Transatlantic

While we haven’t yet finished our month at the lake testing the waters (no pun intended) for this becoming our home base, Mike got an email with too good a deal to pass up. So we are booked for a transatlantic cruise at the end of March. It is the same cruise we did last year to begin our retirement year. We will be sailing aboard Viking Sea from San Juan to Barcelona. We were on Sky last time but all of Viking’s ships are almost replicas of each other so we should know our way around.

Lois (Mike’s Mom) will be joining us for the cruise and for a few days post cruise in Europe. Our plan is to fly into San Juan the day prior to the cruise so Lois can see our 51st state. We hope to spend 4 nights post cruise in Barcelona followed by 4 nights in Rome before flying back home as she has been wanting to see the sights in both cities we have talked so much about.

We will have to buy the flights to Rome but otherwise the flights are all included in our cruise fare which with all our loyalty and referral discounts is $2,650 per person. Not bad for 14 nights, three meals a day (including beer, wine & soda). Pavlus, the travel agent we have used recently is providing each of us with $300 of onboard credit which will cover our daily service charges (tips) and the few drinks we will buy. We are currently waiting to see if Viking will allow us to fly home from Rome in their dime or if we will have to fly ourselves back to Barcelona. We are both excited about sailing on Viking again and showing Lois two of Europe’s great cities.

Upon our return, we believe we will be staying close to home and will probably do some road trips…maybe even out west as neither of us have visited the Grand Canyon.

Advertisements

January.

The view above is from the deck at our accommodations for at least the next month. We had a great Christmas road trip to visit both our families and see a few sights and friends along the way. After New Year’s Eve in Raleigh with our friends George & Doug we had brunch with our other friends in the Triangle, Robert & Scott and then headed to Danville to Mike’s Mom’s. Yesterday was spent doing lots of laundry from our road trip and packing it back into the car for the 45 minute drive up here to the lake.

We are using the month of January to reflect on our year of travel and figure out what we are going to do in 2019. The only decision we made was that we wanted a home base somewhere-to not be permanent nomads. So the obvious question is where should that be.

While we haven’t written off living outside the USA, we are considering the possibility of making Lois’ lake house here at Smith Mountain Lake our home base. The house is unused except in the summer so it would take the responsibility of its upkeep off of her -with all her rental properties she has enough to deal with. Of course we aren’t sure how we will deal with being this remote-there is an overpriced small grocery store about 10 minutes away in Penhook, small towns with Walmarts about 20 minutes away (Gretna & Rocky Mount) and then Danville about 45 minutes.

Best wishes for a great 2019!

Little Rock

We had a nice morning at the Clinton Presidential Library. 42nd’s compares favorably with 41’s which we visited in College Station a few years back. And sadly they have begun construction of Bill and Hillary’s final resting place, which interestingly appears to have a circular design much like George and Barbara’s.

The building is built on the former train yard at the east end of Little Rock on the Arkansas River. It is adjacent to an old train bridge which is now pedestrian and is part of the Arkansas River Trail. The building was intended to read as a bridge harking back to Clinton’s campaign theme of building a bridge to the 21st century.

The building’s interior design was also influenced by Trinity College Library in Edinburgh.

The exhibits were as expected, exploring the high and low points of Clinton’s presidency but I have to say the morning made me yearn for a president again who I believe really cared about all the citizens of our country. Of course the booming economy during Bill’s 8 years would be nice too! There were full scale replicas of the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office and displays of the various gifts, letters and daily schedules. And of course the Presidential Limo.

After leaving the Library, we swung by the Arkansas capitol building and then headed towards Jackson.

Eureka Springs.

We made it to Eureka Springs just before dark yesterday. After checking into our motel (yes motel-think 1964 Howard Johnson without the clam roll) and went into the historic area. It is very interesting. Because it is in the hilly Ozarks, “downtown” is a series of meandering hilly streets filled with artsy shops-98% of which were closed for the season. From what we can gather, this part of the Ozarks is a popular summer resort area. We wondered if it wasn’t to Razorbacks what the Catskills was to New York Jewish folks.

Throughout the town, there are grottos at each of the springs for which the town is named. They are decorated for Christmas like much of the rest of town.

We stopped in the Crescent Hotel which dates from the 1800s. In addition to its decorations they were hosting a charity Christmas Tree contest.

We also drove through the Christmas Light display at “The Great Passion Play” grounds. Though hard to see in the picture below of one side of the drive, the Christmas tree display was pretty amazing-the entire parking lot was filled with trees 300? 400? A billion?

The driveway ended at Arkansas’ attempt to be Rio with the Christ of the Ozarks.

We had dinner at the #2 Trip Advisor recommended restaurant, Ermillio’s. #1 was closed on Wednesday. Our meal was great! They welcomed us with a bowl of roasted garlic, butter and delicious bread. We shared an appetizer of sautéed artichoke hearts and then we halfed and halfed lasagna and eggplant Parmesan. So so good!

This morning we visited the reason for our trip here, Thorncrown Chapel-the title picture of this post. This chapel was built in 1980 and I was lucky enough to host the Architect, E Fay Jones when we lectured at Clemson. The chapel was designed to minimally impact the environment with all the construction materials being able to be handcarried by two people. Mr Jones described it as Ozark Gothic. Mike remarked that it is the perfect church-simple, stately, part of nature yet separate from it. I have wanted to see it in person since the first time I saw photos of it. The chapel was the 1980’s addition to the most important American buildings. I was shocked when the phrase I used as one (of what I presume were many) who nominated it for this honor was used as the opening paragraph in the AIA journal announcing the addition. I said it was “the only complete architectural thought of the last ten years”. I was so glad to find out that this statement holds true and perhaps for more than just that decade!

St. Louis

We had an uneventful trip to St. Louis and arrived about 3 pm CST and checked into the Hampton Inn about three blocks from the Gateway Arch, the reason we wanted to come to St. Louis.

The arch is built between the river and downtown. This part of town was the original settlement but during a fire that started on a river boat and spread to the riverside buildings, the area was destroyed-some of it as a fire block to the rest of town.

The arch was designed by Eero Saarinen as a monument to the western expansion of the United States and was completed in 1968. It is the world’s tallest arch. At 630 feet high (and wide) and made of shiny stainless steel it is visible from far away-we first saw it when we were 10 or 12 miles away.

The National Park around the arch is beautiful and appears to be well used by St. Louisians(?) even on a cold day like today. We enjoyed our walk through the new plaza that crosses over the now buried interstate to reach the below grade entrance to the arch. After checking out the sample cart that one rides to the top, we decided that they weren’t built for big boys. The idea of the two of us sharing it with three others did make us laugh though!

Mike who doesn’t like heights was happy with this decision and after being cooped up in the car the last two days, we enjoyed our walk around the beautiful park and along the mighty Mississippi. Of course the arch remained the focus.

The shapes of the arch make for some interesting abstract photos.

We left the park at the north and walked through the older part of St. Louis which was brick warehouses now lofts and an entertainment district. I had originally identified a Trip Advisor recommended BBQ restaurant but after our big lunch we decided we wouldn’t enjoy it. So instead we stopped in a brewery and had a beer apiece and split two appetizers-pretzels with incredible beer cheese and a delicious crab cake. We didn’t have high hopes for it but was really tasty. Best of all everything was half price for happy hour!

Tomorrow we are headed to Eureka Springs but as it’s only 5 hours away and we don’t have any plans there until Thursday morning we are looking forward to having s lazy day and being able to stop along the way as we want.

Indiana (and Illinois)!

While Abe hadn’t made it from Kentucky to greet us at the Indiana Welcome Station, we did have a fun time exploring Santa Claus, Indiana for a few minutes. Everything is Santa related (as it should be) including the volunteer fireman!

After lunch at an Amish place (in SC it would have been called country cooking) we quickly hid the Illinois border. I’m posting this as Mike chauffeurs me towards Missouri which we should hit in about 2 hours.