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US: Mount Vernon, VA – Father’s Day Weekend with the Father of Our Country

Spend Father’s Day with the Father of Our Country. General Washington greets visitors and poses for photographs on Father’s Day weekend. Listen as Washington discusses his role as husband, stepfather, and Father of Our Country in the program “Father to the First Family.”

Father's Day Mount Vernon_dsc2475-2At George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill, watch costumed distillers demonstrate how whiskey was made using 18th-century processes. Visitors are taken through the historic process of whiskey-making in this reconstructed 18th-century distillery including operating copper stills, stirring mash tubs, and managing the boiler as they demonstrate 18th-century distilling. A 16-foot waterwheel powers the giant gears and millstones of Washington’s remarkable Gristmill that includes the only operating Oliver Evans Automated Milling System in America.

Father’s Day Weekend takes place rain or shine. Visitor parking is always free at Mount Vernon.

Location: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121
Date: June 16 – 17, 2018
Times: 9am – 5pm
Tel: 703-780-2000
mountvernon.org
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: visitalexandriava.com

US: Richmond, VA – Yves Saint Laurent’s Fashion at Richmond’s VMFA

The excitement of the fashion runway come to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts this spring with Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style. showcasing highlights from the iconic designer’s 44-year career.Yves St Laurent 2017-06-14_14-45-42

Drawn from the collection of the Fondation Pierre Bergé—Yves Saint Laurent,  and other private acquisitions, this impressive compilation offers an intimate and extensive view at the lifetime achievement of Yves Saint Laurent, one of history’s most avant-garde  and influential fashion designers.

Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent,Paris.
Photo: Guy Marineau

Featuring 100 examples of haute couture and ready-to-wear garments—some never shown publicly before—this exhibition reveals Saint Laurent’s artistic virtuoso, as well as his working technique, and the origins of his design inspiration. Witness his immersive operative process from his first sketch and fabric selection to the various stages of production and fitting before a final garment was realized.St Laurent Interior Exhibition

In addition to haute couture ensembles and ready-to-wear clothing, Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style also includes accessories, photographs, drawings, films, and video from the Fondation’s vast archive.St Laurent Tuxedo

 

Photo by David Stover © VMFA

The exhibition traces the trajectory of Saint Laurent’s style as it developed over the course of his career, beginning in 1953 with the Paper Doll Couture House that he created when he was a teenager, the exhibition is a journey from his first days at Dior in 1958, through his groundbreaking designs in the 1960s and 70s and the splendor of his final runway collection in 2002.                            

Fondation Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent, Paris. Photo: Gérard Pataa

Location:Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220
Dates: Until August 27, 2017
Hours: Daily: 10 am – 5 pm, Thu & Fri: Until 9 pm
Tel: : 804-340-1405
vmfa.museum
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: visitrichmondva.com

US: Savannah, GA – This Exhibit in Savannah is Going to the Dogs

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) is an internationally-renowned artist with a prolific career spanning five decades. He is well known for his photographs of his beloved Weimaraners, a collaboration that began with his dog, Man Ray, in Los Angeles in 1970.

The exhibition of William Wegman: Improved Photographs at Telfair Museums – Jepson Center for the Arts highlights his use of humor to find unexpected and surprising ideas within everyday objects and scenarios. So much fun to see the dogs all dressed up or in unusual poses all done with incredible artistry.Wegman 05816_Eye On

Included in the exhibition are drawings, paintings, altered photographs, 20 x 24 inch Polaroids and a selection of early videos from the 1970s to present day.  Across all these media, Wegman demonstrates a continual interest in working and reworking his imagery, thus “improving” it with his particular sense of logic and play.

On August 5th,  1 – 4pm,  is William Wegman Free Family Day at the gallery.  Say goodbye to the “dog days” of summer and kick off the start of the school year with a family day devoted to the art of William Wegman. Participate in gallery activities, make your own altered photos and postcards, and find out more about Savannah dogs available for adoption.

Photo Credit: William Wegman Eye-on, 1997 Color Polaroid 24 x 20 inches

Location: Jepson Center for the Arts, 207 West York St., Savannah, 31401
Date: Until Aug 13, 2017
Hours: Sun -Mon 12-5pm. Tues-Sat 10 – 5pm
Tel: 912-790-8800
telfair.org/wegman
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: visitsavannah.com

US: Falmouth, VA – Peruse Art, Home, Gardens and Studio of Gari Melchers

Gari Melchers Home and Studio – Belmont, typical of the Federal style, is over 200 years old. In 1916, renowned artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne bought the residence, and no expense was spared in the improvements to their country home. IMG_0416

The Melchers accumulated a varied collection of antique furniture and carpets, fine china, paintings and prints by old masters on their extensive travels abroad. The grounds cover 27 acres of gardens, and you get to visit Gari’s huge studio too. Upon Corinne’s death in 1955, the estate was left to Virginia, and all of their personal possessions, including his beautiful paintings, remain as if they just left.

The Stafford County Visitor Center is in the interestingly stocked gift shop. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.

The Belmont Photo Exhibit “Through a Lens”Belmont Portrayed: Through a Lens, an exhibition of photographs depicting the buildings, grounds and gardens of Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont,  is open to the public on and will be on view  until May 21.

The selection of 21 photos by 12 artists was chosen by Belmont Director David Berreth to represent a variety of photographic approaches to visually interpreting the 19th-century estate and its surroundings.

Location: Gari Melchers Home & Studio Belmont, 224 Washington St, Falmouth, VA 22405
Hours: Apr 1 – Oct 31, daily 10 – 5pm,  From Nov 1- Mar 31, daily 10 – 4 pm
Tel: 540-654-1015
GariMelchers.org
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: co.stafford.va.us
fredericksburgva.com/VisitFredericksburg

US: Dunn, NC – Visit the Home of the “Father of the Army Airborne”

General William C. Lee Airborne Museum – This house was the home of the “Father of the Army Airborne”, so the museum charts his personal life as well as the growth of Army 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions. Exhibits include photographs, videotape, World War II memorabilia, historical documents and paratrooper equipment and uniforms.LeeMuseum2

General Lee was a relentless lobbyist to make the airborne a formidable part of our military might.

At tank school in Versailles, France in the ‘30’s he observed German military airborne experiments. He saw the promise of this, and started with test platoons doing parachute jumps (practiced from parachute towers in Hightstown, NJ).

By August 1942, in 26 months, he shepherded the airborne from a test platoon of 50 men to 2 divisions of 8,300 men, and was in charge of the sky: parachutes, air landing battalions and eventually the glider units.

He suffered a major heart attack on the eve of D-Day, and missed his chance to lead it. You have probably heard of his famous saying “the 101st has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny”.

Location: General William C. Lee Airborne Museum, 209 West Divine St., Dunn 28334
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30, Sat 11-4 (Closed Sundays and Holidays)
Tel: 910-892-1947
generalleeairbornemuseum.org
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: dunntourism.org

US: Wilson, NC – All Eyes on Wilson’s Main Street – 100 Artists for 100 Days

They say a “picture’s worth a thousand words” well then the city of Wilson has a lot to say.  From April 8th until July 16th, Nash Street, the main street of Wilson, North Carolina will be transformed into a vibrant gallery of large-scale photographs for the 3rd annual Eyes On Main Street Festival.wilson33

One hundred prominent and emerging photographers from more than 30 countries, will be featured in store front businesses on Nash Street joining forces to help revitalize Historic Downtown Wilson. The exhibition 100 artists for 100 days, will focus on the theme of “Main Street, a Crossroad of Cultures” as interpreted by the individual photographers.Wilson2

The Eyes on Main Street festival will launch on Nash Street from 6 pm –9 pm on Saturday April 8, 2017 with live music. Over the next 100 days there will be a number of festivities to celebrate Wilson’s commitment to the arts.

Several workshops and lectures led by photography professionals will be held during the Festival. To see a list of all FREE events, lectures and workshops: eyesonmainstreetwilson.com/news

Location: Historic Downtown Wilson – Nash Street, NC 27893
Dates: April 8 – July 16th, 2017
Tel: 252-991-4903
eyesonmainstreetwilson.com
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: wilson-nc.com

Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – Beloved Sisi, Empress Elisabeth

Just as we have our beloved famous Disney princesses, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had theirs – but she was for real. They call her by her nickname Sisi, and she was their Empress for 44 years.sisi

Their have been numerous movies, plays, operas, ballets, books and music about her in the German speaking world. It is probably the trilogy of romantic films about her life which starred a young Romy Schneider which made her a household name. She is so popular that  the 3 movies are shown every Christmas on Austrian, German, Dutch, and French television.

Though her husband Emperor Franz Josef  adored her, she felt stifled by Habsburg  court life and traveled extensively whenever and wherever she could. She loved learning and spoke English, French, modern Greek and Hungarian. Her domineering mother-in-law made her life miserable and even took away her children to raise. Her first daughter died as a toddler and her beloved son Crown Prince Rudolph, heir to the throne, committed suicide along with his lover, and she never fully recovered from that loss.

Empress Elisabeth was vain and did not sit for any portraits after she was 32  and would not allow any more photographs, so that her public image would always remain of her youthful self.  She was tall, and compulsively maintained the same low weight all through her life thru exercise (horsemanship, fencing, hiking) and fasting.

Her interest in politics had developed as she matured. She felt an intense emotional alliance with Hungary, and worked toward it gaining an equal footing with Austria. Elisabeth was an ideal mediator between the Magyars and the Emperor. She was a personal advocate for Hungarian Count Gyula Andrássy (he was a lifelong friend, and possibly her lover).

Finally, the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 created the double monarchy of Austro–Hungary. Andrássy was made the first Hungarian prime minister, and in return he saw that Franz Josef and Elisabeth were officially crowned King and Queen of Hungary.

Sisi was assassinated “by accident” in 1898 by Luigi Lucheni, who had planned to kill the Duke of Orleans, Pretender to France’s throne, but the Duke had left town. Despite warnings of possible assassination attempts Elisabeth, now age 60, traveled incognito to Geneva. She eschewed the protection which the Swiss government had offered and only promenaded with her lady-in-waiting.

You can visit many of her residences: her apartments in the Hofburg and the Schönbrunn Palaces in Vienna, the imperial villa in Ischl, the Achilleion in Corfu, and her summer residence in Gödöllő, Hungary.

These plaques, mounted in Vienna, tell some of her story:

allsisi

 

www.cosmos.com/Product.aspx?trip=46050

South Africa: Visiting Robben Island, UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Adele Shapiro – March 2012.

As a child I used to visit Robben Island with my grandmother. Her son, my uncle, was a warder in the prison services there. The name “Robben”, despite sounding very English – is in fact the Dutch for “Seal” – and the name derives from the extensive seal colony that was found on the Island by the first Dutch settlers.

We would go to the Cape Town docks and from there, take a boat ride to the island, where we would spend the day with family. I was vaguely aware that there were bad people on the island, and that it was a prison…. but little did I know then of the role it was to play in South Africa’s later history. Years passed and now as an adrobben1ult, I found myself revisiting the place where “the bad people” were kept, only now I realized that some were not so bad after all.

I bought a ticket for the tour some days before the trip, (advisable, as they fill up quickly) and took time out to examine the display at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

There were many photographs of the political dissidents, the calls for boycotts, the anti-apartheid marches and there was also a prison cell that had been reconstructed for the purposes of the exhibit. I strongly recommend a visit to this exhibit before going to the island as it helps to contextualize the experience.

The trip began, as in times of old, with a boat ride from Cape Town docks, but this time instead of my uncle meeting us, we had a pleasant tour guide who told us jokes on our bus trip, whilst pointing out various sights on the island. Our bus was parked under a sign that said: “Welcome. We serve with pride.” I wondered if that sign had been there when Robben Island had been a prison as it was so sharply incongruous to the environment. I hoped not.

robben2Robben Island has had a long history. First as a lighthouse to warn ships of the VOC, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie), of the rocks that surround the island. But since the end of the 17th century, Robben Island has been used for the isolation of (mainly) political prisoners. The island was also used at various times as an animal quarantine station, a home for slaves, a leper colony, a hospital for the mentally ill and as a prison for French Vichy prisoners of war.

First we saw the Leper Graveyard and then house where Robert Sobukwe (Founder of the Pan Africanist Congress) had been kept separate from the other political dissidents.

It seems that Robert Sobukwe had special status in the prison. He was kept in solitary confinement at all times, but allowed certain privileges including access to books, being permitted to study, being permitted to wear civilian clothes, and being permitted bread. His children were allowed to visit him and they had their own bedroom in his “house”. Robert Sobukwe was convicted of incitement for demonstrating against and defying the Pass Laws, and in particular, for his connection to the PAC demonstration (although he was not present) which became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

The notorious Pass Laws required black people to carry a pass book at all times when outside their compounds or designated areas, and were designed to limit severely the movements of the non-white population. This legislation was one of the dominant features of the country’s apartheid system.

Sobukwe was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving his sentence, he was moved to Robben Island for internment, as a new law called the General Law Amendment Act had been passed, which permitted his imprisonment to be renewed annually at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. This procedure became known as the “Sobukwe clause” and Robert Sobukwe was the only person whose imprisonment was extended under this clause. Imagine how special one has to be in order for parliament to pass a law just for you!

We also learned from our tour guide that the American politician and Pastor, Andrew Young, had fostered Sobukwe’s children in the USA, while Sobukwe had been in prison.

Our tour continued to the lime quarry where the political prisoners had worked. At the entrance to the quarry we saw a small cairn, and learned its history. In February 1995, (the landmark change of government was in 1994), about one thousand former political prisoners gathered again on Robben Island, but this time as free men, and to mark the occasion, each one placed a small stone from the quarry in a pile, making a small memorial to their years of hardship and struggle.

As we continued on our bus ride, we were shown a church, a hospital, a school and a mosque, and realized that far beyond our expectations, the island had supported a whole community. We duly arrived at the prison and tumbled out of the bus for our tour of “the real thing”. We were excited and filled with high spirits and I wondered for a moment where my heart would have been had I not been a tourist.

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Inside we found grey walls. It was cool at midday; it was clear that at midnight it would be very cold. The communal cells were large and each had a bathroom attached.

Here we met our prison tour guide, Derrick Basson, a former political prisoner who served time on Robben Island for sabotage.

Derrick was very patient, humble and remarkably, not bitter. He answered all the insensitive questions calmly and without anger. In addition he explained the grading of the prisoners by race and also the diets that varied due to the racial classification of each prisoner. One of the curious facts he told us was that black prisoners were not given bread. As they were Africans their “natural” food was considered to be maize meal. The mixed race prisoners were allowed bread as they were considered to be more western or European and less African. The black Africans were also not allowed jam or syrup. I suppose you do not need jam if you have no bread.

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Then I remembered that Robert Sobukwe, in spite of being black, was allowed to have bread, and it struck me that this must have been because he had been a university professor, and since this is a very “European” and non-tribal job, maybe he was considered eligible to receive bread.

Derrick further explained how prisoners slept on mats on the floor and how 5 blankets had not been enough to keep them warm at night. I suddenly remembered an interview with a former Alcatraz inmate who spoke of the extreme cold and of how prisoners had learned to sleep with only their elbows and knees touching the floor, hands locked behind the head. I became very grateful for my duvet.

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We were told that in the beginning the political prisoners had been kept with the ordinary criminals, but later on, they were, thankfully, given their own “wing” and kept together. They came to call this place “The University” as they learned many things from each other and many of them also obtained degrees while in prison.

Derrick then took us to a yard where the prisoners had chopped rocks and turned them into stones, day after day in the sun. They were told that these rocks were used for roads built on the island, but no one seemed to know if this was true or not.

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We were then taken to Nelson Mandela’s cell. Mandela was a militant anti-apartheid activist, as well as the co-founder and leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), Umkhonto we Sizwe or “Spear of the Nation”. He was arrested in 1962 and convicted of sabotage, (amongst other charges), after he admitted to manufacturing explosives and acts of public violence, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison, 18 of these on Robben Island. After his release, he served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

My very first impression was of how small the cell was. No, not small, tiny. And then I thought that at least he could stand up and lie down in it, but not much more than that. At least it was larger than the dreadful box that I had heard was used in China. But there was no toilet. Just a metal bucket with a lid. At least a lid. And no tap, so no water. And if you are thirsty during the night, what should you do? And of course there was no electrical socket and no radio nor TV. And all I could think of was 27 years. TWENTY SEVEN YEARS! There was no door handle on the inside. The door was only operational from the outside, not unlike a cage. I remembered that Nelson Mandela had once remarked that the hardest and most traumatic experience he endured whilst on Robben Island for all those years was that he never ever saw, or even heard, a child. Can you imagine that? Now he insists on being photographed with children, whenever possible.

robben10And then it was all over. We walked out to the yard, Derrick took us to the exit, and we said our goodbyes.I felt an odd mixture of elation and depression. Very happy that I had been to a UNESCO World Heritage Site of such importance, happier still that it was no longer a prison, and most happy that I was leaving. Yet also depressed and ashamed because of the suffering this place represented.

Duly subdued, we gratefully returned to our boat to ponder our feelings of inspiration and shock, enjoy the beautiful sunset cruise back to Cape Town, and watch a school of dolphins at play in the sea.

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Remember when planning a visit to Robben Island, that the tours don’t always run on time. There was no snack bar on the boat. Our boat was 1 hour late in leaving Cape Town harbour and then we were rushed through our tour, which was a pity as there was too little time for questions.

A suggestion would be to make no appointments after the visit as the timing can vary, and also, take a snack pack. A sun hat and sun block are also good ideas.

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Ferries depart (supposedly) at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, weather permitting, from Nelson Mandela Gateway, at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Tickets costs are R230 for adults and R120 for children (U/18). Telephone: +27 (0)21 413 4200
Fax: +27 (0)21 419 1057