Irish Famine Memorial (Boston, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 17, 2017

Location: corners of Washington and School St, Boston, MA

Cost: Free

Hours: Accessible everyday, 24 hours a day

Parking:Street parking can be difficult is this neighborhood.  Finding a parking garage is probably the best option.  Also, the Park St train stop on the Red Line is within walking distance (about half a mile) to the memorial.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

While we’re celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day with our green beer and corned beef (pause for the collective yuck) it’s easy to forget about the history of the Irish people and the hardships that brought so many Irish here, especially to New England.

The Boston Irish Famine Memorial is dedicated to the Great Famine that gripped Ireland in 1845.  Potatoes, a main crop in Ireland, stopped growing, leaving many to go hungry and suffer financially as they could not sell their crops.  Mold was the culprit.  Since potatoes were the main crop in Ireland, many of the poor in Ireland suffered from the famine, with about one-eighth of the population dying from hunger or disease related to the famine over the following years. As a result of the famine, Irish immigration to the United States spiked with over 1.5 million Irish arriving on our shores. Boston was one of the main destinations for these new citizens and the Irish remain a prominent part of our community.

Robert Shure’s Boston Irish Famine Memorial displays the pain and, conversely, pride of the Irish people who have suffered so much.  It is a somber, powerful and inspiring display of the suffering and, ultimately, the ability of the Irish to overcome their “troubles”.

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The first statue, located on School and Washington streets, shows three people, presumably a mother, father and child, in the throes of hunger.  Shure was meticulous in his sculpture.  You can see how thin the figures are and, from certain angles, you can actually see the ribs of the figures.

The second sculpture shows three people, presumably the very same family healthy and happy.  Standing up straight and proudly, the family looks happy and healthy.  It is most certainly a sign of how all of us can overcome adversity and how the Irish have been able to withstand so much.

As an aside, I love the diversity of Boston.  Traversing through the memorial, I witnessed people of all walks of life and ethnicities.

A wreath and flower was placed by the Charitable Irish Society at the sculpture of the suffering family and on one of the figures of the memorial to commemorate Saint Patrick’s Day.

A series of 8 plaques encircle the memorial.  One of the plaques, entitled “Let’s We Forget”, gives a nod to the suffering and famines across the globe and how we continue to watch as others starve helplessly.

The bronze and granite memorial was dedicated in June of 1998, marking the 150th anniversary of the famine.

On my way back to the train station, I saw Brig, a beautiful Bull Mastiff.

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Spring Bulb Show (The Botanic Garden of Smith College, Northampton, MA)

Dates Of Event: March 4 – March 19, 2017 (photos taken March 4)

Location: The Botanic Garden of Smith College, 16 College Lane, Northampton, MA

Hours: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday extended hours 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM (members get in earlier at 9 .a.m)

Cost: Free ( a $5 donation is suggested)

Parking: unmetered parking is available on College Lane and additional parking is available throughout Northampton

Handicapped Accessible: Yes, from their website: There is one designated handicapped parking space in front of the Lyman Plant House. Two of the three front entrances to the Lyman Plant House and Conservatory are wheelchair accessible and the restrooms are accessible. There is a lift in the front of the building that goes between the lower level Church Exhibition Gallery and the Reception area. All but one of the greenhouses (the Fern House) are accessible.

Highlights: Avariety of flowers such as crocuses, hyacinths, narcissi, irises, lilies and tulips in full bloom or nearly in bloom at the Botanic garden of Smith College

Web Site: The Botanic Garden of Smith College

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Believe it or not, spring, for most if us, is right around the corner.  Soon enough, drab, colorless soil and grass and dead flowers and plant life will be replaced with the vibrant colors of spring and summer.

As an early celebration of the spring season, the Botanic Garden of Smith College is showcasing a colorful array of flowers as part of their Spring Bulb Show (which ironically ends the day before the Vernal Spring buds, get it?) .

There were a wide variety of flowers of display and I won’t even try to name or describe all of them, except to sayy they were very pretty.

The gaarden used works of art such as paintings and statues to highlight the beauty of the flowers.  It was very well done and it brought out the colors of the flowers.

The people at the Botanic garden were kind enough to open the rest of the garden to us which showcased an impressive field of flowers and trees.

I also spotted a frog, fish and some other mysterious faces at the garden.

 

We also saw Kaezli, a beautiful 4 year old Burnese Mountain Dog, outside the Botanic garden.

Below is a video of a plant that closes when it feels pressure or weight and a video of a waterfall at the garden.


Beach Polo (Newport, RI)

Dates Of Event: February 25 & 26, 2017 (photos taken Feb. 25)

Location: Easton’s Beach (First Beach), 175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI

Hours: 1:00 -2:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Parking: Free (parking was free for this event but usually the beach charges to park at the beach)

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: people on horses playing beach polo

 

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It’s not everyday you get to see polo.  It’s even less often when you get to see it on a beach.

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As part of their “Winter Carnival”, Newport Rhode Island held a polo match sponsored by the Newport International Polo Series.

Even if you don’t know the rules of the game (I don’t), it is still fun to watch the horses and players.  There was also an announcer who did the play by play and explained some of the rules during the game.

While there are some rules of the game I don’t know, the basic goal (no pun intended) is pretty basic.  Put the ball between the two orange cones.  The team in gold won 10-9 by the way.

The horses looked especially pretty with the wavy water along the beach.  Onee thing I noticed about the horses is how they will sometimes use their legs to kick the ball and help the player. Or, they are sick of the player getting all the glory and they may want to score a goal or two.

The players all seemed to really have a lot of fun but they also play hard.  And the game is not without risks.  One player had to be carted away with a leg injury after she fell off her horse.

Dogs like polo, too.  I was surprised and impressed how well the leashed dogs and horses coexisted.

 

 

The players and fans have a close connection.  At the end of the match, the players trot by on their horses and greet the fans.


TICA Cat Show (Crowne Point Plaza, Natick, MA)

 

Dates Of Event: February 18, 2017 – February 19

Location: Crowne Point Plaza, 1360 Worcester St, Natick, MA, 01760 (about an hour west of Boston)

Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Parking: Ample free parking is available in the parking lot of the Crowne Point Plaza hotel

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Highlights: cats of a variety of breeds being judged

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Talent and obedience shows aren’t just for dogs.

Yes, cats can pose, follow orders (ok they’re more like requests with cats) and be just as cute as dogs if given the chance.  And did they ever get the chance.

The TICA (The International Cat Association) held it’s annual cat show for a wide variety of cats to show off their talents and beauty.  The cramped venue had 6 different stages, more like booths, for these felines to show off their stuff.

The cats were grouped by kittens, household cats, alters (cats that have been neutered or spayed; “altered”), kittens and, of course, championship for the lucky few who get to advance.  I was warmly surprised to see the “household cats” category.

While there were so many cats being shown, I was unable to get all of the cats names, breeds and ages.  Since I am a detail-oriented person and I love giving as much as information as possible I was a little disappointed by this.  I do hope you don’t mind too much.

I did manage to get the name and breed of this cat.  She stood out to me because of her unique fur and markings.

Julia is an 8 month old Selkirk Rex.

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The cats were showcased by the judges.  It was interesting to see how each judge had their own personality and methods of showing off the cats.  Some spoke scarcely and were efficient.  Others spent more time with the cat, explaining their breed and sharing other fun facts.  The woman in the first photo I posted was my favorite judge.

It’s also interesting watching how the cats react to being judged.  Some are pretty chill and don’t seem to mind at all, possibly because they are very used to being judged.  Others…not as much.  However, they were all very compliant and well adjusted, even if you can tell it’s not their favorite activity.  It’s also funny to see how easily they can be distracted by shiny objects and feathers.

The cats were judged on Breed, Color and Division and win ribbons with letters corresponding with the first letter in each category (B for Breed, C for Color and D for Divison).  The Breed (B) ribbon is the most sought after ribbon.

Cats move around a lot.  A lot.  Sometimes it’s easier to get their photos while they are being held or when they are in their cages or crates.

Also, as an aside, the hotel where the show was held, the Crowne Point Plaza hotel, is a very cool hotel, at least the function rooms, bar and lobby seem hip.  I would highly recommend it, even if it just to go tot eh bar for a few drinks and dinner after work or during your vacation and leisure time, if you happen too be in the area.

I still think this cat tops them all.  But, I’m biased.  I do know the name, breed and age of this cat.  Bailey is a 7 year old Long haired domesticate.  Maybe I can enter her next year.

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Below is a video of some of the cats at the show.

 


Greenfield Arctic Blast Winterfest (Greenfield, MA)

Dates Of Event: February 3-5, 2017 (the first weekend in February each year) photos taken February 5

Location(s): All over the town of Greenfield, most events held at Beacon Field, 61 Beacon St, Greenfield, MA)

Cost: Free (there are small fees for some activites such as $5 to skate at the public outdoor ice rink)

Hours: 9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Parking: limited parking can be found at the parking lot for Beacon Field.  Street parking is also available

Highlights: carnivsl hockey, sleigh rides, sled making contest, k9 keg pull, ice sculptures, family friendly activities (see web site below for more info)

Web Site: Greenfield Artic Blast Winterfest

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It’s that timee of the year again.  You know that time in between the “fun” part of winter and the coming spring.  The holidays have passed, the seemingly never-ending chill is still fast upon us, snow has stopped looking “pretty” and everyone is just eager to be able to go outside without layering so much that they look like the Michelin man.  So, to bring a little cheer to the frustrated masses, many cities and towns have organized “winterfests” or “winter carnivals” to get everyone out of their ruts and bring some cheer to the frozen masses.

Winterfests are not some new fangled celebrations.  In fact, this was Greenfield’s 95th winterfest.  I guess people got the doldrums back then, too.

The three day event (the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in February) is a family friendly extravaganza.  Besides what I photographed dueing my visit Sunday, there are a bonfire, fireworks and a “family fun fest” event for kids to play and do a variety of events with other children and their parents.

The first thing I noticed, and I was looking for specifically, was the winter carnival hockey game between the Greenfield Sheriff’s Department and the Franklin County Firefighters.  The shortened rink and lack of goalies (they used boxes with holes in them to try to score goals), allowed for more action and more scoring chances.

There wasn’t much checking and not one fight (perhaps a first in a game between firefighters and police).  But, it was still entertaining.  I didn’t get a final score.  But, the Sheriff’s department (in the green jerseys) had a comfortable lead when I left to check out more of the winterfest.

In between breaks, some kids came out and practiced.  Future players for sure.

Most of the events during my visit took place at Beacon Field.  In some of the photos, you may notice the Poet’s Seat Tower which I posted about in May of last year.

The first thing I noticed was the sleigh rides being provided.

Some children took advantage of the hill at the park to do some sledding.

 

Some of the children brought their home made sleds to the park for a contest.  The sleds were judged but they didn’t take them on the hill perhaps due to the lack of a good snow covering.

The big event for most of us, though, was the K9 Keg Pull.  Dogs from a variety of breeds, sozes, shapes and physical prowess participated.  The size of the (empty) kegs and cans the dogs pulled were commensurate to their size.  There was a small registration fee ($25 I think) and all of the proceeds went to a animal shelter.

There were over 60 participants and they all did great.  The parents or guardians would usually run with their dog ot urge them on from the finish line.  Sometimees it seemed like the parents were having more fun with it than the dogs!

Bodie and Clarence (left to right) were twoo of the bigger competitors.

Not all of the dogs there were participating in the keg pulls

Sadie is a 2 year old Lab mix.

Duncan is a 14 week old mini-poodle.

There were also ice sculptures scattered around the town.  Of course, most of them had been damaged or destroyed by revelers.  I was able to photograph a couple of them.

Below are 2 videos from the keg pull

 

 


Salem’s So Sweet (Salem, MA)

Dates Of Event: February 10-12, 2017 – usually the second weekend in February of each year (photos taken February 11)

Locations: Throughout the city of Salem

Hours:Visible 24 hours a day, until they melt

Cost: Free

Parking:Metered street parking is available and there are two big parking garages on New Liberty St and Congress St

The Downtown Garage (New Liberty St) costs $0.75 per hour.

The Waterfront Garage (Congress St) costs $0.25 per hour.

Both garages operate from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Sunday through Wednesday and from 7:00 AM to 2:00 AM Thursday through Saturday.

Public Transportation: The MBTA’s Commuter Rail has a stop which deposits its passengers right at Washington St.  $15 for a round trip ticket from North Station (fares vary depending upon where you leave from and where you are going)

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Handicapped Accessible: Yes, but some roads and sidewalks are not shoveled well

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: 26 Ice Sculptures scattered throughout the city of Salem, many sculptures are lit up at night, some shops and businesses offer discounts as part of the event

Web Site: Salem’s So Sweet

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Proving once again they are not exclusively a Fall destination, Salem Massachusetts has outdone itself with a sweet display of ice sculptures.

Widely known for their Halloween festivities, Salem has been trying to make their city a year round attraction for some time.  In fact, this weekend’s festivities were the 15th annual “Salem’s So Sweet” event.

The Salem’s So Sweet festivities began Friday night, February 10, with a chocolate and wine tasting at Colonial Hall at Rockafellas ($30 tickets).  Yum!

The sculptures look so much better when they are illuminated.  This was only the second year they illuminated the sculptures (at 5 p.m.) and not all of them were illuminated during my visit.  I was able to photograph all of the sculptures (except for the Han Solo sculpture which was not completed when I visited) and I photographed almost half off the illuminated sculptures.

The illuminated sculptures look better the later and darker it gets.  So, I stayed as late as I could to capture the beauty of the lighting against the dark background.  I also thought the holiday lights (still up in February) and of course the snow gave the photos a nice touch.

Since we had some inclement weather and the roads were snowy and icy, I elected to take the train into Salem.  It took a little longer than driving (not taking into account any accidents that may occur) but the transfers can be a hassle, especially having to cross the street from Park Street to get the train at North Station.

In any event, the train ride is comfortable and there are some pretty views along the way.

The 26 ice sculptures (25 not including the missing sculpture) are scattered around Salem although many of them are located in about a mile or two mile radius (on Essex, Washington and Hawthorn streets/boulevard).  The trickiest part is trying to get to the sculptures that are located on the outskirts (such as Bridge St and Derby St.  A trolley was planned to transport visitors to each of the sculptures but due to the inclement weather that plan was scrapped this year.

It’s a great activity for families and I saw quite a few parents and children looking for each sculpture and excitedly checking the sculpture off their list.  The children especially seemed to like hunting for each one.  Each sculpture is clearly marked and pretty easy to find if you use the map.  The Visitor Center also has bigger maps than the one on the web site and they are of course very helpful.

While they are generally located near each other by number, sometimes it’s easier to map out your own route and find them on your own regardless of the number of the sculpture which is what I did. I have included photos of the sculptures lit up as well if I was able to see them illuminated.  They look so much better when they are lit up!

The first set of photographs were located at or near Lappin Park, near the Bewitched Statue.  The first ice sculpture is Globe, sponsored by The Journeymasters

Han Solo is the second sculpture on their list.  Unfortunately, Han’s Falcon got stuck in traffic so his sculpture was not available to be photographed.

As if you haven’t seen enough of them yet, the third sculpture is a snowflake sponsored by Laura Lanes Skin Care.

Some of the lighted sculptures changed colors like this one sponsored by Salem State University; Opening of Sophia Gordon Center.

Accross from Lappin Park, on Washington St, is the ice sculpture at Rockafella’s.  The Rockafella’s Ice Bar is like a frozen patio.  The cold weather and icy bar didn’t stop them from grilling and enjoying the fresh air. At least you didn’t have to worry about your beer getting warm.

Farther down Washington St is Champagne sponsored by Adriaatic Restaurant & Bar.

Sponsored by Creative Salem, Hawthorne Hotel and Retonica and located on Front St is the ice sculpture Reflections.  This one was cool because you could stand behind the sculpture and act as though you are the reflection.

Next to the Reflections sculpture is Cinderella’s Carriage, also on Front St,sponsored by  Maria’s Sweet Somethings.  From a distance, if you look at a certain angle, you can almost see some driving the carriage with a top hat on.  Go on, let me know if you see it too.

The next ice sculpture on the list is Fish sponsored by Koto and located on Washington St.

The next ice sculpture is Lobster Love located at Turner’s Seafood on Church St.  This sculpture also changes colors when illuminated.

This sculpture is located by the Salem Cinema.  It is called Salem Film Fest 2017.

On St Peter St at Bit Bar is Arcade.

The next group of sculptures are all located on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall and one on Central St which is an alley off the pedestrian mall walkway.

Green Tara, sponsored by Coon’s Card and Gift Shop, Penelope’s Pet Boutique and Tibet’s Art & Healing.

On the other side of the walkway, very close to Tara is Bella The Goat sponsored by Bella Research Group.  Bella’s sculpture also changed colors while it was lit.

Off Essex St on Central St is the Steampunk Heart ice sculpture.

The next two sculptures are both back on Essex St Pedestrian Mall.  This ice sculpture is located in front of the Peabody Essex Museum.  It is called Red Stiletto with Honda Engine and it was sculpted by David Crow.

On the other side of the walkway in front of the Museum Mall Place and very close to the red stiletto sculpture is the Winnie The Pooh ice sculpture.  Winnie doesn’t look very happy!

The next sculptures are located on Hawthorne Blvd and Essex St.  Sweet Jane’s Sweet Savings is located on Hawthorne Blvd.

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Queen Of Hearts is located across the street on Essex St.

 

The following ice sculptures are located on or off Derby and New Derby St.  Mug is located at the Notch Brewery and Tap Room.

These two sculptures are located at the Waterfront Hotel and Regata Ice Bar.  t first glance, it looks like one sculpture but they are actually two separate sculptures.

Across the street from the Waterfron Hotel is the Rumson’s Rum ice sculpture.

Candy is located in front of the House Of The Seven Gables and, aptly, across the street from Ye Olde Pepper Company (America’s oldest candy company).  Yes, those are real candies.  No, I did not eat any of them.

From Derby St, you would have to backtrack towards N. Washington St, near the Salem Commons to find Ruby Slippers located at the Salem Witch Museum.  And, yes, I agree.

The next ice sculpture is a little bit of a walk.  Bakery is located in the parking lot of Coffee Time Bake Shop (96 Bridge St).  In fact, you may want to drive to this sculpture.

And, yes, of course, there were lots of dogs in Salem checking out the sculptures.

Emmett is a 4 year old Cockapoo.  Look at those cute shoes!

Mattie is 7 years old.  She was bundled up for the cold weather!  She is also very well trained.

All of the dogs in Salem were prepared for the cold weather.  These dogs had some beautiful sweaters on keeping them both warm and fashionable.

I am not sure how long the sculptures are being displayed.  Between our erratic weather and hooligans who seem to get their kicks smashing ice art, I would suggest going soon to check them out before they’re gone!

Below is a video of the Bella The Goat ice sculpture changes colors.

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Lego Wall (Boston, MA)

Date Of Visit: January 5, 2017

Location: Next to Dunkin’ Donuts, 330 Congress St, Boston, MA

Hours: Accessible everyday, 24 hours a day

Dog Friendly: Yes

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Highlights: Art display of Lego tiles in a brick wall

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You never know what you’ll see while you walk along our city streets.  Statues, dog, lego walls.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A Lego Wall!  But, this is not the first work of art to appear on a brick wall on Congress St.

Well, the display doesn’t look like a Lego display but more like a wooden cut out. The “Lego Wall” name is actually a holdover from an earlier display on Congress St.

After noticing a hole in a section of the wall on Congress St, a artist took notice and decided to do something about it.  Nate Swain, a former landscape architect, stealthily filled in the gap in the wall at 342 Congress St one Sunday night with a rather unusual material, Legos.

Weeks, months passed by while people stared, pointed, giggled and maybe weven shook their heads a few times at the work of art by an anonymous artist.  Until recently.

Nate Swain finally publicly came forward as the artist who created the first Lego Wall.  Imagine the joy he got as he walked past the display as other passersby scratched their heads or had a chuckle.  There’s nothing like being in on an inside joke.

Unfortunately, the parking lot which stood next to the Lego Wall has been closed to make way for “affordable luxury housing.”  Oxymoron aside, it also meant the Lego Wall had to go.

For some time, the brick walls of Congress St laid bare without a Lego Wall or any other work of art to admire or photograph for that magtter.  However, in December of 2016 a different artist decided to put her own work of art on display on Congress St.

Boston artist and writer Daisy Razor (not her real name), decided to put her own brand of art on the walls of Congress St (next to the Dunkin’ Donuts at 330 Congress St to be exact).

The art is still there as of post.  But, with our weather elements and other “forces of nature” (the original Lego Wall had been vandalized at least on one occasion) it’s unclear how long it will stay there. 

Fun fact: this trend of fixing up walls with Legos is not limited to the United States. German artist Jan Vormann has also used Legos to dress up some architecture he has come across in his travels.

Who would ever think there would be so much history and background to Lego art?