Rhode Island Road Trip

Historic places and other stops

In past summers, as a school librarian, it was rare for the hub and I to take a vacation. He always had his cars and mopeds to work on, and I was desperate for time to decompress from the school year. From mid-June to mid-July I slept a great deal; mid-July I perked up for a few weeks spending time with friends and family I had passively ignored for nine months, and in early August I geared up for the upcoming school year that began later that month.

During my first summer of retirement, this schedule became obsolete.  A road trip was planned – “The Rhode Island Loop Road Trip.” Along our travels to see family, friends, family of friends, we traveled to Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York– Long Island specifically–New Jersey , before heading back home. Rarely did a prospective lesson plan or book talk even begin to evolve. Reclaiming one’s life after teaching takes time, setting boundaries, and the ability to be in the moment. I am learning this as I go.


Along the ways and stays, there were many wonderful people we met, conversed with, and befriended. Moreover, there were many unassuming places we visited for the first time. Here, I share a few places:

Rhode Island

Newport Art Museum (The John N. Griswold House)  The house, designed by the Olmsted brothers, is worth the price of admission. The exhibits are a bonus for those who love a variety of artistic styles. It is not overwhelming, as many small museums are, but rather invites you to pace yourself at your leisure.

Audrain’s Newport Concours The hub spent an hour viewing cars and talking with the guides. Newport claims to be the “birthplace” of luxury sport motoring. Who am I to argue? All I know is this: the hub thoroughly enjoyed THIS type of art!

Thames Glass Gallery @688 Thames Street (Pronounced with the “th” not the hard “t” sound) Despite the small size, this studio is open wide & invites you to observe this art form. Located in a very unassuming area of Newport, it is easy to access. We watched students practicing their art and vowed to take a class the next time!

Rose Island Lighthouse In addition to visiting friends, our overnight stay was the highlight for me. On this little island (arriving by boat) the four couples, including us, we able to completely decompress. The guides gave a brief historic overview, introduced us to simply gaze at the horizon with the setting sun.  Sublime.

Connecticut

Mark Twain House  Hartford was our intended destination specifically to see this landmark. While the neighborhood area surrounding it is less than inviting, the interior of the house is a delight, and the museum attached well designed with light and space to complement this turn-of-the century style architecture. Unfortunately, one cannot take photos indoors as the items are on loan and copyright is paramount. Worth seeing is wall paper, of all things!

& of course,

  • Clemens’ third floor study, the Billiard Room, where he wrote most, if not all, of his famous books

Taking the New London to Orient Point Ferry, we arrived early on Long Island, N.Y. and drove down to the south. Stopping at Shelter Island and East Hampton along the way offered some insights into different lifestyles. Truly. Different.

New York

The Pollock Krasner House & Study Center visit was one aligned with serendipity! At this point, the hub who preferred to do all the driving, remained in the car reading the The East Hampton Press free newspaper.

Walking through Pollock’s studio, which after his death became Krasner’s, was wondrous. While the house is modest, it tells so much about these two artists in understated an intuitive ways. Our tour guide was outstanding in the depth and breadth of her knowledge about the art and their lives.

New Jersey

By now we were entering the East Coast corridor of heavy traffic with one last stop: Lambertville/New Hope border. Walking among the N.J./Pa. streets of quaint shops, we came across two places of note:

A Stage In Time: Contemporary Art & Vintage Furnishings run by Peter Prorok and Ramon Robledo, us both a gallery and an antique store. Peter gave us voluminous information on Mission furniture of which there were many fine pieces in his store.

AG Artists’ Gallery is a cooperative space for artists to show and sell their works. Art media varies, as do styles, and all are very reasonably priced. It was delightful to view “Breathing In”- artists’ pieces by Beatrice Bork and Laura Rutherford Renner.

By now, we were ready to head home. The hub drove. I slept. A good time was had by all.

Young gull on historic Rose Island, a protected nesting site.

This post is a tribute to the following families and friends who made this travel so enjoyable & without worries – The Hudak Sisters, E. Curren, The Maresca-Rieger Family, S. Rieger, C. Ruf, W. Mettger, B. Griffiths & The Takoma Park Police Department.
Vielen Dank to Britta, for her outstanding photographs (her image of the lighthouse graces this post; she is on Facebook!), & Oliver, for keeping her company, as they travel the U.S.

Travelling through a bit of Italy

Places

This post is specific to the cities we visited and the accomodations we booked. It reflects our preference of travel style, ad hoc, with personal likes and dislikes. There is nothing prosaic here! Our goal for the second week, was to keep the cost of hotels under $100 per night, and train costs low staying in 2nd class.

Flying Economy class with Lufthansa from D.C. to Munich then on a smaller plane with Air Dolomite to Firenze, I will admit that I never ate so much food in such a short amount of time. The flights were uneventful, thank goodness. We got there and back without a hitch.


Week 1

FIRENZE @SANTA CROCE

In Firenze for the week, we were joined by our family. I had not realized this week was a major holiday – Pasqua – when we booked our trip. Not only is Sunday important, but Monday is a holiday and most things are closed…but not all. Anyway, we rented an appartamento through VRBO in the heart of Santa Croce. It was a classic Italian abode. Just beautiful with easy walking access to historic sites and markets galore, both inside and outdoor. Our hostess, fluent in English, was kind to meet us and show us how things work:the quirkiness of the keys, turning the gas stove off and on; using the washing machine, and sharing her recommendations. It was extremely clean and comfortable; when we left there at the end of the week, I felt as if I was leaving home. So bittersweet.

Sharing Easter dinner with homemade food already prepared and bought dal mercato.

Of Interest

It is important to have cell phone access 24/7. By day 2 of our visit, went to a Vodafone store and bought a SIM card for 35 Euros. It was money well spent!

The night before we departed from Firenze, I booked our train tickets online to Bologna and found hotel room for one night through Booking.com. The Italian train system is fantastic and easy. Booking ahead with your cell phone allows you to board immediately and skip the need to have your ticket stamped twice. The Italian conductors check tickets sometimes, as it is really an honor system. Beware, though, if you do not have your ticket or the second stamp for the paper one. The fine is hefty and they brook no argument, as I heard with my own ears!

Week 2

BolOgna

Bologna is a university city; not too touristy and managable in size. We walked from the train station to our apartment which has an elevator, at Residenza Ariosto. A bit apprehensive at first, we had no idea where we were headed, the place turned out to be fantastic as well as the staff! Since we arrived mid-afternoon, we decided to stay two days because it was so clean and near everything. They accomodated us immediately, thus giving us time to explore this city which has so much to offer. Despite light rain, we walked to restaurants (Osteria Dell’Orsa is outstanding and down-to-earth), museums, even a public library which has its own caffe with food, wine and beer! I love this city!

VICENZA & VERONA

Vicenza was our next stop. Having made a reservation at Casa Lilli, again the night before. We arrived by train mid-afternoon and walked to the apartment. Our host met us and quickly explained the rules – another guest would be spending the night in the other room. Fortunately, we each had our own bathroom, and shared only the kitchen and living space. It was so spanking clean and only two flights up. On the outskirts of the historic area, it was an easy walk past the walled city with its’ Palladian buildings, where we spent the remainder of the day among the upscale shops, tourists, and amazing Palladian architecture. Staying two nights allowed us a day trip by 15 minute train ride to Verona. Luck would have it that this was ANOTHER Italian holiday – Liberation Day. The celebration in this town was wonderful with speeches, historic dress and accompanying vehicles (the hub was thrilled!). We met a young Italian writer, Giovanni Sulla, who was hawking his book on the history of Verona during the WWII and subsequent liberation. If I could have squeezed one more thing in my suitcase, I would have purchased it there and then!

PADOVA & Venezia
Classical musicians, bother young and older, played often on the streets of Vicenza, whether it is was the violin or flute.

The night before we left from Vicenza for Padova (or Padua), I booked a room at the B&B Hotel Padova strictly based on reviews of price and cleanliness. Getting there from the train station, however, was the challenge. We walk. Always. This route took us through the industrial parts of car dealerships and on/off ramps to highways. In Italy roundabouts abound and are often not pedestrian friendly. Eventually we made to an area of small houses, and there before us was the behemoth hotel looming. This was our first official chain-hotel experience. We were not disappointed. The staff is outstanding in welcoming you and accomodating the least request. The rooms have bare essentials, but very clean with hot water, TV, and bedside lamps that actually give you enough light to read! We declined the “breakfast” portion of the stay, preferring to get our lattes and croissants at the tabacchi shop, a few blocks away, where we could also purchase our bus tickets into Padova. The hotel has a caffe machine in the lobby which gives great coffee, but the size of an American shot glass. We were missing our American mugs-0-coffee!

Going into Padova for the day turned out to be a real treat for the hub and his motor enthusiasm!

On our second day we took the bus to the train station (we did NOT attempt walking this route again) so we could visit Venezia for the day. It is a short trip by rail and there are multiple trains constantly running between these cities, so finding a time and a seat are not a problem. Our 2nd class tickets on the Regional train, round trip cost us close to 12€.

Piazza San Marco, Venezia is already filled with tourists in late April.

Even in late April it is crowded, and while there are signs directing you to Piazza San Marco, it is a challenge to get back! Since the building are tall and allow no visual point of reference when you are walking along the narrow “calles,” it is easy to loose your sense of direction. GPS is often not available either as all is blocked out but for the sky above you. Having circled the same paths at least three times, it was time to stop and eat…I have learned to just go with what happens. With no agenda, I must say we delighted in Venice for our day trip but looked forward to returning to our highway hotel with a portable dinner in hand for later.

Firenze @Santa MARIA Novella

By the fourteenth day, I will admit that we were getting tired of scheelping to and from train stations to accomodations. However, even with Firenze being a huge tourist destination, we were able to find a lovely Airbnb, Trilocale near the station within our price range. While it is a three bedroom apartment we had the place to ourselves which included a master bedroom and bath, and fully functioning kitchen including espresso and the espresso maker. Finally, a mug of latte! A ground floor place, it was within a shared building in a nice neighborhood and walking distance to down-home restaurants. At Il Contadino Firenze the basic minestrone soup and Italian lasagne were satisfying, along with some dolci, of course. By the end of the night we were ready to fall into our clean beds, both sated and exhausted.

E, eravamo pronti per tornare a casa.


Gandolfi, A. (cur), David Mori, and Giovanni Sulla. Foxholes and Footsteps 1945. The U.S. 10th Mountain Division in Italy. Then and now. 2nd ed.  Il Trebbo Montese Libri, 2019. Print.

Mississippi visit

48 hours or less

Mississippi is a foreign country; the kind that makes me uneasy. When I found myself booking a round-trip ticket for a two-day visit, it became an out-of-the-body experience. Only a friendship, this one deep and abiding, could motivate me to go. And, only having my sister’s company could actually make me get on the planes necessary to accomplish this Herculean task.

I am a Northeastern U.S. land animal – born and bred. I am of immigrant stock with skin tone toward the olive hue, but considered “white.”  I carry with me all the biases (perhaps, some misconceptions) toward the South. I steeled myself to go to this strange place where the Confederate flag is embedded into the state one, and where the town of Gautier is pronounced “go-shay.”

But, go I did. To a small, southern town.

At the picturesque, local pharmacy, Lovelace Drugs, one can get a good bacon, tomato, and lettuce sandwich, a cup of coffee, and a quart of milk to go. Walking from there to an inviting public library adjacent to the Police Station (not unlike my hometown), it clearly caters to young readers and retirees at this late afternoon hour.  Out-of-towners, disoriented and exhausted, have access to the Internet with professional graciousness to rival any city librarian. Further afield, the Air B&B nestled among other well-tended, and inviting verandas of small, one-story homes, met all my expectations. Add in a sleepy cat lazing in the sun on our porch, the crow of the roosters toward late afternoon, and the wooo of train whistles in the evening, I felt as if I were in a Harper Lee novel. It felt good. It felt familiar.

This small town, a few blocks from the water’s edge evokes a Southern calm. Along the sidewalks there are huge trees of magnolia and pecan where Spanish moss sways to and fro on low branches. Free Little Libraries dot properties that call for us to stop, gaze, and smile. An “Art Cottage” where lessons are offered, a white clapboard church, a one-story Senior Citizen Center of white painted brick with its small bell tower, an art museum dedicated to a ceramicist of some renown, a children’s playground emitting squealing voices, create the ongoing, panoramic walk toward the Gulf.

Here, oyster shells litter the pristine sand. Here, it is quiet.

I am grateful to my friend for being the impetus to break this barrier; to my sister for giving me courage to face what must be faced, and to the universe for enlarging my personal one. Finally, a thank you to the people of Ocean Springs, Mississippi and its environs who were always friendly.


Jeannie and Eldy. Lovelace Drugs. 2012, whereseldo.blogspot.com/2012/05/exploring-ocean-springs-mississippi.html.

Traveling with books

Trains, planes, and vanettes

You are not aware of this, most likely, but the hub is constantly trolling car auction sites. This man. And his cars or mopeds or motorcycles.  Linked. Occasionally he calls out to me to come look at this vehicle or that one. More times than not, they are in dire need of repair, yet have that undefined quality that evokes the nostalgia of our youth. Or just our longing.

Just the other day his voice reverberated across the open rooms. As ever, I heeded his call, being the dutiful wife. This foray across the yards was worth the interruption and the trip. It was a bookmobile. Yes, a bookmobile. Although, some of you may have no idea what this is, having always resided in urban areas close to your public lending libraries, it is something special. Something ingenious. Something a librarian loves.

Of course we tracked the auction with heavy hearts as this exquisite vehicle (see below). While it sold (click here for many more photos) for a mere $9,000.00 the cost of restoration will most likely be in the tens of thousands of dollars. U.S. dollars. Alas, despite my brilliant ideas of how we could travel the country and spread the “word” – any and all – with cats in tow, the plea fell on deaf ears.

1957 Ford Vanette Bookmobile by Gerstenslager Project
1957
Ford Vanette Bookmobile by Gerstenslager Project

My only hope is that it went to one who retains its character and ambiance. In other words, a librarian.

Which leads me to this book…one which, prior to this past Friday, I had never heard of either title or author. Another librarian, obviously more widely read than myself, suggested it after I relayed the above tale of woe and defeat.

Parnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley with original publication in 1917, was handed to me with no fuss. It renewed my love of the moving library, which I aspire to own, dear husband.

Still.

While I will take umbrage at Morley’s inclusion of Helen McGill, our intrepid bookmobile explorer, constant self-reference to herself as “fat,” I otherwise embrace this romantic tale of a middle aged woman and her enchantment with the book wagon and subsequent adventures.

For more on this author, I suggest you visit Josh Cohen’s article published by Melville House. It is excellent.

Yes, I may not own that 1957 vanette, but I now own a story of this kindred soul. It is one that is alive and well.

The cost is irrelevant.


Dedicated to Michael and Linda who provide enjoyment for me in my non-bookmobile life.

Cohen, Josh. “Remembering Christopher Morley, writer and reader.” Melville House, Melville House Books, 15 June 2015, http://www.mhpbooks.com/remembering-christopher-morley-writer-and-reader/.
Morley, Chistopher and Douglas Gorsline, illus. Parnassus On Wheels. J.B. Lippincott Company, 1955.
“Library on Wheels – From Wagons to Buses.” VOA, VOA News, 28 Apr. 2008, youtu.be/dm7qDYyrETA.
“No Reserve: 1957 Ford Vanette Bookmobile by Gerstenslager Project.” Bring A Trailer, Bring A Trailer, 2 Jan. 2019, bringatrailer.com/listing/1957-ford-vanette-gerstenslager-bookmobile/.

My father’s workshop

This Thanksgiving holiday our family traveled to the home and town where I grew up, so very long ago.  My parents who were married for almost 50 years, died a few decades ago, and now my sisters share this home.  Every time I enter the house I feel as if I have really come home, although I have not lived there for more than four decades.  My sisters have done a remarkable job of making this house their own, without losing the feeling from our shared childhood.

kitchen and cookingThis year was as many before it.  All six of us shared bedrooms and one bath; my husband and my elder sister made the Thanksgiving feast; we shopped; we went into the attic to reminisce, where we looked at old furniture, handbags, and framed pictures; we talked, and talked some more, and finally, the “men” went into the basement to play pool.

As in years past I went downstairs after hearing the muffled clacking of the balls rolling, listened unperturbed to the  shouts of who cheated, and to see the game for myself.  This year, for some reason, I walked to the far end of the basement.  It is a dark and unused corner now.  There is a coal room, where coal tumbled down a chute to stoke the coal furnace that kept us warm, and there is my father’s workshop.

As I stood alone, surrounded by the voices of the men I love, I could  see my father – his back to me, as he mended a broken lamp or tried out different washers he kept in a tin to tighten a screw on one of mother’s appliances.  He had an old ashtray on his table where he would keep his “stogie” as he worked.  The scent would fill the cavernous floor, and when he came back upstairs it stayed with him.  I stood and waited.  When I could smell his cigar, I knew he was still there.

I gave thanks, and joined my family.


a reposting from 2012 in honor of my family, once again, celebrating thanksgiving 2018 together with love.

Traveling from NW to SE in Washington, D.C.

Across Maryland/District lines

I can take very little credit for this post, dear reader. Inspiration to travel to the southeast corner of Washington, D.C. came from reading some delightful articles [see below] during the past years about this special place for the dead. The dear husband drove our intrepid Subaru during this urban adventure to and fro, while I sat with eyes closed and absorbed the sun’s warmth through that ever-lovin’ sun roof (our one concession to auto luxury).

Congressional Cemetery is situated amidst wide and busy streets lined with well-kept, row homes and surrounded by a large correctional institution and its detention facility. Yet, it is distinctly welcoming with its elegant, eight-foot wrought iron fencing and lovingly kept grounds. Having worked in an Episcopalian environment on the Washington National Cathedral Close for thirteen years, attended their chapels weekly, and narrated their Gospel during Evensongs, this indigenous Catholic continues to respect all things Episcopalian.

This was the “nail in the coffin” appropriately, as in this sacred place, they allow dogs. OFF-LEASH! They love everyone: artists, educators, musicians, straights, gays, dogs, cats, mothers and fathers, even congressmen and Herbert Hoover! They love you whether you are above ground or below ground; walking leisurely or with purpose.

Here, I share my amateur photographs taken because of the beauty, the humor, or even the curve of the hand-carved, calligraphic swirl. Should you decide to travel to or within the City, I suggest you choose this as a destination. You can even sit on one of many benches, pick a book from their “Little Free Library” (marked, “for the living”), and relax a bit with the dead, the bees, the caretakers, or no one.

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Kawczynska, Claudia. “Walk Your Dog In Washington, DC’s Congressional Cemetary”, Bark, The Dog Culture Magazine. November 2008. https://goo.gl/bZ4EjX. (Please note, this is THEIR misspelling, not mine…this time!)
Weingarten, Gene. “Rest in pees: A walking tour of Congressional Cemetery,” The Washington Post. October 10, 2010. https://goo.gl/tDi6yS.

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Sligo Creek & a morning walk

Any Thing

You must enter in

To the small silences between

The leaves,

You must take your time

And touch the very peace 

They issue from.

excerpt from this poem by John Moffitt

One good thing, more than likely, leads to another.

We have all heard this, but I wonder, “Do we expect ‘good things’ to loom large; do we pay attention to the small ‘good things’ that affirm faith in this?

Today offered a quintessential autumn morning. Cool enough for a hooded sweatshirt, rather worn, and a wooly scarf. Sun, but deflected somehow by the remaining leaves, so that no sunglasses are necessary. Slight breeze – a reminder of life’s transience and its joy, today.

Sligo Creek Parkway is a respite, an oasis, for those of us who wish we lived in the country, but are wedded to the macadam highways and convenience of the corner store or local bakery. On Sundays the winding road among the towering trees and running creek is closed to traffic between specific destinations. It is for leisurely pedestirans, toddlers on tricycles, dogs sniffing the wildlife scents that permeate these woods in abundance.

I offer a few photographs and sounds from this early morning walk. I offer a glimpse of a poem by this little-known author, found in a children’s poetry book living in relative obscurity (not unlike the poet) on my shelves, a lovely blog and an online biography of the poet (alas, there is no fact-verification on his bio) which brings even more meaning.

All these good things from one, brief walk in November.

Lastly, I offer this good thing: Should you ever find yourself far from your bucolic and rural surroundings while visiting the geography of suburbia, Sligo Creek Parkway is there as a touchstone.

For you.

In all seasons.


Dunning, Stephen, and Edward Lueders, and High Smith, Editors. Reflections On a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and other modern verse.  Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1967. Print.