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Island Time

Before this trip the furthest south in the Carribean I had been was Cuba. On this trip two friends and I spent a couple weeks on Virgin Gorda.

Lonely planet described Virgin Gorda this way – Somehow, Virgin Gorda keeps a level head and remains a slowpoke, chicken-dotted destination without rampant commercialism. To the chicken-dotted I would add goats, donkeys and cattle.



I contemplated cancelling this trip due to COVID but then thought at least there I would be staying by myself and being outside most of the time. Actually I felt safer there than at home. Everyone wore a mask, even outside if you were around other people. At a grocery store they took your temperature before you could go in, had to sign a contact tracing form at a restaurant even though we were eating outside and no one else was there, every building you went in had hand sanitizer and if you did not use it they told you to within a few steps of entering. We had to take a test within a few hours of leaving the US and returning.



We flew into St Thomas where we spent the night. We climbed down the 99 Steps, built in the 1700s to make climbing Government Hill a bit easier, this staircase is one of St Thomas’s most famous landmarks. We walked around downtown and had a delicious dinner outdoors at Amalia Café. We didn’t get out of downtown  Charlotte Amalie. There are a couple of nice craft galleries, and of course the dozens of jewelry stores that the cruise ship crowd seems to love. Many local shops have not reopened as of yet, hurricanes Irma and Maria and COVID have kept them closed. Cruise ships have just started to return. We saw one on the way out and 3 in port on the way home.

Then the next day we took the ferry to Tortolla to Road Town and had a private tour of the island. There were beautiful views and the West End and Road Town were interesting. I can’t say I loved either St Thomas or Tortolla, but then I’m sure there are beautiful places on both islands. There is a great bakery on Tortolla called The French Bakery and Deli.


This is part of a mural that is painted on a curve on top of Fahie Hill, Ridge Rd depicting life on Tortola.
 

Virgin Gorda sign on Fanny Hill Road overlooking the North Sound


Once we got to Virgin Gorda I became the designated driver. We had a car with a left hand steering wheel so it didn’t take me long to get used to driving on the left side of the road. I’m not sure it would have been so easy to get used to if the wheel had been on the right – we did see some – or if I was in a panic situation.

Our condos were overlooking North Sound, wow. Thanks to Laurence Rockefeller a lot of the island is a national park. He also created Little Dix, an exclusive resort near Spanish Town where the ferries come in from Tortola. We tried to go for lunch but they were fully booked and not taking any outside guests. It, like many of the resorts, Little Dix was closed for years after the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria, which pretty much decimated Virgin Gorda and many other Caribbean Islands..

This is the view I woke up to every morning.

North Sound Virgin Gorda

Up until recently there was a lot of undeveloped land around the north sound. There is still a lot not developed but much of the far end is being developed into an exclusive neighborhood called Oil Nut Bay. We did go there for lunch at the Marina Village which is the part of the development that is open to the public. To get to the rest of the development you have to be an owner or guest of one. What we were able to see of it was beautiful.

It seemed most of our days were centered around lunch! This was the most laid back vacation I’ve been on in years. And certainly the one with the prettiest views out my window.

From Nail Bay

One of the ladies I was on this trip with had lived here for 5 or so years in the 1980s. She and her husband managed Biras Creek Resort, and oversaw the building Tradewinds then ran it. So it was old home week for her. The 2nd lady that was traveling with us had worked for her for a couple of years there. And the place we stayed was owned by another former employee. So it was wonderful to be with folks that knew folks and what to see and do. Where we stayed was just up the hill from Leverick Bay, and we overlooked the North Sound, Saba Rock, Necker, Moskito, Prickly Pear and Eustatia Islands.

North Sound from Hog Heaven

What a view. I never knew much about this part of the Carribbean. For some reason I was thinking they would be flatter like the Florida Keys. The islands in the BVI were all formed by volcanoes, except for Anagada which is the only one of the British Virgin Islands which was formed from coral and limestone so it stands only 28 feet out of the water. The rest are mountainous.

We had lunch at Saba Rock and got a tour thanks to my traveling companion knowing what names to drop.



Bitter End was destroyed and had just reopened a month before our visit. We walked off the end of the property past the staff only signs on the way to Tradewinds and when stopped, my companion told them why we wanted to look and they let us go on. What a mess. some of the buildings are still there, it’s currently being used for staff housing and a staging area for rebuilding Bitter End. They used salvaged wood from the destroyed buildings to build the new resort. It was hard getting any information about Biras Creek, which is closed, so we hired a boat to drop us off there just to see whats going on.

We visited the Baths of course! We did not swim there because it was pretty rough …

… but swam later at Mahoe Bay where you could see offshore how these islands were formed.


Leverick Bay was our “go to” place for lunch, just down the mountain from our condos. The road is a little hair raising, I hate it when you get to the crest of a hill and can’t see what is beyond! And the hairpin turns are a little tricky to navigate.


We saw the ruins of the copper mine and the Sugar Mill at Nail Bay. From what I could find out the Sugar Mill was in operation in the late 18th century. The ruins are on the site of Nail Bay resort. The grounds are well kept and the view is amazing. And the restaurant was delicious and outdoors like most on the island. The Sugarcane Restaurant. One thing I found interesting was that you could use the pool at places like Leverick Bay even though you were not staying there, and in the middle of Mango Bay Resort is a parking lot and beach access.

S

SugarCane Restaurant at Nail Bay.



The ruins of the copper mine were at the bottom of a steep hill so we parked at the top and walked down. Fortunately we had a car that had enough power to go up the hills, this one I was a little nervous about the brakes because they were making a lot of noise and if they quit working we would end up going off a cliff into the ocean. Cornish miners built the ruins that remain today in the 1800s.





There weren’t as many flowers as I’d hoped to see, one reason I was told is that the island is quite dry so unless the flowers are watered you only see cactus.




We got to go see Biras Creek and got a tour by the resident caretaker Bob, who was glad to talk to Pam about what it was like when they were there and they compared notes on mutual friends. Right now the plans are unknown and the only buildings on the property habitable are his house and the house of the project manager. And what a view.

Biras Creek

We spent a couple of nights on Anagada at the Anagada Beach Club which in my opinion was the nicest resort on the island (there are only a handful). There really isn’t much on the island, a lot of scrub, lots of cattle, lots of goats roaming, even some donkeys, it appears to be free range so if you don’t want them on your property you have to fence to keep them out, Virgin Gorda was the same way.

There is a flock of flamingos, maybe a couple hundred and type of iguana that are threatened by ferral cats. They have a “head start program” for the iguanas to let them get big enough so as to not be threatened by the cats. The iguanas are have been around for over 10,000 years. We didn’t see any in the wild, only saw some babies in the cages at the Head Start program.

They were a long way off


This photo is from World Life Expectancy website of the type of Iguana on Anagada.

And the beach goes on forever.

Anagada Beach Club
Anagada Beach Club
Anagada Beach Club
Lobster Trap Restaurant

I’ve never seen so many conch shells or such big ones.

Conch shell mound



Gas Station on Anagada, fill up from the back of this pickup.

After returning home I looked online at the damage done by the back to back cat 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria, and see how far they have come. With the remoteness of the islands and the extent of damage I can see why it has taken so long to recover. We’ve had our share of hurricanes but at least here everything does not have to come in on a boat. Most of the resorts I’ve mentioned on Virgin Gorda do not have roads going to them from the rest of the island. You can only get there by boat.

As far as the photos I saw of Tortola and St Thomas, wow, the devastation was amazing and actually I’m surprised how good they look now.

This trip was certainly an education, and a beautiful one. If I was to go again there are a few things I would like to do. We never went snorkeling or took the glass bottom boat tour. I would visit Prickly Pear Island in the North Sound. On the way to Virgin Gorda I would go to Jost Van Dyke, it’s hard to get back there from Virgin Gorda so need to do it on the way or on the way home. Also Beef Island – try to go to a Full Moon Party – visit the studio of Aragorn to see his fireballs – try to see the Mocko Jumbies, and I’m sure there is more. No matter how much time you have when you travel there is never enough time to see it all. But I do try!

Where to next? A month in Ft Myers and a few days in my favorite spot Key West.




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Road Trip NC to Maine to Cape (part 1)

Since I sold my house and my new house renovations are nearing completion I left on a month long road trip to the NE with 3 other ladies, me in my rv, and the other 3 ladies in 2 trucks pulling trailers. I’m used to traveling by myself so my mantra was “I’ll meet you there”!

Heading north to Virginia I stopped by Hope Plantation the home of former Governor David Stone. The plantation complex offers insights into the late 18th- and 19th-century rural life in eastern North Carolina.

Also on the grounds is The 1763 King-Bazemore House which is a great example of vernacular architecture. It is one of the few remaining examples in North Carolina of mid-eighteenth century “hall and parlor” design. The home has been restored and furnished based on the 1778 inventory of owner, William King.


Virginia

Heading into Virginia the Bacon Castle, is just outside of Surry. It is the oldest brick dwelling in the US, built in 1665 for Arthur Allen. It was originally known as Allen’s Brick House but became known as Bacon’s Castle in 1676 when Nathaniel Bacon’s men occupied it during the uprising that became known as Bacon’s Rebellion.  It is part of the National Park Service.

I also stopped at a neat little shop I discovered on my last trip up that way, in Surry. 

Jamestown Ferry

Our first two nights on the road were spent at Chickahominy Riverfront Park. So I cut off a few miles and avoided the traffic of Norfolk by catching the Jamestown Ferry. It’s just a little bigger than our local ferries, and my timing was perfect, I waited about 5 minutes to board. There has been a ferry running here since 1925.

The campground was perfect too, it’s right on the Capital Trail that runs from Jamestown to Richmond, is on the Chickahominy River. There are trails, fishing, splash pad, horseshoes and other games, and it has an amazing pool. 

The bike ride to Jamestown from the park is about 7 & 1/2 miles and at mile marker 5 is the Spoke & Art, where a cup of coffee and a muffin hit the spot. You can also rent a bike there, even a recumbent trike like mine! The last time I was there they had a trio playing in the outdoor dining area.


It was pretty hot but much of the trail was in the shade and is paved. We rode to the Historic Jamestowne Visitors Center, ducked in to cool off and after riding back to the campground spent a couple hours in the beautiful pool. 

From there I headed west, taking Hwy 5 along the James River and past the James River Plantations. I drove back to a couple of them, just to have a look. Some are grand, some are not! Shirley, Westover, and Berekley are the ones that are most famous but there are many more. Shirley Plantation, settled in 1613, is the oldest plantation in Virginia and the oldest family-owned business in North America, dating back to 1638.

Shirley – photo a little crooked!


I’ve been collecting Virginias LOVE sculptures around the state. I didn’t realize that there is a website listing where most of them are. And that the state reimburses communities and companies that commission a LOVE sculpture as part of the states branding “Virginia is for lovers”. You have to apply for the funding and if approved they state will reimburse you for $1500 towards the cost of construction. What a neat idea. Since, as of this writing there are over 275 LOVE sculptures around the state, it will be a while before I have seen them all. But here are a few that I HAVE seen.

This one is at the Spoke & Art and is designed by my friend and famous sculptor Don Drumm of Akron, Ohio


I drove through downtown Richmond and spotted a few murals I liked and ended up going through a beautiful neighborhood I hadn’t been in before. It always pays to leave early and get there before things get too hectic. It also saves me money because the galleries are not open yet. I still do my best to support other artists wherever I go!


That night we stayed at Natural Chimney State Park. It is the location of the largest Joisting tournament in Eastern US – I’m personally surprised there is more than one anywhere! In fact it was taking place the day we left and has taken place annually since 1821. What the park is most famous for is its natural towers made of limestone dating from 500 million years ago, a time when this area was covered with water. They range in height from 65 to 120 feet above ground level.

Early the next morning I took off and ended up at the Harrisonburg farmers market – very nice. I wanted to go to the White Oak lavender farm but was too early so I was pleased that they had a booth at the farmers market.

I really like driving the “blue highways” instead of the interstate but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet to get somewhere fast. I usually don’t mind driving 81 through Virginia though because its one of the prettiest interstates I’ve driven.


Pennsylvania

All was well and driving was easy until I hit Harrisburg, PA. It didn’t matter if you went straight through town, like my friends did, or took the bypass, like I did, there was at least a hour that we lost with the traffic backup. So I was glad to get off that road for a bit by going to the Hope Hill Lavender farm just outside of Pottsville, since I missed the other one. The view from their mountain top shop was beautiful.

Next stop Lackawanna State Park. Before going there I made a stop in Scranton, there is some beautiful architecture there. And Steam Town! I didn’t stop this time but have in the past. When I was in my twenties I did a lot of railroad drawings and drawing of railroad depots. Some are even in the Western History Collection of the Denver Public Library. Michael and I rode many of the tourist trains across the country and I ride the train whenever I get a chance.

The Lackawanna State Park is lovely but it was a quick overnight stop so we did not take advantage of all that is there.

Then it wasn’t a long drive to Watkins Glen. Route 6 was touted as an artisan trail but I didn’t see much in the way of art but the scenery, the further west you got, was beautiful.


I spotted Trowbridge (the last name I was born with) on the map and had to go see. I thought it was probably a wide spot in the road, and I was right. There was only one house. A lady was mowing her lawn so I stopped to talk to her, she lived in that house and told me Trowbridge was a stop on the railroad, and later the house was an Inn and the trolley ran out there from Elmira. The only indication the area was called Trowbridge was the street sign. Further north and east I saw a town called Conklin (my mom’s side) but didn’t have time to go there.

In Elmira I stopped to see the Carousel. It was built by Looff and not as detailed as the Philadelphia Tobaggon Company ones I’ve drawn, still it is nice to see it preserved and running. The park it’s in is quite lovely with a beach with dragon boats, different rides and a mini golf course. Elmira is where Mark Twain is buried and he spent twenty summers there at his wife’s sisters house. It was in Elmira that Twain wrote portions of some of his most famous books, including “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” 




A quick stop in Montour Falls led me to meet the wife of Magnus Agustsson, a sculptor, and tour their house/gallery. Born in Iceland, Magnus immigrated to the US in the 1950s and became a prominent Pediatric cardiologist and surgeon before becoming a renowned sculptor. His wife is responsible for the beautiful gardens on the grounds. The gallery is the house his wife lives in and every room is full his sculpture. While walking through the house/gallery, (which was packed) I thought to myself, is that going to be me someday??

It was a little shocking to see this waterfall so close behind this house!

New York – Watkins Glen through Ithica

At Watkins Glen we stayed right in town at Clute Park and Campground- there are absolutely no trees in this park and you are park side by side but it was quiet and you were just across the street from Seneca Lake.



We got up early and hiked DOWN the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park. So glad we read that you
could do that because I would not have hiked up the 832 stair steps. You can take the shuttle for $5 and they drop you at the top. The park has a nice swimming pool too.



We went to Corning just to check to see how the downtown was doing and stop in a couple galleries. One I wanted to go into is now permanently closed, I hate seeing that but there were other nice shops like The West End Gallery, Vitrix Glass Studio, Conners Mercantile, and others. Of course if you haven’t been you need to visit the Corning Museum of Glass.

While walking across the street I spotted this metal train sculpture.

Corning Centennial Sculpture

It is part of a historical memorial dedicated to the Corning Centennial.

And you can’t go to the Finger Lakes without going to at least one winery, there are over 100 in the region. The one we chose had outdoor seating with a beautiful view of the Lake.



We headed out and I took a detour to Ithaca. I had been there before and what I remembered most about it was how steep many of the streets are. This visit confirmed my memory! My brake light even came on for a while, I guess they got a little warm, but fortunately it went out again. 

The Botanic Garden at Cornell University is a gem. They have every plant identified so I got a lot of ideas for my new garden.



The Downtown is thriving and there were three American Craft Galleries within 2 blocks, and a Papperie! Two of the galleries are American Crafts by Robbie Dein, Handwork, and there are many more painting galleries I did not make it to.

The other reason for going Downtown was to see the Carl Sagan’s  Planet Walk.    I’ve always been fascinated and dumbstruck reading about our Solar System and the Universe. This walk is a 1 to 5 billion scale model of our Solar System and it really drives home just how big it is. The Moon and Earth were just a few feet from the sun, but Pluto was 3/4 of a mile away! I drove to it instead of walking, glad I went since Pluto is at the Science Museum. I didn’t take time to visit the museum but will next time. Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University in Ithaca and this Planet Walk is in his honor.

The bonus of going to the Sciencenter was seeing this mosaic mural. A few years ago I went to Philadelphia to a workshop and helped Isaiah Zagar work on one at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, this is much the same style with lots of mirrors. Maybe I can find a place at Rhem to do one, I didn’t think I could get away with one on East Front. 

On my way north I saw a sign for Bellows Falls. I remembered that the Erie Canal passes through there so took a detour. What I didn’t remember was the Women’s Rights Museum.

I took a quick break at Auburn to see Harriet Tubmans Home. She was illiterate, but help scores of slaves escape bondage and went on to become a Civil War nurse, a Union spy, the first woman to lead American military forces in combat and a renowned suffragette.





I drove through Skaneateles wishing I had time to stop but instead headed north to Lysander where my great great great grandfather died in 1837. We cannot find where he was buried but his wife and 12 kids headed west to Ohio afterwards. There is a cemetery in the town but I didn’t have time to walk through to look for a grave. I will have to say Lysander is a beat up little town but Sara Smith Schenck thought enough of it to make this cement planter, the only thing indicating that you are in the town of Lysander.

Now I REALLY had to hurry to get to Wellesley Island State Park. It’s a huge park and well done! And just a short distance to the Canadian border.

The park has a nature center, a marina, a beach, a store, and golf course plus 432 campsites that were very spacious. Wellesley Island is one of the Thousand Islands in this part of the Saint Lawrence River. There are actually 1800 islands, and I was told that to be considered an island, a piece of land must stay above water throughout the year and support a living tree. I have passed in the vicinity of the Thousand Islands both on the Canada side and the US side before but never had time to stop. I’ve read about the Boldt Castle for years and was thrilled to finally have a chance to take the boat ride and to visit it.

From afar it’s pretty impressive but you can’t tell how well it is maintained until you get off the boat. The Castle, boathouse, and island all belong to the The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. Construction began on Boldt Castle in 1900 for millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt as a tribute to his wife. Boldt Castle was designed as their summer dream home. The castle rivals those I’ve seen in Europe. the TIBA is painstaking restoring it, It’s probably half done. And the grounds are exquisite. If we would have read about the boat house we would have taken the boat to see it too, but didn’t realize how impressive that looks from the Castle! Before the TiBA acquired the Castle it had sat vacant and unfinished for 70 years. It’s well worth a visit, and the boat ride was fun too, seeing the other grand, and not so grand homes on the other islands.




Back to Wellesley Island, one of the two towns on the island is Fineview. And in Fineview is Thousand Island Park, founded in 1875 as a Methodist Campground, TI Park thrived as a family retreat with a Chautauqua atmosphere of religious, cultural and recreational activities. It is also full of beautiful gingerbread houses! We ate dinner at the Hotel sitting on the huge wrap around porch.


I took a quick trip to Clayton, just down the road. It has lovely shops, is right on the River, and is the home of the Antique Boat Museum and The Thousand Island Museum. What I enjoyed the most was sitting on the river eating lunch and watching the boats go by.


Then it was time to head to Old Forge, but I wasn’t through with the Thousand Islands area yet. On my way out off the island out of the corner of my eye I caught what looked like giant crows in a field. I was going too fast to stop so had to go to the next exit, 6 miles away, and come back to check them out. Yes indeed they WERE giant crows. They are by Sculptor Will Salisbury. I couldn’t find a measurement of them but I’m guessing they are 10-12 feet tall. Pretty cool.

The stop in Old Forge was very interesting. The camp we stayed at, Bald Mountain Colony, is on the grounds of what once one of the resorts you read about that the Adarondiaks were famous for. One of the earliest camps in the area The Bald Mountain House was on Third Lake in the Fulton Chain of Lakes, and there are 8 lakes in the chain. The Bald Mountain House was an early Adirondack resort hotel built in 1893 near Old Forge, by Charles M. Barrett. Designed to accommodate 140 people, the hotel offered luxurious amenities, daily activities, and relaxing mountain air to guests who often stayed for the entire summer season.

Everyone ate at the main building and there was a casino, horses, boating and all other types of sports to be played croquet, tennis, there was a dance hall, a soda fountain, and a bowling alley . The house was finally demolished in the 1960s when the “tent and trailer blue jeaned crowds” arrived. Now the property holds trailers and has 3 sites for transients like us. 


While there we visited The Adirondack Experience, which used to be called the Adirondack Museum. The new name is more apt I suppose because it consists of 20+ buildings. Much like our history center there are interactive things you can do like paddle a canoe, break up a log jam, climb a fire tower and so on.


The View Center for Arts and Culture is in a beautiful building in Old Forge and they were hosting the 40th Annual Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors. The show was pretty impressive.

And lastly we visited Old Camp Sagamore. It was also built by William Durant and was later owned by Alfred Vanderbilt and now belongs to Syracuse University. Like where we were staying at the Colony, you could stay in the main lodge or in rather nice cabins on the property. In fact you can still do that.


I made a quick stop in Saratoga Springs, remembering how neat the downtown was, and still is.


Next stop Arlington, Vermont!

This was a month long trip so it is taking 2 blog posts to cover it.

Part 2 coming soon.

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Road Trip Colorado and Utah

I’ve been making a trip to Colorado every year for the past 4 years. Michael and I lived there in the 80s and I really miss parts of it. It’s so beautiful but like Michigan, where I am originally from, I don’t want to be there in the winter. I visit my friend who was a woodworker and also owned a gallery for 40 + years.

This years trip took us to Glenwood, Aspen, Grand Junction, Moab, Telluride, Crested Butte, Denver, and Boulder.

On the way west I saw this sign during a pitstop in Frisco. It’s really become a neat little town.

VAIL

And we made a quick stop in Vail at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. It was founded in 1985. And always have to stop at Piece Art Gallery, used to be Pismo when I knew the owner, a beautiful glass gallery. We carried some of the same artists but the main reason I stop there is to see the work of Stephanie Trenchard. She does this amazing cast glass sculpture. Here is an example. I met her years ago at an ACC show in Baltimore. She had this piece that was 6 feet tall of a lady. I’ve never forgotten it. At the time I could not afford it. There have been a few pieces of art I wish I would have gotten through the years and that piece is probably #1.

This is a crevice garden, I’ve been taking photos of these whereever I’ve seen them, like Botanical Gardens in Montreal, the Bronx, Plants Delight and Denver and plan to make one at my new house. I love the way the rocks are on their edge. It’s what we always called a rock garden but the difference is the rocks on edge I guess.
Columbine, the state flower of Colorado

Glenwood Springs

We always start our trips with a soak in the hot springs in Glenwood Springs, it’s probably the part I miss most about our time living there. It was especially neat to go in the winter with snow all around and steam rising off the pool. There used to just be the old springs but in 2015 they opened Iron Mountain Hot Springs. This year we just went to IRON Mountain because it was really hot out and they have shade. They also have 16 small pools, each with a slightly different temperature, and one larger cool pool. AND they have a bar although I can’t imagine driving home after soaking in hot water, in the sun, for a couple hours, and drinking on top of it. We did not partake!

We stayed at Four Mile Creek B and B owned by a jeweler, and a musician. They both owned a gallery with the friend I was traveling with, A Show of Hands in Cherry Creek – Denver. The rooms are full of art, as is the yard, and the food is really good.


Aspen


An afternoon drive up Hwy 82 gave me my Aspen fix, I love that town and enjoyed the 6 years we lived there. A lot was still shut down from Covid but we walked around and enjoyed the beautiful city. I always love seeing the Maroon Bells, just look to the right as you begin to enter town.

Hotel Jerome

But before we got to Hwy 82 we took the back road to Carbondale – thats Mount Sopris ahead, we could see it out our window from Aspen, from the other side of it obviously.



Carbondale

On the way to Aspen we stopped in Carbondale at True Nature Healing Arts. They have an amazing garden, restaurant, and labyrinth. Did you know there is a website that shows the location of labyrinths around the world? They list 6150 worldwide and 166 in North Carolina, including the one Martin made on Guion Street here in New Bern.




We then headed off towards Utah, stopping in a gallery in downtown Grand Junction. It’s been about 35 years since I’ve been there and they have done a lot with their downtown. It’s full of sculpture and thriving businesses. My favorite part is they took their very wide Main street and made part of it into a park on each block, traffic still goes two directions and there is parking but also now trees, shade, benches, etc.

Cisco


On the way to Moab we took US 6 off of I-70 to visit the wide spot in the road, the town of Cisco. It’s a very funky tiny village but seems to have become a tourist attraction, the official population is 4. It was a railroad town but in Eileen Muza started an artist residency. There can’t be more than a dozen buildings and most might best be described as shacks.



From there we passed Fishers Towers, this is where you first get a glimpse of what eventually becomes the Grand Canyon.

This is an amazing area of some of the tallest freestanding towers in North America.

Just before you get to the towers you cross the Colorado River. Up until 2008 there was this neat bridge over the Colorado River called Dewey Bridge.

It was destroyed during a brush fire so just its skeleton is left.

Remains of Dewey Bridge



I generally don’t like bridges but for some reason I liked this one. It was a suspension bridge, one way, and the decking was wood planks that bounced up and down as you drove over them, so disappointing that others don’t get to experience it.


Moab

Moab was next, I usually go west in the fall but this year I went in June, It was 109 degrees the three days we were there! I LOVE Arches National Park but we didn’t hike too much because of the heat but were able to see most of the major arches and just seeing the canyon walls is breathtaking.



The next day we got up at 5 am to drive into Canyonlands National Park, the road to it is almost across the street from Arches. We got up early to see the sunrise at Mesa Arch. It was a fairly short hike from the parking lot, we weren’t the only crazy people to be there that early, there were probably 40 other people there too. A lot has changed in this park since we were there last, the roads were all dirt and the signage was limited, I don’t think there was a visitors center either.



On that trip we were in our 1969 VW bus and were tooling along when three big horn sheep ran in front of our vehicle, they might have been going 10 miles an hour! In unison they came to a screeching halt and turned to look at us.

This year there were some fires so everything was a little hazy. We didn’t actually see a fire or where the smoke was coming from until we headed south out of town. Don’t know what people do that live where there are fires and have respiratory issues, three days was enough for me to be coughing and having a runny nose.

In this photo you can see the plume of smoke.


Telluride

Telluride was our next stop, visiting all the galleries and shops. The beautiful waterfall is Bridal Veil Falls, a 365-foot waterfall at the end of the box canyon overlooking the city. Hiking and off-road trails pass by the falls and it has a hydroelectric power plant at its top. In winter people actually climb up the frozen waterfall. I say NO WAY.

Ophir, Ouray, and Montrose


North of town we drove part way over Ophir pass, as far as the little mining town of Ophir which has a population of 193. The towns elevation is 9700 feet. I was impressed with the flowers on the utility poles in town and I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of them or the lemonade stand we stopped at. I said to the girls that they probably didn’t get much traffic (dirt road, over a high mountain pass, 11789 feet), but they said they did pretty well! We did drive all the way over the pass years ago when we had an old Land Rover.



We stayed in Montrose, visiting their botanical gardens, THEY have a crevice garden too!. Montrose isn’t all that pretty but it is the shopping hub for the whole area.

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Ouray is another mining town north of Montrose and over the mountain from Telluride. It also has a hot springs. We were going to soak in it but it was too hot, and there is no shade. So we just gazed at it longingly. Lots of nice shops, lots of restaurants and some galleries, all packed with people.


I remember doing a drawing of this Hotel years ago
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A Trip over Red Mountain Pass was hair raising with logging trucks, no guard rails, and steep dropoffs. You pass Yankee Girl mine and a host of others. There are no guard rails because the road is open all winter, the road is narrow, and the snow plows have to push the snow off the edge.

There is a parking lot across from the Yankee Girl that has signboards talking about the history of the mines and the railroads.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Leaving Montrose it’s just a short drive to the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s interesting because there is a lot of red rock around but the cliffs in this canyon are black, or at least appear black due to the fact that it is narrow and is in shadow most of the time. This canyon is one of the best exposures of ancient (nearly 2 billion years old) Precambrian-aged rocks in the world.



A quick stop at a coffee shop in Gunnison, the Tributary, kept us going – then we went up the Gunnison Valley to Crested Butte.

Hmmmm

Crested Butte

I used to do an art show in Crested Butte every year. One year I drove the VW bus over Cottonwood Pass, it’s remote and the summit is 12126 feet, only to lose my clutch half way over it. I managed to make it to Crested Butte and some guys helped me find someone to fix it while I did the art show. These were the days before cell phones. Thinking back I had some very interesting experiences roaming the mountains by myself. I could have gotten out of the jams easier if I would have had a cell phone. Of course who knows if I would have had service. I could do a whole blog post about those experiences! Losing the fuel pump in the middle of an intersection in St George after being in the desert alone miles from humanity; blowing a piston through the top of the engine between Grand Junction and Glenwood where there is NOTHING for miles and miles and hitching a ride with a guy with a gun laying on the backseat; helping people get unstuck on Independence Pass at the narrowest section and being the last person to make it down before they closed it for the winter ; then losing the clutch, yikes!

Crested Butte seemed a little more touristy than it used to be but it was still nice to be there. We ate in a great Thai restaurant, Ryce Asian Bistro, visited all the galleries, and stayed at Elevation Hotel and Spa where we swam in the pool and soaked in the outdoor hot tub.

Front Range

Back on the Front Range we went to the Farmers Market in Boulder, visited downtown Louisville, and looked at murals in Denver.

The mural program in Denver is called Crush Walls, it’s been going for a dozen years. Each year they paint over some of the murals. Last year 80 murals were painted. I don’t know how they decide which ones to keep. These are some of my favorites.

Our last treat was to visit the Denver Botanical Gardens. It’s a beauty.



Then I zoomed home to finish cleaning out East Front Street house, work on new house, and get ready for my next RV trip to the northeast in late summer. And get some artwork done – the Artists Studio Tour is coming up the first Saturday of November – my new place will be one of the stops and then I’ll be the featured artist for November at Carolina Creations.

Stay tuned and stay safe!

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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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New Work in Cold Wax

While my work is representational I also love contemporary abstract art, I haven’t done any since college – 45 years ago – and have frankly been intimidated by it. So while in Ft Myers I took a workshop in Cold Wax. Cold wax painting blurs the line between oil painting and encaustic painting. The medium consists of unbleached beeswax, alkyd resin, and odorless mineral spirits and is used to make oil colors thicker and more matte.

While I don’t intend to give up the way I normally work I have been working on painting in oils and thought I could find a way to incorporate the cold wax into them. In the meantime here are some of the pieces I did in the workshop that I really like.

These are all quite small.

Sunrise – image 3 x 6″ – oil and cold wax on panel
Mountain Lights
Mountain Lights – Image 5 1/2 x 5 1/2″ – oil and cold wax on panel – SOLD
Movement of Teal – image 4 x 4″ – oil and cold wax on panel
It’s Hot! – oil and cold wax on panel – image 4 x 4″
Distant Shimmer – oil and cold wax on panel – image 4 x 4″ – SOLD
Down the Cravasse – oil and cold wax painting on panel – image 4 x 4″

I’m really pleased how they turned out. There are more! Next post, Road Trip Ft. Myers

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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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New Bern NC Bench by Janet Francoeur

In ceramics things can be more complicated than they first appear!

New Bern NC Bench by Janet Francoeur – A couple years ago when we were at UNC Hospital I saw benches in the garden. I knew immediately who did the metal work, one of our artists (we used to carry) at Carolina Creations, and sure enough when I called Cindy, she said yes, they had built the bench and a potter from Chapel Hill had made the tiles.

BLOG BENCH

I asked her to make two of them for me. Cindy said they wanted to make a few changes on the design and after a few months they arrived at our studio. That was a funny story in itself. These benches weigh A LOT! They are made of heavy gauge steel, zinc galvanized to prevent rusting,  painted with high quality marine grade epoxy paints, and like I said are heavy.

The trucker got them off the truck and onto the sidewalk. After some head scratching Michael and I got out two hand trucks and we managed to inch both of the benches closer to the studio door. It was a lot of work and we finally sat down on one of them to rest. Just then two young ladies came along and said “do you need some help?” They picked up each of the benches and carried them into the studio!

Then our lives got really complicated and they have been sitting in our entryway ever since. I’m finally at the point that I can tackle them. On one of the benches I decided to do a new bern scene like I’ve done for some back splashes and platters. The only problem is I use earthenware for the back splashes and platters – and it won’t hold up outside in freezing and thawing conditions.

So you would think I would just go and get other clay. It’s not that easy. There are lots of kinds of clay and they all are not appropriate for tile making. So you have to do a lot of testing, will they fire flat? Will my glazes hold their color at a higher temperature? If there is too much grog in it will I be able to draw a straight line?

Well the first clay I tried had way too much grog in it, I couldn’t get a smooth enough surface to draw on. I’ll use that clay to make some totems with. So I eventually bought 4 different kinds of clay and finally found one I liked.

The clay shrinks as it dries then more again when fired so I had to figure the shrinkage out. The people that blend the clay give you a shrinkage rate but like everything in ceramics you need to do your own testing.

BLOG RULER

I rolled out a strip of clay and marked it off by 1/2 inch increments. Then I could use that to measure the bench opening to see how big my clay slab needed to be (also considering room for grout lines between the tiles).

So you can see in this photo that from wet to being fired to cone 5 it had shrunk by a whole inch . 

I made a test of my underglazes to see how the color holds up at the hotter cone 5. Usually the reds burn out but these Spectrum underglazes seemed to hold up. I had to find a clear glaze to go over my underglazes, since the one I’m used to using will not fire to the cone 5 that I need. I glazed half of the tiles with the cone 5 clear gloss and half with cone 5 clear matt. The right side is gloss the left mat, I like the gloss better. In some glazes you can’t see any difference in others you can.

BLOG GLAZE TEST

I got the tiles made….

IMG_1095

dried them, fired them to cone 04 then I drew the image onto the tiles with pencil…then colored with underglazes…

bench tiles

then covered them with clear glaze and fired to cone 5, which is the vitrification temperature of this particular clay.

Vitrification is the hardening, tightening and finally the partial glassification of the clay. Vitrification results from fusions or melting of the various components of the clay. The strength of fired clay is increased by the formation of new crystalline growth within the clay body, particularly the growth of mullite crystals. Mullite is an aluminum silicate characterized by a long needlelike crystal. These lace the structure together, giving it cohesion and strength. (from The Big Ceramic Store Website)

Then there is the issue of attaching the tiles to the bench. I needed to build up the base and was not comfortable attaching them directly to the metal so I used Wedi Board, Wedi Board is lightweight, easy to cut, and a completely waterproof tile backer board.

I attached the Wedi Board to the bench with a urethane adhesive…I had to figure out what was the best for that – it had to be suitable for a wet application and outdoors.

…then I covered the board with adhesive and attached the tiles leaving even (well kind of even) grout lines.

Once the adhesive had dried I applied grout that I treated for outdoor use.

And DONE! It only took me a couple years to do.

Like I said, things sometimes are more complicated than they first appear.

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Road Trip Southern Italy Part 2 Lecce to Ostuni

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

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


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

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

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

This region is also famous for its papier mâché.

Scenes from Lecce.

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

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

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

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