ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Music, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Immersive New York

Travel There – Looking for the Insta Moment

On a random Wednesday afternoon in Lower Manhattan, when we’d had Fraunces Tavern Museum and Trinity Church virtually to ourselves, people were lined up to have their picture taken with the Bull. Both of the empty attractions were ever so much more interesting and meaningful than the Bull, but the Bull was getting all the attention.

What you can’t see in the picture above is that there are actually two lines. One for the front of the bull and one for the back, where Gen Xer’s, Z’s and Millennials waited in a much longer line to have their photo made with the Bull’s genitals.

This made me sad. With so much to see, it seemed silly to me to wait around to get my picture made with a bull, even if it was THE bull. But as sad as it was for people to spend time waiting to get the picture with the front of the bull, when there was so much else of great interest around them, I thought the genitalia crowd was really missing the point. But that’s me.

Experiential Public Spaces

A few years ago I sat in a lecture at the University of Dallas, my alma mater. An influential lecturer was touting the importance of the new trend towards experiential art and monuments. I thought I knew what she was talking about, because I’ve always been about experiencing art. I will wait in long lines to see a Vincent Van Gogh painting up close, but that’s not it.

She was talking about those little boxes they put on the walls these days so kids can smell or touch something in relation to an exhibit. It’s a table set up so you can color or play a game next to a sculpture. It’s a sheet of paper with pictures on it that you are supposed to match to things you see around a museum. These are all well and good, but to me they are more often a distraction from what’s there, not a help to understand it.

I remember the first time I went to a museum with all these helpful boxes and games. It was the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The place was overrun with squealing kids hanging off various displays and they were having fun. They may remember the experience until today, but I ask you, did they actually learn anything about Texas history they could repeat to you now? Believe me! I’m not against fun. I just think in the big scheme of things it is overrated.

But back to that lecture! One of the things the lecturer presented was a slide taken at an experiential exhibit of Van Gogh’s art, somewhere over in Europe. At the time I thought it looked kind of like an Impressionistic disco. Then the exhibit came to Dallas as Immersive Van Gogh and I couldn’t wait to go, because I thought I must have misunderstood what I was seeing at the lecture.

Only I hadn’t. They played music and projected Van Gogh’s art onto the walls, ceiling and floor. You had the option of standing, utilizing a seating area in one of the rooms or sitting on the floor. It was an Impressionistic disco. You learned nothing about Van Gogh and even the music wasn’t in context.

I confess, I have good friends who loved it, who said they could spend all day there or plan on going back over and over. If you like it, that’s great, but don’t stop there. Find the art on the walls of museums and look at in person. Learn about the artist, his friends, the reasons people hated his work then but love it now, read his letters to his brother, listen to the music popular at the time, the fashions, the homes – know what you are looking at.

To me, whether you are looking at something on a website or being immersed in a audio/visual “experience”, you are being cheated. If these virtual experiences were catalysts for deeper exploration, that would be a good thing, but they aren’t. People are using them as replacements. Why spend the money to go to Paris and explore the Louvre? The Mona Lisa is on the internet. And the people who do go to Paris spend more time taking selfies at the Eiffel Tower than they do in the Louvre!!

This has been a concern of mine for a long time. Almost thirty years ago Bill and I went to Six Flags. Instead of one of the Broadway-quality shows I had seen in past, they showed me a video in the Southern Palace theater. It was sad to me. I thought of the DFW area talent that was going to waste and regretted I had spent my time watching a video. I just looked at their current entertainment schedule and it’s Looney Tunes. REALLY?

As we stare into our phones and post pictures with the newest filter we are loosing touch with the value of reality. When we are looking reality in the face (or the genitalia) we’re more interested in the entertainment factor than we are exploration. As soon as we post our selfie, we move on to the next experience. We are losing the ability to store up information we can reflect on over time and the opportunity to apply what we observe to our lives to make them better. We just get entertained and then we get bored.

OK, now I will step away from my hobby horse, climb off my soap box, quit my rant – whichever phrase you prefer. Come back next week and I will tell you about a bar around the corner where we went next and had fun. I will not mention experiential public spaces.

ART, Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Music, Performing Arts

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SIX, A TRIUMPH AT THE WINSPEAR

So this year, Winter showed up with a bang. On the first day of winter, the warnings were ominous and quite accurate. I kept close to home on Thursday and Friday, working on a sorting job for one of my clients. I saved my gift wrapping until Christmas Eve and then it was time for the really big show.

Christmas Eve Treat

While most of the ads on Facebook are a waste of my time, occasionally they deliver just what I was looking for. After Thanksgiving I’d been shopping around the internet for a potential short trip, when we were offered the opportunity to barter some real estate photography for a weekend stay in a gorgeous beachside rental property. That satisfied my traveling bug, but I had my eye out for something to spice up the holidays.

During our 2020 holidays I had planned some epically bad holiday entertainment and in 2021 we’d won a trip to Las Vegas, which was almost as epically bad. I needed to up my game. The Galveston/San Antonio trip was a winner, but I needed a little something else. Facebook delivered SIX!

I had been in New York earlier in the year and opted for an oldie but goodie, because nothing Broadway was offering up looked better than Moulin Rouge. I hadn’t exactly kept my ear to the ground about what had come out since, but apparently SIX hit the Great White Way with sizzle! When Facebook let me know it was coming to the Winspear, I could tell immediately it was right up our alley. I sent Bill the video and he agreed.

So, we booked our seats and decided going on Christmas Eve would make it extra special. We were right! With our older generation on the other side and having never provided ourselves with a younger generation, when the holiday parties are over and everyone else focuses on family, we’re a bit at loose ends. A matinee at the Winspear was a perfect way to spend the day.

Bundle Up, Park Close & Get There On Time

Though the iciest temperatures were behind us, the temperature was quite nippy on Christmas Eve. Bill hates paying for parking, but I warned him I did not want to hoof it from the parking spaces on the other side of the DMA. Thankfully, he accommodated me and we parked in the Cathedral underground parking. My boots might have been made for walking, but not for walking far.

We even made it there with time to spare, which is not always the case. Bill’s not one for hanging around much before the show, but for me he got there about half an hour early. The Winspear had actually called me the day before and warned me about the theater’s closed door policy, because apparently the cold weather was a challenge for some of their patrons. The early arrival gave me time to make a potty stop and do a little people watching. We were amazed at the number of people standing in line for SIX merchandise. Haven’t they heard of the internet?

However, Bill didn’t want to get to our seats too early and held me back until about 10 minutes before the start of the show. Then we began our walking tour of the Winspear. About two levels up, we found an usher and asked her where we were headed. It didn’t do much good though, because with the mask she was wearing her instructions sounded like (mmm mmmmmm mmmmmm mm mmm mm). Thankfully, she also pointed, so up we went.

We found another human being and found out we were almost there. Just one more set of stairs. We found the right door and headed in. We were in the middle of the first row and everyone else was already in their seat, but it was fixing to get ugly.

I knew the Grand Tier was not a place for me to sit. Not only was it nosebleed high, the chairs are not even bolted to the floor. I’d sat in Dress Circle seats before and had enjoyed it, but the seats were higher up in the section. One might think sitting in the middle of the front row of the Dress Circle would be a good thing. If you’re not acrophobic, go for it, but I thought I might just head home!

We could see our seats, but without the kindness of strangers, there was no way for us to get there. The first row of the Dress Circle at the good old Fair Park Music Hall was luxurious with extra leg room. At the Winspear there was no legroom. Here we were, several stories from the bottom floor, with nothing but a knee level bar to hold us back and we were supposed to scoot along in perhaps a foot of space. We were about to get up close and personal with a dozen or so people we didn’t know.

Bill went first, I looked toward the standing strangers we were inconveniencing (they had to stand or we couldn’t get by) and got ahold of him with a death grip. If I was going over, he was going with me! For a few moments I actually thought I was going to die!

When we got to our seats, I sat down and clutched the arm rests until my blood pressure went back to normal. I can’t say that I felt comfortable at that point, but it was better than hanging out over the great abyss. According to a Google search I just did, only about 9 people have died from falling out of a theater balcony, but I sincerely do not want to round that number out.

The show was about 5 minutes away and I browsed my program for pertinent facts about the show. The lights went down and the curtain went up.

A Rollicking Good Time

While I cannot in good conscious recommend our seats, I will say the show was marvelous. No complaints! It is an hour long thrill ride, loosely tied to good King Henry VIII and his six wives. The cast and musicians are all women and they do grind the whole women’s issue stone throughout the show, but I managed to ignore it, because most of it was in good fun. The costuming made whimsical nods to the fashion of good King Henry’s day, but was all firmly rooted in today.

The show is an hour with no intermissions and with the closed door policy firmly in place, if you show up late you are out of luck. I had no trouble hearing and understanding the lyrics of the songs, so that was great.

If there had been voting for the best wife, I would have chosen Catherine of Aragon for her song. It had the touch of a Latin beat and a distinctive Nuh-Nuh-Nuh-Nuh riff that became my earworm of the show.

Number two for me was Anne of Cleeves. I wanted to bust out laughing every time she sang, “I’m the queen of my castle,” with a definite nanny-nanny-poo-poo tone. The other wives disqualified her from winning the award for best wife, because she did not suffer enough. In fact Anne’s song was Bill’s favorite for the hilarious German accents they copped for it.

Anne Boleyn, was a little bitter in the funniest of ways. No matter what anyone else claimed to suffer, she would remind them of her beheading with a very firm nod, which left her pretty helpless in the face of Katherine Howard’s fate. Jane Seymore’s fate, death in childbirth, rendered her fairly saccharine as she spoke of how she was Henry’s only true love and the mother of his only son. She was all but disqualified from the competition and would have been if she hadn’t reminded them that she DIED. Katherine Howard was played as the whore of the castle who might have deserved what she got.

All this had to end somehow, so Catherine Parr calls and end to their competition. This was the weakest part of the show for me, but libbers everywhere probably loved it. They reprised their complaints and it was time to go home.

While we loved the show, we decided we don’t love the Winspear. We’ll try to take our entertainment doses at the Meyerson or the Majestic – or even the Eisemann Center, for that matter. The signage at the Winspear is non-existent and everything is just a little too tight or too high for our comfort.

Christmas Day

What can I say about Christmas? I started the day at my church’s worship service, then went over to my bestie’s to help get Christmas Dinner done. I love any time I spend with her. We enjoyed prosecco in the kitchen while her guys watched movies. By 5:30 or so, the other guests who had been variously entertained elsewhere arrived and dinner went on the table. The meal was glorious and opening our gifts was marvelous.

Come back next week. The last installment of Las Vegas will come on Wednesday and we’ll talk Memory Keeping on Thursday. Happy New year to you and be safe during your NYE celebration.

ART, Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Music, Performing Arts, Road Trips

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – FLAMING FLAMENCO FEET

Quiet Saturday in the Country

One nice tradition for the women of my church is the Sweet Sixteen Tea held for our young ladies on that special birthday. In the past, the events have been held at the church, but this time, the location was moved to a member’s home who lives out in the rural area between Heath and Forney. She’s been doing a lot of remodeling and she was thrilled for an occasion to share it with her sisters.

Since my house is theoretically on the way to the hostess’ house, my bestie planned on picking me up. I say theoretically, because we didn’t count on the traffic and wrecks she’d encounter getting from her dance lesson to my house. Good old Wayz kept rerouting her and when she told me she was being sent to Hwy 80, I knew she would have been better off going directly to the tea. At that point, she would have had to stop and input the address of Victoria’s house into Wayz. So she came on to my house and we went together, as planned and we ended up being only about 10 minutes late.

The tea was lovely. We played some game which combines, among other things, Charades and Password, using words which were particular to the honoree. It was a lot of fun, mostly because there were so many delightful young ladies, who knew the honoree well and played the game often among themselves. I was reluctant to join in the timed game, because the timing thing flusters me, but by the final round, where we could only use 1 one-word clue, we’d already gone through the words twice, so I figured I didn’t need to be too clever. Then the honoree opened up her gifts and she was very thrilled with each and every item.

After the Tea, it was nearing dinner time, so we decided to pick up something to take to my house and share with Bill. Deb wanted BBQ, so even though Bill and I had been to a Dickey’s just a few days before, that’s where we went. Can any Texan get tired of BBQ or Tex Mex? It hasn’t happened to me yet. We enjoyed a feast of ribs, okra and slaw. Then we settled down in the den to look at scrapbook albums two and three I’d just finished for a client.

Sunday Starts Quietly, Too

I finished up my latest scrapbooking client’s albums early on Saturday, so before the tea and Sunday before and after church, I begun to prepare for a presentation I’m doing Friday – this Friday and if you’re reading this the day it is published, that’s today. It’s only a brief spotlight, so the primary impact will be the door prize and samples I give away. I spent the time packaging the mini-album samples and getting contact stickers on the catalogs I’d just received.

This will be the second spotlight I am doing for this group, but the first one was a couple of years ago when I still had not figured out most people just don’t have or won’t make time for memory keeping. Now the focus of my scrapbooking business is creating custom albums for them. I’m happier, because I never loved selling scrapbooking supplies, but I love scrapbooking! When I get a new client, that means I get to scrapbook more and someone is going to pay me for what I love doing.

A Paradigm Shift

Let’s face it. Dallas is expensive. When we lived in the small community of Pismo Beach, on the Central Coast of California for a few years, back in the early 2000’s, we’d get tickets to great events in the $35 -50 per person range. That’s not chicken feed, but it felt comfortable. When we came back to Dallas we were faced with sticker shock. Not only were things more expensive than they’d been on the Central Coast, but there had also been a huge jump in pricing from our previous days in Dallas. We’ve been back for over a decade, but we’ve been to very few live shows.

When we have attended something live, we’d usually see free or inexpensive performances at local colleges or we’d get reduced rates to events at the museums and gardens we belonged to. Season tickets to the opera, which I’d had in the past, were just not an affordable option, especially when Bill is not as taken with opera as I am. We’ve been to a few Cirque du Soleil events or won tickets to the odd sporting event, but outside that we’ve made our own entertainment.

Then came Covid and like everyone else, what used to be no longer existed. Our museum and garden memberships were not providing the types of entertainments we’d enjoyed in the past, so we’d let them go. We needed to get more aggressive in pursuing our entertainment. Recently, we bit the bullet and bought tickets to a Flamenco performance in a South Dallas venue. What WERE we getting ourselves into?

Seat Selection & Parking

On Facebook, I’d seen tickets to a Fever Flamenco event. We love Flamenco music and dance, so we definitely wanted to go. The price seemed right, about $60 a person, until I read the fine print, ” ūüéꬆBasic Admission¬†– fair visibility without seat selection.” That made me nervous. We’d have no control over where we sat and we’d have “fair” visibility. What did that even mean?

For $65 we still had to sit where they said and our visibility would be good, but that didn’t seem much more comforting. So we bit another bullet and opted for Preferential Admission, where we could pick our seats and have great visibility. It was $90 per person, but the other option was to stay home and watch more TV. We bought the tickets.

The venue was Edison’s on Cockrell Avenue. I’d never been to Edison’s, but when I was growing up in Dallas, Cockrell Hills was a no-go zone. I am very aware of the renewal efforts happening south of Dallas in areas like Bishop Arts, but living on an opposite side of town, I don’t have much personal experience with them. So we were venturing into strange territory.

Arriving at the venue we were directed to a pay parking lot. Getting out of the car I saw a sign which instructed us to text the lot id to a number. I tried, but didn’t get anywhere. The attendant tried and got far enough along to realize we didn’t have any credit card loaded onto our phone. No _ _ _ _ Sherlock! And I don’t plan to EVER have a credit card loaded on my phone.

So, Bill moved his car to a spot on the street. Thanks to the irritating digital world we saved a few bucks. That’s not always an available solution and some day we may have to navigate that little technical maneuver, but that didn’t happen on Sunday evening.

Now, Edison’s is a cool place in a sort of industrialized area. We felt quite safe It has a roomy entry area graced by an antique car, which opens onto a larger space, which opens onto other areas. The stage was set up in the main area and the seating is caf√© chairs.

Our preferential seating put us on the front row of chairs, but in front of that row is the VIP table seating which was $120-135 per person. For that price you either got “amazing” or “best” visibility with “a charcuterie box with Spanish products, and meet and greet with the artists to take photos after the show.” If you should decide to go this weekend (it runs through Sunday) go ahead and opt for the VIP seats. You may not be interested in the charcuterie box or meeting the artists, but since this is Flamenco, you’re going to want to see their feet and you have to work at that when you sit anywhere behind the VIP seats.

Fever’s Flaming Flamenco Feet

All that being said, we loved it. The stage is very small, so the performance is very intimate. The musicians come out one at a time for a short solo and then take their chairs on the back of the stage. Then out come the dancers and you are whipsawed into the fantastic!

The musicians were talented. The costumes were beautiful. The dancers? Oh my goodness!!!! They were truly amazing. Some sets they danced together and others they danced solo. The woman and her trailing flamenco flounce were astounding. How she maneuvered on the tiny stage with all that dress was a wonder in itself. She put so much vigor in her performance that one time when she nodded her head, bobby pins flew out into the audience. She also had beautiful, fascinating hands. Sweat poured down her face and I decided her dress must be lined in plastic, because in spite of the sweat on her face, none leaked through her costume.

Now the guy was a whole different experience. His costume was very body conscious and he didn’t have a flounce to swing around. Instead, he just had it all going on, from the tips of his fingers above his head to the flaming red shoes that moved so fast you could barely see them. He had sweat pouring out of every pore and by the end of his solo performance, his hair was sopping wet and sweat drops were being peppered on the audience closest to the stage. Remember that during your seat selection. If you get the VIP seats, you might want to be on the far side of the table!

Both dancers totally captivated the audience and the musicians provided comic relief from time to time, as well as wonderful, authentic music. Yes, I think you should go. I loved it and am so glad we took a chance on it. We’ll be checking out other offerings from Fever, because this was wonderful.

Keep coming back for Travel Here, Travel There and Memory Keeping 101.

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Music, Performing Arts, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Waterfront Wine & Art Festival

TRAVEL THERE: WHO KNEW SCOTTSDALE HAD A WATERFRONT?

Across the street from Fashion Square was a mixed use complex project.¬† My husband the real estate photographer wanted to go take a look.¬† Once across the street we saw signs pointing the way to the Waterfront Wine and Art Festival.¬† I was thrilled.¬† It had been on my wish list, but I didn’t have a clue where there was a waterfront was in Scottsdale or Phoenix.¬† Having happened upon it without a commitment to be anywhere at any particular time, we decided to check our the art festival.

Admission With and Without Wine  

Bell made from copper fire extinguisher

Following the signs we wandered around until we found the Waterfront.¬† It cost only $3 a person to get in, if you didn’t want wine.¬† Bill didn’t want wine.¬† Had this been a girl’s trip, Deb and I would have ponied up the extra $10 for wine tasting, but I was happy enough to enjoy the art sans the tasting.¬† What an entertainment bargain it proved to be!

This was a completely different show than the Celebration of Fine Art we attended a few days before.  Like the Celebration, this was a juried show, but the jury for the Celebration was a lot tougher.  Instead of a studio setting, this was more of a retail opportunity with lots of hopeful artisans lurking at the edge of their awning.  In spite of the lurking artists, we enjoyed the visit. 

Worth the Time

Most of the wine was on one side of the canal and most of the art was on the other.¬† Shortly after we arrived we made our way to the artsy side.¬† I will confess, while most of the pieces on display were interesting, they didn’t pass the I’d-hang-it-on-my-wall test.¬† We don’t collect art.¬† We can’t afford to.¬† But often we stand in a gallery or at a festival longing to take something off the wall and carry it home with us.¬† That happened a lot at the Celebration of Fine Art.¬† Not so much at the Waterfront Wine and Art Festival.

Periodically, there would be musical acts or various things to eat or drink.¬† We were still very full from our late morning breakfast buffet, so we weren’t interested in the comestibles, but the entertainment was appreciated.¬† This violinist was among our favorites.¬† Bill took many pictures trying to capture her pure enjoyment of her own music.¬† This is as close as he got.

Up Next?

After a sojourn at the festival, it was time to satisfy another of Bill’s requests.¬† Yes, we made a potty stop at McDonald’s and enjoyed a little hydration break, but that doesn’t count.

Bill wanted to see some desert scenery.¬† There had been plenty at the golf course the day before, but he’d been otherwise occupied.¬† I’d hoped to go to the Desert Botanical Garden, but by the time we were ready to see it, there wasn’t much of the day left, so we doubted we’d get our $15.00 worth.¬† We opted for the McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve.¬† Come back next week and enjoy it with us!

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, International, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Visiting Monte Carlo’s Prince’s Palace

TRAVEL THERE: THE GRIMALDI’S PRINCE’S PALACE

Black SUV’s whisked us from the Yacht Club to the Palace.¬† That’s probably the last time I’ll be able to say something like that about my own travels, so perhaps it was worth the splurge.¬† Since we weren’t actually VIP’s, they parked about a block away, near the Cathedral and we strolled over to the palace.

Visiting the Palace

Virtually anyone can make day visits the palace during the summer and fall, as long as it’s not Grand Prix weekend.¬† However, the tourists are shuffled off at closing time.¬† We had after-hours access, which means we went to the same places, just at a different time.

The Grimaldi’s were gracious hosts to us cruisers.¬† We didn’t see any of them, but they gave us the run of the state apartments and provided some very nice young ladies to act as guides.¬† The run of the state apartments did not include taking any pictures, so to see what we saw, you’d have to go to the website.¬† My general impressions were the apartments showed a great amount of good taste, a good bit more than some of the gaudy displays of some state apartments.¬† However, they were at the same time smaller than most I’ve seen before.

For Americans, this palace is almost a must-see, because evidence of our own American fairy tale, Princess Grace of Monaco, is in plain sight.  Having just watched a Hallmarkish commoner-meets-and-marries-a-prince movie last night, I know we are still very much in love with the story of this lovely lady.

Photo Opportunities

Before and after the tour we were welcome to take photos of the outside the palace.  The red carpets and kneelers are not part of the every day look.  They were setting up for some kind of religious ceremony and around the corner at the cathedral there was a lot of activity, so no telling what that was about.

All that was left was to get back into our SUV’s and travel back to the ship.¬† Our day in Monte Carlo was over.

Grabbing a Show and Dinner and a Show

Back on the boat, Deb, Bill and I went to Hype with Marcus Terrell at the Theater.¬† We weren’t much impressed.¬† His greatest asset was volume, but he was surrounded with lots of energetic gyrating dancers.¬† Nothing as fascinating as Hot Summer’s Night we’d seen a day or so ago.

After the show, it was time for dinner and all of us met for dinner in the Cosmopolitan.¬† It was the same menu they had offered for their embarkation lunch.¬† This is the weakness of their dining plan.¬† Sure you have a variety of dining rooms, but once you’ve eaten in one, there’s no reason to go back.¬† That’s probably because they are trying to encourage you to drop a few bucks in their specialty dining rooms, but with all we’d spent already, that wasn’t happening.

Our companions were ready for bed when the meal was over, but Bill and I wandered into the Club and saw an acrobatic show called Mirage.  It had some good parts, but their tricks all began to look the same after awhile.

Still not ready to call it a night, I pulled the daily newsletter out of my purse and unfolded it.  They had something called the Color the Night White Party happening on the Resort Deck, so we decided to check it out.

I don’t know about you, but I am just about done with the whole White Party thing.¬† Isn’t it time to let that one die a natural death?¬†¬†The Edge was trying to jazz it up some, with a variety of colorful lights, but as you can see, it’s a pretty dead scene.¬† I must not be the only one tired of White Parties.

I think if there had been anything else to do, we might have continued to wander, but it seemed the ship was rolling in its sidewalks –¬†unless you wanted to sit in some bar and rack up some beverage billing, so off we went to bed.

The next day our stop was Cannes.¬† Come back next week and I’ll share my favorite shore excursion with you.

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Back on the Bus

TRAVEL THERE: A LONG RIDE HOME

It had been a very long day and there was still some left as the bus headed back to Cancun.

The Joy of a Good Book

I had read it before, but even so, I had chosen James Michener’s book Mexico, as my reading material for the trip.¬† Unlike many of his novels, which begin even before the appearance of man in a locale, this novel focused on a modern day journalist covering a bullfight festival, who was at the same time Mexican, American, Mayan and Spanish.¬† The book does look back at the ancient residents of the country, but instead of choosing an actual tribe, such as the Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs or Olmecs to showcase, Michener made up a sort of conglomerate tribe called the Altomecs, allowing him to comment on them all.

So many years had passed since my last reading of the book that it seemed fresh.¬† Occasional scenes gave me a sense of deja vu, but I was still following the plot with interest, unsure how it would end.¬† (I still haven’t finished it as I write this post, but the more I read the more I remember, and I have recalled the end.)¬† On the bus ride back to the Seadust, I was only a third of the way through and the Altomecs had not even entered the narrative, except a brief mention from time to time of the pyramid which was near the primary locale of the story.

It had been a long day and several times I caught myself dozing off.¬† At one point, I woke from a dream to discover it was pitch black outside.¬† I had been asleep for quite a while.¬† In my dream I was back at Chichen Itza.¬† I was among the crowds watching the sacrifices, but somehow I was doing so as a character from Michener’s book and at the same time, I was privy to all the knowledge I had accumulated in my actual lifetime.¬† I stood on the plaza remembering scholarly data about the Mayan civilization, our own lifestyle in America and the many other civilizations I have studied and observed.

When I woke up it took a few moments to figure out exactly where I was.  I soon noticed the guides were fiddling around with the technology.  TV screens folded up and down as if on their own and the guides huddled over a remote control.  I suspected something was up, but they still managed to surprise me with their tequila service.

The interior lights of the bus flashed on as a rather loud rendition of the song “Tequila” played on the loudspeaker.¬† A man in a strange costume, his face covered with a stocking mask was standing in the aisle.¬† Though I was pretty sure it was supposed to be entertainment, a part of me was still under the influence of my strange dream.¬† It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience, but I understand they intended it to be.

Bill had a little tequila, but I had no interest.  My stomach was ready for its next meal and had no interest in alcohol.  We were soon back to Cancun and we were fortunate enough to be the second stop.  Unfortunately, the first stop was the Iberostar which had refused Bill entrance the previous day.  Before the night was over, I was also wishing we could visit the Iberostar!  Come back next week and find out why!

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A Great Night of On-board Entertainment

Cruise buddy Deb hams it up with the talent
Cruise buddy, Deb, hams it up with the talent

TRAVEL THERE: RODGERS, HAMMERSTEIN AND MOZART

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did!

Back to Elegant Dining

I’d been disappointed by the over-hyped Taste of Austria dinner. ¬†Visually, it had been lovely, but the culinary experience couldn’t beat what we’d already been enjoying. ¬†Quality not quantity is my interest.

After my trot around Linz, we scurried back to the boat and I jumped into my evening attire. ¬†This was the penultimate evening of the cruise and the captain was throwing a cocktail party. ¬†That included a toast, which meant champagne would be served. ¬†So I was janie-on-the spot in the lounge. ¬†I didn’t want to miss any champagne. ¬†The captain didn’t try to labor through another bout of English, thankfully. ¬†Instead our cruise director translated for him.

After the toast, the lederhosen, dirndls and oom-pah-pah were gone from the dining room- much to our relief. ¬†We waxed nostalgic about our service throughout the evening as if we’d been living on the boat for years, instead of a matter of days. ¬†The Viking Daily had promised Mozart and the Sound of Music¬†as our evenings entertainment and we wondered how that mixture would pan out.

A Salzburgian Romp

A troupe of singers appeared and offered a few tunes. ¬†Their voices were wonderful and they wore authentic period costumes. ¬†The evening started out very high-brow and then they began the audience participation part of the performance. ¬†I was not surprised in the least that they chose Bill. ¬†They always choose Bill. ¬†I’m beginning to think he must be offering bribes. ¬†Anyway, ¬†here’s a few photos from his appearance.

That was fun, but the next part was even more wonderful. ¬†They switched from classical to a classic, The Sound of Music. ¬†I can’t say I was actually yearning for tunes from the Julie Andrews movie, but as soon as the first few bars of intro wafted through the lounge, I had tears in my eyes. ¬†The singers merely zipped through the soundtrack, hitting the high points, which was lovely, but I secretly wanted more. ¬†I wanted to be reminded of every frame of the movie and especially Edelweiss, which is on my personal top 10 (along with Leon Russell’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and ¬†Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People.) ¬†I’ve never streamed a movie to my phone, but it did cross my mind that evening.

The performers were real characters. ¬†They were hamming it up with all the guests, so Bill wasn’t the only one to garner their attention. ¬†He’s just the only one who entered the spotlight. ¬†After the performers left, the tempo got much faster and the girls hit the dance floor. ¬† I have a few more photos to share below.

The boat didn’t head towards our next destination until 10:30 and I’d entertained thoughts of taking another stroll onshore, but it didn’t happen. ¬†If you let them, Viking will fill every moment of your day and that’s what happened on this particular day, except for the visit to the Mariendom.

Next up is Passau, Germany.  Come back next week and visit this lovely little town at the confluence of rivers.

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

Shore Excursion to Bratislava, Slovakia

TRAVEL THERE: NOT EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED IN BRATISLAVA

Bratislava is a lovely little town with the oldest surviving town gate in Continental Europe. ¬†However, I ran into several complications in my efforts to enjoy this stop on our cruise. ¬†The video includes the highlights of the shore excursion and I’ll tell you about my difficulties behind the scenes.¬†

The Walking Tour That Wasn’t the Walking Tour

I had carefully studied the available shore excursions back in Dallas and after a careful examination, decided the Bratislava Walking Tour was superior to the Bratislava City Tour.  Both involved walking around the Old City, but one included a bus trip to what I call Faux Castle.

See there once was a real castle up on Castle Hill.  However, it was nothing but a ruin when the Communists showed up.  They decided they needed to replace the castle, but all they did was build a modern building and call it a castle.  I had no desire to see their modern day monstrosity.

However, when I showed up on the dock, we were ushered to a bus and I got the distinct feeling I wasn’t going to be happy about it. ¬†In Viking’s defense, I didn’t say anything to anybody once I feared¬†I was on the wrong tour. ¬†I guess the jet lag or something had finally hit me, because I wasn’t feeling completely up to par and I just didn’t have the desire to rock the boat – or the bus. ¬†My bad.

I have no idea who this guy was, but he has pride of place on Castle Hill.
I have no idea who this guy was, but he has pride of place on Castle Hill.

The bus took us up Castle Hill and dumped us out at the Faux Castle for an orgy of picture taking. ¬†The scenery was great, but there’s nothing that makes you feel more like a tourist than being dumped off for a photo opportunity when you don’t really understand why you are there in the first place. ¬†The guide never even pretended the castle had any historical or architectural significance. ¬†She just said we had ten minutes to take pictures and abandoned us.

On cue, we filed back on the bus after taking our photos and rode down the hill. ¬†Then we went on a walking tour which was somewhat interesting, but not compelling. ¬†That might have been because the grumblings in my stomach were getting most of my attention, but I was also wondering how the tour sans the Faux Castle would have differed. ¬†My new friends assured me they had a great time on the real walking tour, but since Deb was the sort to have fun whatever she was doing, I don’t know if she can be trusted.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Andrew Petcher¬†(a fellow travel blogger I highly recommend), suggested free-style wandering was the best way to see the town, but with Mr. Bill in tow, free-style can be problematic. ¬†I think Andrew was probably right. ¬†With my Rick Steves’ tour book¬†in hand and no tour guide to keep up with, I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed the capital of Slovakia. ¬†The architecture was charming and the quirky sculpture sprinkled throughout the town made for some great snickering.

The UFO Restaurant
The UFO Restaurant

I think it would be a great place to spend a quiet weekend, but it’s a little far from Dallas for me to check out that theory. ¬†My greatest regret was not getting to the UFO Restaurant atop a bridge, another gift of the Communists. ¬†After the walking tour we were given some free time, but by then I desperately needed a little private time in my cabin.

A Slovakian Evening

By 6:45 I had gotten myself back into cruise mode and was front and center for the Daily Briefing. ¬†We had dinner with our cruise buddies and then made our way back to Lounge for “A Slovakian Evening.”

The entertainment was delightful. ¬†Those great big ocean liners can provide productions to rival Broadway and Hollywood, but you have to share them with your 3000 new friends. ¬†I’m sort of over that. ¬†I much preferred the intimate setting of the Lounge, where we¬†gathered comfortably with¬†178¬†(give or take a few) other passengers. ¬†The show was marvelous. ¬†In fact, after some expensive entertainment in Vienna, our friends told us the onboard entertainment had much better performers than the Viennese show. ¬†We thoroughly enjoyed the Slovakian Evening, because the songs were familiar, the costumes were beautiful and performers were gifted.

Below I have included some photos of the entertainment. ¬†I hope you’ll come back next week for Vienna – the highlight of the cruise.

 

 

 

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Norwegian Epic Musical Acts

Our dance venue of choice - the Deck 5 atrium with the Mexcal Duo
Our dance venue of choice – the Deck 5 atrium with the Mexcal Duo

TRAVEL THERE: (NOT SO MUCH) LEGENDS IN CONCERT

As we headed back to the Norwegian Epic after our disappointing shore excursion, St Maarten gave us its final salute. ¬†Rain poured from the sky. ¬†A short afternoon rain, so common in the tropics, but all I could think of was, “par for the course.” ¬†Deb and Joe got soaked to the skin. ¬†Bill made a dash for it and stayed pretty dry. ¬†My very large sunhat took pretty good care of me.

Food is First

We grabbed lunch in The Garden Cafe, ¬†then Bill and I went back to our cabin to hang out on the balcony. ¬†We made it back to the buffet for our pre-dinner dessert, so even though were only on our third day, we’d already established a routine. ¬†I think Deb and Joe worked out, but I was still on¬†antihistamines and was taking it very easy.

Dinner was at Taste Рthe first meal Joe and Debbie ate in that dining room.  We all agreed that we liked the Manhattan Room better.  The food and service was virtually the same, but the decor and ambiance in Manhattan fit us better.

Music Next

The Mexcal Duo became another part of our routine. ¬†Deb and Joe dance ballroom. ¬†In fact, Deb teaches it and Joe teaches skate dance. So, dancing is important to them. ¬†Since I wasn’t exactly to to snuff, I hadn’t been cutting the rug, too much – and that was fine with Bill. ¬†Deb and Joe on the other hand had been scouting out all the musical venues to discover the best dance music. ¬†The Mexcal Duo, who played nightly in the Deck 5 Atrium were their favorites.

This particular evening we didn’t spend much time with the Mexcal Duo, because we had reservations for the Legends in Concert Show in the Epic Theater. ¬†This was one I’d been excited about. ¬†On the NCL website and throughout the ship, I’d seen pictures of the impersonators in Legends dressed up like people I really thought were legends: Elvis, Marilyn Munroe, The Beatles – you know, the really big names.

Well the show started off with a nod of the head to Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act. ¬†I didn’t think it was a very effective nod, but I’m a big Whoopie fan, so I appreciated the effort. The Whoopie Goldberg impersonator was acceptable when she had on the nun’s habit, but when she tried to do stand-up Whoopie style, the act started wearing thin.

Next a guy came out and did Jimmy Buffet.  He was a really good Jimmy Buffet.  Not only did he sound like him, he could have been his twin brother.  I enjoy Jimmy Buffet and his Parrot Heads, but I thought that part went on a little bit too long, also.

Then out came the impersonator who had been Whoopie Goldberg, but now she was Donna Summer. ¬†I’d thought the impersonator was a little small to be Whoopie, but she was particularly unconvincing as Donna Summer. ¬†I remembered Donna Summer as this long, tall drink of water and she was being portrayed by someone who was short and chunky. ¬†However, the music was glorious.

As good as the music was – I was still waiting for the legends. ¬†Where was Elvis? ¬†I’d have preferred quicker bits on each star, but more stars. ¬†The longer the impersonators were at it, the more the illusion fell apart.

Deb and Joe trip a light fantastic
Deb and Joe trip a light fantastic

Then we got a real legend – Michael Jackson. ¬†I can only imagine how difficult it was for this guy to be as convincing as he was. ¬†You knew it wasn’t really Michael, but¬†occasionally¬†you chose to forget. ¬†Instead of coming out and wowing us and then moving on to the next legend, the Michael Jackson impersonator did several songs. With the addition of each song the magic faded some more.

So Рwas the show good.  Yes, it was.  Could it have been better.  Yes, it could.

After the show, Deb and Joe headed to the dance floor, but Bill and I headed to the room.  Be back next week for St. Thomas and in the meantime, tell me which legend you think should have been impersonated.