Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Last Supper

When I was making preparations for my recent trip to Italy, I discovered rather quickly that getting tickets to see Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, The Last Supper was going to be a challenge.  Trying to get individual tickets turned out to be almost impossible so, with the help of my friends who had been there before, I signed up for a four-hour tour of Milan highlights that included viewing one of the most famous paintings in the world.  That turned out to be a very smart choice.

The painting is located in the refractory of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie and since it was painted on a wall, it has remained there ever since.  After arriving via a tour bus, our group gathered in front of the church at the monastery.

As we waited for our turn to view the painting, I took the opportunity to step inside the church to see what it was like.  It's a beautiful old church which looked somehow bigger on the inside than it did from the outside.

As our scheduled time drew near, our tour guide led us to a courtyard inside the monastery where I got an even better view of the round tower at the back of the church.

Finally, it was time to enter the hall where this painting is located.  I have to say that entering that room was so different than I had expected.  I guess because of the difficulty getting tickets, I had a vision of going into a room and walking in a line of people past the painting as someone hustled us along.

I was pleasantly surprised.  The room is bigger than I expected and our single tour group were the only ones inside the room for the 20 minutes we had to admire this work of art.  Our tour guide pointed out certain details about the painting but, mostly we had time to admire it at our own pace.  We were even encouraged to take photographs as long as no flash was used.

The artist began work on this painting in 1495 and he used oil and tempera on a dry, plastered wall.  The paint began to break down and wear off even in da Vinci's lifetime.  Further destruction occurred in the 17th century when a door was cut in the center of the wall.  You can see where the door was cut out of the painting in the photo above.  Clearly, da Vinci's work was not as cherished then as it is today.

The Last Supper was a perfect subject for a painting that was adorning the monastery's dining hall.  It was meant to look as though Jesus was dining with the monks who were having their meals in the same room.

This close up photo shows how the paint is faded and peeling from the wall.  And that is after a 19-year restoration project that began in 1980.  Because of that restoration and other attempts to restore the painting in the past, very few of da Vinci's original brushstrokes remain.  Seeing it up close made me wonder if it could possibly survive another 500 years.  I felt saddened that it might not.

At the other end of the hall was another painting that was also painted in 1490s.  This one is called The Crucifixion and it was painted by Donato Montorfano, a well know Milanese artist.  Leonardo added portraits of his benefactor, Lodavico il Moro and his wife and children on either side of this painting but the portraits are so faded now that they can barely be seen.

As we left the room, our guide pointed out this frieze of The Last Supper and explained that it is for the blind so they can touch it and get an impression of what the painting looks like.  He said that this type of "brail" depiction is starting to show up in museums around the world.

I am so glad I had an opportunity to see this infamous painting.  As I said above, its future seems to be so uncertain.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Ekollon Wine Tasting Experience

Last week I posted about the beautiful garden located at the former home of the founders of Bergstrom Wines.  After exploring the spectacular gardens and enjoying the view, we entered the little house.

Inside the table was all set for our big group of eager tasters. 

The home has been repurposed to create the space for these special tastings where the wine is paired with delicious food.  It was easy to see that we were in for a special treat.

Each place was beautifully set with the glasses to be used for the various wines and folders for us to take notes and mark our favorites.  This tasting was called the Ekollon Tasting.  "Ekollon" is Swedish for Acorn.  

The meal began with a plate of fresh vegetables that came straight from the kitchen garden I featured last week.  

After the fresh vegetables, we had a goat cheese and mushroom tart with a leafy green salad.  It was delicious.

The entree was a bourguignon made with pork instead of beef.  It was so good that I think I'll try making it myself.  I loved the sprinkling of chives and chive flowers on top.

The entree was followed by a smoked salmon panna cotta with a seaweed chip.  Sounds a bit strange, doesn't it?  Well, let me tell you, it was wonderful.  I enjoyed every mouthful.

The meal ended with delicious, hazelnut filled chocolates in the shape of acorns, of course.

We managed to enjoy all of that delicious food while tasting seven different varieties of Bergstrom wines.  At the end of the table above you see a very special decanter that was created especially for these tastings.  It has a glass acorn in the center bottom of the vessel.  Two people in our group of tasters, ordered one of those special decanters.

It was a tasting experience that I will not soon forget.  The setting in that beautifully decorated house was very special and, of course the garden was a totally unexpected pleasure.  

If you like wines, I think you would enjoy any of the wines that Bergstrom produces and if you are ever touring the Oregon wine country, I highly recommend the Ekollon Tasting.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

An Oregon Garden

At the end of April, I did a post about a special wine tasting experience I had on a visit to Oregon back in February of 2018.  I mentioned that we would visit that winery again during May of this year and expected another great tasting experience.  I was totally unprepared for what turned out to be an entirely different experience.

The experience began at a different location than before at what turned out to be the former home of the Bergstrom Winery founders.  The home was surrounded by a spectacular garden that really was something to admire.  This post is all about that garden.  I'll get to the tasting experience in another post.  The top photo is the path leading deep into the garden and above is a view over the vineyard in the Dundee Hills.

The garden was lush with colorful plants that were thriving in that moist Oregon soil and air.  Above is a pretty little lily pond and to the left, a hint of the colors that dominated the area.

I was enthralled by the California lilac trees.  I had not seen one before and I love the thick blooms and the beautiful color.  Oregon is known for it's blooming azaleas and they were certainly in abundance while we were there.

Even the dandelions gone to seed were looking good among the other plants.

Beautiful purple iris were scattered among the other flowering plants.

The garden sported an abundance of well used bird houses.

Fenced off from the flowering garden was the kitchen garden.  This area was very important because the fresh vegetables and leafy greens from this garden would become a central part of the wine tasting experience to follow.

The paths in the vegetable garden was covered in hazelnut shells.  Oregon grows hazelnuts (or filberts) so the shells are often used to create paths in gardens in the area.  I loved the way they crunched under our feet.

The other thing that caught my eye was how the fence around the garden was covered in moss and lichens.  So even the fence became a living thing. 

The dogwood blooms literally covered the branches of the trees that framed the garden and overlooked the vineyard.  What a gorgeous place to work, live and enjoy!

Next week I'll tell you about the wine tasting experience that took place inside the home on this property.  It was quite a unique and delicious event.  

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Museum Hill

The city of Santa Fe New Mexico is full of wonderful museums, shops and galleries all located in the compact area around the plaza in the city.  However, there is one set of museums a little further from the city center and well worth the trip to see.  It's a place known as Museum Hill.  You know you have arrived when you see this massive bronze sculpture by Reynaldo Rivera.  It's called Journey's End and it depicts a scene that would have been very common when settlers were arriving in Santa Fe.  It sits at the entrance to Museum Hill with offices of the National Park Service right behind it.

Three of the four museums that make up Museum Hill are clustered around a central plaza and the fourth museum is a little further away on it's own hilltop.  The three museums at this location sit around a central plaza that displays art works from various artists.  The sculpture above is called Peaceful Warrior by Estella Loretto.  Behind the sculpture is the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art on the right and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture to the left.

Also on that central plaza is a restaurant and a perfect place for lunch between exploring the museums.

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture highlights artistic and cultural achievements of the diverse native peoples of the southwest.  On one end of the museum is the Arnold and Doris Roland Sculpture Garden.

On the other side of the museum is the Laboratory of Anthropology which is part of the museum and is a research level library dedicated to protecting and preserving archaeological records and cultural anthropology of the indigenous cultures of New Mexico, the greater southwest, Mexico and Central America.  Entering the library is by appointment only but the building itself is a Santa Fe style work of art.

At the other end of the plaza is the Museum of International Folk Art.  The purpose of that museum is to foster understanding of the traditional arts and to illuminate human creativity.

At the other location on Museum Hill is the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.  I posted about this museum last September.  Last summer was my first visit to this museum and it quickly became a favorite of mine.

A visit to Museum Hill is well worth the short drive out of the city center.  There is so much to see, you could spend a whole day there enjoying it all.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A London Cathedral

Every visitor to London has heard of Westminster Abbey and most have visited that famous site of royal coronations and royal weddings.  However, I bet there are few people who know that in addition to the abbey, there is another church possessing the "Westminster" moniker.  It's name is Westminster Cathedral.

There are vast differences between the two churches.  One is a historical icon dating back hundreds of years and filled with the tombs of kings, queens, poets and scholars.  And, it is the seat of the Church of England.  The other is a 20th century building and the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The cathedral is tucked away from the street just a few blocks from Victoria Station.

It was completed in 1903 in a Neo Byzantine style made almost entirely of brick and stone.  It's facade has a striped and checked appearance that is quite unusual for churches in England. Westminster Cathedral is also the largest catholic church in England and Wales.

The first time I saw this beautiful church, I thought it was a mosque.  It has more of the Moorish look that is more prevalent in the architecture of mosques than it is in churches.

When I was last inside, there was a mass going on so I only got one quick photo of the inside.  The architect, John Francis Bentley died before it was completed and he left very few details about the interior decor.  The interior mosaics remain unfinished to this day.  That certainly doesn't stop the huge crowds from gathering for Sunday services.  As you can tell from this photo, it is well attended.