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A jaunt into the Croatan

Pitcher Plant Janet Francoeur Fine Art Blog

I hadn’t been in the Croatan in years, like maybe 20 or more, but I saw photos from a friend and decided I had to go. I’ve now been twice, once with a friend and once by myself. I was a little leery to go by myself but I went anyway, it wasn’t the animals, snakes or bugs I was worried about, it was other people. Luckily I only saw some bicycle riders the first time and no people the second.

I thought it would be really hard to find the carnivorous plants thinking (I don’t know why) that they were like morel mushrooms and you never knew where they would show up. And I would have to wander aimlessly through the woods looking for them. That was not the case! They were just off the road. As I was driving in I could see that the forest had been burned this year, at least the part I was in. This helps the plants thrive and also makes it easier to see the plants and walk into the woods to them. More about that later. The easiest ones to spot were the green pitcher plants with their chartreuse green color, and the fact that they are tall.

The first spot had about 100 green pitcher plants, 1000 flytraps, and a half dozen orchids. Wow!

The second spot had 1000 green pitcher plants and purple pitcher plants, no orchids and no flytraps, interesting!

Another spot had a different type of tiny pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts and there were lots of other types of wild flowers scattered about.

It was like a fairy land!

Of course as instructed I had on boots, long pants, and lots of bug spray. Because the wind was blowing both times the bugs were not a problem anyway but I guess the danger of ticks was still there.

This is a panoramic view of a field of green and purple pitcher plants.
Yellow Pitcher Plant Sarracenia flava
Yellow Pitcher Plant Sarracenia flava in Bloom
Sarracenia psittacina, Parrot Pitcher plant bloom
Sarracenia psittacina, Parrot Pitcher plant
Yellow Pitcher Plant Sarracenia flava
Yellow Pitcher Plant Sarracenia flava
Sweet Pitcher plant – Sarracenia rubra
Venus Flytrap
Venus Flytrap in bloom
Wild Colicroot Aletris farinosa
Spring draba. Draba verna
Snake mouth orchid Pogonia ophiglossoides
Sidebeak pencil flower Stylosanthes biflora
Sidebeak pencil flower Stylosanthes biflora
Robins Plantain Fleabane Erigeron Pulchellus

I’m amazed at how this photo above turned out, I was at least 10 feet away with my hand held camera wondering what the flower was because I was too far away to see.

SO many wildflowers, I was blown away.

Maryland Meadow Beauty
Inundated Clubmoss – Lycopodiella inundata
Another flytrap bloom
Butterwort – Pinguicula

There are over 80 different species of the Butterwort. Like other carnivorous plants the leaf is like sticky flypaper, the bug lands on it, can’t fly away, and the leaf slowly rolls up around it.

Spoon leaf Sundew –

Sundew – Insects land on its sticky leaves and are trapped there. It slowly rolls up the leaf and digests the insect.

lizards Tail – Saururus cernuus

I should have gotten out of the car, I just shot this out of the window, this flower is supposed to be very aromatic but can be toxic if you eat it.

Dense spike Blackroot – Pterocaulon pycnostachyum

About fires in the forest. We lived in Colorado when Yellowstone burned, in 1988. We were 9 hours away yet our valley filled up with smoke from it. People were in an uproar but historically, before people built homes in the forest, the forest burned naturally. This kept the undergrowth under control and weeded out the dead trees allowing the important tree species to grow with less competition for nutrients.

Before the late 1960 fires in forests were put out as soon as possible but as people began to realize the benefit of fire for the ecology the managers began allowing natural fires to burn under controlled conditions which reduced the areas lost to wildfires each year.

When fire clears the thick undergrowth sunlight can then reach the forest floor and encourage the growth of native species, like these carnivorous plants. They burn our forest regularly which is one reason we have so many of these plants. If they did not eventually the undergrowth would smother them.

I was able to identify these plants easily with an app I have on my phone called Picture This. You have to pay for it but I thought it was worth it and have used it a lot.

There is a great page on the internet featuring Tom Glasgow from our North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office with videos about the different types of carnivorous plants in the Croatan. You can watch it here!

It won’t be the last time I go into the forest and it won’t be long before you’ll see some of these plants showing up on my pottery.

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Artwork Explosion During Lockdown

This was posted on facebook and it surely describes me and many artists I know!

That being said I have found the last few months to be very productive and inspiring. I have been wanting to do paintings of my travels but there are so many places to paint I am too impatient to do large paintings of all of them.

While I was in Florida for the month of March I found a little (6 x 8″) watercolor block (A watercolor block is a stack of watercolor paper that is attached together. The sheets of fine art paper are trimmed to some uniform size and then stacked upon each other. That stack of art paper is then attached to a backing board with a padding glue. This glue is applied to all four sides of the paper.) of hot press paper that I really liked. I also started experimenting with gouache (gouache is an opaque, matte, watercolor). Those two things together lit my fire and off I went!

I have been fortunate the past few years to be able to travel quite a lot to Europe and around the US and have always dreamt of having the time to put some of what I saw down on paper. Since I sold Carolina Creations I finally have the time to do that.

These pieces measure 6 x 8″, all except the middle one on the top row which is watercolor on board – another experiment! I keep doing more and post them on the paintings page on this site.

Also while I was in Florida I saw this gopher tortoise. Gopher tortoises are found in all 67 counties in Florida and are an important species of the rapidly disappearing longleaf pine forest and wiregrass landscapes. The gopher tortoise originated in North America 60 million years ago, making it one of the oldest living species, and they may live up to 80 years.

This tortoise is called a Keystone species because more than 350 other species depend on their burrows for shelter and protection. This makes them a Keystone species – one without which many other species would not survive. (from the Nature Conservancy website). Neat!

I don’t remember how many days of lockdown I’ve been in but I think it started the middle of March. So what could I do but paint! In addition to painting paintings I was inspired to do some nature scenes on my pottery of all the neat things I saw in the swamps. The pieces are flying out but what I still have is posted on my Celebration Pottery page. I’m always doing new pieces!

Jan Francoeur Celebration Pottery Nature Series with egret
Celebration Pottery Jan Francoeur Nature Series with bee
Celebration Pottery Nature Heron S
Celebration Pottery Jan Francoeur Egret Flat Vase
Celebration Pottery Jan Francoeur Nature Series square bowl with hummingbird
Celebration Pottery Jan Francoeur Nature Series square bowl with hummingbird dark

I should say that during the time we lived in Aspen, then a year in the Florida Keys, I did a lot of drawing of birds. I would do the drawing in ink then add color just to the birds. So this work is just an extension of that work – 30 years later. More pieces are shown on my paintings page.

Then I got a call from Carolina Creations asking me to do some Mother’s Day pieces so here are some of them.

Of course all my work can be found at Carolina Creations. Their hours for the time being are 11-4 Mon-Sat. with all the precautions necessary to create a safe environment. And their website is available 24/7. Carolina Creations Website.

A few more travel paintings…..

Jan Francoeur Blue Heaven Watercolor painting
Jan Francoeur Key West Cuban Food watercolor

And now I HAVE to clean my house!! That is one problem with living where you work or work where you are living you are constantly torn about where you are and what you are supposed to be doing.

I can’t wait to get out and about again, like everyone else. In the mean time I’ll travel in my mind and in my art!

If you don’t know much about me you can read my story.

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Road Trip – More Art, Swamps, Flowers, and Birds

Mural in immokalee

I stayed in Florida after the big breakout of the Virus but was careful about social distancing, cleaning, washing hands etc. When I visit a place I’m always worried I’ll miss something so … my motto… leave no stone unturned.

Thank you Nancy Morgan for sharing your drawing.

To get out of the house I took a drive to Pine Island. Some of the things I saw along the way … art on the electric poles…

… Pretty sure it’s a sheepshead…

… and not sure what this guy is!

Another day I visited Six Mile Cypress Slough. It’ s over 3,400 acres of wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, that measures approximately 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide.

Six Mile Cypress Slough has been here for a long time, but there was a time during the 1960’s and 70’s when some things occurred that saved the Slough. The key event was the 1961 arrival of a young environmental educator, Bill Hammond.

Bill took a job as a science teacher. Since he did not have the funds for supplies he would go out to the Slough on the weekend and collect specimens and samples. Soon, he would be leading students from his environmental classes through the Slough. They called themselves the “Monday Group”. This was the beginning. Other key players were civil engineers Archie Grant and Ben Pratt. Most of the Slough was privately owned and when Bill heard that a permit had been filed for cypress harvesting he and his “Monday Group” convinced the County Commissioners and the public to vote for the funds to acquire the land. Door to door work was done by the students and others which is why the Sough has been preserved. I’ve been told by a local that adjacent land is now being acquired.

The boardwalk is 1.2 miles long.

All along the boardwalk are quotes. This was my favorite.

In between visiting the natural areas I did some watercolors (you can see more of my work on my paintings page). These are all tiny, 6 x 8″.

Riverhead, NY
Nantucket, MA

Driving down to the Fakahatchee Strand I passed through Immokalee, a town in the middle of a huge agricultural region. I caught a glimpse of a huge tile mural. It was fabulous!

The artist is Judith Inglese. Check out her website to see more of her work. The mural is huge 88 feet long. depicting the history and people of Immokalee, most of whom are migrant workers. It took the artist 8 months to complete. Here is a quote where she describe the value of art “Art, and in particular public art, has creative power. It can define and enrich a space. It can restore a sense of community by expressing its values and ideas. It can humanize an environment by adding form and color. Most importantly, art can represent feelings and celebrate hope and dreams, which are essential to human existence.”

What a treat visiting The Fakaatchee Strand was! This is the location that the book “The Orchid Thief” describes and the author Peter Matthiessen writes about in his book Shadow Country. At more than 120 square miles, Fakahatchee is Florida’s largest state park. More native orchid species, including the famous ghost orchid, grow in the wilderness than anywhere in the country. I saw an Everglade Mink, alligators of course, ibis, blue heron, various types of egrets, a wood stork, a various flowers and huge royal palms. Other species living there include manatees, black bears, and Florida panthers.

It had been pretty dry but I did find one deep hole where I watched an alligator, swirl, dive, bite, flop around for 20 minutes, went further on, and when I came back he was still at it and watched him for another half hour. I’m told he was digging the bottom of the water hole out so that when the water dries up he will still have some in the hole he dug out.

It is heart breaking to think what this area looked like before the swamp was drained and the area logged.

Babcock Ranch Preserve is another natural area not far from where I stayed. It is occupies 67,618.81 acres in southeast Charlotte County, approximately 17.5 miles east of Punta Gorda and 34 miles west of Lake Okeechobee. It represents one of the single largest purchases of conservation land in the state’s history. The Preserve protects regionally important water resources, diverse natural habitats, scenic landscapes and historic and cultural resources in the rapidly developing southwest Florida corridor. There are a lot of public recreational opportunities there include hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, bicycling, fishing, camping and horseback riding. It’s just a short drive from where I stayed so I’ve gone there many times. The last time I was there I saw more wildlife than I ever have. You can be back in there and not see another soul.

If you were casually driving through Babcock most of it looks like a savannah, but if you get out and walk and look down you can see all kinds of tiny wild flowers! The most unusual one was a tiny orchid. Here is a closer photo of it.

Behind the County Administrative Office in Venice Florida is a rookery where you can stand on the shore and with no binoculars, you are that close, you can watch Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibises, Wood Storks, Spoonbills, Green Herons, Tricolored Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons building nests, courting, sitting on their eggs and raising chicks. busily building or enhancing nests, courting, incubating eggs, and raising chicks.

A sunset cruise out of Fort Myers through the Matlacha Pass Charlotte Harbor estuary was beautiful, seeing dolphins and lots of birds. There is a small rookery island not far from Picnic Island that was covered with birds at dusk.

Then it was time to return to reality or unreality since the Virus madness by this time was at full force. Driving up I-95 was kind of surreal. At the Florida/Georgia line there were about 30 state troopers stopping all cars going into Florida. In Georgia there were signs that read visitors must go into quarantine, there were NO signs in South Carolina then when you got to North Carolina they read GO HOME. I had been wavering about going home early but I was staying away from other people in Florida and it was WARM so waited until April 1 to return. I had no idea what to expect on the drive, I took my own food and drink and only stopped for fuel and a half hour nap. I didn’t think I could still do a 12 hour drive in one day anymore but I did it. Glad to be off the road.

In Pauze – a sign I saw last year in a window in Bruges, Belgium, I wrote a blog post about that trip, thats where we are in pauze. Who could have ever dreamt this would happen. What’s next for me? Stay home and make art.

If you are new to my posts and artwork here is some background information on me. And this trip also influenced an entire new line in my Celebration Pottery, Nature Series.

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Road Trip Murals Gardens and Birds

I went back to Ft Myers again this year for a month of painting. Of course I can never visit a place and not look around too. And I can never drive by Savannah without taking a few photos and stopping at Dick Blick Art Supply.

Like last year this month is my time to work on my oil paintings, becoming more comfortable with the medium. I did do several successful (In my opinion!) oils paintings this year, I still don’t feel like I’ve gotten to where I want to go with them. Where is that? I’d like them to be a little more exciting. I’ll always paint architecture and gardens but want to work on my color.

If you subscribe to my blog posts you already saw some of the oil and cold wax paintings I did in a workshop in Ft Myers. Here are a few more.

I set off to meet a friend in the Everglades for an afternoon of observing nature and painting and on my way I stopped at the Naples Botanical Gardens. I had been there shortly after it opened 10 years ago and was thrilled with the difference. It wasn’t much then but is beautiful now.

I met my friend on the loop road. I’ve driven by the entrance to that road many times but had never driven it. The road is 25 miles long, is dirt 3/4 of the way, and generally the south side is wet and the north side is much drier. In a very few place you can see what the Everglades once was. Pretty much anything anyone could do to destroy it was done. Canals dug to drain it, fire burning a million acres, a dyke around Lake Ocachobee not allowing water to flow from it. The Everglades today receives less than one-third of its historic water flow, the water is contaminated by fertilizer and other runoff, and the wetlands are half the size they were when the federal government started its draining projects in the 1920s. At one point orchid hunters went in and removed entire trees filled with orchids, put them on ships and sent them to Europe. Logging and so many things have contributed to the demise of the Everglades, yet it is still a beautiful place.

I continued on to Miami to the Fairchild Botanical Gardens. It is named after one of the most famous plant explorers in history, David Fairchild (1869-1954). Dr. Fairchild traveled the world in search plants. As a young man he created the Section of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction of the United States Department of Agriculture, and for the next 37 years, he traveled the world in search of plants of potential use to the American people. He visited every continent in the world (except Antarctica) and brought back hundreds of important plants, including mangos, alfalfa, nectarines, dates, cotton, soybeans, bamboos and the flowering cherry trees that line the basin in Washington D.C.

He retired to Miami in 1935 and joined a group of plant collectors and horticulturists and together they created Fairchild Botanical Garden. It’s 83 acres were opened to the public for the first time in 1938. There is an Amphitheater, Library and Museum, 11 lakes that were dug by the CCC, A Science Building, an Arts Center, a Butterfly House and Tropical Plant Conservatory, and many more buildings. Their collection of plants is astonishing, their Palm collection is one of the things they are most famous for, but the part of the garden I am in love with is the Rainforest. I was the first ticket sold in the morning and I was able to wander in this part of the garden by myself for quite a while. I could have sworn I was in the jungle. It’s usually the flowers I am interested in but this time it was the trees and lush growth.

The Garden is divided into 2 distinct parts, where the lakes and palms are is called the lowlands, only inches above sea level, and the highlands where the buildings are and the rainforest (and other gardens) is the highlands, about 17 feet above sea level. The lowlands gets flooded in hurricanes so most things planted there can withstand being covered in salt water for a few days. I did not know that the Banyon Tree and the Ficus Tree are from the same family. Our guide Nancy Cliff was outstanding. She also told us that the influx of the iguana is fairly new, over the past 10 years their numbers have really grown in south Florida with them coming up from Mexico and South America.

They had just finished the new paved walks in the Garden and in many places the leaves they used to impress designs in the concrete were still there.

I saw a lot of public art in Miami but the traffic was so bad, and the parking, that I was going to give up until I decided to check out Wynwood. The neighborhood was previously an industrial district and had gone through 100 years of boom and bust. In the 90s it was in a low period and, as often happens, the art and some developers with vision made something out of it. On the way there I drove through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods and was pleased when I saw the sign …

…and the streets there were crawling with people, mostly young people. And there is barely a surface that doesn’t have art on it. I would say there are a several hundred murals. Sometimes I feel I live under a rock. This neighborhood has been developing for the past 10 years and is internationally known, except to me until now.

Wynwood was referred to as “Little San Juan” at one point, from its beginning 100 years ago the neighborhood has been up and down and until the art started happening it has been in its down period. Early in the 2000s there was a little investment with abandoned warehouses becoming occupied by artists, restaurants and lounges. A developer, Tony Goldman, assisted in the growth of Wynwood by creating a mecca out of the already present graffiti.  In 2009, Goldman commissioned artists to create the Wynwood Walls. Located in the Wynwood Art District, this is an outdoor exhibition of rotating street art.

In 2010, the abandoned Wynwood Free Trade Zone, at 2235 NW 5th Avenue, was reconverted into a working film studio.

Back in N Ft Myers I finished a watercolor I had started 2 years ago!

I went to a lecture about the Burrowing Owls found in Cape Coral, the largest population of the Florida species of the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia floridana) in the State, with an estimated 1000 nesting pair.

At only 5-8.5 ounces and 7.5-11 inches tall, the Burrowing Owl is one of the smallest of all the owls, and of the 171 species of owls worldwide, the only owl that lives underground.  Unlike the Western species of the Burrowing Owl (athene cunicularia hypugaea) that lives in abandoned prairie dog burrows, here in Florida our Burrowing Owls dig their own burrows.  Cape Coral has upwards of 2500 burrows within the City limits, but not all of them are actively being used by owls. (from the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife Website).

They are so easy to see and photograph. Just look for white stakes surrounding the burrows. Why do they like Cape Coral? Because of the way the city was built. Land speculators come in 1956, totally cleared the 100 sq miles that make up the city and dug canals, leaving a barren landscape, just what these owls like. If you drive around the neighborhoods there are a lot of empty lots so the burrows are easy to see. During the breeding season the entrance to the burrow may contain adornments such as paper, shells, glass, pieces of plastic, animal fecal material, clumps of grass, animal parts, or other items. The best time to see them is at dawn and dusk. I was there in the middle of the day, saw one guy, who quickly disappeared then I saw the dust fly, he was working on his burrow.

This is about the time the Virus alarm really started to wail. Art shows cancelled, lots of thing closed. Time to make more art. Next post more Florida (all outdoor stuff), and more art. Feel lucky to be an artist when confined for a long period of time. There is never enough time to make art. Stay safe everyone and wash your hands. If you are new to this site here is my story.

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Road Trip – Key West

This was the 37th Anniversary of my first trip to Key West, Michael had accompanied friends on their honeymoon and I flew down, it was our 3rd or 4th date! While here we decided to get married, and that happened in August of that same year. I’ve been here about a dozen times since. Why do I keep coming back?

  1. Nostalgia – where we started.
  2. The architecture
  3. The light
  4. The shadows
  5. The colors
  6. The flora and fauna
  7. The art
  8. The only place in the continental US you can be assured of being warm in the winter
  9. The water
  10. The live and let live attitude

I should really start out by saying I write this blog for myself, like a diary, but hear from others that they like reading it, so I share it.

Back to Key West — I visited my favorite spots but found some new ones too!

This was a road trip with stops in Savannah, St Augustine, Vero Beach, and Palm Beach on the way.

I got into Savannah late so the light was nice.

A quick stop in St Augustine.

Then Palm Beach was next. Whether or not I buy anything I love walking down Worth Avenue. Great galleries and it’s beautiful!

I stop at the Laughing Dog Gallery in Vero Beach whenever I’m close. When I owned Carolina Creations we shared some of the same artists.

I’ve been fascinated by railroads, the architecture and the trains themselves, since I was very young. I ride a train whenever I get a chance. Of course Flagler was single handedly responsible for the development of the tourism industry in Florida. By the time I started coming to the keys in 1983 the new seven mile bridge had only been open a year. Before that you drove on the old railroad bridge that had been recycled. Michael had the privilege of driving on the old bridge that goes between Bahia Honda and Spanish Harbor Key. You drove over the top! Yikes! I could have never done that. The new bridge was completed over that stretch in 1980 I think. Michael was also at Sunshine Key when the old seven mile bridge blew up in 1981 extending his stay in the Keys for a while.

No way could I have driven over this bridge! Bahia Honda

I arrived in Key West just in time for the Polar Bear Plunge – which I did NOT participate in!

I love the raku murals at Salute at Higgs Beach.

My favorite thing to do in Key West is to just walk and look at the flowers, the buildings, and the art.

Ate some interesting looking fruit.

There is poetry on some of the side walks, “The Sidewalk Poetry” project was initiated by the Key West Art in Public Places Board in 2012. The goal of the project is to spread appreciation for the Arts through the installation of winning poems on sidewalks throughout the City of Key West. Click here for a map so you can find all 17.

I love people that can “turn a phrase”. Loosely owned is so much more poetic than feral!

Key West isn’t quite as funky as it used to be but there are still some vestiges of it.

Of course the chickens still roam.

And you can’t forget to close the door because you never know who will wander in like this guy.

If you’ve never been here in my opinion the only place to stay is in the historic district since everything you want to see is there. While it is compact you can still wear yourself out walking. There are no parking structures so parking is at a premium. A few years ago, maybe 2017, they started a free bus service called the Duval Loop, you can hop on and hop off, it’s a lifesaver. Michael and I stayed in the Shipyard condos probably 8 or 9 years ago which is part of the Truman Annex, that’s where I stayed again this year. It’s a great location 2 blocks off Duval near the Green Parrot. It’s quiet, there is parking, and it’s gated so the only weirdos that might wander in is someone like the guy pictured above. Of course the weirdos are part of what I like about Key West, both human and animal!

As I said I did several firsts this trip, I’d never been to Fort East Martello Museum. I’d been to the West Martello Fort many times at Higgs Beach, they have a small botanical garden. But the Fort East Martello is larger and very interesting. Robert resides there for one thing. I’d never heard of Robert the Doll. He’s kind of creepy but has an interesting story. Gene and Robert were ‘best friends’ growing up. Legend speculates voodoo played a part in Robert’s formative years, while interviews with those close to the Otto family indicate a great deal of emotional energy was placed upon the doll during Eugene’s lifetime. It is said that young Gene would shift blame when he misbehaved as a child, pointing to the doll and saying, “I didn’t do it. Robert did it”. The story goes that weird things happen when Robert is around. He even has his own website ROBERT THE DOLL.

I had never heard about Carl Tanzler either, a love story that took place in Key West. Reading THAT story is not for the faint of heart.

The museum has displays that talk about Key West’s early years, the cigar industry, the Indians that first inhabited the Keys, and so on. They also have an extensive collection of work by the folk artist Stanley Joseph Papio. He was a welder and created art from the junk he accumulated. Some say it was a way to justify his junk yard on Key Largo. Today he would be called an outsider artist.

Another first was a visit to the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. Highlights of this museum for me were the artworks by Mario Sanchez. He is considered one of the most significant Cuban American folk artists of the 20th Century. A Key West native, Sanchez worked with wood and paint, mostly creating bas relief carvings that reflect images of earlier times on the island that were never captured in photos.

Right now there is an exhibition that closes soon called Literary History of Key West which tells about 20+ writers who worked here. I learned that Tennessee Williams was a painter as well as a writer. He took up painting as his literary career began to wane. The display of 15 of his paintings are on permanent loan to the museum.

This was my favorite.

And there is an extensive permanent display about Henry Flagler and his building of the Overseas Highway.

I noticed that my favorite directional sign of all time has changed a little since last year. I have photos of directional signs like this from all over the world. One of these days I’ll get one erected at the corner of my house. Two pieces of the sign disappeared since last year, one said “my uncle once killed a squirrel with a gravy boat” and the other “the key west chicken ate my cat”, and his choice for president changed too!

LOVE LOVE LOVE roaming the streets.

My favorite art galleries are Gingerbread Square, Key West Pottery, Art at 830, Cocco and Salem, and Guild. Galleries with New Bern connections include Gallery on Greene, Guild and Inspirations.

Some of my favorite public art around town:

Murals above by Key West Artist Rick Worth
Sculpture by John Martini Key West Artist
Totems by Key West’s Adam Russell of Key West Pottery, my favorite gallery in Key West. Love his work.

Other shots from around town.

It is a small world as they say. I went to visit potter friends at mm17 who were there visiting with other crafts people. We were all telling travel stories, one of the other couples spoke about a recent trip to Mexico.  I said the last time I was in Mexico I stayed in the tiny remote town of La Manzanilla and rode the chicken bus to get around.   

The guy we rented from dropped us off at the house and said I can get you anything you want ________ (fill in the blank). They said Detroit Dave?   I said yes!   They had been there 9 years ago. None of us could get over the chances of that happening. We met the same guy, in this tiny remote town.

I’d never been here before…. yummy!
Louie's Backyard

Last day lunch at Louie’s Backyard.

I have a rule that I follow, never go and come back the same way if you can help it, this applies to anywhere, even the grocery store. So I left the Keys via the Card Sound Bridge and had to stop at Alabama Jacks, the last time I was there was with Michael. The place was packed. Here’s a little bit of history LINK.

Alabama Jacks Card Sound

The end of a beautiful day and a great two weeks! Where to next? Home to get some artwork done then off to Fort Myers.

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Road Trip – Public Art Tour – Chicago

Chicago Wabash Corridor

Chicago turned out to be even better then expected.   I flew in the day before my nieces wedding rented a car and drove to my hotel the Radisson blu AQUA on the Chicago river just a few blocks from the Art Institute.  It was very nice. It wasn’t long before I was snapping photos. Here is the view from my room.

As I walked out of the hotel I could see already one day would not be enough since the first thing I saw was the Architecture Center and I had to pass it up.  I headed for the Bean (officially called the Cloud Gate) and it turned out to be my favorite piece of public art I was going to see in Chicago.  Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, it is the first public outdoor work installed in the US by the artist. It weighs 110 tons and is forged of stainless steel plates. It reflects the skyline, the sky, and the people standing under and around it.

The Cloud Gate – aka The Bean
Reflections in the Bean – that’s me in my giant coat (it was cold) and hat right in the middle.
More Bean reflections from underneath.

I lived 4 hours east of Chicago from the time I was born until I moved to Colorado in 1983.  Chicago was a weekend trip that I enjoyed many times but haven’t been there since about 1980, not even to pass through the airport.  So the Bean and other things I liked have been in Millennium park for many years, I just haven’t.   

Other things in the park I liked were the Crown Fountains.   Although the water was not shooting out of the persons mouth (it’s turned off in the winter) the changing images were there. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa the fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers projects video images of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. 

The collection of faces, Plensa’s tribute to Chicagoans, was taken from a cross-section of 1,000 residents. 

As you can see from the photos it was overcast, typical for locations close to the Great Lakes, you hardly see the sun in the wintertime. And it’s the main reason I don’t ever want to live there again, Summers are beautiful though! The areas surrounding the Great Lakes get a lot of snow due to the “lake-effect.” In case you are not familiar with the term here is the definition. “A meteorological phenomenon in which warm moist air rising from a body of water mixes with cold dry air overhead resulting in (A LOT OF) precipitation especially downwind.”

Skating in Millennium Park with the Bean in the background.

The Ice Rink is sponsored by Hilton. If you show your room reservation you don’t have to pay for skates.

And the Frank Gehry’s BP Pedestrian Bridge is a work of art.  It is 925 feet long and winds from Millennium Park to the Daley Bicentennial Plaza and the entire lakefront park system, across Columbus Drive. It too is made of stainless steel panels. It was completed in 2004. The cost was over $12 million, $5 million of which was donated by BP. Follow the link above to see some aerial views. It’s beautiful.

Then I made a bee line to see Chagalls the Four Seasons mosaic Located in Chase Tower Plaza. The Four Seasons by Russian-French artist Marc Chagall are a series of mosaics that depict the arrival of spring, summer, winter, and fall. It was a gift to the City of Chicago by the Prince Charitable trust.

It is composed of thousands of inlaid chips portraying six scenes of Chicago. The design was created in his studio in France then transferred onto full-scale panels and installed in Chicago with the help of a skilled mosaicist. It was installed in 1974, the roof was added later. This was one of his last mosaics.

Marc Chagall is also well-known in Chicago for his America Windows, which I saw next at the Art Institute.  

While on my way over there  I just happened to pass by the CIBC Theatre where Hamilton was playing and thought I’d step into the box office and see  – “do you have any tickets for tonight?” They had 2 left!  I never thought I’d get a chance to see it. I can’t say enough good things about the cast.  All performed above and beyond expectations.     They were at the end of a 3 year run in Chicago which ended January 5. 

At the art institute I got to see work by some of my favorite painters Monet, Mary Cassatt (I worked with a nephew of hers at the Aspen Times, he was talented too), Van Gogh, and others.  

As a bonus they were having a special exhibit of work by Andy Warhol.    There was an Impressive 400 pieces of his work from sketches to videos to the pieces we all know.   The museum was packed!    

I guess I missed this in art history class but shoes played a prominent role in Warhol’s early career as a commercial artist. “His 1950s advertisements for women’s footwear were well recognized and his fetish for shoes and feet continued throughout his life. “
I was impressed with this gallery at the Art Institute, we knew these folks in Aspen, they were friends
of people we worked for and would come to parties at our house. They were really involved in the Aspen Music Festival, Anderson Ranch and other arts programs.

 I intended to walk the Wabash arts corridor but was beat so got up early the next morning to drive it. 

There are 40 large scale murals along this corridor, I did not see them all but saw quite a few.  “The Wabash Arts Corridor is Chicago’s living urban canvas in the heart of the South Loop neighborhood. Founded by Columbia College Chicago in 2013, WAC has grown to be one of the most expansive, diverse and accessible public art programs in the country. This community driven project weaves the visual, performing and media arts into daily life, immersing residents and visitors into artist-reclaimed public spaces that transform the urban experienceArtists and curators from five continents have left their mark on WAC with murals, performance, installations, actions and large-scale projections that are always free and open to the public..”   to learn more visit.

This was my favorite of the murals, a whopping seven stories high.

And as I started south I stopped to see Agora (Greek for meeting place), one of Chicago’s most recent installations. It consists of 106 nine-foot tall cast iron headless torsos. The figures are posed walking in groups in various directions or standing still. Internationally renowned artist Magdalena Abakanowicz donated the sculptural group along with the Polish Ministry of Culture, a Polish cultural foundation, and other private donors. Born into an aristocratic family just outside of Warsaw, Abakanowicz (b. 1930) was deeply affected by World War II and the forty-five years of Soviet domination that followed. In her journals, she writes that she has lived “…in times which were extraordinary by their various forms of collective hate and collective adulation. Marches and parades worshipped leaders, great and good, who soon turned out to be mass murderers. I was obsessed by the image of the crowd… I suspected that under the human skull, instincts and emotions overpower the intellect without us being aware of it.” The sculptor began creating large headless figures in the 1970s. Initially working in burlap and resin, she went on to use bronze, steel, and iron. Although Abakanowicz hasfrequently exhibited in museums and public spaces throughout the world— Agora is her largest permanent installation.

On Michigan avenue near the water tower is Starbucks reserve. I like the coffee ok but will never stand in a line longer than 5 people to get a cup of it.   Well LOTS of people in Chicago (and lots of other places will), in fact at this Chicago location they were lined up out the door and half way down a long city block. Turns out this Starbucks just opened this November, is 5 stories high with an open air terrace on the 5th floor, each floor has its own specialty be it beans. brewed coffee a bar a gift shop etc.  NO I DID NOT go in just looked at it from the outside. A pretty impressive sight, 

It’s close to the Water Tower which I’ve always been fascinated with.It’s one of the few buildings that survived the great fire, built in 1869, it held water to regulate the flow in the area and was a water source for fighting fires.

Just before I left Chicago I stopped in the Pullman neighborhood.  I love traveling by train and have done many drawings of locomotives and railroad depots through the years. Pullman of course made railroad cars.    The railroad connection is what got Pullman on my radar but the architecture is what made me seek out the neighborhood.

Hotel Florence, built in 1881, and being restored.

I finally made it out of town and to the purpose of the trip, my great nieces wedding in South Bend.   They make a beautiful couple!  

 I don’t know that I had ever been to south bend so enjoyed looking around the town.  

Notre Dame is there so took a tour of that as well. I had no idea how huge the campus is, they even have their own zip code. 

In the Charles B Hayes Sculpture Garden on campus my favorite piece was by George Rickey who was born in South Bend and has lived all over the world and has sculptures all over the world as well. It’s a kinetic sculpture and moves constantly and very slowly, changing all the time. A note about the park, until this Park was developed this area was a landfill for Notre Dame. George’s son Philip is a stone sculptor and has a large installation about the life of Christ. There is a video where he talks about his sculpture and a little about his father.

Back to Chicago to catch my flight on Monday.   Got there just before dark and had one more thing on my list I wanted to see – the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Number one, I didn’t know what a Mandir was, number two I know nothing about the Hindu religion, but again, I was intrigued by a photo I saw somewhere. It was beautiful. One of the things I love about traveling and one reason I do it as often as possible is I learn so much. I’ve got a lot of reading in my future after this trip, the Hindu religion, Alexander Hamilton, some artists work I saw at the Art Institute I wasn’t familiar with, and there is more to learn about Pullman.

I was a little nervous- and wondered if I would be there alone in the dark? Well I was met at the gate by a guard a police man and as I entered then I saw that there must have been 2000 other people there as well!

That night I stayed at the Loews which is right beside O’Hare, a convention center, a large mall, and several top named restaurants.  The hotel and my room were beautiful.    I went to the airport really early trying to complete my global entry card. I signed up for it in the spring but anytime I was in an airport that had an office you could be interviewed in my connection was so tight there was no time. 

When I tried to get an appointment at O’Hare before leaving home, the next available one was in March. So I went to terminal 5 to take my chances as a walk-in.  And it worked out, of course people with appointments have priority so you just have to wait, I only sat there about 45 minutes and I finally got it done. I have never been in that airport and was kind of dreading it but the car rental place was great, the best I’ve seen, the air train is out of commission but the busses ran regularly (we even had a singing driver) , and everywhere you looked there was someone asking if you needed help.  The only negative I saw was that it is a long way down the corridors with no moving sidewalks.

So I’m home again and looking forward to the new year and a new decade and my next trip – Key West.

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A friend of mine reminded me I hadn’t written a blog post in a while. It’s not like I haven’t been anywhere, I have, but they’ve been short trips, nothing exotic. I have seen some neat things though.

It started in August with a trip to NYC to help a friend shop for her gallery in Colorado. Even though we were working we did take a little time off.

I’ve probably walked by this tiny garden on 34th St. a dozen times but never noticed it because it’s behind a nondescript metal gate. You can get a key to enter this and other key gardens for $2!

This is the first time I’ve been in NYC since the Vessel opened near the Highline. NO I did not climb it – you have to get a ticket, I didn’t have the time or the energy but it is neat to see.

Jane’s Carousel was nice to see in person. I’ve never taken the time to go to Brooklyn before. It was fun walking around the waterfront under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Jane’s Carousel
Platter I did for Jane

A few years ago I was hired to do a platter for Jane of her carousel. She is a friend of some New Bern folks. Jane and her husband bought the Carousel at auction when the park it was in in Youngstown, OH closed. It took them 22 years to restore it, with Jane doing much of the work on the animals I was told. It is now in a wonderful building in DUMBO.

This is the 2nd Philadelphia Tobaggon Company Carousel (PTC No. 61) I’ve had a close encounter with.

The other was PTC No. 6 in Colorado and I did a series of 6 drawings of that one.

Brooklyn Bridge
Truman Capote

Lots of writers lived in Brooklyn Heights and we walked by many of their homes. Henry Miller, Arthur Miller, Hart Crane, Truman Capote, Thomas Wolfe, Richard Wright, John Dos Passos, Norman Mailer, Paul Bowles and WH Auden all lived near each other.

This is something I’d never seen before, Brooklyn Cat Cafe. You pay to go in $7 and spend time petting and playing with the cats! You can also adopt them. Their website says that on weekends there is often a line and a 30 minute to an hour wait to get in to play with the cate, so make your reservation ahead.

Thousands watching a free movie in Bryant Park – it was fun!

After NY I went on a whirlwind trip to Greenville, SC, Asheville, and West Jefferson. I was in Greenville briefly once before, this time I was able to walk around the park and waterfall.

Asheville was a blur with just a few stops then off to West Jefferson, hadn’t been there in at least 20 years maybe more. On the way stopped for lunch and a drink at the Little Switzerland Inn. Then continued to West Jefferson. We enjoyed the Ashe County Cheese Shop. You can see cheese made and their shop is great! We ran into friend and artist Mike Rooney who was there teaching a workshop at the Florence Thomas Art School.

I was home from there for a week or so then headed off to Michigan for my 50th class reunion. I hadn’t been to any of them so didn’t know what to expect. As it turned out it was fun. But before I got there I decided to take the scenic route on the way.

I took Hwy 33 in Virginia and ended up in a beautiful little town by the name of Gordonsville. There were some great shops and a beautiful art gallery – The Annie Gould Gallery.

I often go through Winchester, Virginia on my way. It’s the self proclaimed Apple Capitol of the world.

My great, great, great grandfather, Samuel Trowbridge lived near there and is buried in the Little Mountain Cemetery on property he was awarded after serving in the Revolutionary War. The minister at the Little Mountain Methodist Church told me that he was the first white man buried in the cemetery. He and his wife Christiann had a farm on Apple Pie Ridge. His son, my great, great grandfather Joseph Trowbridge went west and ended up in Frankfort, In. His son Aaron Moon was in the Civil war and went to Ohio when it was over. His son Wallace Orth Trowbridge, my grandfather ended up in Michigan.

Since it was before Halloween I saw some neat decorations on my way.

Had to turn around to get a shot of these guys. This wasn’t far from my hometown,
my niece said they get new clothes about every season.
Love this pumpkin made out of a round bale of hay and a stump!

After a few days in Michigan I headed south again. This time all the way to Charleston to my nieces wedding.

That was another short visit. But on the way I drove through Wytheville. I’ve driven by 20+ times on 77 but just never stopped. I was surprised what a nice little town it is, from the highway it just looks like one big truck stop. I am always attracted to advertising art so could not resist a photo of this big pencil at the Wytheville Office Supply.

Home again then back to Michigan for a family reunion. Spent the weekend with my sister and didn’t do much else. The 2nd weekend in December I got a chance to go to Hyde County and see some of the natural world. The tundra swans are there for the winter. I wish I would have gotten a photo of them as they flew overhead.

Thousands of birds, sometimes you can’t even see them but you sure can hear them.
Bear footprint along the path.
Some kind of big cat print.

It was interesting that all along this path near the impoundments just west of Lake Mattamuskeet we saw pile after pile of animal droppings, we assume they were marking their territory.

Then for the last trip of the year I headed out to another wedding in South Bend, Indiana. I flew into Chicago because I hadn’t been there in 25+ years. As a young adult it was just 4 hours away so went often. I spent Friday on a walking tour of public art, it was cold but so much fun! I was going to add Chicago to this post but too much to post about so I’ll post that one in a week or so.

Travels coming up in 2020 – 2 weeks in Key West, a month in Ft. Myers, 2 weeks in Colorado and a 2 week tour of Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Salzburg, and maybe Maine and Nova Scotia this summer, can’t wait!

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Road Trip Long Island and Points North

I know people that go to the same place for vacation over and over, it’s comfortable, you know what you are going to get, you can just sit and rest because there is nothing new to explore. Michael used to say going on vacation with me was like going on a forced march, he would have been happy to go to the same place all the time (mostly the Keys!) but for me – I’m curious to see what is around the bend, how people live differently than I do, what new art is out there I haven’t seen before, what food is different, how people plant their gardens, what lovely architecture there is to see – for me it keeps life interesting.

Life-sized public sculptures by Polish artist Jerzy “Jotka” Kędziora at Old Westbury Gardens

I decided to meet some friends on Long Island for a week, yes I knew the traffic would be bad but it’s the only time to go in my opinion! I started out by visiting The Greenbrier in West Virginia on my way. I was not impressed so don’t need to go back there again, however the little town of Lewisburg was nice.

I was driving my Sprinter and while I’m used to driving through big cities and have driven through NYC in it before I wasn’t really looking forward to driving through Brooklyn so got up at 5 am, there was still a traffic jam although not a long one. Actually I prefer a traffic jam over going 70 mph with thousands of other cars never knowing when someone will slam on their brakes. I made with without incident. My first stop on LI was at Old Westbury Gardens, I had been there once but it had been a long time. The gardens were beautiful and at their peak! The estate is on the National Register and was owned by an heir to the Phipps fortune. The money came from his father being partner in the Carnegie Steel Company.

We stayed at Wildwood State Park which was a beautiful campground and in a great location, where the North and South Forks meet.

Our first day we went to Sagamore Hill where Teddy Roosevelt lived. It is a beautiful home, there is also a nice museum, part of the US National Park System. I think the thing that impressed me the most was that it was fully furnished, with all the knick knacks, books, art, etc, that was there when he lived there. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a historic home that had so much original “stuff”. It was really neat to see it all.

The difference of the North Fork, the South Fork, of LI is always a surprise to me, totally different worlds. On the North Fork – Farm Market after Farm Market, dozens of wineries, cider houses, and wide open fields.

We stopped at Lavender by the Bay, they were doing a bang up business, their gift shop is very well stocked with everything lavender.

Lavender by the Bay
Lavender by the Bay
Couldn’t resist Uncle Sam
Loved the look of the front of this Hotel and the lady with the watering can was a bonus. Could be a painting in my future!

We could see that a lot of shops really struggle out there, their tourist season is so short, the middle of June to Labor day, yet the South Fork seems to thrive.

Can’t pass up something like the Big Duck without stopping. Before the wineries, cider houses, and farm stands, raising ducks on the east end of LI was big business. We are told as you approached River head you could smell them. So the Big Duck pays homage to that period. A duck farmer built it and used it as a shop to sell his eggs and ducks out of. It’s now a gift shop and tourist information center.

The Big Duck in Flanders, NY

And Lighthouses fall under the same category as the big duck. Can’t pass one by without a photo.

In Orient they have replicas of the surrounding lighthouses since most are accessible only by water.


We ate at this restaurant near the cross sound ferry at Orient, which I would not recommend, but my photo of it would make a nice painting!

Sailing to Block Island
Montauk Lighthouse and Museum

Block Island – I have been intrigued with BI for a long time so glad to visit and cross that off my list. We took the ferry out of Montauk, it took a little over an hour to go the 12 miles. I expected cliffs all the way around and was surprised to find one side of the island sandy and the other with high cliffs as I had envisioned. The island is very hilly. There were hundreds of boats in the harbors. We docked in New Town Harbor where most boats are moored (maybe a couple hundred), there isn’t much else in New Harbor so took a taxi to Old Town Harbor. We enjoyed the architecture, and walking around, then took a tour of the island.

Block Island
Rainy day on Block Island

After Block Island I spent a couple days roaming around Shelter Island, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Watermill and other towns. The Mumford Farm ca. 1680, is a collection of buildings on the main drag entering East Hampton. It belongs to the Historical Society and is on the National Register.

There are a lot of windmills on long island.  The reason there were so many is in most parts of the country the mills were run by water running in a stream but on Long Island there are few streams but there is an abundance of wind. The Eastern end of Long Island has the largest concentration of surviving windmills in the country. There are two right in the village of East Hampton.

Mumford Farm East Hampton
Sag Harbor
Marc Dalessio

On my last visit I had driven through Sag Harbor on my way to the Shelter Island Ferry but did not take time to look around. It’s a cute town, quite down market from East Hampton, but with some nice old homes, shops and galleries. My friend Marc Dalessio had a show at a gallery there. This is how I want to paint in oils! loose and impressionistic. Don’t know if I’ll ever achieve it because of my background of architectural renderings I just can’t get away from my fascination with detail. But we’ll see. I’m working on paintings for a show I will have at Carolina Creations, it will be a combination of watercolors and oils. I’ve done some oil paintings through the years but never had enough time to really feel comfortable with the medium.

Beautiful lunch at The American Hotel – Sag Harbor

I visited the home and artist studio of Jackson Pollock and his artist wife Lee Krasner. It is a beautiful spot.

Jackson Pollocks back yard
When they pulled up linoleum from the floor they found remnants of some of Pollocks most famous paintings.

While in the town of Water Mill I visited a mill run by water that grinds corn into flour, they have a great little museum and had an art show to boot.

Also on the South Fork is the Madoo Conversancy. A beautiful garden owned and developed by artist, writer, and gardener, Robert Dash – only 2 acres – but with a lot packed in, including a studio where they had an exhibit – The Madoo Conservancy is pleased to present Madoo: A History in Photographs, Celebrating 25 Years as a Public Garden—an exhibition of photographs, published book and magazine features, and artwork from the archives of Madoo’s founder Robert Dash, including seven pictures Dash produced directly from his garden. It was well worth the visit.

I took the Port Jefferson ferry to Connecticut and my first stop was at the Pez Visitors Center. I would have never stopped there but my friends were there the week before and just mentioned it in passing. They didn’t tell me how neat it is. I had no clue how many Pez Dispensers have been made through the years. It is an amazing collection.

A quick drive through New Haven followed. New Haven was founded in 1637, and my Trowbridge ancestors arrived there in 1639 from England. Then they moved a little north to help found the settlement of Wallingford. My Mom was a genealogist so I grew up thinking about where we came from. Unfortunately genealogy is one of those things that can take over your life. I already have one of those things so can only work to get her research more organized, not do any of my own.

A day on Nantucket came next. The window boxes were fabulous. I took photos of probably 40 of them, each was a work of art.

Before leaving the Cape I visited Highfield Hall and Gardens to see the stick sculpture by Patrick Dougherty.

Not sure I totally agree with him but like his quote about his work – the line between trash and treasure is thin, and the sculptures, like the sticks they are made from, begin to fade after two years. Often the public imagines that a work of art should be made to last, but I believe that a sculpture, like a good flower bed, has its season. – Patrick Dougherty

I then drove across Massachusetts to Pittsfield to see a show of work by John MacDonald, at the Berkshire Museum.

Then to Williamstown to the Clark – my favorite art museum in the country, to see a show of work by Renior and his contemporaries.

A stop to see my sculptor friend Stephen Fabrico and his gardener wife Sara, then home.

Sculpture by Stephen Fabrico

It was an inspiring trip but I knew my yard was suffering in the 90 degree heat so wanted to get home and take care of it. What’s next? 4 days in NYC, hopefully a cold front will be coming through while I’m there. A couple of things on my list for that trip is to see the progress on the RailYards part of the Highline and a walk around Brooklyn Heights and maybe the Botanical Garden.

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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.


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.