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Driving Miss Norma: One Nonagenarian's Epic Road Trip

Last summer, 90-year-old Norma Bauerschmidt was preparing to say goodbye to Leo, her husband of 67 years. The day after he was admitted to hospice, Norma was dealt another blow: Doctors had discovered a large, cancerous mass on her uterus. She barely had time to process the news when Leo passed away. Just two days after his death, Norma found herself at the doctor’s office, discussing how to treat her cancer. Her doctor recommended surgery to remove the mass, but was concerned that she may not survive the operation.

Norma decided the typical late-in-life path—surgeries, nursing homes, assisted living—wasn’t in the cards for her. Her son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Ramie, had made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: to join them on the road. The retired couple spent much of their time roaming the country in an Airstream trailer, but if Norma would join them in their nomadic lifestyle, they promised to upgrade to a 36-footer and see whatever sights she wanted to.

Norma didn’t have to think twice, and said no to the cancer treatment. “I’m 90-years-old,” she told her doctor. “I’m hitting the road.”

Less than two months later, she did. Their first trip was a little over a year ago, when they left Norma’s home in Presque Isle, Michigan, and headed west toward Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone. Tim wasn't sure if she would make it to South Dakota. Twelve months later, Norma is not only surviving—she's positively thriving.

“If you could have seen her when we left,” Tim told the Washington Times, explaining that her transformation has been utterly amazing. Not only is she doing better physically, going from 94 pounds to 110, but she's also been transformed emotionally. “I’m open more now than I used to be,” Norma said.

Since last August, Norma has been to several National Parks, Roswell, the Kennedy Space Center, Walt Disney World, Niagara Falls, the French Quarter, and the Grand Canyon—and that's just to name a few of the sights she's seen.

She has served as an honorary Atlanta Hawks cheerleader, dipped her toes in the ocean, experienced her first pedicure, eaten her first oyster, and she shook a lot of hands at the National World War II Museum—Norma is a veteran herself, having served with the Women Accepting Volunteer Emergency Service unit in 1945.

But out of all of the amazing things Norma has experienced in the last year, one of the most memorable may have been the hot air balloon ride she took in January. She and her husband had always wanted to experience a ride together, and while he was in the hospital, Leo said he still hoped to be able to take her someday. After his death, as his family was cleaning out his papers, they found multiple newspaper clippings about balloon rides among his things.

As of Labor Day, the traveling trio was in the Pacific Northwest, where they have visited a lavender farm (one of Norma's favorite flowers), watched Orca whales, and celebrated the one-year anniversary of the beginning of their journey. Wherever Miss Norma heads now, she's likely to be one of the main attractions—since starting her journey last year, her Facebook page has gained more than 400,000 followers, and she's been featured on the CBS Evening News, the ABC News, the Today Show, and the Huffington Post. What's next for Norma, Tim, and Ramie? Possibly California for a peek at some redwoods. Follow along with her adventures on Facebook—you'll be glad you did.

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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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Pol Viladoms
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One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
Pol Viladoms
Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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