William M. Dowd video & photos

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Well, at least these kinetic air-blown sculptures (in video above) were doing that to amuse visitors to the 21c Museum Hotel in the heart of downtown.

21c (for 21st Century) combines support for present-day artists with a first-class hotel and dining establishment that is the forerunner of several more to be constructed. It also is a perfect spot for the visitor not up to a lot of walking, whether due to laziness, preference or disability. That's because there is art everywhere in the 91-room hotel.

The hotel's 9,000-square-foot contemporary art museum, funded and managed by the International Contemporary Art Foundation, and its restaurant/bar Proof On Main make it an ideal spot for a leisurely stop in an otherwise bustling neighborhood.

Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, local investors and contemporary art collectors, conceived and bankrolled the property which opened in April 2006, and they're extending the idea to other locations as well, beginning with a project in Austin, TX. When it opens in 2011, it will contain a luxury hotel, high-end condominiums, a contemporary art museum, a restaurant, and artist lofts.

The original is, as I heard one person describe it, "a hoot." From the moment you enter, you're hit with in-your-face art. A sculptured family gathered around a sculpture dinner table, a film of a sleeping -- albeit restless -- couple is shown on the floor, projected from a ceiling device.

And, speaking of ceilings, if you look up you'll see what appears to be a mountain climber on the ceiling of the lobby.

Original art adorns the walls of each of the comfortable rooms, as well as the public spaces and meeting rooms throughout the complex.

(* - Internet shorthand for "rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off.)


Churchill Downs
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Haggis address 101

William M. Dowd photos

Chef David Graham and his staff watch piper Duncan MacGillivray deliver the "Address to a Haggis" before dinner

FEARN, BY TAIN, ROSS-SHIRE, Scotland -- Next year will mark a special promotion called "Homecoming Scotland," with government and tourism entities offering all sorts of inducements for tourists to visit Scotland for golf, distillery tours, sightseeing and so on.

One reason for the timing is that '09 will mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of the iconic poet Robert Burns. Among the many writings by the author of the poem "Auld Land Syne" (and "Comin Thro the Rye," "My Heart's In the Highlands, "To a Mouse," etc.) is the venerable "Address to a Haggis," delivered before the formal serving of the peculiar Scottish dish that consists of a variety of oatmeals, vegetables and innards cooked into a stewlike mass inside a sheep's stomach.

I was part of a group of visiting journalists treated at The Glenmorangie House (shown below) to the dish, as well as the fun and ceremony surrounding its serving, sponsored by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. and the Scottish Whisky Association.

Here's the Burns epic, in modern English. For a look at it in the original Scottish dialect, go here.

Fair is your honest happy face
Great chieftain of the pudding race
Above them all you take your place
Stomach, tripe or guts
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm

The groaning platter there you fill
Your buttocks like a distant hill
Your skewer would help to repair a mill
In time of need
While through your pores the juices emerge
Like amber beads

His knife having seen hard labour wipes
And cuts you up with great skill
Digging into your gushing insides bright
Like any ditch
And then oh what a glorious sight
Warm steaming, rich

Then spoon for spoon
They stretch and strive
Devil take the last man, on they drive
Until all their well swollen bellies
Are bent like drums
Then, the old gent most likely to rift (burp)
Be thanked, mumbles

Is there that over his French Ragout
Or olio that would sicken a pig
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust
Looks down with a sneering scornful opinion
On such a dinner

Poor devil, see him over his trash
As week as a withered rush (reed)
His spindle-shank a good whiplash
His clenched fist.the size of a nut.
Through a bloody flood and battle field to dash
Oh how unfit

But take note of the strong haggis fed Scot
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clasped in his large fist a blade
He'll make it whistle
And legs and arms and heads he will cut off
Like the tops of thistles

You powers who make mankind your care
And dish them out their meals
Old Scotland wants no watery food
That splashes in dishes
But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a haggis!


Glenmorangie House
Burns Country
Scottish recipes
Dowd's Guides

Champlain: It really is a great lake

Pedestrian-friendly Burlington.

BURLINGTON, VT -- There was a brief moment there when a move was afoot to add Lake Champlain to the assemblage known as the Great Lakes.

Technically, Champlain came under the descriptive umbrella of "Great Lakes'' for some federal technical water management programs in 1998. However, try to convince anyone who learned the mnemonic device H•O•M•E•S for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior that they have to work a "C" into it.

And never mind that the watery gem shared mostly by New York and Vermont is a mere drop in the bucket sizewise when its 435 square miles - sixth largest in the U.S. - are compared to the largest of the original Great Lakes (Superior at 31,700). Or even the smallest (Ontario at 7,340).

While it may not be a true Great lake, it is a great lake, smack in the middle of a great place for a getaway. The best approach from the New York side is from the Albany/Saratoga Springs area known as the Capital Region, an excellent daytrip that can be extended into a leisurely overnighter runs up the I-87 Northway to the lake, east across by one of three ferries to Vermont, a visit to the Burlington area, then back down toward Bennington and back home. From Boston, it's pretty much just a reverse route

That doesn't cover all of Lake Champlain. After all, it is 121 miles long and extends several miles north into Canada. It does, however, cover the most heavily populated portion and the most spectacular views of the Adirondacks on the west side and the Green Mountains on the east.

It even has its own version of the Loch Ness Monster folk fable. This one is known as "Champ," and it has its own cult following as well as some scientific interest. here is just one "fan site" devoted to the legend.


Outdoors activities -- As might be expected, they are myriad on both sides of the lake, from hiking to boating to camping to biking to climbing and anything else one might think of. One of the most comprehensive Web sites for the New York side is from the state Department of Environmental Conservation For the Vermont side, the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce site has a section with helpful links.

• Ferry service -- (802) 864-9804: The rides themselves are attractions. They go between Essex, NY and Charlotte, VT, (20 minute ride), the run closest to the Capital Region; Port Kent, NY, and Burlington, VT (60-minute ride), and Plattsburgh and Grand Isle, VT. (12-minute ride). The season begins about a week before Memorial Day.

• Fort Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga Village, 585-2821 -- The 1775 stone fort was built by the French, then taken over by the British. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys from Vermont captured it during the Revolution. The complex of 40 restored buildings shows rural life in the 1790-1840 era. Open from May 10 through mid-October.

Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, VT, (802) 863-1648 -- This brick-paved area made for strolling and people-watching is the activity heart of the state's largest city (but at a population of 39,000 still quite small), with the Burlington Town Center mall, home to more than 75 specialty shops and 15 national retailers. It also is the site of festivals and street entertainment year-round and such summer events as the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival (May 30-June 8), the annual Marketplace Sidewalk Sale in July and the Champlain Valley Folk Festival, Latino Festival and Burlington Craft Fair in August.

College Cluster, Burlington, VT -- Burlington is home to the University of Vermont, Champlain College, Burlington College and the Community College of Vermont, plus St. Michael's is in nearby Colchester. That means lots of small cafes, bookstores and on-campus events.

Champlain Valley Exposition, 105 Pearl St., Essex Junction, VT, (802) 878-5545 -- The state's largest fair is held over 10 days in late August, but there also are events year-round.

Middlebury, VT -- Vermont still has numerous downtown-centric communities that have avoided the widespread move to suburban malls. This is one such, with a classic New England Main Street with numerous well-maintained late-18th and early-19th-century buildings. It also has the Vermont Folklife Center (88 Main St., 802-388-4964 or http://www.vermontfolklifecenter.org) Line is overdrawn with has numerous exhibits and research programs aimed at protecting the state's cultural traditions, and the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History (1 Park St., 802-388-2117), the oldest chartered community history museum in the nation.


• Upper Deck Restaurant, Willsboro Bay Marina, 20 Klein Drive, Willsboro, NY, (518) 962-8271 -- This seasonal spot offers an international menu and a great waterview of the bay that juts off Lake Champlain.

Ri-Ra The Irish Pub, 123 Church St., Burlington, VT, (802) 860-9401 -- An upscale spot with both inspiration and decorating materials brought from Dublin. Traditional Irish and modern American cuisine, weekend entertainment.

• Vermont Pub & Brewery, 144 College St., Burlington, VT, (802) 865-0500 -- A brewpub in a Vermont college town. Talk about quintessential. A menu of handcrafted beers and ciders, plus all the usual pub food.

Dobra Tea House, 80 Church St., Burlington, VT, (802) 951-2424 -- The first Dobra opened in Prague in 1993. Ten years later, this Bohemian-style tea room followed. It offers imported teas from around the world, plus light fare.

• Basin Harbor Club, 4800 Basin Harbor Road, Vergennes, VT, (800) 622-4000 -- This resort complex, part of the Historic Hotels of America, has a range of dining options: from upscale in the main dining room to lunch in the casual Red Mill -- a renovated sawmill, al fresco on the Homestead lawn, or on the North Dock.


A looong list of possibilities, mostly on the Vermont side. Get the most up-to-date data online at Where to Stay for Vermont and for New York.


Heading north: 137 miles from downtown Albany to Willsboro to get the Essex ferry to Vermont. Heading south: 130.5 miles from Burlington to Bennington. Drive time: 2 hours, 15 minutes, to Willsboro; 2 hours, 56 minutes, from Burlington to Bennington, 40 minutes from Bennington to Albany.
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