Alentejo, Archeology, Cultural Attractions

Portugal’s Mysterious Megaliths

November 3, 2017

Lisbon’s Museu Nacional de Arqueologia has numerous treasures including megaliths.

We saw our first megalith in Lisbon’s Museum of Archeology and we were intrigued. What were these stones with their strange markings? Where could we see more of them? It turns out the largest collection of megaliths on the Iberian peninsula is located less than two hours from Lisbon in the Alentejo region not far from Evora, the area’s capital city.

Drive in the direction of Nossa Senhora de Guadalup through the beautiful forests of cork oak trees to reach Almendres Cromlech.

There are numerous places to see megaliths in Portugal, many in the Alentejo, but Cromeleque dos Almendres, or Almendres Cromlech, is the largest and most prominent site. Older than Stonehenge, Cromeleque dos Almendres is located about seven kilometers off the main road, the N114, driving towards Evora from Lisbon. We were heading to the Evora after Lisbon and decided to include a stop to see these archeological wonders.

The megaliths are in a large clearing, surrounded by cork oak trees.

Head in the direction of Nossa Senhora de Guadalup through the beautiful forests of cork oak trees. The dirt road is clearly marked with signs–Cromeleque dos Almendres and Menhir dos Almendres– directing you to the site. You will either need a car or a taxi to get here. There is no public transportation available.

Visitors can wander freely around the 95 remaining megaliths, or menhirs, at Almendres Cromlech.

About 95 of the granite megaliths, also called menhirs, still stand in the area and date back to the Neolithic Period (4th and 5th century BC). The stones at Almendres Cromlech are arranged to form two rings and visitors are free to wander all around the area, though touching the stones is discouraged.

The Cromeleque dos Almendres is older than Stonehenge.

It is believed that the earliest stones were placed here in 6000 BC and that ancient peoples used the area at Almendres Cromlech until 3000 BC for religious purposes. There is still a great deal of mystery surrounding the purpose of the stones, their placement and the markings on them, but there is speculation that the site had astrological significance due to its latitudinal location.

The placement, purpose and meaning of the megaliths remains largely a mystery.

There is a map of the enclosure on site, which identifies particular menhirs and describes various markings on the different stones.

Helpful signs in English and Portuguese explain the history of Almendres Cromlech and a map of the area shows where the most important stones are located.

This is identified as megalith number 1 on the posted diagram. The markings are clearly visible.

A careful examination is required to see the ancient markings on many of the stones. Here’s a close up look at one.

Admission to the site is free. Guided tours can be arranged.

We chose to take a self-guided exploration of the area but guided tours can be arranged. We met a Canadian couple that had hired a tour company to take them out to Almendres Cromlech and explain the mysteries of this ancient site and they thoroughly enjoyed their visit. Admission to the site is free and there is plenty of parking.

 

 

Cultural Attractions, History, Hotels, Museums

Evora: The Alentejo’s Capital City

October 27, 2017

The Vasco da Gama bridge led us away from lively Lisbon to the rural beauty of the Alentejo.

An easy 90- minute drive southeast of Lisbon takes you to the expansive Alentejo region. Home to medieval villages, castles, palaces, pousadas, megaliths, wine producers, and vast agricultural lands, this beautiful area has something to please nearly all visitors. We made Evora, the capital of the region, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, our headquarters. This delightful small city is a great base from which to launch day trips to the many attractions in the area.

The Alentejo’s capital city is best explored on foot– wearing comfortable shoes, of course.

Remember to look up as you wander!

The historic city of Evora has interesting sites and several museums to explore. Just walking the winding streets is a fine way to spend a day, especially in the area around the Largo Conde de Vila Flor. After a pleasant stroll through the Praca do Giraldo, Evora’s bustling main square, we considered our options.

The busy Praca do Giraldo is at the heart of the city. Numerous shopping streets fan off from the Praca.

Cork is king in the Alentejo and is featured in souvenirs from sandals to handbags.

Portuguese pottery is also a popular souvenir.

Time was short so we had to make choices.  We decided to save the Contemporary Art Museum for our next visit and headed over to the Museum of Evora, which was hosting a Chinese porcelain exhibition along with its permanent collections.

The Museum of Evora is housed in a former Episcopal palace built in the 17th century.

Beautiful Azulejos tiles line the stone staircase inside the museum.

Teapots, serving pieces, jewelry and other treasures from China are featured in the current exhibition at the museum.

Placards describe the fine Chinese porcelain plates on display in Portuguese and English.

The museum features paintings from the 15th through 19th centuries, drawings, engravings, 17th and 18th century furniture, and Roman sculpture from the 1st and 2nd centuries.

The museum is known for it’s 17th and 18th century painting and sculpture. This piece is by Antonio Teixeira Lopes.

Religious articles, like St. Blaise’s arm reliquary from the 17th century, are part of the permanent collection.

Visitors can see this striking bronze sculpture, statuary, mosaics and other artifacts from the Roman era.

Interesting archeological finds from the Neolithic Age and a collection of silver and gold religious pieces, and jewelry are also on display. There were few visitors on the day we were there.

Antiquities from numerous ancient civilizations are on view.

Artifacts from the Roman era line a courtyard hallway.

Just outside the museum is the Roman Temple from the 1st century AD. Today, the ruins are undergoing restoration and are under wraps, but it is possible to see several of the Corinthian columns.

The Roman Temple which dates from the 1st century is mentioned in all the guide books, but until the restoration is complete, there isn’t much to see.

There is a small park behind the temple that offers nice views over the area beyond Evora and across the way you’ll find a lovely pousada, once a monastery that is now an upmarket hotel called Pousada dos Loios. Feel free to wander inside and take a step back into Portugal’s past. The restaurant here is open to the public.

Here’s a peek at the courtyard and restaurant at Pousada dos Loios.

This small park behind the Roman Temple provided a nice place to relax and enjoy the views over the city and surrounding countryside.

Many people line up at Evora’s Church of St. Francis to visit the Chapel of the Bones or Capela dos Ossis. The 16th century chapel displays the bones and skulls of monks. We’ve seen the creepy Capuchin Crypt in Rome so felt no need to stop in after our visit to the church. The public gardens beside the church were much more appealing.

Inside the Church of St. Francis.

The Chapel of the Bones is a popular tourist attraction inside the Church of St. Francis.

If you have time, stop into Evora’s Cathedral or Se.  It’s one of the largest medieval cathedrals in Southern Portugal and is said to be built on the site of a former mosque.

Here are the marvelously mismatched spires of Evora’s cathedral.

Close to the Church of St. Francis, you’ll find Evora’s morning market.  The market is indoors and was smaller than some we’ve visited, but we also arrived fairly late in the morning after many of the vendors had closed up shop.  Happily, there were several purveyors of tasty cheeses, cured meats, and fruits and vegetables still open.

Many vendors had already packed up and gone home by the time we arrived at the market but there was still plenty to choose from.

Everything you need for a nice picnic is right here–local pork products, sheep and goat’s milk cheeses and other tasty treats.

Evora has lodging options to fit many budgets and preferences. We chose to stay at two very different, but both delightful properties in and near the city. We began our stay at the lovely Albergaria do Calvario, just inside the walls of the city www.hotel@albergariadocalvario.com.

 

We enjoyed our stay at the small, well-located Albergaria do Calvario.

Located just inside the ancient Roman walls, it was easy to walk all around the city and access the freeway quickly for daytrips from our hotel.

The location made it easy to walk to Evora’s important sites as well as to dinner each evening. It was also convenient to reach the freeway for our day trips further afield. We’ll discuss dining and day trips in additional posts.

The comfortable bar area welcomes guests for drinks and light bites.

Ours was a large, comfortable room with a big balcony overlooking the hotel’s courtyard where many guests enjoyed breakfast, aperitifs, and conversation. Rooms vary substantially in size so be sure to explore your options when booking.

Our room was large and bright with a huge balcony overlooking the courtyard.

The marble used here is mined nearby. There is a Museum of Marble in Vila VIcosa we”ll visit next time.

There is no restaurant per se in the hotel, but they do provide a substantial breakfast buffet and have small meals, snacks, and drinks on offer in the bar. Anything ordered can be enjoyed in the courtyard, the bar area or one of the comfortable sitting areas.

This is just a small part of the bountiful buffet breakfast greeting guests each morning.

The courtyard provides a pleasant place to enjoy breakfast, drinks, or just relax.

Friendly staff are happy to help with restaurant bookings, excursion ideas or whatever you need to make your stay memorable.

The staff is extremely helpful and will even park and retrieve your car for you. Parking is available onsite at no additional charge. Laundry service is also available at a very reasonable price. The only thing we missed at this charming, small hotel was a pool, but we got that at our next hotel–Convento Espinhero.

Welcome to the Convento do Espinheiro.

We also spent several nights about 15 kilometers outside of Evora at the stunning Convento do Espinheiro. The converted convent was built in 1458 and is managed by www.starwood.com. The property has traditional rooms in the original buildings as well as two modern wings.

We had a large room in the modern wing of the hotel, complete with a nice balcony.

We enjoyed our stay in the modern wing where we had a very large room with a balcony and views over the property towards to the inviting swimming pool. After nearly 10 days of non-stop touring it was the perfect place to take break.

The pool provided the perfect place for relaxation, lunch, drinks and a refreshing dip.

There is also an indoor pool and a nice spa on site where I enjoyed a relaxing massage. There are tours given daily of the expansive Convento which covers the property’s fascinating history.

Ancient olive trees dot the property which dates back to 1458.

These stone benches have been here since the property was a functioning convent.

The complimentary tour includes a visit to the beautiful church (which is still in use), monk’s cistern where a complimentary wine tasting is held each evening, the former dining area and kitchen, as well as the vaulted storage cellar which now houses the hotel’s terrific restaurant.

Convento Espinheiro was one of the three wealthiest convents in Portugal. The church is still in use today.

The bells, one original, ring out to announce a wedding has taken place.

The wine cellar is housed in the monk’s former cistern, which was once filled with water.

A complimentary wine tasting take place each evening at 6 p.m. in the wine cellar.

We ate dinner there each night of our stay. The food is artfully prepared and beautifully presented by top-notch staff. Be sure to reserve for dinner or prepare to be disappointed—the dining room fills up. Should you choose to go offsite for your dinner and prefer not to drive, the helpful staff can arrange for a taxi into Evora.

Fresh local fish elegantly prepared is served with flair.

Luscious lamb chops with squash puree are featured on the menu.

Save room for dessert.

Where monks once stored their wine, olive oil and honey, hotel guests now enjoy a bountiful breakfast buffet. It is possible to enjoy your morning repast out on one of the terraces or in the courtyard area, as we did.

The former storage for olive oil, wine and honey, now serves as the hotel’s elegant dining room.

We also arranged to see some of the traditional rooms including the “royal suite” used by many honeymoon couples. It is truly spectacular in a beautiful old-world way and features a  contemporary bathroom and private rooftop terrace.

The “royal suite” often used by honeymooners offers old world charm and opulence.

The suite’s bathroom features modern fixtures like this free standing tub.

A private rooftop terrace, one flight up from the suite provides glorious views of the area around the Convento.

Next up, we’ll explore the Alentejo.  Join us for a few day trips and a wine tasting.

 

 

 

 

Art, California, Cultural Attractions, Museums, San Francisco

Hats Off to Degas–Lucas Shakes Things Up at SF’s Legion of Honor

September 4, 2017

San Francisco’s venerable Palace of Legion of Honor, part of the city’s Fine Arts Museums, is currently hosting the very popular Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade.

The extensive exhibition focuses on the impact of the millinery trade in Paris during the Belle Epoch era on the work of Degas and his contemporaries.  Paintings and pastels by Degas, Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Toulouse- Lautrec and others, some never before shown in the U.S., are featured. In addition to the splendid impressionist paintings, included in the exhibition are 40 marvelous examples of millinery from that time period—in other words—hats!

Hats featuring flowers were popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. Silk, cotton, velvet and paper were all used to construct artificial flowers like those shown here.

Some patrons were definitely in the spirit of things.

These hats range in size and complexity from the sublime to over the top. One chapeau is topped with an entire owl, which had been preserved specifically for that purpose. There are plumes, beads, metallic wire, ribbons and flowers adorning these mostly enchanting toppers.

Plumage from domestic and exotic birds, including ostrich and owls, often were used to embellish luxury ladies’ hats.

These hats all sport fashionable feathers. The hat on the left features a complete owl while the one on the right has an African starling above its brim.

A visitor admires Manet’s “At the Milliner’s”–one of about 40 paintings and pastels in the exhibition.

Men’s hats are included in the exhibit too. There are fine examples including boater and bowler hats, along with a sketch of Degas himself in a top hat.

Bowlers and top hats, along with carrying cases, are part of the exhibit.

The 42 year-old Edgar Degas is shown here wearing a top hat.

The exhibition was quite crowded, mostly with ladies of a certain age, oohing and ahhing over the millinery creations. There were a few patrons sporting hats and we spotted several of the museum’s docents in the spirit of things– wearing lovely fascinators.

Feathered finery got a lot of attention from visitors.

We didn’t take a docent-guided tour but shared our table at lunch with a group of ladies from the San Jose area who had and raved about it. It is necessary to reserve a spot for a guided tour in connection with this exhibit.

This docent wears a fine fascinator for her presentation. Reservations for the free tours are essential for this exhibition.

Some of the Impressionist paintings in this exhibition have not been shown in the U.S. before.

Special exhibition tickets are required for the Degas exhibit, in addition to the general admission fee for the museum. This doesn’t seem to be keeping the crowds away at all downstairs. There were numerous tour groups vying to get close to the works during our midweek trip to the Legion of Honor.

Special exhibition tickets are required, in addition to general admission. The galleries became quite crowded at times.

Upstairs in the galleries featuring Rodin’s classic sculpture, visitors can enjoy near solitude—at least during our visit. Displayed with the August Rodin: The Centenary Installation, which honors the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death, you’ll find the provocative work of Sarah Lucas. Sarah Lucas:Good Muse is the first major exhibition of the UK artist’s work in the U.S.

The museum is best known for its ancient and classical European collections which includes paintings, sculpture, furnishings and porcelain.

Sarah Lucas’ work brings contemporary art and controversy to the Legion of Honor.

Sarah Lucas:Good Muse would probably be much more comfortable at the SFMOMA (SF Museum of Modern Art) than at the classically- focused Legion of Honor. The docent who provided a tour of the exhibition shared that many patrons and members of the museum were more than a little unhappy with Lucas’ work.

Giant plaster cast boots, soft sculptures and a series of Lucas’ yellow urinal sculptures are on display among the 50 bronze, plaster and marble works by Rodin.

Lucas’ sculptures, made from plaster, panty hose, florescent lights, a bedspring and mattress, cigarettes and other materials, allude to sexual interactions, availability, empowerment, and domestic responsibilities, according to the docent. She also pointed out examples where Rodin’s work related to the themes of Lucas’ pieces.

“Washing Machine Fried Eggs” invites discussion of women’s sexual and domestic roles.

Apparently the artist wanted to “bring color” to the galleries and chose to include a series of yellow urinal sculptures displayed atop small refrigerators, placed among Rodin’s classic sculpture. We found the juxtaposition interesting but could easily understand the contretemps. At the entrance to the galleries where Lucas’ work is displayed, there are signs warning that the art may not be appropriate for all viewers. We have chosen not to include photos of the most controversial work for that reason.

Electricity in this piece “keeps the energy up” according to the artist.

Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade closes September 24 and Sarah Lucas: Good Muse closes September 17. Go see these very different exhibitions for yourself and let us know what you think. A day at the Palace of Legion of Honor is always a day well spent.

Family Fun, Gardens, Oregon, Outdoor Activities, Pacific Northwest, Portland

It’s Time to Stop and Smell the Roses in Portland

August 31, 2017

A visit to Portland’s world famous International Rose Test Garden is truly a treat for the senses. The heady fragrance of thousands of roses greets you even before you see them. Here on 4.5 acres in the city’s Washington Park, high above Portland’s hustle and bustle, visitors will delight in the sights and aromas of more than 10,000 individual plants and 650 different varieties of gorgeous roses.

About 700,000 people visit Portland’s International Rose Test Garden each year.

With whimsical names like Angel Face, Candy Cane Cocktail, Carmel Kisses, Champagne Wishes, First Crush, Falling in Love and Jump for Joy, giant blooms and tiny tea varieties give approximately 700,000 visitors a year something to smile about.

How about Gold-medal winning Sunshine Daydream to brighten your day?

These beautiful blooms are a delight to the senses.

Barbra Streisand, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pope John Paul II, Dale Chihuly, Ingrid Bergman, George Burns, Coretta Scott King, Dick Clark, Marilyn Monroe and England’s Queen Elizabeth are among the luminaries who have a namesake rose here.

Well-known people from around the globe including artists, philanthropists, world and religious leaders have namesake roses here.

While the peak month for rose viewing is June, our visit in August was sensational. According to the Portland Parks & Recreation Department, which owns and manages the Rose Garden, roses are in bloom from May through October.

These floral favorites were glorious even in August.

Plan accordingly–we arrived in April one time and were disappointed to see we’d come too early. We enjoyed a stroll through the lovely Japanese Gardens across the street instead (see earlier blog post).

More than 650 varieties of roses are grown here.

“Hot Cocoa” seems right, even in the summer.

The oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the U.S., Portland’s International Rose Test Garden just celebrated its 100th birthday. The centennial was marked this August with music and other activities.

Portland recently celebrated 100 Years of Roses– that’s why it’s called the Rose City.

During its 100 years of operation the Rose Test Garden has served as just that—a testing ground for new varieties of this floral favorite. During World War I, the Garden also became home and protector of European-grown rose varieties threatened by bombing.

Admission is free and so are guided tours given at 1 p.m. daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

To get the most from your visit, download a self-guided tour from the Rose Garden website www.portlandoregon.gov/parks or join one of the free guided tours offered daily at 1 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Enjoy the roses during your visit but remember, absolutely no plantings or cuttings can be removed from the Garden.

Dick Clark’s namesake rose won “Portland’s Best Rose” last year.

 

Admission to the Rose Garden is free. There is limited metered parking available but it can be a challenge to find due to construction in Washington Park. Consider taking public transportation or a ride share to reach the Garden. Take Trimet MAX to Washington Park and then use the free shuttle from the station that runs throughout the Park.

The next time Portland, Oregon is on your itinerary, treat yourself to a visit here and find out why it’s called the Rose City. And take time to smell, the well… you know!

 

 

 

Art, Churches, Cultural Attractions, Dining, History

Puppets in Palermo—A Stopover in Sicily’s Biggest City

July 2, 2017

 

Welcome to Palermo.

We took a drive right up the center of Sicily on SS624 to reach Palermo. The ride is scenic, beautiful and pretty straightforward. As you approach, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking views of the city sprawl and the bay—bellissimo!

Palermo is Sicily’s capital city and it’s most populous. Its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture, cultural attractions, and incredible cuisine draw visitors from around the world.

Palermo is the largest and busiest city in Sicily and has plenty to offer the visitor looking for a bustling urban experience. We had less than two full days in Palermo and there is far more to see and do than we had time for.

The simple facade of Monreale Cathedral gives no indication of the superb golden mosaics inside this “must see” church.

Let your first stop in Palermo be a visit to Monreale Cathedral. This stunning cathedral has golden mosaics that rival, and some say surpass, those at Venice’s Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s). This is truly a spectacular church, considered to be the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily, and should not be missed. The somewhat plain façade belies the beauty that awaits inside.

The breathtaking golden mosaics inside Monreale Cathedral rival those at St. Mark’s (San Marco) Basilica in Venice.

Narrow, busy streets and overcrowding make parking a challenge in Palermo and the area surrounding the cathedral is no exception. There is a well-marked, supervised pay parking garage just down the road from the cathedral. Walk carefully along the alley- like street back up to the church.

The clear message here is: Do not park in front of this garage. Parking is always tricky in Palermo. When in doubt, find a pay lot.

After enjoying the splendor of the cathedral, we had a terrific lunch at Bricco e Bacco Brasserie, just kitty corner from the cathedral. It was a lovely place with good, local specialties and friendly service. Since we arrived after the lunch crowd, it was also quiet. You’ll find the restaurant at Via B. D’Aquisto, 13, Monreale, Phone for a reservation +39 091 641 7773. It’s a popular spot.

Driving in Palermo can be a harrowing experience and is not for the faint hearted.

Wind your way down into the city proper, navigating traffic carefully. All bets are off in Palermo and traffic can be heavy. Stop signs seem to be a mere suggestion and traffic signals are also sometimes ignored.

Farm fresh fruits and vegetables are sold at stands throughout the city. Be aware that in Sicily, what we call broccoli is cauliflower here.

Street markets like this one, selling clothing, dry goods, kitchen wares and other necessities can be found throughout Palermo. Ask for a “piccolo sconto”– a discount. Bargaining is part of the fun.

We really enjoyed walking all around the city to get the flavor of it and to get our bearings on our first visit.  We covered a lot of ground, including the Corso Vittorio Emmanuel, which is Palermo’s “high street.” Here you’ll find upscale shops and stylish boutiques, cafes and bars. Palermo also has numerous street markets with household necessities, clothing and dry goods, fruit stands, and food stalls, including the well known Vucciria and Ballaro markets.

Hands down, our favorite cultural institution in Palermo was the Museo Internazionale delle Marrionette. Yes, it is a puppet museum and far more compelling than you might expect. Sicily has a strong tradition of puppetry used for both entertainment and political commentary dating back centuries.

In addition to providing entertainment, puppet shows were often used to express political and social view points, particularly when the literacy rate was low.

Plan to spend at least a few hours enjoying the expansive collection and exhibits at the International Museum of Puppetry.

The museum’s collection includes more than 3,000 puppets of all kinds from around the world.

Marionette soldiers in full armament along with their battle- ready horses are on display in this large gallery.

The attention to detail and historical accuracy of the costumes is impressive.

They have puppets and marionettes from around the world, from the simplest paper puppets to the most elaborate marionettes. You’ll see everything from fairy princesses and dragons to entire armies dressed in armament from throughout the ages, all with remarkable attention to detail.

Even Laurel and Hardy make an appearance here.

You’ll find examples of puppets from the primitive to the extraordinarily elaborate.

Puppets from around the world including Africa, Indonesia and Japan are represented.

There are also a variety of settings and backdrops on view. We found our visit to the marionette museum to be an absolutely enchanting experience. The museum hosts puppet shows, too, of course.

Enjoy these fine examples of Japanese Bunraku puppets.

The museum often hosts puppet shows and has videos of productions on view.

For more information and show times, please visit www.museomarionettepalermo.it The museum is at the end of Via Butera on the Piazzetta Antonio Pasqualina, 5.

Known for its medieval art collection, the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia at Palazza Abatellis is a former palatial residence dating back to the 1490s, which went on to become a convent and then a monastery. It is now a regional gallery and museum.

Built for the Kingdom of Sicily’s Port Master, this fine former residence now houses an impressive collection of Medieval art and other treasures.

Here you will find sculptures, frescoes and paintings by Italian artists, as well as Flemish and other European masters, sacred art, weaponry and more.

Sculpture, paintings, religious art and more await visitors at the Palazzo Abatellis.

Though the building suffered terrible damage during Allied bombing raids in WWII, frescoes such as these from the 1400s survived.

Unfortunately the website has not been updated for some time so it is best to call the museum at +39 091 623 0011. It is located at Via Allora, 4.

To see how the upper class lived centuries ago, visit the Palazzo Mirto www.casemuseoitalia.it/en.   The Palazzo Mirto is part of a network of “house museums” found throughout Italy. It was originally built for the Filangeri family in the mid 17th century and falls into the ancestry category of homes.

The Palazzo Mirto provides a glimpse at the opulence the upper classes enjoyed during the time of the Kingdom of Sicily.

The palazzo is filled with beautifully appointed rooms featuring elaborate furnishings, ceramics, antique musical instruments, and art. One of the most spectacular is the Chinese Room, likely decorated in 1876 when the house was renovated.

The Chinese Room was the height of fashion when it was designed in the mid 1800s.

There are also classic carriages on display along with other historic treasures that paint a picture of Sicilian life for the upper class in the days before the Risorgimento when Sicily was still a kingdom.

Splendid furnishings and elegant porcelain are among the items on display at Palazzo Mirto.

The museum is located at Via Merlo, 2 and telephone is +39 091 616 4751 for updated information.

Enjoy a performance or take a guided tour– these are the only ways to get inside the magnificent Teatro Massimo.

If there is a performance at the Teatro Massimo, get a ticket and go. Regularly scheduled dance, opera, and classical music are all performed here. If you’re feeling flush, you, too, can rent the royal box —you just have to purchase all 27 seats in it.

The Teatro Massimo is known for its excellent acoustics and grand stage.

If time does not permit you to attend a performance, take a guided tour, which is the only other way to see the inside of this magnificent and historic building.

This beautiful and historic theater is among the largest in Europe.

A model of the theater is displayed in the lobby.

The theater boasts one of the largest stages in Europe and is worth seeing. Built in 1897, it is known for its outstanding acoustics and is still the largest theater in Italy with 1,300 seats. It is appropriately located on the Piazza Verdi. +39 091 6053580 www.teatromassimo.it.

The Politeama Garabaldi Theater hosts regular performances in Palermo’s historic city center.

We wanted to visit the highly regarded National Archeological Museum but it was closed for renovations during our visit. Please go to www.regione.sicilia.it/beniculturali/salinas for current information.

A stroll through Sicily’s capital city yields surprises.

We did not visit the Catacombe dei Cappuccine, the home of about 8,000 dead bodies, amassed over the course of several hundred years, all dressed up and on display. We find the entire enterprise rather ghoulish and having seen the Capuccine Chapel in Rome, which features skeletons of dead monks, felt no obligation to see this seemingly far more ambitious enterprise. Apparently it is a popular place on many tourist itineraries and so we mention it here.

Flags fly outside the Porta Felice Hotel on the small but busy Via Butera.

There are lodgings at all price points and with all levels of service, as you would expect in a large city like Palermo. We stayed at Hotel Porta Felice www.hotelportafelice.it/en at Via Butera, 45. Tele. 091 6175678. This is in the old section of town near the port.

Pleasure craft and fishing boats crowd the marina at the end of Via Butera.

Even though the hotel is on what appears to be a small side street, it is pretty busy. We were upgraded to a nice suite, even though we’d booked through www.venere.com. The location was very convenient and we walked everywhere we wanted to go, after turning in our rental car.

Friendly service and excellent Sicilian specialties await diners at L’Ottava Nota.

We only had two nights in Palermo and wound up having dinner both evenings just down the street from our hotel at L’Ottava Nota Ristorante, via Butera 55 091 6168601 www.ristoranteottavanota.it.   The restaurant was small and lovely with fantastic food and great service. The fish dishes were all spectacular. Everything was fresh, artfully prepared and delicious.

Perfectly prepared pasta makes a delicious first course.

White fish in a light curry broth was a favorite.

 

Seafood dishes were the star attraction for us, but L’Ottova Nota has superb meat and vegetable dishes, too.

A fish in a light curry broth with vegetables was so good I still think about it, though it is no longer on the menu. We mentioned we were staying at the Porta Felice and were happily surprised to learn we’d get a 20 percent discount on our meal because we were guests there. We cannot confirm that the special pricing is still available but it never hurts to ask, should you dine here. The restaurant is just a few doors down from Porte Felice on Via Butera, 55. The telephone is +39 091 616 8601.

We had an excellent lunch at Trattoria Piccolo Napoli, www.trattoriapiccolonapoli.it. Piccolo Napoli had been recommended by an Italian friend in the wine business but apparently Anthony Bourdain had once dined here and the owner told us that lots of Americans had been showing up ever since. Our welcome was much more cordial when we told him (in Italian) that his friend Sasha had sent us! Try the panisse (chick pea fritters) to start and have any seafood you like—it is all super fresh and simply, but deliciously, prepared.

Snack on some panisse as you peruse the menu.

Simply but perfectly prepared pastas and seafood dishes shine at Piccolo Napoli.

Through a small window into the kitchen, we watched the chef toss a whole octopus into a pot, plate it and serve it to a young girl who devoured every bit. We had pasta with shellfish and then I had a beautiful swordfish dish. For dessert, they brought us the ubiquitous “winter melon.” The melon is sweet and refreshing and so called winter melon because it can be picked in the summer and stored throughout the winter.  We saw it on menus throughout Sicily. The restaurant is on the Piazzetta Mulino a Vento, 4. Telephone is +39 091 320431.

Palermo is a fascinating and vibrant city and certainly worth a visit. We’ll be back.

Our final meal in Palermo was an extremely casual, but excellent pizza lunch at the airport, which we enjoyed out on the observation deck with a view of planes coming and going, and of course, the beautiful sea!

 

 

Dining, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, Portland, Restaurants

Let’s Eat—Downtown Portland: Departure, Mucca, Andina, Irving St. + Imperial

June 6, 2017

Portland is known as a food lover’s paradise and for good reason. The Rose City has something for every palate and budget from food trucks to fine dining. Every time we visit, and it’s pretty regularly, the big decision is always where to eat next.

It’s hard to beat the views and ambiance at Departure Lounge on the rooftop at the Nines Hotel.

If the weather is nice and the skies are clear, begin your evening at Departure Restaurant + Lounge www.departureportland.com on the rooftop at The Nines Hotel. There are splendid views—some of the best in Portland, by our reckoning– to accompany your beverage of choice.

Head upstairs for beautiful views, a lively happy hour and tasty Asian-fusion cuisine.

There are appetizers to order and you can take a peek at their rooftop herb garden. The rooftop is hugely popular so go early or be prepared to stand. Seating is limited but no one seems to mind. Happy Hour takes place every day from 4-6 p.m.

Cheers!

If you’re looking for dinner, as well as drinks, inside Departure you’ll find an Asian- fusion restaurant with good food and attentive service. The menu features a fine assortment of sushi, salads, dim sum, kushiyaki dishes, wok fired items, and chef’s suggestions. They offer lots of small dishes good for sharing, which is what we did. There’s plenty of seafood to choose from, like the wildly popular poke, as well as meat and vegetarian selections.

Order dinner at tables or the bar inside Departure Restaurant + Lounge.

There are plenty of sushi options from traditional to vegetarian rolls available.

The wings in a sweet chili glaze were tasty, as was the steamed short rib bun and the pork shumai. The chili prawns were a little salty and we thought could have used more heat, but flavorful, nonetheless. Crispy Striped Bass was a highlight, served with mango, cashews and a chili lime sauce.

Chicken wings were crispy and delicious.

Chili prawns were perfect for sharing.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge has an interesting wine list with plenty of wines that have been selected to pair perfectly with the food. They also offer a full compliment of cocktails, as well as spirits, beer, saki, teas and interesting sounding “no proof” libations. Knowledgeable staff are happy to help with decision making.

The wine list has lots of fun choices that complement the menu nicely.

Mind your step– you may well feel like you’re aboard an aircraft, especially walking down the long hallway towards the restrooms.

For views, atmosphere, beverages and a bite to eat, it’s hard to beat Departure.

Prepare for a delightful dining experience at Mucca.

If you’re in the mood for delicious Italian cuisine prepared with care and graciously served in a charming, intimate setting, try Mucca- www.muccaosteria.com.

Enjoy a taste of Italy with a Sicilian flair in Downtown Portland.

The prosciutto and burrata is a great starter and easy to share, as is the insalata barbabietole (beet salad) with ricotta and hazelnuts. Try the excellent scallops with Parmesan fondue, if you’re looking for something richer.

A generous portion of creamy burrata is hiding inside this delicious nest of prosciutto.

The pastas are all terrific (we’ve tried just about every one here), especially the tortelli ai funghi—a beautiful dish of fresh pasta stuffed with mushrooms and ricotta, and topped with asparagus in a light and lovely cream sauce.

The tortelli with mushrooms is a personal favorite at Mucca.

The papparadelle with boar ragu is a hearty dish, full of flavor and reminds us of Tuscany. For an interesting take on risotto, try Mucca’s preparation with elk sausage.

This braised rabbit ragu with olives and pine nuts is typically served with a red beet tagliatelle. Here, we substituted pici pasta for the tagliatelle.

Elk sausage makes Mucca’s risotto delightfully different.

If you have a big appetite, opt for the pork shoulder, which is slow cooked, and falling off the bone. It’s served with creamy polenta. The daily fish special is always a winner, too.

Mucca’s wine list features producers from across Italy from Tuscany to Sicily.

Enjoy a digestivo after your meal. Mucca has many excellent ones to choose from.

With the exception of some French sparklers, the wine list is all Italian, from regions throughout the country from Piemonte to Sardinia. Knowledgeable servers are happy to help with your selections. In our experience, Mucca never disappoints.

Marvelous Andean cuisine awaits at Andina.

If you have a taste for amazing Peruvian cuisine try Andina www.andinarestaurant.com. You’ll find South American cooking in both traditional and contemporary, or NovoAndean (as they call it here), style at this big, bustling eatery.

We always say “yes, please” to the empanadas at Andina. Both the beef and vegetable versions are terrific.

Empanadas are just one of Andina’s “don’t miss” tapas dishes. Several superb preparations of scallops, shrimp, and other seafood, vegetable dishes, soups and stews, plus cerviches make up the extensive list. There are so many great sounding options it can be overwhelming to choose.

Pimento Piquillo Relleno, stuffed with quinoa, cheese and Serrano ham, makes a very tasty starter.

A classic Tortilla de Papa brings potatoes to a new level.

The tapas are meant to share so be sure to bring friends. That also gives you the chance to try more of their tasty dishes. There have been times when we have selected so many tapas; we could barely eat our entrees, which we would also recommend sharing.

Crunchy, crispy Chicharrones de Langostinos are perfect for sharing.

Among Andina’s entrees, we recommend the lamb shank, which is perfectly prepared and served with traditional accompaniments. It’s a very large portion. The fish dishes are also very good, especially the tuna, which is served with red lentils and a gooseberry sauce. There are numerous vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options here, too.

Quinoa turns up in a number of dishes, including this delightful presentation of Quinoa con Verduras.

Though walk- ins are welcome to dine downstairs or in the busy bar area on a space available basis, if you want a guaranteed table, it’s essential to reserve. You’ll be glad you did.

Another award-winning downtown dinner spot to try.

 Named one of Portland’s 2016 Best Restaurants by The Oregonian, Irving Street Kitchen is right down the street from Andina in the Pearl District. Irving Street is going for an “elegant casual” vibe and it seemed to be very of the moment on the Saturday night we dined there.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time at Irving Street Kitchen.

They have a terrific “wines on tap program” so you can sample a bunch of local wines you might not have heard of—we hadn’t– without breaking the bank. There were four whites, six reds and a rose on tap, all from Oregon and Washington, when we visited.  In addition to the wines and beers on tap, there are craft cocktails and a nice wine list with lots of choices from the Pacific Northwest.

Sample a few selections from the “on tap” wine program featuring wines from independent producers in Oregon and Washington.

Irving Street has heartier starters like the charcuterie or cheese selections, Manila clams, and meatballs, for example, but we began with salads, which were fresh and crisp. We had the baby lettuces and the Bibb wedge—classics, updated with additions like wildflower Riesling dressing and candied bacon with pecan nibs, respectively.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

We started with several crisp salads, including the Bibb Wedge shown here.

The double pork chop was superb and enormous, as was the buttermilk fried chicken. Both were extremely satisfying and big enough to share. The carrot butter poached halibut sounded awfully tempting but we went for the salmon this time and weren’t disappointed.

The succulent double pork chop was redolent with a smoky flavor throughout.

Crispy buttermilk fried chicken was a winner.

A peek inside Irving Street’s kitchen.

Irving Street Kitchen is hip and happening so definitely book in. Get one of their curtained booths if you can, or stake out a seat at the buzzy bar. Irving Street Kitchen also serves brunch on weekends and has a Happy Hour. Check it out!

Another downtown favorite is Chef/Owner Vitaly Paley’s Imperial. This casual and always crowded restaurant has been one of our Portland “go tos” for years. http://www.imperialpdx.com.

The award-winning Imperial is popular for good reason.

Though former Top Chef finalist Doug Adams is no longer in the kitchen, his signature fried chicken is still on the menu, served with house-made hot sauce and honey. (Word has it that Doug is opening a new place in the fall–we’ll keep you posted).

The signature fried chicken is a standout!

 Though we don’t love paying for bread and butter, the Parker House rolls with Jacobsen Sea Salt are always on our table at Imperial, along with a big basket of their terrific fries.

Imperial’s fries are irresistible. Maybe it’s their “secret sauce.”

The sunflower seed brittle on the kale and vegetable salad makes that one special. The duck meatballs are a terrific starter, too.

Sunflower seed brittle gives this kale salad a satisfying crunch.

The duck meatballs deliver big on taste.

Some of the other “don’t miss” dishes are the barrel planked pork secretto, roasted half chicken, any fish done la plancha-style, and the fried rabbit with bacon, though we haven’t seen that dish on the menu lately.

Perfectly prepared Planked Pork Secretto from Tails & Trotters, is served with a fantastic Romesco sauce.

The grilled halibut is simply delicious.

The wine list features plenty of French selections but Oregon, Washington, and California wines are also well represented. Italian wines, along with craft cocktails, reserve, draft, and bottled beers, and ciders are all on offer.

There are always new and interesting wines to try on Imperial’s list.

Though we missed seeing a few of the friendly faces that always made dining at Imperial a bit more special, we still had a wonderful dinner on our most recent visit. Imperial serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Try their Happy Hour, too– the food is terrific and the prices are a real deal.

These are a few of our downtown favorites in Portland. We’ll be back with more dining recommendations in another post. In the meantime, let us know about your Portland picks!

 

 

Family Fun, Gardens, Oregon, Outdoor Activities, Pacific Northwest, Portland

A Walk in the Woods—Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum

May 22, 2017

If you enjoy a walk on the wilder side, visit Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum. Just up the hill in Washington Park from the refined and well-manicured Japanese Garden, nature lovers will find 12 miles of rustic trails that run through the 187-acre park.

Visitors can explore 12 miles of rustic trails, many fairly rugged. There are two miles of trails suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

Trails are well marked and lead to “family” groupings of trees.

The Hoyt Arboretum boasts 6,000 plants and trees representing 1,100 species and it’s free to visit. The trees, first planted in the 1930s by John W. Duncan, are grouped with others they are related to, in areas closest to their natural, native habitat.

The Hoyt Arboretum is a nature lover’s paradise in Portland’s Washington Park.

Visitors can meander down the Magnolia Trail to the Magnolia Grove or view a broad array of holly on the Holly Loop. You’ll find Oak Trail, Beech Trail, Maple Trail, Hawthorn Trail, Walnut Trail, Redwood Trail, Bristlecone Pine Trail— you get the picture. If you have a favorite kind of tree, chances are you can find it here, along with its closest relatives.

Volcano Vista is one of many scenic spots in the 187-acre “living museum.” Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are off in the distance.

Be aware that many of the trails are fairly rugged and not well suited to people with ambulatory challenges. There are, however, two miles of trails appropriate for strollers, wheelchairs and less sure-footed visitors. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes for your Arboretum adventure.

The Magnolia Grove was a personal favorite. There are so many varieties of this beautiful flowering tree to enjoy at the Hoyt Arboretum.

The Hoyt Arboretum hosts 90-minute tours on many Saturdays, but it’s best to call or check the website www.hoytarboretum.org to confirm the schedule. In the autumn, there are Fall Color Tours and during April, which is Arbor Month, volunteer docents guide visitors on the Magnolia and Spring Blossom Tours. A $3 donation is suggested for the tours.  Check with the Arboretum for other tours and events throughout the year.

Check out the guided Magnolia and Spring Blossoms tours, held on Saturdays in the Spring.

The Hoyt Arboretum is pet and family friendly.  We encountered a number of families with cavorting canines and energetic children frolicking in the meadow areas.

Daffodils, a sure harbinger of Spring, were blooming in the Winter Garden during our recent visit.

The Visitor Center, which includes a small nature center and a research library, was closed when we visited, but the restrooms were open. There were brochures available, which included handy trail maps.

There was something to delight the eye in every area of the Hoyt Arboretum. This is a view of the Winter Garden.

There is a Winter Garden to explore and a picnic area when you’re ready for a break. There are no cafes or restaurants on the Arboretum’s grounds so come prepared. We often stop by Elephant’s Deli on NW 22nd Avenue. It’s a great place to pick up provisions on your way to Washington Park. You can order everything from pizza to black bean burgers, prepared while you wait, or order ahead for sandwiches, sack lunches, full picnics, and platters. They also have “grab and go” items, a full bakery, and plenty of specialty foods and gift items. A complete menu is available at www.elephantsdeli.com.

Specialty foods, full picnics, platters, pre-packaged salads and sandwiches, side dishes, baked goods and more are on offer at Elephant’s Deli.

Get a pizza, fried chicken, burgers and other entrees to bring to the park or enjoy before you go. There are no dining facilities at the Hoyt Arboretum so be prepared.

There is a small pay parking lot at the entrance to the Hoyt Arboretum or take the free Washington Park shuttle bus up from the transit center (Max Red or Blue lines to Washington Park). The complimentary shuttle runs around the park from April through October. For current information, please visit www.explorewashingtonpark.org and enjoy your walk in the woods in this remarkable spot in Portland.

 

Architecture, Art, Cultural Attractions, Family Fun, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Art, Pacific Northwest, Portland

Seeking Serenity at Portland’s Spectacular Japanese Garden

May 9, 2017

Gorgeous grounds, stunning views and an authentic Japanese experience have been delighting visitors to Portland’s spectacular Japanese Garden since 1963. Now, the beautiful 12-acre oasis, which includes five separate gardens with plenty of peaceful seating areas for reflection, a Japanese Tea House, tranquil ponds, and meandering paths perfect for contemplation, has even more to offer. Last month the new $33.5 million Cultural Crossing opened to visitors.

Follow the footpaths, steps and bridges that lead to each of the separate and distinctive garden spaces within Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The new $33.5 million Cultural Crossings expansion project includes new exhibition space, library, tea house and additional garden areas, all designed to enhance the authentic Japanese experience for visitors.

Designed by respected architect Kengo Kuma, the Cultural Crossing’s new buildings provide the perfect showcase for traditional Japanese arts and culture and serve as a venue for family-friendly activities and interesting demonstrations. An already popular attraction is even more appealing with the new expansion project. No wonder the lines for tickets are long. Purchase tickets online and check-in at the membership desk, exchange your voucher for a ticket there, and avoid the serpentine lines that are sure to continue for some time.

Minutes away from Portland’s busy streets, the Portland Japanese Garden is an oasis of tranquility.

Many visitors take the complimentary shuttle up to the gardens and walk back down to the parking area along the paved pathways.

Visitors can either take a complimentary shuttle bus or walk up the pathway to the open and airy Japanese Arts Learning Center–the heart of the new project with performance space, library and classroom.

Young visitors take a break on the steps inside the new Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center.

The ground level Tanabe Gallery currently hosts an exhibition of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro.

A delightful display of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro are currently on exhibit in the Tanabe Gallery and Pavilion Gallery.

The expansive display, Hosokawa Morihiro: The Art of Life, a Rebirth in Clay, continues in the Pavilion Gallery, which also includes a portable teahouse.   Two additional “Art in the Garden” showcases, one featuring Kabuki costumes and the other, Noh masks and costumes, are scheduled for later in the year. The Japanese Garden will host related events and activities associated with both.

A portable tea house with the implements needed to perform a classic Japanese tea ceremony are part of the current exhibition. Noh masks and costumes and Kabuki costumes will be featured in the galleries later this year.

Now, to explore these magnificent gardens! The Strolling Pond Garden was our first stop, after a visit to the Learning Center and Gallery. Visitors can walk across the “iconic Moon Bridge” over the Upper Pond and enjoy the views.

Stroll the “Zig-Zag Bridge” over the Lower Pond which is surrounded by iris. It had not quite bloomed at the time of our visit, but was close. The aptly named Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop to the Lower Pond and were a popular “selfie stop.”

The Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop for contemplation or photo opps.

Follow the rough stepping stones along a lantern- lined path through the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden to the authentic Kashintei Tea House. Typically, the tea garden is a place to appreciate nature’s beauty and “the art of living in harmony” while leaving the cares of the world behind. This is certainly the case at the Portland Japanese Garden—it is so serene it’s easy to forget you are mere minutes from busy city streets.

Visitors are invited to leave their worldly cares behind when they explore the authentic tea garden and Kashintei Tea House.

The Kashintei Tea House, which is where tea demonstrations and related events are held, was brought to Portland from Japan and reassembled here.

Contact the Japanese Garden to learn when tea demonstrations and other events are scheduled for the Kashintei Tea House.

The Portland Japanese Garden has a lovely Sand and Stone Garden, created by Professor Takuma Tono, the Garden’s chief designer in the 1960s. These “dry landscape” gardens are sometimes called “Zen Gardens” because they are often found at Zen monasteries and are meant to invite quiet contemplation. The Sand and Stone Garden here illustrates an important Japanese concept—“the beauty of blank space.”

Enjoy your moments of Zen at the Sand and Stone Garden.

Recent additions to Portland’s Japanese Garden include the Natural Garden, which features local plants not typically associated with Japanese gardens and depicts seasonal change.

The cherry blossoms were in full bloom during our recent visit to Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The small courtyard garden (Tsubo-Niwa) and the Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace are both new and located near the Tateuchi Courtyard in the Cultural Village.

Visitors are treated to an exquisite display of bonsai at the new Ellie M.Hill Bonsai Terrace.

The Flat Garden, which highlights each of the four seasons with specific plantings and trees is popular with visitors. The weeping cherry tree on the left represents spring while a 100- year old maple depicts autumn.

The Flat Garden is meant to be viewed from a single angle either from inside a home, where the door or window serves as a frame, or from a verandah, as these visitors are doing.

The gravel stands in for water, signifying summer in the Flat Garden.

After you’ve finished strolling around the gorgeous gardens and interesting exhibitions, stop in and sample the fare at the new Umami Café. During our visit, just a week after the April 2 reopening, the café was not yet serving food but was offering complimentary samples of four delicious teas from Tokyo-based Jugetsudo Tea Company. We were told that light snacks and sweets would be offered in the near future.

Stop in the new Umami Cafe for a restorative cup of tea and authentic Japanese sweets and snacks.

During our visit, guests were offered four different and delicious teas as part of a complimentary tea tasting.

When His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited the Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed it “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” according to the organization.

Tranquil settings such as this one near the Upper Pond, have been drawing visitors since 1963.

They currently report more than 350,000 visitors annually, a number that will surely grow with the addition of the new Cultural Crossroads expansion. Be sure to add this spectacularly beautiful and serene spot to your Portland itinerary.  Visit www.japanesegarden.org for the most up to date information on tickets, events and hours.

 

California, Carmel, Family Fun, History, Monterey Bay, Motorcycles, Museums

Motorcycle Mania—Moto Talbott Collection

April 6, 2017

I’m not much of a motorcycle aficionado myself, but I have been married to one for enough years to recognize the distinctive sound of a Ducati from a distance. On our recent trip to California’s Monterey Peninsula, we drove up to Carmel Valley to indulge in some wine tasting and discovered the Moto Talbott Collection www.mototalbott.com. My husband’s delight quickly faded when he saw the motorcycle museum was closed, but fate smiled once again when founder Robb Talbott appeared in the courtyard.

Moto Talbott is a “must see” for motorcycle aficionados.

We had a nice chat, but Mr. Talbott was off to an appointment so no chance for a sneak peek behind the gates that day. We left with the promise to return later that week; my husband clutching the newly printed brochure Robb had kindly given him.

Rare, vintage, award- winning and beautifully restored motorcycles, all with stories to tell, await visitors to Moto Talbott.

Bright and early that Friday morning, we returned to Moto Talbott. In the courtyard were the museum’s newest acquisitions—two BMW Isetta 300s. Originally produced in Italy in the 1950s, Issetas are known as micro cars or “cabin scooters.” These two had been languishing in a hayloft in a Northern California barn for more than 40 years. Robb had picked them up just the night before.

These Isseta micro cars had just arrived after languishing in a hayloft for 40 years.

The Moto Talbott Collection has only been open since November 2016 but is already attracting motorcycle fans from all over. The collection is mostly motorcycles (more than 160 of them) but also features scooters, vintage transportation- themed toys, motorcycle memorabilia and more. The bikes are artfully displayed in a 6,000 square foot building with walls of snow barrier board trucked in from Wyoming and constructed by hand. Every detail has been carefully thought through.

This BMW is handsomely displayed against a handcrafted wall of Wyoming snow barrier board.

There are some real gems in the collection, including the Ducati Marianna that won the very last Motogira D’Italia in 1956 and is credited with saving the Ducati Company from possible closure. There’s a terrific photo of the wining rider, Guiliano Maoggi, with a cigarette clenched in his teeth on the wall above the bike, along with the fascinating story of his victory.

Visitors can learn about the last Motogiro d’Italia and the winning Ducati’s intriguing victory tale.

Steve McQueen’s 1931 VL Harley is there, as is a demonstration bike from WWII with the gas tank and engine covering cut away so soldiers training on it could learn what went where. This particular bike, which is quite a rare find, came to the collection complete with troop movement maps, gloves and a fully- functioning Thompson sub-machine gun, which has since been rendered inoperable.

Every bike has a fascinating story and a great deal of history behind it, including this rare WWII demo bike.

There’s a Vespa specially designed to promote Coach’s leather goods, a motorcycle that was buried in the backyard to protect it from certain destruction in a fire, race and award winners, beautiful restorations, trial bikes, rare and vintage motorcycles—they’re all here.

Each Coach logo was carefully hand painted on this promotional Vespa.

What really makes a trip to Moto Talbott special is the opportunity to learn the history and stories behind these bikes from the engaging and knowledgeable docents. We were fortunate to spend the morning with Rich Watson, former Economics professor at UC Santa Barbara and a lifelong lover of motorcycles. Rich could not have been more informative and entertaining. We were captivated by the intriguing tales he told, from his description of riders being impaled by enormous splinters during the American board racing days of the early 1900s to stories of unbeatable BSAs.

Engaging docents like Rich Watson enrich the visitor’s experience by sharing the stories and history behind the bikes.

These Indians from the early 1900s were used for American board racing– an extremely dangerous form of motorcycle racing not permitted for decades.

The impressive collection currently features road bikes and dirt bikes from 16 countries, from the Czech Republic to Mexico. MV Agusta, BSA, Bultaco, BMW, Indian, Harley Davidson, Kawaski, Maico, Gilera, Triumph, Honda—nearly every notable motorcycle company is represented here.

Road bikes and dirt bikes from around the globe are part of the collection at Moto Talbott.

The “Riders for Health” motorcycle under the orange vest traveled more than 80,000 kms bringing health care and aid to those in need in Zimbabwe.

The former proprietor of the highly regarded Talbott Vineyards and chairman of the board of the eponymous clothing company his family founded, Robb Talbott’s commitment to excellence and quality is as apparent in the Moto Talbott Collection as it was in his previous endeavors. The museum was at least three years in the making and was created so that he could “…share his passion for bikes and beauty… And mostly to share the stories of these bikes and their history.” The museum’s mission statement rings especially true after talking with Robb—”preservation, restoration and education…all driven by passion.”

Some of founder Robb Talbott’s vintage toys are displayed here.

We also had the chance to meet Bobby Weindorf, the museum’s curator and chief restorer.   Motorcycles have been part of Bobby’s life since he was 12 years old. His career was built on his passion: five years with American Honda’s factory road race and Supercross/Motocross teams; a dealership in Santa Barbara for 10 years, and several years in Italy working with motorcycle race teams. When asked about his three favorite bikes in the collection, he chose the 1977 MV Agusta 850SS because, “It’s big, powerful and makes a bold Italian statement,” a 1977 Hodaka Super Combat Wombat, “…cute dirt bike with an awesome name,” and a 1965 BMW R 69S in Granada Red, for it’s “pure elegance in a rare color…”

Moto Talbott is dedicated to preservation, restoration and education–and doing a spectacular job in all three area.

Bobby noted that Moto Talbott will continue to evolve: expanding and changing the collection, offering events, and continuing to educate visitors, preserving the “survivors,” and restoring the classic motorcycles that he and the others involved in this marvelous museum have worked so tirelessly to make accessible to motorcycle lovers from around the world.

Please visit www.mototalbott.com for the most current information on opening hours, events, and ticket prices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Fun, Outdoor Activities, Park City, Skiing, Utah

Back to (Ski) School— Hitting the Slopes at Deer Valley

December 31, 2016

It had been more than 25 years since I last slid my feet into skis but when the chance came to join some friends on their annual ski trip to Park City, Utah last March, I took it. This would be my first time to visit Utah. A short Delta flight delta.com from San Diego and then an Uber had us in Park City in no time.

There is lodging ranging from hotel rooms to home rentals at all price points in and around Park City. We stayed at a friend’s home in this beautiful area close to both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley.

We set off to get provisions for the house and made a quick trip to Christy Sports Ski and Snowboard Rentals www.christysports.com where my friends had reserved their equipment. Book your gear in advance online and you’ll save about 15 percent. There are numerous rental outlets to choose from in Park City and the ski resorts have their own shops and rental facilities, too. Check around for best prices.

Downtown Park City has plenty of stores, boutiques, galleries and restaurants for every taste and budget. You’ll get the best value in ski gear rentals with an advance booking online at places like Christy’s, which is outside of town.

We had a delicious dinner at the Blind Dog www.blinddogpc.com on our first night. It’s a casual restaurant popular with locals and visitors with an expansive menu sure to please most. There are salads, seafood and steak dishes to choose from, as well as both gluten free and vegetarian options. There is also a sushi menu available, which several in our group chose.

The Blind Dog has lots of menu options including gluten free and vegetarian selections.

Everything was fresh and tasty and the service attentive.The Blind Dog’s “Whine List” has a very good selection with plenty of by- the- glass options, beers, cocktails and sakes. The restaurant also has a gift shop with all manner of Blind Dog merchandise.

Indulge in some after dinner shopping at Blind Dog in Park City, UT.

The next morning we were off to Deer Valley Resort. There wasn’t as much snow as in years past, but the mountains were beautiful and I was excited to start my ski adventure.

Deer Valley is a full- service ski resort with lodging, restaurants, shops, gear rentals and a terrific ski school.

The others were planning to ski both Deer Valley www.deervalley.com and Park City www.parkcitymountain.com during our time there, but I was advised to start at Deer Valley. Their ski school is highly regarded and after my lengthy hiatus from the mountains, lessons were definitely in order. Note: Deer Valley is for skiers only–snowboarders are welcome at Park City Mountain.

Park City Mountain welcomes snowboarders and skiers. Free buses shuttle visitors between the mountain and downtown Park City.

The Deer Valley www.deervalley.com ski school staff suggested I purchase a beginner’s day pass, which allows access up to Silver Lake –about mid-mountain and high enough for me. A beginner’s pass was only $35 while a full day pass was $120 for adults. There are discounts available for seniors, children and military. You must have a pass to take lessons.

You must have a ski pass to take lessons at Deer Valley. The beginner’s ticket is perfect if you’re only planning to go mid-mountain.

I also opted to rent my equipment at Deer Valley. You can purchase your lift ticket, equipment rental and pay for lessons at the rental shop—one stop shopping. Since I chose the three-hour afternoon ski lesson, I was also counseled to wait until noon to get my rentals—great advice since the price is reduced at that time. I found out later that my rental also included a complimentary subscription to Ski Magazine.

Deer Valley has a highly regarded ski school and lived up to its reputation with patient, knowledgeable instructors.

By 12:40 p.m. I was fully outfitted and making my way to join the others in my “Max 4” lesson, so-called because there is a maximum of three other students plus an instructor. Students are matched as much as possible based on level of skill, age, etc. I was with three other women and all had been back on the slopes far more recently than I. Mike Wirt, from upstate New York, was our excellent and patient instructor. He critiqued with kindness, gave practical pointers and instilled confidence in all of us.

Being back on skis after a 25- year hiatus was fun and exhilarating. Yes, I fell a few times but that was no surprise!

I was a little nervous when our instructor took my poles away but it actually helped me improve—immediately. Before long, I was skiing with a new found confidence and while I fell a few times (including a pretty spectacular wipeout that involved a fence), I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I had a wonderful and exhilarating afternoon, and thanks to Mike’s excellent instruction, I’m looking forward to my next adventure on the slopes.

In addition to skiing, you can book snowshoeing and sleigh ride excursions at Deer Valley or rent skates at Park City and take a few turns on their on-site ice rink.

Deer Valley Resort has numerous options for dining and refreshments. I enjoyed a restorative hot cocoa at Deer Valley, Etc., the coffee shop on the plaza level, and a casual lunch at the cafeteria there. My friends dined at Silver Lake Restaurant, which they raved about, but my lesson time precluded meeting up with them mid-mountain.

There are also shops to explore and a handy locker room to stow your stuff while you’re on the slopes at Deer Valley. Lockers are $3 for one- time access. The attended bins are $5 for all day access and can be shared.  This is the way to go if you want to ditch outer layers as the day warms up. You may also store your skis overnight with the attendants. Park City Mountain also offers a variety of dining and shopping opportunities as well, and an on-site outdoor ice rink.

Complimentary buses take visitors from Deer Valley and Park City Mountain to downtown Park City where a free trolley is available.

Local transportation is convenient and complimentary— free shuttle buses take visitors into town, up to Silver Lake, to Park City Mountain and all around the area.  There’s also a free trolley that traverses Park City’s Main Street.

The helpful people at Deer Valley’s information booth are happy to assist with transportation, excursions and dining recommendations. In addition to skiing, shopping and dining, it is also possible to book sleigh rides and snowshoeing outings at Deer Valley. The lack of snow precluded us from those activities last time, but the 2017 season looks promising!