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Ireland – Scotland Part 2

I took this trip in October 2018, just shortly after the hurricane. I have been on several trips since but am just now getting around to finishing this post!

We met up with the rest of the group in Dublin then traveled north to the  Giant’s Causeway, a geological area in Northern Ireland. It’s also where a lot of The Game of Thrones was shot. Then we continued along Causeway Coastal Route to catch our ferry to Scotland, and ultimately the Isle of Iona in the Inner Hebrides, a group of islands off the coast of Scotland.

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Our bus took us to Oban to catch the ferry Craignure on the Isle of Mull. There are mostly single lane roads on this island, but there were lots of places to pull out to let others pass. We headed to Fionnphort to catch our next ferry. This island is the second largest island in the Hebrides, so the one lane road was a surprise since we had to drive about 35 miles on it. Even though it is a large island the population is only about 3000.

Arriving in Fionnphort we got our first glimpse of Iona. A tiny island just a mile off of the Isle of Mull.

This island has been a place of Christian pilgrimage since the 6th century. It’s described as a “thin place” – there are lots of interesting articles about thin places here is one from The New York Times – and another – and one more. What is a thin place? “It is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.”

Iona was the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. St Columba (grandson of the Irish King Niall) arrived there in 563 AD, built a monastery and converted the pagans to Christianity.

The island is home to the ruins of an ancient nunnery, a medieval abbey, and the burial ground of 48 Scottish kings. It’s a tiny island just 3 miles long and 1 mile wide.  Over the centuries the monks of Iona produced elaborate carvings, manuscripts and Celtic crosses. Probably their most famous work was the Book of Kells, from 800 AD, which we saw at Trinity College in Dublin.

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On the hike we crossed the most unusual golf course I’ve ever seen with grazing sheep on it.

We arrived at the beach where St Columba first landed and we picked up green serpantine marble – it is a traditional charm against drowning and the evil-eye. The stone is also called Iona greenstone or St. Columba’s tears. There are lots of different types of rocks on this island – some being the oldest rocks on earth – 3 billion years old. To read more about the geology of the area click here.

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Our days on Iona were spent going to a worship service at the Abbey at 9 am and 9 pm each day, visiting the craft shops, reading, hiking and thinking about life. It was a relaxing visit.

While on a hike across the island we saw spray shooting up out of a hole in the top of a cave, our guide said that only happens when there are big swells on the ocean indicating a storm in the North Atlantic, and in this case heading toward Iona, more about that later.

For such a tiny island with a population of only 175 there are about 10 shops, mostly craft shops. They get about 130,000 visitors each year which supports the shops and the few hotels on the Island. You’ll find lots of things made from wool, there is a potter or two on the island, weaving, paintings, and jewelry made from local stone.

The Abbey was beautiful, the few streets on the island were picturesque, and the view of the sound was lovely.
We intended to leave on Sunday but Saturday morning we were told if we didn’t want to stay until Thursday we needed to EVACUATE today!! Evacuating two times, just weeks apart was no fun but it did add to the adventure.

Since our tour guide could not get a bus around on such short notice to pick us up we had to take public transportation to get to Glasgow. That was a trip.

We took the ferry across the sound and waited for the public bus to leave. As we drove across the island we saw 11 individual rainbows!

We took that bus to the next ferry, which took us to the train, except they were working on the tracks so we took another bus to meet the train which took us to Glasgow. By arriving there a day early we got a chance to do a little touring there. I loved the architecture in the city, we went to the cathedral then we got to go to the Kelvingrove Museum.

Then back to New Bern to get back to the cleanup after the flood. To read part 1 of this trip click here.

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Road Trip Southern Italy Part 3 Alberobello to Matera to Amalfi

The Trulli of Matera

We continued on to Alberobello, the home of a large concentration of Trulli. The trulli is a limestone dwelling of corbelled dry-stone construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. These structures, date from as early as the mid-14th century.

We stayed in an amazing Conference Center, Hotel, and Spa called la Chiusa di Chietri just outside of Alberobello. On their grounds are some of the Trulli. They have some that are restored that you can stay in. And some that are unrestored, we climbed up a precarious pile of stone to stand on a wall to see into what looked like a courtyard or stable.

There are two areas of Alberobello that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, here is what that website says about them:

These structures, dating from as early as the mid-14th century, characteristically feature pyramidal, domed, or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs. Although rural trulli can be found all along the Itria Valley, their highest concentration and best preserved examples of this architectural form are in the town of Alberobello, where there are over 1500 structures in the quarters of Rione Montcomprises six land parcels extending over an area of 28 acres. The land parcels comprise two districts of the city (quarters or Rione Monti with 1,030 trulli; Rione Aia Piccola with 590 trulli) and four specific locations (Casa d’AmorePiazza del MercatoMuseo StoricoTrullo Sovrano).

The extent and homogeneity of those areas, the persistence of traditional building techniques, together with the fact that trulli are still inhabited make this property an exceptional Historic Urban Landscape.

Trulli were constructed from roughly worked limestone excavated on-site in the process of creating sub-floor cisterns and from boulders collected from nearby fields and rock outcrops. Characteristically, the buildings are rectangular forms with conical corbelled roofs. The whitewashed walls of the trulli are built directly onto limestone bedrock and constructed using a dry-stone wall technique (that is, without use of mortar or cement).

A doorway and small windows pierce the walls. An internal fireplace and alcoves are recessed into the thick walls. The roofs are also double-skinned, comprising a domed inner skin of wedge-shaped stone (used in building an arch or vault) capped by a closing stone; and a watertight outer cone built up of corbelled limestone slabs, known as chianche or chiancarelle. The roofs of buildings often bear mythological or religious markings in white ash and terminate in a decorative pinnacle whose purpose is to ward off evil influences or bad luck. Water is collected via projecting eaves at the base of the roof which divert water through a channelled slab into a cistern beneath the house. Flights of narrow stone steps give access to the roofs.

The tradition of building in this style has been in the region for over one thousand years. By the mid-16th century the Monti district was occupied by some forty trulli, but it was in 1620 that the settlement began to expand, when the Count of the period, Gian Girolamo Guercio, ordered the construction of a bakery, mill, and inn. By the end of the 18th century the community numbered over 3500 people. In 1797, feudal rule came to an end, the name of Alberobello was adopted, and Ferdinand IV, Bourbon King of Naples, awarded to Alberobello the status of royal town. After this time the construction of new trulli declined.

Between 1909 and 1936 parts of Alberobello were protected through designation as heritage monuments. One thing I found interesting is why this type of structure was popular originally.

They are quite simple buildings to erect because the building process involves no cement – just placing rocks on top of each other. That means they are also quite easy to dismantle.

Centuries ago, when the tax collector was coming from Naples to gather his dues from the locals, they all just took down their houses and so didn’t need to pay anything. Today when restoring trulli they do add cement for safely.

In addition to wonderful olive oil, ice cream, jewelry, wine and liquor, leather goods, and pasta, being produced in the area, there are a lot of weavers too. We came home with some pieces from Donna Lia.

There are symbols on the roofs of many of the trullo. Many are to guard against evil. The different groups are primitive, pagan, magic, Christian, and ornamental. The primitive signs go back to pre-Roman times.

The provided meals on this tour have been great. Of course I love southern Italian food, it’s simple. Our guide Alfredo said they try to use no more than 4 ingredients. It seems about every other night the evening meal is part of the tour, every breakfast is included. The tour company is GoAhead Tours. This is the third time I’ve traveled with them and all three tours have been great.

The night we arrived in Alberobello we ate a traditional farm meal at Masseria Papaperta.

Masseria (Masseria means farm) Papaperta is a historic Apulian masseria of the 1700s surrounded by the green of the Itria valley near Alberobello. Even today, on the entrance to the main hall, is visible the stone that shows the engraving with the date and the name of its ancient founder: 1724 Nicolò Perta.

Another town with unusual architecture in this region is Matera. Matera is famous for its sassi – stone houses carved of of caves and cliffs.

At first sight, the sassi looks like a jumble of faded stone huts – where narrow alleys and stairways lead every which way and streets are sometimes rooftops – but behind the house-like facades are simple caves, inhabited since Paleolithic times – the Stone Age. They say this could be one of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in the world. Some of the dwellings are 12 stories high, the floor of one is the stone roof of another, cave upon cave.

People lived in the sassi up until the 1950s when it came to the attention of the outside world what bad conditions people were living under. Large families lived with their livestock in the caves without running water, electricity or sewage. The government then relocated the inhabitants of the caves into new housing in the new town on top of the cliff.

Our local guide Brunella said her Grandmother – now 95 – lived in the sassi. She asked her granddaughter “What you do for a living I don’t understand, why would anyone want to see that, they should go see our mall.” Living conditions were pretty miserable for her and the others living there. Brunella also said that as a child – when the sassi was just abandoned and no one lived there, they would skip school and play there knowing no one would ever find them. Photos of interior below – doesn’t look too bad now but add animals, no running water or toilets.

They would often share a common oven somewhere in the Sassi to bake their bread. Each person “branded” theirs with an iron so they knew which loaves were theirs.

The area was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993. People are moving back into the caves, having been restored and transformed into comfortable houses, restaurants and hotels.

The best way to experience Matera is to wander through the labyrinthine alleys and streets of the two sassi districts, Sasso Barisanoand Sasso Caveoso.

There are chiese rupestri (cave churches) which were excavated by Basilian monks fleeing persecution during the Byzantine Empire. Inside the chiese rupestri are faded frescoes painted between the 8th and 13th centuries. Chiesa Madonna delle Virtu and San Nicola dei Greci in Sasso Barisano and Chiesa di Santa Maria d’Idris (which is connected by a narrow corridor to the recessed church of San Giovanni in Monterrone) in Sasso Caveoso are decorated in frescoes. Many are almost inaccessible today.

Matera was built above a deep ravine called Gravina of Matera that divides the territory into two areas. Matera was built such that it is hidden, but made it difficult to provide a water supply to its inhabitants. Early dwellers invested tremendous energy in building cisterns and systems of water channels.

The largest cistern has been found under Piazza Vittorio Veneto. With its solid pillars carved from the rock and a vault height of more than 50 feet and it is like a water cathedral, which is navigable by boat. Like other cisterns in the town, it collected rainwater that was filtered and flowed in a controlled way to the Sassi.

There were also a large number of little superficial canals that fed pools and hanging gardens. Later, when the population increased, many of these cisterns were turned into houses and other kinds of water-harvesting systems were developed.

From the Sassi we traveled over the Apennines to the Almafi Coast. I didn’t realize just how high this mountain range is. The highest point is 6500 feet which doesn’t compare to Colorados 14,000 footers but from here we are starting at sea level, not 5000 feet like Colorado. It was a beautiful drive, the fields of poppies were beautiful. I also loved the way they train their Pittosporum into trees. Might be a different genus than the ones I have in my yard but I might try to trim mine differently after seeing these.

We spent 2 nights in Salerno, not my favorite city but it’s on the water and we had a beautiful meal right across the street from our hotel. The owner brought the fish out on a platter for us to choose from. We even had our own private fireworks!

We drove to Amalfi and toured the town. The crypt of the Cathedral there is stunning. Surprisingly Amalfi was not my favorite, pretty touristy, Ravello was. We didn’t see all the towns along the coast but of the ones we saw Ravello captured my image of that coastline.

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The images below are of Ravello

Ravello, like other towns along the Amalfi Coast were settled by Romans who built the amazing road along the cliffs, still in use today.

There are two fabulous gardens in the town. Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo. I’m sorry we never made it to Villa Cimbrone, we were beat by that time. A good reason to go back.

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We stayed in Salnero for 2 nights to tour the Almafi coast, if I were to do it again I would stay in Sorrento or our guide suggested Praiano (near Positano but not as expensive). That being said we had a fabulous dinner with an amazing view and even our own (or so it seemed) fireworks. We were presented with the fish we might wish to eat. We had that along with broiled vegetables and yellow potatoes. Bobbi and I had a knack for picking memorable places to eat and the food was always fresh and yummy.

We had two stops on our way back to Salerno. One was in Minori at an amazing place if you like pastries.

They are most famous for their Delizia al Limone. Again not on WW but worth the points.

Eat dessert first – which we did – then our last meal of the trip was eaten at Ristorante San Pietro, Cetera. It was great. We started with a half dozen hors-d’œuvre’s each one tastier than the last. The biggest surprise was the pasta with a simple sauce which included anchovies, I’m generally not a fan but you couldn’t really taste the fish, it just added a slight tang. Delizioso!


The trip was perfect. What were my favorite places and experiences? I’m used to traveling alone so was thrilled to have a totally compatible companion in Bobbi to travel with. Since it was our first trip together we didn’t know how it would be but it couldn’t have been better. And I’ll have to say it WAS more fun than alone. As far as the places we saw I guess I would say Lecce (love the over the top architectural decoration and our restaurant experience), Osterini (because of the beautiful restaurant we ate in and the art gallery with unusual pottery), and the old town Bari and Ravello. But every single place we went was wonderful. Ciao!

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Road Trip Southern Italy Part 2 Lecce to Ostuni

Lecce is in the heel of Italy’s boot, with olive trees as far as the eye can see. It is called the Florence of the South because of its baroque architecture. As we found in Bari the shops close from 1-3 for siesta! I don’t remember them doing this in other parts of Italy I have visited. And it might just be in the old part of town that this happens.

While the history of Lecce goes way back the period Lecce is most famous for is the 17th century when the Palaces and churches were built in the Baroque style out of soft local limestone. The Basilica di Santa Croce is the focal point of the old city with its amazing facade. But there are many other fabulously decorated churches in this small space.


You can still see ruins of a Roman amphitheatre which is at the dividing line of the old and new city. The amphitheatre is surrounded by buildings put up by Batista – Fascist architecture – which we saw a lot of in Napoli. It is partly buried because other ancient building were built on top of it. In its day it would hold 20,000. It is still used today for concerts and celebrations. Only the lower tier of seats remain. Near the square theatre there is a pre-Roman necropolis where Messapian inscriptions have been found.

There are a lot of beautiful shops with local art. I don’t recall seeing the pumi before. Pumi are decorative elements in a form recalling a bud that is going to bloom. Symbolizing prosperity and fertility, in the folk culture of the Southern Italy they defend from evil. Deeply rooted in the traditional culture of the ‘heel of the boot’, Pumi are very popular in Puglia, decorating magnificent palaces as well as simple balconies. I could do without the fertility but had to have one to take home.

We had a great time shopping in Lecce, both Bobbi and I met artists and purchased there work. We saw a lot of earthenware sculpture with a white glaze – love it.

This region is also famous for its papier mâché.

Scenes from Lecce.

We went to Otranto for a quick visit, and had a wonderful farm to table meal and wine tasting close by.

We left Lecce the next day and drove to Ostuni – the White City on the top of a hill. Ostuni is located in a region that has been inhabited since the stone age. It is believed to have to been founded by the Messapii, destroyed by the armies of Hannibal during the Punic Wars and then re-built by the Greeks – hence the Ostuni name meaning “new town.”

Its whitewashed defensive walls and houses in the old town with many winding streets, steps and beautifully decorated, colorful window frames can make you think you’re somewhere in Greece. Ostuni’s history is shown predominately within it’s architecture; with many buildings still standing dating back as far as 990 AD when the city was sacked by the Normans and added to it’s own county. The majority of buildings date from 1300 to 1463.

Our guides recipe for limoncello
Translation 1 litre grain alcohol 96 proof
8 organic lemons
1 1/2 pounds sugar
1 litre water
Peel the lemons (use none of the white)
soak the peels in the alcohol for 2 weeks in a dry dark place
strain through a fine linen cloth
make a syrup with the sugar and 1 litre water
———-
for Christmas he adds a cinnamon stick and 16 cloves
strains again
and salute!
It must be drunk very cold – put it in the freezer and drink it from there.
Our lunch spot in Ostuni

As I discovered the last time I was in Italy the further south I got the more I liked the food and the fewer people there were – well once you get away from Napoli.

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Road Trip Southern Italy part 1

My trip started by arriving in Naples, one of the most densely populated cities in Europe. Before I left home I saw a couple of videos and heard people talk about Naples, or Napoli as we were instructed to say (because Naples is in Florida) they said it’s chaotic, dirty, and crowded. It’s all of that but I’m glad I got to walk the streets. The architecture, the street food, the graffiti, the people, all were wonderful (well maybe not the graffiti). Driving from the airport to our hotel, just off Toledo, made me glad I was not driving, it reminded me of driving around the Arc De Triomph in Paris, or pretty much anywhere in Mexico City. You just go and hope others will not hit you, no street lights, hardly any lane markings through some of the city. You walk that way as well, we were told, cross at the crosswalk and be assertive, just step out and they will stop.

There are 60 museums in the city, we visited the Muse o Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli which has many artifacts found at Herculaneum and Pompeii. Some of our group went to Herculaneum, I had been to Pompeii on a previous trip so chose to stroll the streets.

We only got to see one of the Subway stations but Line 1 and Line 6 of the Napoli subway system have become an open-air museum with masterpieces between the staircases and docks. The stations are filled with colors, mosaics, installations, sculptures and photographs. Architects were chosen from across the globe to design each of the stations and international and Italian artists to provide the art. It has made a significant impact on the surrounding areas of the stations they say. Read more about it.

Not on WW but had to have a sfogliatella – The sfogliatella Santa Rosa was created in the monastery of Santa Rosa in Conca dei Marini in the province of SalernoItaly, in the 17th century. Pasquale Pintauro, a pastry chef from Naples, acquired the original recipe and began selling the pastries in his shop in 1818. Yum!

We left Napoli and drove to the city of Benevento –A UNESCO World Heritage Site . They know the Romans were here in 298 BC, there is a large Roman theatre here and the Arch of Trajann. The Arch of Trajan is one of the best-preserved Roman structures in the Campania (as this region of Italy is called).
The church we visited was built in 760 – The Church of Santa Sofia, it’s circular of Lombard design. It was severely damaged in an earthquake a while back but has been restored. It’s interesting that in the construction they used artifacts as building materials, some from the Roman times. They also have a lot of artifacts from that period on their grounds. The church has a  cloister from the 12th century. The church interior was once totally frescoed by Byzantine artists: fragments of these paintings, portraying the Histories of Christ, can be still seen in the two side aps.

The Appian Way is one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. And it ran right through this arch.

From Benevento we headed east and stopped at an interesting Castle Castel del Monte  or Castle of the Mountain – built in the 13th-century it sits alone on a hill, no need for a moat because being the highest point in the area you could see the enemy coming, even from the sea. It was built by the Emperor Frederick II, who had inherited the lands from his mother Constance of Sicily. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of 54 in Italy – of the 1092 sites worldwide, Italy has the most of any country.

The Between Benevento and Bari were miles and miles and miles of olive trees and vineyards. Bari is on the Adriatic Sea. Again – reading about Bari on the internet people kind of pan it. But we were entralled. The ancient part of Bari – Bari Vecchia – is a maze of narrow alleys. It is fascinating. The homes are tiny and much of their living is on the street.

St Nicholas is the patron Saint of Bari. They were preparing for the twice yearly celebrated festival when we were there. If you go on a tour in Europe you invariably go to dozens of churches, the Basilica of San Nicola, is a treasure built in 1087 to house the relics of the patron saint of the city. Today it is a popular destination for pilgrims from all over the world, devoted to St. Nicholas, but especially Russian Orthodox citizens, with whom the city of Bari has important relationships. Putin had even visited there recently.


There is a pasta that they make here – the women sit in their doorways and cut and twist the pasta into shapes called orecchiette – little ears.  Click here to see a video of them cutting and twisting the pasta.

From Bari we headed to Monopoli – a town with heavy Greek influences. The Agean sea is less that 70 miles wide at this point with Albania and Greece being the closest countries to the east.



Our last stop of the day was to visit an olive farm – Masseria Brancati – This is the oldest masseria (fortified farmhouse) in the region. They gave us a tour of their ancient underground oil mill used throughout the Middle Ages and up until 1800. We saw olive trees that were 2000 years old. There are some in the region that are 4000 years old. The oldest trees are given a number and are protected – read about the Millenari Di Puglia. We tasted their oil and learned about the different qualities of them. The first press is the extra virgin and has the most antioxidants and is the strongest. Whether extra virgin or virgin has to do with the time the olive is harvested. Here in this region (maybe everywhere I don’t know) they are harvested first in October, then 2nd in November and 3rd in December. The December harvest is the mildest and the one you cook with. The October is the strongest flavor and most healthy. The November oil falls somewhere in-between.

The trunks of these ancient trees are amazing

We had some rain in the area of Italy “that it never rains” but it didn’t dampen our spirits or slow us down.

Next stop Lecce – called the Florence of the South – in Road Trip Southern Italy Part 2






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Isabelle de Borchgrave in Naples, Fl

I’ve been to Naples, FL quite a few times but never made it to Artis – a museum and performing arts center. They have a fabulous exhibit there right now, in fact two of them. Costumes (even the jewelry) made from paper by Isabelle de Borchgrave , and sculptures by Philip Haas.

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Every bit of these costumes, jewelry included, is made out of paper. They are fabulous! I was impressed with the size of the show too, it filled 4 of their galleries.

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This was my favorite

About her, her work and “this exhibit, which was Co-organized by the Frick in collaboration with four other American museums, this major exhibition presents the full breadth of de Borchgrave’s exploration of historical costume through contemporary paper sculpture. If you’ve never seen the artist’s work, you will be delighted by these breathtaking, life-size renditions of historic clothing created completely from artfully painted, pleated, crumpled, and manipulated paper.
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From replicas of Renaissance Italian gowns to recreations of the fantastical modernist costumes of the Ballet Russes, Isabelle de Borchgrave’s work is meticulously crafted and astonishingly beautiful. The artist’s interest in creating paper costumes was sparked by a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1994, where she found herself inspired by the historic costumes on display. Back in her studio, she began to experiment with creating renditions of the pieces in paper. Since then, de Borchgrave’s paper costumes have been featured in major exhibitions around the world.

This immersive exhibition celebrates the breadth of de Borchgrave’s work with costume and fashion history and is designed to introduce her work to a wider audience. De Borchgrave’s paper sculptures are masterpieces of trompe l’oeil—even upon close inspection it is often difficult to discern that the costumes are made of paper.” 

The exhibition includes examples from all the artist’s major series, beginning with her exploration of 300 years of fashion history in the works created for Papiers à la Mode. The works from her Splendors of the Medici series are inspired by Italian Renaissance costumes portrayed in Old Master paintings. Her next series, The World of Mariano Fortuny explored the work of the iconoclastic Spanish fashion designer, famously based in Venice, and her most recent series, Les Ballet Russes features fantastical modernist costumes designed by artists like Picasso, Bakst, and Matisse.”

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They have a table with samples of the paper “fabrics” you can touch

There are costumes fashioned in paper from paintings I was fortunate to see in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy last year. I was “taken” by the entire exhibit, everyone knows I’m not a fashionista, but I was enthralled by the artistry of the crumpled, painted paper!

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The piece above was commissioned by the Frick to depict the costume in a painting from their collection Peter Paul Rubens’ Portrait of Charlotte- Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess of Condé.

In addition to making clothing made of paper she is also a painter. The artist was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1946, is a countess, and her work has been shown worldwide, if you get a chance to see it don’t miss it.

They also have about a dozen sculptures by American artist Philip Haas.
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These outdoor pieces are about 15 feet tall and made from fiberglass.
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The four seasons.

His sculptures are inspired by the works of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, and Philip is also a film maker.

Both exhibits are worth seeing!

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Ireland – Scotland Part 1

Exhausted from Hurricane Florence I guiltily decided to go on the trip I had signed up for last fall. I’m glad I did. We set off on a two day train trip from Dublin with Railtours Ireland. We traveled south west through the countryside of Co. Kildare.

We visited the Cliffs of Moher, among the highest sea cliffs in Europe. We were there for about an hour and by the time we left the fog had swept in and you couldn’t see any of the cliffs. This part of the country is breathtaking.

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We drove along “The Burren“. The word Burren means ‘rocky place’. It looks like a a lunar landscape of limestone. We were told that though it seems like there is no soil it’s noted for its diverse flora and fauna, more diverse than anywhere in Europe. Migrating birds from the North Pole and from theMediterranean and points further south bring the seeds that grow in the crevices in the rocks. This area also has many times more rainfall that Eastern Ireland.

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We stopped at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in Co. Clare.   The castle was built in the 15th Century and is furnished with period furniture and artifacts. I found the grounds most interesting – a 19th century Irish village with buildings from around the region.

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We eventually arrived in Galway, where we had time to explore on our own. One of the highlights was hearing a group of young Irish musicians performing on the street.

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Galway has a lot of young people and lots of tech jobs, It’s history began with a fort built in 1142. Through the Middle Ages it was a thriving port, it was involved in many wars through the ages, the potato famine of the mid 19th century and never regained strong economic growth until the late 20th century.

On day two we went to the Connemara region. When thinking about the area these are the things that come to my mind – few trees – thousands of miles of stone fences – narrow roads – windswept landscapes – mountains – fuschia hedges – sheep – lots of lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

We stopped at the Kylemore Abbey & Walled Victorian Gardens – which was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry, a successful businessman and liberal politician. It changed hands several times and in 1920 it was taken over by Benedictine Nuns whose Abbey in Belgium had been destroyed in World War II. They opened a world renowned boarding school for girls and restored the Abbey and Garden. The Walled Garden covers 6 acres and had fallen into ruin. In 1995 the Nuns began restoring it and it was opened to the public in 2000. The garden had 21 heated glass houses and a work force of 40 gardeners when it was first established and was compared in magnificence to Kew Gardens.

We continued on the Connemara Loop which was hauntingly beautiful.

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There are only a few towns in the area and my favorite is Clifden.

We heard that if the sheep are on top of the mountain (in this case cows) the weather is going to be good….

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There are a lot of sheep in the area, and they are free range, so you have to be very careful driving on the narrow winding roads because you never know what’s around the corner.
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I loved this area – it’s kind of other worldly.
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We went back to Galway and caught the train to Dublin.

I realize that I know little about the history of Ireland, as part of my blogging after a trip I go back and research the places I’ve been. It was interesting that  looking around Dublin looks like a pretty new city, I made a stupid comment about maybe because it was bombed during WWII. I was corrected – Ireland was neutral during the war so was never bombed. I wondered what else I didn’t know! So have been reading up on their history.

Here is a great timeline.

My mom was a genealogist and I read in some of her papers that our ancestors came from Ireland way back during the time of tribes and clans around 200 A.D. in present-day Ireland. At that time the area a tribe or clan occupied was called a Lyne or Lynne. When the leader of the clan wanted to gather the people they blew a horn, our clan was near the sea and made use of conch shells for their horns, thus “Conchlynne.”  This tribe – Conchlynne – was located where the city of Belfast now stands. for some reason members of the tribe migrated across to Scotland and then south to Nottinghamshire, England where the name is found in the 1600’s. The name turned into Conklin somewhere along the line in the US. When first coming to the US they were glassmakers.

We aren’t going to make it to Belfast on this trip – that will have to wait until next time.

I wasn’t in love with Dublin but did find a few areas I liked. Here are few photos from around town.

Two things that have made a huge impact on this city – Heineken and the musical group U2.
Signs and decorations on buildings…

Learning about the book of Kells at Trinity College (founded in 1592) was really more interesting than seeing it to me, since you can only see two pages, but the lengths the monks went through to make it were extraordinary.  They made it on the isle of Iona, where we are headed when we meet up with others from New Bern.

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The best part about the visit to Trinity College was seeing the long room, the library in the same building (which houses 200,000 of the Universities oldest books). You would recognize it from the Harry Potter movies, They weren’t allowed to use the library in their filming but they based the one they created on it.

Next post….. traveling north to the Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland, and then Scotland. We really didn’t see a lot of either country but what we did see we really like.

 

 

 

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Florence

This is not how I wanted the corner I live on to make the front page of the New York Times. My house is just to the right of these folks.ny times
This is for my folks and friends that don’t live near.  We are always reluctant to evacuate because it can be hard to return. When a hurricane strikes and you are by the water, first the water is pushed in (if you are in the NE quadrant like we were for Florence – the absolute worse position to be in in a hurricane), causing flooding from wind – which is what affects my particular location, then when it goes by then the water goes down but the rain inland causes the rivers to flood away from us cutting New Bern off. We may be high and dry by then but we can’t get back home.   That did happen from Florence but we threaded the needle and got home before we were cut off. Then by the end of the week even Hwy 70 was back open. However it was another week before you could travel south on 17 because the bridge in Pollocksviille was severely damaged.

Anyway I got home and for the first time I almost cried, I could not get my key in the front door. No locksmith answered their phones. I didn’t have a key to the other doors, the electricity was out so I could not get in through the garage door. Spraying air into the lock did not help.

My neighbors Kim and Steven Wynn came to the rescue, Steven came with a spray bottle of water and finally got the key in the door. It took some strength but the door finally opened and we went in. What a mess.

 

You can see where the waterline was. Lucky or good planning that the electric recepticales are higher than the 4′ of water. Everything was covered with muddy slime. Unfortunately only one of my work tables was high enough, The things I put on top of all but one of them got wet – 85% of the stuff below the water line was ruined. Tools rust within a day or two of being submerged, I didn’t know that.

The real heart breaker was the kiln room.

IMG_0475.jpgSomewhere is this mess is 3 kilns blown apart. Usually when we have a hurricane the water rises slowly. I expected that to happen this time, instead we were hit with that storm surge they always talk about, that we haven’t had, or at least this much, in the 29 years I’ve lived here. This time the 4 feet of water that came into my house all came at once, like a wall, with waves on top of it. And the fact that it moved so slowly allowed it to pile up much more water than it would have if it was a fast mover, like Michael that just hit Florida.

This was all within a block of my house, areas like Fairfield Harbor and River Bend had a lot of flooding as well, more than has been seen in decades.

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We are now a few weeks past Florence, and if you drive around New Bern you’ll still see some piles of peoples belongings along some roads, you’ll see some broken trees and some blue tarps on some roofs, but most of town looks normal. We are so grateful that we didn’t get hit like a 4 like hit Mexico Beach, and completely wiped them off the map.

 

 

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Evacuation

I’ve never been told to evacuate before. It was odd (after trying to move stuff out of the way of flooding) that as I looked around as to what I needed to take with me, I thought, it’s all just stuff. An interesting feeling. I didn’t want to leave but didn’t know what else to do. So headed north.

I-95 was busy but traffic moving well to Richmond. Stopped for a break at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (which is on my list for a potty break every time I pass through). Was just going to peek out the window, check out the gift shop, and then be on my way. Noticed there was an interesting looking garden sculpture, looked like origami, metal sculptures by Kevin Box, my friend stopped at the desk and asked about them. She also mentioned that we were evacuees and one of them gave us free passes and said, “go in an take a look” – wow!

These gardens are in my top 5 favorite Botanical Gardens in the country.

The show “Origami in the Garden” was fabulous, as were the flowers. Here’s a link and here are some of my photos.

We continued on our trek north and stopped for gas. I searched for my wallet, fortunately I had a credit card and some cash stuffed in my pockets (a bad habit I have but as my friend IB says, it is what it is), I was glad this time! I realized I left it at a Wendy’s in Stony Creek, I called and of course they did not find it. So spent the next hour calling cc companies and cancelling cards. As the afternoon went on I realized I had other cards I needed to replace. Ugh.

We arrived exhausted at our destination near Columbia, MD, took a sleeping aide, and slept all night not thinking about Florence at all (or trying not to).

Of course the next morning we obsessed about Florence all day, not being able to take our eyes off the tv. Started working on a painting for my 2019 calendar. The painting I’m working on is the new “The Jarvis at 220” which is in my block, and the Pollock Street Pub & Oyster Bar also on my block. It turns out the Jarvis had water in the basement, the Pollock Street Pub & Oyster Bar, like my house, had water inside their first floor.

Since I was so close to Philadelphia (120 miles) I decided to go to pick up my sculpture, the rabbit I made this summer. This is the first I’ve seen it since it was fired.

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On our way to Philadelphia we stopped to eat. I was on the phone with my sister telling her about the flooding, after I hung up this little old lady spoke up and said “You can come to my house – I live alone and I have lots of room!” People can be so kind.

We stopped at the best Ceramic supply store I’ve ever been in at Norristown to pick up stuff. Even though I knew my pottery studio was flooded I knew I had work to make for people. If my electric is compromised I’ll see if I can have someone fire for me. It’s the ceramic shop, http://www.theceramicshop.com.

Of course I can’t go to Philadelphia with out going to the Reading Terminal and eating at The Dutch Eating Place. It was a tradition for Michael and I every time we went to Philadelphia, wish he was there with me.
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We cruised South Street to look at Isiah’s mosiacs.
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Then started shopping for cleaning supplies to take home.

We spent the weekend glued to the tv watching the aftermath of Florence and seeing horrible photos of what she had done to our town. I knew I had a lot of water in my house so at this point my biggest concern was that the house was secure, were my doors caved in? Were there walls caved in?  I was able to connect with some people via Facebook and asked them to let me know. They did and the house was secure. This is one of the photos I was sent.
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I could see the high water mark on the wall, 4′ up. And that bench in the foreground weighs over 100 pounds, amazing how much power water has to move things.

One of the things we hate when they talk about evacuation is that often you can’t get back, in your town the water might have receded but inland the water is just rising flooding the roads we need to take back in.

We drove home on Monday and it was pretty spooky seeing the signs saying I-95 closed.

We got off on 64 headed east, by the time we got to Washington we started seeing signs of hurricane damage. But we were able to drive right in.

Next post – what I found when I got home……

 

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Colorado in August

I returned from Michigan with a few days to spare before going to see my friend Deb in Colorado. We made our base in Breckenridge. I can tell I’m getting old! There is a huge difference in 8000 and 10,500 feet. We lived in Aspen for 6 years at 8000 feet and after a couple days I got used to the altitude. 10,500 feet and 30 years later is an entirely different animal.

I huffed and puffed the entire week that we were in Breckenridge and when we went to Glenwood Springs and Aspen I really noticed the difference, I could breathe.

We arrived in Breckenridge at the end of their International Festival of Arts but were able to take in a few of the events.

Tree-O was pretty neat. We hiked part of the Illinois Creek Trail and found 3 musicians hanging from the trees playing music.
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We loved the troll created by Thomas Dambo who is an artist from Copenhagen, Denmark. He made this huge troll out of wood on the spot. Again to see it we had to hike up one of the trails for about a quarter of a mile, it was worth the walk. We climbed over the big pile of stones to get to it, once over the top I slid and sat down. Since I’ve gotten older I haven’t been afraid to ask for help. I stuck my hand out and a young man helped me down the rest of the way.

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In the first photo you can get an idea how huge he was! probably 14 or 15 feet tall.

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Another musical performance by Chirp! was up yet another trail. I didn’t know we were going to be hiking or I would have brought shoes other than my Birkenstocks. They sang a cappella and one of their songs really spoke to me. Here are part of the lyrics –
you gotta get up – break away – I won’t know peace til I find my place – guess that’s part of  the reason I’m traveling so much this year. Trying to figure out what is normal for me now without Michael and CC.

For two entire days we soaked in hot springs, both in Glenwood Springs.

  • Glenwood Canyon.

First the one Michael and I always used to go to when we lived in Aspen…..
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He always used to say, can you image what it would have been like to ride the train from New York in 1888 and get off here to soak? Glenwood Hot Spring the worlds largest hot spring pool.

The second hot springs day was spent at a new one called Iron Mountain Hot Springs,  which is a totally different experience. There is a small pool but there are also a dozen or so hot tubs, each with a different temperature.  It was very nice and was built only about 5 years ago.
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Both days were glorious!

Frisco was a real surprise for me, I’ve probably driven by it dozens of times but never stopped, always in a hurry to get home or get to Denver. It’s a beautiful little town just outside of Breckenridge, with some really nice shops.

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I’ve always been interested in railroads, especially steam, something about the travel, the lore, the intricacy of the locomotives, the architecture of the depots, so was happy when Deb agreed to drive up Boreas Pass. Michael and I drove all of these old railroad beds we could but never made it up this one.

IMG_0434This one over Boreas Pass was part of the Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad, which was built in 1882. The pass is at 11,481 feet, we made it to the top in a regular car. There were a few scary spots where you were driving on a cliff but all in all it was a pretty easy drive. We were surprised that people were camping along the way, some on a ledge. Usually camping isn’t allowed right along a road.

The nice thing about driving on these old railroad beds is that they are never steep, just a gentle grade. The railroad shut down service over the Pass in 1937 and began taking up the rails.

Another day we drove to Aspen, it continues to be one of my favorite places on earth.

This is the road out of the back of the entrance to Buttermilk Mountain. The house we lived in was on the top of this ridge.

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Every day when we lived there we drove pass the road to the Maroon Bells. Not a bad sight!
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My old workplace the Aspen Times.
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After our week in the mountains we returned to Arvada, make several trips to Boulder then one to Longmont to the Benson Sculpture Park . I’d heard about this park and the sculpture Show held there every year but really had no idea of the extent of their collection. Very impressive!