How to Navigate a Museum

When we were planning our trip to Paris more than a decade ago, I knew we wanted to go to the Louvre. (Duh.) We’d read that the Louvre was (ahem) large, too much to see in one trip. (Like, if you want to see the whole thing, plan to spend a week inside, no kidding.)

We were also told—and this was excellent advice—to pick something specific that you want to see, and, rather than wandering aimlessly (as one tends to do in a smaller museum), go see that thing. So we did. I love the Dutch masters, and that is the floor we headed to.

The Astronomer, Johannes Vermeer, 1668

We didn’t have a week, you see.

You probably won’t either, so I’m delighted to be able to pass along this excellent article from the New York Times: “How to Navigate a Museum.” Here are the tips:

  • Set a time limit
  • Eat before you go
  • Focus on something specific
  • Spend time on the works that most interest you
  • Use audio tours
  • Consider a private guide

There’s lots more here, of course, so read the whole article. And if I could add just one more thing, I’d say this: It isn’t a forced march, those of you who aren’t museum fans. I know I’ve talked a lot about accommodating the tastes of your traveling companion, and today, well, it’s your time to do that for a couple hours. If you’re more outdoorsy, go find the landscapes. Relax. Be a good sport. You won’t regret this. 🙂

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Gardens and Glass

If you’re looking for something to plan a short vacation around this year, consider a hop to New York to take in the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. Get tickets to a Broadway show, make reservations for a couple really nice meals out, and spend a couple days at the garden. (I say this because Chihuly glass lit for evening viewing is very nice. And so is Chihuly glass sparkling in the sunlight.)

I snagged this photo from the NYBG website, so © 2017 NYBG.

And you really could do worse than hanging out in a garden, you know? it’s good for the soul. I really like that NYBG’s stated commitments are:

  • Connecting gardning to the arts and humanities
  • Saving the plants of the world
  • Teaching science to city kids
  • Creating a green urban oasis
  • Anchoring the community

Right now, they’re well into unpacking glass and getting it all set up. The exhibit opens on 22 April 2017.

So consider it! This will be a big exhibit this year, and there will be some special glass created just for NYBG. Let me know how it goes. And take photos!

Quick Trips!

I love these sorts of articles: a long weekend here, an overnight there*… or “36 Hours in Galway, Ireland.” A quick-trip article will always catch my eye.

And so this one did. “Scenic Galway may be Ireland’s most charming city,” says the New York Times. It’s

compact, walkable and filled to the brim with independent shops and restaurants that walk the fine line between cool and kitsch. Cozy, old-fashioned pubs showcase the city’s ever-growing selection of craft beers, chefs serve up west-of-Ireland ingredients in creative new ways, and almost every building housing a modern cafe or new atelier has a centuries-old story behind it. It’s not a city in which to hustle; rather, it’s one in which to enjoy a locally brewed pint, relish the excellent seafood and get your fill of views of the rushing River Corrib as it sweeps out to Galway Bay.

That wasn’t my experience, recently, but still I gobbled up this article, to see what we’d somehow missed. So many of my family and friends just love Galway. I wanted to love it. What’s wrong with me? By the end, I’d come to the conclusion (yet again) that I’d reached before—I think Galway is more of a party town than I am a party girl. 🙂

’S cool. To everything there is a season! And I’m past my Galway season, I’m afraid. But you aren’t! So read this delightful article, and the next time you’re in Ireland, check it out. And report back, please. 🙂

* I’ve even written a couple myself: St. Petersburg and Middle Tennessee.

 

Travel Tips & Passport, Er, Myths

First I read this article from Reuters: “The European Parliament called on the EU executive on Thursday to force Americans to apply for visas before visiting Europe this summer, stepping up pressure to resolve a long-running transatlantic dispute on the issue.” And then I found this one dated 2 March 2017 from Travel Agent Central, which declared the vote was already a done deal and we’d need visas “by summer.” I read both those articles very carefully and apparently still didn’t understand everything I read.

Oh goodness, I thought. Now we’ll have a tourism slump on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rick Steves set me straight, saying (on 9 March 2017):

A branch of the European Union recently held a symbolic and show-of-hands vote in favor of requiring American visitors to apply for entry visas. This has caused some confusion—especially among those who read headlines instead of details. Let me offer an explanation. And to cut to the chase, there is zero chance that Americans will need visas to travel to EU countries in 2017.

He goes on to point out that the dollar is strong against the euro right now (great for travelers; not great for folks like us trying to move income from Ireland to America), so it’s not likely the EU will rush to keep American travelers out.

So there’s a couple tips for you:

  • You don’t currently need a visa.
  • The dollar–euro exchange rate currently favors American travelers to the EU.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s an article from the New York Times with “Eight Ways to Save on Travel in 2017.” These are all good tips, but note that the Times also mentions the exchange rate—with Britain:

I don’t always feel good about exploiting the weakness of a nation’s currency—but with the United Kingdom (and London in particular), you’ll forgive me for having no such qualms. After Britons voted to leave the European Union, the pound sterling, which was exchanging at over $1.60 just a couple of years ago, plunged to around $1.17 in October, making Britain one of the best travel values in the world right now. Suddenly, that £5 cappuccino on Oxford Street is no longer cause for outright alarm. A quick look at the travel aggregator Trivago shows hundreds of hotel rooms available for under £100 a night for a weekend in mid-April. While London will never truly be a bargain, if you have always wanted to go, this may be as cheap as it’s going to get. As for feeling guilty—an argument can be made that American tourist dollars are exactly what an ailing economy needs.

So there you have it: at least nine tips for traveling in 2017. Just be sure, Yanks, that you can get back in. (We don’t plan to leave the country this year—though we’d certainly love to.)

Not for Federal Identification!

Things keep popping up in my news feed about driver’s licenses. A friend who’d moved from Tennessee to Arizona was surprised that her new Arizona-issued license bore the ominous phrase “Not For Federal Identification.” A friend who lived in Kentucky was shocked to be told she could be turned away from boarding a flight.

In case you missed it, the REAL ID Act was passed (in 2005) in the wake of the 9/11 report. It established minimum standards that states must follow when issuing and producing driver’s licenses and ID cards. (A REAL ID credential can either be an ID card or a driver’s license.)

Some states just haven’t gotten around to making these changes to the way they issue driver’s licenses/IDs. And if you’ve been renewing online or through the mail, the license you have may not be compliant with federal regulations.

Here are some links that will help you get a handle on the situation:

Enhanced Drivers Licenses: What Are They?
REAL ID FAQs
Current REAL ID Status of States/Territories

All of this is important because, as you know, you must show your driver’s license or state ID in order to board a plane.

Trust me when I say you don’t need any trouble from the authorities right now. Make sure your driver’s license is good for federal ID as well as for driving. Even if the chart I’ve linked above indicates your state is in compliance, you may still be carrying an “old” license. Take a ride down to your local Department of Motor Vehicles office and find out for sure. Make sure you have alternate forms of identification with you when you go.

The REAL ID Act takes effect on 22 January 2018.

Do do it now and get it out of the way. Don’t wait until you’re about to leave for the Bahamas next Christmas.

Holiday Travel? Bring It!

I purchased the glass ornament on the right during my first trip to Ireland in 2003. It is hand painted.

I purchased the glass ornament on the right during my first trip to Ireland in 2003. It is hand painted.

I was delighted to see this article pop up in my inbox last month—How to Make Holiday Travel Less Stressful—because Lord knows we could all do with a little less stress, yes? (Travel or otherwise.) And because I have a little experience with it—and hope to have more.

When the kids are little it’s nice to stay home, or take a trip across town (maybe further) to Grammy’s house. The decorations, the baking, the wrapping … those are all things you can enjoy at home. And it’s good.

But when the kids are grown … a whole new world opens up. You care less about the tree and the ornaments and more about being with your favorite people. Am I right?

Sometimes that involves travel. Your schedule may be the more flexible one.

Here’s what the Times says—

  • Travel on the holiday
  • Fly direct, if possible
  • Ship the gifts
  • Go in January instead

—and I have employed a variety of them over my lifetime to make the holidays work for everyone.

For some years my son was in a traveling brass quintet, and one of their biggest concerts of the year was—you guessed it—Christmas Eve. They’d line up a nice big gig in a nice big church in a nice big city, and come Christmas Day morning, I’d find myself driving to BNA virtually all by myself. Roads were deserted. The loading zone at the airport—a madhouse any other day—was nearly deserted. And the people who were there, both travelers and their rides, were very, very happy. (Even the quiet house on Christmas Eve was a moment to be savored.) It was festive!

One of the virtues of flying out of a large city, of course, is the availability of direct flights. This facilitated the Christmas Day flying. And it certainly facilitated the times I flew to see my son when he was living and working as a high school teacher in Phoenix (my schedule was more flexible). A direct flight increases the odds that you and your luggage will arrive in the same place at the same time. You’ll agree, I’m sure, that this is a plus.

I didn’t ship the gifts those years I flew to Phoenix, but I did not wrap them until I arrived. To save time, I brought gift bags and bows with me (rather than shopping for them in Phoenix), but I left the gifts unwrapped so the TSA could see them.

As soon as you reach adulthood, you have to start juggling various holidays and various family groups. This is a prescription for stress, so to the Times’s list I would add this: go with it. Just go with it. You can hold fast to some notion of how things are supposed to be … or you can just take this holiday this year as it comes. And then plan that trip to the Bahamas for next January! 🙂