ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

An Afternoon with Nefertari at the Kimball

TRAVEL HERE: QUEEN NEFERTARI VISITS FORT WORTH

Fast Forward to our Staycation. Pre-Covid I planned to spend the Holidays in sunny California enjoying a bargain I scored with Westin. During the year I had planned the trip three different ways, none of which we actually enjoyed. Then I planned a road trip around the Southeast, but rising Covid numbers nixed that, too. So I planned a Staycation. A major event during my Staycation calendar was a visit to the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth to see Queen Nefertari’s Egypt.

Yes, There Was a Pandemic Going On

A few weeks back I told you about the Flesh & Blood Exhibition we visited at the Kimbell earlier in the year. Mask were de rigueur, but otherwise life at the Kimbell was pretty much the same as always. By the time Nefertari arrived, they’d gotten a whole lot more Covid-conscious. In fact, even the audio tour had been recorded anticipating visitors would be spending more time than usual in line, so there was more intro stuff you were supposed to listen to before you entered.

Bill and I arrived for our visit on a weekday afternoon, so there wasn’t much of a line. Hence I spent my first few minutes in the exhibition trying to coordinate what I was seeing with what I was hearing, so I was audibly handicapped in the first room of the exhibit. On a later visit, shown above, I had the chance to listen to the intro bits the way they were designed to be heard.

There were little arrows on the floor to keep you going in the right direction. That didn’t suit me either. I usually listen to the audio tour as I view the art and Bill walks through occasionally reading a label as he enjoys the pieces on exhibition. Then we backtrack, him showing me what he liked and me explaining the backstory on some of the more esoteric pieces.

So, my first visit to the exhibition, I had to acclimate myself to the new rules. Don’t worry I visited several more times and was able to fully enjoy the whole thing completely, in spite of the Covid-inspired challenges.

Exhibit vs. Egypt

I’ve been to Egypt twice, enjoying most of their famous museums, including the Cairo Museum and the Alexandria Library. Those authentic experiences cannot be replaced by a trip to Fort Worth, but there are things the Kimbell does better than the Egyptians.

Perhaps the most obvious difference is the display cases. In Egypt, the case is crammed full, an overabundance of everything from mummies to faience, the lighting is often nonexistent and the cards explaining things create more questions than they answer . Americans carefully place a few items at eye level, with perfect lighting and cards that give you more information than you need, accompanied by more information on plaques on the walls and audio tours.

Now in Egypt, for a very reasonable fee you can hire a guide to tell you everything the cards and audio tours let you know, but the guides come with challenges of their own. Guides have no off button and you don’t get to select which items you prefer to focus on. They will tell you what they want to, in the order they want to and nothing you can do will slow them down, speed them up or get them to change the subject until they decide to.

American exhibits also seem to make more sense. They carefully curate what will be shown and exhibit it logically. I got tickled during my first visit to the Cairo Museum, mostly because of the randomness of it all. There was no timeline, no themes, nothing I could identify except for room after room of amazing things thrown together willy nilly. The funniest part was the frequency with which I ran into display cases chock full of beads and small figurines of servants for the afterlife. They were virtually everywhere, in every room of the museum, often lined up one after the other along the walls with nothing but signs that said “faience.” I know more now, but then it was baffling.

Queen Nefertari’s Egypt

While there absolutely were numerous items related directly to Nefertari, the title of the exhibit was Queen Nefertari’s Egypt and that was the true focus, rather than the queen herself. What was the role of women? How did religion figure into their daily lives? These were the questions answered by this exhibit. However, some of the most fun display cases were devoted to jewelry and cosmetics. A pair of sandals found in her tomb, thought to be hers, were fascinating.

However, a large part of the exhibit was devoted to Deir el-Medina, the village where all the tomb workers lived. I found it very interesting, because I had actually spent some time in the village on my visit to the Valley of the Kings. A picture on the wall of the exhibit was the same as I have in my scrapbook. I love when I have those moments. Watching a travel show and saying, “We’ve been there,” is a blast.

In the exhibit, they expounded on the religious practices of the citizens of Deir el-Medina, but they missed out on what I thought was the most interesting. These workers, who spent most of their lives preparing an eternal resting place for royalty, spent their days off preparing their own tombs. The walls of the royal tombs were focused on the Book of the Dead, formulas and passages to send the kings and queens to live among the gods. For their own tombs, the workers carved and painted beautiful scenes from everyday life – a table burdened down with foods they loved to eat, rather than ritualistic meals to please the gods; natural wildlife scenes, rather than records of the victories they’d won and the slaves they’d captured. I thought the workers had the better idea of what to commemorate.

It was a marvelous exhibit and I am so proud of the Metroplex for hosting Queen Nefertari, but I wish it had been the DMA. Then next week we’ll ride a Cinderella Carriage through Highland Park. Yep, I ticked that one of my bucket list, too.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Kicking the Pandemic at The Kimbell

TRAVEL HERE – Flesh & Blood at the Kimbell Museum

I may be a Dallasite, but my heart belongs to the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth. I love the Dallas Museum of Art, too, but not in the same way. The DMA tends to cater to a more modern taste than mine. I almost grew up among the items in its permanent collection, so they are dear to my heart and frequently visited, but too often I look at what’s on special exhibition there, shrug my shoulders and head to Ft. Worth. There are notable exceptions in my recent memory, Dior, Tut, and Jean Paul Gaultier, for instance, but during the pandemic the exhibits were definitely not on my must see list.

Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum

They had me at Italian Masterpieces! I got goose bumps at the idea of Capodimonte! That’s the kind of art I’ll drive to Ft. Worth for.

I made a couple of visits. One was with Bill and to say he was under-impressed would be an understatement. I was surprised, because most of it was nudes, he’s a guy…you know the drill. But, he went through the gallery at lightening speed. Usually, after we’ve both seen everything at our own speed, he’s eager to walk back through with me and point out his favorites. He was ready to go. I didn’t get that at all. Look at these gorgeous things!

I adored the painting of the woman and spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how the outfit she was wearing worked in real life. The boy lighting the flame was very sweet. All the painting were glorious – but not according to my husband.

Bestie and I Return

Well, once was not enough for me, so I returned with my bestie. The show was supposed to be over in June, but due to the pandemic it stayed a little longer and we went in July. She was as gaga as I was over the gorgeous works of art. We lingered and strolled and lingered some more.

We also had a good laugh. To spice up the experience, they had costumed volunteers strolling the galleries. It was supposed to give you the feeling of being in a gallery when theses masterpieces were new. Somehow the pandemic masks killed it for me.

Sorry the photo is a little tilted and fuzzy, I was doing the best I could, but I was trying to be a little discreet about shooting it with my phone. So what next. Well, there were weddings, neighborhood parties, grocery store contests, restaurant visits and other distractions, but it was all social distanced and masked, so I wasn’t having the time of my life. Finally, there was the Staycation. Come back next week and I will tell you about that.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

What Now Scottdale?

TRAVEL THERE: SIGHTSEEING BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS

Bill was loving the pace of this vacation.  We focused on one big thing for each day and then stuffed a few things around the edges.  I’ll admit we were having a great time, but now we had a full day with no primary event to build around.  What would we do with ourselves on our last day in Scottsdale?

Museum Girl vs. Adventure Boy

Were Museum Girl in charge of the world, I’d start each day at the entrance of a museum, historical home or palace about 10 minutes before opening.  For variety, I would visit gardens.  How long I spent there would depend on where I was.  It took all day to visit the Chicago Institute of Art and I would have been happy to go back the next morning and give it another shot.  My visits to the Dallas Arboretum last 2 or 3 hours, but I go frequently. Bestie and I can hit multiple venues in one day, going from bright and early to evening openings.

Adventure Guy likes to wake up slow.  He doesn’t mind sharing my cultural venues, but he likes to mix it up with golf games, shopping and perhaps a boat ride – stopping for coffee and ice cream when it suits him.  He saw everything he was interested in seeing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in about an hour. He really doesn’t want to plan out a whole day.  He just likes to ramble from one thing to the next and take naps from time to time.

Adventure Guy sometimes acknowledges this laid back approach to travel requires more research and planning on Museum Girl’s part than he even wants to know about, but he prefers to luxuriate in the fantasy that it all just comes together magically.  I’ve endeavored to make him interested in my more structured approach to travel, but after 26 years I know one thing – if Adventure Guy ain’t happy, Museum Girl is going to be miserable.  So, I’m in charge of seeing that everything goes the way he wants it to.

While I like some structure to my travel days, I learned one very important fact on the Anniversary Cruise. Seven days of 10.5 hour shore excursions do not make for a pleasant trip.  We’re trying to find some sort of balance between our two styles, because my style could be called Death by Vacation and his Loosing While Snoozing.

Fashion Square Art

Our Slow Start

I try to sleep in on vacation, but it just doesn’t work.  I’m doing good if I’m not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 AM.  On this particular morning I woke up and tried to get my thoughts organized.  We’d hit all the must-dos and had really enjoyed ourselves, but in researching for this casual approach to our vacation, I had found a whole lot of other things that I wished we could do, including some repeats, like Taliesin and the Desert Botanical Garden.  I prepared myself to present the potential activities in the most unbiased way I could, but I was really hoping for a peek at the Musical Instrument Museum.

Though I was up early, we didn’t walk out of our room until 11.  We headed over to Nellie Cashman’s Monday Club Cafe for what we thought was going to be Sunday Brunch, but come to find out, said brunch had been replaced by a fairly expensive breakfast buffet.  We had a $75 gift certificate we needed to use, but who would have guessed it all went to breakfast.

Of all the things I offered up to see, Bill opted to start at Fashion Square.  To be fair, I wanted him to see it.  Mom and I had visited when we came through in 2003 and it had been a great experience – upscale people-watching in a beautiful shopping mall.  I’ll be kind and say it just wasn’t what it used to be.  It’s still a gorgeous place, but all upscale people go somewhere else and the downscale people weren’t there either.  The caliber of stores had nose-dived since my visit, also.

That behind us, we decided to walk a little bit and come to find out, the travel god were with us – or at least with me!  Come back next week and we’ll visit the Waterfront Wine & Art Festival.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, TRAVEL, United States

Phoenix Art Museum

Museum guide with our Entry Stickers

TRAVEL THERE: AN AIMLESS ART ADVENTURE

In my research for this trip, must-see items in the Phoenix Art Museum did not make themselves apparent.  Going was more of a you’re-here-and-it’s-free kind of thing.  So we stood in the short line and made it into the museum with perhaps an hour to kill.  Here’s what we did in that hour.

No Need for Speed

Front and center in the entry way was an exhibition called Legends of Speed.  It was 20 race cars posing as art.  What we could see from outside the exhibition was lovely, but it cost extra to see it and we didn’t even have enough time to see what was free.  So, we sort of followed our nose up into the European and Western Art areas. 

The Phoenix Art Museum is quite modern.  I don’t mean that all it has is modern art.  I mean the building and its architecture are very modern.  Nothing grand and stately.  More like plywood walls painted white with concrete floors.  Lingering is not encouraged or accommodated.   No conveniently placed benches available to relax as you practice art appreciation.

https://phxart.org/arts/art-deco-hall-c-1925-salon-art-deco-c-1925/

A Showstopper

Almost by accident we wandered into the Thorne Rooms Exhibit.  I say almost by accident, because we did not purposely go to find them, but decorative arts being my favorite art form, we went to the part of the museum where we would be most likely to find something like Narcissa Niblick Thorne’s Miniature Rooms. 

The art deco room you see here is about the size of a shoe box, but their’s nothing small about the craftsmanship.  The brass fireplace tools are exquisite, the murals are tiny hand-loomed tapestries.  The wall sconces are real silver with actual crystal teardrops.

What’s more, this room is just one of many.  Pick a style, any style.  You’re likely to find a room with that style in the exhibit.  For me, it was worth all the craziness of Art Walk to get to spend some time admiring these gems.  I highly recommend them.

The Rest of It

We did not do the museum justice, but time was ticking away.  I’d say we saw most of the second floor.  We found the Western Art and saw everything European, which included their very nice Monet.  We purposely avoided the Modern and Contemporary Art, but that also caused us to miss the Ansel Adams show in the Photography Section.  The Fashion Section was closed, because they were getting ready for a new exhibition in there.  We breezed through the Art of Asia and found the Gift Shop, where I picked up some postcards of the Thorne Rooms Exhibit to put in my scrapbook.

Would I go back to the Phoenix Art Museum?  Of course, if for no other reason than to gaze at the Thorne Rooms again.  They are amazing.  I can imagine if I lived in the area, I would be a member and visit often.  However, I do have to say that it didn’t work very hard to win me over.  The whole thing sort of felt like a temporary exhibit space.  I like my museums to have a certain amount of permanence and gravitas.  PAM seems as if it might perpetually be under construction.  The first “art” you see is a huge red plastic dinosaur and next we encountered race cars.  It was a little like arriving at an amusement part, rather than a museum.

I think art should be approachable and create interest for the masses, but that doesn’t mean it should quit taking itself seriously.  The entry area should WOW you a bit, not remind you of a road side attraction.  So, I’ll not add PAM to my list of favorite museums, but I also won’t kick it to the curb.  We are falling a little more in love with Arizona every time we go through, so I anticipate many more visits.

We grabbed some fast food on the way back to the resort.  It had been another long day of sightseeing.  We were tired, but not exhausted in the same way we had been after 10.5 hour shore excursions in Italy.  The next morning we had to pay the piper.  Come back next week and I’ll explain what I mean. 

 

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Phoenix Friday Art Walk

TRAVEL THERE: WILD & CRAZY ART EVENT

Still going with the flow, I was ready to sacrifice the Phoenix Friday Art Walk (#phxfridays) for the sake of harmony, but Bill proved he was up for it.  We changed into something more casual and headed for downtown Phoenix.  By the time we arrived, things were going strong.  The Phoenix Museum of Art seemed to be the epicenter of activity, but parking there was an impossibility, so we began to look for something else.  We did find an office building that allowed us to park and it really wasn’t far from the museum, but we were like the only people parking there.  Worse case scenario, it was a rent car and none of our belongings were in it, so if they stole it, fine!

Joining the Hordes

We discovered we were about a block from the museum, which meant we were soon part of the insanity of Art Walk.  We noted most of the participants were decades younger than us, but we did not let that deter us from our opportunity for adventure.  The museum, which has free admission on Fridays and was the focus of my attention, had ridiculous lines, so with little in the way of info, we hopped aboard one of the very full free trolleys and we were off into another world.

Both sides of the street were filled with revelers and the noise level was wild.  Bill pulled me off the trolley and we tried to get our bearings, but it was sort of what I think an acid trip might be similar to.  We were sharing the crowded sidewalk with people who didn’t look like us.  Hair was in every shape and color, except what we might consider normal.  Everyone was tattooed and pierced.  They wore clothes I’d probably throw away if I found them in my closet.  There was pushing and shoving in every direction, but there was no clear indication of which way one should head.

I did mention the noise, right?  It was Bill who pointed out, that in the immediate area where we were standing, five different bands were vying for the crowd’s attention.  While we were standing next to five bands, if we looked in any directions, we could see, not far down the sidewalk, crowds flowed around even more bands.  The result, cacophony. 

Just about that time, we both needed to visit restroom facilities and by some odd piece of luck we got into a nearby restaurant with minimal hassle.  I think the doorman took pity on the senior citizens lost among the millennials.  We took care of business and made our way out to the street, heading away from the five bands.  We found a sort of alley with various booths set up along the way.  The mob seemed less frenetic here and the noise of the various bands was tolerable.  We began to stroll along.

Abandoning the Hordes   

Though spread more thinly, the denizens of this art vendor alley were of the dread-locked, tattooed and pierced variety of the five band locale.  While they looked scary to us, they did seem to be minding their own business, so we entertained ourselves by looking in on the booths.  There were some artists selling their wares – nothing we’d hang on our walls, but interesting.  The most readily available merchandise seemed to be CBD oil, plus everything and anything made out of hemp.  Bill was sure he could smell “hemp”smoke wafting above the crowd.

After about a block, we ran out of booths and it began to look like an area senior citizens would not be welcome or safe, so we made a U-turn and visited the booths on the other side of the alley.  When we returned to the sidewalk, a band made of pre-teenagers and their parents, had begun to play headbanger/punk rock (?) at a remarkable volume.  Bill wondered what the best way back to the car was.  I pointed to a landmark on the skyline and we decided to walk back, instead of trying to find another trolley.

We crossed the street and discovered,what had been an alley on the other side, turned into more of a street.  On the street, vendors only took up one side, but they seemed to have pretty much the same merchandise as the previous guys.  On the other side of the street was a series of restaurants with outdoor seating – only all patrons looked as if they belonged to biker gangs, so we weren’t at all tempted to sit down for a respite, even though sitting down for a drink sounded like the perfect thing to do.

We kept our eye on the red neon sign we’d recognized earlier and when the street made an abrupt left, we headed right through what seemed to be a park.  The art you see on this page was displayed throughout the area and it is huge.  After the park was the library.  We could no longer see our landmark, but I had my bearings and continued that way.

Suddenly, we were back at the art museum and the lines had disappeared.  Our visit was delayed, but I was going to get to take advantage of the free admission.  Come back next week and enjoy the museum with us.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, Road Trips, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Bummed About the Boboli

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S TOO HOT?

If I am being honest and I always like to be, I have to admit the opportunity to see Palazzo Pitti was one of the highlights of my life.  I didn’t realize just how much I was going to love it.  I still regret not seeing the David and the Uffizi Gallery, but the Pitti was pretty amazing.

Heading Outdoors

That’s how I was feeling as we abandoned the Palazzo for the  Giardino di Boboli However, something was happening around me that was going to put a dent in that.  When we disembarked our bus on the edge of Florence’s Old City, it was still the cool of the morning.  It got less cool as we tramped around the city and by the time we got to the Palazzo, we were grateful for the air conditioning.

As we strolled through the Palazzo, the temperature had strolled up the thermometer.  As soon as we entered the garden we were in a stifling hot day.  I wished that the guide had started here, but it was too late for regrets.

We were all taking pictures of the amphitheater at the edge of the gardens when our guide announced it was too hot to see the gardens.  Talking about hot, I was ready for a melt down.  Sure I was happy to have seen the Palazzo Pitti, but I’d given up Michelangelo’s David for this garden and she thought it was too hot. If I hadn’t dumped the guide in the Palazzo, then this was certainly the time to walk away.

Being part of a group that is traveling together gives things a different perspective.  If Bill and I had been alone on this one, I think I might have dumped the guide and the shore excursion.  Bill would have balked, because it was getting time for lunch and he’s a little wary of striking out on our own on foreign soil.  However, this was the Boboli Gardens she was so casually dropping from our itinerary and I was upset.

Off We Go

The rest of my group was all for dumping the gardens.  While I just might have been able to convince Bill to play truant for the balance of the day, after canvassing the others I realized I was in the minority.  I adjusted my attitude and followed the guide out to the Ponte Vecchio.  Not only did we have the scalding heat to contend with, but while we’d been enjoying the Pitti Palace hundreds of tour buses had been belching their passengers into Florence’s Old City and it seemed as if most of them were hanging out on the bridge.

This was the photo opportunity we were promised earlier in the day, but our guide either forgot or didn’t care.  She was speed-walking across the bridge and Bill was none to happy about it.  Every time he lingered to get a photo, he’d look up and see a sea of tourists but not our guide with holding up her sign with the number “12.”  He was none to happy.

Piazza della Signoria

Bill and I managed to keep up with our guide, but only barely.  Once over the bridge, we trotted a few more blocks and found ourselves in the famous Piazza della Signoria.  People who had watched the Medici mini-series (like me) knew immediately where we were.

Guide lady did allow generous time for picture taking in the piazza, but by now it was really hot and we were really hungry.  I was all out of sorts, because I hadn’t gotten to see the Boboli.  Florence was not anywhere close to being  my “most memorable vacation yet,” but everyone else was as hungry and hot as I was.  Not much cheerful chatter was going on.

The day is far from over, but I’ll stop today’s post here.  Come back next week for the rest of Florence.

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

Pitti Palace is No Pity Party

TRAVEL THERE: WANDERING THROUGH THE GLORIES OF PALAZZO PITTI

For a family which dominated a city for so many years, it’s amazing that nothing is named after the Medicis.  Whatever something was called when they took it over, and they eventually took over almost everything, from the Cathedral to government offices, they continued to use the name the building already had.

In the Palazzo Pitti

Entering the Palazzo was like turning back time.  The rather mundane exterior gave way to so much interior glory that almost a year later I am still trying to wrap my mind around it.  Magnificence is everywhere.  What would be the highlight of the collection in your average museum is just a whatnot on a sideboard at the Medici’s home.

What I am trying to tell you is that every surface, every floor, every wall, every ceiling – absolutely everywhere you look is something glorious.  We started out in some huge hall with larger than life tapestries.

Soon after we were wandering through the hall you see above.  Then we went through gallery after gallery after gallery of some of the most amazing paintings, sculpture and decorative arts you might ever have the opportunity to see.

You have to remember, I’m not exactly a neophyte in the world of art.  I’ve been to the Louvre and the  Jeu de Paume (before its impressionists works were moved to the Musée d’Orsay) in Paris.  I’ve seen all the major museums in London, like the British Museum, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert.  I’ve been to Ludwig’s castles in Germany and palaces throughout Austria.  I’ve spent days in the Cairo Museum and strolled through the Gettys a number of times.  I’ve made pilgrimages throughout the US to see the great houses of the rich and famous from Mt. Vernon to the Biltmore to Heart Castle.  These only scratch the surface and still the Palazzo Pitti blew me away.

This was somebody’s private home.  This was their private art collection.  They weren’t kings or popes or even emperors (with the exception Peter Leopold).  Most of them were Cardinals and Grand Dukes.  Just as they managed to live incognito in Florence without having everything named after them, they lived in this amazing palace as grand dukes and controlled the world without claiming title to it.

Absolutely Awestruck

The good news is, for a little while it didn’t matter that we had a lousy guide. I just wandered through the rooms trying to take it all in.  Though our guide didn’t have much to say, she did sort of usher through the Galleries, always reminding us we had more things to see.

I should have just asked our guide what time we needed to be at the bus and dumped her for the balance of the day.  Nothing else she drug me past in our tour of Florence was as amazing as the Palazzo Pitti. But that’s hindsight.  Though loving every minute of the Palace, I was also very excited about seeing Boboli Gardens.

The gardens are what’s up next, so come back next week and find out what happened there.  In the meantime, I will leave you with these glorious images from Pitti Palace.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Libraries, Museums, Road Trips, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Livorno to Florence

TRAVEL THERE: THEY LOST ME AT LIVORNO

This wasn’t my first cruise, so I am aware of the fact gateway cities can be pretty disappointing.  As a disappointment, Livorno did not disappoint.  The day got better, but never as good as I hoped it would be. 

“90-Minute Drive Through the Beautiful Tuscan Countryside”

Newsflash: the highway we took to Florence didn’t take us through the beautiful Tuscan country side.  It was a highway.  We could have been circling Detroit.

Though the Celebrity site did not tell me specifically to be expecting an ultra-luxury bus, the shore excursion I picked was a Celebrity Discovery Collection Event.  According to Dallas’ Celebrity rep, these tours were worth the extra you paid to be a part of them.  Perhaps he didn’t intend to give me the impression I should expect more in every aspect of the tour, but we had a more luxurious bus in Cancun.  The Celebrity vehicle was adequate as tour buses go, but I wished for my Cancun Passion bus.

Our first stop was not Pitti Palace as advertised.  Instead, it was a convenience store. Apparently, we needed a pre-Florence potty stop, so the alarms started going off in my head.  Things were going downhill fast.

The pay phone is just a little bonus.  They have them all over the place in Europe.  Try finding one state-side.

So, riding along in our adequate bus, we soon figured out our guide was no Paolo.  We’re not sure whether she just left her personality at home that day or she simply didn’t have one at all, but after the charming and erudite Paolo, she was a real disappointment.

“Your first stop takes you to the decadent Palazzo Pitti.” 

Well, I’ve already told you about the first stop and it was no Palazzo.  Our next stop was not a Palazzo either.  We’d obviously arrived at some lovely place in Italy, but it was not the Pitti Palace.  No, we were about to hoof it to the Pitti Palace via the rest of Florence.

Initially, this “stroll” wasn’t so awful.  It was nice to stroll among the picturesque by-ways of Florence and when she wasn’t running off and leaving all of us, our guide did have a few salient facts to share with us.  We stopped by the Uffizi Gallery and even though we didn’t get to enter, it was fun to learn it was once the home and workrooms of the Medicis and charming to see the artists setting up.

After a little more circuitous wandering, we came to the famous Ponte Vecchio across the Arno River.  The guide who had been strolling through the city, as if we had hour to linger over every detail, suddenly picked up the pace, at the point I would have been happy to amble.  She assured us we’d get more time on the bridge later.

Though we knew she was no Paolo, we had not yet learned she was untrustworthy, so we continued to trudge along behind her.  Then suddenly, with no kind of signage or gates to tell us, we were at Pitti Palace.  It was a sort of odd palace.  Right in the middle of things, no gate, no moat, just a multi-story facade, and while it was imposing, it was in no way magnificent.

I’ll leave you here for today.  Once inside, Pitti Palace makes up for it’s rather dreary exterior.  Come back next week and we’ll explore the wonders of Palazzo Pitti together.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Libraries, Museums, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Florence Fascinates

TRAVEL THERE: FLORENCE WAS GREAT. TOO BAD THE SAME THING CAN’T BE SAID FOR THE RENAISSANCE VACATION

There is no one more susceptible to great marketing than someone in marketing.  Our shore excursion to Florence is a perfect example of that.  The photos and the copy sent me on flights of fantasy no walking tour of Florence could have, especially with the below par tour guide we were assigned to that day.

What It Should Have Been

The Celebrity website said, and I quote, “Florence, Italy is the birthplace of The Renaissance, and the site of your most memorable vacation yet. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, a profusion of poets, painters, sculptors, and architects flooded into Florence and produced the era’s most groundbreaking artwork. Departing from the port of Livorno, your excursion in Florence begins with a 90-minute drive through the beautiful Tuscan countryside those legendary artists once traversed. Your first stop takes you to the decadent Palazzo Pitti. Also known as Pitti Palace, this architectural marvel is one of Florence’s signature monuments. The Palatine Gallery lies on the first floor, and contains a broad collection of 16th and 17th century paintings. Its most iconic piece of art is likely the portrait of Maddalena Doni by Raphael in 1506. Next, you’ll visit the Boboli Gardens. While accurate, the Boboli Gardens are more than your standard garden. Boboli is actually one of the greatest open-air museums in Florence. The park boasts sculptures, fountains, centuries-old oak trees and more. As the garden that inspired European royal gardens like Versailles, there are few better examples of “green” architecture in the world. From here, your vacation in Florence takes you to Piazza della Repubblica, the most beautiful town square in the Tuscany region. This brief respite offers the opportunity to wine and dine before continuing onward to the Signoria and Santa Croce Squares.”

What I Imagined

I envisioned a luxurious bus ride through a gorgeous landscape.  I assumed the bus would drop us off in front of the Pitti Palace.  I hoped we’d have hours to wander all the galleries of the palace and then wander some more through one of the most beautiful gardens on earth.  I was sure we’d need to stroll around a little bit to get to all the sites mentioned, but what’s a little walking, right?  Besides I was so laser-focused on the Pitti Palace it was all I could think about.

What I Gave Up

Florence is a city you would needs days and days to see properly.  The list of must-see attractions is daunting.  Take the Uffizi Gallery for instance, one of the most prominent art museums of the world.  Then there’s Michelangelo’s David, housed in another museum you’ve probably never heard of, but a piece of art I’ve wanted to see all my life.  And the Duomo,  famous as one of the most important cathedrals in the world, for the history that was lived there, for the artworks housed there, but most of all for its miraculous dome.

With all this to look forward to I allowed myself to be distracted by some great marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens are magnificent by any standard, but what they were selling me about the shore excursion isn’t what I got.

So, come on back next week and I’ll tell you how it went.

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!