England, take two!

I tried to post my England blog yesterday, but I suspect that it didn’t go through.  So sorry if you get this twice!  Don’t feel obligated to read it again!

 

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It had been a dream of mine to take a walking tour of the Cotswolds.  So when a dear high school friend invited me to join a women’s trip she was taking, I jumped at the chance. And as long as we were going all the way to England, we had to add on London…and Bath. What a great trip it was!  But now that so much time has passed since I returned I’m inclined to be selective with the details and post just the highlights and a “few” photos.  Procrastination has its advantages (for you and for me)!

On our way from Gatwick to the town of Bath, we were able to squeeze in quick visits to Highclere castle (which was closed for the season but we went through the gates anyway), Avebury Stones and Lacock Village (thanks to our great driver, Brian, from Celtic Horizons)!

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During our four night stay in Bath,  we ventured out to the city of Bristol on the coast (20 minutes away by train), rented bikes on the outskirts of Bath and rode down the scenic canal paths, and took a free walking tour of the historic monuments of Bath itself. These charming towns offered the perfect start to our English adventures.

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Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol
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The Mall – a pub in Bristol
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First Fish and Chips!

Bristol’s Clifton Village has cute pubs, good fish and chips and a stunning bridge.

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Bike riding is such a great way to see the sights!

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Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath

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The town of Bath is quaint and picturesque!  Next stop:  London!

After visiting London’s must-see museums, cathedrals and palaces, we enjoyed the colorful Borough Market, a ferry trip down the Thames to Greenwich /The National Maritime Museum, some great theater (Kinky Boots) and a lively Alvin Ailey dance performance at Sadlers Wells.  Purchasing tickets for the tube and the London Pass in advance saved us time and money!

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After we left London and met up with our Cotswolds walking group, the first stop on our tour was Oxford University.   Our excellent tour guide, David, from Oxford City Walks entertained, educated and serenaded us through this fascinating collection of colleges.

They were filming Endeavor while we toured Oxford!

During the week that followed, we walked from idyllic village to village, hiked across sheep and cow dotted meadows, visited historic castles and dazzling gardens, and stopped in cozy pubs and cafes.  It was better than we ever expected.  On our itinerary were the villages of Moreton-in-Marsh, Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, Broadway and Winchcombe.   Broadway and Chipping Campden stood out as particularly charming.
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The fascinating Sudeley Castle where Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife is buried.

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Hidcote Gardens
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Picnic feast at Stanway House
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The amazing gravity fountain at Stanway House

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Our wonderful tour guide for the walking portion of the trip, Robert Talbot, from the tour company, Hikes and Bikes,  enlightened us about the area’s flora, fauna, geology, conservation and  history with great knowledge and humor.  He, along Andrew Guppy, who runs Hikes and Bikes, created an amazing journey for us, with fabulous food and incredible hikes.

Touring in a group of 16 women was a great experience.  With daily yoga and journaling, (a bit of sketching) and an abundance of laughing, connecting and sharing, it was a trip like none other I have taken.  I hope to do it again soon!

 

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England!

img_8433It had been a dream of mine to take a walking tour of the Cotswolds.  So when a dear high school friend invited me to join a women’s trip she was taking, I jumped at the chance. And as long as we were going all the way to England, we had to add on London…and Bath. What a great trip it was!  But now that so much time has passed since I returned I’m inclined to be selective with the details and post just the highlights and a “few” photos.  Procrastination has its advantages (for you and for me)!

On our way from Gatwick to the town of Bath, we were able to squeeze in quick visits to Highclere castle (which was closed for the season but we went through the gates anyway), Avebury Stones and Lacock Village (thanks to our great driver, Brian, from Celtic Horizons)!

img_5855img_5868

During our four night stay in Bath,  we ventured out to the city of Bristol on the coast (20 minutes away by train), rented bikes on the outskirts of Bath and rode down the scenic canal paths, and took a free walking tour of the historic monuments of Bath itself. These charming towns offered the perfect start to our English adventures.

img_6058
Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol
img_6085
The Mall – a pub in Bristol
img_6086
First Fish and Chips!

Bristol’s Clifton Village has cute pubs, good fish and chips and a stunning bridge.

img_6223img_6151

img_6142

Bike riding is such a great way to see the sights!

img_6283

img_6404
Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath

img_6462

The town of Bath is quaint and picturesque!  Next stop:  London!

After visiting London’s must-see museums, cathedrals and palaces, we enjoyed the colorful Borough Market, a ferry trip down the Thames to Greenwich /The National Maritime Museum, some great theater (Kinky Boots) and a lively Alvin Ailey dance performance at Sadlers Wells.  Purchasing tickets for the tube and the London Pass in advance saved us time and money!

img_6947img_6614

img_7077img_7075img_7095img_7107

After we left London and met up with our Cotswolds walking group, the first stop on our tour was Oxford University.   Our excellent tour guide, David, from Oxford City Walks entertained, educated and serenaded us through this fascinating collection of colleges.

They were filming Endeavor while we toured Oxford!

During the week that followed, we walked from idyllic village to village, hiked across sheep and cow dotted meadows, visited historic castles and dazzling gardens, and stopped in cozy pubs and cafes.  It was better than we ever expected.  On our itinerary were the villages of Moreton-in-Marsh, Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, Broadway and Winchcombe.   Broadway and Chipping Campden stood out as particularly charming.
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The fascinating Sudeley Castle where Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife is buried.

img_8433

img_8711
Hidcote Gardens
img_8360
Picnic feast at Stanway House
img_8281
The amazing gravity fountain at Stanway House

img_8246img_7619img_1553img_7490img_7345

Our wonderful tour guide for the walking portion of the trip, Robert Talbot, from the tour company, Hikes and Bikes,  enlightened us about the area’s flora, fauna, geology, conservation and  history with great knowledge and humor.  He, along Andrew Guppy, who runs Hikes and Bikes, created an amazing journey for us, with fabulous food and incredible hikes.

Touring in a group of 16 women was a great experience.  With daily yoga and journaling, (a bit of sketching) and an abundance of laughing, connecting and sharing, it was a trip like none other I have taken.  I hope to do it again soon!

 

Summer on the east coast!

We just returned from a fun, scenic, busy vacation on the east coast.  If you have any plans to visit the Portsmouth NH area or Kennebunkport ME in the near future, here are some of the places and activities we loved!

 

Portsmouth, NH

Strawbery Banke Historic Village

Sanders Fish Market

Seaview Lobster Company

Bob’s Clam Hut

Sailing on the Piscataqua River/Portsmouth Harbor

Carls Meat Market (and sandwiches) in Kittery ME

The Ice House for delicious ice cream and casual lunch

 

Kennebunkport ME

Langsford Rd. Lobster and Fish House

The Wayfarer  for great breakfasts, lunches and dinners!  BYOB

Snug Harbor Farm  for plants, gifts and great photo opps

Goose Rocks Beach, for great walks and scenery

Kennebunkport Marina for kayak rentals

Rococo Ice Cream

Farm + Table for gifts and housewares in Cape Porpoise, ME

Wow, looking back on these photos and websites reminds what a great trip it was!  We’ve been back for four days and I miss it already!

 

 

I love cake!

Here’s what happens when it’s your birthday and..

  1. your daughter comes home to visit and
  2. you both enjoy walking to breakfast together,
  3. and she’s an excellent baker and cake decorator,

  4. and you like to help her bake and decorate, IMG_2424
  5. and you love gardens and trees and flowers,  IMG_2462 (1)
  6. and she doesn’t mind when you do some “creative” work of your own…IMG_8399

You realize that having a birthday and getting older isn’t so bad after all!!!

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Winter Garden

I’m always sad to see my kids fly away after the holidays.  But I have to admit that it’s invigorating to sweep away the holiday clutter and start fresh. A new year, a clean slate, a new inspirational word (my word this year is “create”).   I especially enjoy planting the winter garden.  I love its starkness and deep colors.  And I’m always amazed that we can grow things in January that we can actually eat.  After watching the brilliant PBS film In Defense of Food based on the book by Michael Pollan and produced by our friends Kiki Kapany and Michael Schwarz, I’m even more motivated to eat “mostly plants” and try to grow some of our own!  So far this year we’ve planted arugula, purple kale, giant red mustard greens and a few miscellaneous lettuces.IMG_2366I haven’t started eating them yet, but I have started drawing them!IMG_7790Happy New Year!

 

Hudson Valley

IMG_0449I’ve been wanting to visit the Hudson Valley for so long – It’s been on my list ever since a friend told me about the Andy Goldsworthy sculptures in the Storm King Art Center.  So when we scheduled an October trip to visit our daughter in Boston,  I made sure that we tacked on an excursion to New York.  And the timing was perfect – the fall colors were spectacular.

IMG_0690We stayed at The Millbrook Inn, a lovely and quiet gem, off the beaten path, near the town of Millbrook.  Delicious, huge breakfasts cooked by the charming inn keeper Don were the perfect way to start our two action packed days of touring the valley.IMG_0158 (1)

IMG_0157To get a broad look at the Hudson River and the valley, we started day one at the The Walkway over the Hudson, a cool 1.25 mile long pedestrian bridge (former rail bridge) spanning the river.  It was a great intro to the area.

IMG_0182 IMG_0213 IMG_0205 IMG_0166Next up the FDR Museum and Library – it was the FIRST presidential library and was actually used by FDR during his presidency. We found it to be moving and memorable.

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Now starving, we headed to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for a quick lunch at the Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe.  Delicious!  So fun to see the grand buildings on the Hudson and the students hustling around campus in their white chef coats!

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And the last item on our agenda for the day – a lovely, scenic hike around the Vanderbilt mansion –  more views of the river and a glimpse into the estate of an aristocratic family.IMG_0406 IMG_0319We were happy to be able to skip the house tour and wander the grounds for free!  For dinner we drove to the charming village of Rhinebeck and enjoyed a great, casual meal, comfortably seated at the bar of Market St.

Getting an early start on Day Two, we picked up picnic supplies at Adams FairAcre Farms, a crazy, fun, huge supermarket/nursery/farm store and then drove across the river to hike and wander the grounds at the remarkable Mohonk Mountain House.  Established in the late 1800s, this old, rambling full service resort is something to see.  We paid the day-use fees which allow access to all hiking trails and grounds.  The scenery, the hotel itself, the lake, gardens and sky tower, which provides 360 degree views of five states, were breathtaking.  Mohonk was definitely a highlight of the trip!

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From Mohonk we headed south to Storm King Art Center.  Even though we ran out of time and were literally the last ones to leave this beautiful outdoor museum,  it was totally worth the visit!  Next time we’ll go back to see the other half that we missed!  We did see the amazing Andy Goldsworthy walls that we had heard about, several impressive Mark di Suvero steel structures and other gigantic works of art carefully strewn about the grounds.

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Our last dinner in the Hudson Valley was in the quaint town of Fishkill.  Il Barilotto (another great restaurant recommended by our inn keeper Don) served delicious Italian food in a casual, comfortable setting.

There’s still so much to see in the Hudson Valley. I’m glad we finally got there and I want to go back soon!

Italian Itinerary: Adventures in Amalfi

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The first stop on our recent trip to Italy was the Amalfi Coast.  And our adventures started as soon as we hit the road. If you’ve ever driven to the Amalfi Coast, you know what I’m talking about.  It’s a good thing I wasn’t driving the car because I spent a lot of time on those narrow windy roads with my eyes closed.  And I don’t mean sleeping!

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We rented a manual drive Alfa Romeo Giulietta at the airport in Rome (my husband loved that car!) and got on our way.  Getting off the A1 for a bite to eat we ended up unintentionally at the top of a tiny hill town.  Thanks to my rusty Italian and some friendly school kids, we found the only store that was open, a market with delicious soft Pecorino Romano, bright green olives and crusty Italian bread and we were on our way again.  Slow and steady (except when we had to get out of the way of the crazy fast Italian drivers), we headed to Positano.  Winding  through the town’s narrow one-way streets we missed the hotel driveway on the first try and had to circumnavigate the entire town to get back there.   Second time around the Cinque family was waiting for us, stopping traffic briefly and navigating us safely into the garage.  We had arrived at the lovely Albergo California Positano, http://www.hotelcaliforniapositano.it/

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After a delicious dinner next door at Ristorante Bruno, http://www.ristorantebruno.org, (the grilled seafood platter was amazing) and a good night’s sleep in our spacious room overlooking the bay, we woke up ready to start exploring the Amalfi Coast.  IMG_6263
Our plans for the day  included a ferry ride from Positano to the town of Amalfi and a hike up to the the little town of Pontone for lunch (a Rick Steves recommendation).  Arriving at the beach in plenty of time for our 10:30 ferry we learned that it was canceled and the next ferry would leave at 11:30.  OK, no problem!  Time to wander the shoreline.  Following a little path away from town we stumbled onto a beautiful deserted cove, flanked by two Saracen towers, built centuries ago to protect against invaders
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Of course we had to collect a few of our favorite Italian souvenirs, beach tiles.

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After a scenic ferry ride we strolled with the crowds through the bustling town of Amalfi.

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Before we knew it we were on the path to Pontone.  Lemon trees and bushes were everywhere!

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A friendly local gave us lemons from his family orchard.  Distracted by our new friend, we missed the turn on our path and wandered through the woods for a while.  Pushing aside our fears that we would never stop climbing uphill, we persevered and finally arrived at the top of the mountain in the tiny town of Pontone.   Antico Borgo and lunch were waiting for us!  What a view!IMG_5864

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Day two on the Amalfi coast was equally delightful.  On the agenda:  touring the town of Ravello and Villa Cimbrone.  To get to Ravello we had to go through the town of Amalfi again and this time we (my dear husband) wanted to take the car.  Let’s just say that both the scenery and the driving conditions were thrilling.

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IMG_6064Highlights from the charming town of Ravello included a scenic walk out to Villa Cimbrone and a stroll around its beautiful grounds followed by a delicious lunch at Cumpa Cosima.

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After two full days and three nights on the Amalfi coast we were not ready to leave.  So much more to see and do.  We’ll be back (in the spring or the fall) to pick up where we left off!  Next stop:  Roma!