Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beantown is My Kinda Town: Cambridge, Harvard University, Henrietta's Table

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Beantown is a great town. Boston reminds me more of New York City than any other place in the continental US.
Boston has horrible drivers, a brusque attitude toward strangers, more universities per square foot than I have ever seen, more great museums, especially around Harvard University, high cost of living, and great food. The only caveat is, skip visiting in the winter, unless you are from Canada, as you will suffer the icy winds.

Fall color popped here and there, much to my delight.

Here the celebrities include not just the Kennedys,  Boston Bruins and Red Sox, but also the brainiacs and the highly accomplished. Hooray for brain power! It abounds here.

Your imaginary friend,

Views of Boston from our Marriott Hotel in Cambridge
The Charles River in Boston

Boston's downtown skyline

Doris Kearns Goodwin dines en famille at Henrietta's Table, a great restaurant in the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Boston has wonderful art museums! It embraces the arts. One such example is the splendid collection of the Museum of Fine Arts. There is a traveling show now of John Singer Sargent watercolors; if you possibly can, please visit. 
The Museum is also chockablock with treasures of all eras, full rooms lifted from palaces, fabulous paintings, mummies, and of course a great collection of oil paintings by my personal fave: the aforementioned John Singer Sargent.  Tickets are usable for revisiting within ten days-- a true value, since there is way too much to see in one day. (My hoofies are killing me. )
Yours in art,
What a mastery of textures!

One of the most beautiful paintings ever

These are the actual vases in the Boit Children's portrait by Sargent
Beth admires a painting from the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Sargent was also very good at watercolors; this is from the traveling show. 

Dramatic bed, Sargents galore, and much  more: the Museum of Fine Arts ranks up with the very best. Carlo and Mike soak it all in.

We Like Mike!

Dear People,
Our family is very proud of Mike, my big bro-in-law. He is currently a Fellow of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and specifically the Shorenstein Center for Press,  Politics and Public Policy. He and my lovely --as well as smart -- sister Beth are happy to be spending a semester at Harvard, living two blocks from Mike's office on campus this fall. My husband and I had the  pleasure of visiting them this weekend. 
What a rarefied atmosphere they are experiencing! Most college students would give their eye teeth to attend Harvard. (As would I). Lucky Beth is taking a graduate class in Religion and Politics. 
Some may think the two are at variance, because our nation was founded on the separation of church and state, but the United States government -- founded by Puritans-- is very much a Protestant country. But I digress.
Below: Michael J. Copps. He is equal parts husband, father, grandfather and defender of democracy of speech, with fair access to press, airwaves and internet. 
And he's my big bro. 
Yours very truly,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

True Bliss: More Fun Than Humans Should Be Allowed to Have

Dear imaginary friends,

One of the most exhilarating hours of my life was spent buzzing around Capri, Italy, on a boat. You can tell by the big smile on my face that I loved every moment. The water was an incredible azure. We threaded the needle, going through the iconic rock formations right off Capri's coast. Ooh la la. 
Such natural beauty.  
It is calling me to pick up the paintbrush. 
Your imaginary friend,

Don't you love the color of the water? I did not retouch this photo.

Threading the needle

Boating through the rock

Monday, October 21, 2013


Dear imaginary friends,

This oil painting has undergone so many permutations! The lemons and pitcher were not in the original composition, moreover, the color scheme was green, purple and pink. I kept tweaking it, and finally decided that I would use a blue/ yellow scheme, reminiscent of the decor in the south of France. Et voila! Much improved. 
Your imaginary friend,
Voila!!:   Pitcher with Apples and Lemons, 12" x 24", Oil
The working second version, in progress

First version: Not enough happening

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bank of Naples!!!!!

Dear Imaginary Friends,

Remember how I just told you about the crime rates in Naples?
They are so high that when we visited the Bank of Naples in Naples, Italy, there were outdoor lockers, where one must park one's hat, jacket, backpack, etc.

Then there were stringent displays of security everywhere inside the bank and warnings about how to stay safe, so I thought the bank was looking out for us.
LO and behold, today we found out that our ATM card which was only used at branches of the Bank of Napoli, was hacked, and that "we" withdrew $800 US in Berlin. Where we never went. Ever.
Now it is on us, to fight the charges.
Not right.

Now the question I must ask myself is, was the pizza, gelato and cassata really worth it?? Not $800.

Your miffed friend,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Naples: The Good, The Bad, The Scary

Dear Imaginary Travelers,
Our recent journey to Naples, Italy, was the best of times and the worst of times. 
On the upside: our charming hotel-- a converted monastery-- named San Francesco al Monte, high on a bluff with great views of Naples Bay and Vesuvius, no less. There were religious paintings, a preserved refectory, altars, the whole shebang. Atmosphere plus!!
Also on the upside, the best pizza in the world. And the architecture is quite impressive. 
Another plus is the archaeological museum, with treasures from Pompeii. More treasures, still, from Vesuvius's explosion can be found in nearby Ercolano. 
On the down side: Naples is a dirty, violent, crime-ridden city with the narrowest streets that teem with tiny cars, motorcycles, buses and taxis careening about, barely dodging endangered pedestrians from, gulp, America! The banks have very heavy security  measures. Moreover, the bankers give strict instructions to tourists whose clothing screams I AM AMERICAN!!! " You keep your wallet in your front pocket with your hand on top of it!" And then there are beggars everywhere: gypsy mothers and children, mumbling, begging for change...
So once you have eaten the pizza, the gelato, and visited what you came to see, blow on out of town to Sorrento, one hour south via train. 
Your Imaginary Friend,
A rooftop vineyard at San Francesco al Monte

Our rooftop pool in Naples

A door in our hotel in Naples

Death In Pompeii

Ceiling of our hotel in Naples

In our hotel, the converted monastery

The former refectory

Naples and its laundry display

View of Naples Harbor from San Francesco Al Monte (St. Frances of the mountain)

The Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece

Gate to the Temple of Zeus

Ruins of the Temple of Zeus

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mount Vernon Gardens

George Washington and staff had quite the showplace of gardens. Today i had the privilege of touring the upper gardens and the kitchen gardens. We also saw the ancient tulip poplar which has been in place since the 1700's. 
The very chubby Chucky the woodchuck is in charge of tasting the kitchen garden produce, no doubt for quality control. 
Artichokes were Martha's favorite vegetable. 
The formal parterre

The same kinds of annuals seen in 1789
A luscious grapefruit tree
The mansion, no longer white. 

Chucky, upper left
Cistern and kitchen garden