Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Southern History and Hospitality

Lexington, Virginia is a lovely old town, steeped in history. A really beautiful place for a long walk.

This is Stonewall Jackson's house.


And this is Robert E. Lee's church.

Washington and Lee University.

Lee's Chapel. He was a president of the university.

Right next to Washington and Lee University, is Virginia Military Institute. The lawns actually flow from one campus into the next.

That's Stonewall Jackson.


From Lexington we drove to Charlotte, North Carolina where we picked up Ray's brother, Roy, who flew in from Montana to continue the trip with us. It was so great to see him! Reminded us of meeting up with Roy more than 40 years ago in Rome and traveling together. In Charlotte we had the good fortune to stay with Roy's brother-in-law, John, who just moved to Charlotte. We had also been contacted by my brother's wife's sister, who lives near Charlotte, who invited us to go with her and her husband and another couple, to a winery for the day, yesterday. OK, have you followed all this? The cast here includes: me; Ray; Ray's brother Roy; Roy's brother-in-law John; my sister-in-law's sister, Linda; Linda's husband Brian; and Linda and Brian's friends Carol and Rob. Whew! (Pay attention— this will be on the test!) Anyway, a big group, mostly strangers to one another. But it turned out to be a wonderfully fun and compatible group. We had the greatest day together at the beautiful Raffaldini Winery. We tasted wine, drank wine, listened to music, drank in the views, laughed, told stories and by evening we were all best friends and shirttail relatives!

Ray recently installed drip lines in our garden and his greenhouse. He had to check out how the experts do it.

Sometimes the best days just kind of magically happen. Good wine, beautiful setting and, most important, good people.



















Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Atlantic Ocean, Monticello and headed south - Day 17

Wednesday we arrived in Delaware at the home of our friends Carla and Bill. How sweet to spend a couple days with them. Carla has been my friend since college and we have stayed in touch, crossing paths over the years and unlike some friends from years ago we somehow seem to always have things to talk about and laugh about and find mutually entertaining—easy and comfortable friends. And as Carla said, we wonder what happened to the years inbetween.

Delaware is the point at which we have come to the edge of the continent and we make a right turn. A trip to the beach was needed to complete the cross-continent piece, though it was cold, windy and rainy.

Yesterday we started on the southern leg of the trip and spent the night in Charlottesville, VA at the home of Kristin and Art LaFlamme. They are preparing for their move to Portland and as we were traveling east these past couple of weeks, Art was driving west, and as he was asleep last night in Portland, we were asleep in his home in Charlottesville.

The other home we visited in Charlottesville was Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. I have long wanted to go there. I knew I would love it and I did, but it was not what I expected. I knew it was an architectural marvel. I knew it was filled with Jefferson's innovative ideas. I knew it had a farm and a garden. I didn't know it was breathtakingly beautiful.

No photography is allowed inside the house, except in the dome room at the top, but our tour of the house was fascinating from top to bottom and we left knowing so much more about Jefferson and the family. Our guide in the house was quite wonderful. She had great stories and shared bits from letters written by members of the family that added so much to imagining a very human family occupying this splendid house.

Monticello means "little mountain" and the views all the way around are what you see below—trees and misty blue hills in the distance. No words to describe it... No wonder Jefferson preferred his home to anyplace on earth.

We took a tour of the gardens as well. Unlike the exceptional house tour guide, the garden guide was so obnoxious that we finally ditched the guided tour and enjoyed the gardens on our own. Perhaps if we had stuck it out we would have learned why there were terra cotta domes in the rows of kale. Perhaps the saddest thing I learned was that after Jefferson died, the house and land were sold to pay off his debts and his surviving family, who had lived all their lives in this house, had to leave. A portion of a letter written by one of the granddaughters about the loss of both the man and then the home was heartbreaking. Monticello now belongs to a foundation that has restored it and has recovered a good many of the original contents of the house. A piece of our history that was nearly lost forever.

We spent most of today at Monticello, then drove down the beautiful Blueridge Parkway.

Tonight we are in Lexington, VA. Tomorrow Ray's brother, Roy, joins us in Charlotte, NC for the second half of our trip. We can't wait to see him!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

From Chicago Onward - Day 13

Our last day in Chicago started at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Odd, I have to say. There was not much that really engaged me here. But two artists did, in very different ways.

The installations of Colombian artist, Doris Salcedo filled one whole whole floor. At first I was confused by a maze of what seemed like a storage space filled with stacked tables, then disassembled hospital furniture and stacks of folded men's shirts. I stopped to read the guide and then watch a video and slowly her meaning began to unfold. Loss. Absence. The aftermath of people being displaced; violence; orphaned, abandoned children.

See the small rectangles on the wall? These were actually openings into the wall. Inside each opening was a shoe, or a pair of shoes. The artist learned that female victims of violence in Colombia were often identified by their shoes. These were actual shoes from Colombian women. Stretched over each opening, and sutured in place is a covering of translucent animal skin. Haunting and beautiful.

After the heaviness and sorrow of Salcedo's work, I really appreciated a small but joyful collection of Alexander Calder works.

Isn't the lightness and grace of this mobile lovely?

In the afternoon we went to the incredible Field Museum and saw the old elephants....


Sue, the tyrranasaurus...


And a wonderful exhibit about Vikings. We saw many wonderful Viking objects, and most of my photos were shaky, but I do have these:


And scissors! Did you know that real Vikings never wore helmets with horns on them? Now you do, and so do I.

And with that we could do no more. So much more that could have been seen or done in Chicago, but we tried to focus on what we had not seen before. I know. It is almost sinful to leave without a trip to the Art Institute, but I have been there before and I hope I will go again. My feet and back could not have held up.

Back on the road. Yesterday Ohio, today that little knob of West Virginia that pokes up between Ohio and Pennsylvania, then into Pennsylvania.

We stopped in Wheeling, WV for lunch and poked around there for a bit. It is a really old town. The last battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in Wheeling.


This suspension bridge was built in 1847, and at the time it was built was the largest suspension bridge in the world. It is still in use. I drove across it today, twice.

We left the freeway and took back roads through farmland, once we got to Pennsylvania. Beautiful and peaceful.

Tomorrow we will see our friends in Delaware. I can hardly wait!



Monday, May 18, 2015

From Somewhere in Indiana - Day 12

Continuing with our Chicago adventure...

After our great architecture tour, we wandered down Michigan Avenue and enjoyed a good lunch, then made our way to the Chicago Cultural Center. It is a magnificent 1897 building, built as the Chicago Central Library. In 1977 it was repurposed as the city's cultural center. The building itself is very beautiful and would have been a treat if there was nothing else to see there.


Lucky for us there was a wonderful exhibit of paintings by Harlem Renaissance artist, Archibald Motley.

There were a number of beautiful portraits, including this self-portrait.

But my favorites were the lively narrative pieces depicting African American life in the '20s and '30s. The one below is called "Holy Rollers". ( sorry about the quality of the photo—unavoidable reflections)

Google him if you want a treat.

In another gallery was an exhibit of advertising art from a Chicago company called Valmor that made perfumes and hair pomade and skin-lightening creams and other products. I know I remember these images from my childhood. Surely the use of these products would make one irresistible and one's life perfect! Very fun exhibit.

Across the street from the Cultural Center is Millenium Park where we dragged our tired bodies and found a bench for a breather and a little people-watching. We were rewarded with this little tableau:


We gathered just enough of a second wind to check some of the wonderful features of the park.

Outdoor concert venue designed by Frank Gehry.


"Cloud Gate" (aka "The Bean"), this mirrored sculpture is mind-bendingly fascinating! Photos don't do it justice.

The Crown fountain is delightful.

And this is lovely. Millenium Park is terrific!


A very good day in Chicago. Still more to come.

Today we are driving to Columbus, Ohio and as I write we are somewhere in the middle of Indiana. If you are reading this you will know that we got to Columbus and I was able to connect to the Internet and post. Tomorrow is another driving day and I'll finish up my Chicago pictures.