Category Archives: Decorative Arts

The Cathedral in Sharm el Shiek

TRAVEL THERE: SOMETHING YOU WOULDN’T EXPECT

After our amazing day on the Red Sea, it was nap time – only instead of napping, I washed my hair.  I had borrowed a towel from the room for our boat trip and the room steward (no maids) penalized me for it.  We’d started the stay with an armload of fluffy towels, but when I got back from the day on the yacht, the towel nazi had only left me one bath towel to accompany the one (I guess) he thought I was trying to steal.  It was funny how they all spoke such great English until that very moment.  Suddenly, we couldn’t communicate at all.  It was a small thing, but it left a distinctly bad taste in my mouth. 

Out for the Evening

Niece Maggie and her family invited us out for dinner.  They wanted to show us the hotel they’d stayed at during their honeymoon.  They hadn’t booked an over-the-top suite, like Bassem and Mariam were enjoying at the Baron Resort, but Maggie and Shady wanted us to share their memories.  Except for some security rigmarole going in and out of the hotels we really hadn’t had to deal with much in the way of security in Sharm.  That changed on this evening.

They let us into the hotel with relative ease, but then we wanted to go take a look at the pools – yes I said pools, as in plural.  For some reason this was a problem.  Maybe they thought we were going to try to swim.  Maybe they thought we were trying to gain access to guestrooms.  I don’t know, but they certainly didn’t want us to visit the pool.  Bill and I weren’t all that worried about it.  A hotel pool is a hotel pool – am I right?

However, it was obvious Maggie and Shady were really disappointed, so Mr. Bill went into action.  He strolled over to the desk and gave them a piece of his mind.  He told them the honeymoon story.  He told them we were Americans (as if that wasn’t obvious).  Then he resorted to pressure.  He pointed out that we were guests at their sister hotel just down the street.  He mentioned Ayman’s name.  He told them I was a travel blogger.  I’m not sure what changed their mind, but Bill had to turn his room key or something like that over to them while we were poolside.

I will admit the pools were beautiful.  Deep navy tile with white trim.  We’re still not sure exactly what they were trying to protect when they wanted to prevent our visit.  We had some dinner, which was delicious, but then they gave us the run around on paying the tab.  We had to go to the front desk to pay and then the tip couldn’t be charged on the card.  Weird.

A Real Treat

Next Niece Mirette came to take us to the Sharm Cathedral.  An exterior view is above, but it does nothing to prepare you for the gorgeous interior.  I could wax eloquent about all the details, but I will let the cathedral speak for itself.  As amazing as the visit was from an architectural and religious standpoint, what was most apparent to me was the love the people of the cathedral have for my niece.  They opened up late in the evening just so they could show us.  Everyone onsite knew my niece.  They were obviously and ostentatiously fond of her.  I was so proud of her for this.  Enjoy the beautiful cathedral, then come back next week for our final day in Sharm.

 

 

 

 

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I’ll Take a Pool With My Suite

Ready for Water Sports

TRAVEL THERE: HONEYMOON LUXURY

Day Two in Sharm el Sheik was pool day, but we didn’t just wander out to the pool at the Marriott.  It was a nice pool with a waterfall and a swim-up bar, but something even better was waiting for us.  The honeymooners had invited us to their suite at The Baron Resort and it had its own pool.  The suite, not the resort.

Meet in the Lobby

Eleven thirty was the call time for Day Two.  I was up plenty early and hit the gym for an hour on their stationary bike.  Bill joined me for the usual breakfast buffet, which took a little longer than I realized it would.  For once I was not ready at the appointed time and Mr. Bill showed signs of anxiety.  I sent him to the lobby and told him to make sure no one left without me.  HA!  I’ve been spending time around these guys for a long time.  There was no way they were going to be ready to leave at the appointed time.  I mean really!  Did you read about the wedding reception?  I was in the lobby within five minutes of Bill’s frustrated departure from our room – just in time for an hour of waiting for our transportation to show up.  It was a good hour though.  I inspected the boat someone bought for my tiny grand-nephew at the mall the evening before.  I had some lovely time to visit with my older grand-nephews who caught me up with their high-school/college-focused lives.  I also had a great conversation with my niece Maggie.  So, I didn’t sweat the wait.

The Baron Hotel

When our vehicle arrived, we piled in and headed back in the direction of the airport.  Taking a turn, we went down a long drive with desert on both sides and eventually entered an area under development.  I say that loosely.  It looked as if someone had started a luxury condo/townhouse complex at some point and then changed their mind.  As we drove along seeing building after building after building of abandoned construction I thought of the abandoned corniche (boardwalk) and wished better for Egypt and Sharm el Sheik.  We passed so many empty buildings in the almost derelict construction sites that I became concerned we weren’t headed in the right direction, but finally The Baron was in sight.

As soon as we drove up we knew it had been worth the drive.  We followed our newlywed groom up the elevator and through the halls to what seemed like the back of beyond.  He opened the double doors on an amazing suite and then stood back to get our reaction.  There wasn’t one for awhile, because we were stunned!  And so let the fun begin!

It was a marvelous day made a little extra special by the taste of luxury – but the day wasn’t over!  Ayman had scheduled a Bedouin Dinner for our evening activity.  Come back next week and we’ll head out into the desert.

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A Museum Sort of Afternoon

TRAVEL HERE: BRIGHTENING AN OTHERWISE DREARY SUNDAY

So I was just about done with my local art museum.  Lately, every time we showed up for an exhibition, we’d look at each other and ask, “Really?”  I had already tossed the most recent renewal of membership letter into the trash, but a still small voice asked, “Do you know what special exhibitions are coming?”  I didn’t, but I assumed they’d be more of the same stuff which had been disenchanting us for a couple of years.  I was wrong.  Berte Morisot is coming!  Berthe’s exhibition won’t be here at least a year, but I couldn’t abandon the museum when they were organizing a fairly incredible exhibition.  Besides, some of the smaller productions on exhibit right now seemed of interest.  So, I renewed my membership and decided to go to the museum as soon as we could.

 All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins…or Not

Arriving at the Dallas Museum of Art on a recent dreary Sunday, I dropped by the information desk to confirm the location of the exhibits I wanted to see.  We only had two hours before closing  – plenty of time to view my wish list, but not if we wandered aimlessly.  What I did not plan on viewing was an installation created in 2016 titled All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.  I mean that’s the same vintage as the cheap wine in the grocery store.  Galleries are where you go to see the latest in art.  I think museums should focus on more proven vintages that have been laid down for awhile.  Obviously, there are plenty with another opinion.  All the general public tickets had been sold for the day and only my membership would get us a timed appointment for that particular afternoon.

Taking the bait I bellied up to the membership desk to claim my free, timed viewing ticket.  We had half an hour until our slot so we strolled up the concourse.  We’d seen Truth: 24 Fames Per Second and didn’t need a repeat showing.  We’d also been to the latest installation in the Keir Collection several times since April.  We stuck our head in the gift shop and dropped by the small Focus Gallery exhibiting Hopi Visions.  Interesting, but not among our favorite genres, so after a few minutes we were back on the concourse.

My husband likes to touch things, so he detoured into the Center for Creative Connections.  Tagged C3, this is the area where kids of all ages can make art rather than just look at it.  We looked over the shoulder of a few budding artists, handled a few touchable objects and then returned to the concourse.  We were still a few minutes away from our designated ticket time, so we checked out the Barrel Vault.  This area is ground zero for Contemporary and Modern Art, so we don’t usually spend much time here – you know my vintage issues.  However, one of the side galleries had just what I was looking for, Edward Steichen:  In Exultation of Flowers.

Photograph from DMA.com

In Exultation of Flowers

Love a good story?  Back in the Twentieth Century an artist started painting a mural commissioned by some wealthy New Yorkers.  These members of Art’s Inner Circle knew all the best people and had their artist friend paint these friends of theirs lolly-gagging among flowers.  What’s not to love?  One wants to imagine them and their friends draped across art deco furnishing sipping cocktails and discussing the pros and cons of the completed murals – especially the one featuring Isadora Duncan in the nude.  But that’s not what happened.  By the time the murals were complete, the art patrons were in a bit of a financial bind and had to sell the apartment the murals had been painted for.  The murals were never installed and it’s been over 100 years since they were displayed together.

Enter the DMA, famous among art people today for their restoration and conservation abilities.  The DMA was commissioned to work their magic on Mr. Steichen’s murals and as part of the deal, the DMA would display the finished project.  Museum Girl loved this exhibit.  In truth, the gallery was a little small for the seven monumental murals, but they were delightful to behold, so all was forgiven.

The Psychedelic Portion of our Afternoon

My watch said it was time to view the pumpkins, so we headed to a nearby gallery.  Joining the line outside the large white box containing the installation, we listened to the instructions announced by a docent.  We’d have to put our stuff into the cubbies provided.  We’d be allowed inside the installation for 45 seconds, during which time we could take pictures, but we could not trade places with one another once the door was closed, because there was a falling hazard.  Hubby was whispering derisive comments into my ear, predicting how much we were going to hate this.

He was wrong and he was the first to admit it.  The charming time keeper engaged Bill in conversation as we waited our turn and she made all the difference.  Bill stepped in, oooh and aaaahed for 45 seconds and then we erupted into the rest of the museum.  Later he admitted it was his favorite item of the day.  I still prefer the murals, but the installation is worth at least 45 seconds of your life.

Other Things

On Level Two we found Paris at the Turn of the Century.  Featuring a few tidbits from the Posters of Paris exhibition of a few years ago, these small beauties are displayed in a tiny darkened gallery and did not evoke the joie de vivre of the full blown exhibit.  On Level Three was Art and Trade Along the Silk Road.  I’d forgotten that we’d seen it before.  It’s lovely, but we weren’t covering new ground.  From there we went on to the Reves Collection which continues to be one of our favorite things at the DMA, no matter how many times we see it.

From the DMA we wandered to East Dallas to try out Smokey Rose.  Great ribs, great atmosphere and we can’t wait until the weather is better to try out the patio, but the brisket and mac-and-cheese were less than amazing.

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The Marvelous Mena House

TRAVEL THERE: AN AMAZING HOTEL

I was predisposed to love the Mena House.  I’d been hearing about it for years and it sounded like my kind of place.  It had historical significance and it was a luxury hotel Bill’s place of birth would make affordable.  Let me tell you about it.

Arriving in Style

 I will admit there is something posh about being delivered to your hotel by a private driver and car.  We pulled up to the security gate to be sniffed by dogs, checked by metal detectors and generally gone over with a fine tooth comb, but our driver handled it all while Bill and I marveled at the Pyramids looming over us.  I thought we’d have a view of them.  I didn’t realize we’d be next door.

The lobby was opulent and we were treated like dignitaries.  Being treated like dignitaries takes a little longer than just being tourists, but it was kind of fun.  We were whisked to our room on a golf cart by a servile employee of the hotel and escorted around our new digs as if they rooms of the old palace, instead of the very comfortable modern room we’d reserved.

A Delicious Meal

Our next stop was lunch.  We wandered across the grounds and found a nice patio restaurant which served food all day long.  The prices were reasonable, the service was attentive and the food was amazing.  The travel gods were shining on us.

A Free Historical Tour

As we lazed about enjoying the view our nephew Steven and his friend John arrived.  They’d fallen for the 8:30 sight-seeing tour I’d rejected.  While they regretted waking up early, they were very happy with their day.  We decided to meet up again soon and see the free historical tour of the hotel I’d seen advertised in the lobby.  The parade of celebrities who have stayed at the Mena House is pretty interesting, but not anything compared to the amount of history that has occurred since it was built in the 1800’s as a lodge for royalty.

The Rest of the Stay

The only problem we had with our stay at the Mena House is that it was too short.  We loved hanging out in our room and enjoying the patio with the great view of the pyramids.  We loved wandering around the hotel and grounds, photographing all the beauty both natural and man-planned.  The service was amazing.  The food was great – whether we were enjoying the free breakfast buffet, having lunch with a view or enjoying a Middle Eastern feast at the Khan il Khalili restaurant (named after the famous Cairo bazaar).

I have a fantasy of returning to Giza some day to see the wonderful museum being built to replace the Cairo Museum and the Mena House would be the perfect place to stay – but I doubt I could ever get Mr. Bill back to Egypt.  The place he has fond memories of growing up in doesn’t exist anymore.

If you’re still hungry for more about the Mena House, watch this video.  If you want to know about visiting the Pyramids, then come back next week.

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Wedding Day in Cairo Egypt

Wedding Invitation

TRAVEL THERE: A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF CEREMONY

So far, Bassem and Miriam’s wedding day has been pretty mundane, if you don’t count the machine guns on our bus.  Once the church doors opened, everything changed.  We were at a Coptic Wedding.

Saint Mark Coptic Church

When the huge doors opened, the scent of incense wafted out into the waiting crowd and I was awestruck.  The church was gorgeous, obviously very, very old, but beautiful.  You got the impression God had been hanging out here for a very long time.

It was not a particularly large church, but it was grandly decorated with beautiful paintings and an amazing amount of gold.  There was no formal seating going on.  Everyone just wandered in and took a seat.  There was no his side and her side, just folks wandering into a pew as they entered.  The family was sort of huddled over to one side.  We had some front row seats, but they certainly were not particularly advantageous.

Forget What You Know About Weddings

Throw out preconceptions, because this had nothing in common with your basic American wedding.  The bride and groom were seated in thrones at the front of the church.  The photographers and videographers considered themselves very much part of the ceremony and spread themselves out across the front of the church.  Joining them on the stage were a group of priests in decidedly Coptic garb.

Coptic Officiants at the Wedding

Now I’ve been to weddings where there were more than one officiant.  Sometimes it’s because each family wants to be represented or there are several members of the clergy in the family.  This wedding had an entire crowd of priests.  They’re the guys wearing the black turbans, but these four in the picture are only a sample.

I was made to understand the number of priests reflected the status of the people getting married and no one could remember a wedding where they’d seen more priests.  Most gratifying was the priest who had come all the way from Sharm El Sheik because of my niece, who holds such a special place in their congregation.  Each of the priests participated in one way or another.  Some doing ceremonial duty and others delivering pithy little sermonettes to the bride and groom. (None of which I could understand, of course, because they were in either Coptic or Arabic.)

All the while, the church was a beehive of activity.  Along with all the priests were acolytes and altar boys wandering around doing a variety of tasks, from swinging incense burners to lighting candles.  At one point my nephew Shady went up to read the Bible.  Also any time a priest wasn’t involved in the ceremony, they were kept busy blessing whoever came up to the stage, bowed before them and kissed their hands.

Folks seeking blessings weren’t the only ones who came up to the stage.  As if the photography and videography crew of about six people weren’t enough, no one hesitated to pop right up out of their seat and head up to the front to get a picture – and if the best angle was between the priest and the wedding couple, then so be it.   

Behind their back, their very expensive decorations are already coming down

I was gob-smacked.  I couldn’t believe it.  The bride and groom were almost an after-thought in all the frenetic activity.  Suddenly it was all over. The bride and groom stood.  A few pictures were taken and we all filed out of the church.

Let the Turnover Begin

I was still trying to  process what I had seen, when I realized that as soon as the bride and groom had their back towards the stage, folks started tearing down the decorations so they could get set for the next wedding.

An American church might have 2 or three weddings on a given day, but Coptic churches schedule about an hour per wedding and stack them all day long, from early in the morning until late in the evening – especially on holidays like the day after Easter.  If they get behind, which apparently they always do, then they just hurry you up a little more.

Once we were outside, you could see they had already redecorated the entry to the church and on a corner near the church were the floral remains of several different ceremonies.  Egyptians do have a receiving line, but it’s held on the porch of the church, rather than at the reception. As the wedding party assembled into the obligatory formation, a limo pulled up in front of the church.  I will never forget seeing the bride get out of the limo, go through the security routine we had and then climb up the stairs to the sanctuary.  It was one of those odd scenes that you can’t erase.

Then it was back in the bus and back to the Fairmont.

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Edith’s French Bistro

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images

Beyond Tantlizing

TRAVEL HERE:  BON JOUR EDITH!

I’ve been holding out on you.  In our pre-occupation with kicking off Spot On Images, I haven’t been as faithful as I once was with sharing the delights Bill and I discover as we wander about the Metroplex.  In my defense, we haven’t been quite as adventurous in recent months, because we’ve been focused on kicking off our new venture.  We got a little lazy, returning frequently to old favorites and depending on those ubiquitous chain restaurants.  Recently, we ran into something that was so good I couldn’t keep it to myself.  

My Turn to Choose, As Usual

“Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know.  Where do you want to go?”

Sound familiar?  We say the same thing and more often than not we answer it geographically.  If we’re up north, we’ll go to Watter’s Creek.  If we’re sticking close to home we’ll go to the Rockwall Square.  If we’re in a more central location, like downtown Dallas, Mockingbird Station is a favorite.  Once at one of these areas we wander around a bit until something grabs us.

For this trip we went to Mockingbird Station.  An interesting rotation of restaurants cycles through and we’ve found several favorites there.  Unfortunately many of them have been short-lived flashes in the pan, but we keep trying, because we usually find something good.  It is our sincere hope that this new restaurant will beat the odds.  We love it and we’re sure if you try it, you will too.  So give it a spin and let us know what you think.

This time, when the usual question came up, I chose Edith’s French Bistro.  The name featured three words I love.  “Bistro” suggests an easy-going casual restaurant.  “French” is one of my favorite cuisines.  And Edith?  Well, those who know me well know it was the name of my favorite aunt, certainly a fortuitous omen.  Right on all counts.

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images

Charming Decor

While we were in the mood for an adventure, we weren’t in the mood to break the bank.  Since French restaurants can often come with a high price tag, we tentatively wandered in the door and took a look around.  We immediately noticed the decor wasn’t all that Frenchy.  Tasteful and inviting most certainly, but in a contemporary, fresh sort of way, rather than white tablecloths and intimidating waiters.

Even as we breathed a sigh of relief, the pastry counter caught our eyes and lured us to gaze longingly at the treasures waiting there.  We were greeted by a handsome young fellow who seemed glad to see us.  We’d arrived much too late for lunch and quite early for dinner, so there weren’t many other patrons to distract him.  He told us of drink specials and raved about the food.  It all sounded good, but in truth, we quite liked him and he was the primary reason we stayed.  Well, that and the pastry counter.

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images

Sleek and Modern Space

Tyler sat us in his section and we perused the menu.  Edith’s was hitting all the marks.  Inviting decor, pristine housekeeping, charming waitstaff and a great selection of food.  I liked that the menu wasn’t one of those exhaustive tomes with a million choices and nothing I really wanted.  Instead, there was a two-sided card.  I could have easily pointed at random and ended up with something I would have loved.

Bill opted for the French Dip Sandwich, but I needed some guidance.  As tempting as they sounded, I stayed away from the breakfast options which were available all day and the crepes.  Even though I was excited by the Frenchness of it all, I found myself lost between two not-so-French options.  They had something called a Ghost Burger which sounded heavenly.  Well, maybe heavenly isn’t the exact right word, because Tyler warned me it was spicy, but just thinking about the description makes me hungry all over again.

I landed on the Shrimp Mac & Cheese which Tyler assured me was his favorite dish.  For now, it’s my favorite dish also, but I intend to visit the restaurant frequently and challenge that opinion.  We quizzed Tyler about the restaurant, wanting to know how long it had been there and if there really was an Edith.  I am proud to announce there is an Edith.  She arrives very early every morning to make the magnificent pastries in the refrigerated case.  They not only look remarkable, they taste that way, too.  I know.  I had one of the eclairs and to my delight it was filled with chocolate.  I’m sure it would have been just as delicious filled with vanilla cream, but if you know me you can imagine how the chocolate thrilled me.

When the bill came we were reminded of the friendly prices.  Certainly visit during happy hour (before 7, I believe), because wine by the bottle is half price, but don’t be afraid to go at other times, because the prices are very affordable all the time.  In fact go frequently, because we need to keep this gem around.  As we grilled Tyler about the restaurant and its Edith, we discovered that her husband has a restaurant right across from her, but as much as I’d love to check it out, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be that close to Edith’s and not eat there.

Come back here on Wednesday, because we’ll be visiting the bride’s home in Cairo on the day before the wedding – one of my favorite events during my entire visit to Egypt!   I wouldn’t want you to miss it.

(BTW – these delicious pictures were taken with a phone.  Imagine what they’d look like if Bill had his “good” camera with him.)

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What’s Doing at the Dallas Museum of Arts?

Cats & Cocktails at the DMA

TRAVEL HERE: ARTFUL DELIGHTS AT THE DMA

So I’ve been in the process of catching up on my adventures.  We’ve been to Gruene TX for a girl’s road trip, Birmingham AL for business and Fort Worth for Monet.  All this leaves me with yet another confession.  If you missed the Devine Felines at the DMA, mea culpa.  If you miss Mexico 1900-1950, then that’s going to be your fault.

A Busy Autumn Break

My autumn disappeared in a haze of responsibility.  Global Heart Ministries had a tea, a video shoot and a fundraiser.  I also went on that trip I haven’t been able to tell you about.  So they kept me pretty busy.  I sort of disappeared out of my life until the October 22 fundraiser happened.  After all that, I was just about ready for a life and I took on a project that I could do completely at home.  I needed a break.

That’s when the invitation to the opening of the Art and Nature exhibition came along.    Bill and I put the event on our calendar and zipped downtown to take a gander.  We spent a perfectly lovely evening at the museum.  The art focused on the Middle Ages and as such pretty much everything in the exhibit was related to the Catholic faith.  There were reliquaries, crosiers , crucifixes, stained glass, etc. etc. etc.  The workmanship was exquisite and we thoroughly loved the whole thing.

Perhaps our favorite thing was the Scavenger Hunt.  Yep – a scavenger hunt.  Now many museums and such offer scavenger hunts, but they are usually for kids and they’re offered in black and white on a piece of copy paper.  Nope, that wasn’t it at all.  Instead on beautiful slick paper in the richest colors possible, we were challenged to identify 14 various images, each of which were only a small part of a larger work.  Not only was it a lot of fun, but it inspired us to take a long, deep look at things we might have just glanced at and then walked away.

After the Scavenger Hunt we checked out the offerings at the refreshment table, but didn’t see much to our liking, so we headed home.  Here’s the good news.  It will be at the museum until the 19th of this month, so please hurry in to see it.

Shaken | Stirred | Styled

A Pleasant Sunday

But the exhibit about the Middle Ages wasn’t all that was happening at the DMA, so we made another visit.  Confession!  I know it had to happen after the opening of Art & Nature, but if I was forced to testify as to when, I would be in trouble.  We walked back through Art & Nature and then strolled down to Shaken| Stirred |Styled.  This is a small exhibition in a side gallery that would be easy to miss, so if you go between now and November 12th, please be sure to ask someone where it is.

The entire exhibit is a collection of bar ware from the 19th century and it’s cool – really cool.  There are punch bowls and martini glasses, but perhaps the most fun is cocktail shakers from the Prohibition Era.  

We also took a look at Divine Felines, which is now closed.  The collection of Egyptian cat mummies and other feline related items was interesting, but not compelling to us, so I don’t feel quite so bad about allowing you to miss it.

Since our goal was to kill the afternoon, we also strolled through the South American and American galleries, enjoying old favorites.  Since this is where Bill and I met, all the art seems like friends of the family.  Truly a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Dallas.

Don’t Miss Mexico

One final note before I go.  A new exhibition just started at the museum, Mexico 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Jose Clemente Orozco and the Avant-Garde.  I am really sorry to report that once again Global Heart Ministries has interfered with my love of art.  Last week I had to miss the exhibition’s opening party to help with the video shoot we were filming.  I love GHM, but it’s tough when I have to make decisions like that.  The good thing is that the exhibit just opened and it will be here through July.  Even with my crazy schedule I should be able to make it.

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