November 17, 2019

Père Lachaise Cemetery: A stroll through time

Five of us Cabaret Connexion singers had just seen the Van Gogh Art Immersive Exhibit in Paris and noticed Paris’ famous final resting place, Père Lachaise Cemetery nearby. It was a beautiful fall day so we agreed to wander amid the shady trees and ornate crypts and graves in search of a few artistic ghosts.

I had been to Père Lachaise years ago but this was before cell phones and the internet so I wandered fruitlessly, unable to find most of the famous grave sites. As luck would have it, three Cuban ladies in front of us were being led by a small man who seemed most knowledgeable about the environs. We started to tag along, after asking if we could join them.

It turns out that Paul, the man in question, was a volunteer docent who lived in the neighborhood and knew Pere Lachaise like the back of his hand. Off we trotted to see some of the most famous graves.

The cemetery is large so we had to cover a lot of beautiful terrain in between burial spots. I was able to touch the memorial with Chopin’s remains, although his literal heart remains in Poland. I gazed with bemusement at the gift-strewn Jim Morrison grave, and nodded with appreciation at the memorials to Moliere, Honore de Balzac and other literary luminaries. Some of my personal favorites were artist Modigliani, singer-songwriter Gilbert Bécaud, mime Marcel Marceau and beloved author Colette.

Some tombs and crypts are ancient and falling apart, but others are decidedly new. Our guide pointed out more recent head stones with colored photos embedded, most notably victims of the Bataclan and Charlie Hebdo bombings. A promenade through this restful place is a journey through culture and history.

The highlight of our walk was the tomb of Edith Piaf where we serenaded her with La Vie En Rose. Passersby were filming our little Cabaret Connexion group so our homage to the Little Sparrow may be floating in the electronic ether somewhere.

As our time ran short, I thought with regret of the many other grave sites I had wanted to visit, Oscar Wilde, Abelard and Heloise, Sarah Bernhardt and countless others. Having a guide made this a much more gratifying afternoon experience so we gratefully tipped him at the end of our afternoon.

Paris Greeters, link below, has people available to lead you through Pére Lachaise although this may not be the organization of our wonderful and knowledgeable guide, Paul. We never even got his last name.

This famous cemetery is like the Louvre Museum; don’t try to catch all of the highlights in a frenzy. Take your time and really experience the few things that you do see. Bonne chance.

Link to the full roster of people buried at Pere Lachaise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_burials_at_P%C3%A8re_Lachaise_Cemetery

Paris Greeters: https://greeters.paris/en/

earthcam.com

Someone tech savvy recommended the app earthcam.com to me. I have been taking vicarious trips ever since.

Many famous venues have real-time video feeds which you can access through this site. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Times Square in New York, to name but a few.

Think of any place on earth and there just may be live video footage available. Want to see an osprey nest or a rare plant? You just may be in luck.

Categories include National Parks, Iconic Landmarks, Animals and Zoos, Weird & Bizarre along with very amateurish video footage that viewers submit. A Peeling Paint cam in London, England goes in the “no thank you” column.

Now, back to my virtual travel browsing! Let me see… the Great Wall of China, the San Diego Zoo, the Vatican, Millenium Park in Chicago, Wrigley Field for one last post season look…….

http://www.earthcam.com/

Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, Caldwell Lily Pond and Waterfowl Lagoon at Lincoln Park Zoo

Having lived across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo for ten years, I got in the habit of frequently visiting the country’s oldest free urban zoo, sometimes daily.  New exhibits, refreshed settings and old favorites were the draw.

Kids playing around nature forms and next to a glass barrier with a black bear on the other side

New to me was the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, featuring North American animals to the right of you as you enter from Stockton. One is immediately struck by the visual layers in the exhibit. Tree tops with nesting herons are in the foreground. Red wolves can be seen in the next layer, behind a barrier, of course. A service dog-in-training in the people zone was being intently stared at by one wolf as I reconfirmed that there were at least two fences between them. A few steps more and one can see lumbering black bears with one snoozing in a glass observation portal the day we visited. Other creatures featured in the exhibit are the American beaver, the American kestrel, the American toad, Blanding’s and Eastern Box turtles along with the Eastern screech owl and the Hooded merganser. Inventive play structures add still another layer of interest for families. Any child would love this engaging area, but I can attest that adults will be charmed as well.


The Lincoln Park Zoo Waterfowl Lagoon also appears to be newly landscaped with Chilean flamingos matching the orange tiger lilies surrounding their area. A bridge and an overlook allow the viewer to admire the swan geese and a pair of snow white trumpeter swans. In 1868, New York’s Central Park Commissioners sent the Lincoln Park Zoo two swans and those graceful birds continue to be a big draw in the zoo. Native Illinois wildflowers and grasses complete the idyllic scene along with Ruddy ducks, Baikal teals and red-breasted mergansers. 

One of my favorite areas continues to be the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. While you may exit into the zoo from the pond area, for entrance, you must go to Fullerton, south of the zoo. The Lincoln Park Conservancy is responsible for this serene setting with its Prairie-style rock structures, birds and diverse native plantings. If you meander upon the path that circles the pond, or sit in one of the pavilions to listen to birdsong and gaze at lily pads, you can forget that you are in the middle of a bustling big city. We were lucky enough to hear the big croak of a resident bull frog when exiting, as if he were giving us an exclamation point to our bucolic visit.

I frequent the Zoo less often since I moved out of that neighborhood but the occasional stop to the environs always introduces me to some new view of nature. A big thank you to the Auxillary Board of the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Zoological Society for keeping this experience free to all!

Montrose Beach and the Magic Hedge

An out-of-town friend recently visited Chicago and I decided to introduce him to Montrose Beach (the city’s largest beach) and the Magic Hedge, a bird sanctuary south of the bath house that some birders call the best bird-viewing spot in Chicago. 320 species of birds have been sighted in the lush cordoned area of trees, bushes and grasses.

Dogs tend to frighten birds, so the Magic Hedge is off-limits to canines. I took my dog elsewhere while my friend went into the interior of the nature preserve. He saw guys in safari vests with cameras, big zoom lenses, binoculars and lots of birds.

Signage indicated that a butterfly sanctuary is being created adjacently north of the preserve to provide a stopping ground for Monarchs, in particular.

East of the preserve, more trees and greenery have taken up residence amid the dunes on the beach. This is also a no-dog-zone. A jetty curves out from the end of the beach affording a stupendous view of the lake and the city skyline.

Just south of the Magic Hedge is a stand of ornamental trees that were planted in honor of famed journalist, Mike Royko in 1998. The dozen or so now lush trees have been dubbed Royko’s Grove.

The Montrose Beach area itself has a bath house that looks like an ocean liner with kayak and volleyball equipment rental and an outdoor cafe that features live music. A sanctioned dog beach is to the north of the Montrose bath house.

There is the harbor itself with slips for 711 boats, both sail and powered, along with the Corinthian Yacht Club and a bait shop.

A day at the Montrose Beach area is like a mini-vacation. My dog thinks so, too.

Montrose Beach and Harbor
4400 N. Lake Shore Drive (at Montrose Avenue)

http://www.cpdbeaches.com/beaches/Montrose-Beach/

Riverwalk Extension Opening May 20, 2017

Whether you are visiting Chicago or are a longtime resident, you will want to find the time to check out the 1.25 mile River Walk that runs from Lake Michigan to Lake Street. The city has found a way to showcase our previously industrial-oriented Chicago River and make it an actual destination with food, leisure activities and delightful infrastructure design.
This hearkens back to architect/planner Daniel Burnham’s vision of riverside promenades along the Wacker Drive viaduct.

Architect Carol Ross Barney

One of the architectural brains behind the 21st century 15 year project is Carol Ross Barney of Ross Barney Architects who along with collaborative partners Sasaki Associates (MA), Alfred Benesch & Company and Jacobs Ryan Associates have created 8 distinct areas between the cross bridges, referred to as Boardwalk, Jetty, Water Plaza, River Theater, Cove, Marina plus two other areas east of Michigan Avenue.

Here is a great photo montage of Riverwalk at the Ross Barney Architects site: http://www.r-barc.com/projects/chicago-riverwalk/

I love the Water Plaza from LaSalle to Wells which features a zero-depth fountain and water jets with colored lights. Children were splashing away the day I visited. Equally impressive was the River Theater (Clark to LaSalle) which will seat hundreds for events or allow people to just hang out.  Imagine a production barge set up in front of the seating for concerts and theatrical events. Count me in!

This whole project gives me newfound architectural pride in the City of Big Shoulders.

Check out the events from 9 am to 9 pm for the Saturday, May 20 opening:

https://www.chicagoriverwalk.us/season-opening

Here is a blog post I did on the previous Riverwalk phase completed in 2015: http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/chicago-riverwalk-from-lasalle-to-lake-michigan/

Seven Magic Mountains outside of Las Vegas

Seven Magic Mountains

If you need a break from the casino culture on the Las Vegas Strip, consider a short trip outside of the city to view a special art exhibit, the Seven Magic Mountains by Swiss sculptor, Ugo Rondinone. The seven 30-foot brightly-colored totems are made up of large stacked boulders that give one the feeling of a psychedelic Stonehenge.
Ten miles south of Las Vegas, the art installation is near Jean Dry Lake and Interstate 15. The Mojave Desert becomes a free art museum with a short drive outside of Las Vegas well worth the trouble.
The installation opened on May 11, 2016 and will be viewable until May 11, 2018.

My niece, Maye and me

You can order Seven Magic Mountain prints by Gianfranco Gorgoni or “mini mountain” stone sculptures by Ugo Rondinone at:
http://sevenmagicmountains.com