When Yves Saint Laurent took up the reins of Dior from Dior, management was concerned. After all, YSL was only in his early twenties. Can you blame them? At first, everything was OK.
Trapeze to Trouble
The black dress and the floral print dress on the left were parts of Saint Laurent’s first collection on his own, called Trapeze. The exhibition guide talks about “trapezoidal” silhouettes and the “free spirit of the Sixties”, even though it was only 1958. It was a success, but but the success was short lived. In 1960 Saint Laurent called his collection “Beatnik.” Talk about the Sixties, leather jackets with mink trim! One short velvet evening dress featured bobble fringe trim. Gorgeous had almost left the building, but I think this black number with the swag of pearls might be worth its weight in silk crepe.
Yves was ushered out the door, but one wonders if the success of his own fashion house made the management of Dior regret running him off. When Yves left, they promoted Marc Bohan out of the London branch. His classical training returned the house and its clientele back to the safety of traditional haute couture without resorting to boredom. He borrowed from Russian tzars and the traditional Chinese cheongsam, keeping everyone happy for close to thirty years. Some of it is a little too Eighties for me, but I’d wear others.
Haute couture was being replaced by ready-to-wear around the world. Many of the French fashion houses had disappeared and others sold out to mass marketing. Dior remained. Enter an Italian, Gianfranco Ferre’. After Bohan’s freewheeling style references, structured suits and wafting evening gowns, Ferre’ took the house back to classicism. The exhibition guide gives him credit for everything from Baroque architecture to Impressionists, even Cubists and Surrealism.
To my untrained eye, he seemed to embody both the best of Dior himself and his successor, Saint Laurent. The simple column of the empire-waisted dress a la Josephine, which was named Palladio, spoke to me, but I think my bestie liked Glory, the black velvet number encrusted in gold, even better.
One thing I noticed about the Ferre’ dresses is that a goodly number of them had a lot of stuff on them. Like the stripped gown on the front row. I loved most of it, but then the bodice looked like someone’s granddaughter had come to work one day and glued a little of everything onto it. Same thing with the polka dot dress in the back. Just too much stuff.
And speaking of too much. How about that gray suit with puff sleeves and the really big bow. Sure, it’s too much but I love it anyway. I would hang it in my closet next to Dior’s houndstooth suit with the more conservative black bow.
Mr. Ferre’s designs finish out the first gallery of Creative Directors. Come back next week and we’ll look at three of the later directors. Meanwhile, enjoy the fashions.
Now that we’ve browsed through the entire Dior exhibit together, let’s go back and take a closer look at some of what is called fashion. I say that because to me, clothes should be designed to wear. They should look good and make me look good when I wear them. I can’t say that all the fashions in this exhibit would compliment the wearer.
Fashion and the Decorative Arts
I’ve said it before, the Decorative Arts are my favorite part of any museum. Paintings and sculpture are nice, but what I love most are practical items made sublime by their decoration. A Meissen vase can completely captivate me. My favorite museum ever was the Silver Collection at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Such a bland name for such an extraordinary place.
Many dresses in the Dior exhibition are certainly sublime. Would that my closet had such delights! Take the black and white number with the coolie-style straw hat above. Anybody with about an ounce of clothes sense would tell you it’s not in vogue. Fully pleated wool skirts and jackets with peplums are just not the thing. I don’t care. I’d wear that anytime. Not to a baseball game, of course, but give me an excuse to dress up and I’d put that number on. And in vogue or not, ooohs and aaahs would follow me wherever I went. The black taffeta, off-the-shoulder number next to it is pretty wonderful also.
However, I didn’t feel that way about everything I saw. As time marched on the dresses were less decorative and more arty. The show is partly chronological, but then it explodes into a kaleidoscope of eras. Dresses designed to grace the form of post-WWII damselles stand next to fashions better suiting an ancient Egyptian priestess or a Zulu warrior princess. Some of the outfits didn’t look like they would grace anyone or anything. When I put on an outfit, I don’t want people to say, “My, that’s an interesting outfit.” I want them to say, “Wow, you look great!”
To see the most egregious examples of these interesting outfits, you’ll have to go to the exhibition yourself. The photos I’m using in these posts were taken by Bill during my first visit. He’s as drawn to gorgeous as I am, so he didn’t waste his focus on interesting, much. During my second visit I was so busy trying to match the various dresses to their description in the exhibition guide that I failed to get a single picture.
In the chronological part of the show, the focus is on the various directors of the House of Dior. First, of course was Christian Dior, himself. The suit on the far right with the big black bow? I want it so bad I can taste it. It’s name is Adventure.
I didn’t love everything he did as well as that one piece, but it’s probably safe to say I love everything he designed better than anything anyone else did. For instance, the black double breasted belted jacket next to MY ensemble is entirely too bulky for my frame. I’d look like someone’s living room drapes which have decided to take a walk.
Bill only took one more picture in this section of the exhibit, a lovely gala gown from 1950 called Oceanie with an ‘ over the e. The amaranth red tulle dress is embroidered with sequins and beads, so I have no idea what that has to do with the ocean.
In fact, many of the names assigned to the ensembles had little to do with the ensemble it is assigned to. Some of the directors labeled everything as a “Look” and assigned it a number. I found that as disappointing as a red dress with a blue name.
There’s more to the exhibit, of course, but let’s put Mr. Saint Laurent off until next week.
On Saturday the 18th, Dior: From Dallas to the World had not even opened to the public yet and I was back for my second helping. It’s just that delicious. You don’t even have to like fashion or art to appreciate this exhibition. What do you like? Architecture, marketing, celebrity sightings, engineering, manufacturing? Think I’m kidding? Come take a look!
Thrilled Clear Down to My Socks
Modern art is all fine and good for those of you who like it, but I was just about fed up with the overabundance of it at my museum. Modern, pop, contemporary, avant garde and everything in between had become a steady diet at the DMA. That’s OK, with the dawning of 2019, I take it all back. I love the DMA again!
With this latest exhibition, I’ll be running down there every time I can dream up a reason to go – so Dallas friends, please call me and let’s make a date! If you go with me, I can get you in for free. Last week I told you about the great party the DMA threw to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Today let’s talk about the “over 100 haute couture dresses, as well as accessories , photographs, original sketches, runway videos, and other archival material,” promised in my invitation to the Opening Celebration.
All That and More
On my second visit, the weather promised rain, but that wasn’t scaring away the excited crowd which waited outside the DMA. We arrived a few moments before opening and I was surprised to see so many people. I hadn’t thought of ordering my free tickets to see Dior on that particular day, because it was still members only, but I should have. At 11, the earliest we could get in was noon.
After a detour through the Berthe Morisot exhibition to kill an hour (unfortunately that exhibition ended on the 26th, for those of you who missed it) we took our tickets to the line for Dior. The first peek at the dresses took my breath away, both times I saw it – and I have a sneaky suspicion it will continue to delight. You thread your way into a relatively small hallway and on both sides of you, double-decked at eye level and above, are mannequins in gorgeous black Dior dresses against a red-lighted stage.
While no one explained the intent of the exhibition’s design, to me, the exhibition space seems reminiscent of the temporary nature of a tent set up for a fashion show – especially the behind the scenes part, where the designers and models would be scurrying about. Scaffolding can be seen through the white plastic walls and seemingly hand drawn arrows point the way to go.
Once you’ve navigated the arrows in the hallways, you’ll find an area devoted to the nuts and bolts of the design business. Twenty toiles, muslin mock-ups of drawings created by the designers, fill a wall. Most of them I would be happy to wear, as is, but a few do reveal the temporary nature of the garment. On the parallel wall, videos show the actual process of packaging perfumes, building hand bags and other wonders of manufacturing these dreams for sale. Display cases show swatches of hand-beaded cloth, sketches with fabrics attached and other bits associated with the process of designing haute couture.
Though other galleries have more eye-popping displays, the gallery to the left of the toiles has my favorite dresses. The houndstooth number with the big bow would be the one I would want to take home with me. It’s called Adventure and was from the 1948 Envol line, but the look is timeless. In the same area are dresses designed by directors Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan and Gianfranco Ferre.
To the right of the toiles is a gallery devoted to later directors, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. I can easily say their designs are stunning, but they depart from the gorgeous craft of Dior himself and wander into that fashion world where models wear dresses I can’t imagine seeing walk down the street.
You must follow a few more arrows to see the grandest gallery in the exhibition, calledFrom Paris to the World. It shows dresses, on two tiers on both sides of the room, which have been influenced by various places around the world. Saris, kimonos and other costume-like gowns will awe and amaze you. Some I loved. Others just made me giggle. The photo at the beginning of this post, of the dresses in arched compartments, is where those who love celebrity watching will gather. These dresses were worn by Lady Gaga, Josephine Baker and Marilyn Monroe, to name a few.
You’re not through with the exhibition yet, but I have run out of words for today. There are still treats to enjoy. Come back next week and I’ll take you on a quick stroll through the rest of the exhibit. Then the following week, I’ll go back to the beginning and share more details of the exhibit.
Women artists have been in the spotlight at the DMA this year. The first few months of the year, Ida O’Keefe’s work was featured and I thoroughly enjoyed the peek into this woman’s portfolio. Unfortunately, her art was overshadowed by her more famous sister, a sister who tried to shove her out of the limelight. Reaching back to a pivotal player in the Impressionist movement, the DMA is now offering up selections from the portfolio of Berthe Morisot. This exhibition reveals it was the male critics of the time who tried to shove a woman artist into the shadows. Let’s think about that.
Before getting to Morisot, I’d just like to say thank you to the DMA, for offering up such delectable exhibitions as O’Keefe and Morisot. I’ll admit, I was on the brink of not renewing my DMA membership when the Berthe Morisot exhibition was announced. I fell in love with my museum through exhibitions like Pompeii and Shogun. I hurried to the edifice every time there was an Impressionist show and cried as I added to my personal visual catalog of Van Gogh’s. I’ve raved all over the world about our Reves Collection and touted our Dallas Museums of Art theory offered by Rick Brettell. I’ve haunted shows like Jean Paul Gaultier and Tut with visit after visit, dragging in anyone I could bring.
In recent years, however, I’ve felt a little betrayed. It’s been Contemporary after Modern after Pop after Modern after Contemporary. Some of it I’ve enjoyed, like Cindy Sherman’s photography, but most of it just wasn’t gorgeous – and as I’ve said before, I’m into gorgeous. The last time I was really wowed was back in 2014, when they mounted the exhibition on Nineteenth Century French Florals. Meanwhile, their counterparts over in Fort Worth, the Kimbell, offered one gorgeous show after another.
When I saw Morisot’s name, I knew someone, somewhere had heard my lament. I didn’t need every single show to match my personal taste, but I did need some breadcrumbs. 2018 had a few less than dark spots, but it was Morisot who kept me renewing. Then I met a friend for lunch at the DMA and there it was, the Ida O’Keefe exhibit. I’m a big fan of Georgia, so it took me a few moments to dial in the fact that I wasn’t looking at her work, but at her sister’s. I made several trips to the museum to oooh and aaah over the exhibit and said a prayer to the art gods to keep the gorgeous coming.
My prayers were answered in spades. Berthe Morisot’s work is delightful. When most Americans think of female Impressionists, they think of Mary Cassatt and because she was an American, we know a whole lot more about her. However, Morisot was also in the thick of things. She was married to Eugene Manet, brother to painter Edouard Manet, but don’t think she was dragged to fame by his coattails. She was in her own right an important contributor to the Impressionist movement.
The demands of society at the time limited the scope of her subjects, but not her creativity. her lovely pastel impressions of the world around her show a keen eye and a sure stroke. As keen and sharp as any of the other Impressionists, but received by the critics with significant bias. There’s a great infographic on one of the walls of the show. It juxtaposes one of Morisot’s paintings with two of the other giants of the Impressionist movement, but their painters were men. All three pictures of are women in domestic scenes, but while the men are recognized for boldness and creativity, the critics call her painting charming and sweet.
While her work is charming, she was also pushing the envelope. If you’ll notice in the picture of the woman in the gray dress above, Morisot did not take the paint to the edges of the canvas. While the rest of the world was carefully covering every inch of canvas in paint, she experimented with incorporating unfinished portions of the canvas into the finished work. She was accused of losing interest and not finishing the pieces, but it was not neglect. It was a method she incorporated over and over again.
At first, she seemed used the trick on the edges of the painting, but she became bolder, using bare canvas in the center of her subjects’ faces as if to say, “I’m doing this on purpose. The woman in the hat demonstrates this tactic.
I must be honest, I find the bare places in the center of the paintings a little distracting, but I admire her pioneering spirit. Nowadays, we see paintings with the canvas coming through all the time. When you do see it, thank Berthe Morisot.
I love this show and have already seen it several times. I hope you’ll go, too. If you love gorgeous, you’ll love it. I’ll leave you with one last piece by Morisot, which was perhaps my favorite, but that’s hard to say when there were so many I completely adored. Like Van Gogh and so many of the artists we now love, Berthe didn’t sell much while she was alive. Most of her paintings were in the hands of family and friends. I’m so glad she has been rescued from those hands and put on the walls of museums, where people like me can enjoy them.
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!
TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE CHATEAU HOTEL AND THE FRENCH QUARTER
It’s 1974. I’m about to start my second year of college, Nixon just resigned and we’re in the French Quarter. Come along and join the fun.
The Chateau Hotel
As I’ve told you before, Holiday Inn tended to be our usual accommodations, but for New Orleans we stayed right in the French Quarter at The Chateau Hotel. I’m happy to report that you can stay there today if you want to. I confess I was thrilled, just by the mere fact that it wasn’t our usual roadside motel. It was an honest to goodness hotel right in the middle of everything.
I remember entering our room and walking right to the windows to look out at the French Quarter. It was exhilarating to see something besides a freeway. Our first night in town we had to grab a quick bite and get back to the hotel in time for my parents to see the infamous news conference featuring Richard Nixon’s resignation.
In addition to being right in the middle of the French Quarter, The Chateau Hotel also had an amazing courtyard where breakfast was served each morning. Those morning meals are among my favorite memories of the trip. I am devoted to al fresco dining and for all I know, this is where my passion for it originated.
I can’t remember all the places Mom dragged us to over the next few days, but I can tell you that we ate dinner at Brennan’s, another treat you can still enjoy. Supposedly, according to tradition, breakfast is the meal you are really supposed to eat at Brennan’s, but for my mom, having dinner there was just the bomb. Dad had to put on a suit and tie. Mom and Aunt Edie wore maxi-skirts, all the rage at the time. There is no pictorial record of what Susan and I wore, but I do remember the meal.
I chose Chicken Madeira as my entree. I was very impressed with myself, because it had a wine sauce. Being a Baptist, my mom didn’t cook with wine, so at the time I didn’t realize the alcohol always cooked out. I thought I was being a bit naughty. Mom and Dad were afraid I wouldn’t like it and to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that crazy about it, but there was no way I was going to admit it.
For dessert, I had their famous pecan pie. I’ll confess something else. I’d take my little sister’s pecan pie over their’s any day of the week, but at the time, she wasn’t baking any pies. Still, I remember being under-impressed. Brennan’s hadn’t been a big hit with me.
With my dessert, I had coffee and I’d never had coffee before. I’d been away at school and could have had coffee with every meal, even though my parents had never offered me any. I just wasn’t interested. At Brennan’s the waiter convinced me I couldn’t leave their restaurant without having some of their famous chicory coffee. So, my first taste of coffee was a baptism by bitterness. I still don’t drink coffee.
So that was my family vacation to New Orleans. I’ve been several times since. My favorite New Orleans cuisine is a toss up between a big ole bowl of BBQ Shrimp or a Muffalatta sandwich from a storefront my friend Michael took me to. I know I’d rather eat BBQ Shrimp than anything Brennan’s has on the menu. And speaking of Brennan’s, if you have to choose between Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace, I’d vote for Commander’s Palace. New Orleans really is a culinary treat, but I wouldn’t have known it from that 1974 visit.
The next page in my scrapbook says I am Biloxi Bound, so I hope you’ll join me next week for a little Gulf Shore fun.
“This is the forest primeval,” is the beginning phrase of Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline. It’s a fictional story of love lost and then found too late. It’s also about political injustice, because French settlers of Canada, called Acadians, were deported by the British, just for being Catholics. In the story, Evangeline is among the deportees who were sent to Louisiana – hence Evangeline Parish. Let’s go visit.
Traveling Evangeline Country
Though I can’t remember all the logistics between Dallas and Evangeline Country, I do remember being sick and tired of riding in the back seat on a sticky August afternoon. We had Aunt Edie with us, which was fun, but I’m guessing we hit the road around 4 AM. By late afternoon I’m sure I was second guessing my decision to go on this family vacation.
We piled out of the car at a Mardi Gras museum, but I’m not sure where it was. They were very proud of the fact that they’d been doing Mardi Gras a lot longer than New Orleans. The museum was full of beautiful costumes, but the best part was the air conditioning! There was also a lot of material about Acadian history. They were very interested in visitors understanding that while outsiders may think the terms Cajun and Creole are interchangeable, Cajuns and Creoles don’t. Cajuns descended from the Acadians. Creoles are descended from the French mixing with various other races, especially around New Orleans. Creoles probably thought Cajuns were hicks, while Cajuns claimed a purer racial lineage, which was much more important back in the 70’s than it is today.
Ça C’est Bon
Regardless of their racial heritage, Cajuns know how to eat. That evening we ate the local cuisine. Mom had done her research and we had dinner at what was supposed to be THE place to eat crawfish. I keep thinking the name of it was Anderson’s, but don’t hold me to that.
Wherever it was, it was a great, big barn-like place. The menu offered crawfish this, crawfish that and crawfish whatever else. I was a little squeamish about sucking heads, but the rest of it sounded pretty good to me. I’m sure I got some sort of combo plate so I could try it more than one way. I’m also pretty sure that everyone else chose more traditional seafood choices, like fried shrimp and then sampled my entrees. I’ve always been a little more food adventurous than the rest of my family.
We probably spent the night at a Holiday Inn. That’s where we usually stayed. The next day we moved on to New Orleans.
TRAVEL TALK: HOW LONG CAN WE STAY AND HOW MUCH CAN WE SPEND?
My poor husband! The minute we get home from a trip, I’m already thinking ahead to the next one. I’m trying to figure out just how quickly I can get him out of town again, how long he will let us stay and how much money I can get away with spending. So, learning that I’d just won a five day trip to a Club Med resort from CTC, my favorite travel agency, I really only had one question. When can we go?
Which Club Med?
Sandra Rubio, my travel agent, had another question for me. Which Club Med do you want to go to? While there are Club Meds all over the world, our prize was limited to Club Meds in the North American hemisphere, so that made it a little easier. Sandra talked through the choices with me and I narrowed it down to two – Sandpiper Bay in Florida and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Well, really I wanted Punta Cana, because I’d never been to the DR, but my husband was hoping our nieces and nephews might want to come along and for them Florida was more realistic. That would have been really fun, but when, after a flurry of phone calls and emails we realized it would be just my hubby and me, that not only decided the where, but the when. If it was going to be a romantic getaway, then it made sense to go for our anniversary. We had to wait several days for our preferred dates to be approved, but once they were, we were set to go in May.
Let the Research Begin
Once I’ve pegged down a date, a destination and have an idea of the budget, travel planning really begins for me in earnest, but this trip was very, very different. I am the Museum Girl. Punta Cana is not exactly a hot bed of museums. Punta Cana doesn’t even have one museum. I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do with myself.
I went to the Club Med website. It had lists and lists of activities, but they were very active activities, like water sports, golfing, archery and tennis. That’s not exactly my cup of tea – and yes, I know I’m weird. There were also amazing pictures of beaches and swimming pools. That’s not exactly my cup of tea, either. Yes, I know that makes me even weirder, but it began to dawn on me that I’d just signed up for five days of relaxation and I really don’t know how to do that.
And Then There was Airfare
While everything about our five days in Punta Cana were covered, the airfare was up to us. We really didn’t think that was such a big deal until we tried to book our flight. The first big surprise was the number of dollar signs. I mean the Dominican Republic is just right there on the other side of Cuba. Why did it cost such a fortune to get there?
The next big surprise was the big, huge price gap between Spirit Air and every other airlines in the world. It was such a substantial amount that we never actually considered one of the other airlines, but we were a little stuck, because we didn’t think we were Spirit Airlines’ target customers.
It took us a little while to wrap our minds around it, but we booked our airfare to Punta Cana on Spirit. And then the great wait began without a single museum to research. Friends who were aware of our upcoming trip would ask if we were ready to travel . I would smile, shrug and say something pleasant like, “Of course,” “Can’t wait,” or “Sure,” but I wasn’t so sure I was ready for five days of uninterrupted relaxation.
We visited St. George’s. It’s nice, but confusing. There’s all these pictures of St. George and the dragon, but St. George is a Roman soldier martyred because he would not give up his faith. No dragons in the story, so don’t ask me. It’s also confusing, because it started out as a Roman Catholic Church, but is now is a convent for Greek Orthodox nuns and old George is a Coptic saint.
We visited the very old Jewish Synagogue which they call the New Synagogue, because the current building was built in the 1890’s and this building is one of three known synagogues on this site. However, according to tradition, there’s been a synagogue here since ancient times. I mentioned a few weeks ago that it was built on the site where Pharaoh’s daughter discovered Moses in the bullrushes.
They say stuff like that all the time in Egypt. St. Catherine’s Cathedral out in the Sinai has THE Burning Bush. One of the murals at the Hanging Church depicts the Moses in the bullrushes story. There’s also a mural of the documented story of when faith actually moved a mountain. You really need to get to Egypt.
One of the sad things I learned was that while there was a large Jewish community in Cairo for centuries, it has virtually disappeared. The Synagogue is a tourist attraction, not a place of worship. Imagine a congregation, whose place of worship was originally associated with the story of Moses and which was perhaps the place Joseph worshiped when he was in Egypt, no longer having any Jews to worship in it.
Another important miracle recorded in the murals of the Hanging Church is the moving of Mokattum Mountain. A Muslim Caliph was ready to do away with Christians altogether when a bishop made a deal with him. If he could get a mountain to move then the Christians were safe. According to tradition, the bishop had everyone pray and then they had a mass at the foot of Mokattum Mountain at the edge of Cairo. Lo and behold the mountain jumped up into the air and the Christians were saved.
In recent years a church has been planted in a cavern out there at Mokattum and Bill and I would travel there before the day was over, but for now, I’ll round out my tour. On the way into the area I saw a shop selling shawls. I love shawls and capes. Bill promised we’d stop back by on the way out, probably thinking I would forget all about it – and who knows, I might have – but Zuzu remembered and now I have this beautiful shawl.
The shawl I saw on the way in was not the one I ended up with. I saw a pretty shawl that I thought would be great for evening wear and the price was minuscule. When I went back I saw this gorgeous, heavy, reversible number and asked if all the shawls were the same price. “Yes,” was his answer. I know value when I see it. I immediately abandoned the evening style and held on to this one until Bill paid for it.
Come to find out, the shawl I chose is hand woven goats wool. A tag identified the Egyptian craftsman who made it. We probably should have paid $100 for it. I’d be surprised if Bill paid $10. He’d bargained so mercilessly that he was embarrassed when we walked out of there. Once again, not understanding Arabic saved me. I would have told Bill to pay the man his price and quit bargaining.
Next week we’ll move on to Mokattum Mountain, but first, enjoy these beautiful photos.
This trip to Egypt was one best thing after another, but our day in Old Cairo was special for many reasons. Let’s get started!
A Long Wait
During my 1996 visit to Egypt, my niece had plans to take us to the churches in Old Cairo, but those plans were always for bokra (tomorrow) and bokra never came. I really didn’t know what I was missing. I was so focused on getting to the Pyramids and the Cairo Museum the churches weren’t even on my list.
This time things were different. Old Cairo was on my radar and the research I did told me not to miss it. It also told me not to let anyone squeeze it into some part of a day, but to keep demanding the outing needed its own day.
First, Bill and Ayman tried to squeeze it into the day of the wedding, but I said no. Then they suggested I see it on the day we transferred from the Fairmont to the Mena House. I kept saying no. Then I was somehow supposed to drive from Alexandria to Cairo, see the churches and get on a plane. Nope that wasn’t happening either. I’m only occasionally stubborn, but on those occasions, I’m very stubborn.
The Cairo Museum
And speaking of stubborn. Remember Zuzu, our guide to the Pyramids? Well, he was back for a repeat performance. And remember how he was determined to take us to Giza before we went to Dashour or Saqqura? Well, we had the second stanza of that. We were going to the Cairo Museum before we went to Old Cairo and that was that.
I have been to the Cairo Museum and unlike my first trip to the Pyramids, my visit to the museum trip was very satisfying. I felt like I had the time on that trip to process everything I saw. If I lived there, I would go to the museum on a regular basis. Since I didn’t live there, I wanted to spend my time doing new things. That didn’t happen. So here I am out in front of the Cairo Museum with Zuzu listening to whatever it is that he wanted to tell me about the museum.
Old Cairo, Finally!
Old Cairo is very, very old. To impress this fact upon us, Zuzu started with this ancient fortress. It was known as the Fortress of Babylon in the early AD years and once the Nile flowed through it. That’s important later on in the story.
The Old City is a warren of churches. There is St. George’s Church and Covent, The Hanging Church, St. Barbara’s, Abu Sargus Cavern Church and a Synogogue. It gets a little confusing, because some of the properties have changed hands several times. Several have been rebuilt several times. As I researched this part of the trip, I imagined having to walk great distances to see these various sights, but they are actually cheek to jowl – right in the same place.
Next week we’ll go start touring the churches. You won’t want to miss that!