Magical Villefranche-sur-Mer

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I will never forget stepping off our ship and stepping into this picture
perfect postcard. We had a choice of doing an excursion to Cannes or
Nice, but because I had been to both lovely towns many times, I decided
to just stay in port, and boy am I glad I did. Villefranche-sur-Mer is stunning.
Separated from Nice by a few wooded hills, it is a fishing village over-
looking a beautiful harbor in the Mediterranean. It has become a very
popular setting for many celebrities and artists who frequently make this
their temporary home. Why not, this place rocks. It is the perfect
town to walk the crooked narrow streets, to just lose yourself in this
magical setting, and to maybe even pinch yourself that you are actually
here. Believe me, it is that beautiful. I have traveled along the
French Rivera more than once, and Villefranche-sur-Mer always remains my
favorite.
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Walking the back streets away from the Harbor was so fascinating. It is
such a charming town that you are constantly awed and charmed by all that
is around you. There are countless cafés, shops and beautiful colorful
buildings that surround the streets and harbor that only add to the charm
of this place.
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Don’t tell anyone, but yes I did the typical touristy tram ride along the
harbor and some of the town. I must say I sort of enjoyed it, but PLEASE,
we won’t tell that to anyone.
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Nothing better than ending a beautiful day sitting along side the Mediterranean
enjoying a delightful lunch and a good glass of wine and just breathing in the
air and letting the breeze from the sea sweep across your face and think, “How
lucky am I”.

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The Problem With Santorini . .

A peaceful corner of a  Cafe in Santorini

A peaceful corner of a
Cafe in Santorini


The problem with Santorini is she is just too beautiful. From the very
moment you see her she will take your breath away. She will captivate
your heart and soul and make you fall in love with her. She will brilliantly
seduce you with her sunsets and tempt you with her outdoor cafés and food.
Her beauty, her music and her people will make you never want to leave
her. All this happened to me in the six hours I was able to spend on this
enchanting island.
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As the sun sets on Santorini, it is time to leave this amazing and enchanting
island. I was only able to spend a short amount of time here but can truly
say, I was totally smitten. As I board my ship, I turn to look back at this
beautiful white and blue paradise and know I will return one day soon.

The Magic of Mykonos

I remember every detail of that early morning arrival as our ship
was finally approaching the glorious island of Mykonos. There
were some murmurings of having to bypass it due to the winds,
but thankfully in the end, all went well, and we were able to leave
the ship. With my feet planted on solid ground, I was excited
and delirious with happiness, as one of my dreams was always to
go to the Greek Isles. I only had eight hours to see the island and
I needed to make the most of it.

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I was in love immediately. This lively island set in the middle of the
southern Aegean with its bluest of blue water and sky surrounded
by white buildings with the accent of blue doors, shutters, and
beautiful flower pots set outside of these dreamy white structures,
was everything I thought it would be.

Please excuse some of my pictures with the blue shading, my
point and shoot camera was on the wrong setting. Yikes.

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The Windmills of Mykonos. I was there in October and it was
extremely windy, especially on this part of the island. In the videos
that I took, you can hear the howling wind, but oh so beautiful.

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Little Venice is simply lovely. The view from here is breathtaking,
with the sea splashing up against the shore, the windmills in the distance,
and the colors of Mykonos, it will truly mesmerize you.

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I just loved seeing the small houses with the blue shutters dotted
along the narrow streets.

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As you walk the streets you will pass many small churches along the
way. Most are very tiny but have a tranquil beauty about them.

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Traveling on a budget is no problem on the Greek Islands, you can
always find a small cafe selling very reasonably priced food. A drink
and Gyro is very affordable and satisfying.

Our last remaining hours on the island was spent going in and out
of the small shops and doing a little shopping. I also went in a few
small hotels for future reference knowing my next visit will be for
a more extended period of time. I would have loved to have
seen some of the famous beaches but there was just not enough
time. For me, cruising is a way to spend a short amount of time
somewhere and then decide, do I need to return again, stay awhile
and just enjoy. Mykonos is definitely one of those places where you
want to return to relax, enjoy the beaches, sit on a terrace with a
drink in hand watching a magnificent sunset. Of course we all
know its a party town, so there is something for everyone.

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Throughout the Cyclades Islands, homes and churches are painted
white as a symbol of purity. The color also reflects sunlight and
tempers the scorching heat.

The day is over and now I must return to the ship. I have had a
spectacular day losing myself in the charms of this island. It was
all that I had hoped and probably even more, and as sorry as I was
to leave I was even more excited because my next stop was the
Island of Santorini.

What About Those Lovelocks In Paris

It wasn’t until my last trip to Paris that I began to finally find
something about this beautiful city that upset me, made me
yearn for the old Paris, before the lovelocks took over all the
bridges in this dazzling and captivating city.

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When I first arrived in Paris I remembered thinking, “isn’t this
sweet”, how romantic that lovers would write their names or
initials on the locks, attach to the bridge and throw the key into
the Seine, vowing their love forever. This lovelock craze has taken
over almost every bridge in Paris.

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This tradition started around 2008, shortly after a young couple
in Italy began attaching padlocks to the Ponte Milvio, a bridge over
Rome’s Tiber River playing out a popular Italian novel. After
Rome started banning the locks, people from all over Europe
started coming to Paris and this is the results.

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As I walked along the bridges, I must say that I have to totally agree
with the residents of Paris, they are certainly unhappy, as the
Parisians see the locks as a tourist gimmick that damages the
legacy of the city’s architectural history.

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These lovelocks are spreading throughout Europe and many cities
have removed them along with banning them altogether. These
cities include Dublin, Florence, Venice and are now spreading to
New York City, Las Vegas and Atlanta, GA.

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In September 2014 the French Government issued a ban on the
locks due to the damages causing part of the railings of the bridges
to collapse. They are slowly replacing the panels with a thick
shatter-proof glass in the hope this will work.

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The Pont des Arts is a lightweight pedestrian bridge with over 1,102.3
pounds of extra weight on the panels from the locks causing the
collapse of the panels.

I love Paris and it was very disturbing to see the destruction of the
locks to the beautiful bridges that line the Seine so majestically for
so many centuries. I understand that this is a romantic gesture for
couples to express their undying love for one another, but not at the
risk of destroying a part of history that is Paris. There is so much
beauty in this city and coming here for so many years, I can’t help
but remember when the bridges were free of the locks and all you
would see from the bridges would be the magic of Paris surrounding
you.

Once Upon A Time, There Was Christmas at the Biltmore

There is nothing more special to me then to travel during the holiday
season. It’s always so beautiful no matter where you go, with the
decorations, the lights, and the constant festivities. One of my
absolute favorites trips was spending a few days in Asheville, NC,
at the Biltmore Mansion for a special Candlelight Christmas walk.
So a late November road trip was made with a little antiquing
along the way, some great shopping and loads of fun.

The Biltmore is a large private estate and tourist attraction that
was built between 1889 and 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt.
He was an avid art collector and member of the prominent family,
which grew their fortune from steamboats, railroads, and other
various business enterprises. The Mansion is set amongst the
Blue Ridge Mountains on 8,000 acres with beautiful gardens, a
winery, and even a 4 star luxury hotel. The estate has 250 rooms
including 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, and three
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The holiday decorations were beautiful. Huge elaborate Christmas
trees in every room, tons of poinsettias, and rows and rows of
Christmas garland. If you think the Mansion is beautiful at
other times of the year, Christmas time will dazzle you.

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The Solarium was gorgeous with hundreds of red poinsettias as
far as you can see. I could have just stayed in that room for the
rest of the tour, it was so lovely.

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We stayed right on the grounds at the Biltmore Hotel. Of course
saying it was beautiful is an understatement. It is not only
huge but the rooms are beautifully appointed, clean and luxurious.
We stayed two nights and wished it could have been longer.

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The hotel has different packages throughout the year. We did
the Candlelight Christmas Walk, they also have Dressing Downton
Packages from February 5 – May 22nd, also a Valentine’s Day
Package, February 1 – 14th. The Christmas Candlelight starts
in early November – early January.

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The Village at Biltmore is nestled in the mountains near the point
where the Swannanoa River flows into the French Broad, making
it a beautiful setting resembling a small English Village. It offers
restaurants, lodging, and adorable shops and boutiques.

Being a fan of history, I loved stepping back in time and visiting
this grand mansion that is so meticulously preserved. It is such
an experience to see it during the holidays filled with beautiful
decorations and Carolers strolling from room to room singing
our favorite songs of the season.
The house is a true masterpiece and seeing it is a real experience.
I promise you if you go, especially at Christmas, you will be dazzled.

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Christmas Around The World

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold,
everything is softer and more beautiful”. Norman Vincent Peale

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“I love Christmas, not just because of the presents but
because of all the decorations and lights and the warmth of the season”.
Ashley Tisdale

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“Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality
in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart”. Washington Irving

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“It is a fine seasoning for joy to think of those we love”
Moliere

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“Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection”.
Winston Churchill

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“Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and
peace”. Pope Francis

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“Christmas isn’t a season, it’s a feeling”
Edna Ferber

Christmas in the City

Tis the season for all that sparkles and shines brightly. It’s the time
for the city streets to be beautifully decorated, for the shop windows
to glisten with the holiday fun, for the Carolers to sing our favorite
Christmas carols, for the trees in our homes to be decorated with our
favorite bulbs, and the parties to be in full swing. This is the time of
year that we try to fit in as much as we can around town to celebrate
the holidays and all that goes with it. I just want to show some of the
photos I took of Christmas in the City.

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The Conservatory on Belle Isle celebrating the holidays.

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Inside the Conservatory with a Christmas program of Carolers singing
our favorite songs.

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The Belle Isle Aquarium beautifully decorated in these luscious blue lights.

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Approaching the downtown Detroit area from Belle Isle. The area was
decorated beautifully for the holidays.

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Driving down Woodward with the Fox Theater in the distance. Detroit
really dressed up the city for the holidays this year. The beginning of
the city’s revitalization.

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Somerset Mall in Troy, Michigan

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The Great Hall at Meadow Brook Hall

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One of the many beautifully decorated fireplaces at Meadow Brook Hall.

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Downtown Rochester always dazzles us with their lights shining brightly
and their store windows aglow with the Christmas spirit. They even have
a Santa mailbox ready for all those letters to the North Pole.

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Isn’t that the Leg Lamp from the movie, The Christmas Story?

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The streets of Birmingham, Mi were lit with white lights throughout the
downtown area. This is a beautiful white Nativity scene set amongst
white lights adorning this Park.

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So many beautiful windows all decked out for the holidays.

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Nothing is as lovely as the Edsel Ford House in Grosse Pte, Mich, home
of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, and Christmas time only makes it so much
more special.

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Because you were not allowed to take photos in the home, I thought I
would show you pictures of their daughter, Josephine’s playhouse, every
little girls dream.

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These were just a few photos of Christmas around the city that I wanted
to share with you. Christmas is drawing near and with all the festivities
in full swing, let’s take time to remember the real meaning of this holiday
and give thanks for all we have. Be safe, enjoy, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Little Bavaria

Willkommen, in German means Welcome. Frankenmuth is all things
welcome, from family time, playtime, a famous chicken dinner, a ride
in a horse-drawn carriage, a cruise down a river and most importantly,
Christmas time all year round.

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Frankenmuth is one of my favorite places to visit no matter what time of
the year, but it’s especially beautiful around the holidays. The city is
all decked out for the Holidays and with a little snow it turns into a magical
Christmas Bavarian Wonderland. Probably the number one attraction
is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It truly is a wonderland of over 7
acres of all that is Christmas. Founded in 1945, by Wally Bronner, it is
visited by over two million people and is known for the “World’s Largest
Christmas Store”.

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This Chapel is an exact replica of the Silent Night chapel in Oberndorf,
Austria, and was built for Bronners in 1976 with the blessing of the
Oberndorf Mayor and the Austrian Government, who also attended the
dedication.

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Decorations inside the Frankenmuth chapel include replicas of the
Oberndorf hand-crocheted alter cloth, an 1818 crucifix, pews, stained glass
windows, and information about the original chapel and composer of the
most favorite Christmas song, Silent Night.

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These pictures were taken this summer on one of my visits to Frankenmuth.
I had never before taken the time to go in the chapel and fell in love with it.
I think I need to visit Oberndorf real soon to see the original chapel in
the setting that made the Christmas Carol, Silent Night, so special.

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Frankenmuth has always been known for their famous chicken dinners.
Whether it is Zehenders or the Bavarian Inn, both are pretty good. It’s
just part of the experience of Frankenmuth, a chicken dinner and a visit
to Bronners.

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The Bavarian Inn Lodge is huge with an indoor water-park.

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Another view of the Bavarian Inn along the River.

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Frankenmuth is a city with many festivals that include a Holiday Candlewalk,
a Zehnder’s Snowfest, Bavarian Easter Celebration, Bringing back the
80’s, Beer fest, several Summer fest, a Bavarian fest, Music fest, Old
Auto fest, Oktoberfest, a Crabby Clam and Lobster fest, and several
more, but to me the Christmas Holiday fest is my favorite.

Christmas at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills, Mi

What could be more lovely than touring Meadow Brook Hall at
Christmas time. It’s been several years since I have toured this
magnificent Tudor style home of Matilda Dodge Wilson, heiress to
her first husband, John Dodge, automotive mogul, and always
remembered how beautifully decorated it was at Christmas time.
So with my camera packed and the sun brightly shining on this cold
crisp day in Michigan, I would spend an afternoon walking from room
to room, admiring the beautiful festive decorations that Meadow Brook
does so superbly.

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Meadow Brook Hall is a Tudor style mansion, in Rochester Hills, Mi.
built between 1926 and 1929 by Matilda Dodge Wilson and her second
husband, lumber broker, Alfred G. Wilson. In 1957 it was donated to
the state of Michigan, in order to found Oakland University. In 2012,
it was named a National Historic Landmark. It is often referred to
as one on America’s “castles”, with 88,000 square foot it is ranked the
sixth Largest Historic Home in the United States.

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Photo essay on Christmas at Meadow Brook

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This Solarium was one of my favorite rooms. I could only imagine
me sitting in this beautiful room in the early morning maybe drinking
a cup of coffee, reading a book, and just enjoying the bright sunlight
shining through this room.

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This was the room of Francis Dodge, daughter of the Matilda and
John Dodge. Frances was described as the belle of the ball and was
always followed in the society pages as to her fashion, hairstyles and
social life.

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If I recall correctly there is a fireplace in every single room.

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This was a portion of Matilda Dodge’s bedroom.

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Her dressing room and below her bath, which was lovely.

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There were many more rooms in the mansion that are not in this article.
Every room was decorated beautifully and just bursting with the colors
of the season.

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Knole Cottage is a 3/4 scale playhouse that was built for Francis Dodge in
1926 when she was 12 years old. Furnished with small furniture,
textiles, art and fully functioning appliances, this enchanting six-room
cottage was intended to teach her the art of homemaking.
What Frances loved most was hosting tea parties for friends and family.
Unfortunately, I was not able to take pictures inside.

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Back inside the Mansion is the Living Room, where Francis Dodge married
James B. Johnson, Jr. in front of the fireplace on July 1, 1938. That is
her wedding gown on the right side near the fireplace.

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This is the lovely staircase where the bride would walk down accompanied
by her brother, Daniel, where 800 guest, including Henry Ford, would
celebrate her happiest days.

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Meadow Brook Hall is just another wonderful example of all that the
Detroit area has to offer. Because we are the Automotive Capital, we
have been lucky to have these magnificent treasures in Michigan to always
remember the Dodges, the Fords, and the Fishers. Although some have
closed, we can still remember their magnificence.

Claude Monet at the DIA in Detroit, Michigan

One of Detroit’s proud favorites is the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
located in the Cultural Center in Midtown Detroit. With over 100
galleries, it covers 658,000 square feet and is the sixth-largest art
museum in the United States. It hosts special exhibits at any given
time and through January 4th, it is host to a famous Claude Monet
painting, Waterlily Pond, Green Harmony, on loan from Musee D’Orsay
in Paris, France.

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Waterlily Pond is on display in a gallery adjacent to the Rivera Court
dramatically standing alone in this room. The painting is one of
hundreds Monet created of his beautiful flower garden and pond in
Giverney, France. For me, it is always such a thrill to see the Waterlily
paintings, as I have been to Giverney more than once and have stood
on this bridge. I have walked the path along the pond and through
the gardens and can absolutely say it is always one of the biggest
thrills for me.

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Waterlily Pond, Green Harmony shows Monet’s personal view of his
garden. The Japanese Bridge appears in the center of the painting,
depicting above the bridge, trees and other lush greens, gray-blues and
pale yellows. In the lower part of the bridge, waterlilies are painted
in pale blues, greens and pinks. Monet’s passion was nature and
became his focus from 1893 until his death in 1926.

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Another Claude Monet, Gladioli, 1876. This painting is proudly owned
by the DIA on permanent display. The women dressed in blue walking
through the garden with her parasol is Monet’s first wife, Camille, who
he often used as a model.

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In the Garden, by Mary Cassatt.

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Bank of the Oise Anvers, 1890, by Vincent Van Gogh

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Woman in an Armchair, 1874, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Helping Angel Window Panel, 1835-1910, John La Farge.
This stained class panel was formerly installed in the Unitarian Church
in Detroit in 1959 and given to the DIA as part of their collection.
I must say this is absolutely stunning. The colors are vibrant and strong,
and tell a story of the helping hands of the Angels. This beautiful
piece is an important part of this museum and a real treasure.

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Wisteria Gates, 1914-1915, designed by Thomas Hastings
These elaborate, yet elegant, gates lead both into the Josephine F. And
Walter B. Ford II Great Hall and also the magnificent Diego Rivera Hall.

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The Detroit Industry fresco cycle was created by Mexican muralist
Diego Rivera as a tribute to the city’s manufacturing base and labor
force of the 1930’s. Rivera completed the twenty-seven panel work
in eleven months, from April 1932 to March 1933. It is considered
the finest Mexican mural art in the United States, and the artist thought
it was his best work.

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The DIA is such a treasure in the city of Detroit. It always amazes me
when I visit that this superb collection, this beauty, and the vastness of
the collection, is actually part of the many fine sites in this city. It is
considered one of the top 5 museums in the country and a visit here
will truly prove that. It has a vast collection of French furniture along
with Egyptian mummies and Babylonian sculpture to Andy Warhol,
Van Gogh, Rembrandt, decorative objects, Italian art, American, and
so much more. We happen to hit upon an exhibit called Ordinary
People by Extra Ordinary Artists, made up of works on paper by all the
greats, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Lautrec, and Friends. They would not
allow any pictures in this exhibit, so unfortunately, I was not able to
take pictures.

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Along with the pleasure and honor to visit this outstanding museum, the
cherry on top is that it is free to anyone living in Wayne, Oakland or
Macomb counties.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1888, Childe Hassam, an American artist.

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Come Fill the Cup, 1906, Frank Brangwyn, English

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Thank you Detroit Institute of Arts.

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection”. Michelangelo

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