Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

I’m currently torn between the fear of forgetting what happens in my days (this leads me to want to post travel stories constantly) and the fear of losing all my readers when I get back to normal non-travelling life in Canberra (this leads me to want to hoard my travel stories). Today, I seem to have been led to do both, so here’s a bit about my day and a chocolate!

Part A: Overview of Florence, Day 2

Waking up to a beautiful sunny day in Florence, I decided to make my way over to see an equally beautiful man. No, not Ronaldo. I’m talking about this fellow:

Actually, not quite. This is the copy of David at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, where the original originally stood. After it's origination.

On the way to the Galleria dell’Accademia, though, I came across the Museo di San Marco. Why not? I thought to myself. Housed in an old Dominican monastery from the 15th century, the San Marco Museum is… well, um… not really very good. However, caveat – if you like endless paintings of Jesus on the Cross, go for it. Personally, I like my art with a dose of human warmth and emotion, not with blood spurting from chest wounds and endless repetition.

Seeing as it was a nice day, though, and I’d paid my entry fee, I enjoyed a pleasant hour reading my Sookie Stackhouse book in the museum’s courtyard.

(There is something a bit awkward about reading a sex scene in an old monastery, particularly when also surrounded by an Italian tour group of women in their 60s and 70s.)

Museo di San Marco. At least it looked nice.

After this, I was quite lucky and only had to wait half an hour in line to see the David. And you know what? Amazing. I was expecting seeing him to be like seeing the Mona Lisa – something I did because everyone told me to, therefore something I went into poutingly and something that, as expected, I didn’t care for.

But Michelangelo’s David is stunning, and huge, and perfect, and rather yummy.

So was this:

Gelato, Gelateria Carabe

Winner winner! Sorry that this photo lacks depth, or the ability to showcase depth, but I wanted you to be able to see the flecks in the gelato on the right.

After some dedicated google-researching this morning, I have a hefty list of recommended gelaterias to visit. One such was Carabe, a small gelateria just down the road from (the real) David… really, what was I supposed to do?

This whooped the Festival del Gelato gelato’s tookus.

I got pistachio (on the left), which was buttery, dense, and rich, with real pistachio flavour (none of this almond extract business) and no fluoro-green food colouring. The one on the right, though, was a revelation. I’m not usually big on fruit-flavoured things, but this pear gelato tasted like pure ground-up pears, their essence, distilled. So true, so sweet, so refreshing. Hold me back, I feel there’s almost an haiku there. Must resist urge.

In a fight to the death with the following chocolate, I think the pear gelato would win.

Part B: Sainsbury’s Sao Tome Dark Chocolate

Sainsbury's Sao Tome Dark Chocolate

"Sao Tome... really dark... intense flavour". We'll see about that.

Gosh, it feels like an age since I’ve done a straight-up chocolate review. And it has been an age since I had this; it was eaten way back in Liverpool, in early February.

Sainsbury’s is a supermarket chain in England, and so I wasn’t sure what to expect from its own-brand chocolate. Unfortunately, while it was quite good for what it was, it fell into the same trap as the San Marco Museum. Just not my thing.

The aroma was very fruity, with strong raisin notes. The flavour was similarly very strong on fruit, but in the tangy, almost-sour red berry fruit way that I don’t love. In fact, this tasted a lot like red wine to me, and I just can’t do shiraz, or merlot, or what have you. (Rose is good. Oh fiddlesticks, I have Prosecco in the fridge! Silly forgetful head.)

Sainsbury's Sao Tome Dark Chocolate.

Well done, camera. You do work better when you have light to work with, don't you?

I also got burnt acidic coffee, hay, and goats cheese from this, but all in an unpleasant-tempered-by-red-wine way. At the same time, I feel bad being so disparaging, because I do feel that someone who likes red/tangy chocolate would like this.

Just, you know, not me. Too fruity. For chocolate, that is. I prefer my fruitiness to remain in my gelato.

Buona Notte!


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We seemed to have a little success with my last art/art commentary post, so I thought a repeat might work. But first, an update to last night’s update…

Dutiful as always, I got up bright and early this morning to take myself back to the hospital where I had been instructed, yesterday, to come every day starting today, for nurses to take care of my toe. So imagine my surprise when, upon arrival, I discovered that the clinic I was to go to was, well, you know, closed on Sundays.

Yep. This is the France I’ve heard about on David Lebovitz’ blog. Ah well, tomorrow then. The funny thing is that I can read the French on the medical papers given me by the nurse, and I also got a pharmacist to talk me through it, and it says “without urgency”.

In addition, all the papers instruct the nurse to do is apply Betadine, which I can easily do myself. In fact, the pharmacist didn’t think I needed to go to hospital at all, and neither did the Australian and Canadian girls who took me under their wing last night. Those two amazing women honest-to-goodness giftwrapped a packet of hope and happiness and calm for me, and on top of that got my mind off things by taking me out for a drink. (Yes, Australian friends. I actually imbibed alcomahol.)

Anyway, I’m still unsure as to what to do about my travels, as the foot is still swelling at inopportune moments and providing discomfort. I’m considering booking extra time in Paris and taking it easy here. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Now…

To the Art with Us!

Chandalier, Throne Room, Neuschwanstein Castle.

View from underneath the chandelier in the Throne Room of Neuschwanstein Castle in Munich. Yes, you aren't allowed to take photos. Yes, I took a photo. I blame my naughtiness on the Americans in my tour group, who took multiple photos in every room. I shall now go sit in the corner and think about what I did.

Garden of Exile, Judisches Museum, Berlin

Looking up in The Garden of Exile at the Jüdisches Museum in Berlin. I also really recommend this museum, for while it covered the horrific events of the Holocaust in a gets-into-your-bones way (entering the Holocaust Tower was physically and psychologically chilling), it also celebrated Jewish culture and conveyed so much about the Jewish faith, music, history, and art.

Adam and Eve with their First-Born, 1896, Lesser Ury

Yes, it's the mother-child bond again. No, I don't have a bun in the oven. Probably I'm just missing my own family a little bit. (This is a section of "Adam and Eve with their First-Born" by Lesser Ury, 1896, at the Jüdisches Museum, Berlin.)

British Empire Panel by Frank Brangwyn, Arentshuis, Bruges

Now that's a shifty-looking fellow if ever I saw one. ("British Empire Panel 1925-1930" by Frank Brangwyn, at Bruges' Arentshuis Museum.)

And now, a series I like to call “Hannah tells you the inner thoughts of four ye olden day women”:

“I ought to be prancing through tulips right now, not wasting my time sitting here with you. I’m considering stabbing you with my tapestry needle.” (Portrait of Miss Kinsoen, by Franciscus Josephus Kinsoen, at Bruges' Groeninge Museum.)

“I shall stare at you with my dead fish eyes until you fear me. Fear me! Also, my pug is not the ugly-cute kind of pug that Hannah likes. It is just ugly.” (Portrait of Sylvie de la Rue, by Joseph Octave van der Donckt, at Bruges’ Groeninge Museum.)

“I have arsenic hidden under my collar. However, I have also invented the first headwear that doubles as a pillow, so the jury may let me off.” (Portrait of Jeanne Bauwens-van Peteghem, by Franciscus Josephus Kinsoen, at Bruges’ Groeinge Museum.)

“I like opium.” (Portrait of Marie Josephine Lafont-Porcher, by Franciscus Josephus Kinsoen, at Bruges’ Groeinge Museum.)

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Despite what this blog might suggest, I do actually take part in tourist activities that have nothing to do with grocery stores and food. And seeing as food is currently nothing more to me than bland sustenance (fie on you cold! Fie!), it seems fitting to share some of the museum-related sights that have moved me to… well, that have moved me in some way. 

(You know what else has moved me? You lovely people. Thank you so much for your get-well wishes over the past few days. You have no idea how much your comments have meant to me, for being sick made me feel less like a solo traveller than a lonely traveller. I am now in Berlin, and this afternoon experienced a moment of being able to smell cigarette smoke, without even having to stalk anyone. There may be hope for delicious German cake yet.) 

Now, the art and its paraphernalia!

Mirror case, ivory, Walker Art Gallery

Mirror case, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

I took this photo because I was so excited to see something that wasn’t a religious scene. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with depictions of the life of Christ, and many were fascinating and all that good stuff… It’s just that sometimes a girl likes to see two lovers being serenaded while embracing in a boat, rather than a lot of men hanging around with looks of gravitas upon their bearded faces. 

Walker Art Gallery

Informative card thingamajig describing the painting of "Christ discovered in the temple". Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Three words: 

Best. Excuse. Ever. 

"Maternal Affection", by Edward Hodges Baily, dated 1837

"Maternal Affection", by Edward Hodges Baily, dated 1837. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

I just love this. I really, really do. Lacking an art history background, I don’t have the words in me to describe this, except to say that it truly shows the bond (“affection”) between parent and child. (Oooh, see what I did there with the PC-replacement of “mother” with “parent”?) 

In fact, let’s look at it again, closer up… 

"Maternal Affection", by Edward Hodges Baily, dated 1837


Yep. Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous (in terms of my reaction, not the artist’s work itself…) 

Icons in Transformation artwork, Liverpool Cathedral

An installation from Ludmila Pawlowska's exhibition "Icons in Transformation". Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool.

I’m not sure what Freud would have made of this particular piece, what with the faces on the …spear… and all, but we could probably (oh, so many jokes I can’t let myself make… well, just one) take a whack at it. 

"Helen of Troy" by Frederick Sandys, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Guys! Guys!

Guess who this is! Guess! *giggles* Oh, I love art and its ability to highlight the diversity of ideals of beauty throughout history. This is Helen of Troy. You know, the face that launched a thousand ships? Super beautiful and all that? 

Dear dear deario, she looks like a petulant teenager who’s just been banned from facebook for, like, omigod, like, two days, omigod worst parents EVER. Frederick Sandys, Mr. Artist Man, I don’t know what you and your Victorian friends would make of Jennifer Garner, or Ginnifer Goodwin, or Emma Lung (when brunette), but methinks you would not find them quite as attractive as I do… 

Whole Foods, Kensington, London

Now this, friends, is my kind of art.

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My last few weeks have been less a whirlwind than a quiet ebb-and-flow, comprised of lazy days and a transitioning from solo travelling to visiting friends. First was my week in Charleston, where I did little more than imagine myself living in every beautiful old house I walked by, flirt with a glorious-caffeinated-sweetness Starbucks Frappuccino habit, visit historical sites, make daily trips to Harris Teeter, and watch incredibly bad television (The Secret Life of the American Teenager is quite possibly the most nauseating show I’ve ever seen, and never failed to make me want to scrub myself with Lysol. No link for it).

Days Inn Historic District, Charleston

Lovely hotel room at the Days Inn Historic Disctrict, Charleston

Special thanks to Charleston’s Days Inn Historic District hotel, which let me check in at 6am in the morning after my twelve-hour Amtrak from Washington. Charleston’s Old Slave Mart Museum is definitely worth a visit; it is a museum situated in what used to be a slave auction gallery in the 19th century and, while small, is packed with information. It certainly isn’t happy information, but it does lead one to wonder how people can fail to comprehend that their fellow humans are just as, well, human as themselves. I can’t help feeling this is still a pressing issue today, in regards to all manner of prejudices. (And not the ultimately-good Jane Austen kind, either.)

The Old Slave Mart Museum can also be a site of unintentional amusement if, in visiting before lunch when you’re a tad little bit hungry, you read a poster that says “Slave Labor and Systems” as “Slave Lobsters” and start imagining being given a manicure by singing crustaceans. Don’t ask me why singing. Probably because I’d just been listening to Sweeney Todd on my iPod.

Carriage ride, Charleston, South Carolina

All the pretty horses.

Then came Asheville, to which L.Methysta kindly drove so that we could spend a few days together. I do believe that lovely lass deserves some sort of crown for being the most talkative young lady in the world. Mighty entertaining, and I doff my figurative cap to her chatterbox skills. 😀

Rooibos tea at The Green Sage, Asheville

I do so enjoy mugs of Rooibos tea that are bigger than my head.

Over rooibos tea and sandwiches at The Green Sage, where L.Methysta caught the eye of a young man lunching with his mother (a good catch, no?), over celebratory cocktails and beer after our entrance into the world of celebrity, and over Fruit2Day juices in our hotel room, I built memories bereft of Biltmore (alliteration is absolutely awesome) that have ensured Asheville exists as a site of happy in my memories.

Cocktail at Chili's

L.Methysta and her super-strong cocktail, which was unfortunately made with the "wrong kind" of rum. Don't ask me what that kind was, though. My knowledge ends with chocolate.

Next up: the excitement of Jonesville, Lee County – home of the infamous Mr. Bottom.

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As some of you may have realised, I’m rather behind in relaying my travel exploits. While I do aim for consecutivity (yep, I made that word up), I have been jumping around a tad in my story-telling. As a result, I have described my newfound celebrity in Asheville, but have failed to talk about my weeks in Washington, DC and Charleston, which occurred before Asheville.

Whoops. Let’s call it playing with the space-time continuum.

Part of my current hasty backtracking to Washington, DC must, of course, be attributed to the encouragement of Mr. A.ActuarialTraveller, who has been waiting not altogether patiently for his dashing person to appear on these pages.

However, seeing as he managed to ask me to be his bride and call me a hussy and a cat lady in the same night, you can’t really blame a girl for being not altogether sure how to talk about him.

This does not represent the nature of our friendship. (Burchell’s Zebra and Lion, by John Reiter. Winner of the Wildlife category, Nature's Best Photography Awards. National Museum of Natural History.)

In all honesty, it was entirely lovely, A.ActuarialTraveller, to find in you a friend whom I felt comfortable with and who made the evenings at DC’s Hostelling International so much fun. Also, you’re awesome for buying a HungryMan frozen dinner (although I did eat two ice-cream cups in the space of half an hour on the same night). I even forgive you for sleeping in on Christmas Day and almost making us miss our pre-paid session of Sherlock Holmes. After all, a few days later I lost 40 minutes travelling on the wrong bus before getting caught up talking chocolate with a like-minded lady, thereby turning up late to our Spy Museum rendezvous. So I’m calling it even. Yes?

Probably not entirely like this, either. (Vervet Monkey by Vincent Grafhorst. Highly Honoured in the Widllife category, Nature’s Best Photography Awards. National Museum of Natural History.)

Speaking of the International Spy Museum, it’s a must-do. In fact, our visit to it is partly why this post qualifies for the Super Fun Times Galore category. The depth of information about espionage found in the exhibition proper was astounding, and I’m slightly concerned to know that everything in my room right now could have a bug in it. I don’t think I want to be a spy.

The moments when I truly realised I would far better suit a behind-the-scenes espionage-y analyst job rather than real-world spying came during A.ActuarialTraveller’s and my foray into Operation Spy, a one-hour “live-action spy adventure”wherein you undertake a spy mission in the hopes of recovering a nuclear weapon, uncovering blackmail, and saving the world.

My first indication of being less-than-spy-material came when, after disabling an alarm system, our group of 15 moved into a politician’s room to search for incriminating evidence. A.ActuarialTraveller immediately disabled the safe and called out to the 13 strangers in the room to look for a wrench, while I just ambled around turning over cushions and looking on with amusement at everyone else scurrying around.

More telling, though, was the point at which A.ActuarialTraveller joined the people voting to send in Black Ops to recover the weapon (because, I believe he said, “Black Ops are cool”), while I stood with the people who wanted to call the Prime Minister of the country we’d snuck into (because, as I said, “I think he ought to know what’s going on in his country). Yep, colour me adventurous.

To sum things up, we stopped the nuclear weapon getting into the wrong hands, saved the world, and if you ever want someone to go fight crime and crack into safes, give A.ActuarialTraveller a call. If you want someone to stay underground breaking codes and rustling up berry compote topped with gingersnap meringue? Call me.

Gingersnap Meringue

Despite the quality of the photo, the dessert was delicious. I promise.

(Also, big respect to our tour guide/Operation Spy leader.  He coped really well with the several small children in our group who, in not being old enough to comprehend the preordained nature of the videos/lie detectors/overheard conversations involved in the “mission”, tended to slow proceedings down with their strong convictions about what should happen next. Still, those kids made it more amusing for me.)

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On Friday, I spent the afternoon at the Tim Burton retrospective exhibition at MoMA. While wandering through, I couldn’t help wondering whether his parents ever worried about him as a youngster. He seems to have jumped on the kooky and creepy bandwagon early on in life, with everything from his early childhood doodles to his later sketches on newspapers and cocktail napkins illustrating the fantastical, surreal, and slightly grotesque imagery he’s become known for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan: I have The Nightmare Before Christmas sheet music as well as the DVD, think his version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is brilliant, love Sweeney Todd because I’m a sucker for musicals, and am looking forward to Alice in Wonderland, particularly as the girl playing Alice is from Canberra, and E.PhotoLegend once sat next to her during a talk given by the girl’s mother. So that makes me, what, 3 degrees of separation from Johnny Depp? 3 degrees, that’s practically leave-Vanessa-Paradis-for-me closeness.

Also, I’m a little bit in love with the coupling of Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. It’s almost like they share the same unique way of looking at the world, except he expresses his through art and film and she through her clothing.

Back to the MoMA exhibition. Although spread over three floors, the main collection of work is in the Special Exhibitions gallery on the third floor, and comprises drawings, paintings, moving image works, storyboards, doodles, photographs, costumes, puppets, and ephemera from his films. The drawings consist of characters dreamt up in childhood, working versions of the figures we’ve come to know through his films, as well as caricatures of adages and relationship clichés, which I found quite entertaining. The sheer number of items to look at is overwhelming, and when this is added to how popular the exhibition is (you must pre-purchase timed tickets on the weekend, and often on weekdays too), it becomes a good idea to factor in a rather lengthy stay at MoMA. To be honest, I would have loved to stay for longer than I did, but I got a little tired of having to wait in line to see almost every piece of art in every room.

I was, however, able to spend a good amount of time looking at his literal depictions of such phrases as “undressing her with his eyes” (quite graphic and gruesome…) as well as the cinematic ephemera. I’d forgotten he did such films as James and the Giant Peach and Batman, and also learnt that one of his first jobs as an animator was for The Fox and the Hound, which I watched multiple times in my early years. I particularly loved seeing a handwritten note to Johnny Depp in which Burton suggests the cannibalism line in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and asks Depp whether he thinks it’s a good idea. I also enjoyed peering at all the models of characters from The Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas, including what could have been dozens of heads of Jack and Sally each wearing a different facial expression. Could someone procure me the model of The Oogie-Boogie Man for Christmas? It’s only protected by a glass cage and security staff on alert throughout the building, after all.

Looking through Burton’s work, I found myself drawing similarities with Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies (love!) as well as, at times, the Isz from The Maxx comic books that my brother, E.TeacherLord, once upon a time got me to read. On the whole, though, Burton’s work is refreshing, intriguing, at times disturbing, but a lot of fun. A definite must-see for Burton fans and a certainly should-see for everyone else.

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