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Make a Plan to See Smithsonian Museums in D.C.

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Smithsonian visitor center castle

If you’re traveling to Washington D.C. for the first time and your list of things to do includes “see the Smithsonian,” you might be in for a surprise.

The Smithsonian Institution is not a single sight you can check off in an afternoon. It’s a collection of 19 different museums of varying sizes, research centers, gardens, galleries, and a zoo. There’s just way too much stuff to see it all in one trip, let alone a day.

In fact, a couple of the museums aren’t even in D.C., they’re in New York. A few more are scattered throughout the D.C. metro area. However, most of them (13 or so) are clustered right around the National Mall.

I’m calling them the “Mall Smithsonians” for short.

National Mall

In the coming weeks, Phillip will be sharing what it was like inside the Mall Smithsonians he was able to visit during our short D.C. trip – specifically, the American History Museum, Air and Space Museum, and café of the Native American Museum.

But, first, I wanted to give you some practical information about how to tackle the Mall Smithsonians.

Depending on how much time you have, you’ll probably want to pick 1-3 museums and prioritize the parts of each you want to see most. Choosing what you’re interested in is the easy part, though. Figuring out how to get there, when you can go, and where you can eat or find wifi or store your stuff gets a bit more confusing.

So here are some tips to help you make the most of these Mall museums.


DC

6 Things to Know about the Mall Smithsonians

1. Admission is free.

Donations are, of course, accepted and appreciated.

Since you’re not tied to paying a daily entrance fee, you can be more flexible in how you experience the museums.

You don’t have to spend the whole day in one museum…

  • If you’re short on time, stop in for an hour or two. Or just long enough to see whatever you were dying to see before leaving town.
  • If you’re tied up during the day (with business, a conference, or other obligations), check the hours. You may be able to do an evening visit.
  • Go museum hopping, seeing just the exhibits you’re most interested in at each.

You don’t have to see it all in one day…

  • Take your time checking out a museum you’re particularly interested in. Come back the next day if there’s more you want to see.
  • Instead of one long day, break a visit up into two weekday afternoons or weekend mornings, when crowds are typically lighter.
  • Leave when your (or your kid/s, travel companion/s, etc.) energy begins to wane, knowing you can pick up where you left off after a nap, a change in activity, or another day.

There are a few activities that do require free or paid tickets (like the IMAX theaters), but these are the exception rather than the rule.

Smithsonian visitor center castle

2. They’re open daily.

Mall Smithsonians are typically open every day, unless it’s Christmas (December 25) or if they’re closed for renovation.

  • Most have opening hours from 10am to 5:30pm (exceptions below).
  • In addition, some have extended hours on certain days or close early for special events. Double check the Smithsonian Special Hours Calendar to see what’s up before you go.

3. Large bags are not recommended.

  • Some museums (noted below) have storage lockers available for smallish items (like maybe under-your-airplane-seat sized bags).
  • For larger luggage, ask if you can leave it where you are/were staying (most hotels and Airbnbs will allow guests to store luggage before check in or after check out).
  • Otherwise, your best bet is the Tiburon Lockers Baggage Check Counter at Union Station, Gate A ($6/hour). (From there, you can take the DC Circulator to the Mall.)

4. You’ll need to go through security as you enter.

  • Bags will be checked either by hand or X-ray machine, even if you’re planning to store them in a locker.
  • During peak times, this can cause lines, especially at the Air and Space Museum. So, even though you don’t have to pay admission, you may have to wait to get in.

DC Museum cafe

5. Many of the museums have a café or food court.

  • You can also bring your own food for a picnic on the Mall’s lawn or in the Portrait Gallery’s courtyard.
  • As long as everything is sealed up well, you can carry food and water with you in your bag or store it in a locker.
  • Map of food vendors on the National Mall – with menus. Or check the list below.

6. Parking: don’t count on it.

  • None of the Mall Smithsonians have their own designated parking.
  • The Smithsonian Parking Map (PDF) lists other local lots.
  • Consider alternative transportation, like the DC Circulator (which stops near all the Mall-area Smithsonians) or the Metrorail (which has a stop – literally called “Smithsonian” – that exits onto the Mall itself in the middle of a bunch of museums.)

With this in mind, driving (and attempting to park) in the area may be more trouble than it’s worth – unless you need a place to stash your oversized luggage (see #3).

 

Air and Space Museum

Museum by Museum Guide

Here are the Smithsonian museums located around the National Mall listed geographically, roughly west to east – from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol Building (Smithsonian National Mall Map PDF).

I’ve gathered information about each to help you with planning:

  • Nearest Metrorail stop/s and where to exit*
  • Nearest Capital Bikeshare rental station/s and station number/s*
  • Hours (if different than 10am to 5:30pm)
  • Important things to note (closed to the public, requires a timed ticket, etc.)
  • If there are cafés (or food courts, carts, kiosks, etc.), wifi, storage lockers, and/or bike racks on site.
  • Other features (garden, planetarium, etc.)

*More info in our post on transportation tips for the National Mall!
Washington DC

On the Mall –

National Museum of African American History and Culture

1400 Constitution Avenue, NW

  • Metro: Federal Triangle or Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: 15th St & Constitution Ave NW, Bike station 31321
  • Requires timed ticket.
  • Café

National Museum of American History

1300 Constitution Avenue, NW

  • Metro: Federal Triangle or Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: 10th St & Constitution Ave NW, Bike station 31219 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Cafés on lower level and 1st floor
  • Wifi in Welcome Center and cafés (free)
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside

National Museum of Natural History

10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: 10th St & Constitution Ave NW, Bike station 31219 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Butterfly Pavilion – tickets $6. Free admission on Tuesdays with timed ticket.
  • IMAX Theatre – tickets required (about $9-15/adult).
  • Cafés on ground level, food carts outside
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside (Constitution Avenue entrance)

Freer Gallery of Art (Asian art)

Jefferson Dr. and 12th St., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: USDA / 12th & Independence Ave SW, Bike station 31217 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Closed to the public until October 14, 2017.
  • Lockers available

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Asian art)

1050 Independence Ave., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633
  • Closed to the public until October 14, 2017.

National Museum of African Art

950 Independence Ave., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside (between African Art Museum and Sacker Gallery, outside Haupt Garden gates on Independence Avenue)

Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)

1000 Jefferson Dr., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Smithsonian Visitor Center
  • Daily hours: 8:30am – 5:30pm. It opens earlier than the other museums, so you can start there and get oriented.
  • Café, food carts outside seasonally
  • Wifi (free)
  • Bike racks outside

Hirshhorn Museum (international modern and contemporary art)

Independence Ave. and 7th St., SW

  • Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Maryland Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: L’Enfant Plaza / 7th & C St SW, Bike station 31218 or Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633
  • Sculpture Garden – open 7:30 a.m. to dusk
  • Café (dessert and coffee)
  • Wifi (free)
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside

National Air and Space Museum

Independence Ave. and 6th St., SW

  • Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Maryland Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: Maryland & Independence Ave SW, Bike station 31243
  • Open until 7:30pm on select dates.
  • Entrances on Independence Avenue and the Mall/Jefferson Avenue. If lines are long at one entrance, try the other.
  • IMAX Theatre – tickets required (about $9-15/adult).
  • Planetarium – tickets required (some shows are free, others may be about $9/adult).
  • Observatory
  • Food Court (First Floor-East Wing), food carts outside
  • Bike racks outside
  • Wifi (free)

National Museum of the American Indian

4th St. & Jefferson Dr., SW

  • Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Maryland Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: Maryland & Independence Ave SW, Bike station 31243
  • Café, espresso bar
  • Wifi (free)
  • Bike racks outside

 

Walking in DC - treasury

Near the Mall –

Renwick Gallery (contemporary craft and decorative art)

1700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

  • Metro: Farragut West or Farragut North
  • Bikeshare: 17th & G St NW, Bike station 31277
  • Barrier-free access at 17th Street entrance.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery

8th and F Sts., NW

  • Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown (9th St. exit)
  • Bikeshare: 7th & F St NW/Portrait Gallery, Bike station 31232
  • Both museums are inside the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
  • Daily hours: 11:30am – 7pm
  • Kogod Courtyard – bag lunches allowed.
  • Café
  • Wifi (free)
  • Lockers and self-check coat room (near the F Street Lobby) available

National Postal Museum

2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE

  • Metro: Union Station (Mass. Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: North Capitol St & F St NW, Bike station 31624
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside

National Mall, Washington DC


Have anything to add? Did you use this on a trip to D.C.? Leave a comment and share your experience!

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Standing Against Hate in Charlottesville

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in Travel | 1 comment

“We are deeply saddened by the violence in Charlottesville and the ongoing events that continue to threaten our community. We stand against all forms of hatred, racism and bigotry.”

– Leslie Greene Bowman, President and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello on the August 11 + 12 events in Charlottesville

 

Charlottesville

Author Sara Benincasa has collected a list of local non-profits for those wondering What to Do About Charlottesville and how they can help.

How can we fight ugliness and hate – except with love and beauty?

 




Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

 

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National Mall Transportation Tips

Posted by on Aug 11, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Lincoln memorial

The National Mall in Washington D.C. is bigger and more spread out than many first-time visitors expect.

While seeing the sights usually means a lot of walking, you may want to switch it up at some point. Here are a few other transportation options.

 

DC traffic and Washington Monument

Car

Traffic often gets very congested as you get close to the Mall. However, it can be an even bigger challenge to find parking once you get there.

  • Sights around the Mall tend not to have designated parking.
  • You may be able to find street parking, but it’s tricky.
  • There are several parking garages in the area with varying rates.

Car + Metro

  • To avoid the traffic, leave your car at your hotel and take the Metro in.
  • You can also park in Metro lots for about $5/day and pay with your SmarTrip Card.
  • Metro lots are free on weekends and federal holidays!

If you’re still in the trip planning stage, be aware that many of the hotels closer to the Mall charge guests for parking.

DC Metro

Metrorail

Washington D.C.’s Metro (subway/underground) system is a really convenient way to get to and from the National Mall.

Smartrip fare machines dc

Bus

DC Circulator

  • The National Mall route goes from the Lincoln Memorial to Union Station, then around the other side of the Mall and Tidal Basin, back to the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Route maps are available online, as a printable PDF, or via mail. There’s also an interactive map for finding the stop closest to you.
  • Frequency: Every 10 minutes from 7am to 8pm (9am start time on weekends).
  • Fare: $1 per ride. Pay with cash or a SmarTrip Card.
  • Order in advance for a 1-day pass ($3) or 3-day pass ($7).
  • Not a guided tour, just a (cheap) transportation option – although it might be a good way to get at least a visual overview of the Mall.

Big Bus Tours

  • Commentary via recording or live tour guide.
  • 3 different hop-on/hop-off routes available.
  • Tickets: $39-49 for 1 day.
  • Wifi on board.
  • Sightseeing bus recommended by Destination DC.

National mall dc pano

Bicycle

There are bike racks throughout the Mall to lock up your bike while you visit a museum, monument, or gallery.

Rental

You can rent a bike for short rides via Capital Bikeshare.


 

Have you been to D.C.? How did you get around?

National mall sign

– Resources for Finding Your Way in D.C. –

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Teatro La Fenice in Venezia (Venice)

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Teatro La Fenice

The Phoenix

For a place that’s been called “a city of stone built on the water,” Venice has had a lot of fires.

In fact, Venice’s premiere opera house only came into being because of its predecessor’s destruction by fire. Symbolically, the new theater would rise from the ashes of the old one. They named it “La Fenice,” The Phoenix.

Teatro La Fenice - exterior

First opening in 1792, Teatro La Fenice is now one of the top opera houses in Italy and one of the best-known in Europe.

While the name was chosen to commemorate the theater’s origin, it turned out to also be an ominous foreshadowing. Teatro La Fenice has been resurrected twice, after catastrophic fires in 1836 and 1996.

The one in 1836 started because of some kind of malfunction with a new stove from Austria. The 1996 inferno, however, was intentional.

Teatro La Fenice boxes

Two electricians doing renovation work on the theater were facing fines for being behind schedule. So they set the place on fire.

This (a) did not help get the project done on time, and (b) lead to each of them serving several years in jail. Not actually a helpful strategy for anyone.

I’m not sure if the electricians intended to burn it to the ground or just to singe it a bit to make their point. However, access to the theater was restricted due to the renovation project, and firefighters were not able to quell the flames before the building was destroyed. It would remain closed for the next 7 years.

 

Teatro La Fenice

House

La Fenice re-opened in 2003 with upgraded accoustics and an increased seating capacity of 1000, while its appearance matched the elegance of its previous incarnation.

Teatro La Fenice

There are five tiers of boxes, which had been “deliberately egalitarian in design” – until Napoleon came to power. To prepare for his visits to the theater, six individual boxes were combined into one royal box. This imperial loggia remains part of the current design of the theater, just above the auditorium entrance.
Teatro La Fenice

Opera

Despite a real history rife with operatic-level turmoil, the theater remains open today with a busy schedule that includes symphonies, ballets, and over 100 opera performances a year.

L'occasione fa il ladro - opera

This September, we are looking forward to seeing  “L’Occasione fa il ladro: ossia Il cambio della valigia” (The Opportunity Makes the Thief: The Case of the Exchanged Luggage), a single-act farce with music by Gioachino Rossini and libretto by Luigi Prividal.

The opera is a romantic comedy of errors that debuted in Venice in 1812.

It’s good to know that, after all that drama, La Fenice still has a sense of humor.

 

Teatro La Fenice behind the curtain

– More Info –

Teatro La Fenice:

You can see a complete performance of “L’occasione fa il ladro” by another opera company at Schwetzingen Festival, Germany on YouTube.




Photos by Michele Crosera, courtesy of Teatro La Fenice.

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Olive Oil Soap for Travel

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

When the face wash I used to use started to irritate my skin, I started using olive oil soap.

Phillip has started using it too. Sometimes we get the Kiss My Face brand from Sprouts, and sometimes we get whatever kind happens to be at our favorite middle eastern market.

Olive oil soap

It’s great for travel, because you can also use it as shampoo. That means two things (facewash or shampoo) I no longer have to worry about squeezing into my TSA-friendly quart-sized bag. Phillip will cut a slice off the end to make a travel-sized bar.

Olive oil soap

What I haven’t figured out is the best kind of container to pack it in to keep it from getting slimey (like soap does in a plastic baggie) without taking up a lot of space (why do they make travel soap dishes so big??).

Any ideas?

Olive oil soap


 

P.S. There’s a post on SmarterTravel with some interesting suggestions for packing without liquids. Who knew you could get toothpaste in tablet form?!




 

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Book Page Garland for a Graduation Party

Posted by on Jul 27, 2017 in Craft | 0 comments

Book page garland

Phillip finished grad school, after seven years of working full time and taking classes part-time. So we needed to have a party.

Graduation cap

We ended up reserving space in a restaurant near where the commencement ceremony was, so friends and family could just go there directly afterward. I wanted to add some festive touches but knew I’d have little to no time to decorate before people got there. (It turned out to be the latter.)

I kept it super simple with a few school-themed items that I could set up in a flash – all using things I had on hand.

Book page garland

How I made the book page pennants:

1. Ripped out several pages of a ridiculous conspiracy theory novel that I had picked up from free bin outside Changing Hands. (I mean, I’m not going to cut up a good book!)

Book page garland

Book page garland

2. Found the center of the page by folding it in half, only creasing the very bottom of it and making a mark. You could also actually measure and/or use a template if you’re into precision.Book page garland

3. Made a cut from the top right corner of the page to my center mark. Then repeated from the top left.

What I wish I would’ve done: cut from the top right and left margins of the page instead, so that the text would run all the way to the edge.

Book page garland

4. Punched a couple holes near the top of each pennant.

Then I just threaded some bakers’ twine through the holes and added the tassels.

Book page garland - tassel

Tassels

In keeping with the graduation theme, I made paper tassels for each end of the garland, loosely based on instructions I found on A Subtle Revelry.

Here’s how I adapted the project:

  1. Cut about 4 thin strips of paper. (These don’t need to be the same width – or even cut straight.)
  2. Folded over 3 of the strips, leaving a loop at the top. I made mine with a smaller loop and longer “tails” than the ones in the tassel tutorial, because I wanted the proportions more like the tassel on a graduation cap.
  3. Fanned out the strips just a bit.
  4. Stapled them in place.
  5. Covered the staple by winding that last paper strip around the tassel and securing it with double stick tape.
  6. Added a tassel to each side of the garland by threading the baker’s twine through the top loop.

Book page craft

What Didn’t Work…

Watercolor

I thought about adding some color with watercolors. However, my test pages totally curled up, even when I used the smallest amount of water possible or painted just part of the page.

Book page garland

The Pages

Another thing that could’ve been cool was using a book or notes from Phillip’s classes. But he didn’t have anything like that around – at least nothing that he was willing to sacrifice to the craft gods.

So I went with the conspiracy book, because I liked the page size.

I tried to make sure there wasn’t any murder on the pages I used, but it was hard to avoid. And there were still black helicopters and government officials typing things out on Blackberries – not very festive or on theme.

Book page garland at grad party

I hoped people would see it as decor and not try to read it.

No such luck.

One family member said they had been trying to figure out if the pages had some significance or clues. (Nope.) Another one asked me what the garland spelled. (Nothing.) It took me awhile to convince her that what she thought were large letters were actually backwards chapter numbers showing through some of the backlit pages.

I obviously should have come up with more for people to do.

image

What Worked (Mostly): The Decoration Bag

I loaded up a large ziploc bag with everything I (or whoever) would need to set up the decorations at the restaurant:

  • Chalkboard sign with “Phillip’s grad party!” already written on it – with chalk markers, so it wouldn’t smear.
  • A jar for markers and pens that had a chalkboard label on the front. I wrote “Please sign the program” on it with a little arrow pointing down.
  • Chalk markers in case one of my signs needed a touch-up.
  • Regular markers and pens, so people could sign the commencement ceremony program like a yearbook. These were just regular kids’ markers you’d find in the back-to-school aisle.
  • A wooden ruler to hold the program open. (Also because it was cute and school-y.)
  • The garland, carefully folded and placed between things so it wouldn’t get crunched up.
  • Washi tape to hang the garland.
  • Scissors.
  • This Yoobi kit in case we required a tiny stapler or scotch tape for some reason.

I had hoped to hand the bag off to my parents, who were designated to get the party started, since I guessed (correcty) that Phillip and I wouldn’t be able to leave the place where the ceremony was and get over there right away. But they were so focused on their mission that they left before I could give them the Decoration Bag.

So I set things up halfway through the party. Less than ideal, but that’s life.

At least having everything in one bag meant I could get it done in record time. And at least the guests didn’t have to wait on the food.
Grad party garland

 

– More info on DIY party decor –

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Spotted at the Arboretum

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Travel | 8 comments

image

Boyce thompson arboretum
Boyce thompson arboretum - cardinal

Today at the Arboretum we saw

4 cardinals

1 woodpecker

a couple hummingbirds

several nests

a really neat feather

a possible owl pellet that Phillip poked at with a stick

some beautiful black butterflies

2 very determined ants and 1 that could care less

2 trees full of bees

a handful of squirrels

a turtle

a snake

and 75 lizards (before we stopped counting).

Boyce thompson arboretum - Snake

I also spotted a fuzzy tail of an animal going into a thicket. I jumped out of the car while it was still running to see what it was. All I found was a fat, lumbering squirrel.

Boyce thompson arboretum

Also, if you go on a hot, humid Tuesday, you’ll practically have the place to yourself. With the exception of those mentioned above, of course.

Boyce thompson arboretum




 
P.S. For those of you interested in chronology, by “today,” I mean last Tuesday, when I wrote down what we’d seen earlier that day.
 

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Love Unlocked

Posted by on Jul 22, 2017 in Travel | 1 comment

Pont de l'Archevêché Love Locks by JD. CCL

Over the past several years, the phenomenon of love locks (or “love padlocks”) has spread to 5 continents.

To symbolize their love, couples place a lock – often with their names written or engraved on it – on a bridge or fence or sculpture and throw away the key.

Love Locks by Philip Robins. CCL

Locks Are Cheap

It’s an activity most popular with tourists, who often believe they’re participating in a harmless local custom. Perhaps they feel that snapping the lock shut binds them to the city, as well as their partner. Like carving initials into a tree, it’s a way people leave their mark on a place they love, unaware they’re damaging it in the process.

Part of the ritual’s appeal is its immediacy. It’s easy enough to get a lock and clasp it to a bridge, and then you have this very tangible expression of an intangible emotion, something solid and (seemingly) permanent. Something you can take a photo of before you have to catch your flight home.

There’s a communal aspect to both the act and the sharing of it, as if you’ve participated in some community art project that also happens to make a colorful photo backdrop. (See also: the gum wall at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.)

The fact that the practice spread so quickly just as social media was taking off is probably not a coincidence. Online networks have helped all kinds of ideas to spread, especially ones that come with a compelling visual.

Wedding locks

If You Like It, Then You Shouldn’t Put a Lock on It

Locals, on the other hand, tend to see the locks as vandalism, ruining the views of their city.

Whatever your opinion on the aesthetics of a padlock-covered bridge, the locks can damage structures. A single padlock would be no big deal, but some European bridges have been covered in hundreds of thousands of them, adding on several tons of weight.

Cities have reacted in a variety of ways – banning locks, removing them, creating alternate places for locks. In some cases, when the bridge is less historic and/or the locks less damaging, they decide to shrug it off.

While companies that sell love locks perpetuate the myth that the tradition is rooted in the distant past (perhaps ancient China or Serbia during World War I), the current craze began just over a decade ago.

In fact, it can be traced back to a single paragraph in an Italian novel.

Ponte Milvio

Ponte Milvio: An Origin Story

Putting the Rome back in Romance Novel

Author Federico Moccia’s 2006 best-seller (and later film), Ho Voglia Di Te (I Want You) includes a protagonist telling his love interest that locking a chain around a lamppost on the Ponte Milvio in Rome and throwing the key into the Tiber River below means you’ll always stay together.

Sometimes I feel...

According to an interview in the New York Times, the author “just dreamed up the ritual” and “was stunned” when locks actually began appearing on the ancient Roman bridge.

The new custom quickly spiraled out of control. Within a year, so many locks and chains had accumulated around one lamppost that it partially collapsed under the weight.

Ponte Milvio

Get Your Locks Off My Lawn

If Ponte Milvio could speak, it would probably say “I’m getting too old for this shit.” It’s been around since the days of the Roman Empire. Constantine became an emperor by defeating a rival on that bridge. Nero used to hang out there and get wasted. By the time the Colosseum was built, it had already been there for 200 years.

The Roman Empire fell, but Ponte Milvio has remained. People have been crossing it for over two millennia and still walk over it every day. It does not need the extra pressure of thousands of rusty locks chained to it.

City officials worried about more permanent damage and instituted a €50 fine for locks on the bridge or its lamps, encouraging couples to instead use the posts and chains installed as an alternative.

all those locks

A recent Spanish edition of Moccia’s novel features the bridge and love locks on its cover.

Although Rome was the setting of the novel, the love lock trend didn’t stay confined to the Eternal City for long.

Lovelocks on the Pont des Arts

 

Paris: Art from the Bridge

Perhaps the most well-known love lock locale is Pont des Artes, Paris – at least it was.

After more than one instance of locks causing part of the bridge’s railing to buckle, the city began removing all the locks in 2015, replacing chain link with plexiglass panels to prevent locks and preserve the view.

Instead of simply disposing of the locks, they turned them into art and auctioned them off to raise money for organizations helping refugees (Solipam, the Salvation Army and Emmaüs Solidarité). The lots included 150 pieces made from a few locks each on a base of wood, plexiglass, or recycled paving stones. They’re actually quite elegant.    
 
via Crédit Municipal de Paris
 
15 large lock-covered sections from the bridge’s fencing that ranged in size from 1.05 to 3.23 meters (3.4–10.5 feet) wide and weighed 240 to 660kg (529–1455 lbs) were also up for auction. They were mounted on casters, so they could be moved more easily.
 
In the end, a total of 10 tons of locks were sold, raising a total of €250,000 and far exceeding fundraising goals for the auction.
 
François Grunberg / Mairie de Paris via Paris.fr

Make Love, Not Locks

There were over 700,000 locks on the Pont des Artes before they were removed. That’s 700,000 people who thought it would be a good idea to get a lock and leave it on a Paris bridge. Assuming each lock represents a couple, it would actually be more like 1.4 million people.

Pont de l'Archevêché, Paris

Of course, there are many more people who cross the bridge without leaving a lock. And other bridges over the Seine, including Pont de l’Archevêché, have been covered with locks, as well. It is a staggering analogy to the tourist traffic of certain cities, and the impact that number of people can have on a place.                 
 

 
An organization called No Love Locks has started in Paris to educate the public, stop the practice, and look for alternatives.

Stop aux Cadenas ~ Love Without Locks

Paris also launched a campaign encouraging couples to post a selfie tagged #lovewithoutlocks instead of leaving a lock. Signs were posted on bridges that said “Our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love. No more love locks!” Photos were being posted on lovewithoutlocks.paris.fr, but the page hasn’t been updated recently.

The Paris Convention and Visitors’ Bureau lists romantic ways to enjoy the city – unsurprisingly, it doesn’t mention love locks.

Toronto Distillery love locks by Ken Lane

Toronto: There’s a Place for Locks

The removal of the locks at Pont des Artes in Paris inspired developer Mathew Rosenblatt to create a permanent place for couples to put love locks in Toronto’s Distillery District. The metal sculpture spells out “LOVE” and is made for attaching padlocks.

Love Locks in Toronto's Distillery District

Of course, a solution like this works well for a Toronto side street but wouldn’t have the capacity for a heavily-touristed Paris thoroughfare. On a much larger scale, though, maybe a structure like this could work in those high traffic areas too.

Love locks, Venice

Venice Makes the Cut

Love locks have also covered several historic bridges in Venice – 20,000 have been counted on the Ponte dell’Accademia alone.

As on many other bridges, they are periodically removed by the city, so you’re really not locking up your love forever.

Removed locks by @dawn_hawk

During a recent visit to Venice, community organizer Dawn Hawk took matters into her own hands, buying bolt cutters and clearing the locks from 30 bridges. A gondolier blew kisses in gratitude.

[UPDATE: Dawn wanted me to let you know it was actually her husband Mark that bought the bolt cutters and removed the locks – 400 of them! She interacted with onlookers, checked in with locals, and researched metal recycling options.]

Baci in Venice by @dawn_hawk

The site In-Venice specifically lists love locks in their top 10 list of things not to do in the city.

 

Padlocks

 

Hohenzollern Bridge

I Fought the Locks and the Locks Won

Cologne Tourism, on the other hand, encourages you to see the love locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine River.

As of October 2013, there were over 155,000 love locks on the bridge, weighing an estimated 15 to 20 tons. German Rail engineers studied the bridge and determined the weight was not causing a problem. It will continue to be monitored and policies may change if the strain becomes too great.

Lovelocks

Tony Kerzmann of Robert Morris University noted that today’s bridges are “highly over-designed” as a precautionary measure. “They have what is called a factor of safety as high as seven in some cases, meaning an engineer determined the maximum weight that the bridge would possibly see and then designed the bridge to hold seven times that weight. Even if the bridge were covered with locks, the extra few thousand pounds should have no effect on the structural integrity of the bridge.”

Love Locks Penang Hill Top George Town

Pulau Penang Promenade

Penang Hill in Malaysia created a place specifically for love locks. The resort town on the island of Penang encourages couples to decorate and add locks to their “lovers’ promenade,” which they call “Malaysia’s contribution to the world’s legacy of love.” Located on the Bukit Bendera observation deck, Love Lock Penang Hill opened on Valentine’s Day 2014.

Huangshan, China (YELLOW MOUNTAIN/LANDSCAPE)

China

Red (Ribbon) Wedding

I had a lot of trouble finding information on love locks in China. I was particularly interested in verifying the lore about the tradition originating somewhere in the country long before it appeared in a romance novel.

The closest I got was one account of a wedding tradition in Yangmei Zhan, which is in the south near Nanning. A bride and groom tie red ribbons and a padlock to an old tree, tossing the key into a river or other body of water. How long this has been going on and whether it’s likely to be the root of the current love lock phenomenon is unclear.

Lovelocks

The Great Locks of China

There are plenty of photos of love locks on the Great Wall and on guard fencing in the Yellow Mountains (Huangshan). However, I couldn’t find any real information on when people started attaching them there or what reactions have been. The locks don’t look any older than the ones in Paris or Rome. And perhaps they are spread out enough that the weight isn’t a problem and isolated enough that locals don’t complain.

do not throw your key away

In cities, however, it’s a different story. When a handful of locks appeared on bridges in Shanghai and Lanzhou, they were quickly removed by authorities.

 

Moscow locks on bridge

Moscow: Locks and Kisses

A wedding tradition in Russia is that the newlyweds should kiss on a bridge.

Wedding Lock Tree 1

To keep these kissing couples out of traffic, Moscow constructed a pedestrian bridge. On this Bridge of Kisses are several iron tree sculptures that couples can attach locks to instead of the bridge’s railings.

A post shared by keripeacock (@keripeacock) on

United States

L.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

You can find love locks from coast to coast, from New York City (on the Brooklyn Bridge) to Los Angeles (at Runyon Canyon and Sunnynook River Park).

Sunset

A year after its installation, locks had already started appearing on the Bridge of Sighs in Natchez, Mississippi. City officials decided to take a proactive stance, cutting the locks off the bridge before there was time for many to accumulate.

There's One in Every Crowd

There are several bridges in the Pittsburgh area with love locks, including the Schenley Bridge and Three Sisters bridges. Officials there, however, periodically monitor the stress on the structures and have determined the added weight is not a problem. They remove locks to perform maintenance, but otherwise leave them be.

Locking Their Love

At Tlaquepaque in Sedona, Arizona, there are love locks for sale and a metal trellis where you can attach them.

 

Lock Your Love in Lovelock, Lovers Lock Plaza, Lovelock, Nevada

There’s actually a town called Lovelock outside of Reno, Nevada. While the name comes from Welsh-born settler George Lovelock, the town has embraced the tradition with a plaza devoted to love locks and an “endless chain” where you can lock a symbol of your love.

 

090998

 

– More info –


 

Photo credits:

1. JD*
2. Philip Robins*
3. Elaine Ashton*

Ponte Milvio (Rome) –
4. kiki99*
5. Stefano Corso*
6. Giorgio Rodano*
7. Kyle Van Horn*

Paris –
8. Martin Pilát*
9. Heather Stimmler (@secretsofparis)**
10. Crédit Municipal de Paris
11. François Grunberg / Mairie de Paris via Paris.fr

12. Sacha Quester-Séméon (@sachaqs)**
13. twiga269 ॐ FEMEN*

Toronto –
14. Ken Lane*
15. Michael Lawrence*

Venice –
16. Chris Beckett*
17. + 18. Dawn Hawk

Hohenzollern Bridge (Cologne) –
19. Dave Collier*
20. Jörg Weingrill*

Pulau Penang –
21. Harry and Rowena Kennedy*

China –
22. Chi King*
23. Mike*
24. James Creegan*

Moscow –
25. Olga Pavlovsky*
26. Em and Ernie*

United States –
27. Keri Peacock (@keripeacock)**
28. Debs*
29. Cam Miller*
30. Kevin Spencer*
31. Ken Lund*

More –
32. Ghita Katz Olsen*

 

*Via Flickr. CCL.
**Via Instagram.

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June 2017 Photo: Reading Room Light

Posted by on Jul 17, 2017 in Travel | 6 comments

I didn’t post a lot of photos in June, but I did post one from the summer solstice celebration at Burton Barr Library (the same day as my solar cookie baking experiment).

The reading room is designed with columns under sky lights. Once a year, at solar noon on the summer solstice, the reading room sky lights line up perfectly to illuminate the columns below them.

Sostice at the library

Unfortunately, this past weekend a monsoon storm caused a fire sprinkler to burst, flooding all five floors of this beautiful library. Most of its collections remain intact and clean-up crews sprang into action right away. The City of Phoenix is hoping it will be able to start reopening parts of the library soon.




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The Cracks in the Liberty Bell

Posted by on Jul 4, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

The Liberty Bell is cracked.

Whether it’s broken, I suppose, depends on your point of view.

Liberty Bell, Philadelphia

No one knows when the fissure first started to form.

We know there was an attempt to fix it by making the crack wider in 1846. But this ultimately caused another crack, making the Bell unringable and irreparable.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

It remains on display at the Liberty Bell Center across from Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

While silent, it continues to reverberate as a symbol of a more free and just society.

Whether it’s broken depends on your point of view.




 

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Solstice Cookies and Solar Cooking

Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Craft | 2 comments

Solstice cookies

The forecast high in Phoenix for the longest day of the year was 120F (49C).

So it seemed like a great day to try baking outside.

Burton Barr Library

On the way home from the summer solstice celebration at Burton Barr Library last Tuesday, we picked up chocolate chip cookie dough. I chose that for my solar cooking experiment, because there’s no raw egg in it, and if it doesn’t cook all the way, you end up with doughy cookies – not a bad thing, in my opinion!

I scooped spoonfuls of cookie dough into a reflective aluminum roasting pan, covered the top with plastic wrap, sealed the sides with packing tape to trap the heat, and added a meat thermometer, so I could see how hot it actually got next to the cookies.

Solar baked cookies

I had intended to get an earlier start, but at 3:45pm, it was still 120 degrees out. So I decided to give it a go and set the pan in direct sun on our concrete patio.

The temperature inside the pan got as high as 160. The cookies began to look like they were melting, with the oil separating from the dough.

Baking cookies outside

Four hours later, the sun was low enough in the sky that the whole patio was in the shade. The dough had flattened out into cookie shapes that were somewhat solid but still pretty soft.

Solar baking

So we scooped vanilla frozen yogurt on top (à la pizookie), and it was delicious!

Apparently, a proper solar oven will bake faster, even if it’s not as hot out. But I would try my improvised “oven” again on a day when I could get an earlier start and give it a little more time in the sun.

Phoenix

– More info –

  • The package actually said not to eat the cookie dough raw. That didn’t stop me. But I thought you should know.
  • Many of the solar ovens I saw online have glass on top. If you decide to use plastic wrap like I did (because I didn’t have any glass panes just sitting around), try to get good cling wrap. I used the Target brand, and it was really annoying trying to get it tight across the top. (In the end, it was a wrinkly mess.)

Articles to check out…

Cookie dough

 




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Ramada – part 2

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Travel | 3 comments

papago-park-picnic-table

It was really interesting last week to find out your words for what I’d call a ramada.

Ramada At Usury Pass

It comfirmed my suspicion that it’s a word used primarily in the southwestern U.S., where our proximity to Mexico shows up in bits of Spanish peppered through our language.

Fountain hills ramada

Around here, it’s not unusual to hear words like mesa (a flat-topped mountain, literally “table,” and the name of a city) or arroyo (a dry stream bed), call a cottage a casita (which you can see in a few of the listings in my Airbnb post), or say garbanzos instead of chick peas.

And we tend to call the type of cover that goes over a picnic table a ramada. It comes from the Spanish rama (“branch”). Ramada is the adjective form, so it would roughly translate to “branched” or “covered in branches.”

Ramada in tucson

Here are some of your words…

“We say pergola over here in Australia, but I love ramada as well!”
Linda (Circle of Daydreams)

 

“I didn’t know the word Ramada, but this now makes me wonder if that’s where the name of the hotel chain comes from? I would have called that a shelter or a pavilion.”
Mel (Stirrup Queens)

 

“I think here we’d call that a pergola or even a ‘wooden marquee’ – I’ve never heard of ramada in this context! I knew I’d heard that somewhere though and recall now that there’s a chain of hotels here called Ramada: probably the only use of the word I’ve heard! I see others are mentioning the hotel too…. I see the dictionary says it means an arbour or porch, from Spanish: I wonder if it’s very regional usage in the US then…”
Different Shores

 

Casa grande ruins

I wasn’t able to find the story behind the name of the hotel chain. I imagine it comes from the sense of a ramada as a shelter, but it does seem odd to name your hotels after a structure with no walls!

Mission garden tucson ramada




Where the photos were taken:

1. Papago Park, Phoenix
2. Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa
3. Fountain Park, Fountain Hills
4. + 6. Mission Garden, Tucson
5. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge


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Heroes Rescue Phoenix Comicon from Real Peril

Posted by on Jun 17, 2017 in Travel | 5 comments

“Wands, sonic screwdrivers, plushies, masks, fairy wings, empty holsters, signs attached to costumes, fur suits, cardboard made costumes and non-weapon props, dishware associated with costumes, empty quivers, hats and helmets, Power Ranger Morphers, and umbrellas, by example, are allowed.”

– from the updated Phoenix Comicon prop policy

Fairy wings and dishware were not in dispute on the first day of Phoenix Comicon 2017.

By day 2, however, a lot had changed.

Phxcc

The Punisher vs. The Power Ranger

The event started out like past cons. The doors of the Phoenix Convention Center opened the morning of Thursday, May 25, and attendees began filing in.

Among them was a man of about thirty with black clothing concealing body armor, a large bag that no one looked inside, and a full event pass.

Later we would learn that his name was Mathew Enrique Navarro Sterling, but he was under the delusion that he was actually The Punisher, a Marvel Comics character focused on vigilante justice. A reminder on his phone said “kill JDF.”

Carrying four loaded guns, a knife, pepper spray, and throwing stars, he went up to the second floor of the convention center.

Phxcc

Then, in perhaps the modern equivalent of Bond-villain-esque monologuing, Mathew started sending Facebook messages about his plans to an acquaintance.

His alleged targets on site included police officers and actor Jason David Frank, who is known for playing the Green Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and would be at the Con all four days for photo ops, autograph signings, and a Friday panel.

Rayko via http://rayko.com

Cops and Cosplayers

On the receiving end of the messages was Rayko Takahashi (professionally known simply as “Rayko”), a singer, composer, personal trainer, and avid cosplayer in Los Angeles. She’s also the first hero of this story.

The two had only met once, in 2014. Over the next year, they exchanged friendly messages about his fitness goals. Then, one night after a concert, Rayko got off stage to find her phone full of messages from Mathew. His tone had changed, and he was threatening to harm another cosplayer. Rayko stopped communicating with him, gave the woman a heads up, and contacted a friend who is a police officer.

Even though nothing happened then, when Rayko received violence-threatening Facebook messages from Mathew on May 25 of this year, she took them seriously, again contacting Sgt. Scott Nichols of the Hawthorne Police Department in California.

He figured out that Mathew was likely to be at Phoenix Comicon and called the Phoenix Police Department.

phxcc phoenix convention center

Action

Eleven minutes after the call came in from Hawthorne PD, Phoenix Police had located, subdued, and arrested Mathew without anyone being injured.

He plead “not guilty” at his preliminary hearing and is currently awaiting trial for attempted murder and other charges. His bond is set at $1,000,000.

PHXCC prop ban signs

The Aftermath

The incident made headlines internationally, and Jason David Frank has been using his platform to encourage comic cons everywhere to increase their security procedures.

So. Suspect detained. The citizens of Phoenix are safe again, and Day 2 the Con could resume as usual, right? Wrong.

Phxcc

In response to the incident, Phoenix Comicon, the convention center, and police department announced that the next day, and for the remainder of the Con, entrance points would be limited, bags would be checked, people would be metal detector wanded, and replica/prop weapons would not be allowed in – including “Weapons from fictional sources (Light sabers, plasma weapons, laser, phasers etc.)” – and could only be sold if exhibitors immediately wrapped them up afterward.

phxcc

With fewer entrances and additional security screening, lines wrapped around the building the next morning. Unexpected waiting outside during the heat of the day the Friday of Phoenix Comicon seemed familiar from last year’s registration issue, but this time all con-goers were affected.

Later in the day, more security personnel were brought in and the lines moved more quickly the rest of the Con.

phxcc prop ban

#propban

Because it’s Comicon, and people wear all sorts of costumes with all sort of props, the ban required some amusing clarifications, like the quote at the beginning of this post.

“Ghostbuster proton packs are allowed however the Neutrino wand will need to be disconnected or permanently attached to the pack.”

Attendee and vendor reactions to the prop ban were very mixed. Some saw it as an important security measure, while others felt it was an unnecessary damper on their Con experience. A lightsaber vendor packed up and left.

Some cosplayers came up with creative alternatives, replacing props with funny signs or balloons.

phxcc deadpool with balloon props

One comment thread in response to Phoenix Comicon’s Facebook announcement in particular seemed to exemplify the points of view*:

stomping a bee that already stung you does absolutely nothing to prevent other bees from stinging you. just like this fake weapons ban won’t do anything AT ALL to keep another lunatic from waltzing in like the Punisher.” –Trey Lee Williamson

“I don’t understand how very few commenters on this seem to realize how severe this whole thing is and giving up a stupid cosplay prop for safety measures is not the end of the world.–Salvatore Roulston

“I live in Washington and am appalled and prop ban just lost you thousands of revenue for next years con. Punish hundreds who have worked hours on their cosplays because of one Lunatic.. thanks for your concern for our safety but no thanks for tickets next year. 😡” –Ashley Marie

“I’m a cosplayer from Washington and this is still honestly one of the best shows I’ve attended. I thank them for their quick response in light of the event that took place. Was it inconvenient, yes, but the show could just as easily been cancelled. Instead they came up with this solution. I’m appreciative that no one was hurt and that the con went on for the rest of the weekend. Count your blessings folks.” –Muni Moore

Indeed. Whether you agree with the response or not, our quick-thinking heroes gave us more blessings to count.

phxcc


*Comment spelling and punctuation have not been corrected but some were shortened.

Photo of Rayko via rayko.com.

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May 2017 Photo: Ramada

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Travel | 10 comments

There was sliver of the moon over the ramada at Mission Garden in Tucson.

Pergola at Mission Garden, Tucson

The spiny “branches” across the top of the roof come from the ocotillo plant. You can see what they look like growing in the desert in the photo below.

Ocotillo

 

Runner up:

I loved colors and shading in this handpainted parasol at Phoenix Comicon!

Unikornis Art parasol at phxcc

Side note: I wasn’t sure how widely the word “ramada” was used outside the Southwestern U.S. for describing the type of covering supported by posts you see over picnic tables etc., like a roof without walls. In the U.K., I thought they might call this a “shelter.” My Twitter poll on the topic only received a few votes – all in favor of ramada – but my friend Kelli did mention that she thinks of a ramada as made of brick and of this as a “pergola”.

Ramada in tucson

Perhaps the thing itself is just more common here in the Southwest, where you need shade more than protection from rain or snow and desert trees may be too sparse to provide it.

Anyway, if you use a word besides ramada, the language geek in me would love to know!




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Chalk Robots

Posted by on Jun 5, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 9 comments

There was a chalk drawing of a robot on the ground. No explanation. Just an arrow.

La Ru robot

So, of course, we followed it – and the next one and the next one – down the steps behind Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Pike Place Market

We tried to guess where they were leading. A street art project? A robot maker? Nowhere? The den of our new robot overlords?

One lead us to turn the corner, and then, “Is that it? Is it a baby store?!!”

Ugly Baby and La Ru, Seattle

Nope. A larger robot drawing pointed inside a store with a chalkboard sign that answered my question: “{Ugly Baby & La Ru} Handmade local art for grown-ups and practically nothing for actual babies.”

Ugly Baby and La Ru chalk art

It was a gift shop owned by two artists – Rosalie Gale (of Ugly baby) and Lauren Rudeck (a.k.a. “La Ru”), who was there in the store that day.

Artist La Ru

Ugly Baby and La Ru, Seattle

She creates illustrations of animals and robots, and seemed delighted to hear her chalk drawings had lead us in. The store was full of craft kits, cards, and mini works of art, and I wanted to buy everything.

Ugly Baby and La Ru, waterproof art

Ugly Baby and La Ru, Seattle

The entire store wouldn’t fit in my suitcase, but I did take home a really great sloth coffee mug.

Coffee sloth!




 

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Year Four in Nine Videos

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

Today marks the fourth anniversary of Travelcraft Journal! (And the 350th post!) I thought we could take a look back on the past year in 4 places, 4 projects, and 9 videos.
Pasadena City Hall

1. Southern California/Pasadena

First, let’s road trip to Pasadena in one minute. Of course, we’ll stop for date shakes on the way. Once we get there, we can visit the Norton Simon Museum and the jungle garden at the Huntington.

Video: Phoenix to Pasadena in one minute

Project: In honor of sea breezes and Santa Ana winds, make a mobile or wind chime!

Seven Magic Mountains Las Vegas

2. Las Vegas

Next up: Las Vegas. There are lots of awesome things to do off The Strip, including the ArtBar and Downtown Container Park with its giant, music-blaring, fire-shooting praying mantis. If you want to go to The Strip, I can tell you how to get around and how not to get around, as well as why there are so many weddings there.

     
 

Videos:

 
Project: Make a scrapbook with playing cards.

Mount Lemmon trail

3. Tucson

Tucson is the home of Mt. Lemmon, Mission San Xavier del Bac, the annual Agave Heritage Festival, and the world premiere of the Riders of the Purple Sage Opera.
 

 
Videos: Driving to the top of Mt. Lemmon

Project: Try roasting your own agave or make a recipe that uses agave syrup, like a Bloody Mary with Grilled Pipián Mole Shrimp Skewers.
 
Tempe light rail station art - hands

4. Phoenix

Back in Phoenix, ride the light rail to check out the Phoenix Art Museum, a pizza festival, a lunch hour opera, symphony performance, or Phoenix Comicon.


 
Videos:

Project: Make a costume out of duct tape.

Check out our Airbnb recommendations post for places to stay in Pasadena, Tucson, and Las Vegas!

Salem

Bonus: Salem

Okay, no videos with this one, but, if you haven’t yet, check out Jessica Tennant’s posts on Salem, Massachusetts – part 1 and part 2.




Salem photo by Jessica Tennant.

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Happenings: Summer 2017 #tcjhappenings

Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Happenings List | 0 comments

The Happenings List

Our curated list of upcoming festivals, workshops, shows, and other goings-on for makers and explorers – June through August 2017 (and beyond)! If you go to something from one of our Happenings Lists, please tell us all about it!

Read on for events in Italy, Germany, the UK, and the U.S.: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Asterisked (**) items link to related posts on Travelcraft Journal.

sedona-2

+Arizona

Phoenix Art Museum

 

Full Moon Hike at Red Rock State Park

Jun 9, 6:15pm + Jul 8, 6:30pm + Aug 7, 6pm
Red Rock State Park, Sedona
2-mile interpretive hike led by a knowledgeable naturalist. Watch the sunset from an overlook and hike back by moonlight. Arrive at least 30 minutes early with water and a flashlight. $5 fee + park admission ($7/adult). Reserve your spot at least one day in advance by calling Red Rock State Park at (928) 282-6907.

**A rainy day trip to Sedona.

Urban Forestry: Workshop + Discussion

Jun 10, 1pm
Tempe Public Library, Tempe

Tempe Urban Forestry Master Plan co-author Bonnie Richardson talks about the benefits, care, and planning of trees. 18 yrs+

The Tucson 23: A Mexican Food Festival

Jun 17, 6pm
JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort + Spa, Tucson
Celebrate the “Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in America” with Food demos, live music, and menu samplings from local wineries, breweries, and Mexican restaurants. Tickets $49.

**Feburary photo + Tucson Mexican food.

2017 Grand Canyon Star Party

Jun 17-24, 8pm
South Rim: Grand Canyon Visitor Center
North Rim: Grand Canyon Lodge
Nightly astronomy programs, slide shows, constellation tours, and telescope viewing. Free.

Melodramas and Megastars: The Theatre in Territorial Arizona, 1879-1912

Jun 24, 7pm
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, Flagstaff

Readers theatre presentation on the development of Atlantic Coast theatrical culture in the Arizona Territory with humorous anecdotes and excerpts from the plays.

Butterfly Walk

Jun 24 + Jul 22 + Aug 26
8:30am
Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior
Leisurely guided tour through the Hummingbird-Butterfly Garden, Demonstration Garden and Children’s Garden collections to see, photograph and learn about butterfly species. Included with admission.

Summer Entertaining Cooking Class

Jun 24, 6pm + Jun 25, 11am
Chef Chamberlin’s Office, Phoenix

Step-by-step tips for creating a seasonal three-course dinner (and wine pairings!) with St. Francis Mixologist Titus Fauntleroy, Phoenix Public Market Café Pastry Chef Sarah Chisholm, and Chef Aaron Chamberlin. Tickets $100.

The Magic Flute Opera + Gelato Film Fest

Jun 25, 1pm
Arizona Opera Atrium, Phoenix
Screening of The Magic Flute with gelato and wine available for purchase. Free.
**Lunch with Arizona Opera.

Agave Nectar, Nopalitos and a Taste of Desert Edibles

July 23, 8am
Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior
Guided tour along Curandero Trail with desert plant enthusiast Jim Shepherd with a tasting of desert edible samples including prickly pear jelly, nopalitos, mesquite flour, and agave nectar. Trail is not wheelchair accessible. Included with admission.
**Video of desert edibles cooking demo at Mission Garden, Tucson.

Star Party at Homolovi State Park

August 19, 30 minutes after sunset
Homolovi State Park Visitor Center Museum and Observatory, Winslow
Stargazing at Homolovi’s Visitor Center Museum and Observatory. Included with park admission.

HOCO Fest 2017

Aug 30 – Sep 3
Hotel Congress plaza

5-day music festival with over 40 national and regional acts. Ages 16+. Tickets $15-20.
Downtown LA

+California

Sculpture Is: 2017 “In the Garden”

Jun 1 – Oct 31
Sierra Azul Nursery and Gardens, Watsonville

Eleventh annual Pajaro Valley Arts (PVA) sculpture exhibition in the two-acre Sierra Azul Nursery demonstration gardens.

**Trailer or Tipi camping about 20 minutes from Watsonville (#2).

Show + Tell

Jun 3, 10am
Santa Cruz Museum of Art + History

Local artisans give talks and demonstrations about their creative process and how their products are made.

dineLA Restaurant Week

Jul 14-28
Los Angeles
Fixed-price menu at restaurants throughout Los Angeles.

60th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

September 15 – 17
Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey

The longest-running jazz festival in the world, celebrating the legacy of jazz with performances and educational programs. Tickets: Full weekend $145-410, Single day $45-164. Daily parking $15-40

pond with water lilies

+Colorado

Color: Works by Teresa Booth Brown

Now – Aug 6
Denver Botanic Gardens, York Street – Gates Garden Court Gallery
Exhibition of collage works by artist Teresa Booth Brown. Free.

 

Calder Monumental

Now – Sep 24
Denver Botanic Gardens

Large metal sculptures by artist Alexander Calder placed throughout the gardens. Included with admission.
**Denver Botanic Gardens.

 

Loveland Museum Summer Exhibit Programming

  • June 9, 6pm: Artist Demonstration and Discussion. Sally Elliott shares her painting process and inspiration.
  • Jul 14, 6pm: Strings in the Gallery. Concert in the Main Gallery by the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra.
  • Jul 20, 1pm: Painting Workshop with Sally Elliott. Learn experimental techniques in watercolor and gouache. Pre-registration required. Fee $50 non-members.

Denver Botanic Gardens 2017 Summer Concert Series

June – August
Denver Botanic Gardens, York Street – UMB Bank Amphitheater
Concerts in the round with garden admission included. Bring your own food or pre-order a picnic supper from Offshoots Café ($38 for two people). As of writing this, tickets are still available for the following shows:

  • Jun 13, 6:30pm. Punch Brothers. Tickets $69
  • Jul 28, 6:30pm. The Mavericks. Tickets $65
  • Aug 3, 6:30pm. Dwight Yoakam. Tickets $82-182
  • Aug 7, 6:30pm. Randy Newman. Tickets $74
  • Aug 27, 6:30pm. Lucero with special guest Paper Bird. Tickets $62

 

Foote Lagoon Summer Concerts

Jun 22 – Jul 27, Thursday evenings
Foote Lagoon Amphitheater, Loveland

Weekly outdoor concert series.

Cherry Pie Celebration 2017

July 8, 5pm
Peters Park and 5th Street, Loveland

Cherry pie contest, vendor booths, activities for kids, and live music by Dixie Leadfoot (Rockabilly/Country/Swing) and Joe O’Bryan Band (Blues/Rock). Pie by the slice, ice cream, and drinks available for purchase. Free admission.

Pastels on 5th

Sep 9, 10am
Downtown Loveland

Sidewalk chalk art festival and fundraiser for Alternatives to Violence. Free.

BlogHer '16

+Florida

#BlogHer17

June 22-24
Hilton Bonnet Creek, Orlando

Annual conference for online content creators. Blogger/influencer passes $399.

Indianapolis

+Indiana

Concerts on the Canal

Now – July 27, Thursday evenings
Indianapolis Downtown Canal
Outdoor concert series on the Historical Society’s Kruse Family Stardust Terrace. Food and beverages available for purchase or bring your own. On Thursdays during concert season, the History Center is and open until 8pm.

**Fountain Square in Downtown Indiana.

Make Way for Ducklings by illustrator Robert McCloskey

+Massachusetts

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Exhibitions

  • Now – Jun 4. Club Americano: New York-based and Mexico City-born artist Pablo Helguera explores the historic formation and contemporary definitions of American identity in an intimate one-room exhibition and shared space.
  • Now – Jun 18. Make Way for Ducklings: The art of author and illustrator Robert McCloskey, in honor of the 75th anniversary of his book Make Way for Ducklings.
  • Now – Jul 9. Botticelli and the Search for the Divine.
  • Now – Jul 9. Matisse in the Studio.
  • Now – Feb 25, 2018. The Andes Inverted: Immersive installation by Daniela Rivera with materials, images, and sounds gathered from Chile’s Chuquicamata copper mine.

 

Boston Pops

Symphony Hall, Boston

  • May 31 + Jun 1. John Williams’ Film Night: Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williiams and Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart conduct a concert of movie music. Tickets $36 – $122.
  • June 2 + 3. Cirque de la Symphonie: live orchestral music plays while aerial flyers, acrobats, dancers, and jugglers perform. Tickets $29 – $93.

**Star Wars music at Phoenix Symphony Hall.

 

+Michigan

Detroit Home Movies

Now – Jul 29
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit

Year-long project to exhibit home movies made around 1967 that depict everyday life in Detroit’s diverse communities.

 

+New York

Flower Essence Workshop

Jun 11, 12:30pm + Jun 18, 12:30pm
Sang Lee Farms, Peconic, NY

Gather flowering plants from the farm and learn how to create your own flower essence. $85
**How to press flowers on the go.

+North Carolina

ASAP’s 2017 Farm Tour

June 24 – 25
Western North Carolina

Tours, demonstrations, and hands-on activities at working farms in the mountains to allow you to connect with the community’s food producers and learn about the region’s agricultural heritage.

Liberty bell Philadelphia

+Pennsylvania

ARTLab

First and third Saturdays, 1-4pm
Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh
Interactive projects inspired by current exhibitions for visitors of all ages. Included with museum admission.

Indigo Dip-in

Jun 15, 5pm
Cultureworks Greater Philadelphia

Bring fabric or yarn you’d like to dye. Create patterns using Shibori resist techniques with clamps, rubber bands, and string. Donations accepted.

Festival O17

Sep 14-25
Philadelphia
25 performances of new and classic operas at multiple venues across Philadelphia.

  • Sep 16-24. We Shall Not Be Moved: World Premiere chamber opera with classical, R&B and jazz singing, spoken word, contemporary movement, and video projection. Tickets $50-100.
  • Sep 23, 7pm. Opera on the Mall: Screening of an opera broadcast at Independence National Historical Park. Free.

**Arizona Opera’s world premiere Riders of the Purple Sage.

 

Monticello

+Virginia

Water/Ways + H2O Today

May 27 – Jul 9
Virginia Living Museum, Newport News
Part of the thinkWater project, these Smithsonian traveling exhibitions explore scientific and cultural perspectives on water with educational activities and digital story-collection initiatives.

Monticello

  • Now – Oct 27, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Harvest Tasting Tour: One-hour tour of Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden with a tasting of seasonal produce from the garden. Monticello Day Pass required + $15 ticket.
  • Jul 4, 9am. Annual Independence Day Celebration: Naturalization Ceremony followed by a Jeffersonian Open House with patriotic music and free walk-through tours of Monticello (first-come, first-served reservations). Free admission.
  • Jul 1 + Sep 30, 9:15am. Get to Know Your Trails: Monticello Trail Ranger-lead walk along a woodland path to learn about the trail’s history. Tickets $18.
  • Jul 8, 9:30am. Winemaking Workshop: Two-hour participatory workshop on how to make your own wine from harvest to bottling. Tickets $24.
  • Jul 22, 9am. Plein Air Painting: Paint outdoors on the Mountaintop then share your work with other participants. (Beginning instruction by Pat Brodowski at 8:30am.) Bring your own paints and supplies. Tickets $24.
  • Sep 9. 2017 Heritage Harvest Festival: Celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s agricultural and epicurean legacy.

**Monticello.

Virginia Craft Brewers Fest

Aug 19
IX Art Park, Charlottesville
Celebration of Virginia’s craft beer industry. Over 100 participating breweries serving tastings.

SAM - Seattle Art Museum

+Washington

Seattle Art Museum

**A short visit to Seattle.

 

Craft Party 2017

Jul 16, 12pm
Ugly Baby and La Ru shop, Western Avenue (at Pike Place Market), Seattle

Craft projects and sidewalk chalk take over the block! Join in and do a community embroidery project, wood string art, watercolor cards, and a wall of coloring. There will also be a giveaways, a photobooth, and gift bags with Ugly Baby and La Ru.
Get tickets on Eventbrite by June 14. Tickets $12.

**Chalk robots.

 

A photo posted by Christoph Jakob (@el_kalam) on

INTERNATIONAL

+Germany

Brückenfestival

Aug 12-13
Nuremberg
Outdoor festival with a curated lineup of indie bands. Free.
**Make a mini-lamp garland.

 

+Italy

Venice Biennale

Now – Nov 26
Giardini and Arsenale, Venice
“Viva Arte Viva” – International exhibition of visual art, theater, architecture, music, dance, and film. Full regular tickets €25.

  • Jun 23 – Jul 1. International Festival of Contemporary Dance.
  • Jul 25 – Aug 12. International Theatre Festival.
  • Aug 30 – Sep 9. Venice International Film Festival.
  • Sep 29 – Oct 8. International Festival of Contemporary Music.

 

Real alcazar de sevilla

+Spain

Noches en los Jardines del Real Alcázar

Jul 15 – Sep 9, 10:30pm
Real Alcázar, Sevilla
Nightly (Monday – Saturday) concerts in the gardens of a historic palace, including flamenco, classical, and world music. Doors open at 9pm, so you can explore the gardens before the concert. Beverages available for purchase. Ages 8+. Tickets €6.

Ashdown Park http://www.ashdownpark.com/national-garden-scheme-open-day-0

+UK

Tracey Emin and William Blake In Focus

Now – Sep 3
Tate Liverpool
Exhibition exploring surprising links between the work of Tracey Emin (b. 1963) and William Blake (1757–1827). It will be the first time Emin’s My Bed has been displayed in the north of England. Free.

The Big Barbican Adventure

Now – Dec 31
Barbican Centre, London

Clue solving, drawing and games for families along the Barbican do-it-yourself adventure trail. Pick up a free trail kit for The Big Barbican Adventure from the Barbican Centre Information Desk on Level G. Allow at least one hour to complete the trail. Ages 6+. Free.

Ashdown Park events

East Sussex

Outdoor cinema at Ashdown Park

East Sussex
Tickets £13.

 




While I’ve done my best to be accurate, sometimes things change or weren’t listed correctly in the first place. Also, I choose events that seem fun, unique, and like something you’d be interested in, but your mileage may vary. I may not endorse everything connected with a particular event, organization, venue, etc. So consider this your starting point, double check the details, and then venture forth!

Make Way for Ducklings illustration by Robert McCloskey via Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

UK garden photo via Ashdown Park.

Spain Real Alcázar photo via Noches en los jardines del Real Alcázar.

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Light Rail Phoenix: A Beginner’s Guide

Posted by on May 27, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mesa light rail station with train

People have asked me how to take the Valley Metro light rail in the Phoenix area, so I made a video guide.

However, if you prefer tips in written form, read on!
Phx light rail station Big map

1. Find where to go.

There’s just one line with 2 directions, Eastbound and Westbound. You can ride anywhere on the line all day for $4.

Westbound train route:

  • begins in downtown Mesa (Mesa Dr./Main St.)
  • ASU Tempe campus
  • Sky Harbor Airport
  • Downtown Phoenix (Phoenix Convention Center, Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field)
  • Central Ave. (turns north)
  • Roosevelt Row/arts district
  • ends at 19th Ave. and Dunlap (near Metrocenter)

Eastbound trains start at 19th Avenue and Dunlap, retracing basically the same route, heading south and then east and ending at Mesa Drive and Main Street.

Phx light rail station At night

Schedule

To find where to get on and off the train and get schedule information, pick up a Transit Book, check the Valley Metro website, download the Ridekick app, or try Google Maps. If you don’t want to bother with the schedule, you can just show up. Trains run about every 10-20 minutes until around 1am.
Mesa park and ride with grid bike

Park-and-Ride

If there’s not a stop near you, you can drive to one of the 11 Park-and-Ride lots, where there’s free parking for people riding the light rail or bus. You just find a spot, lock your car, and head to the station platform.

Phx light rail station On Jefferson

2. Get your ticket.

You can easily get a pass from a fare vending machine at your stop before you leave.

Follow the prompts on screen to select an all-day pass and activate it immediately. Then pay with cash, credit or debit.

Your pass and receipt print from two different places. Make sure to pick them both up!

Tempe light rail station

On the Station Platform

While you’re waiting, check the signs to make sure in the right spot for the train going in your direction.

Stations have…

  • fare vending machines
  • scrolling LED signs that say when to expect the next train
  • seating
  • some shade
  • route maps (simplified to highlight the stops – not to scale)
  • drinking fountains
  • artwork inspired by the local area

Mesa light rail station art - serpentine

Stations don’t have…

  • restrooms
  • food or anything for purchase (except rail passes)

You can bring your own beverage with a lid on it.

On board Phx light rail station

3. Get on board.

Trains stop at every station. You don’t have to flag them down. If one looks like it’s not stopping, Don’t panic! It’s probably just pulling up farther.

When the train pulls up to the station, it will come to a complete stop, the doors automatically open, and you can step into any car. Find a seat or or a place to stand and hold on to the railing. If you are standing, try to move back away from the doors, so people can easily get on and off.

Phx light rail station Art

There’s usually not anyone checking tickets as you get on. It’s kind of on the honor system. Occasionally, though, transit officers in black and white uniforms will come through and check tickets after the train is in motion. Not having one can get you fined up to $500.

Watch and listen for your stop. You can find a route map above some of the doors. And before each stop, a recording will say “approaching station” then the station name and whether you’ll exit the train on the left or right side. The information is also on scrolling LED signs in the middle of the ceiling of each car. Once you arrive, wait for the train to stop and doors to open, and you’re there!
Tempe light rail station art - hands

– More light rail info –

  • Fare details.
  • Make sure you are waiting for the train going the direction you want to go. Most of the platforms are in the middle of the street and trains going both directions share them. However, around downtown Phoenix the line splits. So if you’re at the Phoenix Convention Center for example, the station for westbound trains is at Washington and eastbound trains stop a block south of there at Jefferson.
  • If you’re only going one way (to the airport, for example), you can purchase a 1-ride ticket. Once you purchase it, take your ticket and receipt. You have a two-hour window after purchasing to make your trip in one direction.
  • You may notice that there’s a “buy online” option on the Valley Metro website. This is NOT for last-minute purchases! Since electronic tickets are not accepted, you can order tickets online, and then they’ll be shipped to you via snail mail.
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Navigating Fabulous Las Vegas

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Las Vegas sign

Apparently, it was a big controversy when some Las Vegas casinos started charging for parking.

As long as The Strip had been there, there had been acres and acres on which to park your ride free of charge.

Las Vegas Flamingo

Then MGM decided to charge at all of their properties. Some casinos followed suit, others didn’t, but free parking in Vegas is no longer a given – even for hotel guests.

Las Vegas Strip

Free Parking

  • You can currently still park for free at Tropicana.
  • Parking at Flamingo and Caesar’s Palace is free for the first hour.
  • There is a small lot where you can park at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign for a short amount of time to get a photo of the sign. Enter from southbound Las Vegas Blvd.
  • Many nearby hotels have shuttles that will take you to The Strip, and you can skip parking altogether.

Las Vegas - Mandalay Bay

Transportation on The Strip

Once you’re there, there are several transportation options. Everything is so oversized that it’s farther to walk from one place to another than it may appear.

Bus: $8 for 24 hours (unlimited rides).

  • The Deuce bus route goes the entire length of the Strip up to the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas. It runs 24 hours a day and stops at most hotels.
  • The Strip and Downtown Express (SDX) makes fewer stops and goes farther into Downtown Las Vegas. It runs 9am to midnight.

Monorail: $12 for 24 hours. Runs from MGM Grand to SLS Las Vegas. 7am to at least midnight.

Aria Tram: Free. Runs from the Monte Carlo to Bellagio. 8am to 4am.
Las Vegas sign

– More Vegas Parking and Transit Info –

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