ITALIA continued – Napoli (Day 16 & 17)

Leaving Roma behind, we travelled next to Napoli (Naples), again on a fast train; the journey took just over an hour.

FastTrainSpeed

At almost 300kph (we were slowing down coming in to Napoli) – definitely a fast train

We arrived in to Naples and the weather was fine. We were keen to do some exploring. Once we arrived at our accommodation (very nice room):

NapoliRoomand settled in, we determined to set out and wander around. Of course, the heavens decided to open up and it rained; proper rain, not just a drizzle or light, bearable rain; this was “prepare to get wet” type of rain. It didn’t stop us though; we just rugged up and put up the brollies.

Trudging around in the rain probably is not the best was to see any city, but I don’t think it added to the appeal of Naples. My main reason for staying in Napoli was as a base to visit Pompeii (I’ll cover that in my next post).

 

Walking the streets of Naples is definitely an interesting experience – the things you see:

and the washing hanging out to dry:

Napoli-16

and some churches and some unexpected frescoes (you never know what you will find when you walk around a city):

Some of the things we did manage to see in Napoli included:

  • the medieval fortress, Castel Nuovo (13th century) with its 5 towers located in front of Piazza Municipio and right by the harbourside port.

Quite impressive:

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The castle’s entrance

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As we were leaving – I saw this!

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How’s this for a door? Isn’t it wonderful?

I really did want to visit catacombs whilst we were in Italy – so we did a guided tour here – and it was fascinating. San Gennaro is the patron saint of Napoli and was at one time buried here. There are no skeletal remains here any more as they were removed during the French occupation and removed outside the city walls. These catacombs date back almost 2 thousand years, exists over several levels. The graves sites were fascinating and the frescoes were in great condition considering their age. If you happen to ever visit Napoli, I would recommend a visit to the catacombs.

– we did this at the end of a very long day and I can say it was very much worth the 8euro admission price. The museum is open from 9:00am until 7:30pm – and we stayed until closing; there is a lot to see.

Like some very impressive marble statues:

and some impressive mosaics:

The Neapolitans appear to be obsessed with sex and the penis:

Some other highlights from the museum:

There are some interesting aspects to Napoli and plenty to see, but I found this city the least appealing of all the places we visited in Italia. The traffic is exceptionally crazy – worse than anywhere else in Italy; and if you know anything of Italian traffic, you will appreciate my meaning. The city is also dirty, with lots of rubbish about, rather “unclean” there is a lot of graffiti, it’s noisy and I felt just a little uncomfortable – perhaps the time of year and the weather didn’t help, but it was almost like the Napoletano took no pride in their city. I also found eating out a more difficult experience in Napoli and the waiters tend to just take what they think you should give them as a tip – so be aware. At one restaurant we were told they wouldn’t take a card (luckily we had some cash on us), but when the waiter returned with the change he just kept the 4euro in his hand and claimed it as “service”. Of course, not everywhere was like this (we got caught out twice though) and we had an exceptionally nice dinner at Pulcinella Casoria.

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great atmosphere and great food

Putting this slight inconvenience aside though, we still enjoyed our limited time in Naples.

Napoli-17

 

A Visit to Houston

So, I am spending a couple of days in Houston with a friend.

Yesterday, after a 5 hour drive from Sherman, we took in some culture and visited the Museum of Fine Arts Houston

I was particularly taken by the Roman Vishniac photographic exhibition and his photographs of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Many poignant and candid photos giving the viewer a real glimpse into a life that many of us can only image, particularly those taken in post war Berlin. I could have spent so much longer pouring over these images; it was fabulous.

I also got to enjoy some more classic paintings from the masters – Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet & Matisse.

  

I have seen some wonderful art whilst in Texas – we miss out on so much in Australia, where we have to wait for a special traveling exhibit.

Also at the museum is the Shadow Monsters interactive display – we made scary shadows and had fun! Great for young and old! 

  
There was also a fabulous interactive LEGO building exhibit where you could indulge your inner architect or city planner. Everyone is encouraged to add to the LEGO city creation.

  
The MFAH is a very interesting museum and is spread over 2 buildings. Between the two, is an interconnecting walkway which is a piece of art in itself – a light tunnel, where the color changes every 6 minutes.

  

If you get to go, Thursday’s are a great day to visit as entry is free!

Anyway, the reason I am in Houston is that I am accompanying a friend on a business trip – so I took the opportunity to see a little more of Texas and poke around a little in Houston. My friend is a well respected quilter and author (Becky Goldsmith) and is attending the Quilt Market in Houston. Now, this ‘convention’ is a BIG deal – I didn’t realize just how big. More later!

Experiencing some classic culture

This past Tuesday, I experienced a wonderful day of culture!

I was invited by a friend to tag along on a day out with a friend (and a friend of hers) who were going to take in some of exhibitions at a couple of museums in Fort Worth. I saw things that I would not have experienced in Australia, and have to admit, I had a lovely day!

We drove down to Fort Worth, which is almost a 2 hour drive from where I live in Sherman (so, about the equivalent of driving from Newcastle to Sydney). We took in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and then the Kimbell Art Museum, where we also enjoyed a delicious, light lunch.

I have experienced quite a few museums and art galleries during my travels, but I must admit, the art I took in on Tuesday was noteworthy; I saw quite a few paintings from artists that I have only seen once before (at a special exhibit in Canberra), or not at all.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is not an overly large museum and we were there primarily to see the special exhibits – Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art and Audubon’s Beasts. The Amon Carter museum opened in January 1961 and was established by Amon G. Carter Sr. (1879–1955) to house his collection of paintings and sculptures by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. The museum contains only American art and artists (to the best of my knowledge) and “aims to collect, preserve, and exhibit the finest examples of American art; and to serve an educational role through exhibitions, publications, and programs devoted to the study of American art”.

The exhibit of Audubon’s beasts was a collection of maybe 20-24 (I can’t quite remember how many there were) of hand-painted prints of some of North America’s four-legged creatures; these were extremely detailed and wonderful to see. John James Audubon (1785–1851) was a famed scientist and painter, best known for his work depicting the birdlife in America in The Birds of America, a book of 435 images – portraits of every bird then known in the United States.

The Indigenous Beauty exhibit was fabulous too – there were plenty of native American Indian art and craft works, with some excellent examples of textiles, pottery, basket weaving and beadwork. It was very impressive and I am glad to have seen it – if you get the chance – go see it!

Again, the Kimbell Art Museum is not large, but it does have some quality works, all housed in a fabulous, modern, noteworthy building. The museum is especially noted for the wash of silvery natural light that enters the building through its vaulted gallery ceilings.

The reason we went to the Kimbell was to see the special exhibit: Botticelli to Braque – Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. There was some very fine art in that display by famed artists such as Titian, Pissarro, Degas, Botticelli as well as Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and Rembrandt. However, before we got to this exhibit, I was very excited to have witnessed works by some of the great masters that exist as part of the Kimbell’s permanent collection where I saw works by Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet and Cezanne . Like I mentioned, I saw paintings that you just don’t get to see the likes of in Australia, unless they are part of a special, travelling exhibit. These paintings were part of the museums regular, permanent collection – available to view in downtown Fort Worth, Texas!

If ever you find yourself in Fort Worth, Texas, I can recommend a visit to these two museums!

If you made it this far – sorry for the long post and the absence of pictures, but I did think it was worth writing about! 🙂

A visit to Newcastle Museum

Newcastle Museum Entrance

Newcastle Museum Entrance

Before I left Texas I visited the Sherman Museum, and since I was in Newcastle city, with some free time, I decided to re-visit the Newcastle Museum; so here is some information about the museum of my Australian hometown:

Originally established in 1988 as a bicentennial project the Newcastle Museum was initially housed in the former Castlemaine Brewery in Hunter Street and remained in that location in Newcastle West until 2008, when it closed so that it could relocate. In 2011 the museum re-opened at its current position (and incidentally, the original preferred site), occupying 3 National Trust buildings at the Honeysuckle Railway Workshops in Newcastle (namely: the Locomotive Boiler Shop, the New Erecting Shop and the Blacksmith and Wheel Shop). The museum is located just one street back from the harbour front and is close to some excellent harbour-side dining.

The museum hosts several temporary exhibitions which change regularly (check the museum website for a list of current Special Exhibitions) and is home to 3 permanent exhibits.

  • Fire and Earth – in this exhibit, two of the main industries that have played a part in shaping the identity and culture of Newcastle are brought together in an interesting display: the coal industry and BHP steel making. Included in this display is the BHP Experience – a dramatic presentation using “very theatrical sound, lighting, vision and mechanical effects to create an absorbing, up close experience of a steel pour”. 1.

    Part of the Steelworks display

    Part of the BHP Experience

Newcastle was known as the “Steel City” because BHP played a huge part in the development of Newcastle. BHP existed in Newcastle from 1915 to 1999 and was probably the backbone of the city employing thousands of Novocastrians. In Newcastle, you either worked at BHP or knew someone who did (both my parents and my husband worked for BHP). However, BHP closed down its steel making operations in Newcastle in 1999 and although traumatic for many at the time, the city is arguably better for it now!

 

Supernova – a hands on science centre (great for the kids)

  • Arnott's Biscuits - A Famous Australian brand - founded in the Newcastle region

    Arnott’s Biscuits – A Famous Australian brand – founded in the Newcastle region

    A Newcastle Story – examines Newcastle’s history, from early aboriginal history, convict origins and its cultural development through war, immigration, sports, etc. There are displays depicting famous Novocastrians, our sporting feats, our lifestyle and also a display relating the devastating earthquake Newcastle suffered in 1989.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Entry to the museum is free. The museum also has an excellent café “Sprout Canteen”, open from 8:30am serving breakfast and lunch.

1. Newcastle Museum

 

About Sherman – my Texan “home town”

So, after being in Sherman, Texas for 12 months now, I thought it was time to visit the Sherman museum (open Tues-Sat 10am-4pm) and learn a bit more about my ‘home town’ in Texas! The museum is located in a building that was formerly Sherman’s first public library, built in 1914 by Andrew Carnegie. It is a fairly small and simple museum, but still interesting – there are only a few permanent displays on the history of local life and a couple of temporary exhibits (at the time of my visit it was prehistoric Sherman – dinosaur bones, etc. and local musicians from the Texoma area – Gene Autry was born in Sherman!). I didn’t mind the $5 entry fee as I like to support the promotion and preservation of local history. I thought I would share some of what I have learned about Sherman and Grayson County.

Sherman Museum

Sherman Museum

Sherman was founded in 1846 and designated as the seat of Grayson County in the state of Texas, USA. The city is located approximately 65 miles north of Dallas and was named for General Sidney Sherman, a Texas Revolution war hero who was credited with the cry “Remember the Alamo!”

Sherman was a great producer of cotton and by 1896; the Grayson County Birge-Forbes Cotton Company was the largest cotton broker in the South. The Sherman Cotton Seed Mill, founded in 1879, was the largest in the world until 1891!

Sherman was also home (in later life) to Olive Oatman (later Fairchild), a woman who, along with a sister, was captured by a Native American tribe (in Arizona), whilst her family was trying to make their way to California (her parents were murdered and a brother survived). She wrote a book about her experiences among the Mohave people and she achieved some celebrity status, partly because of her blue tattooed chin (she wore a scarf around her chin in later years to cover it), which the Mohave’s gave her.

Today Sherman is relatively small town, but still has a bit to offer; there are plenty of parks and recreation areas, a good cultural offering with the Sherman Symphony Orchestra and the Hot Summer Nights free concert series offered during the summer months, the shopping is good for its size, offering everything you could need and the historic downtown square has character and interest.

The climate is classified as “humid subtropical” – and I can attest to the fact that it is humid!

The population is around 40,000.

I think the unofficial symbol of Sherman must be the Pecan tree (pronounced: pe-carn!)

Religion is strong in Sherman, with there being around 85 churches in the city. Sherman was known from its early days as an educational and religious centre (it earned the nickname as “The Athens of Texas” in the 1870’s) and is home to Austin College, whose mascot is the kangaroo!

The big Texan in Sherman

The big Texan in Sherman

A lot of the area around the city of Sherman could be classified as rural as there are large amounts of farming and crop growing lands.

The city is half of the Sherman-Denison Metro Area

The city is only 15mins from the Oklahoma border

According to Sterlings Best Places Sherman’s unemployment rate is 4.9% and the median house price is only $80,500! You can get an exceptional house for under $200,000 here and the cost of living is relatively cheap compared with areas closer to Dallas, but it is still close enough to Dallas (which is only an hour away) for all the big cultural, sporting and entertainment events you could want (a weekend in Dallas is far cheaper than a weekend in Sydney!).Sherman, Tx map