Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting Educated by the Big Apple

  With New York City acting like Sin City's older brother, sometimes it can be hard to see all of the educational opportunities and historical significance that this City has to offer.  Fortunately, we made some time to let the City school us.  These are the landmarks we visited this time around, along with a couple "visitor friendly" tips.

 The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
Manhattan, NY

  When we first entered the Morgan Library, we didn't exactly know what to expect.  The museum employees near the front door directed us to the right-hand side of the building and said that we should start there.  In the first room we went into, there was a brochure that included descriptions of the significant items in the room.  We made our way around the room and then went into a second room and wandered from there.  The complex holds an amazing amount of rare artifacts, artwork, books, letters, prints, and manuscripts.  The Morgan boasts the world's largest collection of Mahler manuscripts plus many compositions by Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, and Schubert.  The Morgan can also boast about having the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the U.S. along with the only surviving manuscript of John Milton's "Paradise Lost".  During the time we were visiting in December, there was a huge Beatrix Potter display on the upper level of the museum.  The exhibit showed how Potter, through private letters, developed the animal characters which are now so widely known to children everywhere.
  General adult admission to the Morgan Library is $15, however it is free admission every Friday from 7-9pm.  We chose to visit the Library on a Friday.  We arrived shortly after 7pm and there was a line of people waiting to check their bags and other belongings.  We didn't have anything to check so we went right in and started walking around.  Friday is the only day the Morgan Library is open late.  Tuesday through Thursday the Library is open until 5pm and Saturday and Sunday it is open until 6pm. 

The Frick Collection
1 East 70th Street
Manhattan, NY

  Just like with the Morgan Museum, I didn't know what to expect with the Frick Collection.  The "Collection" is housed in the former residence of Henry Clay Frick.  Frick was a successful industrialist who amassed a great collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative art.  Frick's wife outlived him, but after her death in 1931, their house was opened to the public in 1935.  Visitors can view beautiful works by Titian, El Greco, Goya, and Bellini, along with many other great artists.  We were directed to start in the rooms on the lowest floor of the house and then we worked our way around to the main floor.  On the main floor, in the center of the house, there was a beautiful atrium with a water feature and plants displayed for the holidays.  Overall it was a nice experience.  Some of the rooms became quite crowded but I'm sure that's because we came during the "pay what you wish hours".  The Frick is open every day of the week but provides pay what you wish hours only on Sundays from 11am to 1pm.  The difference between free hours and pay what you wish hours is that guests are expected to give something for pay what you wish, almost like a donation.  General admission to the Frick Collection is $18 outside of the pay what you wish hours.  They do expect guests to check coats and large bags.  They have a no photo policy.  I find the no photo policy a hit or miss with museums.  Some museums don't mind visitors snapping photos left and right while others forbid cameras.

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
28 E. 20th Street
Manhattan, NY

  We were walking around the Union Square area when I noticed a marking for Roosevelt's Birthplace on my map.  After walking up and down a couple of streets, we stumbled upon his childhood home and were pleasantly surprised.  We entered his home through a lower level door and were warmly greeted by a park ranger.  Their next home tour was not for another 2 hours (we came during lunchtime) so we instead watched a movie and looked at some artifacts.  We noted the tour times and came back the next day for a 10am tour.  A friendly park ranger guided us and since we were the only ones there, we had our own private tour.  From the lower level of the house (the former servants' quarters), we walked up the stairs to the main level of the house.  We got to see Roosevelt's former nursery, his parents' bedroom, and living areas.  Our guide was very informative and we learned a lot of interesting facts about Roosevelt and his life growing up in NYC.  I do have to say that Roosevelt's Birthplace is a hidden gem.  The National Parks have worked hard to restore and maintain his birthplace and surprisingly the tours are completely free to the public.  If you have a few minutes, take a look at the artifacts.  If you have an hour, I would highly recommend a house tour.  Find Teddy's home tucked away in the hustle and bustle of the Union Square/Flatiron Districts. 
  I found this out shortly after our trip but I just had to add a little fun celeb tie-in.  After visiting Roosevelt's Birthplace, I read in a magazine that Miley Cyrus has a tattoo of a quote from Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 "Citizenship in a Republic" speech.  A 100+ year old Roosevelt speech has found a quirky yet interesting place in our modern culture.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Australia Presentation by Cynthia Clampitt

  Last Monday evening, my husband and I enjoyed another great travel presentation by Cynthia Clampitt at the Schaumburg (IL) library.  This presentation was about Australia.  The first time that Cynthia visited Australia, she spent 6 months there.  She traveled all over Australia including Kangaroo Island.  Her book, "Waltzing Australia", tells about her experience and includes beautiful photos and expert tips.   Throughout Cynthia's presentation, she enlightened us with her vast knowledge about Australia and her good humor.  Here's a list of a couple of the many interesting facts that I learned about Australia during her presentation:

  • Australia is almost the same size as the United States but has a population size close to the population of Illinois.
  • Australia has been nicknamed "The Land of the Parrot" or "The Land of the Orchid".
  • About 85% of all of the world's opals come from Australia.
  • Camels are a big part of Australia's past and present.  Australia has the only thorough-bred, disease free camels in the world.
  • Australia has 2 types of crocodiles.  Their freshwater crocs average about 5-7 feet in length while the saltwater crocs can reach up to 25 feet in length.
  • In the northern part of Australia, there are giant termite mounds with the termites living in an underground tunnel system.
  • The flower for Western Australia is the Kangaroo Paw.  It has red stems and green petals.
  • Kangaroo Island has its own species of kangaroos.
    • The Tasmanian Devil's back legs are slightly shorter then its front legs.
    •  The Australian War Memorial, in Canberra, has a very large collection of Victorian Crosses along with a vast array of other war artifacts.

    These are just a few things I learned at this wonderful presentation.  This presentation made me yearn to travel to Australia and have my own adventures Down Under.
    For more information about Cynthia's book on Australia, please visit her website Waltzing Australia.