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Saturday was the big day I’d been waiting for. That morning we went to New York City to see the MET. Same as with our trip last fall, we drove up to Princeton Junction where we took the train into Penn Station. From there we walked the 3 miles up to the Met. It was nice to see more of the city, as I had yet to venture north of Times Square. Central Park is so freakin’ huge. Ye Gods.

Anyway, this was my first time at the MET and I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer size of the building and volume of the collections. Imagine combining the all the Smithsonian buildings and the National Gallery under a single roof. Just incredible. I was totally not prepared for this; I want to read and absorb everything but have neither the capacity nor enough time to do so.

That said, we first hit all the collections I’d earmarked as must-see, starting with the 19th century European paintings on the south side of the second floor. I love stuffy academic solon works, so this was an absolute dream. Sadly, in order to reach the older European paintings, located on the west side of the floor, in a timely fashion, we had a race through all the 16th century drawings and prints. I really enjoyed the European galleries, though unfortunately one section was closed for renovation (opening back up May 2013). Also, as much as I adore those intimate 14th century Italian works, we felt so pressed for time that I couldn’t really stop to take them as I did the Kress Collection at the National Gallery. Shame. Need I mention we also missed the entire Robert Lehman Collection, located on the west side of the first floor.

The good news is that I got to see the entire American Wing, which was recently completed this past January. Last November when we visited New York I actually held off going to the MET because these galleries were not yet complete, which was no problem because it gave me the perfect opportunity to see the Brooklyn Museum. Anyway, the American Wing was fabulous and I got to see all the paintings I’d obsessively earmarked in preparation. In order to be appreciated, some works just have to be seen in person; there are so many details that elude the eye in reproduction prints.

And of course we checked out the Luce Conservation Center. As I’ve said before, I love the concept of having works out on visible display instead of completely closed off from the public.

By this time we’d already spent a good five hours at the museum, and we’d only scratched the surface of their European sculptures and decorative arts section. I was up for more, but we had a train to catch. Seriously, I could spend a solid week in this museum and never get bored.

Again, the MET blew me away. I totally underestimated its size. And to think I was initially considering trying to visit both the New York Historical Society AND the MET in the same day. That would not have worked out well.

Afterward we took a stroll down through Central Park and Time Square, eventually stopping for a bite to eat and then to Penn Station for our train back to Princeton Junction.

Upon reaching home I topped off the evening with a bottle of Weyerbacher’s Simcoe Double IPA. Very … hoppy. Yeah, I never have much to say about this particular style. This was more so about trying yet another Weyerbacher ale than wanting a solid Double IPA. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

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Friday Rani was spending the afternoon with her mom so I took the opportunity to visit the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, which via Septa is only about an hour and a half train ride from Willow. Not bad. The museum is about a 2.5 miles from the station, but it was a nice day out so I ended up walking it. I really enjoyed the museum, which focuses primarily on American art but also has a stellar Pre-Raphaelite collection.

American works of interest are listed below, and pieces which especially caught my eye are signified in bold:

Benjamin West – The Return of Tobias
Unknown Artist – Anna Walraven
John F. Francis – Still Life with Grapes and Peaches
Severin Roesen – Still Life with Fruit
Thomas Doughty – Landscape
Robert Walter Weir – Indian Captives, Massachusetts 1650
Asher Brown Durand – Classical Landscape
Frederic Church – South American Landscape
Edward Moran – Untitled
Edwin Howland Blashfield – Vintage Festival
Kenyon Cox – Study for “Tradition”
William Hicok Low – Frontispiece
Albert Ryder – By the Tomb of the Prophet
William Anderson Coffin – Evening, Somerset Valley, Penn.
Elihu Vedder – Solfatara near Porto d’Anzio
George Inness – Early Autumn, Montclair
Jefferson David Chalfant – The Old Violin
Frank Duveneck – Munich Girl
Kenyon Cox - (Study for Bowdoin College Mural)
Mary Lizzie Macomber – Rosamond the Fair
Thomas Wilmer Dewing – Morning
Abbott Handerson Thayer – The Old Lion
Violet Oakley – Hamlet and the Tempest
Paul Cadmus – Fidelma
N.C. Wyeth – The Springhouse
Andrew Wyeth – Tenant Farmer
Israel Bishop – Dante and Virgil in Union Square

The museum also had a wonderful exhibit on American illustration work. On display were many wonderful pieces from Howard Pyle, who was a popular artist for Harper’s Magazine during the early 20th century. Other illustrators featured in this exhibit were N.C. Wyeth, Frank Earle Schoonover, William Henry Dethlef Koerner, Stanley Massey Arthurs, Harold Matthews Brett, Albin Henning, Frank Xavier Leyendecker, and George Watson Barratt.

And last but not least we have the Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Collection of Pre- Raphaelite Works. Artists on display included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Albert Moore, Edmund Burne-Jones, John Everett Millais, Ford Madox Brown, Charles Fairfax Murray, Frederick Sandys, George Wilson, Simeon Solomon, Edward Robert Hughes, and Aelfred Fahey. Seriously, for anyone with an interest in this particular movement in art, this is like dying on and going to Pre-Raphaelite heaven. Just a really neat collection.

The museum had a couple other interesting exhibits, but alas I only had two hours before I had to start heading back to the station for my ride back to Willow Grove. It was a very enjoyable afternoon. That evening Rani and I split another cheese pizza from her favorite restaurant up the street from her mum's.

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Alright. So here’s a run down of works I enjoyed from our visits to the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Butler Institute of American Art. Those in bold signify pieces of special interest.

More Behind the Cut ... )

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Today was fairly low-key. We’d tentatively planned on visiting Baltimore, but this past week we’ve been on the road so much that the idea of embarking on a two hour drive back and forth for a day trip just seemed excessive, thus we chose to stick local. Alas, I was still in the mood to seek out some art. Yeah, the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown is currently exhibiting 42 Italian paintings from the Uffizi Gallery, but I’d much rather enjoy some American work, therefore I opted for visiting the Woodmere Museum of Art, located only a mere 20 minutes from Rani’s mum’s, instead. This particular museum places emphasis on regional artists, both past and present.

Works of interests from their permanent collection included:

Jasper Francis Cropsey – The Spirit of Peace
Edmund Darch Lewis – Waterbury River, Kearsarge and Soco, & a large scale landscape Morning in the Kaaterskill Clove
Julien Dupre – The Gleaners (or Haying Time)
Albert Rosenthal – Portrait of Charles Knox Smith
Franklin D. Briscoe – Off Cape May & Pickett’s Charge
Edward Harrison May – Lady Grey Going to Her Execution
Benjamin West – The Fatal Wounding of Sir Philip Sidney
Gustave Doyen – The First Born
Thomas Hovenden – Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady
Romain Cazes – Rebecca at the Well
Samuel Bell Waugh – Portrait of Septimus Edward Norris
Frederic Edwin Church – Sunset in the Berkshire Hills (Massachusetts)
William Louis Sonntag – A Dream in Italy
Thomas Birch – On a Rocky Coast
John William Casilear – Summer Landscape & Autumn Landscape
Gabriel Schachinger – Sweet Reflections
Sir Thomas Lawrence – Mrs. John Julius Angerstein
William Sartain – Group of Trees by the Wayside

The Cropsey painting is especially stunning and was actually the companion piece to his Spirit of War which now hangs in the National Gallery.


From there we stopped in Wegman’s, had dinner at mum’s, and then took a late evening walk around the hot happenin’ city of Hatboro.

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So yesterday morning we caught the Westminster train down to Philadelphia Suburban Station. From there we ventured up Benjamin Franklin Parkway to 22nd and then over to Fairmont Ave where we reached our first destination, the Eastern State Penitentiary. We took a self guided audio tour, narrated by none other than Steve Buscemi, and explored the grounds. Visitors are allowed to walk down certain cell blocks and even check out individual cells. I was surprised to discover the prison at one point had a synagogue for Jewish inmates. The general outlay and design is quite incredible, and as you’d imagine the prison has a rich history spanning from its opening in 1829 to its eventual closure in 1970, after which efforts began to preserve it as a historic landmark. Since then it began guided tours and it has been featured in a number of films, most notably 12 Monkeys. If you ever find yourself in Philadelphia I’d highly recommend checking out the Eastern State Penitentiary. I guess I can add this to the list of prisons I’ve toured, which includes Alcatraz in San Francisco and the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin

Afterward we took a stroll down 22nd and arrived at our second stop, the Mutter Museum. First thing I noticed upon walking into the lobby was a large scale portrait of a physician painted by none other than Thomas Eakins. Anyway, the museum itself holds of number of bizarre medical anomalies, such as the famous Soap Lady. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. The collection features a combination of actual specimens and wax models. The craftsmanship that went into some of the more intricate wax models is quite impressive, and reminded me of selections from Taschen’s Encyclopaedia Anatomica. Their exhibit on injuries from the American Civil War is nothing short of fascinating. To be honest I wasn’t terribly interested in medical deformities, and in fact I find it truly sad that individuals where brought into this world under such conditions. I guess this would be an appropriate time to mention that the museum has no rules of conduct, so it’s not uncommon to overhear large groups of kids laughing and exclaiming nonsense like “ahhhh … look his business be all wide open.” The museum has somewhat of a sideshow spectacle appeal, so I guess such behavior just goes with the territory. Another thing which irked me is that the audio tour requires you to dial a number on your cell phone, which is just stupid. With a $15 admission fee I’d expect something more organized, but I guess issuing individual headsets at the door would be too much of a hassle. I can’t really recommend this museum except to individuals with either an interest in the grotesque or a fascination with anatomy and medicine.

The museum also featured an exhibit of still life photography comprised of Mutter specimens and artifacts. Much of the work appeared for have been shot medium format which provided for highly detailed prints. The compositions were adequate, but as far as the lighting is concerned it seemed as if the photographer just simply set up a softbox at an angle. I would like something more involved, perhaps more shadows as well as an emphasis on different textures. It just goes to show that subjects alone do not make an intriguing still life.

Afterward we ventured over the Monk’s Café in Rittenhouse Square. A couple years ago while vacationing in Denver we stopped in Falling Rock Tap where a patron told us that Monk’s Café was a must-see destination for any beer enthusiast, especially for those who dig Belgian ales. Well, it took us awhile, but we finally made it. I had two drinks at the bar, Sierra Nevada’s Knock on Wood and the Sierra Nevada / Russian River collaboration known as Exportation. Note that the latter was made specifically for Philly Beer Week, which we’d just missed. The Knock on Wood is one of the best chili beers I’ve experienced and also includes notes of chocolate, vanilla and oak. Very tasty. The Exportation, described as a smoky porter which aged in Pinot Noir barrels, made for an interesting drink, however any subtle notes were undoubtedly overpowered by the wine flavor.

From there we went down to South Street where we spent some time checking out the eccentric shops. I stopped in Passional to see if they had a particular Catherine Coatney vinyl top which I’m looking to replace, but unfortunately they no longer have it in stock. My current one is starting to flake in certain areas and is quickly approaching retirement.

We also went down 4th Street to take a peek in Digital Ferret. Nice to see they're still in operation.

Afterward we met our friend Eric for dinner at a neat little organic eatery called Fuel, located in Washington Square. Oddly enough, Fuel bears an odd resemblance to Diesel in Peoria in that it has a penchant for thumbing club beats and flamboyant music videos. The difference is Fuel serves healthy-minded food instead of watered down alcoholic drinks, and you have less of a chance of getting hit on. Anyway, I had the eggplant and Mozzarella cheese wrap. Very good.

And from there we headed home. End of day. Nice to see Philly again!

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Alright. This afternoon we finally made it to Hatboro, Pa. after the long haul from Chicago. We’re currently plotting out the next week or so of our vacation. Here’s a recap on the last few days:

We reached Cleveland at around noon on Saturday. First things first, we checked into our hotel at E. 9th St. and Superior, right in the heart of the city. Note that parking was valet only, which somewhat ticked us off, but everything else with the hotel seemed fine.

Anyway, Rani and I had different sites to see and therefore went our own separate ways. She headed up to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame while I checked out the Cleveland Museum of Art. My destination was about 5 miles east by the University Circle area so I had to take public transport. Off Superior I caught the 38 bus all the way to the Circle, an odd route which takes you through various museum and campus buildings, eventually reaching Euclid Ave and then continuing east. One thing I noticed about Cleveland right off the bat is that the public transit system, otherwise known as the RTA, is far from intuitive; a majority of the waiting shelters show no indication as to what bus routes they service and area maps are somewhat hard to find off major streets. I actually missed my stop for the museum and had to walk back up a half mile or so. No big deal, though it would’ve been nice if there was some sort of sign off the bus route.

I’ll write about the Cleveland Museum of Art later, as I tend to get a bit carried away with those entries.

Getting back to the hotel afterward was a minor ordeal. I’d just assumed that I would be taking the 38 back the way I came, but that placed me at some odd intersection which was unmanageable for me to locate without a proper map and it was just too much hassle. I ended up headed back down to Euclid Ave. where I caught the Health Line which took directly west and let me out a few blocks south of the hotel. If you ever visit Cleveland and plan on taking RTA, bypass the odd bus routes and consider the Health Line instead.

After meeting up with Rani we headed over the Great Lakes Brewpub on W. 25th St. We actually walked there, all the way over the Superior Ave. bridge and then through down through some relatively sketchy areas before hitting Franklin Blvd, at which point you’re suddenly in the upscale beer district, as I’d like to call it. Great Lakes was packed, of course, and there was a 45 minutes wait for a table for two. No worries though, as it was a really nice evening to hang outside. Right out front of the pub is this little one-way brick road called Market Ave where people with fancy old timer cars seem to enjoy driving through to show off. Very cool atmosphere.

Eventually we were seated for dinner. I ordered their Old World Burger, topped with smoked cheddar, bacon, onion straws, and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter barbecue sauce, and all on a pretzel roll. So good. No complaints at all. As far as the food is concerned, Great Lakes is definitely at par with New Holland’s Brewpub—perhaps a bit more specialized in their selections. Comparing the two would be a moot point though.

I slept well that night. No mistaking that.

Sunday morning we headed down to Youngstown. Checking out of our hotel wasn’t a problem, but retrieving our car from the valet was a whole other story. It took them at least 45 minutes to get us our car back. There was a long line of other hotel guest waiting around as well, some which had been there for over an hour. It was really disorganized. I take it they were understaffed, but even so I don’t see how this system could ever work out well for them. If only they allowed guests to park their own cars in the garage, which when we made our reservations online was actually listed as an option. Really annoying, especially when you want to just get on the road, but we felt it best not to press the issue.

Anyway, at around noon we made it to Youngstown where we stopped at the Butler Museum of American Art, which I’ll also spare you for its own separate entry. Rani checked out the gift shop where one of the ladies clued her in about a nearby flower garden, which of course we then had to visit. I actually had a good time and the grounds offered some wonderful scenery of the river. Neat.

From there we headed to State College, Pa. During our drive we experienced some torrential rainstorms which lasted for two hours. Really unpleasant, and there were points were I could just barely see the road. Definitely not fun, though we still managed to reach our destination by dinner time. After settling in at our friend Jerry’s we then had a bite to eat at Otto’s brewpub. Since our last visit nearly 3 years ago they’d actually moved to a much nicer location, also on the North Atherton strip. Quite an upgrade. Anyway, I had their Arthurnator, a burger with warm avocado and pepperjack cheese. Mmmmm … so good! If you ever find yourself in State College, Otto’s is the place to eat.

Afterward we picked up some foods at Wegman’s (best supermarket ever) and then headed back to Jerry’s. Jerry actually wouldn’t be home until later that night, as he was coming back from a trip, but regardless he let us make our own way in and crash, which was awfully nice of him.

Monday morning Rani made a huge breakfast for all of us, including Jerry’s girlfriend Ellen and her son. Rani tried out this wonderful quiche (once again with bacon) and also made blueberry scones. Well, I had three slices of quiche and two scones, so I’d officially reached my intake until dinnertime. From there we made some stops around State College so Rani could see her old campus ground. Later that evening we met up with friends for dinner at Hi-Way Pizza (the place with a really gaudy sign) where a 9-inch personal pan with vodka sauce, mozzarella and prosciutto.

And Tuesday was just more hanging out in State College before hitting the road for Hatboro. Enough writing—I have a vacation to enjoy …

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This vacation I'm going to try keeping my beer notes separate from my daily entries. We'll see how this works out.

So Saturday night at Great Lakes' brewpub I got to try two of their beers which I've never seen in distribution: Oatmeal Stout and Grand Cru. Oatmeal Stout was pretty good and exactly what I'd expect considering their straight forward approach to each particular style. I'd say the flavor and consistency were spot on. Of course I was totally blown away by their Grand Cru--clean, crisp, and with a slight fruitiness, perhaps orange peel? ABV was listed at around 7%, though I reckon it was a bit more; after just these two pints I was out like a light upon reaching our hotel.

The next night at Otto's Brewpub in State College, Pa I had a 8oz of their Beer Engine #2 Old Fugget Barleywine. I must admit, this particular style has such a high alcohol content (between 10 and 12%) that it becomes difficult for me to discern unique flavors, unlike with Quadruples where it's a bit more obvious. Typically I find barleywines somewhat stiff, hoppy, and with a creamy consistency. Old Fugget was fine one it's own standards, but it wasn't too memorable. I'm somewhat kicking myself for not trying their Dubbel instead.

And the next night I had a couple bottles of Weyerbacher Brewing's Fireside Ale. It was advertised as having a slight 'smokey' flavor, and if you know me then you're aware that I have an affinity for smoke ales, or rather, rauchbiers. Well, it definitely had some toasty notes, but nothing I would qualify as smokey. I'm still impressed by the quality of Weyerbacher brews, and while in Pa I'll surely be picking up some more for the road.

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So next Friday I'll have the whole day to myself in Philadelphia while Rani spends some quality time with her mom. The big to-do in Philly right now is the new recently opened Barnes Foundation. This building hosts the world-renowned Barnes collection which was transported from its original location at an elaborate showhouse in Merion, Pa, which over the past couple years has been the subject of much controversy. The collection itself is heavy on French Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and Modern Art with some World treasures and older European works thrown in for good measure.

To be quite honest, aside from Corot, I'm not that big on French Impressionism; I can appreciate from an artistic standpoint, and once in awhile I encounter a work which leaves me floored, but as a whole the movement doesn't appeal to me nearly as much as others do. If this is any indication, during exhibitions on Impressionism I'm usually soaking up Courbet's seascapes while steering clear Monet's haystacks.

I'm also taken aback by the collection's lack of American works. The Smithsonian database lists them as having only about 200 or so pieces (either on display or in the stacks) and a majority appear to be from the early 20th century. Hummm ...

Anyway, admission is $18 which is just high enough for me to consider doing something else instead. For that price one could go to the Philly Museum of Art or the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, though I've been to the former several times before and the latter is still too fresh in my memory. Come to think of it, the next day I'll be checking out the New York Historical Society AND the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so perhaps I should take a break from the galleries and get some sun instead ...

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December 2016

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