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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.

 

Architecture, Art, Churches, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, History, Italy, Museums, Tuscany

Il Grande Museo del’Opera del Duomo: All About Florence’s Famous Duomo

October 3, 2016

Florence’s Il Grande Museo del’Opera del Duomo has nothing at all to do with opera. Instead, it is all about the work, or opera, involved in building, preserving and maintaining one of the most recognizable Renaissance buildings in the world—Florence’s Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

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A spectacular view of Brunelleschi’s dome from Caffe La Terrazza.

If you’ve ever wanted to see how Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome was constructed, learn what the other options were for the Duomo’s facade, or see the remarkable art treasures once housed in the cathedral, this is the place to come.

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Welcome to the recently reopened and reimagined Museo del’Opera del Duomo.

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Soaring galleries give visitors a new perspective on the superb sculpture on display at the museum.

Re-opened in October 2015 after years of restoration and reconstruction, the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo has an exquisite collection of sculpture, paintings and other masterworks displayed on three floors in 6,000 square meters of exhibit space, all designed to showcase the art to its best visual and historical advantage.

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A visitor gets an up close look at a statue in the museum.

Most of the works were at one time in, or outside the Duomo.

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These sculptures once graced niches in Giotto’s bell tower.

Some of the treasures to be found include the original North Doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistry of San Giovanni along with the Doors of Paradise by Lorenzo and Vittorio Ghiberti. Replicas now hang on the Baptistry.

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Ghiberti’s stunning Doors of Paradise and North Door once graced the Baptistry of San Giovanni but can now be found inside the museum.

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Detail of door.

In all, the museum boasts 750 works of art covering 720 years of history.

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Arnolfo di Cambio’s stunning Christ with the Soul of Mary

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This exquisite silver alter features scenes from the life of John the Baptist and was created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, Betto di Geri, Bernardo Cennini, Antonio di Salvi, Francesco and Leonardo di Giovanni, Antonio del Pollaiolo and Andrea del Verrocchio.

Michelangelo’s poignant pieta, sculpture by Donatello including his magnificent Mary Magdalene as Penitent, and works by Andrea Pisano, Antonio Pollaiolo, Arnolfo di Cambio and other highly regarded Medieval and Renaissance artists are on display.

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Michelangelo sculpted this pieta for his own tomb. He later destroyed it. It was reconstructed and acquired by Cosimo de Medici In 1671 and placed in the Duomo in 1722. It was the next to last sculpture Michelangelo ever created.

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Donatello’s Mary Magdalene as Penitent draws many visitors.

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Sacred items and iconography are part of the museum’s extensive collection.

img_2108In the Cappella Musicale, or music gallery, you will hear enchanting sacred music, and find works by Luca della Robbia and others, as well as rare illuminated music books.

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Beautiful music fills this gallery where rare illustrated books, sacred objects and art treasures are displayed.

img_2164Brunelleschi’s dome, still considered a marvel of engineering, remains one of Florence’s most iconic monuments.

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Models of Brunelleschi’s dome show how it was built and why it remains an engineering marvel.

In addition to the art treasures, the museum contains original building materials, equipment and tools, dating back to the Duomo’s 15th century construction.

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Wooden pulleys, ropes and other original construction equipment used to build the Duomo can be seen at the museum.

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Original 15th century tools and equipment used to build the Duomo are displayed near a continuously running film that explores the design and construction.

Also featured are drawings and models of the dome and Giotto’s bell tower, which was begun in 1334, after Giotto’s death. An outdoor terrace offers splendid views of the dome.

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Brunelleschi’s wooden model of the dome fascinates visitors.

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A detailed model of the bell tower designed by Giotto is on display near beautiful stained glass windows created by notables including Ghiberti, Donatello, Paolo Uccelli and Andrea del Castagno.

Visitors to the museum will learn about the history of this spectacular cathedral, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and dedicated in 1412. The name Santa Maria del Fiore means St. Mary of the Flowers or Virgin of the Flowers. Once the largest church in all of Europe, today it is third in size, after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

img_2134A film called Courage to Dare about Florence during the Renaissance and the creation and construction of the Duomo runs continuously in the museum.

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A number of possibilities considered for the Duomo’s facade are on display, including this one.

Combination tickets can be purchased for the Duomo Museum, the Baptistery, the bell tower and the Crypt of Santa Reparta, named for the 7th century church that once stood on the site of the Duomo. There is no charge to enter the Duomo, but paid tickets are required for visitors who wish to climb the more than 400 steps to the top of the bell tower.

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The Baptistry of San Giovanni always draws crowds. Tickets are required to enter.

Appropriate clothing is essential for entry. In other words, no shorts, short skirts or skimpy, shoulder baring tops on women or men. Bulky bags and backpacks must be checked. Visit www.ilgrandemuseodelduomo.it for information on ticket prices, hours and tours.

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Admission to the Duomo is free but take care to dress appropriately or you will be denied entry.

On our visit, we also had free access to a photographic exhibition called Opera di Viva by Michele Pecchioli, which paid tribute to the hundreds of men and women who have worked to preserve the artistic integrity and cultural heritage of the building and the art works within for more than 700 years.

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Michele Pecchioli’s photographs pay tribute to the men and women who restore and preserve the art and cultural heritage of Florence’s iconic Duomo.

img_2560The photos feature the restorers, artists, employees and security guards who play a role in safeguarding these treasurers and ensuring public access to the works for years to come. Note: This was a temporary exhibition and may now longer be available for viewing.

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A close up of a security guard charged with safeguarding the priceless treasures at the Duomo and its museum.

When the sun begins to set in Florence, head over to Piazzale Michelangelo for another perspective on the Duomo —and enjoy the gorgeous vista across the Arno over the city.

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Some of the most spectacular views of Florence can be had from the Piazzale Michelangelo. Don’t miss a visit to the beautiful San Miniato al Monte across the street. It’s the oldest church in Florence, after the Baptistry.

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Florence’s Duomo viewed from Piazzale Michelangelo.

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The department store La Rinescente has a terrace restaurant with fine views of the Duomo, as well as drinks and light fare.

If you crave an aperitivo with your sunset and Duomo views, go to La Rinascente, the department store on Piazza Repubblica. Go directly up to La Terrazza on the top floor and you’ll find a little rooftop café/bar with great views of the city and the iconic dome. It gets crowded so get there early or be prepared to wait.

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Sensational sunset view over the Piazza della Repubblica from Caffe La Terrazza.

Cin Cin!

 

 

Architecture, Art, Churches, Family Fun, Italy, Tuscany

Pitstop in Pisa

June 22, 2016

If you’ve never been and you’re in the area, it’s worth a stop to see Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower and the Campo dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles.  The Tower, or Torre, which was begun in 1173 and not completed until 1399 almost 200 years later, is one of the most recognizable and visited sites in Italy.

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Go ahead– it’s why you’re here!

It’s easy to reach Pisa from Florence by car or train. We stopped on our way back to Panzano from Lucca. Park in one of the signed lots close to the piazza. There is a bit of an “element” looking to take advantage of tourists near the Campo dei Miracoli so it’s worth putting your car in an attended, paid lot. If you’ve arrived by train, take the LAM Rossa bus from the station in the direction of San Jacapo and get off at Torre.

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Site map of the Campo dei Miracoli shows where everything is located.

If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb the 251 steps to the top of the Tower, for a fee. Children under the age of 8 are not allowed up into the Tower for safety reasons and children between the ages of 8 and 18 must have an adult accompany them. Opening hours and ticket prices are available at www.pisaunicaterra.it, the official tourism website for Pisa.

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Part of the fun is watching everyone else take their photos.

Take the requisite photos, enjoy watching others take theirs, and then visit Il Duomo, Pisa’s cathedral. It is really beautiful and has the holy doors or porta santa open for the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. Inside, in addition to the spectacular architecture, you’ll find art treasures like 700-year-old depictions from the bible, works by Ghirlandaio, the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII, a beautiful mosaic by Cimabue, and a carved pulpit by Giovanni Pisano. Photos are not allowed inside.

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Take the time to come inside. There is no charge to enter Pisa’s magnificent Il Duomo.

The Baptistery, though not as spectacular inside as the duomo, is also worth seeing if time allows. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which contains many of the artworks formerly housed in Il Duomo, the Baptistery and the Camposanto (cemetery) is also located on the Square of Miracles.

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Construction on the Baptistry began in 1152 and is the best known work of Pisan architect Diotisalvi.

Entrance to the Cathedral is free but you must collect an entry coupon at the ticket office on the square. For tickets and admission information for the Baptistry, Museum and Camposanto or to purchase tickets online go to www.pisaunicaterra.it.