Sunday, January 31, 2016

Leeuwarden, Holland

Our first stop on this art history cruise was in the tiny town of Leeuwarden, it is situated in the northern part of Holland. This charming city is absolutely gorgeous, it is very similar to Amsterdam with canals covered by bridges paralleling the tiny, one way streets, bicyclists riding to work, cobble stone walk aways, overflowing window boxes, mismatched gables, and so on.  We had a lovely walking tour of the city as we made our way to a very special museum ... 

The very special museum was a planetarium, but probably not the type of planetarium you may be envisioning, it was an orrery, which is a working model of the solar system. In 1774, Eelco Alta, a Frisian minister, cause a wave of panic to go through the Netherlands. He predicted that, on May 8 of that year, a number of planets would come so closely together that the earth would escape from its orbit and would be burned by the sun. Eise Eisinga had mastered mathematics and astronomy and so to reassure the Frisian people and to prove Alta was wrong, Eisinga decided to build a planetarium in his living room.  It took him 8 years to complete, 1774-1781

The Eise Eisinga Planetarium is the oldest, still working planetarium in the world.  The orrery was nominated December 12, 2011 by the Dutch government for UNESCO World Heritage status, based on its long history as a working planetarium open to the public and its continued efforts to preserve its heritage.

The "face" of the model looks down from the ceiling of what used to be Eisinga's living room, with most of the mechanical works in the space above the ceiling. It is driven by a pendulum clock, which has 9 weights or ponds. The planets move around the model in real time!  (A slight "re-setting" must be done by hand every four years to compensate for the February 29th of a leap year.) The planetarium includes a display for the current time and date. The plank that has the year numbers written on it has to be replaced every 22 years.

To create the gears for the model that are housed in the tiny attic of Eisinga's home, 10,000 handmade nails were used.  In addition to the basic orrery, there are displays of the phase of the moon and other astronomical phenomena. The orrery was constructed to a scale of 1:1,000,000,000,000 (1 millimetre: 1 million kilometres).  It was beyond fascinating to see this amazing work of science, I cannot even begin to comprehend all it took to make this orrery become a reality. I feel so lucky and blessed that I was able to visit these tiny little European towns and witness such awe inspiring works from our globe's history.  I had never even heard of this planetarium before this trip, and now I am in awe that I got to stand under it and read each detail with my own eyes.

There was a little museum attached to the house that displayed other early masterpieces in this particular field of science.  I was totally fascinated by all of them, they were works of science, but I also thought they were beautiful works of art, with all their intricate, delicate details displayed so precisely. 

After our time in the marvelous planetarium, we took a nice leisurely stroll to our next stop.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  The sun was shining, but there was that delicious cold, autumn chill in the air, so we made sure to bundle up in our jackets and scarves. 

Our next stop was at a quaint, family owned, delft tile factory.  My parents' back splash in their kitchen is made up of delft tiles, so we were all excited for this stop since this kind of tile has been a major part of our lives for many years.

We were first given a lesson on how the tiles are decorated.  The decoration pattern is applied by means of a piece of pounced paper. The stencil (in Dutch called 'spons') carries the lines of the pattern in pricked holes.  The stencil is laid on the tin-glazed side of the tile, then a pouch with charcoal powder is pressed onto the stencil and the charcoal dust is forced through the holes, so the decoration appears in black marks on the tile. The painter draws lines along the black dust tracks and proceeds to finish the drawing by adding color and shading.  Any exposed charcoal dust is burned off in the firing process.

Then we were shown into the tile making part of the factory.  

What an amazing first port day!  This cruise itinerary is starting to prove itself to be extremely unique.  I feel like we are lined up to see some truly amazing pieces of art, history and science that we wouldn't ever get the chance to see on any other type of trip.  

Next up, Rotterdam.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Return to Europe

2015 was an amazing year for travel, just one short month after we returned from our cruise to Bavaria and our adventure in England, we boarded another flight back to Europe.  This time we flew to Copenhagen to catch a cruise that would take us through Holland, Belgium and France.  This particular trip was quite the adventure since it was a trip through the Smithsonian Museum and not with our usual tour company.  We couldn't wait to see what it would be like!

After hours and hours of flying, we finally landed in Denmark and were escorted to our ship, The Corinthian, which seemed to be a hybrid between an ocean liner and a river boat.  Each passenger was lead to their room by a member of the crew, I was shown to my room by the very tall, very handsome, Head of Housekeeping, whose name was Mohan.  He was exceptionally nice as he explained the features of the room and the boat.  Not going to lie, I was looking forward to the next week with him on board ;)

The first evening on the boat was pretty much a jet lagged blur.  We had some time to explore the boat and get settled in our rooms, then we headed down to dinner, which was delicious, but we couldn't wait to get back to our rooms and go back to sleep.  We were exhausted.

The next day was a relaxing day at sea.  We slept in, ate a leisurely breakfast, then attended the first of a series of on board lectures.  Everyday, we had the option of attending a lecture by one of the many professors that were on board to lecture about the art, culture and history of the stops we would be making during the week.  It was such a fun addition to the usual cruise itinerary.

After our lecture, it was time for lunch.  Since the weather was so gorgeous today, our buffet was set up out on the deck so we could enjoy the gorgeous scenery as we floated by and feel the refreshing, crisp breeze.  It was absolutely lovely.

After lunch, we all headed up to mom and dad's room, on the VIP 6th floor I am on the 4th floor, for a super long nap.  We woke up after dinner had started and so we rushed down to get three seats together.  On this cruise, all passengers dine at the same time and gather at large round tables.  So we got to meet everyone we were sailing with, and have deep conversations with them.  The presentation of all our meals was outstanding!  Just look at what I got for dessert that night..

My room attendant Ena, was the sweetest person ever.  I always loved running into him in the halls and chatting with him.  He folded the most adorable towel animals every night, be excited, I took pictures of all of them!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Luke Bryan

Country concerts have become one of my most favorite summer events.  I look forward to them all year long.  This summer the gals and I had tickets to see the one and only Luke Bryan!  He doesn't come to Utah every year, so we were ecstatic that he wasn't only coming, but he was playing two nights in a row!  Luke didn't make it to Utah last year, so Laura and I went to California to see him for my golden birthday, that is how much we love this Georgia boy!  CLICK HERE to see pics from that amazing evening.

Laura and I pulled some strings so that we could go to BOTH shows this year!  The first night we had tickets in the pit!  I could not believe I was going to be within touching distance of my biggest country crush!  We got to the venue hours before the show to make sure we got front row in the pit.  We got dinner and ate it picnic style so that we didn't lost our amazing spot and made friends with the fellow fans around us.  

The show started with Dustin Lynch, a fairly new face to country music.  He is pretty adorable, and has the most infectious, white smile.  He put on a pretty good show!

Next up was Randy Houser.  His show was equal parts giggles and good music.  His guitarist was amazing, his outfit was... well, it's pictured below.

Then it was time for the main event.  Luke made us wait forever before he started his part of the show.  He had a very dramatic and long entrance to get us all pumped up for his grand entrance.  And then there he was, right in front of us, singing some of our most favorite country tunes!!!!

Luke puts on a very high energy show and it is such a blast!  He doesn't like to interact with the crowd as much as Tim does, which we thought was interesting, but we won't hold that against him ;)

This little girl was so adorable and got signatures from all three performers on her hat!

The next night, our little fan club grew by one and Lex joined in the fun.  We got seats this time around and it was much more relaxing.  We arrived about half way through Randy's set, instead of having to get there hours early.

We had fun dancing in the aisles during his fun, fast songs, and relaxing in our seats during the slow, cute songs.  We geeked out at his amazing dance moves, and swooned at his adorable smiles and giggles.  It was so much going going to both concerts!