Lake Waban, Wellesley, Massachusetts

Lake Waban is not a long journey from my home, but it is a very special place.  I grew up nearby and learned to swim in this lake.  My mom sent me this spectacular picture of the sunset last night and it looked so tranquil I had to share.  If you are ever in the Boston area and looking for a beautiful place to take a walk, I highly recommend it.  There is also a beautiful topiary garden which I will write about more in another post. Happy Thursday!

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Seattle, Washington May 2018

Greetings! This past weekend I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit some family in Seattle.  I had previously been there in 2016, and was eager to return and do some more exploring.  On this visit, I spent some time on Bainbridge Island and did a hike up Rattlesnake Ridge.

Bainbridge Island

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The Ferry ride over to the Island was very short and easy.  We got in line, without any reservation, and were soon on our way across to the island with only minimal waiting as we took a car across.  Above is the view of the city from the ferry- sadly no Space Needle in this picture.

We took a walk along a beautiful beach in Fay- Bainbridge State Park. This beach featured some old dead logs that presumably washed up on shore after falling off of a boat.  This seems to be a feature of the Pacific Northwest- on our previous visit we spent some time exploring a beach on the other side of the Olympic Mountain range which had the same type of logs:

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We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town on the Island. It was very reminiscent of many little island towns in New England- cute, charming shops and cozy little restaurants. We then took a ferry back to the city.  Again, it was smooth and easy. (This is surprising to me, as I am used to the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard which requires reservations to be made months and months in advance when taking a car across.)

Rattlesnake Ridge

We spent the second day of my visit hiking up Rattlesnake Ridge– and we were not alone. The walk up was slightly less crowded, but going down it was practically a moving line of people.  It was understandable, as this was a beautiful day of a long weekend, but it did diminish the sense of solitude that the woods can provide.

The hike is a lovely gradual path up switchbacks through the forest. Unlike hiking in New England, the path was almost totally devoid of rocks which needed to be scrambled over. (I am not such a fan of that aspect of hiking in New Hampshire).  The contrast of this flat, smooth, even trail was quite astounding.

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The trees were really spectacular- they towered over us, seemingly 10 stories tall.

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The view from the top of the ridge was of Mount Si on one side- (far too steep for the likes of me.)

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And the other view point was Rattlesnake Lake.  I began to get very nervous about how precarious the cliff was and the number of other people who were there- it seemed like it would be quite easy to fall off the edge!

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As it turns out, tragically, there have been numerous accidental deaths here- several people got too close to the edge and fell off, so my apprehension about getting too close was well justified!

I had a fantastic time in Seattle and the visit was all too brief. Until next time! (Above is a picture of my brother Josh and I being goofy and a view of the Olympic Mountain Range from Golden Gardens Park.)

 

Musée d’Orsay, Paris May 2018

During our visit to France, we spent a Sunday afternoon at the Musee d’ Orsay.   This is one of the best known museums in the world, so there is not too much I can contribute, other than my experience.

We bought tickets ahead of time, in a effort to beat the crowds and it turned out that many others had had the same idea… we waited for almost an hour to get in. However, it was not raining at the time, and we had just arrived in Paris, so the experience of waiting was not at all unpleasant.  We made friends with some fellow museum goers waiting with us.

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There are no words to describe the collection of Impressionists.  (By the time we got inside, we only had an hour and a half to see everything, so we went for the most popular, of course).  It was truly astounding. Room after room of masterpieces.  The only down side was that we were not alone.

This was our experience of trying to see Starry Night Over the Rhône:

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(I have included a link to the actual painting so you know which painting I am talking about.  Its impossible to tell through the fog of tourists.)

My favorites however, were the lesser known paintings by Monet:

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And, my personal favorite, the Turkeys:

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We also were able to see some lesser known VanGogh Paintings also:

 

(Apologies for the strange angles, it was challenging to get clear pictures that did not have other people in them.)

Sadly, as the museum was closing, things got less crowded and we came across this lovely little painting, The White Cat, by Pierre Bonnard

 

(As a cat lover, this was a highlight for me).  I wish you Merry travels!

Meet Annapurna…

This post is not about travel, but I thought this would be a good time to introduce you to a wonderful cat in my life….Annapurna!

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She is an 18 month old Tonkinese cat, who lives with my family and her two older brothers, whom she delights in chasing and pestering.

These guys, Smuttynose and Zeus, are brothers, from the same litter (my cat Maya is their mom).  Sadly, there is quite a bit of tension between them.  Zeus came back to us after 4 years of living with another family, and Smutty has done his best to make him feel unwelcome at every turn.

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This situation is slightly humorous, as they are practically identical in appearance. (Zeus, however, struggles a bit with his weight, and Smuttynose is notoriously cross-eyed.)

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Annapurna, meanwhile, rules them both!

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Château de Langeais, France, May 2018

Hello, I wanted to share with you another marvelous Chateau we visited while on our trip to the Loire Valley: Langeais!

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The weather was perfect and we had quite an interesting visit.  This 15th century chateau was most famous for the secret wedding between Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII which took place here on December 6, 1491- infamously at dawn.

The oldest part of the castle complex is the “keep” which was built in the 10th century.  (According to my wikipedia research, this makes it the second oldest castle in France.)

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The interior of the castle was quite interesting itself- there is a wax model of this secret wedding, complete with a narrated video of the events surrounding it. (Strangely enough, this was in English- perhaps to accommodate the number of pesky English speaking tourists.)  I have a link to an image of the tableau, as I  was so distracted by the impossibly small size of the figures that I neglected to take a picture.

I am not sure if these figures were made to scale, but they all appeared to be no more than 4 and a half feet in height.  Considering the small size of the doorways- I had to stoop and I am 5’7″- this might be the case.  Although, I find it hard to believe.  The rooms all featured heavy wooden beams and intricate tapestries.  The floors were tiled in a color we came to know as “blush apricot” which seems to be quite popular in France- many of the chateaus and buildings we visited featured this type of tile.  IMG_8606

(Please disregard the Americans featured above- those are my parents who are clearly fascinated by something on the wall opposite).

Langleais also features an extensive turret walk: it allows the visitor to traverse through an enclosed walk way on the upper level.  This seems to have been part of the castle’s defenses, as you have a good view of anything happening beneath.

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Thankfully, the wiring was in place to prevent any overly curious tourists from falling in the moat while trying to retrieve a dropped iPhone.

We ended our visit with a great lunch in the village. It was perfect- there was only one item left on the menu- jambon et fromage,  so the amount of challenging translating when ordering was, blissfully,  kept to a minimum.

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Knebworth, England June 2016

Last night, I was watching one of my (embarrassingly) favorite shows, Midsomer Murders.  The episode featured a house I visited in June 2016.  I thought this was serendipitous, as I have been thinking of writing a post about Knebworth already.

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I chose to visit Knebworth after I had seen many British TV shows and movies which had been filmed there. (Once again- extensive and scholarly research was done).  The house itself is strange: looking very much like a Victorian idea of what a castle should be. (It is described as, confusingly, “Tudor Gothic”).

The most famous resident of Knebworth is Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  He is was a Victorian novelist: he notably coined the term “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “the great unwashed” and “it was a dark and stormy night…” among other literary pearls.  The interior, which sadly I do not have pictures of, is a museum of sorts, paying homage to his life and literary accomplishments.

The gardens are spectacular.  Full of interesting pathways and breathtaking roses.  My favorite aspect of the garden was the pollarded lime tree walk.  I like (pollarded trees.)

There were some other interesting things to see in the grounds- a dead tree which had the former trunks carved into whimsical woodland women.

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We also stumbled across a very cute bamboo bower…

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and several artistic fountains and boxed hedges.  We also discovered that the garden contained a giant Sequoia tree, which was quite unexpected as this was England- not northern California.

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Overall, our visit to Knebworth was fantastic! I would encourage everyone to see it for themselves.  (But be sure to do plenty of British TV watching before hand so you can become an “expert” like me 😉 )

 

Villandry, France May 2018

While in the Loire Valley, we decided, rather late in the afternoon, to visit Villandry. It was such an unexpected joy to find this to be another gem in the Loire. Similar to Azay -le- Rideau , we had not planned on visiting here and therefore I had no historical context- which is challenging for me as I like to imagine the what has happened before my time at the places we visit. However, this experience was profound.  The Surreal gardens were so evocative of Alice in Wonderland – felt otherworldy.

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As we arrived late in the day, we only had a little time to rush through the Chateau itself which was spectacular.  It was again, a palace which one (or at least I) could envision living in. Large elegant rooms with painted wood paneling and high ceilings.   It was surrounded by channeled water which was home to many and overfed catfish who responded to shadows of tourists overhead by opening their mouths in anticipation of food.

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We did have a chance to climb up to the tower however, (the turret in the back of the chateau pictured above) which commanded an unbelievable view of the gardens.

IMG_8624 These boxed hedges contained lettuces which have been historically grown by monks. It is worth noting that from every window of the chateau the view is of these gardens, which actually has a great influence on the feel interior spaces as well.  It brings a great deal of elegance and distance.

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The gardens were broken up into rooms, similar to those in the English garden we visited, Rousham, but on a totally different scale and were created to have a very different feel.  The French Renaissance style seems to be all about conquering and dominating nature, while the English style was about working with the natural landscape.  (what Capability Brown was famous for.)

Even the trees had been tampered with- they were pollarded which is a process in which the new branches are continuously trimmed back and shaped every year.

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The lake was majestic- there was even a perfect pair of white swans floating in it.

This garden was truly a testament to human’s ability to shape and form the natural landscape to its will. While I loved it and was so glad to visit, I am not sure I would be so presumptuous to assume that nature could be so easily tamed as this garden appears to do.  There is always rain…

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