the wonderful world of veena.

30 September 2014

veen on the road: maymont mansion and gardens.

Wednesday was a big day for historical home visits, so after Agecroft, I made my way over to Maymont to have a look around. And I came away with one word on my mind: wow.

[maymont mansion from the outside]
Maymont is the estate that once belonged to the Dooley family. Covering 100 acres in Richmond, it includes house, gardens, carriage house, and even a few waterfalls. You could spend an entire day wandering the grounds and not even see everything on offer, but it is well worth a visit.

[the front stairs where the house tour begins]
The grounds and gardens are open to the public for free, so you can come for as little or as long as you like and explore. The house is open for tours, and although it is technically free, donations are welcome and suggested [and pretty much expected]. The tours run every half-hour and are guided, so my first order of business was to get my name on the next available tour.

[pathway down to the gardens]
While waiting for your tour to begin, visitors are invited to look through the basement exhibit which highlights the lives of the many people who worked at Maymont and kept it running. You can read about particular members of the household staff who were with the family for a number of years; you can learn about what a day on the estate would look like; and you can see recreated sleeping rooms and a kitchen to get a sense of how the servants lived and how the household was run.

[this garden was my favourite]
The house tour begins on the front steps of the home and continues around the ground floor and up into the second floor. Along the way you learn about James Henry and Sallie Dooley, their lives together, and their philanthropy in the area. You can see on display the grand tea sets and intricately detailed wallpapers and designs and get a sense for how the Dooleys lived; the dining room and its custom-made hutch are particularly impressive. On the upper floor you can look into their bedrooms [separate, of course] and learn about Sallie's love of swans. Fun fact: there are a number of swan references in her room, and it is a fun challenge to try to spot them all while you are up there. The tour itself took between 45 minutes and an hour and was very thorough and informative.

[between the flowers and the fountain and the benches and the views, it was pretty stunning]
[my favourite view]
Once my tour wrapped up, I took myself on a little walk through some of the gardens, and wow, they were pretty impressive. I didn't have enough time to get to them all, but the ones I saw were beautiful. There are also a few waterfalls along the way as well as a pond that you can walk across, and I especially loved the extensive number of benches and seats that invite you to sit down and just enjoy the view.

[just one of the waterfalls]
All told I was on the grounds for about 2.5 hours or so, but I could easily have stayed for much, much longer. If I had done my research properly and thought about it ahead of time, I would have picked up some food on my way there and had myself a little picnic somewhere in the gardens. It's a good note for next time.

[the pond with the lilypads]
go there. now:
  • there are 3 entrances to the estate, depending on where you want to go. i parked in the large lot at the hampton street entrance, located at 1700 hampton street, and then walked in from there
  • there are supposedly trams that you can ride from point to point inside the estate, but it was not running on the day i visited
  • the grounds and garden are free to visit. if you want to visit the home, tours are technically free, but donations are welcomed, and my feeling was that they were pretty much expected. i gave a $5 donation for my tour
  • there are lots of different hours for the various attractions. if you are interested in visiting, check out the website for full information
  • i only saw a few vending machines in one spot, so if you are planning on spending an extended amount of time on the grounds, i would suggest carrying your own snacks and drinks
  • i have a vague memory of my guide telling me that photos are allowed inside the mansion, but i didn't take any because i didn't want to be that person and hold up the tour. but don't take my word for it, double check with your guide before taking any photos inside
[the plaque reads: "here in 1929 henry asked maria to marry him. their family and friends dedicate this bench to all the joy that followed"]
The house was impressive, but the grounds were breathtaking.

38 of 52: finding the packers fans in memphis.

With Christina in town, I now have a fellow Packers fan with whom to watch games and drool over Aaron, Jordy, and Clay. Whenever possible, we get together to watch the games, and last week we decided to find out where all the other Packers fans convene to watch games [because, let's be honest, Packers fans are everywhere].

We found a few places, but the one that looked to be the most convenient for both of us was TJ's bar, located in a shopping center at the corner of Kirby and Quince. Off we set on Sunday morning, and it was certainly an interesting experience.

TJ's draws an eclectic, multicultural crowd of all ages to watch the Packers games, which was broadcast on every television in the front room and overlooking the bar. Opting for proximity, Christina and I settled in at the bar to watch the game, but each time the Packers scored, we were included in the cheers and rituals and even the rubbing of the cheesehead for good luck. We were even invited to partake in brats and hot dogs that were cooking just outside the door to the pub.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the game with fellow Packers fans, and I am pretty sure we will be returning in the future for games, but I do have one complaint: smoking is allowed inside, and even though there was only one guy smoking, I still had it all over me when I left. Note to self: next time we go to TJ's to watch a game, shower after we get back home. But otherwise, it was pretty great.

other highlights included: checked out Schweinehaus, the new German restaurant in Overton Square; scored a weekly part-time babysitting gig; a long overdue dinner date with Lindsey; picked up some early birthday gifts for Evelyn [my Muffin turns 1 in 2.5 weeks!]; patio party at Walshie's; some pretty kickass sunsets over the weekend.

[inside schweinehaus. set up like a proper german pub. i like it] 
[exterior mural at schweinehaus. you're damn right i am the universe] 
[norten took a picture of my favourite waiter in bombay for me. it made me ridiculously happy] 
[a visit to here never fails to make my day] 
[pretty saturday sunset. exactly what i needed after that arkansas game] 
[love being a part of the my video my voice team!]
It was a pretty quiet week on the whole, but it was still a pretty good one.

29 September 2014

veen on the road: agecroft hall.

This is the one that took my love for history and for historical homes to the next level.

[just one of the beautiful gardens at agecroft hall]
Agecroft Hall in Richmond is a home that is over 500 years old. It was originally built in Lancashire, England, and was inhabited and added on to by the Langley / Dauntesey family for generations. In the first half of the twentieth century, however, the family had died out and the manor house had fallen into a state of disrepair, and the house was eventually put up for auction in 1925.

[surveying the kingdom]
A man from Richmond, Thomas C Williams Jr, bought the house for a steal and decided to have it dismantled, shipped to Richmond, and rebuilt in a new neighbourhood he was in the process of planning. Agecroft was to be the jewel in the new subdivision to be called Windsor Farms.

[the back of the house, almost exactly as it looked in elizabethan england]
Although Williams died not long after Agecroft was finally rebuilt, his widow lived on in the house for a number of years. As she was nearing the end of her life, she decided the house should be converted back to what it would have looked like in Elizabethan England and opened up as a museum for visitors to learn about its rich history and heritage. And after she died, that's exactly what happened.

[footpath down to the next garden]
Today visitors enjoy a film detailing the history of the home from its days as a manor house for the Langley and Dauntesey family to its current role as a historical marker in Richmond. From there, guests are welcome to take part in a tour around the house, where a guide will walk you through what life would have been like for family members and visitors nearly 500 years ago. While most of the furnishings are replicas, there are also a good number of original artifacts on display.

[the outer courtyard of the house]
All told the video + tour took about an hour, and on the day I visited there were only 2 other people on my tour, so we were able to strike up a good rapport with our sweet tour guide and ask any questions we had on our minds. Once the tour wraps up, visitors are allowed to walk throughout the gardens and estate to take pictures and generally enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

[the back patio]
I know I'm a nerd about these things, but I really thought Agecroft was super cool. To be able to tour a house that is over 500 years old and imagine what it must have been like to live in that home all those years ago in England was really cool, and I think it's a really neat artifact to have. To think about how many similar homes have been torn down kind of makes me sad, and I'm pretty thankful that Mr Williams and his wife had the foresight to maintain the home and then open it up for people like me. Definitely go see it if you are in the Richmond area.

[during the summer the hall hosts festivals, hence the fancy curtain]
to visit:
  • address: 4305 Sulgrave Road, Richmond, VA 23221
  • museum and gardens are open year-round; Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm; Sunday 12.30-5pm; closed Monday and national holidays
  • the video and the tour take about an hour, depending on the size of your tour group and how many questions you ask of your guide
  • admission is $8; $7 for senior citizens; $5 for students
  • no photography allowed inside the house, but feel free to take as many pictures of the gardens and grounds
  • on your way there, you'll end up driving through a posh residential neighbourhood. you will think you're going the wrong way, but never fear, you are on the right track. trust your google maps
[architecture from three different centuries, all in one fantastic house]
My favourite part? Learning about how you can tell when rooms or wings were added on to the house based on the exterior designs of those walls, as evidenced in the photo above.

26 September 2014

veen on the road: the byrd theatre.

One of my favourite memories of my time in Richmond was my visit to the Byrd Theatre on Cary St. The Byrd is a restored theatre, formerly the site of plays and musicals, that now offers $2 movies to visitors.

Multiple friends had told me to stop by the Byrd if I had time, and to my sheer surprise and delight, the theatre was literally just outside the back door of my airbnb studio in Carytown, making checking it out a no-brainer.

The interior of the theatre is beautiful, and the movies are often recently released films that are only a few months old. When I was in town, the early show [7pm] was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and the late show [10.15pm] was A Million Ways to Die in the West. I honestly didn't have much of a desire to see either film, but I very much wanted to experience a movie at the Byrd, so I opted for the early show and settled in with my popcorn and Coke [which cost me $7, by the way] to watch old Spidey.

[the byrd is pretty stunning]
The movie itself was just ok, but I have also been off the Spiderman movie bandwagon for close to 10 years now. I like both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone immensely, but even they couldn't save this movie for me.

Movie aside, however, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Byrd and would highly recommend it to anyone who lives there or is just passing through.

25 September 2014

veen on the road: the museum of the confederacy.

As you can tell, Tuesday was a busy museum-going day for me in Richmond: first the Poe Museum, then the Virginia Holocaust Museum, and finally the Museum of the Confederacy.

I think we have pretty well established that I am a history nerd of pretty epic proportions. Specifically, I've always been fascinated by wars, by learning about the reasons for fighting and the ripple effects that wars have had throughout the years.

In school the two events that most held my interest were the Civil War and the ensuing end of slavery as well as World War II and the Holocaust. And I got to visit museums dedicated to each in Richmond.

For a number of years, Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America, and the building that served as Jefferson Davis' home and the headquarters of the Confederacy still stands in the city. Adjacent to it is the Museum of the Confederacy, so you can stroll through the current exhibit and book yourself on a tour of Davis' home - the "White House of the Confederacy" - which is exactly what I did.

The Museum itself was only alright: I found it to be really small for the $10 admission, and the exhibit that was currently showing wasn't that interesting for me. My understanding was that the exhibit rotates, but I could very well be mistaken about that.

I did, however, enjoy my visit to the White House of the Confederacy. My tour guide was very informative, and although the group seemed a little larger than was comfortable [about 25 people], he did a great job of keeping everyone together and of being concise in his explanations and descriptions.

During the tour - it lasts about 30-45 minutes - we learned about the creation of the Confederate states, Davis' life and his appointment to the Presidency, and the Davis family and their life in Richmond as we navigated our way around the building. There are a number of original pieces as well as a lot of replicas strewn throughout the home, and it was interesting to learn about the history of how some of the items were reclaimed. The tour was nice and short and interesting and to-the-point, and I would definitely encourage people to take the tour [which you can do separate from visiting the museum itself. hindsight].

some information:
  • find it at 1201 e clay st, richmond, va 23219
  • open 10am-5pm daily, except for major national holidays
  • museum admission is $10; i think i paid $13 or so to visit both the museum and the white house]
  • no photography inside the museum or the white house
  • if i were to do it again, i would skip the museum - depending on what the current exhibit was - and just do the house tour
  • you can also do a 3-site pass -- the museum, the house, and a visit to appomattox for $20. i would have loved to be able to do all three, but i unfortunately did not have enough time
My final verdict: worth it if you are a history buff, especially if you are particularly interested in southern history.

veen on the road: the holocaust museum.

Following my visit to the Poe Museum, I walked the two blocks down to the Holocaust Museum to have a look around. It was a very interesting museum, to say the least, but I would recommend visiting it with caution.

The exhibits in the Museum are very interesting - especially crawling through the tunnel to simulate what it would have been like to do so as a Jew in hiding - and having the tour narrated by a Holocaust survivor was extremely moving, but I couldn't help but feel as though the museum never really focused itself.

[the audio guide explains all the meanings behind this: the candles, the menorah, the star of david, the red tips of the star, why it's broken, and the barbed wire. i cannot remember all of it, and i would hate to misrepresent it, but i remember finding it very interesting]
As I mentioned, the audio guide is narrated by a survivor of the time, so most of it is his own personal story. It is very moving and thought-provoking, and there were moments in his narrative when I was moved to tears. The downfall of that, however, is that there is no clear focus. The beginning of the tour is set up as a train depot, to simulate traveling through the history of the persecution of Europe's Jewish citizens, and as you travel along you hear the stories of concentration camps, Kristallnacht, and what it was like to grow up in the ghettos, but I found it to be very disjointed.

The parts of the exhibit that had the greatest impact on me were the simulations - the afore-mentioned crawling through the tunnel, the replica of a boxcar that would have transported Jews from ghettos to labour camps, and the gas chamber that gave me the shivers and which I literally ran out of because it freaked me out so much.

[entering the main exhibit]
I feel bad complaining about the museum, because I think the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jews was an important part of history and one that everyone should learn about, but I do have a few not-so-positive things to say. First and foremost, it took a long time to walk through. Too long, in my opinion. All told, the narrative took close to an hour-and-a-half, and I just didn't feel like the space was large enough to necessitate that. There were a few rooms I passed through quickly and fast-forwarded on the audio guide, because it was taking so long. I felt really bad doing that, but I couldn't help it, my attention was fading fast. I feel like it would be much more effective to allow for self-guiding with boards to read throughout the museum, with smaller bits of the oral histories woven into the applicable places.

Also, from a purely prejudicial standpoint, I couldn't stop myself from comparing this museum to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. I know it's not fair to do so, but having visited the museum in DC twice, it was difficult not to. The history wasn't quite as comprehensive here, the exhibits were difficult to follow at times as you're weaving back-and-forth between rooms, and it didn't have quite the same reverent feel as the one in DC.

[from the night of burning books in germany. this reminded me of the book thief]
I think if you are interested in history, and particularly in the Holocaust, the Museum is worth a visit if you are in the Richmond area. Just make sure you give yourself lots of time.

the details:
  • 2000 east cary street, richmond, va 23223
  • open monday to friday 10am-5pm; saturday and sunday 11am-5pm
  • admission is FREE. that's pretty cool
  • pictures are allowed within the museum, but NO flash photography
  • give yourself a few hours if you really want to go through each bit of the museum
And keep an eye out: the mannequins are kind of creepy. Don't say I didn't warn you.

24 September 2014

veen on the road: the edgar allan poe museum.

Kind of like my obsession with old US Presidents, I have also long had a weird obsession with Edgar Allan Poe [truth bomb: it might just be dead white guys. I'll explore this one later]. I wrote a research paper on Poe in 10th grade and have been enamored ever since. He was an odd man, to be sure, but there was something about those sad eyes that pulled at me [another truth bomb: I'm a sucker for sad eyes].

[the fountain in the courtyard]
So imagine my excitement when I found out that there is a museum dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe in Richmond; there might have actually been a legit squeal of happiness upon said discovery. So as Tuesday morning dawned on my time in Richmond, I practically sped my way over to see what new things I could learn about this guy.

[courtyard within the exhibition buildings. if i had had my book with me, i would have happily plopped myself down on a bench for a good little while]
The Poe Museum is spread over a series of buildings surrounding a quaint and peaceful courtyard in downtown Richmond. Although Poe lived in a number of places throughout the city in his youth and adolescence, none of the buildings are in existence any longer, but the Museum does have a number of his personal effects in their collection.

[because obviously there has to be a raven somewhere on the grounds. it's the poe museum, after all]
The tour is self-guided, so you can make your way through the buildings at your leisure and in any order you wish. Other than a summer camp group that left not long after I arrived, there were maybe 5 other visitors during my time there, so I pretty much had the buildings to myself. I followed along chronologically, moving with Edgar as he was taken in by the Allan family following his mother's death and following him through his youth around Richmond and eventually into adulthood.

[quoth the raven, nevermore]
Overall I really enjoyed my visit to the Museum. I liked that moving around the exhibits and buildings was almost like putting together a puzzle, and at the end of it you had a full picture of Poe's life and works, including the influence he continues to have on writers and artists today. I liked that it was self-paced, so I could spend as much or as little time reading stories and looking at photographs. And I very much enjoyed revisiting an old obsession of mine.

[sign outside the museum]
If you're interested:
  • located at 1914-16 East Main St, Richmond, VA 23223
  • there is a small parking lot attached to the museum, and there is limited street parking available as well
  • open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday; 11am-5pm Sunday; CLOSED MONDAY [gift shop closes at 4.30pm]
  • admission is $6; senior citizens and student admission is $5
  • photography is not allowed of the exhibits but is allowed in the garden and courtyard
  • visits are self-guided, but there are guided tours available as well; call ahead of your visit if you want a guided tour; also call ahead to schedule a group tour
  • the Holocaust Museum is walking distance from the Poe Museum, if you're interested in visiting both; it's about 2 blocks away [I'll be writing about my visit on here tomorrow]
[because edgar and i are besties]
Oh, Edgar Allan Poe. You were one weird dude, but I can't help but love you.

23 September 2014

veen on the road: a fun discovery in richmond.

As Ansley and I were heading down to the Amtrak station in Richmond, we drove by a wall of really awesome murals. I wanted to see them more up-close and have time to look at each one, so I returned by foot on Monday afternoon, armed with my camera and ready to look at each and every one.

I discovered that the murals are part of a University of Richmond Downtown project called "Connect, Collaborate, Create". The murals are mostly abstract, seemingly covering all colours and interests, and I loved them. My pictures don't really do them justice, but if you ever find yourself wandering down Cary St, be sure to check them out for yourself.

I always love stumbling upon things like this whenever I'm out and about, and this was no exception.

37 of 52: tiger football.

Last weekend I took my mother to a U of M football game at the Liberty Bowl, and we had a blast. Memphis hired a new Athletic Director and football coach a few years ago, and they have been working hard to turn around what was once a failing football program [to the point where the University was considering getting rid of the football program altogether].

Memphis has had a faithful, if small, football following for a number of years, but it has really taken off in the last few years. They have been working hard to make games accessible and fun for the citizens of Memphis, and we got to see this for ourselves on Saturday.

[one of the positives to sitting opposite the sun was getting to see this pretty awesome sunset behind the stadium]
My mother and I both love live sporting events - especially college football - so we were both excited when we discovered that it would work out to go to the game against MTSU over the weekend. I got tickets, and off we set on Saturday afternoon.

Tickets were comparatively cheap, parking was easy - and free! - and we inadvertently managed to park right next to our gate to get into the stadium. Through sheer luck, the seats on either side of us were empty, so we had about 6 spaces to ourselves, which allowed us to spread out and enjoy the game. It was sunny and quite warm at kickoff, but the sun soon set and it was beautiful under the lights.

[under the lights at liberty bowl memorial stadium. there's nothing in the world quite like college football]
Memphis played well and won the game handily, allowing us to win free chicken-n-biscuits from Jack Pirtle's along the way, but most importantly, my mother and I had a fun little Saturday evening outing.

Oh, and the prices! Between tickets and concessions, we spent $84 total [tickets $60; BBQ nachos $8; 2 sodas $8; 2 bottles of water $8; parking FREE]. You really can't beat that.

other highlights included: back to the job application grind; had a good chat with a family friend who works in HR at the Gates Foundation; worked a few Fanbank events; my father turned 72; the Peanut turned 4; making steady progress through Midnight's Children.

We are forever and always a Razorback family, but sometimes it's nice to support the hometown team, too.

22 September 2014

veen on the road: monument avenue.

I had lots of plans for visiting museums and historical homes in Richmond, and then I discovered that my first full day in town was a Monday, meaning all of those places were closed.

Not to fear, however, since there is one particular sight that can be visited at any time: Monument Avenue.

I admittedly did not know much about Monument Avenue, even up until the point I actually got there and saw it for myself. And to be honest, even once I got there I was a little confused. So here we go: Monument Avenue is the only street in the US that is registered as a historic place, a stretch of road that includes 6 monuments spread across approximately 20 city blocks. The first, of General Robert E Lee, was erected in 1890; the most recent, of Arthur Ashe, was unveiled in 1996.

You can walk from one end of the Avenue to the other, or you can do what I did, which was drive from Ashe's monument to Lee's, park and grab a bite to eat, and then drive back, stopping along the way to take pictures. Since it was a weekday, there was plenty of street parking, and it was much preferred to walking since it was pretty sunny and hot out.

The monuments themselves are beautiful and also have a bit of an interesting backstory. Of the 6 monuments, 5 are of men with ties to the Confederate States of America; the final, of Ashe, doesn't seem to have any ties to the others and is also set farther back than the first 5. The distance between Ashe's monument and the next closest one is so much that I thought perhaps I had taken a wrong turn or had not actually found the right place. I like that Ashe has been recognized in some way [I didn't even know that he was from Richmond until I saw his monument and looked it up], but it is rather odd.

The monuments are all pretty impressive and are definitely worth at least a drive past. The Avenue is the site of many events throughout the year, including parades and a 10k, so if you time your visit right, you might get to see one of those rather than just drive through on a Monday morning.

Stay tuned, because we will be revisiting numerous Richmond highlights this week!