In New York City: How one man’s obsession for Native American art led to the creation of two museums

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Nearly 160,000 beads went into the creation of this Inuit “amauti” or “tuilli,” a woman’s inner parka from Nunavut, Canada, circa 1890-1925. It’s made from caribou skin, stroud cloth, metal pendants and caribou teeth. Read below for further details.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

It all began with a Navajo deerskin shirt, which George Gustav Heye (1874-1957) acquired in 1897 in Kingston, Arizona, where he was the superintendent on a railroad project.

By the time he died, Heye, who held a degree in electrical engineering, had amassed more than 800,000 indigenous peoples’ objects — perhaps the single largest collection held by a private individual — and co-founded the Museum of the American Indian in New York, which was opened to the public in a new building at 155th Street and Broadway in 1922. The native New Yorker was its director from inception until a year before his death.

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Sunka Luta (Red Dog) of the Lakota Oglala tribe, living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in what is now South Dakota, drew 52 images in a leather-bound ledger around 1884. Red Dog was a brother-in-law to Chief Red Cloud and often acted as his spokesman. Eagle feathers were awarded to warriors for courageous deeds such as liberating a horse from an enemy camp.  

Today, about 700 items ranging from basketry, to beaded moccasins and clothing, to carved masks, pottery and more are on display at the National Museum of the American Indian-New York, George Gustav Heye Center, which I toured on a recent Sunday.

These exquisite artifacts, showcasing Native Americans’ masterful command of many disciplines, convey the tribes’ inextricable connection to nature and the land.

Since October 1994, this part of the collection has been located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, completed in lower Manhattan in 1907. The Beaux Arts building, covering three city blocks, is a destination in itself, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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This padded saddle (not to be confused with a frame saddle) was probably made in Canada around 1880 and belonged to a Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee) rider. The soft leather form is stuffed with grass, buffalo or horse hair. Glass-beaded floral and geometric motifs decorate the top. Wool, brass bells and yarn hang from the edges. Tribes such as the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Assiniboine and Dakota also used padded saddles.

Because the museum is a branch of the Smithsonian, admission is free, especially welcome in an extremely pricy city. Its location adjacent to Battery Park is also convenient for those interested in an American history day out: The ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants came into the New World from 1892 to 1954, leaves from the park at the southern tip of Manhattan. (The ferry ticket includes both island stops.)

Heye was also an investment banker for eight years in the early 1900s. When the ups and downs of the financial world no longer held much interest — but had imparted a liberating fortune — he gained further funding from his well-off family and friends and turned his full attention to his voracious, consuming passion.

He enlisted anthropologists on his quest, and sent them on buying trips to far-flung parts of North America, South America and Central America. An enthusiastic amateur — he had no academic training in archaeology, anthropology or curatorial rigor — Heye also took an active role himself, purchasing goods from tribes, dealers and museums.

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Beaded floral motifs also adorn both sets of deerskin and cotton thread moccasins. They were worn by members of the Nimi ‘ipuu (Nez Perce) tribe, probably made around 1880 in Idaho, 10 years before it became a state.

After Heye’s death, his museum fell on hard times, including a dubious episode of a former director being charged with giving away or selling artifacts for his own benefit. Among the failed schemes to revive it was an offer of $70 million from billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot to move the priceless collection to Dallas in the mid-1980s.

Finally in 1989, an agreement was reached to transfer stewardship of the artifacts to the Smithsonian Institution and legislation was passed to establish the National Museum of the American Indian, with a purpose-built building to follow on the National Mall adjacent to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

That building opened in 2004, and Heye’s collection forms the foundation for more than 85 percent of its holdings. I visited in 2008 and was wowed by the architecture inside and out, to say nothing of the abundance of engrossing artifacts. (Photographs, paintings and treaty documents are in the collection at the Washington location.)

The permanent exhibit in New York, grouped geographically, is titled “Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian.”

Much of the explanatory signage is brief, confined to a description of the materials used, the name of the tribe and its region, and the date the object was likely made.

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This headdress of blue and red macaw feathers and white heron feathers comes from Brazil.

An eye-catching, diverse array of headdresses opens the exhibit. Among the largest is a horseshoe-shaped frame covered with tightly overlapping blue and red macaw feathers, accented around the perimeter with smaller white heron feathers. From Brazil, circa 1990, it was used during naming and boys’ initiation ceremonies. In an accompanying photograph, it looks cumbersome, the top arching above the back of the wearer’s head, and the bottom edges brushing the upper thighs.

In-depth information accompanies the 10 “focal-point” pieces, enclosed in stand-alone display cases. Accompanying media feature touch-screen images, text and a scholar talking about the details and background of the object.

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Eleven stripe-like rifles span the shoulder area of the top half of the Apsáalooke (Crow) warrior’s exploit robe, acquired from Fort Benton, Montana in 1861. The buffalo hide retells six incidents in a warrior’s life. (Please ignore the reflection on the glass from the overhead lights.)

One of the star items tells its own story. The Apsáalooke (Crow) warrior’s exploit robe, one of two known to be in any collection, dates to around 1850 and was secured from Fort Benton, Montana, in 1861. Its elongated figures and weapons illustrate six episodes attesting to the warrior’s bravery in battle, essential for any male aspiring to a tribal leadership role. It measures about 7.4 feet long and about 6.4 feet wide (224 by 193 centimeters).

Made from buffalo hide, pigment, red wool trade cloth, beads, porcupine quills and horsehair, the robe is read from top to bottom and from right to left. Though a Crow garment, it was in possession of a Blackfoot, who may have come by it through the spoils of war, trade or as a gift. The enemy tribes would have visited Fort Benton, a major trading post, to acquire beads, steel knives, copper pots, guns, powder and lead.

Spanning the shoulders on either side of the beadwork are 11 parallel long-barreled guns (they look like stripes), which the warrior took from the enemy. The red triangle on the left side signifies a horse’s head.

Another magnificent garment, noted for its vibrant colors, beadwork and functionality, is an Inuit “amauti” or “tuilli,” a woman’s inner parka from Nunavut, Canada, circa 1890-1925. More specifically, it was acquired near Cape Fullerton, a former whaling station on the west coast of Hudson Bay.

Inuit men were hired as hunting guides and to crew the whaleboats, while the women sewed mitts, parkas, boots and sleeping bags.

Crafted from caribou skin, nearly 160,000 glass beads, stroud cloth, caribou teeth and metal pendants, the wide-shouldered parka would have allowed a mother to carry her baby in a neck-level pouch on the back, and swing the infant around to the front when it was time to nurse, minimizing its exposure to the elements.

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Design elements such as the antique metal dividers from the original Cashier’s Office at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House are preserved in the museum store. The newly expanded shop has a wide range of expertly crafted Native American jewelry, rugs, carvings and more. 

These beautiful objects might inspire visitors to start their own collection, beginning with a stop at the museum store. High-quality jewelry, rugs, wood and stone carvings, apparel, pottery and basketry crafted by Native American artists are among the extensive inventory, complemented by a range of books and DVDs.

The shop has just undergone a $2 million renovation, increasing the display space to 3,000 feet. This area was the Cashier’s Office of the U.S. Custom House, back when it was a major revenue collection location. The expansion retained the gate-like antique metal dividers that date to the early 1900s, and the chandeliers and crown molding were also preserved.

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The National Museum of the American Indian’s New York branch is located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan.

Quick reference: National Museum of the American Indian-New York, George Gustav Heye Center, 1 Bowling Green, adjacent to northeast corner of Battery Park. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, until 8 p.m. Thursdays. Closed December 25. Admission: Free. nmai.si.edu Visitors must pass through security screening and metal detector. No storage lockers, no cafe.

Other exhibits: “Manifestipi,” through March 25, 2018; “Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed,” through May 20, 2018; “Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound,” through January 6, 2019; “Circle of Dance,” though April 2019.

The third floor is home to the New York branch of the National Archives. It’s open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For those with genealogical ties to New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, this is a good place to start tracing your family history. Access to some records requires an appointment. Check the website for details. http://www.archives.gov/nyc

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The art of Portuguese tiles: Where skill and imagination intersect with history and culture

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Portuguese creativity has come a long way from blue-and-white tiles painted in the Delft style. This three-dimensional celebration of nature was on a side wall near a business in Lisbon.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

This is the sixth post on my spring 2017 trip to Portugal. See January 16, 2018 for a post about a visit to Taylor’s port wine lodge in Porto; June 2, 2017 about unexpectedly meeting author/TV travel host Rick Steves in Lisbon; July 30 for a post about the Casa da Musica in Porto; August 20 on cork and its importance to Portugal; and September 3 on custard tarts, a Portuguese specialty.

Even if you are in a hurry to make a train connection, or upon arrival just eager to get to your hotel, do not pass up the opportunity to spend a few minutes craning your neck upward to study the illustrations, composed of more than 20,000 tiles, that decorate the mansard-roofed São Bento station in Porto.

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At the São Bento train station in Porto, Portugal, more than 20,000 hand-painted tiles make up the scenes depicted all over the walls.

These elaborate hand-painted interior pictures, depicting folk scenes and important events in Portuguese history, are among the most well-known in a country with no shortage of decorative tile work.

One panel tells the story of the Battle of Aljubarrota, a 14th-century face-off between Portugal and Spain, which ended with a victory for John I and the English-backed Portuguese.

Another portrays Henry the Navigator’s (1394-1460) conquest of Ceuta (in Morocco) in 1415, which ushered in the era of Portuguese colonial expansion.

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Attention to detail breathes life into this scene in the São Bento train station.

The pastoral ones are more compact and easier to see because they are lower on the walls, some of which have three tiers or more of tile work.

Polished ceramic tiles — and pottery for that matter — are a long-ingrained part of Portugal’s culture. Brightly colored squares can be found adorning the exterior of many buildings, sometimes snaking around balconies and windows while climbing from street level to the roof.

On some churches, every exterior inch is covered in tiles. At random locations around Lisbon, contemporary three-dimensional techniques show the range of this eye-catching craft.

The Moors first brought the process to Portugal, as early as the eighth century. Interlocking patterns were generally geometrical, or representations drawn from nature because it was against Islamist tradition to depict the human figure.

New approaches and mass production were introduced in the ensuing centuries, and by the 1700s, the Portuguese had melded these outside influences into a style all their own.

That a museum in Lisbon is dedicated to tiles and their history only underscores the ongoing association with this accessible art.

The Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum), housed in a former convent on Lisbon’s eastern side, takes up the story of tiles in Portugal from the 15th century on.

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One section of the 75-foot-long panorama of Lisbon’s waterfront, as it looked around 1740. The panorama was transferred from one of the city’s palaces to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum).

Its can’t-miss attraction in a second-floor gallery is a 75-foot-long (23 meters) panorama of Lisbon’s waterfront as it appeared around 1740. Executed in the blue-and-white Delft style, it’s also a historical document because the look of central Lisbon was much changed following the devastating earthquake of November 1, 1755, which killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 of the 270,000 population.

A red information panel runs along the bottom of the panorama, identifying, where possible, the buildings and includes some historical details.

Elements from the Madre de Deus convent, such as a small cloister, were incorporated into the museum. The tiles featured on its walls date to the 19th century.

Also surviving is the barrel-vaulted church, constructed over three centuries, and featuring not only tile panels but heavily gilted woodwork.

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Animals are the theme on the tiles around the museum’s cafeteria.

Tiles of a more whimsical variety can be found in the ground level cafeteria and winter garden area. In that this is a place of food consumption, animals in various stages of curing are on the wall tiles and wrapping the counter fronts, not jumping bunnies, wiggly pigs and flitting birds.

Depending on your level of interest, budget at least an hour to 90 minutes to wander among the exhibits.

With the heavy tile presence, I thought Lisbon might afford another opportunity to make one myself, much as I had done when I visited the Royal Delft porcelain factory in Delft, in the Netherlands (see April 24, 2017 post).

So I started my search on the Museu Nacional do Azulejo website. It appeared that a workshop was offered, but no specifics were given. So I fired off an email … and waited. No response came, so I emailed the staff at my hotel, the Inspira Santa Marta, and asked if it would call and follow up my inquiry. The request was honored but the news wasn’t encouraging: workshops were held for groups of 10 only. (At the Tile Museum, I did see a table laid with blank tiles, brushes and glass bowls of paint, seemingly waiting for artists to descend.)

Then I started to really dig on the Internet. One place, in business since 1741, wanted an outrageous amount of money, charging at the same rate for two people as for a group of 10. The fee was 300 euros per person (about $376), plus VAT (value added tax). But if I was one of 10, the cost dropped to 30 euros (about $37). It also charged an additional fee to ship the tile home. I immediately eliminated that company as a possibility.

More digging, more inquires sent. Finally, I found Loja dos Descobrimentos, a small shop near Praça do Comércio (riverfront square), specializing in hand-painted tiles and workshops. It checked the right boxes: All materials were included as was the firing, we could pick up our tiles 48 hours later and no prepayment was required, just a reservation. Visa and MasterCard (and, of course, cash) accepted.

And it only cost 15 curos (about $19), VAT included.

I booked this for a morning early in our trip,  knowing that when my friend Sylvia and I finished our workshop, we would not be too far from the Tile Museum and would go there afterward.

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Endless souvenir possibilities of many shapes and sizes at Loja dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon.

The shop itself was a delight. For the 300 euros the other business wanted, I could have bought a whole lot of tiles, bowls, dishes, vases and other souvenirs.

Josefa, the woman who answered my email, was our instructor, and we two her only pupils that day, sitting at a small rectangular white-topped table.

The basic steps that I had followed in Delft were in play in Lisbon. We selected from a series of stencil patterns and used little charcoal-filled cloth pouches to puff/ transfer the design outline to our tiles.

Josefa showed us how to use the color at full strength or to dilute it for contrast. We also practiced painting on shards before we set to work on our tiles. She was very specific about making long, continuous strokes emphasizing the positive aesthetics of such, rather than a series of short, spiky-looking lines. Some correction of wayward painting is possible, but it’s better to get it right the first time.

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Using a charcoal-filled pouch and stencil, I transferred a floral design onto the tile on the left. The one on the right was an example of how to apply the paint and make the brushstrokes. The charcoal outline disappears in the firing process.

We worked deliberately, and spent a bit more than an hour trying to perfect our floral designs. One of the shop’s staff was painting on a vertical easel to our right, with much more speed, precision and skill.

When we finished, we browsed the shop briefly, checked what time we should return on Saturday to pick up our fired tiles, and paid for our workshop and souvenirs. Then we headed for the Tile Museum.

On Saturday morning, there was some question as to where our tiles were. Brief consultation among staff finally located them in a back room, where they were still cooling from the firing process.

Brought to us at the front counter, still warm to the touch, they were encased in bubble wrap, secure for the trip home.

Quick reference: Loja dos Descobrimentos, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 12A-14A (next door to Hotel Riverside Alfama). Phone: (+351) 281 865 563. http://www.loja-descobrimentos.com

Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m Tuesdays-Sundays. Admission: 5 euros (about $6.27, discounts available for 65 and older and students), audio guide included. Rua da Madre de Deus 4. http://www.museudoazulejo.pt

On a winter’s day, a double helping of English cheddar cheese (Yes, please)

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Cheddar and Black Pepper Scones pair nicely with a bowl of soup, or as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

On a rare snowy day in January here in the deep South, when going outside for any length of time was further discouraged by temperatures barely in the 20s and a gusty wind, I headed to the kitchen. I weighed making some of my favorite recipes, but this seemed like an opportunity to try some new ones.

(I’m not a cold-weather wimp — I’ve lived in North Dakota, Connecticut, Michigan, upstate New York and Missouri. Residents of those states know a thing or two about cold and snowy weather.)

I love cheese, particularly extra-sharp cheddar. I build sandwiches around it, eat it out of hand with apple slices, snack on it with crackers, layer it in casseroles, and fold it into savory baked goods. All in moderation, of course, because cheddar has a hefty fat content.

With a 20-ounce block of Coastal rugged mature cheddar, made by Ford Farms in Dorchester, England, in the refrigerator, I decided to build around that ingredient.

And what better food on a blustery day than soup? On an earlier spin through one of my cookbooks, I had marked Potato, Parsnip and Cheddar Cheese Soup, and settled on making that.

The roux made from flour and butter (or margarine) helps thicken the soup, as does the addition of heated milk and melting cheddar. When all that is whisked together, then stirred into the vegetable base, the yield is a stick-to-the spoon thick, mildly flavored bowl of comfort.

Because cheese can present one of the hardest cleanup tasks, use an enameled Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, for making the soup. If you don’t own one, then keep a close eye on the soup and the heat level on the stove once you’ve added the milk-cheese mixture. You don’t want it to burn and make a crusty mess.

To accompany the velvety soup, and to have a “utensil” to mop up every little bit of it from the bowl, I made Cheddar and Black Pepper Scones. Hot out of the oven, they reminded me of bumpy, flaky biscuits. The cheddar oozes as the scones bake, giving them that little extra oomph. When cooled, the texture was denser, more like traditional scones.

Light cream-colored Coastal cheddar is aged for up to 15 months. Flakier than some cheddars, it has thin veins of calcium lactate crystals that impart a subtle crunch. The hit of salt is also a nice contrast to the mellow, nutty flavor of the cheese.

The soup can be a main course, balanced with a mixed green salad with red bell peppers, grape tomatoes, celery, onions, carrots and olives. Or any combination of your own liking, of course.

If you’ve had a an outdoorsy day, burning a lot of calories and energy, then there’s no need to feel guilty about this splurge on the cheddar side.

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Creamy Potato, Parsnip and Cheddar Cheese Soup is stick-to-your ribs comfort food.

Potato, Parsnip and Cheddar Cheese Soup

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Serves: 6 to 8

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about two large), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

4 cups water, vegetarian stock or chicken stock

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or margarine

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut in small dice or shredded

Carrot curls for garnish (optional)

In a large, heavy Dutch oven, combine potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onion and water or stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover partway, and reduce heat to medium. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.

After the soup has been cooking about 20 minutes, begin the milk-cheese part. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter or margarine over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk. Lower heat as necessary and do not let the mixture reach a boil. The mixture will thicken as you continue whisking, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cheddar cheese and continue whisking as it melts. Keep the mixture warm until the soup is ready.

Pour the milk-cheese mix into the vegetables. Stir thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into individual dishes and garnish with carrot curls on top. As it cools, the soup will form a skin on top, so stir before serving.

Refrigerated leftovers will keep 3 to 4 days in a tightly covered container.

Adapted from “One Potato, Two Potato: 300 Recipes from Simple to Elegant — Appetizers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and More” by Roy Finamore with Molly Stevens (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2001, $35)

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Lining the baking tray with parchment paper can make cleanup easier because any cheese that melts won’t stick to the paper.

Cheddar and Black Pepper Scones

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes

Makes: About 40 (1 1/2-inch) scones

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine

1 cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded or cut in small dice

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper (decrease the amount if you want less heat)

3/4 cup (6 ounces) buttermilk, plain yogurt or sour cream

Milk for glaze (optional)

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. With a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in butter and cheese. Stir in black pepper. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir in the buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream. The mixture will be very crumbly. It should hold together, but if not, add buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream by the tablespoon as needed.

Gather dough into a ball and turn out onto a well-floured surface or piece of parchment paper.

Pat the mixture into a 12-by-8-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between squares. They will rise and expand as they bake. Brush top of each square lightly with milk, if desired.

Alternatively, use a 2- or 2 21/2-inch floured biscuit cutter to stamp out scones, or cut dough into larger squares or triangles.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the sheets about halfway through and swapping positions on oven racks, until lightly golden on top. The melting cheese may dribble a bit, and baking on parchment paper will speed the cleanup.

Store for up to a week in an air-tight container.

Nutrition information, per 2-scone serving: 132 calories, 6.4 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 1 gram sugar, 1 gram dietary fiber, 19 milligrams cholesterol, 302 milligrams sodium, 14 grams complex carbohydrates. (These figures apply to the 1 1/2-inch scones.)

Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe, http://www.kingarthurflour.com

At the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, Scotland: Eat, drink, pipe, sleep

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Framed by the window behind the silhouette of a bagpipe is the Theatre Royal, directly across the street from the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. The theater is home to the Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

In October 2017, I visited Scotland for 10 days. This is the third in a series about my wanderings. For a post about Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, see December 15, 2017; for one about the retired Royal Yacht Britannia, see post of January 9, 2018.

“Would you like a wee dram?” the young, dark-haired, blue-eyed woman asked me from behind the bar/check-in area as I arrived at my hotel in Glasgow.

It wasn’t even noon yet. I eyed the small clear plastic glass, not much larger than a thimble, about three-quarters full of a beckoning golden liquid. Behind it on a rectangular silver tray sat a bottle of Glenfiddich whisky. Small bites of crumbly shortbread were scattered on a plate.

A bit startled by the offer, it didn’t take me long to reply: “Yes, thank you.” Down it went, smoothly, with just the right amount of warmth trickling in my throat to stave off a chilly Scottish morning.

The Pipers’ Tryst is not only a very friendly place to stay, it’s a celebration of many things Scottish. Besides the whisky, locally sourced menus offer traditional Scottish favorites, and right next door to the eight-room hotel is the National Piping Centre. The buildings occupy the converted, Italianate-style Old Cowcaddens Church, built in 1872.

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The National Piping Centre (left) adjoins the Pipers’ Tryst Hotel. Both occupy a former Italianate-style house of worship, the Old Cowcaddens Church, constructed from cream sandstone and completed in 1872. 

It’s also well-located, about a 10-minute walk to the city center and main train station, and close to the Cowcaddens metro stop. Directly across the street is the Theatre Royal, the oldest theater in Glasgow, and home of the Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

I stopped in one day to check the schedule but unfortunately no performance coincided with my stay. Several other music venues are also nearby.

In my modestly furnished room, red-and-tan plaid blankets and matching throw pillows were on the ample bed (some rooms have a green-and-blue color scheme), which was also equipped with a coffee/tea-making station (two two-cookie shortbread packages provided daily). Scottish spring water was in a tall, capped clear glass bottle on a small dressing table. The room was pretty Spartan, but it was enough for my purposes.

The spotless bathroom was larger than I was expecting, and looked like it had been more recently updated than the sleeping area.

Perched on the corner of the tub was a 3 1/2-inch tall rubber duck, jauntily dressed in in his own red-and-black plaid, black tam-o’-shanter, red-and-white epaulets, and with a blowpipe pressed to his beak. Angus made me laugh out loud.

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Say hello to Angus, posing here on the bed, but who was more at home on the rim of the bathtub.

Management discouraged “adopting” Angus (i.e. sneaking him home in a suitcase), but for those honest and quickly enamored folks, this little fowl’s “siblings” were available for purchase. (Yes, I bought one.)

Breakfast was included in my booking, and included anything I wanted from the continental buffet and a cooked-to-order entree. The buffet featured freshly baked croissants and pastries, Scottish yogurt, fresh fruit, an assortment of cereals (bran, muesli, cornflakes), butter and jams, juice, coffee, tea and milk.

Several mornings I ordered smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (from free-range Scottish chickens). I was delighted with such a generous portion of slightly salty salmon — three wide, thick slabs of glistening, pink-orange flesh. The salmon was crying out for a jump onto a bagel slathered with cream cheese. I made a mini open sandwich with salmon on toast instead.

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Part of the dining area and bar at the Pipers’ Tryst Hotel.

One morning I tried the vegetarian version of the Pipe Major’s breakfast. My plate was loaded with creamy scrambled eggs, sautéed mushroom cap, a round tattie (potato) scone, sautéed potato cubes, grilled tomato half and veggie haggis. Toast was served separately.

Haggis is a well-known Scottish dish, but many people scrunch up their faces when they hear it described: oatmeal, seasonings and sheep or calf’s offal (internal organs) mixed with suet and boiled in an animal’s stomach.

The veggie version was more appetizing. Without the animal component, it resembled a side dish of oats and lentils, had a hint of cinnamon, and salt (they use Hebridean Sea salt or Maldon) and pepper. I liked it.

The Pipe Major’s breakfast includes what I had, but comes with a slice of real haggis, Ayrshire bacon, Stornoway black pudding (pork sausage with dried pig’s blood and suet) and sausage.

The Pipers’ Tryst Restaurant also does a brisk lunch and dinner trade. The menus change with the season, again concentrating on locally sourced vegetables, meat and seafood (see website for details).

In addition to a wine list, Scottish gin and Scottish craft beer and cider, there’s a wide selection of Scottish whiskies.

To tour the Museum of Piping in the National Piping Centre (technically a charity), I waited for a less-than-ideal weather day. In that I didn’t leave the building, that meant I didn’t have to wear a coat or lug an umbrella. Just walk through the small corridor from the Pipers’ Tryst dining area to the marble-floored lobby of the center, which opened in 1996, with its patron, Prince Charles, in attendance.

The bagpipe is quintessential Scotland. Or as the Reverend Patrick MacDonald said in “A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs” (1784): “The great Highland bagpipe is the instrument for war, for marriage, in funeral processions, and for other great occasions, the smaller being that whereon dancing tunes were played.”

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In Scotland, many occasions call for a bagpiper, especially when you feel like celebrating.

The museum is home to a small but prestigious collection of piping artifacts, compiled from Scotland’s national museums. Bagpipe tunes played in the background as I spent about an hour reading about bagpipes, looking at old instruments and sheet music, and watching a short film.

Among the most treasured items is the chanter belonging to Iain Dall (Blind John) MacKay (circa 1656-1740), a renowned piper, poet and composer. (The chanter is a long cylinder with finger holes on which the melody is played.) MacKay’s chanter is believed to be the oldest in existence and was handed down through eight generations of MacKays. After a stay in Canada, it joined the museum’s collection in 2010.

The exhibit traces about 300 years of the history of the Highland instrument, mainly in Scotland and Europe, though the idea of drones, an air-filled animal-skin bag and a chanter teaming to make music can be traced to ancient Egypt.

It’s also unclear whether Roman legions brought the instrument to Scotland or if it arrived via occupying tribes from Ireland.

By the 14th century, bagpipes were widely played in Scotland, gradually gaining in prestige and replacing the harp in popularity. Highland bagpipe players’ reputations grew in status and they secured patronage, especially from clan chieftains.

It took until the early 18th century for bagpipe music to be notated, an invention that first appeared in “Collection of Ancient Martial Music of Caledonia” by Donald MacDonald.

And who can forget the rousing role bagpipes have played over the centuries, accompanying warriors into battle?

If center visitors are so inclined, they can have a go at playing a bagpipe, an option on the “meet the piper” tour. (I visited too late in the season to be able to take advantage of this. The schedule for 2018 isn’t on the website as of this posting.)

Individual lessons are offered, either in person or via Skype, and last 50 minutes. There’s also an e-learning portal featuring lectures and tutoring.

So if you have even a wee interest in bagpipes or a hankering for well-prepared Scottish specialties, get thee to the National Piping Centre and its adjoining restaurant.

Quick reference: The National Piping Centre and the Pipers’ Tryst Hotel, 30-34 McPhater Street, Glasgow, Scotland. www.thepipingcentre.co.uk Museum of Piping hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Closed Sundays. Admission: Adults, £4.50 (about $6.36 ); senior citizens, students and younger than 16, £2.50 (about $3.53).