It is 10:30 at night and we are in a hotel just outside of Pensacola, Florida. I have tears in my eyes because I just finished watching America’s Funniest videos with the kids, and yes, I am just like the rest of America. Watching people fall down is really funny. Things I’ve learned in the last few hours: American coin-operated laundromats can’t tell Canadian and American quarters apart; I have a really immature sense of humour (but I kind of knew that anyway); and you can’t stay in Pensacola Beach and have a view of the gulf for under 300$. Oh- and if you want to find a cheap room, go to the Florida visitor’s centre: they offered us freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice then proceeded to haggle with the local hotels for a room for us. FREAKIN’ AWESOME LADIES. That is why we are in a comfy little inn off the highway, about a twenty minute drive from the whitest sand you have ever seen (ground quartz from the Everglades). So far, we haven’t seen any oil – just billboards asking people to report any “oiled birds” or lawyers advertising to people who have been hurt by the oil spill (shrimpers, etc.). But I digress. Or I hop ahead. Yes, that’s it. I deviate from the timeline. So let us go back to last Tuesday after the great fun on lake Michigan, and our arrival at about 7:30 into Indianapolis.
On the way to Indianapolis
The drive to Indianapolis was, well, kind of boring. Not that I have anything against farmland, it’s just that the scenery looked a little looped – as if someone kept on playing the same tape over and over for 5 hours.
Of course, there was some notable exceptions:
Wind Farm! How cool is this? You turn on one of the rare corners on the highway and are confronted with this sci-fi extravaganza. They were so numerous, and so huge, they looked like tall aliens waving their arms, trying to communicate with us lowly humans. “Hello down there! I can generate electricity! What can you do?” I swear, we are like trilobites compared to this huge alien species that have landed on the planet in order to save us….
Okay. The farmland did get to me a bit.
Now, is this a huge corn popper? And if so, why couldn’t we heard the loud pops, or see any bulging of the sides? I guess the windmill aliens were making too much noise…
Surprise. I think that would be the word to describe our first impression of this midwestern city. Because, let’s face it. You hear the word “midwestern” and you expect to see clean, orderly, bland streets filled with clean, orderly, bland people, peppered with the odd cowboy away from the farm on an all night bender. Yes, I’m afraid I do have stereotypes in my head. I blame the media.
But no. I mean yes, Indianapolis was clean and orderly, but in an interesting way, especially after being in Detroit. Here are some pictures of it:
This was the factory by our hotel (which was right behind the Lucas Oil stadium). We have no idea what it makes or does or what. But it was pretty cool.
Downtown Indianapolis (I think this is Meridian Street, which aptly describes its placing in the city). It felt like the size of Victoria or Ottawa and even had the same feel: Capital state, with the downtown core emptying after dark and then busy again in the morning. Note the restored 19th and turn of the 20th century buildings.
In the middle of downtown Indianapolis is this huge monument for soldiers and sailors
. It commemorates veterans and the dead from several wars from the civil war on. I read about it in the AAA book and quickly dismissed it, but I shouldn’t have. The monument is enormous and the epicenter of a roundabout lined with theatres and cafés. The symmetry of the design is really appealing with 4 of the main streets jutting out of it like equidistant rays of sunlight. Apparently the monument also serves as a look out tower, but as we had come after closing time we couldn’t go up and check out the view.
Here are the girls on the monument, with one of the streets that branch out from the circle.
Here they are again, so poignantly expressing their impatience for dinner.
Factory again. J does like a good industrial building so romantically viewed in the light of the setting sun.
Just in case you were looking for one…
We walked around the city for a couple of hours and even stopped for a subway-type restaurant called Jimmy John’s
that provided us with lunch the next day as well. But the girls were exhausted (remember, that morning we had been jumping waves in Lake Michigan) so we went back to the hotel, had a swim and went to bed, planning on visiting the world famous children’s museum the next day before we left and, if we had time, the Art Gallery.
I wake up early and go for a run along the canal that dissects Indianapolis. This is called the Canal and White River state Park district
. It was beautiful and I knew right away that I was in the right running area from the proliferation of joggers I met on the way to and from the path that lines the canal. It was only a short run (I am always afraid of getting lost or taking too much time and making my family wait for me for breakfast) but what I saw was a waterfront that was meticulously maintained. A museum, several government buildings surrounded by walkways and parks and artfully designed fountains, made me think that if I ever had a reason (which, alas I don’t) I could probably live in Indianapolis. Weird. ‘Cause who ever gives a second thought to Indianapolis?
After my run, we did the usual shower, breakfast, steal as much food as we can from free breakfast and checked out, where we headed for the Children’s Museum
Now the last time I was in a museum just for Children was on the only other large road trip I did with my family, that is the one that took us from Victoria to Montreal. The museum was in Winnipeg and the girls were 5 and 3 years old. Now fast forward five years. The experience is completely different and almost heartbreaking if I think about it too long. Whereas all the other times they’ve been to any interactive museum type activity, they have always jumped at the chance to dress up, to dance in front of the blue screen and then see yourself with a fake background, etc. They would be into trying everything out, sticking their hands in as many dark holes as possible, sliding down the slides, moving bricks, etc.
Not now. Even though there was a rock’n’roll exhibit called cars and guitars, with the suits of rockstars and their cars, they poopooed the chance to dress up like a rockstar and rock out airband style in front of a crowd of parents and toddlers. What is wrong with these girls?
The exhibits that made the biggest impressions were the science lab on the fourth floor, where we learned how cheese was made and even got to make our own (inedible) sample; the power of children display on the third floor where we saw a one woman play the role of Anne Frank. They had two other children that they focused on – one a young girl named Ruby Bridges from New Orleans who bravely kept going to school despite the violence of the protests in the 60s, and a boy named Ryan White who became an AIDS activist, I think. But the girls wanted mostly to spend time with Anne and the way they presented the holocaust and what was done to the jews and to Anne was well displayed. Easy for them to understand, with just enough props and personal touches to keep it meaning something for them. The rest, the Barbie exhibit, the etch-asketch 50th anniversary exhibit and even the 19th century carousel did not hold much interest. The dinosaurs are always a big hit in our family, but despite the skeleton of a humungous monster ancestor of the crocodile, they had very little diversity in their specimens. To make up for it however, they had very dramatic lighting and sound effects.
Here are a few shots of the museum:
Yes, that dinosaur is as big as it looks. This is the outside of the building, making it very hard to miss.
S in the hall of mirrors.
C in the same place.
The coolest water clock ever. Here it is about 12:30.
Okay. Now for J’s highlight of the whole trip. In the basement, they had a Star wars display. And guess which actual, original suit was on display? Oh yeah. The original Boba Fett costume worn by the actor in Empire Strikes Back as well as the ship they used for him. It was the size of a toy. If you’re nice and write to me, I’ll post a picture of that too…
Herre a brief hiatus, as our car breaks down and we are forced to go alcohol free in a small town (birthplace of Abraham Lincoln) called Elizabethtown.
Ok. Car fixed and back on track. On to ….
Told you my sense of humour was immature.
Nashville. Another surprise. At least parts of it were. Did you know that Nashville is renowned as the Athens of the South? Did you know that many of their grandiose public buildings are art deco, and beautiful? Besides being hot as Hades (they would like the comparison, these Greek-o-philes) and almost getting heat stroke, we enjoyed our little self-guided walking tour around Nashville very much. Of course, it doesn’t have that Mecca feel that it does to many countrywestern lovers, but we still found many things to grab our attention.
Broadway seems to be the big tourist area, where there are shops hawking the face of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson on any available surface. Guitars, trivets, aprons, souvenir spoons, you name it, you too can have Johnny Cash’s face staring out at you from the bottom of a coffee mug (okay, I made that one up but I bet if I looked hard enough I could find one and only for 9.99!) Here is a photo:
We decided to walk up second avenue (the old printing press road) to the Centennial Mall (Government buildings built in the neo-classical style). But it was hot. So hot, we jumped into this fountain in fron of the Justice Building (or the courts, I can’t remember which):
We finally make it up top of the mall and here is a view of the city:
Ahhh. The state library and archives. Had to take a picture of that: (remark the proliferation of ionic columns. Why? Just ’cause. We are tourists you know…)
And the public library, or at least the sculpture outside of the public library:
By this time, we were seriously in danger of heat stroke, so we headed back to our car, which was parked in the Frist Visual Arts Center
, the first place we saw when we entered into town (moths to a flame, you might say). Although they don’t have a permanent collection, they house travelling exhibitions (which one was Chihuly – he was also at the children’s museum in Indianapolis) on their beautifully restored art deco building which was originally the post office. Seriously, if you ever have a chance to go to the bathroom in this place, I would highly recommend it for the aesthetic experience alone (with the added bonus of bladder relief).
After sitting a moment in the acutely air conditioned corridors of the Frist, we braved the outside again to get back into the car and drive towards Centennial Park and , yes, folks, the exact replica of the Parthenon
. By this time, all we had to eat was a small breakfast. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and none of could conceive of eating. The youngest was almost on the verge of tears with fatigue and heat and the rest of us, although holding up a good front, were starting to slow down. So it was that we ventured on our last tourist activity of the day. Luckily, the museum did not have much to house, just some frayed looking photos and information about the centennial fair in 1897 and how it was come to be built. Of course, when they say exact replica, they don’t mean building materials. If you look closely at the photos below, you will see that they made it out of some sort of concrete aggregate and not marble. This was my eldest daughter’s favourite thing as she is obsessed with the Greek Myths these days (thanks to Percy Jackson
). She could even identify most of the greek gods on the friezes. I, myself, am of the opinion that americans might be insane and herein lies the proof:
We were going to have a picnic in Centennial Park, but decided that it was too hot and that we would all rather go to the hotel. This time, we were located in a suburb south of Nashville, located just off the highway we needed to take to get to our next destination. I don’t say this very often, but I will now. Sometimes the suburbs can be awesome. Our hotel was within walking distance of a strip mall with a huge grocery store, wine and spirits store and beer store. Hallelujiah. We got to our hotel just in time for one of those violent but brief thunderstorms to hit. The same storm front caused major damage just east of us in Smryna.
More swimming, more breakfast and the next day a nice run in the countrified suburb of Brentwood ( I saw huge mansions, one with a distinctly 80s decadent turquoise and pink feel to it, a smashed up mailbox and a private school that spanned acres. Then we took to the road for our longest drive so far: Nashville to New Orleans!