Tag Archives: travel

Chicago Weekend, Part 2

Start with Part 1, if you haven’t seen it already.

Chris and Veronica

Chris and Veronica

Friday evening was Veronica’s performance at the guitar festival. She and Chris, the guitarist from UW, played first on the festival’s opening concert. I glanced through the program booklet, and I’m pretty sure that Veronica was the only non-guitarist performing all weekend. The two of them did an excellent job – they played two movements of Mauro Giuliani‘s Grand Duo Concertant. I’m looking forward to hearing the whole piece on Chris’s recital in a couple of weeks.

Sue the T-Rex

Sue the T-Rex

On Saturday, we got up relatively early and checked out of the hotel. We were able to leave our bags there while we headed off to the Field Museum. Our main objective at the Field was to see their temporary Real Pirates exhibit. We arrived fairly early, so we were able to breeze right in to both the museum and the pirate exhibit. The exhibit follows the history of the Whydah, a slave ship turned pirate ship. So, it starts out detailing the ship’s participation in the Atlantic slave trade of the early 18th century, then picks up with the story of Sam Bellamy, the pirate captain who captured her in the Caribbean. The exhibit does a good job of explaining the various sorts of lives at sea – those of a slave, a pirate, and a sailor in the King’s navy. The exhibit is peppered with artifacts from the Whydah – cannon, pistols, pieces of eight, etc. The ship sank off Cape Cod in a storm in 1717 and was found by a team led by Barry Clifford in 1984. Partway through the exhibit, I was a little disappointed at the artifact to diorama ratio, but a whole section about the recovery of the ship and conservation of its artifacts set that straight.

We visited the Field a couple of years ago, so many of the exhibits were fresh in our minds. We did go through the dinosaur hall again, though (I’ve always been a dinophile). We also spent some time in a couple of small temporary exhibits, one featuring ancient jewelry from around the Middle East, and another of photographs of the massive Hindu Kumbha Mela pilgrimage. Sadly, we didn’t have the time or energy to see the other big temporary exhibit, The Aztec World.

A Colorful Wall Across the Street From Our Hotel

A Colorful Wall Across the Street From Our Hotel

We made some great food choices throughout our visit, thanks in no small part to the Yelp.com iPhone application. Yelp lets you search for businesses near your current location and provides user-supplied ratings and reviews for them. Aside from the deep-dish pizza we had the first night, we had a delicious breakfast at the Bongo Room, great very fresh sushi at Oysy, and delectable Cuban sandwiches at Cafecito. We even found an impressively stocked independent liquor store where we were able to buy a bottle of Goats Do Roam red and a bar of Ghirardelli dark chocolate, thus bypassing the allure of our hotel room mini-bar.

The only snag in our trip came at the end. When we attempted to purchase our return trip Metra tickets at Union Station, the agent informed us that on the weekend, trains don’t go as far as the station where we’d parked the car. Whoops. We got on the train anyway, figuring we’d find a cab to take us the rest of the way. But, we remembered that our friends Lesley (of Le Triangle d’Or) and Keith were in Elgin that weekend visiting Keith’s family. They agreed to pick us up and ferry us to the other station. Even better than that, they invited us to stay for a delicious dinner with Keith’s parents and sister. So, what appeared to be a snag turned out to be serendipitous!

As usual, click any of the photos above to see the whole gallery.

Posted in needs fixing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Chicago Weekend, Part 1

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry

Last week was our much-needed spring break. Veronica was slated to play at the Mid-America Guitar Ensemble Festival (at Roosevelt University) with a guitarist from UW, so we used that as an excuse to spend a few days in Chicago. We landed a great hotel deal via Hotwire.com and stayed at the Chicago Hilton, which overlooks Grant Park and is walking distance from the Art Institute of Chicago‎, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and lots of other cool stuff. The only downside of our ritzy downtown digs was that parking was $43 bucks a night. So, we parked in Elgin (at a rate of $1.50/night) and took the Metra commuter rail into town.

We rolled into town on Thursday afternoon, hoofed it from Union Station to our hotel, and settled in. For dinner, we hit Lou Malnati’s – a local pizza chain. I have to say that I’ve never been a fan of Chicago-style deep-dish, but this place changed my mind. Our main event for the evening was going to a taping of the NPR news quiz show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” We listen to the show religiously, and had been talking for awhile about seeing it live. We showed up about twenty minutes before the doors opened, and it was already packed. Luckily we’d already bought tickets, so we just joined the throng waiting to enter the auditorium.

The show itself was a blast! The panelists (for this show: Tom Bodett, Kyrie O’Connor, and Paul Provenza), host Peter Sagal, and scorekeeper Carl Kassel came onstage to a darkened room, flashing lights, and the Chicago Bulls’ entrance music. Carl even ran out, waving his arms and high-fiving the panel. The show itself took somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours to record. Quite a bit gets cut before the show airs, but it was all funny. Perhaps the funniest moment was something not written for laughs at all. The bulk of the show’s material was about the current economic crisis, with lots of talk about failing banks and shady deals made by said banks. At the end of one of the show’s segments, Peter started doing his little spiel about the show’s sponsors – one of which is LendingTree.com. When he got to the line “When banks compete, you win,” everyone erupted in laughter. He had to re-do that bit twice to get a laugh-free version.

U-505

U-505

We spent most of Friday at the Museum of Science and Industry, which occupies one of the only remaining buildings from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The museum has lots of cool stuff, and strikes a pretty good balance between activities and exhibits for kids and things for adults. I spent a lot of time marveling at how they got various things into the building: the entire Pioneer Zephyr streamlined train, a Boeing 727, and a German submarine U-505. I especially enjoyed the Transportation Gallery, the U-505, and the exhibit of Ships Through the Ages. The museum was packed with school groups, so we didn’t get to see everything we would have liked to. But, that means we should have plenty of things to see the next time we visit.

A Goose in a Tree!

A Goose in a Tree!

After exiting the museum, we walked all the way around it to see the rest of the building and to look at it across the remnants of the lagoon from the World’s Fair. The building itself is quite cool, with lots of columns, statues, pre-distressed friezes, and domes. See the gallery for more exterior shots and close-ups of some of the architectural detail. As I was taking pictures across the lagoon, Veronica pointed up at a tree – there was a large goose sitting in it! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a goose in a tree before, and one of its companions walking around on the ground seemed confused by it as well.

I’ll continue the story soon. Meanwhile, click any of the photos above to view the rest of the photos from our weekend.

Posted in needs fixing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

San Francisco

Rocks at Sunset

Rocks at Sunset

A couple of weekends ago, my mom and I headed over the mountains to Berkeley (I’d been visiting her in Carson City, NV for Christmas). There had been quite a bit of snow in the preceding days, and although the much of it cleared by the time we set out, the roads weren’t in the greatest shape. We had to periodically merge into a single lane of traffic to make room for heavy-duty snow-clearing machines that were working on pushing back the walls of snow (which were 6-7 feet high in places). Snow and other traffic problems made for a longer-than-normal drive. We arrived in Berkeley Friday evening, and didn’t do much except have dinner and hang out with our hosts – friends David and Francesca and their daughter Maria.

On Saturday, we spent the day mainly shopping in Berkeley. We made a trip to the original Peet’s Coffee and Tea, since I’d never been. We had lunch at Spenger’s, a seafood restaurant and Berkeley fixture that was family-owned until recently. Spenger’s is where I first tasted calamari, and I commemorated this fact by eating a big juicy calamari steak for lunch. We hit a variety of interesting shops around town, including Black Oak Books, The Bone Room, Genova Delicatessen, and Forrest’s Music, a double reed supply company.

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

The whole gang (Francesca, David, Maria, Mom, and me) headed to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with the intent of visiting the new California Academy of Sciences (at left). By the time we arrived, however, the line to merely get in the door was about 2 hours long. So, we decided to visit the adjacent De Young Museum of Art instead. The museum had three special exhibits: Maya Lin’s Systematic Landscapes, a collection of 20th century Asian-American art, and the designs of Yves Saint Laurent. I particularly enjoyed the Maya Lin exhibit – it consisted of a variety of sculptures based on maps and topography. The De Young’s permanent collections were quite interesting, as well. They have quite a range of galleries, split pretty equally between traditional (American, African, and South Pacific) and modern art forms.

Dusk

Dusk

After leaving the museum and the park, we headed to the coast to watch the sunset over Cliff House and the Sutro Baths. I took some time to play with long exposures of the sun setting behind some rocks offshore (above) and the traffic below us (at right). Click any of the thumbnails to view the gallery that includes these photos as well as pics of some of the cooler things at the De Young.

Posted in needs fixing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Nevada Rock Art

When we were visiting my mom in Nevada last month, one of the activities she arranged for us to do was to take a guided tour of Grimes Point Archaeological Area. Grimes Point lies about an hour an a half east of Carson City, near the town of Fallon. For much of the last 10,000 years, a lake existed in the area – making it an attractive place for native peoples to settle. Fluctuating water levels resulted in multiple distinct areas and layers of occupation. Today, the site sits sort of out in the middle of nowhere, with no sizable body of water in the immediate vicinity.

Petroglyphs

Grimes Point has two main draws: Hidden Cave and the Petroglyph Trail. Hidden Cave is only open a couple of times a month, so we’ll have to do that on another trip. The Petroglyph Trail is always open, but we had a special guided tour. I’ve seen petroglyphs in a number of places in Arizona and New Mexico, but never in as high a concentration as there is at Grimes Point. Just about every sizable rock had some sort of rock art on it, and many were practically covered. Some of the oldest petroglyphs (roughly 8,000 years old, I think) have been almost entirely reclaimed by the desert, and are only visible from certain vantage points or in certain light. (Most petroglyphs in the American Southwest are created by scraping the dark patina – known as ‘desert varnish’ – off of rocks. The ‘varnish’ is redeposited over time, meaning that the oldest glyphs are now almost the some color as the surrounding rock.)

We saw quite a range of iconography and techniques. Some of the earliest carvings are deep snake-like grooves and little round depressions known as ‘cupules.’ Later work ranges from seemingly abstract geometric symbol and designs to things that are more obviously representational: animals, people, and the like. Some motifs are similar to glyphs at Petroglyph National Monument and others I’ve seen, but the style is completely different (as one would expect from different cultures living in similar but distant areas). One particular example is the spiral – a motif the seems to be pretty common across the southwest. Spirals I’d seen before have very thin lines, lots of rotations, and are quite compact. The one spiral we saw at Grimes Point was constructed from a very wide line that only makes two-and-a-half or three rotations.

I took lots of photos on our walk, many of them attempts to capture the same glyphs from different angles. I cut the collection down quite a bit, and posted 22 pictures in a gallery. Click any of the photos above to view the whole set.

Posted in needs fixing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Swimming and Shakespeare

When we were in Nevada a few weeks ago, we spent an afternoon and evening at Sand Harbor on Lake Tahoe. It was hot outside, and refreshingly (if initially shockingly) cold in the lake. The water is very clear, although there wasn’t a whole lot to see – near the beach, at least. It was pleasant to go for a swim in a large body of water, dry out on the sandy beach, and realize that I wasn’t covered in either salt or lake sludge.

Stage by the Lake

After we’d had our fill of the beach, we cleaned up and walked over to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival‘s outdoor stage, which has the lake for a backdrop. My mom had gotten us tickets to that evening’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After finding our seats, we sat down to a delicious picnic assembled by the various members of our group. The food was tasty, the venue was gorgeous, and the play was… weird. Most of the Athenians were rich yacht club types (a good fit for many of Tahoe’s summer residents), while the rebellious Hermia and Lysander were goths. The faeries were mostly pseudo native American, except for the token black guy wearing a loincloth and carrying a spear. The mechanicals were a variety of blue-collar workers, with Nick Bottom as a guitar-wielding hot dog vendor.

To these disparate (and never satisfactorily explained) groups was added a bizarre mishmash of music. Nick Bottom came out to The Boss‘s “Born in the USA.” The various songs within the play were sung in rock-ish settings with instruments played by members of the company. Throughout the play, a new-age Navajo — who was often on stage — played so-called “Native American flute.” Perhaps the weirdest thing came at the end. During Puck’s soliloquy (“If we shadows have offended…”) the flutist played and another Indian conducting a smudging ceremony on stage. The whole thing was a hodgepodge of different and largely unconnected directorial directions. But, at least we had plenty to talk about on the ride back down to Carson City.

Posted in needs fixing | Tagged | Leave a comment