Friday, February 4, 2011

Armchair Travel and Art

While other people were leafing through garden catalogues this winter, deciding which heirloom tomato or radish seeds to plant in spring, I wiled away my hours making choices of a different kind. There wasn't a night I didn't hit up Trip Advisor, Farespotter and, in search for the perfect (and cheap) sun and surf vacation for my husband and me.

This is what I told myself: it will be good for my husband to take a relaxing (and restorative) holiday when he comes out of the hospital after the"procedures" he will be undergoing to correct a congenital heart condition (should it be of any interest, it's hypertrophic cardio myopathy).

Since neither of us are really the beachcomber kind of vacationer, I was looking for something with a little more oomph than an all inclusive somewhere. Eventually I found it. In the Dominican Republic.

From January through March each year in the Bay of Samana, 3 to 5 thousand humpback whales return to give birth and mate for the following year. "Listen to the male humpback's solitary courting song," a website told me, "and witness incredible displays of flippering, tail lobbing and breaching by the most active species of whale in the Atlantic."  Frolicsome males vying for the attention of demure females also caught my attention. I was ready to book.

My husband's procedures were considered successful (yeah!), but the cardiologists needed to keep a close watch for one week in the hospital. A few days in, I realized I'll have to watch the humpbacks frolic some other year. We're not going anywhere soon. My husband needs to take it easy.

Ok, fine. No problem. So each night after I came home from the hospital I again hit up my trusty travel sites, this time looking up something in late April.  In no time, I had another plan. We'll go hiking in England when the fields are covered with bluebells and wild daffodils. Before long, I narrowed down the search to the Cotswolds, found the perfect stone cottage to rent for a week and a cheap flight to London. My husband loved the new plan.

But the cardiologists didn't. They highly advised we don't go anywhere for at least a couple of months, then pointed out that we're not eligible for medical travel insurance for three months after my husband's discharge. That brings us to May 1. And as anyone who lives in our northern climes knows, spring will have just come our way.  I wait all winter for May to come. The last thing I want to do is leave when my spring bulbs are just pushing up and the white-throated sparrows are singing outside my window.

So that's that for this year, I decided. I'm happy my husband's doing so well and ll have to find another way to explore the world. Lo and behold, I found it.  

I'll be visiting all the great museums of the world right here at my desk through Google Art Project., the results of a partnership between Google and some of the greatest, most well-known museums in the world. Using Streetview technology (like Google Earth but better), I can visit the halls and collections of Versailles (and its gardens!), the Uffizi Gallery, the Tate, MOMA, the Met and Smithsonian...

I can zoom into Boticelli's Birth of Venus in Italy, and the  brushstrokes of a Van Gogh in Amsterdam. Once you go to the site, there are explanatory youtube videos waiting to give you a guided how-to tour of the site. The quality of the images you'll find are staggering.

But before you head off to Rome or Copenhagen,  I encourage you to look at some wonderful artwork being created in the here and now, by a friend whose work I am shamelessly promoting because it is so good, colourful, fun, charming and creative.  

Feel free to tell me if I'm wrong. But to do so, you have to go first to   Then you can tell me if I gave you a bum steer.

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