Sunday, June 28, 2020

Pioneering Spirit

I'm fascinated by early pioneers who had the tenacity to homestead some of the most desolate pieces of land. One such character was Cabot Yerxa who spent his youth traveling the world and studying in Paris. He acquired 160 acres of land in 1913 and began homesteading.  He was 30 years old.  What makes his story more remarkable is that the 160 acres is located in what is now Desert Hot Springs California, a place that often sees temperatures greater than 115 degrees (46c).

Cabot's first order of business was to get water on his land and he did that by hand digging  a well with a shovel and pick.   In the process, he discovered the hot springs that spurred the development of spas and resorts and eventually the city of Desert Hot Springs.

He began building a Hopi inspired pueblo from repurposed materials and things he found in the desert.  In 1945, he opened his creation to the public.  He continued working on the pueblo and hosting guests until his death in 1965 at the age of 81.

After Cabot died, his wife moved back to Texas where she had family and the property was abandoned for a period of time.  Fortunately, a friend acquired the property and repaired some damage caused by vandals and eventually donated the property to the city.

Today Cabot's Pueblo is open to the public and operated as a museum by the city of Desert Hot Springs.

In 1978, this 43 foot, hand carved totem was added to the property.  It was carved from a single log by artist Peter Wolf Toth.  It is called "Waokiye" or "traditional helper" in the Lakota language.

I love finding these interesting bits of history scattered across the country.  It's amazing what you will find when you get off of the beaten path (or the freeway).

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The "Old West" Can Still be Found in Arizona

Today I'm taking a spin all around the state of Arizona to point out the places where the true "old west" still exists.  Some places like Bisbee (above) use that old west charm as a way to attract tourists.  And, it works.  They come here to see an old west town and they soak up the atmosphere while also enjoying the arts community that has settled here.  The main street is full of galleries and interesting shops.  Bisbee is located in Southern Arizona not far from the border with Mexico.

Next door to Bisbee is the old town of Lowell which has pretty much dried up and turned into a ghost town.  I loved exploring this town and I posted about my visit here twice before.  You can see those posts here and here.

Another southern Arizona town that serves up its old world charm with a lot of fanfare is the city of Tombstone.  This city has taken full advantage of all things western.  You'll find it all here, stagecoach rides and gunfights are regular events.  I wrote about visiting Tombstone here.

The town of Coolidge has also managed to retain some of that old west charm.  Just outside of town is where you will find the ancient ruins called Casa Grande and in spite of that historic attraction, this town seems to dying slowly.  The last time I drove through here, most of the shops were closed and boarded up.

Another town that is looking a little rough around the edges is Superior Arizona.  It's another town that is tied to the copper mining industry.  While copper is still being mined in Arizona, it is not as active as it once was.  I don't think anyone will be staying in the old Magma Hotel in the future.  I posted about this colorful town here.

You'll find every modern convenience you can think of in the city of Cottonwood but, when you drive into the historic old-town district you take a step back in time.  The old Cottonwood Hotel still operates today but, when I visited three years ago, it was booked already.  Cottonwood has become a a wine destination with a variety of wineries located here and around the city.  I wrote about my visit here.

I did get to stay in true historic hotel in Williams Arizona a few years ago and I enjoyed it very much.  Staying in a historic hotel means you have to compromise on some things, but the experience is almost always worth it.  I wrote about my stay at the historic Grand Canyon Hotel here.

Another Arizona city where the old meets the new is Winslow Arizona.  Made famous by an Eagles song, there is now a statue of a man "standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona" and a flat bed Ford just happens to be close by.  I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't know what song I'm talking about but, if you need a refresher here's a guy singing it on this very corner.

I've had several posts from Wickenburg Arizona because it happens to be the place where the annual Cowgirl Up art show happens.  Well, it was annual until this year when it had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.  Wickenburg has managed to retain its old west charm without making a big fuss about it.  I did a post about the city's western atmosphere here.

I saved the best one for last.  The town of Florence Arizona does not market itself as an old west tourist stop but it certainly has everything it needs to be just that.  It's located between Phoenix and Tucson but far off of the main roads between those two cities.  In other words, you have to make an effort to get here.  If you like the look of a truly western town without the crowds, it's well worth a visit.  Take a closer look here.

As you can see, the old west is alive and well in Arizona.  You can find reminders of it in every corner of this colorful state.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Pompidou Centre

I can remember the very first time I caught a glimpse of the Pompidou Centre in Paris some 20 years ago.  It actually stopped me in my tracks.  I thought, what on earth is this strange looking building.  It looks like it's still under construction.

However, it wasn't until my short, 42 hour visit to Paris back in 2016 that I actually ventured inside this most unusual looking building.

The Pompidou Centre was named for George Pompidou who commissioned its construction.  It was designed by architects Richard Rogers, Su Rogers and Renzo Piano and completed in 1977 in what is called a high-tech architectural style with all of the infrastructure located on the outside of the building.  It is the first major example of this type of inside-out  architecture.

The building houses the Museum of Modern Art, a Public Information Library and a IRCAM, a center for music and acoustic research.

Because my time was so limited, my visit inside was short.  However, the night before I had joined my friends for drinks at the ultra-modern Georges on the top floor of this center.  I wrote about that adventure here.

I also spent some time walking around the Stravinsky Fountain located right next door to the Pompidou Centre.

I enjoyed looking at all the whimsical sculptures in the fountain that were created by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Sainte-Phalle.  They were designed to represent themes and works by Ingor Stravinsky.

All the while I was enjoying the fountain, I was being watched by this very large gentleman.  It's a mural that was painted in 2011 by Jef Aerosol and named "Chuuuttt!!!" which translates to "shush".  I was very quiet the whole time I was there so no worries.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Villa Carlotta......The Inside

I was impressed with Villa Carlotta from the moment I stepped through the doors and was greeted by this huge statue of Venus and Mars.  The statue by Luigi Acquisti dominates this entry room called the Marble Room.

All around the room along the walls were plaster reliefs paying homage to Napoleon's deeds.  The room is a great beginning for this beautifully maintained villa.

The villa was built near the end of the seventeenth century and was sold in 1801 to a noble Milanese family.  In 1843, the family heirs sold the villa to Princess Marianne of Prussia who gifted it to her daughter Charlotte upon her wedding to Duke Georg II.  Despite the early death of Charlotte in 1855, the duke and his family stayed on at the Lake Como estate adapting it to changing needs.

This room was redecorated in 1901 and is called The Views Room.  I loved the painted ceiling.

The Napoleonic Room contains a series of prints that highlight the feats of Napoleon Bonaparte in both peace and war.

In a room called the Hayez Room, this painting by Francesco Hayez dominates the room.  It is called "The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet" and was of course, inspired by Shakespeare.

Another dominating painting was located in a room called the Sommariva Room named for the early owner of the villa Giovanni Battista Sommariva.  The painting is by Jean-Baptiste Wicar and is called "Virgil Reading Sixth Canto of Aeneid".  In it the emperor's sister faints as she listens to the verses that evoke the death of her son Marcellus.  Her brother Augustus supports her while other guests hush the poet who is standing to the far left.

In the Palamedes Room stands a statue by Antonio Canova.  It portrays Palamedes, a hero of Greek mythology who is celebrated for exposing the deception of Ulysses when he feigned madness to avoid taking part in the Trojan War.

Crossing the central hallway, we toured the less formal rooms like this dining room.

And, Duke Georg II's studio.

The second floor hallway led to rooms like the master bedroom.

And Princess Charlotte's Room where I saw this picture of the Princess and her three sons.  

Villa Carlotta is an exceptional place to visit. From the beautifully lush gardens to the impeccably maintained home, it is well worth a visit for anyone visiting the Lake Como area.