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4-hour layover at IAH airport? Lucky you!

Greeting from Houston – mural by Daniel Anguilu and Frank Nathan. Pictured: Art Curator Alton DuLaney and Harriet Baskas

Many people dread and try desperately to avoid long airport layovers. Not us. On our journey to the Galapagos, we swapped a stress-inducing 56-minute connection at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) for a four-hour layover at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

Just so we could get a tour of the art.

Countree Music by Terry Allen – created 1999

Alton DuLaney, Director and Curator of the Public Art Program for the Houston Airport System, was kind enough to meet me for a tour of some of his favorites. You can see the full list, with photos, in our story for The Points Guy site.

But I’ve pulled out a couple of my favorites here.

The Houston Airport, which operates both IAH and Hobby Airport (HOU) owns more than 350 works of art, one of the largest public art collections in Texas. Art curator DuLaney is a proponent of displaying as much of the collection as possible. So if you take a walk in any direction at the airport you will spot art. Some of it you’ll love. Some of it you may not care for. But all of it adds to the experience of being at the airport.

Countree Music (the ‘tree’ image above), is one of the first works purchased for the airport back in 1991. It is in Terminal A and was created by singer-songwriter Terry Allen. He also created the terrazzo floor surrounding the tree that depicts a map showing Houston as the center of the world. Pick a spot to stand on that floor near the tree and listen: there’s an original soundtrack of 16 songs recorded by Allen with the help of various musicians, including David Byrne from the Talking Heads.

Fiesta Dancers by Latino artist Luis Jimenez shown alongside High Flying by Larry Schuekler

The Terminal A Connector Gallery is both filled with art and is a great spot to avoid the noise and hustle of the airport. Here, away from the gates and the overhead announcements, you’ll find 20 vitrines filled with new and existing artwork from the collection- sometimes in the same display case.

For example, Fiesta Dancers by Luis Jimenez is paired with High Flying by Larry Schuekler. “Both sculptures explore the joy of dance from two different cultural perspectives,” says DuLaney.

(Photos courtesy Houston Airports)

Iguanas: Airport Amenity in the Galapagos

We’re visiting a handful of islands in the Galapagos this week (vaccinated, tested, and masked everywhere) as part of Hurtigruten Expeditions’ inaugural Galapagos cruise, with Metropolitan Touring.

And, yes, we are feeling incredibly fortunate to be able to tag along on a trip that is on so many bucket list adventure lists.

We are just two days into the trip, but already we’ve seen many of the iconic species on the “Big 15” list, including tortoises, iguanas, finches, sea lions, and more.

Once we find a better WiFI connection, we’ll share some better images. But, first things first, let’s talk about the airports.

Our flights to the Galapagos island started from Ecuador’s award-winning Quito International Airport (UIO). We couldn’t access the shops reserved for international travelers. But we found these charming colored pencils for sale in the domestic departures area.

On arrival at Seymour Ecological Galapagos Airport (GPS), on the island of Baltra, we were greeted by this handsome fellow.

“Don’t get too excited just yet” one of the guides said. “You’ll see many more – and much better – iguanas very soon.”

He was right.

Places We’d Go: Ice Maze in Stillwater, MN

New Year, New Travel Desires

COVID notwithstanding, we’re on the lookout for places we’d want to visit.

Stillwater, Minnesota is on the list. On January 15, the city opens its Ice Palace Maze to the public.

The Ice Maze has more than 775,000 pounds of ice, a 36-foot ice slide, and half a mile of frozen, twisty passages that light up at night.

Sounds fun, right?

 As a bonus, Stillwater is hosting its Inaugural World Snow Sculpting Championship from Jan. 18-23.

The event is sanctioned by the Association Internationale de Sculpture sur Neige et Glace based in Finland and will feature multiple snow sculpting teams from around the world, including Argentina, Canada, Germany, Turkey, and the US. The judged event will include social activities, a people’s choice award, ceremonies, and more.

SEA’s Shot Bar & other great airport amenities from 2021

We love the annual Resolution Wall hosted by Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) around this time each year.

As airport amenities go, it is charming and engaging for travelers. Much like many of the amenities on the list of Best Airport Amenities of 2021 we shared with The Points Guy site this week.

The list of Best Airport Amenities in 2021 includes:

*Wellness Wednesday at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and the free yoga mats they’ve been handing out;

*The growing trend of offering reservation times to do through the airport security checkpoint;

*Robots that deliver food ordered via airport mobile apps;

*The Visitor Toll Pass available at Orlando International Airport (MCO) to help tourists avoid getting gouged by rental car companies;

*And several more.

One other item on our list is the Shot Bar that appeared for several months at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

The Shot Bar was created by Seattle celebrity chef and mixologist Kathy Casey, a frequent traveler whose company operates some food and beverages outlets at SEA airport.

“With the early covid restrictions on seating, no sitting at the bar, 25% occupancy, and tables 6 ft apart, our seating at Rel’Lish Burger Lounge was very limited,” Casey told us. “Options for travelers were very limited to get a quick drink before their flight. Many folks were also nervous about their first flight in a while, so they were looking for a quick drink.”

The to-go counter at Rel’Lish wasn’t busy, “so I thought, why not provide an area that people could have a quick shot and be on their way,” says Casey. “Our tag line was: order shot – shoot shot – fly off.”

The simple idea took off. Social media loved the concept and the tiny red Solo cups. And the Shot Bar even got a mention by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.

The Shot Bar was open from early March 2021 to June 30th, And during that time Casey says about 8,000 shots were sold – far above expectations. Now there are plans are for the Shot Bar pop-up to reopen sometime this spring or summer.

The Shot Bar at SEA