It’s not often that I try and recreate an image from a vacation photo. In fact, this is a first.
This past July, Chris and I ventured to Northern Ireland and then took a ferry over to Scotland. It was a magical trip, each day, different from the other in what we saw and what we did.
Golf played a major role as we attended The Open which was held at Royal Port Rush Golf Club in Ballymoney. And if you’re going to visit Scotland and you’re a golfer, it makes perfect sense to play St. Andrews – the birthplace of golf. So we did and it was one of the most memorable rounds I’ve ever had for many reasons.
Seeing the sights of Northern Ireland and Scotland was also a major part of our itinerary. We visited the cities of Dublin and Belfast in Ireland as well as Glasgow in Scotland. Though enjoyable, I wasn’t exactly blown away.
But the majestic natural beauty of the coast of Northern Ireland – that made a major impression.
Parts of it reminded me of driving the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Yet this part of the world had a certain magic all its own. When we journeyed to The Giant’s Causeway, the timeless beauty of the rocky shore was a sight to behold.
Legend has it that the Causeway was the ancient home of the mighty giant, Finn McCool, who built a rock formation to help him cross over to Scotland to battle the Scottish giant Benandonner. Science says the hexagonal rock formations are a result of volcanic activity more than 60 million years ago.
Regardless, the rock formations were awesome to behold. But so was the entire landscape of the coast.
We took several pictures. One of them I used as the basis for this painting.
If you visited the Giant’s Causeway, you could see the exact same view shown in this painting.
But since I don’t want to be a landscape painter, I knew I had to add some different element to it. So I chose to paint a peasant girl, standing atop the largest rock, staring off into the distance. The peasant girl is based on a painting I saw in a gallery in Glasgow, though I made her look more like a young adult than a child.
To me, adding the human element into the painting adds a certain story appeal to it. The title of the painting, “Once Upon A Time In The Giants Causeway” (I have seen both Giants and Giant’s used for the name), adds to the timelessness. For this is a place that seems as if it has been unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
It’s a large painting – 36″ x 48″ and if you were to see it in person, I think you would like it.
But if you don’t, that’s okay. It’s a memory that will last for me.
In addition to creating advertising and marketing communications, I also love to paint. My work can be seen on a variety of websites: art sleuth, artfully walls and pixels are just a few. In addition to buying my original paintings, you can also order prints of my work, as well as get my artwork put onto a variety of items like iPhone covers, pillow throws, tote bags, greeting cards, coffee cups, shower curtains and a wide variety of other items by visiting my other website on Pixels. I also invite you to follow me on Instagram to see work in progress from start to finish!
How does one assure that you’ll stand out in a crowd of about 35,000 people at a Major Golf Championship? You wear the Blue note.
That was my plan as Chris and I embarked for an epic vacation to Ireland and Scotland that would include attending The Open, held at Royal Port Rush Golf Club in Northern Ireland as well as playing The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.
How it all came about, resulting in the photo you see above is somewhat amazing, involving two of my fellow Blue Buddies from St. Louis U High and an ancestral journey that my wife, Chris, made to Ireland about seven years ago with her mom.
I guess I’ll start there as Chris and I would have probably never made this trip had she not first gone across the pond with her mum (we’ll use the English vernacular) to see if they could find any ties to her mum’s grandfather who hailed from a town called Ballymoney. The trip was a success, including their stay at a Bed & Breakfast. Two years ago, while Chris and I were watching The Open, a promo came on announcing future sites for The Open which included this year’s event that would return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 52 years at The Royal Port Rush Golf Club.
Chris said the site of The Open was less than 15 minutes from Ballymoney and that she would check to see if we could stay at the same Bed & Breakfast.
It was available – so that set our travel plans in motion which we expanded to include a round of our own at the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland. Chris was quite the travel planner as she blocked out and booked all aspects of our journey. The week before, as we were discussing what all we should pack based on temperatures in Northern Ireland and Scotland at this time of year, I mentioned I was going to wear the Blue note. I know I could have opted for a Cardinals jersey but saluting the Stanley Cup Champions on a completely different continent seemed like the right thing to do.
I was hoping that someone, somewhere might notice. Turns out that someone did. Dave Hemenway, one of my high school classmates from SLUH was watching The Open on an early Saturday morning from his home in Cary, North Carolina and noticed someone wearing a Blues jersey behind the 6th green.
He got out his phone and snapped my image from the TV coverage and sent it along to another class of ’76 grad, Pat Leahy, who’s one of my golf buddies. Dave’s message to Pat – “Look in the gallery”
And there I was, right next to Chris, proudly wearing my Blues shirt. I don’t think it drew any comments from the TV analysts. But it did get noticed. And now, through the power of social media, will get noticed a bit more.
It’s a small world after all.
I never realized what a dangerous, backward, unfriendly state I live in. But there it was, on the inside pages of yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, stating that Fodor’s, the internationally-recognized travel advisory company had listed Missouri as the only state in the USA to make Fodor’s No LIst 2018.
That certainly makes the job for Hoffman Lewis, who I believe still handles the advertising for the great state of Missouri, more formidable.
The article struck me as hard to believe and somewhat akin to a bunch of blind men describing an elephant. Depending upon where you stand, your view can be radically altered.
I’ve been to about 40 of our 50 states. Yet I am certainly not qualified to blacklist an entire state based on some limited opinions and generalities. According to Fodor’s, here’s why they recommend that no visitor should set foot in the state of Missouri:
“Missouri is the place where SB 43 was passed making it more difficult to sue employers for discrimination, a state representative argued that homosexuals weren’t human beings, a tourist who got lost and ran out of gas was later found murdered in his jail cell without ever being put under arrest, and two men were hunted down and shot on suspicion of being Muslim on the outskirts of Kansas City. And that’s just in 2017.
Those are just a few of the startling headlines from the state that prompted the Missouri chapter of the NAACP to advise tourists to skip this state and the “looming danger” for visitors when they’re touring United States.
Missouri has “a separate standard of laws that are only applicable to some people,” Nimrod Chapel, Jr., head of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP, told Fodor’s. He includes people of color, women, the disabled, senior citizens, foreigners, and people of faith as among those who are discriminated against.
He further cautions against the manner in which these laws are policed in the state. “Not everyone dies after an encounter with law enforcement, and we wouldn’t suggest that. But there [are] so many negative outcomes that would indicate that there’s some bias in the way that their laws are enforced that we think that people have to be aware of the danger and, you know, decide for themselves.”
Thanks a lot Fodor’s.
Based on the opinion of some Nimrod, they’re now saying that anyone who happens to be a person of color (not specified what color), a female, someone who’s disabled, a senior citizen, foreigner or a person who believes in any type of religion, you best stay away from the Show Me state.
If you just so happen to be a 65+, disabled, African nun from the Republic of Ghana, well, you may never get out of here alive according to Fodor’s.
C’mon, Fodor’s. You owe the great state of Missouri and all the people who are working hard to overcome all of the negatives that have been hurled at this state in the past few years a major apology.
The metro St. Louis area has more than its share of problems. Yes, there still is a racial divide here, just as there is a serious economic divide. But there are so many good things happening as well and those items just don’t get the news time they deserve.
The murder they reference in Kansas City actually took place in Kansas. And from everything I’ve heard, Kansas City has made dramatic strides as a community that’s not only a great place to live, it’s a great place to visit.
Having an entire state on a travel company’s No List is a farce. They don’t know what it’s like to enjoy a weekend in the Ozarks and probably don’t even know where it is.
Personally, I’m contacting Fodor’s to let them know of my disgust. They have a Forum and I intend to register and post my opinion. And I will never be purchasing any travel-related guides that bear their name again.
And if, by chance, you were planning on a trip to the Taj Mahal or Everest this year, Fodor’s recommends against it – but with a little more actual reasons since the Taj Mahal is being completely re-furbished and most of it is under wraps while with Everest, their reason for not going is simply that too many people die on their quest. Especially if they’re a 65+, African nun from the Republic of Ghana.
That’s what I think, how about you?
In addition to providing advertising and marketing communications services by day via BloodLines Creative, Tom sometimes writes about what interests him, especially when it comes to all things St. Louis. He is also dedicated to becoming a better surrealist painter, trying to paint the impossible. He invites you to visit his work at his Pixels website, or via his BloodLines Art website. His work can also be viewed on Pinterest, Saatchi Art and on the mobile app, Art Loupe.
My most recent painting, titled, “The Traveler” has literally taken off, being viewed across the United States and in countries around the world via my http://tom-blood.pixels.com website.
Normally, when I post a new painting, it may garner 50 initial views the first day and then, depending on how popular the painting is, continue to get views from time to time. Early next week, my website should go over the 10,000 view mark which is pretty cool considering I’ve only had it since July and I don’t do all that much to promote it.
Yesterday, I finished up my most recent painting and put “The Traveler” onto my pixels website around 9 pm along with my other website for art: http://bloodlinesart.com as well as on Facebook, ArtLoupe and twitter.
This morning when I checked in, I was amazed – ‘The Traveler’ has already had more than 300 views and more keep rolling in by the minute.
It’s always fun to see where the views are coming from – currently, people in 22 different states across America have checked it out. Not bad for less than a day of exposure. What’s really fun though is the list of people from other countries who have taken the time to view this painting. Canada and Mexico are nice. Germany, England, Ireland, Italy, Austria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands that’s all pretty cool. But when you’re getting views from people in Bosnia & Herzegovinia, Pakistan, Slovakia, India and Cambodia it makes you say, “Wow, ‘The Traveler’ must have some worldwide appeal.”
If only people liked it enough that they would consider buying it – or at least an item featuring it, be that a re-print or a tote bag or iPhone cover. Those items aren’t very expensive at all and it certainly does make a rather striking impression.
You can purchase any of these items (along with other things like coffee cups, greeting cards and beach towels featuring my art) via http://tom-blood.pixels.com – which is home to lots of my other paintings in case you’ve never checked it out. I’m hoping that one day, I’ll be able to turn those 10,000+ views into 10,000 plus purchases.
So check it out if you’re interested – wherever you may be.
And safe travels, wherever you’re going.
The fourth of four posts with musings and thoughts about our recent visit to Europe.
In case you don’t understand German, that stands for “One, two, three … drink!” Seeing that our last stop on our European adventure was Munich, which included a stop at the legendary Hofbrauhaus beer hall, that statement certainly fits.
But there is so much more to Munich, the 3rd largest city in Germany. I feel like we barely scratched the surface, getting an overview of the city through one of those guided tour buses that showed you the main attractions but all you did was pass on by. There simply wasn’t enough time to really explore.
We did manage to take in some pretty cool sights, though. Our hotel was in the heart of Munich so places like the NeuesRathaus with its chiming glockenspiel was nearby.
When we bought the bus pass, we decided to make it a two-day pass so we could travel more to the outskirts of the city. One of our first stops was visiting the Nymphenburg Palace. We had already seen our fair share of palaces and elaborate grounds but the immensity of this place did make quite an impression.
After touring the insides of the palace and just a small portion of the grounds, we climbed aboard and set out for the world headquarters of BMW, which is adjacent to the Olympic Park grounds. Though I’m not a huge fan of BMers due to their high maintenance needs, I was impressed with their headquarters and their museum. The German engineering that goes into the ultimate driving machine was also on display at their complex. It was uber-modern – very sleek and cool inside and out.
We decided to take a quick jaunt through the Olympic grounds as well but an unexpected shower put that to an end. So instead we climbed back on the bus and made our way to Alliance Stadium – home of Bayern-Munich – which just so happens to be Michael’s favorite team on the planet. Unfortunately, the tour times of the stadium which took you into the locker room and onto the field didn’t coincide with our schedule. So we saw what we could, bought a few souvenirs at their gift shop and made our way back to the heart of the city where we set out on foot, ready for whatever came next.
Much to our surprise, we ran into three Mizzou students who were all touring Europe. They had been a part of Mizzou’s Prague experience the year before and Michael had met them earlier while he was in Prague. We first ran into them in Vienna and they joined us in a bier garden. Next thing we knew, they were on our tour bus for the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg. When we encountered them a third time on the streets of Munich it was totally by chance.
They told us they had just been to the Hofbrauhaus where it was totally packed with people spilling out into the street so of course, we had to check it out. And they were right. The place was rocking with singing and toasts and beer chants going on all around us. There didn’t appear to be any place to sit – until Michael discovered the second floor and we managed to get a table that had just been abandoned. There was an Ooompah Band playing, beer was flowing, pretzels and schnitzel were great.
It was a fitting ending to our Munich adventure.
Next day, it was off to Amsterdam, onward to Minneapolis and finally home to St. Louis and its 95 degree heat and reeling Cardinals.
It’s a small world after all.
The third of four posts with musings and thoughts about our recent visit to Europe.
For some strange reason, I was really excited to be visiting the city and surrounding countryside where ‘The Sound of Music’ took place.
I’ve always loved that movie. I think I’ve seen it at least seven times, maybe more. So when we were planning out our European excursion and the possibility of visiting Salzburg came up, I was all in.
It’s a gorgeous city, surrounded by truly breathtaking scenery. Once we checked into our hotel, we set out on foot to explore the city. Looming high above us was the Hohensalzburg Fortress – a formidable looking structure that was truly a work in progress – with work beginning on the structure in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein and continuing for the next 800 years or so. Talk about a work in progress.
We took a tram ride up to the Fortress and then began exploring it’s many nooks and crannies including a torture room that was quite frightening. Once we reached the top, the view in all directions made you contemplate what an infinitesimal speck in the universe we all actually are.
Next day, we were ready for our Sound of Music tour. Apparently, Americans are the only ones who take this bus journey. There was a German-made movie in 1956, called The Trapp Family that quickly came and went. That story was turned into a Broadway musical in 1959 but it wasn’t until 1965 when Hollywood worked its magic on the story that it became a huge success in the States that is still quite popular today.
So our tour bus was packed with a variety of Americans, all waiting to be filled with the Sound of Music.
Our tour guide didn’t disappoint. He was part carnival barker, part Liberace and a fountain of knowledge on all things regarding the movie. Our first stop was a home overlooking a lake that served as the back of the von Trapp residence that included the scene of all the kids tumbling into the lake from their canoes.
No, I’m not going to take you through every stop we made along the way. We saw the Gazebo where they filmed the “I am sixteen” song; the Church where Maria got married to Captain Georg von Trapp; the garden where the kids learned the “Do Re Mi” song and patted a gnome’s head for good luck.
All along, our tour guide was singing along with the music track that was played over the bus loudspeakers. Though I had hoped that I could twirl and sing in a field of flowers just like Julie Andrews did, the closest we got was a field next to a roadway.
That was good enough by me. Next morning, just like the von Trapp’s, we fled from Austria, leaving behind the beauty of Salzburg and with some new memories that will make our next viewing of the movie just a little more memorable.
The second of four different posts featuring musings and thoughts about our recent trip to Europe.
In my mind, I always thought of Vienna as a city of art, music and culture.
I was pleased to find that it did not disappoint.
Vienna was the second city we visited on our European adventure. We arrived courtesy of a rented Ford Fusion, checking into a hotel that was once again in the heart of the city, only these accommodations proved to be a bit more cramped than our rooms in Europe. But that didn’t matter – we weren’t there to stay in a room we were ready to explore.
We started out by visiting Schonbrunn Palace. Sorry, I know nothing about the history of this place. The only thing I can say is that the grounds were immense. Though we couldn’t go in the palace, we were free to walk around the grounds – which could have taken hours had we gone from one end to the other. The views were stunning.
It seemed that everywhere we went, we were surrounded by history. So it only made sense to try and take in a little history of our own by visiting a few museums. Though their history museum was closed that day, we did pay a visit to Vienna’s Art Museum where Catherine and Michael struck a pose similar to one of the pieces on display. Again, I have no idea what the name of the actual piece is or what significance it may have had. We were tourists on cruise control.
Our wanderings led us to the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and though none of us pretend to be classical music lovers, we did enjoy learning more about the life of this extraordinarily gifted man who craved the spotlight and loved to gamble. Rock me, Amadeus!
Our two days there were exhausting. My fitbit reached more than 23,000 steps on one of the days but they were well worth the effort. Of course all that wandering built up both a hunger and a thirst and we managed to satisfy both each night – the first night with an awesome outdoor evening meal enjoying some wienerschnitzel and beverages and the second night watching Austria take on Hungary in a Euro Cup game at a sidewalk cafe.
Our stay seemed like a short one. There was so much more to see. But we were on a schedule, so after two long days, it was “Goodnight, Vienna. I barely got to see ya.”
The first of four different posts featuring musings and thoughts about our recent trip to Europe.
I had never contemplated traveling to the Czech Republic before and knew nothing about the city of Prague. At least that was the case before our son, Michael, applied to take 6 hours of credit over there through the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Michael took off on his journey the Friday after he got home from his sophomore year at Mizzou. Chris, Catherine and I set out about a month later to pick him up after his studies were done so we could see a bit of Prague and then set out on a European adventure to a few other cities.
From what I had heard, Prague was a beautiful city. During World War II, Hitler avoided bombing it, apparently having some sliver of compassion in not wanting to destroy its centuries old buildings and cathedrals. Our hotel was in the heart of the city with transportation through its underground system literally right at our doorstep.
Our first venture out after a brief nap at our hotel was to a nearby restaurant where we were joined by one of Michael’s best friends and his family. The meal was excellent and when it came time to ask for the check, we quickly learned we should say ‘bill’ instead.
That became the running joke wherever we went.
We toured the city and it turned out, Michael’s time at the University was also well spent in the city of Prague. He knew his way around, serving as our own personal tour guide.
We visited Prague Castle and made our way up to the highest point in Prague where the city was spread out before us.
From there we crossed the Charles Bridge before making our way to the Lennon wall – a graffiti filled wall dedicated to the memory of John Lennon who garnered quite a following during the 70s. People would paint tributes to him on the wall and they would quickly be painted over by the ruling elite. This continued until the Czech Republic went free of communist control. Today, the wall continues to be painted over – only it’s more people adding their own messages. Look closely and you can see the Yes logo and my name, which probably got washed out with the first rain that came after I made my mark.
We also visited the Infant of Prague, located in the Mala Strana (I’m not sure if that’s an area or the name of the church) but this tiny statue supposedly has miraculous powers. We all prayed for safe passage for the rest of our journey and since we made it back safe and sound, I’d have to say the Infant was watching over us. Speaking of infants, we also ran across this unusual character in Prague’s Old Townhall Square. He was seeking money but we told him all we had were checks.
Our trip finished with a gathering of many of Michael’s Mizzou classmates at a public park high on a hill on the outskirts of the city.
The view was magnificent and so was the beginning of our European adventure.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Crete, do as the Cretans do.
So that’s exactly what Chris and I did on our recent journey to the island of Crete, the largest of the Greek islands that was the birthplace of Zeus and home to many fishing villages and idyllic settings that make you think you’re a part of some exotic photo shoot that will end up in a Conde Nast Traveler magazine.
“Crete, you say?”
“Why in the world would you want to go to Crete?”
Basically, the trip was a reward for Chris because she’s a member of one of the top performing independent insurance agencies in the country for Safeco. It was called the Chairman’s Awards and it was an honor for her to be recognized and a thrill for me to get to accompany her as one of the few spouses that happened to be on the male side of the equation.
We stayed at a gorgeous resort called Daios Cove (http://www.daioscovecrete.com/gallery.php) that had its own private beach looking out on a view unlike any I’d ever seen before. Every day there were activities, every night, there were group outings – one night it was to a little fishing village filled with shops and restaurants and they had an open air street party, complete with Greek music and traditional Greek dancing as well as the breaking of many plates – some against people’s heads but most flung onto the ground accompanied by many shouts of “Opa!”
But the true highlight of the entire trip is the subject of this post. All the attendees of the event were asked to wear all white on Sunday night for our second excursion into another fishing village. Little did we know that we were all dressing up to be the honored guests of a faux Greek wedding ceremony and festive reception. And little did we know that there would also be a Greek Orthodox priest on-hand so couples could renew their vows. Whether he was real or not is still up for debate, but Chris and I went through the ceremony and yes, it was all Greek to me.
Just about the time that most couples had renewed their vows, a boat arrived with an official wedding party in tow. The bride and groom entered, followed by the best man, and then the bride’s immediate family as well as the groom’s. There was even the elder grandma who was not happy with the whole affair, feeling her granddaughter had married below the family’s high standards. And yes, there was some heft in the family as well with two of the female relatives tipping the scales probably well over the 250 mark – maybe more – making it a true, big, fat, Greek wedding.
Yes, they were all character actors but they played the part well and we were all willing recipients, enjoying the food and drink, accompanied by many toasts to the newly wed couple. The party was rocking and everyone was in a festive mood when we were informed that the band was ready to perform. All eyes shifted to a group that was still in the dark on a stage that couldn’t have been more than ten feet away from where we’d been out dancing minutes before. I saw there were two females with their backs turned to us, wearing what looked like the boxing robes that Rocky wore when he took on Apollo Creed.
Suddenly, the lights of the stage turned on and the band kicked in singing a familiar song by Abba – a group that got its claim to fame back in the 70s. Could it really be them? They sure sounded like it. Was it them? I had no idea. Mama Mia, here I go again.
They were incredible. I was convinced it was them. Somehow, they had climbed into a time capsule and had been perfectly preserved. I kept thinking they’ve got to be at least as old as I am if not older – but there they were, singing Dancing Queen, Take A Chance On Me and Money, Money, Money.
It was surreal. It was a sing-along. It was a blast. And when they finished with Thank You For the Music, I was convinced I really had seen Abba as they left the stage and party music kicked back in.
My investigations tonight revealed that just like the character actors in the wedding party, Abba was also just an illusion.
Looking back on it now, the whole evening was hard to fathom. There we were on the island of Crete, far, far away from our normal everyday routines.
It was all surreal. It was a trip.
Three days removed from the island of Crete, it’s back to reality.
One more look and I forget everything.