Click on the "PLAY" button above to take an 8-second pilgrimage to Chartres. You won't regret the time you spend there.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Today was (and is) a perfect day, quite unlike the rest of February has been in Seattle. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it's reasonably warm--about 60. And to top it all off, it is a holiday. So we decided to spend the morning walking to the Olympic Sculpture Park in Belltown. We walked via the waterfront, where many moms, dads, and kids were unloading by the Aquarium. They all seemed so excited that we figured there must be a special event happening today: a visit from Mickey Mouse or one of the teletubbies. Not that octopi, squid, and electric eels aren't interesting; they're just not the kind of things that most kids jump up and down or hang on their parents' hands to see.
We haven't walked so far in months and by the time we arrived at the fountain featuring the fully-articulated male nude we had to collapse into a pair of eyeballs to rest awhile. Then we betook ourselves to the gravel walk that leads through the park, during the course of which this photo was taken (see below). There were dozens of young parents pushing strollers. We saw fewer strollers, and more drug addicts, as we walked back via Belltown and the Pike Place Market. As we reached the new SAM, we realized we had a few minutes before we needed to get back to the Cathedral for Stations, so we stopped in to take another look at the Ghiberti panels. You can read all about our reactions to the Ghiberti by clicking here.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Our dinner in St. Augustine was served in the bottom of the historic swimming pool at the Lightner Museum. The museum was originally the Alcazar Hotel, built by (who else) Henry Flagler to lodge the wealthy who came south for health or amusement. The hotel was built around an extraordinary swimming pool which was fed by a natural hot spring. The pool was in the center of the building, and from verandahs on each floor you could look down into it and see the swimmers at play. Above it all was a glass roof admitting the healthful Florida sunshine. The only problem with these opulent arrangements was the sulfurous smell of the water from the natural spring. They were never able to mask the smell entirely, and given the arrangement of the building the smell was everywhere.
The pool had a ladies' end, and men's end. In its heyday, it was the site of many events and entertainments, including a demonstration of about two dozen different swimming strokes by a champion swimmer of the day. He demonstrated the breaststroke, the backstroke, and every other stroke there may be.
Ah, yes, the Alcazar must have been something in its day. Now, alas, it is need of some remodel. We had drinks in the galleries. The art, which probably cost a small fortune to begin with, or perhaps even a large one, is in such bad taste that it makes the Fryes look like far-seeing connoisseurs. The collector (Otto Lightner, a Chicago publisher) had a special fondness for the Egyptian, so there was one hopelessly awful French painting of Cleopatra pouting, having stabbed the messenger who told her that Mark Antony was not coming back to her. And there were others in a similar vein. We had almost lost our appetites by the time dinner was served and we descended to the pool.
It has been long since the pool held any water, and the sulfurous smell is quite gone. We selected a table at the shallow end. It was quite easy to get used to eating at an angle. The sauces did tend to flow to the bottom of the plate. This phenomenon, combined with the relics of the Gilded Age all around us, made us feel uncannily as if we were eating dinner on board the Titanic.
It would all have been delightful, had it not been for the temperature of the food. It was not warm; in fact, it was on the verge of cold. It was, in short, of such a temperature that it was impossible for any who tasted it not to comment on it. And so we all did. Most of us were quite polite about it. "It's delicious!" we would say. Then, "it could be a little warmer." The group from M. who shared the table with us (M. is going to host the next conference) looked archly at each other and said, "make a note. Make a note. When we host the conference--hot food."
Dessert, fortunately, was supposed to be cold. It was delicious. And then we climbed out of the pool. We sang in gratitude: O hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea.
This picture is by Leon Comerre, a 19th-century French artist, now unknown, but probably one of the principal inspirations for the Impressionists, in that they wanted their art to be as unlike his as humanly possible. Entitled, Maid at the Door, it should properly be known as The Eavesdropper.
Explore more treasures of the Lightner Museum here: http://www.lightnermuseum.org/
Saturday, February 16, 2008
We were delighted to be going to St. Augustine, FL, for the sixth biennial Cathedral Ministry Conference. We knew St. Augustine was an historic place, site of the first Mass on the continent. And we knew St. Augustine was far away, requiring two longish flights, car rentals, all the appurtenances of travel. In fact, it took us longer to get to St. Augustine than it would have taken to get to Paris, London, or Rome. Not a very encouraging idea, so we did not dwell on it.
On our free afternoon, we caught the history trolley, which takes you to seventeen historic places in the town. One of them was the old jail. Henry Flagler, who threw his weight around like an alligator worrying its prey, decided to buy St. Augustine. He did not like where the jail was located; so close to the train station that it was practically the first thing people saw when they disembarked. So he paid for a new jail to be built, in a location of his choice. Since it was his money, he was also able to select the architect, who neatly disguised the jail as a pink Victorian mansion. The jail is now a tourist attraction, with authentic historical interactive elements, like the cage above.
The most disappointing thing about St. Augustine was the weather. It was by no means as warm as we had been led to believe. The conference coordinator had sent out several e-mails in November and December, claiming that it was 75 degrees and sunny. But during our stay it never got much above 60 degrees. So we considered that we had been grossly deceived in this matter.
The other attractions of St. Augustine, and the dinner we ate on the floor of an old swimming pool, are subjects for another post.
Read more about the Old Jail at this site. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/sights/sightstory.php?tip_AttrId=%3D14157
Take a trip to the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine by clicking here.