When Lisa and I decided to visit Australia and New Zealand we considered doing the visit overland via railways and airplanes. After a bit of research we decided that this approach was too overwhelming for our first encounter with these nations. Instead we decided upon a cruise ship that for two weeks would take us to various ports and give us an overview of both countries. Neither Lisa or myself have ever been on a cruise ship and yet we decided that this would give us the best opportunity to see both Australia and New Zealand, both large countries with most of the populations located on the coasts. As it turns out this was an good decision and one of our most enjoyable vacations, the cruise experience was nothing like we had imagined and in fact exceeded our expectations. It is true that you do not get the immersive experience of actually staying in the cities we visited but we spent a week in Sydney and Aukland and some of the locations we visited on the cruise would have been hard to get to in any case. I have compiled a group of photos that reflect our experience, not meant to be comprehensive.
When we were in Sydney I wanted to take Lisa for a nice birthday dinner and the hotel suggested the O Bar. Previously known as The Summit restaurant, O Bar and Dining has a revolving floor which captures a 360 degree view across Sydney as well as two bar areas – one which forms part of the building’s stationary center floor and the other which makes up part of the revolving outer section of the restaurant. It sits forty-seven floors above Sydney, in Australia Square Tower, which was built in 1967. O Bar may be Sydney’s loftiest landmark, but still manages to retain some neighborhood warmth. The food is based on chef/owner Michael Moore’s healthy eating philosophy from his best-selling book Blood Sugar. Moore still owns it, but he recently made the move of installing fellow Englishman Darren Templeman to run the kitchen as executive chef. His is a great “High Anglican” cooking of the sort you find in Michelin restaurants in London and around the world, French-influenced but not dominated.
I just arbitrarily decided to split the post on Featherdale Wildlife Park into two sections, one on native birds and the other on everything else. The split is not as arbitrary as it seems, there are many more species of birds than mammals, marsupials, etc due to the isolated geographic location of Australia and New Zealand. Australia has a far more diverse range than New Zealand (in fact around half of New Zealand’s birds originate directly from Australia). Established on 7 acres of land originally purchased by Charles and Marjorie Wigg in 1953, Featherdale has evolved from a poultry farm into one of the best privately owned wildlife parks in Australia. The Wigg’s son-in-law, Bruce Kubbere studied Australian fauna from early childhood and with his vision and encouragement, Featherdale opened to the public as a wildlife park in 1972. In this section I thought I would point out the differences between Padmelons, Wallabies and Kangaroos. Kangaroos are much bigger than Wallabies. Kangaroos can grow up to 8 feet tall, that’s a little over 2 metres, whereas wallabies are about 80 cm tall, that’s about 2 foot 8″. The wallaby’s feet are a bit longer and his legs are very close together. What’s a pademelon? This is easy, it’s a smaller wallaby, these ones are about 50cm tall, about 1 foot 8″.
We decided to go out to dinner nearby, at the Argos hotel. Argos in Cappadocia bills itself as “an ancient village with a reception desk.” That’s partly true. It occupies a medieval monastery that was carved into the soft volcanic land, and some of the structures are indeed ancient, such as the 2,000-year-old chapel that’s now used as a concert hall and event space. But some are not, and everything is more luxurious than when the original inhabitants cave-dwelt on these hills. The main lounge and dining room have a more contemporary farmhouse feel and staggering views of the fantastically sculpted Pigeon Valley below, arguably the best in the area. The modern-Turkish food is fabulous too, and the deep wine list spotlights the surprisingly good wines produced in the region, including some from the hotel’s own vineyards (and stored in a centuries-old cellar that’s as atmospheric as anywhere else in the place).
Last summer the Petit Palais hosted a retrospective exhibition of Slovenian Impressionists who were influenced by the French Impressionist movement which we were fortunate to visit. I thought it was a good subject to share. Their style, however, drew less on the original Impressionism born in France in 1860–1870 than on the form it was given by Monet in his Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral series, Van Gogh and his gestural Expressionism, and Giovanni Segantini, whose symbolism-inflected landscapes were a potent influence in this part of Europe. Their ambition was to transcend landscape painting’s anecdotal realism in favor of an emotional power some of them strove for in compositions verging on the abstract. Of the four, Ivan Grohar was the one closest to Symbolism in his spiritual conception of landscape. His Sower (seen above from 1907) was immediately taken up as the emblem of the emerging Slovenian nation. Matija Jama set out to capture the intense luminosity of tranquil landscapes, while Matej Sternen focused more on the human figure. Rihard Jakopič was the driving force behind the art scene in Ljubljana, where in 1909 he built, at his own expense, a pavilion that became an avant-garde exhibition venue. His bold, ardent paintings cover a wide range of themes, including spirited images of figures merging with the natural setting.
Charles X (1757–1836) ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1824 until 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him. On May 29, 1825, King Charles X was anointed at the Cathedral of Reims, the traditional site of consecration of French kings. It had been unused since 1775, as Louis XVIII had foregone the ceremony to avoid controversy. Charles' decision to be crowned, in contrast to his predecessor, Louis XVIII, proved unpopular with the French public. His rule of almost six years came to an abrupt end in 1830 due to the July Revolution, which ignored his attempts to keep the crown in the senior branch of the House of Bourbon and instead elected Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans as King of the French. Once again exiled, Charles died in Gorizia, Austria. His successor, Louis Phillipe, opted not to have a coronation. The French government broke up and sold off most of the French Crown Jewels after 1875, in hopes of avoiding any further royalist agitation against the newly restored republic.
Because the Kings of France were crowned at Reims, the Archbishop of Riems was one of the most powerful men in France. The cathedral had all the usual Objects of Catholic worship but because the church is so old, powerful and wealthy, the objects are similarly ancient and precious. The royal treasury's most remarkable objects are Charlemagne's talisman (9th century) and Saint Remi's chalice (12th century). The Sainte-Ampoule, or “holy flask”, contains the holy oil with which new kings were anointed during the coronation ceremony. In addition the Palace of Tau contained all of the coronation regalia, most of which were either taken to Paris or melted down during the French Revolution. Fortunately many pieces were hidden and saved both during the Revolution and the two World Wars. The treasure, which is very rich in precious reliquaries, chalices, and other pieces of goldsmith's work, was saved from the fire of September 19, 1914, by the Curé of the Cathedral and one of his abbés. After being temporarily placed in the house of the Cardinal, it was evacuated in 1915, at the order of the Historical Monuments Department. The Coronation items from Charles X are also located here.
I have been meaning to expand my coverage of painters, particularly Flemish painters from the Dutch “Golden Age” and I have decided to begin with another of my favorites, Gerrit Dou (1613-1675). He created exquisite small, often dark paintings that often remind us of his contemporaries. These posts will cover paintings from multiple museums, rather than focusing on a single collection. After learning to paint from his father, a glass engraver, Gerrit Dou was apprenticed to a distinguished printmaker and glass painter, receiving additional formal artistic training from the Leiden glaziers' guild. At 15, he was appointed to the enviable position of apprentice in Rembrandt's studio, where he studied for six years. After Rembrandt left Leiden in 1631, his influence on Dou waned. Dou continued to paint on wood in a small scale but adopted cooler colors and a more highly refined technique characteristic of the fijnschilders (fine painters), a group of Leiden artists who painted small, highly finished pictures. Portraits in impasto gave way to domestic genre subjects (everyday scenes), enamel-smooth and rich in accessory details. These paintings are small, remember that you can click on any image in this website to enlarge them.
I have previously written about the exterior of Nore Dame de Reims cathedral. This post takes us through the interior. As you walk through the central portal of the western facade you can look back and see the beautiful stained glass above the portal. Of great importance in the early days of Christianity in Gaul, Reims had a number of archbishops who were major figures in the Roman Catholic Church, canonized after their death. This was the case for the most famous among them, Rémi (440-533) the archbishop who baptized Clovis and instituted the Holy Anointing of Kings. The ceremony was fully established in the 12th century, and after that time almost all French sovereigns were consecrated at Reims. For the Royal Anointing, which took place in the town's cathedral, the Ampulla containing the Chrism, or holy oil, was brought from the Abbey of Saint-Rémi. Rémi, who died in 533, was buried in St Christopher's chapel, which was replaced in the 11th-12th centuries by a Benedictine abbey church. The current cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. The cathedral was rebuilt in the13th-14th century.
I recently visited the British Museum and found some beautiful pieces and the history accompanying them that I found very interesting. I am also providing a bit of background regarding the location of the tomb in which these artifacts were discovered. Pu-abi (Akkadian: “Word of my father”), also called Shubad due to a misinterpretation by Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, was an important person in the Sumerian city of Ur, during the First Dynasty of Ur (ca. 2600 BCE). Commonly labeled as a “queen”, her status is somewhat in dispute. Several cylinder seals in her tomb identify her by the title “nin” or “eresh”, a Sumerian word which can denote a queen or a priestess. The fact that Pu-abi, herself a Semitic Akkadian, was an important figure among Sumerians, indicates a high degree of cultural exchange and influence between the ancient Sumerians and their Semitic neighbors.