Archive | July, 2012

California State Fair: FUN that Moves You!

30 Jul

Nothing says “State Fair” like the smell of hay and fresh manure …

Unless it’s the sound of carnies trying to entice you to take a ride …

Or the promise of deep-fried … anything!

And, of course, if you’re in Sacramento in July, and the temperature consistently hovers around 100 degrees, it must be time for the California State Fair!

(Lego Bear, built by fine artist Nathan Sawaya; 40,000 pieces, took 80 hours to construct. Previously displayed at the California State Fair in 2007)

I have lived in Sacramento since 1988, and have attended the State Fair nearly every year since moving here. It’s one of the highlights of my summer.

While many people go for the food or the rides, my favorite fair activities include visiting the Livestock Pavilion and Nursery,

admiring the quilts

and the Fine Arts,

(“Cupcakes” by Robyn Slakey)

watching hypnotist Suzy Haner and other shows at the Expo Center,

and visiting the Floriculture exhibit — which included some colorful and exotic birds this year!

When my children were younger, we would often team up with another single-parent family and attend the Fair together. The kids would head for the Magical Midway rides, the parents would visit the County Exhibits, the Shopper’s Expo, and the Wine Garden!

Similarly, Carrieanna and her parents would visit the Fair annually “from gates-open to gates-closed.” Their Fair experience was a little different from mine in that they included a day pass to the Raging Waters water park, taking time throughout the day to swim, enjoy the water features and cool off, and then returning to the Fair exhibits.

In recent years, however, Carrieanna has been unable to attend the State Fair.

Although the grounds are accessible

and have many convenient restrooms – often an important consideration for wheelchair users – the hot Sacramento weather keeps Carrieanna from attending, as heat exacerbates the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

Instead, she “visits” the Fair vicariously through my photos.

So here we go ….

In The Farm area, the aisles are wide — but not shaded — and the plants are often huge!

This sunflower has some seeds missing — snacking birds, perhaps?

Visitors to the Farm were offered a refreshing slice of watermelon. Yum!

Next door is the Forest Center, with a cool path leading to an information center where visitors are offered a redwood seedling.

I was aware of many wheelchair users throughout the day. This woman, Sherry, lost her foot and parts of her fingers due to a disease. She told me that when she gets her prosthesis, she plans to do volunteer work to show amputees that life goes on. (I admire her spirit, and I wish her much success.)

I first noticed the Floriculture area and the Birds in Paradise exhibit from above. Naturally, I had to get a closer look at the birds, including these two colorful macaws!

Although I skipped the Shopper’s Expo, I did spend a few minutes in the Counties Exhibit and, in particular, enjoyed watching “Spirit,”

a bald eagle who lost part of her wing and, therefore, is unable to fly. Spirit is part of the “Wet ‘n’ Wild California” exhibit created by two state agencies (the Dept. of Water Resources and the Fish and Game Dept.) to educate the public about native animals and how water impacts their habitats.

I then headed over to the Exposition Center, where I especially enjoyed watching the grace and balance of The Stilt Circus

as well as the stroll down memory lane in Toytopia 2.0

Building with Lincoln Logs (fun for all ages!)

Cabbage Patch Doll, My Pretty Pony, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (“turtles on a half shell; turtle power!”)

And larger-than-life Transformers!

I enjoyed watching the dance and tumbling exhibition on Center Stage – especially since a friend’s daughter was one of the cartwheeling participants!

And then my tired feet informed me it was time to go home.

Another fun year at the California State Fair!

(“FUN That Moves You” is the Fair’s theme this year.)

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The Original Haarlem

20 Jul

According to Rick Steves’ book “Easy Access Europe(copyright 2006, Avalon Travel Publishing), “In a recent study, the Dutch people were found to be the most content people in Europe. In another study, the people of Haarlem were found to be the most content in the Netherlands.”

Because Haarlem is a quick 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam’s Central Station, we decided to take a day trip to this lovely city during our October 2010 trip to Amsterdam.

Haarlem’s train station, decorated with Art Nouveau from 1908, has elevators that allow wheelchair users access from the platform to the street level.

Two parallel streets flank the train station (Kruisweg and Jansweg); if you head up either street, you’ll arrive at the town square and church in six wheelchair-accessible blocks.

(Note: the sidewalks can be narrow, and there are often many pedestrians. The bicycle bell on Carrieanna’s wheelchair was, once again, a valuable tool in navigating through the crowds!)

Haarlem’s market square (Grote Markt), where 10 streets converge, has been the town’s centerpiece for 700 years.

Food stalls intermingle with displays of clothing, souvenirs and other sundries. All were easy for Carrieanna to navigate.

Overseeing the square is a statue of L.J. Coster, who is purported to have been the father of modern printing (some 40 years before Gutenberg invented movable type). In the statue, Coster holds up a block of movable type and points to himself, as if to say, “I made this.”

The statue faces Haarlem’s Town Hall, built from a royal hunting lodge in the mid-1200s, then rebuilt after a 1351 fire. (The façade dates from 1630.) The entry is wheelchair accessible, with a fully-adapted toilet – one of the few in town.

The 15th-century Gothic church, “Grote Kerk,” is located at one end of the Grote Markt. Moderately accessible, there is a tall step and a ledge to get in the door, but the interior is accessible.

The amazing organ within (100 feet tall, 5,000 pipes; said to have impressed both Handel and Mozart) is on the west end of the church, opposite the altar area.

There is a free organ concert on Tuesdays at 20:15 from mid-May to Mid-October; an additional concert is held on Thursdays at 15:00 in July-August.

Haarlem is the hometown of Frans Hal, a famous Dutch painter in the 17th century. The Frans Hals Museum, a former almshouse for old men back in 1610, displays many of his greatest paintings.

Most of the interior is wheelchair accessible (except for a couple of steps into two rooms, and four steps into another). According to “Easy Access Europe,” the museum does have one loaner wheelchair, although it is first-come, first-served.

The courtyard was a lovely place to stroll and roll.

It is good to note that while the wheelchair user does pay an entrance fee, his or her wheelchair-pushing companion is allowed free entrance.

It is also important to note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

Although we did not take the canal cruise in Haarlem, Rick Steves describes it thus: “Making a scenic 50-minute loop through and around Haarlem with a live guide who speaks up to four languages, these little trips by Woltheus Cruises are more relaxing than informative.”

One of the boats is fully accessible, and should be reserved ahead of time.

We enjoyed our visit to Haarlem, and found it to be easy to get around, whether strolling or rolling!

(All factual information is taken from “Easy Access Europe” by Rick Steves. Although this book is currently out of print, we found it to be a valuable resource and highly recommend finding a copy – used or new – when planning a trip to Amsterdam, Paris, Bruges, and many other major European destinations.)

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