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Note the commemorative wall behind the statue


View from the Spirit


Part of the Thomas wall

Chicago has a fantastic collection of public art, of all shapes, sizes and themes. Over the years we’ve tried to track down as many as we can, and I’ve written about many of them already. We spent last weekend in the city and had the chance to wander around Grant Park more than we have before, thus discovering more public art.

This lovely sculpture, the Spirit of Music, in Chicago’s Grant Park is also known as the Theodore Thomas Memorial.





Note the face on the lyre

Theodore Thomas(1835-1905) was the founder of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1891 and The Spirit of Music is a tribute to him. Under his directorship, Chicago gained a reputation for musical excellence, which continues today. The figure, and the monument behind it, were sculpted in 1923 by Czech-American artist and sculptor Albin Polasek(1879-1965). Polasek came to Chicago to head the sculpture department at the Art Institute School. Instead of creating a sculpture of Thomas, Polasek decided on a tall bronze muse holding a lyre. The artist said that the face on the lyre was modeled on his own face.




mooseThe half-ball base on which the muse stands is decorated with different animals, such as a moose, a bison, and a bear—also quite striking.

The monument is in the strip of park along Michigan Avenue, almost opposite the Blackstone.

There is a museum to Albin Polasek in Winter Park, Florida. I wrote about it here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/albin-polasek/and here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/masterpiece-of-the-week/april/



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Inside CASC our first night

What is CASC?

As I mentioned earlier, our taxi driver had told us about this pub, so we went looking for it our first evening after dinner. It’s a great place and we’re glad we found it, as we returned a number of times on different evenings with various other conference attendees.

It’s on Stirling Street, in what’s known as the Merchant area. Behind the Aberdeen Indoor Market is a warren of small streets and alleyways, some of which run under Union Street—a fact that got us very confused at first. But we found CASC, opposite a large restaurant called Carmelite Bar and Grill.

CASC has a small entrance and you go downstairs to find the action.


CASC is an acronym for Cigars,Ale, Scotch whisky, Coffee—quite a clever idea. They call themselves CASC Nation and they pride themselves on many craft beers, many whiskys, and fresh-made artisan coffees. Their fun symbol is a kind of devil with a goat head.


A long bar dominates the space with a long line of spigots for beers on tap. There’s an impressive beer list, a humidor, and a ploughman’s lunch (or dinner) menu. Fun and different.

Beers are color-coded by style, and a huge board is lit up with that information. But sadly, none of our cameras could pick up those different colors.


List of beers


groupThere are also many whiskys, which most of our party tried to sample on different nights. (Remember, in Scotland it’s whiskyand in Ireland it’s whiskey!).

The first night, 2 beers and a glass of wine cost us £15 (about US$ 21)—not too bad for the UK.

www.cascnation.com(you must be 21 to enter the site)


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AJbeerBrew Dog Pub

Castlegate branch, 1 Union Street, Aberdeen

This summer, we were visiting Aberdeen again, for a conference, and got a taxi from Aberdeen airport to our hotel. The taxi driver told us about 2 places, which she really liked, that were new to us: Brew Dog pub, and CASC (see next post). It turned out that Brew Dog was right below our Royal Athenaeum Suites, so it was a perfect location for us—just go downstairs and next door.

Brew Dog is a spacious ground-level pub, with high and low tables of all sizes, serving craft beer, handmade coffees and some food (plus other drinks, if you want). I’m not really a big beer drinker (although I like to try a little), so it was good to see that their wine list wasn’t too bad either.



It has a lovely atmosphere and really friendly servers and seems to be very popular, as it was always buzzing. It’s a place that welcomes dogs and there were many in there, each time we visited. They provide doggie water bowls and the first time I didn’t realize where the bowls were placed, and kicked one over!



There’s also a “BottleDog”, a huge fridge with hundreds of beer takeaway offerings. This ‘BottleDog’ off-license is a nice addition as you can buy beer to take away or, for a corkage fee, drink it onsite—a great idea if you want to try something that’s not on tap at the moment.


Part of the beer menu


deciding what we want

The large basement section is called the Underdog, which also has music until late many nights—a popular local night club.




RwindowThe pub is a success story. One Brew Dog pub already existed in Aberdeen and the company, started out by two local guys, wanted to expand, so they converted the ground floor of the Athenaeum building. Hence the slogan “Made in Aberdeen”. There are also branches of BrewDog in Dundee and Stirling, Scotland. They have now also gone international, with some BrewDogs in London, one in York, one in Columbus, USA, Florence, and in Berlin (I’m sure there may be more, but these are just examples). They would also like to open in other countries, such as Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Zurich. It’s a company that pays a living wage and the couple of servers we chatted to seem very happy to work there.



With our Japanese friends, Satoshi and Max

tasting map

Beer tasting map—what fun

We popped in a couple of times, and also came with our Japanese friends who were at the conference too—they loved it. The beer is pretty good, with very interesting/fanciful names, such as Jet Black Heart; Elvis Juice; Punk IPA. It also has other drinks, of course, and has a pretty decent wine list too. But it’s not a place where I’d personally choose to eat, as they offer just typical pub grub really, like big burgers, fries, chicken wings. Although our grandson had a snack here one evening (big burger) and it did look pretty good, I must say.




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A few years ago we were flying to San Juan, on our way to the island of Grenada. A lovely sunset inspired me to get poetic!

At sunset                                                     sunset

A rainbow band across the sky horizon.

We fly into the blue-indigo-violet band

Taking us to a magical place

Another place, another time.

The colors deepen,


We continue into the night.”


I remember ROY G BIV,             sunset3

That BIV band has my favorite colors




“A treasured moment

To fly into the band,

Into my colors briefly

Before they fade and die for today

We leave a golden glow behind us

Where the sun was.”                                      sunset2


A Tanka:

We fly into the

Blue Indigo Violet band

Of sunset rainbow.

Treasured moment, becoming

One with our cosmos briefly.”


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At the entrance to Restaurant Carmen

insideRestaurant Carmen

We arrived in Icod de los Vinos around noon, so decided to have lunch before going to visit El Drago (see previous post). We chose Restaurant Carmen, on C. Hercules 2, just opposite the entrance to the El Drago parking garage, so very convenient. It’s a free-standing building, adobe with a caramel color and wooden doors and windows. The entrance faces the street, but at the back there’s a sweeping view over some banana plantations and towards the sea.



One of the paintings on the walls



One of the wine plaques “Ode to Wine”

You enter, past a couple of mannequins in folkloric dress, and walk down some stairs to a large dining area. It has very interesting décor, including various urns and statues, a collection of decorative plates on the brightly-painted walls, and many tiles with sayings and quotes about wine. A central column of ferns gives a nice touch. It’s a fairly casual place, but tables are still laid with real linen.






“Wine and sun cheer up the heart”


Wine plaques


Tomato and cheese salad. Note the red and green mojo sauces in the bowls behind

We had a selection of small plates, all delicious— garlic prawns, cheese and tomato salad, salad with cod and avocado, and a typical Canarian stew. Plus bread with mojo (the typical Canarian sauces I mentioned before, see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/eating-on-the-canary-islands/), a glass of wine, bottled water, and coffee, all for a total of  €42.50. Service was good and friendly, and if we were ever back in Tenerife, we would definitely return.


Garlic prawns (shrimp)


Avocado and cod salad


and the Men’s bathroom


And just for fun…the sign on the Ladies’ bathroom

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View of fort and park from entrance



The fort has many canons of varying ages

We’ve had so much other wonderful travel this year that I never did get round to finishing the story of Fort McHenry in Baltimore. It is an interesting story and we did enjoy our morning visiting the fort in the summer. So, to rectify that, here come parts 3, and 4.

Part 3: Brief History of the Fort:

In a way, the history is more impressive than the actual structures we see today, as they are more symbolic than grand now.

Although the United States won its independence from Britain in 1783, the threat of foreign invasion remained. To protect the young republic, the federal government launched an ambitious program of building forts near America’s primary cities along the East Coast. Fort McHenry was one of those forts.




One of the informative boards in the fort

Completed in 1805 and named after the Secretary of War, James McHenry, the new fort had five points or “bastions”, which had a star shape, accommodations for over 150 soldiers, and a line of heavy artillery aimed downriver. The fort is strategically placed at the end of a point dividing different branches of the Patapsco River, a perfect spot for protecting the city of Baltimore.

The first flag to fly over the newly-constructed ramparts was a 15-star, 15-stripe banner, reflecting the recently added states of Vermont and Kentucky.


Entrance to inner fort


Part of the inner fort, and a flag that always flies

The fort saw serious action when it was attacked by the British in September 1814, but repulsed the British onslaught (see earlier post https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/fort-mchenry-and-the-star-spangled-banner/ ).

Lt Fay sign

Board about Lt Allen Fay, at the time of the 1814 war. Interesting facts about amounts of rations (click photo to make it bigger)



Statue of Lt Allen Fay


Rod M and a Rodman canon

The fort never again came under enemy fire, but it continued as an active military post for the next 100 years. In 1829 the earthen walls were reinforced with granite blocks and a brick wall was added to shore up the parapets. During the Civil War it was used as a temporary prison for captured Confederate soldiers, southern sympathizers, and political prisoners.

In 1866 the enormous Rodman Canons were installed, the heaviest ever at the fort. However, they were only ever used for ceremonies.

During WW1, the US Army built over 100 buildings around the star fort. It was one of the rodmanlargest military hospitals in the country and housed 3,000 wounded soldiers from the battlefields of France. Over 1,000 staff worked in this facility. From 1917 until 1923, US Army General Hospital No. 2 was located here to serve WW1 veterans. It was especially known as a surgical center and great advances in neurosurgery and reconstructive surgery took place here. It was also one of the first medical centers to reintegrate disabled soldiers into civilian life by offering special classes in typing, knitting, metal work, automotive repair and other trades.

In 1925 Congress made Fort McHenry a national park; 14 years later it was re-designated a national monument and historic shrine, the only park in US to have this double distinction.

Next is Part 4 on plaques and statues in the fort park.



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Part 2: The Flag at Fort McHenry



Flag flying at the fort the day we were there

flagplaque copyVisiting Fort McHenry Part 2: The Flag 

Another important part of this history is the story of the flag, the different flag sizes, and new flags flying at the fort.

The Star-Spangled Banner flag of Francis Scott Key’s song was created during the people of Baltimore’s preparations to defend their city.

Major George Armistead, commander at Fort McHenry, commissioned the flag a year before the British attack. Armistead was a seasoned soldier who had participated in the American capture of Fort George on the Niagara River in 1813. He was aware of Fort McHenry’s vital strategic and symbolic importance, so he asked for a flag so large “that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”

In the summer of 1813 a local seamstress, Mary Young Pickersgill, received the flaginsidecommission to make an “American ensign” measuring 30 x 42 feet and using “finest quality bunting.” It was a major undertaking; her daughter, nieces, and possibly an enslaved servant, helped Mary. The flag was so large that they had to assemble it on the floor of a brewery near Mary’s workshop.

Her total fee of $574.44 was a very large sum of money at that time and included the production of a smaller flag, which may have been the “storm flag” flown during the night of the British bombardment in 1814. The huge flag was only hoisted early the next morning after the rain ended, as a signal that the fort was still standing. (I will write later about visiting the house where Mary Pickersgill lived, the so-called Flag House.

flagtodaysignAn information board titled “O’er the Ramparts We Watch” tells us Which Flag Flies Today. It says, “The fort’s walls are called ramparts. An American flag flies over Fort McHenry 24 hours a day by Presidential Proclamation. The size of the flag varies. On clear days with the right amount of wind, a full-size replica of the Star-Spangled Banner measuring 30 x 42 feet with 15 stars and 15 stripes waves. The fort also flies smaller versions of this flag. On rainy days and at night, a small, modern 50-star American flag is flown.

In 1948, a proclamation issued by President Harry S. Truman stated that “as a perpetual

Vflag copy

Copy of original flag in the fort museum, and statue of Francis Scott Key

symbol of our patriotism, the flag of the United States shall hereafter be displayed at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine at all times during the day and night, except when the weather is inclement.” At night the flag is illuminated by lights powered by solar panels.”

The original 30 x 42 feet flag is now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. However, because of its delicate nature, it is kept under very low light and no photography is possible. But, we did go and see it.




Entrance to the original flag exhibit in Washington DC


The 15-star, 15-stripe flag at Fort McHenry

Also linked to American flags: as states were added to the United States so too were stars added to the flag. In 1818, Congress proclaimed that one star for each new state would be added on the 4th of July following the state’s admission to the union and there would be thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.


So, new flags were produced and each time that flag was first flown here at Fort McHenry.

As we walked back to catch the bus, we noted


Illinois, admitted December 3, 1818

metal plaques set into the sidewalk along the edge of the entrance road, with the names of US states. We believe that there is one for each state, commemorating when the state entered the union. We couldn’t find them all, but did find Illinois!

Next is Part 3 on the History of the Fort.



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