A Day of Inspiration

April 30, 2019

This morning, my brother and I headed to the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, while our sisters explored the The Ringling in Sarasota. Regardless of destination, we all wished we’d had more time there.

The highlight of this morning, however, was our 30-minute ride to St. Pete. We had an Uber driver named Marc-Henry Jean. Marc is a young man who came to our country about ten years ago from Haiti to get an education. He spoke no English before coming to the US, but managed to earn a degree in Business Management. Marc asked us very insightful questions regarding religion, management, and politics. He listened and responded respectfully, adding his own thoughts when appropriate. The ride ended too soon.

Marc is an entrepreneur already, with a clothing line called Yes to Love, No to Hate. but he is saving money to earn a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship to gain more skills. To that end, he has set himself a minimum earnings goal per day, if he makes it early, he can spend time on other things, if not, he will work until midnight if necessary. Besides his clothing line, Marc has written a small book called Grow Together in Prayer, Reflection and Action. I’ve purchased his book and look forward to reading his insights. Keep an eye on this young man, I think you’ll hear more about him in the future.

I really wasn’t very familiar with Salvador Dalí’s work. The museum was highly recommended by several friends, and it lived up to everything they said. A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse had been avid collectors of Dalí’s art, having aquired about 2,000 pieces. When they decided to donate the collection, there was a stipulation that it all be housed in one location. The City of St. Petersburg took over the collection in 1982, which was originally housed in a former marine warehouse. A new museum was built, one that’s built to withstand strong hurricanes and floods, opening in 2011.

Dalí (accent on the second syllable, by the way) was born in 1904, and expressed an early interest in art. His father arranged his first exhibition, at their home, when Salvador was 13 years old. We were just in time for a tour where we learned more about the evolution of Dalí’s style. We were taught about some of the symbolism and the attention to tiny details in his paintings. I now understand why people peer closely at paintings, looking for the meanings. I was doing it as well by the end of the tour.

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IMG_3207Dalí’s cubist style is reflected in the above painting of his wife, Gala. When viewed from a distance, however, this becomes something else entirely, as demonstrated here. It helps to squint a little too.

This evening we took a sunset sail off of Anna Maria island. It was a lovely night, although we were inundated by Lovebugs, an invasive bug that is harmful, but very annoying. This is mating season, and there is no escaping them. Even as we moved out into the Gulf, they were with us on the boat.

07738979-D36C-43B9-86E5-549A66DC9864That didn’t spoil the evening, though. It was a peaceful way to end the day. The next day was one of relaxing and preparing to return to the cold Midwest.

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Anna Maria Island and Everglades City

April 28 – 29, 2019

We’re quite pleased with our lodging, a four-bedroom home in Palma Sola that we found on VRBO. It’s located in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance of Palma Sola Bay, near Bradenton, Florida, but with the screened-in saline pool, we might want to spend most of our time here. It’s a treat to have my morning coffee by the pool.

On our first full day here, we drove to Anna Maria Island to spend some time at a beach near the northernmost part of the island. Although we didn’t swim, we did enjoy a leisurely walk, dipping our cold Minnesota feet into the warm Gulf waters.

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The next day, while enjoying my coffee, I was serenaded by some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks perched on a power line near the house. They weren’t whistling when I saw them, rather they were raising quite a ruckus. Maybe they wanted a cup of coffee! Their call does sound like a whistle which I did hear in the distance. They are the only whistling ducks that perch in trees (or on power lines).

E2C70296-3C80-4396-99D1-4081DB01106DAfter breakfast, we headed south to Everglades City to enjoy an airboat ride. Before boarding the boat, we had a delicious lunch at The Camellia Street Grill, located just a few blocks from Everglades City Airboat Tours. I really do like being able to dine outdoors in nice weather.

The Airboat ride took us among a few of the thousands of Mangrove islands in Southwest Florida. The Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge contains 232 square miles of mangrove forest. The forest is home to shrimp, crab, many species of fish and birds, and alligators, of course. Mangrove trees are saline tolerant, thus frequently found near salt water.

We didn’t see any alligators, but our captain told us about a small park nearby where our luck would be better. The H.P. Williams Roadside Park has a short boardwalk overlooking a canal where we did, indeed, see a few alligators, along with some other wildlife.

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Homosassa Wildlife

April 27, 2019

After leaving our aunt and uncle’s home this morning, we headed south to Bradenton, FL. We contemplated stopping for lunch on the way in Hernando Beach, but weren’t sure we’d be satisfied. Still, I kind of wish we’d checked it out.

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Instead, we continued on to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, about 70 miles north of Tampa. The park covers almost 200 acres, of which we explored only a few.

The Homosassa Springs area was a popular site for fishing and hunting by the Timucuan and Calusa Indians as well as Seminoles. It has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900’s, and was first developed as such in the 1940’s. The area was purchased in 1964 and marketed as “Nature’s Own Attraction,” complete with “Indian maidens” and exotic animals that were trained for television and movies. When the property came up for sale in the 1980’s, local citizens spearheaded an effort to have the local county purchase the park and hold it until the state of Florida could purchase and preserve it. The Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park became part of the Florida State Park System in 1989.

After arriving, we took a short boat ride, captained by a park volunteer. The weather was perfect today, warm with very little breeze. The blue skies provided a beautiful background to trees and birds, the water was clear enough to see the many fish and a few manatees, plus it provided a mirror for the water fowl, turtles and foliage.

The park’s oldest resident has been here since this was an exotic wildlife park. “Lu,” short for Lucifer, is a 59-year old hippo who starred in the 1960’s television show Daktari. Lu is truly a senior citizen, few hippos reach the age of 50 in the wild, or 60 in wildlife preserves and zoos. When the park became a preserve, Florida law would only allow native animals to reside here, and Lu didn’t qualify! Rather than have Lu shipped to a zoo, Gov. Lawton Chiles granted him official citizenship status so he could stay at the preserve.

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The park is home to alligators, noisy flamingos, several other shore birds, raptors, bears, Florida panthers and manatees.

The park has an underwater observatory where we can see manatees (when they are feeding) as well as fish. It was a lovely day all around.

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Family Warms the Heart

April 25 and 26, 2019

This is a family trip, with the primary impetus being a visit to my aunt and uncle in Hernando Beach, Florida. My brother and I had visited them several years ago, when I first started this blog, and had such a good time that we wanted to repeat it. This time, we added a couple more siblings to enhance the experience.

My aunt is one of the youngest members of my father’s family, and is, in fact, closer to my age than she is to my father’s. With only a ten year age difference, I consider her to be more of a contemporary than an aunt.

In late afternoon, we arrived at their home which is situated on a canal in Hernando Beach. The weather was lovely, warm with a gentle breeze from the nearby Gulf. We enjoyed the sandhill cranes on the other side of the canal, the skinks on the screen around the pool and the ducks in the water.

As friends and family do, we gathered around the kitchen and shared good conversation while preparing meals. We met a cousin we hadn’t seen since he was a child, and he joined us for dinner each of the days we were visiting. He had lived on the east coast almost all of his life, and there weren’t many opportunities to connect with his Iowa and Minnesota cousins.

After dinner, we enjoyed the saline pool with its bathwater warm water – what a treat for us who had left 40 degree weather just a day earlier, along with forecasts of snow and rain.

The home’s location provides wonderful views of the surrounding area, and some especially beautiful sunsets and sunrises. We watched the sunset, but passed on the sunrise.

 

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Tears for Notre Dame

April 16, 2019

We were fortunate to have visited Notre Dame (Our Lady of Paris) Cathedral in October, 2015. This iconic cathedral has graced the city of Paris for 800 years, surviving two world wars and the French Revolution. I hope that it will survive this horrendous fire, which has destroyed the spire and much of the wood interior, and damaged many works of art.

Following is an excerpt from my blog post about our visit to Notre Dame that October.

The Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, built on Île Sainte-Louis between 1160 and 1345 AD, was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses. The arched exterior supports allowed the builders to construct taller and thinner walls without compromising the structural integrity of the building.

At the base of the steeple, you can see bronze statues of the twelve apostles, three to a side. Of these, only Saint Thomas is looking up toward the steeple (still questioning?) while the others look down.

The cathedral has suffered a few attacks on its features and treasures, in 1548 by the Huguenots who considered many of the features idolatrous, and again in 1793 by anti-religious French revolutionaries, and then again during World War II when some windows were hit by stray bullets.

In 1238, the emperor of Constantinople sold what is purported to be be Jesus Christ’s crown of thorns to Louis IX. The king paid more for this relic than he did for the cathedral which now houses it. It is on display under red glass, so it’s pretty hard to see. It is simply a circlet of rushes, no thorns, which supposedly held the thorns together.

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Gold and Arms in Lima

Monday, February 4, 2019

This is our last day in Peru, We paid a visit to the Gold Museum of Peru and Weapons of the World, originally a private collection belonging to Miguel Mujica Gallo, who was a prominent businessman and philanthropist in Lima with a desire to salvage Peru’s national patrimony. Gallo had been an ambassador in Austria and Spain, and for a short time the minister of foreign affairs in Peru. He opened the museum in the 1960s in the Santiago de Surco district. Later, he donated the museum to the country of Peru. Actually, it’s two museums housed in the same building.

However, a study by the Institute for the Defense of Competition and of Intellectual Property concluded that many of the artifacts are “false without a shadow of a doubt.” The Catholic University of Lima had earlier questioned the authenticity of 92 other objects. It doesn’t sound like they are blaming Gallo for these errors, but rather that he may have been defrauded himself, or that objects were stolen and replaced with fakes when collections were traveling abroad.

In 2002, an article appeared in Forbes Magazine, indicating that there were claims that up to 85% of the pieces are fake. Another article that appeared in the Star Tribune in 2009 indicates that efforts have been made to root out the fakes, and the museum claims that all pieces now on display are bona fide.

Regardless, these museums are fascinating, and would take hours to examine fully. The Gold Museum contains over 8,000 prehispanic gold and silver pieces, pottery and textiles, representing several civilizations throughout the centuries: Vicus, Moche, Sican and Chimu from the northern part of Peru. The collection is valued at over $10 million.

The Arms Museum contains 20,000 weapons from around the world, dating back to the 13th century. In addition to the weapons, there are uniforms, stirrups, helmets and so much more.

In the afternoon, I went out with a friend to do a bit of last minute shopping and exploring. We headed to the Plaza Mayor, or Plaza de Armas. Every old Peruvian city seems to have a Plaza de Armas, which is the center of the old city, usually anchored by the government centers and a Catholic Church or Cathedral.

We visited the Basilica Cathedral of Lima, built between 1534 and 1649. Francisco Pizarro laid the first stone for the church and carried on his shoulders the first log used in the construction. He officially inaugurated the church in 1540.

It seems fitting that Pizarro’s bones should lie here. Pizarro was assassinated in 1541, and His remains were interred in the cathedral courtyard. Later, his head and body were separated and buried in separate boxes underneath the floor of the cathedral. Three hundred fifty years later, a body believed to be that of Pizarro was exhumed and put on display. Almost a century later, in 1977, men working on the cathedral’s foundation discovered a lead box with the inscription “Here is the head of Don Francisco Pizarro Demarkes, Don Francisco Pizarro who discovered Peru and presented it to the crown of Castile.” A team of forensic scientists confirmed that the bones in the box were the indeed Pizarro’s, and that those on display were someone else’s.

Besides 14 side chapels, there are a number of burial vaults that have been excavated, including one of a young family.

We headed to Larcomar for dinner and even a little more last minute shopping before catching our insanely early flight tomorrow, at 2am.

Tuesday, February 5

We arrived in Minneapolis around 3pm, greeted by snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Oh joy!

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Dance, Dance, Dance

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Yesterday, our guide told us about a large dance competition being held at the city stadium this morning, in honor of the Virgen de la Candelaria. Folk dance groups from around the Puno District come to the city every year for this competition. This year, there are 112 teams competing. The teams vary in size, and can be up to 200 – 300 participants. The competition starts at 6:30am, and thousands of people come to watch. Check out this video of one of the groups.

We decided to get up early to see some of the dance groups. We stood outside the entrance for the dancers, and were rewarded with so much color and excitement. We saw several teams in the short time we were there.

Then, we were off to the airport for a flight to Lima. We arrived in time to walk to the Larcomar Mall for the sunset and a little shopping.

 

 

 

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