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Monday, July 22, 2019

Fayetteville, NC - The "Work In Progress III" Exhibition And More

My daughter, Lisa, and her husband always have so many exciting things to tell us every time they get back from one of their vacations in Fayetteville, NC so when Lisa invited me and Soko to join her to take in a baseball game there, we didn’t hesitate to say yes!   I was very curious to see this city for myself.  My expectations were very high and now that we have returned from our visit, I can tell you that I can’t wait to visit here again.

My first thought, as we drove into downtown Fayetteville, was that the city should be nick-named “City of Sculptures” because around every turn we spotted one.  I have nick-named our Florida hometown, Lake Wales, “City of Murals” because of the 21 amazing murals we enjoy every time we get a chance to walk around downtown.  The murals in our city were a part of a beautification project for the downtown area.  We had to know what the sculptures were all about in this city and why were many of them numbered?  

So off to the Arts Council we went.  We found out, from the lovely hostess there, that the numbered, 14 to be exact, sculptures we were seeing throughout the town, were part of the Work In Progress III exhibition.  It's a temporary public art exhibition, a gift to Fayetteville, and is funded through private donations and Arts Council funding.  She told us about how this was the third year of this project.  Then she gave us a map and information sheet.  Before we headed out into the city, we enjoyed the interesting art in the Arts Council building.  Recycling was the theme of the art projects and we loved the fun displays the artists created.

We had seen a few of the sculptures, in the exhibition, as we strolled around downtown Fayetteville the day before.  We found out, after we received our map, that we saw about half of them so we set out to find the ones that we missed.   I am happy to say that we found them all and had a great time exploring the city at the same time.

#1.  Skyward by Ben Pierce
Arts Center, 301 Hay St.

#2.  Ice Pops by Craig Grey
Cross Creek Commons

This was our favorite and was created by a young, local artist.
#3.  Process by Christian Happel
300 Hay Street

#4.  Eagle by Noelio Gonzalez
City Hall

#5.  Friends by Nnamdi Okonkwo
City Hall

#6.  Winged Glory by Jack Howard-Potter
Bragg Boulevard

#7.  Flat Lander by Richard Pitts
Festival Park

This sculpture we saw every time we passed it coming or going to our hotel, but we never had a chance to stop.
#8.  Midsummer by Hanna Jubran
St. James Square
#9.  Old School by Wayne Vaughn
Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

I was so thrilled that I was able to take a picture of this sculpture as the sun was setting behind it!
#10.  Sunrise, Sunset by Jordan Parah
Historic Courthouse

11.  Sundown/Off Belay by Joe Coates
Historic Courthouse

Another favorite of mine just happens to be by the same artist as our other favorite.
#12.  Guardian by Christian Happel
Market House NW Corner

#13.  Rabbits by Jonathan Bowling
Public Plaza

#14.  Dream Home by Jordan Krutsch
Anderson Street

We had fun on our quest to find the collection of sculptures in the exhibit.  We also found lots of permanent art along the way.  The Venus flytrap, on our cover photo above, looked very familiar to us.  We asked the Art Council hostess about it and found out that this piece was part of the first Work in Progress exhibition and it was so well liked that the city bought it.  The artist is Paul Hill who is from Wilmington, she told us.   Wilmington just happens to be our NC hometown.  I checked and found out that the Venus flytrap me and Soko pass every night on our evening walks downtown, is indeed the work of Paul Hill.  He calls the one in Fayetteville, Natural Embrace and the one in Wilmington, Southern Hospitality.

Southern Hospitality by Paul Hill
Wilmington, NC

We found sculptures and statues everywhere in Fayetteville, and a mural that was bigger than any of the murals in Lake Wales.

One of the most incredible pieces of art we saw as we walked around downtown Fayetteville, was the Tree of Good and Evil created by Charles Pilkey.  First of all, it was very large and secondly, the detail work was really interesting.  We had to take a few minutes to see all of it.

And there was even art that I was able to be a part of.

There is so much to see and do in Fayetteville and even though we spent 3 days and 2 nights here, we didn't see everything we wanted to.  One place we did get to, though, was North Carolina Veterans Park.  The public art here is to honor and acknowledge North Carolina's veterans.  The pieces were very moving, especially the hand castings displayed on columns, one for each of the 100 counties in North Carolina.

These were only some of the amazing works of art we found in this city.  And the art was only a small part of what we enjoyed during our time here.   Fayetteville, NC had everything we could wish for when we are on vacation.  From parks with hiking trails, museums, unique and delicious food to very friendly people, this city has it all and more.  And because most of the things on our to-do list were free, it was a vacation that fit our retirement budget!

Look for our blog post, coming soon, to find out more about the many things to do, see and eat in Fayetteville, affectionately known as America's Hometown!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Venice, Italy With Side Trips To Murano And Burano

The sixth port on our Mediterranean dream vacation was Venice, Italy.  Being in Venice was definitely a dream come true for us.  The thought of sitting in a gondola as it makes it's way through the narrow canals, a gondolier serenading us with popular Italian songs... no, we didn't do it.  I know it's something you do if you are lucky enough to be able to visit Venice and we did think briefly about doing it but we are not that romantic I guess.  We did think it was amazing to just watch them, though, sailing through the canals with couples who looked like they were having a great time.

Before we went to explore the city of Venice, we had a Murano Glass and Burano Lace Excursion scheduled.  But, before anyone left the cruise ship to go anywhere, we were warned by the Captain that we were not supposed to make it obvious, by wearing our ship passes around our necks, that we were cruise ship passengers.  There was supposedly a huge protest happening at the moment, he told us, against cruise ships using the busy Guidecca Canal.  We don't wear our passes like some other passengers do, but we tried to look as inconspicuous as possible.  So after nervously looking around  to see if it was safe to get off the ship (that was me, Soko was fine), we boarded a private motorboat that took us through the Venice Lagoon to the floating islands.  

Our first stop was Murano.  Our guide took us directly to a glass shop where we watched a glassblower turn a piece of glass in to a beautiful vase.

The demonstration was really fun to watch but took a long time, so when our group was being led by the tour guide into the shop upstairs, I pulled Soko off the line and out into the little town.  I needed to find the Comet Glass Star that I had read about in Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports guidebook.  Thank goodness we bought the sim card for my phone so that we had the internet and could use the GPS to get us quickly to Campo Santo Stefano, where the star would be.

 From there, we only had a few minutes to poke our heads into some of the shops and buy some glass necklaces.  We definitely needed a little more time to enjoy Murano.

After shopping, we ran back to meet our group and settled into the motorboat for our ride to Burano.

We were left to wander around Burano on our own and we had more than enough time to explore this tiny island.  The first thing we wanted to do was find the lace that Burano is famous for.  We found it everywhere!  But we didn't buy any of it.  It cost tons of euro for the tiniest piece of lace.  We decided that window shopping was all that we would do here.  We did take some pictures of the lace though.

Burano is absolutely the most colorful place we have ever been in.  I would guess that it would be very hard to be unhappy on island that is so alive with color!

The Tre Ponti (Three Bridges) is a wooden bridge that connects three canals and three of the most colorful streets of Burano.

And just when we thought things couldn't get more colorful, we came upon the House of Bepi!  The most colorful house on the island.

We loved Burano and were glad we had enough time to really enjoy it.  But now it was time to get back to the motorboat and Venice.  We were excited to have extra time in Venice as our ship was anchored for an overnight stay which meant we could enjoy a dinner and evening out.

The first thing we did, after the motorboat dropped us off, was find a place to eat.  It was easy.  The dock where we were left off was lined with outdoor cafes.  We had fun people watching as we ate our caprese salad and lasagna.

After dinner we walked to St. Mark's Square.  It was a lively area and very beautiful all lit up for the evening.

From there we went to see one of the world's most famous bridges.  The Rialto Bridge crosses over the Grand Canal and what a view we had of the canal as we walked across the bridge. 

It was one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen, and I am very happy to have pictures of us next to it!

We had a great first day in this port.  It was so nice to know that we would be back in the morning to explore more of this gorgeous city.  But now it was time to get back to our cruise ship.  I was a little nervous about this.  Although we had not seen the protesters the Captain had warned us about, I had been staying aware of our surroundings.  

In order to be taken back to our ship, we had to wait in a designated area on the dock for a tender boat to pick us up.  These areas were clearly and obviously marked with the name of the cruise line to help us and other passengers get back to the right ship.  How inconspicuous are we going to look standing on this line.  Not at all, I thought as I (not Soko) nervously waited for our ride.

Day 2 was a Sunday so we started our day with mass at the beautiful St. Mark's Basilica.   One mistake we made was to book and buy tickets to take the tour here.  We didn't realize that there was nothing more to see, unless you wanted to pay extra to walk around the altar, that we didn't see when we went to mass. 

We always enjoy going to mass when we are on vacation because each church is unique and has it's own personality.   We were very happy that we had the opportunity to attend mass in Venice's most famous church.  Of course, we couldn't understand a thing, but the order of the mass is the same at every catholic church the world over so we knew what was going on.   We were just not sure why the priest lit so much incense, though.   By the time he was done walking up and down the aisles with it, we were sitting in a thick cloud of smoke.

After mass and the tour of St. Marks, with our must see list in hand, we headed for our first sight, Doge's Palace.  

Unfortunately, the line was so long and we just didn't have enough time to wait on it.  We walked around the building to see the Bridge of Sighs.  When I was a kid, I remember hearing of this bridge and thinking it was the Bridge of Size.  Now I know it was named by Lord Byron who said that prisoners would sigh at their last view of Venice before their imprisonment.  

By this time, we were getting hungry.  We didn't have a place to eat picked out for lunch so we decided to walk around the city and see what caught our eye.  The walk itself was fun with all the bridges you had to go over to get around town.

We ended up at a cute restaurant and once we sat down we found out, from a plaque close to the table, that we were sitting in the same spot where Peggy Guggenheim, in 1949, sat "carefully planning her famous collection of cubist surrealist and expressionist paintings and sculptures."

The menu the waiter handed us did not cater to English speaking tourists at all like every other menu we were given so far on our vacation.  I did recognize the words "street food" though on the description of this dish and I did figure out that it was a serving for two people.   So that's what we ordered and we had fun figuring out what was what.   All we really knew was that everything was delicious!

I decided I wanted to see Liberia Acqua Alta, after I read about it in a blogger's travel blog, so we headed over after lunch.  It's a quirky bookshop that displays their books in not the usual manner, stacked on bookshelves.   Actually there are quite a few on bookshelves but some of the books are in toilet bowls among other things!  We like to visit quirky sights when we are on vacation because it is just fun.  The giant troll under a bridge that we went to see in Seattle is still my favorite crazy sight.

After the bookstore, it was time to start heading back.  We stopped for gelato and window shopped as we made our way to the dock to board our tender.  We passed so many nice shops selling everything from pottery to shoes and lots of souvenirs, but the cutest window we peeked in that day was at the pizza shop that created these adorable faces out of pizza dough.

We made it back to the dock and boarded the tender and were thankful we didn't have any issues from protesters while we were in Venice.  We wondered why the Captain warned us about them.  We took a picture of the Campanile, the bell tower for St. Mark's Basilica, as we sailed toward the ship.

Our cruise ship pulled out of the Venice port just as we sat down to have dinner at our usual table by the window, which we loved.  Soko took a picture of me as we passed Venice.  

About 2 minutes after this picture was taken, the calm waters were invaded with protesters.  I don't know how many boats there were following our ship.  Then the law enforcement appeared and they started shooting smoke bombs and everything just turned from calm to chaotic in a very short time.  I was fine until my imagination started running away with me and I imagined that the protesters had more than smoke bombs and whatever they had would be used to damage the ship and we would be sinking in just a few minutes!

Well, I am here writing this post so we did get out of Venice safely and we were off to our next stop, Split, Croatia!  

Go here to read about our fifth port, the Amalfi Coast, if you missed that post.