look who’s back

In case anyone was wondering, I’ve spent the past year living on a lake in a small Vermont hamlet. When I tell that to most folk, their jaw drops. “Aren’t you a city girl?” Maybe. But to wake up to the spectacular view of rolling green hills dropping off over a vast lake, surrounded by mountains in the distance. Let’s just say, it’s been special. For the few months of the year it was green, anyway. Today the ground is snow covered. It’s c-c-c-cold outside. And I’m reconsidering this journey. But that’s for another day .  .  .

In the meantime, I’m hoping to get back to posting about my travels and more on a semi-regular basis. What do you say, we start with a little day trip to the Northeast Kingdom here in Vermont:

It’s about a two hour drive to the NEK from the general Burlington area. Through the Stowe resort town and beyond into seemingly nowheresville. Miles of winding roads and endless trees — take the drive in the Fall and you won’t be disappointed!  Know where you are going and there are treasures to be found .  .  .

STOP 1:  The Museum of Everyday Life, 3482 Drypond Road, Glover, VT

IMG_0060This place is a one of a kind marvel. A self-service celebration of the mundane things you and I might, otherwise, not give a second thought to — everything from lowly dust, to safety pins, to scissors — the main exhibition during my visit.

Turn on the lights, view, read and listen your way through a selection of items from the permanent collection and highlights from past exhibitions into a series of spaces dedicated to a single subject. Objects, activities, artworks and uniquely curated experiences await. Above all, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. One curious girl in my crew saw a record player behind what we thought was a curtain of netting to keep onlookers away from objects on display. Only her willingness to crawl under this fragile barrier revealed it was actually a musical curtain of bells powered by said spinning turntable. Magical!

Give yourself a good hour here. There’s a gift shop in the corner with an honor box for cash payment. And don’t forget to turn the lights out as you leave.

 

STOP 2:  Bread & Puppet Theater Barn, 753 Heights Road, Glover, VT

This carefully organized warehouse of giant papier mâché puppets, is far more impressive than the theater they are made for. The Bread & Puppet theater is a traveling troop of performers putting on political & historical puppet shows around the country. I personally found one of the cult-like shows extremely difficult to sit through but was truly mesmerized by this barn housing 55 years of puppets, so carefully arranged on the walls and ceilings that they beg you to create your own stories to match their grandeur.

The Bread & Puppet “Family” also supports themselves through the sale of printed posters, cards and books based on the founder’s original works. Affordable, colorful and powerful artworks that make nice souvenirs if your into that sort of thing. And don’t miss the bus full of crafty treasures for sale parked along the road across the street. It’s hippy-ville Vermont at it’s finest.

Note: Stops 1 & 2 are just down the road from one another and it’s no coincidence — they share minds & resources.

STOP 3: Parker Pie Company, 161 Country Road West Glover, VT

Pie as in pizza pie with a selection of local craft beers on tap for lunch. The local watering hole/general store/gallery. But you are going to have to stop and ask directions because it doesn’t show up on any GPS — if you can even get one working up here — and is far off the main drag. Worth the detour, however, and chances are it will be packed to the gills.

 

STOP 4: Red Sky Trading, 2984 Glover Street, Glover VT

An honor system little barn of a shop with kitchy knick-knacks, local cheeses (pick up some award-winning Jasper Hill cheese — while nearby, they don’t offer tours or have a shop of their own) and home-baked sweets. If it’s a nice day, pull up an Adirondack chair and enjoy a bit of dessert while taking in the scenery. If sweets aren’t your thing, make this stop 3 so you don’t have to back-track after lunch.

Stop 5: Hill Farmstead Brewery, 403 Hill Road, Greensboro Bend, VT

Voted the best brewery in the world five years running, it is a worthy stop to pick up a growler, a bottle or a few cans as it’s not available to purchase in stores — only on tap in select Vermont establishments and here onsite. There are limits to the amount you can buy, especially for limited releases. But the beer is GOOD, you can hang out on the grounds and during the summer, there are often food trucks and music on the property as well.

Note:  The brewery is closed Sun-Tues so plan your travels accordingly. This is not one to be missed. Prepare to queue.

Loaded up with local cheese, beer, artwork and kingdom culture, you are ready to head out of the NEK and back to civilization.

art & commerce

Here’s an interesting pairing — Classic American shoe company Vans has partnered with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to create a series of shoes (plus clothing and accessories) based on the artist’s paintings. A portion of the proceeds go to support the museum.

Sunflowers on my feet? That could put a smile of my face . . . Available starting August 3, 2018 online at the museum store and www.vans.com Shipping worldwide.

let’s talk lisbon

An absolutely beautiful city — Lisboa, Portugal. That is without doubt. Viewpoints galore overlooking red roofed buildings, the Tagus River — a river so wide it feels more like a lake or even the sea — hills and more hills, ancient architecture, cobblestone streets, tiled buildings, old fashion street cars . . . everything you would expect from a picturesque European city. And it’s small — just 800,000 population (similar to San Francisco) in it’s city center so easy to absorb. It’s for now, affordable as far as European cities go which makes it a hot destination. And that is where the city lost me just a bit. Even in late October, it was full of tourists. And when i say full — I mean everywhere, tourists walking without regard, back pack laden, down every street, every alley, speaking every language. I began to wonder if it was possible to have an authentic Lisboan experience. And I wondered even more what it must be like at the height of summer tourism season — my guess is a place i wouldn’t enjoy very much.

Not to say that I didn’t partake in tourist activities. Of course I did. The first thing I did after a quick shower was hop a Tuk Tuk for a tour around the old part of the city to get acclimated to the area where I was staying. Tuk Tuks are an easy way to get around the most hilly parts of the city and the drivers are well versed in history. So a quick hour or two gives you the basics. I did learn from my driver that what started as a single company with 9 Tuk Tuks a few years back, is now a competitive business of hundreds of Tuks Tuks vying for parking spots at all the best viewpoints and jamming the narrow streets all over the city. I even witnessed a Tuk Tuk robbery where a motorcycle wizzed between lanes of stopped traffic reaching into Tuk Tuks taking driver’s money as they went. When tourism is high so, unfortunately, is theft.

I also scheduled a food tour for my first afternoon. Often one of my favorite type of tours in any city, this one did not disappoint. And to be honest, I would never have known where to go in this city for authentic food just walking up and down the streets. To me, everything looked touristy in Alfama, a neighborhood where throngs of tourists were wandering the streets, souvenir shops abound and little old ladies sell low quality Cherry Liqueur (Ginja) off card tables down every alley. But Ruthy (pictured above) and her husband, guides extraordinaire, took our small group of six to a series of tiny little, family owned businesses tucked away in places I never would have found where we tasted cod delights, sardines, olive oils, cheese, sausage, desserts, coffee, beer, wine, quality cherry liqueur — I was happy, full and drunk for most of the afternoon. I promised Ruthy I wouldn’t share her secrets but I will say this — take the tour and indulge your inner tourist in a good way. You’ll also get a healthy dose of sights and history along the way.

I was in Lisbon for a conference and so happened upon my most favorite of places by happenstance — The Foundation Champalimaud. I liken it to the Portuguese Salk Institute. A biomedical research facility, housed in a modern architectural setting along the river at the far end of Belem where most tourists don’t venture. Not only is the building beautiful, with a stunning central water feature, there is a nearly hidden, small amphitheater overlooking the river that is as spiritual a space as I have come across in quite some time. I could have sat in that amphitheater for hours (and very nearly did), soaking up the sun, taking in the view and contemplating life. Bring a picnic or enjoy lunch next door on the balcony of the center’s cafeteria which is open to the public.

From here you are well poised to take in the Belem sights with the rest of the tourists — a jaunty walk along the river back towards town and away from the sun thankfully, takes you past the Belem Tower, The Monument to the Discoveries, The Maat (another stunning piece of modern architecture with a roof viewpoint not to be missed), The 25th of April Bridge, The Jerónimos Monastery. Then cross over the roadway to the center of Belem where there is an odd collection of museums on various subjects and the famous Pasteis de Belem — the original home of  Portuguese egg tarts which are honestly, worth the hype and the wait in line!

And you never know when you might look down an alley along the way and see a fun, modern take on tile art.

If only the sun weren’t cutting the artwork in half for better viewing. But if you like what you see, these tiles are part of a collection available for sale at a little family run shop whose grandfather bought out stock of closing tile factories in the 1960’s giving them a collection of locally made tiles that are simply beautiful and a far cry from the typical reproductions sold in every souvenir and antique shop in the city.

Like always, I try to find the things that are a bit more unique in a city as I am not a good or typical tourist by nature. I don’t know if I succeeded in Lisbon or if it’s even possible. But I’m happy to share more about my finds in this beautiful city here and in subsequent posts.

Helpful Links:

Eco Tuck Tours, Lisboa
Several standard 2-3 hour tours available or custom tours for $60/hr
Easy to book online in advance (recommended) or hire a Tuk Tuk in any major tourist venue

Treasures of Lisboa, Food Tours
Book through Ruthy’s website directly (link above) or on Air BnB Experiences
Twice Daily, Mon-Sat $67 US

Champalimaud Foundation/Center for the Unknown
Avenida Brasília,1400-038 Belem, Lisbon

MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology)
Av. Brasília, Central Tejo 1300-598 Belém, Lisboa
11-7 PM except Tuesday

Cortico & Netos, Tile Store
Calçada de Santo André 66, 1100-022 Alfama, Lisboa,
Monday to Saturday from 10h-13h / 14h-19h

Tile Rooster Artwork: Down a little alley about a block east of Pasteis De Belem

Pasteis De Belem
Rua de Belém, 1300 – 085 Belem, Lisboa
Open Daily from 8-11

weekend agenda — rain room LA

Rain RoomNow open for viewing at LACMA, the famous Rain Room exhibit by London based artist collective Random International. Walk through a perpetual downpour without getting wet! This amazing technology senses the body and stops the rain from falling in your vicinity while it continues to pour all around you. People have stood in line for hours to experience the exhibit in other cities.You can see it with timed tickets now through March 16, 2016 here in LA — but still expect a wait. $30 includes general admission to the museum. Buy tickets here.

image: Jane Hu

weekend agenda: frank gehry

This weekend or any weekend between now and March 20, 2016 you can get up close and personal with some of the many many models representing the work of architect Frank Gehry. It’s like a wander through some sort of miniature land of the future where nary a right angle exists and buildings are more like super-sized sculptures than buildings.

IMG_5239Yes, this is a model of a building, one that actually got built. And what’s nice about the show, videos of the built work accompany many of the models so you can see how it actually came to life, how it scales and relates to a real environment.

Frank’s work is nothing if not stunningly emotional. Arresting even, especially in contrast to our mostly rectilinear world. In fact, i think that juxtaposition is what gives this work it’s power.

At 86 years old, there will only be so many more Frank Gehry buildings to be built. Although there are plenty in the works as evidenced by the show’s room of projects in progress punctuated by an image of the architect’s office — a sea of models:

Office shotWhether you are a fan of “object” buildings or not (admittedly some are more successful than others) there is no denying the genius of this man. It is well worth the $25 price of admission to sneak a peek into his world. And most interesting to hear in his own words and those of other creative geniuses across a wide range of disciplines, how and why he does what he does in a captivating film by Sydney Pollack. On the day i went, there were more people crammed into the little corner where this film is projected than viewing the plethora of models that make up the rest of the show. Say what that may about the show as a whole, just go. And then, because we are lucky in LA to be surrounded by a great many of his built works, take a drive around the city and see the buildings in person.

For tickets and more information on the show visit: LACMA.org

bottom image courtesy LACMA

stamp mania

Rudolph StampsSo I went to the unveiling event for the 2014 Rudolph Holiday Stamp Collection and what I discovered was the amazing Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Why is it that we never take advantage or know about these wonderful places right under our noses?

I honestly never would have thunk to visit the Postal Museum had I not been invited to this event by a talented design firm I employ often whose principal sits on the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee. And as luck should have it, not only were we the first ones able to purchase the new Rudolph stamps (aren’t they adorable?) but we also got an unexpected private tour of the museum’s William H. Gross wing by the museum director himself.

stamp gallery19 Million dollars and I can’t recall how many years to make this gallery come to life. And it is a real treat! Beautifully designed, it highlights stamps and the history of post in the United States and around the world, in ways that are interesting to both the avid collector and your average kid (I put myself in the latter)

  • Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt, an avid stamp collector, used to design his own stamps, supplying hand drawn sketches to the postmaster general to create?
  • Did you know that John Lennon was a stamp collector as a kid? The museum owns his collection complete with little mustaches drawn on the queen’s image and all.
  • Did you know that Amelia Earhart funded her flights by carrying mail on board and signing the letters?

You could spend hours and hours in this museum — for real! Featured items on display include the very first stamp in the world. a letter dating back to the silk road, a letter posted to John Hancock on July 4, 1776, a letter posted on the moon and so much more. But the real gems are in hundreds of pull out displays showcasing more stamps, artwork and history than you could ever possibly get through. A reason to go back again and again.

American Gallery moon mail Interactive DisplayOne little tidbit that I loved learning from the director was about the beautiful window graphics that line the 18 windows across the front of the building — printed scrims of  super large scale stamps that tell the history of America. Being a historic building nothing can be touched or changed without permission of government committees, in this case 3 different committees. Instead of simply asking permission which would assuredly garner 3 no’s, the director put a slew of stamps on the table and asked, “If you were going to pick the stamps to tell the American story, which stamps would you pick?” — and suddenly these government officials were engaged and boom, 3 yeses! Drive by at night and see the scrims lit up across the face of the building and you’ll marvel at their beauty.

Stamps are nothing if not beautiful. So celebrate their beauty and history with a visit to the Postal Museum on your next visit to Washington, DC.

images courtesy the USPS and The National Smithsonian Postal Museum

getting to know julia

julia_childFrom time to time, something will spark an interest in me to read up on someone or something and learn as much as I can. Several years ago, watching The Tudors television show sparked a small obsession with Henry VIII and I found myself reading up on his dynasty for months (The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George is one of the best novels I have ever read as a result). More recently, watching the film Julie & Julia again for the I don’t know how many-th time, I decided I should probably read the book on which half the movie was based — My Life in France. As interesting as it was to hear Julia’s story in her own words, what struck me most in reading this book was how one consciously starts to plan for the end of life as they age — in Julia’s case, placing her ailing husband in a home to be cared for, closing up their house in France for the last time, deciding to write her story . . . This innocent little book certainly made me think in ways that surprised me.

And this book lead me to another — As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. An amazing collection of over 200 letters between Julia and her friend/self appointed book agent chronicling their friendship, the reality behind Julia’s major oeuvre, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as life’s daily trials and tribulations for two strong minded housewives in the mid-twentieth century. Letters were their way of getting to know one another as they didn’t actually meet for several years after the correspondence began, so it is a very revealing glimpse into a truly special relationship.

Julia Child ImagesAnd that was all it took for me to be smitten with Julia. One movie, two books and to cap it off (just like in the movie) . . . a trip to the American History Museum this past weekend to see Julia’s real life kitchen in person. Small and chock ‘o block full of well-loved kitchen gear it’s a snapshot of American life, a great American life . . .

Julia Child Kitchen

weekend agenda

mazeInside the National Building Museum in Washington, DC you can feel what’s it’s like to be a mouse in a maze. An urban take on the classic corn maze, this plywood structure is oodles of fun for kids or about 4.5 minutes of distraction for adults. Don’t get me wrong it’s a fun activity. But I fault the design for it’s dipped center which while it makes for great views and a social media hot spot, once you reach that point in the maze the way out is clearly visible and the challenge is over. But super fun to watch patrons from above so be sure to venture up to another floor and look down on the activated structure. At $16 a head, it is a bit pricy but you get some added value with the tickets that are all puzzles in their own right — a nice little touch.

ticketsThrough September 1, 2014.

Note: the gift shop at the National Building Museum is very nice with a great selection of gifts, books, toys and more.

three great masters, one great day

The Modern_AndoThe Kimball_ KahnAmon Carter_JohnsonAndo, Kahn and Johnson. The Modern, The Kimball and The Amon Carter museums, respectively. All located in Fort Worth, Texas a stones throw from one another. Each one a masterpiece. And now, you get a fourth for the price of three with a new building by Renzo Piano recently opened as an extension to the Kimball.

I thought I’d died and went to heaven. Who cares about the art — although taking in a little Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, Francis Bacon and Donald Judd always makes me smile (a true modernist at heart) — the buildings are what I came for.Details_3museumsEven the 90 degree heat couldn’t deter me. I could have sat on the concrete loungers, looking back at the silent power of three glass pavillions seemingly floating on water at the Modern all day. But that would have meant not sitting under the shade of a vaulted portico at the Kimball taking in the echo of cascading water and visitors footsteps as they navigated the grove of holly trees that act as transition from lawn, to courtyard, to vaulted building.

The surprise of the day was the Amon Carter Museum. The first built in the area back in 1961. The original museum, a small but arresting monolithic structure, sits up on a hill before a stunning green space with views of Dallas in the distance. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of Acropolis reference. Quite the stretch for the Western art collection housed inside but true to form for architect Philip Johnson who also designed the 2001 expansion on the back side.

views_3museumsIf you are ever in doubt about the power of architecture on the soul, watch the documentary My Architect by Nathanial Kahn, son of Louis Kahn who designed the Kimball Art Museum (along with his mistress Harriet Patterson, mother of Nathanial). If ever a piece of film has moved me more I cannot recall. I wept and wept — not because of the personal story of an illegitimate son piecing together the life of an absent father who had three separate families and died unidentified in the men’s room at Penn Station — but at the sight of magnificent building after magnificent building. True artworks juxtaposing the geometries of built form and nature, in locations all around the world. All by one great master whose calling it was in life to build buildings. Great and powerful buildings. Buildings that will move you to tears.