Here are some interesting snippets of travel news I've recently come across on the web...


Given that 66% of Americans are overweight...USATODAY.com writes, "Airbus pitches wide seats as U.S. fliers get bigger"  Airbus is pitching several U.S. airlines on the idea of an A320 jet with aisle seats that are three inches wider than the plane's other seats.  Bloomberg news explains: "Adding two inches to one-third of the seats in an A320 would hand U.S. airlines a marketing tool that they could target at the obese population, which has swelled to more than one-third of U.S. adults"

Read the full article here.


Size does matter at the world's biggest penis museum:  The Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik houses the world's largest collection of penises and penile parts.  The museum acquired its first human penis in July 2011.

Here is an article from UK's Telegraph from 2008; a recent USAToday article is here and you can watch this Youtube video about the museum.


Cartoonlike buzzards wielding a knife and fork, anvils and oversized mallets might seem like an odd way to welcome tourists, but Porter Sculpture Park is no typical roadside attraction.

The vultures representing reincarnated politicians are just a few of the more than 40 quirky creations originating in the mind of Wayne Porter, who uses his blacksmith know-how and appreciation of history to turn twisted concepts into metallic works of art. The park's signature piece is a 60-foot-tall Egyptian-style bull's head that stares down Interstate 90 motorists as they head out to South Dakota's Black Hills. Porter spent three years creating the 25-ton monstrosity out of railroad tie plates, dubbing it the "World's Largest Bull's Head" on a nearby billboard.

Read the full article here.


From Yahoo.com: Given the size of the place, the name "Bangor International Airport" might seem a little grandiose.  But the airport actually gets an outsize share of international visitors.  Of course, many of them are accidental tourists who would rather not be here at all.  Because the airport is on the far northeastern edge of the U.S., incoming trans-Atlantic flights confronted with terrorist threats or unruly passengers are often diverted to Bangor, population 33,000.  

It's the last major U.S. airport for jets headed east across the Atlantic and the first for incoming flights, and though it has only a single runway, it is more than 11,000 feet long, long enough for the space shuttle.

The diverted flights represent a tiny part of activity at the Bangor International Airport, which is home to a Maine Air National Guard wing and serves as a busy refuelling hub for military aircraft carrying personnel and cargo to and from Europe and the Middle East.

Since 2004, the airport has handled 21 cases in which aircraft had to land for security reasons, compared with 388 for fuel, 139 for bad weather, 50 for medical emergencies and 49 for maintenance problems, Caruso said.

You can read the entire article here. 

Now for some serious interesting news:


Great news!  Southwest Airlines' recent acquisition of AirTran means travelers have options for international travel by booking via http://www.airtran.com/.

From Mexico to the Caribbean, AirTran has nonstop service to a variety of exotic international destinations like Aruba, The Bahamas, Bermuda, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Fly nonstop on AirTran between the following cities:
Domestic U.S. Cities International Destinations
Atlanta Aruba, Cancun, Nassau, Montego Bay, Punta Cana, San Juan
Austin Cancun3
Baltimore/Washington, D.C. (BWI) Aruba, Bermuda, Cancun, Nassau, Montego Bay, San Juan
Chicago Midway (MDW)5 Cancun*
Ft. Lauderdale San Juan1
Denver Cancun
Milwaukee Cancun
Orange County4 Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico City
Orlando Aruba, Montego Bay, San Juan
San Antonio2 Cancun, Mexico City
Tampa Bay San Juan

International flights are operated by AirTran and are not available for purchase from Southwest Airlines. Checked bags will not be transferred between any Southwest Airlines flight and AirTran flight.

*Subject to foreign Government approval

1Ft. Lauderdale – San Juan service will start on 05/24/2012.
2San Antonio – Cancun & Mexico City will start on 05/24/2012.
3Austin – Cancun service will start on 05/25/2012.
4Orange County – Cabo San Lucas & Mexico City will start on 06/03/2012.
5Chicago Midway-Cancun service will start on 06/03/2012.


A new survey from flight comparison site Skyscanner has revealed that 86% of people do not want mobile phone use to be permitted on planes, as it’s "annoying to have to listen to other people’s conversations".

From travelindustrywire.com:
The overwhelming result comes just after Virgin Atlantic announced it would be the first British airline to allow mobile phone calls during flights, on its London to New York route. The calls will cost £1 a minute and sending a text will be 20 pence, significantly more than when on Terra firma, meaning that business users are likely to be the primary market for the new facility, at least to begin with.  Even though many people welcome improvements in general Internet connectivity allowing them to jump online in more and more places around the world, there appears to be a markedly different attitude when it comes to mobile phone conversations in confined spaces.  If mobile use was available onboard, 48% said they would send texts, 35% said they would surf the web, 10% would send email, whilst only 6% would actually make and take calls.  Furthermore only 1% of those polled said they would pay more to fly with an airline that offered mobile calls.

Speaking of cell phones...


However, for those of you who can't live without your smart phone, this article lists out the 11 top travel apps.

Stranded at the airport?  Download the HotelTonight app to book a room only for that night; the TripIt app allows you to consolidate all your electronic travel confirmations into one place; Yelp is a Yellow Pages directory for your phone; want to know the latest currency conversion rates?  Download the XE Currency app; the Tripadvisor app needs no explanation (NOTE: Tripadvisor is the first place I go for hotel reviews.)  To see the other recommended apps read the article here.


Introducing Italy's newest high speed train service: Italo.  (NOTE: I'll be checking this out for next year's Italy trip!)
It currently operates two daily round trips over Italy's high-speed core Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples train line.  You can read the www.chicagotribune.com/travel article here.


75 years ago today the Golden Gate Bridge opened.  Since it opened in 1937, more than 2 billion vehicles have crossed the 1.7-mile-long bridge named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance of water to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. 

This CBS Sunday Morning episode shows some original footage of bridge workers hundreds of feet in the air; back then they didn't wear any safety harnesses.  The chief engineer designed the use of movable safety netting beneath the construction site which saved the lives of many otherwise unprotected steelworkers.  Of eleven men killed from falls during construction, ten were killed (when the bridge was near completion) when the net failed under the stress of a scaffold that had fallen.  However 19 men were saved by the net; they created a group called Half Way to Hell Group.

ODD BUT TRUE NOTE: www.sftravel.com notes that visitors should:

Look out for the suicide phones. At either end of the Golden Gate Bridge you will see emergency phones with signage letting people know that they have options other than to end their lives.  Although this is a bit morbid, it is an important part of the history of the Golden Gate Bridge because each year there are people who commit suicide by jumping off of the bridge. There is even a documentary, called The Bridge, about this issue. It’s a highly controversial topic because some people in the city want to erect nets to prevent this from happening and others don’t want the bridge to have these nets.



I found out about the exhibition while reading an issue of Chicago magazine back in 2007.  There was an advertisement promoting Manet to Matisse: Impressionist Masters from the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection, an upcoming exhibition at Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum.

Henry Bloch is the "H" of the H&R Block tax services.  To celebrate the opening of the Bloch Building at the museum. the Blochs agreed to an exhibition of 30 masterpiece Impressionist paintings from their private collection.  Henry Bloch has been a longtime trustee, chairman and benefactor of the museum.

One of the paintings included in the exhibition was a Degas pastel titled Dancer Making Points or in French, Danseuse Faisant des Pointes.  You can see a portion of the painting above because it was used in the promotion of the Bloch exhibition.  The Blochs had purchased the painting from a New York City art dealer in 1993 (THE "BOUGHT").

Imagine Henry Bloch's surprise when in 2005 he was contacted by the FBI regarding an art investigation of the Degas painting.  Mr. Bloch stated, "I believe I may have been first contacted in late 2005 by the FBI, who indicated that they were conducting an art investigation and wanted to confirm their information that we had purchased the Degas."  The FBI, Bloch said, "did not give any indication that it had been stolen and gave us assurances there was nothing to worry about. I nevertheless shared the inquiry with my attorney at the time who discussed it with the Director of the Nelson-Atkins. I do not believe I was contacted again by them until late 2007."

So what was this art investigation?

The painting, seen above, was originally owned by reclusive copper-heiress Huguette Clark.  Ms. Clark lived in New York City, but in 1991, at age 84, she moved out of her apartment and spend the remainder of her life in hospitals.  In 1992, the painting was discovered missing from her apartment (THE "STOLEN").

Huguette Clark's apartment (photo courtesy: www.dailymail.uk.co)

Valuing her privacy more than the painting, Ms. Clark chose not to file a police report nor did she register the painting on the international registry of stolen art.  Thus, the Bloch's attorney argued because Ms. Clark had made no attempt to try to find the missing painting that the Blochs now owned the painting in a kind of "finder's keepers, loser's weepers" claim.

Eventually through an agreement made between Ms. Clark and Mr. Bloch, Ms. Clark decided to donate the painting to the Nelson-Atkins Museum where the Blochs have agreed to donate their collection after their deaths.  The Blochs got to keep their painting and lucky Ms. Clark got a very large tax write-off.  But here's where it gets interesting...

In 2008 outside of the Bloch's home in Mission Hills, Kansas, one of the strangest (and shortest) art exchanges took place.  A representative of the Blochs walked outside and physically handed the painting to a representative of Ms. Clark (THE "RETURN").  

Ms. Clark's representative in turn walked over to a parked car in which a representative of the Nelson-Atkins Museum sat and gave him the painting (THE "DONATE") .

The museum representative turned around and gave the painting back to the Bloch's representative where it was rehung in the Bloch's living room (THE 2ND "RETURN").

The museum thus agreed to "lend" the painting to the Blochs; every year until their deaths, the loan will be renewed.  After the Bloch's death, all 30 paintings from the exhibition, including the Degas, will be donated permanently to the museum (THE 2ND "DONATE") even though technically the museum already owns the Degas.

All parties involved signed a confidentiality agreement so until recently only 3 of the 21 museum trustees were aware of the agreement.

All of this recently became public after the death of Ms. Clark in 2011 at age 104.  Many are questioning whether Ms. Clark was mentally capable of signing an agreement in 2008 at the age 102, basically giving away a $10 million masterpiece.  At the time of the painting donation her personal physician signed an affidavit confirming he felt his patient was "mentally and physically alert".  In addition, the trustees of the Nelson-Atkins Museum would not accept such a large donation from someone of Ms. Clark's age without verification of her mental capacity.

The real issue is the fact that three years prior to the painting exchange, Ms. Clark signed two new wills within six weeks of each other.  The first left her $400 million fortune to her family (the great-grandchildren from her father's first marriage); the second will cut them completely out of the fortune.  Instead the second will indicated Ms. Clark wanted her Santa Barbara, California home made into museum, gave millions of dollars to her nurse, gave a Monet masterpiece valued at $40 million to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and gave huge gifts to her godchild, doctor, attorney and accountant.

So the question remains: If she was mentally capable of giving away the Degas at age 102, wouldn't she have been in her right mind when she basically disinherited her family at age 98.  However, the doctor is one of the beneficiaries of the second will and he also received substantial monetary gifts during the last years of Ms. Clark's life, so his truthfulness may be questionable.  Many family members also feel that Ms. Clark's attorney and accountant influenced her to sign a new will.  The attorney and accountant deny that charge.

To read more about this story there are several good web articles.  The most comprehensive is this one by MSNBC.  This MSNBC article give more information on the battle for Ms. Clark's estate such as her jewelry and apartments.  This article by the Daily Mail has old photos of Huguette Clark.  Here is a related article from the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper online where Ms. Clark wanted to built her museum.

In my next post I'll talk more about the exhibition and my favorite paintings in the museum's permanent collection. Until then, thank you for taking the time to read and feel free to leave a comment.



Italy is on a far horizon now, but I am still listening to Max and Jane through my http://www.learnitalianpod.com/ podcast.  So let's add a few more words to our Italian vocabulary that might come in handy on your trip to Italy:

Macchina Fotografia Digitale    Digital Camera
MA-key-nah fo-toe-grah-FEE-a dee-gee-TAH-lay)

NOTE: The Italian word camera means room.

Fotografia                                   Photograph

Francobollo                                 Stamp

Ufficio Postale                             Post office
(u-FEE-cho po-STA-lay)

Cartolina                                      Postcard

Chiave                                         Key

Sinistra                                         Left

Destra                                           Right

Carne                                            Meat

Pesce                                            Fish

Pollo                                              Chicken

Insalata Mista                                Mixed Salad
(in-sah-LA-tah MEE-stah)

Panino                                           Sandwich

Formaggio                                      Cheese

Dolci                                                Dessert

Grazie and ci vediamo!



I'm so excited!  I can actually talk about planning a vacation!  We didn't think we would be going anywhere this year.  Paying for the new carpeting and laminate hardwood sort of killed the major vacation budget for this year (i.e another Caribbean cruise or Europe).  That's next May...

However, we have decided to take a road trip, meaning for the first time in our 14-year marriage we will be driving to our destination.  Since we are driving instead of flying, this gives us the opportunity to put the large cooler in the back seat and fill it with items that would cost much more to purchase on the road: soda, bottled water, chips, granola bars, nuts, brownies, etc.

What is our itinerary?

Day One:  We are driving to Detroit.  Since we are leaving on a weekday, we will getting up at the crack of dawn to beat some of the rush hour traffic we are bound to encounter driving south to Interstate 80/94 through Indiana into Michigan.  Yes, Detroit, Michigan...specifically the suburb of Highland Park.  Now I realize there is nothing to get excited about in Highland Park, Michigan.  We are only going to Highland Park to visit a family friend for the day.  We will spend the day with our friend, visiting and going out to dinner.

But since Detroit is only a few miles from Windsor, Canada we have decided to book a hotel room in Windsor...this will be our first visit to Canada!  I've chosen the Hampton Inn in Windsor, Canada.  I like staying at Hampton Inns.  The Hampton Inn hotels I've stayed in (Jacksonville, FL; Tampa, FL; St. Louis, MO) have all been clean, affordable hotels, plus you get a free hot breakfast.  An important value when you are budgeting for your vacation.  Our room price will be $123.00 for the night.

Day Two: We are going to begin the day with a visit to the Motown Historical Museum.  We both love the hits of the Motown generation and of course, Detroit is synonymous with Motown.  The museum was founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards, sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr.

From the Motown Museum we will drive through Ontario to Niagara Falls!  Neither of us have ever been to Niagara Falls so we are very excited.

We will be staying at the Hilton-Niagara Falls.  Our room will have fantastic views of both the American Falls and the Canadian Falls.  This hotel is a bit of a splurge, but I figure this is most likely going to be our only trip here.  Our room price will be $207.00 for the night.  Yes, I'm paying extra for the view this time.                                        
Photo courtesy: http://www.hilton.com/

Imagine having this view!                                                  
Photo courtesy: http://www.hilton.com/
We're not going to be spending much time at Niagara Falls.  We are also on a tight budget for this trip.  This is a vacation that we were not supposed to take this year.  Fortunately Niagara Falls is free.  And with views like below what else to you need?
Photo courtesy: www.niagarafallslive.com

But I have discovered there are lots of other FREE fun things to do at Niagara Falls:
  • The Niagara Parkway: This 34-mile drive on the Canadian side follows the Niagara River and is considered one of the prettiest drives in the world.
  • Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens: The gardens are located 6 miles north of the falls on the Niagara Parkway.  NOTE: Parking is $5.00.
  • Floral Clock: Located one and half miles north of the Botanical Gardens, the 40-foot diameter clock is the largest in the world.  Its "face" is changed twice a year.  The clock is almost as popular as the Falls.
                                        Photo courtesy: www.niagaraparks.com

  • Goat Island: This island located between Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls is the oldest State Parkway in the U.S. and offers some of the most spectacular views of the falls.
On Goat Island is Cave of the Winds.  You ride an elevator 175 feet deep into the Niagara Gorge. Then, clad in a bright yellow poncho and wearing the special footwear provided, you follow a tour guide over a series of wooden walkways to the famous Hurricane Deck.  As you stand at the railing, you are a mere 20 feet from the billowing torrents of Bridal Veil Falls.  I think we will have to do this!  Check out this fantastic video posted on Youtube (courtesy of billjen3031) showing just what I mean:

Day Three: After a quick one night's stay in Niagara Falls, by late morning we'll be back on the road driving home.  After driving down the Niagara Parkway to Buffalo, we'll cross back over to the U.S. side and drive home through Pennsylvania and Ohio, two states I've never visited.  We plan to drive down Interstate 90 to Perrysburg, Ohio.  We'll stay at the local Hampton Inn (free breakfast!).

Day Four: After filling up on the complimentary breakfast offered at the Hampton Inn, we will spend the morning at the Toledo Art Museum, located just six miles north of our Hampton Inn location.  Anytime I can visit a world-class art museum I will take the opportunity, and the Toledo Art Museum is a world-class museum.  Its permanent collection contains works by many of the artists I love and have written about in this blog: van Gogh, Pissarro, Manet, Sisley, Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Picasso, Modigliani, Hopper, Bellows, Beckmann, Bonnard and Monet.  Look at this masterpiece by Monet!

Water Lilies (1922) by Claude Monet                                                                  

And the best part is that admission is FREE!

By late morning we will be back on the road, heading back home.  Miss Kitty will hopefully have missed Mommy and Daddy...she is still getting used to us even though we've now had her six months.

I look forward to writing more extensively about this trip after I return.  Until then, thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.

NOTE: Unfortunately we did not make it into Canada but we did visit the Motown Museum in Detroit and the Toledo Art Museum.  Please check out my blog post on the Motown Museum  and look for my blog post on the Toledo Art Museum.



The Hôtel Biron is the beautiful 18th-century mansion that houses the Musée Rodin in Paris.  The museum opened its doors in 1919, two years after Auguste Rodin died.  In 1753, the mansion, built between 1728 and 1730, was sold to Maréchal de Biron, who gave it its present name.   

In 1820, the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus became the owners of the property.  Its vocation was to educate the young girls of high society.  The mansion was stripped of all its embellishments and the gardens were allowed to grow wild.  The Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was dissolved in July, 1904, and the sisters were evicted. While awaiting a buyer, the Hôtel Biron was rented out to artists.  Its illustrious tenants included Isadora Duncan and Henri Matisse.  When the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who was Rodin's secretary, wrote to him about the mansion and abandoned gardens, Rodin rented four of the mansion's rooms in October of 1908 as his studio; by 1911, Rodin occupied the entire mansion.
Rodin loved the tangle of plants.  In 1908, Rodin first started placing some of his sculptures in the overgrown garden in addition to some of the ancient works of art from Egypt, Greece and Rome that he began collecting in the early 1890s. 

“Nature and Antiquity are the two great sources of life for an artist. In any event, Antiquity implies nature. It is its truth and its smile.”    Auguste Rodin (taken from www.musee-rodin.fr)

In 1910, the government of France purchased the property, initially to house the Department of Civil Buildings.  However, Rodin successfully negotiated with the French government; he would donate all his works to France under the stipulation that the French government keep the collection at Hôtel Biron:

“I give the State all my works in plaster, marble, bronze and stone, and my drawings, as well as the collection of antiquities that I had such pleasure in assembling for the education and training of artists and workers. And I ask the State to keep all these collections in the Hôtel Biron, which will be the Musée Rodin, reserving the right to reside there all my life.”   

Auguste Rodin - Correspondence of Rodin, volume III, 1908-1912, letter no. 103 to Paul Escudier, late 1909  (taken from www.musee-rodin.fr)

In 1916 the French legislature accepted Rodin's gift; the Musée Rodin opened its doors on August 4, 1919.

The first bronzes were placed in the gardens before World War I.   The large-scale Le Penseur (The Thinker) was transferred with its pedestal to the museum in 1922.  This image of a man lost in thought has become one of the most celebrated sculptures ever known.

The Thinker was eventually accompanied by an enlargement of Ugolino, set in the middle of the ornamental pool in 1927...

then by Les Bourgeois de Calais (Burgers of Calais) in 1937...

The statue of Balzac, an old bronze cast before 1936, was installed much later.  When the statue was originally unveiled, the crowd booed, a fitting tribute to the defiant writer.

In the 1993 restoration of the garden, which is spread over an area of three hectares, the landscape architect decided to keep the classical layout of the garden.  A large number of bronze sculptures are displayed throughout in the renovated gardens.   

Meditation with Arms

Fallen Caryatid with Urn


The Three Shades (the souls of the damned): a larger version of what sits on top of The Gates of Hell.

The Shade: a sculpture in which Rodin depicted most fully the lessons he had learned from the study of the works of Michelangelo during his visits to Italy.

Many visitors to Paris miss this wonderful museum dedicated to the works of one of the most talented sculptors in history.  They concentrate on Musée d'Orsay or the Musée du Louvre.  Even if you don't walk through the mansion, take a stroll through the gardens where many of Rodin's most important works are displayed among some of most beautiful flowers you will see in Paris.
Musée Rodin has partially reopened after being closed for the last three months.  A temporary presentation of the permanent collection called Masterpieces on the Move shows the most important works by Rodin and Camille Claudel in the east wing of the museum.  The west wing of the museum is closed until April, 2013.

Musée Rodin
79 Rue du Varenne, 75007 Paris 

Phone: +33 (0)1 44 18 61 10
Fax:     +33 (0)1 44 18 61 30 

Metro: Varenne (Line 13) or Invalides (Line 13, Line 8)
R.E.R:  Invalides (line C)
Bus:    69, 82, 87, 92

  • Admission fee is €6.00
  • Admission fee with temporary exhibit is €9.00
  • Admission fee for the gardens is €1.00
  • TIP: You should use your Paris Museum Pass.
  • Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-5:45 (last ticket sold 5:15).
  • Beginning April 3, 2012 Open Wednesday until 8:45. 
  • Closed Mondays.
  • Closed January 1, May 1 and December 25.

For more information visit the website: http://www.musee-rodin.fr/

NOTE: All photos in this post were taken by me during my visit in May, 2006.