Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park

So Right!

Last week I had the good fortune of spending a couple of days in Seattle. After three months of searing Arizona heat, a day or two spent enjoying blue skies and 78° temperatures was tonic.

While I was grinning at my good fortune, my Seattle friends were complaining bitterly about "just one more Seattle summer that never arrived".

Since the parking for my rental car was paid for in the hotel, I decided to walk to my meetings. The walk was lovely. I walked from Lower Queen Anne, through the gentrification of Belltown, the eccentricity that is the Pike Place Public Market (including the original Starbucks,) and on to Pioneer Square. 

After a full productive day as I retraced my steps back to my hotel, I passed the Seattle Art Museum's (SAM) Olympic Sculpture Park just as the sun was setting. 

I don't know why, but I had never explored this park before. Shame on me.

It is another example of the Puget Sound's most famous computer bazillionaire's (Paul and Bill) being philanthropic.

The Park Neatly Knits Together Scraps of Post Industrial Land 
Zig Zagging Over Busy Roads and Rail Lines
Successfully Joining the Regrade With The Waterfront

As I explored the free (yes I said free) park I found the whole experience marvelous. Sadly, I was still "without camera" as my old Olympus croaked last week in Venice. So my pictures here are the best I could muster with my I-Phone.

The park itself spans over a major highway and the waterfront rail spurs all the way down to the waterfront. Along the way there are many sculptures and lots of red chairs (that you can pick up and move wherever you want!)

As I entered the park I passed many families setting out blankets for picnic dinners. Some brought food, others were buying dinner from the various food wagons in the park.

This Pig Can Party!

Me, I snagged a red chair, securing a spot next to "The Eagle" (Alexander Calder's 1971 giant orange steel sculpture) which graciously shielded me from the setting sun,) while affording a perfect venue to people watch as the sun drifted away.

A Perfect Place to Watch People and Soak Up A Sunset

Some of Seattle's Avionic Handiwork 
Emerges From Behind a Giant Sculpture

Thirty years ago I lived on the south slope of Queen Anne, just a few blocks from my hotel. In those formative (code: financially broke) days, I walked (rain or shine) to work. In 1979 this area was filled with sailor bars, barf, and plenty of squalor. Now it is filled with yuppies and art.

Go figure.

Blue Skies and Seattle's Most Famous Icon

The Scale of Some Of The Sculptures Was Astounding

Well I guess timing is indeed everything. And I honestly cannot think of anywhere I would have rather spent the waning hours of September 8th, 2011.

So, after an invigorating walk I ventured on to Kidd Valley in lower Queen Anne for a big old cheeseburger and bag of deep fried battered mushrooms.

Probobaly ingested a sufficient amount of grease to trim at least a year off my life.

Totally worth it!

Roadboy's Travel's © 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Italian Door Knockers

Elegant Arrivals!

Over the past couple of weeks I had the pleasure of doing a little vacationing in Italy. For an architect, Italy is a total sensory overload. Heck, for anyone with a heartbeat, Italy is a sensory overload. There's the food, vibrant countryside, history, music, fashion, you name it. 

For some reason this trip I found myself fixated on the incredible door pulls and knockers found on seemingly every door from the most humble to the most lavish. 

Some of them were very old, some I'm sure were replicas and fairly new. I didn't really care. I just shot a lot of photos of them in Venice, Florence, Sienna, Montepulciano, and Pienza. Enjoy!


The Door To The Murano Glass Showroom in Venice


There is something wonderful in transforming the most mundane everyday things in our lives into something magical!

Think about these next time you reach for boring smooth modern chrome door pull at the bank........

Roadboy's Travels © 2011   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Farewell Venice

A Quiet Sunday Stroll -  An Historic Sea Regatta

Written September 4, 2011

This morning when I looked out of my hotel window I produced an involuntary sigh. Tomorrow I fly home and rejoin my "normal" life, so today is bittersweet.

I enjoyed a nice big breakfast then stepped out of my hotel room with no specific destination in mind. Being my last day I thought I’d generally start walking to places I’ve yet to fully explore.

The View From My Hotel Room at The Molino Stucky

I had been notified that the hotel’s motor launch service to Piazza San Marco would be curtailed much of the afternoon. When asked the concierge was not sure why. However, once aboard the launch I was told today was Venice's annual regatta of historic oared sea craft. Cool! 

So I rode just across the Guidecca Canal to Zattere. From there I started walking toward the Punta della Dogana. 

The prominence of the Punta della Dogana is important. It is where the Giudecca Canal splits from the Grand Canal. Hence, it is the location of Venice's historic Customs House (now one of Venice's many art museums.) The location is superb as it is easy walking distance to the Guggenheim collection of modern art.

Since it was a Sunday morning Venice was still quiet. Initially my walk took me past all of the old Customs House warehouses. Many have been re-purposed to showcase art installations. I stepped into two; one featuring modern Arab art and the other student art. Some of the warehouses are used by Venice's various rowing clubs, which were all abuzz gearing up for the regatta.

As I came to the very tip of the Punta I could not help but notice Charles Ray's 8' tall stark white sculpture of a boy holding up a dead frog. Apparently, this was supposed to be a temporary installation (in 2009.) So I have to assume it is becoming more permanent. I also couldn't help but notice that a guard remained inches from the sculpture complicating my photo efforts.

However, when I reached my room and read about a madman vandalizing the fountain of the Moors in Rome's Piazza Navona, the guard made sense.

Boy With Frog is striking in size, siting, and stark white finish. Also it stands at the just below the 1677 era tower capped with the magical swirling weathervane Fortuna perched on a gilded globe supported by two atlases. 

Boy With Frog
Charles Ray 2009 - Los Angeles
(Across the Canal is San Giorgio Maggiore)

The Globe With Fortuna

Fortuna From San Marco

Much of the Punta della Dogana museum is scaffolded due to a major redesign by Tadao Ando. As I understand it his design respects the form of the original building. Guess I'll just have to come back and see that someday.....

I then turned the corner and there was the lovely Basilica Santa Maria della Salute. This is the cathedral built to thank the Virgin for the end of plague. The last time I was in Venice in 2008 it was covered by elaborate scaffolding, so it was wonderful to now see it complete. I ran the gauntlet of gypsy beggars and entered the Basilica. Being Sunday mass was underway inside. The Basilica is as breathtaking inside as it is outside.

Santa Maria della Salute

Mass in Session

I then crossed the canal aiming toward the Guggenheim. Before getting there I encountered another Biennale exhibit featuring modern (berserk?) works of art from China. Many of them featured imagery from American popular culture. One sculpture was a large Mickey Mouse in a state of arousal that would not be suitable for children. If artwork is a window to a culture's soul, well China has joined the rest of the industrial world's level of ambulatory schizophrenia........

Some of Biennale's Modern Chinese Art 

I then walked by Peggy Guggenheim's Museum. This is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the  modernist art she devoted her life to collecting.

Up till now my stroll had been as quiet as one would expect on a Sunday. But as I made my way toward the Academia bridge I found the crowds.

A Quiet Sunday Morning

As well as finding the crowds I also noted that everywhere I went the Venetian flag was being raised in support of the regatta.

The Venetian Flag Being Raised

I made my way to the Academia Bridge and enjoyed the views of the Grand Canal and the flowers blooming on the grounds of the Institute of Science Letters and Art.

The Grand Canal 

From here the crowds started to develop and remained that way for the rest of the day (despite it raining a bit later in the afternoon.) As I walked I realized how much I love the gondola's and wooden water taxis' that are all over Venice. They, in my opinion, are true works of art. 

A Typical Venetian Water Taxi

From here I enjoyed some window shopping. Venice has superb shops of every sort, but I love the leather, paper, superb Murano glass, and lush Fortuny fabrics.

Amazing Leatherwork

At this point my little Olympus Stylis camera bit the dust. As it is my second Olympus to die prematurely (usually minutes after the warranty expires,) I guess my affection for Olympus is officially over.

As I made my way back to the Grand Canal I got to see the amazing Regatta and snapped a few photos with my old I-phone. Hence, the quality of the photo's is lowwwwwww.

Regatta Splendor

More Eye Candy

From here is was a stroll back to Zaterre to catch a lift back to the Molino. Like all good things, this visit to Italy is drawing to a close. Time to start packing. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Arrivederci Montestigliano

Leaving A Perfect Place

This post is a bookend. I posted when we arrived at Montestigliano, so it seemd appropriate to post again as we left.

Roadboy spends more than 140 nights a year in a hotel. 

Just roll that around in your head a bit - more than 140 nights a year in hotel rooms.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining since most of my travel is work related and a hotel stay equals gainful employment. 

And travel means I see new places and constantly meet new people. I love that. 

The downside, well I miss my loved ones, friends, and uber cute pups waiting for me at home in Phoenix.

Once in awhile when traveling for fun or work I get to stay in amazing places and this trip to Italy has been one of those times. My friend Robert arranged it all (for which I am very grateful as the organizing part normally falls to me.)

For this trip he rented a villa on the Montestigliano Estate in Tuscany (just outside of Siena.) The villa we stayed in was the oldest and largest on the estate; Villa Donati. It is hundreds of years old. It is spacious and all the beds are new. Everyone shares bathrooms. At night we had a few bees and mosquito's that ventured in. We also had a black cat that found her way in almost every night.

There was no television. There was no microwave. There was a washer, but clothes had to be line dried outside. 

Yet despite a few inconveniences, the stay was just wonderful. There were two magnificent swimming pools. There were delicious meals cooked by the resident chef using the Montestigiano Estate's own olive oil. There were views every direction. And everywhere you look were the colors of Tuscany ever changing as the sun rose or set.

This place was amazingly relaxing. I highly recommend it. In fact, I'm doing something I've never done before - adding a weblink to a specific property on this blog.

The estate only books for one week stays and there are numerous villa's of differing sizes, but for a family, special event, or reunion of special friends, this is a place that cannot be beat.

A few more more photos of Montestigliano. 

The Donati Family Villa
(Guarded Meticulously by a Grey Striped Tabby)

A Tree Lined Road On The Estate

A View From The Courtyard

The Sun Rises Over the Surrounding Hills

The Courtyard And Estate Offices
(Where Check-in and Cooking Classes Take Place)

A Fantasy of Tuscan Colors

Our Host and Chef Discuss The Superb Villa Dinner

It was so hard to leave Montestigliano this morning to make my way back to Venice. But, I have a lovely free day Sunday to explore at leisure one of the world's most amazing cities. Monday I make my way to Marco Polo airport to start my journey home.

To my friends from the villa. Godspeed till we meet again!

Roadboy's Travels © 2011 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Seeing Tuscany By Bicycle

So Much To See - So Little Shoulder

Today was a day I had really looked forward to. I jumped on a rented, yet very nice, Scott mountain bike and set out to tour at road level.

The route selected was probably about 14km and wound up including a few hills. But gravity provides the benefit of downhills for every hill climbed.

We pedaled past the town of Stigliano and made a first stop in Torri. There we walked into the amazing and well tended community graveyard. There were numerous loved ones caring for graves. Many graves are protected by extensive marble stonework. Most had photos of the loved one. Some were even equipped with electrically operated "flames".

The Well Tended Graves of Torri

We then pedalled up the beautiful cypress lined entrance road leading to the village itself. The cloister and church (and I assume the town itself) dates back to about 1000 AD and was updated in the 13th Century.

The Road to Torri

A Small B&B In Torri

We stopped here first as the lovely little cloister is only available for viewing until noon most days. The interior is designed as a protected arcade with protected views to gardens on two sides.

The Cloister's Internal Arcade 
with Stonework Reminiscent of the Siena's Duomo 

A View From The Cloister

 The Church in Torri

We then rode to Rosia and risked life and limb from the kamikaze drivers screaming past us on the narrow roads as we left town and began to climb hills.

We spent a little time having cokes in a very nice little restaurant in Sovicille. The stop was very much needed. We then rode down the hill to the flat farm land filled with acres of spent sunflowers waiting to be plowed under 

Biking Bliss - Tuscan Style

Sunflowers Everywhere

I can't think of a better way to spend a day in this spectacular place. Now if they could just add a few inches on either side of the highways I'd feel much better.

Roadboy's Travels © 2011