Travel the World- Without Leaving Denver

Denver is a city that has no lack of things to do. If you love museums, there are plenty to see. Want architecture? no lack of unique designs from decades of inhabitants. Native American History and art? We have you covered.
Perhaps the best way to experience a mix of old and new, western and global is at the Denver Art Museum.
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My favorite statue in the Native North American art section- I remember them building this in 2011!
I know….art museum…. it’s an intimidating term, yet you don’t have to be an art geek to enjoy what the DAM has to offer. DAM is a unique blend of classic art museum with the joy and enthusiasm of modern delights. Currently, they even have a costume display from the original Star Wars movies!
However, if you don’t have time, or the exhibit is sold out, there are plenty of options and things to see in the permanent exhibits and ones that are included with general admission.
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Trade Canoe for Don Quixote- Jaune Quick-to-see Smith
When I say it’s a chance to see the world, I don’t mean it lightly, they literally have floors of art from around the world and each floor is like another continent waiting to be seen.
While I have taken many trips to the Denver Art Museum, I always find something new. S
Sometimes, it’s when I explore the thousands of pieces of pre-columbian South and Central American art. Often it’s a wonderful and exciting sculpture or pottery piece. This time it was a variety of pins from Peru that were made out of silver spoons, (Manta Spoons) originally brought by the Spanish. They even offered a craft project to make a plastic version for visitors.
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Manta Spoon Pins from Peru, used for hooking cloaks together in decoration and function
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Lily making her own plastic manta spoon
In fact, the entire museum offers craft projects for art fans of all ages through the entire museum. In the Northern Native American art section it was putting together puzzles based on beading designs, and in their fashion displays it was pinning together fashionable designs. All of which my 9 y/o travel buddy loved.
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Casta Painting collection from the Spanish-Colonial period. Casta paintings list what status one had in Latin America based on their ethnic background and skin color. 
If you like asian art, you won’t be disappointed, I am personally always impressed by the sand-art from a group of Buddhist monks that has been preserved. Along with centuries of stone sculpture and pottery. They section off each area to provide cultural context and experience. China, Japan, Middle East, India and Southeast Asia are all represented through natural and historic materials.
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If you love modern art the most, do not despair, because they have constantly rotating and changing displays that inspire through modern methods and art forms.
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Finally, my favorite permanent display is the European art pieces including paintings of nobles, and classic pieces by some of Europe’s most famous painters. Currently they are displaying Treasures of British Art which included “Anthony van Dyck, Benjamin West, Angelica Kauffman, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, George Stubbs, John Singer Sargent, and Adam Birtwistle.” They also had a Canaletto on display that had been recently restored and to round it out, their main floor display of Venetian artists was to die for.
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Sir Thomas Lawrence- Portrait of a Lady
Titled the Glory of Venice this display showed the progress of Italian art and its significance in combining Danish and Italian and Eastern art for some of the most influential pieces in classic art.
All around if you want a wonderful experience in the mile high city, where everyone will enjoy, love, laugh and be inspired, check out the Denver Art Museum! What is your favorite piece?
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Travel Hacks No One Actually Tells You

There are a ton of videos and blogs on this subject. But welcome to my take on the situation. I have only found a few things to be true when travelling and the rest to be crap.

I don’t put necklaces through straws so they don’t get tangled, because I only take one set of jewelry with me so I lessen the risk of losing something (or having it stolen). I don’t take much shampoo in little bottles because it’s far more logical to “buy it when you get there” and in small quantities.

Perhaps this sounds a little rugged and I know we have favorite hair products, BUT the reality is that one exploded bottle of shampoo or lotion in your suitcase can make a mess that’s way worse to deal with than messy hair. And unless you are going somewhere where you know they won’t sell cosmetics, then just buy something when you get there. You often can find better products in places like Europe, that will work better in the water/sun/humidity in that location.

For instance, a pharmacist in Rome noted how pasty I was, and insisted I buy some SPF50. “Blanca, blanca, come here” she told me and shoved the bottle in my hand with some tampons. This was the best sunscreen I have ever used and I wish I could find it here in the states! It didn’t cause me to break out, it was light and it worked to keep “blanca” from being “rosso”.

Continue reading “Travel Hacks No One Actually Tells You”

Land of Enchantment Part III

The final day was spent starting the day with a trip to the last two museums on my list, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the International Folk Art Museum. 

The first was home to a massive amount of history and artwork dating back to prehistory and into modernity. It not only showcased the long story and history of native peoples but also the current conflicts and issues that exist. I especially appreciated a section that called out cultural appropriation and stereotypes in modern american culture.

The plaza outside of the museum was equally impressive and an enjoyable visit all on its own. Full of life-size and larger statues it paid testament to native culture, struggle and existence, a story that often is overlooked and misunderstood.

The folk museum provided a great blend of other stories, and the fact it had a folk-art element meant that it reflected the tale of the average person and not that of another identity. Rooms were filled to the brim of a variety of cultural expressions including miniatures, needlepoint, dolls and much more.

After musuem land it was time to PARTY!

We started the events with a surprise mass, and wedding for my great aunt and uncle. We finished with food and sangria at their home in rural Santa Fe. I got to see cousins that live in Germany and England that I don’t usually see and talk with other cousins I didn’t know too well. All around it was a success and very enjoyable for all involved.

And sadly the next morning ment driving home…until next time Santa Fe!

Part I, Part II

 

Land of Enchantment Part II

The second day was an early start to the day and driving to downtown before the tourists invaded. I also wanted to talk to the Native American artists that sat outside by the Palace to sell their goods to locals and tourists alike. This was a great opportunity to learn how the system worked and how it provided artists the chance to make money directly and control their art.

I ended up buying a small pottery egg from a woman that had a turtle and fish on it, representing life and sustainability. The price was great and it felt awesome to support local and small artists. As an artist and from a family of artists, this direct connection meant a lot.

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I talked to others about their goods and how they made things. There were silver workers, pottery masters, jewelry makers, weavers and everything in between. If you want to REALLY shop native goods, then this is the place and the best way to do it.

I then hit a few more shops looking for a thank you to the neighbors for loving on our cat while we were gone and I found a small place that sold local arts such as tin work and jewelry made from dried corn. All of these made great little souvenirs and it was enjoyable to be shopping so early and away from the crowds and chaos.

Before it was too hot I also walked the few blocks around the center of town, photographing and enjoying the soul of the city. One that dripped with art and culture and history. The entirety of it brought me a sense of peace and joy that I miss living in a newer city. The sensation reminded me of the same sensation I receive when I’m in Europe. Traversing ancient pathways and soaking up centuries of movement.

Late that morning some other relatives arrived for the celebrations, so the afternoon was spent eating, talking and doing some more sightseeing.

We spent a significant part of the afternoon looking at the old and famous churches of Santa Fe, including the Loretto Chapel, known for its staircase. Gothic in style the church has a classic charm to it.

Then we visited the OLDEST church in the United States, San Miguel Chapel. Which not only has the claim to being the oldest, but also is home to a 14th century bell from Spain, and some beautiful old art from the colonial time period.

We finished the day at the OLDEST home in Santa Fe, which was perfectly sized for someone short like myself and was a darling walk in the lifestyle of early Europeans that settled in the area.

Finally, we returned my aunt to the hotel and Ryan and I were able to have a date in Santa Fe. Which, naturally,deserved being full of tacos (American-Mexican) and margaritas. We ate the most amazing fish tacos I have ever had at Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill (that also had an awesome Gluten-Free menu. Then we finished with a quick visit the art museum and a walk around the old part of town.

Part I, Part III

Land of Enchantment

A few weeks ago I had the great luxury of being able to go to Santa Fe on a road trip with my fiance. The main reason we were going was for a family get together/surprise 50th anniversary party for my Great Aunt and Uncle, the second reason was the excuse to get away for a long weekend and do something different.

I am very much an artistic and creative person. It’s kind of my reason for living so the chance to go to a city dripping in art, that wasn’t in another country, was like an elixir of joy and artistic energy that I desperately needed. Since graduating from my MA degree things have been…rough, to say the least. So I have been trying to find energy and joy in the small things.

From the Fort, Santa Fe is between a 6-8 hr drive depending on traffic and route and if you obey speed limits.

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We left at 4am on Thursday and got to Santa Fe at about 10:45am with a few pit stops so I could pee, stretch my legs and get a little something to eat. We also stopped at a tourist center in Raton for a few guides on where we were going and what to do.

The nice part about leaving so early was that traffic was minimal and not backed up in Denver and Colorado Springs. This made everything easier and less stressful. It also meant we got to Santa Fe at a good time to get lunch at a local diner called Joe’s, and see the New Mexico History Museum.

Joe’s offered some amazing huevos rancheros ( a go to for me) with the most amazing green chili! Ryan got a bison burger and all around the staff and environment proved to be comforting and tasty. They also offered an EXTENSIVE list of Gluten-Free options (extra win).

The history museum was also a fantastic adventure. Stations off of the plaza in the oldest part of the city it starts in the Palace of the Governor’s and winds into newer buildings as it moved forward in history. The collection of native arts and Spanish influences paints the picture of how New Mexico changed under European influence and they spent a good amount of time discussing the conflicts that it brought. For instance the Pueblo Revolt was very influential in the history of New Mexico and the Americas.

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Casta paintings represented the different “races” and categorized them into hierarchies depending on one’s ancestry of Spanish, Native American or African.

Ryan found much of the military history intriguing and enjoyable and we finished the trip through time reflecting on the Nuclear test sites around New Mexico.

For dinner we ate some food we brought with and stayed the night in the well-priced and well-maintained Super 8 that sat about 15 minutes from downtown. The best part was the artwork that covered the hotel by a P S Romero. The large sun piece over the front desk was the best, and I desperately wish I could own it.

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Added bonus: mini murals were painted throughout the hotel!

Part II

When in Rome…

SRISA

If you are studying in Florence it is likely you will find yourself in Rome for at least one weekend. This is a must for any trip to Italy and an absolutely wonderful experience.

So, when in Rome…

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DO take photos with the men in Gladiator or Roman Guard uniforms. They will give you a fond memory and make your family and friends laugh!

DON’T eat in the heavy tourist areas, if you have the time seek out a place off the beaten path, do it. This is a reality for all of Italy, look around and find a smaller family-owned “locals eat here” place. The food, service, and most likely the prices will be much better!

DO join a tour, if you go to the big tourist areas, especially on the weekends the guides will be a bit more, BUT they get you in much sooner, and you learn…

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Anyone for a Joust?

SRISA

On Saturday I got the treat of watching a medieval reenactment group hold a jousting and sword fighting competition. Which, unlike the Renaissance festival I go to in Colorado, which is a staged theatrical performance, this was actually a competition of skill, training, horsemanship, patience, armor and elegance. Image

By dumb luck I saw a poster around town advertising the event on Friday, and jumped for the chance to go see such a sight. A €10 donation to a local charity got me and a friend in with prime seats for photography and to see all the action. Of course everything was in Italian, but we were just happy to watch the event which was preceded by a parade, dance, drum music and plenty of costumes.

The next day was my second trip to Lucca, my friend and I rented and rode bikes along the Renaissance walls taking in a quiet…

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