The Momentary

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This month’s Friday road trip took Greg, Ferni and me to NW Arkansas. An advantage to living in Joplin, Missouri is that Oklahoma and Kansas are literally minutes away and Arkansas lies 30 minutes to the south.

Thus far, my road trips include jaunts into Oklahoma and Arkansas plus a road trip in Missouri and a weekend getaway in Joplin. I’m looking at you now, Kansas! Next road trip I’ll find something to explore there.

Bentonville, Arkansas offers many fun attractions.  A new contemporary art museum/gathering place, The Momentary, drew our interest and curiosity this trip.

Come explore The Momentary with me and tour the fascinating Nick Cave exhibit, Until.

The Momentary title meme

The Momentary Museum

A former cheese factory, The Momentary repurposed the existing 63,000 square foot space to create a contemporary museum and social gathering place. The multidisciplinary building houses space for visual and performing arts, culinary experiences, festivals, artists in residence and more.

Architects left most of the building intact, minimizing the carbon footprint and the use of new materials while preserving a piece of Bentonville history.

Founded by the Walton Family, The Momentary’s mission is to champion contemporary art’s role in everyday life.

Admission is free. The Momentary is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10:00 – 7:00, closed Monday. During this time, masks that cover the nose and mouth are required at all times, while inside the building and on the grounds. Social distancing and the limitation of guests is in effect as well.

The Momentary boiler room
Original boiler room, inside The Momentary.

The building offers distinctive spaces.

Galleries

The large, open galleries and attached smaller rooms feature art and exhibits that change throughout the year. The current exhibit, Nick Cave’s Until, remains at The Momentary through January 3, 2021.

The Tower

The 70 foot tall Tower contains multiple mezzanines for visual arts, performances and social events. It’s capped by Tower Bar, a social space offering drinks, bar-type food and spectacular views.

Seating is currently limited to 40 guests and parties limited to 10 people.

Tower Bar hours are Tuesday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00, Friday – Saturday 5:00 – midnight, closed Sunday – Monday.

The Momentary tower
The Tower

Rode House

In Rode House enjoy films, performances and gatherings in a customizable space with an adjustable floor system. The Rode Bar, located off of Rode House, offers patio seating for drinks and snacks.

Rode House hours, Wednesday – Thursday 5:00 – 9:00, Friday 4:00 – 11:00, Saturday 11:00 – 11:00, closed Sunday – Tuesday.

The Momentary courtyard
The Rode Bar with outdoor seating.

The Breakroom

Located in the original breakroom of the cheese factory, The Breakroom offers lunch and dinner in a space overlooking the galleries. Due to following COVID guidelines, The Breakroom is temporarily closed.

Onyx Coffee Lab

Located to the right of the main entrance, on the lower level, Onyx Coffee Lab provides a fun place to rest and grab a coffee and a snack. Sit inside or on the outdoor patio.

Hours, Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 7:00. Closed Monday.

Momentary Shop

The Momentary Shop offers prints and books by featured artists and wonderfully unique gifts.

Momentary Green

Outdoors Momentary Green provides room for activities, picnics, gatherings, music, art exhibits and special events.

The Momentary tent and sculptures
Momentary Green

 

Artist Nick Cave: Until

For Nick Cave, a dancer, fabric sculptor and performance artist based out of Chicago, Until is his largest, most ambitious project yet. The exhibit occupies 24,000 square feet of gallery space at The Momentary.

The title Until comes from the phrase, “innocent until proven guilty”. For some in the US, black men in particular, Nick explains that the words “guilty until proven innocent” ring more true. Until is the word that changes everything, the hinge into the unknown.

Nick’s new exhibit is, partly, a response to the killing of black men across the US.

He hopes that the immersive nature of his art invites the viewer to “step in”. Because once you step in, you are no longer an outside observer, you are implicated, involved.

Step into the different elements of the exhibit with me.

The Momentary wall art
The Momentary – art projected upon the walls and floor

Wind Ornament Forest

Walking into the Until Exhibit, the first large room features thousands of colorful spinners and pinwheels. Strung from ceiling to floor, the initial effect is dizzying, joyful and playful. A path winds through the forest of spinners that do indeed rotate, reflecting flashes light.

On closer inspection, I realize many of the spinners contain silhouettes of guns, bullets and targets. Those silhouettes powerfully change the whole feel of the room. The images within the twirling spinners brought to mind the words “moving targets”. It unsettled me and made me reflective, which is Nick’s intention I believe.

The Momentary pinwheels
The Momentary – the first room in the Until Exhibit, spinners and pinwheels
The Momentary Nick Cave Until
The Momentary – thousands of spinners fill the room. This is a small segment.

Crystal Cloud

Leaving the spinners, we enter a room divided into distinct areas.

I veer to the right, my attention captivated by the sparkling crystal cloud suspended above me. Thousands of crystals dangle from wires and chandeliers mounted on a cloud shaped structure.

As Nick worked on the spinners project, a question arose.

“Is there racism in heaven?”

The question birthed the crystal cloud. Beneath it, the chandeliers dazzle. Looking up through a large chandelier, I glimpsed a floor above, covered with found objects. Peering up reminds me of the song, “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”. The lyrics tell us that loved ones who pass on watch us and watch over us, through the holes in the floor of heaven.

Four yellow ladders give access to small platforms, which in turn offer views of heaven above the cloud. Nick collects found objects and heaven contains a wild assortment of ceramic birds and animals, gold statues, flowers, fruit, an old phonograph and, disturbing to me initially, those small lawn jockeys that used to be popular years ago. I never liked those statues.

They depict seated black boys holding out a lantern, a fishing pole or a ring through which horse reins could be tied. Nick rescues these statues, from flea markets and yard sales, and places dream catchers in their hands, symbolizing a new life where anything is possible.

We climb stairs to the mezzanine, to view the top of the cloud and other massive works of art better seen from above.

The Momentary crystal heaven
The Momentary – Crystal Cloud below
The Momentary - heaven
The Momentary – heaven above – Nick Cave Exhibit

Beaded Wall Art

After studying the top of the cloud, and allowing feelings to surface, I turn to examine the magnificent beaded wall art. Millions of glass and plastic beads, strung on netting, create waterfalls of color. These massive works of art boggle the mind, hanging in a three story space.

How long did it take to create these?

The security guard below told us to look for the hidden messages. They aren’t hard to find. On one wall hanging a peace sign and a happy face peer at us. On the other, the word POWER stands out.

Nick drew inspiration from graffiti marred cliffs he saw, as he traveled on the train from Penn Station in New York City. In that graffiti, words of hate caught his attention. Nick re-framed his experience, creating instead colorful art that offers hope and optimism.

The Momentary - hanging installation
The Momentary – beaded wall art
The Momentary inside hanging installation
Standing inside one of the wall hangings, looking up.

The Flow

The last room we visit contains a moving, visual work of art titled Flow Blow.

Fans on scaffolding continually blow shiny blue and silver mylar strands into the room, creating a soothing waterfall effect. The hum of the fans and the mesmerizing movement of the mylar strands work their magic.

Nick intends for this room to provide a peaceful environment to process thoughts and emotions. He hopes people walk away, back through the exhibit, changed by their experience.

The Momentary flow
The Momentary – Flow Blow

My Thoughts About Until

This is a unique and moving exhibit, by a talented artist.

I read that in 1992, Nick sat in a Chicago park, stunned by the news of the beating of Rodney King and the LA riots. Feeling vulnerable, as an African American man, and targeted, he gathered sticks off of the ground.

In his studio, he turned the sticks into his first soundsuit, a wearable sculpture with a defensive shell. Nick’s soundsuits effectively mask the entire body, erasing identity. This man’s art continues to provide a platform for civil discourse, debate, change and ultimately, hope.

I felt the contrast between the bright, colorful works of art and the deeper, sometimes darker messages they contain. I love that the exhibit is so large. It allows time to process images and feel the emotions as I slowly wander.

The mental image of Nick sitting on a park bench, wondering what might happen next, troubled me. I’ve never had a gun pointed at me. I’ve never been afraid that I am a target. The closest I can come to knowing that level of vulnerability and fear was when the EF5 tornado ripped through my Joplin neighborhood in 2011. Crouching in a closet, hearing the sounds of destruction around me, I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I didn’t know if I would survive.

That is a tiny fraction of what others feel, especially in the black community. And that hurts my heart.

Momentary

I deeply appreciate the art of Nick Cave. My heart stirred, I feel inspired to create change. I want to listen and learn and discover how I can be that change.

Momentary is defined as “lasting for a short time”. It’s the perfect name for a place that frequently changes what they offer. My time at The Momentary was brief however the impact is lasting. I look forward to more experiences there. And I look forward to seeing what continues to unfold in my life as a result of my visit.

The Momentary Ferni
Ferni’s photo, at The Momentary.

Learn more about Nick Cave HERE.

 


 

 

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Dancing on My Island

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Author and speaker Glennon Doyle inspired this post, with a chapter in her book Untamed. Titled “Islands”, the chapter provides much food for thought. I’ve re-read the chapter many times, underlined passages and sorted through my feelings  and reactions to it.

As this crazy year winds down, I’ve moved deeply into a space of inner knowing. Working in my garden one day, words drifted across my mind, in the form of an invitation. “Release your inner wild woman.” While that is another blog post for another day, part of releasing my inner wild woman, my inner wildness, connects to fully inhabiting my own space and occupying my own island.

I’m still exploring this terrain and learning. And as I gain clarity, I’m dancing over here, on my island. I’ve also danced around sharing this post for weeks. Yet every time I think, “Nah…I’ll share these thoughts later”, I receive a nudge that propels me forward.

Dancing on my island? Yes I am. And here is what that is all about.

Dancing on My Island title meme

On the Island

Glennon shares in her book that when she made the decision to divorce her husband and marry Abby, people had BIG feelings about her news. Some of those responses made her feel afraid, defensive, angry, exposed.

Abby created a metaphor to put the situation in perspective.

She asked Glennon to imagine their love as an island. On that island live Glennon, Abby and Glennon’s three kids from her previous marriage. Real love dwells there too.

She added that the island is surrounded by a moat, filled with alligators, and they will not lower the drawbridge for anyone carrying fear onto their island. On the island only love exists. Everything else stays on the other side. They are happy on their island. Let others scream hate or fear. They can’t hear it. There is too much music.

Creating My Island

That story, that metaphor, resonates deeply with me. There is so much noise in the world right now, so much hate, fear, anger and unkindness. People attack each other over beliefs. As an empath, I FEEL those swirling emotions. They hurt me, and not just emotionally. Fear, hate and anger stab me with sharp, jagged edges and create physical pain.

The idea of dwelling on an island, apart from all the negativity, appeals to me.

There I can connect to nature, to the Divine, to myself…and I can breathe, think, process all the feels and be fully myself.

No one is allowed into my sacred space, carrying fear, hate, anger, prejudice or unkindness with them. I won’t lower the drawbridge. And the moat surrounding my island is filled with jellyfish…beautiful, fascinating jellyfish…that deliver warning stings if anyone steps into the moat.

Dancing on My Island jellyfish
Dancing on my island, protected by jellyfish.

Island Dweller

So what does that look like, in reality, to live on such an island?

Of course, it’s a metaphor. I wish I owned an actual island to fly to when I needed time alone. I don’t.

The island represents my personal space, where I am my truest, most authentic self. I decide what enters that space…and what doesn’t.

I’ve already touched on what is NOT allowed on my island: fear, anger, worry, racism, hate, judgment, prejudice, bullying, negativity and unkindness. The list may grow, as needed.

What IS allowed: love, kindness, joy, acceptance, peace, curiosity, inspiration, connection, creativity, positivity, passion and hope. That list may grow, as desired.

I’m done explaining myself to people who don’t want to understand. As Glennon says, “Explaining is fear preparing its case and I am not on trial.” I’m not on trial either. The only way to convince someone that all is well in my world is to live my life and show that all is well in my world. Dancing, figuratively or in my living room, is an outward expression of my joyful living.

Only Love In…Only Love Out

There is a sign on the mainland, across from my island: Only Love In. And there is a sign on my island that faces me: Only Love Out. Those signs serve as reminders that I won’t drop the drawbridge for someone carrying lower energy emotions with them. I won’t allow them to get close to me.

And, I don’t want to head out into the world, from my sanctuary, carrying those lower energies either. I know how to deal with such energies and clear them out of my life. From love flows all the things I desire in my life and desire to offer to others.

When I’m engaging with the world, I intend to limit contact with fear, anger, hate and the other low energy vibes I don’t want in my space. This means I’m curating my social media feeds and quietly blocking or deleting people as needed. And it means I don’t engage in conversations that include racism, hate, fear or unkindness. I’ll remove myself.

I’m not burying my head in the sand on my island. I am very aware of what’s happening around me. I choose not to engage. Instead, I’ll listen and learn from those who are speaking truth, whether about change or life or the future. I’ll grow. My energy I send out in healing waves of love, joy and peace, to those who need it. I’ll use my voice to speak kindness, love and joy. And I’ll take actions to help others, walking alongside for a time, offering from my heart and resources.

I’m protecting myself and my space, fiercely. If others want to shout at me from across the moat, let them. I’m dancing on my island to my favorite tunes.

Dancing on My Island only love allowed
Dancing on my island – only love allowed

What Does Your Island Look Like?

Do you desire to protect your personal space?

What is allowed on your island and what isn’t? Make a list of what absolutely cannot come across the drawbridge, no matter who is carrying it. Decide who lives on your island with you. What an amazing way to love and protect the children in your life, when you will not allow fear to assault them and share space with them.

Read the chapter “Islands” in Untamed…and then start at the beginning and read the whole book. It’s life changing. At least, it is changing mine.

Release your inner wild woman…

I am doing so. And doing so, I am allowing the path ahead to be shaped by what I am discovering. In living life beyond the edges I’m finding out just how far out those edges go.

Dancing on My Island paradise
Dancing on my island is paradise for me.

Check out my review of Glennon’s book Love Warrior.

Purchase Untamed by clicking on the photo below:

 

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Explore Dublin’s Temple Bar Area

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Dublin, the capital of Ireland, joyfully welcomes her visitors. This fun sprawling city, home to 1.36 million people, launched our girls’ UK trip in 2017. We were all first time visitors to Dublin and what an impression this high energy city made on us. We left after our brief stay, determined to return someday and explore more.

The social hub of Dublin is found in its pubs…666 of them as a matter of fact. Dubliners enjoy gathering together for a few pints of Guinness, lively music and shared stories and laughter.

Although pubs are scattered throughout the city, the best collection of pubs is located in the Temple Bar Area.

Come explore Dublin’s Temple Bar Area and see why it’s such a popular destination spot.

Explore Dublin's Temple Bar Area title meme

Temple Bar History

Located in the heart of Dublin, the Temple Bar Area is described as the city’s “bohemian quarter”. The district offers a vast variety of art, unique shops, entertainment, cafes and restaurants, hostels and hotels and pubs. Live Irish folk music drifts out from cute establishments lined along narrow cobblestone streets. Visitors and locals alike enjoy the area for the “ceol agus craic”…Irish for music and fun.

However, the Temple Bar Area only gained popularity within the last 30 years. With the Liffey River bordering the south side, the area originally contained marshlands. In the 17th century, with the river walled in, the marshes were developed into a neighborhood for the wealthy. Some say the name Temple Bar came from a family name. It’s more likely it was named after the Temple District in London, in a desire to imitate that prestigious neighborhood.

The area declined over the years and by the 18th century, brothels and seedy businesses claimed the area. By the 1990s the district appeared run down and neglected. While a proposed central bus station for the area was under review, buildings leased for low rents. That attracted artists and creative people to the neighborhood. Fortunately, the renewed interest in Temple Bar prompted the city council to cancel the bus station project. Instead, the area experienced a revival that ultimately birthed Dublin’s premier spot.

Explore Dublin's Temple Bar Area square
Explore Dublin’s Temple Bar area – busy street on the square

Explore Dublin’s Temple Bar Area

Temple Bar offers artsy destinations such as the Irish Film Institute, the Projects Art Centre and the National Photographic Archive. Souvenir shops share the streets with tattoo parlors, hostels and cafes. However, most people visit the area for its pubs.

During the day, visitors hit businesses and grab a bite to eat at one of the excellent cafes. However, the Temple Bar area is the center of Dublin’s nightlife. By evening, crowds appear, filling the pubs for meals, music and drinks.

If you don’t like throngs of people, visit the Temple Bar area during the day. Explore the shops, people watch and enjoy lunch at one of the many pubs or cafes in the area. Live music generally begins mid to late afternoon. The area retains its friendly and fun atmosphere by day, without the boisterous overcrowding present at night.

Explore Dublin's Temple Bar Area leprechaun
Explore Dublin’s Temple Bar area – and find a leprechaun! My sister Linda and her leprechaun in front of The Quay’s Bar.

Best Pubs in Dublin’s Temple Bar Area

These fun pubs are considered the best of the best in Temple Bar. Enjoy a meal, grab a pint and listen to music.

The Temple Bar Pub

This pub dates back to 1840, making it one of the oldest in the neighborhood. Cool and quirky, the pub attracts artists, poets and tourists. It offers one of the largest whiskey collections in Ireland…some say the world…along with fresh oyster platters and live music daily.

The Auld Dubliner

Considered the “quiet” pub in Temple Bar, The Auld Dubliner is an oasis of calm in the bustle of Temple Bar, at least during the day. Enjoy a mix of hot and cold traditional Irish fare as well as more contemporary choices. Upstairs the pub hosts local and international live music every day.

The Porterhouse

Although this pub is a chain, they serve their own house beers. In fact, The Porterhouse was Dublin’s first brewery. They offer guests a classic Irish menu…plus American, British and European food…live music every day and a very laid back environment.

The Oliver St. John Gogarty

This pub attracts the younger crowd and even hosts a hostel upstairs. The food is informal plus they offer a large selection of rare whiskies. The Oliver St. John Gogarty presents live traditional music sessions every evening and overall, a fun, if a bit wild, vibe. As a side note, Dublin’s population is the youngest in Europe. Almost half of the city…49%…is under the age of 30.

The Quay’s Bar

This pub, with the fine restaurant upstairs, resides in the heart of Temple Bar. Live music begins at 3:00 PM daily. The menu and the musical artists range from traditional Irish to modern to international. This is an excellent pub to take a break in and enjoy lunch, an afternoon tea or a cup of Irish coffee.

Explore Dublin's Temple Bar Area vegan meal
Explore Dublin’s Temple Bar area – I enjoyed a vegan meal and a hot tea at The Quay’s Pub.

Lunch in Dublin’s Temple Bar Area

Our girls’ group enjoyed an afternoon in Temple Bar. We visited the bright red namesake pub and found it too crowded to enter. After strolling the narrow streets and enjoying the sights and sounds of the neighborhood, we settled on The Quay’s Bar for lunch. What an excellent choice!

The Quay’s Restaurant, located upstairs above the pub, provided the perfect spot to relax and refuel. Windows let in ample sunlight, creating a cheerful, inviting space to dine. My mother and I both ordered plant based meals and hot tea. The Quay’s offers a variety of scrumptious dishes to please everyone, including vegetarian and vegan options. My rice dish topped with arugula tasted amazing.

As is common in the UK, restrooms are typically located down a flight of stairs. When my mother, sister Linda and I ventured down to find the restrooms, we walked through the much livelier pub section. The Irish are such a fun people…joyful, humorous and open armed. A couple of young men happily posed with us for a photo and gave us warm hugs too.

Explore Dublin's Temple Bar Area Quay's Bar
Having fun at Quay’s Bar and Restaurant. Isn’t my little mama adorable?

Find the Temple Bar District

The Liffey River creates the northern boundary of Temple Bar. Dame Street marks the south side, Fishamble Street lies to the west and Westmoreland Street completes the square on the east.

We walked to the area from our apartment, crossing Liffey River on the historic Ha’Penny Bridge.

Nearby attractions include Trinity College, five minutes away on foot, Christ Church Cathedral, at the end of Dame Street, and Dublin Castle, four minutes away on foot.

The impact Dublin left on me creates a deep yearning to return. We barely scratched the surface of all that this amazing city offers, in our two days there. My Celtic roots, both Scottish and Irish, strongly compel me to return “home” and better know the land of my ancestors.

I’ll go back one day. A month spent exploring Dublin and farther out, all of Ireland, would barely quiet my longing. But what a start it will be…

Explore Dublin's Temple Bar Area Quays Restaurant
Girls’ lunch at The Quay’s Restaurant, Dublin.

Check out this Tale from Ireland:

St. Stephen’s Green Dublin

And these finds from Amazon:


 

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Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy

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Exploring the small town of Orvieto, Italy ranked as one of the top highlights of my trip to Italy in 2017. On the last day of our 12 day tour, my daughter, grandson and I soaked up the gorgeous views and fascinating culture of this gem in the Umbria region.

Read the highlights of that day HERE. Then read on for fun facts about Orvieto Italy.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy title meme

Getting to Orvieto Italy

Orvieto rests on a rock cliff formed from a volcanic butte, 1000 feet above the valley below. Considered one of the most striking towns in Italy, Orvieto sits in the middle of the country, less than 90 minutes from Rome.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy

This ancient city of about 21,000 people features an old and new town. Visitors arrive in the new town where they leave their cars or exit their tour buses. To gain entrance into old town they must ride an escalator up or take a funicular (trolley type car) to the edge of town. There buses transport guests up into the city.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy cliff top
Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy – the city perches on a cliff 1000 feet above the valley.

Etruscan Roots

The Etruscan civilization predates the Romans. Orvieto, known as Velzna then, was the most important town in the Etruscan territory. The Etruscans inhabited Orvieto until the 3rd century BC, when the Romans invaded.

The Duomo

This magnificent cathedral, one of the finest in Italy, took 300 years to complete. Think about it. The United States, founded in 1776, has yet to reach its 300th birthday. Generations of builders worked on this masterpiece.

Pope Nicholas IV laid the cornerstone for the Duomo on November 15, 1290. Completion occurred in 1591.

Inside, visitors appreciate the tall ceilings and black and white striped columns. Within the Duomo is the Chapel of San Brizio, featuring Luca Signorelli’s paintings, Day of Judgment and Life After Death. Some find the works of art creepy, with their depictions of hell and flying demons, while others declare them stunning.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy chapel
Fun facts about Orvieto Italy – the Duomo took 300 years to complete. Interior view.

Papal Residence

Outside of Rome, only Orvieto and two other cities contained papal palaces. During the sack of Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII sought refuge in Orvieto.

Fearing the water supply might not last, if the city went under siege, the pope commissioned a 62 meter deep well. The Pozzo di S Patrizio, or Well of St Patrick, contains a central well shaft surrounded by stairways in a double helix design. The staircases allowed one way traffic, with empty water jars going down one set of stairs and full ones coming up the other.

Visitors may climb down into the well and toss coins into the water.

Underground Labyrinth

Beneath Orvieto lies a labyrinth of Etruscan caves and tunnels. The underground city boasts 1200 passageways, galleries, wells, stairs, cellars, cisterns and rooms.

Noble families living above were equipped with escape tunnels that wound from their homes through the labyrinth below, emerging at safe exit points outside the city walls.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy street
One of the gorgeous streets in Orvieto.

Oldest Church in Orvieto

San Giovenale claims the title as the oldest church in the city. Built in 1004, on the site of an Etruscan temple, the building contains many 13th century frescoes.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy oldest church
Fun facts about Orvieto Italy – the oldest church was built in 1004.

Etruscan Necropolis

Orvieto contains one of two Etruscan cemeteries in Italy. This one is 2,500 years old and located on the northern side of the cliff face. The tombs resemble houses, neatly arranged in rows.

Middle Ages Fortress

Built in the 1300s, Albornoz Fortress stood at the edge of the city on the site of an Etruscan temple. It’s purpose was to keep the city secure. Today it’s mostly in ruins and used as a public garden with an amphitheater for performances.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy fortress ruins
Fun facts about Orvieto Italy – the fortress was built on the site of an Etruscan temple.

Torre del Moro

The 47 meter tall clock tower in central Orvieto contains 236 steps that visitors may climb for spectacular views of the city and valley below. Originally built in the 13th century, the tower belonged to the pope. Today its clock and bells tell time.

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy clock tower
Fun facts about Orvieto Italy – the clock tower is the tallest structure in the city.

White Wine

The soil around Orvieto contains rich minerals, producing grapes that give wines a clean, crisp finish. Orvieto is known for its white wines and Grechetto and Trebbiano grapes.

Fall in Love with Orvieto

We loved this beautiful old city at the top of the world. We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the narrow streets and taking in the sights. Cafes, shops, historical buildings and attractions offer much to visitors.

I’d love to return and spend a long weekend there, experiencing more of the people, the history and the culture.

Have you visited Orvieto, Italy?

Fun Facts about Orvieto Italy Dayan and Yaya

 

More Tales from Italy:

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy

Lions of Venice

Things You May Not Know about Michelangelo’s David

Bridge of Sighs

 


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Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

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This month, my Friday Road Trip became a Weekend Getaway, at a unique destination 1.4 miles from my home in Joplin.

My sisters joined me for an overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout.

And here’s how this interesting weekend came about. Wanting to include local sites of interest on my blog, I checked online to find the owner of this historical building in my city. Intending to gain permission to take photos in the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout, I instead discovered the apartment over the garage is an Airbnb available to rent.

Perfect!

My intention to take photos for a story turned into a fun overnight experience.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout title meme

The Barrow Gang Comes to Joplin

The Joplin connection is a vital one, in the saga of Bonnie and Clyde.

This infamous couple, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow, traveled the lower Midwest between 1931 and 1934. The pair’s life of crime began with robberies of small stores and gas stations and escalated to bank heists and murder.

Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche and the youth WD Jones completed the Barrow Gang. During their years of crime, they killed nine police officers and four civilians.

On April 1, 1933, the gang rented an over the garage apartment in Joplin, Missouri. Located in a quiet, affluent neighborhood, the upstairs apartment’s many windows provided vantage points to watch for the approach of law enforcement.

For 13 days the group hid in the apartment while committing a series of robberies in Missouri and neighboring states. They slept late into the day, partied heartily at night and cleaned weapons in the garage.  A variety of stolen cars appeared and disappeared from the property. Their unusual activities drew suspicion from the neighbors.

On April 13, 1933, police arrived, expecting to find bootleggers. Instead, a furious shootout occurred. Joplin police detective Harry McGinnis and Newton County Constable John Wesley Harryman lost their lives. McGinnis died from his wounds in a nearby hospital while Harryman died instantly, his body falling into the garage.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout 1933
Bonnie and Clyde apartment 1933. Photo taken by Blanche Barrow.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout 2020
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout in 2020.

The Importance of the Joplin Hideout

Bonnie and Clyde, Buck and Blanche and WD escaped, however they left all of their belongings behind. Police discovered a camera and undeveloped rolls of film. The circulated photos from those canisters allowed law enforcement across the lower US to see what the outlaws looked like. The brutality of the shooting in Joplin helped to change the public’s opinion about the gang.

Buck Barrow died as a result of gunshot wounds from a raid at Platte City, Missouri on July 29, 1933.

Blanche Barrow eventually served six years in prison for assault. After her release she remarried and lived quietly for the rest of her life. She died December 24, 1989.

WD Jones, who was only 16 when he joined with Bonnie and Clyde, received a 15 year sentence. He was paroled after six years. WD died August 20, 1974 from gunshot wounds, after an altercation.

And Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree came to an end on May 23, 1934 on a rural road in Louisiana. A posse of Texas rangers and Louisiana officers set up an ambush, firing more than 100 rounds into the car carrying the duo.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout duo
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – photo of the pair found in the camera left behind in Joplin.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Bonnie
One of the most famous photos of Bonnie Parker, found in the camera left in Joplin.

Spending the Night at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

I reserved the apartment through Airbnb. My sisters and I, along with our mother, arrived at 3:00 pm sharp. We checked ourselves in through the access keypad on the door.

The apartment, which is registered as a historic site, contains a living room, full kitchen with a dining area, two bedrooms and a bathroom. One of the bedrooms is set up as a parlor without a bed.

Saundra, the owner and host, offers charming and meticulously clean accommodations with an authentic 1930s feel. The rooms contain photos, newspaper articles and books detailing the lives of the Barrow Gang. And guests can watch the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, on the television hidden in a cabinet in the living room.

Join me on a photo tour of this unique apartment.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout stairs
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – stairs leading up to the apartment. The door to the garage, lower right, is locked.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Ferni
Ferni’s first photo op. Check out our last adventure.

Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Kitchen

I love Airbnbs with kitchens. We toted in groceries for our evening meal, snacks and breakfast the next morning. The kitchen in the Bonnie and Clyde apartment offers a full sized electric range, a small refrigerator with freezer and an assortment of cooking pots, dinnerware and utensils.

A small dining table and two chairs provide a spot for meals.

With its windows and cozy decor, the kitchen became my favorite space in the dwelling. I enjoyed preparing aloo matar for dinner and fruit bowls for breakfast. A black tea kettle inspired me to prepare cups of peppermint tea.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout kitchen
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – love this cheerful, bright kitchen.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout making tea
Making tea. The full sized stove made cooking easy during our stay.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout dining area
My favorite spot in the apartment.

Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Living Room

The living room, with its original wood floors and wall of windows, provides the perfect place to gather. The four chairs offer ample seating. We enjoyed thumbing through the books about Bonnie and Clyde.

Because Mom and my daughter Elissa joined us for dinner, we used this space for eating as well as lively discussions and watching the Bonnie and Clyde film together later.

Tucked into a corner is a large cupboard where the gang stashed their guns. There’s a bullet hole within it, from the spray of bullets that came through a window.

I also enjoyed looking through the guests books in this room, where visitors record their appreciation for this apartment.

 

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout living room
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – comfy living room
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout book
Copy of Blanche’s book, My Life with Bonnie and Clyde, available to read. We all read the Joplin chapter while there.

The Bathroom

The bathroom off of the short hallway still contains its original bathtub. However the rest of the bathroom is updated for convenience.

I love the black and white theme and the clean, bright space.

Saundra provides soaps and towels for her guests.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout bathroom
Cute and classy black and white bathroom.

Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Bedrooms

The original floor plan of the apartment shows two bedrooms, one at either end of a short hallway.

Although Saundra set up one room as a parlor, it’s easy to determine which bedrooms members of the Barrow Gang utilized.

The front bedroom, overlooking the street, is currently the parlor. Blanche and Buck Barrow slept in this room.

Bonnie and Clyde used the back bedroom. I read that WD Jones actually slept with the couple most of the time although in this apartment it’s possible he also claimed the living room as his space.

For our overnight, my sisters slept in Bonnie and Clyde’s room while I slept on an air mattress that I brought along, in the front bedroom.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Blanche and Buck's room
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – Blanche and Buck’s room, now a parlor
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Bonnie and Clyde's bedroom
Bonnie and Clyde’s bedroom.

Our Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

We loved our overnight in this lovely apartment.

The neighborhood is indeed quiet and the windows in the upstairs apartment let in plenty of sunlight. After settling in, we savored our evening meal and snacks and chatted until early in the morning.

I enjoyed preparing tea for me and one of my sisters. And imagine the surreal experience of watching a movie about these notorious outlaws while actually sitting in the space they lived in for a short time.

With my sensitivity to energy, it was not hard to sense Bonnie, Clyde, Blanche, Buck and WD moving silently about the hideout. And while many romanticized this couple during the height of their crime spree, Bonnie and Clyde lived a life outside of the law. The consequences of their actions and lifestyle resulted in pain and death for innocent people. And yet, I recognize their humanity too and I’m willing to learn from their stories.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout tea time
Tea time during our overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout.

Sleeping Well

When I first arrived at the apartment, I felt some of that residual pain empathically. After all, two men died during the shoot out. Because of that lingering energy, I honestly didn’t know if I could sleep in Blanche and Buck’s room. However, by bedtime I’d made peace with the energy there, which mellowed out during the evening.

We slept well in the Bonnie and Clyde hideout, my sisters and I.

Awaking early, with sunlight streaming in through the windows, I curled up on the chaise lounge in the parlor and read in Blanche’s book. Taken from her diary, the book provides an intimate glimpse into life with the famous outlaws. Gratefully, I’m picking up the book at the Joplin Public Library tomorrow, to finish reading it.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout reading
A lovely spot to start the day.

Visit the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

I highly recommend this Airbnb! Saundra is a super host, providing a unique experience for her guests. My sisters and I would definitely stay here again.

The apartment is located at 3347 1/2 Oak Ridge Drive, in Joplin, although the building actually faces 34th Street. There is a historic landmark sign in the yard.

If you appreciate unusual buildings, enjoy history or want to experience a space where famous outlaws once resided, book this outstanding Airbnb using this link. New to Airbnb? Save up to $65 off of your first stay with this link!

When you visit, soak in the history and the stories within those walls…and tell the Barrow Gang I said hello.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout sign
Historic landmark sign at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout.

Purchase the movie and books below from Amazon:

 


 

 

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The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny

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I first toured Edinburgh Castle in 2014, with my cousins Mindy and William. On that dreich day in August, we stood huddled around our tour guide Jonathan as he spoke passionately about Scotland’s Stone of Destiny, housed nearby in a room of the castle.

With his long red hair blowing in the wind and fire in his fierce blue eyes, Jonathan epitomized the proud Scots warrior, ready to defend his beloved country. I shivered as he spoke in his heavy Scottish brogue and it had nothing to do with the cold. He shared how the stone left Scotland for a time…a very long time…and eventually returned home where, he declared vehemently, it will remain.

And he intrigued me with a tale of the infamous theft of the Stone of Destiny.

When my cousins opted to leave the castle complex to attend a whiskey tasting, I chose to stay behind and see this Stone of Destiny that stirred such passion in our guide.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny title meme

The Stone of Destiny Backstory

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone and in England, the Coronation Stone, is an oblong block of red sandstone. This rather ordinary looking block of stone served for centuries as the coronation stone for the monarchs of Scotland.

The Scone Abbey near Perth, Scotland originally housed the artifact. Historian Walter Hemingford described the stone as “hollowed out as a chair on which future kings were placed for their coronation, according to custom.”

The stone measures 26 inches by 16.7 inches by 10.5 inches. A roughly etched cross decorates one surface while embedded iron rings aid with transport. It weighs 335 pounds.

In 1296 the English king Edward I took the stone as spoils of war and moved it to Westminster Abbey. A special wooden coronation chair became the stone’s resting place. Edward sought to claim status as the “Lord Paramount” of Scotland with the right to oversee its king.

All subsequent English monarchs sat in the chair, above the stone, when crowned. Queen Elizabeth II last used the coronation chair in 1953.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny coronation chair
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – illustration of the Coronation Chair with the Stone

A Daring Rescue Plan

In 1950, more than 650 years after the stone left Scotland, a group of Scottish college students concocted a bold plan…steal the Stone of Destiny and bring it home.

A law student at the University of Glasgow, Ian Hamilton joined with Alan Stuart, Kay Matheson and Gavin Vernon to break into Westminster Abbey and recover the stone.

Ian read everything he could find about the Abbey and scouted out the building several times. On one visit, he deliberately stayed past closing time, hiding near the Coronation Chair. A janitor discovered him and thinking the young man drunk, offered him a coin and let him out a side door.

During these surveillance trips, Ian found the side doors made of pine, making them easy to break into after hours.

On Christmas Eve, 1950, Ian and his companions drove to London in two separate cars. Arriving early on Christmas Day, the group parked near the Abbey. Kay remained in a running car, ready for a quick get away, while the boys stealthily entered the Abbey. That’s when the plan began to fall apart.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny top view
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – top view

Stealing the Stone of Destiny

The heavy stone rested in a chair made specifically for it. The young men found it difficult to remove the stone and ultimately broke part of the chair. Tugging the stone free at last, it fell to the floor, breaking toes on one of the men’s foot. More alarming to them, the stone broke in two.

Ian quickly grabbed the smaller piece and carried it to the car where Kay waited. He stashed the stone segment in the back seat. As he re-entered the Abbey, he heard a police officer approaching. Dashing back to Kay, Ian took her into his arms and kissed her. Questioned by the policeman, the pair claimed to be a couple searching for accommodations for the night.

Once the officer left, Kay drove off with the smaller stone segment hidden beneath a blanket. When Ian returned to the Abbey, he discovered the other men had fled. With great determination and ingenuity, the lad used his coat to laboriously drag the heavier stone segment out of the building.

As he heaved the stone into the trunk of the second car, his comrades returned. They all left together.

The theft discovered, roadblocks sprang up on all streets out of London. Kay did not draw suspicion, as a single girl driving a car. She made it through and crossed the border, taking her part of the stone to her family’s farm in Scotland.

The young men chose to hide the larger segment in England, fearing they could not make it across the closed border. They buried the stone in an empty field in Kent. Eventually they returned for the stone and successfully transported it to Scotland.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny side view
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – side view

Back to England

With the help of the Scottish National Party leader, the courageous college students had the stone repaired by a stone master. The theft made international headlines and brought a united sense of joy to the Scottish people.

As the investigation into the theft of the Destiny Stone came closer and closer to the perpetrators, the four decided that they had accomplished their purpose. By stealing the Stone of Destiny and bringing it home they raised awareness of Scotland’s subordination to England.

The four contacted two Arbroath town councilors and turned over the stone.

On April 11, 1951, the councilors helped the college students set up the stone on an altar in the abandoned Arbroath Abbey and called the authorities. The English got the stone back and returned it to the Coronation Chair. The students disbanded and never met again. Ian completed his studies and became a criminal lawyer.

The way was paved, however, for the stone to return to its rightful place in Scotland. In 1996 the English handed over the Stone of Destiny, on the condition that they may “borrow” it for any future coronations.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny Robert the Bruce
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – statue of Robert the Bruce

Viewing the Stone of Destiny

Twice I’ve viewed the Stone of Destiny in Edinburgh Castle. Both times I felt deeply moved.

The stone rests within a plexiglass case along with the Crown Jewels of Scotland. I can’t touch it yet I feel the hum of sacred energy that flows from it. My Scottish DNA responds, causing my eyes to fill with tears and my heart to beat faster. Photographs are not allowed so I spent several long minutes studying the stone, searing its image into my mind and soul.

What an amazing history this stone possesses. I love the courage and resourcefulness of the four young adults who accomplished what no one else dared. They took back what was rightfully theirs. That feat ultimately resulted in a permanent return of the stone and the Scottish are extremely protective of it now.

As an older adult, Ian said:

“When I lifted the stone in Westminster Abbey, I felt Scotland’s soul was in my hands.”

What a marvelous representation of Scotland’s hardy, warrior soul is the Stone of Destiny. Long may it remain in Edinburgh.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny group photo
Group photo at Edinburgh Castle, September 2017

Want to watch a fun depiction of this true story? Check out the Stone of Destiny film, available through Amazon Prime. Click on photo to rent.

Not a Prime member? Click HERE

 

Or purchase the book by clicking on the photo below.

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy

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Every country has their own culture. Delving into that culture is one of the reasons I enjoy travel. And every country has their own superstitions.

On my trip to Italy in 2017, accompanied by my daughter Elissa and grandson Dayan, I experienced one of Italy’s good luck traditions first hand. That funny and somewhat startling event inspired me to discover more.

Here are 10 good luck traditions from Italy.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy title meme

The Importance of Learning Culture

After doing my research, I wish I’d known more about these Italian superstitions before my trip. Why? Because knowing them prevents inadvertently offending with my actions or inaction. Or at the least, keeps me from appearing insensitive or ignorant.

Superstitious traditions are woven throughout culture, even if they are no longer perceived in the same way that ancestors believed. The United States observes many superstitions that have become part of our culture. Knocking on wood, beginner’s luck, and find a penny, pick it up all come to mind. Some superstitions are almost universal. Black cats can’t catch a break anywhere because of their supposed association with witches long ago.

The following good luck traditions from Italy are fun to know and carry importance because they teach us more about the Italian people.

Pooped on by a Bird

This is the superstition I had the honor of experiencing!

While our wonderful tour guide Fabiola completed purchases to surprise us with later, the group settled on benches outside the gate of the medieval village of San Gimignano. A large leafy tree provided ample shade as we chatted about our exploration of the village.

As Fabiola strolled toward us with her bags, we gathered our belongings and prepared to board the bus. Suddenly I felt something hit me, on the shoulder and arm. Looking up, I spied a bird directly above me in the tree. Glancing back at my arm, I realized that bird pooped on me.

I made a sound of disgust. However, Fabi and some of the others cheered and clapped their hands.

When a bird poops on you in Italy, it is a symbol of good luck. It means you’ve been singled out for good fortune. Visiting a casino is considered the next best move after such a blessing from above.

People came up to me and rubbed my shoulder, to transfer my good fortune to themselves. One dear woman handed me a package of wipes. Bless her.

10 Good Luck Traditions in Italy bird poop
10 Good Luck Traditions in Italy – bird poop

Tocco Ferro – Touch Iron

In the US we knock on wood for good luck. In Italy, they touch iron. Some even carry a nail with them so that iron always remains within reach. A rusty nail is especially lucky. And like Americans, a metal horseshoe hung on or above a door, with the open ends pointing up, brings good luck to the household.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy touch iron
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – touch iron
10 Good Luck Traditions form Italy - cornicello
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – cornicello charm

Carry a Cornicello Charm

A cornicello resembles a small horn or chili pepper. It represents the horns of the Old European Moon Goddess. Cornicellos are sold predominately in the Naples area, although they are available throughout Italy.

Carrying or wearing a cornicello protects from the curse of the Evil Eye, which is the look a jealous or envious person gives, and from bad luck in general. The charms also hang from the rearview mirrors of vehicles, based on the older custom of using them to protect draft horses, and in houses.

Cornicello also refers to a hand gesture in Italy, used similarly to ward off evil. Gold and silver hand charms are sold as well.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – cornicello hand charm

Lucky Number 13

The Italians consider 13 a very lucky number. It is associated with the Goddess of Fertility and represents prosperity and abundance.

However, the Italians have their unlucky number too. For them, the number 17 is extremely unlucky. The Roman numerals XVII rearrange to create the word VIXI, an Italian word for “I have lived”. That phrase is commonly used on tombstones and therefore, connected with death.

10 Good Luck Traditions in Italy - 13
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – lucky number 13

Bocca al Lupo – In the Mouth of the Wolf

The Italians don’t like to say the words “good luck” to each other. Similar to the American expression “break a leg” which is another way of saying good luck, the Italians say “bocca al lupo”. This expression means “in the mouth of the wolf”. The correct response is “crepi”, which means “let it die” or “wolf, die”.

10 Good Luck Traditions in Italy bocca al lupo
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – bocca al lupo

Spilling Salt or Olive Oil

Many cultures believe the superstition that spilling salt brings bad luck. One origin story suggests that at one time, salt was a valuable commodity. Spilling it created waste and perhaps bad luck followed such misfortune.

And consider da Vinci’s The Last Supper. In that painting Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, is portrayed as knocking over the salt container. And no one wants an association with Judas.

In Italy it’s considered unfortunate if you spill salt OR olive oil. To counter the effects, one must toss the spilled salt over the left shoulder and dab olive oil behind each ear.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy salt
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – tossing spilled salt over the shoulder

House Blessings

Speaking of salt, Italians may bless their homes by putting salt in the corners. Salt cleanses the house by absorbing any negative energy or toxins.

Leave the salt for a few hours and then vacuum  or sweep it up.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy San Gimignano
Good Luck Traditions from Italy – salt in the corner of houses, like these in San Gimignano

New Brooms

This tradition connects to houses as well. Sweep away old bad luck when moving into a new home, using a brand new broom. Just don’t sweep over the feet of a single person. If you do, he or she may never be swept off their feet by love.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy broom
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – new broom

Good Luck Herbs

In Italy herbs assist with creating good luck.

Bay laurel leaves protect wearers from bad luck while helping them fulfill their dreams. Graduates often still wear laurel leaf crowns to represent good fortune. The bay laurel leaf symbolizes acquired wisdom as well.

And basil wards off poverty, which many consider an evil.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy laurel leaves
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – bay laurel leaves

New Year’s Eve Traditions

These two Italian New Year’s Eve traditions sound intriguing!

After Christmas, red underwear, for men and women, goes on sale. These garments, worn on New Year’s Eve only, bring good luck for the upcoming year. Red is the color of fertility as well and important to couples hoping for a baby in the new year.

And the Italians eat lentils on New Year’s Eve. The coin like shape of the lentils represents money and prosperity for the upcoming year.

10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy lentils
10 Good Luck Traditions from Italy – lentils on New Year’s Eve

Favorite Good Luck Traditions

Did you know about these superstitions, popular in Italy? I enjoyed learning more about them. The warm, friendly people of Italy sprinkle many expressions throughout their language, that beautifully capture life. I love their perspectives and their traditions.

I know I have readers from around the world. What good luck traditions do you practice? I’d love to know!

Researching Italian good luck traditions for this blog post brought fortune my way. Inspiration compels me to write another post, perfect for the end of the year. Perhaps the bird poop blessing continues…

The gate into San Gimignano
The gate into San Gimignano, Italy.

Check out these other Tales from Italy posts:

Lions of Venice

The Bridge of Sighs

Things You May Not Know About Michelangelo’s David

 


 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

A change I’ve observed this year, for many people, is the desire to simplify their lives. The months spent at home, the extra time with family, growing gardens and cooking at home more created…or perhaps satisfied…a longing for simplicity.

The first week in August brings with it National Simplify Your Life Week. This holiday encourages us to refocus our lives by decluttering and eliminating anything that causes stress or anxiety. The decluttering isn’t just physical. Clearing space happens on an emotional and spiritual level as well.

Simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. It can feel challenging to follow through with making changes in our lives, even changes that ultimately bring greater joy and deeper peace.

Here are 20 ways to simplify your life, to get you started. Most of these changes require little effort beyond putting practices into place. Some you probably already do.

 

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life title meme

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Perhaps you find yourself longing for a more simple way of life. Or perhaps you are enjoying the new simplicity that you’ve adopted this year and feel ready for more changes. Try a few or all of these suggestions.

Set Monthly or Weekly or Daily Goals

Rather than making New Year’s resolutions or crafting a long list of goals for the year, break them down into more manageable goals. Try setting one to three goals for the month. Then add actions steps for the week. And finally, prioritize what’s most important, daily, to accomplish.

These shorter range goals help you accomplish more, creating satisfaction while developing new habits and practices that bring you greater joy.

Create a Daily List of your Most Important Things To Do

If you are a list maker, like me, you might enjoy adding everything for the day to your list, just for the joy of crossing it off.

If list making isn’t your thing, try jotting down your top three priorities for each day and focus on those. Nothing else gets done, until those three priorities are crossed off. Once those big items are completed, you have time and energy to focus on other things, if you want to.

Create Systems

You can create a streamlined system for just about anything and put it into place. This might include a cleaning schedule that’s simple yet effective. Or a food prep system. Whatever you find yourself doing repeatedly, streamline it with a system to free up time for other things.

As a blogger, the best system I’ve created thus far is to plan out and schedule all my blog posts and social media posts a month in advance. I’ve been doing this since last October and I’m amazed at how much time it saves me. As each month draws to a close, I create the next month, filling in a notebook page for both blogs and their corresponding social media pages.

What tasks could you streamline by creating a system?

Use Your Phone’s Calendar to Set Reminders

That smart phone is a handy way to keep track of appointments or tasks. I use mine to schedule everything from meeting with people to turning in assignments to listening to a podcast. You can set an alarm too, five minutes to an hour before the event, so that you don’t miss it.

I also use the notes section on my phone for all kinds of things such as capturing ideas, saving info or dictating a blog post. Sometimes I wonder about something, as I’m driving. I’ll ask a question and save it in my notes until I can check on it later. Often the answer arrives to my question without any further effort on my part. I love it when that happens!

Anything that you can move from your brain to paper or a electronic device frees up the mind to then focus on other things.

Unsubscribe from Emails and Create a Follow Up Folder

This is something I am currently working on. An overwhelming number of emails flood my inboxes every day. I’m talking about hundreds of emails daily. I can’t keep up with them and sadly, most of them are not important to me anyway.

I’m currently unsubscribing from anything that I’m no longer interested in or never signed up for anyway. It’s a slow process however Google is now assisting me by showing me emails from companies that I’ve not opened in the last 30 days and asking me if I want to unsubscribe. Yes. Yes I do.

For emails that I want to come back to and respond to I have a Follow Up Folder that I move them to. It’s easy then to find them rather than having to scroll through lots and lots of emails.

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life list
20 Ways to Simplify Your Life – make lists and systems and follow them

Declutter Your House One Room at a Time

Clutter clogs energy. As clutter accumulates in a room, it changes the flow of energy. Soon you’ll find yourself avoiding that room or tossing more stuff in there and then closing the door on it.

Free up the flow of energy and feel better in your own home by systematically decluttering a room at a time. Start with one room and don’t move on to the next room until that room is finished. Use the three piles method as you clear the room: throw away pile, give away pile, keep pile. Then throw away, give away and find a place for everything in the keep pile.

Organize Your Closets and Drawers

After you declutter a room, tackle the closets and drawers in that room too. Use the same three pile method of dealing with all that’s in those closets and drawers. I love Marie Kondo’s method of holding items to see if they spark joy. If they do, keep them. If they don’t, give them away or throw them away.

Marie offers wonderful suggestions for organizing closets, drawers and spaces. Pick up her book HERE.

You will LOVE the way your rooms and ultimately your home feel after a good decluttering and re-organization.

Have a Place for Everything

And put everything in its place. A recent study suggests that we spend the equivalent of 12 days a year, looking for things we can’t find. Bring simplicity into your life and stop wasting time searching for lost items. When everything has a place, it’s easy to locate it, use it and put it back.

Simplify Your Wardrobe

How many of your clothes do you actually wear? Simplify your wardrobe by eliminating all the clothes you no longer wear, for whatever reason. Donate clothing to shelter closets or organizations that resell them. Or sale them yourself through apps like Poshmark.

Using Marie’s “does it spark joy?”, sort through clothes and keep only those that bring you joy. If you haven’t worn it in a year, will you ever? Create a capsule wardrobe of pieces that work well together.

I love the sustainable clothing movement that encourages us to buy less throw away type clothing, focusing instead on quality pieces that last for years. Buy less. Buy sustainable. Purchase clothing from second hand shops. Repurpose clothing. It’s all better for the pocket book and it’s better for the planet as well.

Buy Less, Consume Less, Waste Less

Beyond clothing, in what other areas can you spend less, waste less, consume less? I’m working on eliminating single use plastics from my home and life by using more glass and metal items.

I’m also finding ways to reuse and repurpose items so that I’m buying less throw away materials. These practices not only simplify life they benefit the environment and the planet.

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life plastics
20 Ways to Simplify Your Life – eliminate plastics

Eat More Whole Foods

Eating more whole foods, such as fruits, veggies, simple grains and herbs simplifies life and improves health at the same time. Trust me, an unhealthy life is complicated and time consuming.

Eating healthier meals can be as simple as veggie bowls, fruit smoothies, stir fries and chopped veggie salads. I can make a meal on a bowl of watermelon!

Prep Food

Food prep once a week streamlines the cooking process, freeing up time for other things. Spend an hour on Sunday afternoon washing, chopping and preparing food, then store everything in the refrigerator. I love the ease and convenience of having foods ready to go in the fridge.

Invest in an instant pot and a slow cooker to make meal preparation easier.

Carry a Water Bottle Everywhere

We all know we need to drink more water. Make it simple to get enough water by having it with you, always. Invest in a metal water container to eliminate plastic use. Check out these colorful choices below! Click on the photo for more info or to purchase.

 

Stop Hanging Out with Toxic People

Make room in your life for people who are in alignment with who you are and who encourage you. None of us have time for people who are toxic, who berate or belittle or disrespect who we are.

In her book Untamed, Glennon Doyle compares setting boundaries to living on an island. No one comes onto your island unless you allow them to. Don’t allow toxic people to bring negative energy into your space.

Slow Down

If you find yourself rushing through a day filled with back to back appointments and events, slow down. Create space in the day to catch your breath and take a break.

Simplicity means you become present in the moment and notice what’s going on around you. It’s pausing to bring yourself back to yourself. My favorite way of building breaks into the day is afternoon tea time. That 30 minute break restores me.

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life breaks
20 Ways to Simplify Your Life – take a break

Practice Self Care

One aspect of a simple lifestyle is self care. We cannot offer to others when we are running on empty. Do what you must to care for yourself, then you can offer to others.

Meditate, go for walks, do yoga, practice a healthy lifestyle, give yourself a manicure, read a book, do absolutely nothing for an hour. Whatever restores you…body, mind and spirit…do that. Build me time into your day.

Use More Ecologically Friendly Products

Try using more ecologically friendly products in your home. Laundry products, cleaning supplies, shampoos, shower soaps and toiletries are all available in plant based or chemical and dye free versions. These products are cleaner for the environment and better for us as well.

Check out stores like Natural Grocers or health food stores to discover the vast variety of ecological products available.

I love my alpaca wool dryer balls. Used in place of fabric softener sheets, they are an easy item to incorporate into your simple lifestyle.

Watch Less Television

I enjoy watching an occasional show or browsing through Netflix on the weekends. However, television qualifies as a huge time waster. Spending too much time playing electronic games or scrolling through social media do also.

There’s nothing wrong with watching tv or looking at Facebook. My blogging tasks include time on social media. It’s part of my job. However, hours and hours spent watching tv or scrolling through Instagram means less time to do other things you might enjoy.

Disconnect from electronics and rediscover the joys of outdoor play, reading a book or deep conversations with family or friends.

Create Morning and Evening Rituals

These simple routines start and end the day well. Spend 10 to 30 minutes gearing up for the day and preparing for a good night’s sleep at the end of it.

Write out your ideal morning and evening rituals and begin practicing them, modifying if necessary, until they become habits. Your morning routine might include reading, meditation, juicing or a run. Evening rituals might include music, a hot bath, writing and making tomorrow’s to do list. Customize your routines for you.

Say No to the Things You Don’t Want to Do

A major component of a simplified life is to not cram too much into the day. I love saying yes as often as I can, however I say yes to the things that I want to do. New opportunities and creativity and joy inducing activities receive a resounding yes from me. I say no to others’ expectations and events that are not in alignment with who I am.

This was a challenging area for me, for many years. I’m such a people pleaser. Now I focus on pleasing myself first.

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life night routine
20 Ways to Simplify Your Life – night routine

Living a Simple Lifestyle

Living a simple lifestyle means different things to different people. It begins with the process of identifying what’s most important to you and eliminating everything else.

When asked how he created the beautiful David statue, Michelangelo answered that he simply chipped away all the stone that was not David.

That’s how we create a simplified life. We chip away all that is not who we are and what we love to do.

Write down what is most important to you. List three to five things. Use those to create a Simplicity Statement. Then make room for the simple by eliminating the excess. Keep your Simplicity Statement where you can see it and refer to it often.

If you need ideas, return to the list above, of 20 ways to simplify your life. Then go, and enjoy that life.

20 Ways to Simplify Your Life joys
20 Ways to Simplify Your Life – simple joys

 

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Daring Escapes from the Tower of London

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The Tower of London, located in the center of the city, is a fascinating place full of history and intrigue. In 2017 I spent hours touring the complex and learning its stories with my sisters, mother and niece. And, I discovered the “tower” is a series of towers and buildings that form an impressive fortress.

William the Conqueror built the White Tower that now forms the core of the complex in 1078. That tower, considered a symbol of oppression against London by the Norman ruler, served as a prison from 1100 until 1952.

Although the complex housed a royal residence early in its history and  contains many other buildings, the Tower became synonymous with the prison. The thought of imprisonment in the Tower created fear, for many who went into the Tower never came out. However, a few ingenious prisoners managed to break out of this formidable place.

These are the tales of some of the most daring escapes from the Tower of London.

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London title meme

Five of the Most Daring Escapes from the Tower of London

During its 900 plus year history, more than 8,000 people experienced imprisonment in the Tower. About 400 died there, with many of those losing their heads. A few captives refused to remain within those seemingly impenetrable walls, preferring to escape or die trying.

These are five of the best escapes.

Ranulf Flambard

The first official escapee from the Tower was a Bishop, the king’s tax collector and a builder. Ranulf oversaw the construction of the stone London Bridge, Westminster Hall and the curtain wall around the Tower of London.

When Henry I ascended to the throne, he removed Ranulf from official duties, charged him with embezzlement and imprisoned him.

For six months Ranulf patiently built up trust with his jailers, entertaining them frequently with banquets. On February 2, 1101 Ranulf hosted another elaborate banquet, offering an abundance of wine to his guests.

As the jailers lay drunk, Ranulf used a rope he smuggled into his cell and rappelled down the curtain wall he built. Although the rope was too short, he dropped the last 20 feet to where a horse awaited him, left there by friends, and disappeared into the night.

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London white tower
Daring escapes from the Tower of London – the White Tower in the center of the complex

Alice Tankerville

Alice is the only woman who attempted to flee from the Tower. Imprisoned during the reign of Henry VIII, Alice faced a death sentence for stealing 366 gold crowns. Considered a charming woman, Alice befriended one of her jailers, John Bawde.

Bawde fell in love with Alice and agreed to help her escape. Planning their escape through the Traitor’s Gate, Bawde secured rope and cut a second key to one of the Tower’s outer doors.

On a dark night in 1524, Alice escaped with the help of Bawde. After tying the rope to an iron hook,  the pair of lovers lowered themselves down the parapets of St. Thomas’ Tower. Exiting through the gate, they rowed a small boat across the moat, then disembarked and crept down a road toward the spot where two horses waited.

Alas, their plan failed. Tower guards lived along the road they walked on. The night watch apprehended Alice and Bawde, returning them to the Tower. On March 31, 1534, Alice was left chained to the wall along the river during low tide, to meet her fate as the tide rose.  John Bawde experienced the rack and then suspended in chains over the outer walls of the Tower, he died of exposure and dehydration. Officials never found the gold pieces.

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London gate
Daring Escapes from the Tower of London – the Traitor’s Gate where prisoners were brought in via the Thames River

Edmund Neville

Edmund holds the distinction of making three attempts to escape from the Tower. Accused of plotting against Elizabeth I, he first experienced the Tower in 1584. Using a small file, he worked loose the bars of his cell window until he could squeeze through and climb down the wall.

Edmond actually fled London, however the odor clinging to him from his swim across the Tower moat alerted a horseman, who turned him in. After his capture, he returned to his Tower cell.

Two years later, the man attempted the same escape, through the same window. This time, using a rope smuggled in to him by his wife, Edmund carefully lowered himself down. However, his rope too short, Edmund dropped into the moat with a splash, alerting the guards.

Six years later, he made his third attempt. This time, he created a mannequin out of straw and dressed it in his own clothes. He then dressed as a blacksmith, complete with fake tools, and waited for his jailer to enter his cell. Unable to overcome his guard, the plan failed. Happily for him, he gained his release from the Tower two years later and was exiled.

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London tower
Daring escapes from the Tower of London – one of the towers in the complex

John Gerard

A Jesuit priest, John experienced imprisonment in the Tower in 1597 due to his Catholic faith. During the reign of Elizabeth I, those associated with the Catholic Church faced persecution.

Torture did not force John to denounce his faith. In spite of the torture, his jailers showed kindness to the priest, allowing his friends to send him gifts such as clothing and oranges. John shared his oranges with the guards…while using the juice to write secret message. The juice dries invisible but appears when heated.

After enlisting help through those secret messages, he escaped on October 4,  1597 using a rope strung across the Tower moat. John even arranged for the escape of one of his jailers because he knew the man would be held responsible for the escape.

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London bridge
Daring escapes from the Tower of London – Thames River near the Tower. That’s the Tower Bridge in the background.

William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale

This escape story is my favorite, told to us last year while we toured Traquair House in the Borders of Scotland.

Taken to the Tower for his part in the Jacobite rebellion in 1715, William might have died there if not for his wife, Lady Winifred. After trying to secure her husband’s release through legal means, and failing, Lady Winifred concocted an ingenious plan.

On the day before his scheduled execution, she and her maids visited William in his cell. Beneath their dresses they smuggled in layers of clothes. William walked out of the tower with the maids, wearing a dress and the “nithsdale cloak”, which is still held dear by his descendants.

Lady Winifred remained in the cell and pretended to talk to her husband, before making her own escape. She joined William in Paris and they lived out their days together.

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London Lady Winifred
Daring escapes from the Tower of London – Lady Winifred used ingenuity to help her husband escape. I took this photo while in Traquair House.

No Longer a Prison

After centuries of use as a prison, the Tower no longer serves that purpose. The drained moat is now the Tower ditch and the torture dungeon is a tourist attraction.

The stories live on though, and walking around the complex, one can easily imagine the life and death dramas that played out here within these intimidating walls. Of the 8,000 plus prisoners held captive here, only 40 successfully escaped.

Imprisoned in the Tower of London, would you try to escape?

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London group photo
Group photo in the Tower. Fortunately, we could walk out of the complex!

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The Bridge of Sighs

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Ponte dei Sospiri…the Bridge of Sighs…just saying the name evokes emotions.

This bridge is one of many such structures that spans Venice’s canals. There are, in fact, 400 plus bridges crossing more than 150 canals in this unique city. Venice, Italy is a collection of tiny islands, connected by canals.

The oft photographed Bridge of Sighs draws a multitude of visitors each year. I enjoyed experiencing the beautiful and sorrowful covered bridge on a visit to Venice in 2017.

Discover the history of this iconic structure and learn how it received its name.

The Bridge of Sighs title meme

The History of the Bridge of Sighs

Built by Antonio Contin between 1600 and 1603, the Bridge of Sighs spans Rio di Palazzo. This baroque style, marble and Istrian stone bridge connects the inquisitor’s offices in the Doge’s Palace to the “New Prison”, a building designed specifically for detention.

Doge (Italian word for duke) Marino Grimani, whose family coat-of-arms occupies the center of the facade, commissioned the bridge.

While Ponte dei Sospiri attracts couples, who enjoy sharing a kiss near the covered bridge, it’s not romantic sighs that begat the name.

The name arose because prisoners stopped on the bridge and sighed at their last glimpse of beautiful Venice before entering the prison. The damp, cold, challenging conditions of the small cells often resulted in the deaths of the prisoners.

Peering out through the stone lattice windows, those escaping sighs surely carried regret, fear and grief.

The Bridge of Sighs closeup
The stone latticed windows in the Bridge of Sighs.

Stories About the Bridge of Sighs

Back to those romantic couples. The tale told is that if a couple kisses beneath the bridge, while riding in a gondola, their love will endure throughout eternity and they will know happiness. Some versions add that the couple must kiss at sunset, while drifting under the bridge, as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile ring out. As you can imagine, this is a busy route for gondolas.

The exterior of the bridge’s arch is adorned with faces on each side. A Venetian lion graces the middle, while ten other faces express anger or sadness. These grim faces supposedly scare evil spirits away. One happy face stands out. It is thought to represent the bridge’s guardian.

The bridge design is intentional, matching the style of the two buildings it connects. The Doge’s Palace, a huge, elegant palace overlooking St Mark’s Square, was the primary residence of the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, and the location of the city prison. The palace occupies the site of a former fortress that burned in the 10th century.

The Bridge of Sighs remains the only covered bridge in the entire city. Its passageway is topped by stone, with four windows looking out toward the San Giorgio Maggiore Island and the Lagoon. Very little light passes through the windows to brighten the dim, cool interior.

The Bridge of Sighs canal
The covered bridge spanning the canal.

Visiting the Bridge of Sighs

Views of the bridge are limited. See one of Venice’s most famous landmarks from these vantage points.

  • Admire the bridge from one of two nearby bridges. The Ponte della Paglia is located near the Doge’s Palace, as you stand with your back to the lagoon. The other bridge is the Ponte della Canonica at the other end of the canal.
  •  Enjoy a gondola ride that travels beneath the Bridge of Sighs.
  • Take a tour of the Doge’s Palace. The Bridge of Sighs is included in the tour and you get to walk across it and view the prison located on the other side.

Otherwise, the bridge is not open to the public. While it can be viewed from gondolas and the above mentioned bridges, the only opportunity to step inside the bridge is via the palace tour.

The Doge’s Palace is gorgeous and well worth a visit.

The Bridge of Sighs Doges Palace
A room in the Doge’s Palace.

My Experience Crossing the Bridge

My daughter, grandson and I were part of a travel group touring Italy. Our group enjoyed wandering through the Doge’s Palace with a guide. From an interior room, I got my first up close peek at the covered bridge and snapped a photo.

As we quietly entered the Bridge of Sighs, the energy within settled thickly around my head, shoulders and upper back, sending tingles down my spine.

It’s difficult to see much through the windows, however I paused there to reflect. Over the centuries, many, many prisoners walked this bridge and paused to sigh with despair. The bridge interior is actually divided by a wall down its middle, creating two corridors. That way, prisoners coming into the prison or going back to the courtroom for trial did not meet.

The atmosphere within the bridge felt very heavy to me, weighed down by those breathy final sighs. Sadness tinged with the fear of uncertainty surrounded me. The prison cells in the attached building were just as gloomy.

I’m grateful for the redemption of the bridge through its exterior beauty and the promise of romance beneath its splendid arch.

Have you visited the Bridge of Sighs in Venice? I intend to explore this unique city again one day!

The Bridge of Sighs faces

 

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