2013 in Review: Brazil and Seattle Wednesday, Jan 1 2014 

As the new year begins, it feels like the right time to look back at 2013 and think about the year. PJ and I agree that 2013 was a pretty great year for us. We traveled, enjoyed museums, music, and theater, saw friends and family, and generally appreciated the life we have made together. Since I didn’t blog much in 2013, I plan to write a series of short(ish) posts about the things we did and saw in 2013. These will then lead into my annual favorites lists. Hopefully I’ll get them all done before work takes up all of my time again!

This post will be about our travels in 2013. We only made it to New York City once in 2013, which was significantly less than in 2012 (when I was there three times!). Conversely, I visited San Antonio three times in 2013. My younger sister and her husband had their first child in 2012, and I’m totally in love with her. I’ll be going back a lot in the coming years. For our annual summer trip abroad we returned to South America and visited four places in Brazil. It was a whirlwind tour of the country during their early winter, but it was a wonderful experience. And we visited Seattle for the first time to visit one of PJ’s longtime friends and her wife. All of the trips were great, but I thought I would post a few pictures and comments from just two of the trips here: Brazil and Seattle.

Brazil

Brazil is a beautiful country. We were there before the riots; if we had gone after them, it might have changed our perspective somewhat. We started in Rio de Janeiro. We spent our first afternoon on the beach. I enjoyed watching this guy, who seemed to be gay or trans, braiding women’s hair for a small fee:

Maybe we were just hungry, but the cheap lunch we had that day was great — I had a ham and cheese crepe with a local beer. Yummy! We also tried fish balls — balls of fish meat that were battered and then deep-fried.

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Visiting Peru, Part 2: Machu Picchu Tuesday, Jul 5 2011 

Since the whole point of our trip was to visit Machu Picchu, I thought I would write about it before moving on to other aspects of our trip. We arrived in Cusco last Monday, and stayed there until Wednesday morning, when we caught the train to Aguas Calientes, a small town nestled in the base of the mountains below Machu Picchu.

A veiw from our train to Aguas Calientes

The train trip was exciting, since the views were breathtaking: mountains, Inca terraces, and rivers illustrate a) just how difficult the terrain is and b) how impressive it is that the Inca were able to settle here.

We could also see a bit of the Inca Trail that hikers can take to get to Machu Picchu:

Part of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Almost as soon as our train arrived at Aguas Calientes, where our transit officer met us at the station and had us give our backpacks to the hotel porter, we met up with our tour guide and a small group of tourists and were on the bus up to Machu Picchu.

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Visiting Peru, Part 1: An Overview Monday, Jul 4 2011 

PJ and I spent last week in Peru. Our main goal in planning this vacation was to see Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas,” as Hiram Bingham famously called it. This also meant spent most of our week abroad in Cusco, the largest city near Machu Picchu. Before writing what I hope will be several posts about everything we did, I thought I would start with an overview of our trip. It was an amazing experience. We learned a lot, saw magnificent sites, and ate some delicious food. What more could you want from a vacation?!

It was our first time to travel to South America, so we were a little nervous about it. We’ve been to Europe several times now, so that doesn’t seem so difficult. But I, especially, don’t deal well with new things — they make me a nervous wreck. So, PJ had the foresight to book us for a pre-packaged tour through a travel agency, Best Peru Tours.

We purchased the 7-day “Deluxe Package” that included airfare from Lima to Cusco, a tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the train trip to and from Machu Picchu, a city tour of Cusco, the hotels, and the flight from Cusco back to Lima for $999. One of the things that we loved about this package is that someone met us at each stage of the trip to make sure we got where we needed to go. Jorge, for example, met us at the airport when we landed in Lima and accompanied us (with a driver) to our hotel. Along the way, he explained what we’d be doing. The next morning Alonso (and a driver) picked us up from out hotel and took us back to the airport for our flight to Cusco. Gladys met us in Cusco and got us to the appropriate place several times. And another transit officer met us when we arrived in Aguas Calientes to get us to our tour of Machu Picchu.

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Visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Again) Monday, May 30 2011 

On Thursday, PJ and I each flew to Boston for the weekend. He was there for the American Literature Association Conference, and I decided to tag along for a little rest and relaxation. I had initially thought that I would set up some visits with alumni while there, but I quickly decided that I deserve a little time off every now and then. I’d glad I did; it was a fun, restful weekend.

The highlight of the trip was visiting the Museum of Fine Arts again. In particular, I took a look at the museum’s new Art of the Americas wing, which is nothing less than fabulous. My memory of the previous space was that it was rather dull. The new wing is beautifully arranged, and I especially enjoyed the lighting. The works on display are gorgeously lit in this new, four-story wing. There’s also plenty of room for moving around and seeing the works from multiple positions. It’s a great addition to the museum.

Much of the collection is organized around the museum’s strengths, two of which immediately stand out: John Singleton Copley and John Singer Sargent. One of my favorite paintings during this visit was Copley’s “Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Winslow (Jemima Debuke)”:

This painting illustrates a trend in the way the museum now labels its paintings: whenever the painting depicts a married woman, her maiden name is also given in the title along with her married name. I really like this acknowledgment that women are not only wives, subsumed into their husbands’ identities.

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Visiting New York Monday, Dec 13 2010 

Yesterday, PJ and I got back from our annual trip to New York City. As usual, we had a great time, even though the trip was a little different than in the past.

This year I spent a significant part of the trip working rather than being a tourist. While PJ visited the sites (and caught up with an old friend), I met with a handful of my college’s alumni. Partly this was for development purposes, but it was also part of a larger effort to reconnect my college with its alumni. So, whenever I travel this year I’m trying to combine it with lunches, dinners, breakfasts, or coffees with alumni. Since I don’t actually have an official travel budget, I’m having to pay for some of the travel myself, which means that I’m trying to combine it with trips we already take or with places that I don’t mind going. Like New York!

The development stuff went well enough. You never know exactly how all that’s going to go in advance. I learned a lot of good stuff — not all of it pleasant — but all of it helpful in doing my job.

The only downside to the alumni meetings was that it left me little time for sightseeing. For the first time since we started visiting New York, I didn’t see any museums. But we did see some shows. We arrived in the city on Tuesday. That night we saw A Little Night Music with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. On Wednesday we didn’t see any shows; instead, PJ met up with a college friend and I met with an alum. On Thursday, we saw American Idiot. On Friday, we got tickets to La Bete, starring David Hyde Pierce, Joanna Lumley, and Mark Rylance. And on Saturday we saw Time Stands Still with Laura Linney. I’ll review each in more detail later.

We also ate incredibly well (as usual). We had more Italian this time than we usually do, but we also had Thai, Mexican, and Greek, and PJ had Vietnamese.

And finally, we saw Black Swan starring Natalie Portman, which I’ll review later.

So, all in all, it was a fun, successful trip. I just wish that I had made it to a museum or two. Next year, I’ll also try to consolidate my alumni visits into one or two days, giving myself more time to play.

Visiting Bruges Saturday, Dec 4 2010 

As I wrote about yesterday, PJ and I were recently in Belgium. I had one day at the end of the trip to be just a tourist, so we took the train up to Bruges and spent most of a day walking around this historic city.

Bruges saw its heyday in the late Medieval and early Renaissance periods. By the fifteenth century it was one of the cultural centers for art in Europe. Amazingly, Bruges survived both world wars in tact, making it an almost pristine glimpse into the art and architecture of the early Renaissance.

Bruges is an incredibly beautiful city — it was cold but mostly clear while we visited. It must be heavenly in the summer! The architecture combined with the canals make it a uniquely beautiful place. Many of the streets are cobblestones, and the oldest houses and buildings are built so as to form continuous walls and fortifications. I could almost feel what it was like to have lived here hundreds of years ago. Cars and other signs of modernity seem so out of place in these streets.

After we left the train station, we made out way to the Market Square, which was being decorated for the holidays. After walking around it, we decided to climb the bell tower, which was built in 1300.

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Visiting Brussels Friday, Dec 3 2010 

The week before Thanksgiving, PJ and I traveled to Brussels, Belgium. I was there for a symposium, and PJ came along to see a bit of a country we otherwise had no plans to visit any time soon. It was a nice little trip — we arrived in Brussels on Sunday morning and left bright and early on Thursday.

The weather when we arrived was wet and cold. We walked from the train station to our hotel, which had been arranged by the university hosting the symposium. The organizer had told me that the hotel was in the red light district, which immediately conjured up images from our trip to Amsterdam this past spring. Based on that PJ and I both thought that it would be fine. And it was, but it was also really weird — this was nothing like Amsterdam’s red light district. This area, which seemed to be centered on the block our hotel was on, had women (and a couple of guys) standing every 30 feet or so soliciting customers on the sidewalk. So, there was no way to get to and from our hotel without walking past several “working girls.”

The most awkward part for us was that we weren’t sure at first whether we should say hello as we passed by one of the women or if we should try to ignore her. We tried acknowledging them at first, but that seemed to be the start of a transaction that we were not interested in participating in. Other than that, though, is was fine — definitely something to remember!

My symposium, which was held on Monday and Tuesday, seemed to go really well. I really enjoyed meeting the other participants. And I’ll be getting an article written out of it. All that seems really good!

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Visiting Kew Gardens Saturday, Jul 3 2010 

Two of our goals while we were in England last week were a) to find new things to see in London and b) to do relaxing things. My first year as dean has left me spent and tired; I definitely wanted a vacation that didn’t exhaust me even more.

To these ends, PJ recommended that we take the Thames River tour over to Kew Gardens and spend most of a day roaming around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Both ideas turned out to be excellent!

Inside the gates of Kew Gardens

The boat tour took about an hour and a half. The weather was wonderful: sunny and warm, perfect for a boat ride. The only down side was that we were unprepared for the sun, and both got rather sunburned as a result.

Once we arrived at Kew Gardens, we made a quick list of activities and sites that we wanted to do. These included Kew Palace, the Treetop Walkway, lunch, Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, Temperate House, and as much of the grounds as we could fit in.

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Back from England Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

PJ and I got back from England on Monday. It’s taken me a few days to fully recover from the jet lag, but I’m starting to feel normal again.

We had a lovely time throughout our trip. The weather was lovely — mostly in the 80s and sunny or partly cloudy. No rain.

And we enjoyed all of our tourist activities. During the first part of the trip we were in London, where we took the Thames River cruise and visited Kew Gardens and Churchill’s War Rooms. We also saw a musical of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and a play called Holding the Man. We then went to Bath, where we visited the Roman Baths and the Abbey and generally walked around. We also took two bus tours, one of the Cotswolds and one to Stonehenge, Avebury, and other places. Then we were back in London for a couple of days to celebrate my 40th birthday. We saw the Queen’s Gallery and visited the Wallace Collection in addition to the Imperial War Museum. We also saw a gay version of Dangerous Liaisons and a play called War Horse.

Throughout the trip we ate incredibly well. In addition to a few pub meals, we had Thai, Indian, and French meals. And our hotels were the best we’ve ever stayed at in England — PJ did a great job picking them!

So, I now have lots to blog about in the coming days. I just hope to gather up the energy to be productive!

Gone to England Sunday, Jun 20 2010 

Today is PJ’s birthday, and my birthday is Saturday, so we’re flying to England to celebrate.

We’ll be spending a couple of days in London before going to Bath for three days. While staying in Bath, we’re going to take a couple of day-long bus tours to the Cotswolds and Stonehenge. Then we’re back to London for my birthday. We’ll fly home on the 28th.

The main plan is to eat well, visit museums, and generally relax and enjoy a week away from work. As much as I love my job as dean, I’m looking forward to a vacation!

I’ve been so busy over the past six weeks that I’ve barely blogged. This trip should also give me lots to write about! Until then, cheers!

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