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Our Anniversary Museum Adventure

5 Apr

I just love museums!   In fact for our wedding anniversary, my husband agreed to a museum crawl. He took the day off from work for this adventure.  I did think of him when I planned our visits.  First, none of these museum took more than 60-90 minutes to visit.  Second, two of the three were a quick drive from our home. Third, they all were either new, newly renovated, and he had not visited. Finally, they had exhibits that I knew would interest, inform and entertain.

First was the new “Medicine’s Hall of Fame and Museum” in Shawnee, Kansas.  This museum was founded by Bruce Hodges, MD, with items he has collected over the years both medical and from his trips to Africa where he provided medical care.

Asthma and allergy remedies.

I knew this building well because for many years it housed the Johnson County Museum. It was exciting to see that it had been repurposed into a new museum.  I was sure my husband would enjoy it, as he is a physician.  And I was right.  My first choice was a pleasant surprise for both of us.  Included in the displays were many old remedies for allergies and asthma.  Perfect for my husband as he is a pediatric allergist, who treats asthma as well.

Other items we enjoyed were the two Iron Lung machines that treated patients with polio.  I had seen one for an adult before, but the one for a child surprised me.  But of course, children needed them as well.  We enjoyed the room set up as an early pharmacy with the original desk and many bottles and boxes displaying old medicines.  Military filed kits, Native American medicine bags and lots of items that were used by quack doctors over the years. 

It provided us with a fun hour of information. 

From there we drove to Overland Park, Kansas, where the Johnson County Musuem moved in 2016.  I still remember when they moved the first ‘electric house’ in Kansas to the museum, closing down roads and moving power lines.  The house is actually enclosed in the museum.  Although I had been to this museum many times since its move, my husband has not been to it since the move.  As, I said, I planned this day with him in my mind.

I also wanted to go because there was an exhibit on redlining, which was the way realtors kept people to separate areas enforcing segregation in a way that people did not realize. I was shocked.  The realtors not only redlined, they earmarked some areas blue and green for white Christians.  Yellow areas were for Jews, Italians, people of middle eastern descent and others.  While Redlined areas were for Blacks and Hispanics.  If you went to a realtor, they would only show you a house in an area that you FIT.  Horrible.  And worse is that it basically became federal policy as well during the Great Depression. 

The realtors also would add to fear and distress in a neighborhood if a black couple or someone different moved in, leading to white people fleeing neighborhoods.  My husband experienced this in St. Louis when he was a child.  He grew up in University City area, which was mainly Jewish.  Then as black families moved in, he remembers a realtor telling his parents that they should sell and move out.

“Redlined: Cities, Suburbs, Segregation” will be at the museum until January 2023.

Corinthian Hall!

Our final museum visit occurred a few days later.   We traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to visit the newly renovated Kansas City Museum in Corinthian Hall.  When our children were young, it was the Science and Natural History Museum.  I remember the dioramas in the back building as my children loved them. The museum is totally different now, although the lovely stained glass windows are still visible.

The ice cream parlor!

The museum now displays exhibits about the history of Kansas City on the top floor, also talking about Redlining!  While on the main floor several rooms of this 112-year-old mansion have been renovated to look back into the past when it was a home. I am glad that when they did the renovations, one important room remained, my children’s favorite from years ago, the ice cream parlor, which will be open this summer.  YUM!

It was great to see this building coming back to life.   I also understand that they plan to renovate the other buildings on the property as well.  It has a magnificent view of the city. 

While there we saw our first of the 100 hearts that were designed by artists and placed throughout the metro.  I have now seen two of the hearts, and I hope to see many more!

https://www.medicineshalloffame.com/

https://jcprd.com/330/Museum

https://theparadeofhearts.com/hearts/

A Pleasant Evening At Phoenix’s First Synagogue

25 Mar

I try to find something related to my love of Judaism wherever I travel.  This time, I did not have to look, as a group we meet with held its annual dinner at the Cutler Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center in Phoenix.   The Center is housed in what was the first synagogue in Phoenix, which gave me joy.  It mixed my love of history with my search for Jewish sites.

The two buildings have Spanish vibe.  They made me think of the Alamo!  In fact, the buildings were designed in a Spanish mission style when they were built in 1922 for the new Congregation Beth Israel, the first synagogue in Phoenix.  At its start it catered to all Jewish families in the area and did not have a permanent rabbi until the 1930s.

The original synagogue buildings.

The buildings hosted several congregations over the years.  By 1949, the Jewish community had moved out of the Phoenix downtown, and the synagogue was eventually sold to the First Chinese Baptist Church.  They held services there from 1951 until 1981. From 1981to 2002 it was the home of the Iglesia Bautista Central Baptist Church.

But in 2002, the Jewish community purchased the buildings to become the Arizona Jewish Historical Society’s headquarters.  Restoration of the buildings started in 2008.In the smaller building is a museum dedicated to the history of the Jewish community and the building.   Among the interesting artifacts in the museum is a violin that survived the Shoah. It was buried during the war, and recovered afterwards.  It is on loan thanks to the daughter of the survivor.

The larger building, which once was where services were held, now is a social hall with a stage. When they renovated the building, they found the area on the back wall of the stage where the Torahs were kept in the Aron Kodesh.   The area was covered again, and now the stage is set for community events.  I found it fascinating to find out that when the synagogue was built there were only 120 Jewish people in Phoenix.  There are now over 80,000 and 30 Jewish congregations in the great Phoenix area!

The event venue is open to the community.  Besides the indoor space, there is a lovely garden area where we had our dinner and music.  I had a great time both exploring the history of Phoenix’s Jewish community and enjoying the lovely outdoor space.

This is a quick museum visit, but the Historical Society does have an archive of materials about the Jewish community and holds programs at the site.  They are planning to build a Center for Hope, Humanity and Holocaust Education building on the grounds. If you live in Phoenix, I would advise you to join to get information on upcoming programs! Also the exhibits change and there are online exhibits!

https://www.azjhs.org/

Chihuly Double Dose

19 Mar

I do love Chihuly.  So when we were in Phoenix recently, I was delighted to learn that there was not one, but two, Chilhuly exhibits in town.  Luckily for me, my friends were willing and interested in an adventure,  seeing both exhibits in  one day! 

Friday, February 25, was Chilhuly Day for us in Phoenix. We purchased our tickets in advanced.  The morning was devoted to the “Chihuly In The Desert” at the Desert Botanical Gardens, where the art often imitated the nearby cacti.  The late afternoon was devoted to a tour of Frank Llyod Wright’s Taliesin West and the Chihuly pieces chosen to fit this unique architectural site.

I had been to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix many years ago.  Even then, there were a few Chilhuly pieces at the entrance.  But I had only seen a small part of the gardens. Since I came with a group, we were kept close by on the paths near the front.  This time my friends and I walked the entire grounds!!!  We saw everything that was outside; the Apache household and native crops; the cactus and succulent galleries; the Agave yucca forest and more.  In each area, we looked for and admired the Chilhuly glass that was selected to highlight the natural art.

My favorite natural beauty was the crested cactus.  That was truly something amazing.  As well as the giant cactus that were highlighted by Chilhuly purple reeds.  I also loved this smaller twisted cactus!  Another amazing cactus insight was that birds make nests inside the cactus.  All those holes in a cactus are often a birds nest! A special protection coating is formed to protect the cactus and make a home for the bird.  It looks like a boot!!  We were also lucky as the cacti were beginning to bloom.  So pretty!

From my friend, who lives in Phoenix, I learned that pretty cactus are not NICE.  Some can almost leap onto you.  While another, that looks like it has a soft beard, in reality has a white soft looking collection of barbs.  DO NOT TOUCH. She continued to tell us to STAY BACK.  DON’T get so close. 

As for the Chilhuly, my favorite pieces included a giant gold, cream and white swirling tall collection of twisted tubes that reminded me of a yucca in bloom. My other favorite was a grouping of red, orange and purple reed like glass that made me think of flamingos. Of course, for anyone who knows me well, I loved the blue reeds!

I will admit, that it was not until we were leaving that we realized there was another exhibit of Chilhuly glass in a  gallery.  But we did not have time to admire it.  We had timed tickets for our second glass adventure.

 I really knew nothing about Taliesin West before this trip.  I have driven past Taliesin East in Wisconsin and been to a Frank Lloyd Wright house at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville. (See Blog Below about another Chilhuly adventure there.). But I really had not much information about Taliesin West until I learned about the Chilhuly exhibit.  Then I had to go and see the compound and the art glass.

Throughout the grounds, Chilhuly glass was displayed in ways to enhance the prairie style buildings.  My favorite, once again, mixed white gold and cream, with some sparkle right at the center of the complex, near the bubbling water pond.  The mass amount of red glass reeds displayed around the front of the home, some in dyed black water, was also fascinating.  And the view from the apex of the higher ground as spectacular.  Well worth the visit!

Drafting room

As for Taliesin West.  Wow.  His original plan to keep all the buildings open must have seen like a good idea.  But when I think about the heat in Phoenix, I am glad he gave in to his wife and closed the buildings in adding air conditioning!  I guess I am not a Frank Lloyd Wright purist.   For me the most interesting parts were the actual drafting room where other architects came to study with him and the small theater. 

I loved my day of Chilhuly, being with my friends, and enjoying these two special places in the Phoenix area. A double dose of Chilhuly was definitely worth it for me.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/10/chihuly-stunning/

Captivating Sanibel and Captiva Islands

28 Dec

Sometimes you just have to go to a destination wedding.  Especially after two years of Covid cancelling weddings.  Knowing that this wedding of a good friend’s son would be mainly held outside, gave us the impetus to throw caution a bit aside to go and celebrate a happy occasion.

What a great spot to get married!

I will not write about the wedding and festivities, except to say It was wonderful and we were so happy to be there to celebrate!

But we also enjoyed the wonderful weather and beauty of Sanibel and Captiva Islands and the South Seas Resort. We had a wonderful room with a view of both the entrance to the marina and to the ocean.  Every morning I woke up happy to look out my window.  We loved walking the grounds and relaxing.

For me the best part was going to visit the manatees that took over a slip in the marina.  I visited the marina twice a day to just watch them float.  I was not the only one who found it relaxing and peaceful and magical. 

Standing outside on my balcony,  I often saw a dolphin swimming by.  I tried to get photos, but never actually got him jumping out of the water.  My mind still sees it.  The glorious sunrise outside our room was enchanting.  This is a vacation spot that I would love to revisit.  And to have the same room!

We did not spend all of our time at the resort.  I love exploring and museums!  There was one museum I just had to see, The Bailey-Mathews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island, which opened in 1995. The Great Hall of Shells is really a great hall filled with shells of all types.  The artwork made from shells surprised me.  Seeing live mollusks walk in their shells was also exciting for me.  I have seen shells, but I have never seen one moving in real life!

I learned why Sanibel and Captiva Islands are known for the shells that come ashore. The islands are in an arc shape that catches the waves and so the shells bringing them on to the shore.  I finally woke up early enough to go shell hunting one morning before the crowds.  Most of the shells were quite small, but then, just as we were ready to go, the waves brought me a lovely treasure.  And yes, just as I learned at the museum, I made sure it was a dead shell with nothing inside.

My husband and I enjoyed our time there, learning about shells; talking to the volunteers; and even touching a live mollusk.

My favorite sign.

My other excitement going to the Museum is that I finally got a photograph of my all time favorite road sign.  We had noticed it when we first drove to the resort.  But I did not have my phone ready to take a photo.  We passed a similar sign heading out to the museum as well.  On the way back from the museum I was ready! I had my phone out and started taking pictures before I actually saw the sign.  It worked.  I captured the sign that warned us about “Low flying Owls.”  To be honest, we never saw any low flying owls, but the sign was worth it.  It gave me a Harry Potter magical feeling and added to the enchantment of the islands.  Just whose owls are flying so low and what messages are they bringing.

Although we did eat several meals at the resort, which were delicious, we also ventured off site to try some local restaurants.  The Bubble Room, with its bakery/ice cream parlor and its gift shop, was a wonderful venue with both good food and fun places to explore.  I felt like I was inside a kaleidoscope. The gift shop was great fun as well with its vintage antiques and gifts.  I had to buy a t-shirt!  If you go, save room for desserts. The cakes are delicious.

Other favorite restaurants, included the Mucky Duck where we ate outside by the beach and  the Cantina Captiva with its dollar bills adorning the walls and ceiling (yes we added one!). The food at both of these was good, not special, but the atmosphere made them enjoyable.

I would not mind spending a week or more on Captiva Island.  The four nights there just gave us a taste of the island life.  I have a good feeling that we will be back on these captivating islands.

www.southseas.com

https://www.shellmuseum.org/

https://www.bubbleroomrestaurant.com/home

New Orleans Spirit

21 Dec

I was not going to write about our trip to New Orleans because I have been there several times.  But then I realized I had never written about the city, and it is one of my favorites!

I will touch only on the places I saw this time, with a little of the history of why I love it.

Jazz on the street.

New Orleans is like no other city in the USA, with its Creole and French roots, its diverse populations and its jazz.  I love walking down the streets in the French Quarter and hearing the music and watching the bands play on street corners. 

We cannot go to New Orleans and not have beignets.  Each time we go to our favorite shop and get an order of three to share.  I eat one, my husband has two.  Personally, we like Café Beignet.  I know that many enjoy a different spot. But this one right off the square and next to the police station is the best for me!

Our favorite beignet shop.

I also go to the same restaurant on the corner of the plaza by St. Louis Cathedral. The windows all open and you feel like you are sitting outside while inside. And yes we went there this trip as well.  I was especially happy that in New Orleans you had to show your Covid vaccine record to enter a restaurant.  It made me feel a bit safer.

I did visit the Audubon Aquarium of The Americas. The last time I went there was 20 years ago, before Hurricane Katrina destroyed the aquarium and released many of the sea life.  It is definitely different then what I remember, plus there is construction nearby, and renovation inside, but I enjoyed my hour or so walking around by myself. My favorite spots were the Amazon Rain Forest set up in a giant greenhouse structure, and the sea horses.  But the Great Maya Reef area was also fun.   For me aquariums are great activities for both the young and young at heart.

My second stop was more educational than fun.  I went to the Museum of Southern Jewish Experience, where I learned much about southern Jewish population and Civil Rights activism.  The museum did a good job in showing how Jewish men moved into the south as peddlers and then as store owners.  Their activities against racism were important to the Civil Rights movement.  Although I knew that they had played a part in changing how people were treated, I was not aware of the extensive work of the Jewish population of the south to help.  Another good spot to go!

During past trips to New Orleans, I visited the National World War II Museum/National D-Day Museum.  It is a wonderful spot that really takes hours to visit completely.   Wear good walking shoes and schedule yourself properly. Learning about D-Day and the boats that helped in the Invasion of Normandy was the information that still sticks in my mind. The Higgins Boats, which were used in the invasion, were designed by a New Orleans manufacturer Andrew Jackson Higgins.  The Higgins boats played an important role in the invasion, a fact that has stayed in my mind for years.

I love New Orleans because there are so many museums and historical sites to explore and so many wonderful restaurants to experience the tastes of the city.  The history of Mardi Gras and the diverse communities of New Orleans makes is interesting and delightful!

After the hurricane and Covid issues, it is a city that needs support and love.  At one event I attended, the waitress told me how happy they all were that our convention was held, because it gave them hope and an income which helps keeps their spirits up.  With the rise in the new Covid variant, I know that people are nervous about traveling.  I understand.  I will say that New Orleans is doing its best to keep people safe.  I wish all cities were doing the same. In the meantime, I salute the New Orleans Spirit.

https://audubonnatureinstitute.org/aquarium

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/

A Cathedral, A Basilica, A Black Jesus, and Slowly Sinking Buildings

6 Dec

What is a trip to Latin America without going to churches?  You just cannot do it.

In Mexico City there were two church sites we had to visit.  The first was Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Into Heaven.  They just call it the Metropolitan Cathedral.  I understand why.

Cristo Negro/The Black Jesus

There were several facts about this Cathedral that make it special.  The first deals with the tradition of Black Jesus/Cristos Negros of the area.  There are several countries that have wooden Jesus sculptures on a cross that have darkened and turned black over the ages.  The one in Mexico City has a story.   Supposedly the bishop always prayed at the crucifix as he entered the cathedral.  There were those who wished him to die.  So they put poison on the feet of the wooden Jesus, knowing that the bishop would kiss the feet when he was done praying.

The bishop did as he always does, and kissed the feet, but he did not die.  Instead, the Jesus sculpture turned black. 

To be honest this is not my first Cristo Negro, or Black Christ/Jesus.  I have been to Portobelo, Panama, and saw the one in the Inglesia de San Felipe. It is special because it was found in the town’s harbor and it wears a robe!   I have also seen the black Madonna in Montserrat, also known as Our Lady of Montserrat. Many go on pilgrimages to see these statues.  For me they have been a happy surprise. (See blogs below.)

This is not the only special site within the cathedral.  There is also magnificent altar and intricately carved wooden sculpture behind it.  Outside, in front of the cathedral, there is a statue of Pope John Paul with an image of the Lady of Guadalupe carved into his robes.  This foreshadows the second religious site we visited.

Statute of the Pope.

But the most obvious and unusual aspect of the building is that it is sinking.  Completed in the mid 1600s, the cathedral was built on land that was once the bottom of a giant lake.  It was also built in the area where the Aztec’s had their temples. In fact, the stones used in the construction of the church were parts of the dismantled Aztec temple.  The cathedral was built upon the ruins.  One way of saying to the Aztec, we beat you.  But not so great centuries later.  

Around the cathedral you can see the excavations of the Aztec sites. A model of what the plaza area looked like when the Spanish first came is near the excavations.

Part of the excavation of the Aztec ruins.

 Within the church, you can see how they have worked to stabilize it.  Marble stone stairs, now sit on a bed of concrete stairs.  A pendulum hangs from the high ceiling and shows if the building is still standing straight or sinking again.  By the lines on the floor, one can see how tilted it once was, and how close to straight it stands now.

Our second religious site was the Basilica of the Lady of Guadalupe.   This site is also sinking, and many of the buildings, the older basilica, the first church and the convent, were also tilting.  They have been stabilized. But you can see that much work still needs to be done.  The newer, larger, round Basilica built in the 1970s seems fine for now.

The Basilica and all the other buildings on the site, including the original basilica from the early 1700s were constructed to honor Saint Juan Diego and his visions and miracles of the Lady of Guadalupe. Sometime around 1530 a picture of the Lady of Guadalupe/Mary appeared on his cloak, which he said was a signal that the indigenous people should convert to Catholicism.  There have been visitors/pilgrims to this site ever since. And many buildings have been constructed to provide a place for them to pray.

Today the new Basilica houses the image.  Encased in two frames, one silver and one gold, it is mounted on the wall near one entrance of the Basilica. You must get on a short moving walkway to see it, which keeps everyone moving forward and no one can stay in front of it for too long.  The Basilica is constantly being used by the people for Mass.  Each hour a new Mass begins. 

Statue of the Pope along side the old basilica.

There is a large open plaza on one side of the Basilica.  It is here that Pope John Paul came to  dedicate the site. A statue to him stands between the old and new basilicas.  He also came here a second time to canonize Juan Diego.

The temple of the well.

We could not enter all the buildings. But I will admit my favorite was the one that covers the well.  It was a lovely little building.  And each of the windows was in the shape of a six-pointed star.  For my Jewish mind it was perfect.  Miriam, the sister of Moses, was known for her affinity for water. When they were in the desert, water followed Miriam.  So to know that here at the site of the visions of the Lady of Guadalupe/Mary/Miriam, there is a well with a temple with six-pointed stars, gave me a little joy.

My second favorite building was a small church that is still standing, but only with the help of metal beams.  In front of it was a small water way, with no water right now, except for a bowl of water that a mama cat was enjoying while her kitten struggled to reach it.

It is quite a site, much larger than I anticipated.  To be honest, I did not want to go.  We had spent the morning visiting the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and I was both exhausted and not feeling well.  But our guide insisted that we had to see it.  As it was on our way back to the hotel, I figured I would say yes, but could always back out.

That did not happen.  I was hot, tired and feeling ill.  But I got out of the van and walked the many steps to the entrance of the site. And then for over an hour walked the grounds and through the buildings to see all that I could.  I was amazed that I started to feel better as we walked.  It was so interesting that I forgot to think about not feeling well.  So I have to commend our guide who insisted we visit.

Bosque de Chapultepec: Visiting Chapultepec Park

30 Nov

While we were in Mexico City, we stayed at a hotel that was located on Reforma, just a short half mile walk from the wonderous Bosque de Chapultepec.  We visited three important sites within the park, besides passing by many others and seeing all the activities enjoyed by park visitors.

rOur three main stops were: National Museum of Anthropology/Museo Nacional de Antropologia; The Chapultepec Castle: and Jardin Botanico del Bosque de Chapultepec/the botanical gardens.  We passed by the Ghandi Garden, the entrances to other sites like the Zoo and the History Museum; and walked through an open air market, where I purchased a straw hat.  We also ate in one of the restaurants within the park, El Lago Restaurante.

Honestly, we did not do these activities in one day.  The park is enormous with so much to see.  But I thought it is best to put it all together in one blog.

The first place anyone who goes to Mexico City must visit is the National Museum of Anthropology.  Besides its wonderful architecture, the museum galleries are filled with pre-Columbian masterpieces.  We had a tour guide who explained what we were seeing in English, which was extraordinarily helpful as almost all the signage is only in Spanish.

The building itself is built around a central courtyard with a large umbrella like structure providing shade. As you walk through the different galleries, you return to the center courtyard between areas.  I found that refreshing.  A way of clearing my mind before entering another new world.

We learned about the Inca, Mayan, Aztec, Olmec  and other peoples who once lived in the various areas of Mexico.  I knew that human sacrifice was a large part of the religions.  Owever, I was shocked at the brutal and almost daily sacrifices.  The artwork of these groups, especially the Aztec, focused on skulls, dismemberment and death.  We learned about the Goddess of Rain and the God of the Sun and the feathered snakes that adorned many of the buildings.  The immense stone carvings were beautiful and many were so intricate, you wonder how they were made centuries ago without modern tools.

The original Aztec Sunstone is on display, as well as many other majestic and large works of art.  The Statute of Chaichiuhiticue,  and the Olmec stone heads were immense.  Each were carved from one block of stone.  I don’t know how they moved them!

I honestly cannot tell you what was the most interesting thing to see because there were so many!  I did like learning about the game they played with balls that had to go through a stone hoop. However, I was sad to learn that after each game, someone was sacrificed. 

We spent three hours visiting all the rooms of this museum.  I took many photos.  But in the last room, I was exhausted.  I knew I had had enough because I did not take one photo.  I was mentally done.  There is just so much to see.  It is a museum you could visit again and again and still see and learn about things you missed on an earlier visit.

Needless to say, we left the museum exhausted and ready to eat lunch.  We knew we would be back to the park!

We returned the following evening for a dinner at El Lago Restaurant.  It is situated by one of the lakes in the park and is just lovely.  The food is delicious as well.  But the main reason I am mentioning it, is that while we ate, a young man asked his girlfriend to marry him!  It was quite exciting and everyone cheered when she said yes!  It added an extra bit of charm to an already charming trip.

With the park so close to our hotel, we knew that we would be walking back another day.  We chose the morning after we took our Covid tests to make sure we could return to the USA.  Even though we knew we did not feel sick in any way, having to wait several hours for the results would have made me anxious if I just sat around.  We started walking to the park.  Our first planned stop was the botanical gardens.  This one was filled mainly with succulents and orchids, two of my favorite plantsWe walked around the gardens enjoying the quiet.  We ended with walk through the orchid house and enjoying the many succulents planted in cement cinder blocks!  I want to do that in my garden.

Chapultepec Park is considered the lungs of Mexico City.  The acres upon acres of trees supplies the valley with clean air, which is important, because there is pollution in the valley that encompasses Mexico City.

After we left the gardens we continued walking through the park towwards the hill where the Capultepec Castle sits. The first building of the castle began in 1795 as a summer home for the viceroy.  Eventually it was enlarged and became the home of Emperor Maximillian and his family.  Maximilian did not survive for long in Mexico.  He became Emperor in 1864 and was executed in 1867. The unfortunate thing is that Maximillian seemed to care about the people of Mexico.  But it did not save him from execution.  

The Castle then became the home of the President of Mexico and continued as the Presidential residence until 1939.  Now it is a museum. It does cost 85 pesos to enter.  I did not have that much cash, and they do not take credit cards.  However, if you are over 60, which my husband and I definitely are, you can enter for free!  The cashier said,  “Are you over 60?”  I said yes.  She said go in for you it is free.  Thank you Mexico!!  It would have been so sad not to have seen this building and its gardens!

You do have to walk up the hill.  But the slope is easy to climb.  However, I will say with the altitude of 7500 feet in Mexico City, I am glad I waited for the third day to make that climb!  We walked slowly.  You can take a bottle of water to go up the hill.  But once you get to the entrance of the Castle grounds, you cannot bring it in with you.

To describe the building, all you need to do is think about Vienna and St. Petersburg.  Maximillian was a member of the Habsburg family.  So, of course, his home reflected the elegance and grandeur that a member of that family needed/demanded.  It was a bit offsetting to see the grand carved furniture of Europe throughout the areas of the home.  But it was beautiful.  A major difference from a European home, is that each of the rooms could be entered from the interior of the house, but they also had large doors that opened to the outside.  To see the mansion, we walked along the perimeter of the home and looked into the rooms through opened doors.

The view of the park and the city from the top of the mountain is wonderful.  Even better was going all the way to the top and visiting the gardens on the roof and seeing the view from there.

Another added bonus to our visit to the park was finding a parade was in progress on Reforma!  It was Revolution Day in Mexico.  We spent almost an hour watching the music, the floats, the marchers in colorful outfits denoting their province of Mexico, before we discovered the underground walkway that enabled us to return to our hotel.

Visiting Chapultepec Park is a must.  We only saw a few of the many interesting museums and sites to see there.  Honestly, you could spend a week just visiting Chapultepec Park!

https://www.wmf.org/project/chapultepec-park

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapultepec

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapultepec_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Anthropology_(Mexico)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilian_I_of_Mexico

The Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon: A journey to Teotihuacan

28 Nov

Wow.  My husband and I spent over three hours exploring the Teotihuacan site of the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon and many, many other buildings, temples, and vast plazas.

It was incredible that such an intricate community was built in the early third century, around 200 AD. 

Nearly 2000 years later, the site is still spectacular.  I can only imagine what it looked like to the eyes of people so many years ago.  The wonder and disbelief to what was built had to be awe inspiring and truly a monument to the gods.

For me it was the completion of another item on my list of places that I needed to see in my life time. And it was well worth the journey from Mexico City to Teotihuacan. My husband and his family went to Mexico City in December 1978. He climbed the Pyramid of the Sun. It was on that trip that he realized he missed me. When we saw each other back at Missou, he proposed. I rally needed to see this site!!

When at first you see the Temple rising from the fields as you drive along the highway, I really could not image the massive height of these temples.  Even up close I was stunned.  And it is not just the temples. It is the entire complex of buildings, homes, and plazas.  Each plaza has its own temples and homes. 

The drainage system to keep the clean water from flooding and the waste water from combining with the fresh water was great.  We could see where the rainwater would travel continually downhill till eventually it reached the river.  Keeping the two waters separated made using the fresh water easy.  However, when they reached the river, they combined.  (The river, unfortunately, is quite polluted and smelly!!)

The welcoming plaza with its temples to other religions was grand.  I could imagine myself walking there and being mesmerized by the central temple to the gods surrounded by the many temples of the visiting travelers. Each plaza is so large.  Closing my eyes, I tried to imagine each one filled with worshippers on holy days.  We learned that they believe the priests would meet together before each mass gathering so that they would preach the same information to all the worshippers.   Good planning.

A pyramid’s original decoration rediscovered.

But really nothing can prepare you for the size of the Pyramid of the Sun reaching up to the sky. And also the Pyramid of the Moon strategically placed in front of a mountain that makes its size seem even more gigantic.  Someone had a great eye for drama.  The Pyramid of the Moon demonstrates that drama.

Originally these brick and stone monuments were covered with stucco and painted. There are a few areas where the art and color still remain.  It was interesting to have a local man show us how the colors came from the plants to paint the stucco.  That truly surprised me. But the mural of the puma lets you envision how the entire plateau once looked.

We did not just stay in the large plaza dedicated to the Sun and the Moon. We walked the entire two kilometer site. Climbing up and down the steep stairs to get to yet another plaza.  To be honest it made me think of the song that goes, “the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see. HE saw another mountain.”  For us we climbed over another stairway to see another plaza to see another stairway to walk through to another plaza.  I kept saying to my husband, I think this is the last one.  And it was not.  Till it was.  But honestly, this seemingly endless trek through plazas and up and down steep stair cases was amazing, and worth the trip!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_the_Sun

Completing My Personal NASA Mission

10 Nov

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, I decided I needed to revisit the space centers. In June I went to Kennedy Space Center, which you can read about below. Yesterday I completed my mission with a visit to the Johnson Space Center in Space City … Houston Texas.

I had visited this Center 30 years ago with my husband and then three-year-old daughter. I found it much changed with an excellent museum area that caters to children and families with many hands-on exhibits.

Luckily for me the hotel I was out could sign me up for a tour of sorts. If two people wanted to go, the Houston Tour Company would provide a van for the round trip and the entrance tickets for the Space Center. When I first went to the concierge desk, I was the only one who had signed up. But I left my name and room number in case someone else was interested. My plan succeeded. Within a few hours I got a call that my trip was on. And then a friend of mine decided she would go as well.

The next morning we met our new friend and traveling partner along with our van driver, Ruby, for our adventure.

I first need to say that years ago when I went to the Johnson Space Center, we just wandered the lovely campus of the Space Center, walking to the different buildings on our own. Now it is much more controlled. The entrance ticket included everything. But to see the actual Johnson Space Center you now have to take a tram. There are two to chose from. The blue line, which we took, goes to Mission Control and to see the Saturn V rocket.

Seeing the control room where most of the space shuttle missions, and in a few short years, the Orion Missions, will be watched over by a flight director and his crew was interesting as was the presentation. We could see a live feed into an active control room where the space station was being watched.

Along the way to the next stop, our tram driver told us about the other buildings, including the Astronaut Training Center, which is the first destination of the red tram line. He also pointed out a grove of trees planted in memory of the astronauts who perished during a mission and others who had an important role in the space program. Both lines stop at the Saturn V building.

It is exciting to see the size of the Saturn V Rocket. It lies on its side so visitors can walk around it and see how it connected the different stages and fuel tanks. The Apollo capsules were just a tiny portion at the top of the rocket.

We took the tram back to the museum area, and went to a 15 minute movie about the history of the space program. When it is over you then tour an area that has the original Apollo 17 capsule and much more space memorabilia. But the highlight is the Discovery Space Shuttle perched on a 747. You can go up and enter both. In the place is an exhibit on how the space shuttle was attached for transfer. And you can enter the Space Shuttle and see how astronauts lived while on it.

Another highlight for me was seeing all the moon rocks and actually getting to touch one. The museum employee in the room said that this stone was once rough and thicker, but over the years has become as smooth as glass. I can attest to that as I ran my thumb over it along with all the children.

There is so much to do. We were there for five hours and could not see everything. There were two shows at the I-Max Theater, which we did not see. I wish we had checked the times of the shows when we entered. We might have arranged our visit a bit differently. However, it was fun and exciting to see all the artifacts from space.

I loved walking the exhibits and trying out some of the interactive activities. There are virtual rides to help you experience the actual feel of space. Many families stood on line for these activities.

I believe I have celebrated mankind’s space accomplishments with these two visits. I look forward to seeing the start of the Orion Missions.

For true space enthusiasts, I also recommended a visit to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, and the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I have visited both places when my daughter and son went to Space Camp. (See blog below.)

https://zicharonot.com/2019/06/06/visiting-kennedy-space-center-my-celebration-of-the-walk-on-the-moon/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/07/our-daughter-not-an-astronaut/

Visiting Kennedy Space Center: My Celebration of the Walk on the Moon

6 Jun

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon Landing fast approaching, I knew our recent trip to Florida had to include a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.  How could we not go and relive the excitement of the United States’ journeys to the sky and the moon?  So we did!

We went on an uncrowded Sunday, the first one in June 2019.  Not quite seven weeks before the historic 50 anniversary which will be on July 20!  Although we did not take the bus tour to the launch pads, since we did that four years ago, we still had more than enough to do by touring through the exhibits.  At each one remembering our own excitement as we watched the race to space advance during our lifetime.

While there, we made sure to visit the memorial to those men and women who gave their lives while involved in the space program. The names of the Apollo and shuttle crews who perished are inscribed in a black wall reaching to the skies.  We were the only ones at the memorial when we went.  I wish everyone would visit this area of the Space Center.  Those who perished in the two shuttle catastrophes are also memorialized in the exhibit featuring the Atlantis Space Shuttle.

Atlantis, the last of the Space Shuttles, is housed in a giant building.  You cannot appreciate the size of the shuttle and its rockets until you are standing next to them.  Impressive! You learn so much about the ability of so many who worked together to create the space program.

But before the space shuttles came the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  The Center is filled with information about the astronauts, the engineers and the many people who helped create the leap into space.

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Friendship 7 Mission Control

The Heroes and Legends includes an Astronaut Hall of Fame and an exhibit of the original mission control.  While looking at this room, you watch a short video about John Glenn’s first orbits around the Earth and the fears when one of the lights came on indicating that the heat shield had come loose.  Luckily that was not the case, but you sense the fear.  Mission control looks so outdated today.  Computers and electronics are now so advanced.

I now understand, even more, why the mathematicians I learned about in the book and movie, Hidden Figures, were so important.  The state of technology was low, and brains were important.  I loved learning about Katherine Goble in the movie.  Seeing the mission control short movie about the Friendship 7, reminded me the importance of her calculations, which were also used in the Apollo 11 and Space Shuttle missions, even though she is not mentioned.   I believe it is important to remember all the women who also had an impact on the space programs! I once thought my daughter would join these women at NASA. (See blog below.)

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Mock up of the newest moon rocket.

At the Kennedy Space Center, you can watch a variety of movies on the space program at the IMAX theater.  My favorite was the opportunity to listen to a briefing about what is happening at NASA and the chance to meet an astronaut at the Universe Theater.   We did learn that there is an effort to return to the moon in 2024 and we even saw a mockup of the space craft that will take astronauts there.

I still remember watching Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. (See blog below.). The summer of 1969 Is one I will never forget for both the walk on the moon and for the Woodstock music festival that was less than two miles from my home in the Catskills.

Space has had a place in the fabric of my family.  Visiting the Kennedy Space Center and learning about the past, present and future of the space program is a way to celebrate innovation and science.

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I visited the gift shop to purchase a t-shirt commemorating the 50th anniversary. I had to get a Snoopy shirt.  For me, the Apollo missions to the moon will forever be attached to Charles Shultz and his cartoon character, Snoopy.  In fact, the Apollo 10 lunar module was called Snoopy, while the command one was called Charlie Brown.

Earlier this year I watched as Israel sent its first spacecraft to the moon with the help of Space IL and the Israel Aerospace Industries.  The Beresheet spacecraft crashed in its final moments, just before landing.   Think of the capabilities of technology today compared to 1969!  And even today it is nearly impossible to have a perfect landing.  This indicates so spectacularly how remarkable were the United States early trips to the moon.   I look forward to the 55th anniversary and the next attempt by the USA to have a man and a woman once again walk on the moon.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/07/our-daughter-not-an-astronaut/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

www.KennedySpaceCenter.com

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-and-peanuts-celebrate-apollo-10-s-50th-anniversary

https://www.space.com/israeli-beresheet-moon-landing-attempt-fails.html