Thursday, January 1, 2015

Travels of 2014: From Maine to Munich

I enjoy traveling. be more accurate...I enjoy all the experiences I can gather when I visit a new city or country...but getting there isn't necessarily something enjoyable. Nevertheless, it is a necessity and worth enduring for the end result. I am about to do this yet again as I return to Munich on another work-related trip. Not all travel is a vacation, as the trip to Munich was work (although, as I will comment on below, I did have the opportunity for some site-seeing). And then there are the personal family-related trips, such as the 7 I made to Florida in 2014 that were all largely associated with my father's care. As bklynbiblio readers know, he passed away in July, and although I miss him terribly, I am fortunate that I was able to be with him for his passing. We had his services in August, and it was truly a celebration of his life. On my March visit, I was very glad that AA joined me to meet the family and my father, and a year ago on my January visit I also made a short jaunt to Jacksonville to see my dear friend SVH and meet my canine nephew Winnie, a rambunctious young greyhound. October saw me back again for the SECAC conference in Sarasota, and I took a day to see the family again, and I made another quick trip back for Christmas as well. As emotionally challenging as these visits were to endure while my father was getting worse and worse, it always has been a comfort to know I have family and friends there to help create balance and give me the opportunity to also enjoy some parts of those trips.

In May I made a 60-hour trip to Seattle for the AAMG conference, about which I blogged here. My memory of Seattle from 1997 was better than I experienced this time, but that was because my colleague DCM and I weren't in the downtown area but in the university district, which was removed from the things we would have wanted to see, like Pike Place Market. Over Memorial Day weekend, AA and I joined the FF-POs for a few days in Montreal and Quebec City, which I absolutely loved. I blogged about that trip here. I still have fond memories of Quebec City and look forward to visiting again in the near future.

Over the long 4th of July weekend, AA and I went to Chicago, one of the American cities long on my list of places to visit. I loved it! And I cannot stress to readers how difficult that is for this NYer to admit to! The one thing I did hate was the pizza. Fortunately everything else outweighed that. The city is clean. The architecture is magnificent. Lake Michigan is simply amazing. (We spent 4th of July on JK's boat on the Lake and watched the fireworks from there--just awesome!) Millennium Park is tons of fun; the image you see here shows Anish Kapour's interactive sculpture with the skyline behind it. And then there was the Art Institute of Chicago, where I finally was able to see the work you see at the top of this post: Georges Seurat's Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884-86. I think my photograph of viewers staring at the painting demonstrates well how observers inevitably become part of the melange of social classes intermingling in the park in true pointilist fashion, as Seurat likely intended. On our last day in Chicago AA and I climbed the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and I confronted my fear of heights by climbing out onto the glass ledge. I can't say I am no longer afraid of heights...truthfully it terrified me even more...but it was important that I did it. (AA of course strolled out there like it was nothing. He is fearless. So annoying!) We also took a day trip to Milwaukee, which I wasn't so crazy about, although the Calatrava-designed wing on the art museum is spectacular, particularly overlooking Lake Michigan.

After my father's funeral, I needed to get away for a few days and have a truly relaxing trip with very little to do, so AA and I flew to Boston then drove to Maine. I had not been in Maine since about 1998 or so, and I had only visited Ogunquit at that time. We went there our first night and it was everything beautiful I remembered. Walking along the rock paths overlooking the Atlantic was just breathtaking. I love the fresh smell of sea air, the cool breeze blowing off the water, and the sound of nature's ferocity as waves crash against the rocks like the crack of a slap but with a magnificent electric sting. With each passing day we moved up the coast further and visited Portland, Cape Elizabeth with its famous lighthouse (seen here), Camden (so clam chowder ever!), Belfast, and adorable little spot with nothing to do...exactly what I needed. I hated having to leave, because we only made it 1/3 of the way up the coast, but I do look forward to visiting again. I really loved that relaxing summer weekend in Maine.

As for Munich, I was fortunate amidst all my days of work to have some free time to hit so many of the museums. The Lenbachhaus, where the exhibition was held, is close to the Glyptothek and the Alte and Neue Pinakotheks, so I was able to see all the masterworks of ancient, Renaissance, and modern art that I was eager to see. One of the photos you see here is a zoomed-in shot of the glockenspiel, the mechanical life-sized music performers that play a few times a day in the main square, Marienplatz. Munich surprised me frequently. The old streets wind like concentric circles in a way that as soon as you assume you are walking east, suddenly you are walking southwest. I got lost so many times it was ridiculous. However, it gave me more of an opportunity to see much of the city as a result. I was also surprised at how German and Italian it was. There is Germanic architecture, but there is a surprising amount of Italianate architecture as well, and indeed I found myself able to communicate using Italian more than English with various people. The Oktoberfest was starting while I was there, so I had a chance to visit the grounds. It is basically a giant beer festival, but family friendly (and gay friendly--another surprise!). lederhosen and "beer wench" Bavarian costumes were everywhere. The pastries and pretzels were divine...(why don't we use pretzels as bread? it's ingenious!)...I devoured about 3 of these plum tarts that you see in the picture below. I definitely enjoyed Munich much more than my trip to Frankfurt last year. Rumor has it there is about a foot of snow on the ground in Munich at present, and potentially more coming this better not ruin more chances to see the city over the weekend before work starts!

What's on the travel agenda for 2015? I have a work trip to Fort Worth coming up. I may do a pop-over to London to see a few exhibitions I'm very interested in. But the big trip I'm very much looking forward to is Italia in April. I have not been since 2009, so I am going first to visit family, and then AA is flying over with the DPG-JBs and we are going to visit Rome, Florence, and Milan. I'm even scheduled to give a talk at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome while I'm there. More details coming soon....

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