Eze, France & Apricale, Italy

Eze, France & Apricale, Italy

I again took to the shores of the Mediterranean for an off season adventure on the Cote d'Azur. I again stayed in Menton and spent considerable time soaking in the sun and taking in the views of the bay of Menton. This was my 5th trip to this area of France but my first renting a car (train strikes!) so I took advantage of that rental to visit some farther out of the way locations then normal:

la turbie france.jpg

La Turbie

Not particularly far from Menton, but kind of complicated to get to via public transportation, I had wanted to take a peek at the Trophie of the Alps built during the time of Caesar Augustus to mark . Hard to get a glimpse of up the Trophie without paying the entrance fee - easy to get a glimpse of from slightly out of town approaching. There were wonderful views down to Monaco and across towards Italy. 

Tête de Chien (Dog's Head)

Just outside of La Turbie we drove to the area known as Tête de Chien  (Dog's Head) which is what the rocky spot high above Monaco looks like from below. Once again amazing views back toward Nice

eze 9.jpg

Eze

Next stop the little town of Eze. I have passed this town several times on public buses in earlier trips to the area, the bus would stop, tons of people would try to get on, they couldn't and some would be left behind to repeat the experience on the next bus. So I had never stopped. The guidebooks all say stop, its so charming and walkable and must visit so we checked it out. It was fine - a LOT of climbing, really crowded, for my money on small hill towns in the areas I have to go with Sainte-Agnès, but the views from the exotic garden at the top of the town were quite stunning.

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

The town next door - we explored the fantastic walking path along the sea - wow. 

San Remo Italy harbor

San Remo

Taking advantage of the car we drove into Italy several times. The farthest east we drove was the beach town of San Remo, on a rather unbeachy day. I was impressed with the fishing fleet.

Ventimiglia

I visited on the famous Friday market day, but also on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, when the character of the town is much different, quiet and laid back.

apricale adjusted.jpg

Ligurian Villages - Dolceaqua, Apricale, Pigna, Castel Vittorio, Isolabona

I did a lightning round of small villages in the Nervia Valley in far western Liguria. Dolceaqua is the most famous (famous for its bridge) it was jam packed with tourists and buses so we did a drive through of town and moved on to Isolabona, up the narrow road to Apricale, backtracked and then headed up to Pigna and Castel Vittorio. My favorite: Apricale.

IMG_5640.JPG

Monaco Grand Prix

One last place I visited that was not out of the way, but was quite the special occasion, was Monaco for the Grand Prix. Well not quite the Grand Prix itself, tickets were insane, but I went on Saturday, for F1 Qualifying and the F2 Race and feel that I got my full taste of Formula One and the glitz of the Grand Prix. FYI I was in section Z1 which I highly recommend - 2nd cheapest ticket price, general admission but I easily got a seat, in the shade, right next to the track with a good view of a straightaway and turn. 

bay of menton france at night

Another beautiful and relaxing trip to the Cote d'Azur‎! Hopeful it will generate lots of drawing and painting ideas. 

Conwy & North Wales

 Llyn Ogwen, Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Llyn Ogwen, Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Wales in November sounded iffy at best. But from all accounts, we lucked out with 6 days in a row of no rain/some sun/and comfortable temps in the 50's. 

We flew via Dublin then Manchester, and after a few train issues we were on the train to Wales stopping in Llandudno Junction. It was a one mile walk from the train station to the hotel, but what a walk! Crossing the bridge of the Conwy River and seeing the castle in front of you, and the hills and mountains appearing behind was spectacular. 

Conwy is a lovely base for a trip to Wales - great natural location on the water, with an impressive castle, cute village and among the most complete medieval town walls in Europe. Very friendly people, interesting cafes, bars and restaurants (including a pub in a former bank building called "Bank of Conwy") and the smallest house in Britain (the little red house in my photo, its in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest, only 10 by 5.9 ft)

Conwy Castle was built by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 and still impresses today.

Llandudno Wales Great Orme

Llandudno is a Victorian resort town nearby to Conwy, We visited on Halloween and were amazed by how abuzz it was in activity. I walked the old fashioned pier with arcades, stalls and sweets (and I managed to play some skee ball). Then we took the slow drive around the Great Orme ( a limestone headland that means sea serpent). 

Pen-y-Pass, Snowdonia National Park

We explored all different kinds of routes in the north half of Snowdonia National Park - the A5, A4086, A4085, A498. Snowdonia National Park is beautiful, in short area it encompasses forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. We visited Conwy Falls and Swallow Falls and the towns of Betws-y-Coed, Pen-y-Pass, and Llanberis.

The most bizarre tourist attraction visited was Portmeirion, an Italian village built on the Welsh coast by an eccentric rich guy. It is supposedly modeled after Portofino (which I visited last year in the Italian Riviera).

File Nov 12, 5 56 04 PM.jpeg

We finished the trip to Wales by taking a train to Holyhead, taking the ferry crossing to Dublin and spending a night in Ireland (check out my images from my last trip to Ireland). This view of an art installation on Grand Canal Square was pretty cool. 

Menton, France & Ventimiglia, Italy

Menton, France & Ventimiglia, Italy

I've been to the French Riviera before several times, zipping up and down the coast to visit museums and tourist spots. This time, I decided to mix it up, and hang out for a laid back week on my balcony in the town of Menton, the pearl of France, famous for its lemons, and the last coastal town in France before the Italian border.

Beautiful sunshine, warm weather, great views and truly delicious meals.

I went to the next town over, Ventimiglia, which is in Italy for their famous outdoor market. Great lunch, good deals and a truly beautiful cappuccino. 

Menton, like much of the Riviera, is right on the water with steep mountains behinds (and very curvy roads). I decided to make my way into the mountains to the little town of Sainte-Agnes. 

Back on the ground in Menton, I visited some of its famous gardens.

I had the chance to do a lot of sketching and drawing while I was in Menton as well...

Which turned into some huge paintings

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

A quick winter getaway to the Florida Keys...

stayed in an awesome beachside, old school motel....

went kayaking through the mangroves - definite inspiration for future paintings.

A visit to Key West, with its free range roosters (who were having a fight over a hen in a parking lot) 

And a visit to the Ernest Hemingway house and its famous 6 toed cats!

For my recommendations on restaurants: check out my Trip Advisor reviews

London, England

London, England

Not my first time to London but my first time going as a winter/Christmas destination! We lucked out with warmish temps (50s) and minimal rain. London was filled with Christmas lights and outdoor German style Christmas markets. 

Early December proved to be a relatively inexpensive time for flights and hotels - allowing a  stay right in the heart of Covent Garden - very convenient for the theater - saw a RSC production of King Lear and its counterweight, the hilarious and rediculous "The Play That Goes Wrong". As well as great art at The National Gallery, Tate Modern and the Courtauld GalleryI also visited:

Salisbury - and a visit to Stonehenge and the Salisbury Cathedral. It was a foggy rainy day so I got some hazy shots in the countryside that remind me of a Turner painting. 

Hampton Court Palace - home of Henry VIII, and we visited on a particularly beautiful day which was great for exploring the gardens and the famous hedge maze. 

For my recommendations on restaurants: check out my Trip Advisor reviews

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport is only about two hours away from my house. So its the kind of place where I have stopped by but have never really spent time at. So with one weekend, I tried to do Newport, and see it particularly through the eyes of two movies I enjoy that were filmed in the area, Irrational Man and Moonrise Kingdom

So first, some of the standard Newport sites on a beautful weekend in August...

 Newport's famous Cliff Walk.

Newport's famous Cliff Walk.

a dinner of oysters and a beautiful sunset among the yachts.

 What's more Newport than sailing?

What's more Newport than sailing?

Plus we visited many filming locations - several parks, public areas and a great bar visited by characters in Irrational Man including this one:

And for Moonrise Kingdom, we visited lighthouses, the church that stood in for the one on St. Jack Wood and of course the best find of them all, Moonrise Kingdom itself:

 Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet from  Moonrise Kingdom

Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet from Moonrise Kingdom

For my recommendations on restaurants: check out my Trip Advisor reviews

Cinque Terre & Italian Riviera

Cinque Terre & Italian Riviera

A lovely relaxing vacation along the Italian Riviera. We home based in Rapallo, feasting on shellfish, grilled fish and pasta genovese. 

rapallo italy from boat with water

We took the cable car up the mountain to the Santuario di Montallegro, built over 450 years ago on a supposed spot of a visitation from the Virgin Mary.  What a view from the top.

I wanted to visit the Cinque Terre and debated about the different ways of getting there - for us, the ferry was the best option. Leaving right out of the Rapallo harbor it made stops at Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare and Riomaggiore. A great way to see it all easily in one day. 

I finally wanted to swim in the Mediterranean - so we hit the neighboring beaches in Santa Margherita Ligure. The official report - refreshing! 7 out of 10 on the cold scale - with Maine being a 10 and Costa Rica being a 1. 

Our final day we again took the ferry to the beautiful town of Portofino. 

Portofino, Italy

I was also able to do a lot of sketching while on vacation...

view all my photos here

For my recommendations on restaurants: check out my Trip Advisor reviews

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Taking time out of my busy money losing plan to draw the bright lights of Vegas.

 snapshot from the plane ride

snapshot from the plane ride

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

A wonderful and relaxing winter trip to Costa Rica. Sun, swimming and delicious meals at Playa Potrero,  fun adventures with monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas, birds and more at Palo Verde National Park. 

I was very interested in the lush jungle greenery for drawings and paintings. So overwhelmingly green and alive!

For my recommendations on restaurants: check out my Trip Advisor reviews

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

I was in Budapest for a family wedding... a scenic backdrop for such an event! Fantastic food all around and so lovely at night...

For my recommendations on restaurants: check out my Trip Advisor reviews

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Chocolate cake, massive museums complexs, the ringstrasse, colorful church top, fancy coffee served on a silver platter, the games and rides of the Prater, a pfiff in answer to the liters in Munich... 

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

I write this marking my third trip to Venice (with the hope of many more returns). It was the very first city I visited on my very first visit to Europe when I was 16 and despite being a total tourist trap once can't help but quote Indiana Jones, "Ahh Venice". 

It has also been rather rich for me artistically. 


Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

I have now visited Lucerne twice and can say it is an exceptionally lovely place to visit. It was a wonderfully outdoorsy side trip when I was staying in Zurich and a laid back start to our Grand Tour of Europe this year. 

Reasons to love Switzerland:

  • Snowcap peaks
  •  pretzel sandwiches
  • Fondue
  • clean, clean water
  •  explosives in bridges just in case they get invaded
  • chocolate
  • great public transportation (though kinda pricy)

Reason to not love Switzerland:

  • No AC

Photos from the Train between Switzerland and Italy

Philadelphia, PA, USA

Philadelphia, PA, USA

I have always wanted to go to Philly - and its so close by train I can't believe it took me so long! This is definitely a city that goes out of its way to make people feel welcome. I ran up the Rocky steps, visited the gorgeous Barnes Collection, the liberty bell, Ben Franklins museum & grave, fun outdoor beer gardens, mini golf in the shape of the city, a delicious Amish breakfast at the Reading Terminal Market, cheese steaks and a taste of famous philly food trucks. Plus a side trip to Atlantic City - all in less then 48 hours. 

 Plus a side trip to AC!

Plus a side trip to AC!

Stirling, Scotland

Stirling, Scotland

I spent my last night in Scotland in Stirling and visited Stirling Castle as my last stop on the way to the airport. Between this castle and Edinburgh Castle I feel like we saw a lot of the life of the Kings and Queens of Scotland. I saw this famous unicorn tapestry pop up a few weeks earlier in Hogwarts castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. 

view from stirling castle

Highlands, Scotland

Highlands, Scotland

I am using "the Highlands" to describe our trip north on the train from Edinburgh to Inverness. I rented a car in Inverness and we went east on the malt whiskey trail and then south to Loch Ness and Glencoe. 


Loch Ness from shores in Dores

Loch Ness 

I've always wanted to go here! We had a tremendous dinner at the Dores Inn and had a drive around the Loch looking for Nessie. Does that photo above show something popping out of the water??


Glen Grant gardens
gardens of Scotland Glen Grant whiskey distillery

Malt Whiskey Trail

We headed east and visited the distilleries of Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Glen Grant. The images above were from the Glen Grant - which was 1) the only distillery that let us take photos 2) Also has the absolute gorgeous garden 3) is the lightest scotch (best selling in Italy) and my favorite one that I sampled. 


Glen Coe

Glen Coe

Drop dead gorgeous views, mountains, moors, streams, waterfalls... every curve of the road more beautiful, hard to concentrate on my staying on the left. 


Fort William 

As we passed through the area - we stopped in Fort William for lunch on Loch Linnhe and also to go up in the gondola to see Ben Nevis, Britain's largest mountain. It was June and it was snow covered as you can see here. 

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

We did experience all the seasons in about 20 minutes in Edinburgh.... on our way out of the Jolly Judge Pub it was clear and sunny... about one block down the royal mile it was pouring on us... one block later it was the largest hail storm I've ever found myself in (ping pong ball size), ten more minutes by the time we made it to the Scottish National Gallery it was sunny again! In addition to the Royal Mile and the great works of art in the gallery we also visited the Edinburgh Castle which was the highlight of the day. Also great meals at  Spanish and French restaurant and a posh hotel experience at the Royal Scots Club.

York, England

York, England

I arrived by train to York - which was a great choice considering one of the greatest sites in York is the National Railway Museum which was surprisingly awesome. The city was very walkable - one of the best ways to see it was along it's ancient city walls - miles of which still stand strong (it's the city with the most in England). I also took in York Minster, a gorgeous gothic cathedral that also has exhibits about the thousands of years of York history (the Romans made it a capital and the Vikings later invaded, they called it Jorvik). Great Yorkshire hospitality and food!

Hogwarts & Diagon Alley

Hogwarts & Diagon Alley

After many years of being an obsessed Harry Potter fan I finally visited Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I rode the Hogwarts Express. I bought a wand at Ollivanders and did magic. I drank butter beer and talked to a goblin. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. 

Hogwarts a history

I also stopped by Springfield...

Hydra, Greece

Hydra, Greece

I took a day trip by ferry from Athens to Hydra, a beautiful little island without cars in the Aegean. It was a brillantly sunny day and all we did was walk around the island soaking it in.  It inspired numerous drawings and paintings as well.