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Monday, August 31, 2009

Glorious Gardens

The final P.S. to our Sabbatical Sojourn comes from beautiful Linville, North Carolina. Here are just a few exquisite splashes of color from the Master Artist.

Click here to see a slideshow of Flowers from Linville.

Monday, July 27, 2009

So long to Scotland - Ready for re-entry

How GOOD it is to be surrounded by English again and also to have to put on a sweater in July! We arrived in Edinburgh about two weeks ago and have enjoyed remembering our time here as students 28 years ago. With a friend's lovely flat as homebase (thanks, Tom!), we ventured into the city on several occasions and also explored the Islands of Iona and Skye and a few other key places.

Here are some random thoughts and lessons learned in Scotland:

  • Obey the parking signs. When they say "don't feed the meter", they mean it even when there's only an hour left before the parking is free!

  • Middle-aged men in kilts are not all that attractive.

  • Take plenty of allergy medicine if you go to Iona in July.

  • Like most Scots, carry an umbrella in one hand and sunglasses in the other.

  • Playing golf on an island next to the sheep is really neat and probably the way it was meant to be played!

  • Painting outdoors on an island in Scotland is tricky due to the wind and occasional rain.

  • Driving on the left side of the road will definitely give right side drivers ulcers and heart attacks especially if they happen to be in the passenger seat.

  • Sheep are not all that friendly.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A SLIDESHOW of photo highlights (Part 1) from Scotland. I have anther set of favorite photos from Scotland so check back later if you're interested!

We will miss Scotland and the wonderful friends here. There is so much more to see and do. Lord willing, we'll be back!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Under the Italian Sun

The warm but breezy summer days we spent in Italy are now a memory but here are some photo highlights (see link below) with captions to give you an idea of what we experienced. I now understand why people from the northern countries flock to the sun-soaked hills of Italy. There is something so restorative about being there - note the photos of Ed.

Just a quick recap on our Italian sojourn: I flew to Florence, picked up a rental car and found my way to Assisi where Ed was waiting on me at the Swedish Sisters' Guest House. It's funny but most of these Swedish sisters are from India I think! There we relaxed, read, painted, walked, had dinners prepared for us and went on short driving field trips to Cortona, Deruta, Orvieto and other places.

A week later, we said good-bye to the sisters and found our way (miraculously) to the tiny "village" - really a "spot" - called Bacio near Florence where I had found a place to stay called Fattoria Bacio (Bacio Farmhouse) situated in the middle of a big vineyard and olive grove. I believe it used to be a monastery about 150 years ago. The Fattoria Bacio offered several "self-catering" apartments where you bring in and cook your own food or eat out in the local villages. The setting was a painter's dream! Every way you looked there was a painting! Apparently other artists have found their way there and have used it for workshops. That's how I found it on the internet!

We drove in to Florence for Sunday worship service at an American Episcopal church and explored some of the city. The Tourist Information guide told us we HAD to drive straight to my favorite medieval walled city - Monteriggioni - because that was the last night of their huge medieval festival so, off we went! It was wonderful - hopefully the photos will tell the story better than I can.

Our farewell to Italy was punctuated by some of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. Now, on to bonnie Scotland!

Click here to see the photo highlights of Italy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Two Weeks in France - Highlights

The French part of my "grand tour" is over and I've gleaned about 60 of my favorite photos and included captions here in a slideshow for those who are interested. Click here for the slideshow.

The highlight truly was the chance to be with daughter Catherine as she is beginning an exciting 6 month adventure of her own. When I planned my trip, I had no idea that she would have just arrived as I was about to leave and from the very same city! What a gift to have that short time with her and meet her French family and American co-workers!

With that particular highlight aside, the other highlights include spending time with 3 other talented, fun, smart and adventurous artists, meeting Jill Steenhuis who opened her artist's heart and home to us ( and finally, falling in love with France all over again! I can't wait to go back. Anyone need a translator and guide???

Monday, June 29, 2009

Breakfast on the Terrace - Monday, June 22

Sounds of the morning include...

...birds chirping from the tree next to the terrace that overlooks a forgotten courtyard, a gentle breeze rustling the leaves of the trees and sweeping over the sun baked terracotta tile roofs, church bells clanging in the distance, the rattling of a heavy metal chain that holds the gate shut, a cheery "bonjour, madame" from the nearby baker, the bubbling up of hot water and eventual "ding" as I heat the water to make morning coffee in the "French press" coffee maker, and finally, the incredible sound of crunchhh and craaack that comes from slicing into a fresh baked baguette!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome to France!

Miracle of miracles we took the right exit for our destination and found our way to the little wine-growing village of Armissan in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France (the southwest coast of France close to Spain). Our "home" is a renovated old stone barn. It's roomy, up to date, private and has a large terrace that is perfect for painting on the afternoons when we're too tired to stand up any longer! The view which overlooks the vineyards and foothills is wonderful. The only (and very small) downside is having to climb (and haul our gear up) the 25+ stairs. The butcher and the baker are located just down the street (closer than the corner of my home in Birmingham).

This photo I call my "eye of God" photo. I saw this on my first afternoon of exploring the area around Armissan. I felt like this was a "Welcome to France" present!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lunch in Spain, Breakfast in France!

In order to take the "romance" out of that title, let me quickly note that lunch was at McDonald's - but there's a reason! With heads still cloudy from jet lag and little sleep, Betty (Wentworth) and I turned off the autoroute on our way out of Spain (heading for France) in search of the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain. Good signage is lacking for such a major tourist attraction. Rather than leave, we stopped at a handy McDonald's to grab a bite and ask directions. I asked a darling Katherine Heigl look alike if she could help us and she jumped at the chance to be of assistance. We never would have made it without her and her fellow Latvian companions (actually one guy WAS Spanish).

The Dali Museum is in a word - WACKY! Wacky beyond belief. I really want to go back and take my kids. At the last minute before leaving the USA, my mom said she wished I could go to "her" museum. So I did! Thanks, Mom!

Click here for a few shots of the Dali museum.