Monday, October 17, 2016


Horse Head for Runnymede by Ilan Averbuch
Imagine a farm that instead of growing corn, wheat, or watermelons, sprouts giant sculptures in its fields. Runnymede Farm, in the hills of Woodside, California, just north of Palo Alto, is a sculpture farm–120 acres of rolling hills dotted with more than 160 sculptures installed along paths, in fields, and under the trees.
Steel sculptures by Charles Ginnever
Two weeks ago I attended an event held there and  had the chance to enjoy both the beautiful scenery and view some of the many sculptures. I am one of the lucky ones to see the art up close because, except for rare occasions, the farm is not open to the public.
Lenape by Harry Gordon
Runnymede Farm was originally bought in 1930 by Alma Spreckels Rosekrans, one of the heirs to the famous sugar magnate, Claus Spreckels, as a home for her jumper horses. It was named for her father's prized stallion. The property was turned into a Sculpture Farm by her son John and his wife Dodie Rosekrans in the mid-1980s. They had a passion for modern three-dimensional art and traveled throughout the United States and Europe meeting artists and collecting pieces for their outdoor art museum.  No new pieces have been added since John passed away in 2001.
Hand Like Tree by Magdalena Abakanowicz
Sculptures were around us from the moment we pulled through the gate. In the parking area a row of what resembled giant tree trunks stood like silent sentries along the edge of the creek bed. Behind us in open sheds were the collection of another family member, pieces of antique farm equipment--looking almost like sculptures themselves.

Walking Cairn by Celeste Roberge
Near the building that was once a dairy barn stood the figure of a woman walking, created from large stones wrapped in wire. We then proceeded up the path toward the top of the hill, passing a large field dotted with abstract metal shapes. Around the bend a giant horsehead greeted us, the blocks of stone catching the afternoon sunlight. And at the top of the hill, were more pieces--near the water tank, in the field and among the trees.
Sculpture by Ilan Averbuch
These are just a few of the sculptures I saw. Click HERE for a sampling of some of the many other sculptures at Runnymede Farm.
Runnymede farm lies just west of the 280 Freeway. As you speed by in your car you may get a glimpse of one or two pieces. Or, you may have the good fortune, as I did, to attend a special event there and see the sculptures up close.

Monday, October 10, 2016

FOWLER MUSEUM, UCLA, Three Exciting New Exhibits: Prints, Fiber Art, and Yarn Paintings; Los Angeles, CA

Huichol Yarn Painting, on exhibit at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, CA
One of my favorite places to take visitors to Los Angeles is the Fowler Museum, located at UCLA near the bottom of the Janss Steps, not far from central campus. It is dedicated to exploring world arts and cultures, especially Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Last weekend I visited to see three recently opened shows: Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayon; Uncommon Threads: The Box Project; and The Spun Universe: Huichol Yarn Paintings from Mexico. All were amazing.

Prints by Cuban artist Belkis Ayon
The prints of Belkis Ayon are huge–actually assemblages of multiple plates to make mural size pieces. Most are black and white, which increases the dramatic effect and emphasizes the many textures that make up the design. The subjects of many of the prints are from stories connected to the Afro-Cuban fraternal society Abakua. Belkis Ayon (1967-1999) used a technique called collography, which fastens a variety of materials onto cardboard to make a printing plate which is then put through a press. You can see her at work in a video that is part of the exhibition. Nkame (a word synonymous with “greeting” and “praise” in the language of Abakuá) is on exhibit October 2, 2016 to February 12, 2017.

The Uncommon Threads Box Project
For the Uncommon Threads Box Project a number of international fiber artists were invited to create works that could be fit in a standard size box. The results are displayed along with larger works by the artists. The amazing part of this exhibit is both the variety of materials and the range of interpretation of what it means to fit into a box.

Fabric covered blocks by James Bassler
In some cases, the finished fabric was folded or rolled into a box while other artists turned the fabric into a box or, in one case, blocks. The exhibit will be on view September 11, 2016 to January 15, 2017.

Detail of Huichol Yarn Painting
The Huichol Yarn paintings in The Spun Universe exhibit can by seen in a small gallery within the larger Intersections gallery. Colored yarn is the “paint” used to produce the radiant colors and intricate designs in these traditional works created by the Wixarika people of Western Mexico. The yarn is turned and twisted and affixed to a wooden board with beeswax. The designs, inspired by mythology and shamanic visions, feature animals, human figures, plants and other ritual objects. The “paintings” are stunning viewed both close-up to see the intricate details, and at a distance where they have a poster-like boldness. The exhibit will be on view August 14, 2016 to December 4, 2016.
Large Huichol Yarn Painting--our favorite in the exhibit
Selected items from the Fowler’s huge collection are in an ongoing exhibit called  Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. Another gallery has a permanent display of the Francis E. Fowler, Jr. Collection of Silver. So there is always much to see at the museum.
And, a must when you visit the Fowler, is a stop at the excellent gift shop with its changing selection of merchandise that is coordinated with current exhibitions.
Six paneled print by Belkis Ayon

The Fowler Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday noon to 5 pm and 8 pm on Wednesday.
Admission is FREE.
For directions and parking, click HERE.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Muenster, Germany: A Night Tour of the Historic Center

Muenster's Historic Town Hall, viewed at night
Earlier this year, my husband Art visited Muenster, Germany, for a scientific conference. While most of his time was spent in meetings, one evening he went on a bus tour of the historic city center. Muenster, a medium sized city located in northwestern Germany, has a long history going back to the Middle Ages. It was the site of the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War in 1648.  During World War II the city was heavily bombed and the historic center was largely destroyed. After the war, the decision was made to rebuild the old city to match its prewar state. So, when you visit today, the heart of Muenster looks very much like it would have hundreds of years ago, except, of course, that the shops along Prinzipalmarkt Street bear the familiar logos of today’s brands.

The tour included a stop at the town hall, or rathaus, Muenster's landmark, where the Peace of Westphalia was announced. Portraits of the delegates to the peace negotiations can be seen in the Hall of Peace.
Prinzipalmarkt, the main shopping street of Muenster, with shopping arcades located under the tall gabled houses.
Art always enjoys the chance to eat typical German foods (which remind him of the year he spent in Germany as a high school student.) On his first night in Muenster he treated himself to schnitzel and pilsener. His souvenirs of the trip were also food–fresh whole grain bread from a local bakery, a jar of raps honig (honey made from rapeseed blossoms) and a box of Lubecker marzipan (a perennial favorite of ours.) While it is possible to buy German marzipan in specialty stores in the United States, it always tastes better fresh from the source! We wondered if the muenster cheese available in American supermarkets had its origin in Germany, but, it turns out to be a version of a cheese named after the Alsatian abbey of Munster in the Vosgian Mountains of France.

To get to Muenster, Art flew from LAX to London, from there to Dusseldorf, Germany, and from Dusseldorf to Muenster by train. I thank Art for sharing his photos of his night tour of Muenster with The Intrepid Tourist.

Monday, September 26, 2016

BUTTERFLIES ALL AROUND: Butterfly Pavilion, Natural History Museum, Los Angeles

A Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, a California native species
Butterflies are nature’s jewels of the air. When I was a child, one of our many family hobbies was collecting butterflies–searching the meadows and fields of Minnesota and Wisconsin in summertime for monarchs, fritillaries, white and yellow sulphers, mourning cloaks, and more, catching them in our butterfly net so we could see them up close. It was always a special thrill to find a swallowtail with its elegant wings.
Inside the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum of LA County
Last week, I made a special trip to the new Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, to see some of the same species of butterflies again, as they flitted from flower to flower inside a large enclosed outdoor exhibit. Butterflies were everywhere--on the flowers, clinging to the netting, resting on the ground and flapping through the air. All of the more than 30 species of butterflies in the exhibit are native to North America and many live in California. Large illustrated cards are available to carry around and identify the species.
 The back side of the card illustrates some of the interesting facts about the shapes, sizes and colors of the butterflies in the exhibit:
  • For some butterflies, bright colors and patterns help males and females find one another.
    A Julia Longwing butterfly, male
  • Colors can sometimes help butterflies blend into their surroundings and hide from predators.
    The pattern on the Malachite butterfly's wings mimics sunlit leaves
  • A few butterflies taste really bad. Predators remember bold colors and avoid them.
    The Monarch, a native in California, depends on milkweed plants for breeding
  • Some wing patterns look like large eyes of other larger animals and “fool” potential predators.
    the White Peacock butterfly has several eye-spots
    To see the butterflies, you must reserve a ticket for timed entry. I visited in the middle of the day when the pavilion was warm and full of sunshine and the butterflies were busy feeding at the various flowers. After 30 minutes, the museum staff shooed me out so the next group of people with timed tickets could come in. I would have liked to stay longer--the thrill of seeing butterflies up close never goes away.
    The Butterfly Pavilion is located outside the south entrance of the Natural History Museum. It is a permanent structure that will be open seasonally. This year it will be open for one month, September 16 - October 16, 2016. For directions and parking, click HERE.
South Entrance of the museum

Monday, September 19, 2016

LONDON CANALS, Guest Post by Gretchen Woelfle

Canal and Towpath, Regents Park, London
My friend and fellow children's book writer, Gretchen Woelfle, has spent the last several months in England. She is also an avid and accomplished cyclist and sped around London on the network of towpaths along the canals. Here is her report of some of the sights you can see along the canals.

Ask people about London waterways, and they’ll know the River Thames that snakes its way through the city from west to east. But there are over sixty miles of canals that flow through the city, relics of the 18th century Age of Canals, when thousands of miles of canals propelled the Industrial Revolution all over Britain. A team of horses could pull 1000 lbs. of cargo along rough roads in a day.  They could pull 50,000 lbs. by water.
By 1850, 4800 miles of canals linked mines, textile mills, factories, and agricultural centers to seaports throughout the country. Commercial canal traffic only ended after World War II.
Limehouse Basin
Today the Canal & River Trust maintain 2000 miles of canals in England and Wales for our recreational pleasure. In London they are found hiding in plain sight, often below street level in east, west, and north London. Google maps will direct you to the entrances to towpaths along the Regent’s, Grand Union, and Docklands Canals, and the River Lea Navigation route.
Operating the locks
Traditional narrow boats, wider barges, and quirky sorts of watercraft ply the waters today and crews work the locks by hand. You’ll see hundreds of houseboats moored temporarily or permanently along the canals. In late August we met a family of four who had spent five weeks cruising from Liverpool to London, and were heading to a winter mooring before returning to their earth-bound home.
Other people live aboard year-round – cheaper than London rents.  Piles of wood on top of some boats fuel wood-burning stoves in winter.  A few have solar panels. Many miles of London canals are in populated areas. But some boats moored in industrial west London are far from roads or shops. How do they get groceries and water home? 

Waterside Cafe
The canals are vehicle-free routes for bicycle commuters. They are also scenic routes to stroll. Guided canal walks, canal festivals, and boat rides are further ways to explore canal lore. Pubs, cafés, and parks bump up against the towpath. (We saw one cyclist knocked into the canal, bicycle and all, by a careless pubster standing on the towpath.) There is even a bookshop barge that presents live music on its roof.
Concert on the water
Regent’s Canal cuts through the zoo. The Camden Locks join Camden Market, with stalls of clothing styles unchanged for decades. A food court fills the air with delicious aromas and reflects the global society that is London. We rode along the Grand Union canal during Notting Hill Caribbean Carnival and heard the bands loud and clear. 

Camden Locks
The Canal Museum, originally a nighttime stable for horses that pulled the boats, contains a narrowboat with typical house furnishings, as well as a gallery of photos and films of the canals in their working days. Painted pottery favored by boat dwellers is on display along with tools used in the trade. 
My favorite part of museum is the oral histories told by men and women who grew up on narrowboats. The shop carries an impressive library of books on canal life as well as nostalgic memorabilia. The museum offers guided walks and boat tours.

Warehouse turned into a workshop
The canals provide a colorful slice of London life past and present, from parks and mansions to council flats, abandoned warehouses and untamed nature. They also provide a refuge for birds, aquatic life, small woodland critters, and humans who want to retreat from the buzz of urban life.

For more information see:

Monday, September 12, 2016

CYCLING COAST to COAST in ENGLAND: from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, Guest Post by Gretchen Woelfle

My friend and fellow children's book writer, Gretchen Woelfle, has spent the last several months in England. She is also an avid and accomplished cyclist. Here is her report of a trip she made across England on her bike..
There’s something to be said for small countries like the UK. (NB: Don’t tell a Brit it’s small.) They can create things like a 14,000 mile National Cycle Network, a brainchild of nonprofit group Sustrans (sustainable transit, including walking).

In July a friend and I cycled 136 of those miles across the north of England on the c2c route, from Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to Tynemouth on the North Sea, through beautiful landscapes and the Pennines: a range of challenging uphills and thrilling downhills.
The Lake District
We booked with Pedal Power Cycle who customized the journey to our liking. We choose to do it in four days and Pedal Power arranged our accommodations (3 hotels, 2 B&Bs), carried our luggage onward, and provided bikes and maps.

Yankee Invader
Whitehaven, the starting point, was a site of a bungled invasion during the American Revolution. John Paul Jones, a Scot in the Royal Navy switched sides (GB’s Benedict Arnold?), landed at Whitehaven on April 23, 1778, rowed ashore with fifteen men, and spiked the cannons overlooking the harbor. They planned to burn hundreds of ships anchored there, but ran out of fuel. Some sailors went into town to find some, got waylaid in a pub, and didn’t return until nearly dawn, at which point the town was alerted and Jones and his men fled the scene. In 1999 Whitehaven officially pardoned Jones for the debacle.
Day 1, 31 miles, cycling tradition has you dip your back wheel in the Irish Sea, which I did.  Then we took off along a bike trail along an abandoned rail line, through woods and along sheep pastures. Sustrans has installed artwork every few miles: sculptured route markers and whimsical cutouts. Then on to country roads, through four rain showers, up one very steep climb with welcome tea and tea bread (fruitcake) at the top, then a whirl down to the town of Keswick and a hearty dinner at the Dog & Gun pub.
Trail Signage

Whimsical Sculpture along the trail
Day two, 49 miles, through the utter gorgeousness of the Lake District –which could inspire one to write poetry if one were so inclined. More steep hills, more delicious downhills, to an 18th century coaching inn in the country. I felt no shame dismounting and pushing the bike up some of those hills.
Day 3, 28 miles, and the hardest day yet. Into Northumbria, steeper hills, more rugged countryside, lunch in a pretty village, flower show in a medieval church where a young woman climbed into the tower to fix the clock. Blessed cup of tea at the highest (former) train station in England, then a blissful gradual downhill along the old rail bed, over stark moors with sheep gazing and gazing unperturbed. Evening ended at The Fleece where our team did not win the pub quiz.
Rail Trail
Day 4, 27 easy miles into Newcastle-upon-Tyne, lunch at a 15th century pub on the river, one more rail trail to Tynemouth and the North Sea, into which I dipped my front wheel, and bid farewell to my trusty steed/cycle. Finally a van ride to our luxury riverside hotel and a superb vegetarian meal at The Herb Garden.
All in all, an exhilarating ride, glorious landscapes, dramatic skies, and ample justification for having a slice of decadent cake – Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle, etc. – every afternoon with my tea. I’m checking out Pedal Power’s Coasts and Castles route that wends its way to Scotland.

For more information on hiking and biking routes in the UK: (see walking and cycling inspiration page) customized self-guided cycling tours
Searching “walking and cycling holidays UK” will give dozens of options for guided and self-guided tours.

Monday, September 5, 2016

FOUR DAYS IN NEW YORK CITY, Guest Post by Paige Arnold

Love sculpture in New York City
A week ago, my granddaughter Paige (age 10) spent four days in New York City. Paige has a new camera and enjoyed photographing the sites of the city.  Here is a report of some of her favorite parts of the trip. 
I recently went to New York City for four days with my aunt and my mom. I stayed in Manhattan, not far from Washington Square.   It’s very different from where I live in California, but in a good way.   

Gramercy Park
I like it because you can walk in any given direction and you will find a Starbucks.  I also like that you can just stick out your hand and yell taxi to hail a taxi (you can go everywhere with those things).  I like how there are so many parks.  In New York there are a lot of pigeons but also a lot of other tiny birds too. 
The Laundress and the Little Prince in Greenwich Village
One day we walked to Washington Square and from there to Greenwich Village.  I liked Greenwich Village because it was very calm and the little shops looked very tiny, neat, and cozy.  There was lots of window decor.  There was a shop there called The Little Prince and it was almost engulfed in plants. Next to it there was a shop called the Laundress.  From there we walked home.  

The Flatiron Building
There are lots of apartments in New York so it is sometimes hard for you to find your apartment never having seen the outside before.

The pastrami shop
Another day , we rode the subway to Central Park, but before going to Central Park we went to a pastrami shop, and that was where my mom found out that in New York pastrami is just dry meat a third of a foot thick, sandwiched between two pieces of dry bread with nothing else. Then we walked to Central Park.  
Alice in Wonderland statue, Central Park
Mime in Central Park
There were about thirty or more stands where someone would draw a portrait or caricature of you for ten dollars.  There was a street show that was hilarious.  The people running it really knew how to coax people into giving them five to a hundred dollars.  There were many things to take pictures of.
New shoes from the Nike store
On the third day that I was there, we went shopping a lot.   Everything in general was more expensive than in California.  It was like money was worth less.  There were lots and lots of things and stores to choose from.  One of the only stores that had about the same prices as there are in California was Uniqlo.  Lots of the stores had mannequins holding and wearing tennis equipment because of the U.S. open tennis tournament hosted by New York.

The Brooklyn bridge at dusk
We also went to Brooklyn that day.  We went to a place called DUMBO.
Under (the)
View of Manhattan from Brooklyn
We walked under the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.  There were many opportunities to take pictures, especially of the bridges. 
At the American Museum of Natural History; Megaloceros was the largest deer to have ever lived
Another thing that I enjoyed in New York was when I did something called SoulCycle.  It’s a class where you are on a stationary bike and are pedaling for 45 minutes with an instructor telling you to stand up, or sit down with or without weights.  It is very hard but worth it. 
In New York there are lots of people that cross the street when the hand has stopped blinking, but most only do it if there are no approaching cars.  I was very sad to leave New York and I hope anyone who goes there has a great time like I did.
At Gramercy Park again