Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: A Spire on Chartres Cathedral



You can really only see these trumeau figures on Chartres when ascending the bell tower on the western side. You can see traces of paint that have survived the centuries, but this would have been brightly (almost cartoonishly bright) colored in the 12th century.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Things I Miss Now that I Live in Boston

I’m a slow-mad.

I’ve moved far more than your average non-military/government official’s kid. A few years in Pennsylvania, a quick stop in Minnesota, a smattering of time in South Carolina, several years in Georgia, a handful in Tennessee, and now I’ve been in Massachusetts for over a year and a half. WHEW!

There are MANY, MANY things I love about Boston/Cambridge. Actual seasons, public transportation, the ability to bike or walk without risking certain death, a billion Indian restaurants, and multiple museums to name a few. There are MANY, MANY things I don’t miss like 5 months of heat and humidity, cicadas, college football as a religion, did I mention heat and humidity?

But there are some things I miss from spending 17 years in the South. Things I didn’t expect to miss, things I didn’t realized I liked so much, and things that are available in many places outside of the South but not here.



I had to find a meat-and-three venture owned by a former Nashvillian to get an okay biscuit. These were a bit on the dry side, but they’re soft and flaky. No doughy or bready excuse of a biscuit. I shouldn’t have experienced the wonders of Loveless Cafe in Nashville or Flying Biscuit in Atlanta because I am jaded now. Nothing can get close to those bars.



Boston, why in God’s name does your supposedly best BBQ spot charge nearly $20 for a plate of pulled pork?????  It DOES NOT cost that much to make. All I want is pulled meat that’s not soaked in artificial smoke or a kajillion dollars. Blue Ribbon isn’t bad, but their sides aren’t my cup of tea. Someone, make a proper corn pudding or vinegar slaw or hushpuppies that are round. I would kill for a Redneck Taco from Martin’s BBQ.


Not a Southern thing, but did you know that happy hour is illegal in Massachusetts? You can get discounted food during “happy hour”, but you cannot get discounted drinks. Apparently a woman got grossly over-served at a happy hour in the 80s which led to a horrific car accident. So Massachusetts chose to take the Footloose route and ban them for everyone. Yeah, I couldn’t buy booze on Sunday (SC and GA) or I had to go to one side of the store for beer then pay and use a separate entrance to another side for wine (TN), but at least I could have a discounted beer after work. Sigh…



That thing in the snow behind the rake? That’s a car antenna or a windshield wiper.

In the South, if it even THREATENS to snow, things will shut down/close early/open late. I was sent home from school for flurries. Snow people may scoff, but there’s really nothing to move the snow. Atlanta has maybe 4 plows for the entire city. There’s not a lot of salt, so sand is used to give traction. Which does not help in an iced over apartment parking lot. The snow itself isn’t the problem as much as the ice is. It was nice to never really venture out if it was icy because you knew it would melt fairly quickly. Here? We run out of room to put the snow. You can’t walk because there are piles of snow on sidewalk intersections, but you can’t park because the snow drift prevents you from opening your door. But no one cares unless it’s Nemo.

An addition to this would also be not having to wear a coat with feathers in it. I survived happily with just a pea coat.

If you’ve moved a lot, what do you miss from your previous home?

Monday, September 9, 2013

12 Tips for Visiting Dublin

Are you heading to TBEX Dublin next month? First time to Dublin? Well, I have you covered. I may not have my pulse on what’s super cool right now, but I spent a semester in Dublin and have been back 7 times total. So there’s that.

  • Take the Airlink into Dublin city centre from the airport. You’ll get dropped off right on O’Connell Street (or a rail station, Luas line, or Busáras).  It’s only 6 euro for a one way ticket or 10 euro for a roundtrip ticket.
  • Speaking of buses, you’ll need to state your final destination when you board city buses as that determines your fare. If you don’t have exact change, be sure to keep your receipts so you can claim your change at the Dublin Bus office on O’Connell Street.
  • One last bus thing, if your bus is approaching, you’ll need to step towards the curb and stick up your arm like you’re hailing a cab. Buses won’t automatically stop as many stops are shared by multiple routes.



  • Take advantage of the many free museums in Dublin such as: The National Museum of Archaeology (pictured above), the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Irish Jewish Museum (yes, that’s not an oxymoron), the National Museum of Decorative Arts, or the Dublin City Gallery. Though the Book of Kells is TOTALLY worth the entrance fee. Just remember that it will be dim to preserve the book’s integrity.
  • If you like crowded, loud pubs full of travelers and students, go to a pub in Temple Bar. If you want something a bit quieter, look for a pub near Merrion Square or on a side street in D2 or the south side of Dublin. I liked The Bank near Trinity as a study abroad student.
  • Another pub tip: DO NOT ORDER AN IRISH CAR BOMB OR A BLACK AND TAN. Order a boilermaker or half and half instead. You’ll get the same exact drink without being culturally offensive.
  • Last pub tip: ladies, some of the older, smaller pubs in Dublin but especially outside of Dublin will automatically give you a glass (half pint) if you order a Guinness rather than a pint. It wasn’t considered ladylike to have a pint of Guinness back in the day, so you need to specify. That said, if you’re doing rounds of drinks with your friends, it may be easier to keep up by ordering a glass rather than a pint.
  • Speaking of the south side of Dublin, while there are some cool places on the north side (the GPO, Gin Palace), it’s not exactly a place you should wander at night unless you’re in the theatre district. Stay on the south side in the evening if you’re alone.


  • If, and this is a big if, the weather is nice, go for a stroll in Phoenix Park, St. Stephen’s Green, around Trinity, Blessington Street Basin, or the Iveagh Gardens.
  • ALWAYS HAVE AN UMBRELLA WITH YOU. It may look sunny when you leave, but it will rain at some point. Or all it will do is rain.
  • Grab a cup of tea at Bewley’s on Grafton Street. The facade and stained glass date from the 1920s and 30s, plus you must have a cup of tea at some point in Ireland if not multiple times a day.
  • Take the (EDIT) DART out to Howth (hoe-th) and Malahide, north of Dublin, if you get a chance. Or take it south to Dun Laoghaire (dun leery). Both are pretty seaside towns.

There’s so much to do in Dublin let alone in Ireland, so don’t try to cram in too much around TBEX.

Monday, September 2, 2013

ArtSmart Roundtable: The Pantheon in Western Art


This month, the ArtSmart Roundtable is highlighting travel in art. After a lot of debate, I settled on depictions of one of Rome’s most famous monuments in art: the Pantheon.

The Pantheon has been in continual use since Hadrian’s repairs to Agrippa’s structure in 126 AD. It was converted into a Christian church in 609, thus allowing the building to survive essentially intact. Sculptures, the doors, and the copper bosses that covered the ceiling (melted down in the 1600s to make cannons for Castel Sant’Angelo nearby) are gone, but the bones of the Pantheon are pretty much as is since Caracalla repaired it in 202.

Paintings and etchings of the Pantheon over the centuries show the changes both within and without that have occurred. There were two bell towers added during the Middle Ages, the piazza in front changed shape as buildings were added, demolished, and rebuilt. The interior was redecorated to suit the needs of a Roman Catholic church and the subsequent tombs of various kings, popes, and artists.


The interior of the Pantheon (Roma), by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1758.

The interior of the Pantheon (Roma), by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1758 via Wikimedia Commons

You can see from this 18th century painting how the ceiling has been stripped of the copper bosses. The interior in 1758 looks pretty close to what we see today.

The Pantheon in Rome by Joseph Kürschner, 1891 via Wikimedia Commons

The Pantheon in Rome by Joseph Kürschner, 1891 via Wikimedia Commons

This late 19th century depicts an imagined ancient interior with statues of various gods and toga-wearing worshippers.

Pantheon of Rome, Elevation, by James Ferguson, 1893 via Wikimedia Commons

Pantheon of Rome, Elevation, by James Ferguson, 1893 via Wikimedia Commons

This elevation shows how much of the dome is actually hidden by the exterior structure. The exterior dome is flat, but the interior is a true hemisphere. The concrete starts out thicker at the drum and becomes much thinner around the central oculus. If I had to be somewhere in Rome during an earthquake, I’d take the inside of the Pantheon.


Veduta del Pantheon by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in 1756 via Wikimedia Commons

Veduta del Pantheon by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in 1756 via Wikimedia Commons

Piranesi created many etchings of Rome highlighting ancient ruins. You can read more about him over at Travellious from an earlier ArtSmart. I have a different view of the Piazza della Rotunda by Piranesi on my bedroom wall. You can see his attempt to disguise the medieval bell towers by cropping the facade in such a way that you don’t really notice them.

Das Pantheon und die Piazza della Rotonda in Rom by Rudolf von Alt, 1835 via Wikimedia Commons

Das Pantheon und die Piazza della Rotonda in Rom by Rudolf von Alt, 1835 via Wikimedia Commons

Those bell towers are far more obvious here. They were taken down later in the 19th century. The scene is from further back in the piazza to include the obelisk and fountain.

Pantheon in Rome around 1835. Drawing by W.L. Leitch, engraving by W.B. Cooke via Wikimedia Commons

Pantheon in Rome around 1835. Drawing by W.L. Leitch, engraving by W.B. Cooke via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a similar view in the same year but from the other side of the piazza. It was common for printmakers to use a different artist’s drawings to create an etching or engraving like above.

Of course, these historical renderings are not as incredible as seeing the Pantheon in person. But I hope that seeing it as a focus for western art over the centuries adds to the gravitas of actually visiting it.

What is ArtSmart?  A few fellow travel bloggers with an interest in art and I decided to do a roundtable series focused on making our readers “art smart”, e.g. understanding why certain works of art are famous and worth the visit while traveling.  At the end of this post are links to the other ArtSmart posts by participating bloggers.  Interested in joining the Roundtable?  Check out our Facebook page or email me.

This Month’s Fellow ArtSmart Roundtable Articles:

Lesley of Culture Tripper: Marianne North, Victorian Adventurer and Botanical Artist

Christina of Daydream Tourist: John Singer Sargent’s Travel Pictures

Jeff of EuroTravelogue: Norway: Then and Now

Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles: Travel and the Nomadic Happening

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Singing Beach

beach, north shore, cape, summer

In Massachusetts, we’ve got quite a number of beaches to pick from. City beaches, the Cape, the South Shore, and the North Shore. The traffic is insane going to the South Shore and Cape at this time of year, so we opted to go north to Manchester-by-the-Sea. Their Singing Beach has a special sand that squeaks when you walk on it. Something about the sand’s shape and make up. It’s quite amusing to drag your feet in it and hear it squeak. It’s also a quit beach because legal parking for out-of-towners is hard to come by, and you have to pay $5 to go on the beach. You can also take the commuter rail up as well. But because it requires a little effort and some walking, a lot of people opt for other beaches leaving this one wonderfully quiet. Just avoid high tide as the beach nearly disappears.