Newport Aquarium

Today I finally made it to the Newport Aquarium.  I went by myself, so I can only imagine how much fun this would be with people and especially children.

The aquarium is set up as a route -- it does not have the ability to pick your own adventure.  The fish and animals are broadly structured in groups or clusters (e.g., seahorses, sharks, rays, alligators), but also a little bit around geographies.  

The path takes you through the entire aquarium with the cafeteria in the middle and you end in the gift store (feels a little like Disney World).  Great since you don't miss anything, but could be challenge if all your child really wants to see is the turtles.  

The aquarium has a variety of shows and interactive exhibits with plenty of options to touch different animals.  I took in the shark tank show involving divers in the tank.  

The signage was very appropriate and updated.  It definitely has been prioritized and is great for children.  The aquarium strikes a nice balance of conserva…

Cincinnati Art Museum

Over the last week, I had the opportunity to go the Cincinnati Art Museum not once, but twice.  My sister, brother-in-law and their two children were in town twice in a week.  

The first visit -- I thought we would visit the Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion.  They have a section of the exhibit that allow the kids the ability to touch the clothes and see the fabulous exotic garments.  My nephew really liked talking about what they were made of and what they reminded him of.  The shoes (which I had missed the first time I went to the exhibit) were also a topic of much conversation.  He spoke about how tall they were, how difficult they would be to walk in, again, what they were made of.  He even pontificated on which ones he thought my mother/his grandmother would like best.  

As you can suspect with a five year old in an art museum, he did get distracted eventually.  I remembered the children's room, which as I obviously had never been to.  Wow!  What a treasure.  Unfortunately,…

Detroit Institute of Art

Over Thanksgiving, my family went to do a day in Detroit.  We started with a delicious lunch at Slow's and then headed over to the DIA to go to the joint special exhibit, Monet: Framing Life and Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage.  

Monet really broke with tradition when he started painting in the outdoors.  It was really quite revolutionary.  

I always enjoy learning about the relationships that the artists had with one another.  In the picture below, you can see Renoir painting Monet.  Monet also has many paintings of this exact garden and landscape.

After the Monet paintings, we went to the Church side of the exhibit.  I did not know much about Frederick Church before the exhibit.  It was interesting to learn about the trip he took with his family.  He took his wife and child on the trip across the middle east.  He did a number of sketches, paintings on site, but also did quick ones to ensure he remembered enough for when he got back to the US.  He made his name painting the Middl…


Jason and I knew that we wanted to do a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo.  Unfortunately, Nikko had rain in the forecast for every day we were in Tokyo.  

To get there, it required that we took a shinkasen from the main train station and then get on a local train.  It turned out that the shinkasen we needed to take home was a major commuter option, so the original option we wanted was booked.  This is the only time we had any issues with booking the tickets we needed to.  

I have bundled three temples that we visited into one larger post for simplicity.  We visited:
ToshoguTaiyuinbyoRinnojiWe also visited the Kanmangafuchi Abyss.
I will start with Toshogu as this was the largest draw to Nikko and also one of the most impressive things we saw while we were in Japan (and it had pretty serious competition).  

Toshogu is the shrine and mausoleum dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which united Japan under a single ruler and moved the capital to Tokyo (Edo).  His gr…

Naiku - Inner Shrine - Jingu

After we visited the Geku, we hopped on a bus to Naiku, also known as Ise-Jingu or simply Jinga.  All other Shinto shrines in Japan are known as XX Jingu,  This one is simple Jingu -- the ultimate.

Like all great shrines, this one had a magnificent wall of sake barrels.  

This shrine was even larger than the outer shrine and we spent quite some time wondering from shrine to shrine.  The bridge into the shrine was beautiful.  We wish we had known what the flags represented/said.

From these photos, you can see the crowds of people at the main shrine.  

We thoroughly enjoyed our time here.  It was something to see the most holiest place for Shintos.

Time at shrine: 1.5 hr
Times visited: 1
Overall: A-

Geku - outer shrine

Our first stop in Ise was the Geku, or outer shrine of the Ise Shinto Shrine.  This is the second most sacred location.  We ended up with a gorgeous day although it did turn rather warm!

This shrine is about a 15 minute walk from the Ise train station.

I am going to cover a few things in this post that are also applicable to the Geku shrine.  The main shrine building gets rebuilt every twenty years with all new materials.  You can see next to the temple the place that it was before.  It has been rebuilt 62 times making the shrine 1240 years old, founded in 4 BCE.  No photographs are allowed within the area of the main shrine at both shrines.  The style of these two shrines is very different from the other shrines we visited -- they both were built pre-interaction with other cultures (like China and Korea).  

I was astonished at how long we spent in the shrine.  I thought we had been wandering around for just a few minutes, but it proved to be closer to an hour.  It was breathtakingly cal…

Futami-Okitama Shrine

I knew when we were headed to the Ise Peninsula that I just had to get to the Futami-Okitama shrine as well!  It is the home of the "married rocks," a shrine to married couples and bliss.  

We took a bus from the Inner Shrine, Naiku, to the shrine.  It was so easy -- only about a 15 minute bus ride.  We then caught the train back from here, so it was a really easy day and we covered a bit of ground.

The rocks are really not that large -- probably only about 10-15 feet high.  Here is a picture with us in it for comparison

This does seem to be one of the most famous spots in Japan at least for photographs.  It is definitely more challenging to get to them Miyajima, but maybe not by much.  From Kyoto, we got to Kyoto station and took a shinkasen.  We then transferred to a local train to end up at Ise (but we could have continued on the train to end up here).   

Other than the rocks, this was a relatively quick visit!  I'll leave one more photo here...

Time at shrine: 45 minutes