Friday, November 23, 2018

Hotel Archaeology

Quebec City has one of the most picturesque historic centers that I have ever visited in North America. There is something incredibly charming about all the flagstone facades, the cobblestone streets, the dated historic buildings, the division of upper and lower cities each with their own interesting sights, and the inherently French provincial vibe that the old town exudes. AA, his cousin GDA, and I just returned from a brief visit there (after a couple of days in Montreal). The temperature was unseasonably, frigidly cold, and there was about a foot of snow on the ground with flurries continuing our entire visit. You can see below the picture of AA and me outside the Chateau Frontenac (now a Fairmount Hotel) and witness our winter-like experience! But the overall icy-cold experience helped open up the holiday season for me, so it was all worth it.

Even more intriguing was the hotel where we stayed this time: Auberge Saint-Antoine. This was an incredibly relaxing, luxurious hotel/spa experience; when you leave for the evening for dinner, you come back to your room and discover turn-down service, herbal tea, subdued lighting, and a CD with Diana Krall singing soft jazz. What fascinated me about the hotel most, however, was how they incorporated archaeological artifacts as part of the decor and history of the site. The hotel was originally a fort and merchant house in the 17th century, and over time the grounds and buildings changed. When the hotel underwent renovations about 15 years ago, they excavated hundreds of cultural artifacts, like fragments of ceramic dishes, glassware, knives and forks, leather shoes, cannonballs, pipes, ... the list goes on and on. All of the artifacts have been beautifully displayed in vitrines embedded in the walls (as you in the above image). Even the rooms are themed and named around a particular ceramic fragment. Most of the artifacts date from the late 18th/early 19th centuries, but it is fascinating to discover some objects dating back to the late 1600s.

The personal service, the comfortable room, the delicious food and cocktails, and the archaeology-as-decor all make for a wonderful experience in one of the most picturesque cities I know. I look forward to another visit in the near future!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

First Snowfall: 2018-2019 Fall/Winter

The meteorologists had predicted some snow flurries for the NYC area today, with most of the actual snow heading further north and west. Well, imagine everyone's surprise when the snow actually starting sticking and didn't go away! Yes, today was our first snowfall of the 2018-2019 fall/winter season. I was stuck in my office working through most of it, so I didn't get to take pictures. AA, however, was working from home, so he took this picture you see here during the afternoon hours when the snow was coming down pretty heavily. It was a very wet snow, and by the end of the day had turned into slushy ice-like rain that was very slippery. Nothing too pretty about that kind of snowfall today!

It seemed rather ironic to me, then, that here we are freezing and getting iced by Mother Nature, when right in the heart of NYC at Rockefeller Center, Christie's auction house this evening broke the record for the most money a work of art by a living artist ever sold at auction: the hammer price went for $90m! The painting is the one you see here, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, by that grand dame of a British queen, David Hockney. According to The New York Times, "The painting was executed during a three-month period of intense creativity after the artist broke up with his American art student lover, Peter Schlesinger. Many viewers assume that the scene is set in California, where Mr. Hockney has lived for decades. But the canvas was painted in London, based on photographs taken at a pool in the South of France." I was fortunate to have seen this painting at the recent Hockney exhibition at The Met, and it was the star of the show, an exquisite composition with incredible color, without a doubt one of Hockney's best works. And now with the price tag to match. Oh, but to jump in that pool right now, instead of bundling up with the heater on beside me...