Lili on the Loose: On Life and Getting Lost 

Museum Monday: Cartier Stomacher Brooch

The Denver Art Museum had an exhibit called Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century which I was lucky enough to see in its last few days.

I found that I loved the early styles of the 1900’s. One unique piece was a Stomacher Broach made in 1907. Stomachers were worn below the breast on the stomach. It is in the Garland style and is made with platinum, diamonds, and 51 carats of sapphires.

Cartier Paris 1907

Cartier Paris 1907

Museum Monday is an every other week series about museum news, objects, and reviews.

Souvenir Saturday: Chocolate Frogs

Which Card Will You Get?

Which Card Will You Get?

Chocolate Frogs are an iconic snack from the Harry Potter books. They also are a great souvenir from the Wizard World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL. I was a little worried as I had two issues when purchasing these. Firstly, it was August, and hot, and I worried that the chocolate would melt. The other issue is that you don’t know what card you are going to get. At the time there were just 4 cards, one for each founder. The first few boxes I got were for Salazar Slytherin. I really had hoped to get at least the Ravenclaw founder but didn’t luck out until I bought one last box at the airport store!

A Rowena Ravenclaw trading card, Chocolate Frog boxes, and a Chocolate Frog keychain.

A Rowena Ravenclaw trading card, Chocolate Frog boxes, and a Chocolate Frog keychain.

A word of warning about the chocolate though, its poor quality, somewhat plasticy type of chocolate. And the frog is a solid block of it. I could barely eat that much of it, OR even cut it into smaller pieces.  One of them lived in my freezer for years before I remember and ended up throwing it out. In the photo above I also have a keychain of a chocolate frog to show you a bit what it looked like.

Honeydukes window display.

Honeydukes window display.

You could say I have Harry Potter on the mind. I just decided that a Walt Disney World and Harry Potter trip might be in order for 2016!

Souvenir Saturday

Souvenir Saturday is an every-other week series on the items that represent travel memories.

Travel Missteps: The Legend of the Hubcap Nachos

When I was in middle school we took a family vacation to Hawaii.  I…didn’t enjoy it that much. The first day I got the worst sunburn I’ve ever had in my life and was miserable the entire trip. Our cheap hotel was going under major renovations…and smelled like cat pee. (I also think it was a sweatshop, as the 2nd floor was a warehouse room where many women were making cheap jewelry from beads and shells.)  I didn’t know you were suppose to barter at the nearby marketplace and spent all of my spending money on a Japanese money cat statue. And we spent an entire morning trapped at a time-share sales pitch breakfast. So it was not a trip I have many fond memories of.

While most of my memories from this trip weren’t that spectacular there is one that I still dream of. One afternoon we went to a mall on Oahu. I was pretty beat, and suggested we get something to eat before heading back to the hotel. We wandered outside the mall until we found this sort of run down restaurant which was on the beach and had great views.

We were wanting to save money, so we agree to split an appetizer. I don’t know why, but something called “Hubcap Nachos” just caught my eye. It was a bit expensive, but we decided to split it. We didn’t have much time to ponder why it was called Hubcap Nachos until this MASSIVE platter of nacho’s appeared, served on an 18 wheeler’s hubcap! It literally was the most food I’ve ever seen. We all just stared at it for a few minutes before digging in.

When I say it was massive, that is an understatement. It was piled high with meat and cheese, so high I couldn’t see my parents on the other side of the table. And I remember being so hungry and that these nachos were the best nachos I had ever experienced in my entire life. In my memory we stayed for hours, trying to eat all those nachos. At one point in my sister and I started to feed birds some of the nachos just because there was so many. The entire time we were there, we were the only customers of the restaurant.

And so I dream of Hubcap Nachos, of the surprise and shock of seeking the big platter come to the table.

Years later in Orlando, I had heard that the restaurant Margaritaville had something called “Volcano Nachos” and I had high hopes that this might rival my memory of the Hubcap Nachos. It didn’t, granted it still was a large shareable appetizer, it will never be Hubcap Nachos. And I waited and waited for the Margaritaville Volcano to go off…before someone else asked and the waiter said it was turned off that day for maintenance. So double the disappointment that day.

While still a nice sharable appetizer, these are not Hubcap Nachos.

While still a nice sharable appetizer, these are not Hubcap Nachos.

I waited nearly 3 hours before I found out the Volcano wasn't going off that evening.

I waited nearly 3 hours before I found out the Volcano wasn’t going off that evening.

Travel Missteps

Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.

Museum Monday: Journey to the Silk Road

silk-roads-3-745x495

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Silk Road exhibit is around for just one more month! Be sure to check it out! Note that you need an additional ticket to see this one but it is well worth it. You aren’t allowed to take photos, but this link has a lot of good ones.

I really enjoyed the live Silk Worms and can now understand why silk is so expensive! I also loved how as you travel through the various cities on the silk road, that they have detailed sections of what they brought with them to trade, and how the transported it. The night market even allows you to smell the various spices!  It is interesting to see the various cultures that took part in this method of trade. And there was a wonderful interactive section on a touchscreen table to learn more about the route!

Silk Road is open until May 3rd at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  This is also one of the first exhibits in the new Anschutz Gallery extension that was completed last year.

Museum Monday is an every other week series about museum news, objects, and reviews.

Souvenir Saturday: Bagpipe Practice Chanter

I grew up learning to play many instruments from piano, drums, guitar, and the clarinet.  Which is probably why this Practice Chanter to help learn how to play Bagpipes caught my eye in Scotland.

Scottish Bagpipe Practice Chanter

Scottish Bagpipe Practice Chanter

I bought it right after seeing Edinburgh Military Tattoo right outside Edinburgh Castle. It is a double reed instrument that feels like a cross between a clarinet and a recorder. But the sound is much closer to a Bagpipe/recorder hybrid.

This particular Chanter…is very cheap. It is hard to play the notes, and the reed isn’t the best quality. But I still love the memories I have from it; from the dusty store packed with kilts, to attempting to play this on the balcony of my room in Edinburgh.

If you are looking for a quality Practice Chanter this site has a good guide.

Souvenir Saturday

Souvenir Saturday is an every-other week series on the items that represent travel memories.

Travel Missteps: I Swear its Not Porn

I became a Japanese Anime and Manga fan in 1998 when Sailor Moon (and later Gundam Wing) were aired on Toonami. I loved the artistic style and would brave dial-up internet to research other anime, how to draw the big eye style, and start teaching myself Japanese. It was hard being a fan back then as it was so new to America that most people didn’t know what it was.

The Original Anime Sailor Moon

The Original Anime Sailor Moon

I remember that most bookstores didn’t carry manga. I once asked for the “Graphic Novel” section, and a confused shop keeper took me to the adult pornographic section. (I was 11….this was jarring.) Or I was forced to brave the slightly scary Hot Topic for their small selection of manga.

By high school Anime and Manga were just beginning to become popular. I started going to the local Anime conventions. I remember my first one I was so enchanted with everything that I spent all of my money within an hour…even my food money. I resorted to dancing and speaking Japanese to other convention goers begging for Pocky (a Japanese chocolate cookie type candy.) I was definitely an Otaku. I was overjoyed when my high school started having official Japanese classes.

And then I got involved with the local Sister Cities organization because their sister city was in Japan. After a few years of hosting Japanese students over the summer, I finally was chosen to go to Japan through the exchange program.

The first part of our time in Japan was a few days in Tokyo on our own. I had done a lot of research and found that a district nicknamed “Akiba” or Akihabara in Tokyo was known as the Anime district. Since I was unofficially in charge of planning our time in Tokyo I reserved time to visit Akiba.

I sold my other exchange students and the chaperones on the fact that this area (sometimes called Electric Town) was where you could buy new Japanese technology. (Although I failed to mention the prices were insanely high, the products only in Japanese, and the voltage wouldn’t work with US products.) While we did get to see early smartphones that I didn’t see for almost 5 years in US, the group…didn’t really enjoy their time there.

The problem stemmed from the fact that while there is a lot of Anime and Manga that are made for children or young adults, in Japan it is also used for Adults and the Pornography industry. And it happened that many of the first floors of these shops featured 3 boobed busty anime babe…and tentacle porn…just out in the open. I had been forewarned by this from the internet but had neglected to tell the rest of the group.

So they refused to enter. One chaperone asked if I was okay, and I happily explained the kids stuff was on the top floor. I then went in alone and shopped. I got so many things…and apparently spent too long shopping as eventually my male chaperone braved the bizarre store to find me. I paid and we went outside to find the rest of the group bored and a bit upset with me. They were convinced that I was buying porn. Nothing I could say would change the minds.

Ah well. I had fun! But years later I stopped being an Otaku and got rid of 98% of all that stuff because I needed more space in my apartment. And of course, a few months after I donated everything…a NEW Sailor Moon series was launched and I’ve been pulled…slightly…back in. And I regret giving everything away. I guess I’ll need to save up for another trip to Japan!

The new Sailor Moon

The new Sailor Moon

Travel Missteps

Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.

Egypt Trip Itinerary

Within the next few months I will be embarking on my dream trip of a lifetime – EGYPT! I’ve been wanting to do this trip forever and actually had the money saved up to go in 2011, but the revolution put a kink in my plans. I was skittish, not wanting to go during that trouble period. But I realize now, things will never be stable…at least not for another decade or so. And so I must take a leap of faith, stop waiting, and just go! So for the last few months I’ve been planning this trip.

egypt

Below is my projected Itinerary for my trip to Egypt:

Day 1

I will travel from Denver to Frankfurt starting in the afternoon.

Day 2

I will arrive in Frankfurt mid morning and will have a 11 hour layover. I’m deciding between spending the day at museums in Frankfurt or if I’ll go to the picturesque college town of Heidelberg. Then in the evening I’ll return for my flight from Frankfurt to Cairo.

Day 3

Arrive in Cairo in the early hours, sleep in. Mid afternoon visit Coptic Cairo and the Citadel if there’s time. In the evening maybe head over to the Pyramids light show.

Day 4

Hire a taxi and see the pyramids and museums of Saqqara, Memphis, Dashur, and see if its possible to visit any of the digs at Abu Sir. In the evening the official tour with GAdventures starts with a welcome meeting and dinner.

Day 5

Begin day at the Great Pyramids of Giza. Visit Sphinx. Maybe see the other smaller pyramids at Giza, visit the Solar Boat museum or ride a camel. In the afternoon head to Alexandria.

Day 6

In Alexandria see Fort Quaitbay, Pompey’s Pillar, Catacomb of Komel- Shokafa, and Alexandria Library. Then have a seafood dinner.

Day 7

On the return trip to Cairo stop at the monasteries of Wadi Natrun. After lunch enjoy a guided tour of the Egyptian Museum and see the infamous Mummy Room. In the evening get onto sleeper train to Aswan.

Day 8

In Aswan, visit the Philae Temple, Unfinished Obelisk, and High Dam. In the late afternoon board a felucca to see Agha Khan Mausoleum and Kitchner Island with a stop at Elephantine Island. Then have dinner at a Nubian Village.

Day 9

Early morning start to fly to Abu Simbel. Then in the afternoon board Nile Cruise ship.

Day 10

While on cruise stop and visit the Kom Ombo.

Day 11

While on cruise, stop and travel to Edfu in horse drawn buggy and see Temple of Horus. In evening arrive in Luxor.

Day 12

Head to the Luxor West Bank to see the Colossi of Memnon, Valley of the Kings, and Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Later visit Karnak temple and then dinner with a local family.

Day 13

Free day in Luxor. Option to go to do day trip to Abydos and Dendera, or see the East Bank sites of Luxor Temple and Mummy Museum.

Day 14

Early flight from Luxor to Cairo. Then visit to Islamic Cairo and farewell dinner with group.

Day 15

Free day on my own. Either hop a flight to Sharm el Sheikh to snorkel the red sea with Memphis Tours, or spend the day in Cairo seeing sites that needed more time.

Day 16

Early hour flight from Cairo to Munich. Short layover and then flight from Munich to Frankfurt. Another short layover and then fly from Frankfurt to Denver. Arrive in the afternoon.


Egypt Trip

Review: Mythic Creatures at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

A Unicorn at Mythic Creatures at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

A Unicorn at Mythic Creatures at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

I had the opportunity to see the new Mythic Creatures exhibit at Denver Museum of Nature & Science last week at a preview night.  As a child my grandmother gave me a book on fairy tales that captured my imagination. And as I grew up my interest in fantasy books and movies only grew. So I had high hopes for this exhibit!

A modern take of a Pegasus as if it was a Carousel Horse.

A modern take of a Pegasus as if it was a Carousel Horse.

The exhibit is laid out into 3 sections: Water creatures, Land creatures, and Air creatures (with a focus on Dragons). In the middle there is a rest break area for children to draw their own mythical creature. At the end you can take a green screen photo of yourself with a Unicorn or Dragon (mine sadly was never emailed or texted, so something went wrong.)

Release the KRAKEN!

Release the KRAKEN!

Unfortunately it didn’t hit the mark for me, so I wanted to share this review of the exhibit. After seeing DMNS’s Whales exhibit that was in the same space, Mythic seemed small in comparison. I applaud that they brought in a wide variety of creatures from many cultures but I felt like there were some issues on how they went about setting everything up.

quetzalcoatl

Modern Quetzalcoatl head in the Mayan style.

 

Firstly, there would be one (usually small) case for each type of creature. There was a lot of small plaques to read. This caused bottlenecks because you had to get in close to read them, and the many children that were there had to have it read to them by their parents. I was expecting the displays to be more like how the stories and myths were told in the Silk Road exhibit. In that one, they had huge TV screens that had an outer casing to make them look like an open book. Then it would tell various nicely done stories. Instead, Mythic had a few written statements or very condensed stories into just a few slim sentences. Each of these creatures have wide and rich backgrounds and stories, and I was left wanting more. The other issue was lighting and the matte of the plaques. I often had times simply reading even when I was right in front of the plaque. I ended up having to use my hand to shield the light away to be able to read.

Stories of Cyclopes and Giants could have come from Elephant and Mammoth bones.

Stories of Cyclopes and Giants could have come from Elephant and Mammoth bones.

Another issue was that many of the items in these cases were on the smaller end, and many were modern replicas. Nothing like leaning in close to an object, and then checking the date to see “c. 2009”. After traveling Europe I’ve seen many fascinating mythical creature objects, and their selection of modern or small objects was disappointing. I didn’t want to see a modern take, I wanted to see objects that reflected the artistry of when people believed these creatures were real. There were also odd choices. I’m not sure how a dragon and unicorn weather vane helped tell the story.

A modern take on a Mermaid that could have graced the figurehead of a ship.

A modern take on a Mermaid that could have graced the figurehead of a ship.

I will say some of the big statement pieces were gorgeous, from the Mermaid, to the Unicorn, to the brilliant Pegasus. I also did enjoy the selection of ancient coins that depicted some of the animals. I will say the museum did a good job on the part of explaining what real animals were the source of inspiration (or confusion) for the start of the mythical creature. Especially enjoyed seeing one of the few huge fossil egg of a Aepyornis “the elephant bird” from Madagascar. So while it was not the fanciful exhibit I was expecting, it was a decent way to spend an hour at the museum.

Ancient Pegasus Coin

Ancient Pegasus Coin

If you go:

mythic

The exhibit runs from March 20th to September 7th at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver 80205. The exhibit is included in the museum ticket price or member admission.

Modern take on a European Dragon

Modern take on a European Dragon

Museum Monday is an every other week series about museum news, objects, and reviews.

Souvenir Saturday: Irish Peat Turf Incense Burner

peat_burner

A quirky souvenir to bring back from Ireland is a Peat (or as its often called Turf) incense burner as its said there is no other smell that will certainly bring back memories like a Turf fire!

Peat is the most common fuel that the Irish burn due to the countries many bogs which produce it. It comes from the accumulation of decaying plant and organic matter over thousands of years in natural wet/acidic bogs and mires. To harvest the peat by hand it is cut out of the earth with sharp hoes, then compressed, and then dried out as bricks.

I had heard that you could find little cottage incense burners, and looked all over Ireland to find one. I finally found it in a little shop at the Cliffs of Moher! Keep your eye out for the cheaper version which is a box that looks like a cottage, 6 peat squares, and a shale burner. The other more expensive version comes with more peat squares and a ceramic incense burner that looks like smoke is rising up from the cottage.

Souvenir Saturday

Souvenir Saturday is an every-other week series on the items that represent travel memories.

Travel Missteps: Quit Your Bitchin

My first indication that my trip to Ireland would be unusual was at customs. My sister and I waited together and when we stepped up we answered the usual questions. When the younger custom agent asked us what we were doing we explained we were going on a tour.

Curious he asked us which tour company and we said CIE. He then just started laughing at us. “You certainly are screwing with their demographics aren’t you?” He said still laughing. Confused we tried to find out what he meant, but he only replied “You’ll find out soon enough!”

And boy did we find out! It seemed that the main demographic that uses CIE tours are Americans in their late 70’s/80’s. We were the youngest people on the trip by about at least 40 years (and that was including my parents!)

Now we had done a bus tour before in Italy, and had really enjoyed it. Which was strange because before then we were very very anti “group tours” as we had previously thought it didn’t give you enough freedom or time in places. But if you have a short timeframe and a lot of ground to cover, group tours can be very helpful. That was the reasoning why we decided to do another bus tour, since Italy was so great and easy. CIE on the other hand…made us realize that the destination also needs to be factored into weather you’ll be doing a vacation on your own or with a group.

Ireland is pretty small when you compare it against travel in Colorado. I believe in Ireland from East to West it can take 4 hours of driving and from North to South its upwards of 6 hours of driving. That makes it a very small country indeed. Ireland speaks English, and there isn’t a whole lot of culture shock. We should have considered that information before going on our CIE trip.

You see, Ireland is full of some great natural wonders, amazing ancient things, lots of ruined castles, wonderful churches, tons of pubs, and many many sheep. It is a country where you don’t really need to rush through it, as quite frankly, a lot of it is generally pretty similar. Which is not a bad thing…but when you are trapped on a bus for prolonged periods of time, and the scenery doesn’t change, it gets quite boring. Add in short stops because the elderly don’t want to walk that much, meant we spent a lot of time in the bus.

View of the Rock of Cashel from the road.

View of the Rock of Cashel from the road.

So our days were pretty much spent on the bus, stopping shortly to visit some small town to see their ruined castle/church/pub and then get back on the bus. Then while on the bus just watch as sheep/castles/farmland rolls by.  It made me slightly dislike Ireland for being so boring, but I realize that is just because of the group we went with. (Next time, I would have advised to rent a car…or wait till you are a 80 and still want an easy vacation.)

As you can imagine, when traveling with a lot of senior citizens, you are a bit beholden to their own lifestyle. Cheaper not so great food. Stops at souvenir tourist traps. Less stops to see interesting sites along the way, as stops were reserved for bathroom breaks. Late starts and early nights so they can get their beauty sleep. And a lot of general complaints about things.

Our guide/driver coined two phrases in response to this phenomenon. “Quit Your Bitchin!” and “You can sleep when you’re dead!” (I think he meant the latter one as inspirational, as in “they had paid good money for the trip and were here to see things on their vacation, so sleeping was not an option and would have to wait till later.” At least I hope that’s what he meant!) And would frequently switch between the two while he herded the group along the stops.

All in all, Ireland was beautiful but will not be on my favorite travel memories list. In my memory Ireland was simplified down to Sheep, Pubs, & Churches. But then again maybe I should just “Quit My Bitchin”.

You can sleep when you're dead...unless you're the tour guide. In that case, take a nap in between stops.

You can sleep when you’re dead…unless you’re the tour guide. In that case, take a nap in between stops.

Travel Missteps

Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.