Big City Tales

Canada’s National Music Centre Strikes the Right Chord

August 9, 2018
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The story of music in Canada is a long and celebrated tale that encompasses many unique “Made in Canada” technological advances along with a host of amazingly talented artists who have made a mark in their home and native land and around the world. From the trailblazers that introduced a new sound/vibe or instrument to the established artists that have proudly reached the top of the charts time and again, Canada’s National Music Centre (NMC) strikes the right chord in showing off all aspects of the country’s rich musical heritage.

Housed in the stunning Studio Bell building in Calgary, Alberta’s trendy East Village district, the distinctive architecture was inspired by the vast Canadian landscape and the curved intricacy of musical instruments. The entire complex consists of a series of nine towers that interlock and are connected by an inner walkway. The sleek exterior look of the five-storey Studio Bell tower continues inside with 226,000 custom glazed terracotta tiles adorning the walls that gleam in shades of metallic and earthen tones thanks to plenty of windows that let in natural light.

The NMC features both permanent and temporary exhibitions that are displayed in 22 gallery areas fittingly referred to as “stages.” Three of the galleries are Halls of Fame that pay homage to their respective inductees such as the Barenaked Ladies and Steven Page, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Oscar Peterson, k.d. lang, Anne Murray, and many, many others. The Canadian Music Hall of Fame has honoured a total of 52 musical acts (bands and solo artists) since it was established in 1978. In addition to plaques and pictures, the exhibition space contains clothing and instruments donated by inductees.

One of the NMC’s popular temporary exhibitions is the Milestones gallery that is dedicated to the artist/band chosen by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. In 2017, Sarah McLachlan was the rightful honouree and many of her other awards, personal quotes and the instruments she plays were part of the display.

Showcase is another temporary exhibition space that attracts a lot of attention. In 2017, the incredible career of Tom Cochrane was recognized in light of the 25th anniversary of his iconic song Life is a Highway being released. The exhibit included some of Cochrane’s concert attire and his guitars, along with numerous awards, and anecdotal video clips.

Be it plugged in or unplugged, sound in all of its variations is a major aspect of the NMC. The Sound Affects gallery includes one of Elton John’s old upright pianos and offers a demo of the famous Kimball Theatre Organ used to accompany silent films in the 1920s. The Unplugged gallery features the drum set used to record the original Hockey Night in Canada theme song, and the Plugged In gallery contains TONTO, the world’s largest analog synthesizer used by the likes of Stevie Wonder to record his albums back in the day.

Highly visual and interactive galleries such as Soundscapes and The Musical Mind provide opportunities for appreciating the connection between sound and sight, and discovering some interesting music/mind facts. Playing/experimenting with instruments in designated areas around the NMC is also very much encouraged!

Canada certainly has a lot to be proud of when it comes to the breadth of stellar musical acts it has generated. The Idols & Icons gallery is a decade by decade overview of some of the country’s most beloved and well known solo artists and bands. It truly is a music fan’s dream to see artifacts collected from the concert performances of the likes of Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Jann Arden, Michael Buble, Randy Bachman, and Corey Hart to name but a few.

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Strategy is Key to Visiting the Smithsonian Institution

July 31, 2018
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As the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, includes 17 local museums and galleries, numerous public gardens, and a zoo. The museums are primarily (and conveniently!) located along the National Mall and collectively contain over 150 million artifacts celebrating history, science, art and culture. There’s clearly a lot to see so having a strategy in place is key to making the most of visiting this much lauded and celebrated American treasure. A good place to start is at the Smithsonian Institution Building, referred to as ‘The Castle’.

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The Castle

In addition to housing administrative offices, the Castle is the primary visitor center and provides a full overview of the Smithsonian, including background information about James Smithson, the institute’s founding donor, and highlights from each of the individual museum permanent collections. Even for those planning an extended stay in DC, chances are that seeing all facets of the Smithsonian is not realistic so spending time wandering around the Castle’s mini-exhibits is advisable, as well as consulting with staff to find out if there are any current special exhibitions. Visitors are also welcome to explore the Castle’s unique 19th century architecture and interior design before heading out to other venues.

An interesting tidbit about James Smithson is that he was a British scientist who never actually visited the United States during his lifetime. Faced with the prospect of possibly having no living heirs to pass along his fortune to, in his will Smithson bequeathed his estate to the country with the express instructions “to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” So, thanks to the foresight of a Brit, the “nation’s attic” came to be in 1846 and has amazed and delighted visitors ever since with its vast and eclectic holdings.

American History Museum

For obvious reasons, one of the most popular Smithsonian museums is the National Museum of American History that explores the origins of the country dating back to colonial times. As no trip to the nation’s capital would be complete without a quick history lesson, this museum should be at the top of your “Smithsonian must see” list.

Among the many exhibits visitors can learn about the creation of the U.S. Constitution and read its text, review the main events and figures of the Civil War and other battles fought in the name of national freedom, revel in the glory of the flag and national anthem, admire first lady inauguration gowns, and enjoy some pop culture in the form of various film and television artifacts.

Founding Fathers to Civil War

From the War of Independence to the Wars of Expansion and the Civil War, America’s early existence was marked by some intense military conflicts that served to define its borders and carve out its collective values. The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit contains a plethora of incredible and significant artifacts such as George Washington’s uniform, battlefield relics from Gettysburg, and the chairs that Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant used during the Civil War surrender ceremony.

Star-Spangled Banner

Patriotism abounds in the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit that tells the story of how the iconic red, white and blue color scheme of the American flag came to be, and also delves into the inspiration behind the words of the country’s national anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key.

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The First Ladies

It’s not just the work of the founding fathers on display at the American History Museum, the inaugural fashions of the first ladies are also showcased. Michelle Obama’s gown and shoes from 2009 feature prominently in the exhibit along with those donned by Martha Washington, Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan and others. The First Ladies exhibit also highlights the important work undertaken by many of these enterprising wives in support of their respective husbands’ administrations.

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The Joy of Cooking a la Julia Child

Before the rise of the Food Network and proliferation of TV chef personalities like Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, Ina Garten and others, Julia Child ruled the small screen for 40 years and dazzled audiences with her command of French cuisine. From crepes to souffles, bouillabaisse to boeuf bourguignon, Julia welcomed viewers directly into her home kitchen based in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she and her guests cooked and laughed in equal measure. Julia definitely made cooking fun and her trademark send-off of ‘Bon Appetit!‘ is fittingly part of the entryway into the Julia Child’s Kitchen exhibit that features her copper pan collection and other kitchenware.

 


You Can’t Miss Seeing The Rooms in St. John’s

July 10, 2018
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Boasting a distinctive ‘fishing room’ exterior design and prime hill-top location on Bonaventure Avenue, it’s easy to spot The Rooms from most vantage points around St. John’s. The building’s creative architecture certainly caught my attention, but it was the interior treasures that really hooked me. The most compelling reason why you can’t miss seeing The Rooms is that the exhibits truly celebrate the unique culture, history and geography of Newfoundland and Labrador. Also, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the view of the city skyline and harbour is pretty spectacular!

The Rooms with a View

Even though St. John’s is one of the foggiest major centres in Canada, the spring and summer months are typically quite pleasant with plenty of clear days to peer out of The Rooms’ floor to ceiling windows and admire the view in the city streets and harbour below and further beyond The Narrows channel toward the ocean.

From colourful Jelly Bean row houses, to massive transport ships docked and waiting to be loaded/unloaded, to Cabot Tower atop Signal Hill and the Irving Oil Marine Terminal and fuelling berth located on Pier 23 and Pier 24 there is bound to be something eye-catching and photo-worthy.

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The Luck o’ Irish Roots

Back to the myriad treasures inside of The Rooms, one of the permanent exhibits is Talamh an Éisc: The Fishing Ground. This exhibit explores the province’s Irish roots going back to the late 1600s when intrepid migrants ventured across the Atlantic to participate in the burgeoning fishing trade, build onshore communities and settle into a new life away from the British Isles.

Fertile and Fickle Fishing Ground

After 500 years of reaping the rewards of one of the world’s most fertile fishing grounds, the luck o’ the Irish sadly ran out in the early 1990s when a moratorium was issued on the Northern Cod fishery. The government action was necessitated due to over-fishing in the region during the preceding 40 years that resulted in the drastic decrease of the Northern Cod species to the point of being on the verge of extinction. At present, the cod population is slowly making a recovery and limited fishing is taking place according to carefully established quotas. Hopefully continual monitoring efforts and regulation enforcement will ensure the survival of the species and industry.

Newfoundland and Labrador from A to Z

One of the special exhibits at The Rooms when I visited in 2017 was a series of hanging panels that described characteristics of Newfoundland and Labrador using each letter of the alphabet. Talk about a great way to learn about this highly distinctive region…I would add that A is also for Amazing and Awesome people!

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The Kitschy Kitchen Party

As highlighted in the A to Z panels, the Kitchen Party is a longtime tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador that typically takes the form of a raucous Saturday night gathering complete with food, music, dance, and plenty of fun. Along with family and friends, other special guests may include local “mummers” who come dressed in disguise looking to take a swig, dance a jig and continue on to their next merry party-crashing gig. Impromptu jam sessions are a common occurrence with musicians taking turns at solos or joining together in festive song. No instrument? No problem! Grab a pot and a wooden spoon, find the beat and play the night away.

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World War I Commemoration

During World War I, members of the Newfoundland Regiment bravely ventured across the Atlantic Ocean to join forces with the British Army. After being trained in England and Scotland, troops were deployed to battle fields in Gallipoli, Egypt and along the Western Front. The regiment sustained heavy losses between 1915 and 1918 but many survived to tell their harrowing stories, which are encapsulated in the Beaumont-Hamel and The Trail of the Caribou exhibit. Highlights of the exhibit include the Flower of Remembrance and Victoria Cross displays, as well as the numerous black and white images of young recruits preparing to do their part and serve their country in the Great War.

A Provincial Showcase

No doubt about it, The Rooms shows off the very best of Newfoundland and Labrador and it’s crystal clear how and why the earliest inhabitants and subsequent settlers came to make lasting connections with this special place. When in St. John’s, The Rooms really is a must-see!


The Many Marvels of Musee d’Orsay

June 12, 2018
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When the Gare d’Orsay railway station first opened in 1900, its Beaux-Arts design was the talk of the town in Paris. Chief amongst its admirers was local painter Edouard Detaille, who prophetically penned that the station had the appearance of an art gallery. Little did he know that some 86 years later the station would, in fact, be converted to an art museum, and some of his own prized works would be hung on its walls. The remarkable journey from station to museum is just one of the many marvels of Musee d’Orsay that highlights mostly French painters and sculptors, but also includes masterpieces from notable international artists such as Klimt, Munch, van Gogh and Whistler.

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Amazing Architectural Backdrop

In taking on the station to museum conversion project, the ACT Architecture group was fortunate to have a building with ‘good bones’ that just needed a little tweaking in order to best serve its new purpose. With its high, vaulted ceiling and long, narrow main corridor bathed in natural light and accented by decorative plasters and arches, the designers stayed true to the original station look and layout while adding 20,000 square metres of new floor space.

The Main Hall consists of large, sumptuous sculptures in the central nave that are flanked with numerous side galleries where paintings and other smaller works are displayed. Along the far wall, the opulent and ornate D’Orsay clock designed by Victor Laloux for the original railway station is still mounted and is a work of art in and of itself.

The upper floor features a wide terrace that overlooks the Main Hall below and opens into additional galleries containing more paintings, photographs and a variety of decorative arts.

Homegrown Talent

French artists such as Cabanel, Couture, Delacroix, Fantin-Latour, Ingres, Tissot and de Toulouse-Lautrec amongst a host of others feature prominently in the Musee D’Orsay’s collection of paintings that cover the time period 1848-1914. Selected highlights include The Birth of Venus by Cabanel; Romans during the Decadence by Couture, and In Bed by de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masters

The Musee D’Orsay contains the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, including many works by Cezanne, Degas, Gaugin, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Renoir, Rousseau, Seurat, Sisley, van Gogh and other masters.

Poppy Field by Monet and Starry Night over the Rhone by van Gogh are some of the famous works displayed in the galleries.

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Petit Palais is BIG on Artistic Details

May 23, 2018
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As the building that houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, the Petit Palais is big on artistic details that make for a lovely viewing experience of its glorious exterior, spacious galleries, and elegant garden courtyard.

The Petit Palais is located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris along Avenue Winston Churchill and is directly across the street from the Grand Palais. The two structures were originally constructed as exhibition halls for the 1900 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle). The nearby Pont Alexandre III deck arch bridge, which reflects the aesthetic of the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, was also built at this time as part of the city’s preparations to welcome (and wow!) the world.

Designed by French architect Charles-Louis Girault, the Petit Palais is constructed of stone, steel and concrete and its exterior Beaux Arts style features numerous sculptures and other decorative elements such as a massive central archway topped by a dome, free-standing columns that frame a series of tall windows, and flower beds and fountains around the grounds.

The interior rotunda and main galleries were intended by Girault to be especially grand with vaulted ceilings, marble walls and tiled mosaic floors used to enhance the beauty of the art on display, notably the larger-than-life Gloria Victis statue created by French sculptor Antonin Mercie that stands proudly in the main entrance.

The rotunda’s dome and gallery ceilings are embellished with a series of allegorical paintings and carved niches. Spiral staircases with wrought iron railings connect the upper and lower galleries and add another level of elegance and charm.

The collections of the Petit Palais include paintings, statues, tapestries, religious icons and other art objects dating from ancient times to the 19th century. The works of many prominent French artists such as Monet, Fragonard, Poussin, Delacroix, Courbet, Cezanne, Gaugin and Rodin are celebrated along with other European masters such as Rembrandt, Modigliani, Durer and Rubens.

The inner courtyard, also designed in the Beaux Arts style, is a masterpiece in and of itself for its symmetrical forms that include coupled columns, gilded bronze statues, and high relief sculptures. The lush garden is full of trees, shrubs, bushes and flowering plants with paths, ponds and fountains surrounding it.

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Lose Yourself in the Loveliness of the Louvre

May 17, 2018
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Whether it’s the mysterious Mona Lisa, the colossal Coronation of Napoleon, the passionate Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, the wondrous Winged Victory of Samothrace, or any of its other monumental masterpieces, there are countless ways to lose yourself in the loveliness of the Louvre.

Classical Meets Contemporary

For me, the love fest with the world’s largest and most-visited museum actually starts with the building’s expansive grounds that border the Right Bank of the Seine River and run along the charming Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

From the glorious Tuileries Gardens to the grand Carrousel Triumphal Arch that lead into the museum’s main courtyard, Cour Napoleon, classical architecture and sculptures abound and are then strikingly juxtaposed against I.M. Pei’s contemporary glass and metal pyramids that mark the central entrance into all wings of the Louvre.

While there are numerous sculptures carved into the Louvre’s facade, there is only one statue that stands in the Cour Napoleon and it is Bernini’s brilliant equestrian statue of Louis XIV (The Sun King), which is a lead cast of the original Carrara marble version. Bernini was a sculptural genius and this statue showcases his talents in being able to manipulate stone and create a sense of flowing garments and natural movement.

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Grand Louvre Pyramids

Although highly controversial due to their sleek, modern looks, the Louvre Pyramid (exterior) and The Inverted Pyramid (interior) are undoubtedly two of the Louvre’s star attractions and certainly succeed in creating a sense of intrigue (or repulsion) for visitors depending on their artistic preferences.

Despite the initial outcry of purists who felt the pyramid designs were inconsistent with the classical French Renaissance style of the original buildings, there has been no negligible impact to attendance figures. On any given day, crowds continue to throng to the Louvre to take in its many marvels.

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Four Fabulous Levels of Loveliness

With 38,000 objects on display at any given time, the Louvre collection spreads over four levels starting from the basement entrance and continuing up for three floors.

Basement

The galleries in the basement include works of Islamic art; French, Italian, Spanish and Northern European sculpture; Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; and  sections dedicated to the history of the Louvre and remnants of medieval vaults dating back to King Louis IX.

One of the highlights from the Egyptian gallery is The Crypt of the Sphinx, which is a half man (pharaoh’s head) and half animal (lion’s body) rose-coloured granite sculpture.

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First Floor

Venus de Milo is on full display in her resplendent glory in the Greek antiquities gallery on the first floor. Other galleries on this level include Oriental, Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; French, Italian, Spanish and Northern European sculpture; and African, Asian, Oceanic and Native American art.

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Second Floor

Decorative arts such as floor to ceiling tapestries, table-top statuettes and ceramic vases take up half of the second floor; the other half is divided between Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; French, Italian and Spanish painting; and Italian drawings.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is located on the second floor, as well as the museum’s largest painting, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese, which famously depicts the Biblical story when Jesus turns water into wine. (Note: Expect to feel like a crammed in sardine when viewing the Mona Lisa and hold your camera steady as there will be plenty of jostling about and jockeying for position to get a picture of da Vinci’s famous lady.)

Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People is an outstanding historical piece on display in the French Painting gallery. Many works by Jacques-Louis David are also found in this gallery, including The Coronation of Napoleon, Oath of the Horatii, and The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

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Third Floor

Drawings and paintings from French, German, Flemish and Dutch artists are featured on the third floor.

Some of the works from early German and Dutch masters include Erasmus of Rotterdam by Hans Holbein the Younger, Self-Portrait with Thistle by Albrecht Durer, and The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck.

Flemish and Dutch Baroque paintings from the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck, and Jan Vermeer also adorn the third floor gallery walls. Among their well-known works are The Medicis Cycle by Rubens, Charles I at the Hunt by van Dyck, and The Lacemaker by Vermeer.

Planning and Pace Pays Off

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, seeing all of the Louvre is going to take more than one visit. The key to conquering the Louvre is to have a strategy in place. With a little bit of pre-planning and commitment to sticking to a steady pace once inside the museum’s hallowed hallows, your efforts will be rewarded in seeing a dizzying array of some of the world’s best art.


Feel the LOVE for the Philadelphia Museum of Art

May 15, 2018
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Sitting high on a hill at the end of the beautiful Champs Elysees-inspired Benjamin Franklin Parkway, it’s easy to feel the love for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

With its Greek temple facade and iconic 72 stone steps made famous by Sylvester Stallone during the filming of the first Rocky movie, the building’s design elements and physical surroundings are glorious and set the stage for the glories that lie within. (Note: The view of downtown is pretty spectacular from the museum’s East Entrance, which  overlooks the parkway as well as Eakins Oval, a traffic circle where the Washington Monument and its fountains are located.)

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After sufficiently admiring the city skyline and greenery of the parkway, head inside for more jaw-dropping beauty.

The museum’s collection includes Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh, Japanese Footbridge by Claude Monet, and several other notable Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from the likes of Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and their contemporaries.

Sculptures, South Asian art, and cultural period rooms are other prime museum features along with modernist pieces by French artist Marcel Duchamp, and American historical works from the Shakers and Pennsylvania Germans.

Flying High Like Rocky and Feeling the Brotherly Love

Yes, after a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you’ll be flying high like Rocky and feeling Philly’s brotherly love. BTW, the Rocky statue is located at the base of the stone steps (known locally as the Rocky Steps) leading to the museum’s East Entrance, and the LOVE statue is found in John F. Kennedy Plaza near the starting point of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, so be sure to include these must-see Philly landmarks as part of your museum excursion.

 


The Vastness of the Vatican Museums

May 14, 2018
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Vatican City State may be the smallest state in the world but it contains one of the world’s largest (and most-visited) museums. With over 50 galleries and 22 separate collections comprised of over 70,000 eclectic works, the vastness of the Vatican Museums extends from its marble floors to its vaulted ceilings and all through its long, winding corridors that lead to lavish chapels and the private papal chambers.

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Renaissance Masterpieces

From Michelangelo to Raphael, the walls and ceilings of the Vatican Museums are adorned with works completed by some of the greatest Renaissance artists.

Sistine Chapel

While best known for Michelangelo’s dazzling painted ceiling and his iconic altar wall piece, The Last Judgment, the Sistine Chapel is full of other frescos completed by other accomplished Italian artists such as Botticelli, Perugino and Signorelli.

The art work on the chapel’s side walls is divided by tiers and includes (from bottom to top): painted draperies and papal crests, biblical scenes from the lives of Moses (Old Testament) and Jesus (New Testament), portraits of popes, the ancestors of Christ, and the prophets. The ancestors were painted by Michelangelo in lunettes, half-moon shaped spaces above the chapel windows, as part of his commission for the chapel ceiling. Michelangelo also painted the prophets that are situated between the lunettes and alternate between male and female figures.

The main theme of the ceiling is the Book of Genesis and includes nine of its stories such as the Creation of Adam, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood. The ceiling covers over 5,000 square feet and contains 300 larger than life painted figures.

Raphael Rooms (Stanze di Raffaello)

Commissioned by Pope Julius II, the Raphael Rooms are located in the Palace of the Vatican and are part of the papal apartments that are open to the public.

Raphael and members of his workshop painted a series of frescoes in four rooms covering a variety of themes.

The largest room is the Hall of Constantine (Sala di Costantino) that celebrates the triumph of Christianity over paganism.

Fittingly, the theme of the Room of the Signatura (Stanza della Segnatura) is wisdom and it was used as a library and tribunal meeting room. One of Rapahel’s most famous frescoes, The School of Athens, is found in the philosophy section of the library.

The other two rooms are the Room of the Fire in the Borgo (Stanza dell’incendio del Borgo), which highlight events in the lives of Popes Leo III and Leo IV, and the Room of Heliodorus (Stanza di Eliodoro, which depicts the theme of Christ’s heavenly protection over the Church.

Classical Sculptures

In addition to highlighting the works of cherished Italian artists, the papacy has also showed a great appreciation for art from other historical civilizations, particularly Egyptian, Greek and Etruscan sculptures.

The Pio Clementino Museum includes Greek and Roman sculptures such as The Belvedere Torso, The LaocoonThe Three Graces, and Sleeping Ariadne.

Contemporary Art

Thanks to the efforts of Pope Paul VI, who was interested in bridging a gap between the papacy and contemporary culture, the Vatican Museums include some 8,000 pieces of art dating from the end of the 19th century to the early 20th century. The works in the Collection of Modern Religious Art come from renowned Italian and international artists such as de Chirico, Balla, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Chagall, Matisse, Dali and Picasso.


Discover Western Canada & the World at Glenbow

May 7, 2018
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From the outside looking in, the unassuming facade of Glenbow Museum belies the treasures contained within it that eagerly await to be explored. Indeed, with a diverse array of permanent exhibits celebrating the likes of Aboriginal customs, the history-shaping contributions of pioneering Albertans, the beautiful landscape of the prairies and Rocky Mountain parks, and the religious artifacts of ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures, visitors are guaranteed to discover Western Canada & the World at Glenbow.

Located along Stephen Avenue Mall in downtown Calgary, Alberta, close to the Olympic Plaza Cultural District, Glenbow boasts over a million historical and contemporary pieces in its extensive collection and prides itself on creating an immersive experience for patrons. Permanent exhibitions are supplemented with three special exhibitions each year, which typically feature works from international artists.

Gallery highlights include:

Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life

This gallery tells the story of the Nisitapii (Blackfoot-speaking people) and some of its prized artifacts come from the Siksika Nation, including a tipi and various items of clothing, footwear and ceremonial gear.

Mavericks

The province of Alberta was built on the backs of many adventurous and enterprising individuals, 48 of which are showcased in the Mavericks gallery. From ranchers to oil explorers to politicians and activists, Alberta’s most intriguing and influential people are duly honoured for their roles in cultivating the province’s unique heritage.

Picturing the Northwest

Whether it’s the grassy plains of the foothills, the rugged terrain of the mountains, or a bronco busting cowboy hard at work, images of life in western North America are captured in paintings and sculptures dating back to the 19th century.

Art of Asia

One of the most peaceful and powerful areas in the Glenbow is the Art of Asia gallery that contains numerous Hindu and Buddhist religious artifacts such as masks, paintings and sculptures in various mediums (stone, wood and metals).


No Time for a Siesta in the South of Spain

May 5, 2018
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While a mid-day or late afternoon break is a long-standing tradition in many European and Mediterranean cultures, given the sheer amount of beautiful sights to behold and historical stories to soak up there is truly no time for a siesta in the south of Spain. Si amigos, a trip to the provinces of Andalusia and the heralded capital cities of Cordoba, Granada and Seville promises to be a jam-packed experience so plan to catch up on sleep mas tarde.

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Cordoba

Once upon a time, Cordoba was the largest city in Western Europe and for many centuries was the Islamic capital of Spain.

Under the rule of the Moors, a monumental mosque called the Mezquita was constructed in the city centre and it served the Muslim faithful until the Christian conquest of Cordoba in 1236 resulted in the building being converted into a cathedral and a main altar (Capilla Mayor) and choir loft being added. To the credit of the Christian conquerors, who appreciated the exceptional beauty of the Mezquita, the bulk of the mosque remained intact to be admired by generations to come.

Other highlights in Cordoba include the Puerta del Puente memorial gate and the Callejon de las Flores, Cordoba’s most photographed street, where many homes are adorned with potted plants on their patios and balconies that are perfectly presented in delightfully bright and cheery colour-coordinated designs.

Mezquita – Great Mosque of Cordoba

Considered to be one of the best examples of Moorish architecture, the Mezquita features a 54-metre high belltower (Torre Campanario) that provides an inner view of the mosque’s courtyard, as well as a panoramic city view. The mosque’s interior is noted for its striped arches that have the look of a forest of date palm trees and are supported by decorative columns.

The overall architectural design was ground-breaking for its time in that it was largely considered to be quite simple compared to the likes of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Great Mosque in Damascus. Simple or not, the Mezquita dominates Cordoba’s skyline and is particularly spectacular at night when a one-hour sound and light show takes place.

Puerta del Puente

Originally the main city gate, the Puerta del Puente (Bridge Gate) was first constructed during the rule of Phillip II in the late 16th century.

The primary goal of the gate was to help facilitate the flow of people and materials in and out of the city, but there was also an aesthetic purpose to help in an overall city beautification effort. Shaped like a triumphal arch, the Renaissance design also features columns and carvings on both of its sides.

The gate now functions as a memorial and is situated on the northern end of the Roman Bridge close to the back entrance into the Mezquita.

Callejon de las Flores

Not many city streets have their own website, but the Callejon de las Flores (Street of the Flowers) does have one and for good reason: it’s one of Cordoba’s most visited spots and one of its most beautiful.

Although it’s not a very long or very wide street, tourists clamor to it in droves to take in a residential gardening spectacle like no where else in the world. Winding through narrow cobblestone lanes and surrounded by white-washed walls decked out in a riot of terracotta pots boasting brilliant hues of pink, purple and red flowers, Callejon de las Flores delights the senses at every turn.

Granada

Welcome to the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors and the land of a thousand castles, where the Alhambra palace and fortress stands out for its intricate Islamic art and exquisitely maintained gardens and fruit orchards at the nearby Palacio de Generalife.

Like Cordoba, Granada also features many Christian monuments and heritage sites such as the Capilla Real, the royal resting place of Spain’s Catholic monarchs, and the Cathedral of Granada that was built over top of the Great Mosque of Granada after the fall of the Nasrid dynasty in 1492.

Alhambra

Before it was re-built as a palace for Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Yusuf (Muhammad I), the first ruler of the Emirate of Granada in the 1300s, the Alhambra served as a small city fortress. The emir had a grander vision for the complex, including taking full advantage of its forested mountain location to create a visual spectacle around the theme of “paradise on earth” that would ultimately continue into the interior space of the palace.

Even though the structural design of the exterior is purposefully simple and plain, the interior showcases elaborate Muslim art forms such as geometrical patterns, arabesques, mosaics, wood ceilings called alfarje, and ornamental vaults called muqarnas. Other interior design features include a central courtyard, columns, fountains and reflecting pools.

Some of the main structures within the Alhambra include the Court of the Lions, Court of the Myrtles, and Hall of the Ambassadors. The Court of the Lions is the main courtyard of the Alhambra that was added by Muhammad V and is noteworthy for its blend of Moorish and Christian aesthetic elements, and its central Fountain of the Lions that was a marvel of hydraulic engineering in how water flowed from the basin and spurted from the mouths of the 12 marble lions around the fountain’s base.

One of the best vantage points to take in the full glory of the Alhambra is from Mirador de San Nicolas. Along with being an ideal spot to take a sunset shot of the palace/fortress and appreciate the trees and Sierra Nevada mountains surrounding it, Mirador de San Nicolas is a popular hangout for local buskers showing off their performance talents.

Palacio de Generalife

Originally connected to the Alhambra via a covered walkway across a ravine, the Palacio de Generalife was the summer home of the Nasrid rulers.

The design of the peaceful country retreat nestled in the Cerro del Sol hillside includes a central courtyard called the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel) that is decorated with mosaic stone walkways, flowerbeds, fountains, colonnades and pavilions, and the Jardím de la Sultana (Sultana’s Garden) that showcases the style of a traditional Persian garden from Medieval times.

The Palacio de Generalife and Alhambra are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Capilla Real (Royal Chapel)

Given the historical significance of Granada to the Reconquista era, which marked the return of Spain to Christendom, the city was chosen by Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II as the final resting place for them and their family members. They decreed in 1504 that a royal chapel be built in Gothic style and be dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. In addition to elaborately carved tombs, the interior features a treasury of paintings and other works from Spanish, Flemish and Italian artists.

Cathedral of Granada

Boasting a Gothic foundation with both Renaissance and Baroque design elements, the highly unique Cathedral of Granada is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. The interior of the cathedral features a large main altar in a circular format along with several chapels, and a high dome decorated with stained glass windows and sculptures depicting various religious stories and themes. The cathedral’s exterior is noteworthy for its triumphant arch design with three high arches decorated with marble reliefs, and its three carved wooden doorways.

Seville

Similar to Cordoba and Granada, Seville’s architecture reflects the best of Moorish and Spanish design elements. From the stunning Real Alcazar to the sprawling Plaza de Espana and Parque de Maria Luisa, the city is a living piece of art bursting with colour, texture and technique.

As much as Seville celebrates its glorious history in the epic Catedral and Giralda bell tower, it has also opened its arms to modern structures such as the Metropol Parasol (Las Setas de la Encarnacion).

The past and present blend seamlessly in Seville, and culture also abounds with flamenco dancing, bull fighting and tapas sampling making the city a top “must see” destination in the opinion of many travel guide reviewers.

Real Alcazar

The Real Alcazar is a mixture of Christian and Mudejar architecture and is considered to be one of the most beautiful attractions in Spain.

One of the main features of Real Alcazar is the Palacio de Don Pedro, that was built for King Pedro of Castile in the late 1300s. The palace layout includes the Patio de las Doncellas (Courtyard of the Maidens) containing a central reflecting pool, sunken garden and surrounding reception rooms; the Salon de Embajadores (Hall of Ambassadors) that is the most elaborately decorated part of the palace where King Pedro’s throne was located; and the Patio de las Muñecas (Courtyard of the Dolls), where the royal family resided.

Plaza de Espana and Parque de Maria Luisa

Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, the Plaza de Espana and Parque de Maria Luisa are prime examples of Spanish Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival architectural styles.

The Plaza de Espana was the main exhibition area and was constructed of bricks and decorative tiles. The plaza includes fountains, canals and footbridges inspired by Venetian designs. The tile work is extensive and was used to create regional maps and historical scenes from all of Spain’s ancient provinces.

The Parque de Maria Luisa is an inner city garden oasis that features tiled fountains, pavilions, walls, ponds, benches, as well as plenty of flora such as palms, orange trees, Mediterranean pines, and decorative flower beds.

Catedral and Giralda

The Seville Cathedral is the world’s largest Gothic church and legend has it that church and city leaders intended it to be so beautiful and grand that it could not be replicated. From its highly ornate facade to its vast interior that has the longest nave of any church in Spain, the world’s largest altarpiece, and contains some 80 chapels, the Seville Cathedral is also notable for being the site of royal baptisms and burials, as well as being the final resting place of Christopher Columbus.

The Giralda bell tower stands 104 metres tall and the view from the top offers one of the best panoramas of Seville. The tower is decorated with tiles that change colour according to light conditions in the sky and it is topped with a weathervane, known as El Giraldillo, that represents the concept of faith. The Giralda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an iconic symbol of Seville.

Metropol Parasol

Located in the old quarter of Seville, the Metropol Parasol is the world’s largest wooden structure and is shaped like gigantic mushroom parasols, which are intended to emulate the vaulted arches of the Seville Cathedral and the leafy branches of ficus trees growing nearby.

The Metropol Parasol contains four levels and includes a museum that showcases Roman and Moorish artifacts found on site during construction, a large Central Market, an outdoor plaza/performance space, and panoramic terraces.


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