Category Archives: Exhibits

Mille Fiori – Chihuly Exhibit – Seattle – Washington

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While trekking through the Emerald City, Seattle, Washington, we decided to visit the Mille Fiori Exhibit by Chihuly. Mille Fiori, Italian for a thousand flowers, is an exhibit in which Chiluly assembles gardens of glass that include many of his series of works. First exhibited in 2003 at the Tacoma Art Museum, the techniques used to create the Fiori rely less on tools and more on the use of fire, gravity and centrifugal force. The artist has said that memories of his mother’s garden serve as inspiration for these “gardens of glass.”

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Upon arriving at the Exhibit Entrance, neatly tucked under the Space Needle….

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….. one is greeted by delightful flowers…

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……taking its cues from the light and architecture of the museum’s largest gallery designed by acclaimed architect Antoine Predock. Like the large, sculptural work Chihuly has installed throughout the world, this work is specific to the building and far different from all previous work.

Canada 352Canada 320The blending of the art glass with plants and flowers in the garden was breathtaking…..

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A Beautiful and Restful Café allows guest to relax in the shade while enjoying the beauty that surrounds them…

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Then the Magnificent Exhibit within the Hall itself………..stunning ……..

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Simply AMAZING…….and DELIGHTFUL….

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Somewhere………….over the Rainbow…. 

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The Alcazar of Segovia – Spain

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….and so it begins, our journey to The Alcazar of Segovia

She sits upon the hilltop guarding over the town, her steady gaze upon us.

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Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship.

The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then.

The castle is one of the inspirations for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain , started off as an Arab fort, which itself was built on a Roman fort but little of that structure remains.

The first reference to this particular Alcázar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands in the days of  Alfonso VI of León and Castile

Throughout the Middle Ages The Alcazar remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom.

It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty.

Below is a picture of The Throne Room…..

In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X of Castile after a cave-in and soon after the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament.

The Hall of Kings is a most majestic place and carvings of all the Kings adorn the walls and these ancient Monarchs look down upon the visitors of today…

However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II who built the ‘New Tower’ (John II tower as it is known today).

In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I of Castile.

On 12 December news of the King Henry IV‘s death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia’s council.

She was crowned the next day as Queen of Castile and León.

There is a very large painting of the Coronation that is just breathtaking…

The interior of the Castle of Segovia is in perfect accordance with the magnificence of its exterior. Many apartments are decorated with delicate traceries and pendant ornaments, in the style of the Alhambra

The Templar Iglesia Vera Cruz (Church of the True Cross) is the most interesting of several splendid Romanesque churches in Segovia and is visible from the windows of The Alcazar

The Church was consecrated in 1208 and built by the Knights Templar to house a fragment of the True Cross

Inside, the round nave centers on an unusual two-story gallery, where the Knights are thought to have kept vigil over the sliver of wood, as it rested on the altar below….

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The Church is patterned on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where according to legend the True Cross was found by St. Helena in the 4th century.

Such enchantment and history surrounded by snow capped peaks……

Wandering about The Alcazar, one is swept into the history that took place within her walls….

The ancients gaze upon you as you pass from their frozen images in the stained glass…

A world of enchantment…..with the most amazing views…

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Temple of Debod – Madrid, Spain

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While visiting Madrid, we had the great pleasure of visiting the Temple of Debod

The Tempolo de Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple and was originally built just over 9 miles south of Aswan in southern Egypt very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis, in Philae.

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In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single room chapel dedicated to the god Amun.

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It was built and decorated on a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based.  Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.

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From the quay there is a long processional way leading to the stone-built enclosure wall, through three stone pylon gateways and finally to the temple itself.

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In 1960, due to the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan and the consequent threat posed to several monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy.

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Spain sent a large team to assist in the relocation of the monuments and temples.

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As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

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The temple was rebuilt in the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972.

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  It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture which can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.

This was a most amazing and touching experience….

….but as always with The Tin Man…..an appetite has been worked up!

To celebrate being able to visit such an ancient monument, we have decided to dine in the oldest restaurant in the world………….Restaurante Botin’s…

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Francisco de Goya worked at Botin’s  as a waiter while waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts

The first floor has all the original cabinetry from when Botin’s opened in 1725

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The staircase leads to dining in the basement which once held all the ovens in which the suckling pigs were roasted…

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Now a marvelous dining area…..

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still serving that wonderful sucking pig………roasted to perfection…

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….especially when served with roasted new potatoes and Amstel Beer…

Tarxien Temples – Malta

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The Tarxien Temples (Maltese pronunciation: [ˈtarʃi.ɛn]) are an archaeological complex in Tarxien, Malta.

They date to approximately 3150 BC.   

The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with

the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.

See my post on the Hypogeum : https://the-tin-man.com/2013/06/22/hypogeum-of-hal-saflieni-paola-malta/

The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures.

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The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored.

acma-Tarxien-TempleAt the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated indoors for protection at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The first temple has been dated to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta.

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The middle temple dates to about 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two.

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The east temple is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.

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Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns.

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Demonstrative of the skill of the builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a sow.

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Excavation of the site reveals that it was used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice.

Especially interesting is that Tarxien provides rare insight into how the megaliths were constructed: stone rollers were left outside the South temple.

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Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the center of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

The visit was most amazing and I was so taken by the skills and dedication of our predecessors to create something that would last over 5,000 years.

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When we were exiting I saw some archeologists working on a dig….they saw me taking a photograph and bent into the dig and began to yell with excitement and then popped up holding a spoon…..

……love people with a sense of humor!!!

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Zaragoza – Spain

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The noble beginnings of Zaragoza begin when  Augustus founded there a city called Caesaraugusta to settle army veterans from the Cantabrian wars

The foundation date of Caesaraugusta has not been set with total precision,

though it is known to lie between 25 BC and 12 BC

The city did not suffer any decline during the last centuries of the Roman empire and was captured peacefully by the Goths in the 5th century

In 714 the Berbers and Arabs took control of the city, renaming it Saraqusta (سرقسطة).

 It later became part of the Emirate of Cordoba

It grew to become the biggest Muslim controlled city of Northern Spain and as the main city of the Emirate’s Upper March, Zaragoza was a hotbed of political intrigue

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In 777 Charlemagne was invited by Husayn, the Wali (governor) of Zaragoza, to take the submission of the city

But when Charlemagne marched an army to the city gates he found Husayn to have had a change of heart and was forced to give up after a month-long siege of the city, facing Basque attacks on his rear guard on his withdrawal.

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From 1018 to 1118 Zaragoza was one of the taifa kingdoms, independent Muslim states which emerged in the eleventh century following the destruction of the Cordoban Caliphate.

Zaragoza is linked by legend to the beginnings of Christianity in Spain. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously to Saint James the Great in the first century, standing on a pillar.

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The Church contains innumerable beautiful works of art….

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This legend is commemorated by a famous Catholic basilica called Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar)

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The city walls, churches, basilicas, palaces, stately houses and squares of the old quarter reflect the different civilizations that settled the city.

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Romans, Moors, Jews and Christians left their cultural legacy behind, waiting to be admired to this day. There are certain monuments and places that are simply not to be missed.

You can start the day in Plaza del Pilar Square, alongside the Ebro River. Here you will find three of the city’s emblematic buildings: The Pilar Basilica, church and universal symbol of Zaragoza; La Lonja Palace, the region of Aragon‘s most important 16th century civil building, venue for many exhibitions throughout the year; San Salvador Cathedral (the “Seo”),  Aragon’s most valuable and significant monument, where you will find medieval artistic styles reflected, along with Renaissance and Baroque elements. Be sure to look at the exterior wall of the Parroquieta Chapel, on one side of the Seo – it is the pinnacle of Zaragoza Mudejar architecture.

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Then, head for the Caesaraugusta Theatre Museum, just a few minutes walk away. See what the Roman city’s most popular monument was like.

Marvelous restoration, protected by in ingenious dome…

…one can only imagine the marvelous theatrical performances played out on the stage……if you are very quite you can almost hear the echoes…

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There are many witnesses to Zaragoza’s imperial past to be seen – the city walls, the Forum, the River Port and the Public Baths, with their respective museums.

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Wonderful, near the Roman Wall is a Public Market…

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What a fantastic find……..the Market is brimming with goodies……

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Then off to lunch at Los Cabezudos Restaurant for al fresco dining….to include Caracoles del Mar

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Puente de Piedra ( Stone Bridge) – Bridge across the river Ebro

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Puente de Piedra is also called the Bridge of Lions because four lions (symbols of the city) are placed on the pillars at both sides of the bridge.

After touring, the best way to end a stay in Zaragoza is to visit its Plaza del Pilar in the evening as the spires of the city’s two cathedrals make dramatic shadows across the pavement.

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In this place where the Romans once walked and where countless pilgrims have journeyed, the warm spirit of Zaragoza shines most brightly.  As it has for many centuries, this city continues to invite visitors to enjoy its charms.

But now it is time for dinner…….a cool evening……beautiful fountains….

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We found the perfect place to dine….Casa Teo

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Marvelous to be traveling Europe during Asparagus Season…..

Then off to the hotel with incredible views of the city….

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Zaragoza has an incredible Train Station, where we plan the next stop in our adventure……

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Chapel of the Holy Grail – Valencia, Spain

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It was time to board the train from Madrid to Valencia.

The anticipation was great, as we were going to visit The Chapel of The Holy Grail, something I had been looking forward to on this trip.  I could hear the music from the Indiana Jones movies playing in my head, as the train was zipping through the countryside of Spain.

We arrived at  Estacio del Nord in Valencia and began our quest for the Holy Grail

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First a bit about this special city;  Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC.

The city is situated on the banks of the Turia river, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula,  fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea.

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Major monuments include Valencia Cathedral

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 the Torres de Serranos,

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the Torres de Quart,

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the Llotja de la Seda  declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996

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and the City of Arts and Sciences,  an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela

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The Museu de Belles Arts de València houses a large collection of paintings from the 14th to the 18th centuries, including works by Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya, as well as an important series of engravings by Piranesi

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The Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia  was consecrated in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia after the Reconquista, Pere d’Albalat, Archbishop of Tarragona, and was dedicated by order of James I the Conqueror to Saint Mary. It was built over the site of the former Visigothic cathedral, which under the Moors had been turned into a mosque

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The cathedral contains numerous 15th century paintings, some by local artists (such as Jacomart), others by artists from Rome engaged by the Valencian Pope Alexander VI

who, when still a cardinal, made the request to elevate the Valencian See to the rank of metropolitan see, a category granted by Pope Innocent VIII in 1492

Here are a couple by Goya….

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On our way to find the Chapel of the Holy Grail we stumble upon a mummified arm in a glass case…….yikes!

Turns out it is that of Saint Vincent, the Patron Saint of  Valencia.

Tthe story of Saint Vincent the Martyr begins (ends) when they tried to burn him but his body wouldn’t burn so they tied 4 horses to each of his limbs, whipped the horses and let them run, tearing him apart in the middle of the city, so today one of his arms rests in the Cathedral.

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Okay, past the arm and ……..hello …….tombs…

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Okay, move on,  it is time to find the Holy Chalice the most revered in the world right here in one of this cathedral’s chapels;  this chalice has been defended as the true Holy Grail

………and there it is!  The Chapel is filled with the smell of incense that has been burning for hundreds of years…..

Most Christian historians all over the world declare that all their evidence points to this Valencian chalice as the most likely candidate for being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper

It was the official papal chalice for many popes, and has been used by many others, most recently by Pope Benedict XVI, on July 9, 2006

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 This chalice dates from the 1st century, and was given to the cathedral by king Alfonso V of Aragon in 1436.

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It was quite exciting to be in this place and be in the presence of this acclaimed artifact (by now the music score from the Indiana Jones Movies was BLARING inside my head)…..time to move on..

We visited the rest of the Cathedral, which was quite beautiful and filled with amazing artifacts…

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……wow that was a most exciting and interesting visit…now off to explore the city….

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We found Valencia to be incredibly clean and well kept.  The people were so helpful and friendly!

We had heard about Canela, a most well respected and sought after restaurant….

We arrived when the owner was closing and locking the door…………..NO, please let us in, please……guess what …….. he said yes!!

We went upstairs and the art was amazing…

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The meal was the BEST of our entire lifetimes!  A seven course delight…

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the final course ….. Paella con Arroz Negro…..Paella with rice made with squid ink

Over the Top AMAZING

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If you are ever near Vallence….you MUST eat at Canela

But you know the Tin Man………it is now time to search out the sweets Valencia is known for …….CHOCOLATE

We found it at Valor, known for their outstanding Chocolates….right on the Plaza de la Reyna…

Of course we  had the Chocolate Flight with Churros…..

What experiences and delights we enjoyed in beautiful Valencia….but now it is time to move on…until next time…Adios

Musee Lapidaire – Avignon, France

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While visiting Avignon, we would walk down the Rue de la République at least twice a day.  On our third day we noticed the sign for the Musee Lapidaire and decided to peek inside and see what was behind those doors.

OH MY……….the collection was breathtaking!  The gentleman at the desk seemed quite surprised to have visitors…..the place was empty!

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You see the museum was originally a  Baroque Jesuit Church,  whose plans had been prepared in 1616 by Stephen Martelange.

  The exterior is classic Jesuit Baroque, and if you are familiar with Rome, the corbels and carving should remind you of the famed Church of the Gesu.

Since 21 June 1928, it is classified as a historical monument.

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Inside, amid he surprisingly simplistic interior, the is an astounding display of everything from amphora to grave markers, or stele from local archeological sites.

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        The permanent collections cover several eras: prehistory , ancient Greek , ancient Etruscan , Roman antiquity , art Gauls , ancient paleo-Christian.

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Among the major pieces of the collection of prehistoric times, the museum presents the “Stele of LaurisPuyvert

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  The objects of ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan, and the Gallic art are varied, vases, statues in low relief, or lamps.

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Some Etruscan tombs are also available.

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We spent several hours in the museum and so enjoyed this amazing collection.  The entire time we were inside, not one other person entered, yet in the street, hundreds walk past the doorway!

We were quite content to have our private museum accompanied by our three singing muses………

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Should you ever be in Avignon, do not walk past these doors and miss this incredible place

for more information CLICK HERE

Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni – Paola, Malta

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The Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world.

We knew that this was a must see place, so several months prior to our trip we went online in search of tickets.  The place is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the atmosphere inside the temple complex is highly regulated.  This allows for only ten people per hour to enter for a very limited time period and only 60 persons per 24 hours.  As you can imagine, tickets are sold out for around a year in advance!  I found two tickets available on a day when we were going to be in Malta!!!  You bet I bought those within seconds of finding them.

The Hypogeum is located within a residential neighborhood and a bus drops you off blocks from the site.  You then wander the streets from small sign to the next hoping you are going in the right direction…

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Hey the place is just another residential doorway…….we went right past it the first time!

Now access is VERY controlled, as I stated, so all personal items are collected…….darn, no secret photos to be had!

Since no photos are allowed the following photos of the interior of the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni are all from Google searches.

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The Hypogeum of Paola, Malta, literally meaning “underground” in Greek, is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase  (3000-2500 BC) in Maltese prehistory.

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Thought to have been originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times,  as is proven by the remains of more than 7,000 individuals that have been discovered during the course of the excavation.

The Hypogeum was depicted on a 2 cents 5 mils stamp issued in the Maltese Islands in 1980 to commemorate the acceptance by UNESCO of this unique structure in the World Heritage Site list.

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It was closed to visitors between 1992 and 1996 for restoration works; since it reopened only 60 people per day are allowed entry.

It was discovered by accident in 1902 when workers cutting cisterns for a new housing development broke through its roof.   The workers tried to hide the temple at first, but eventually it was found.   The study of the structure was first entrusted to Father Manuel Magri of the Society of Jesus, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Museums Committee.   Magri died in 1907, before the publication of the report.   Following Magri’s sudden death, excavation resumed under Sir Temi Zammit.

The first level is very similar to tombs found in Xemxija in Malta.   Some rooms are natural caves which were later artificially extended.  Remember that these rooms were carved into solid limestone with DEER ANTLERS!!!

This was built in the Neolithic Age.

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The second level was only opened when the original builders found that this level was no longer adequate.   This level is only ten meters below the street level.

The Second level features several apparently important rooms, such as

the Main Room, the Holy of Holies, and the Oracle Room.

The Main Chamber  is roughly circular and carved out from rock. A number of trilithon entrances are represented, some blind, and others leading to another chamber.  Most of the wall surface has received a red wash of ochre.

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It was from this room that the statuettes of the sleeping lady were recovered. Nowadays these figurines are held in the Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta, Malta.

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 The Oracle Room is roughly rectangular and one of the smallest side chambers.   It has the peculiarity of producing a powerful acoustic resonance from any vocalization made inside it.

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This room has an elaborately painted ceiling, consisting of spirals in red ochre with circular blobs.

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 Out of the Oracle’s Room, through the hammer dressed chamber, on the right is another spacious hall, circular, with inward slanting smooth walls, richly decorated in a geometrical pattern.  On the right side wall the entrance is a petrosomatoglyph of a human hand carved into the rock.

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 The second level contains a 2 meters deep pit which could have been used for either keeping snakes or collecting alms.

The focal point of this room is a porthole within a trilithon, which is in turn framed within a larger trilithon and yet another large trilithon.

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  The lower story contained no bones or offerings, only water.   It strongly suggests storage, maybe of grain.

Stories from the Past

There is an account that in the 1940s a British embassy worker, Miss Lois Jessup, went on a tour of the Hypogeum and persuaded a guide to let her explore a 3 ft. square “burial chamber” next to the floor of the lowest room in the last 3rd sub-level.   She claims that after squeezing through this chamber she came into a large room;  where she was standing there was a large cliff with a steep drop and the floor of the cavern could not be seen.   Across the cavern there was a small ledge with an opening in the wall.   According to Ms. Jessup, a number of “humanoid beings” that were covered in white hair and hunched over came out of this opening.   They raised their palms in her direction and a large gust of wind filled the cavern, extinguishing the light of her candle.   She then claimed that she felt something brush past her.   When she went back to the Hypogeum on another occasion, she was told no such tour guide had ever worked on the site.

Sometime after Miss Jessup’s first visit, a group of school children and their teacher visited the Hypogeum on an outing and entered the same burial chamber, which then collapsed while they were inside.   Search parties could not conduct a thorough search for the children or their teacher due to the cave-in.   The parents of the children claimed that, for weeks, they could hear the voices of their young children coming from under the ground in several parts of the island.  source:  http://www.philipcoppens.com/

Many subterranean passageways, including ancient catacombs, now are a part of the island’s fortifications and defense system.   Supplies are kept in many tunnels; others are bomb shelters.   Beneath Valletta some of the underground areas served as homes for the poor.   Prehistoric men built temples and chambers in these vaults.   In a pit beside one sacrificial altar lie thousands of human skeletons.   Years ago one could walk underground from one end of Malta to the other.   The Government closed the entrances to these tunnels after school children and their teachers became lost in the labyrinth while on a study tour and never returned………….  According to National Geographic’s ”Ancient X-Files” there are no local newspaper reports or accounts from residents about the missing children, making it more likely this was an invented story.

Whatever the local lore is about this place, I can tell you that we felt very honored and thankful to have been able to walk these ancient rooms.  To imagine our ancestors toiling for years to construct this grand and beautiful place……….not to mention the marvelous ceremonies and rituals that must have been………..

Grab A Beer – Shiner, Texas

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The Flying Monkeys were restless and wanted to explore some new place, so off we went to Shiner, Texas

Shiner is located in Lavaca County.

It all began in 1887 when Henry B. Shiner donated 250 acres of land for a railroad right of way.

As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 2,069.

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To our amazement there are no hotels in Shiner!  So we booked a room at the Shiner Country Inn..

Not the lap of luxury, but clean

Shiner is the home of the Spoetzl Brewery,  the oldest independent brewery in Texas.  The brewery is most well known for producing Shiner Bock,  a dark German/Czech-style beer that is now distributed in 41 states.

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………..but more about that later.

We explored the entire town to plan our itinerary………okay that took 10 minutes,

so we went to Snowflake Donuts for breakfast…

 

Upon entering we found a table of about 20 locals, all of whom ceased conversation and stared at us the entire time we were in the place…….okay weird!

………..now back the the Spotzl Brewery……

A group of businessmen incorporated Shiner Brewing Association

and placed Herman Weiss in as the company’s first brewmaster.  

In 1914 a German immigrant brewer named Kosmos Spoetzl co-leased with Oswald Petzold

with an option to buy in 1915.  

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Spoetzl had attended brewmaster’s school and apprenticed for three years in Germany, worked for eight years at the Pyramids Brewery in Cairo, Egypt, and then worked in Canada.   He moved to San Antonio in search of a better climate for his health, bringing with him a family recipe for a Bavarian beer made from malted barley and hops.

During Prohibition in the United States,  Kosmos Spoetzl kept the brewery afloat by selling ice and making Low-alcohol beer  “near beer.”   After Prohibition only five of the original 13 Texas breweries were still intact.   When the Prohibition laws were repealed, larger beer plants, such as Anheuser-Busch, moved to Texas making life harder on the smaller independent breweries,  but Spoetzl kept things small and simple,  never going more than 70 miles for business.

The owner’s daugher, Miss Cecelie took over operations in 1922

and became the only woman in the United States to be a sole owner of a brewery in 1950.

In the 1970s and 1980s the brewery’s ”Shiner Beer” and ”Shiner Bock”  had less than 1 percent of the Texas market.   In 1983 Spoetzl produced 60,000 barrels of beer;  in 1990 only 36,000.   Sales improved after Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio acquired the brewery in 1989:   Production grew to 100,000 barrels in 1994,  and over the next ten years,  production nearly tripled.

As of 2012,  it was the fourth-largest craft brewery and tenth-largest overall brewery in the United States.  Spoetzl currently produces eight beers year round and four seasonal brews per year.

shiner beer sign ending

We were so lucky to have the Brewmaster, Jimmy Mauric, conduct a personal tour!

brewmaster

The brew house was so very beautiful with the copper brew tanks…

The view of the bottling room was amazing……..many thousands of bottles whirling around…..

The tour over it was time for a late lunch……….where should we go…..oh yes the only restaurant in town….

The Shiner Restaurant and Bar..

The place was empty!  The bar was quite beautiful and ornate

The dining room sported wonderful old cabinets…

The food was great….we began with the Shiner Beer Bread and Shiner Black Butter

…..then on to the Pulled Pork Sandwich and the “World’s Best Sandwich”……that was really the name!

It was a Club Style BLT with a Chicken Fried Steak thrown in for Good Measure…….don’t tell my Cardiologist about this post!

Well that was Shiner a quiet, quiet, quiet little Texas Town

So until next time…………PROST!

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Eastern State Penitentiary -Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Eastern State Penitentiary

Our wonderful friends in Media booked a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary as part of our visit with them. 

What an interesting and educational trip it was!  We had the most wonderful and informative guide, pictured below:

Eastern State Penitentiary is a former American prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   It is found at 2027 Fairmount Avenue between Corinthian Avenue and North 22nd Street. 

The Penitentiary was operational from 1829 until 1971.

The penitentiary refined the revolutionary system of separate incarceration first pioneered at the Walnut Street Jail which emphasized principles of reform rather than punishment.   

Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its innovative wagon wheel design.

When the building was erected it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. 

The prison is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark, which is open to the public as a museum.

Designed by John Haviland and opened on October 25, 1829, Eastern State is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary, despite the fact that the Walnut Street Jail, which opened in 1776, was called a “penitentiary” as early as 1790 .

John Haviland

The word “penitentiary” derives from the word “penitence.” Eastern State’s revolutionary system of incarceration, dubbed the “Pennsylvania System” or Separate system,  encouraged separate confinement (the warden was legally required to visit every inmate every day, and the overseers were mandated to see each inmate three times a day) as a form of rehabilitation.

The Castle-like appearance of the prison was done purposefully as the city of Philadelphia was far from the prison, which sat atop a hill on a farm.  As residents of Philadelphia, new immigrants from Europe,  gazed upon the hill they would see the foreboding medieval castle and be reminded of the harsh treatment they fled Europe to avoid. 

It was Mr. Haviland’s intent that this reminder would deter these new citizens of America to think twice before committing a crime that would place them in the confines of this castle.  It is interesting to note that the windows facing outwards on the towers and walls are not windows at all, but decorations on the facade to make onlookers feel that the guards of the towers were watching them in their every move.

Originally, inmates were housed in cells that could only be accessed by entering through a small exercise yard attached to the back of the prison; only a small portal, just large enough to pass meals, opened onto the cell blocks.  

This design proved impractical, and in the middle of construction, cells were constructed that allowed prisoners to enter and leave the cell blocks through metal doors that were covered by a heavy wooden door to filter out noise.

The halls were designed to have the feel of a Church. 

 Some believe that the doors were small so prisoners would have a harder time getting out, minimizing an attack on a security guard. Others have explained the small doors forced the prisoners to bow while entering their cell. This design is related to penance and ties to the religious inspiration of the prison.

The cells were made of concrete with a single glass Skylight, representing the “Eye of God”, hinting to the prisoners that God was always watching them.

Outside the cell, there was an individual area for exercise, enclosed by high walls so prisoners couldn’t communicate. Each exercise time for each prisoner was synchronized so no two prisoners next to each other would be out at the same time. Prisoners were allowed to garden and even keep pets in their exercise yards.

When prisoners left the cell, a guard would accompany them and wrap a hood over their heads to prevent them from being recognized by other prisoners.

Each cell had accommodations that were advanced for their time, which included a faucet with running water over a flush toilet, as well as curved pipes along part of one wall which served as central heating during the winter months where hot water would be run through the pipes to keep the cells reasonably heated. The toilets were remotely flushed twice a week by the guards of the cellblock.

The original design of the building was for seven one-story cell blocks, but by the time cell block three was completed, the prison was already over capacity. From then on, all the other cell blocks were two floors. Toward the end, cell blocks 14 and 15 were hastily built due to overcrowding. They were built and designed by prisoners. Cell block 15 was for the worst behaved prisoners, and the guards were gated off from there entirely.

The prison was one of the largest public-works projects of the early republic, and was a tourist destination in the 19th century.  Notable visitors included Charles Dickens and Alexis de Tocqueville.

The Penitentiary was intended not simply to punish, but to move the criminal toward spiritual reflection and change. While some have argued that the Pennsylvania System was Religious Society of Friends Quaker-inspired, there is little evidence to support this; the organization that promoted Eastern State’s creation, the Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons (today’s Pennsylvania Prison Society) was in fact less than half Quaker, and was led for nearly fifty years by Philadelphia’s Anglican bishop, William White (Bishop of Pennsylvania).

Proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent.   In reality, the guards and councilors of the facility designed a variety of physical and psychological torture regimens for various infractions, including dousing prisoners in freezing water outside during winter months, chaining their tongues to their wrists in a fashion such that struggling against the chains could cause the tongue to tear, strapping prisoners into chairs with tight leather restraints for days on end, and putting the worst behaved prisoners into a pit called “The Hole”, an underground cellblock dug under cellblock 14 where they would have no light, no human contact, and little food for as long as two weeks.

In 1924, Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot allegedly sentenced Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog” (an actual dog) to a life sentence at Eastern State. Pep allegedly murdered the governor’s wife’s cherished cat. Prison records reflect that Pep was assigned an inmate number (no. C2559), which is seen in his mug shot. However, the reason for Pep’s incarceration remains a subject of some debate. A newspaper article reported that the governor donated his own dog to the prison to increase inmate morale.

On April 3, 1945, a major prison escape was carried out by twelve inmates (including the infamous Willie Sutton) who over the course of a year managed to dig an undiscovered  tunnel under the prison wall to freedom.  During renovations in the 1930s an additional 30 incomplete inmate-dug tunnels were also discovered.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.