I will be honest, as much time as we spent at Fort Riley, I didn’t spend all that much time exploring. Since this is where Ryan lives, we ended up going to many more of his local haunts than exploring sites I can tell you all about. That said, there are cool things about army bases for history-loving folk which is worth getting a day pass if you are able.
I grew up on road trips with my family visiting old cemeteries, usually near old churches or battlegrounds, and my younger sister and I became obsessed with these visits. We would search for names that were funny or similar, the youngest or oldest person, or the coolest or oldest tombstones we could wander across. To some, graveyards are scary, but I have been to so many, so many places and so many kinds.
This is one reason, Ryan took me to the Graveyard at Fort Riley. While graveyards are fascinating in and of themselves, there was something different about being here. Military graves, like military lines, have clear formations – anyone who has driven past one of the larger ones can tell a military grave-site from a great distance for this reason. Despite this, there were clear sections and you could easily see when time breaks happened. There were also much more variation in the stones which I hadn’t expected – I’m used to the sites where all the stones match except for the writing and symbols engraved on them.
It was also very different walking along the graves of soldiers with a soldier. We tried not to get morbid about it (and for the most part we succeeded), but he was able to tell me what some of the medallions and engravings stood for as well as some of the history of the base and area which explained some of the deaths.
After the graveyard, we drove down to the U.S. Calvary Museum. While we only toured the courtyard and looked at the vehicles on display there, I enjoyed this stop as well. One thing that killed us – I physically had to move Ryan out of the area – was a family who had their kids up in one of the army jeeps for photos. There are signs everywhere and you really do not want to get in trouble on an army base, so please, for the love of all that is holy, do not climb on the vehicles!
Army bases are old and full of changes that have shifted in look and style throughout time that you can see as you wander through an old base, and it really is an amazing thing to see. I really enjoyed my tour through the grounds and, if you get the chance, I suggest you wander as well.
So here we go through part one of day 2 (or the first full day) in the whirlwind trip through Kansas (even if we were really in Missouri). While Ryan was in charge of the big ticket item dates, I put my time and research into smaller places that I would want to visit on one of my normal travel expeditions. And this, of course, leads us to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
If you know my background – an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries (which is a fancy way of saying I studied things like museums, publishing, social heritage, media, and international business movement and technology across entertainment fields – basically a wide range of topics) – you know that I love museums. I have a brief insight into how individual galleries are curated and then how things move through the whole of the museums from this degree and, alongside my collected knowledge from my college art history class, this makes exploring so much more fun, especially when I have an audience who doesn’t mind hearing all about it.
With this background and my love of photography, this pick was absolutely fantastic.
First off, the museum itself is lovely – built with classical architecture and rooms upon rooms of art and a sculpture garden that is sparse enough to feel like a park while still calling itself part of an exhibit.
This is the part of the museum that we actually came out to see. I absolutely loved all the Shuttlecocks sculptures and understand how these became the statement piece and symbol of the whole museum. The sculptures are scattered throughout the garden in patches and across levels which is great for both pictures and picnics while surrounded by all kinds of art. Outside, the sculptures fall into the modern art classifications, but has a range that makes it interesting enough to keep running around – I loved the maze (but walk slow because I have seen many slam into the clear walls), the metallic tree, and (I must mention again) all of the different Shuttlecocks. Even if you aren’t looking for a museum day, this is a lovely areas just to come and have some lunch if you are in the area.
We didn’t spend much time inside, except for lunch, but we did run through the impressionist gallery, and, if this is any indication of the rest of the museum, every gallery would be worth stepping into if only for the unorthodox set up. Again, we were in the impressionist gallery, but throughout there were other types of art – furniture pieces and small scale sculptures which used an interesting juxtaposition. For me, if a gallery had a Degas ballerina sculpture (which this did), I am more than happy.
But onto lunch: as with all museums, food here isn’t cheap, however, unlike other places, the portions were rather generous. The staff was friendly and efficient and the room was lovely – hanging lights and natural daylight, with black iron tables surrounding a fountain. We had sandwiches and soup (I had half portions of both) and a blondie for dessert, plus infused water and every bit of it was fantastic. It is all freshly made in front of you so if you don’t want a specific spread or veg on your sandwich, they can make it without, without any extra work. Again, the portions were really generous and I was happily full on the half portions! Also, if you can agree on the type of sandwich, you can split the whole for cheaper than buying two halves.
I’ll end it here without going over and over my strange, nerdy discussions over curation and storytelling through the placement choices, but I will say, if you visit Kansas City, go see this museum. It’s beautiful, full of so much to see, has a full itinerary of events going on all the time, and, as someone who loves the arts, visit and make a small donation for the upkeep because your trip (minus parking, food, and special exhibits) doesn’t cost you anything!
This past weekend, I managed to make it to The Broad museum in Los Angeles. This is a small privately owned collection of modern art collected by the members of the Broad family.
We had tickets for 5pm on Sunday – the last ticketed entrance time – with a 6 pm closing. Therefore, this was definitely the first trip because we didn’t manage to make it all the way through.
I feel like I need to admit here: I’m not a huge fan of modern art – most of it just doesn’t resonate with me. Mostly, I just find individual pieces interesting – I love the over-sized furniture room but mostly because it like being Alice in Wonderland (my love of this story has been documented here well enough).
Otherwise, I loved the word pictures – basically just words/phrases on canvas (probably because of my bookish background and ability to make it myself!).
Our favorite room (that we managed to get into) has to be the lower level music room. Officially, this is a piece by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson called The Visitors, completed in 2012. The lyrics of the song are based on a poem by Ásids Sif Gunnarsdóttir as arranged by Kjartansson and Davíõ Pór Jónsson.
You can read up on the piece yourself, but basically you walk into this room which holds eight videos and speakers which show individuals playing said song, each set up in a different room. Wherever you set yourself up in the room, you’ll be able to hear and watch specific screens louder/more clearly.
We agreed we could have sat in this room moving from place to place for hours on end!
My biggest piece of advice is to go early.
The museum isn’t that large and, if you want, you can get through everything relatively quickly, however, the room that you’ll really want to visit – and the real reason I need to go back – is the widely acclaimed Infinity Room.
This is a room of mirrors which seems to go one forever, and every picture I’ve seen is amazing. The issue is that the line for this is long and the sign up fills quickly. Later arrivals can always check for available standby positions for no shows – which was recommended by one worker – but the chances are unlikely.
I love the look of the building as a whole. Once again, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’m a huge architecture fangirl. What I love about this building is how you can look out through the cutouts which not only give you an interesting perspective but brings in nice life.
There are also windows within the building which allow you to look into the archived areas. This was another huge fangirl moment for me as someone who has studied the cultural and creative industries.
But for now – with this first visit – that’s all I have, so until next time:
Our last stop before heading back to my final destination—back to my London home—was a one day stay in the (once again—another theme?) absolutely stunning and easily walkable Bruges, Belgium.
While the Netherlands had given us funny cheeses and smelled of chocolate, it was in this wonderful city that we really explored our foodie inclinations. However, if you plan to follow in this model, a word of advice: plan ahead! But more of that to come.
Before anything else—and planning to eat our way through the city—we opted to head to the Belfry – the city’s large and historic bell tower where you can climb all 366 steps to the top and get an amazing panoramic view of the city.
This is a big stop for travelers—including school and tour groups—and they only allow a specific number of people up at a time, which you’ll be grateful for. Unfortunately, this also means the wait can take a while before you even mention the climb. Groups going in and out can cause you problems in terms of bunching in the stairways – single stairs for people going up and down— but we’ll cover another issue with this in a moment.
While we had done a lot of climbing throughout the trip, this tower felt like a whole new mission. Something we hadn’t known going in is that this tower leans. And when I say leans, I mean leans.
The further you go up, the more you will notice that one side of the stairs within the spiral slowly but surely shrinks while the other broadens—because the stairs run pretty much straight in a leaning tower. In case you have someone like my sister with you: this is apparently terrifying for those afraid of heights, especially with people trying to pass, so be wary. On the way up, however, there are two rooms which you can stop in whether to read all the information, take a break, or simply get your bearings, so if one of your party can’t make it to the top, these are great spaces for them to hang out in, at least until traffic slows down.
The second of these rooms houses the chimes which are played like a gigantic windup music box so getting to that level to see its construction is pretty amazing.
But moving on to the rest of our day and, therefore, food.
There are a few things you really can’t miss if you visit Belgium and grabbing a waffle and some chocolate were definitely on our list. Therefore, if you can walk and eat, or at least find a quick seat along the street, popping by one of the many Belgian waffle shops is quite the treat—light and easy after our climb, but what we really loved was the utensil we were given. While sporks are commonplace, this was a tiny fork whose third tine doubled a knife. We never really settled on what to call this, but we are open to suggestions!
Then we were off to the French Fry museum—officially called the Friet Museum—where you learn more about potato history, travel, types, and even lore—seriously—than you ever knew was possible. And in true Gallagher fashion, we read it all. But while the potato choice is important, it is the way in which they are cooked that really make the fry, and, of course, you are taken through this process step by step.
There are a lot of spaces for kids—or playful adults—to run around and interact with here, so it’s a great stop for families and never got crowded. And of course, once you finish your tour, you can head down to the fry shop and discover exactly how a properly prepared fry is supposed to taste—the curry ketchup was surprisingly great! Also, if you take the tour, you get a 15 percent discount on all food orders per person which you can combine, so this is a nice place to stop and grab lunch if you are ready by then.
After sampling the starchy wares, we went on to the local chocolate museum. Once again, we were taken through the history of chocolate and its manufacturing. While we did get free samples—which were delicious—if you’ve done other chocolate tours like the one I mentioned in Switzerland—I’d pass on this stop.
While the walk through was fine, the building smelt like a sewer, the information on chocolate is the same that you will learn pretty much anywhere else, and the part of the museum which should be exciting—watching a demonstration by one of the master chefs—there are signs throughout which explicitly state the you may not talk to the chef. So while seeing the chocolate sculptures which filled the latter part of the tour were cool—overall we were unimpressed.
If you are willing to shell out the big bucks, however, you and your group can do a private demonstration which, watching the group through a window—seemed fun and highly interactive, but I reiterate, it will cost you.
These next two stops are where the planning comes in.
We were meant to hit the Diamond Museum and another local brewery tour, however, due to a timing error on one hand and a ticket situation on the other, neither of them worked out.
So my advice? I’d have skipped the chocolate museum; buy yourself a treat at a local shop instead and hit the diamond museum—though no free samples, sorry! And for the brewery, go first thing in the morning and buy your tickets. There are a limited number of tours throughout the day as well as spaces on those tours so, they can sell out early. This is a locally run brewery which seemed—unlike others—to really take you through the brewing process by a person who knows what they are talking about (a plus), and sampling is part of the tour, so go in early and get those tickets
But, since these fell through, we opted to be ferried along the canal by one of the many companies docked along the bank. If these tours interest you—and I do recommend it even just to see the city—you can pretty much find one by locating a bridge. While seeing the city was great, there were also a few fun facts for anyone interested in history and/or architecture from roof construction and pricing to the effect that window taxes had on those buildings you are passing. Our tour guide was very sweet, and if you can manage it, he recommended sitting in the center aisle for the best views, so keep that in mind.
While everything we did here in Bruges, was amazing—seriously great food—what we enjoyed most, for no other reason than surprise, was wandering the streets in the morning—though it plays all day—and having some 90s music pumped out into the streets. This wasn’t loud stores, but literally speakers lined up and down the streets blasting out The Backstreet Boys among others. But hey, it’s the little things.
Science Museum Lates. Science Museum, London, England. October 2014.
Okay, some tour books will give you the skinny on local goings-on, all-year long, but, for the most part, they’re written to give information on how to get from one tourist stop to the next and which ones you just HAVE to visit.
In an earlier post, I talked about how to research local events when traveling (from local blogs or talking to people when you are out and about). This week, I’m focusing on just one of those sources.
This week I learned about (and went to my first) “Museum Lates” at London’s Science Museum. This is an adults only night event that takes place near the end of most months, featuring fun and educational talks, smaller events, and activities that center around the month’s given theme. This month was food and drink and we went to a lecture on whether we wash our hands too much (answer: no; most of us need to wash better and more!) and another on how much what your past-generations’ feeding habits have shaped you (answer: they’re still researching but it looks like a lot.). They also had stationary bikes you could ride which would power a blender to make your own yogurt smoothie and a table of proven “sex food” (go early or there will be no more chocolate!).
All in all, the event was successful (my friends loved that they walked away with containers of free yogurt as a goodie-bag, as well. When you are paying for grad school, we take all the handouts we can get!). Looking back at what was offered and the time we had, however, I’ve got some tips on how to make the most of your time:
Go to the site and download or look at the offered programs, including the time they take place. If you want to go to talks, you’ll quickly discover that your time gets eaten away quickly, so knowing what is offered before you get there (and your “must dos”), will let you see and do everything you really want.
Don’t put things off until the end of the night. When they say that they are ending an event at a specific time, they will end it then. They aren’t posting the time they cut off the cue. I really wanted to make my own yogurt smoothie but they had closed the line because they had to be sure that they’d finish and clean up before closing—no exceptions.
Queue for talks. Don’t show up right at the time the lecture is scheduled to start and expect to get in. Space is limited in almost all the lectures and they give stickers that number the people in line (don’t just have someone save your space!) – once they’re out of stickers, you’re out. They’ll sometimes make an exception, but not for many. You will also probably sit on the floor at some point so think ahead clothing-wise. If they say they’ll be starting the queue in a few minutes, don’t walk away; they’ll probably start sooner than they say they will if people are showing up.
Get to the museum before the start of the Late. There is a queue to get in (this seems like a major British past time, doesn’t it?), but it moved quickly and I haven’t seen people get turned away because of capacity. If you get in the queue early, you get in faster and you can see more of the museum and all the special programs offered.
The Lates get busy but they are great fun, and, with a little pre-planning, you’re sure to see much more.
Did I mention you can buy alcohol? It is, after all, all adults.
And for more upcoming local fanfare, a friend posted this local blog on social media, perfectly timed for this post, so check it out if you’re here in London or planning to be anytime from now to early December. Even if you’re not, it’s a good place to keep your eye on.
Until next week, have a very festive and safe Guy Fawkes Day and week!