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Road Trip – Floyd Damascus Abingdon Travel During a Pandemic

Ok I really needed to get out of town! Yes we should still be staying home. But what if you are traveling in your own home? Doing your own cooking, taking your own bathroom with you? In 2014 Michael and I bought a Pleasure Way Sprinter RV and we had a lot of adventures in it. I was always the driver, I think he may have put 100 miles on it. The reason? I’m a terrible backseat driver and it just made us both more comfortable if I did the driving. Since he’s been gone I have continued to travel in it. From Florida to Maine to Michigan to Arkansas and all along the Gulf coast, I continue to have adventures, just wish he was here to share them with me. I’d love to take it to the west coast but obviously that won’t be for a while.

We always used to name our vehicles but haven’t the last couple including this one. Our 69 VW Bus was Poke. When we lived in Aspen and would drive to Denver by the time we got to the tunnel at the top of Loveland Pass we would be going 25 and be nice and warm. Once we exited the tunnel we could be going 70 but freezing. So this RV is just called the Sprinter.

I had plans to go to Maine and Nova Scotia this summer then over to see family in Michigan. When states started shutting down due to Covid 19 I changed it to just Michigan. Now cases of Covid are surging everywhere so I decided to stay closer to home. For some it’s no fun to travel if things aren’t open. For me I’m content to look at the outside of buildings (more interested in the architecture than the contents), walk a neighborhood, look at a vista, and just have a pleasant drive.

I have never been to Floyd or ridden the Virginia Creeper so decided this was a good time to do it. Of course if I AM around other people I always wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, and wash my hands until they are raw. Floyd is 5 hours from New Bern.

This was my first trip carrying my new bike with me. I got TerraTrike (made in Michigan) that folds up so it would fit inside my RV. Yes I could hang it on the outside, I did not worry about someone steeling my old bike, I think I only paid $150 for it and it was well used. This one, would be more tempting to someone so I wanted to be able to put it inside.

Floyd is SSW of Roanoke, VA, a small town of only 428 but is definitely a tourist destination with cute shops, a distillery, vineyards, and in a beautiful location. Floyd County is situated on a high plateau of the Blue Ridge Mountains which divides the eastward flowing from the westward flowing waters. It is said that no water flows into Floyd County. My Dad would say this was “the height of land.” I always thought that was a phrase he made up but it’s not. Here is the definition I found “Height of land is used to mean a local high point on a trail, road, or along a ridge where you stop going up and start going down. It’s basically used to describe a high-point that’s not a summit.”

I stayed at Chantilly Farms, a beautiful event space and campground. If you just need electricity and water they place you way away from everyone else, it was beautiful. And at dusk I saw this deer on the ridge above me.

On my way out of town I spotted her…..

I’m always intrigued by grindstones. Partly because we went more than once to Grindstone City at the tip of the thumb in Michigan when I was growing up. We had a grindstone for a front step at our house and one by the back door. In those days you could just pick them up now I’m told the only ones left there are giant.

I ran across the Claw of the Dragon, a motor cycle route going up Virginia Route 16. I had heard of the Tail of the Dragon, which is a famous motor cycle route in western NC. But I didn’t realize there is the Back of the Dragon, Claw of the Dragon, etc. I tried to track down a map of the whole dragon but could not! I guess they are just motorcycle routes that don’t necessarily connect to one another. Here is a website that shows the different Dragon routes. I drove on a part of Hwy 8 in my RV that could be some part of the dragon!

I left Floyd and headed west to Damascus, VA. Another first visit.

On the way I spotted a lot of LOVE in Virginia!

Damascus is known as Trail Town USA due to the convergence of four scenic trails in the town, including the Appalachian TrailU.S. Bicycle Route 76The Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Damascus also is on the route of the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail and the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. The Trail Days festival is held around the middle of May each year and draws in 20,000 tourists, making it the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere.

Like I said I was there to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail which is part of the Rails to Trails  a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. This program and other trail programs have been an economic boon to towns along them. I wish our town would get with the program! We have the perfect topography for it since it is so flat in eastern North Carolina.

A shuttle service carried my bike and I to Whitetop Station – The elevation at Whitetop Station is 3500 feet, dropping down to about 1900 feet in Damascus. This is a 17 mile downhill ride. You can ride an additional 17 miles up to Abingdon with an elevation of 2087 feet which I did not do. Can’t say the ride was much exercise but the view was spectacular! At times the Trail runs along Whitetop Laurel Creek through a deep narrow gorge with views of both whitewater rapids and swimming holes.

A little history – The Virginia Creeper Trail Began as a Native American footpath. Later the European pioneers, as well as early explorer Daniel Boone, used the trail.

Shortly before 1900, W.E. Mingea constructed the Virginia- Carolina Railroad from Abingdon to Damascus. Its nickname, Virginia Creeper, came from the early steam locomotives that struggled slowly up the railroads steep grades.

The Virginia Creeper engine and tinder are now on display at the Abingdon trailhead.

Virginia Creeper is also the name of a vine that grows prolifically in the area.

  It’s a pretty plant with berries the birds like but it’s kind of like poison ivy so it’s nothing you want in your yard. Plus if you don’t keep it in check it would cover your entire home.

The Creeper ran its last train March 31, 1977.

Between Abingdon and Damascus, the trail right-of-way belongs to the two towns. Although the public legally has the right to use the trail, most of the actual land between Abingdon and the iron bridge East of Damascus is privately owned. The 15.9 miles of trail between iron bridge ( mile 18.4 ) to the state line are part of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in the Jefferson National Forest. Except for a short stretch through Taylor’s Valley, the public owns both the right-of-way and the actual property. Taylors Valley is a cute little town with a restaurant.

The trail is well traveled so I was assured by a female friend that it would be safe to ride by myself. Some trails that are more remote I probably would not ride by myself unless there were a lot of people on it. There were no issues whatsoever. Lots of people on the trail and I saw the same people over and over so felt perfectly safe.

My dream is to have some dedicated bike trails in and around New Bern. The closest thing we have is the Riverwalk that goes out to Lawson Creek park. I ride it at least once a week, but it is only a mile and a half or so long. The rails to trails, or any bike trails in the country have been an economic boon to the communities they go through. This would be especially true right now because bike sales have soared, to the point most bike shops can’t get any and in some cases can’t even get parts. I’ve joined a club of people with recumbent trikes and ride with them occasionally (retirement is wonderful)!

Here are some shots around Damascus.

I was camped in the middle of town, a perfect spot. This was my view.



A friend of a friend picked me up and we went to Abingdon for lunch then went to Backbone Rock Tunnel. We climbed up these amazing stone steps to walk across the top of it. Glad I had him with me because I never would have made it on my own. Boy I need to do a lot more bike riding, I’m so out of shape! It was beautiful and worth the huffing and puffing! It doesn’t look like it but it’s 75 feet to the top of the rocks. It is known as the shortest tunnel in the world.




Backbone Tunnel is just a few miles out of Damascus. I then drove to Abingdon. I’ve visited here many times picking up pottery from Mary Curtin. Through the years I’ve seen it go up and down in prosperity. Sometimes I’ve gone and found it bustling with lots of neat shops, other times it’s pretty quiet. It looks like it is thriving right now, even with the Virus.

This is the Abingdon end of the Creeper Trail and one of the original steam engines.

Things Abingdon is known for is the Barter Theatre, the trails of course, The Martha Washington Inn, its 20-square block Historic District with homes and buildings dating from the 1860s, the Virginia Highlands Festival, lots of hiking including the Great Channels. I love the idea of seeing the Great Channels but would never do it by myself, and don’t think I’m up to hiking that far. Of course when I was in Rome and Amsterdam I had no trouble walking just as far but both cities are on flat ground, with lots of people to pick up up if I tripped and fell. Which I did do in Amsterdam, in the street, right in front of the train station. And people came from all around to pick me up!

Obviously this is not my photo of the Great Channels because I did not go, it looks like it would be really neat to see.


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I understand the Barter Theatre is doing performances at a drive in theatre. They have a stage then the performance is projected onto the movie screen.

I love the architecture here.

After leaving Abingdon I stopped in Blowing Rock. Always love the flowers there, I didn’t mind it was raining because it was nice and cool.


I then drove to see a friend that started and owned Craft Company Number 6 in Rochester, NY, a great gardener and woodworker.

We visited Collene Karcher at her studio Stone Crossing Studio and Gallery. She does contemporary folk artist carving free-standing and bas relief sculpture in marble, slate, and limestone, as well as hand-carved letters in stone. There are only a handful of people in the country that are still doing this type of work by hand.


I was particularly interested in the garden pieces that she casts in concrete from her molds she has made from her sculptures. I loved it ALL and of course came home with a few pieces. I don’t really need to be still collecting but I can’t help myself when I see such beautiful things.

One of the pieces I got!

All in all it was a great week and I will certainly return to the area. Where to next? Franklin, TN to a painting workshop in October.



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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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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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Clay Workshop Part 2

The clay workshop with Lisa Naples was very inspiring.

I choose a rabbit as my piece for the week. I also learned as much from watching others as I did from working on my own piece.

I hadn’t realized how tall and big  it was reasonable to build with coils, I always tried, and struggled, with slabs. I hadn’t done any coil building or pinch pots since college in the 70s, until the past two week. So now I’m excited to try big totem bases with coils.

Here is the rabbit piece as it went together.

 

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Made the body out of a lump of clay rolled out with a dowel.

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Reaching inside we pushed our pieces into shape.

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I added the haunches.

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Feet

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A collar will become the neck.

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Front legs added. They look a little like arms but that’s ok.

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Face made out of a pinch pot.

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Work on the eyes.

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I went downtown after class and saw old suitcases in a store window. That’s it! I’ll make one of those.

Using a dry brush method for glazing, I glazed the rabbit before adding the ears, otherwise it would be difficult to get her covered.

 

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One day we went to a flea market to find found objects to use with our sculptures, I found some things for future pieces and found this neat compass.

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The rabbit is ready to be fired! I hope it will turn out but won’t know for a few weeks. We worked on the sculpture all week and kept adding wet clay to leather hard, then covering the whole thing up tightly to distribute the moisture. Lisa said she has worked on a piece then let it sit for months before finishing by keeping it wrapped tightly.

 

At the beginning of the workshop we did do 2 minute sculptures, like gesture drawings. The inspiration for my big rabbit came from this one on the left!

With her method of glazing using colored slips, you work on leather hard clay.

I can’t wait to see the finished piece.

 

 

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Pennsylvania & Clay Workshop Part 1

On my way to my clay workshop with Lisa Naples I took at a couple extra days to do some sightseeing. I had been to the Brandywine River Museum, YEARS ago. So long ago that you could still see all the front of the mill building. Now it’s so grown up you can just see bits of it through the trees.

It was interesting to see the artwork of so many of the Wyeth family members. And the detail of Andrew Wyeth’s egg tempera paintings, as you can see in the painting of the hair above was remarkable.

Then we had the chance to go visit his studio.

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As I looked around the building I could see my photos translated into his style of painting.

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Winterthur was interesting too, I had never been there before, DuPont collected over 90,000 American made objects that dated between the years of 1630 and 1860. As he added onto the house (now it has 175 rooms) he knew it was going to be a museum someday so built it accordingly. They have a great collection of soup tureens that gave me some ideas for sculpture!

And you can’t be in that area without visiting Longwood Gardens.

During the week of the workshop we were in session from 10-4:30 each day so didn’t have much time for sight seeing. But did get a few shots of architecture around Doylestown.


One day at lunch I ran over to Fonthill and the Moravian Tileworks, both very interesting!


They were built by Henry Chapman Mercer, who was an archeologist and tile-maker among other things. He built Fonthill and the Tileworks out of poured concrete. I had toured Fonthill years ago so this time took the tour of the tile works.


I did get up at 5:30 one day to take one of my favorite drives in the country, along the Delaware north of New Hope.


I can see a couple of these photos becoming paintings, if I ever sit still long enough to do any.

Speaking of favorite drives. Here are a few that are on my list in addition to River Road
– the Tunnel of Trees in Northern Michigan
– driving down the Florida Keys
– Independence Pass Colorado
– Front Street to the stand of live oaks, Beaufort, NC
– Frankfort Pike west from Midway, KY
– around Devils and Round Lakes in Lenawee County, Michigan

The week I studied with Lisa Naples in Doylestown was pretty transformative for me. Instead of thinking of my pieces of sculpture as just pieces of sculpture she encouraged us to think about them as telling a story. That changes everything!

This is some of her work.

In the next post I will post my sculpture as I constructed it. In contrast to the sculptures I did a couple weeks ago with Barry Gregg,  which were pretty fast to do (we did at least 2 each day – plus they were small) – this weeks sculpture took all week, was quite detailed, and 14″ tall. The techniques we learned allow us to built as big as we want. Look for photos in my next post along with work by others at the workshop.

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Road Trip The Cotswolds a garden tour part 1

What a treat to join 7 others on a tour of some of the gardens and private homes of the Cotswolds. They have a charity program called the National Garden Scheme where gardens all over the country are open, with all income donated to charity.

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Generally these are private gardens and this is the only time they are open. After arriving in London we took off for the countryside. I had been in a little bit of that area about 35 years ago but had forgotten how beautiful and rural it is. Most of the area is protected from too much development and most buildings are built from Cotswold stone. It’s a honey colored limestone that gets a rich color as it is exposed to the weather.

The first garden we visited was in the town of Blockley, where Father Brown Series is filmed. In fact his church was visible from the garden – Mill Dene – as it was just down the hill from the church. This garden is built on a very steep slope and includes a waterfall and a millpond. One of the larger Cotswold villages and largely unspoilt, midway between Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Campden, Blockley was a main centre of the silk industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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IMG_8058IMG_8049Of course none of my photos do ANY of the gardens justice.

Chipping Campden is a small market town with a beautiful High Street dating from the 14th to 17th century.  A High Street is the primary business street in an English town.
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Market Hall circa 1627

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Banqueting Hall

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St James, one of the finest “Wool” churches in the Cotswolds. A wool church is one that was built in mediaeval times with money made from the wool trade.

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This was an amazing trip, sometimes visiting 3 gardens a day!

Hidcote Manor was owned by Bradenstoke Priory in Wiltshire until the Priory was disbanded by Henry VIII in around 1539. The manor house, was built in the 17th century as a farmhouse.

It is considered to be one of the masterpiece gardens in England. It was started in 1907 by Lawrence Johnston. Johnston’s garden design with themed “outdoor rooms” revolutionized garden design throughout England,.. and still influences designers today. Over the years many plants have been named after Johnston or Hidcote in recognition of his extraordinary talent and plantsmanship.

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Next was Kiftsgate Court Gardens… where three generations of women in one family created and shaped a garden to be one of the Cotswold’s most treasured. Kiftsgate gardens began in the 1920s by Heather Muir who had an organic approach, with a feminine feel, to gardening.
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We visited Blenheim Palace a grand country house built in the early 1700s. It is one of England’s largest houses. Blenheim is the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill. The palace is the current home to The 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.  I had been there about 35 years ago and didn’t take a lot of photos of the gardens. And we couldn’t take any inside. It was interesting that they were setting up to film a new Doctor Doolittle film.


Sezincote was the most unusual estate we visited. Built in 1805 it was enchanting!

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A pretty nice place to keep your farm equipment.

IMG_8528IMG_8524IMG_8522We were not allowed to take photos inside but here is a photo from their website. Again this photo does not do this room justice it was totally filled with light and looked out over the orangarie.

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I could have lived in this room.

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This is the view out the window.

Next post – more gardens – the Chelsea Flower Show, and a little bit of London.

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Why I blog

I recently switched my blog from blogger to wordpress – and you might ask why blog at all? When I owned Carolina Creations it was to keep customers informed of our upcoming events, what our artists were creating, what I was doing with my art, and I threw in some personal things as well.

dovecote2I don’t have Carolina Creations anymore but I am still doing my own artwork. I’m traveling a lot (doing it while I still can), and I like to take photos and write a little.

It’s really a journal of my life, what I’m doing and what I care about.

A friend told me that she switched her blog from one host to another and she lost the whole thing (always backup!!). So years ago I started printing it every year or two. Since people don’t print photos like they used to they can disappear with a computer crash or like my friends blog did. And besides if you don’t print photos – in the future our kids or relatives will never know you existed or at least what you looked like!

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I use blog2print which is an online platform that is so easy to use.

Probably because of my age I like flipping through the pages and holding a book in my hands.

So I can see myself continuing to blog for the foreseeable future – right now it’s more about my traveling than anything else – but one of these days I’ll be content to stay at home again in my studio and create, then it will go back to being more about art. I really do it for myself but I’m pleased that other people read it and enjoy it.

Thank you for reading!

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Road Trip Bruges

Of all the beautiful places we visited in the Netherlands and Belgium, Bruges was my favorite. Belgium was never on my radar but I think I will have to return.
I loved the scale of Bruges and it has lots of canals and old architecture.  The first fortifications were built in the 1st century BC, and the first city charter was in 1128.
These photos were my first impressions of the city.

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Burg square is one of the earliest inhabited places of the city.

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Market square – since 928, is ringed with guild houses, restaurants and chocolatiers.

b3b4b5b6     Like in Amsterdam they have a béguinage, what a peaceful place to live. And like in Amsterdam, the gates are closed at night and only those ladies that live there have a key.
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The city has many squares, parks, beautiful buildings, and hidden places….


…. and is well know for it chocolate, lace, and beer.

Bruges has been a center for lace making for hundreds of years. The top two photos are of a large lace map of Bruges that hangs along a canal.
Chocolate shops are everywhere!

There are often large sculptures in the windows made of chocolate, like the monkey, cartoon characters and the unicorn above.
There are 3 breweries in Bruges, and I’ll have to admit I drank more beer on this trip than I have in years, my favorite was the Kriek, made with cherries and other fruits.
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There is art on the buildings everywhere and lots of neat wind vanes….

At every turn there was something neat to see…
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The stations of the cross.

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As far as the language in Belgium, they speak Dutch in the north and French in the south and both in between. Somewhere I read you are better off starting in English if you are not fluent in either language. In Brussels the street signs are in both French and Dutch, but other signs are often in English! As much as I’d like to learn another language I’d really need to decide where I was going to spend the most time to decide what to tackle.
There are a few thing you need to watch out for, the most important is bikes and cars. In the old cities the streets are narrow and especially in Bruges the drivers go fast and don’t automatically stop if they see you at a cross walk, while in most of the other cities they did. And bikes go everywhere not just on the bike lanes so you really need to watch where you step.
Public art is both contemporary and not on the city streets and there is lots of it….

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We didn’t get a chance to see the windmills, but there are 4 along the edge of the old city. Originally there were 25 and they date from the 1700s.
This is not my photo but one from Free-City-Guides, just so you can see what they look like – on my list for next time!
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As usual there are lots of museums and churches. The museums include (to name a few) Archaeology MuseumThe Bruges ‘stadshallen’ and BelfryBruges Beer ExperienceChoco-StoryThe Folklore Museum, and the The Liberty of Bruges.
I did manage to visit a couple of the famous churches in the city. The Basilica of the Holy Blood and The Church of Our Lady.
The Basilica is famous for the vial that is said to contain a cloth with Christs blood on it, and the fact that it is two churches in one. The lower church is Romanesque, and the upper church is Neo-Gothic.
The Church of Our Lady, was just down the street from my hotel, and has an extensive museum. In its collection is Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. They are still uncovering frescos on the walls and ceilings,
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The sepulchres and the tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold are here and painted tombs from the 13th and 14th centuries.

And, as usual, here is my sign collection.

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At the southern end of the old city is Minnewater, the Lake of Love. There are over 100 swans that live here and they are taken care of by the city.
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As we saw all over Belgium there is a lot of espalier here. If I ever stay home long enough I would like to grow one on the garage side of my house.

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Part of the city ramparts.

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My last shot of the city outside my hotel window. As I said I loved everything I saw in Belgium. This post is out of order but I was excited to show how beautiful the city of Bruges is. BTW you will see many ways to spell the name of this city,Bruges, Brugge, Brugges.
I was also in Amsterdam on this trip, you can see photos from that part by clicking here Road Trip Amsterdam.
There are more posts to come about Ghent, Antwerp, and beautiful Brussels.
And since I’m home for a while there will also be posts about ART!!

 

 

 

 

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Road Trip Amsterdam

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Close to our hotel was the Opera House, The Hermitage Museum, the Skinny Bridge, Rembrandt Square and lots of great photo ops!

I loved all the 26 years at Carolina Creations but am also loving having more time to travel and do my artwork. The two – travel and artwork – go together – although I seldom do artwork when I’m on the road because I want to spend the time seeing everything I can possibly see. Traveling is inspiring to me, I see scenes that I want to paint, I see art I’ve never seen before and it gives me ideas to use in my own work from how to present something or a new technique. Creating art for me is a solitary endeavor so when traveling I also get to meet new people.

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This sculptures in Rembrandt Square depict the Dutch artist Rembrandt’s painting The Night Watch which is in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Museum. The sculpture was done by Russian artist Alexander Taratynov.

I decided this is my year to travel. Havana, Florida Panhandle, Key West, this trip, and more to come! Amsterdam has been on my list for a long time and it did not disappoint.
hook   Although the weather was cool and partially cloudy it was still beautiful! What was my favorite thing? I suspected the architecture and canals would be and I was right.
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I was going to do this whole trip as one blog post but after seeing just my photos from Amsterdam I’m not sure that the City by itself will fit into one!

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There was a lot I did not know about the city –
….     There used to be 300 canals and now there are only 100.
….     Most buildings have a hook coming out of their gable, especially if they are the tall skinny ones. In the old days it was used to raise and lower merchandise, a person had their shop on the 1st floor and warehouse above. Now people often live on the upper stories so when a person moves in or out they take out a window and use the pulley to raise and lower furniture.

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See the family playing chess in the background?

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….     Few Dutch go to church, so while there are quite a few church buildings, few are used for worship and many have been sold off for other purposes.
….     The semicircle of four 17th century canals is called the Grachtengordel, and while you can still get turned around, if you can identify the main canals you can usually figure out your way. Our sweet hotel, the Eden/Rembrandt Square, was on the Singel (The Singel was previously a moat around the old city.), which was a great location, across from the Opera, and from where I walked everywhere I wanted to go. The rooms were not large but were contemporary, very nice, and they have a great bar and restaurant.

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Lots of cheese shops.

After a brief introductory Tour with the tour group I tromped all over the canal part of Amsterdam by myself, not wanting to miss a thing. There wasn’t an area I felt uncomfortable in by myself.
I met two artists shortly after arriving at an outdoor show I stumbled across, it’s held only on Sundays and it was just around the corner from our hotel. Called the Outdoor Sunday ArtMarket .
Connie Van Rumpt works in paper mache.
connie     I got a sweet, tiny lady that sits on a shelf from her.
And I had a nice conversation about working in black and white with Wim van der Meij about his etchings and got this piece of one of the canals.
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I did find some neat boutiques in the Jordan district but I guess I wasn’t looking in the right place to find a lot of artist run shops.
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You (I) just can’t go incognito anywhere….. I walked into a store and immediately the owner said “You own a shop.” (of course I don’t anymore.)  I said “How do you know?” “The bag you are carrying. I have one just like it .” So we compared notes. Years ago, probably 10 anyway, maybe 14, when people were first buying reusable bag,s one of the first companies to make them was called Envirosax and we started carrying them at Carolina Creations. The particular bag I had in my hand was an ad for the company, which was a promotion for shops that ordered from them that first year, which gave me away. Go figure.
I also went into one of the coffee shops that sells marijuana – I just had to do it – and ONLY had a cup of coffee, but found it interesting that you could smoke dope there but you could not smoke a cigarette!

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The floating flower market Bloemenmarkt was ok, selling mostly bulbs but this one stall did have nice fresh flowers.
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The city has a museum for just about everything, 100+… the ones you might expect The Tulip Museum, The Cheese Museum, The Houseboat MuseumHeineken Experience, and some you might not expect like the Sex Museum, Torture Museum, Prostitution Museum, Erotica Museum, Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum,  Nederlands Uitvaart Museum Tot Zover the museum about funerals, Tassenmuseum Hendrikje the museum of bags and purses, just to name a few.
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I’ll have to admit I’m not a huge museum goer, it’s walking the streets I want to do when I travel, but the Van Gogh was one I didn’t want to miss, it was great and very well done. One thing I noticed in the extensive gift shop i saw no images of “Starry Night”, or  his “Cafe Terrace at Night” , they can’t use the images because they are not in their collection I was told. They are my two favorites.
If I would have had more time I might have visited the Rijksmuseum, the National Museum of the Netherlands with nearly one million Dutch works of art, The Amsterdam Museum, or the Museum Van Loon, (which is a canal house owned by the Van Loon family of the Dutch East India Company), the Ann Frank House, The Jewish Museum, Verzetsmuseum or the Dutch Resistance Museum.
amm10            We strolled through The Begijnhof, passing through this gate, which was built in the 14th century and donated to the Beguine for a place to live. It is at the medieval street level which is a little over 3 feet below todays street level. “The Beguine women lived as nuns but not within a monastic community. The Catholic Faith was banned in the 16th century, but the Beguinage was the only Catholic institution that survived, as the houses were privately owned by the Beguines. However, they had to give up the chapel. Later, a new church was built behind the facades of some of the houses, a so-called ‘schuilkerk’ (hide-and-seek church). ” (thank you Wikipedia).              Today women rent the houses and the outside gates are locked at night, but during the daytime anyone can wander through.

The brown wooden building is one of the two oldest wooden buildings in the city, built around 1465.
It was interesting to identify the types of gables on the buildings, Triangular Gable, Bell Gable, Neck Gable, Spout Gable and the Step Gable. Often depicting the period in which the building was constructed.
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You see wall plaques on many houses , before numbering was introduced, houses were identified by illustrated plaques.

As usual I had to take photos of signs.
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I knew there were a lot of bikes in Amsterdam, but I didn’t really know just how many, over 800,000. Almost every street has a bike lane and you take your life into you hands if you don’t stay off them and look both ways when crossing them.

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You might not be able to tell what this is but it is a parking deck for bikes, holding not nearly enough. Throughout the city there are tens of thousands parked on the street and we were told they pull about 12,000 a year out of the canals.

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Surprisingly I saw no bike accidents. But guess there are some!

There were lots of interesting things to see.

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assort3     There are eight windmills within the city limits, only one is open to the public. But in May they have a National Windmill Day. During this weekend you can visit hundreds of them all over the country, for most, it’s the only time they are open.
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The canal ride and dinner at night was enchanting.
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I’ve got more photos from Amsterdam I’ll share in the next post.

Next up – Luxembourg, Trier, Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp.

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Road Trip Key West, flowers, and points north

Key West post Irma ….

There are a few empty shops on Duval, which you usually don’t see…there are some signs “closed for repairs from hurricane damage”….and a lot of the shade is gone… but Key West is every bit as beautiful as ever.

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My friend Deb met me there and we stayed at the Almond Tree Inn. Our room and the grounds were beautiful, and the location perfect. It’s a half block off of Duval on the quiet end of the street.

This year they started a free Duval Loop bus that circles every 15 minutes and we rode it twice a day. When ever I go to Key West I always want to walk all the streets in Old Town so being able to catch a ride back was great.

My favorite thing is to take photos of the architecture and flowers. One of these days I’ll do some paintings of some of my favorite spots.

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Chickens and roosters still abound.

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We even went to Sunset at Mallory Square, the first time in 33 years I’ve done that.

kwwThe cat man is still there  (thank you youtube for the video) – don’t know if he is the same one from years ago but he if he is he’s crazier than ever!

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