Browsing "Museums"
Apr 10, 2013 -

A Fun Afternoon at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas

Undeterred by the pouring rain, Ms. Cinnamon and I headed out for the afternoon. I asked if she wanted to have lunch out and she suggested Vietnamese, which was exactly what I had in mind. So we headed over to the Bistro B.

The restaurant has a crazy huge and overwhelming menu. I decided that we didn’t have all day and that I wanted vermicelli, chicken, and lemongrass, which I found as a number 113. Ms. Cinnamon ordered the same thing.

The ginormous meal of fresh salad, noodles, meat, and a side of fish sauce looked lovely and tasted pretty good, but it was nowhere near lemongrassy enough for me. There was just a hint of it in some bites, but for a meal labeled lemongrass, it wasn’t enough. So I questioned the server and he offered to take back our food, but we refused since there was nothing wrong with it and we didn’t want to have to wait for them to make something new.

Well, he came back minutes later with a small plate heaped with more lemongrass and sautéd onions! And guess what he told us? That the chef purposely toned it down because the dish is too flavourful for most of the folks who come to the restaurant! Now, what we were served was not bland in the least, but the added lemongrass really made it shine. Yu-um!

Sated, Ms. Cinnamon and I headed out to tour the Perot Museum of Science and Nature, which is new in Dallas. I took a picture of the exterior when I was out the other day. It was almost 2:30 when we arrived and the museum closes at 5:00. Well, we had just enough time to see everything, but would have really needed another hour or two!

This is a very hands on museum with a lot of fun activities. From the lobby, you get a dizzying escalator ride straight up to the fourth floor dinosaurs and space exhibits, and then you work your way down.

The museum is great for kids and the kid at heart. My favourite exhibit was up in the fourth floor mezzanine birds exhibit where you put on 3D glasses and get to soar like a bird. The effect is remarkable as you get to swoop, dive, and fly by moving your body. This photo gallery gives a small sample of the exhibits. At $15, the museum isn’t cheap, but you get a lot of bang for your buck!

We stopped at the Central Market, a super fancy grocery store, on the way home to grab something quick and easy for dinner. I got a few groceries and then spent some time in the deli area trying to decide what I was in the mood for. The sushi very tempting, but I went with my first instinct, which was to have a mixed Mediterranean plate with hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, cucumber and tomato salad, and lots of other good stuff where you pay by the weight of your container. Yum!

It was really cold today (I doubt we hit 50F), but at least the sky has cleared.

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Mar 25, 2013 -

Downtown San Antonio, Including the Alamo, Riverwalk, and Mercado

The day was very slow to warm and I didn’t think I was going to end up going into San Antonio. We final hit double digits Celsius near noon and I decided to head out, wearing sandals, but also long thick leggings under my skirt and a long-sleeved top, and I stuffed my heaviest wool pashmina into my purse at the last minute. I wound up being very grateful for that shawl as I wore it all afternoon. It was warm in the sun, but absolutely freezing in shaded areas.

Teri, my host here at Hidden Valley had given me a detailed map with how to get to $5 a day parking downtown. I gave the map a glance before leaving and only noted the exit name… not that I had to get off I-35 and take I-10 to I-37, from which I would take said exit. So I wound up driving straight through town and had to double back! But once I was downtown, the parking lot was easy to find. It is at the corner of Bowie and Crockett, kitty corner from the giant mall.

First stop of the day was the Alamo! WOW! I can’t believe I’ve finally been to the Alamo!!! Wow! 😀

A number of people told me that I would be disappointed, but disappointment is all about expectations. No expectations, no disappointment.  From a purely pragmatic point of view, I could understand how someone who is only moderately interested in the Alamo might not get much out of the site. There is a very long line to get into the shrine, an even longer line in the shrine snaking through the sparse exhibits, and there is no photography permitted.

But if you know the history, you can close your eyes and hear the rifles and cannons and death gurgles of men drowning in their own blood. In the room where women and children sought refuge, you can hear their muffled cries of terror. Standing within the halls of this former mission, I could understand how it has become a symbol of Texan independence.

The exhibits are wonderful for a history buff; lots of old documents and maps with a few artifacts, like a book belonging to Bowie and a rifle belonging to Crockett.

Attached to the Alamo shrine, there is a museum (again, no pictures). You can also see a movie, but the line for that was really, really long and I was ready for lunch.

The Alamo (which means cottonwood) is free to visit. You can pay $6 for an audio tour, but I opted out.

My thirst for living history slaked, it was time to find some lunch. I had done my research and headed to Sushi Zushi on the corner of St Mary’s and Commerce. Don’t give me that look! I haven’t had sushi since the beginning of January!!!!!!

From the restaurant, I was able to head down into the famous Riverwalk, where it was really cold along the water. What a beautiful area! I did the entire main loop and a little of the newer branch that heads north.

After, I headed across town to the marketplace to see the Mercado, colloquially known as ‘the Mexican flea market.’ If you want to get a sense of what it’s like to shop in a Mexican border town without having a bunch of shopkeepers hassle you, you have to check out this place. I was underwhelmed by the same tchotchkes that I saw in Nuevo Progreso and Tijuana.

That was the end of my day. Public transportation is super cheap in San Antonio, but the city is very walkable and compact, so I ended up hoofing my way back to the truck, enjoying the exercise and sunshine.

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Mar 23, 2013 -

Mission San José and Mission Concepción, San Antonio

The gals I had lunch with on Thursday strongly suggested I start my tour of the area with a visit to at least one of the missions near San Antonio so as to get a better idea of the historical context of the Alamo.

I was going going to go out today, having woken up to super overcast and coldish conditions, but the sky was clear by noon and I was itching to get outside.

I started with Mission San José because it is the best restored and it has a visitors’ centre, guided tours, and a movie (all free, including parking!). From there, I went to Mission Concepción because it is the best preserved. There were a few others to see, but I did not feel compelled to tour them.

Briefly, the Missions were established by Spanish Franciscan friars in the 18th century as settlements to teach the south Texas Indians how to be Spanish citizens. This was how Spain established its presence in the area. If it couldn’t populate it with real Spaniards, then it would create new Spaniards.

The Indian tribes were being attacked from the north by Comanches, Apaches, and other plains nations who had horses. From the south came a wave of European illnesses. The south Texans accepted their bitter fate and that sometimes the only way to survive is to surrender. They went to live in the missions and learned the Spanish way of life, the language, and the religion, Roman Catholicism.

The missions were eventually secularized and turned over to their inhabitants. Some fell to the wayside and others, like the Alamo, were used by the military.

The architecture of the missions was exquisite! I’m glad I watched the movie, Gente de razon (literally, people of reason, but actually human beings), which talks about the fate of the Indians and how they live on as the Tejano people.

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