Aga Khan Palace, Pune.

We drove past this place on our way to somewhere else, but you can’t see it from the road.  As we drove by, it was mentioned that Mahatma Ghandi was imprisoned here and it piqued my interest.

Aga Khan Palace, situated in the Yerwada area of Pune is one of the biggest landmarks of Indian history. Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, had the palace constructed in the year 1892. The aim behind the construction of the Aga Khan Palace was an act of charity by the sultan, to provide employment to the people of the nearby areas, who were drastically hit by famine – this majestic building is considered to be one of the greatest marvels of India.

It took 5 years and 1000 workers to build it, at a cost of Rs 12,00,000.  The palace is spread across an estate of 19 acres with a built area of 7 acres.  The gardens are beautiful and well tended to, though the building itself is in a state of disrepair – I have since visited the national war memorial and museum and the contrast between the two tourist attractions, is stark.  As we walked around the grounds there were any number of people there for photo sessions – maternity, family, ‘seniors’, or even ‘just because’ pictures were happening all around – and with good cause too, the place was very pretty indeed.

   

Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai were interned in the palace from 9 August 1942 to 6 May 1944, following the launch of Quit India Movement.  One of the major attractions of the Aga Khan Palace comprises of the samadhis (memorials) of Kasturba Gandhi (wife) and Mahadev Desai (long time aid).  Since both of them breathed their last breaths in here, Charles Correa got their samadhis built in the grounds of the palace itself.  Gandhi’s ashes are also interred at the Gandhi National Memorial of Pune.

The rooms that were used by the Gandhis, now serve as a museum to them. They are spartan and simple in taste. The museum inside the palace complex has a rich collection of pictures, depicting almost all the important incidents in the life of Mahatma Gandhi.  There are personal items of Gandhi’s on display like utensils, slippers, clothes, and letters as well as a number of statues – most notably one in the first, main room, of Gandhi and his wife, the palace also served as the venue for the famous movie ‘Gandhi’. Since 1980, the management of the museum, samadhis and campus of the Agakhan Palace is under the Gandhi Memorial Society.  Prince Karim El Husseni, Aga Khan IV, donated the palace to India in 1969, in the honor of Gandhi and his philosophy.

Opening hours of Aga Khan Palace:

Open all days 09:00 am to 05:30 pm

Entry fee for Visiting Aga Khan Palace:

The entry fees for Aga Khan Palace is mentioned below. We have listed the entry fees for Indians, the entry fees for foreigners, camera fees and other charges if applicable.

 Address: Pune Nagar Road, Kalyani Nagar, Pune, Maharashtra 411014
Telephone: 073857 46855
Approximate visit duration for : 1- 2 hours

Fireman Lewis to the rescue! (Free fire station tour, Sugar Land, Texas)

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A friend of mine mentioned a while ago, that a few years back, SSA Houston organized a visit to a fire station.  After a brief search I found the information, sent out the invite, and, before long, I was making the reservation for a group of forty strong (any more and we’d have had to split it in to two groups, so keep that in mind if you’re going to be looking at this event).

Ok, ok so it’s still pretty hot and sticky out there, and there’s more mosquitoes than you can count but although it wasn’t an indoor in the AC kind of activity, it was shaded, educational, fun and it was enjoyed by both adults and kids alike.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised as to how the whole thing was set up. Lack of on-site parking aside, when we got to Station 3 in Sugar Land, we were met by an ambulance, a fire engine and a crew of five fire people.  After introductions, warnings and reminders that we are, after all, standing in a live fire house and a little history, they began to talk to us a little about fire safety. Who to call, what to do, where to go etc.  it was equally as educating for the adults as it was for the kids.

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Next at up we learned a little fire procedure.  The suit, the air tank, the number of firemen who go out on a call, how they search for and find any fallen firemen during a fire, what to do if you’re trapped in a room during a fire.

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After the talk (which was interactive, so feel free to ask questions) the kids each got to take turns at sitting in the fire truck.  We all got to pose for photos with the truck and one kind fireman even took a group shot of our crazy gang.

11060005_10155472524550411_4838108004485431527_nThe kids got sent home with fire hats and safety information goodie-bags. It was a great experience for everyone.  I’d highly recommend you visiting your local fire station and meeting some of the bravest men and women in Sugar Land.  For more information on this free tour, go here.

Five museums for five bucks in Houston, Part III: Houston Fire Museum

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This ain’t our first rodeo (or, fire museum), in fact, we’ve been to at least TWO other fire museums on our various travels, in much smaller cities than Houston.  We have put off going to the Houston Fire Museum (Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm Adults $5, children $3) a number of times, just to make sure we left enough time for this place – but we really didn’t have to do that at all.

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What a disappointment.  We barely spent thirty minutes here.  UGH! For such a major city in the USA, we expected something a little more grand than a two-room museum with only two engines to look at.  My ‘147 Fun Things to Do in Houston’ book says that this place has a large collection of artifacts to look at, either the author has a poor definition of large, or they never visited this museum.  It was a poor reflection of Fire memorabilia, and we both left deflated.

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It was the first, paid Fire House in Houston, the Fire House itself is small, so they built an extension (also small) and they have a room set aside for kids parties (of which there seemed to be a hundred under one roof today, there were kids everywhere and it was louuuuud!)

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There really wasn’t a lot to look at, upstairs, the AC unit was leaking on the floor as a result of some storm damage.  There were a few glass cases up there, with some memorabilia throughout the decades which was interesting to look at, but we really expected more.

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This is the first $5 museum where I felt like I got short changed.  I don’t think it was quite worth the entrance fee.  They had some cool T-shirts and kitsch on sale, but unfortunately, I can’t recommend the Houston Fire Museum as something to do on a rainy afternoon in H-town, as it just doesn’t have the substance!

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Five museums for five bucks in Houston, Part II: Railway museum (Rosenberg)

We FINALLY got back to working on this segment, and investigating the wonderful, rich culture that Houston has to offer – and for only five bucks!  This museum was visited almost six months ago (shame on me for taking this long to share it with you!) and, considering that Houston’s Railroad museum is currently ‘under construction’, this is the closest alternative available to you.

I had planned on visiting a few museums towards the end of my pregnancy, but when Lewis came a few weeks early, that flew right out the window!  Having little to do this weekend other than prep the house for visitors arriving, I decided that it was time.  Time to bring Lewis on his first McMaster mini-adventure.

A quick chat with Col later, and we were on our way to Rosenberg, a quirky, small town about twenty minutes south of here, to visit the Railway museum.  We took just over an hour in here, and that was probably a stretch.  We weren’t hugely bowled over by this museum (in my mind, I guess, I compare it to the free Railroad museum that we went to in Memphis, TN) but it was a nice place to spend an hour.

The components of the museum are:

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My hubby is interested in trains, railroads and all things train-y, (yes, I may have made up a word), we like checking out railroad museums, and, while watching the 8 minute dull-as-watching-paint-dry movie surrounding the purpose of the museum and its history, you can see there’s a lot more they could show in this place, a lot more history that they could delve in to – I get that it’s a non-profit museum and can only do so much, but it was a bit disappointing as far as adult interest and education goes, but the kids certainly seemed to enjoy it.
They have a room for kids parties, that seemed wholly unimpressive – or, in any way connected to the museum (it’s a room with folding table and chairs, next door to a play room) – quite disappointing, it would be way cooler to have an empty train car with the tables and chairs and make it a real experience.
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Once you go outside, there’s a few great photo-ops, even our little six week old son enjoyed it ;). Definitely worth the $5 entrance fee!
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Things to do in Houston: Art Car Museum (free)

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“Get into the left lane and aim high, but keep one eye on the rear view mirror for the black and whites. Art cars are a grass roots movement. Change your vehicle, improve it, personalize it and make your own statement with it so that you can once again become one with it. Art cars are an expression of your freedom and above all, of the God-given American right to be yourself and flaunt it on the highways and byways of America.”

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We have been meaning to check out the ‘garage mahal’ for almost the whole time we’ve lived here – I kid you not.  However, it’s in that ‘trendy’ part of town that the hubby deems to cool for him to frequent (LOL!) where the roads are crap and parking is crappier.

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That said, when my girlfriend Courtney came to town in August, I wanted to take her along to have a nosy – it’s a free, quirky and kitschy thing to do here in Houston, and, my ‘147 Things to do in Houston’ book, has it listed – I’m not sure what that has to do with the price of milk, but, go check out this museum.  DO IT!

“But Las!” I hear you cry, “What IS an art car?”

From their website: An art car is a motor-driven vehicle which a car artist alters in such a way as to suit his own aesthetic. In other words, the artist either adds or subtracts materials of his own choosing to or from the factory model or he may renovate an earlier model to revive a beauty and stlyle that once was. The result is a vehicle which conveys new meaning through design, mechanical or structural changes, renovation, and/or the addition of new images, symbols or collage elements.

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The content and meaning of these changes vary with each art car and may express either political, social, personal or purely decorative objectives. All art cars are subversive and have in common the transformation of the vehicle from a factory-made commodity into a personal statement or expression.

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It’s not a phenomenon that is specific to the USA, art cars can be found all over the world.  But, every month, right here in Houston, four or five of these amazing artistic creations can be found, right here at the Art Car museum.  The cars on display change each month, and, once a year – they have a huge parade, where the cars are driven around the streets of Houston.

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Before you get to the cars on display, there’s a couple of small art exhibits for you to ponder.  I’m not sure if these change too, but they were definitely worth a glance.

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“Often considered the ‘Art Car Capital’, Houston has the largest number of art cars of any city. Art cars are fine art essentially free of the conventions and contradictions of the marketplace and the art world. The Museum’s distinctive scrap metal and chrome exterior was created by car artist David Best and provides an imaginative indication of the extraordinary constructions to be found inside.   The museum’s goal is to encourage the public’s awareness of the cultural, political, economic and personal dimensions of art.”

Art Car Museum Information

HOURS: OPEN: Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm CLOSED: Monday & Tuesday Admission is always free.

Things to do in Houston: National museum of Funeral History ($10)

I know, I know – it sounds drab, dull and hugely morbid, right?

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But, in actual fact, this museum was one of my favourite museums ever! It was a little far away for us Missouri City folk (up in The Heights), but the National museum of Funeral History was well worth the trek.  It’s a rather large museum – with something for everyone to enjoy.

Presidential Funerals

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We started our museum experience at the Presidential funeral section, this area has memorabilia used in the state funeral and burial services of some of America’s most famous Presidents.  Including original news reports taken from museum’s archives this section of the museum provides a historical perspective on the chain of events, procedures and practices set in motion upon the death of a US president.

Even for non-Americans like us (ok, we’re poly-sci peeps, but still) it was a fascinating part of the museum, with lots to read and look at.

Coffins and caskets of the past

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This section was pretty cool – and crazy at the same time.  A modest collection of the different kinds of coffins and caskets used in funerals throughout the generations, among the lot, is a casket built for three people (a mother, father and son with a tragic story for you to read), a glass-paneled coffin created to look like the one in Snow White, and even a casket made out of money – I kid you not!

Historical hearses

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Around the perimeter to one side of the museum, is a collection of the vehicles used in ‘olden day’ horse-drawn funeral carriages of the 19th century, some, very rare indeed.  They also have the actual hearses used in the state funeral services of US Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford as well as the funeral of Grace Kelly.

Thanks for the memories

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Curious about the funerals of celebrities? In this section, you can see how the world has said farewell to some of the largest names in the business.

Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Star Trek actors, Astronauts, even Disney – the stories of their lives and deaths are in this interactive room, complete with quizzes, music, and interesting memorabilia.

History of Embalming

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To those of you with an interest about mummification, embalming and ancient Egypt, to the first techniques used in America during the Civil War and up through the early 20th century, this section is fascinating.  You get to read about the mummification process, the tools involved and the mythology and beliefs behind the whole process.  There is plenty to look at here – we found it very interesting.

Celebrating the lives and deaths of the Popes

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This section was surprisingly interesting, fascinating, with an air of reverence as we walked around.  Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes includes a full-scale replica of Pope John Paul II’s crypt, an exact reproduction of the coffin used in the funerals of three previous Popes as well as replicas of other Papal vestments.

This section shows you the many stages of preparation for the final services and burial of a Pope.  The different stages of a popes journey to his final resting place, the coffin and history behind it.

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There is also a section for ‘custom made’ coffins, those off the wall coffins that people have had made in the past – some are rather ‘out there’!

Museum Information

Hours:

Monday – Friday 10am to 4pm
Saturday 10am to 5pm
Sunday 12pm to 5pm
Pricing:
Adults: $10
Seniors/Veterans: $9
Children (under 12): $7
Children (under 3): Free

Things to do in Houston: Museum of Printing History (free)

IMG_5542Another unusal and ‘off the wall’ museum that we dug out in the depths of Houston’s recesses, The Printing Museum.  This was one of the museums listed on my ‘free stuff to do in Houston’ list and it piqued my husbands interest, in particular.  It wasn’t hugely far away for us to get to, it has ample parking, it’s not a huge place – so you’re not spending hours and hours here, but it’s definitely interesting, it’s indoors, air conditioned and somewhere neat to spend an hour or so out of the Texas heat and learn a little about Printing history at the same time.

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From their website: As far as their permanent exhibit goes, the Museum of Printing History narrates the story of written communication and the ways in which the technologies of printing have transformed our lives.  Their galleries trace significant developments from ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets, to the Chinese invention of movable type, to Johann Gutenberg’s printing press.  American history is dramatized through newspaper accounts of major events from the American Revolution to the Civil War; Texas history is told through the life of the state’s first printer, with a press he owned and a display of the documents and newspapers he printed.  The Hearst Newspaper Gallery demonstrates the emergence of modern printing, and our exhibit of historic newspapers documents pivotal moments in recent history.

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The Museum features artifacts such as:

Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

Ancient Papyrus Fragments

Asian Movable Type & early Asian Printing

Illuminated Manuscripts

1450 Gutenberg Press Replica

Old Master Etchings & Engravings

Ben Franklin’s “Pennsylvania Gazette”

Historical Newspapers

Documents printed by Samuel Bangs, first printer in Texas, with one of his presses

1830 Star-wheel Oak Lithography Press Letterpress & Type Collection Antique Bookbinding Equipment

Aside from the Printing machinery and exhibits, they also show other, various art exhibits in the building as well.  When we visited, they had a number of exhibits for us to ponder, Col, in particular, liked this one by Russell Maret.

Russell Maret: Interstices and Intersections or, An Autodidact Comprehends a Cube

The latest fine press publication by New York City-based artist Russell Maret. Comprised of the artist’s notes, sketches, watercolors, proof prints, in addition to tools used in contemporary letterpress printing practices, this exhibition illustrates the creative process of producing a hand-printed, hand-bound edition from sketch to completion. (June 26, 2014 – September 20, 2014)

They also host educational and entertaining programs, lectures, and special events, as well as offering up a substantial function room for hire, for various events – like I said, this is a neat little place that most people have never heard of in Houston!

Museum info:

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.

Admission is free for self-guided tours. For a guided tour, the fee is $7 for adults, $3 for students, and $5 for seniors.

Parking Two Museum parking lots hold a capacity of approximately 50 cars. Additional free street parking is also available.

Wheelchair Access The building and facilities are wheelchair accessible.