Washington, D.C. in May – day 2

Continuing in my series of our trip to Washington, D.C. last month, day two was my birthday. Here’s a link to our first day in case you missed it. I wanted to try and do a few new things this trip and found this museum all about language, Planet Word, right up my alley! I decided my birthday was the perfect day to visit.

It’s relatively new as it opened in October 2020. I knew when I read about it, I had to go and see!

Rather than paraphrase, here is the brief story of how Planet Word came to be:

Planet Word’s home is in the Franklin School in our nation’s capital. Originally opened in 1869 and completely rehabilitated between 2018 and 2020, the 50,000-square-foot, five-story historic icon is located on Franklin Square at 13th & K streets in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Renowned architect Adolf Cluss designed the Franklin School as the flagship of eight modern urban public school buildings in Washington, D.C. The building served as a model for the modern public school system and offered free education to as many as 900 White boys and girls per year (D.C. schools were segregated at this time).

The Franklin School was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996. International architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle was hired by the museum’s founder, Ann B. Friedman, to rehabilitate and restore the building to its original “Modern Renaissance” glory.

As you arrive, you are greeted by the Speaking Willow. As you pass under it you hear people speaking in all sorts of languages. The piece is designed to activate when people pass by. This is the first of many interactive exhibits in this unique museum. Very cool!! Here’s a bit more information about the Speaking Willow:

https://planetwordmuseum.org/speakingwillow/

We had a lot of fun and learned many things about languages, like where words come from in the English language and I now know what a portmanteau is. We also learned how language is used in advertising. There were some quiz sections that I didn’t do very well with but they were fun to try nonetheless. There was a room with a display of books. When you place a book in a specific spot, a recording tells you all about that book. It was really fun to try all the interactive exhibits. Do go if you’re in the D.C. area. A bonus for us was that it was a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Here’s a link to their website in case anyone would like to visit. Following is a gallery of photos I took in the museum.

We also lunched at Immigrant Food which is located on the lower level of the museum but it also has an outside door so you could eat there without going to the museum. It had an interesting mix of food options and I thought it sounded good. And it was!

My sister and her husband happened to be in town at the same time so we arranged to spend some time together in the afternoon and then celebrate at dinner, the four of us. We met at the White House Visitor Center and then walked around the White House to the Renwick Gallery. There was a Dale Chihuly chandelier that I wanted to see and they were game for both. Both were interesting and we all enjoyed the outing. Some photos of those sites are in the next gallery.

I chose Clyde’s of Gallery Place for dinner and it was so good! I based my choice on the large and varied menu and the great reviews that I read. I was 100% satisfied and we all enjoyed our meals. The server, whose name I don’t recall but she was from Morocco, was just great!! Friendly and informative. The food was fabulous and our server came by with a piece of chocolate cake and everyone sang to me. It exceeded my expectations and if I’m in the D.C. area again I will be sure to stop by.

Another successful day! Stay tuned for day three, coming soon 😊

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Washington, D.C. in May – day 1

I decided to celebrate both my birthday and my retirement with a week in our nation’s capital. We both love the city and there is so much to do there. We booked our tickets in February and then began to plan the details of our trip. While we didn’t do everything on the wish list, we did plenty as you will see in this and the coming posts. I’m going to do the same as I did for our trip to the North Shore last summer and do one post for each day of the trip. Please come along as I show you in photos everything we saw and did, and ate in D.C.

We arrived on a Wednesday and left the following Wednesday so we had 6 full days. Shortly after we booked our flights I noticed that so many attractions would be closed. There weren’t any tours of the Capitol building or the White House, for starters. Okay, well, you work around that then. The Air and Space Museum as well as the East Building of the National Gallery of Art would be closed for renovations. But there is so much to do and see and we planned around these closures and even did some new things this trip.

I researched attractions and restaurants on Trip Advisor and Google to create our agenda for this trip. I kept going back to attractions’ websites to see if anything changed and so many things opened up in time for our trip! I believe it was from Trip Advisor that I learned Capitol and White House tours would start again in April so I got right on that to get passes. And one of my favorites, the U.S. Botanic Garden, also opened up. That, along with the National Gallery of Art, are things I try to do every time I’m in D.C. I also checked attractions’ websites to see if timed entry passes were required and there were many that required them. The Smithsonian group of museums were all free but a few of the museums that we visited did require entry fees.

On our first day we started with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. My featured photo above is of this museum. We got timed entry passes 30 days prior and were there when it opened at 10:00. I had been there before and my group started in the lower levels which is recommended, and there is so much history!! But I didn’t time it well for that visit. I made lunch reservations too early and we had to rush through the 4th floor where all the cultural exhibits reside. For this trip I made sure to leave enough time between events and decided to not book a lunch reservation so that we didn’t have to rush. So, we started on the 4th floor and soaked in all the music, television, theatre and comedy displays. There is so much to the cultural exhibits!! The museum does a fabulous job documenting all the culture the Black community has contributed to American culture. In my opinion, it’s a must see.

Neither of us can spend more than two hours in any museum. It is just so much information that our brains get full and we need a break. And so it happened again with this morning’s museum. We spent so much time on the 4th floor that we rushed through the lower levels about slavery. Again, there is so much information and it is truly well done. You work your way through history of the slave trade and the many years of slavery. One of my favorite parts of this museum is coming up that last ramp on the lower levels to a huge photo of Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009. It still gives me the chills! And it’s so well placed.

We did not have time for the 2nd and 3rd floors which covers sports, the African American Military and an “Explore your family history” section. There is so much in this museum that it seems impossible to view it all in one visit, at least for us. I think you could probably spend an entire day at this museum and not see it all. Even so, we really enjoyed our time there and we both bought shirts in their gift shop. Following is a gallery of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

We lunched at Old Ebbitt’s Grill, a favorite of ours. I was pleasantly surprised to be seated immediately. We sat in the atrium which was new to us, and had another fabulous meal. Old Ebbitt’s is now part of the Clyde group of restaurants and they sure know how to treat their customers. Service and food were just right!

We chose 3:00 to visit the Library of Congress. This was one attraction whose hours changed between February and May. I was worried we wouldn’t have enough time at the Library of Congress because previously it was going to close at 4:00, but they extended hours on Thursdays which was the day we planned to visit so that worked out well. We got there a little early and they let us in.

Such a beautiful building inside!! And of course it’s full of history. There was no guided tour this time but there were museum clientele throughout to inform about the Gutenberg Bible, the Reading Room overlook and other spots throughout. We didn’t stop at all of them but really enjoyed the beauty and ornate decorations within. We also saw the Rosa Parks exhibit which was very interesting. I highly recommend a visit to the Library of Congress.

Oh, I forgot to mention that on our way to today’s events we happened upon the new World War I memorial. It’s in Pershing Park which is in between the Willard Hotel and the White House Visitors Center and about a block away from the White House. The American flag was raised over the World War I Memorial for the first time on Friday, April 16, 2021 at the formal unveiling of the memorial. The sculpture “A soldier’s journey” is scheduled for installation in 2024. In the meantime you see a photo of it on a wall and it is quite moving. Here are the photos that I took.

I found a bit more information at the following link which contains a mock-up of what the sculpture will look like:

https://www.nps.gov/wwim/learn/historyculture/journey.htm

Here’s a brief description from that site:

Memorial architect Joe Weishaar calls Sabin Howard’s A Soldier’s Journey sculpture “The Everyman.” Thirty-eight separate figures, spread over approximately 58 feet of wall towards the western end of the Memorial Core, portray the experience of one American soldier. Starting from the left, the soldier takes leave from his wife and daughter, charges into combat, sees men around him killed, wounded, and gassed, and recovers from the shock to come home to his family. The figures are mounted on the wall.

I hope you will come back for the next five days of our trip!

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Art in Bloom – Minneapolis Institute of Art

Every year, except for 2020 and 2021, the Minneapolis Institute of Art holds Art in Bloom. I think it’s the same weekend each year, and this year it was held the last weekend in April, beginning on Thursday, April 28th and ending on Sunday, May 1st. Artists send in applications to be chosen to interpret one piece of art with flowers. It is fascinating and inspirational to see how well the floral arrangements match the work of art.

Since I just retired I planned to go the first day at opening time, rather than on the weekend when it would be more crowded. I guess I should have known that since Art in Bloom hasn’t been held in three years that it would be busy. But I had no idea we wouldn’t be able to park! Their parking lot was full and all the spots on the streets were taken. They were offering valet parking for $20 but we thought we could just come back later. And that ended up being the next day after lunch.

We were driving towards the museum looking for street parking when we saw a man about to open his car door and he was pointing at his car. We drove past him but since there wasn’t anyone behind us we backed up then asked him if he was motioning to us and he said yes! And that our timing was perfect. Excellent! I have not approached the museum from this direction before and I noticed a sculpture of a head lying on the grass outside the north side of the museum. Check it out in the second gallery below. I also chose it for my featured image above. So cool!!

The museum was still pretty crowded but we managed it okay. I’m not a big fan of crowds and there were tour groups that we had to maneuver around, but it wasn’t too bad. We typically don’t spend many hours at museums and my husband describes what happens as “my eyes are full”, meaning you can only see so much art all at once. But we sure enjoyed what we saw. We didn’t have a plan other than to start on the third floor then work our way down. And we just wandered from gallery to gallery looking for floral arrangements. We saw so many pieces that we had never seen before, and all because there were flowers next to them.

We usually see our favorites when we go to MIA and by the time we’ve done that, it’s usually time to go. On our last visit I chose a gallery that we had never seen before and I think I will continue to do that on successive visits. It seem like a good way to try and see everything there because you can’t possibly see it all in one visit.

Most of the photos that I took were the pieces of art where there was a floral arrangement. But since we were in galleries we had not seen before, we perused other artworks too. So, for my photo galleries the first one is for the artworks with floral arrangements and the other with other pieces that tripped my fancy on this visit to MIA. I hope you will enjoy!!

And here’s the gallery of other pieces of art that I saw along the way:

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Our last day on the North Shore

Greetings blogsphere! I’ve been documenting our trip to the North Shore last summer and we’ve reached our last full day. If you missed any of the first three days, you can find them here, here and here. Do check them out if you’re so inclined. We had such a nice time at one of the most beautiful spots in Minnesota. I still can’t believe it took me nearly 30 years to get there!

We awakened to clear skies!! And that made us hopeful that the Greenwood fire smoke blew away again for the day. Our plan was to visit the Grand Portage National Monument in the morning and then do our second hike up Oberg Mountain, the full loop this time, in the afternoon. Since Grand Portage was an hour from our hotel we decided to break it up by having breakfast in Grand Marais, the halfway point.

It was such a beautiful drive along the North Shore! I don’t think the photos do it justice but here’s one that I like so that you can get somewhat of an idea of the beauty along the highway. This was on the way to Grand Marais.

We breakfasted at the Blue Water Cafe in Grand Marais. It was pretty good and we enjoyed a beautiful mural of Lake Superior and the stained glass. And check out the funny sign by the restrooms. Grand Marais is a quaint little town that is well known for its artists.

Grand Portage National Monument: Wow!! A scenic place full of history near the end of the North Shore and close to the Canadian border.

It’s a step back in time to when the North West Company operated the most profitable fur trading business on the Great Lakes between 1784 and 1803. The original buildings were long gone before the site was designated a national monument in 1958. The land was donated by the Grand Portage Band of Minnesota Chippewa(Ojibwe), or Anishinaabe, the original people. There were originally 16 buildings which you can see in the photo of the miniature of the entire grounds. The Great Hall, kitchen, look-out tower and warehouse were reconstructed to give visitors a glimpse of the past. Today the warehouse displays historic items, including birch-bark canoes built by traditional methods.

We started at the Heritage Center which contains galleries about Ojibwean culture and the fur trade at Grand Portage. We saw tee pees made out of birch bark, an Ojibwe carrying a backpack and other interesting displays. We explored the buildings and I especially enjoyed the waffle being made by a volunteer in period dress in the kitchen. In the Great Hall we were treated to a bit of Irish bagpipe music by another volunteer who knew quite a bit about the history of the place.

After getting our fill of the history of Grand Portage, we headed back to Grand Marais for lunch. Then back to the hotel to relax a bit before heading out for our second hike up Oberg mountain so that we could do the entire Oberg loop.

Back to the gondola ride at Lutsen Mountain that I mentioned in my day 3 post. We were driving around a bit on our first day and ended up on Lutsen Mountain taking in the magnificent views. We saw people riding the gondola between Lutsen Mountain and Moose Mountain and decided that would be another great way to experience more scenic views. This was our last day to take that ride but by the time we returned from Grand Portage the smoke from the Greenwood fire had returned and it didn’t make sense to take that ride if the views were going to be obstructed by the smoke. So, we’ve saved that gondola ride for our next trip to the North Shore this summer. We’re hoping for smokeless views this year! I gave a sneak preview of the smoke on our hike, here are those photos again, plus a handful more.

We heard that the North Shore had lots of snow this past winter, and even into April, which means bigger, more voluminous waterfalls than we saw last summer. So, we decided to take another trip this summer to see those bigger waterfalls and visit a couple more state parks that we didn’t have time for last year. We booked different lodging this time, just to try out another place, and we’re going back the last week of June. I can’t wait!

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The North Shore day 3

Remember the smoke I mentioned in my previous two posts about our trip to the North Shore? Before I get to that, if you missed either of my first two posts, I’m doing a day by day synopsis of our trip. You can check out the first one here and the second one here. Brief recap: the Greenwood fire was started by a lightening strike a few days before we headed to the North Shore. Since it was about 40-50 miles from where we were staying, we almost cancelled and I’m so glad we didn’t! The smoke from this fire would come and go with the wind and we awoke to a smoky sunrise on day 3. I love the colors in this photo (taken by hubby) but it smelled really smoky.

We kept checking the air quality since our plan was to visit two state parks today. According to the weather app on our phones, air quality was moderate. After breakfast at Lockport Marketplace and Deli we headed out on the highway to Tettegouche State Park about 30 minutes south of our hotel.

Such an interesting start to the hike as the trail goes under the highway at the beginning. It was a long hike to a waterfall that is more voluminous when we’re not in drought. But at least there was water. And it was pretty. There were paths to other waterfalls and there was one sign that said 200 steps to the bottom of the waterfall which meant we had to climb back up these steps, so we passed on that one. It was a 1.5 mile hike to the High Falls of the Baptism River and it took roughly two hours to go and come back. We passed other hikers on our way back that kept asking if there were waterfalls. We wondered the same thing and we felt rewarded when we saw the waterfalls.

We stopped at Schroeder Baking Company and got some sandwiches to eat at our hotel while we rested and regrouped for our afternoon hike. We got to Temperance River State Park about 2:00 and of course we checked out the map! This hike was a bit more rewarding in that there were several waterfalls that we found. It took most of the afternoon for this hike. We got there about 2:00 and then back to our hotel just after 4:00. Lots of up and down and lots of treacherous spots. We couldn’t take our eyes off our feet too much to enjoy the views because we had to watch where we put our feet so as not to fall down and crack our heads open. Luckily that didn’t happen! And I did manage to get some good photos.

We had another picnic of smoked fish, crackers, cheese and salads in our room for supper. After all that hiking we didn’t feel like eating out. We had talked about taking the gondola ride on Lutsen Mountain for more great views, but there was no time today. The next day we had more time but it was not to be because day 4 was full of smoke which made for some one-of-a-kind photos! Not a great day to see the views of the lake from the mountain as you will see in the photos for that post that is coming soon.

We had an eagle flying by our balcony the entire time we were there. It was so cool!! And it was this evening on day 3 that I managed to capture him in flight, also very cool!! And so my featured photo is of our eagle buddy and I’ll close with the video that I hope you will enjoy. I’d advise to turn the volume down unless you want to hear my commentary. My next post will be about Grand Portage National Monument so do come back for that. Such an interesting place! We really enjoyed it.

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The North Shore day 2

Continuing my series of our trip last summer to the North Shore, and taking a break from the awful news of late…..time to focus on some beauty in the world, even if briefly. If you happened to have missed my first post about our trip to the North Shore, you can check it out at this link.

On day 2 we had a nice breakfast at Coho Café and Bakery and after a short rest in our hotel room we decided to check out Oberg Mountain. I mentioned our quest to find waterfalls in my initial post, but there aren’t any waterfalls on the Oberg Mountain trail. There are, however, fabulous views of Oberg Lake and Lake Superior. We had heard about our “namesake” (our last name is Oberg) mountain over the years living in Minnesota but until our trip to the North Shore, we had never visited. Finally we got the chance to check it out!

It was a great hike! So many people that we passed on the trail kept saying “great hike!” or “the views are so worth it!” It’s a somewhat treacherous path in that there are many tree roots poking through the ground so you really have to watch your step for those sections. Even so, it’s hard to keep staring at the ground and both of us occasionally would trip over some of these roots. It’s also a gradual climb up the mountain so it’s all uphill, at least on the ascent.

We’ve been asked if we’re related to the Obergs for which the mountain is named. I was pretty sure we weren’t but I did some googling to find out who it was named for. Nothing terribly exciting, unless you’re part of this Oberg family. It was probably named for a commercial fishing family living near Lutsen at the turn of the 20th century. My husband’s grandfather had changed his name from Johansen to Oberg when he came to the United States in the early 1900s. And my father-in-law’s brothers did not live in Minnesota so I was pretty sure there was no relation.

We were actually a bit dumb on the first hike of our North Shore adventure. We were so excited to head up the mountain that we forgot to look at the map of the trail. We didn’t realize that Oberg “loop” actually was a loop that went all the way around the mountain. We figured that out after returning to the parking lot and looking at the map. Of course we had to go back another day to do the entire loop. Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess depending on your point of view, our second trip doing the entire loop was full of forest fire smoke from the Greenwood fire. The fire started by a lightening strike several days before we headed north. We almost cancelled but decided to go anyway and we’re so glad we did!! The wind would blow the smoke in and out so thankfully it wasn’t smoky the entire time. This is why there are some photos with and without smoke. What beautiful places the North Shore and Superior National Forest are!! So serene, calming and relaxing.

Included in this gallery are a few photos from our smoke-filled hike a couple of days later to show the contrast with our first trip up Oberg Mountain. The smoke made for some eerie-looking photos!

In my next post I’m going to include photos of the waterfalls that we found, so I hope you’ll come back for that. In the meantime, please enjoy my gallery of our hikes up Oberg Mountain, a few others from Lutsen and the moon rise over Lake Superior our second night. So beautiful!!

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The North Shore of Lake Superior

I’m finally getting back to posting about our trip to the North Shore. I had started this post a month after our trip but it’s been sitting in drafts all this time.

I’ve lived in Minnesota nearly 30 years but until last summer, I had never visited the North Shore. “North Shore” is a bit of a misnomer in that it’s not the north shore of Lake Superior, rather it’s north of Duluth and forms the northeast side of Minnesota. But technically this section of Lake Superior is really the western shore.

When it looked like the pandemic might have been on its way out of our lives last May, we decided to travel within Minnesota because neither of us wanted to travel by air just yet. I began looking for places to stay and already places were booked up! But I did find a place right on the Lake where every room has a balcony and a view of the lake. Cliff Dweller was perfect! It was so nice to listen to the lake lap against the shore as we fell asleep. And the location was great for exploring the area.

We nearly cancelled because of a fire that started from a lightening strike the Sunday of the week we were traveling there, the Greenwood fire in the Superior National Forest. But we decided to go and take our chances. The fire itself was about 40 miles from where we were staying so we felt we were fairly safe from the fire. But it did become the focal point of our time on the north shore as the winds would change and bring smoke to the shore at times. It made for some eerie-looking photos!

I attempted to see if the fire ever went out but I didn’t search too long. I did find this post with an interesting video about the fire so if you’re inclined, do take a look. While it shows the damage done, it also reveals the beauty of the area. I would imagine that the snowfall this winter did put out the fire.

We went on several hikes in search of waterfalls. I had seen something on Facebook from the Department of Natural Resources that there were indeed waterfalls, that reports of no waterfalls were not true. Minnesota has been in drought all summer which I guess prompted conspiracy theorists to create nonsense. Typically the best views of the waterfalls are in spring after the snow melts, but there were still lovely views to be had, even at the end of summer and during a drought.

Mostly we went on hikes in state parks. The first one we visited was en route to our hotel the first day. Check-in wasn’t until 4:00 so we set out about 10:00 with a few stops on the way. First stop was lunch in Duluth at the Blackwoods Grill. We had been there years ago so we knew it was a good spot. And its location at the beginning of the scenic portion of highway 61 was perfect! It was a nice break from being in the car.

I had never been north of Duluth so I was pretty excited to finally see the North Shore! I read about Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse which was right along the way on our drive to the hotel. We decided to get some smoked fish and brought some salads and cheese and crackers to have a picnic in our room. We thought this would be a great way to unwind from a long day of driving. We were right! It was perfect. Oh except I forgot to grab some paper plates. I remembered forks and spoons and napkins but not plates. But we made do and the fish was great!!

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park was next on my list of places to see on the way to our hotel. And it didn’t disappoint. Here’s something from their website explaining why the lighthouse was built:

A November gale that wrecked nearly 30 ships in 1905 prompted this rugged landmark’s construction. When the U.S. Lighthouse Service completed Split Rock Light Station in 1910, it soon became one of Minnesota’s best known destinations.

Nestled in a Minnesota State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most photographed and visited spots in the state, with a drama-filled history and breathtaking Lake Superior views. If you haven’t visited lately, now is the time to pay homage to a true North Shore icon.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 but the lantern is still operational. Every November 10th there is a lighting ceremony to commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. Music lover readers will remember that Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about this disaster.

I decided to do a chronological posting of our trip so this is the first one. I’ll close with a gallery of photos that I hope you will enjoy. Please come back for more posts about the North Shore coming soon! Click on any photo to see the gallery with larger images.

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