back next week for that for sure!

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Pushing on to Pompeii

TRAVEL THERE: FINALLY POMPEII

A short bus ride from Sorrento took us to Pompeii and you guessed it, another shopping opportunity.  This time it was cameos and they had my attention, but first I had to visit the restroom.  On the way out, I did peek at a few of the price tags.  I quickly realized the amount represented was one I was unwilling to pay for more jewelry.  I love the stuff, but I have so much of it I go years without wearing some the pieces.  Others in our group did submit to the temptation of the beautiful pieces of handiwork and I’m glad they did.  Obligatory shopping out of the way, it was time to visit the ruins of Pompeii

Paolo is wearing the white hat and blue shirt near the center of the photo.

Best Guide Ever 

So far, besides the heat, crowds and seasickness (none of which Paolo had any control over) we’d had a pretty good day of touring.  I’d figured out that we had a pretty darned good guide.  He had a great personality.  He spoke impeccable English.  He actually cared about his tourists and was proactive about seeing they had a good day.  Obligatory shopping was available, but not shoved down our throats.

So far, there hadn’t been much in the way of historical information to pass on, but what he had shared was at least reliable and polite.  However, it wasn’t until we actually entered the ruins that I figured out just how extraordinary he was.  This guy was a professor teaching Italian history at some Italian university.  He could have had us calling him Dr. Paolo, but he just wasn’t that pretentious.  It was sort of like we were a group of American acquaintances and he was showing us around for the sake of friendship.

As soon as we entered the ruins, it became something completely different.  We were in a place that he loved and was very knowledgeable about.  He shared his information with us like a boy proud of scoring in futbol.  I heartily wished I had a whole day to spend with him at this site, rather than just time for a quick stroll through one section.

How amazing this place is!  You must go.  It’s not like Capri – get there if you’re nearby.  No, this is put-it-on-your-bucket-list good.  Start making definite plans to get there.

I wish there was a way to share just how good Paolo was.  He made the place come alive.  He explained what a building was used for.  If it was a home, he described the sort of person who would live there, what his schedule for the day would be, what he would wear, what he would eat, who lived in his home with him, how to know whether he was important or not, who came to visit at what time and where the owner would go when he left his home.  He talked about the kind of food served in cafes and the bread baked in the bakery ovens.  He pointed out architectural advances and items we use in our buildings today.

I soaked it in like a sponge.  I wish I’d thought of recording him so I could listen to all he said again.  I loved walking around the city and though it had died many centuries ago, it still seemed to vibrate with energy.

I’m rambling now.  I will show you some photos from the ruined city to spark your imagination.  If you join us next week, I’ll get us back to the boat for some Italian food.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Giardini di Augusto

The Farglioni from Gidini di Augusto

TRAVEL THERE: A MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEW

I couldn’t find much back story to Giardini de Augusto.  A rich European industrialist is responsible for its creation and it is the primary attraction in the town of Capri.  History is not all that makes a site worth visiting.  I’m glad I went.  If you get the opportunity, you should, too.

Watch for It on the Left

If you go on your own, you can probably just follow the crowds across the town to get from the Piazza Umberto I.  In the final stretch you will need to be a little more careful.

A Lemonade Stand on Capri

There’s a perfumery on this path and not far from it, this lovely lemonade stand.  Can you believe the size of those lemons?  I was told they are organic and they are the size of a grapefruit.  Once you see these two landmarks, keep a close eye on the left.  A very small entry way and an equally small bule tile sign are all that warn you that you have arrived.  I’m quite sure the small street continues to who knows where, but you want to stop at the garden.

Views to Die For

The three stone in the picture above are the Farglioni or Stacks, as seen from the Augustus Garden.  It really is an outstanding view – one you could spend a day enjoying, but it’s not all that’s there.  It’s nothing grand and expansive like Dallas’ Arboretum & Botanical Garden.  Just a verey well kpt little garden where tourists come to take pictures.

Once again, I wished to be there without the tourists.  Even though I am not a fan of lemons, I was tempted to try Capri’s version of the concoction and perhaps shop in the perfumery.  It was nice to contemplate sipping on a refreshing drink and enjoying the view.

Here’s what I mean.

More Crowds

Back to the Piazza

Paolo had cut us loose in the garden with instructions to be back at the Piazza at a certain time.  We’d lost Deb and Vik somewhere along the way and we couldn’t find them in the garden anywhere, so we had to assume they’d already headed back.  Bill and I took our leisure strolling along with the Bagleys.

We began to appreciate Paolo more and more.  We’d wondered why he’d raced at such a pace across the island, but it soon became clear.  For one thing, this sidewalk had not been nearly as crowded as we made our way to the garden.  For another, the temperature was rising with great speed.  It was downright hot.

The crowds are concentrated at the gardens and in the Piazza.  Between the two points we were able to stroll along in relative peace, even if we were very, very hot.  The town of Capri is lovely.  I wanted to linger, buy a gelato and do some shopping, but my companions just wanted to get back to the Piazza.

The line for the Funicular was still daunting!

At the Piazza the Bagleys peeled off in search of adult beverages and public restrooms.  Bill and I went to the assigned meeting spot and enjoyed the view.  Eventually, everyone was back together.  Paolo showed up with our return tickets for the funicular and told us what time to meet him at the ferry for Sorrento.

Once down at Marina Grande, we split up again.  The Bagley’s were still interested in adult beverages and I believe the girls were shopping.  Bill and I wandered down a side street and got some great pictures.  Below you’ll see a mixture of the photos we took in the Piazza and some from the charming side street.

Next we’ll take the ferry to Sorrento, so come back next week.

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Florence Turns My Head

Florence

TRAVEL THERE: THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN OF EXCURSIONS

Even the name of the shore excursion sounded exciting – Renaissance Vacation in Tuscany.  I looked carefully, read all the options, but from the very first glance, I was sold.  Here’s what I was sold on.

What I Wanted

Michelangelo’s David – is there really anything else in Florence you have to see?  And the Duomo, of course the Duomo and this baptistery and those doors.  And the Uffizi Gallery.  That’s must.  Florence is a lot like Rome – a ninety minute drive from its port with entirely too many things to see.

And then there was Netflix’s The Medici’s.  It was way oversexed for me to actually say I enjoyed it, but it was filmed in Florence and seeing the Medici episodes  made me want to see every location.

What I Considered

Michelangelo’s David is in one museum.  The Uffizi is another museum.  Conveniently, the doors and the baptistery were both at one church, but the church is not the Duomo.  How was I going to see them all?

The Renaissance Vacation Shore Excursion from Celebrity Cruise Lines didn’t even mention these must-see classics.  It was also one of the most expensive tours offered, but just reading it transported me back to the days of da Vinci and Titian.

What I Booked

The Renaissance Vacation excursion focused on Palazzo Pitti.  I actually didn’t know what a Pitti Palace was until I did a little research.  The name on the palace might be Pitti, but it was all Medici and to boot,it had the Boboli Gardens.  I love gardens and the Boboli is like the garden of all gardens.  Only the Gardens of Versailles had hold a candle of fame to it.

I assure you, I could spend a whole day right there.  The online brochure waxed eloquent about the ride through the Tuscan countryside.  The list of city sights to visit sounded like a list of shooting sites for the Medici’s.  I grieved over (and still grieve over) not seeing Michelangelo’s David, but the Renaissance Vacation was going to be the best excursion of the trip – I just knew it.

And the booking was so easy.  With so many things to see in the area, the usual must-see list with the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the David, was getting all the attention.  Once I booked the excursion I started in-depth research into what we’d be seeing.  I devoured the section of my travel guide devoted to the Medici’s.  I soaked in every episode of the Medici’s and mourned when the second season was over.  I found a special about Italian gardens which focused on the Boboli.  I opened the pages of my copy of 1000 Place to Go Before You Die and marked all the pages which would described the places I would see in Florence.

I was literally giddy – again.  Would this blast from the  past be the highlight of my trip as I anticipate it would.  Well, you’re just going to have to keep coming back to find out, but next week, we’ll talk about Monaco.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Naples Excursion Planning

The Isle of Capri
The Isle of Capri

TRAVEL THERE: NOT DOING UNTO OTHERS AS I WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO ME

Naples is a lovely city.  A traditional bus tour of the city with various stops would be a lovely way to spend the day.  However, besides just being a lovely city, Naples is the gateway city for so may lovely attraction.  Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Positano, the Isle of Capri!  How does one choose which Celebrity Shore Excursion to enjoy?

What I Wanted

If I had done exactly as I wanted to, I would have hired a private guide and spent the day taking in Pompeii and Herculaneum.  It would be hot, it would have been crowded and I would have been walking all day long.  I would have also been in heaven.

Two cities from ancient history preserved for posterity by an extraordinary volcanic eruption, lovingly researched and restored over centuries.  If I had to choose between the two cities, I would have opted for Herculeneum.  Pompeii is the most famous, an entire city frozen in time, but Herculaneum had been a sort of ancient Riviera-type playground for the rich and famous.  The frescoes and tile floors were supposed to be out of this world.

What I Considered

I’m not crazy.  I know if you drag a bunch of people around to a bunch of places they don’t care about and wear them out at the first port of call, you are not going to be the most popular person on a cruise.  I needed something a little more engaging to transition my group into the swing of things.

What I really needed was a sort of overview of the whole thing.  I checked into the cost of a personal guide for the day, but in order to have sufficient space in the vehicle for all six of us, along with a driver and/or guide, was prohibitive.

What I Booked

Hoping to kick things off with a bang, I decided on something that didn’t have a very exciting title, but promised a wide variety of activities – sort a something for everyone smorgasbord.  Capri, Sorrento, Pompeii didn’t grab me right off, but then I read on – jet foil to Capri, funicular ride, lunch in Florence and guided tour of Pompeii!  First day planned.

Booking Nightmare

This is where the booking problem came in.  I told you several blogs back that when I first looked at shore excursions, they were one price, but had gone up significantly a month later.  I was new to Celebrity as a cruiser, so I had not antisciapted the  shore excursion sale, but the Bagley’s had cruised with them many times.  They let me know when the next promotion came along – 20% off all shore excursions.  It was booking day.

Booking day lasted all day and into the next as I tried to guide everyone onto the same excursion at the same time.  In the end, we were all going to the same excursion, but Jim and Melanie had been forced into another time for it.  Not an auspicious way to start, but the hunt was on.

Frustrations be damned, we were booking excursions.  Come back next week and let’s explore the opportunities in Florence.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Whose Fault Is This

Touring Chichen Itza

TRAVEL THERE:  ARE WE ANY DIFFERENT?

Looking back on Mayan society, we might be quick to blame priests or kings, perhaps even warriors or ambassadors. Study history and you will know their sins are legion, but we allow the same sort of characters to control us today, as surely as the Mayans were controlled then.

Parallels I See

Mayans bound the foreheads of infants to achieve a fashionable look and we may wonder why anyone would do that, but don’t we rush out to rearrange anything on our bodies we don’t like?  We may not file our teeth and set jewels in them, but we will pierce the skin under our lip and keep expanding the hole until those around us can see our gum line.  We are perhaps even more greatly ruled by fashion than the Mayans.

Here in the United States we argue about our government, yet we allow the same politicians with their same solutions to dominate our legislating bodies year after year, forcing more and more regulations down our throat. Some of these bureaucrats are hired and appointed by our government, but too many are re-elected and re-elected long after they’ve proven how they fail to keep any promise that they make.

I’m guessing the average Mayan on the street wasn’t so different from me. My sacrificial pyramid is delivered to my house daily on my TV and computer screen and in case that’s not enough, I carry a phone, so I can check in on the mounting atrocities at any time. I listen to what the media tells me, just like the Mayans listened to  their priests and royalty. I hate so much of what I see around me and yet, I feel so powerless to do anything about it.

The Mayans didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, let’s have a society where the rich get richer, the powerful get more powerful and the rest of the population is ground under foot like ashes. And let’s create a religion where thousands upon thousands are murdered in gruesome ceremonies and we can pretend it makes the sun come back.”  Their situation grew out of a series of circumstances. At some point, the tide could have been turned, but they let the opportunity slip away. Their great intellectual capacity and their amazing creativity could have been the foundation of a beautiful utopia, but instead it created a sort of hell.

I pray fervently that we Americans are not making the same sort of mistakes. I hope it is not too late to gain some control over our “priests and royalty.” I hope our religion of self-gratification does not one day demand the egregious sacrifice of our fellow citizens.

Forgive me my doom-saying. Travel is fun and filled with exposure to beautiful things. That’s what I usually focus on. But travel should also expose us to things that make us look at our own lives and think about the way the world is going around us. We should question whether we are doing the right things and promoting the right ideas.

Chichen Itza made me stop and think about my world. I promise to get back to the fun and the beautiful, but I will always try to see something more when I travel than mere entertainment.  One more post about Chichen Itza and I am done.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

On My Way Home

Spanish Colonial Architecture from Bill’s 2011 mission trip to Guatemala.

TRAVEL TALK: SUMMING IT ALL UP

Our return to Dallas was blissfully uneventful.  I’ll spare you the details.  I entertained myself with Michener’s Mexico, but as I read, another part of my brain was sorting out what I’d observed on this short vacation.  My initial impressions required a lot of thought and my arrival in Dallas did not end my meditations.  

Capturing My Travel Thoughts

I’ll start with the relationship between Mexicans and Spaniards. I’m actually amazed at how good their current relations are considering the history of the natives and the invaders.  Spanish architecture is appreciated just as much as the ancient native sites.  There doesn’t seem to be a resentment between the Mexicans and their Spanish heritage.  Spain’s Catholicism has been embraced and there doesn’t seem to be any factions hoping to reignite the worship of gods who demand human sacrifice, which were the Mayans gods.

Granted the Mexicans overthrew Spanish rule during an ugly period that lasted more than a decade, but they got over it.  They didn’t reject Christianity along with the rulers they ousted or tear down Spanish cathedrals.  Though I am sure there was a lot of burning and looting during the war, since its been over, they seem to have developed a great working relationship.  The Mexicans I have observed seem just as proud of the beauties of Spanish colonial architecture as they are of their own pyramids.  Even when I visited Mexico back in the Seventies and Eighties, this seemed to be so.  Most specifically, there is not the tension over monuments and flags we Americans seem to harbor in relation to our own Civil War and slavery.

I Wouldn’t Be Quite as Nice

Personally, as a Christian, I resent the Spanish for the brand of Christianity they forced down the throats of the Mexican Indians.  They made most of them slaves and threatened to kill them if they didn’t convert.  Not that the Europeans did a much better job anywhere else, but the Spanish Conquest of Mexico seems particularly repugnant, in both their hunger for gold and their forcible spread of Catholicism.

My guide on the Chichen Itza excursion pointed out something I’d never quite noticed before.  He showed us a church decorated with serpents.  According to the guide, killing those who were unwilling to convert did not seem to be all that effective with some groups of natives.  So, instead the friars invited the natives to come to the Catholic Church to worship their own snake god.  Though this is more humane than murder, it’s still a trick and I didn’t like to hear of it. 

The Question of Christianity

Had I not mulled over the question of religion for several days, this post might have turned into a rant against the Roman Catholic Church.  They’ve done a lot of things wrong from the inception of formalized religion, but in truth, little about Christianity is attractive to many outsiders today.  In some places, like Central Asia for example, people are turning to Christianity in droves.  They are hungry for the hope it offers, but the concept of hope is alien to Americans who see Christianity the enemy.  They pull verses out of the context of the rest of the Bible and try to hold them up as messages of contempt.  I fear these people miss the point.

Christianity fails any time it gains an official capacity in government. It’s one thing to have a Christian king or president, quite another to have that leader promote his faith with his power.  Lead as a servant, sure.  Wield your power to grow your religion – NO!  Christians have made a lot of mistakes in America.  They have judged others based on a faulty understanding of what they think God wants.  They also took advantage of their majority and wrote laws favorable to themselves.  Now we are paying the price for that power.

During the Byzantine era, the Roman government encouraged its citizens to be Christians.  The emperor was Christian and he promoted Christianity in many ways, including paying bishops.  Many of the subjects of the emperor joined the church, not because they embraced Christianity, but because they wanted access to their ruler.  Others joined the clergy, not out of piety, but because it was a steady paycheck.  The Church may have prospered under these circumstances, but true Christianity has not.  The intentions may have been good, but the results were not.

Conversions which are coerced or forced in any manner are just wrong, period. A conversion to Christianity should be about faith, relationship and hope.  I do blame the Roman Catholic Church for much of the antipathy felt towards Christians.  It would take me thousands of words to discuss the atrocities of history, the distractions of Mariology and the veneration of saints, indulgences, Apolstolic Succession, the inerrancy of the pope, the practice of confession and absolution, transubstantiation, and so many other Catholic traditions which make me crazy.  However, all Christians are human first and we all screw up really badly.  Unfortunately, people judge God based on us, rather than judging us by God’s standards – and we all fall short of those.

As I stood in the plaza of Chichen Itza and considered the awful human sacrifices which were made there, it seemed to me anyone in that city should have been thrilled to learn of the God of the Bible. Instead of a stone god who expected sacrifices, the Spanish could have offered a Creator God, who sacrificed His own Son.  But the message was garbled, threats were made, abuses were committed and today many Mexicans are still caught up in a religion of works, rather than a joyful relationship with the Most High God.

These misconceptions about God, Jesus and the Bible still abound.  God is seen as the big killjoy of the world, because the message is still garbled.  The code of conduct outlined in the Bible is seen as a list of criteria to get into heaven, but that’s a total misrepresentation of Truth.  Shame on the religious people who promote this heresy.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Next week I will leave religion and move on to politics.

Architecture, ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Music, Performing Arts, Real Estate Photographry, Shopping, TRAVEL

Rewind to River Bend

River Bend in the Dallas Design district
The new River Bend development in the Dallas Design District. Image from Cultural Counsel

TRAVEL HERE: NEW DESIGN DISTRICT DESTINATION

So, on Friday, I begged you to go to the Dallas Art Fair.  I hope you did.  It certainly loomed large in our weekend.  However, the Fair’s Opening Press Conference was actually Chapter Two. Chapter One played out on Wednesday evening.  Come along and I’ll tell you all about it.

Out of the Loop

The Dallas Art Fair just had its 11th event and somehow I was completely out of the loop for the first 10. I’ve been busy, but I thought I was paying better attention than that.

However, I love me some Dallas and I take the drive over the I-30 Bridge quite frequently, usually headed down to the Dallas Arts District.  My membership in the Dallas Museum of Art has never wavered.  I keep my eye out for Nasher events.  So, I’m not sure how I became so disconnected with an event like the Dallas Art Fair.

Back in the Loop

While I may not be as plugged in as I used to be, as a regional blogger, some organizations do keep me in the loop.  The DMA, the Perot, Preservation Dallas and the Arboretum all have me on speed dial, figuratively speaking.  So, when I got an email from the Cultural Counsel inviting me to an artsy thing in the Design District, it wasn’t exactly a surprise.  I checked my calendar and then invited the hubby along.

Happy on All Counts

As principals  of a real estate photography company, we are always interested in new construction and new developments.  We arrived at River Bend eager to find out exactly what was going on in this new addition to the Dallas Design District.  At first glance it was comparable to other business/retail spaces all over the Metroplex.  The invitation had mentioned “Late Night Gallery Openings, Clare Woods Book Signing, and SOLUNA Performance.”  Galleries we understood, but the rest had to be discovered.

The invitation had not mentioned comestibles at all, but a happy Art Fair associate greeted us and pointed us towards the serving lines.  Gladly the choices were not limited to cheese cubes and bad chardonnay.  Bill tried a local brewery offering from a series of kegs (I’m dieting again, so I was going to wait for the promised mineral water) and then we headed to the buffet line.  Caterers were whipping out chicken and pork street tacos, shrimp tostadas and corn-on-the-cob.  I loved it all, but that probably had a lot to do with the avocado crema.  Bill wasn’t as crazy about the entrees.  He doesn’t do avocado and I’m guessing the other offerings were a poor substitute, but he loved the corn.  I’d recommend the caterers, but I never found out who they were.

Next stop was a door with a large sign advertising Soluna, the musical portion of Dallas’s Art Month, sponsored by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  I was there to get a bottle of Topo Chico Mineral Water.  The space was devoted to the evening’s audio entertainment, an “Icelandic musician” with “signature trolls”.  The music wafted out of the performance space and I could tell it was a little out there for me.  Bill ducked his head in and his main complaint was the overuse of volume.

Continuing down the way we visited a couple of gallery spaces. One only had a few pieces and the other seemed more actively devoted to the consumption of Modelo than the presentation of art.  It was time to head back in the other direction and see what we could find.

On our way back to the center of things, we focused on the ceramic murals of the exterior walls.  A book signing by the murals’ artist was part of the evening’s offerings.  Bill wasn’t fond of the mosaics, but I was more pleasantly effected by the thematic river vistas.  Returning past the trolls, we happened upon some more gallery space and these spaces seemed to be more serious about the art portion of the event.

Our final stop was the 214 space, which serves as a gallery and as the offices for the Dallas Art Fair.  Well-fed and having consumed as much as we could understand concerning the art offerings, we headed home.  The next morning, I’d learn more about what I’d been looking at.

A Few Observations

I would be the first to admit that my taste in art leans toward the figurative and peters out some time shortly after the Impressionists. I find many things to like about contemporary artists who continue the figurative and classical traditions in art, however I have not given up completely on the non-figurative and alternate genres.  I’m still trying, even if I don’t find myself enchanted. So, I’m not a good person to critique the art we saw that evening.

The people watching was spectacular.  I was happy to observe jeans and yoga pants were not the dominating fashion statement.  In fact, the gentlemen, rather than the ladies, were setting the bar.  Socks were so last century for these guys and  all the pants were tight and short.

Winning the award for tightest and shortest were those who wore cuffed pedal pushers. I have no idea of the proper name for these short trousers.  We ladies used to call them capri pants, back in the day.  But trend-setting short pants weren’t all I noticed. The top halves of these guys were also trendy.  Those with longer pants had a sort of khaki/safari vibe to them.  My favorite item on the men was a white straw trilby with a florescent orange band.

The women just did not measure up. They seemed more interested in volume than style, like a pair of harem pants in a loud plaid.  Other versions of comfort were apparent.  The crispest female fashion icon was a sweet young thing in black leather short shorts.  Her long legs were shod in high-heeled platforms with an interesting collection of straps.  Her other clothing and accessories were black and gold.  Her hair was a slick black bob.  Kudos to her for appearing to care whether anyone looked at her or not.  The rest of the women certainly didn’t indicate whether they cared one way or the other.

Wednesday, we’ll head back to Cancun, then Friday I’ll chat about the press conference.  Come back to visit!

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Amusing Distractions

TRAVEL THERE: KUDOS TO CANCUN PASSION

Waiting for us beside our tour bus after the tour of Chichen Itza were our hosts from Cancun Passion.  Cancun Passion was the actual touring company we’d booked through Shore Trips, which had been recommended to us by Sandra Rubio at CTC Travel.  I can heartily recommend all of those entities to you. 

I love my friends at CTC Travel.  They are like cheerleaders, urging me on in my efforts to see the world.  You will love working with them as you plan your own travels.  Shore Trips is a great way to book excursions, all over the world.  They offer a wide variety of tours wherever you might go and their website is secure, informative and easy to use.  When it came to visiting Chichen Itza from Cancun, Shore Trips curated the very best choices of tours, in my opinion.  But let me tell you about Cancun Passion.

Service with a Smile

From the moment we connected with Cancun Passion, in the lobby of our hotel, we knew we’d made a good choice.  Their representative spoke perfect English, welcomed us with a hearty smile and ushered us into a pristine vehicle, which still had its new-car smell.  I can’t say that the next hour or so of picking up fellow passengers was all that much fun, but what I liked was that they kept us abreast of what was going on, so we weren’t left wondering if we’d actually ever depart the city of Cancun.

At one point, a guide showed up wearing my hat down the aisle of the bus.  I’d left the hat in the first bus we’d climbed onto, when we changed to the larger vehicle.  I don’t have any idea what difficulties they went through to unite me with my hat, but it showed a level of care which I really appreciated.  I’ve left many hats in many vehicles around the world and this is the first that was ever returned to me.

The light breakfast they served on the way to Chichen Itza was more than adequate.  They had generous baskets overflowing with all kinds of pastries from the sweet to the savory.  They served coffee and orange juice.  I drink neither of those on a regular basis, but I know I am in a very small minority and should I have asked, they could have given me water.  The repast was offered with good cheer and second, thirds and fourths were available if you wanted them. 

At every stop we knew exactly why we were there, what opportunities we had for necessities, shopping or entertainment.  We also knew exactly when we were supposed to be back on the bus.  We always had a convenient parking spot and not once did we have to wait for very long, before everyone was on the bus and we were back on our way.

As we got off the bus at Chichen Itza, they gave us a nice bottle of water, not one of those half bottles some folks give you, but a bottle generous enough to provide hydration throughout the visit.  They also had a big basket of small bbq sandwiches to keep hunger at bay as we visited the site.  The meat-filled roll was delicious.  

I particularly appreciated our tour guide.  He was not a pedantic as our Egyptian guide nor silly like some of the other Mayan guides, who had their guests clapping and yelling at the monuments.  He also did not engage in guessing games to present the pertinent information about the site, like the jerk who showed us around Passau and scolded us because we didn’t already know the information we’d hired him to tell us.  Our guide at Chichen Itza was proud of the accomplishments of his ancestors, but also honest about the horrors they committed.

Boarding the Bus at Chichen Itza

So far, our excursion had been almost perfect.  Perhaps a private tour would have been more accommodating to our personal needs and desires, but it would have cost a whole lot more.  For an affordable group tour, they did a great job.  However, even if I had harbored some minor grudge against them, all would have been forgiven as we approached the bus, hot and tired from our tour of the archaeological site.

Waiting for each guest was a cool wet hand cloth to wipe away the dust and heat of Chichen Itza.  Also, from the chilly interior of an ice chest each guest was offered a beverage.  Water, soda and beer was available.  I can’t remember when a Corona had tasted so good.

We have a buffet and a swim coming, but that can wait until next week.  Join me then for more adventures.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Where Did the Mayans Go?

TRAVEL TALK: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A CULTURE

Last week I mentioned the Spanish and their influence on Mexico.  I was horrified by the Mayan culture at its apex, but by the time the Spanish arrived, the jungle had reclaimed Chichen Itza.  All that remained was a pile of stones to loot for building materials.  The magnificence of that society had crumbled.

Peeling Back the Jungle

Historians and archaeologists have many speculations on the downfall of the Mayans.  Their glorious city of Chichen Itza was first taken over by the Toltecs and then abandoned for reasons that are still unknown.  How did it happen?  How did such an advanced society merely fade into the jungle?

When you go to Chichen Itza today, you must use your imagination to understand just how astounding it would have been to walk among the monuments in their glory.  The rain and the wind have softened the many carvings on the faces of the buildings and walls.  Mere shadows of pigment hint at the remarkable murals once covering every inch of exposed stone.  How overwhelming it must have been!

Standing in the Plaza

As I stood there trying to imagine the city ripe with the beauty it once displayed and the engineering it had taken to create it, I was distracted by those around me.  Overweight senior citizens from America, sweltering in the sun and wondering why they had ever paid someone to bring them to this overrated steam bath.  Younger and thinner tourists, from around the world, frolicking like they were at a theme park, rather than an archaeological site.  Native Mayans leading tours, some trying to be comedians, while others shared the importance of the site’s history, but all hoping their meager salaries would be supplemented by generous tips from their audience.

And throughout the site, along every pathway, under every tree, were other Mayans.  Their marketplace no longer had a roof, so they huddled, one after another in the shade, to avoid the blasting heat of the sun, selling their wares.  One vendor offered pretty much the same thing as another.  Some focused on wearable souvenirs, while others sold trinkets to decorate your home.  Too many vendors demonstrated a wooden device that made the sound of a jaguar when you blew into it.  We were sick to death of the sound before we left.  More pleasantly, some vendors played melodies on rustic pipes.  Occasionally, you would see a craftsman, carving a beautiful statue with his own hands, while a quick inspection of other souvenirs would reveal a label professing they’d been made by hands in other countries, where the workmen would earn even less than a native craftsman.

How much easier it would have been to join my fellow tourists in their boredom or their freewheeling photography sessions.  I could have spent my time shopping among the tables of the modern day merchants, comparing the prices and workmanship of their offerings.  Why was I mired in gloomy thoughts of horrific bloodletting and an advanced society which was doing almost everything wrong when it came to the good of their citizens?  What was Chichen Izta trying to tell me?

This is not a conundrum I was able to solve in the few hours I walked among its monuments.  Instead I would walk back to the bus with a heavy heart and conflicting thoughts.  My conclusions would have to work themselves out over the coming days.

On to More Amusing Adventures

It was time to board the bus.  A buffet lunch waited for us and then we’d be headed to visit a cenote.  I shook over my pondering and looked forward to a good meal.  The traveler in me made way for the tourist.  Come back next week and we’ll consider lighter subjects.