Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Monticello to Versailles - Day 2 - September 16, 2014

Surprisingly, we were up early after the previous day's adventures. We are early risers, normally, so that worked in our favor today. A little groggy, but functioning, we got to meet a whole bunch of people at the Inn who were from Kentucky. That was our final destination on this day, so we got some inside advice from them while we ate our breakfast burritos and enjoyed a nice morning at the Inn.  

We had bought tickets to visit Monticello, and had reservations to tour the house at 9 a.m.   Running late, we dashed out and found our way up there. You have to park your car at the visitor center and ride a shuttle bus up to the house. Turns out, we could have walked up there, but we would have missed our tour spot! This is definitely a place I want to come back to.  We didn't take a single photo of the house! Derp!  I think it's because we were so impressed by the grounds and gardens.

The vegetable gardens!!  I was so in love with the herb and vegetable gardens and could have spent the whole day wandering around here. 

We took some white morning glory seeds from the trellis you can see in the back here

I got to talk to the woman in the photo below and asked her how she liked her work. She was so calm and seemed so happy. Her job was to manage all the operations of the vegetable and herb gardens, and she said her favorite time of the day was very early morning before the tourists arrived. We had gotten there first thing in the morning, and I could see why she liked it so much, normally these paths would be filled with visitors

Below is the pathway from the house down to the vegetable gardens, which runs parallel to this path along the right side. This is looking back up towards the house, which is up and to the left of the photo

Me, with Thomas Jefferson. At the visitors center.

Jefferson's grave and the Jefferson Family Cemetery, which is still owned by the family to this day

a blue/black beetle we saw on the path back down to the visitors center. It was about 1.5 inches long and very glossy and beautiful

Given our schedule and a long ride still ahead of us, we had to leave Monticello too soon, at around 11:30. The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way through the George Washington National Forest, and the vistas from turn offs are spectacular. Originally we had hoped to visit Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, VA, but road work and construction along the Blue Ridge changed our plans. We were stopped a number of times, once for almost a half hour, along the BRP. Unfortunately, this cut into our plans and we had to detour and catch Route 64W in Buena Vista. I think we ate stuff from the cooler in the car that day for lunch, while we watched a very large, tobacco chewing construction worker hold a giant Stop sign.  The rest of 64W all the way to Lexington, is beautiful, with gorgeous mountains and rolling hills the whole way.

Jeff on the Blue Ridge Parkway


In Rockfish Gap, found on Route 66 running from Strasburg all the way to Washington, DC.  196 years ago they were looking for a site for the University of VA. The tavern burned down 105 years ago. My maternal grandfather was 2 years old at the time!

Hog Walls on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Castle Post Hotel in Versailles, KY (pronounced VER-SALES, by locals)

Here's where we stayed on Day 2. I will sum up this experience in one word: Shithole.  Apparently William Shatner stayed here, but it must have been in better hands when he did. We arrived late, and were greeted by Michael "our night guard" wearing a hoody-work-out-sweatpants-set, and upon first inspection, it seemed like we were the ONLY guests in the place.  He ushered us into a very small elevator and told us our room was on the 2nd floor. As the door is closing a shrieking alarm starts up, and our last view as the door closes is Michael, saying "ut-oh".  He's shouting not to worry and the elevator finally creaks into motion, hauling us up the one flight.  Our room is directly outside of the elevator door and  opening the door reveals a round bed.  Yup.  ROUND.  The room barely fits the thing and the door almost bumps into it.  Thankfully, we were super tired, hungry (we had counted on the restaurant in the hotel, but it was closed, and no bar with bar food), so we just crashed immediately.  Around 2:30 a.m. I wake up to some noise, and think that we are about to be murdered in our sleep by marauding vampires, or maybe Michael the Night Guard... I mean, no one else is here, right... why not? I didn't sleep much because my stomach was making too much noise, but was rewarded by a hot shower in the bathroom, which turned out to be really pretty nice.  

The Castle Post Hotel is for sale for 30 million dollars.  And that's firm.

Highlights from day 2
  • Monticello, we will come back
  • George Washington National Forest
  • Hawks and vultures riding the thermals
  • Vistas from Blue Ridge Parkway
  • round bed
  • vampires in the night 
  • 410 miles

What we drove
After visiting Monticello, we drove south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, again, following the Appalachian Trail, then headed into West Virginia on 64W in Buena Vista. Through Clifton Forge, VA to Beckly, WV up to Charleston, WV staying on 64 out through Huntington, into Kentucky. Through Morehead and Mount Sterling, into Lexington where we spent the night in Versailles at the Castle Post Hotel.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Celebrating 100 years of life. Well, collectively, anyway - September 15, 2014

To start, we had been planning a road trip to celebrate our 50th birthdays, Jeff's in August, 2014, and mine in April, 2015. So why not embark on an adventure of epic nature? We decided to drive across the country to stay in Joshua Tree, CA, for seven days. We gave ourselves seven days to get there and then seven days to return back to Massachusetts, so three weeks! The planning took months and months, and I am forever grateful to Jeff for his amazing trip planning skills! Serious skills! 

Right from the beginning we decided we wouldn't be posting to Facebook or Instagram and would focus on being present and very aware of where we were and what we were seeing, and not be distracted by the constant barrage of social media. This turned out to be a good idea. And so, I embark here, after our return, to relate our travels... mostly for ourselves really, as a record, but maybe to inspire some of our friends to take off!

I'm sorry to report that we didn't take a lot of photos on day one, given that we were traveling through landscape that we were familiar with. Here is a beauty from a rest stop somewhere in Pennsylvania, though. It was a gorgeous day, and we ate the sandwiches we had made at home and had chips and sodas. Nice nice!   

We stayed the night in Waynesboro, VA, arriving at the Iris Inn at around 5 pm, ate dinner at CO in Charlottesville, about 20 minutes down the road from the Inn. We traveled here in order to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, which I had always wanted to see. More on that in Day 2 post, coming up. 

I don't think I have ever been so tired in my life! After we had driven the 558 miles from Massachusetts to Virginia, which took us nearly 11 hours, it took only one glass of wine and an exceptional dinner to render me totally incapable of speech and functional walking. I think Jeff literally dragged me to the car and then into the room, where I don't remember anything until the sun rose the next morning. HA!   

Road worth mentioning
Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park, which you can catch in Front Royal, VA, brings you past Mt. Marshall and follows the Appalachian Trail right into Waynesboro. You get to drive by beautiful, mountainous pasturelands and farms tucked throughout. Places called Skyland, Big Meadows, Swift Run Gap, and mountains: Marshall, Loft, and Lewis.

Highlights from day 1
  • a giant buck in our driveway as we left home
  • getting to see the beautiful pink and yellow sunrise from 91
  • a doe and two fawns in CT
  • hawk stretching out her legs to land on a tree, beautiful white pantaloons
  • homemade lunch in Pennsylvania rest stop, chips!
  • Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park
  • Iris Inn
  • Dinner at CO, Charlottesville
  • 558 miles

What We Drove  

We left home early at 6:18 am, and took 91 South into Connecticut and through Hartford onto 84 West into New York, through Lake Carmel, Newburgh, Middletown, Port Jervis, and crossed into New Jersey, only for the briefest time. Then into Pennsylvania, through Scranton, where we changed to 81 South, out through Hazelton, Harrisburg, Scotland, Chambersburg and into Maryland, through Hagerstown staying on 81 into West Virginia, through Martinsburg and then directly into Virginia still on 81, then to 66 in Strasburg to catch the Skyline Drive.

That glass of wine I was talking about.

From the balcony of our room at the Iris Inn... using a fisheye lens on the iPhone.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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Monday, February 17, 2014

A new look

Over the last year I've been accessing what is worth my time and what is not, when it comes to social media and other internet endeavors. Right now I'm coordinating two Facebook pages, Pinterest, this blog (however neglected it is), two Etsy shops, Twitter, and three email accounts. This is the pared down result of this assessment, and it seems pretty ok to me. I'm hoping this leaves time for producing more work, more art. Speaking of work and art, the shop is busy with lots of custom orders which are actually the result of an excellent 2013 Christmas season. Orders are finally winding down, so soon I'll be able to work on some new things for the shop. One more quilt to go!
In the meantime, you've probably noticed that I've completely redone the look of the shop. After a lot of frustration with some location problems, I've finally found a look that I really love. Quilts are hard to photograph and I've tried lots of different ways, locations, and lighting to get the look I want for them. I'm really happy with the huge garment rack I finally tracked down. That, paired with a wide angle lens for the Canon, has given me a whole new excitement about photographing the quilts.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Away - Summer

We find ourselves lucky enough to be able to break away for a week here and there and go someplace different. Here are some images from our favorite place to stay on Cape Cod. Commissioned by James Lechay, the house was built by Hayden Walling in 1959. James and Rose Lechay lived here full time after they retired (I believe that was in 1978). You can see James Lechay's paintings here and read an interview with him as well. Some of his paintings hang in the house.

Here is a view of the studio from the front entrance of the house.
Studio from the back deckLooking towards the back deck from the front 

 We call this the "infinity deck"... no railing. It's a beautiful place to relax. We've seen a fox cross the deck and also are frequently visited by raccoons at night. They climb the tree emerging from the deck and drop down onto the top of the house. We've called it Cirque d'raccoon.

This is me after paddling my kayak like crazy against the incoming tide to get out to the National Seashore from Hemenway Landing. Some of the most fun and exciting kayaking I've done. We had the tides all wrong this time and had to fight to get out there and then fight on the return trip back to the landing with the tide going out. I'm still smiling. Can you believe it? My arms never hurt so bad ever in my life as they did that night!  

Below is a scene from the tidal flats out on First Encounter Beach. This beach is on the bay side of the Cape and when the tide goes out, you can walk out for over a mile...even further if you don't mind going in past your shorts. 

Jeff on First Encounter.

I'm hoping this video link will work. If not, I'll continue to try and embed the video here. The crab below should be a video link to the amazing hermit crab video that Jeff made for me. I begged him to get some footage of the hermits. And he did not disappoint!  Music by Mike Langley of Twink.

Tidal Pool FB from Briana Taylor on Vimeo.

Does anyone know what kind of flowering tree this is? We fell in love with it outside The Flying Fish restaurant in Wellfleet. It smelled soooo good, and the bees were going crazy over it.

We are giving away all our secrets! Here is one of the most hidden and wonderful hikes on all of the Cape. You'll find the entrance to the trail off of route 6 before you hit Provincetown. THIS is in the first 50 yards! A straight climb up a dune that spills down into a beautiful shaded Cape woodland forest.

At the top of the first dune you can see the ocean off in the distance. You can meander and wind your way all the way to the water from this point. Along the way, you can see the fabled Cape Dune Shacks. If you go, bring some drinks and some snacks, and don't forget your hat. It is truly desert-like and in the hot and blazing sun it can be daunting. We visited twice this year, and the first time it was a beautiful, overcast day. The next time it was hot and sunny! Don't be afraid to go if rain is threatening. It's actually better with some cloud cover.

From the basin you cannot see the ocean, which is straight ahead in this photo.

There's the ocean and also some fox prints in the foreground.

Sand Frog! We got lucky to spot this little guy hiding out in the sand. This was on the sunnier day and his eyes shone like gold.

The old dead branches crumbled on the ground sometimes look like bones.

I'm not sure if this is a shack that you can stay in in the residencies program, but through the windows, it did look like someone could actually sleep in there. 

In the photo below, I am standing at the crest of the dune cliff down to the beach. I didn't get a shot of it! This is looking back at the tiny shack.

After climbing down the dune cliff you are finally dropped down onto the beach. This is the Atlantic Ocean. It's really cold, and these days you can see seals swimming along about 40 feet from shore fishing.

We brought this gorgeous loaf of pain au fromage from PB Boulangerie, and also a hunk of cheddar cheese and lots of ice water. Why does food taste so good after a long walk in the hot sun?

Jeff was taking a nap, so I was playing around. Here's me with the ocean. This was on the overcast day...it was colder so I had my jacket all synched up.

I found this little June Bug beetle (actually not that little) and didn't realize that it was still alive (a little). After another search around the beach, I found a few others in various states of dying. I'm not sure of the lifespan of a June bug, but there were many of them scattered around.

I recommend the dune shack hike. If you are a little out of shape, just take your time climbing the several dunes you have to traverse. It's worth it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cat Canoe, and another cool thing

What's a Cat Canoe?   Only the coolest cat invention there ever was.  Jennifer over at TheCatBall on Etsy created this amazing cat accoutrement and she should be commended!  Yay!  As you can see, one size fits all:

Well, mostly anyway :)

Thomas does fit in it, actually, if he lays in it the right way.  He's a cat with his own agenda, however, and always manages to think outside the box.

We need to get two more.  The musical Cat Canoe is sometimes a little stressful and jealousy causes some bad feelings.  

We were also visited by this Barred Owl the other day.  Here he/she is just outside of our bedroom window in the river birches.  This was right around 5 p.m.   I was just saying the other day that I'd never seen a live, wild, in the wild owl.  One thing I noted, was this particular owl had one raised eyebrow and was the fluffiest, cleanest bird I've ever seen.