CRUISING THE GREAT LAKES #2: MOTORLESS MACKINAC ISLAND, MICHIGAN

Detroit may be the “Motor City,” but Mackinac Island, Michigan is the motorless city.  Banned by the village council in 1808, automobiles are nowhere to be seen on the island that lies at the boundary of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.  Instead, the less than 11,000 locals get around on horseback, horse drawn carriages, or bicycles. 

Everything on Mackinac (pronounced “Mackinaw”) is done utilizing horse power—literally!  Trash pick-up?  By horse power.  USPS and UPS?  Horse power!  Don’t believe me?  This is how your packages get delivered, even to the Grand Hotel:

A delivery to the Grand Hotel
UPS getting ready for more deliveries

And, this is the garbage “truck”:

Yes, they even haul their own food!

There are 650 horses on the island; however, all but ten horses (including the one pulling the only winter taxi) are transported to the mainland by boat to be kept in heated stables for the winter.  Most are draft horses weighing in around 2,000 pounds and able to haul three times their body weight.  The largest carriages hold 35 people and are pulled by 3 horses.

Only 500 of the residents are full time; the others are seasonal, working in the tourist trade that developed following the civil war, or enjoying their summer homes.

For those hearty full-timers, there is one school for kindergarten thru 12th grade with an annual attendance of 60-80 students.  The senior class has anywhere from 2-10 graduates each year.

There is one word that first comes to mind to describe Mackinac Island: charming.  It’s like stepping back in time while strolling the downtown streets filled with horse-drawn carriages and bicycles, lined with beautiful Victorian-era buildings and colorful lilac-filled gardens; and, a lack of cars or motor noise—just the clip-clop sound of horse hooves.  And, there is not a chain-hotel to be found, just cozy B&B’s, attractive locally owned resorts, and the famous Grand Hotel.

Our home away from home for 14 days!

What you will find a lot of in Mackinac Island are fudge shops!  Bruce and I counted twelve of them on the 4-block Main Street alone!  In 1889, Henry Murdick opened the island’s first “Candy Kitchen,” and by the 1920’s, fudge was THE souvenir to bring home.  By the 1960’s competition among the fudge makers resulted in a “fudge wars,” and now Mackinac is world-famous for its fudge. According to the Mackinac Island tourist bureau, downtown shops make 10,000 pounds of fudge each day during the season!

It’s competitive alright.  Ryba’s has four(!) shops within four blocks, Murdick’s and Joann’s each have two, and then if that’s not enough, there is May’s, Murrays, Sander’s, and Kilwin’s.  Yes, a couple of them—Murdick’s and Joann’s—got my business, as if there wasn’t enough great chocolate on the ship!  As they say, “When in Rome…”  It sure was tasty!

Our day on Mackinac began with an included horse carriage tour of the gorgeous, lush island, our nation’s second national park (after Yellowstone).  A two-horse carriage took us around town and up the hill past the Grand Hotel.  We were then transferred to a larger three-horse carriage to tour the steeper trails of the park and visit Fort Mackinac.

Our tour carriage for the first part of the tour
These troupers hauled 35 of us around steep hills!
The view of downtown and our ship from Fort Mackinac
Fort Mackinac

Rather than ride the carriage back to the Grand Hotel, we opted to walk and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Grand Hotel’s golf course along the nearly vacant path (except for the occasional horse carriage).  Lilac shrubs and trees were growing everywhere, and they were in full bloom.  We felt like we were walking through the pages of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.  It was so lovely and peaceful!

The Grand Hotel is indeed grand, especially its 660-foot front porch, the longest in the world.  Known as the filming location for the movie, Somewhere in Time (Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, 1981), the hotel was also visited by five U.S. presidents, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain.  Built in just 93 days, the hotel opened in 1887 and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.  In 1989, it became a National Historic Landmark. 

The hotel’s restaurant had the largest dining room I had ever seen!

After taking the self-guided tour of the massive hotel, we shared some delicious Mackinac ice cream from Sadie’s while rocking in two of the 100 rocking chairs that line the front porch.  Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor was named after the Scottish Terrier that won Best in Show at the 2010 Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show.  The pooch is owned by the owner of the hotel and her ribbons, trophies, and memorabilia are featured in one of the hotel’s galleries.

The short walk back into town was so pleasant that it was a shock when we returned to Main Street, crowded with the summer tourists that came over on the ferry for the day.  It felt so commercial and touristy that we were relieved when the ferries loaded up to return the tourists back to the mainland. 

Following our dinner aboard ship and the last ferry departure, it was just me, Bruce, a few other passengers from the ship, and a handful of locals strolling the quiet Main Street after dinner aboard ship.  Ocean Navigator didn’t sail until the next morning, so it was nice to be able to go back into town and have it almost to ourselves!

CRUISING THE GREAT LAKES ABOARD AMERICAN QUEEN VOYAGES’ OCEAN NAVIGATOR

Like millions of other avid travelers now clogging the nation’s airports, several trips we had booked over the past two years had been canceled due to COVID.  One of those trips would have been aboard American Queen Steamboat Company’s acquired Victory Cruise Line ships.  Since then, the company was renamed American Queen Voyages (AQV), and the itinerary we had chosen was no longer on the schedule.  We opted for a 14-day Chicago roundtrip cruise on the Great Lakes with three days on our own in Chicago after the cruise.

This post, as well as the next several, will be about our (thankfully!) COVID-free journey, and the wonderful people, places, and experiences we shared along the way.

As was the case with past American Queen cruises, the first night was spent at a hotel before boarding the ship.  We were put up at Chicago’s downtown Hilton, a beautiful hotel located on a beautiful park-lined stretch of South Michigan Avenue. 

Following our mandatory COVID tests, we were cleared for our cruise aboard the Ocean Navigator (previously named Ocean Victory) the following day.  Whewww!  All 131 of the passengers tested negative, so we were free to roam the city until our bus ride to the ship the next day.  We ventured out to walk the parks, see Buckingham Fountain, stroll along the lake, and then head to Lou Malnati’s for the deep-dish pizza I had been craving over the past two years!  It was just as I had remembered it when I visited Chicago with my best friend, ten years before—awesome!

Unfortunately, Chicago authorities decided shortly before the summer cruise season they didn’t want cruise ships coming and going in their waters during the busy summer weekends, so AQV was forced to bus us up to Milwaukee to meet the ship. It was all a bit of chaotic mess, because the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing (thanks to a lack of communication from the home office), but once we got on board it was (almost!) all good!

Let’s get the “(almost!)” out of the way first.  If you have poor hearing, wear hearing aids, and remove them at night, I HIGHLY recommend this ship.  If, on the other hand, you have excellent hearing and wear industrial-grade ear plugs at night to prevent inconsistent noises from waking you, think twice before cruising on this ship—at least until they resolve the pipe noise issue.  Even a white noise ap couldn’t mask the loud sound of pipes rattling when water was being pumped throughout the ship for the showers.  The water tanks were located below our cabin, so Alex, the wonderful Hotel Director, moved us in hopes of resolving the issue, since the problem couldn’t be fixed.  Unfortunately, the “upgrade” from the first to third deck didn’t make a difference; the rattling was throughout the ship.  This wasn’t a big deal during the day or evening, but the first shift of officers (housed in the inside cabins; passengers had outside cabins windows or balconies) showered around 5 am!

Our cabin on Deck 1 before we were moved.
Bruce and Alex (Hotel Director) with me

Otherwise, I can’t begin to tell you how much we enjoyed everything else about the ship, its crew, and this cruise!

Unlike American Queen’s U.S.A.-registered paddlewheel river boats, the Ocean Navigator is registered in the Bahamas, allowing the company to hire foreign crew.  Although most were Filipino, many nationalities were represented, including our charming and funny Scottish captain.  Alex and the chief purser were from the Ukraine, and our cabin steward, Jose, was from Honduras.  All were friendly, hard-working, and eager to please.  They made our cruise!

Our Scottish captain

Meet Marisol and Sarah:

Whenever I went to the gym, located across from the Purser’s desk, I would hear, “Hi, Miss Elaine!” They told me that after seeing my passport and comparing my birthdate to the photo, and then to me in person, I was their inspiration, and that I couldn’t possibly be 60!  They decided right then and there to give up unhealthy foods and start exercising, so they could look good at 60, too.  Made my day!

This is Chef Ross, a skinny chef you can trust! 

Of all the 56 cruises I have worked on or been a paying passenger, Ross and his staff prepared the best cuisine.  Like other AQV cruises, lobster tails were available every night; however, these were absolutely the best.  We ordered seafood every night and often asked for a lobster tail to be placed on top; we were in seafood heaven!

Ross didn’t mess around when it came to chocolate either.  He budgeted for a block of expensive, top-rated Valrhona chocolate, from France, for Gladwyn to use for baking his desserts.  His Valrhona Chocolate Tart was just as good as Nancy Silverton’s chocolate tart that I had enjoyed when Nancy was considered one of the best pastry chefs in the U.S.A.  After raving about it to Ross and Gladwyn, they surprised me with more that Gladwyn made special the following night.  Pure chocolate heaven!

Another Gladwyn masterpiece

This ship doesn’t offer the production shows like AQV’s river boats have at night, but we enjoyed listening to the band—especially Tim’s saxophone, flute, and harmonica solos.  We enjoyed sharing a few dinners with Tim, too.

Johnny (Piano & Vocals), Tim (Sax, Flute, Harmonicas), Bruce, and John (Drums)

After a full day at sea—uh, make that “at lake,” we docked at our first Michigan port…

Next up:  Motorless Mackinac Island

Until then, how about a virtual tour of the Ocean Navigator?

Ocean Navigator
Forward deck below the bridge
Bridge Tour
Top deck behind the bridge
Top deck looking aft
Top aft deck looking forward
Port side of The River Grill, located below the top deck. This was a casual dining restaurant where we enjoyed breakfast and lunch, rather than dining more formally in the dining room.
Starboard sie of The River Grill.
Promenade deck
This is how calm the water was on Lake Superior, a notoriously rough lake where the Edmund Fizgerald (and hundreds of other boats) sank.
The tavern was located forward on Deck 2 with the lounge mid-ship.
Our crew (and their adorable towel creations!)
Jose, our cabin steward
Diane, the shore excursion manager was one of my favorite people on board.
The dining room as located on Deck 1. This was the lobby before entering the dining room, and I thought Ross and his staff made great use of it! Every night, they lined up every single item on the menu, beginning with the appetizers. I had never seen this done on a cruise ship, and I thought it was a great idea! Being able to see the item with a description eliminated the need to ask questions of the service staff and to better decide what to order.

Just in case you weren’t tempted enough by the main entree’s I showed you earlier, here are a few of the appetizers I ordered during the cruise:

OUR VISIT TO NORTH GEORGIA & AMICALOLA FALLS

Last week, Bruce and I took a break from the routine to head up to North Georgia.  Over the years, we had always passed through the northern part of our state on our way to other destinations.  This time, we rented a log cabin on Cherry Lake Mountain, halfway between Ellijay and Blue Ridge.

Bruce found us a cute cabin through Morning Breeze Cabin Rentals that had a beautiful view of Cherry Lake below.  We purposely booked it for a week before the crowds would descend on the area for the Ellijay Apple Festival and expected fall foliage color change.  The last thing we wanted to deal with were crowds right before our hectic holiday craft show season!

Our cabin (top floor, with hot tub and another deck below)
The view from the screened in porch of Cherry Lake was lovely!
This bear-themed cabin had black bears EVERYWHERE!
Bruce kickin’ back at the edge of the lake
Cherry Lake, located just below the cabin
This is a pond near our cabin that I discovered on one of my Cherry Log Mountain Hikes. Bruce and I returned with his fishing pole; however, the fish weren’t biting.
Another discovery on my mountain hike, just beyond the pond.

If we had written a wish list for the perfect week in North Georgia, it couldn’t have been any better than what we actually got:  Sunny and dry with daily high temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s every day until we left.  Better yet, there were no crowds!  On our back-country drives, we often had the road all to ourselves—perfect for the loop from our cabin to the apple orchards in Ellijay, and then to Amicalola Falls, followed by Dahlonega, and then finally back to Blue Ridge via the curvy (and fun!) GA-60.  What an awesome day!

These were the highlights of our week:

Amicalola Falls State Park.  Don’t go to North Georgia and miss seeing these gorgeous waterfalls!  Located eight miles from the Appalachian Trail, the park is within the Chattahoochee National Forest, between Ellijay and Dahlonega, in Dawsonville.  At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

Although there are longer hiking trails leading from the lodge to the falls, we opted to park at the Reflection Pool and hike in on the Appalachian Approach Trail to the observation platform.  It’s a short hike that parallels the creek running from the falls, and the sound of the water was so mesmerizing.  The first observation platform is at the base of the falls, and the views were spectacular!  The higher observation platform was just 175 steps up.  For those needing rest, there were small rest arears along the climb up.  The views were breathtaking!

Blue Ridge.  Located 90 miles north of Atlanta via I-575, Blue Ridge is located on the Georgia-Tennessee-North Carolina line.  A hiker’s and trout fisherman’s paradise, Blue Ridge was ranked by Southern Living Magazine as one of the 2020 South’s Best Mountain Towns.

The quaint downtown is the starting point for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway; however, we opted not to ride the train to the Georgia-Tennessee border and just stay in Blue Ridge. There were a lot of nice shops, galleries, and restaurants in a quaint, but not too touristy-looking atmosphere.  Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined by tacky Ripley’s “attractions” like Gatlinburg, Tennessee was.  (We later drove on our own to McCaysville, GA / Copper Hill, TN; however, the journey was more enjoyable than the destination.)

For us, the highlight of Blue Ridge was visiting The Art Center, home to the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association.  Located in the former Fannin County Courthouse, exhibits are on display throughout the building.  Our favorite was the Contemporary Southern Folk Art exhibit (ending soon!) on display in the former court where trials formerly took place.  The association did an outstanding job turning the courthouse into a spacious and beautiful gallery!  Check out their website for upcoming exhibits and make sure to stop by to check them out.  We visited mid-week and had the entire place to ourselves!  There is no charge, but please drop a donation into the glass bowl as it is a non-profit arts association.

Whenever I research a travel destination, I always search the Trip Advisor website for recommendations.  Since the top-rated restaurant was a casual, locally-owned favorite with outdoor dining, it was a must for us.  We will definitely return to The Rum Cake Lady Cuban Food Café in downtown Blue Ridge when we visit the area again!  The food was delicious, and the restaurant offered vegan and vegetarian options.

This very fierce looking dog guarded The Rum Cake Lady Cuban Food Cafe.
If it’s fried, I ain’t eatin’ it! We passed on this restaurant…
This pig greeted us at Hillcrest Orchards.

Further south in Ellijay, the highlight was hitting the apple orchard trail.  Although Mercier Orchards back up in Blue Ridge has the most Trip Advisor reviews, our favorite orchard of the five we visited was Panorama Orchards, located three miles south of the center of Ellijay.  Both orchards are rated 4-1/2 stars on Trip Advisor; however, we enjoyed shopping for goodies at Panorama Orchards’ market much more than at Mercier.  The apples are priced the same at both markets; however, Panorama has an incredible selection of food items at better prices, including their homemade preserves, jams, apple breads (delicious!) and other bakery items. 

In the back of the market, there is a large window where you can watch them making fudge and other candies—all priced better than at any of the other orchards we visited.  The fudge (made with fresh cream and butter) is heavenly, so pick some up to bring home.

Panorama Orchards was also the only one that made their own ice cream, and it was priced better than any of the ice cream shops we checked out in Northern Georgia.  The Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream was delicious!

We picked up a ½ peck of Honeycrisp apples to munch on in the cabin, and then stopped by on the way home for another ½ peck to bring home with us.  They were the best apples I have ever had!

Here are a few more snap shots from our trip. (I still haven’t replaced my broken favorite camera, so all of the shots in this post were with my cheap, sub-par Fuji underwater swimming video camera.)

This not-so-humble 4-story abode (complete with boat house) was located across from Lake Blue Ridge Marina.
I roped Bruce into straddling the state line for the ultimate cheesy picture. SAY CHEEEEZE!
Hmmm, drugs and guns. What could possibly go wrong? This is so typically North Georgia…
I pondered over this shot debating with myself whether I should include this or not. There is just SO MUCH I could say about this that it could take up an entire blog post. Suffice it to say that I would never last a day as this guy’s neighbor. After all, McCaysville Drug & Gun was located just up the street, and I’m sure the owner of this banner is their best customer! I’d be a goner.

…AND, ANOTHER LITTLE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS (Act 64)

The other day, this adorable baby penguin waddled her way to Sun City Peachtree and somehow managed to hop up onto the bench for a rest.  She had come a long way, after all!

Here’s a little fun fact about penguins:  They are incredibly fast swimmers!  Their wings function like wheels in the water, and they can have a speed of up to 15 mph.  On land, however, they’re not so fast.  They walk (or waddle!) at a speed range between 1.7 mph to 2.4 mph.

If you compare the swimming speed of penguins to Olympic gold medalists such as Caeleb Dressel or Michael Phelps, they race at less than a third the speed of penguins.

Yesterday, this kangaroo hopped with her joey all the way from Australia to join us up here in Georgia.  I wonder if they stowed away on a ship to get here?  Nah, they probably escaped from the Atlanta Zoo instead.  What a couple of cuties!

Have you ever wondered why Australia has a sporting flag of a kangaroo in boxing gloves?  The idea of a boxing kangaroo originates from the animal’s defensive behavior, in which it will use its small forelegs (its arms) to hold an attacker in place while using the claws on its larger hind legs to try to kick, slash or disembowel them.  This stance gives the impression that the kangaroo appears to be boxing with its attacker. 

The boxing kangaroo is a national symbol of Australia, and is often displayed prominently by Australian spectators at sporting events.  It rose to prominence in 1983 when the Australia II team won the America’s Cup, and the crew raised the Boxing Kangaroo (“BK”) as their sporting battle flag.  The image, a red-gloved golden kangaroo on a green background, was owned by Alan Bond (owner of the Australia II yacht) who licensed it for mass production.

The next animal to visit was Scooby-Doo, the pet and lifelong companion of Shaggy Rogers.  Although he’s a Great Dane, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy share several personality traits, mostly being fearful and perpetually hungry.  The pooch doesn’t say much, but every word he does manage to utter has an “R” at the front of it, due to a speech impediment.  One of his catch phrases is “Ruh-roh, Raggy” (Uh-oh, Shaggy).  He also howls at the end of every episode, “Scooby-Dooby-Doo!” or “Rooby-Rooby-Roo!”

A Hanna-Barbera creation, Scooby-Doo was a children’s cartoon on CBS.  Fred Silverman, the children’s programming director, came up with the character’s name from the syllables “doo-be-doo-be-doo” in Frank Sinatra’s hit song Strangers in the Night. Artist Iwao Takamoto took it from there and designed the character after first speaking to a Great Dane Breeder, who described to him the desirable characteristics of a pedigree dog.  Takamoto then drew Scooby as the opposite of this.  He said, “I decided to go the opposite [way] and gave him a hump back, bowed legs, small chin and such.  Even his colour is wrong.”  That’s what makes him so cute and loveable, I think!

…AND, ANOTHER LITTLE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS (Act 46)

Last, but definitely not least, here’s Rosie the Robot!  She is the last remaining member of the family to visit us here at Sun City Peachtree.  Rosie was busy vacuuming up the mess Elroy made while eating snacks in the back seat of the Jetson’s aerocar, so it took her a while to catch up.

Rosie is the Jetson’s family robot, maid, and housekeeper.  Although she is an older model (an XB-500), she does a good job getting the work done.  Besides, Jane couldn’t afford a newer model, and this was the only one U-Rent A Maid could offer at the right price.

The robot is mostly made of blue metal, and she rolls around on wheels.  I’m thinking Rosie may need some WD-40 on her wheels, though, because she makes loud grinding and clicking sounds as she moves around.  That’s how I knew she was here!

Rosie’s other features include claw-like arms that can extend to play sports.  Cool!  That would have come in handy when my brother and I were growing up!  Her cylindrical head features lips that look like small doors and eyes that resemble dials and sometimes light up.  Although her eyes mostly point upwards, they can move slightly to show different emotions.  If they are pointed towards each other, that means Rosie is sad.  Watch out if they are pointed outward and horizontally, because that means she is mad!

Since Rosie is a maid, her uniform includes a maid’s hat, a dress, and an apron.  To complete the look, she has antennae on the sides of her head.

According to Rosie, her XB-500 model is wired for tape analysis, which means she is compatible to read magnetic tape that computers used.  When she is home by herself, she functions as a security system and house sitter.  Otherwise, she is a traditional maid that cleans the house with a feather duster, vacuum, and other conventional cleaning tools.  In addition, she operates the other household appliances.

When Rosie speaks, she has a Brooklyn accent, which evidently appeals to her boyfriend, Mac.  He is also a robot and Henry Orbit’s helper.  Rosie loves him dearly, but he isn’t very smart.  She is definitely the more intelligent robot.

I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t mind having Rosie come by our place once in a while.  She can do the vacuuming while I write about her!  (I’m wondering if I could reprogram her accent to a British one, though…)

The interesting thing about Rosie and so many other things happening in the The Jetsons world is just how much of their futuristic lives became a reality decades later.  Hyundai and other companies are making their own versions of Rosie, robotic vacuums now roam around people’s homes, we video chat on Zoom and other platforms, and homes are outfitted with all sorts of smart technology that people can control with their smart phones.  Aerocars may not be in existence quite yet, but self-driving cars are currently being tested by Tesla, Google, and several others.  Meanwhile, Branson and Bezos are preparing to fly into space in their private spaceships.  How long will it be before everybody is living in the Jetson’s futuristic world?

…AND, ANOTHER LITTLE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS (Act 21)

An adorably curious owl flew in last week and took a rest here at Sun City Peachtree; and, today, it’s Tweety Bird!  I could have sworn I heard him say, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat!”  Sylvester was nowhere to be found, though.

Tweety (aka Tweety Pie), has been fluttering about for quite a long time.  The yellow canary with the big head was born five years before Sylvester came around.  He first appeared in A Tale of Two Kitties, in 1942.  Five years later, he joined his nemisis, Sylvester, in Tweety Pie, which won an Academy Award.  A star was born!

Now, about that big head of his.  Tweety’s design was based on a baby picture of Bob Clampett, the director of the canary’s first movie.  (Evidently, baby Bobby had a fat head!)

Tweety has mellowed over the years.  At first, he was an angry little bird with a short temper, but he has chilled.  Don’t let those long eye lashes and his sweet charm fool you, though.  When it comes to his rival, he’ll find a way to humiliate the cat in the end.  Besides, the pint-sized canary has Granny to protect him, when he lives at her house.  She keeps him in a cage and away from Sylvester who is always trying to eat the little fellow. 

Sylvester is just jealous.  He thinks Granny likes Tweety better and gives the bird more attention.

When he’s not (easily) escaping Sylvester’s claws, the star canary is off making appearances in other movies, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam, and Looney Tunes:  Back in Action.

Recently, it appeared as if being a star had gone to Tweety’s (big!) head, and he turned a bit aggressive and angry again in Looney Tunes Cartoons

The star will be making some appearances in the near future, beginning with Tweety Mysteries, a live-action/animated hybrid.  Instead of living with Granny, he will be living with Sydney, a pre-teen girl.  He will also be appearing in the preschool series, Bugs Bunny Builders.  (I wonder if Bugs Bunny will try to eat the yellow-feathered canary, too!)

ST. PETERSBURG’S IMAGINE MUSEUM

St. Petersburg is such a fantastic city for so many reasons, but it’s especially fantastic if you enjoy seeing fabulous glass art works.  Between the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center, and Duncan McClellan Gallery, which I previously wrote about; they exhibit (and/or sell) more top-quality art glass than most American cities.  There is still, however, one more glass museum I haven’t yet shared, which is the Imagine Museum.

Wow!  The Imagine Museum is another feast for the eyes that is well worth the visit.  Founded in 2016 by glass artist Trish Duggan, “her goal was to put together a collection of artworks and promote an experience that would inspire, uplift, and educate,” according to their website.  We definitely think she has accomplished that goal!

Imagine Museum features top glass artists from around the world, including America, Canada, the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Australia, and others.  There are 1,500 glass art works on display from the Studio Glass Movement, which started in the 1960’s and continues to the present.

One of the things I greatly appreciated about Imagine Museum and the other museums and galleries we visited was that they openly encourage visitors to photograph their art works!  All they asked was to tag them on social media.  Done!

We were also pleased to learn the museum offered free tours with admission.  The tour we selected was, “Introduction to American Studio Glass.”  There were only six of us on the tour, and the guide did an excellent job keeping our attention with interesting stories about the artists and their works.  It was fascinating!

Following the tour, we roamed around the remaining exhibits that weren’t covered on the tour, including the entire second floor of the museum. 

Glass is often really difficult to photograph, so the pictures I took of many of the art works ended up in the recycle bin—especially since I wasn’t shooting with my best camera, which I left at home, due to a malfunctioning zoom mechanism.  These were all shot (without flash) with my inexpensive waterproof Fuji XP, which Bruce uses for shooting underwater video of my swimming for stroke technique feedback.

The pictures don’t do the art work justice, so you will just have to visit St. Petersburg and see it all for yourself!

Dale Chihuly
Toots Zynsky, a former student of Dale Chihuly
Toots Zynsky
“Nirvana,” 1000 Buddahs, by Imagine Museum founder, Trish Dugan. She was inspired by this quote by Buddah: “Though you can conquer a 1,000 men in battle 1,000 times, the one who conquers himself is the noblest victor of all.”
Martin Blank
It’s difficult to imagine from this picture, but I was actually looking through a very long tunnel of glass! This sculpture was approximately 12+ feet long! This photo was shot from one end.
This is just a small portion of a large glass sculpture by Anthony James.
This glass cube is balancing on its stand. The tour guide took one corner, gave it a spin! It was mesmerizing to watch, and this photo can’t possibly capture what we really saw.
This one was a trip! It looked different from every angle!
This life-size chair was on display in the front window of the museum. Don’t sit on it!

ST. PETERSBURG’S DUNCAN MCCLELLAN GALLERY: A FEAST FOR THE EYES

Trip Advisor has been a very useful travel-planning tool over the years, and this time was no different.  Checking out the site’s “Things to Do” category for St. Petersburg landed me here to read the reviews on the top-ranked Duncan McClellan Gallery.  Just knowing it was an art glass gallery was convincing enough; we knew we had to see it!  The fabulous reviews, however, sealed it!  Better yet was following the link to the gallery’s website to see the gorgeous photos of their exhibited glass sculptures.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the personable and friendly Danyell Bauer, the gallery’s manager.  She has worked at the gallery for ten years, and she is also a glass and multi-media artist.  We really enjoyed talking with her!

As we feasted our eyes on all of the beautiful works of art, we felt right at home in the relaxed environment—especially when we saw the food and water bowls on the floor for what turned out to be three cats that had free run of the gallery. (I guess they don’t make a habit of knocking over the art work!)

The 3,000-square-foot gallery opened up to a casual courtyard and deck in one direction, where two of the cats were taking a siesta; and, on the other side of the gallery, it opened up to a beautiful sculpture garden full of mango trees, plants, orchids, sculptures, art glass, a boardwalk path, and casual sitting areas where you could relax and enjoy the environment.  We were amazed that gorgeous blown glass pieces were on display out in the elements.  They were created by Duncan himself, and they were spectacular!

Duncan McClellan

We got talking with Duncan McClellan, and learned that he also loves to garden and grow orchids.  He created that 5,000-square-foot sculpture garden from what was once an empty dirt space behind the former fish and tomato packing plant.  Now, he is learning how to grow several varieties of mushrooms and showed us a bucket that had mushrooms growing on the side.

Duncan was as personable and friendly as Danyell, and he really made us feel at home.  Behind the gallery and sculpture garden is a huge glass blowing studio, so he led us back and showed us around.  Glass blowing demonstrations are open to the public; however, we were there on a Sunday afternoon, so there wasn’t much action going on. 

Since Bruce works in fused glass, we were interested in seeing his kilns, and we were amazed at the quantity and variety he had available there for himself, staff, the artists, and classes they teach.  One of them was the largest we had ever seen!  This huge piece was annealed in this approximately 5’ x 5’ kiln.

We look forward to returning to the gallery next time we visit St. Petersburg.  Since the rotating exhibitions feature national and internationally recognized glass artists, I am sure there will be many more amazing works of art; a feast for the eyes!

VACCINATION CELEBRATION! ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA

April 27, 2021.  I was so looking forward to that glorious day:  Full vaccination!  The countdown started after my second jab, on April 13.  Bruce was already fully vaccinated, and we decided to take a celebration road trip the moment I qualified.

On April 27th, we hit the road to St. Petersburg, a Florida city we hadn’t yet visited.  The draw?  The Chihuly Collection at the Morean Art Center.

Glass blowing demonstration at the Morean Arts Center.

Dale Chihuly, an American glass sculptor, is one of the world’s most famous artists of blown glass.  We had enjoyed his temporary exhibits at the Mingei Museum, in San Diego, as well as the Atlanta and Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens.  In addition, we were in awe of his permanent installations at the San Antonio library, San Antonio Museum of Art, Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel, and Maker’s Mark Distillery, in Kentucky.

We decided to make our celebration a one-week vacation, so we could also enjoy the other art glass galleries, museums, and so much more that St. Petersburg has to offer.

Notice how Flipper is masked to keep us all safe!

Whenever I travel, I also look for a pool facility, so I can start off at least some of my days with a good swim training session.  I found it in St. Pete, at the North Shore Aquatics Complex, located right on the downtown waterfront at Vinoy Park.  I was in swimming heaven! The 50-meter pool was run short course the days I swam, so I always had my own lane in the perfect 80-degree water.  (The facility also has a 25-meter pool and kids water park. 

While I swam, Bruce walked along the waterfront park watching the dolphins and birds as he enjoyed views of the St. Petersburg skyline and marina.  One of his walks took him along Vinoy Park, past the marina, and to the end of St. Pete Pier and back, for a 75-minute roundtrip.  Nice!

Bruce was really impressed with the uniqueness of this pier—unlike anything he had ever seen; so, I had to see it for myself.

The new version of this pier on Tampa Bay opened in July, 2020 at a cost of $92 million dollars.  It includes five restaurants, a playground, an environmental education center, artwork, and sculptures, including this life-size pelican. 

Next time we visit St. Pete, we are going to make sure to return to the pier at night to see the “Bending Arc,” a net sculpture that lights up in bright colors.

We really enjoyed the downtown area of St. Petersburg.  It’s an easy city to navigate by car or on foot; however, if neither of those options sound appealing to you (or, you just want to relax and leave the work to somebody else), you can ride the Looper.  The ride is free, and there are twenty stops along the route where you can get off to enjoy one of the many restaurants with outdoor dining, visit a gallery, or shop ‘til you drop.  It even stops at the local hospitals, but I’m hopeful you will never need to do that!

St. Pete has an artsy vibe, and there is plenty of arts and culture to take in while you’re there.  My next two posts will give you a taste of it with visits to the Duncan McClellan Gallery and Imagine Museum.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite crafts from Florida Craft Art: