We can talk clear out here on this ledge if you feel like it or
We can talk
On a red chalk bluff way out West
If you’d rather.
This land is
Far too perfect
Far too ours
Far too expansive
To interrupt our kindred
This is a poem inspired by the 1849 painting Kindred Spirits by Asher B. Durand.
My poem imagines the conversation between the two men standing on the bluff, naturalist and poet William Cullen Bryant and Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole. Durand painted the work to memorialize Cole, who had recently passed away.
In March, I had the opportunity to visit The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Missouri. Named for the city’s patron, Saint Louis IX of France, the structure, according to a tourist guide, “combines architecture of Romanesque style on the exterior with a wondrous Byzantine style interior.”
In other words, WOW.
Yes, I could bore you with a long list of overused adjectives that can’t possibly describe the grandeur of this unexpected delight. Instead, I’ll just get down to brass tacks and provide you with some details so you can surmise for yourself that Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, located in a bustling urban setting at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, is probably one of the Midwest’s best kept architectural secrets.
The dazzling mosaics are unmatched in the Western hemisphere and this one structure contains one of the largest collections in the world.
In 1997, Pope John Paul II designated the Cathedral of St. Louis as a Basilica in order to recognize its beauty and significance; since then, the structure has been known as The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. In 1999, Pope John Paul II presided over an evening prayer service at the basilica to conclude his trip to North America.
A view of the Central Dome
About those mosaics
41.5 million pieces of glass were used to decorate the hundreds of mosaic artworks that cover nearly every interior surface within the basilica.
Seven thousand different colors of tesserae were used.
Thirty-eight different shades of gold mosaic were used.
There are 83,000 square feet of mosaics within the structure.
Twenty-five miles of scaffolding were erected to complete the mosaics.
The exterior of the building was simply too massive to photograph on my iPhone. Here’s a better shot courtesy of <a href="http://A.reyestena, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons:
And now for the Narthex
A view toward The Historic Bay and Dome
The Sanctuary Dome and Baldochino
More sights within
Our visit lasted about an hour and a half. Due to our schedule, we didn’t have enough time to tour the Mosaic Museum located below the narthex. I did snap a few photos (see above).
The cathedral is located at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63108.
The cathedral’s visiting hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Mosaic Museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Tours can be arranged for any size group. Tours are given Sundays at 1 p.m. and anytime Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you’re ever in the area, definitely carve out an hour or so to see this marvel for yourself. It’s an awe-inspiring place of worship that’s worthy of your time when visiting St. Louis.
Got a thing for cathedrals?
Here’s a post from northern Italy about another one.
It’s a ten-minute showing in a small gallery that features special lighting that illuminates and then dims to replicate the cycle of sunlight and its effects on the lush colors of Monet’s painting. (View the transition in the slide show above.)
The ten-minute dawn-to-dusk cycle repeats every fifteen minutes and you can view it from a bench in the middle of the small, secluded room.
While the painting reflects the peace of a French garden, Monet painted this artwork in the shadow of World War One.
Monet set his easel outside and painted, closely observing and attempting to render the effect of light in surface shapes, colors, and shadows as they shifted throughout the day. He completed the canvas in his studio from memory, as soldiers, including the artist’s son, and stepson marched to the front lines to defend their country. For Monet, his Water Lilies canvases offered an escape.
Wherein I kinda-sorta compare my silly little iPhone 8 photo to six sumptuous American masterpieces
I took the above photo yesterday afternoon at the Pomme de Terre River about six miles east of Bolivar, Missouri. After I posted it on Instagram and Facebook, a friend commented that it reminded her of paintings from the Hudson River School. I vaguely knew what she meant, but I wasn’t exactly sure.
So I did what we all do when we’re a little fuzzy on a subject: I googled. Two seconds later, I found this entry on Wikipedia,
Even though the various artists of the Hudson River School differed in their beliefs or devotion to Christianity, they apparently shared an inclination to record a pastoral, peaceful co-existence between mankind and nature. The paintings accomplish that goal. They are uplifting, calming, and restorative… just like that little bend in the Pomme de Terre.
Just for fun, let’s look at some other Hudson River School paintings by Durand…
And now, three by Thomas Cole…
Who says social media isn’t educational?
Yesterday, I was just taking a pretty picture down by the river east of Bolivar. However, thanks to my friend’s comment, I learned a little about 19th-century American art. Hopefully, with this blog post (by the way, blogs are another form of social media) you learned a little, too.
Thanks for reading! Ever take a picture that you found later resembled a famous photo or painting? Click like, leave a comment, and let me know. Become a follower for more posts like this one or click on my menu of art-related posts at the top of the screen.
See this restaurant? It doubles as the Delphi bus station. Really.
COVID-19 Preface: Greece officially reopens to travelers on Monday, June 15. According to this Associated Press story published today, “Timely and strictly enforced lockdown measures have so far kept the infection rate in Greece low and the death toll below 200.”)
It was a little confusing. The Delphi bus station appeared closed.
An arrow painted on the building facade, however, pointed to a restaurant called “In Delphi Cafe” next door. Nearby, a man wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers, waved us down from his curious position in the middle of the street. (It’s a slightly confrontational technique to entice wandering tourists to stop for a bite.)
“Dinner menu?” he asked.
A bus schedule would be more like it, I thought, since my husband and I still needed to plan the next leg of our trip from Delphi to Olympia. We smiled, and asked, “Bus tickets?”
“Go inside the restaurant, please. Someone will help you there,” he answered.
We ventured inside. The restaurant immediately reminded me of the beautiful double-story trattoria from Love Actuallywhere Jamie proposes to Aurelia. A balcony. Warm gold-colored walls. Heavy timbers. Sparkling glassware.
A woman behind the counter asked us if we needed bus tickets in plain-as-day English.
“Yes, we are going to Olympia in two days and we need bus tickets,” my husband explained.
She called to another waiter, who dried his hands and stepped to a computer at the bar.
So this is the bus station, I thought to myself. Hmmm. Interesting.
An employee wearing jeans, t-shirt, and a white apron wrapped around his hips walked in carrying a stainless steel container covered with plastic wrap. He had come from the direction of the “bus station” next door. They must use the “bus station” for storage, I thought.
Our waiter/ticket clerk stared at the computer screen, squinting, and asked us when we wanted to arrive in Olympia.
It would take all day, he said. Of course, that was fine.
It was what we expected. For although it only appears to be a jog to the southwest on a map, the bus route would take us to Itea, a small town on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth just a few miles south of Delphi.
Then the route would trace the edge of the gulf for nearly three hours before crossing south into Patras. From Patras, we would take a bus to Pyrgos (NOT the Pyrgos on Santorini, by the way).
From there, a final bus would drive us the remaining thirty kilometers to Olympia, where we would meet our AirBnB host, the fifty-seventh (okay, not really, but it seemed like it) man named Kostas who we met on our trip.
Here’s the route our waiter/ticket clerk gave to us, written on the back of a receipt:
We purchased and received our tickets, thanked the young man, and told him we would be back for dinner.
THREE HOURS LATER…
Roast lamb, moussaka, wine, potatoes, salads… all served on a candle-lit table under the leafy branches of a tree so large it sheltered like an umbrella not only the peninsula that served as the outdoor seating area for the restaurant, but also the two streets that ran on either side.
Below is a photo of our hotel, Art Hotel Pythia, in Delphi…it was manned by one employee. In the mornings, he had to cover BOTH the front desk and the upstairs dining room simultaneously. Speaking of the upstairs dining room, it offered a very generous and complete complimentary breakfast selection of eggs, meats, fruits, cereals, coffee, pastries.
It was fabulous breakfast, even though it had been overrun by a large traveling group of students who had already dined and left. Tables were littered with used china and glasses, since the one staff employee hadn’t been able to leave the front desk to clean. Still, there were pastries and eggs to be had, and it was nice to see actual dishes being used instead of paper and plastic.
We sympathized with the employee and knew he was doing the work of three to four people.
This hotel with its impossibly small staff caused us to wonder about Delphi’s economic outlook. The town appears to be a sleepy village holding on for dear life during Greece’s financial crisis. Across the street from Art Hotel Pythia was an abandoned multi-story hotel that was probably packed during the Olympic Games in 2004.
The day we departed Delphi, we left our hotel around 11 a.m. and waited outside the restaurant/bus station for the large, air-conditioned bus that arrived about fifteen minutes late. We loaded our luggage into the lower bins of the bus and boarded.
It was a packed bus. There was a group of about ten kids travelling to the beach at Itea. Like kids everywhere, they were talking and joking, laughing over shared phone screens.
Our bus made its way down to Itea on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth, which you can see in the distance in the photo below. This was a beautiful drive with two or three tight hairpin curves.
The weather was warm and sunny when we left; as we drove, the temperature rose. Thankfully, our bus was comfortable and air-conditioned.
After passing more and more olive groves on the way, we eventually stopped at the bus station in Itea on a road that fronted the shore of the Gulf of Corinth.
Itea was a quiet little town that, based on the many outdoor cafes and shops, we could tell would be busy with tourists in July and August.
I took this photo of my husband Mitch standing across the street from the bus station at this small dockside park.
We were nervous about missing our bus to further points south, so we crossed back over to the bus station and waited. The bus station was little more than a hallway with a counter at the back, so we couldn’t wait inside where it was warm. Instead, we bought spinach pies at the small restaurant next door and ate them sitting outside on the sidewalk next to our four pieces of luggage.
And then we waited.It was fun.
Our bus finally arrived and we boarded, knowing this would be a much longer leg of the trip than the short jaunt down the hill to Itea from Delphi.
Our bus ride meandered part of the way through the lowland hills along the coast of the Gulf of Corinth.
We stopped here and there at several towns to drop people off and allow others to load. In the photo above: a market along the way.
Of course, olive trees were everywhere, tucked into any field available. Note the Greek Orthodox church on the horizon.
We stopped several times to board more passengers.
Driving along the coast often meant driving about twenty feet from the water. Waves splashed onto the road in several places.
We passed through several nondescript towns. Many have boarded up or shuttered stores and offices. Greece’s financial state is quite obvious, especially in the more remote and smaller towns. Last summer, some blamed the Olympic Games for at least part of the economic crisis.
Along the road, we would often see Olympic statues such as this one that traces the route the torch bearers took as they carried the flame toward the games in Athens in 2004.
We were nearing Patras, Greece’s third largest city (after Athens and Thessaloniki).
This majestic bridge can be seen from a distance. It’s the doorway into Patras and points south on the Peloponnese peninsula
This photo shows another point on the Olympic torch trail.
We were dropped off in Patras as this bus station. After going inside and inquiring about our next leg of the trip, we discovered we needed to be three blocks away at a different station to meet our bus, which was scheduled to leave in about fifteen minutes.
The only solution to get there quickly was to walk.
We each grabbed our carry-on and pulled our jumbo suitcases and took off for the right train station. We charged through empty sidewalk cafes, deserted in the mid-afternoon. At one, an employee was hosing down the seating area. The coolness from the water kept us moving on.
We finally made it to the Patras train station. As Mitch took care of buying our tickets inside, I waited outside to make sure we got on that bus.
Which we did.
Safe and secure in another air-conditioned motorcoach, we settled in for our next-to-last leg of the trip to Pyrgos.
This leg of the trip held its own frustrations for us.
We’re not absolutely sure, but we think we booked a local bus that stopped numerous times. One city we spent an especially long amount of town in was Amaliada. Either our bus driver was lost or he was just playing a trick on us because we spent about an hour piddling our way back and forth in this town.
More dawdling in Alamiada…. but we did spy another church and some non-touristy scenes of typical Greek living: old men sitting at card tables outside of cafes or clubs, kids playing in playgrounds, young men drinking beer in the brittle, dusty grass of an abandoned city park. (I rarely saw women out visiting and socializing, by the way.)
Victory! We finally made it to Pyrgos… ten minutes late.
Our bus to Olympia had departed ten minutes before we arrived. Instead of trying to book another bus for the remaining thirty-mile ride, we opted to take a taxi instead.
It had been a long day, but the end was in sight. And what a different world it was from mountainous Delphi!
Welcome to Olympia! Yesssss.
We met our AirBnB host, the sixtieth man named Kostas, for some friendly introductions. He met us in the middle of the street of our AirBnb, waving his arms to catch our taxi driver’s attention.
It’s quite a haul to get from Delphi to Olympia in one day, but it’s…
and full of scenery that runs the gamut from the beautiful to the mundane.
While we plan to rent a car the next time we’re in the Greek countryside, we are definitely glad we took the public transit options that were available on our first trip.
Even though taking the bus requires you to engage in some risk-taking, confusion, second-guessing, and moments that will test your patience, we would recommend it if you want to experience authentic Greece.
Thanks for reading! I’m amazed that story ideas are still surfacing from our travels last summer. Leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts. While travel stories aren’t my only genre on this blog, they do seem to dominate my posts lately. That will be changing soon.
For my totally separate English teaching blog, click here.
How do I stay for three weeks on a Greek island that contains more than 300 churches and 24 monasteries and leave the island with only a handful of photos of them? Tell me how that happens.
Here’s how: they’re everywhere. One can’t possibly photograph them all.
That was me last June when my husband and I spent three weeks on Skopelos Island in Greece, as part of our five-plus week journey across Greece. Yes, we were on the island for three weeks and yes, this meager post contains the entirety of my church photo collection. I wish I had seen more, but that’s for the return trip, right?!
No matter where you look, whether in town or in the countryside, you’ll see a church of some sort.
Some churches — whether they’re in the town (Skopelos Chora) or on the greater island — are quite large and are designed to hold a small congregation.
Others, on the other hand, are private and built by a family for their own use.
Even so, you’re looking at what photos I do have because (let’s be real), these churches are simply stunning.
Spectacular yet humble.
Ornate on the inside, yet unassuming on the outside.
In short, so very different from what I’m used to here in the United States that I was captivated.
Each church is so different in design from the others! To think that someone designed these buildings, supervised their construction, and saw them built in this little village where they continue to be used to this day.
Once you wander outside of Skopelos Chora, you’ll start to see the many small, private family churches that dot the countryside.
And now let’s head back to town to see a few more…
Thanks for reading!I hope you enjoyed these photos of the churches we saw on Skopelos Island in Greece, including those in Skopelos Chora. Follow my blog for more posts from our travels last summer. Also, check out my categories for more destinations near and far.
On every Sunday morning last June, my husband and I were mesmerized by the calming tones of musical chants floating on the breezes wafting across the natural amphitheater arrangement of Skopelos Town. Also known as the Old Town or Skopelos Chora, the largest town on Skopelos Island is home to 123 churches Greek Orthodox churches.
We discovered this church last June when we visited the island, one of three that compose the Northern Sporades east of Athens on the Pelion Peninsula. I’m not sure exactly where this church is within the town… somewhere down the hill, tucked among whitewashed homes and shops, nestled along a cobblestone street that may or may not show on Google Maps.
Follow my blog to catch my next post on the churches of Skopelos (both those in the Old Town and those scattered about the island), where I’ll show you a slew of charming places of worship, both private and others.
Click on this video to hear music similar to that heard on Sunday morning in Skopelos.
However, for some reason, I never devoted a post to Skopelos town, the largest city on Skopelos Island, and which is also known as the Old Town or the Chora. This post will remedy my negligence, and furthermore, in writing this, I’ve stumbled upon three more upcoming topics that need to be covered as well. These upcoming posts are listed at the end of this post, so press the Follow button and keep on reading.
If you’re unfamiliar with Skopelos…
Along with the islands of Skiathos to the west and Alonissos to the east, Skopelos Island comprises the Northern Sporades Islands. These small landforms are located east of the Pelion Peninsula in the inky blue waters of the Aegean Sea.
Skopelos covers 37 square miles.
According to our hosts at the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts, the island has a summer population of approximately 6,000 residents. That number decreases by half during the winter months.
According to skopelosweb.com, Stafylos, the first mythical resident of Skopelos was the son of Dionysus, the God of Fertility, Euphoria, the Vine and Wine, and his mother Ariadne, daughter of the Minoas, King of Crete. Relics of these mythological lives were excavated in 1936. The grave of King Stafylos was found in the town and its namesake beach that to this day is named Stafilos. Inside the grave, excavators found the king’s sword with its golden handle. Today, this sword is kept in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Read this post about the museum.
Now that I’m back home and reminiscing…
I do wish I had taken photos of all of the “normal” places in this town… such as when we visited the bustling pharmacy, the chic coffee bistros (such as Kahili’s Bakery) on the main drag, the Vodaphone store, the grocery store where the locals shop, the hardware store up the hill, the butcher on the back road, the post office.
But when you’re spending time in a place that’s off the beaten path a bit, you start to feel intrusive when you’ve constantly got your camera out shooting every little establishment. Yes, it’s expected in the more touristy areas, but not necessarily in those places that provide the basic needs of daily life.
And, yes, most of those places aren’t much to look at, by the way, but they do show you a little town that functions like most others… except that people call out to each other and wave more, or they stop and chat for a few minutes, or they just quit working in the middle of the day and just… stop. doing. everything.
This more social atmosphere, I am convinced, is afforded when cars aren’t in the mix. When you can’t seal yourself inside your car and drive right up to the door of your destination, and you are required to walk there on foot, you tend to mingle with people more. True, in Skopelos Old Town, there are cars, and scooters, et al, but they don’t dominate the scene. Just keep your eyes and ears open and you can walk safely anywhere.
We travelled to Skopelos so my husband could serve his three-week residency at the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts. He had applied for the residency in July of 2018 and had been accepted about a month later.
We didn’t really know much about Skopelos Island when we applied for the residency.
However, after his application was accepted, we began to do more research on the island that would be our home for three weeks the following summer.
We quickly learned that Skopelos Island was the shooting location of the 2008 movie, Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep.
While the island’s economy experienced a boom during that time, life on the island eventually returned to normal; today, Skopelos Island has retained much of its charm and non-touristy feel.
With the Mamma Mia! buzz long over…
And, based on our visit that is also long since over, I would agree that yes, Skopelos Island has much to boast about… incredible beauty, intriguing history, and a quiet small-town atmosphere. With the Mamma Mia! buzz in the past, Skopelos Island provides an authentic Greek island experience.
Part of that might be because there’s no airport like there is on Skiathos Island right next door. (In fact, being a regional hub of sorts, compared to Skopelos, Skiathos feels congested, chock full of tourist retail shops and restaurants. Follow my blog for a post on Skiathos soon.)
The good news: there’s no airport on Skopelos.
The bad news: there’s no airport on Skopelos.
To arrive on Skopelos means taking a ferry, and there are several types of watercraft at your disposal: freight ferries, passenger ferries, hydrofoils, water taxis, and more. Find schedules at this website.
We found that there’s no need to book ferry tickets ahead of time. Even though we were unsure what boat would work best for our schedule, the clerk at the ticket office knew. It was just easier to let them figure that out for us. And there really aren’t more than a couple of choices any day anyway.
The ticket office, which will have tickets and schedules for all the ferry companies, is located near where the taxis will drop you off from the airport. It won’t be hard to find. After unloading from taxi ride from the Skiathos Airport, our taxi driver noticed us scanning the street for the ticket office. As he sped away, he read our minds, gave us a loud whistle, and pointed us down the block. Sure enough, the ticket office was about 100 yards away.
Still, had he not whistled at us, we could also have asked anyone standing nearby. There were waiters, restaurant owners, and others eager to seat us for a cold drink at the several eateries that line the main street across from the ferry docks.
They were more than happy to help us find the ticket office as well. While it’s obvious their true motive is to fill another table in their establishment, they are actually very helpful and to me did not seem overbearing at all. They can call a taxi for you, hold your luggage, or direct you to their restroom.
For now, enjoy these photos from Skopelos Island and the its largest city, Skopelos Town.
Our host from the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts met us at the parking lot. At that point, we drove outside of the central business district to a grocery store about a mile away. We zipped along the narrow streets alongside scooters, trucks, motorcycles, and more compact cars.
Once we returned to our room, we unpacked, put the groceries away, and enjoyed the incredible view from our balcony. Sitting on our balcony during the day or at nighttime and watching boats and people, mere tiny dots way down below, come and go provided my favorite memories from our time on Skopelos.
It’s the little things, people.
My husband worked during the mornings in the studios at Skopelos Foundation for the Arts just up the hill from our studio apartment. During the afternoons, we would walk down, down, down the hill into the central business and residential district.
By the time we devoured lunch — Greek salads usually — and ventured down into the town, the cobblestone streets were quiet with the afternoon break that most businesses take. The streets were eerily vacant, and it compelled us to whisper our conversations, since we definitely had the feeling that people were napping inside their homes as we walked by.
It’s impossible to take a bad picture in Skopelos Old Town. Seriously.
Venetian influence and power can even be found here in the Old Town.
This wall in the photo above is the only remaining piece of the original Venetian Castle of Skopelos,which was repaired by the Venetians in the 1300s. In fact, we were amazed at how far Venetian influence extended from northern Italy and across the Mediterranean. When we visited the island of Crete a few weeks later, we would tour another Venetian Fortress and also walk atop Heraklion’s own Venetian Wall.
I’ll include this photo of a chapel in the Old Town in this post, but there are literally hundreds more on the island.
Follow along for a future post about this and other beautiful Greek Orthodox churches.
You can’t visit Skopelos and not meet a feline friend.
No rushing allowed…
Eventually, it became time to leave Skopelos after our three-week visit. We were glad we planned to spend enough time there to visit the grocery store a few times, walk downtown nearly everyday for various needs, and just to feel as if it was our home-away-from-home.
We would love to revisit the town someday–whether it’s just the two of us again perhaps with a group of students from the university where my husband teaches. In fact, I would even like to experience Skopelos in the winter months when the population plummets. I know it would be a drastic difference, but I would still like to experience it.
Thanks for reading! Even though it’s been several months since our visit, I’m still finding topics to revisit and write about. In the words of Anais Nin, writing lets you taste life twice.