Around the Town Thursday: Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building

Happy Friday eve everyone and welcome to another edition of Around the Town Thursday!  Today we’re back to exploring Kansas City and we’re highlighting the Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building.


Front of Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building

 


Entrance to the Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building

Originally built in 1910, the Livestock Exchange Building was the headquarters of the Kansas City stockyards.  According to the National Register of Historic Places application: “At the turn of the century the stock yards covered 207 acres with accommodations for 70,000 cattle, 40,000 hogs, 45,000 sheep and 5,000 horses and mules daily. By 1871 seven railroads were operating in the stock yards; today there are over ten miles of track inside the yards excluding acres and acres of track to the east and west.”

The stockyards themselves were originally established in 1871 in Kansas City, Kansas along the Kansas River and Missouri Pacific railroad tracks.  According to the Kansas City Kansan newspaper article “How KC became 1 of great stock markets of world”: “In the heyday year of 1923, 2,631,808 cattle were received at the Kansas City yards.”  The stockyards originally contained five acres and by 1883 another 125 acres had been added.  While there were earlier buildings erected on the grounds of the stockyards, the brick building that currently stands is considered the highlight of the period from 1871 to 1909.

Currently (after a thirteen million dollar renovation in 1991) the building serves as an office building, containing everything from restaurant facilities to a post office to a health club.  While not ornate in decor the building has beautiful original oak woodwork and a simple, yet beautiful Grecian key floor border.

This important piece of Kansas City history has withstood time, floods and the closing of the Livestock Exchange.  It’s now a part of the National Register of Historic Places, which will provide the opportunity for future generations to actually see this beautiful building.

Around the Town Thursday: Machu Picchu

In my last post I left you with a little teaser for my next Around the Town Thursday post.  I promised you something special so here it is:

Machu Picchu

Okay, so it’s not exactly around THIS town but my intention was to expand my Around the Town radius, although the original plan was to expand little by little.  So, um…yeah, that brings us to this week’s post on my travels to Machu Picchu!


Me (and Jack, who is located in my belt, haha) in front of the Central Plaza at Machu Picchu

In case you’re wondering about the buffalo in my belt in the picture above, the buffalo’s name is Buffalo Jack and he’s my traveling companion.  Jack was adopted in Fort Hays, Kansas.  D1 and I were there for one of my son’s band performances and I thought Jack was kind of cute.  D1 purchased him for me and we started taking pictures of him in different locations in Fort Hays.  It expanded from there and now he travels with me whenever I go.


Buffalo Jack at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was built by the Incan people about 7,000 feet above sea level in the fifteenth century.  According to UNESCO, “The approximately 200 structures making up this outstanding religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural centre are set on a steep ridge, crisscrossed by stone terraces.”  According to the tour guide I had, Machu Picchu was never actually considered to be “finished”.  There was always ongoing work.  It was called a “Lost City” because when the Incans carved the city out of the surrounding landscape they used the landscape to their advantage and carved WITH the mountain, never destroying what they didn’t have to in order to build this beautiful place.  There are many theories as to what Machu Picchu was used for and no one has yet to learn the real purpose of it.


Terraces at Machu Picchu

Most people, when they decide to go to Machu Picchu, plan for months.  They make preparations well in advance and usually go during the good weather season.  That’s not what I did at all, haha!  I was scheduled to travel to Peru for a work meeting and whenever I travel for work I always try to see at least one interesting site in the locality I’m going to be in.  That’s how I’ve managed to see Tikal, climb Pacaya Volcano, walk the grounds of Chichen Itza, stand on the cliffs of Tulu’um, watch flamingos in Celestun and, now, climb the terraces of Machu Picchu and ascend the stairs of Huayna Picchu (okay, okay, so it was more like crawl up the stairs of Waynapicchu…no judging, LOL).


Machu Picchu – November 2013

Due to some indecision no arrangements for Machu Picchu were made prior to leaving the States.  D1 worked hard to help me make a tentative itinerary, since I’m a person that prefers to have a plan in place when I travel.  For anyone thinking about going to MP this is NOT my recommended course of action.  I strongly recommend you make your arrangements prior to leaving and definitely with a reputable tour company.  You may pay a little more on the front end but you’ll be more likely to get exactly what you want.  If you like a little adventure, go with a tentative itinerary and wing it.  It wasn’t awful but a little pre-planning on our part would have allowed us more time to enjoy MP.

As popular of an attraction as MP is, there is no direct way to get to MP.  From Lima (where my meeting was) I had to take a plane to Cusco, where a car picked us up and took us to a train station in Ollantaytambo (pronounced Oy-an-tay-tahm-bo).


Waiting in Ollantaytambo to take a train to Aguas Calientes!

 


A better picture of the street leading to the train station in Ollantaytambo

From Ollantaytambo we took a train (I highly recommend taking the Vistadome either going or coming back if you can, it’s really neat) to Aguas Calientes (known now as Machu Picchu Pueblo).  We used Peru Rail because I really wanted to ride the Vistadome train.  The picture of the Vistadome on Peru Rail’s website is pretty misleading (it shows an almost fully glass train car but the actual train cars simply have windows in the ceiling of the car) but it’s still neat to be able to look up and see the tops of the mountains.


Our chariot…I mean train…awaits!

 


Upper windows of the Vistadome train

The train ride takes about an hour and a half to get from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and the scenery was beautiful.  I was able to mark another item off my bucket list in addition to going to MP…my first train ride!


On the train to Aguas Calientes!

We were served a nice little snack on the train, complete with a llama tablecloth!


Llama!

When we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we located our hostel and checked in.  I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the hostel was (considering it’s remote location).  They really worked hard to make sure we were as comfortable as possible.  The only issue I had was the toilet was clogged in my room but the staff at the hostel immediately fixed it.  They also offered a baggage hold for guests after check out while the guests toured MP.

We spent a little time shopping in Aguas Calientes, grabbed some dinner and went to bed early since we planned to get up before sunrise so we could (hopefully) watch the sunrise in MP.  It was pretty questionable whether we would actually get to see the sunrise in MP however, because November is the rainy season and MP is so high it tends to be pretty foggy.  But we took the first bus up to MP where we met our tour guide the next morning.  I discovered the joys of having next to no lung capacity at all in Aguas Calientes and it wasn’t getting any better in MP.  What can I say, I’m a Midwest gal thru and thru.  But I kept pushing onward and upward with our tour guide cheering me on until we reached our sunrise viewing location.


A very foggy Machu Picchu

Unfortunately we did not get to see the sunrise.  But as I said, with it being November it was pretty questionable.  Our tour guide went out of his way to make sure we knew this in advance so, while I was a little disappointed, it wasn’t unexpected.  After the sun rose and the fog began to burn off, the tour guide took us on a two hour tour of the ruins explaining what different parts of the ruins were and how the residents of MP might have lived, worked and even celebrated.  Interestingly enough, the tour guide told us that nowhere in the Incan language (that had been discovered at this point) was there a word for war or warfare and that the Incan people were known as peaceful, highly intelligent scholars and workers.  The tour was great.  Well worth every minute and every penny spent on the guide.

Considering we barely had a plan for our trip to MP we managed to hit the jackpot and got tickets to climb Waynapicchu, a massive mountain about 1100 feet above MP that the Incas built a trail up the side of and temples and terraces on top of.  The climb up Waynapicchu is a restricted activity.  There are only 400 people a day allowed to climb WP and it’s done in two groups.  The first group must begin their climb between 8:00am and 9:00am while the second group must begin their climb between 10:00am and 11:00am.  If you don’t arrive to begin your climb within the specified start time you’re not allowed onto WP.


Entrance to Waynapicchu with a map showing different routes you can take,
some longer and some shorter.

 


Waynapicchu, if you look closely you can see the terraces and temples on top

And for good reason.  The trail up WP (and I use the term trail very loosely) is narrow and steep at times.  It was a difficult climb for someone like me who hadn’t make any advanced preparations physically and had little-to-no lung capacity.


Look very closely and you’ll see the train (close to the middle of the picture)

 


Coming down the train…WHOA that’s steep!

 


That’s me in the orange shirt at the turn in the trail

Despite the lack of planning going to MP was well worth the time, money and effort.  Here’s some recommendations I have if you’re thinking about going:

  • Make a plan in advance.  Even if you don’t stick to that plan, this is a location you really do want some type of itinerary to refer to simply because of all the different modes of travel you have to take to get there.
  • Use a tour company when at all possible.  It’s possible to maneuver through MP by yourself but it’s so much more enjoyable when you have someone explaining things to you.  It’s also worth the money to let someone else worry about the logistics of transportation 🙂
  • Everyone tells you to stay in Cusco.  I preferred Aguas Calientes to Cusco, even though there was less to do in Aguas Calientes.  Aguas Calientes was not only closer to MP so we were able to get up to MP to possibly see the sunrise but we were also able to relax the night before going to MP.
  • Get tickets for WP.  The 8:00am time slot would have been my preferred time slot because we could have had time to rest afterwards somewhere and then tour the rest of MP but even if you go at the 10:00am time slot it’s well worth the climb.
  • Take your time climbing around the ruins (and if you go) WP.  Enjoy the sights and views, take lots of pictures, and don’t push yourself past your limit.
  • Drink lots of bottled water.  Avoid the tap water at all costs.  Don’t overdo the alcohol.
  • Spend the FULL DAY at MP and return to Aguas Calientes that night.  Don’t go back to Cusco the day you tour MP.  There are tour companies that will sell you what they call a full day tour but before you purchase make sure that tour doesn’t send you to Cusco immediately after touring MP.  Returning to Aguas Calientes instead of Cusco will allow you more time at MP and will allow you to simply return to your hostel after exhausting yourself at MP.  And you will be exhausted.
  • See the Sun Gate and the Incan Bridge if you can.  I missed these sites at MP because we actually ended up with only a 3/4 day tour with the WP climb.
  • Stop to see the llamas (or alpacas)

A local Machu Picchu llama (or alpaca, I can’t remember which has the longer neck!)
  • Take time to acclimate to the altitude.  If you’re not used to the altitude it will take its toll on you.
  • There is ONE bank and ATM in Aguas Calientes.  And merchants charge an additional 10% to use your credit card there.  Plan accordingly.
  • When shopping plan to negotiate with the local merchants
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.  I didn’t have any issues but I’ve heard that pickpockets work in teams and catch their victims unaware by using distractions you might not think of as pickpocketing distractions.
  • Try a pisco sour, the national drink of Peru (and Chile).  I’m not saying their great but if you go to Peru you have to try the national drink, LOL

Above all else enjoy yourself.  Machu Picchu is an UNESCO World Heritage Centre and is absolutely worth the time and effort to see.  I enjoyed the time I was able to spend there and hope to go with D1 one of these days!


View of the terraces of Machu Picchu from the trail of Waynapicchu

Around the Town Thursday: The Money Museum at Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  We’ve got a nice little post for you to read while you’re enjoying your good food.  Today we’re peeking in at The Money Museum at Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.


The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
The Money Museum is located inside the Federal Reserve Bank

The Money Museum gives visitors the opportunity to watch millions of dollars of currency be processed, check out some interesting exhibits and learn about the economy all in one visit.  And the best part of all of this is that it’s free to view!

Reservations are not required to tour this museum for groups of 20 or fewer but you will need to go thru a security screening to get in.  You can sign up for a guided tour for groups of 15 or more.

Hours of operation, parking and accessibility information and information regarding security screening can be found here for the museum.  For a little prep for your tour you can check out highlights of the Money Museum here.  The museum recommends approximately one hour to complete the self-guided tour.  It’s right next door to the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial, however, so you can make a day of it and tour both museums!

This museum is definitely worth your time, so make plans to go learn all about the economy and the currency process at The Money Museum at Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

And make sure to stop by next week for a very special Around the Town Thursday post!  We definitely won’t be in Kansas anymore!

Around the Town Thursday: Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall

It’s Thursday and time for another edition of Around the Town Thursday.  In the spotlight today is a historic building that’s very near and dear to my heart: Corinthian Hall.


South facade (front) of Corinthian Hall

 


Porte cochere with bronze and wire glass canopy

Many local residents might know this building as the Kansas City Museum of History and Science, which it did house for many years.

Many Kansas Citians may remember such icons as the igloo on the third floor, the covered wagon on the first floor and the tepee display on the first floor of the museum.  And who could forget the Natural History Hall housed in the carriage house which was full of stuffed animals contained in lifelike dioramas of natural habitats of each animal.  I’m sure many of us remember the bear at the end of the hall!

But what many visitors of this hallowed institution may not know is the fabulous history of this building and its residents.  Kansas City has a wonderful history tied directly to the builder of this home: Robert A. Long.

Robert A. Long was many things but he’s most well-known in the Kansas City area for being a lumber baron, philanthropist and driving force behind the Liberty Memorial (now known as the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial).  He was also instrumental in the building of several other buildings in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

According to the Friends of Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall website, “Corinthian Hall, one of Kansas City’s larges and most well-known residences, began its life not as a plan for a mansion, but as a plan for a stable.”  According to Robert Long’s daughter, Loula Long Combs, Robert saw the need for a new stable and decided the family should also have a new home to go with it.  That decision lead to the creation of Corinthian Hall.  Referred to as Corinthian Hall because of the six Corinthian columns located in the front of the house, Corinthian Hall boasted approximately 50,000 square feet of space which was broken down into three floors containing approximately 70 rooms and closets, 15 bathrooms, nine fireplaces, an attic and a basement containing a full-length bowling alley.  The home was completed in 1910 and the Long family resided there until Robert Long’s death in 1934.

The building is absolutely gorgeous on the outside and inside.  Right now, with the restoration going on, you have to enter the grounds from the North side of the grounds.  But oh!  What an entrance.  If you happen to go during the spring and summer the wisteria may very well be in bloom on the pergolas and its so pleasant to just be able to sit on a stone bench, under the wisteria-covered pergolas and enjoy the shade and beauty of the grounds.


North entrance of the grounds of Corinthian Hall, partially showing the pergola and wisteria

 


Pergola and wisteria at Corinthian Hall

Access to Corinthian Hall is currently restricted to hard hat and guided exhibit tours.  I can’t recommend the hard hat tour enough.  It’s a great tour and gives visitors a great deal of insight into the history and current renovations going on.  You can see where the renovations stand now, hear about previous phases of the renovations and learn about future plans for the museum.  The stained glass, original walls and floors, grand staircase and other fancy bits are a beauty to behold, even now during renovations.  One can only imagine what the grandeur might be like when the renovations are complete.  Information on the hard hat tours can be found here.


Grand staircase

 


Beautiful stained glass window at the top of the Grand Staircase

 


Stained glass bay window in the dining room

 


Close up of stained glass bay window in the dining room

 


Close up of stained glass bay window in the dining room

 


Stained glass sunlight in the sun room

 


Decorative corner moulding located in the Grand Salon

There’s a fantastic timeline of the history of the museum on the Kansas City Museum‘s website but the short and sweet is that after Robert Long’s death in 1934 the house sat empty until 1939 when the Kansas City Museum opened it’s doors within the house.  The buildings and grounds were put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.  In 1999, the association which managed the museum merged with the entity which managed Union Station and in 2001 the two entities merged and incorporated.  In 2005, the museum embarked on it’s current path of restoration from the museum of the 1950s-1980s back into the R.A. Long home known as Corinthian Hall.

Personally I’m very excited to see the restoration continue on Corinthian Hall.  I’ve watched the restoration as its moved through each of its phases thus far in the process and, while it takes a great deal of time, I’m confident that the results will be well worth the wait.

Museum admission is currently free while the renovations are going on.  Current hours can be found here.  There are some very interesting current exhibits to be seen during your visit and don’t forget to check out their great adult and family programs that are currently available.

The few pictures I’ve included in this post are just a few of the gorgeous elements of Corinthian Hall.  Take a day to stop by and see this historic gem, take a hard hat tour, walk around the grounds and check out the beauty.  It’ll be worth your time.

Around the Town Thursday: Pirtle Winery

Welcome to another edition of Around the Town Thursday!  I’m very excited for today’s post, for two reasons: first and foremost, it’s a winery.  If that’s not enough there’s the second reason, it’s a winery in a church building.  Oh but it gets better!  The old church Pirtle Winery resides in is a Lutheran Evangelical Church that was built by German immigrants.  Being Lutheran I find that very humorous.  So for me, it just doesn’t get much better than that, LOL!  Until you get to the wine, that is.

Pirtle Winery has been open since 1978.  According to their About Us page, they’ve been family owned and operated since they opened.  What a great history to be able to claim.  Located in Weston, Missouri, they’re a must stop on the Missouri Wine Trail.

Their wine line up contains the expected red and white grape varieties, but it also contains some fruit varieties such as apple, blueberry and cherry chocolate.  An unexpected treat that you’ll find on their wine list is mead.  If you’ve never experienced mead, you should try it at least once.  What is mead?  The simple definition is that it’s a wine made of honey.  Here’s a good article on mead (courtesy of About.com).  While many wineries tend to stay away from mead, Pirtle embraces it.  There are currently three different types of mead listed for sale on Pirtle’s website.  While I’m not personally a mead fan, I highly recommend stopping by to try Pirtle’s mead (and other wines, of course).

When you stop in at Pirtle, allow yourself a little time to look around.  Pirtle has an indoor winegarden and wine bar (a new feature I haven’t seen yet) which can be enjoyed but if you’re there on a nice day, make it a point to buy a bottle of Pirtle wine, step outside to their vine-covered outdoor wine garden (located between the winery and press house), sit and enjoy the day and your wine.  You won’t regret the time spent there.