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Review: Images of America

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  • December 23, 2018
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Skytop Lodge
Skytop Lodge
Skytop Lodge is a legendary vacation destination located in the Pocono Mountains. Skytop opened its doors on June 16, 1928. Photo courtesy of Lucille May and Kendric Packer. This image appears on the cover of “Images of America: Skytop Lodge by Claire Gierwatowski.

You would recognize Skytop Lodge today if you were to compare the grand opening day photo in Claire Gierwatowski’s “Images of America: Skytop Lodge” with the lodge and grounds you see today. Additions and modifications since opening day on June 16, 1928, have only enhanced Skytop’s magnificent, stately appeal.

Images of America: Skytop Lodge covers more than 90 years of lodge history from the Roaring Twenties through The Great Depression, World War II, and other significant world events that could have led to its demise. The truth is Skytop has continued to grow and thrive through those ups and downs.

Whether you’ve visited Skytop Lodge, you’re planning a visit, or you want to learn more about Skytop’s history, Gierwatowski spent years researching and compiling the information and photographs contained in Images of America in order to preserve the memories and moments that have shaped the Skytop we know today.

The Dutch Colonial Revival lodge is surrounded by natural beauty with exceptional gardens, lakes, streams, and cascading waterfalls and set on 5,500 pristine acres in the heart of the Poconos that has beckoned guests to return year after year to relax and play. Images of America: Skytop Lodge is a must-see historical overview available at Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. 

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A French Bakery and The Barnes

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  • December 17, 2018
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The Barnes Foundation

CLASSIC PHILADELPHIA ART AND CULTURE

PHILADELPHIA MEDIA TRIP NOVEMBER 2018

Philadelphia Art Culture The Barnes Foundation
Begin your Philadelphia art and culture tour at Le Pain Quotidien, (translated from French to English, “the daily bread”), a Belgium bakery and restaurant close by to The Barnes Foundation. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui unless otherwise noted. 

My most recent Philadelphia media trip began at Le Pain Quotidien, (translated from French to English, “the daily bread”), a Belgium bakery and restaurant at The Granary, 1937 Callowhill St., Philadelphia, PA. Le Pain Quotidien is a franchised eatery founded by Alain Coumont. I chose Le Pain because I was in Philadelphia to cover The Barnes Foundation and the online menu reflected my hankerings that day. 

An eatery that features gluten-free, vegetarian-style fare is consistently my first choice for lunch and Le Pain Quotidien Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai was outstanding. The menu and decor are ideal for the diner who is looking for French-inspired pastries, soups, and savory lunch options and an assortment of healthy, plant-based selections. 

Le Pain emanates European culture with the comforting aroma of bread baking in the kitchen and a casual French-country charm. It’s a perfect prelude to an afternoon at The Barnes. 

Call ahead to be sure seating is available during peak times.1 215 789 9870

Philadelphia Art and Culture The Barnes Foundation and Le Pain Quotidien
Are you feeling “cultural” and hungry for artisan food? If you’re looking for a French-inspired meal that will set the stage for your visit to The Barnes Foundation, Le Pain Quotidien is close by and the aroma of bread baking is only the beginning of your romance with European culture in Philadelphia. 

AFTERNOON WITH THE MASTERS

Why are we so fascinated with museums? 

I’ll tell you why I can’t stay away from them or better yet, I’ll show you why you should set aside time to visit The Barnes Foundation. (See my gallery below). Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui unless otherwise noted. 

Museums are my go-to place for inspiration for my own art (https://chigirie.com) and an opportunity to tune into my creative side and tune out the noise and chatter around me. Too much time had passed since my last visit to a metropolitan museum and upon reading more about The Barnes (as it’s often called), I knew I had to set aside an afternoon to experience this Philadelphia treasure. The Barnes Foundation houses a must-see collection of art by the world’s greatest master painters, sculptors, and designers. 

As I made my way around the first-floor galleries, I came across paintings by my all-time favorite Impressionist painters: Renoir and Monet. And then, gallery upon gallery, the genre expanded to Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Seurat, and Modigliani. 

I was so enthralled by the selection of paintings that I didn’t allow enough time to visit the second-floor exhibits but that’s all the reason I’ll need to plan a follow-up trip to Philadelphia. 

The Barnes, (as it’s known to many) is a non-profit Philadelphia cultural and educational institution recognized for its exceptional art collections, programming, and special exhibitions.    

Thanks to Dr. Albert C. Barnes for his vision and the foundation that honors his name for maintaining this collection of priceless treasures by impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist artists. 


Dr. Albert C. Barnes assembled a collection of African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde painting, and wrought-iron metalwork that are interspersed with the paintings throughout the galleries. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation

TIP: Allow ample time (three to four hours) to explore the galleries. 
African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde painting, and wrought-iron metalwork are arranged throughout the galleries in a manner that encourages time to view, study, and reflect on each object in the ensembles. 

Watch this video clip and visit https://chigirie.com for additional insights. 

Learn how to plan a solo media trip here

FROM THE BARNES FOUNDATION: 

The ensembles, each one meticulously crafted by Dr. Barnes himself, are meant to draw out visual similarities between objects we don’t normally think of together. Created as teaching tools, they were essential to the educational program Dr. Barnes developed back in the 1920s.

Directions: The Barnes Foundation is conveniently located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA. No need to worry about parking. Visitors are invited to park in the lot adjacent to the foundation. 

For additional information, call 215.278.7000. 

Disclaimer: 

My visit to The Barnes Foundation was comped but my opinions are my own. 

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Artistic Treasure: PA State Capitol Complex

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  • December 3, 2018
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Rotunda Exterior Image PA State Capitol Complex
The Pennsylvania State Capitol Building complex, Harrisburg, PA Photo courtesy of Visit Hershey-Harrisburg

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building

An Architectural Masterpiece

Plan a visit to Harrisburg and add this National Historic Landmark to your itinerary.

Imagine you’re standing in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building around the time of its dedication on Oct. 4, 1906. Close your eyes and envision you’re looking skyward at what was considered to be the tallest structure between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The capitol building held that record for 80 years. That must have been quite a sight to behold.

As a life-long Pennsylvania resident, I’m sorry to note I had only seen my state’s capitol building from a distance until earlier this year on a sunny late September day. As the traffic whizzed by me, I took a moment to admire the dome from the sidewalk in front of the complex. I realized I had no idea what entrance to use. As I walked up and down two flights of exterior steps twice, I checked my watch and realized I was five minutes late for my scheduled tour. I stopped briefly to ask a bystander to point to the main entrance that would lead me to the main lobby and the man directed me to two sets of double doors. A security guard mapped out my trek to the lobby where I found the information desk surrounded by several large groups of visitors who were ready to embark on their tours. There, I met my tour guide.

Visit Hershey-Harrisburg arranged my tour as part of a three-day media trip to Hershey and Harrisburg. I left Central Pennsylvania with a significantly greater understanding of why Harrisburg has remained Pennsylvania’s capital since October 1812 thanks to my tour guide, Jill Fetter. She’s the Capitol Visitor Services director and The Pennsylvania Capitol Shop manager in the Main Rotunda and an expert in both the building’s history and design.

The 272-foot, 52 million-pound capitol dome glistens with Vermont granite and is topped with a green-glazed terra cotta tile roof and inspired by Michelangelo’s design for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo Courtesy of UncoveringPA.com

Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston (1866-1940), designed the massive capital structure based on his vision of a “Palace of Art” and that’s exactly what you’ll find. The building and furnishings cost $13 billion.

Aside from its obvious grandeur and size, the exterior of the building is a gateway to the splendor you’ll find inside – classic American Renaissance style architecture that’s combined with artistic details that are unspeakably magnificent and illuminated by approximately 4,000 lights and 48 portholes in the dome.

Suffice to say, the building lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful capitol building in our nation. In fact, history has it that President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the capital as “the handsomest building” he ever saw when he attended the dedication of the building.

PA State Capitol Building Architecture Art
A visitor stops for a moment to gaze at the statues and ornamentation as he descended the grand staircase in the main building. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

The interior focal point is the grand staircase – an ideal vantage point for visitors to view eight large murals by Philadelphia artists, Edwin Austin Abbey, and the famous Barnard  Statues by George Grey Barnard, and 17-foot bronze doors that each weighs a ton. Keeping your eyes fixed on one element at a time might be difficult for even the most disciplined spectator as your tour guide describes each of the massive installations of stained glass, murals, and paintings crafted by the most talented artisans of that era.

Pennsylvania historical exhibits
Love art? The capitol building is as much a series of exhibits as it is a hub for lawmakers and lobbyists. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Some of the largest rooms feature a European influence with distinctive Renaissance elements – Italian in the House Chamber, French in the Senate Chamber, and English in the Governor’s Reception Room. Add to that mix Greek, Roman and Victorian installations of exquisite art and ornamentation displayed throughout the building.

PA Senate and House Chambers Tours
When the legislature is not in session, you’ll have a chance to gaze at the murals, gold embellishments, custom-crafted lighting fixtures, and exquisite woodwork in the chambers. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex Tours
What will you learn during a tour of the PA State Capitol Complex? This massive structure is an ideal opportunity for students of all ages to learn local, state, and national histories, law and politics, and art and architecture. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Historians, politicians, teachers, students, architects, travelers, and anyone with an appreciation for history and art and a fascination with politics and lawmaking, should visit the Pennsylvania State Capitol complex. Architectural students will want to study how Huston, the architect-of-record, incorporated motifs that embody Pennsylvania’s achievements in history, animals, industries, occupations, and modes of transportation into his design. Whether your glance is towards the dome, straight ahead, or under your feet, you’ll find examples of Huston’s affinity for art. One example is the Moravian tiles you’ll see intermingled on the lobby floor. They were designed and manufactured by Henry Chapman Mercer of Doylestown, PA as a way to illustrate and incorporate the talents and wares of local craftsman.

Henry Chapman Mercer Moravian Tiles
As many as 400 tile mosaics by Henry Chapman Mercer, a Doylestown, PA craftsman, are interspersed throughout the first floor of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building Rotunda and nearby corridors. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

William B. Van Ingen 24 Stained Glass windows
The “Militia” is one of 24 stained glass windows in the Senate and House Chambers crafted by Philadelphia native William B. Van Ingen. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

There’s so much to see and take in at the State Capitol Building.  Take the time to download the PA Capitol Self-Guided Tour Mobile app to learn about the self-guided tour stops, how a bill becomes law in PA, and research additional information in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

Tours are free and offered every half hour Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or on weekends and most holidays at 9 and 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. You won’t be able to tour the capitol building on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas day but you’ll have plenty of other options before or after those holidays. I encourage you to register for a tour so won’t miss a detail along the way. A Capitol Tour Guide will fill your head with architectural, artistic, and political highlights that will make this building’s incomparable beauty come alive for you. If you decide to wait to schedule your tour until you arrive in Harrisburg, be sure to check the schedule before arriving at the capitol complex.

PA State Capitol Complex Tour Guides
Allow Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex tour guides, Jill Fetter and her staff, to show you around one of Pennsylvania’s most extraordinary buildings.

For help planning your trip to Pennsylvania, visit www.VisitHersheyHarrisburg.org.

My trip was hosted and comped by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences. 

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America’s Oldest Zoo Up Close

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  • July 8, 2018
Philadelphia Zoo exhibits

An Afternoon at The Philadelphia Zoo

Celebrate Animals, Watch, Listen, and Learn 

America’s oldest zoo has always been one of my favorite “go-to” places as a child, adult, and parent. I’m referring to The Philadelphia Zoo, an urban animal paradise that opened on July 1, 1874, in the city’s Centennial District on the west bank of the Schuylkill River.

Philadelphia Zoo Primates
I’m convinced large primates love to put on a show for their guests. The primate habitat is always one of my first stops. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui

A visit to The Philadelphia Zoo is sheer pleasure. Even if you are not a fan of zoos, it’s a destination you and your child should experience together. After all, many children might never have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of and observe animals from around the world in a safe setting. The zoo houses at last count almost 1,300 animals and many are rare and endangered species. More than 1.2 million visitors come through the gates every year to watch, learn, and be entertained. One of the zoo’s primary goals is to educate children and adults about animal and environmental conservation. The world’s premier animal travel and exploration trail system, Zoo360, provides animals with ample space to roam and is one of the most thoughtfully-designed zoo attractions I’ve seen. If you go, small primates swinging from treetop to treetop, large primates eager to entertain and keep an eye on the crowds below, and the lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas, and other big cats are among the species you’ll discover. Need a break from the sun, you can seek refuge indoors in “The Reptile and Amphibian House,” opened in 1875 and regarded as the United States oldest zoo building.

Throughout the zoo’s 42-acre campus, you’ll find a variety of animal exhibits and each one is designed with a personalized experience in mind.  Many of the exhibits allow you and your children to stand within several inches – close enough to watch the residents interact with their peers. Children giggling at the primates’ shenanigans, lions basking in the sun, and the busy giraffe foraging for food are recurring scenes. 

What’s the best time to visit the zoo?

If you have young children, from birth to pre-school, schedule your visit for late spring, early summer, and fall mornings. You probably won’t find the large crowds you might encounter during peak summer hours and you’ll avoid long ticket lines at the gate.  If you don’t so you can watch the animals feed but if the kids have the zoo at the top of their priority list, you’re guaranteed a top-notch learning environment throughout most of the year. From mid-day until mid-afternoon, you could find some or maybe most of the animals napping so you’ll need to plan your day with your own goals in mind.

Philadelphia Zoo Current Exhibits
Obey rules and policies established to protect you and the animals you’ll discover at The Philadelphia Zoo. Be prepared to meet the resident geese who aren’t shy about begging for food.

Two New Exhibits You Won’t Want to Miss

The Philadelphia Zoo has added, “Penguin Point” and “Water is Life” to its list of incredible new exhibits since my last visit. Giant otters, Humboldt penguins, and red pandas are among the characters you’ll meet in a natural setting.

“Monkey Junction,” “PECO Primate Reserve,” and the “Reptile and Amphibian House” are three existing exhibits I never miss during my visits to the zoo. A snake sighting sends chills up my spine but yet, I can’t keep my eyes off them. Watching them make their way from water to land is an opportunity to study their lifestyle.

FEED WHEN THE ANIMALS FEED

There is typically an on-site dining area within close proximity in case you want to break for a meal or snack while the animals are feeding or napping. Watching them graze or gobble down their meals might trigger your hunger pangs and zoo cuisine has evolved to include a wide variety of choices for young and old alike.

The name, “Mane Fare,” encompasses the selection of eateries located throughout the grounds. Tiger Terrace, Eagles Roost, World Tacos are three of your food and beverage choices that offer palette-pleasing meals from pizza, burgers, chicken,  and tacos, and other staples most picky eaters will try.  Visitors who have not experienced the famous Philadelphia pretzel sold by street vendors throughout the city, you can find a slightly modified version in the pretzel bites sold at the “Philly Pretzel Factory.” You and your family should not leave the City of Brotherly Love before you experience a pretzel and cheesesteak.

Eating your meals with a clear view of an exhibit is part of the fun associated with a day at The Philadelphia Zoo.  Hours and availability vary seasonally so be sure to check the zoo’s website for more information.  Among other perks, zoo members receive a 10 percent discount on food and beverage throughout the park.

Let’s Talk Conservation

Zoos have gotten a bad rap over the years from organizations that believe animals should be allowed to roam free in their indigenous habitats but when conservation and preservation of species are the main focus, species that might otherwise be extinct due to illegal hunting and poaching are protected, a zoo offers a solution.  The Philadelphia Zoo has a conservation program in place that offers many of our world’s most endangered species a program that allows them to thrive, procreate, and also educate visitors. You can learn more about conservation and protection plans in place at  https://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Animals/Most-Endangered-Animals.htm or visit the “Rare Animal Conservation Center.” 

Not surprisingly, my sons who are now teenagers, enjoy a trip to the zoo and partly because we made a zoo visit part of many family vacations we’ve taken since they were infants. My oldest son accompanied me to The Philadelphia Zoo during my a recent assignment. I hope you’ll plant a seed of love and respect for animals and all mankind.

Disclosure:

My admission to The Philadelphia Zoo was comped but my opinions are my own.

 

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Arts and Entertainment Lifestyle

San Diego Yoga Festival: March 9-12

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  • February 28, 2018
San Diego Yoga Festival

San Diego Yoga Festival
Images and information courtesy of The San Diego Yoga Festival

The San Diego Yoga Festival

 

Join Thousands of People on the Imperial Beach by the USA-Mexico Border for a four-day yoga festival.

Dates: March 9-12, 2018

*Special Offer*

 

Instead of paying the full $188, the San Diego Yoga Festival and joanmatsuitravelwriter.com have teamed up and are giving you a gift: A donation-based-pay-what-you-want-ticket for 2-days: March 10 and 11th, getting you into all the classes.

The ticket is valued at $188. Simply give a donation using the promo code below, give any dollar donation (no strings attached) and get access to all of the classes on Saturday and Sunday, March 10 and 11. Beach camping sold separately. This gift is open to the first 50 who claim it so please register online. 

Claim your 2-day ticket here.

Use promo code: GIVEHEALTH

For more information about how to use a promo code, visit www.SanDiegoYogaFestival.com/promocode.

Read all about this fun event and see the full schedule here. Scroll down to learn more about the Yoga festival.

Yoga health well-being San Diego Yoga Festival
The sites and sounds on Imperial Beach are the perfect backdrops for the San Diego Yoga Festival and the huge meditation circle planned for this event.

Dozens of Life-Changing Classes

There’s something for everyone at The San Diego Yoga Festival. Organizers aim to bring health, peace, and wellness to its attendees and supporting community. The festival will be held in the most southwesterly part of the USA right next to the USA-Mexico Border.

The festival will open with a pre-conference on Friday and culminate with a post-conference on Monday. “Yoga for Kids” to “Yoga for First Responders,” “Yoga for Cancer,” healing, meditation, essential oils, face yoga, “Reiki for Animals,” live music, conscious vendors, a healing center and a HUGE meditation circle by the USA-Mexico border are among the classes and events on the schedule.

“This festival features non-stop yoga and holistic healing classes held right on the beach until sunset for four days straight. Festivalgoers can look forward to unforgettable classes and healing experiences led by the top healers and teachers in Southern California!” 

SHAWNA SCHENK

FOUNDER, SAN DIEGO YOGA FESTIVAL

Non-stop yoga and holistic healing classes are held right on the beach until sunset for four days straight as festivalgoers experience unforgettable classes and healing experiences led by the top healers and teachers in Southern California and throughout the world. Among them will be one of the world’s oldest yoga teachers at 93-years-old. You won’t be at a loss for a style of yoga you yearn to try. Schenk says you’ll find virtually every style of yoga known to modern yogis for all levels from beginner to instructor.

Schenk noted she decided to put this festival on as a fight against pain, fear, anxiety, depression, addiction, cancer, and disease. How is the location significant? According to Schenk, staging her event in the last town before the Mexican border is an act to celebrate unity.

“Yoga and health know no borders. Stress and cancer know no borders. When it comes down to it, we all feel, we all get sick, we all hurt at some point in our lives,” she explained via email.

San Diego Yoga Festival

Activities Planned

 

  • Calming and relaxing yoga and meditation classes
  • Fun and energetic yoga classes with live DJs or live music
  • Beginner-friendly and advanced yoga classes in many different styles of yoga including Hatha, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Bowspring, Shakti Naam, Acro-Yoga, Yoga Nidra and Partner Yoga
  • Workshops on various holistic topics including plant medicine and fermentation/gut health
  • Surf lessons
  • Meditation beach walks to the USA-Mexico border
  • A Spanish-English yoga class
  • Yoga for cancer survivors and fighters
  • Yoga on skateboards
  • Reiki clinic and chakra balancing
  • Yoga for the military and first responders
  • Yoga for recovery and addictions
  • An interactive vending center with live music and epic products from local vendors
  • Yoga with the mayor
  • Yummy, healthy food vendors
  • Yoga-inspired sandcastles
  • A yoga class on balance for those 50 and older
  • A kid and family yoga center
  • Vinyasa en Espanol
  • The festival even welcomes pets! There will be a yoga class and Reiki healing sessions for your dogs and cats!

 

Find your way to health and peace at the San Diego Yoga Festival.

Schenk explained, “What is more beautiful than people coming together, working on themselves, finding peace and doing something healthy, in an area of the USA that is often talked about in a stressful way or with the focus of segregating people even more? When we segregate ourselves, stress and pain happen.”

 

 

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