Category Archives: Museums

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Step Up to Saqqara

TRAVEL THERE: VISITING THE STEP PYRAMID

The Egyptians didn’t wake up one morning and have the perfect formula for pyramid building.  They had hundreds of years of practice before the elegant examples at Giza were built.  (There’s a nick in the Ancient Alien theory!)  At Dashour we saw pyramids of various shapes and sizes.  Their most successful attempts led them to give step pyramids a try and the best example of these Step Pyramids is up the road a bit from Dashour and down the road a bit from Giza at Saqqara. 

Getting There

When we departed Dashour, our military friends didn’t seem quite so intimidating.  They barely glanced at us as we passed by.  Izzat got back on the main road, the one with the dirty canals in the middle, and headed back north.  Zuzu continued to regale us with the history lesson and before long we were at another military installation.  This one was not quite as intimidating, but to a certain extent a little more scary.  The soldiers at Saqqara were a little less serious, but also a lot more careless.  They all carried guns and seemed to be having several different conversations, and in each the guns were being casually waved about as if they were extensions of the gesticulating soldiers’ arms.  I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if someone’s finger slipped a bit.

If you don’t count the threat of wayward bullets, the site seems more tourist-friendly.  In Dashour everything was a street and a parking lot because it was just wide open spaces for as far as you could see.  At Saqqara, there were actual gravel-covered parking lots and roads that looked regularly traveled. 

The Museum

Another tourist- friendly feature was a small museum.  There’s actually a lovely promenade from the parking lot to the museum that looks as if it could accommodate a gift shop, a concession stand and perhaps even a small cafe, but everything was closed down tight and no signs indicated that any of it had ever been anything.  I wondered if there had been more there once or whether they were presently developing it, but Zuzu did not provide that kind of information.  He looked at me as if I’d suddenly begun to speak a language he didn’t understand and shrugged his shoulders.

We grabbed a few pictures and headed inside.  This had to be a recent development, because the interior looked like something you might see in other countries.  It was clean and neat.  The items were advantageously displayed in glass cases and lo and behold, there were placards there to identify the pieces and give a little history.  Pictures were not allowed or I would be glad to show you the lovely facility.  The museum was not large, but I liked it very much.

Wandering the Ruins

Saqqara is a significant archaeological site.  They have found a number of ruins dating to a variety of periods.  Some have been restored.  Some look as if they were once available for viewing, but have been closed up. Some areas are currently under renovation.  Even though the ruins come from different eras they are all very close together.  You can see everything without having to walk very far.

I’d say of the three Pyramid sites, Saqqara was my favorite – not more important than Giza, but more enjoyable.  Each is worth a visit.  If you can convince your guide to do them in chronological order, then kudos to you.  I think that would be an interesting progression, but that guide would not be Zuzu.  He’s going to do Giza first, no matter what.

A Little Entertainment

As if to prove they’d gotten the tourist thing figured out a Saqqara, they actually had a cultural performance!  A toupe of dancers, both male and female, performed energetic renditions of folk dances, brandishing swords, swaying their hips and stomping their feet.  The colors were a little too Hollywood to be traditional, but I appreciated the effort.

The drive back to the Mena house was daunting.  It was five o’clock traffic Egyptian style.  I was appreciating Izzat more and more.  Back at the hotel we did a little exploration, wandering around at will.  We’d been on the official tour and they encouraged us to wander the hotel – so we did.  We also had another fantastic meal, this time at the Khan-il-Khalili restaurant which specialized in Egyptian cuisine.  Back at the room I packed up.  In the morning Izzat would be there fairly early to take us to the airport for the next phase of our adventure.

 

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A Plethora of Pyramids

Saqqara’s Step Pyramid

TRAVEL THERE: DON’T LET GIZA BE YOUR ONLY PYRAMID EXPERIENCE

If you go to Egypt, you’ve got to see the Pyramids, but don’t stay in some Cairo hotel and take a day trip to the Giza Plateau.  Get out of the city and stay at the Mena House.  Someday, hopefully, they’ll finish the new museum that is supposed to replace the antiquated Cairo Museum and doing it this way will make even more sense.  But even if they never finish the museum (a distinct possibility given the tomorrow/bokrah mentality) you don’t want to be just another tourist.  There’s more to the Pyramids than you see at Giza.

Dusk at the Pyramids

A Tourist Trap to Avoid

Before I go into what you should see, let me steer you away from the Light and Sound Show.  I had been warned, but back in 1996, the Luxor Temple Sound and Light Show was one of the highlights of my trip.  The stunning display was interesting and entertaining.  Chances are that in 1996 the Pyramid Sound & Light Show was pretty amazing, too, but it’s not anymore.

There’s a huge outdoor theater which would seat hundreds of people, suggesting the show was once a really popular attraction, but I’d be surprised if there were 50 people at the performance we attended.  What’s more, the parking lot and entry were right next to a spot used as a toilet by the local camel population.  You need to be careful where you step and the smell will bowl you over.

I had threatened to enjoy the performance from my balcony at the Mena House, but wasn’t sure if I could see it from there.  It really doesn’t matter whether I could see it or not.  The balcony would have been a better choice.

The obligatory Sphinx and Pyramid picture

You Will Go to Giza First – and You WILL Like It or ELSE

Egyptians don’t see their country the way we do.  I had great difficulty convincing my nephew that I really did want him to schedule our guide to visit Dashour and Saquara.  Having already seen Giza, I really didn’t want to waste my time there, but skipping it altogether was not to be allowed.  What’s more my excellent guide, Zuzu insisted we had to start the day there.

My nephew and his friend had toured with Zuzu the day before and warned us that he was a little, shall we say, stubborn.  With Steven and John, the main problem was that he was going to give them all the information they paid for whether they wanted it or not.  I didn’t see that being a problem for me.  I challenge any guide to tell me more than I wanted to know about what I’m seeing.  However, Zuzu was a little stubborn in other ways, too.

When we got in the car to begin our day, I explained how I had already been to Giza before and I preferred to start at Dashour.  Zuzu said we would get to Dashour, but we’d start at Giza.  I tried several approaches to convince him I was the customer and he should do it my way, but whatever tack I used, he wasn’t going for it.  I didn’t want to be that Ugly American, so content in the knowledge we would get to all three pyramid locations, I decided to sit back and enjoy the tour.

Solar Boat Shoes

The Solar Boat Museum

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to the Giza Plateau at all, because my previous unorthodox tour had not included the Solar Boat Museum and I wanted to see it.  I just didn’t want to waste time stomping around the Pyramids and the Sphinx, if it meant I’d miss out on Dashour and Saqqara.

Well, we did stomp around the Pyramids and the Sphinx.  And guess what, they looked just like they did last time we were there.  Granted Zuzu provided more background information than I got from Ahab’s guides, but after a lifetime of watching shows about Egyptian archaeology, Zuzu didn’t have much to add that I hadn’t already learned from Zahi Hawass and Giorgio A. Tsoukalos .

The Solar Boat Museum is fascinating, but they make you wear these awful shoe covers and pictures are not allowed.  The boat was buried in the sand somewhere around 2500 BC.  It had been disassembled before burial and the pieces were intact when it was found in 1954.  It was painstakingly reconstructed over a number of years and then in 1985, the Egyptians built the museum to show off the treasure.  Don’t miss it if you visit the Pyramids.

My Giza duties fulfilled, Zuzu let Izzat take us to Dashour.  Come back next week and enjoy that part of our day.  In the meantime, here’s a video of our visit to the Pyramids.

 

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And She’s Back

In the Fairmont Heliopolis

TRAVEL THERE: AN EXTRAORDINARY EGYPTIAN ADVENTURE

I just got back from Egypt and I want you to visit this amazing country.  You’re not going to believe some of the exciting adventures I had while I was there.  I hope that as you read my blog in the coming months, you’ll start planning your own trip in your head.  As much as I want you to go, I have always been totally honest with you – sharing the good and the bad.  So it is only fair that I start this series by warning you that Egypt is not an easy country to visit.  You have to overlook a lot to see what is valuable, but there is great value.  In the coming weeks I will rave about spectacular hotels and jaw-dropping sites, but I have to start here, with the not-so-pleasant reality of Egypt today.

Apartment Buildings

Then and Now

This was my second trip to Egypt.  The first was in 1996 when terrorism was an occasional, rather than a daily, thing and the only terror incident associated with Egypt was an attack on a busload of tourists in 1990.  The world has changed a lot since then.  Days before I was scheduled to leave for this trip, bombs went off in two different Coptic Churches.  It didn’t stop us from going, but it did give us pause.  It shouldn’t stop you from going either, but you need to know what you’re getting into.

The imminent threat of violence was the most obvious difference between this trip and the one we enjoyed twenty years ago.  Security was a pervasive presence, everywhere we went – whether we were visiting a museum, an airport or a church.  Every time we entered our hotel we had to put all our belongings through a scanner and ourselves through a metal detector.  I was glad for the security, but saddened by the need for it.

It was the same thing pretty much everywhere we went and you just got tired of it.  Take a romantic walk on the beach and come back to the hotel for a thorough search.  By the time you prove you have a right to be there and you don’t have any WMD’s, the romance has dissipated.  This adds to the stress of travel and distracts from your ability to really relax.

One evening we accompanied a niece and her husband to a hotel where they stayed on their honeymoon.  They wanted to take a walk down memory lane.  Our taxi went through one inspection at the gate to the property and we were put through a thorough search at the front door.  Then as we headed out to the pool to look around, we were stopped because we were not actually guests at the hotel.  We had to go to the front desk, explain ourselves, show them our room keys to a sister property in town and give them a passport to hold before we were allowed into the pool area.  By the time we actually made it down there, we had more thoughts about the intrusion of security than we did Maggie and Shady’s honeymoon.

Forget Lowe’s or Home Depot, Shop for Home Improvements Streetside

Related Changes

The threat of terrorism has devastated the country.  Tourism has been at the center of Egypt’s economy for a very long time, but  they have nothing to take its place and little with which to woo the tourists who actually show up.  Yes, they have some of the most splendid sights in the world, like The Pyramids, Luxor Temple, The Valley of the Kings and such, but the hassle associated with visiting them is challenging.

I thought Egypt was the dirtiest place I had ever visited the last time I went.  Well, now it is beyond dirty.  It’s down right filthy and much of it has been abandoned.  Whole blocks of Cairo and Alexandria’s city centers are just empty graffiti-covered buildings, surrounded by piles of trash.  Everywhere we went, unfinished new construction showed signs of being abandoned years ago, when their hope of an Arab Spring turned into a nightmare.  Don’t plan on wearing the same clothes over and over.  A day of touring will render you and everything you are wearing disgusting.  You either need to pack more or plan on a budget for laundry.

An Egyptian Family on a Motorcycle

And Then There’s the People

Egyptians, as a whole, are wonderful.  They are happy people who want to get to know you and they love pleasing you.  They want you to love their country the way they do, but right now they are a little embarrassed – as if you caught them between working in the yard and getting a shower.  They’ll point you towards the freshly planted flowers, hoping you won’t notice how dirty and sweaty they are.

However, they are also frustrated and tired.  At almost every hotel we observed someone having a meltdown in the lobby and it was usually an Egyptian guest.  Life is hard.  The economy is impossible.  Traffic is horrendous.  Everything is harder to do than it should be and after a ten minute walk your white shirt just isn’t white anymore.  Still, given the chance, most of them will bend over backwards to accommodate you and try to create a smile.

At the same time, we noticed there is also a trend that distances the female population from visitors.  There was a greater number of women completely covered from head to toe.  During our last visit, most women dressed very conservatively and the majority covered their heads, often with a bright colorful scarf.  Many would be sharply dressed, while sporting a more conservative hijab.  There were some who wore the more old-fashioned gallabeya  and hijab, but only a rare woman was covered and veiled in black.

This time gallabeyas and hijabs were the norm.  Young women wore leggings or jeans with a tunic, but the hijabs were everywhere and they were not brightly colored scarves, but solid blocks of neutral colors.  However, women covered from head to toe in black were no longer rare and I noticed most of them also wore black gloves.  They were moving shadows with just a sliver of their eyes showing – distant, aloof, unapproachable.

In the Cairo Museum we saw a young couple taking a selfie.  The woman was completely covered in black.  We wondered at the incongruity of hiding yourself and then taking a selfie.  The young man’s outfit was standard casual fare, but she was covered in plain black without even a bit of embroidery.  A lot of mixed messages there.

So I will tell you the story of our trip.  I’ll remind you of the difficulties from time to time, but I’ll leave it to you to remember that everything was dirty, inconvenient and noisy, whether I mention it or not.  Come back next week and we’ll hit the road.

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Egypt Here We Come

TRAVEL THERE: CAIRO, SHARM & ALEX

In less than a month we’ll be winging our way to Egypt for a family wedding.  While it’s primarily a family trip, you can rest assured that Museum Girl will be taking in the sights.  The itinerary is firming up and I thought I’d share a few highlights.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

As excited as I am about the rest of the trip, the reason we’re going is to participate in Bassem and Mariam’s wedding.  We’re all agog with excitement.  Bill and I will arrive in Cairo late in the evening on a Saturday night and be whisked away to the Fairmont in Heliopolis.  On Sunday afternoon we’ll attend a luncheon for all the families at an “oriental” restaurant.  When I wondered why we were having Chinese food, I learned Egyptians call Middle Eastern food “oriental.”  I learn something new every day.

Monday is the day of the wedding, and it is also a national holiday, so I’m told I will see the residents of Cairo enjoying themselves in parks and other areas of leisure.  I’ll spend the day getting all gussied up for the wedding.  Egyptians know how to party and they expect guests, especially the couple’s families, to get all decked out.  I’ll be wearing a long formal gown bedazzled with crystal beads.  For the church ceremony I’ll wear a sheer over-blouse cinched by a jeweled belt, which will cover the spaghetti-strapped straight bodice of the full-skirted gown. Pictures to follow.

Let the Sightseeing Begin

On the day after the wedding we’ll be transported to the elegant Mena House Hotel, in the shadows of the pyramids.  Some folks tried to convince me to hire a guide for sightseeing for the day, but 8:30 AM was entirely too early to start a day of touring, especially after partying late into the night in the ballroom of the gorgeous Fairmont.

So instead, we’ve arranged to be transported mid-day and ease into the sightseeing.  We’ll enjoy the gardens of the Mena House, walk around with our mouths agape at the splendid architecture of the place, dine around the pool and then watch the Sound & Lightshow at the Pyramids from our room’s balcony. Who knows, there might even be time for a dip in the pool.  Personally, I plan to have at least one picture of me taken in the pool with the Pyramids behind me.

Then we’ll do the Pyramids.  Since we’ve already done the Giza Plateau, I plan to go further afield and check out the Step Pyramid at Saqqara and the Red Pyramid at Dahshour.  I’m also interested in the Meidum Pyramid, but I’ve been told it is too far out – drat.  Instead we’ll go back to Giza and see the Solar Boat Museum, something that’s been added since our last visit.

A Family Reunion Extraordinaire

After our second night at Mena House, we’ll head to the airport and make the short hop to Sharm el Sheikh.  Some of the family lives in the beautiful city by the Red Sea and others will have gone there when we headed to Giza.  We’ll have a family reunion of sorts for about five days along one of the most spectacular beaches in the world.

The diving and snorkeling are supposed to be awesome, but I’m not much of a guppy.  You’ll find me at the  Marriott Naama Bay Resort pool with an exotic cocktail of my choice somewhere near the waterfall.  Yes, the beach is beautiful, but no way am I going to smear sunscreen all over and then sit in the sand all day.  Not this girl’s idea of a good time.  I’ve been promised activities like a star-gazing visit to the desert, some shopping opportunities and other attractions.

In the evening, look for me along the boardwalk.  It’s one of my favorite memories of our last journey to Egypt.  Every evening the tourists come out in all their sunburned glory to stroll along and enjoy the wide variety of entertainment available on every side. On our last visit the Macarena was all the rage.  I  wonder what earworm will bite me this time.

On to Alex!

We’ll fly back to Cairo and then have a driver take us to Alexandria where we’ll be in the center of the action at the Cecil Hotel.  This elegant old dame gives a nod to Alexandria’s heyday with plenty of modern updates.  What’s more, I’m supposed to be within walking distance of many of the sites I want to see – that is if I can ever cross the street.  I remember the traffic being deadly in Cairo and Alexandria is supposed to be more of the same.  Pedestrians don’t have the right of way and stoplights are merely suggestions.  I’ll be right across the street from the beach, but may never actually get to the sand!

My wish list for Alexandria is long and includes a visit to a Coptic monastery on the way back to Cairo.  Once back to Cairo, we’ll visit Old Cairo and seeing the famous churches there, something I never got to during our other visit.  I think we’ll spend our final nights at the Fairmont.  We have to be to the airport bright and early for our return.  Then it’s back to the grindstone!

That’s it so far for Egypt.  Keep dropping by.  I’m not sure what I’ll be up to in the weeks to come, but I promise not to disappear.

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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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Birmingham Museum of Art

birmingham-museum-of-art02202017

Birmingham Museum of Art

TRAVEL THERE: THE JEWEL OF BIRMINGHAM

When the possibility of visiting Birmingham first came up, I checked out the city online.  The city seemed to be a foodie haven with a great art museum and a nice botanical garden, but comparing their hours to our flight schedule and the hours of the thing I can’t tell you about, I wasn’t going to have time to do anything about any of that.  So, I dutifully went about my business.  Still, something in my subconscious kept clanging.  I couldn’t exactly recall why, but I knew I really wanted to see the museum.

bma-postcard02202017Perhaps, Maybe, Possibly

One day at lunch, before we took off on the Birmingham adventure, I mentioned to Hannah Beth that I regretted we weren’t going to have time to do the touristy thing.  She assured me the museum was well worth seeing and mentioned a couple of possibilities we might have for seeing it.  I assured her I had checked for evening hours, so that wouldn’t work, but skipping the final session – that would do.

I just happen to be one of those people who believe God is personally involved in my life.  I also believe that if I’m willing to put Him first, He does everything he can to fulfill Psalms 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desire of your heart.”  In fact, He’s proved it to me too many time to deny it.

So, while we were keeping an ear to the ground to find out how significant the final session would be, God was arranging to keep things ahead of schedule so that we could get out in plenty of time to make it to the museum.  You may call that a coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidences.

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

An Embarrassment of Wedgwood

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for very long, then you know the Decorative Arts Wing of any museum is my prime objective when I make a visit.  I love Decorative Arts better than anything else produced from the artistic mind.  I can spend an entire day in a Porcelain gallery – a passion I learned from my mother.

What’s more, Wedgwood,especially their Jasperware, (matte porcelain with relief decorations) is among my most favorite porcelains. Don’t believe me?  Take a gander at the photo of the fireplace my husband and I designed for our home.  You don’t have one of these unless you love Wedgwood.  It was inspired by two I’d seen in Mount Vernon.

Along with representative Wedgwood pieces gracing the mantle piece, there are various Wedgwood and Jasperware pieces spread throughout the house.  For good measure, my everyday china is Wedgwood.  Not Jasperware but Wedgwood.  So imagine my delight when I glanced over the map of the Birmingham Museum and saw three galleries designated by the word “Wedgwood”.

The Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection

If you love Wedgwood the way I love Wedgwood, then go ahead and book the flight.  I’ve been in a lot of museums and so far, I’ve never seen one with so much Wedgwood.  I haven’t been to The Wedgwood Museum at Stokes-on-Trent yet, but that’s only because it didn’t exist decades ago when I visited the city.  I can assure you, this is the most Wedgwood you are going to see anywhere outside of Britain.

The galleries contain mostly Jasperware in a rainbow of hues, but they have samples of other forms of Wedgwood collected by the couple.  I swear I could have visited the museum every day for a week and been perfectly happy studying the exhibits in the three galleries.  Here are some samples.

 

That blue and yellow vase on the jade pedestal would be great in my yellow and blue French decor but the dark blue wine cooler with the white flowers must be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I’d leave it in the museum for others to share.

Giving the Rest of the Art Its Due

Even if you don’t like Wedgwood, the Birmingham Museum of Art is still a good thing to see.  Porcelains from other places are prevalent throughout the museum, but there are also paintings and statues and other things to enjoy.  I did run through the balance of the galleries at a high speed and then rushed back to gander at the Wedgwood a little more.  However, I did get these two postcards to prove the museum has variety.

 

ww-book02202017Buying the Book

In this digital age, when you can find almost any piece of art you’d like to see by searching it online, art books might not seem a good investment to some people.  Maybe other people spend their time cruising museums online, but I’ll confess, I want to be there and see it in person.  Seeing it online is better than not seeing it at all, but it’s not even on the same continent as first hand observation.

By the same token, while I have broken my habit of buying a book in every museum I go to, sometimes I just have to take a catalog home.  This was one of those times.  In fact, I anticipated facing down the fury of my husband if the only thing available was some $160 hardback number.

I guess God was doing me another favor, because there was a reasonably priced soft cover edition of the catalog – only it had a large sticker designating it as the display copy.  I chatted up the clerk, who was a volunteer.  She looked in the stockroom – nothing.  She offered to have someone take a gander in the warehouse in the next day or so and call me if they had anymore.  I just stood there clasping the display edition as if my life depended on it.  “I’m leaving town this afternoon,” I all but wailed.  “Oh we can ship it to you,” she assured me.

I put off replying to her suggestion by telling her about my fireplace.  Then I mused as to what in the world I would do if there were no more of the books in the warehouse.  She decided to sell me the display copy at a discounted price.  BINGO!  I’m getting a whole lot better at this negotiating thing than I used to be.  I’d have paid full price just to have it, but I’m sure the fireplace story did the trick!

The flight home was not as trouble free as my flight to Birmingham.  The flight was delayed for hours and as a result I know more about the food vendors at the Birmingham airport than I should.  I’d been on a diet, which had been seriously threatened by the fast food offerings served to us at that thing I can’t tell you about, but what damage had not already been done got done.  So much for dieting.  And so much for Birmingham.  Come back next week and see what I’m up to.

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Vulcan Park Tower, Birmingham AL

Birmingham from the Tower

Birmingham from the Tower

TRAVEL THERE: A STEEL CITY LANDMARK

So my boss had just arrived back in the States from someplace else that I can’t tell you about to join us at the thing I can’t tell you about.  At the end of the second day after a meal provided by the thing I can’t tell you about, there was supposed to be a worship and praise service, but the boss needed a change of scenery.  One more large meeting room filled with people and he was a goner, so we escaped.

Hannah Beth Helps Us Play Hooky

Since the meal we’d been provided was lukewarm hot dogs and stale potato chips (no offense intended, but that’s what it was), we wished we’d decided to play hooky about 30 minute previous to our boss’ confession of meeting room fatigue.  A nice dinner would have been a treat. Still, we weren’t going to waste an opportunity for some team building activities outside the meeting room.  So Hannah Beth took us on a tour.

Now I know young folks to things differently than I do, so this is not meant as criticism, but merely an observation.  While Hannah Beth has been to Birmingham several times and has the inside scoop on what to do, she depends on GPS for directions.  Her modus operandi is to take off in the direction which she thinks something is and then use voice commands to tell her phone to find the way.    This means she has one hand fully on the wheel, while she holds both the wheel and the phone in the other – all the while chatting up everyone in the car.

Yep, I’m a Nervous Nellie, so the entire time we were driving in Birmingham, I’m in the backseat praying we actually get to the place we’re headed.  Since I’m here to tell the tale, you know my prayers were answered in the affirmative, but while we were playing hooky from a praise and worship ceremony, I felt a little guilty about praying for protection.  Proves God listens all the time, I guess.

Vulcan Tower on Red Mountain

Vulcan Tower via http://birminghamal.org

Vulcan Tower via http://birminghamal.org

According to the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau:

“Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world and Birmingham’s unofficial city symbol. Standing high atop Red Mountain, the 56-foot-high statue has an observation balcony on its pedestal for a panoramic view of the city. Vulcan is patterned after the mythical Roman god of the forge, a nod to the city’s powerful position in the iron and steel industry in the first part of the 20th century. The statue was created as Birmingham’s exhibit in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and won the exposition’s grand prize. The museum at Vulcan has interactive exhibits and displays that portray the region’s history and progress. Museum open Monday- Saturday, 10am- 6pm; Sunday, 1pm- 6pm. Observation balcony open Monday- Saturday, 10am- 10pm; Sunday, 1pm- 10pm. Admission.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, but you can learn more on the actual Vulcan Park website.

Our boss covered the entrance fee which was just a dollar or two and we climbed the stairs to the top of the hill.  Someone who will remain nameless desperately needed to visit the rest room.  Even though the sign said the museum was open, it wasn’t and that’s where the restroom was.  In desperation, the drain in an unlocked utility room sufficed as a toilet.  That’s all I’m going to say about it, but as tired as we were, that was just the crowning glory of the day and we got a serious fit of the giggles.

Above It All

Though the tower is lovely and the park is very nice, the real draw to visiting the Vulcan Tower is that you can climb up in it.  So we did, still giggling like fools.  Now yours truly is has a slight case of acrophobia.  OK, so maybe a large case, but as we took the elevator up I was distracted by the giggling.  We walked across a steel grate which was a bridge to the steel grate which was the balcony around the tower.  There was also a fence, but all the ground around us was visible from our vantage point.

At first I just looked out toward the horizon and enjoyed the scenery (see picture from previous post).  Then I looked down.  MISTAKE.  I tried to be cool.  I tried standing away from the rail and looking toward the tower.  Didn’t work.  I started getting lightheaded and broke out in a cold sweat.  It was time to go.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store, to get some necessities.  That list might have included individual bottles of screw top wine, but if it did, I’m not telling.  As much fun as this adventure was, the best is yet to come, so make you way back here next week.

 

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Filed under Architecture, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States