May. 2nd, 2017 09:24 pm
mojosmom: (Default)
I made my plane reservations for Venice today. I try to fly Premium Economy when possible on overseas flights, and did so this time, but was shocked that it was just a couple of hundred more than regular coach fare. I'll get in late afternoon and leave fairly early in the morning. I could get in a bit earlier, but it would be far too short of a layover in Madrid. I'd rather hang out in the boarding lounge than risk missing my flight! I leave Venice early in the morning, but it gets me home at a slightly more reasonable hour than if I left later in the day.

I also decided that I would extend my stay by a couple of days in order to a) spend more time at the Art Biennale, and b) celebrate my birthday in Venice. The group tour I'm going with ends on July 16, with a possibility to extend to the 17th, and that was my original plan. Instead, I'll fly home on the 20th, and move to a hotel on the 16th. I'll be at the same hotel I stayed at last summer, the Pensione Accademia, which I liked very much.
mojosmom: (Travel)
I get regular email newsletters from Atlas Obscura, telling about odd places and things and events. They also do trips. Today, they announced a trip to Venice in July: I couldn't resist, and have paid the deposit. I do think that the fates have been conspiring to send me back there. I went to a Chicago Symphony concert the other evening, of music by Vivaldi, Corelli, etc., with mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, that just made me want to hop the next plane to Venice. And then this morning a friend sent me a video Valentine's card of a canine gondolier! So cute!

In other things:

The cats had their annual vet check-ups this past weekend. Both are in good health, though the vet said they should have their teeth cleaned in a few months. They have a new vet (who had previously worked as a vet/kennel assistant and then vet tech at the practice), as the one they had been seeing has retired. The great surprise was that I was able to get both boys into the carrier without a struggle. Usually, I'm cornering Smoke in the closet (his favorite napping place) and trying to get Shadow out from under the bed. But my timing was right, because I found Shadow asleep on my bed, and just gathered him up in a tight grip. Smoke's appointment was Sunday morning, so he was lying on the Sunday paper that I was trying to read, which made it easy.

My friend Elaine, one of the women with whom I was in Boston, said she was sending us all photos she had taken. I was not expecting what came, a book she'd put together! Really thoughtful, but then she's that sort of person. I see I didn't write about that trip after it happened. Lots of fun. I got there before the others to see exhibits at the MFA and the Gardner, and was joined by one of the group who lives near Boston. The whole group went to the Boston Public Library (a fabulous building) for their Shakespeare exhibit and afternoon tea.

I have been going through my posts and making some deletions, because there were a lot of duplicates from having brought them over from LiveJournal. Oddly, I found situations where duplicate posts had different comments, so in those cases I left the duplicates. I will also have to do something about posts where I linked to LJ communities, since, obviously, those links still go to LJ. And some of my photos seem to have been lost in the migration. But I expect I can retrieve them from Flickr.
mojosmom: (Default)
It seems as though just as people were coming back to LiveJournal, they started migrating over here for security reasons. I've had a Dreamwidth account for some time, but didn't use it much, although when I started it, I moved all my LJ posts here as well. (Truth be told, I didn't post much over at LJ, either, mostly for reasons of laziness. Bad me!) So here I am.

As with most years, there's been bad and good.

I've lost some good people this year:

An old family friend, in both senses of the word, had a stroke while visiting one of her daughters in Massachusetts. She lingered a couple of days, and then passed at the age of 93. A good long life.

A young woman whom I knew from my support group at Gilda's Club succumbed to metastatic breast cancer. Judy was a pretty amazing person. She taught at Second City, and when she was first diagnosed, she put together a comedy routine about it. When it came back, she just updated the routine. A lovely, brave friend.

Just before Thanksgiving, one of the finest, kindest, most decent people I've ever known died after three years of dealing with lung cancer and COPD. I worked with Jamie as a public defender, we coached at trial advocacy programs together, and he was an opera buddy. His memorial service brought together folks he knew from the legal field, from his AA group, from the gay liberation groups at the University of Chicago where he attended law school. Jamie cared about people, he paid attention. I'm going to miss him terribly.

As for me, my health remains good, and I've been doing a lot of traveling. I mentioned in my last post (from March!!) that I was thinking of going to Venice. I did. I decided I could not miss that production of The Merchant of Venice. (And when I got back, I went to the Jonathan Pryce Merchant at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Good, but I liked the Venice production better.) At the end of July, Venice is crazy crowded and hot, but it didn't matter. I had a fabulous time. In addition to Merchant, I saw a production of Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters, and went to a concert at the Chiesa San Vidal (mostly Vivaldi, of course). The Architecture Biennale was happening, too, and I went to a bunch of museums.

At the end of October, I went on the trip to Barcelona and Bilbao that I mentioned exactly one year ago. It was fantastic, so worth the cost. Nothing I had seen, still photos or film, could have prepared me for the Sagrada Familia. It is so big and light-filled, the detail is astonishing. It's still being worked on, but the interior is done, and they plan to finish by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi's death. So mark your calendars! ;-) We not only saw wonderful architecture, we ate a lot of good food, probably more than we should have, but we walked it off. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

At the beginning of December, I did a short, random, sort of spur of the moment, trip to New York, because I decided I really wanted to see the Klimt exhibit at the Neue Galerie and the Mrs. Carl Meyer portrait by Sargent at the Jewish Museum. My timing was good, because I was able to catch a performance of L'Amour de Loin, by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, at the Met, the first opera by a woman they've done in over a hundred years. It was also conducted by a woman. I'm so glad I was able to see it, because I loved it. It's contemporary (though with a medieval setting), but the music is quite accessible. The voices were grand, particularly the mezzo, Tamara Mumford. Simple, yet brilliant, set by Robert Lepage, long ribbons of LED lights across the stage mimicking water.

And I'm going to Boston in mid-January - pray that there are no snowstorms! Some college friends want to celebrate their birthdays there - why, when one of them lives in Miami, I don't know, but they do.

I'm planning another trip to NYC in June, as there is a big Frank Lloyd Wright show opening at MOMA that month (it's his 150th birthday), and the New York City Opera is doing an opera based on Tony Kushner's play, Angels in America, that I do not want to miss.

My sisters came in for the holidays, and, as usual, we got together with friends, went to museums and bookstores, and generally had a good time. Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukkah coincided, so Cathy made the traditional latkes, and on the third night we went to the home of a neighbor and fellow Robie House volunteer for more latkes.

My refrigerator chose Christmas weekend to die, and as it is twenty years old, I decided to forgo calling a repairman and just go out and buy a new, more energy efficient one. While I was at it, I bought a new dishwasher. My old one died a couple of years ago, and it wasn't worth fixing, but I'd put replacing it on the back burner as doing dishes for one person isn't a big deal. However, should I ever sell the condo, a working dishwasher would be expected, so as long as I was appliance shopping, I did that, too. The refrigerator came on Wednesday, the dishwasher should arrive next Friday. Here's hoping my washer/dryer last for while longer!

I continue to do volunteer work with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, and serve on a couple of boards, my friend Jeanne and I continue to spend a lot of time at the Gene Siskel Film Center (they did an Anna Magnani festival this summer!), and my TBR pile continues to grow, not helped by my being in a book club.
mojosmom: (Gautreau)
I've pretty much decided to go to Venice at the end of July. It's not generally the optimal time to go, but a couple of weeks ago the New York Times had an article about Ghetto 500, an observation of the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish ghetto. I was hesitant at first because I already have a rather pricey trip to Barcelona and Bilbao planned for late October, but the opportunity to see The Merchant of Venice performed in the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo is unlikely to come along again. Add to that the Architecture Biennale and the International Theatre Festival, and it would be a crime not to go. I will, however, have to miss the mock trial presided over by the Notorious RBG; that requires a larger contribution than I can manage, even with the tax deduction.

Since I last posted (oy! two months ago!), I've been busy. I took a class at the Newberry Library called Edwardian Passions: Dress and Desire, 1890-1920. We read Vita Sackville-West's The Edwardians, Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks, and E.M. Forster's A Room with a View, and had lectures (with wonderful visuals) about fashion of the era. I'd had an earlier class from the same instructor about the rise of the department store in Paris, using novels of Émile Zola. She is an art historian with a great knowledge of fashion and literature, and I'm looking forward to taking her next course, which involves Edith Wharton and Henry James. I'm also considering a course in the History of Italian Fashion at the Italian Cultural Institute. Fortunately, they don't overlap!

I continue to give tours at Robie House, and mentor new volunteers. The FLW Trust has instituted a new program called "Wright Around the Region", and one event this year will go to Robie as well as two other house museums in Chicago, one of which is showing the Dressing Downton exhibit. I was able to get on that as a volunteer, so yay!

My trainer was transferred from the gym near me to another facility, so I have a new guy. I've also upped my sessions. I'm doubling up, doing 50 minutes rather than 25. The new trainer is much tougher on me, but he and the new schedule are paying off. So I'm glad I did that.
mojosmom: (Snow)
I've just been very remiss.  And very busy!

I've been recruited to join another board, that of the Newberry Consort, a local group that specializes in what is now called "historically informed performance".

Volunteering at the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust (they've just changed their name from the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust) continues, as I give tours at both Chicago's Robie House and Oak Park's Unity Temple, as well as help with training new volunteers.  I am finding that one of the things I really enjoy doing is giving tours to school children.  They are lots of fun!  And I was given a very nice compliment, by being asked to act as a house captain for Robie House during next year's very special Wright Plus event.  The people I work with are quite lovely.  Yesterday, it was so cold that no one bought tickets for one of the tours I was scheduled to give.  I had to stick around because there were people for the next tour, so the house manager said, "Why don't you take advantage of the living room?"  So I fixed a cup of tea, took my book, and sat there reading and watching the sunlight play with the art glass windows.

Our branch library, the oldest in the city, was once again part of Open House Chicago, and I organized the volunteers for that.

The last few weeks have, as always this time of year, been full of parties.  Between my professional organizations, various non-profits I contribute to/volunteer with, not to mention purely social times with friends, I've been eating and drinking to my heart's content, if not my cholesterol's.

I am hoping to have two new additions to my household after the new year.  Meet Teague (on the right) and his brother, Thai.  They are a Siamese-tabby mix, and oh! so adorable.

One of the reasons I'm not taking them in until next year (other than the fact that I don't want to bother them with company until they've settled in) is that I am leaving town on Monday and won't be back until Dec. 24th.  Didn't seem fair to bring them home and then desert them!  I am going to Cuba for a week!  The trip is with the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and we'll be in Havana for a week, meeting artists, musicians, and dancers, and, not incidentally, enjoying warm weather.
mojosmom: (Gautreau)
This is just a brief post to let you all know that I got home safely late yesterday afternoon. The strike caused a delay of about three hours on the Amsterdam-Toulouse leg of the flight over, but that was all. That was nicely off-set by an unexpected upgrade to business class on the Chicago-Amsterdam leg. (I did not have the same luck going home, though!)

The trip was amazing, and I've just put close to 1,000 photos onto iPhoto, so I will be spending quite a bit of time editing them and uploading the best to Flickr.

I'll write more over the next few days.

Off soon

Apr. 30th, 2013 04:55 pm
mojosmom: (cat)
I will shortly head out to catch the bus to get to the train station to board the train that will take me to New Orleans.

mojosmom: (Default)
Music has been on the agenda a lot recently. I went to hear Too Hot to Handel, a jazz/gospel version of Handel's greatest hit. It's been presented at the Auditorium for the past several years, but this was the first time scheduling allowed me to go. It was wonderful, particularly the mezzo, Karen Marie Richardson. They had some video, the first year they've done that, which wasn't very good (bad quality, distracting), but it certainly didn't detract from the music.

Then last week, three days in a row. Last Thursday was Lyric's Subscriber Appreciation Concert, at which they showed their appreciation by allowing us to pay more money. ;-) Renée Fleming and Susan Graham did a fabulous recital of French songs, with a killer encore by Graham singing La Vie en Rose accompanying herself on the piano.

Then from the sublime to the ridiculous. There's a truly funny musical, Das Barbecü, a country-western take-off on Wagner's Ring Cycle set in Texas. Sounds weird, and it probably helps to have some familiarity with Wagner, but I enjoyed it very much. It was produced at one of the local colleges, with young professional singers, and they did a fine job.

Saturday, I went to hear the Newberry Consort, a local early music ensemble, at a concert of 18th-century Scottish music, including a lot of Robert Burns. This was followed by a party at the home of some friends, so I didn't get home until quite late.

I've also seen more movies in the last couple of weeks than in a long time. I saw Lincoln at our new neighborhood movie theatre. It's really good, although, if I'd made the film, I'd have ended it sooner. It's not like we don't know Lincoln was assassinated (oh, sorry, was that a spoiler?). Then I saw Diana Vreeland: the Eye has to Travel at the Siskel Film Center, a documentary made by her granddaughter-in-law. What a fabulous woman! On a more serious note, they also showed Point of Order, about the Army-McCarthy hearings. I'd seen it before, but it can't be seen too often.

I'm on a committee at my law school now, to set up a scholarship named for a relative. My great-aunt was married for a time to William E. Rodriguez, the first Hispanic graduate of my law school, and also the first Hispanic alderman in the City of Chicago. This year is the 100th anniversary of his graduation, and another alum contributed funds to set up the scholarship. It's not a lot, but every little bit helps.

Tonight I'm scheduled to have my practice tour over at Robie House. Parts of the tour are outside, and it is really cold! Typical Chicago weather. We set a record on Tuesday for the warmest day (it hit 60º), and today it's in the teens (probably in the single digits tonight). So I will bundle up, though it's possible we'll stay inside (the volunteer coordinator said they've done that in the past).

I am planning a couple of trips. My older sister and I have finalized our plans for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. We're going for the second weekend, but will stay a full week to see other things. We're staying at a B&B in the French Quarter, and, once again, I'm taking the train.

In June, I'm going to France! A couple I know, both of who are artists, along with another artist couple, take a group every year to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, one of Les plus beau villages de France®. In the past, the trip has been designed for artists, but due to popular demand they have now arranged it for non-artists as well. It sounded so lovely, and another friend wanted to go, so we are.
mojosmom: (japanese icon)
I have just come in from clearing a few inches of snow off the car. It's supposed to snow all night, and since I have a class in the morning, I wanted to get a head start. A friend of mine is supposed to be flying in from New York tonight to see her mom and her two kids (I say "kids", but they are college grads); I hope she makes it.

Hard to believe it was 50º(F) yesterday! (Well, maybe not. This is Chicago, and it is January.

It's been a fairly quiet week. I ushered at a concert on Saturday - very nice early music, featuring a pair of cellists. Went to hear The Magic Flute last night, which is always a treat. Also went to an event at the Art Institute - a conversation between a curator and a collector, followed by drinks, noshes and a viewing of an exhibit of drawings from said collector's collection. There was one piece in particular that I coveted, "Second Roebling", by Christopher Wilmarth. I won't post the image of it that I found on the web, though; it just doesn't do the piece any justice.

Did a bit of shopping. I lost my good black gloves on the bus on Friday, so had to replace them. I was really annoyed because I'd only bought them a few weeks ago. Also did some boring but necessary bra/undies/socks shopping.

I went to the library yesterday to return one book, and pick up another that was on hold. I actually returned home with four books; it's so nice to have the time to sit back and read.

I finally worked out exactly when I'm going to head off to the BC convention. I'm going to go to Glasgow first, and then Dublin. I bought my airline tickets today and booked a hotel in Glasgow, and am waiting to hear from someone who might share a room in Dublin before I book that (though I'm not going to wait too long). I had to change a couple of theatre tickets here, but that was no big deal.
mojosmom: (Default)
I've been flitting about a lot. )

Other things )

It's a good thing I'm retired and can sleep late. (Well, not so late. Lilith is better than any alarm clock. 7:00 a.m. sharp, she's patting my face, demamding that I get up and feed her!)
mojosmom: (Hyde Park)
It really was delightful.

I went to our local farmers' market on Saturday and picked up, among other things, lamb for shish kebab, an old and honored 4th of July tradition in my family. In the afternoon, I went to see David Henry Hwang's play, Yellow Face, by the Silk Road Theatre Project. We are having quite the DHH festival here this summer. I'll be seeing Chinglish (world premiere and Broadway-bound) at the Goodman tomorrow, and an early work, Family Devotions will be performed later in the summer.

Sunday I made my usual trek up to Waukegan for their parade, and a cookout afterwards. We are usually at my friend Julie's for that, but she fell and hurt her back a short time ago and wasn't up to having people over, so we went to Margaret's instead. M. has acquired a screened room for her backyard, similar to this one, so it's a very pleasant way to sit outside and enjoy the weather while not being bothered by bugs. We had the requisite hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans and watermelon, and I brought champagne to celebrate my retirement.

On the actual holiday, I again followed tradition by sitting on my front stoop to watch the neighborhood parade, and then going to Nichols Park for jazz, ice cream and family fun. They had a petting zoo this year, and I think this boy wants a new pet:
Little boy with animals.

Then I came home and for dinner made the aforesaid shish kebab and had that with a green salad.

I have settled my plans for New York. I'll be flying in on Saturday, July 16 and coming home on Wednesday, July 20. So I'll observe my birthday in the Big Apple! I'm staying (as usual) on the Upper West Side, at 76th St. I will definitely save the Morgan Library for Tuesday, as that is the day the Xu Bing exhibit opens. I was happy to learn that the Neue Galerie's Vienna 1900 exhibit has been extended, so I will be able to see that after all. I expect I'll combine that with a visit to the Jewish Museum, as they are relatively close to each other and both are open on Mondays (unlike most NYC museums). Unfortunately, Born Yesterday, which I was hoping to see, has closed.
mojosmom: (travel)
Honestly, I'd never even heard of Hillwood Estate before today. Thanks to this New York Times article, another destination has been added to my list. I don't know how I'm going to squeeze in everything I want to do!

Further note to self: remember this eBay auction - 3/24

mojosmom: (travel)
I'm leaving in a few minutes to head to the airport. I don't know if I'll have Internet access, so you may not hear from me for a while. On the + side, maybe BC will be back to normal when I return!
mojosmom: (travel)
So on Monday, rather than being on a flight home as planned, I went with [ profile] thecrrcookie and [ profile] melydia on a canal cruise. It's a great way to see Amsterdam, and I took scads of pictures.

In the afternoon, I went first to the Central Station to get a new transit card, and then to the Rembrandthuis. When Rembrandt went bankrupt and had to sell his belongings and move, there was an inventory made of his property, so the house has been furnished very much as it was. Nearly every room was used for the business - the studio, gallery, etching room, office, etc. There's one room filled with his collection of oddities & rarities, and wonderful vellum-bound albums.

In addition to the permanent exhibit of Rembrandt's etchings, including his only still life, there was a temporary exhibit called "In Atmospheric Light: Pictorialism in Dutch Photography 1890-1925". "Pictorialists" wasnted to emulate painting and the Dutch pictorialists were particularly inspired by Rembrandt and his use of light and shadow. There was some extraordinary work by Bernard Eilers; I was particularly drawn to a couple of very painterly pieces, "Trafalgar Square London" and "The Light Still Lingers: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, Amsterdam".

Dinner was at a "Mex Mex" restaurant (the number and variety of ethnic restaurants in Amsterdam is astonishing). Food was good, and the art was curious. There was a large mural depicting Rembrandt and Van Gogh flanking Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo:
Four artists
and there were drawings on the tables that reminded me of nothing so much as Henry Darger.

On Tuesday, I saw the Mackays, [ profile] melydia, [ profile] thecrrcookie and fellow Bookcrosser KonradRicardo off on their European road trip. I wish I'd brought my camera down, because the engineering of getting five people and all their luggage into a tiny little car was a sight to behold!

Me, I went to the Historical Museum, which is in the former civic orphanage, which, in turn, was converted from a convent. It has art and artifacts going back to the founding of the city, and up to the present day. There's an entire gallery given over to Civil Guard paintings, which was quite an industry, and to which, of course, we owe Rembrandt's famous "Night Watch". Nice views of the neighboring streets, too:
View from the Historical Museum

I then walked to the Prinsengracht, through a street with lots of antiquarian booksellers. I was not, however, tempted, as I know no Dutch, antiquarian or otherwise. Up to Prinsengracht to the Tulip Museum, a small, but interesting and informative, place in the basement of a shop that sells bulbs and tulip-related merchandise.

Dinner was at an Italian place across from the hotel, the Trattoria Toto. I was greeted in Italian, so responded in the same. The usual basket of yummy bread was placed on the table to begin, along with garlicky butter and red olives. I had papardelle ai funghi porcini and vino rosso.

I had earlier gone to the Concertgebouw and bought a ticket for the evening's concert of Mozart and Schubert. The concert was in the Grote Zaal (the larger of the two halls), which is about 500 seats smaller than Chicago's Orchestra Hall, but seems even smaller. It's a beautiful hall, with a great organ at the back center of the stage, with seats on either side. Then the main floor, and a small, u-shaped balcony supported by slender Corinthian columns. It's painted mostly white, with some gold and grey-green, with a very light and airy feeling. The lobby goes around the entire hall, which is really brilliant planning.

Wednesday was another museum day. I discovered the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, the Museum of Bags and Purses. Well, how could I resist? It was, in fact, fascinating, going back centuries, showing the development of various styles of bags, and being arranged not only chronologically, but by style and material, which led to some interesting comparisons, such as the condom-holder dating from 2000 in the style of a "stocking purse" popular in the late a8th-century. The displays included objects associated with the bags, such as the small, beautifully carved, ivory and bone needlework accessories shown with the work bags of the 18th & 19th-centuries. There was also a showing of film clips of fashions from 1910 (Longchamps) thorugh 1924, including some color film as early as 1917. I was excited to see my Josef Hoffmann letter-case here! I saw a great many pieces that I lusted after, and was rather disappointed that the shop here had no reproductions of some of the older purses, concentrating instead on contemporary work (lovely though many of them were).

Just down the street is the Museum Willet-Holthuysen, a double canal house built in 1685, and left to the city by its last owner on her death in 1895. Luisa Holthuysen and her husband, Abraham Willet, were great collectors of art and objets d'art. The house itself is presented mostly as it was in their time, though the kitchen and conservatory are 18th-century. The last is lovely, full of light and overlooks the formal garden:
Formal garden

I then went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, extremely powerful and moving. There was an exhibit of work by the political cartoonist, Fritz Behrendts, who began working in political art at the time of the Second World War, and continued to his death in 2008.

Dinner at a Thai place near the hotel, red curry chicken and chardonnay.

My flight on Thursday wasn't until the evening, so after breakfast I went to see the Queen, well, the Palace, anyway! But I discovered that it didn't open until noon, so I walked to the Bloemenmarket. So many gorgeous flowers! I wanted to take them all home, but especially the Vermeer calla lilies:
Calla Vermeer
I did find some tulip bulbs certified for entry into the U.S., so bought some of those, being duly warned to declare them. I also found a shop selling prints and etchings, and bought a winter canal scene that's very Japanese-looking.

On to the Palace, which is definitely worth the trip. It had been closed for four years for restoration and renovation, and there was a film on the subject discussing the project. They found chandeliers in boxes, original upholstery under what they were replacing, unexpected cabinets in walls. Very interesting stuff, and a very beautiful building:
People's Hall

Then back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and head to Schiphol. The airport was not the madhouse that I expected, so I had plenty of time, and arrived safely in Stockholm after an uneventful, and surprisingly empty, flight. I had booked a room at a hotel near, but not at, the airport. It was rather spartan, but still comfortable, and all I really cared about was a bed!

At the airport the next day, I found that the flight was delayed a few hours, as they had to get a plane into position. Of course, at that point what was another few hours? I had reading material, bought some internet time to check my email, but mostly sat and chatted with a few other waiting passengers. Another uneventful flight, with a nice meal and room to stretch out, and I listened to the "light classical"channel, while reading Mozart's Women. On arrival in Chicago, I zipped through customs (they barely looked at my declaration!), and got home about 5:30. Theoretically, I could have jumped in my car and gone to the Teatro Vista benefit, but figured I might fall asleep on the way, so chose to unpack and fall asleep at home.


May. 13th, 2010 09:36 pm
mojosmom: (travel)
I arrived in Amsterdam mid-afternoon, to find Schiphol a crowded mass of upset humanity. By now, Great Britain and Scandinavian air space was closed due to the volcanic activity, and flights were being cancelled right and left. This meant lots of distressed and angry people wandering about the airport, and media people sticking microphones in their faces. So I stood in line for my transit card rather longer than would likely be the case normally, but then hopped the train to Central Station and from there took a tram that stopped right near the hotel.

My room was small, but had everything I needed, and there's a nice garden off the bar in the lobby, though I'm afraid the weather isn't really conducive to sitting out and enjoying it. The hotel is obvioiusly a couple of buildings thrown together at different times, with rooms at all kinds of different levels and a numbering system that seems designed to confuse. My room's at the tip-top, with various odd angles and a skylight over the bed.

I hooked up with [ profile] skyring and his lovely wife, Kerri, for dinner. Back at the hotel, we met [ profile] thecrrcookie and [ profile] melydia, and sat in the bar for a bit drinking, talking, and watching the news - Schiphol, along with just about all the European airports, was closed.

The next day, we met a friend of Skyring's and went off to the Rijksmuseum. Although it's undergoing renovation, and much of it is closed, they have chosen the "400 best objects" (though I'm sure there is much debate about what was chosen) to put on display. And that was quite enough. Skyring's friend was incredibly knowledgeable, so learned a lot. Naturally, there were zillions of Rembrandts, Hals, Steens, etc., and I was confirmed in my view that the Dutch painters were masters of the still life.

[ profile] melydia and I the went off to the Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh Museum
while the others headed to the Historical Museum. Had lunch there, and then started at the top floor and worked our way down. There were a number of Symbolist works, including many Redons, and then an exhibit of works from the collection of Hendrik Willem Mesdag, who was a painter as well as a collector. His collection of Barbizon School works is the largest outside of France.

Then to the Van Goghs themselves, a thoughtfully laid out exhibit, showing the various influences on his work, and how it changed once he arrived in Paris. Works by other artists who flourished in the same period were also shown. I was completely bowled over by "Sunflowers"; no reproduction can ever show, even in the smallest way, how Van Gogh's technique recreates the texture of an actual flower. On the main floor were many works of the Barbizon School, which influenced Van Gogh in his decision to become an artist.

The Museum was also hosting a special exhibition, Gauguin: the Breakthrough into Modernity. When the World's Fair was held in Paris in 1889, there was, naturally, an art show, but Gauguin and other "modern" artists were not invited to exhibit. So they organized a show at the Volpini Café in the fairgrounds. This was a wonderful exhibit - again a concentration on context, what other artists were doing, how that influenced Gauguin, etc. Gauguin did a set of lithographs, called the Volpini Suite, in a marbled portfolio, and I remarked that it would be great if the Museum had a facsimile available, though considering the size I didn't know how I'd get it home. As it turned out, they did have a facsimile, but at €180, transport was the least of my worries, so I settled for a ceramic plate of the Leda & the Swan design, and a tote bag of The Flowering Almond.

Back to the hotel for a bit of a rest, and then the Bookcrossers among us went to dinner down the street at a place called the Médoc. I had a tomato soup served with crème fraîche and brown bread, followed by merguez - 3 good sized sausages. Then on to the Convention, which I wrote about here, so won't repeat.

Sunday, after the convention ended, I learned that my Monday flight had, indeed, been cancelled as the airports were still closed. I spend ages on the phone with Travelocity. The first guy I talked to was incredibly unhelpful; basically, he said I should cancel the reservation and go on line to find another flight myself. When I insisted it was his job to check availability, and to call me back, he grudgingly said that he would, but after forty-five minutes, still no call. I then called Travelocity back, and this time got a very sympathetic, polite and helpful guy. It wasn't his fault that Swissair couldn't rebook me until May 5!! So we did cancel and went to another airline, SAS, to get me home on Friday. I called my catsitter, emailed my office, and said, basically, "expect me when you see me!" The hotel was very accommodating. I had no trouble extending my stay for three more nights, and they gave me the same low, advance booking Internet rate I'd had initially, which they didn't have to do.

If one has to be stranded somewhere due to volcanic ash, Amsterdam is not a bad place to be. It's a very walkable city, with lots of the things I love: architecture, art, museums. So, as you will see in future posts, I found plenty to do for the next few days.
mojosmom: (Italian)
The day started not so great. I couldn't find my cellphone! It wasn't in my room, it wasn't in the sitting room where I'd been using the computer the evening before. Fortunately, it did turn up at the restaurant where I'd had dinner, but I was panicking there for a bit.

I began the day at the Palazzo Pitti:
Pitti Palace

Talk about art overload! Rooms full of Raphaels, Ghirlandaios, et al., and ceilings all over bas-reliefs and paintings. Suddenly, in the midst of all the religious and allegorical art, and portraits of the rich and famous, was an exhibit of still lives and landscapes - a nice change!

Only here would the Galleria d'arte moderne begin with 18th-century art! But as one goes through these galleries, it becomes clear that there are distinct differences from what went before. Portraits become less formal, religion and allegory are less important than scenes of civic and private lives. It's possible to paint ordinary people, so instead of the Virgin giving her breast to the infant Jesus, it's an ordinary woman feeding her child. There's permission, too, to try new techniques of painting, leading to pointilism, impressionism, etc.

Taking a break from art, I went down the street to the Museo di Storia Naturale, part of the Università di Firenze, with its "secular temple", the Tribuna di Galileo, so-called from the statue of him there. There was a knock-out exhibit of crystals - nature is really rather beautiful! Once again, I was sorry that photography was not permitted, but you can see some of the pieces on the museum's website. I particularly liked the crystals that were combinations of minerals. There was spinella su marmo, white stone dotted with crimson, like blood; azurite, looking for all the world like navy blue velvet with sparkles; calcite su ametista, with a group of crystals shaped almost like asparagus growing out like rays. Colors, shapes, angles, all come together to form objects of great beauty. It's easy to see why people collect "rocks"!

Upstairs, we travel from the smallest protozoa, through corals, worms, bugs, to mammals, primates, and humans. (Query: why does every museum and zoo feel the need to put a mirror in the primate room?) There were room after room of anatomical waxes from the late 18th-century. Incredibly life-like and detailed.

Outside, there is a lovely garden, which abuts the Pitti's Boboli Gardens, and which is a hangout for the students:
Garden of the Museo

I went to lunch at the Caffe delle Gallerie Pananti, a little place across from the Pitti that is also an art gallery. I had carpaccio on a bed of arugula, which was served with a bag (literally!) of really good warm bread. Then stopped at Giulio Giannini and succumbed to the lure of printed and marbled paper.

Then back to the Palazzo Pitti for an afternoon in the Boboli Gardens. Not very floral, more formal gardens, multi-level, rambling, with vistas:
Yet another view of Tuscany

and prospects and allées:

and little (or not so little) houses of repose:

I can't imagine how le belle donne Medici got around it in those skirts! The buildings are now, among other things, a porcelain museum and a costume gallery.

There was a great exhibit at the costume gallery, Fashion: A World of Similarities and Differences, which showed similar styles from different eras. Some stunning garments, including a couple of Fortuny gowns. But there was one Gianfranco Ferré that would have made Tim Gunn cry "edit!" It was beige lace from under the bust to the knee, with a 2-level train, a coral and pink baeded bodice, a big foofy flower at the hip with pleated tulle below it, and a pink and beige striped underskirt! Weird, because there was another gown by Ferré that was a minimalist column of white with just a small sparkly flounce at the back neckline and hem, so simple and elegant.

The Gardens are noted for their cats, but I only saw two - or maybe three - or possibly four - I'm not sure if the black cat was the same cat in different places or several different cats!
I was sitting at the bar having a glass of wine and resting when a black cat appeared in the courtyard and just preened under all the attention.

I was then saved from myself. I'd seen a pair of shoes that really tempted me, despite the €98 price, but when I went back later in the afternoon, they were gone. I was tempted by another pair on sale, but they didn't have them in my size. A dress I had been admiring turned out to be nearly €300 - no way!

I had dinner at a neighborhood place, had insalata caprese, ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach in a walnut/sage sauce, and 1/2 bottle of chianti. I then went back to the hotel, did as much packing as possible, left a wake-up call and set the alarm.

Up early, and decided to take a cab to the bus station, where I caught the 7:30 bus to Amerigo Vespucci airport. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, so had tea and pastry in the departure area. I'd seen a very interesting looking building on the way in from the airport on Saturday, and was able to get a couple of photos of it. It turned out to be the Palazzo di Giustizia, designed by architect Leonardo Ricci:
Palazzo di Giustizia

I almost bought Cathy some truffled lard at the airport shops. I was ready to risk getting it through security in Zurich, but then I realized it needed to be refrigerated, and, of course, I wouldn't be able to do that!

My flight to Zurich was uneventful, but while transferring to the Amsterdam flight, I noticed signs that KLM had cancelled flights "due to the volcano", a portent of things to come!
mojosmom: (travel)
also a few other books appropriate to the occasion, including Hella Haasse's The Scarlet City, thus combining both Italy and the Netherlands in one book.

I'm trying to travel light, but it doesn't work with all these books! And I threw in an extra skirt and an extra pair of shoes at the last minute.

I leave for the airport in about half an hour.
mojosmom: (Gautreau)
I went to hear Tony Kushner last night at the University of Chicago's Artspeaks program. He was interviewed by Charlie Newell, the artistic director at Court Theatre, which is currently mounting a production of Kushner's adaptation of Corneille's The Illusion. I could listen to him talk forever. "The only obligation an artist has is to tell the truth." And he certainly does his best to live up to that. He talked about playwriting and directing, why colleges should not have undergraduate theatre programs, family, psychoanalysis, and a variety of other things.

Tonight, I went to the local library for a panel discussion on Octavia Butler and Afro-Futurism. It was one of several programs going on to lead up to the premiere of jazz flutist Nicole Mitchell's Xenogenesis II: Intergalactic Beings , inspired by Butler's trilogy. In addition to Mitchell were John Corbett, music writer and co-founder of Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery, who is an expert on Sun Ra, who was connected with Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and also Madhu Dubey, a professor of feminist theory and African-American literature at the University of Illinois-Chicago. It was a wide-ranging discussion of literature and music. When I got home, the president of the Friends of the Library called and asked if I would do a post on their blog about it. I said yes, but I wish she'd asked me before the program so I would have known to take notes!

I've been going through my books looking for thin paperbacks to take to Amsterdam to release at the BC convention. If I were going straight there, it wouldn't be as difficult, but whatever I take, I'll have to haul to Florence and then to Amsterdam, so I'm trying to be circumspect. I'm taking a couple to read on the plane and then release. And I have to factor in the guidebooks and such. I'm also debating about which edition of The Inferno to take with me. I'm leaning toward my Dorothy L. Sayers translation, because it's a small Penguin paperback. The Pinsky is a dual-language edition, which I like, but it's significantly bigger, not as easily carried about. I suppose I'll make up my mind at the last minute, as usual!

June 2017



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