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Museums, Travel, UK

A Tour of the Tate Modern in London

July 31, 2017

Tate Modern

People keep asking me what I am going to do London for a month, I respond, “See all the museums!” In order to do that you have to get started right away. I probably won’t review each one I visit individually, but the Tate Modern needed its own post as it is quite large.

Now I am not a huge fan of modern art. However, two years ago when I attended the Venice Biennale I had a change of heart and decided I would be more open to seeing modern art. This motivated me to see the Tate Modern plus I had heard so much about the building.

Getting to the Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is accessible by several tube stations including Blackfriars and Southwark. However, I recommend arriving at St. Paul’s station and walking across the Millenium Bridge. This offers you an amazing view of the museum and of the Thames River.

Tate Modern

Inside the Tate Modern

The building used to be a power station, so it is quite large. However, don’t let the size scare you away from visiting. The museum is well laid out and has elevators and escalators to every floor, so you never have to climb the stairs unless you want to.

Tate Modern

Unless you are at the museum to see a specific exhibition, I would start on the first floor and work you way up. Then you can cross to the other side of the museum and work your way down.

Tate Modern

Don’t forget to look at the structure of the building as it is essentially part of the art. This is best done from the bridges between the two gallery spaces. You can do so at each level and get a different perspective. Also, go down to the ground floor and look up. It is then you get a sense of how large the space really is.

Tate Modern

What I really enjoyed about the Tate Modern is the size. I never felt I couldn’t see the art and even though there was a line to get in, it was never crowded inside.

Tate Modern

Not all the art was modern either! There was a room with Mark Rothko piece and he was inspired by Monet’s large art. So, there was one of Monet’s Water Lillies right next to the room!

Tate Modern

The other thing I really loved about the Tate Modern is that the space allows for large art to be on exhibition. For some reason, large pieces of art appeal to me. It’s probably why I like Monet so much!

Tate Modern

Tate Modern

See St. Pauls

This is one of the great unknowns of the Tate Modern, but it offers stunning views of St. Pauls! If you head to the 3rd floor gift shop outside the visiting exhibition space. There is a smoking balcony there and you can see St. Pauls. You can also see the Millenium Bridge. The sun was shining the day I went and the man next to me said to someone, “St. Pauls is glistening. That rarely happens.” It is definitely a sight to see.

Tate Modern

Have you been to the Tate? What is your favorite piece there?

Art, Italy, Museums, Travel

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

August 17, 2016

There is More to Florence Museums than the DavidDon’t get me wrong, seeing the David in person is a wonderful experience and you should definitely see it. But there are over 72 museums (including churches and libraries) in Florence to explore! If you saw two a day, it would take you over a month to see them all. Since I only spent four days in Florence, I saw as many as I could. It was hard because around every corner it seemed like there was another one. Here are the ones I hit and the ones I want to see when I return (planning is in the works!).

Museums Visited

Palazzo Vecchio – This museum isn’t just a museum. The mayor of Florence’s office is located here, and it is the seat of the City Council. Sign me up to run for local office if this is my office! The museum starts before you even enter the building in the with a replica statue of the David out front. The beautiful decorations begin in the first courtyard with its beautiful frescos. Unfortunately, I didn’t know you could tour the secret passages. I did get to see someone go through a hidden door in the Map Room.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Museo Galileo – Walking down the Arno Riverbank towards the Ponte Vecchio, you can’t help but see the Museo Galileo due to the large sundial out front. I will say I was disappointed by this museum. This was mainly because I was expecting more on Galileo himself, but it is mostly a collection of scientific instruments. Many of them were very intriguing, but the labels only gave a title of the item and not what it was used for. Not the ideal for a non-science person. But if you are a science person, then this is the place for you! There must have been thousands of pieces on exhibit.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Museo Gucci – This was the only museum I went to that you couldn’t get into with the Firenze Card, which is a 72-hour pass for most of the museums in Florence. The Gucci Museum takes you on a tour of the brand from the beginning of the label through its current designs for the red carpet. The only unfortunate thing is that you cannot take photos inside, but their website has great photos of the exhibition rooms.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Uffizi Gallery – Beautiful architecture abounds in Florence and Uffizi Gallery is no exception. I would have gone in just to see the inside! However, everywhere you look there is art. Look up because much of it is on the ceiling. Also, look out the windows to see great views of Florence, including the Ponte Vecchio. Allow yourself a few hours as there is a lot to see and lots of people also trying to see it.

Palazzo Pitti – Looking more like a formidable fort than a palace, Palazzo Pitti is a huge museum now. The original building was started in 1458 by Luca Pitti, a banker. There are several museums inside the Pitti, and you can also get a ticket for the Boboli Gardens there. Bring your walking shoes as the Pitti is huge!

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – This magnificent museum has been renovated. Did you love the outside of the Duomo and the Baptistry? Then you will love this place because it features the original decoration and the gold doors of the Baptistry. Didn’t know you were looking at replicas? Sorry to burst your bubble. However, you can get much closer to the carvings and figures in this museum. The attached coffee shop is a great place to rest after seeing the Duomo and the museum.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Museo Salvatore Ferragamo – The ultimate shoe lover’s museum. While the museum is small, it is dark and moody just like fashion. There are several decades of Ferragamo shoes on exhibit and foot molds of famous people. The museum was running a temporary exhibition at the time that featured some famous clothing designers as well. They do let you take photos, and there is free wifi, which is good because it’s in the basement with no signal.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Accademia Gallery – As I stated early, you still need to see the David while in Florence. Get the pass or buy your tickets in advance. Even with an advanced ticket, I had to wait in line for a bit. Be prepared for crowds inside. Do not go on the first Sunday of the month, as admission is free and the line will be even longer.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Medici Chapel – The chapel screams opulence that the Medicis family is known for. The Cappella dei Principi is an array of marble and stones of every known color. However, you wouldn’t know it from the outside as it looks like an abandoned building from the outside.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Museum Wish List

With 72 museums and counting, it will take me years of visits to Florence to see them all. However, I am already stalking the ones I didn’t get to visit.

Museo Nazionale del Bargello – The building called to me every time I walked past it, but I was already on a set path for the day. I didn’t even know what was in it until I looked up when I returned home. The main collection consists mostly of sculptures. Sculpture doesn’t attract me much, but it was once a prison, and that is worth seeing.

Basilica of Santa Croce -My white whale! Every time I tried to visit, it was closed. That is the bad planner in me and the fact that a historic football game was being played both weekends. Having read about the Basilica in the book “Dark Water,” which explores the floods of Florence, I knew I needed to visit it. Better planning will allow me to capture her next time!

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Vasari Corridor – The mysterious walkway from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti. It tempted me from the Uffizi and heckled me from above on the Ponte Vecchio. Now, I know I can actually walk it. You have to book a private tour to see it, though.

There is More to Florence Museums than the David

Museo del Bigallo – Located in the same Piazza as the Palazzo Vecchio, this was another building that intrigued me. Not only that but the sign said free. Learning more about it, there are some stunning frescos inside that I will inspect next time.

I have intentionally kept the wish list small as I love the art of discovery while traveling. This leaves me room to stumble upon a place and truly enjoy it without expectations.

What museums in Florence are your favorites? Share with us in the comments.

Egypt, Museums, Travel

Stepping Back into the Past at the Egyptian Museum

February 29, 2016

Egyptian MuseumWalking into the Egyptian Museum feels like you have stepped back into the past. The museum was the first purpose built museum in the world. It doesn’t look like much has changed since it was built in 1902. Being a former museum person, I was in awe of all the artifacts on display. You could never see it all in one day.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

The first floor is laid out in chronological order. The scale of the artifacts on this floor is what struck me the most. Most of the artifacts were large stone pieces. Many of these were heavily inscribed with hieroglyphics.  The statues and sphinxes were mostly made of granite and must of weighed tons. Other pieces were also stone and consisted of pieces of buildings and stelas. This stone sculpture is of King Khafre, who is the builder of the second pyramid at Giza. There is also several sculptures of King Hatshepsut, a female king, shown below!

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Treasures abound on the second floor. King Tutankhamun’s tomb items are displayed here including the famous mask. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed in the area where the mask is kept. This room was also slightly more modern than the rest of the museum, and it displayed much of the smaller pieces found in his tomb. The large golden shrines are outside that encased his sarcophagus are outside the room and go from large to small. The canopic jars that stored his organs are also on display next to the mask room.

Egyptian MuseumEgyptian MuseumEgyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

The second floor also houses the Royal Mummy rooms. They are split into two rooms that are across the museum from each other. Not everyone on my tour opted to do the mummy room as it was an extra charge. However, it was worth it to me. I am fascinated by the mummification process and how it preserves the bodies so well. It was also interesting to read the descriptions of the person’s health, which they have gleaned from x-rays and MRIs. Some of them had hair, and one had a very impressive set of white teeth! There is also a room of animal mummy’s that I did not visit. The other people on my tour said they mummified every kind of animal. This room was included in the price of the regular admission ticket. To help preserve the mummies, there is no photography allowed in the rooms.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian MuseumThe rest of the second floor contained many more sarcophagi and hundreds of cases of smaller objects. Not only was the collection large, but it was deep. It seemed everything in the museum’s collection was on display. Each case held several pieces and in some cases, there was much more. The items ranged from scarab beetle pendants to shoes to small statues to wigs! Some were simple, and some pieces were very elaborate. There were rooms I didn’t even go into because I didn’t have the time and not even sure what was in them.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian MuseumEgyptian Museum

Every time I see things from ancient civilizations, I am always in wonder of the skills and tools they used to make them. Also, the patience! Never in today’s world would we have the patience to build on person’s tomb for 20-30 years!

Getting there and tickets: My advice is to take a Uber or a Careem there as taxis may want to negotiate the rate and not turn on the meter. You are assured a fair rate if you use Uber or Careem. There will be a line to get through security right when you get there. If you want to take pictures inside, go to the ticket booth to the right of the security entrance. The cost is 50 Egyptian Pounds. This is a new procedure as of January 2016, as before photographs were not allowed. If you are buying an entrance ticket, you can do it there as well. Ours had been purchased in advance. I believe the price is 60 Egyptian Pounds. The cost of the Royal Mummy room was 100 Egyptian Pounds, and you buy the ticket at the door. You will go through security one more time before entering the building, and they will ask for your photography ticket if you have a camera. You will also have your bag inspected when you leave. I would recommend paying for all the extras as it was great to see the mummies and to take photos.

Have you been to the Egyptian Museum? What was your favorite part?

Museums, Thailand, Travel

Mystery and Silk: Jim Thompson House

November 9, 2015

Jim Thompson House

Stepping out of the air-conditioned van into the humidity of Bangkok, I realized this experience would be different from the rest of my time in there. The noise of cars and motorbikes had disappeared to be replaced by the sounds of boats in the canal nearby. Walking down a gravel path past the gift shop and restaurant, the giant plants of the garden almost obscured the house from view. Having arrived before opening, I took the time to walk around the garden to explore. Plants seemed to grow to extreme sizes due to the humidity and rain. Giant coy fish also appear to have developed unencumbered in their pond.

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Knowing little about the man who’s house I was about to explore, I was glad when the tour started for the Jim Thompson House. But this is also where the mystery begins. Jim Thompson revived the silk trade in Thailand in the late 1940s after World War II ended. During the war, he had served in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. After the war had ended, he was assigned to set up the OSS office in Bangkok. In 1946, he was discharged from the army, and he returned to Bangkok to work on the Oriental Hotel, but after some disagreements with other shareholders, he turned his attention to Thai silk.

Jim Thompson started his own company to export Thai silk and had great success. He even provided the Thai silk for the movie production of “The King and I.” Jim Thompson was also an architect and designed and built the house. He noticed many of the old style Thai houses were still in excellent condition and decided to create his own in the Thai style along with some western touches, such as an internal staircase.

Jim Thompson House

After much success and opening a physical store on March 21, 1967, Mr. Thompson took a holiday to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Five days later Mr. Thompson disappeared and has never been seen again. Many theories abound as to what happened to Jim Thompson. Was he kidnapped? No ransom has ever been asked for. Was he killed? No body has never been found. Was he a double agent about to be exposed and he deliberately disappeared? There was a supposed sighting of him in Tahiti a few months after the disappearance, but nothing sense. Did he get lost or die of starvation or was attacked by an animal? This is highly unlikely as he was trained in jungle survival as a part of his OSS training. Was he still a spy and he was captured? No government has ever claimed to be his abductors or asked for a prisoner trade for him. Adding to this mystery is that his sister was murdered six months later in her home in the United States.

Jim Thompson House

Eventually, people stopped looking for Jim Thompson, and his house became a museum. His company still runs and produces the bright Thai silk that he made famous. The house is basically untouched from when he left for his trip to Malaysia. While his disappearance was only briefly mentioned on the tour, it hung in the air while the tour continued around the house. You could almost sense that his possessions were awaiting him to walk through and sit down on the silk divan to take his regular nap.

How to Visit the Jim Thompson House: The Jim Thompson House is conveniently located less than a five-minute walk from the BTS Skytrain National Stadium stop. The hours are 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, however when we were there, I think they opened at 9:30. The entrance fee is 150 Baht for adults and 100 Baht for students under the age of 22. The guided tour is mandatory, and your shoes must be removed to tour the house. Photography is not allowed inside the house.

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