Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Never Go Back, 3

September 7, 2013 Leave a comment


As I discussed here and here, I was determined not to let Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher thriller, Never Go Back, ruin our annual vacation on Nantucket this week. It came out Tuesday, our first full day here, and I read only a little. Wednesday we made our day to lie on the chaise longues and read all day, so I got almost 300 pages read.

But Thursday was problematic, since it wasn’t another do-nothing day. We took the inn’s hourly shuttle van into town in the morning, then the island public bus from town out to Madaket on the other end of the island, walked on the beach, ate lunch at Millie’s, and waited for the return bus to town. Along the way, I read 5 pages here, 3 pages there. Then we shopped in town, and on the van ride back to the inn I was able to finish the book. Not my idea of how to read a thriller, but it worked: vacation not ruined, book complete.

There was special irony in coming across this bit of dialogue late in the book as I was riding around Nantucket.

“Suppose they were always rich. Suppose they’re old-money East Coast aristocrats.”

“OK, I’ll watch out for old men in faded pink pants.”

And a few pages later, there was a second reference to faded pink pants.

The irony lies in the fact that I was reading this in the national capital of faded pink pants. As I have written on previous visits here, Murray’s Toggery Shop has trademarked the name Nantucket Red and offers their exclusive Nantucket Reds Collection of canvas shorts and pants.


Red, yes, not pink, but pink is what the color fades into. And after years of coming here, I have become a fan. The shorts are comfortable, rugged, quality fabric, good length. Once we got into town from Madaket Thursday, just after I read these lines, we headed straight to Murray’s for shorts.

I have become a character straight out of a Jack Reacher thriller! Not Jack, but I’ll take what I can get.

Categories: Books, Travel

Celebrity Beat

September 5, 2013 Leave a comment


We were sitting on our inn’s lawn yesterday afternoon, enjoying the magnificent view over Nantucket Bay and reading our books, when our waitress came over to take our order for a light lunch. She mentioned that someone famous was dining in the restaurant: Drew Barrymore.

I had missed a word or two, or maybe the waitress’s choice of verb tense, as a result of which I thought she was just talking about how over the course of the summer there had been famous people on the property, such as Drew. Then, based on Gail’s response, I realized that Drew was there right that moment.

After we ordered and the waitress headed back in, I asked Gail what movies we had seen Drew in. Confusing movies with blonde female characters whose reruns Gail can watch unceasingly, I suggested Legally Blonde. No, The Wedding Singer. Oh yeah. Now I had a face to put with the name.

A half hour later, I had occasion to walk in, and there she was. I think. Someone simply dressed, attractive but plain looking, talking animatedly to the maitre d’. About the right age, or maybe slightly younger than I expected. At breakfast this morning, our waitress spoke about how approachable Drew was. And no make up.

Yup. That was her. Exciting.

Categories: Travel

Never Go Back, 2

September 3, 2013 Leave a comment


I’ve started it. I’m 65 pages in. It’s great. Help!

It is Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher thriller, Never Go Back. As I mentioned two days ago, I don’t want the book to get in the way of our vacation. I don’t want to be Lee Child’s prisoner for the next 24 hours. Today is our first full day in Nantucket. I want to walk. Go into town. Eat. I can’t just sit and read.

Then again, why not? It’s beautiful out on the lawn. I can read and look out over Nantucket Harbor. Is there anything better to do? (Apparently, yes: blogging about the situation.)

At least I slept last night. The book arrived on my Kindle shortly after midnight. If we were still in Seattle, I might have started it before bedtime and never gone to sleep.

Categories: Books, Travel

Nantucket Arrival

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment


We’re here. It’s beautiful. We’re happy. Need I say more?

(Click on photo for higher resolution view.)

Categories: Travel

At the Met

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment
The Fortune Teller, Georges de la Tour, 1630s

The Fortune Teller, Georges de la Tour, 1630s

We took a 7:00 am flight to New York Friday morning, leaving today on a noon flight. Not much to report, since mostly we were visiting and eating with family. But let me say a bit about our visit to the Met. First, a word about our arrival.

The flight into JFK was pleasant enough. Our first trip highlight was arriving in the new Delta home in Terminal 4. One of the wonders of Kennedy for years has been just what a dump Delta’s Terminals 2 and 3 have been. To think that Terminal 3 was intended to be a glory of air travel, when Pan Am opened it and ushered it a new era of international travel with its new 747s. It was a wonder all right. The baggage claim area was the biggest pit imaginable.

As for Delta’s new quarters in Terminal 4, our main impression as arrivees was that we sure had to walk a lot. I haven’t walked so far since the last time we changed planes in Heathrow. It took forever to get to the main terminal. Then we had to walk to the far end to get to baggage claim. Which wasn’t a pit at all, but it didn’t help that of the two carousels, one said Seattle while our bags came in on the other.

Saturday afternoon we left my parents and headed into the Met. Two current exhibitions that interested us were closing today, so we were fortunate to get to see them: Photography and the American Civil War, and The Civil War and American Art. I can’t share photos, since none were allowed, but you can see plenty of highlights at the websites for the exhibitions.

Here’s the blurb for the photography show:

More than two hundred of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for this landmark exhibition. Through examples drawn from the Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings of this material, complemented by important loans from public and private collections, the exhibition examines the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war.

And for the paintings:

This major loan exhibition considers how American artists responded to the Civil War and its aftermath. Landscapes and genre scenes—more than traditional history paintings—captured the war’s impact on the American psyche. The works of art on display trace the trajectory of the conflict and express the intense emotions that it provoked: unease as war became inevitable, optimism that a single battle might end the struggle, growing realization that fighting would be prolonged, enthusiasm and worries alike surrounding emancipation, and concerns about how to reunify the nation after a period of grievous division. The exhibition proposes significant new readings of many familiar masterworks—some sixty paintings and eighteen photographs created between 1852 and 1877—including outstanding landscapes by Frederic E. Church and Sanford R. Gifford, paintings of life on the battlefront and the home front by Winslow Homer and Eastman Johnson, and photographs by Timothy H. O’Sullivan and George N. Barnard. The exhibition at the Metropolitan coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863).

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900). Our Banner in the Sky (detail), 1861.

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900). Our Banner in the Sky (detail), 1861.

{Metropolitan Museum]

Three months ago, the Met opened a new installation of their European paintings.

The Met’s world-renowned collection of European Old Master paintings from the thirteenth through the early nineteenth century have reopened after an extensive renovation and reinstallation. This is the first major renovation of the galleries since 1951 and the first overall reinstallation of the collection since 1972. Increased in size by almost one-third, the space now accommodates the display of more than seven hundred paintings in forty-five galleries, including one rotating special exhibition gallery.

Eager to learn more, I tore out Holland Carter’s NYT review last May, but I still haven’t read it. Here it is. He writes:

When a monument wakes up, you notice. It’s been more than 40 years since the Metropolitan Museum of Art rethought what many considered its raison d’être, its galleries of European paintings.

The last reinstallation was in 1972 and encompassed a chronological span from Giotto to Picasso. Later, 19th- and 20th-century art was cut loose and sent elsewhere. The rest of the European collection, by then huge, easily could have filled the freed-up space. But the Met decided to reserve the emptied galleries for blockbuster shows. So five centuries of old master painting stayed where it was and fell into a doze.

Now comes a change. The blockbuster spaces have been given back to the collection, and all 45 European painting galleries cosmetically overhauled: new floors, fresh paint, walls put up or brought down, etc. For the first time that I can remember, pictures really have room to breathe. And there are many more of them. A few months ago 450 paintings were on view; now there are more than 700.

We are not talking revolution. Visitors familiar with the holdings will see a lot of what they already know, but encounter old faces in new places, which can produce revelations. There are novelties: items either new, out of sight for decades or just never shown. Best of all, some top-shelf private loans have been integrated, for a limited time, into the galleries in celebration of the reopening.

Most important, the geography of the galleries has been recalibrated. The old arrangement was eccentric. To get from Jan van Eyck in 15th-century Bruges to Rembrandt in 17th-century Amsterdam you had to go through Italy. Italy itself was all over the map. Judging from their Met locations, you might have thought that Caravaggio and Tiepolo came from opposite ends of Europe. To trace a coherent historical path, audio guides were useless; you needed GPS.

No more. Now painting from northern Europe, excluding France, is laid out by date in the regained galleries. Italian painting is consolidated in a two-pronged format, with early work from Florence and Siena running in parallel streams that flow into Titian’s Venice.

France is now unitary, as is Spain (Goya used to be stuck out in nowheresville), and all national blocs are broken up by thematic displays. The keen-eyed may note a Met obsession with framing. The subject is hot these days, as is the market. Vintage examples cost a mint, and the Met is getting its share. Finally, certain much-loved pictures have returned to view with a spa-toned glow, thanks to the tender mercies of conservation.

But what makes the reinstallation most stimulating is a subtle feature, what you might call a curator’s secret weapon: the power of placement. Keith Christiansen, chairman of the European paintings department, has brilliantly orchestrated the collection as a play of dramatic vistas, visual lineups of images — seen around corners or over distances — that pull you forward in time and immerse you in textured layers of European culture.

I’ve seen these paintings time and again over the decades, and we didn’t have much time to explore because we had to get out to the Island for more family visits, but I couldn’t resist exploring anew. I certainly noticed the coherence of the French painting galleries. (One highlight appears at the top of this post, Georges de la Tour’s The Fortune Teller.) And it was a definite surprise to find that Bruegel, Rembrandt, and Vermeer weren’t where I have long known to find them. But find them I did:




Another special exhibition was embedded within the new installation, occupying a single room: Eighteenth-Century Pastels. It was a special treat:

With the 1929 bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, the Metropolitan Museum acquired its first pastels—about twenty nineteenth-century works by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet. For forty years, they were shown with our European and American paintings. It was not until 1956 that we were bequeathed a pastel by Jean Pillement (1728–1808). Between 1961 and 1975 we acquired a small group of works by John Russell (1745–1806), and there the matter stood until 2002, when the Metropolitan bought a pastel by the Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera (1673–1757). Since then we have purchased nearly a dozen others by Italian, French, British, German, and Danish artists. Most are portraits, and they are exhibited here with two vivid seascapes by Pillement from a private collection. Pastels are made from powdery substances that are fragile and subject to fading. In accordance with modern museum practice, they are exhibited in very low light or rotated to ensure their long-term preservation. This display is therefore a temporary extension of the new installation in the adjoining galleries for European Old Master paintings.

Benedetto Luti, Study of a Boy in a Blue Jacket, 1717. Pastel and chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on paste paper

Benedetto Luti, Study of a Boy in a Blue Jacket, 1717. Pastel and chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on paste paper

Leaving the European paintings, we rested a bit at a members lounge, then got our car and headed out the Midtown Tunnel to the Island.

So much more to see. But we were content.

Categories: Art, Museums, Travel

Never Go Back

September 1, 2013 2 comments


Lee Child’s eighteenth Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back, comes out in just over 24 hours. Once I start a Lee Child book, I’m powerless to resist. This presents a conundrum, because our annual Nantucket vacation begins tomorrow. Will downloading and reading a new Reacher novel enhance our vacation, or will it get in the way?

Maybe the answer depends on the weather. Reading would be perfect on a stormy day. But if the sun shines, we should be walking on the beach, riding bicycles over to Sconset, touring historic homes.

It doesn’t help that Janet Maslin gave the book a rave review last Friday in the NYT. At least I think the review is a rave. I didn’t get too far into it, for fear that I’d learn too much. The first paragraph was enough.

Lee Child’s bodacious action hero, Jack Reacher, has already tramped through 17 novels and three e-book singles. But his latest, “Never Go Back,” may be the best desert island reading in the series. It’s exceptionally well plotted. And full of wild surprises. And wise about Reacher’s peculiar nature. And positively Bunyanesque in its admiring contributions to Reacher lore.

Gosh. With praise like that, how can I wait even a minute?

Okay, I’ve just pre-ordered it for my Kindle. Maybe if I’m lucky Amazon will make it available tomorrow night and I won’t even have to wait until Tuesday. Oh, and more good news. Thunderstorms with 80% chance of rain Tuesday.

Categories: Books, Travel

Roche Harbor 4: Ending on a Downer

August 31, 2013 Leave a comment
Roche Harbor

Roche Harbor

I still haven’t written Roche Harbor 3. When I do, I’ll describe our wonderful outing last Saturday in the waters of the San Juan Islands and the spectacular seafood feast during our break from boating. The outing ended with us being dropped at the Roche Harbor dock around 5:30 for our 6:00 Kenmore Air seaplane flight back to Seattle. (I took the shot above late in the afternoon, on our way back.) And what a beautiful flight it was, culminating as we swung from south to north by the top of the Space Needle and came in for our landing on Lake Union. We could see the faces of the people on the Space Needle observation deck. Well, Gail couldn’t. To my astonishment, she was looking at her iPhone.

Soon we were at the Kenmore Air Seattle dock, saying farewell to our companions, walking through the terminal, and out to our car. In my first Roche Harbor post I wrote about our arrival at the terminal the morning before:

Our flight was scheduled for 11:00 am. We arrived around 9:50 and spent some time parking. There’s a small free lot by the terminal, but it was full. The website spoke of a pay lot next door. We interpreted that to refer to the strip of public parking just off the street to the north of the terminal, found a spot there, paid for the day’s parking (Friday–it’s free Saturday), and checked in. I mention this detail because I will return to it in another post, the choice being a poor one.

The moment I spotted our car on our return, I knew something was wrong. It’s like the windows weren’t there. I could see right through. No tint. Gail’s reaction, as she would explain later, was different. She thought another car just like ours had parked next to our car and blocked the view of it. Sure enough, as we drew nearer, it was our car, and the windows were open. Or gone. Sunroof too. Once we got to the car, we saw that the glovebox was open and papers were strewn over the front passenger seat and floor.

Someone had broken in, obviously. But how did he (I assume he) open all the windows? Were the windows even there? Or had he carefully removed them all? Unlikely, but it seemed equally unlikely that he could have opened them all without starting the car. I suggested that Gail get her key out and start the car so we could at least verify that the windows were there. Which they were. Sunroof too. Everything was intact. Nothing was stolen.

I decided to go around and make sure each door worked. Only when I got to the final door, the driver’s, did I see that the lock mechanism had been punched out, with one piece on the ground. He must have hammered it in or broken it some other way, then gotten the door open. Did the alarm go off? Did he start the car to open the windows? If so, why not drive away in it? And anyway, why open them at all, unless the point was to inflict damage, in case it were to rain for instance? Or to give others access?

Anyway, as we relieved as we were that the car worked, that nothing was stolen, that the damage appeared confined to the broken lock, that nothing got wet, that no one malicious took advantage of the open windows and sunroof to vandalize anything, this was just about the most depressing sight imaginable.

Monday morning Gail called the dealer and prepared to drive the car up. I was talking to Bert, our remodel site superintendent and friend, about what happened when he mentioned that he knows some cars have a feature allowing you to (intentionally) open all windows at once. I went online to see how that might be done and read that you can hold down the unlock button on the key for 3 seconds to effect this. Maybe it’s hot and you want to get air circulating as you approach the car. Hold the button down and everything slides open. I went out and tried it on my car. Sure enough.

That made me feel a lot better. Presumably the miserable person who broke our lock didn’t intentionally open all the windows. Rather, his lock jimmying must have triggered the window-opening signal. He may have been taken entirely by surprise. Who knows? Maybe he even felt bad about it, wanting access to our belongings but not wanting the car left open to the elements.

Nonetheless, we had a broken lock. Gail drove the car out, got a loaner, ended up waiting three days for all the necessary parts to come in. She brought the repaired car home Thursday afternoon, just in time for our early morning departure the next day, yesterday, for New York, where we are now.

Categories: Automobiles, Travel