Posted: Saturday, January 3, 2015
Our first full day in Moscow began, appropriately enough, at the Kremlin, where we saw some of its amazing treasures—including eighteenth-century carriages and tsars' thrones—and had a private tour of the lavish, nineteenth-century Grand Kremlin Palace. (We didn't run into President Putin!)
Posted: Thursday, January 1, 2015
New Year's Eve is one of the most popular holidays in Russia, and Saint Petersburg was decorated with "New Year's trees" and lights in anticipation of the evening's celebrations. Our group spent the evening at the annual Tsar's Ball in Catherine the Great's palace in Tsarskoe Selo (now part of the town of Puskin). As we arrived in black-tie and ball gowns, they greeted us with a military brass band and literally rolled out the red carpet over the snow.
Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2014
We have enjoyed extraordinary access to the city's rich cultural offerings—from early entry into the State Hermitage Museum (where we had the staterooms and galleries to ourselves to explore without the usual crowds), to a performance of The Nutcracker at the Mariinsky Theatre, the very stage on which it premiered in 1892. Our day has been full of masterpieces, from da Vinci to Matisse, with a few imperial Fabergé eggs added for good measure!
Posted: Monday, December 29, 2014
Our Russian winter adventure began in Saint Petersburg in late December—one of the most magical and festive times of the year, and one the Russians call the "White Days."
Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014
Our driver in Panama City told us that as recently as five years ago, most of the city didn't have stoplights. There just weren't enough cars to require more than stop signs at intersections.
Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) in Bogotá should be a model for any art institution in the world, from the largest and most prestigious to the small and local. Coherently and poetically, it tells the story of this prestigious material from the perspective of its meaning to the multiple indigenous tribes that have lived in the territory we now know as Colombia, and that in some cases continue to thrive today throughout the country's diverse regions.
Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014
With rich and fertile soil, a lack of seasons, and two coasts, the food here in Colombia is spectacular. Ripe, local fruit is everywhere—including mangoes, guavas, bananas, and plums—as are the arepas: a plump and tasty bundle of cornmeal, butter, and salt that is either filled or mixed with white cheese and then fried or broiled.
Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2014
I had been looking forward to visiting the Bogotá home of textile artist Olga de Amaral, whose work can be found in the Met's collection; however, little did any of us know just how great our visit would be. Not only did we meet the artist herself, we also met her family—her husband, Jim (a prolific sculptor himself), as well as their two daughters and their son.
Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2014
Our trip across Colombia and Panama began in Cartagena—a Caribbean city on the northeast coast of Colombia, where the tropical air hit our skin as soon as we arrived. Our hotel, a former convent in the heart of the Old City, is steps away from the famous San Pedro Claver Church, where we began our first walking tour.
Posted: Saturday, September 13, 2014
With a cultural heritage that spans world civilization from prehistoric to contemporary times, Turkey is home to some very important museums. In the past week, we've seen some of the top Turkish museums, including the recently reopened Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, which we visited on a day trip when traveling from Cappadocia to Istanbul.
Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Today we had to get up early to catch a seaplane to Bursa, the first Ottoman capital and city, which is about 250 kilometers south of Istanbul.
Posted: Friday, September 5, 2014
The first stop on our journey to Turkey was Cappadocia, inhabited since Hittite times and famous for its unique landscape, where wind and erosion naturally created deep valleys of sand-dune-like formations and its characteristic Peri chimneys.
Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The next stop on our trip was the town of El Ciego, known as the "City of Wine." We stayed in the dramatic hotel Marqués de Riscal, designed by Frank Gehry to simulate flowing red wine, in the heart of the Rioja region.
Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2014
I'm currently traveling as the Museum's lecturer on Travel with the Met's first Met Adventures trip. Join me as we follow in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims on selective hikes along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Our first stop is Pamplona, where we visited the street where the famous bull run takes place.
Posted: Monday, June 30, 2014
One of the yellow-painted houses dotting the island of Frederiksø. Photograph by Stephen Manzi
Continuing to Lithuania, our next port of call, we anchored for a couple hours off the Danish island of Christiansø. Originally a seventeenth-century military fortress, Christiansø—together with its smaller sister island, Frederiksø (a very narrow footbridge connects the two)—today has a population of merely one hundred people. Amid the islands' stark, craggy rock outcroppings stand the remains of the fortress's towers, bright yellow-painted homes, and stunning gardens.
Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2014
The first leg of our Baltic excursion began with a driving tour of Copenhagen and included a visit to Hillerød to see Frederiksborg Castle, which was built during the reign of Christian IV of Denmark (1588–1648).
Posted: Saturday, May 10, 2014
As our boat was lifted by a lock in the Scheldt river between Antwerp and Arnhem yesterday evening, Inés Powell, the Museum's lecturer for this trip, uplifted our minds with a brilliant lecture on Vincent Van Gogh's later landscapes. This prepared us for today's visit to the light-filled and beautifully designed Kröller-Müller Museum and its 91 paintings and 180 works on paper by Van Gogh, which were collected by Helene Kröller-Müller between 1908 and 1920. There aren't any tulips in the detail photographs shown here due to Van Gogh living in France when he painted these works, but the variety of blossoms and colors was vibrant and incredibly moving. Our group simply didn't want to leave, but we all look forward to tomorrow's visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, where we will see even more.
Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2014
Marjan Ruiter, director of the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg, welcomed us with a short presentation over coffee and pastry, after which we were given a private viewing of the extraordinary Zeeland tapestries. Although one of these tapestries was previously on loan to the Met during the 2007 exhibition Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor, our group was able to see all six tapestries that were created as a series around 1600 to commemorate the battles at sea between the Netherlands and Spain. The complexity and artistry of these tapestries are amazing, as you can see in the details shown here.
Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014
After a sumptuous breakfast on the ship, our group was met with a great surprise in Rotterdam's Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen: a wonderful self-portrait by Carel Fabritius—the Dutch artist best known for The Goldfinch, an artwork that also serves as the subject of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel of the same name by Donna Tartt. Fabritius was a student of Rembrandt, and died tragically when a munitions factory in Delft, a city we had just visited, exploded in 1654. Many of his paintings were destroyed, but, fortunately, this self-portrait survived and was shown in a 2001 exhibition at the Met. This is exactly how I pictured the character of Boris in Donna Tartt's novel.
Posted: Sunday, May 4, 2014
After visiting Sochi, Russia, traveling across the Romanian countryside to see the incredible painted churches of Bucovina, and stopping in the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Nessebar to behold amazing archaeological artifacts, we returned to our starting point: Istanbul/Constantinople. Disembarking here is a poignant end to a trip throughout a rich, multicultural region that has been so influenced by this ancient yet modern city for centuries. It has been an incredible journey—one filled with illuminating lectures and discussions, new discoveries, and many interesting people.
Posted: Saturday, May 3, 2014
There are tulips everywhere, so we must be in Holland. After a lecture and visit to the Keukenhof Gardens—which are only open eight weeks each year and boast over seven million bulbs and eight hundred varieties of tulip—I can understand how "tulipmania" developed. With so many magnificent tulips, each one more beautiful than the next, it was impossible to pick a favorite. Striped, solid, tall, flat, ruffled, giant, and colors from white to dark purple. View the photos below and see if you can choose a favorite, since I can't.
Posted: Friday, May 2, 2014
From the ancient Turkish port of Trabzon (formerly Trebizond), we traveled up into the hills to visit the monastery at Sumela. Built into the cliff, with dramatic views of the gorge below, the group received a lively and engaging explanation by curator Helen Evans of the monastery's wall frescoes dating from the sixteenth century. From Turkey, our group sailed to Batumi, Georgia—a rapidly growing city—before traveling inland to Kutaisi to visit a monastery and cathedral dating back to the tenth and eleventh centuries, respectively. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites, although the recent and controversial restoration of the cathedral has placed it on a watch list, which may result in removal of the designation by UNESCO.
Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Our trip began today by bringing together the various groups of travelers in Istanbul for lunch: those here for the trip's prelude, others exploring the city on their own, and those arriving today on the group flight from New York. After a sampling of cuisine inspired by Ottoman palace menus, our group then toured the incredible Hagia Sophia. We then strolled on the plaza facing the six minarets of the beautiful Blue Mosque before boarding the bus and driving out of Sultanahmet, across the Golden Horn to our ship, the Variety Voyager. We settled into our cabins and dined on-deck while sailing out of Istanbul, up the Bosphorus and into the Black Sea. Tomorrow brings a day of relaxation at sea as our journey continues east.
Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
After driving through the lush mountains of the Rodovia dos Imigrantes highway, we toured Brazil's largest city, São Paulo. Our first stop was the Pinacoteca art museum, a glorious building that combines old and new architecture and boasts a comprehensive survey of Brazilian art. During our visit, there was both a contemporary art installation in process as well as a choreographer preparing his dancers for an upcoming performance. The group then moved on to the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), which houses an important collection of European art and contemporary installations. An exhibition of Brazilian artist Regina Silveira's work was a welcome find—truly a highlight of São Paulo's many offerings.
Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Today we visited the Atchugarry Foundation in beautiful Punta del Este, Uruguay—an area often referred to as the "St. Tropez of South America." The group strolled the large, exquisite property and explored works by dozens of artists. Pablo Atchugarry, the artist who started the foundation, happened to be working in his studio during our visit, and he graciously chatted with us. Our journey then took us to Casapueblo, a cliffside villa and museum built by the late Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró with magnificent views of the ocean.
Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014
We've slipped out of the past and into the amazing present with visits to artist Gabriel Orozco's studio and the Zona Maco art fair. In tandem with the contemporary art crowd's arrival in Mexico City for the fair, the galleries have pulled out all the stops. Here, Adrián Villar Rojas has transformed the Kurimanzutto Gallery's elegant space in the neighborhood of San Miguel Chapultepec into a vast terrain of dirt upon which fruit, vegetables, cast sculpture, and little jewels are carefully arranged in strange and evocative tableaux.
Posted: Monday, February 3, 2014
There is something deeply moving about seeing the pyramids at Teotihuacan, about forty-five minutes north of the center of Mexico City. They are sobering reminders of the deep and incredibly rich culture of this country—they've towered above this basin for at least a millennium and a half—and yet there is still so much more to discover under the ground even in their immediate vicinity. Our guide here, one of the site's archaeologists, pointed to a bumpy field of cacti just beyond the monumental boulevard pictured here and said that each of the hillocks we saw probably hid yet another temple platform underneath.
Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2014
Mexico is, of course, renowned for its rich tradition of muralism, and we went straight from the airport to see some of the most splendid examples: Diego Rivera's extraordinary History of Mexico sequence installed in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City. We've seen many more since that morning—it has been a mural extravaganza! At the Palacio de Bellas Artes we were lucky to go behind the scenes with Deputy Director Daniel Lozano Maya, who's shown here explaining Rivera's complex 1934 masterpiece Man, Controller of the Universe.
Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Havana is a beautiful city that reflects Cuba's complex social, political, and economic history in its distinguished and varied architecture. Although many neighborhoods are gritty and numerous buildings await restoration, the urban fabric is fairly breathtaking.
Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Highlights of our memorable trip to Cuba were our many encounters with members of the country's visual-arts community.
Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013
In Bhutan, outside of Paro, our group climbed up the rocky cliffs to visit the Taktsang monastery. Popularly known as the "Tiger's Nest," the monastery was first built in 1692 around a cave where the great Buddhist Vajrayana practitioner Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) meditated for three years.
Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Now I know: Montenegro is the hidden jewel of the Adriatic Sea. Our first glimpse into this country's beauty began with a two-hour, early morning sail through the scenic fjords of Kotor. As the Sea Cloud II headed toward the harbor, I could hear "oohs" and "aahs" from my fellow passengers. None of us imagined Montenegro would be so majestic and lush.
Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
On our first day in Nepal we visited the Swayambhunath Stupa, a monument that, while founded in the fifth century to house the relics of the Buddha, has since undergone many restorations funded by the devout.
Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013
We've spent the last few days of our trip in and around the city of Arles. The nearby region of the Camargue, also known as the Rhone Delta, is where the Rhone River ends and the Mediterranean Sea begins. Its salty marshland is renowned for its wild, white horses and pink flamingos.
Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
We're in the sunny region of Provence (not considered part of France until the fifteenth century), and we recently visited the former papal palace in Avignon, which housed seven successive popes during the fourteenth century (for various reasons). Much of the palace was ruined during the French Revolution, but you can still get a sense of the scale of the rooms and the richness of the decor. One original painted ceiling has managed to survive for seven hundred years!
Posted: Monday, October 7, 2013
We've spent a very plesant few days in Burgundy aboard the MS AmaDagio, stopping in towns such as Dijon and Beaune to see medieval treasures.
Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013
I am currently traveling as a Museum representative on a Travel with the Met program Dukes, Popes & Painters: Lyon to Arles aboard MS AmaDagio. This morning we arrived in Lyon to spend the day before we begin a seven-night cruise along the Saône and Rhône rivers.
Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
After a perfectly delightful day at sea, we arrived at Saranda, Albania. Our day's excursion included a bus tour through Saranda and other local Albanian communities to Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and newly declared national park.
Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
As we continue our journey around Sicily, today we landed in the beautiful port of Palermo and were transported some 1,500 years ahead of where we were yesterday, to the great Norman rule of the island. Our first stop was the Royal Norman Palace, with its exquisite mosaics. Before arriving, our Met lecturer, Frank Dabell, mentioned that these mosaics rival Ravenna. He was absolutely right. Beautifully preserved and grand in scale, the Palatine Chapel is simply breathtaking. And because we are on Sicily, the decoration is an extraordinary example of the synthesis of the diverse cultures—Latin Christian, Greek Christian, Byzantine, and Arab—coming together to create a particularly Norman style in this gorgeous personal chapel. It is what our lecturer called "variety within unity." A true Sicilian experience!
Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
The Sea Cloud is transporting us across the sea and back in time, to the land of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, the Greeks and the Romans. Sicily is as magical and majestic as I imagined. While yesterday we witnessed a landscape I can only describe as brutal, yet punctuated by churches that were as baroquely ornate as wedding cakes, today we sailed into the port at Agrigento and walked through the so-called Valley of the Temples, home to some of the greatest Greek temples still in existence. Along a sloping hill amid a landscape of almond and pistachio trees, rosemary, jasmine, and pear cactus, stand breathtaking monuments to the greatness of Greek architecture. Agrigento is worth any traveler's time, and for lovers of ancient culture, it is definitely a must-see.