gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Photography

Charleston, SC

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On our recent trip to Savannah, GA, we also went to Charleston, SC for a couple days. Initially I was equally excited to see both Charleston and Savannah, but I loved Savannah so much that I was sad to leave it to go to Charleston. So I think that alone clouded my impression of Charleston a bit because I compared it to Savannah rather than approaching it with an open mind.The first thing we did there was walk down King Street, which was perhaps not the best introduction because it felt very commercial and touristy. Our hotel was also not in the best location and it was a bit of a hike to the older more historic part of the city.

Drayton Hall

On our way into Charleston we stopped at Drayton Hall located along the Ashley River. We had an excellent tour guide who was well-versed in researched plantation history, and it was interesting to see it more of a raw shape than other houses we visited on our trip, which have been more heavily restored. The goal at Drayton Hall is geared towards preservation rather than restoration; that is, preserving it the way it was found, not restoring it to a certain historical time period. The grounds at Drayton Hall are beautiful and littered with big old oak trees, one of my favorite things about the south. We walked down to the river and tried to imagine what it was for the Draytons to take in that view everyday when they lived there in the 1700’s. Oddly enough there is an armadillo problem there and they had traps set out around the house. I have never seen an armadillo and I certainly wasn’t eager to see one in the wild while we were there! Apparently they try to burrow into the house at night. We wanted to go to Magnolia Plantation, which is nearby, but didn’t have enough time.

Calhoun Mansion 

In Charleston we saw several house museums, as we did in Savannah. First up was Calhoun Mansion, which is featured in the movie adaption of Nicholas Sparks‘s The Notebook. It serves as Allie’s parents’ home. It is now a private residence after having been condemned and heavily restored, and it’s filled with exotic antiques from all over the world. The owner of the house lives on the top floor and can apparently be seen walking around town with his two whippets (I think?). Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and poised, and after the tour we found out that she’s a only college student! Very impressive.

Walking around all the narrow streets lined with gorgeous houses in the historic district along Battery Park was everything I pictured Charleston to be. And seeing them decorated for the holidays was magical. My mom and I definitely got some inspiration for decorating our house for Christmas since my parents live in an older Georgian style home. Along our walks we saw a flock of guinea fowl waltzing down someone’s driveway (beautiful birds by the way), a couple in a horse-drawn carriage who had just gotten engaged, and beautiful historic house after historic house. We did go past Rainbow Row, but it was different than I had pictured it. It’s a somewhat congested area, and obviously very touristy, but for some reason I thought it was closer to the water.

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View from Battery Park 

Rainbow Row

Nathaniel Russell House

We also toured the Nathaniel Russell House, which was perhaps my favorite, the Aiken-Rhett House, and the Edmondston-Alston House (another favorite). The Nathaniel Russell House has a beautiful staircase and music room, and once again, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. She spoke in depth about the restoration of the master bedroom, down to the colors, drapery, and bedding. The Aiken-Rhett House is a self-guided tour, which was informative and it was kind of nice to go through the house at your own pace, but I prefer having a tour guide who can interject little anecdotes here and there. This one really highlights the slave quarters, which was definitely hard to swallow. It is also preserved rather than restored, so it felt a bit like walking through a ruin, which was a cool experience. The Edmondston-Alston House is right on the water and has a beautiful  multi-level side porch, which is a very common architectural feature in Charleston. Our tour guide at this one was a very sweet woman who is a transplant to Charleston from the northeast. Not a bad way to spend your retirement…

Aiken-Rhett House

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Edmondston-Alston House

Finding a place to eat dinner that wasn’t $50 for an entree and a two hour wait was a challenge. Apparently the holidays are one of the busiest times for Charleston in terms of tourism, and places were expensive and booked. We did have the best meal of the whole trip in Charleston though, at a place called Tradd’s on Bay Street. It offers a modern American cuisine and I had an amazing gnocchi dish with lobster as my entree. We also got a liver pate to start with and ended with some kind of interesting fruity pastry dessert. The atmosphere felt southern and bougie and I loved it.

Tradd’s

Of course we walked through the City Market in search of sweetgrass baskets, a tradition that has been passed down through generations. There are so many artisans selling their sweetgrass creations and they’re all very sweet. You get to watch them as they weave the baskets, and it’s hard to choose who to buy from! My parents bought a basket and I bought a floral cross (I am not religious but it was so cute I couldn’t resist). It’s also signed by the artisan. There were kids selling sweetgrass flowers on the street, and we bought some of those. Sweet sweet kids. One thing that struck me about Charleston was how foggy it was! It was dramatic at night and we saw several ghost tours around the city around 10 PM one night.

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City Market

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We also spent a morning in Beaufort, SC, which is a super cute little historic town. The waterfront area downtown has a nice walkway with oyster shells embedded in the sidewalk! I was so taken aback because it was the first time I had seen something like that. There are also oyster shells stacked up against the seawall, which was a cool sight. There are some restaurants and cafes along this walkway as well. We ate lunch outside in January! Definitely a first for me…We walked around a neighborhood that had a lot of cute bungalows and we walked through a church cemetery where a mass had just gotten out. It was nice to see locals leaving church. It seems like a tight-knit community. We also walked through a military cemetery that had beautiful uniform grey tombstones with crosses and they were each decked with a wreath for the holidays.

Beaufort 

After Beaufort we went to Hilton Head, SC and we drove for what felt like forever to get to the coast to see the ocean. I pictured Hilton Head as a small quaint island, but it’s actually very suburban and exclusive with gated communities. We definitely weren’t crazy about it, but it was worth the drive once we got to see the ocean. It is spectacular! And it just goes on as far as you can see. Standing on a beach looking out onto the ocean in January was also a first for me…and something I would definitely like to repeat.

Hilton Head 

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Savannah by night

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Throughout our trip I struggled with wanting to take pictures with my digital SLR camera, but not wanting to carry it around with me all the time, and not wanting to give up the convenience of my phone, which takes pretty good pictures. Somehow pictures are just more easily organized on my phone, especially with the GPS capability that labels where the pictures were taken.

The night we got back to Savannah after going to Charleston for a couple days we took a walk around Savannah’s squares at dusk, which was so pleasant and relaxing. I took this opportunity to get my big camera out and I got a few good shots. I’m definitely missing Savannah’s warmth and charm right about now as I look out my window at a snowstorm in chilly Chicago.

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Savannah, GA

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I went to Savannah, GA on a family trip for the holidays this year and I absolutely loved it. I’m really beginning to like the south, at least what I’ve seen of it. It seems that every time I go there I like it more and more. Savannah felt historic and charming, and touristy, but not too touristy. The beautiful squares are quiet retreats amid the touristy spots. The weather in late December/early January was amazing, but I think it was unseasonably warm. It was 70s during the day and 50s-60s at night. I will say it was definitely humid and my hair was big the entire time we were there. It never adjusted. It was 77 degrees in Savannah on the day we left and 27 degrees when we landed in Chicago, which felt absolutely devastating. Seeing the planes get de-iced at O’Hare was not the sight I wanted to come home to after a lovely warm vacation.

We did a lot of house museums while we were there, eight in six days! Not all in Savannah, also some in Charleston, SC. My family loves our art and history. I love hearing about the families who built these mansions and the lives they lived in them, not to mention just getting to look at the stunning architecture. Hearing about the slave history was definitely tough though. We did, of course, go to the Mercer Williams House, the setting of John Berendt‘s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and we stood in the dining room where the murder took place.

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Mercer Williams House 

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Statue represented on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, now at the Telfair Academy 

We also went to Owens-Thomas House, Andrew Low House, Telfair Academy, and the Jepson Center. The Jepson Center, designed by Moshe Safdie, is a beautifully light and airy space, inspiring for looking at art. They had a very nice exhibition on Monet to Matisse and an interesting exhibition on Savannah artist Bertha Husband.

Jepson Center

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Andrew Low House 

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Owens-Thomas House

Telfair Academy 

River Street feels a bit touristy, but there are definitely good restaurants to be found there, like Huey’s and Olympia Cafe. We heard Vic’s on the River is supposed to be really good, but we couldn’t get it. And we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Boar’s Head.

Cathedral of John the Baptist 

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City Market 

The city market is a cute area if you’re looking for a place to grab a drink and sit outside and just enjoy your surroundings. SCAD‘s presence around town is sprinkled all over, and they have a cool shop where they sell things made by their students. You can find great gifts there or a souvenir for yourself to remember your trip!

The squares were my favorite part of Savannah. I can just picture walking my dog through the squares if I lived there, and reading a book on a bench while taking in the warmth and greenery. It was amazing to see so much greenery and even flowers in December/January!

Walking down Oglethorpe Avenue I felt like I was in New Orleans. The big old oak trees create a canopy over the street, as they do over the squares too, and the architecture lining the street is just magnificent. The median in the middle makes it feel like the most important street in town. The sense of history and southern pride is definitely well-preserved and you can feel it all around you. The architecture is a mix of Federalist, Italianate, and Neoclassical.

“I wish to belong to it…”

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This is perfect.

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I couldn’t find a digital version of this article from Driftless magazine, so bear with my pictures. Driftless pays homage to the coziness of the Midwest, which I find delightful since I’m from Indiana. “Who We Are at the Edge” by Michele Popadich is an ode to the struggle between the city and the outdoors, which I can definitely relate to after moving to Chicago from a small town nestled in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts (which I absolutely loved)! It’s not that I don’t love Chicago, because I do for its diversity and cultural richness, but man I wish I could go for a drive in a beautiful, peaceful countryside sometimes…escape to a place that allows for reflection and renewal.

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Popadich points out an interesting conundrum of wanting to belong to nature, but feeling like an outsider looking in no matter how hard one tries to be fully immersed in it. I think this is especially true for those of us who live in a city and have to travel to nature for some respite. Perhaps those who live within nature feel more connected to it. Either way, how lovely is it to get away from the buildings and cars and people and pollution, and see some trees and cows and take in the fresh smells of the earth?? Trying to feel as one with nature as possible by absorbing all of its splendor 🙂

The photographs are by Isabel Fajardo. Check out her nature photos, but also all the rest because they are magnificent!

The second Chicago Architecture Biennial

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The Architecture Biennial has graced Chicago twice now – the first time in 2015 and most recently this past Fall of 2017. It went down in January, and of course I waited until the last week to go see it. I wish I would have gone earlier so that I could have gone back to see my favorite things a few times. The theme for this most recent installation of the biennial was “Make New History” and it featured 141 architects, theorists, designers, etc. from 20 + countries. So it really is a global event, housed at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center in the heart of the loop. These are pictures of some of the displays that most caught my eye.

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This is a model of Yves Saint Laurent’s salon…isn’t it glamorous?? So full of art…

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I loved these white trees!

Interiors have always held a special place in my heart, so I liked this exhibit entitled “The Room of One’s Own”, which included several drawings of singular interior rooms.

I work at a kitchen & bath showroom, so I was pretty amused by this miniature pink bathroom.

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This room was very cool with about 10 or so models of fictional skyscrapers. As you can see how they compared in size to a person, they were towering!

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Looking forward to the next Architecture Bienniale in a couple years from now!

Houston, TX

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I went to Houston last weekend for a good friend’s wedding and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it, since people have told me that it’s not the nicest city. Granted there may be other factors that play into my favorable impression given that I was there with close friends and for a happy occasion, but there’s something about that southern hospitality that just feels so welcoming. I had a similar feeling when I visited Atlanta and New Orleans, so I think I just like the south. People seem so much more laid back and relaxed than in the Midwest, or at least more so than in Chicago. The weather at this time of the year was amazing, of course, but I’m not sure I’d be saying the same thing if I went there in August…

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The downtown has a sweet little park called Discovery Green, which was nice because it wasn’t crowded. It was so relaxing to have beautiful green space in the middle of a big city and not feel claustrophobic with lots of people around. The Museum District is convenient if you’re a museum-goer like I am because they are all clumped together and you can easily walk from one to another. Some of them are even free! Near the Museum District are Hermann Park and Rice University. Hermann Park is huge and it includes the Houston Zoo, which I wanted to go to but I definitely didn’t have enough time. I did make it to the Museum of Fine Arts, which has an impressively varied collection and is housed in a magnificent modern space. The art lover in me always wants to go to the primary art museum when I visit a new city. I also took a stroll around Rice University and I was blown away by how beautiful it is. It’s full of Romanesques architecture, which feels very Spanish-inspired and Mediterranean. The architecture, combined with the cypress trees scattered about, made me feel like I was in Italy. Speaking of trees, there were palm trees everywhere – something I’m definitely not used to seeing and I loved it!

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We had an authentic Mexican brunch at Chuchara in Midtown the morning after the wedding, which featured cuisine from Mexico City. I know it was authentic because the groom is from Mexico City and he had great recommendations of specific things to order. I got a Café de Olla (Mexican coffee with cinnamon and chocolate), which I loved! It also came in a really cute terra cotta pitcher that I wanted to take home with me.

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My friend explained that Midtown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston, which makes sense given its narrow streets. The restaurant is situated in what seems like a residential area, which gives it a very homey feel. This is the area that reminded me most of New Orleans.

My visit to Houston was a good introduction to Texas, with the help of a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide (my friend)!

Open House Chicago 2017

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Open House Chicago is this wonderful annual two-day weekend event where about 200 sites around the city are open and free to the public. It takes place in October and I went for the first time this year. Although we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather fairly late into the Fall, the Open House weekend was cold and rainy. I did my research on all the sites that were of interest to me the week leading up to Open House and I a long double-sided list of sites I wanted to visit. Sadly I only made it to 8. The sites are all over the city and I mostly made it to the sites I wanted to see downtown and in Logan Square, since that’s where I live and they were very easy to get to. The thing about Chicago is that it’s a big city and it’s not the easiest to get to different neighborhoods without a car, especially if they’re far out from downtown. Chicago does have a good public transportation system, but if you have to transfer between L lines, it can take quite a long time to get to where you’re trying to go.

The Robey

My first stop was The Robey in Wicker Park, which is a new chic hipster hotel in the Northwest Tower at the six corners intersection. It houses a hotel, restaurant, a lounge/coffee shop, and two rooftop bars, one on the 6th floor and one on the 13th. The 6th floor rooftop even has a small pool (a very small pool) but both offer nice views of the city. And I loved the feel of the lounge/coffee shop on the 2nd floor. It’s definitely a cool place to bring a laptop and do some work, with a nice little view of Wicker Park.

Then I made my way downtown and my first stop was the London House, but due to the long line I just missed the cutoff to get in. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go there for a drink sometime to take in those sweeping views of the Chicago River and the magnificent mile. So then I went to the Hard Rock Hotel in the Art Deco Carbide & Carbon Building, which was beautiful, but not much of it was open for the tour.

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Carbide & Carbon Building – Hard Rock Hotel

Next was the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist designed by Harry Weese. The church is a prominent structure along the Chicago River with a unique circular Mid-century Modern design. The interior is laden with concrete supports and ceilings, Italian travertine walls, carpet, and velvet seats. Most of the building is taken up by an expansive semicircular room where their services take place, with a massive organ as its focal point.

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Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist

I made my way down LaSalle Street to City Hall where I got to sit in the room where the city council holds their meetings, which was a very cool experience! These meetings are open to the public and I wish I could go to one but they are always held while I’m at work. Then I went to the Federal Reserve Bank, which has a beautiful lobby and a money museum. I learned that it’s the oldest running Federal Reserve Bank in the country, which was surprising to me. I assumed the Federal Reserve Bank in New York would have been the first. The Wintrust Bank, which is right across the street, has an even more beautiful lobby if you ask me. It was truly stunning and I especially liked the Art Nouveau paintings in the frieze, lining the walls in the center of the lobby. I also got the see the vault in the basement, which was a bit eerie and smelled like old paper.

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Wintrust Bank

My last stop downtown was the Chicago Board of Trade building. It’s one of my favorite buildings in Chicago, but after being inside I have to say that I prefer it on the outside. The Art Deco lobby is very stylish, but it’s too dark and stark for me. It just doesn’t have a warm and inviting feeling; I found it to be cold and intimidating. The exterior, however, watches over the city with an earnest eye at the end of LaSalle Street. I always love when I’m on Wacker Drive and I look down LaSalle and see her comforting presence. The statue standing on top of the building is the goddess Ceres sculpted by John Storrs in the Art Deco style. I didn’t know this, but apparently the statue is faceless.

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Chicago Board of Trade

If the weather hadn’t been so blustery that day I might have made it to more sites in other neighborhoods. But it’s also hard to take everything in and appreciate it all, so maybe keeping the list of sites to see on the shorter side is the best course of action. There is always next year’s Open House to see more!

 

“But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

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“I looked around at the stately villa, the murmuring fountains and, yes, even at the overgrown grass. Rome had its issues. The degradation was real. But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

I have to remind myself to admire the beauty in my surroundings, even if it’s not always initially apparent to me. I also have to be reminded to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by the beauty that I might encounter unexpectedly. This New York Times article about Rome by Jason Horowitz resonates with me since I was born in Rome and lived there for the first eight years of my life. But I have to say, in disagreement with the author, I always found it beautiful and never wanted to leave. Rome was the best playground a child could ask for. But I will say, now that I live in Chicago, IL, I resonate with the author’s notion that we must seek to see the beauty even in the chaos or dilapidation that’s around us. I love Chicago as a city for all that it has to offer, but at the same time, the city just gets me down on a daily basis. Relying on public transportation for your commute isn’t easy, especially in the dead of winter. The hustle bustle lifestyle with everyone scurrying around in a hurry and forgetting to be nice to one another just isn’t for me. I find myself craving a much more laid-back kind of life. The architecture downtown juxtaposed next to Lake Michigan is beautiful, but other parts of the city that tourists don’t see where the average Chicagoean actually lives can be dirty and graffiti-stricken. So, faced with all this unpleasantness of city life, I often struggle to find the beauty that I once so admired about Chicago.

Horowitz’s evaluation of various neighborhoods in Rome as he searched for an apartment all over the city reminded me to try to appreciate the little intricacies and charms that each neighborhood of Chicago holds, especially since I don’t get to see them everyday. I like how different each neighborhood is and how diverse the city is. So maybe what I need to do, taking a lesson from Horowitz, is take the time to visit different neighborhoods, as he explored Rome, and experience each one for the unique things it has to offer. And maybe I just need to take a harder look at the small things in my everyday encounters with the city to remind myself what makes Chicago the beloved city that it is by so many.

 

 

Healthy eating

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I moved to Chicago six months ago and I’ve lived in three different apartments since I’ve been here. The first one was an Air B&B, so the kitchen was not really my own to use. The second apartment was a sublease for three months, and the other two people in the apartment had lived there for a few years before I moved in, so I almost felt like an intruder on their space. Again, I did not use the kitchen frequently to cook meals for myself. I moved to a third apartment at the beginning of the summer, and thankfully, it feels a lot more like my own place. SO, I’ve started cooking again after a hiatus and many nights of unhealthy (although tasty) microwave meals.

I’m not a super adventurous cook, despite loving flipping through cookbooks to get ideas. One of my favorite things to make is simply pasta, along with my own sauce that usually includes vegetables or seafood. I mean I did grow up in Italy after all, so I think having a love for pasta (even though it’s a carbs guzzler) is perfectly understandable and acceptable!

This weekend I made pasta with zucchini and swiss chard. In addition to its light and fresh taste, it was a feast for the eyes because I think vegetables are just so darn pretty. It was a perfect little summer meal if you ask me 🙂

 

 

Photographer William Eggleston

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I studied photographer William Eggleston in a Photography class in graduate school, and this line from the New York Times Style Magazine featuring The Greats, including William Eggleston, resonated with me as I was reminded of his work:

Eggleston’s images can trick you if you’re not careful. You have to look at them, then you have to look again and then keep looking until the reason he took the picture kind of clicks in your chest. 

The aesthetic value of the photograph might not be immediately apparent, but after looking at it, taking your eyes off it, and looking again, the photograph may start to move you in some way; and it may move you in different ways each time you look at it.

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