Category Archives: Travel

If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…

 

Venice

On Monday 20th February I set off for the airport to fly to Venice Marco Polo Airport. Very excited! I met Rhiannon, my niece, we had lunch and flew off at 15.20 in fog. We were assured by Easyjet staff that our plane had extra sensors so no worries.  We landed at Marco Polo safely on time at 18.30 Venice time.  Only had hand luggage so cleared quickly and went to the Alilaguna Water Bus to Lido.  I had done this in the past but all was changed, much larger and modern!  Very exciting but dark of course and yes misty.  With the help of a handsome young official we boarded our vaporetto (water bus) at Lido for our hotel at St Elena. He was concerned that “it was dark there and did I know my way!”  Rhiannon was slightly disconcerted by this conversation (in perfect English) but I quickly reassured her that I knew where we were going.  We arrived at the hotel and I explained who we were BUT I was speaking bad Spanish instead of bad Italian!  The Reception Staff were amused by this but it set the tone for our whole stay of friendly, helpful service.  We had a wonderful supper in the hotel restaurant, with our first bottle of Prosecco of the stay, and an early night.

Next morning we were up refreshed and raring to go.  Had a good breakfast for 9 Euros each and set off. We bought 3 day Vaporetti passes which were so useful in that we could hop off and on as many times as we wanted without hassle of buying tickets each time.  That morning we walked into San Marco alongside the Grand Canal, sadly still in fog, but in good spirits. We passed the Giardini Gardens, the site of the Biennale Exhibition featuring International Artists shown in 1920s Pavilions representing the different countries staged every 2 years. It is also the start and finish of the Venice Marathon, yes a full Marathon!  We passed The Arsenale where the great shipbuilding industry was based helping support the power of Venice.   It was Carnavale which is a very special time in Venice, lots of people in elaborate costumes posing in the hope a photographer will feature them.  I spoke to several international photographers over our stay who said people queue up to be photographed free and just want a copy.  For the photographers it is an ideal opportunity to expand their portfolios.  Two of our favourite subjects are featured below, in many ways it was like stepping back in time.  Venice was packed and buzzing with excitement.  We walked miles that day until we were exhausted and went back to the hotel for another superb dinner and yes more Prosecco.  Our hotel was on the tip of the main island but in a less crowded residential area with a park and small restaurants.

I was pleased to remember my way around and Rhiannon enjoyed being guided to familiar sites including St Marks Square, the Campanile, the Doge’s Palace and less famous parts which featured Venetians going about their daily lives including the police boats, ambulances, garbage collections and delivery men all on the canals.  Everything is transported in by boat which adds to the traffic on the Grand Canal.  We walked through the Fish Market and Rialto Market, hence the statutory photo of Rhiannon on Rialto Bridge.

One morning the hotel arranged a special water taxi for us to Murano to a glass factory.  It was fascinating to see glass blowing skills in the tradition which dates back to at least the 15 century.  We didn’t buy any but it was wonderful to see.  Sadly our video didn’t come out well enough to show you.  That day we also visited the Guggenheim Museum as an antidote to the beauty of La Serenissima.

A high spot of my trip was meeting up with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for 18 years.  We studied together for our Masters’ Degrees, although Louisa was 30 years younger we became firm friends.  She married a Venetian after returning with her degree and now has three beautiful daughters and lives on Lido.  She lectures to Art Tours, Cruise Ships, at the Biennale Exhibition and to various visiting University student courses so continues the experiences we had.  Louisa took us to a wonderful Venetian restaurant, Anice Stellato, which was hidden away where we had one of the best meals I’ve had for a long time.

Sadly it all ended too soon.  Rhiannon will return with her boyfriend Jon and take a trip on a gondola, not something to do with your aging aunt! I think it will be my last trip but one I will treasure.  We took off on Friday 24th February in fog! Whilst I had wanted Rhiannon to experience Venice set against a bright blue sky the misty, foggy conditions added to the glamour and mystery of this beautiful city.

I’ve attempted to give you a flavour of Venice but please try to visit yourselves if you haven’t been already, if you have I hope it brings back good memories.

 

Jamaica 2017

DSC01840.JPGThis is our second year in Jamaica and again it didn’t disappoint. The view of the cruise liners is right off our balcony. The weather is in the 80’s but most days there is a warm breeze that makes walking into town nice.

This year there are six of us and we have the villa which is a 3 bedroom, 3 bath plus a powder room. Balcony wraps around to include the bedrooms and a common area with big table, bar, and couch.

The pictures don’t do it justice.

IMG_0640-1.JPG

img_0637

 

In addition we had a roof patio with lots of room and a lap pool.   So easy to get spoiled with this one.

dsc01811dsc01803

 

 

 

 

 

Last year we were so busy we didn’t get out to tour Rose Hall an old sugar plantation and home to the White Witch.   Kris in particular could hardly wait for this year to see it.   She even bought a book in the airport last year on Rose Hall and the White Witch.   The tour was even scarier after reading the book. And, of course we took the night tour. More then once it had me spooked to the point my feet engaged before my brain.   Here’s one of the websites with lots of pictures.

And a picture of our group just before the tour began and we still all had dry pants.

thumb_scan0328_1024

Jamaica remains one of our favorite places.  Love the weather, the people and all the decadent amenities.

Motivation

Whilst out on my usual walk, which I’ve shown pictures of at times, I was musing the word motivation – as you do! I really had to force myself out on a cold, frosty morning but as there is more of me than when I fell ill I must exercise regularly and regain my fitness levels.  Thing is I have never been “an athlete”.  I set off reluctantly but pretty soon got into my stride and looked around at the winter landscape.  Frosted spiders’ webs, frozen plants and trees then the sun came out and transformed it all into a beautiful winter scene.  My spirits lifted, I was glad I had come out and enjoyed the walk which offered such a contrast to the other seasons I have enjoyed doing it.  Dog walkers and other people all speak so it becomes a sort of social event too.  Dogs always greet me (I’m not going to analyse that one!) and their owners always have a conversation.  This lengthens the time taken but adds so much too.  I arrived home feeling warmer, healthier and ready for a cuppa! Job done!

Motivation is an odd phenomenon.  Some people seem to have no problem, seem driven at times. The only time I really pushed myself hard was during my years of studying part-time for a degree whilst working full-time in a stressful job, two of my children were still living at home and my husband though very helpful had his own stresses.  Thinking back to those times I realised that if one has a goal that is important for whatever reasons one works hard to achieve it.  Finding ways to push on despite feeling despondent and exhausted. In the wider context I realised too how cushioned I am and have no real pressure to do it other my own desire.  It did change my life but every day people all over the world have to push themselves to their limit and beyond just to survive.  I am going to end this thought process now as it will become boring to read and too long for the blog.  I would love to hear how you motivate yourselves to achieve your goals.  No need to climb the highest mountain or come up with something to save mankind – I am veering  too close to politics now!  I hope this ramble of thoughts is understandable as you’ve all guessed I was struggling to motivate myself for this blog!

One result of my first degree was the opportunity to do another degree – a Masters Degree in History of Art Venice and Europe.  I had just turned 50, took early retirement from my job and flew off to Venice for 10 weeks (the first term).  I knew hardly anyone, most of the other students were 25 years younger than me and I was terrified.  The following two terms were in Warwick University, back in the UK, but my young friends supported me and I them.  The time in Venice was one of the best in my life, it changed my outlook on life and remains a continuing source of pleasure.  In February I am flying to Venice with my niece, Rhiannon, who has featured in some of my fun times I’ve shared with you previously.  This will be her first visit but not her last I am sure.  It may be my last but we will make it memorable.

To end I share a motivational post with you.Relax

Gallery

Leavenworth

This gallery contains 5 photos.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Leavenworth and this is the first time I’ve seen it so quiet. Usually it is bustling with people. But then we were there on Wednesday and Thursday. October Fest started Friday … Continue reading

Mt. Rainier

MTAUT1A friend and I ran up to the Mountain last month. We’d been having weather in the high 80’s and 90’s but this day it was in the mid 70’s. Perfect— or not. The mountain was fogged in. Oh well, the news had been reporting a line to get into the park. We breezed right in. As you might guess the photo is from a few years ago.

On the way up we passed a place that displayed metal art sculptures. The car did it’s 2016-08-28T21-46-46-40usual U’eee and we pulled into an experience. First of all it was extremely clean. It even had an outhouse that was cleaner than many inhouses. The gift shop wasn’t open so guess 2016-08-28T21-46-46-66we need to think about a return trip :), but we walked around and enjoyed the peace and art. I wish I had taken a picture of the inside of the outhouse.2016-08-28T21-46-46-70

Next stop at Longmire for a browse through the gift shop and a potty break. Until then it was overcast but no fog. That changed about the time we hit the first parking lot. It’s down from the Visitor Center and Lodge and used for hikers and people that want to stay longer than the two hours designated for the upper lot. Going up we noted a sign that said parking full (guess thats why no waiting at the entrance. Everyone was ahead of us), we drove on hoping to park on the side of the road. Didn’t happen, almost at once the road turned into a one-way and was going down. We drove for what seemed like forever until I was pretty sure we were headed down the eastern side of the mountain. We finally pulled over and looked at the park map. Why don’t we do that sooner? I thought only guys didn’t look at maps or ask directions. 🙂

After a few miles we came back on the main road and again made our way up the mountain. After driving around the upper lot a few time we ended up in the lower lot and walked up the mountain. I am soooo out of shape.

Scones at the lodge and wandering around we headed back down. We finally got a glimpse of the mountain after we exited the park. We stopped for lunch at Elbe at the Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. We ate there with Laurie and Mark a few years ago. Remember that trip Laurie?

mt-rainier-railroad-dining

Even with the fog it was full beautiful day.  Stuffed with a decadent hamburger and the scone I vowed to do it again it’s a great day trip.

 

 

 

 

 

George & Louise…A Great Love by Valerie J. Patterson

George and Louise Boldt–their story is one of a great and deeply felt love.  It’s also a tale of tragedy and a future with a broken heart.  George was a poor immigrant in the late 1800s who managed to gain employment at the famous Waldorf Astoria, and later would own it and another hotel here in Pennsylvania.  It was while he was working at the Waldorf that he met Louise Kehrer and fell madly in love with her.  While vacationing in Alexandria Bay, more particularly, the Thousand Islands, he bought Hart Island, which he legally changed to Heart Island.  In 1900, he commenced building a castle there for his lovely Louise to live in.  In 1904, tragedy struck and Louise Boldt died suddenly at the young age of 41.  That same day, George sent a telegram to the island and ordered all construction to cease and all workers to leave the island.  The heartbroken George never stepped foot on Heart Island again.  He never allowed his children or their families to visit the island either.  Boldt Castle was 96% finished the day Louise died, and it would remain unfinished, too.  So great was his love for his wife, and just as great was his pain from losing her, that he could not bear to live there without her.

In 1977, the heirs of George Boldt sold the castle and Heart Island to the state of New York for $1.00 with the following conditions:  1) The castle was to be open to the public and every cent from the sale of tickets was to be put into restoring the castle, which had been vandalized over the decades it remained empty; 2) the restoration was never to go beyond 96% completion, which was the last Louise had ever seen; and 3) no one was ever allowed to live there or stay there.  To date, $38 million have been used in restoring the castle and only one and a half of the 6 floors have been fully restored.

Beginning at the top left corner and continuing clockwise, the photographs are: A view of 75% of Heart Island as seen from our hotel suite’s balcony; the Italian Garden at the rear of the castle with the castle’s power house (also a castle-like structure) in the background; the view of the castle’s main arch entrance where George imagined his guests docking their boats and visiting he and Louise at the castle–to the right is a 6 story playhouse he had designed and constructed for his children and their guests; a rear view of the castle; and, again, the arched entrance to the island.

Steve took me to the Thousand Islands for our anniversary trip, and I was instantly overtaken with the immense love George Boldt had for his wife.  I snapped over 500 photographs, and I apologize that I don’t have a closeup of the front of the castle for you, but those are on another camera card that I have not yet downloaded.

The entire time we were exploring the castle and its grounds on a self-guided tour, Steve and I discussed George and Louise.  All around us were visual signs of their love from heart-shaped flower beds to hand-carved granite benches with huge hearts carved out of the center of each bench’s backrest to the portraits of Louise to the Italian Garden with its carved granite statues.  We wondered what George would think of all the people tramping around the grounds and invading the castle.  We wondered how he would have looked upon the vandalism each room on each floor suffered from careless youths who didn’t know the story behind the castle or perhaps knew it and didn’t care.

As we sat on a magnificent porch, on a heart-shaped bench, I became weepy thinking about George and his immense love of Louise.  With all that Steve has been through this year, perhaps George’s story hit a little too close to home.  Or perhaps I’m just too softhearted and enjoy a good love story.  Maybe a little of both.  One thing I know for certain, George and Louise Boldt are now a part of my own history, and their love story reminds me to be thankful for my own love story!

Finally–so as not to leave on such a sad note–It has been my dream to own an island.  Strange dream, I know.  But ever since I learned that Raymond Burr owned his own island, I’ve wanted to own one myself.  During our stay in Alexandria Bay, we came to learn that there were 3 islands for sale.  The first one we saw had a price of $1.4 million.  The second one we saw had the hefty price tag of $5.5 million.  And the third one was selling for $80,000.  I’ll leave you with the photo of the third island, which is still swimming around in my thoughts as a possibility!

DSCN1396

It’s not the size of the house that matters, but rather the island itself that remains important to me.  <grin>

Until next time, may you be as loved as Louise!!  ❤

Boldt Castle