More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Isle of Palms Trip 2017 May 15, 2017

Filed under: Travel — dwhren @ 8:24 am

This past week we took what has now become our annual trip to Isle of Palms, SC. This is the third year we’ve gone down there in May. I always have vacation time to use up this time of year, and it’s a good time to take a beach vacation before all the schools let out and the beaches get really busy. Isle of Palms is far enough south that it’s generally been warm enough to go to the beach there even in early May.

We rent a condo at one of the places inside of the Wild Dunes resort. There are a couple of places that have one bedroom condos. There are two sets of condos that I really like because they have screened in porches and if you rent one of the ones on the first level than you can walk right out to the beach from your screened in porch, so I try to find one of those that’s available.

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The screened in porch on our condo.

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View from our screened in porch.

Unlike previous years the weather was pretty much perfect this year. The first year we went there was a freak early tropical storm that brewed up and rained out half our vacation. Last year we had some thunderstorms. This year was great. The first few days were in the high 70s, which was a little chilly for sitting out on the beach, especially since Isle of Palms gets some really strong winds out on the beach. But later in the week it was in the 80s and 90s and it was perfect beach weather.

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Full moon over the ocean.

Everyone keeps asking me what we did on our trip and my answer is I went to the beach. Unless you want to count going out to dinner or the one night we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy as doing something. Other than that spent all my time at the beach. I got up and walked the beach every morning, then sat out there and read or just stared at the water until it was time for lunch. After lunch I went back out for a few more hours until I came back in to get ready to go to dinner.

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The water was really calm while we were there this year, which I think made a big difference in the wildlife I saw. In past years I’ve found lots of sand dollars and other big shells. I found two sand dollars the first day, but nothing after that. There were a lot more people at the beach than there were in the other two years we were there for some reason so it might also be that other people were snatching them up before I found them. It also meant I saw a lot more of various types of sea birds diving for fish because they could easily spot them in the calm waters. I also saw some dolphins one day too.

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As I mentioned, as a barrier island, it gets really windy on Isle of Palms. After trying to use a cheap beach umbrella I bought at the grocery store for the past two years and giving up pretty much every day because it was too windy for the umbrella to handle I decided I was going to go properly prepared this year. There’s a rental company on Isle of Palms that rents beach chairs and umbrellas. I noticed that the umbrellas they rented had no problems standing up to the wind, so I wanted to find a professional grade beach umbrella for myself. I found it slightly painful to shell out $200 for a beach umbrella I’ll only use once a year, but I figured if I was renting one I would spending that much in two years anyway. I’m very happy I spent the money because it worked out perfectly. No more umbrella blowing away or breaking on me in the wind this year. After looking I’m pretty sure that the umbrella I bought is actually the same as the umbrellas they rent aside from the color and branding.

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As usual we had some delicious food while we were there. We went back to our two favorite places: Acme Low Country Kitchen, which is the only place on Isle of Palms itself that we’ve found worth eating at, and Crave which is just over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant. We also tried a new to us place called Graze that I really liked though it’s on the far side of Mt. Pleasant so a bit of a trek to get to. We also went into Charleston for a fancy dinner at the Charleston Grille one night. The final night we tried another new to us place called Opal, which I was not a big fan of.

As usual it was a wonderful, relaxing week at the beach. I wish I could go more often. Both the place we stayed in last year and the place we stayed in this year appear to be on the market, so if anyone has an extra $400,000 lying around they want to give me I’ll take it. Since I don’t think that’s going to happen I’ll just look forward to going back and renting a place again next year.

 

Nashville Music Trip May 1, 2017

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Travel — dwhren @ 7:47 am

Reader, you may remember back when I wrote about my concert venue bucket list. If you don’t, no matter because my husband remembered it and bought me tickets to see Dawes at the Ryman Auditorium for Christmas. That of course necessitated a trip to Nashville. For some silly reason Paul had in his head that we would just take a quick overnight trip to see the show and then come home. I on the other hand was like why would we go all the way to Nashville and only stay for one night? Not only are there multiple other concert venues on my bucket list in Nashville, but I’d never really been to the city before. I was there once for a night when I was high school and went to look at Vanderbilt on a college tour. I didn’t really do anything in the city itself, so I was also interested in having time to check out what the city had to offer.

Adding to the fun of the trip, in looking for places to stay on Airbnb, I discovered that the person who owns the house they used as Deacon’s house on the tv show Nashville rents out an apartment built into the attic of it. I couldn’t resist getting to stay in Deacon’s house, so that’s what we did. The house they used in the first season where Scarlett, Avery, Gunner, and Luke all lived in various configurations was right next door. We also happened by where they shoot the Highway 65 offices when we were walking around downtown, so we had a whole little unintended Nashville location tour.

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The house they used as Deacon’s house in the TV show Nashville. We staying in an apartment in the top of it.

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Deacon has a pretty nice back yard.

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The house used to film Scarlett, Gunner, Avery, and Luke’s house in the early seasons of Nashville

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The space they used to film Highway 65 Records in the TV show Nashville

Aside from it being really fun to say that I stayed at Deacon’s house, it was a really great location too. It was in East Nashville just over the Cumberland River from downtown and a few blocks from the Titans stadium. It was just a little over a mile to walk from the house into downtown, which we did during the day. The neighborhood has definitely been gentrifying over the past decade or so. We felt plenty safe walking around in the light, but between the footbridge over the river and our house was the dark area by the stadium and a not well lit public housing unit so we were a little wary walking to downtown after dark. We had a rental car so we just drove over instead. It probably would have been fine, but without really knowing the area we didn’t want to do anything stupid. There were several decent little restaurants within walking distance. We pretty much stuck in East Nashville for our meals. It was a perfect place for me to stay. Convenient to everything we were doing, but out of the crazy fray of downtown. I don’t even want to think about all the drunken bachelor and bachelorette partiers we would have been contending with in a hotel downtown.

We flew in Thursday afternoon. I had been hoping to go the Bluebird Cafe on Thursday night, but it was not meant to be. Usually there are two shows a night, but they were closed for a private event earlier in the evening and thus there was only a late show even further limiting our chances of getting tickets. It will be a good excuse to go back to Nashville again some day, but the fact that the tickets don’t go on sale until the week prior makes it difficult to actually plan and not pay last minute for everything.

I’m really happy with what we wound up doing Thursday night instead. We wound up at City Winery seeing Uncle Earl and I Draw Slow. Uncle Earl is an old-time bluegrass sort of band made up of KC Groves, Kristin Andreassen, Abigail Washburn, Rayna Gellert. I already knew I liked Abigail Washburn, so was curious to see what this band was. They formed in the early-2000s, but aren’t really an active band at the moment. They joked up their one night world tour. They were a super lot of fun. The music was great, and I happen to appreciate that they were very much sort of stumbling through the set not knowing song orders or who was supposed to be standing where because they were just back together for the night. They had great rapport with the audience and the whole thing was just a lot of fun.

I Draw Slow is an Irish band who plays Irish folk and Bluegrass music. They were also really wonderful. I had not ever heard of them prior to this concert, but I really love their music and will definitely be listening to them more. They just released their third album, and this was their album release show in Nashville. I really liked how they explained the story of each song and what influenced them to write it before playing. I always like that kind of insight into the music I’m hearing. I definitely recommend checking them out.

Friday morning we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I very much enjoyed it. It reminded me about all the things I love about country music even though I could pretty much do without most mainstream country music at the moment. The special Brad Paisley exhibit made me realize that I hate every Brad Paisley song I know except for his duet with Alison Krauss. There was also a special exhibit that’s there until the end of the year on Bob Dylan and how his work in Nashville on the Blonde on Blonde album (obviously the 50th anniversary of it being the reason for this exhibit) influenced other non-country artists to record in Nashville. It was interesting, but it was really large in comparison to the rest of the museum and by the end I was a little mad that I spent so much time reading about Bob Dylan in a museum about country music. I thought the exhibit on session musicians was really well done though. They had a little areas for each one where you could step in, read about who the musician was, what he played, and then listen to a sampling of songs that musician played on. I can’t say how much interest the museum would hold for anyone who is not a fan of country music, but I loved it.

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If you’ve ever paid any attention to music related posts here, you should know I love Jason Isbell so much. Thus I was very happy to see this display in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

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Display of one of the session musicians in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Friday afternoon we did a tour of the Ryman Auditorium. I’m not sure I think it was worth the $20, but I certainly learned a lot about the space and it did give me a new appreciation for it going into the concert we saw there on Saturday. We also walked around downtown a little. I got off of Broadway as quickly as possible and tried to avoid it for the rest of our trip. It like Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Sixth Street in Austin is full of crowded bars, loud music, and horrible crowds of drunk people. It may be what a lot of people go to Nashville for, but it is 100% my nightmare. We didn’t step one foot into any of those bars, and I was happy to get far away from the packs of bachelor and bachelorette parties roaming everywhere.

Friday night we had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. Oddly enough some of my friends from Baltimore were also in Nashville this past weekend to run the Rock N Roll Marathon and were also at the Opry on Friday night. I loved the Opry. I love when music has a sense of history and everyone is aware of it and it informs what they are doing on stage. The Opry with its nightly mix of new and old country and bluegrass artists is nothing about that. Plus with every artist getting only two songs it’s really about the show as a whole rather than any single artist playing. Old Crow Medicine Show was the “headliner” so they got three songs. I very much appreciate them saying that someone (I forget who) told them if you’re given the honor to play the Opry you should play the song that got you there, so they of course ended on “Wagon Wheel”, which is always some sing-a-long fun. Josh Turner, who has an amazingly deep voice, was probably the other biggest current name on the bill. I however was especially excited to see Pam Tillis. I adored her back in the 90s when they actually allowed female artists to be played on mainstream country radio stations. Getting to see her made my 90s country loving heart very happy. I also very much loved one of the old-time bluegrass bands I hadn’t heard of before playing “Rocky Top”, which is a bluegrass standard and something I have wonderful memories of from my childhood. It was an excellent evening and definitely lived up to and exceeded my expectations.

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Paul and I at the Grand Ole Opry

It turns out that the marathon I mentioned earlier ran within a block of the house were staying at and right by the restaurant we ate breakfast at on Saturday morning. We didn’t intend to watch any of the race, but right as we were leaving the restaurant it became apparent that the male leader was about to round the bend to where we were at about mile 20. We decided to stay and cheer him on and then wound up sticking around for about an hour to cheer on some of the other racers until I decided it was getting too hot and sunny for me to be standing about with no sunscreen on. It was a terrible day for a marathon. They even moved the start time up 2 hours because of the predicted heat and humidity.

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The male leader of the Rock N Roll Marathon running by

Our actual agenda for the day was to go the Hermitage. It was a little bit more difficult to do then it should have been because of the marathon. It’s really hard to navigate around a city you don’t know when there’s a marathon going on. Knowing streets are blocked off is only so useful if you don’t know the way to get around them and Google only wants to tell you to go the ways that are closed. We made it there eventually though.

The Hermitage, in case you don’t know, was Andrew Jackson’s estate. Apparently not everyone even knows who that is. I stupidly read the post-it comment wall they had at the end of the exhibit for people to say what they learned about Andrew Jackson or thought about him. Someone posted that they learned he was the president. Anyway, there is a museum exhibit that walks you through a lot of information leading up to Jackson’s presidency and information about his personal life with actually very little about his presidency itself. If you were wondering what they would say about the Trail of Tears, the answer is not really anything. There was enough there that seems way to relevant to today, but this isn’t a political blog post so we’re just moving on. You also get a guided tour of the house itself and an audio tour that goes with various markers at other places around the grounds. It’s worth visiting if you’re in the area.

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The Hermitage

On our way back from the Hermitage we stopped at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. I had heard many people talking about this ice cream, so figured while we were in the area we should try it. It was good, but I’m not sure that it lived up to the hype for me. Probably because I have The Charmery right down the street from me.

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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – Half Almond Brittle, Half Brambleberry Crumble

Saturday night was the Dawes concert at the Ryman Auditorium. They were excellent as always. They played all my favorite songs, which they don’t always do. Of course this set was literally three hours long, so it was going to be pretty hard for them not to play all my favorite songs. They ended the evening playing “All Your Favorite Bands”, which was the absolute perfect song to end the night. They stopped playing for the final chorus, put their instruments down, and stood and watched the crowd as we sang it to them. I’ve seen them do this with various songs at any number of concerts now, and I will never stop loving the look of awe and wonderment Taylor Goldsmith gets on his face every time. The fact that the still gets so much joy and to some degree still seems surprised that the crowd knows his songs makes me so happy.

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Dawes at the Ryman

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Taylor Goldsmith playing an acoustic solo song.

The Ryman was an excellent place to see a concert. I could have done without the obnoxious Baby Boomer guy in front of me. I routinely find Baby Boomers to be the worst concert goers. This guy insisted to me multiple times before the concert started that as soon as the lights went down I was required to stand up for the entire concert. Yeah, no man. My back can’t take standing for 3 hours right now, and I don’t need to tell you that for you to leave me alone and not turn around and gesture for me to stand up whenever I was sitting down. It would have been one thing if I insisted he sit down because he was blocking my view, but that was not the case. Aside from him and his equally obnoxious friend who was sitting behind me who kept yelling loudly things like “Testify” at the stage, it was an excellent show and I enjoyed it very much.

It was a wonderful weekend, and I’m so happy to have gotten to check a few places off of my concert venue bucket list with three excellent nights of live music.

 

New York Theatre Trip March 2, 2017

Filed under: Friends,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 8:18 pm

There are approximately 1000 shows currently on Broadway or set to open soon. There is sadly no way I’ll get to see them all, but I decided to take a trip to New York to mark at least a couple off my list. I get way more vacation time than my husband, so I decided I’d take a few days off work and take a mid-week solo trip up to see a Tuesday night show and Wednesday matinee. Hotel rooms in NYC mid-week at the end of February are fairly reasonable, and it turns out we had enough points on our credit card to pay for my hotel that way anyway.

Thanks to the credit card points I actually wound up staying at the Doubletree Suites in Times Square because it was the best deal with the best location for what I was doing. I really didn’t need a suite to myself especially just for one night, but I pretended I was all fancy for a night. The hotel was a perfect location and I was surprised at how quiet it was at least where my room was located. No usual traffic noises keeping me awake. The hotel itself could use a little updating. It was looking a little tired, but the bed was comfortable enough so I don’t have any real complaints.

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My suite. I even had 2 sinks in the bathroom.

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View from my hotel room.

I took the train up on Tuesday afternoon. Happily it worked out that for reasons both my friends in NYC were not at work during my trip so I got to steal them away to meet up. Tuesday night I met up with one at the bar in an Italian restaurant for called Casa Nonna for an early happy hour dinner. It was great to catch up with her in person and enjoy some delicious pizza.

After that I headed to the newly renovated and reopened Hudson Theatre for Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford. Sunday in the Park with George is one of those classic Sondheim musicals that I had never seen, but always felt like I should so I was super happy when this production came around and it started getting such good buzz. I immediately put it at the top of my list of shows to see given its limited run. It was great. Turns out Jake Gyllenhaal can sing. Who knew? He made an excellent Georges Seurat. Despite her Broadway bona fides this is the first show I’ve seen Annaleigh Ashford in as well, so I’m glad I finally got to see her perform too. The theatre itself was beautifully restored, though I suspect they’re soon going to regret their decision to serve wine in actual wine glasses instead of the normal Broadway sippy cups given the cream colored velvet seat covers.

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Wednesday morning I of course got myself a bagel for breakfast and then took a walk on the High Line. I’d walked part of it in the past but not the whole thing. I figured it would be a good way to get my steps in for the day. Scenes from the High Line:

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In the afternoon I met up with another friend for lunch and then we went to see Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 together. The reviews for this show had been really great and my boss who also sees a lot of Broadway shows but doesn’t care that much for musicals told me she loved it, so that’s why it was also one of my top choices of shows to see. I’m definitely glad I saw it on Broadway because there is no way it’s going to translate into a touring production even remotely close to what it is now. The staging is set up in such a way that the actors are everywhere in the audience a lot of the time with staircases from the stage leading up into the Mezzanine. There’s no way they’ll be able to do that on a tour. There’s lots of seating on the stage as well, which will also be something can only be approximated to a degree.

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The show itself is based on War and Peace, which is something I’ve never read so I have no idea how faithful the storyline was. Condensing a book that long into a Broadway show I’m sure results in a lot of cuts. I certainly felt the story lacking in certain places. Entire plot threads seem to show up in a song and then just completely disappear. The overarching love story was the heart of the show and made sense to me, but most everything else including Pierre and the Great Comet left me slightly confused. It’s a sung through musical, which I’m not sure I realized going in. It made me wish I had listened to the cast recording ahead of time as I know I always miss things when they’re solely in song form on first go around. At any rate none of that really mattered because it’s just such a fun production full of delightful dancing and costumes and hey did you know that guy Josh Groban can really sing? There were a lot of fun audience interaction touches too. At one point the second act they pass around Great Comet branded rhythm eggs for people to shake along to the song. Now I have a little souvenir from the show I can annoy everyone with. If you’re thinking about seeing a Broadway show I would definitely recommend this one because it is a really good time and you’re never going to get the same experience from a touring production.

It was an excellent trip. I’m really glad I decided to plan it for myself. Everything worked out perfectly. I should probably do it again some time.

 

Thanksgiving 2016 November 26, 2016

Filed under: Family,Life,Movies,Travel — dwhren @ 6:52 pm

For the past several years we’ve done Thanksgiving in New York with my husband’s family and Christmas in Arizona with my family. This my sister is going to her in-law’s in Boston for Christmas, so we decided to switch things up and go out there for Thanksgiving. The only way to make the trip affordable was to take vacation time on Monday and Tuesday and fly out the Saturday before and then come back the day after Thanksgiving.

My nieces are 8 (as of December 13) and 4 1/2, which are really fun ages. I spent a lot of time playing with them and thank god didn’t have to play Barbies one single time. The only time they were playing Barbies while I was there my youngest niece told me to go away and I gladly did.

On Tuesday while my husband and sister were working and my nieces were at school, I went on a hike in Catalina State Park with my parents. We did the Romero Pools trail, which was definitely one of the more difficult trails I’ve hiked between the rise in elevation and how rocky it was. We were kind of lame and turned back probably about .2 of  mile before we got to the pools. Once we reached the top of the ridge and realized we were going to start going down the other side of the mountain and thus were going to have to hike back up it again we decided to turn around. We had already hiked 5 miles, so I didn’t feel too bad about it. My husband, father, and I also did a quick 3 mile hike nearby where they live on Thanksgiving morning. It was a piece of cake compared to the other one we did.

Wednesday we took the kids to see Moana (or rather I really wanted to see Moana and suggested that we go). I enjoyed it and could definitely tell that Lin Manuel Miranda wrote the music for it, which was really the best part of the movie in my opinion.

We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for which I was roped into making a pumpkin carrot cake. Since I’m more likely to make a cake than a pie, I decided to make straight up pumpkin pie my dessert and only tried a bite of the cake. It pretty much tasted like carrot cake for the most part, which is not a bad thing since it’s one of my favorite desserts. I’m not sure I’d bother with the pumpkin version of it again. There was lots of other delicious food and fun times with my family and friends.

It was a fun trip and it went by way too fast.

 

Me in NYC November 7, 2016

Filed under: Family,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 9:15 am

As is probably apparent by now I travel up to New York City fairly frequently. Usually I’m going up with my husband and we’re visiting his sister, her husband, and our niece and nephew. We usually take in a show while we’re there too, but the rest of our activities on those trips are rightfully dictated by what will keep two small children entertained. If I happen to be there not visiting family I’m usually doing the slightly crazy trip to see a show with friends in which we go up in the morning, get up to the city in enough to time grab lunch, see a matinee, grab dinner, and then head back to Baltimore. There’s not really much time to do anything else in those ventures. So there’s just a lot of things that the city has to offer that I never have a chance to do when I’m there.

Now that my husband’s office is technically in NYC even though he works from home it now makes sense to occasionally go up so he can go into the office and I can tag along and play by myself in the city. Our holiday plans got all switched around this year, so we’re not going to NYC for Thanksgiving like we normally do. I really wanted to see Sweet Charity, which has a limited run, so I told my husband we needed to go up another weekend in November. He said if that’s the case let’s go on a Friday so I can go into work and you can do whatever you want.

After I derided it in my post about London, New York decided to finally offer me a beautiful fall weekend while I was there. We took the train up on Friday morning. The first thing on my agenda was an exhibit at the New York Public Library’s Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center about shows that have won both Tony Awards and Olivier Awards (London’s West End equivalent to the Tony’s). Since the weather was nice I decided to walk up to Lincoln Center from Penn Station.

The exhibit was great. It’s not crazy huge since it’s in a library not a museum, but I’m glad I went. They had lots of things from shows including footage from them and interviews with actors playing on televisions, lots of costumes, stage notes, production designs, etc. If you like theatre and you have a little time to kill I’d recommend it.

After that my plan was to head over to the Upper East Side to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I don’t think I’ve ever been to. Though it’s possible I went as a kid with my family and I don’t remember. Getting there involved walking across Central Park, which wound up being slightly more complicated than I anticipated. The New York marathon was this weekend, and knowing nothing about it I managed to walk across the park at pretty much the exact spot where the finish line for the course is. This was Friday and the actual marathon wasn’t until Sunday, but apparently there were some kind of kids events going on Friday and a ton of kids were running to the finish line right when I got there. Getting through the crowds to get on the opposite side of the finish line so I could continue across the park was really annoying.

My plan was to eat lunch before going into the museum, and I almost stopped and outdoors at a Le Pain Quotidien in the middle of the park. They had a nice little patio I could have sat on and stared out at the park on a lovely fall day, but I decided I would prefer to find something non-chain to eat at. Big mistake! I wound up coming out of the park much farther north than I anticipated due to my race detour, and there was pretty much nothing around in terms of places to eat. I had one option, which was E.A.T., which I guess is fairly well known restaurant that I had no idea about and in retrospect I was annoyed at having to eat at. If there was literally anything else around I probably would have gotten up and walked out after I was handed the menu and I saw the prices. Those fancy pants Upper East Side New Yorkers might think it’s reasonable to pay $24 for a grilled cheese sandwich, but I do not. Aside from a small bowl of soup that cost $12 everything else that was literally just some regular types sandwiches were $22 or more. At least the soup came with a basket of bread, so it did wind up amounting to a decent lunch even though I was annoyed by the whole experience.

I spent the next four hours wandering around The Met, which is really, really large. I didn’t even come close to seeing everything. I specifically wanted to see the exhibit they had on Jerusalem: 1000-1400, which had a lot of artifacts from the city in that time period most of them having to do in some way with the three major religions that consider that city their Holy Land. There were a lot of illuminated manuscripts, but also all kinds of other stuff including pieces of buildings, weapons, pottery, tapestries, and other artwork. The other exhibit I didn’t set out to see but wandered into was Valentin de Boulogne, who was a French painter in the 1600s. Turns out I really like his work, so I’m glad I got to see that exhibit. I didn’t make a good plan for the rest of the museum, and I always get so confused in museums because there are entrances and exits on 3 or 4 sides of every room and I never know which way to go. So I saw a random amalgamation of things ranging from Egyptian artifacts, literal rooms from houses and hotels with fancy furniture and decorations that were removed from their original locations and installed in the museum, and I think most of the modern art.

After the Met, I met up with a friend who lives in New York for dinner before meeting up with my husband to see Sweet Charity. It’s not particularly one of my favorite shows, but this off-Broadway production is starring Sutton Foster who I really like. I knew from having seen a previous production of the show that there were a lot of instrumental interludes in the music that involved a lot of dancing. In my memory, which we have recently established is very faulty, I thought there was a lot of tap dancing which I love and which Sutton Foster is great at (I probably shouldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched videos of her tap dancing in Anything Goes on YouTube). I don’t know if this production is just different or I remembered wrong about what kind of dancing was in the show the last time I saw it, but there was only one really short tap number this time though of course still lots of other dancing. I’ve never been to an off-Broadway show before, so that was kind of fun and it was nice to be in such a small house and be so close to the stage. I’ll never be rich enough to afford tickets that close on Broadway, not even in Baltimore really. It’s still not one of my favorite shows, but I definitely enjoyed it more this time than the first time I saw it.

On Saturday we took my niece and nephew to the National Museum of Mathematics, aka MoMath. It seemed like they had a good time, but as an adult I can tell you it’s a pretty lame museum on top of which half of the interactive exhibits were broken. There were an awful lot of out of order signs on things in a place that isn’t all that big to begin with. For the things that did work their signage did not really give very good explanations about what you were supposed to go or what mathematical concept was being applied. I’m glad the kids had fun, but overall I give two thumbs down that museum and would not recommend it. We then had to race back home to get the kids to their swimming lesson on time. After that we took our niece to one of those paint your own pottery places. Then it was pretty much time for us to catch our train home. All in all an excellent couple of days in New York doing some things I don’t normally do.

 

London Trip Part 4 October 13, 2016

Filed under: Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 8:37 am

On Saturday morning we headed down to Greenwich. I had been before, but my husband had not and this was the one thing he said he wanted to do on our trip. In the ongoing theme of this trip that my memory is terrible, not only did I not really remember anything about Greenwich, what I did remember was apparently completely wrong. I have a vivid memory of standing on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory in a grassy area. There is no indication of the line in a grassy area. It’s on a brick patio that seemed not at all familiar to me. I didn’t remember anything from the Royal Observatory museum either. I guess it’s good because it made it more interesting.

As you’ve probably gathered by now the Prime Meridian was founded at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and is the genesis of Greenwich Mean Time, which helped standardize time and navigation. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich was previously the home and workplace of the Royal Astronomer, but it has since moved elsewhere. Now it is just a museum.

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Royal Observatory

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Standing on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory

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View of London from the Royal Observatory. I was all about the views of London this trip.

In addition to the Royal Observatory Greenwich has an old Naval College and the British Maritime Museum. We walked around the grounds of both but didn’t go inside either. It’s also a cute little town with a small little market that we wandered through. In looking for off the beaten path things to do in London I stumbled on Goddard’s Pie and Mash shop, which has been in business in Greenwich since 1890. We went there for lunch and it was quite tasty. It almost made up for the terrible fish and chips I ate the day before.

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Steak and Ale pie and mash

We also discovered a footpath built under the Thames between Greenwich and Island Gardens that was built for dockworkers to get to work replacing an old ferry. We walked back and forth because I was curious and thought it would be fun to say that I had walked both over and under the Thames during our trip.

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View of the British Maritime Museum from across the Thames in Island Gardens

After lunch we headed back into London. At that point we had exhausted all the things we had specifically put on our itinerary for the trip. We eventually settled on the Museum of London, which I had very much enjoyed the last time I was there and that my husband had never been to. It’s free now aside from their special exhibit, which was not the case last time I was there. I still think it’s a neat little museum, but I also understood my husband’s point that if you know the basics of British history you’re not really going to learn anything.

Without any set plans for the evening I decided we should check out what was available from the TKTS booth and see another show. We settled on something called Murder Ballad, which had like the show we saw on Friday, had previously been off-Broadway. It only had middling reviews, but since it was only 90 minutes and we had to get up at 5 am to catch our flight we decided to go with it. Even though the theatre is in the West End, it’s not one of the grand theatres. It’s in a place called the Arts Theatre, a small 350 venue whose entrance and box office is actually in the middle of the Madd Hatter’s Cafe. The show itself is a musical about a love triangle that ends in a murder as the title would suggest. It was as the reviews indicated a sort of middling show, but I’m not sorry we went.

Prior to the show we tried to get dinner at a well-reviewed Indian restaurant nearby. One of the things on my list was to eat Indian food when we were in London. It didn’t work out as the restaurant literally had a line down the block and we didn’t have time to wait in it. We wound up eating at Wagamama’s instead. I tend to try and avoid chains when traveling, but since Wagamama’s is a London-based chain I enjoyed eating at when I lived there and their only existing location in the US is in Boston nowhere near me I don’t feel too bad. I don’t know whatever happened to the DC location that was supposed to open. Either it never did or it closed really quickly. It appears a New York location should be opening soon based on their website.

Sadly that concluded our too-short, but wonderful trip to London. We had to head out early on Sunday morning. Even though we left on time we got into Toronto 30 minutes late. Our connection was always going to be tight and with that 30 minutes gone Air Canada preemptively rebooked us on a flight back to Baltimore that left 4 hours later than our original flight. I was really not happy thinking I was going to have spend 4 extra hours in the airport. Luckily though we had no checked bags and were able to get through both Candian and US customs and the security checkpoint we had to go through fairly quickly. We basically ran to our original gate in hopes that we could get rebooked onto our original flight. I was slightly worried our seats might have been given to standby passengers, but happily everything worked out and we got home as originally planned.

It was  great trip that reminded me of all the reasons I adore London. It made me wish that I could get there more often.

 

London Trip Part 3 October 12, 2016

Filed under: Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 7:54 am

In addition to going to the theatre, the one thing I said I wanted to go on this trip was to go to the Tate Modern museum, which was still in the process of being built the last time I was in London. So that’s what we planned to do on Friday morning. Funnily enough our hotel was pretty much right next door to the Tate Britain but we never went this trip. I spent lots of time there for the art history course I took while studying in London though, so I didn’t feel like I missed out this time.

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The Tate Modern Museum

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View of St. Paul’s from the other side of the Thames in front of the Tate Modern Museum

The Tate Modern was built in the old Bankside Power Station. The museum is split in two parts with one side being the old Switch House and one being the Boiler House. There is an incredible view of the city from the top of the Switch House. The museum is free aside from special exhibitions. There were three going on while we were there, but we opted not to pay to go in any of them. I had never heard of two of the artists and we had seen a lot of Georgia O’Keefe in New Mexico and didn’t feel like paying £20 to see more.

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Selfie with the view from the top of the Tate Modern Museum

We wound up spending a lot more time in the museum than I anticipated. We pretty much covered the whole thing while were there. We did the galleries in the Switch House and then decided to go out and grab lunch before doing the other half of the museum. We went to a pub that we passed on the way to the museum where I sadly had the single worst fish and chips I’ve ever eaten. I’m still mad about it. I was counting on some delicious fish and chips while were there. After lunch we headed back and did the other half of the museum.

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This fish and chips may look delicious, but don’t let it fool you. It was terrible.

I admit I’m someone who doesn’t always “get” modern art. There were definitely some of the things that have come to symbolize modern art like singular colored shapes or what appears essentially be a blank canvas because it’s painted white. That really was not the majority of the collection though and wasn’t the stuff I don’t get. I have decided what really does nothing for me is the sort of performance art videos that play on a loop. Those are definitely not for me.

There were a number of things I really enjoyed though. They had some great collections about the intersection of art and culture and art and social issues that I loved. They also have several Picassos and I enjoyed seeing the series of Rothko paintings that inspired the play Red.

After we left the Tate Modern we walked across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, which obviously was also not there yet when I was last in London in 1998. Then we headed over to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus because I wanted to hit up some of the cheesy tourist shops. I collect Christmas ornaments as souvenirs and was sure I’d be able to find one there. I was not wrong. We then wound up walking over to Covent Garden as well to kill some time before heading to dinner and the theatre.

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View of the Tower Bridge while walking across the Millennium Bridge

It took me a long time to figure out what show I wanted to see while we were in London. Too much of the stuff in the West End right now is stuff I’ve already seen on Broadway or that I didn’t care about, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and No Man’s Land starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, the two shows I wanted to see were sold out. I thought we might just see what was available at the TKTS booth after we got there, but a few days before we left I managed to pick something based purely on the venue, which wasn’t even in the West End.

I was looking through a list of off the beaten path things to do in London and stumbled across Wilton’s Music Hall, which bills itself as the oldest grand music hall in the world. I decided to see what was playing there during our trip, and conveniently it turned out to be a theatre production of Floyd Collins: The Musical. I looked up the reviews and they were all raves, so I was sold.

The show is based on a true story of a Kentucky man who liked to explore caves and got stuck in a cave. The rescue mission became a huge nationwide story in 1925 before a cave collapse ultimately doomed Collins to death a few weeks after he first got stuck. I enjoyed it and was happy with my choice. The production itself was great, though there were some parts of a couple of the songs that I thought went on too long. I’m sure most people in the audience were British and thus didn’t think about the accents, but as an American I was kind of amused by some of the very British sounding Kentucky accents. I appreciated the experience of going to an off-West End production in a historic space that’s not just some ornate theatre that you would be hard pressed to distinguish from any other ornate theatre.