When Vacations Were a Thing

I finished this painting last week. It’s kind of a quirky subject for a still life but I’m pretty happy with the results. The photo I based it on was taken by my daughter when she was just 13. It was a lot of fun to create for a couple of reasons.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/840895152/original-watercolor-painting-morning?ref=shop_home_feat_2&frs=1

First off, the morning light coming in the window created such great shadows and highlights. Also, creating the reflections of the pillow and curtain on the glass was something I’d never tried before. I’m always much more motivated to do something if I can learn new skills and techniques. This provided some good challenges.

The second reason I enjoyed it so much were the memories associated with the subject matter. As I said, Miss Dee took the original photo a little over seven years ago when we were on a family cruise to Bermuda. This past June I was all booked to take a very similar cruise with my sisters and best friend but, I guess we know that didn’t work out. 😦 We are hoping to reschedule next year. In the meantime thinking about my last trip there was a nice distraction.

Miss Dee’s photo was taken the morning we docked in King’s Wharf on the island of Bermuda. This would have been day three of a five day cruise. We awoke to find a Tugboat tooting outside the window as it, and a few of it’s friends guided us into port. The rest of the day was just as surprising.

After enjoying breakfast aboard the ship we disembarked and began to explore. We started with a slightly scary bus ride (I don’t think there are any traffic laws in Bermuda) to Horseshoe Bay Beach on the other side of the island. We were told that it was quite beautiful and well worth the ride and it certainly was. The sand was pink and the water was warm, crystal clear and perfectly still. Being from New Jersey, I’m accustomed to dodging riptides and trying not to get knocked over by incoming waves. This was a nice change. Even more impressive though, were the rock formations that stood right off the beach. Some were like hidden little tunnels that you could swim through. After a few hours, enjoying the sun and the water, we showered in the available bathhouses which were very clean and well maintained and took a taxi into the town of Hamilton. The taxi ride was much less scary although the people who get around by scooter in Bermuda must have no fear at all! They seem to zig-zag in front of traffic without even looking.

Scrapbook Page. I can’t believe how young we all look!
Miss Dee looking super cute posing with the rocks at Horseshoe Bay.

Hamilton, the Capital city, is a quaint little colonial town with lots of historic Stone buildings, restaurants and shops to explore. We had a snack then took a walk through the Queen’s Gardens in the center of town. The tropical flowers were amazing! I’d never seen such bright beautiful colors. Miss Dee took some very nice photos there too. By late afternoon, we were all getting tired and decided to head back to the ship for dinner. No taxi or bus was needed though. Kings Wharf Royal Dock Yard was just across The Great Sound from Hamilton so we were able to take a water taxi back to the ship. That was a lovely way to end the day.

Hamilton
Beautiful Queen’s Gardens

The next day we took an excursion on a glass bottom boat. It was really incredible to see all the fish, Coral and even a few sunken ships below the blue water off Kings Wharf. The tour guide was so informative about the various fish and sea creatures we saw. I also learned that Bermuda isn’t actually one continuous landmass but instead a collection of 181 different islets and small islands. There were snacks and sodas served during the two hour tour and the D-man and I even received a complimentary cocktail with coconut rum as part of the excursion packet.

Such blue, blue water!

Even though we still had two days left on our cruise, we were a bit sad when the ship left dock at two that afternoon. It felt like there was so much more of Bermuda to explore. When Mr D graduated from college last year we chipped in with his grandparents and sent him and his girl on the same Cruise that we had taken. They saw some things there that were new since we had been there. I’m hoping, if I get to go next year, I’ll see even more. By then, maybe vacations will be a thing again. 🙂

Adventures in Hollywood – Day One

Nancy and Linda Fly the Friendly Skies

When my sister Linda and I first hatched our crazy plan to fly clear across the country by ourselves we actually felt pretty confident. We had no worries about enjoying the destination.  My nephew Kyle has been living in Los Angeles for seven years and my sister has been out to visit him once before. She knew what to expect and I knew he would take care of us, driving our rental car and showing us all the touristy sites.  In addition, we were not worried about our accommodations because we were staying in the same little apartment in Burbank that Linda had rented during her last trip six years earlier.  We knew it would be clean and safe and in a good location.  We didn’t even care about sharing these close quarters for a week because even though there is a 12 year difference in our ages (she the oldest of four, me the youngest) we have always gotten along famously.  We have the same personality type, decidedly introverted but with a side of adventure. We share the same sarcastic sense of humor, eating habits and taste in wine.  In fact, my brother-in-law often claims that we share a brain.

So it was with excited anticipation that we planned our adventure.  We had just one obstacle and one big worry…getting there.  It wasn’t a fear of flying that gave us anxiety.  We both really enjoy the actual flying part. . It was more a fear of arrival times and baggage claims, of security checks and boarding passes. In addition to sharing a brain,  my sister and I also share a phobia of rule breaking.  The idea that we would be late or get pulled out of line for an infraction of the security rules, which are much stricter since the last time either of us flew, had us both nervous wrecks. Linda alleviated her anxiety by scouring the internet.  Every few days I received another link to another site with tips for stress free flying. Personally,  I went straight to the horse’s mouth, or rather to my friend Donna who has flown more miles than she cares to remember both for work and pleasure.  She sent me a nice long email detailing what we could do to make the flight and check in easier.

When the time arrived for us to finally embark it felt like we had prepared all we could for our 5:45 flight out of Philadelphia. I even arranged to leave work early just in case of traffic. Our  bags were packed (although Linda was sure she was going to be over the 25 pound limit for checked bags); our carry-ons were filled with books and food (in clear zip lock bags); we were wearing slip on shoes  (in case we needed to remove them for security), and socks (because airport floors=gross);  we were without cumbersome scarves, jackets or necklaces so we could plop our stuff into those plastic bins with ease and once through security, we planned to buy large bottles of water to drink on the plane to stay hydrated.

So we were ready, right?  Worries and anxiety in check, right? Not really.  We still kept imagining everything that could go wrong.  Linda worried more than me, always has.  I think it’s a birth order thing.  Any-hoo, the departure day finally came. We arrived at the airport hours ahead of our flight, checked our bags quickly and easily (she had a 1/2 pound to spare, mine was 10 pound lighter-I know how to pack!), and sailed right through security, without even removing our shoes.

Really?!

It was sort of anticlimactic. We just looked at each other and thought,  “That’s it?” No pat down? No bag searches? No suspicious looks?  The most difficult part was trying to figure out how to print our baggage tag  from those annoying little kiosks they use now. My kingdom for a real, live person with a pen and paper!! Oh, and we also sat at the wrong departure gate for an hour (long story) but we figured it out in plenty of time.

The five hour flight was a little cramped but fine.  The flight attendant did get sort of snippy when we asked for wine.  Apparently they had to wait “till we reach cruising altitude.” Yeesh!  She obviously didn’t realize how badly we needed that wine! Anyway, finally around 9pm (12am without the time change) the lights of the Greater Los Angeles area appeared below and we began our decent.

We had been warned by several people about how crazy LAX could be but we actually found it easier to navigate than the Philadelphia Airport had been.  We found our luggage and my nephew Kyle, who had Ubered to the airport, in no time at all.  A shuttle took us to the Hertz Rental Center where we signed in and were sent to pick out our rental car.  It’s a nice idea, really, giving you the choice of all the cars in the lot but in the dark after a long day I would have preferred someone just hand me the keys.  Since Kyle was going to do most of the driving, we let him pick.  By this time, I had a crashing headache and was just ready to climb in the back seat and nap. It was probably due to stress…or the wine…or the fact that I’d mostly had wine for dinner.  I could blame it on the dry air on the plane but that’s unlikely. Anyway, my introduction to the insane L.A. Traffic and all the zigging and zagging involved was not fun and I was grateful to make it to our cute little Burbank apartment without hurling in the back seat of the rented Toyota.

Day one down.  Technically, I guess, it was already day two since it was around 1am.  Linda and Kyle decided to stay up for a while and catch up. Me,  I crawled into my pjs and into the nice comfy bed thankful for the peace and quiet. I was asleep in minutes, dreaming of all the adventures to come.

Watch out Hollywood. The Sisters have arrived!

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Our Burbank Abode and the snazzy rental car.

 

 

A Night in a Castle

 Summer Bucket List item #1. Technically, it was an overnight trip and not a day trip but I think it still qualifies! 😊

Last week Hubby, Miss Dee and I took a road trip up north to The Castle at Skylands Manor in Ringwood NJ. The building itself was built in the 1920’s but was designed to resemble an old Tudor castle. Really cool! Surrounding the castle are the most beautiful botanical gardens. The land and buildings are owned and cared for by the state botanical society and offer year round tours and events. The Castle at Skylands functions as a bed and breakfast and an amazing wedding venue for some very lucky couples. The inn keepers also run the catering business for any of the affairs held there.

Here are some shots of the exterior of the building…

castle facade 2

castle

And the interior…

I kept visualizing Scarlett O’Hara coming down this stairway!

breakfast roomMiss Dee enjoying her breakfast in the sun room.

This is a small peek at the gardens.  The grounds were huge and every corner you turned revealed another statue, fountain or display of plants with a quiet little bench from which to enjoy the view. There were only a few blooms this time of the year so we all decided we needed to make a return trip in the spring.

arborfountainbutteflies in flightlong pool 2bridge fountain 2liliesrear patio 2water lilyvisitors centerThis ivy covered cottage serves as the visitors center and this little hobbit-like house…

pump house.. is where the pumps for the fountains are hidden!  Miss Dee was ready to move in!  All photo credits, by the way, go to the lovely Miss Dee (except of course for the one photo she is in).

The staff at the inn was very helpful and pleasant and the rooms are full of character.  If you are looking for modern conveniences though you will probably be disappointed.  There are no phones in the rooms, no refrigerators, no bar or restaurant on the grounds and breakfast was your typical continental fare, muffins, bagels, juice and coffee.  We drove into the town of Ringwood, about 3 miles away, for dinner.

All in all I would definitely recommend a visit to Skylands Manor, especially if you are interested in history, or botanical gardens or just a really romantic get away. I know we will be going back!

Check out their web site for more information: http://www.frungillo.com/venues/skylands-manor

A Day at The Met!

This Saturday Miss Dee and I took a trip to the Metropoliton Museum of Art in New Your City.  We traveled by bus, not usually my favorite mode of transportation but it was actually very nice. Our driver and tour director couldn’t have been more helpful, efficient and entertaining. Of course our very first order of business was to take a selfie on the bus!    selfieDon’t we look happy!? Anyway, this was our first trip to the Met so I did a little research first. Here’s what I found out:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially The Met), located in New York City, is the largest art museum in the United States and one of the ten largest in the world.[7] Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided among seventeen curatorial departments.[8] The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan’s Museum Mile, is by area one of the world’s largest art galleries.  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art

When we got there, we could see what a truly imposing building it was…

front1

entrance3

ceiling

Here is some of the building’s beautiful architecture.

The collection is so endless, we knew we would only be able to see a small part of it so we decided to concentrate mostly on the American Wing.
Mezzanine8

This area is called The Charles Engelhard Court and it anchors the American Wing, added in 1924, to the main building. The graceful statue of Diana that stands in the center was designed by artist  Augustus Saint-Gaudens as a finial for Madison Square Garden.

At each end of the court are two very different architectural elements. One is this beautiful loggia or porch from the Long Island home of Louis Comfort Tiffany:

more tiffany6

mezanine9

I wish I had gotten a better photo of the windows at the rear. They were really amazing examples of Tiffany glass. He is another Tiffany work that was along another wall in the court.

Tiffany5

The colors and detail were incredible. I can’t imagine how many hour of work went into creating this. Below is another  Tiffany designed landscape in mosaic that sits along another wall.

mosaic7

At the other end of the court is the facade of a federal bank that was once located on Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. Kind of unusual to see a building inside a building! The front door is actually the  entrance to the American wing.

house

Once inside we wandered through the many galleries enjoying the numerous painting and sculptures by all the greatest American artist including Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and one of my favorites, John Singer Sargent.

sisters

This one titled “The Wyndham Sisters” painted in 1899, is my favorite. It captures the elegance and beauty of the era. I love the softness in the colors and how each woman’s personality comes through. I’ve seen this work in books many times but I never realized how large it was till I saw it in person!

And of course, how could you have an American Wing without including…

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Anyone living in the U.S. has probably seen a print of this painting by Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868) aptly titled “Washington Crossing the Delaware”. I know I have, but I never realized how massive it was in real life. Even the gold frame screams “Liberty!” Seriously, though, it is a very moving piece. I can understand why it has been reproduced so often.

After the American Wing, we had just enough time to take in a special Vincent van Gogh exhibit called “Irises and Roses”. No photos were allowed but they would not have done justice to these beautiful paintings anyway. The colors and textures were so rich.

By the time we boarded the bus for home we were exhausted but also disappointed. We hadn’t had time to see any of the European Impressionist,  the Greek and Roman statues, the Dutch and Spanish masters or about a thousand other things! We did get a quick look at the Egyptian wing but only because we had to go through it to get to the ladies room! It felt like we spent a lot of time trying to find our way around. Thank goodness for all those bored security guards willing to give directions!

All in all, Miss Dee and I give our trip to The Met two big thumbs up. We highly recommend it to anyone who loves great art, history and architecture. We, however, feel like we will need at least 10 more trips there in order to truly appreciate it!

For more info about The Met: http://www.metmuseum.org