A CITY A WEEK...LISBON AND FABULOUS PORTUGAL

by adeline talbot


My mom had a wonderful expression that I have been trying—and failing—to remember all week.  What it was not is the phrase that keeps suggesting itself to me which for some completely unaccountable reason is ‘keep the ditch in the road’.  Nonsensical and bad advice.  As I say—not it.

I think it must have been along of lines of ‘keep the plow in the row’ only with a bit more lyrical zing.

And why, you may ask, so much thought given to this during this particular week? Because this week despite all best intentions and efforts, the Tuesday blog is coming out on Friday, that’s why. 

You know that kind of week—the kind when one is just sort of glad to be able to claim to have a row much less a plow.  All aspirations of a higher order perfections shoved to the side.  Head down. Full steam ahead until you can at least see the end.

And here it is--Friday! Mission accomplished!!

End of the week and of the figurative row, and may I say, with plenty to show for all the effort despite a certain lack orderliness...

In my case, the week's accomplishments include the new, complete and I think very exciting itinerary for Portugal, my new favorite place.

You’ll find it in its entirety below.

The itinerary starts in Lisbon, moves on to the Alentejo town of Evora then to Porto.  

All fa-bu-lous.

(No kidding, I know I say every place is my favorite but this really is…honest…)

Portugal is gorgeous, delicious, friendly, safe and, based on experience the last bargain on the planet.

You. Need. To. Come. Along.

And you need more info—so read on (or click the tab above in 'Navigation').

In the meantime--Happy Friday, all. We did it.

Time to put up your plow, don't you think?

PORTUGAL

SEPTEMBER 23rd to October 1st, 2017

Eight days to introduce this fabulous gem of a country? We like to think we’ve done just that with this itinerary designed around the country’s many, many charms.  Whether it is Lisbon’s post-empire glory, the Alentejo’s profound—and delicious—sense of place or Porto’s hip-meets-history vibe, we have created an itinerary that is busy while never rushed; rich with 'must sees' as well as ‘only for us’ experiences.  For a thousand and one reasons the time to visit Portugal is now!

$4150

Includes 7 breakfasts, 1 afternoon petisco break, 5 lunches, 5 dinners, 8 nights accommodation, all trip–related fees, admissions and transportation. Not included: airfare, airport transfers and alcoholic beverages unless otherwise stated. Single supplement $850.

ACCOMMODATIONS :: VALVERDE HOTEL, LISBON; M'AR DE AR ADEDUTO, EVORA; PORTO AS 1829, PORTO

Saturday SEPTEMBER 23rd

Architectural Walking tour

As those of you who have traveled with us know—we love to start with a good walk.  We believe it is simply the best way to get to know a new city.  Lisbon makes this particularly rewarding with its fabulous architecture, walkable streets and vibrant neighborhoods.

‘Tea’ at MEMMO ALFAMA

Another of our first afternoon favorites, this time tweaked just a bit to better enjoy the customs of the country.  This 'tea time' we opt for petiscos (Portuguese tapas) and a favorite tipple or two at this fabulous spot in the Alfama, where the river views are as famous as the fare.

Dinner :: Open

We keep it flexible tonight—you can call it a day, venture out for dinner at one of the many neighborhood spots or stay in for dinner at SITIO , Valaverde’s celebrated restaurant.

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 24th

Today we begin with a tour of one of Lisbon’s singular attractions, The Monastery of St Jerome. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a superb example of Manueline architecture built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage of exploration. In both spirit and fact, the monastery lies at the heart of the Portuguese soul.

Lunch :: POPULI

We stop for lunch at this popular spot on the grand Praca De Comercio

MUSEU DO AZULEJO

We tour this small gem of a museum which tells the outsized story of azulejos—tin-glazed tiles—and their continuing delight, influence and importance in Portuguese culture.

CASTEL DE SAO JORGE

Saint George's Castle, with its earliest ramparts dating from the 6th century, is a magnificent oasis of calm that belies its  fourteen centuries of turbulent history.

DINNER :: TABIK

Stylish, excellent and a short stroll from our hotel.  I’d say that about sums it up! 

MONDAY SEPTEMBER 25th

We depart after breakfast for a two hour bus ride through the gorgeous Alentejo region of central Portugal arriving in Monsaraz in time for an introduction to its justly famous textile tradition. We follow this with a guided stroll through this fabulous ancient hilltop town.

Lunch :: TAVERNA OS TEMPLARIOS

  A charming restaurant with terrific local specialties and equally terrific views.

A QUINTA DO MOUROS

Vineyard Tour and Dinner

The Alentejo is Portugal’s most important wine region. We combine a delicious crash course in Portuguese wine with a vineyard tour to be followed by a private dinner in the vineyard's elegant manor  house.

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 26th

EVORA

Charming and very walkable, Evora’s centuries of history are evident at every turn.  In addition to its stunning Roman aqueduct, there is its Temple to Diana, the 13th century cathedral, the imposing 14th century ducal palace and the macabre Capela dos Ossos--Chapel of The Bones--to name a few.

LUNCH :: RESTAURANTE FIALHO

This picturesque restaurant has been Evora’s most celebrated since opening in 1945.

ALMENDRES CROMLECH

The Alentejo region has an abundance of prehistoric menhirs and other megalithic monuments.  The Alemedres Cromlech, located a few kilometers outside Evora, is one of the largest and best preserved of these in all of Europe.

Open :: Dinner

A bit of self-guided time to explore the delights of Evora, culinary and otherwise.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 27th

We depart Evora for Porto. It’s a three hour trip and we thought we’d break it up just a bit with a stop in COIMBRA,

 one of the oldest university towns in Europe.

CAFETARIA DO MUSEU

We have a light lunch upon arrival in Coimbra in this charming 17th century laboratory turned cafe.

UNIVERSIDADE DE COIMBRA BIBLIOTECA JOANINA and

 CEPELA DE SAO MIGUEL

We tour two stunning examples of Manueline Baroque architecture--the university's glorious 18th century library and the adjacent Chapel of Saint Michael.

Dinner :: ODE PORTO WINEHOUSE

We arrive in Porto in time to settle in to our digs, the gracious Porto AS 1829 Hotel, and then stroll to dinner at ODE Winehouse.

 THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 28th

Walking Tour of Porto

Again, what better way to get to know the history and culture of a city than to see its sites on foot and up close?

LUNCH ::  VINUM

The elegant restaurant attached to Graham Port Lodge has sweeping views and delicious fare.

GRAHAM'S PORT LODGE

Nothing is more essential to Porto than its port lodges--and Grahams is widely considered to have the finest 'caves'. We then enjoy a tasting in their renowned Private Vintage Room.

Open :: Dinner

Whether sidewalk café or Michelin-starred, Porto offers endless wonderful culinary choices.

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 29th

SERRALVES FOUNDATION

We tour Porto’s superb contemporary art museum, widely considered to be one of the finest in Southern Europe, before breaking for an open lunch and afternoon.

DINNER :: DOP PORTO

This charming and intimate restaurant is one of Porto’s most popular special occasion spots--and its just up the hill from our hotel. The ideal combination!

 SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 30th

We return to Lisbon in time for an afternoon of shopping, sightseeing—or maybe just chill time by the Tejo River.

DINNER :: SITIO

We keep it close to home on our last night in Portugal with a very festive farewell dinner at Valverde’sSITIO.

SUNDAY OCTOBER 1st

Tour ends after breakfast.

 

 

 


A CITY A WEEK...PRAGUE WITH GUEST BLOGGER RANDY SHULL

by adeline talbot


I'm a fan and have been for a long time now.  A Randy Shull fan, that is.  

A fan of his paintings, his furniture and of his design work which includes most recently his multi-year re-design of the Black Mountain Museum + Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina.  

All of Randy's varied work shares a fundamental strengtha cogency of concept and shape, not only beautiful but also deeply intelligent. 

In addition to these many talents, Randy is also a traveler. And that brings me to today's post.

 Randy spent August 2016 in Prague participating in an artist residency program that is jointly sponsored by the American Embassy and the Czech Ministry of Culture. 

When Randy and I saw each of recently at a Weatherspoon Art Museum event we discussed Prague as a city of surprises.  

The truth is that many of us think we know the real Prague.  That it is a sweet and appealing jewel box of a city—heartbreakingly beautiful but perhaps just a bit frozen in time. 

Ah, but there is so much more. Historical jewel box, yes, spared from the destructions of World War II as was no other European capital, but also a living breathing city, modern, vibrant and humming with cultural life.  

 As evidence of this one need look no further than Randy's photographs and video taken during his recent visit.  They run the gamut from the Royal Gardens to the city's justly celebrated Cubist architecture (this one with a nod to one of her most celebrated native sonsKafka) to the DOX Center for Contemporary Art, making it clear--Prague literally spans centuries.

The video above gives a view of the courtyard of the Bubec Sculpture Studio, founded by the Czech Republic’s foremost sculptor, Cestmir Suskaand host site for Shull’s  month-long residency.

Come to Prague with us next May and you will see for yourself.  It is a wonderful city, packed full of surprises...


A CITY A WEEK...CAPE TOWN

by adeline talbot


If you have traveled before on one of our trips offered in partnership with Weatherspoon Art Museum then you know—amazing things tend to happen.

Weatherspoon’s Nancy Doll has a way of creating a very special trip that brings together the major must-sees with a select group of very special private access experiences.   

I was reminded of this recently when preparing for our upcoming trip to Cape Town in late spring 2017, jointly sponsored by Weatherspoon Art Museum and Preservation Greensboro

We will arrive just after the opening of perhaps the world's most important new museum.  

Hyperbole? Not really.

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa , or Zeitz MOCAA, will be the first-ever major museum dedicated to the African contemporary art. With the opening of this museum, Cape Town is poised to become a new center of gravity within the contemporary art world.  And Zeitz MOCAA is  poised to be the cultural world's new must-see museum supplanting such recent additions as Crystal Bridges in Bentonville and The Broad in Los Angeles.

The brilliant design for Zeitz MOCCA has already garnered its share of attention for Thomas Heatherwick’s repurposing of a series of grain silos along Cape Town’s waterfront. 

In a bit of Weatherspoon synergy, Heatherwick’s name may be familiar to Dallas Fall 2014 participants where we saw to a terrific retrospective of his work at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

See what I mean?  With Nancy along things just naturally add up to extraordinary experiences.

Zeitz MOCAA, a new must-see--and just one of the wonders we will encounter in one of the world's great cities.  

Come see for yourself!

 

 


A CITY A WEEK...PHILADELPHIA

by adeline talbot


I'm back after a little needed if unexpected September R & R.  And not only am I back but I am positively raring to go with a slew of exciting trips on offer for next year. 

This morning we announce 'The Gardens of Philadelphia’ itinerary offered in partnership with Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden—and below I will give my thoughts on why Philadelphia is the best garden city ever—but first a brief shout out on another 2017 destination--Prague. 

You may have seen the great article in a recent Sunday New York Times Travel section on Prague's latest hotspots--but if you missed here’s a link:

FIVE PLACES TO GO IN PRAGUE

 Prague is a hip and happy place—and one that always rewards an extended visit.  I’ll be there to help make sure things go smoothly but it will be my co-leaders, Marsha Gordon and Louis Cherry, who will serve as our resident experts.  Marsha is a film historian and Louis is a modernist architect and  together they know Prague better than most Czechs.  All of which adds up to a not to be missed experience! 

And as for knowing cities well, I can justly claim to know Philadelphia very well. It's my husband's hometown and where we both lived for the first 10 years after college. The tradition continues now with our daughter's recent move to Philly after her college graduation in May. That all adds up to a lot of touch points—and yet I was struck when developing the itinerary for our spring trip that perhaps the very best lens of all through which to view Philadelphia is through her landscapes and gardens. 

Not only are they magnificent—and they truly, truly are magnificent—but they strike me as uniquely suited to capture the proud and continuing heritage of this great American city and her surrounding region. 

Bartram's Garden, the oldest surviving botanical garden in the nation; Longwood Gardens, one of the world's premier botanical gardens; Fairmount Park, the largest landscaped urban park anywhere--so many must-see sites here seem to be accompanied by these superlatives. 

Even technically ‘small scale’ gardens, such as Chanticleer, are incomparably fine.  

And the splendor is not limited to past glories.  Take, for example, the very contemporary one-acre living roof high atop Center City’s PECO Building. Stunning views, stunning design and all in the service of better, more efficient energy use.

And as an added bonus, the region’s verdure seems to have inspired one of the country’s best restaurant scenes, as we will happily experience as part of our exploration of the region.

Can you tell I am excited?  Well, I am--and truly think you will be too once you give our itinerary a look.

And I hope you decide to come along!!


TWO CITIES THIS WEEK...STELLENBOSCH AND FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA

by adeline talbot


Planning for a trip is, in a very real way, a bit of a treasure hunt especially when planning for group travel. After all, 'on the fly' for twenty or more is just not that likely to lead to good things.   

 The challenge, though, is not lack of information.  

There are endless online sources and, of course, this very endlessness creates its own challenges.  Just so much information.  How to evaluate it all?

 There is also the always important research trip but arriving in-country without a working plan risks wasting this very investment of time and treasure.   This is the time to refine the plan--not to get one.

Don't get me wrong--I absolutely love doing online research.  I never tire of a day spent chasing down options that the hold out the promise of the best and most interesting experiences.

And I absolutely, positively love a research trip. After all, I am on record--any excuse will do when it comes to travel. 

I'm just saying that like all good treasure hunts, one must be prepared to not only to go deep but wide.  I have found that one of the most valuable strategies is to take every opportunity to ask questions--lots of questions--starting with the sturdiest pair of all--'have you been there and what did you love?'.  

All this brings me to recent conversations I have had about  a very special region.

The place--or, more accurately, places--are the two towns at the very center of South African wine country--Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Over past few months, I have developed the impression that these two small towns have the biggest fan base on the planet.  Everyone who has ever been there has copious advice about 'must do's'. 

Want to hear the partial and still growing list?  

Well here goes--for Stellenbosch and environs--

Merlust Estate

Ken Forrester Vineyards

Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards

Waterford Estate Stellenbosch

Vriesenhof Vineyards

L'Avenir Stellenbosch

Muratie Wine Estate

Clos Malvern Wines Estate

And for Franschhoek and environs--

Lynx Wines

La Motte

Stony Brook Vineyards

Haute Cabriere

Hard to fit into three days no matter how committed we are--but believe me, we're will leave no stone unturned.  In early June 2017, as a very special optional extension to our trip to Cape Town, we will be experiencing  Stellenbosch and Franschhoek at its best.  Hope you can join us!


A CITY A WEEK...MONSARAZ, PORTUGAL

by adeline talbot


If you have seen me this summer then you know... I  AM  IN LOVE  WITH  PORTUGAL!

We spent 10 days there in early June this year as a part of a trip to celebrate our daughter's college graduation.  I could wax rhapsodic on any given in-country moment, accommodation or meal and to be sure I will be posting on other Portuguese destinations in the coming months.  (With such rich material, how could I not?) But today I start with a true standout--Monsaraz.  Our afternoon there surely qualifies as one of those best days ever.  

Monsaraz was suggested to us by François Savatier, co-owner of the fabulous inn, Villa Extramuros, in Arraiolos.  He said it is an easy day trip--a mere 45 minutes away from the inn, past the nearby Roman-era town of Evora, on through the heart of the Alentejo region with its low-lying fields of cork trees, contoured rolling hills of wine grape trellises, gamboling sheep and castellated hill towns.

Indeed, the short car ride was in itself a wonder. 

Monsaraz is known for many things, not least of which is its long--very long--history as evidenced by its neolithic megaliths followed by traces of Roman, Moorish and, as a result of the Reconquista, Portuguese Christian influences.    This very long history in a now isolated corner of Portugal, snugged up against the Spanish border as it is, gives the village a land-that-time-forgot-picture-postcard-quality that is both vivid and dream-like.

We loved our Sunday lunch followed by a stroll down drowsy cobblestone streets lined with white-washed houses and stone battlements. And yet this is not the reason we were drawn to Monsaraz.  These were the bonus delights.  

 What drew us there were the textiles. We found the blankets and rugs at Extramuros to be showstoppers.  Everywhere we looked--in our rooms or in the dead dead gorgeous common spaces--we found these lush and beautiful works of art.  Oddly, they reminded us of our much loved collection of New Mexican textiles.  

As it turns out there was nothing odd about it.  As  Francois explained, these traditional textile patterns and techniques are a legacy of the Moors whose domination in the Iberian Peninsula predates the colonization of the New World--hence these influences not only continue to be felt throughout the Iberian Peninsula but also in former Spanish colonies of the New World.  

He then suggested our day trip to Monsaraz, famous for their fine traditional textiles--most notably in the atelier of Mizette Nielsen.  

What can I say? We went. We saw. We bought.  

The quality and designs were superb.  And it cannot be denied that in the long list of appealing qualities to be found in modern Portugal, a dollar goes very long way.  It was easy to 'just say yes!'

My recommendation? See your for yourself...either by visiting the website for  Mizette Nielson's textile atelier (click here) or better yet-- by taking the plunge--a visit to Monsaraz and the Alentejo region of Portugal.

 It's my new favorite!!

 

 

 

 


A CITY A WEEK...THE TOWNS OF SOUTHERN SICILY WITH GUEST BLOGGER RODNEY OUZTS

by adeline talbot


This week Rodney Ouzts, friend and fellow travel enthusiast, contributes another of his occasional posts about his Italian travels.  Rodney's a natural at this--he paints such a vivid picture that every destination becomes a 'must see'.  Today is no exception.  Rodney reports on not one but several towns of Southern Sicily, each one more inviting than the last--as you will see for yourself!

Going for Baroque: A Sojourn in Sicily

When flying into the small airport of Comiso in southern Sicily, the first thing you spot before landing are miles and miles of greenhouses reaching almost to the sea.  Very quickly, it is apparent you are in one of the top agricultural regions of Italy. Upon landing and driving out of the airport, it seems in those greenhouses are millions of tomato plants.  Driving further, you pass acres and acres of orange trees, almond trees and cactuses, some as large as a Fiat 500.  The landscape is constantly changing. One minute you feel you are in Provence with white rocky terrains. A few minutes later, you are in North Africa with its arid flat plains. The sea is as clear and clean as any Caribbean island. Then suddenly, the car takes a mountain curve and heads into a green valley.

Sicily is a unlike any other place in Italy. It surprises, seduces, charms and contradicts all you thought you knew about Italy. For me, it is a nice change to the picture perfect rolling hills of Tuscany, the sophistication of Milan, the chaos of Rome or the impossible beauty of Venice. The people we met in restaurants, shops, hotels and even in the streets, are extremely polite, hospitable and seemingly happy you are there.

Sicily is large, in fact, the largest region in Italy at 9,923 square miles with over 5 million inhabitants. The region includes the smaller islands surrounding it including the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, Pantelleria, among others.

The areas where we traveled first are considered Southern and Southwestern Sicily which contains some of the finest and best preserved baroque structures on the island. The archeological sites are legendary including the Greek Theater Syracuse (“Siracusa” in modern Italian) and the Villa del Casale in Piazza Armerina which contains exquisite Roman mosaics discovered fairly recently. Within a few hours drive is the famous Valle dei Templi, containing magnificent remains of a Greek colony. In other words, the island is rich in ancient remains and its history can be traced back 2000 years. It has been dominated by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines,  Arabs, Normans and the Spanish.  Scholars and art historians can spend a life time tracing its rich history.  This mix of cultures and traditions are what make Sicily so interesting. You are in Italy but you are in a place that is singular, cut off from the mainland of Europe and holding onto all of these outside influences and cultures who at one time or another ruled the island.

We based the first part of the trip in Ragusa, an ancient city divided into two parts: the newer “Baroque Ragusa” built in 1693 after an earthquake; and Ibla, the ancient part of the city inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. Ibla is built higher up on a rocky crest. One thing to remember is that climbing steps is part of the Sicilian experience so bring comfortable walking shoes. Only Italian women can maneuver safely in their Ferragamo and Prada high heels on these sidewalks. Indeed, I thought I was in better shape until I started climbing cascades of steps at every turn.

Ragusa is not only an excellent town to base oneself in for exploring the region but it is also a perfectly sized town not overrun with tourists.  You can settle in and feel a part of this city. We were there during the celebration of their patron saint, San Giorgio.  Sitting at a café in the square with the locals that evening, we listened to town’s marching band while enjoying a glass of prosecco and later, like everyone else, followed the statue of the patron saint up the cathedral steps.

Ragusa has wonderful hotel options and excellent food. The local restaurants are quite sophisticated.  The chefs in restaurants, we visited respected tradition but took chances. One evening in a small restaurant, my pasta entrée was a traditional “vongole” with baby clams but this chef took it a step further, adding pesto, pistachios and almonds.   It may sound a little strange but it was delicious and represented perfectly a mix of the traditions of Italy with the rich varied culture of Sicily.

Not far from Ragusa is the ancient town of Modica, known for its chocolate and the 250 step flight which descends from its Duomo, San Giorgio.  Modica is also built on a hill and divided into Modica Alta and Modica Basso.   Did I mention there are more steps to climb? It is a bit more touristy due to this reputation for chocolate and ceramics but it is still a good example of a very livable, walkable and pleasing town. In fact, one of the most pleasant surprises of Sicily is wandering around is just as enriching as visiting a museum. The landscapes and architecture never fail to please.

Perhaps one of the best reasons to visit this area, is a visit to Noto. After a devastating earthquake in 1693, the town was rebuilt in the 18th century by such prominent architects as Rosario Gagliardi, Vincenzo Sinatra and Antonio Mazza.  It is a planned city and once again,  this is not the baroque style one is accustomed to seeing in Germany or Austria.  It is more restrained and the first thing you notice about the buildings is the color. Builders used a fragile rose colored stone called “pietra calcarea.” It is very pleasing to the eye and lessens the power of the ornamentation.

Another city worth your time is the Piazza Armerina located in the southwestern region of Sicily. It is known for the 3rd – 4th century AD estate, Villa del Casale.  It was the home of a wealthy landowner and contains exceptional mosaics. Like Pompeii, its preservation is due to a natural disaster. In the mid 12th century, a flood caused the rooms of the villa to be buried in mud, thus preserving them. The villa was discovered in the 19th century and the 1950’s and 1960’s, archeologists discovered the mosaics which many consider to be the “most exceptional Roman mosaics in the world.” The site is well organized. You cross the villa on platforms allowing viewers to look down into the rooms. Protecting the site is a roof which protects the mosaics from harm and the visitors from the sun.   The details and subject matter of the mosaics are astounding and include chariot races, bathing beauties doing calisthenics, great hunts and much more.

After leaving southern Sicily, we traveled north to the Taormina, one of the best known cities in Sicily.  Perched on a cliff above the Ionian Sea, it reminds you of Capri. It has been on the “tourist map” since the days of the Grand Tour. It was especially popular with the British and became known as a refuge for artists, aristocrats, movie stars and the very wealthy. Greta Garbo installed herself for months at a time in one of the villas, renting out the entire place to herself.  Other visitors include Henry Moore, Tennessee Williams, Picasso and various Rothschilds.   The best known site is the Greek Theatre which sits on the side of the hill with a spectacular view of the sea and Mount Etna. When we were there, they had just hosted Duran Duran the night before.  It is a tribute to the builders to witness an ancient site still in use today  and just as accommodating as It was 2000 years ago! Like Capri, Taormina is a place to wander, do some shopping, take advantage of the beach, sit in a garden and enjoy some of the wonderful food and wine of the region. It can be overcrowded when the cruise ships dock and bring in their passengers, but the evenings are quieter and beautiful. Taormina is the right place to end a journey in Sicily. After days of steps, sites and scenery, it is restful, light and fun. It reminds you of why you came to visit this magical island and to ask yourself, when can you will return?   After all, we did not even make it to Palermo!

Rodney Ouzts and his spouse and partner for life, Massimo, reside in Greensboro, North Carolina and spend as much time as they can in Italy.


A CITY A WEEK...PRAGUE, THE CZECH REPUBLIC

by adeline talbot


It is only a mild exaggeration to say that this time of year is truly a travel planner's version of 'Christmas in July'.  It can be wildly hectic as itineraries are created and deadlines are met--but the results always feel like gifts.  Each trip a set of new adventures just waiting to happen. 

This week's post focuses on one these newly created upcoming adventures--'Prague and The Czech-Austrian Wine Country', offered in partnership with film historian Marsha Gordon and architect Louis Cherry. In fact, since no one it seems can create more excitement about this city and region than these two. I have asked Marsha and Louis to do this week's post  The photos are Louis's; the text is Marsha's; the video clip is courtesy of Sam Adams--and all of it is terrific!  

The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is an absolutely magical and beautiful city.  I have spent more than 3 months there over the course of the past few years, and I can’t get enough of it. It offers centuries of history around every corner.

 There’s an important reason for that. The only major European city to escape being extensively bombed during World War II, Prague boasts uniquely rich architecture and cultural fabric that is unparalleled in any city in Europe, with buildings that date to its time as a capital of the Holy Roman Empire nestled amidst Medieval, Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Modern, and even Cubist buildings.  It is a city of stunning churches, theaters, cafes, museums, galleries, and castles. The city center is walkable, safe, and full of amazing places to eat, shop, drink, and visit.

 The city center of Prague, where we will stay, is itself a UNESCO world heritage site (click here), with the Vlatava river running through it.  Because Prague is relatively small in comparison to cities like London and Paris, with wending cobblestone streets and an extensive tram system, you can really experience the city in a week’s time.  And because the tourist season there doesn’t kick into high gear until June and July, you can do so on our trip before the city is filled with visitors from all over the world looking to experience what many consider to be the most beautiful city in all of Europe.    

 Getting to Prague from the United States is easy.  There is a nonstop American Airlines flight from Raleigh to London, which offers many direct connections to Prague.  There is also a daily direct flight from JFK in New York if you’d rather make your connection stateside.

 Don’t know Czech?  Few Americans do. Even Czechs will tell you that it’s one of the most difficult languages to learn.  Luckily for us, most Czechs speak enough English to communicate with you and are happy to do so, especially if you make an effort with some basics.  If you just learn three words, you’ll be off to a good start:

1) Ahoj (ah-hoy) is the equivalent of Aloha, meaning a casual hello or goodbye.  That’s easy1

2)  Prosím (pro-seem) is a great multi-function word, meaning “please,” “you’re welcome,” and also “I don’t understand you”!  That’s my go-to word.

3) Děkuju (dyeh-kooyoo) is the ever important, “thank you.”  It also take some practice to say correctly, and I’m not sure I’m there yet.

 We have planned a week of incredible culinary, art, architecture, and cultural adventures, followed by an add-on trip to Brno for a visit at an amazing restored home designed by Mies van der Rohe in the late 1920s, and some relaxation in the wine country of Czech Republic and Austria, with some meanderings around the medieval villages in which the grapes are grown and wine is produced.


Want to hear more? Click on the video link below to hear Marsha and Louis speak at a recent gathering about the many wonders of Prague and the surrounding region.  


 

 

 


A CITY A WEEK...CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

by adeline talbot


This is it!  The time of year that itineraries for our 2017 trips start to roll out.  As you will see from the tabs above, the first three of these include Havana, Prague and Cape Town.

 Today guest blogger Benjamin Briggs, Executive Director of Preservation Greensboro, Inc.(PGI), posts on 'Why Cape Town',  a trip that is being jointly offered by PGI and Weatherspoon Art Museum.  I've got to say--he makes a great case!  

Few cities in the world boast such a distinctive setting as Cape Town, South Africa. Nestled at the foot of the legendary Table Mountain, the city features a variety of landscapes and settings ranging from the dramatic coastline of the South Atlantic to the vinicultural foothills of the Constantia Valley.

Cape Town was founded by Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company in 1652, and in light of its reputation as South Africa’s first European settlement, it is known as “the Mother City.” The city center is situated in the “City Bowl” a relatively flat area located at the base of Table Mountain, with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head to the east and west respectively, and the harbor to the north. The Company’s Gardens, established by the Dutch East India Company to supply food for the Spice Route, are a green park surrounded by many of the city’s museums and the Parliament of South Africa. Cape Town is designated the legislative capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital, and Pretoria serves as the administrative capital. Cast iron verandas and Victorian facades house cafés and bars line Long Street, the main commercial road, and the Neoclassical Town Hall fronts the main square, called the Grand Parade.

Matching the city’s diverse topography is an equally rich ethnic history. Many Capetonians claim one of five cultural narratives, including the native nomadic Cape Coloureds, the Blacks from the Lakes District of central Africa, Dutch descendants known as Afrikaans, immigrants from the British Empire, and a distinctive group of people from South and Southeast Asia who consider themselves part of the Cape Malay community. Though many Capetonians live in segregated communities, there is hope that a truly integrated society will forge the concept of a South African “rainbow nation.”

In spite of economic and sociological challenges due to globalization and disparity, Cape Town has a charm unlike any other place in the world.  For visitors, the attractions are numerous, ranging from the emerging and innovative art scene that will be highlighted by the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in early 2017 to the haunted landscape of the former prison at Robben Island. Many visitors are enchanted by the seaside setting of Camps Bay or the colorful facades of the historic Bo Kaap neighborhood. Others will enjoy the historic landmarks of the V & A (Victoria and Albert) Waterfront, or the Baroque facades that grace the oldest houses in the city. Needless to say, this city has much to offer – even to the most jaded globetrotter.

Cape Town is the administrative and cultural heart of the Western Cape Province, the southernmost region in South Africa. The legendary Cape of Good Hope, a dramatic peninsula of rock pointing south to the Antarctic, is located just 30 miles south of the City Bowl. The eastern suburbs of Cape Town are a patchwork of Afrikaan, Black, Coloured, and White neighborhoods. In the far east, the Hottentots Holland Mountains provide a jagged backdrop to the charming wine-growing towns of Stellenbosch (second oldest settlement after Cape Town), and Franschhoek, a French Huguenot refuge settled in the late seventeenth century. Both towns feature an architectural style known as Western Cape-style that exhibits white plaster walls and distinctive Dutch gable rooflines.

Cape Town and the Western Cape enjoy highly developed and hospitable tourist economies that cater to South African and European visitors. With its growing arts community and temperate climate, it is now being discovered with great enthusiasm by North American travelers who are richly rewarded for their travel prowess!


A CITY A WEEK...DUBLIN, IRELAND...PART II

by adeline talbot


The second of a two-part post appears below--and don't forget for those interested in all things Irish, I will be leading a discussion of James Joyce's The Dubliners this Thursday, July 14, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. as part of Scuppernong Book's, Travel Talk series.  Stop by if you are in town--304 South Elm Street, Greensboro, NC.  Hope to see you there!

I may spend much of my life these days creating itineraries so it may sound ironic that I find the task of creating recommendation lists positively terrifying.

There is a reason, though, for this seeming paradox.  Itineraries have constraints while recommendation lists, at least in theory, do not.  There is a kind of logistical circle around an itinerary--a circle bound by the logistics of time--how many days will we be there?--and geography--what is the logical sequence of visits on any given day? Recommendations feel boundaryless.  Leave one treasure off and you run the risk of complete failure--at least in the eyes of one (or potentially many) readers. 

With Dublin, there is another and potentially equally fraught challenge--many of its 'must do's' can feel a bit canned--pitched to, say, paying shallow tribute to a literary figure or perhaps to satisfying a visitor's need for 'real' traditional music--when the more authentic experiences now tend to lie elsewhere in the city's cultural life.  

For this reason,  I was especially grateful to come across the video version of the November 2014, New York Times '36 Hours in Dublin' (click here).  It captures the charm, the scruff and the joy of this very distinctive place and of her proud inhabitants while focusing almost exclusively on the new cultural currents and creativity surging through the city since its well-documented financial implosion in the mid-aughts.

The video and its related print article also dare to do what I find so daunting--draw a circle around a list of suggested experiences.  Then again The Times does have a tried and true boundary with '36 Hours'. Not only is it a well-tested conceit--it is also a pretty short time window. ('Left something off?  So sorry! Had to draw the line somewhere...')  Nonetheless, hats off.  These spots are always rewarding and well done and this one particularly so.

But the truth is Studio Traveler is mine and nobody else's.  No dodging allowed. And another truth? I do, in fact, have a list (and it's a pretty long one) for Dublin sites that I can highly recommend.  So here is my list of recommendations in no particular order of love or preference and with complete--make that certain--knowledge that there is more to love in Dublin than I could ever possibly draw a circle around...


Trinity College  and The Book of Kells

Trinity College, founded in 1592, is a gorgeous oasis in the heart of Dublin, very worth a visit for all sorts of reasons.  Undoubtedly the most renowned of these is Trinity College Library and its Book of Kells, a 7th century illustrated manuscript on permanent and glorious display. 

Chester Beatty Library

It is not a coincidence that libraries figure prominently in a list of attractions in this word-obsessed city. In the case of The Chester Beatty, one could say this is almost a museum more than library--a museum dedicated to books and to knowledge.  It collections include some of the most world's important examples of Old and New Testaments, Islamic and Far Eastern texts and artifacts. 

The Irish Museum of Modern Art

IMMA has a fine permanent collection of Modern Art while its temporary exhibitions feature living Irish artists and so provide a valuable window into the contemporary life of the country--not to mention that the museum itself is housed in a knock-out attraction--the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham, originally opened in 1684. 

Hugh Lane Gallery

The Hugh Lane, opened in 1908, is thought to be the first museum in the world dedicated solely to Modern Art. Today it houses an interesting collection spanning two centuries, beginning with the works of important late 19th century French masters and extending through to the work of such contemporary giants as Sean Scully and  Francis Bacon.

The Abbey Theater

 William Butler Yeats was a founding member of this hugely influential and revered theater that retains its stature even as it is now well into its second century.  While the Abbey tours frequently in the US, there is special pleasure and power to be found in seeing excellent Irish drama on its native soil.

St Stephen's Green

The great green heart of Dublin, 22 acre square with a large central pond, St Stephen's Green is what all great city parks should be--a place to gather and to be refreshed by a break from the great gray weight of the urban landscape.

Bewley's

I just love this wonderful--and elegant--coffee house which was opened in 1920's and in the best possible way shows every inch of her age.  She is proudly from another era. 

Avoca

Purveyor of a wide variety fine Irish goods, it's their blankets that make me swoon.  Have you ever seen more beautiful plaids in lambswool, mohair and/or cashmere? I haven't and I'm in love!

Kilmainham Goal

A decommissioned jail may at first blush seem an odd place to recommend and yet, like Alcatraz, Kilmainham is strangely compelling--but what makes it a real 'must see' is its place in history of the Republic.  It was here that the Irish Nationalists were jailed--and many subsequently hanged--during the turbulent years leading up to the 1916 Easter Uprising.  So central is it to the country's concept of victorious struggle that is often referred to as the 'Irish Bastille'. 

National Botanical Gardens

A very green spot in a very green land, the National Botanical Gardens feature many fine plant collections and its astounding and vast Victorian-era Palm House and Conservatory.

Howth and Howth Head

A suburb's distance from Dublin, at the mouth of Dublin Bay, Howth has somehow manage to retain its historic fishing village feel--and the seafood restaurants of Howth are reason enough to make this short trek.  The star of the show, though, is the 3.75 mile cliff walk around Howth Head, the stately promontory that rises above the village.  Very beautiful and with terrific views of back over Dublin proper and across the wide and open Irish Channel. 

Glendalough

As with Howth, there are at least two reasons to make this hour drive south into County Wicklow.  One--the one on level ground--is to be found in the hauntingly beautiful remains of a monastery that was founded in 7th century and flourished in this Edenic spot until the 14th century.  The other is the hike up into the headlands above the monastery that provides spectacular views of the sea and surrounding countryside. But be forwarned, this walk, however rewarding, is not for the faint of heart--or for those afraid of heights.  The trail is smooth, well traveled and has fairly steady inclines--but no other mountains I know of have sides that fall away as precipitously as those of the Wicklow Mountains!

The Shelburne Hotel 

These grand hotels can have a hard time maintaining their glory--and I can't vouch for The Shelburne based on recent personal experience--but it will always have special place in my heart as the beautiful grand dame overlooking St Stephen's Green. In the meantime, the equally luxurious Merrion Hotel and Intercontinental Dublin are giving The Shelburne a run for it's money as is the more designed-focused the Marker Hotel.  My guess is that you can't go wrong here with any of these choices--though none are for small pocketbooks.  Dublin's hotels tend to be on high side so it might wise to be prepared to splurge...


Hopefully, this is  enough to get you started. Dublin is wonderful. So go...!

 

 

 

 

 


A CITY A WEEK...VINALES, CUBA

by adeline talbot


 Today we post on Vinales, Cuba, and then we're going to take a bit of a break. We will resume weekly posts on Tuesday, July 5th, when we return from an unusually busy period of  travel but for now and without further ado...VINALES

This magic valley two and half hours north of Havana seems to have it all.  Tremendous natural beauty with a robust local economy centered on traditional--and very sustainable--agriculture. Part of the charm--and it has very great charm--of a visit to this area is a chance to visit a tobacco farm in the morning and then have a farm to table meal at a farm down the road all the while the views of the surrounding karst (limestone) formations explain this area's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

I am not alone in in being captivated.  

The town of Vinales has a population of 28,000 and over eight hundred bed and breakfasts.  Seemingly every household posts the Cuban symbol for 'b & b' and there is a booming trade in not only agro-tourism but eco-tourism.  Click here for an post on touring by bicycle; click here for an article on biking and horseback riding and click here for an piece on hiking and caving.  Get the picture?  Lots and lots to do and unlike much of Cuba which is seemingly in stun mode these days, overwhelmed by an unprecedented flood of tourists, the folks in Vinales are well-prepared and able to act as gracious and enthusiastic hosts and guides.  

Yet another place not to be missed in this wide and often wonderful world...

 

 

 


A CITY A WEEK HAVANA

by adeline talbot


Creo en el pueblo Cubano.

Last week during President Obama's visit to Havana, he gave a speech addressing the Cuban nation.  Our own National Public Radio sat in with a Cuban family as they listened to this address.  The assembled group included neighbors and friends all listening in respectful and attentive silence--that is until the president spoke this line: Creo en el pueblo Cubano

I can't quite characterize the response from the father of the host family--whatever it was it seemed wholly unselfconscious, deeply felt--almost a whoop--full of joy and of gratitude. And even all these miles away hearing it was deeply moving.                  

Creo en el pueblo Cubano translates into I believe in the Cuban people.   

As anyone can tell you--residents and visitors alike--contemporary Havana is not a place of things. There is so much there that must be improvised or simply gone without.  But it is a place of people, wonderfully, impressively, joyfully so... and this in turn made our recent visit there a privilege and joy.

Go now if you can.  

I am not alone in suspecting that Cuba is poised to catch up with the rest of us on the owning of things.  No doubt the culture will survive the onslaught coming its way, but now is a unique moment--after the thaw and before the deluge--when a visit to Havana serves up this lesson--things do not make a culture...and that is a very refreshing notion.

 


A CITY A WEEK...BERLIN...THEN AND NOW

by adeline talbot


The KitKat Club...we all know The KitKat Club,  that dark and naughty place which has taken up permanent residence in our collective imaginations for now these last many decades.  Home to Sally Bowles, The Emcee, Isherwood and all the other pre-War II shadow people--and a place that serves as one more example of how well we all know the Berlin of our imaginations.  

The wickedly good Alan Cumming performs Wilkommen, the opening number in Cabaret.  (Marvelous if unattributed video is courtesy of the ever-obliging internet.)

The city itself exists for us, especially Americans of a certain age, as a place that we have known throughout our lives.  Born as we were in the shadow of WWII, raised on the narrative of the Wall and--then of its triumphal end--and now and for the last 25 years receiving dispatches from this city of peace, prosperity and extraordinary cultural vigor.  

Thanks to Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, we can even claim to know Weimar Berlin, a pre-war place of self-invention, danger and indulgence.  A time and place with a sense that anything might happen and before the full blown evil of what actually did a few short years later...

Published in 1945, staged as a play, I Am A Camera, in the 1951 and then as a musical, Cabaret, in 1966, Berlin Stories's two narratives and their characters simply have not faded with time but seem to have grown in depth and resonance.  So much so that when it came time recently to choose a 'Berlin book' for an upcoming Travel Talk at Scuppernong Books, I deliberated--there are many possibilities--but finally decided on this classic. 

We'll be discussing Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories next week on Wednesday, March 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. at Scuppernong Books here in Greensboro, North Carolina. Click here for a bit more info.  

I hope you will consider joining us--even if you have not read the book. As much as I love this book--and truly I do, re-reading it every few years--this discussion will also serve as an excellent excuse to muse on this most interesting of cities, a city I never tire of...with its complex past and its exhilarating present, both equally vivid and rich...

And for those who want to see Berlin for themselves? Well, I am so glad you asked...we'll be going there again this fall.

 I hope you will consider coming along on with us...  

Click here for more details including the itinerary and deposit options.  

And hope to see you soon...at home or abroad...

 

 

 

 


A CITY A WEEK...FLORENCE AND ENVIRONS...

by adeline talbot


This week, I welcome back Rodney Ouzts, a wonderful friend and fellow travel enthusiast with a special passion for Italy so who better then to write on a vineyard and other delights in and around Florence?  Come evening, open a Super Tuscan or some other luscious big red, pour yourself a glass and then enjoy a wonderful little mini-visit to Tuscany, all courtesy of Rodney and his charming and transporting post...

600 Years of Winemaking: Linking History with the Future.

When visiting Florence for the first or second time, most visitors who enjoy traditional Tuscan cuisine and a fine chianti usually make a pilgrimage to the exquisite Cantinetta Antinori, a small elegant restaurant located on Via Tornabuoni right in the heart of the high end shopping district and located in the Palazzo Antinori.  

The entrance to Marchesi Antinori Nel Chianti Classico.

Here, diners may start the meal with a glass of sparkling wine from their estate in the Franciacorta region of Italy and continue with a Pinot Nero from their vineyard in Umbria. Most come for a glass or bottle of one of their most famous Tuscan wines, Tignanello, a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes.  After all, this is the family who can be credited for creating one of the first Super Tuscan blends.

Slowly, the visitor begins to realize the reaches of this family’s wine production spread far and wide. Just in Italy, the Antinori own eight estates producing wines from the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Piemonte, Puglia and Franciacorta.  Beyond Italy, the family owns vineyards in Hungary, Malta, Romania and Chile and the United States. In the United States, one of their vineyards in Napa Valley produces the highly regarded Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, now well known for the famous 1976 blind-tasting called the “Judgement of “Paris” in which the judges rated the best California Cabernet and Chardonnay over the best red Bordeaux and white Burgundy submitted by the French. This contest changed California winemaking forever.  The other Napa Valley estate produces the highly regarded “Antica” Cabernet Sauvignon and “Antica” Chardonnay. In the state of Washington’s Columbia River Valley, their joint effort with Chateau St. Michelle produces some of the finest red wines in the region.

The family began producing wine in 1385 when Giovanni di Piero Antinori became a member of the Florentine Vintners’ Guild.  Now, 26 generations later, they are still making wine, still searching for new vineyards, still looking for new techniques and technologies to improve the process and still taking risks. In 2012, the Antinori opened a new winery in the Chianti Classico area called Antinori nel Chianti Classico.  The result is a culmination of years of research and building. The structure itself took over five years to build.  Located about 45 minutes outside Florence in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, the winery is a blend of modern and traditional. As with most new Italian architecture, great respect is given to the surrounding countryside. Since this is Chianti Classico, the architect, Marco Casamonti, used only brown-colored materials in order to harmonize with the surrounding landscape.  He based the idea of “cutting into the hillside” on the spatial concepts of Lucio Fontana, the great Italian 20th-century artist known for his sliced canvases.  

The main building designed by architect Marco Casamonti.

In fact, when you arrive at the winery, you barely see the structure. It rises from the hill like a bunker. You wind around the entrance drive and there it is, tucked into the hillside. One of our fellow visitors stated it felt like a scene from a James Bond film.  The Marquis Antinori said he wanted the structure to be “monumental and invisible.”  There is no doubt, he succeeded.

The Antinori Coat of Arms originally created by Della Robbia in 1512.

The artifacts room with a view of the valley.

Once inside, the tour begins with a visit to a room filled with family artifacts followed by an interesting film on the family’s history and their massive holdings. Our tour was provided by a very kind and engaging young local woman.  She was able to explain the complicated intricacies of winemaking so well and thoroughly that even this amateur (and lousy chemistry student) remained attentive. We were then invited to sample various wines and to tour the library/tasting room. Located on top of the structure is a beautiful modern restaurant with stunning views of the countryside.

A state of the art facility.

The tasting.

The winery restaurant. A room with a view.

One of the striking features of the entire facility is the incorporation of modern art work and sculpture inside and outside the structure. Wherever you go whether in stairwells, hallways, or rooms, monumental sculptures surround you.  This is the work and intention of the family in what they call the “Antinori Art Project”.  Four years ago, they invited artists from around the world to create new projects linked to the specific characteristics of the site.  Among the artists represented in these installations are French artist-architect Yona Friedman, Patrick Tuffofuoco known for his multi colored neons and sculptor Rosa Barba. One of the most striking works is by Tomas Saraceno, an Argentianian artist who works in Berlin. His “biospheres” are spheres of transparent synthetic materials suspended in mid-air some even with plant materials. His work is well known to visitors to the Venice Biennial having exhibited there three times. Recently, his work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Barbican Art Centre in London, Hangar Bicocca in Milan, among many other venues. He has collaborated with both NASA and the MIT Center for Art and Technology on various projects. 

Iconostasis by Yona Friedman.   Patrick Tuttofuoco subsequently added the multi colored neons in 2013 . 

After our tasting and tour, it is short drive to the nearby Osteria di Passignano, a beautiful restaurant where you can enjoy a bit little more Antinori wine or something else from the extensive wine list. We decided on a light lunch, some wine by the glass and were not disappointed. My choice was their version of a shrimp salad with greens and fresh shrimp. This was followed by agnolotti stuffed with pork. I decided not to have dessert but that decision changed when a perfectly beautiful silver basket was brought to the table filled with almond cream, miniature panatonne and small pastries.

Lunch at Osteria di Passignano.

Lunch at Osteria di Passignano.

The agnolotti stuffed with pork.

No dessert but the finish to the meal.

After so much indulgence, we felt the need for a little spiritual inspiration and a walk so we wandered up the hill to the abbey, Badia a Passignano. A local priest provided a tour. Our main reason for the visit was to view the recently restored “Last Supper” by Domenico Ghirlandaio. It was created around 1476 and is the first of a series. Later, Ghirlandaio would create another “Last Supper” in refectory of the Convent of Ognissanti and in San Marco in Florence. I have viewed the others and do believe this is the most moving and beautiful.  Having originated as a monastery before 1000 and later ruled by the Vallombrosan order,   the Badia is a wonderful complex and still in use. We were given a full tour by the kind priest including a visit to the chapel, kitchen and gardens. 

Ghirlandaio's Last Supper at La Badia a Passignano.

The vine cultivation at the abbey goes as far back as the 11th century. It is located in a protected area and in keeping with tradition, the Antinori family purchased 325 hectares of land around the abbey in 1987 and soon after started producing their Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva.  They even use the ancient cellars located on the property to age and store the wine.

La Badia a Passignano

With respect to history and a look to the future, the Antinori family continues an Italian tradition of wine production, preservation, innovation and building. Marquis Piero is still involved in the business, but now most of the operation is run by the three daughters, Albiera, Allegra and Alessia, three competent talented women.  Isn’t it a wonderful twist that after 600 years in a historically male-dominated business these women run the operation; yet, it is also fitting for this family of innovators and creative risk-takers in the winemaking world.             

Rodney Ouzts and his spouse and partner for life, Massimo, reside in Greensboro, North Carolina and spend as much time as they can in Italy.  


A CITY A WEEK...MIAMI PART II

by adeline talbot


As odd as it may sound--as odd as it may be--I have never bothered to replace my notion of Miami as the place where Tubbs and Crockett spend their days still sporting black tees under pastel blazers, loving the ladies while fighting drug loads and other darkly glamorous riffraff.  

I realize there is a good chance you as a reader may not even get this reference.  Miami Vice.  Don Johnson. Philip Michael Thomas.  1984.

In short, a very long time ago.

A ridiculously long time ago.  And, in fact, I did know better but I have not seen better until my recent visit.  What makes this especially silly is that for well over a decade now the city has hosted Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the more important art fairs--and the largest in the world. The fair lasts for a few days in early December but its presence seems to have resulted in some kind of gene splicing.  Miami and contemporary art over the past several years have entered into each other's DNA.

 As I say, I knew this.  I really, really did.  But even so the image of this city as more music video and less art capital just got stuck in my brain and until this flying visit no amount competing data could dislodge it.

I have now seen for myself what a crazy contemporary art place Miami has become.  Out with Tubbs and Crockett and in with The Margulies Collection, The Craig Robbins Collection, The de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space and The Rubell Family Collection.  And those are just the private museums.   Open to the public but privately owned and operated.  This model is not without controversy--issues mainly center around long-term financial sustainability--nor it is unique to Miami--but it seems to have really taken off in this city and at least for now is positively flooding the city with opportunities to see great contemporary art of truly international scope and often at little or no cost to the public.  

Miami also has a stand-out public contemporary art museum, the recently relocated--and renamed--Perez Art Museum Miami.  A spectacular addition to Miami's cultural scene.  

For more information on individual private institutions see the list below courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

The Margulies Collection at The Warehouse resides in a converted warehouse in the sizzling Wynwood Art District and boasts the finest in contemporary and vintage eccentricities. Famed Miami art collector Martin Z. Margulies has gathered photography, videos, installations and sculptures since the late nineties and brought them together in this 45,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Margulies Collection features unforgettable marvels like a towering geometric matrix and an entire train cutout that will leave you awestruck. This collection is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an admission fee of ten dollars.

Nestled in a corporate office in the Design District, the Craig Robins Collection at Dacra showcases the exuberant spirit of contemporary art and design. Real estate mogul Craig Robins perpetually seeks to integrate art and community by providing public access to his collection of over 200 artists’ works. The pieces revolve several times annually, drawing mainly from German, Mexican, Chinese and American artists. But some creators like Richard Tuttle and John Baldessari reside permanently amidst this disarming and often humorous medley. The Craig Robins Collection is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment.

CIFO / Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2002 by Ella Fontanals-Cisneros and her family to support art and artists who are exploring new directions in contemporary art. CIFO fosters cultural understanding and educational exchange through three primary initiatives: Grants and Commissions Programs for emerging and mid-career visual artists from Latin America; an exhibitions program showcasing work by Latin American artists and international contemporary art from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection at CIFO Art Space; and foundation-initiated support for other arts and culture projects. Exhibition Hours: Thursday: Noon- 9 p.m.; Friday- Sunday: Noon- 5p.m. Exhibition Hours apply only during exhibition dates.

Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz beckon enthusiasts to The de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, Miami’s only free private art collection. The couple even exercises the same benevolence at home, where many view their private collection by appointment. A journey through the Design District’s Contemporary Art Space commences with the amorphous, fluorescent forms of Aaron Curry and progresses to the second story where Kathryn Andrews’ giant birthday candles leave you feeling dwarfed as if in a dream. On the top level, Jim Hodges’ delicate floral installations lie feet away from the largest ping-pong table you’ll ever see, making this one surreal playpen. The de la Cruz Collection at the Contemporary Art Space is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 

The Rubell Family espouses art education with one of the world’s largest, privatized contemporary art collections and their Contemporary Arts Foundation. The cornerstone of an international enterprise, the 45,000-square-foot Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation champions established and emerging artists alike. Recently, the foundation received a major donation of artwork by California artists from Boston collector Kenneth L. Freed.  Mr. Freed’s significant gift includes 59 sculptures and 14 works on paper by Taft Green, Patrick Hill, Evan Holloway, David Ireland, Alice Könitz, Lisa Lapinski, Charles Long, Jason Meadows, Jeff Ono, Robert Overby, Torbjörn Vejvi, Nicolau Vergueiro and John Williams.  The collection is open every Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an admission fee of ten dollars.

What can I say?  Simply amazing and not a pastel blazer in sight....


A CITY A WEEK...MIAMI PART I

by adeline talbot


I have to honest--this one is a teaser for next week's post.   I am in Havana with no access to the internet so this week has got to be quick.  I have set up a picture show of photos taken this part Saturday at Miami's Rubell Family Collection.  Miami deserves more time--so much more time...so look for Miami Part II next week when I will have much more to say about the Rubell, a fabulous private museum, part of a trend in these parts, along with other highlights in this art-obsessed town.

So stay tuned and we'll be back soon with tales to tell!