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.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Libraries, Music, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Books

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!

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

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.

 

 

 

ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

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 – the 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 – was 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.