Friday, 19 August 2016

The Mount: Edith Wharton's House, Lenox, Massachusetts

The Mount, Edith Wharton's home
Have you noticed how historic houses always showcase the achievements of men?  Women barely get a mention, and when they do it is often only in supporting roles. The grand houses we visited on our road and cycling trip through America's north-east were almost all built by men and, with few exceptions, the history of the houses highlighted the achievements of the men who lived in them. Visiting estates such as George Washington's Mount Vernon, Henry Francis Du Pont's Winterthur and even Edward Berwind's The Elms, you could sometimes be forgiven for wondering what roles their wives played in life. Edward Berwind's wife was so tucked away in the minutia of his life history I had to dig deep even to discover her name. How refreshing then, on our last historic house tour, to visit The Mount; planned, built and made famous by a woman.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Street Art in Sydney, Australia

Street art in Sydney
Each year Sydney's Inner West Council hosts a celebration of street art called Perfect Match. The council matches up owners of walls in need of beautifying with artists who express themselves through the use of spray paint and brushes.

 As well as brightening up the neighbourhood, Perfect Match hosts free walking, bicycle and bus tours allowing onlookers to view the art as it is being created, meet the artists while they work and see some of the finished works. David and I were due to join a bicycle tour to do just that last weekend. However living in a city with one of the world's best climates we tend to be very fickle about the weather. If  the temperature drops a few degrees lower than perfect, or there are a couple of clouds on the horizon, David declares the day ruined. With wind and rain forecast on the day of our street art cycling tour, we abandoned the idea and stayed home. As it turned out, the sun came out around midday and the afternoon weather was lovely but how we were to know that.

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Servant Life Tour at The Elms - a Newport Mansion

The Elms
Are you a fan of Downton Abbey? I am! If you lived at Downton, who would you be? Lady Mary perhaps or Cora, the Countess of Grantham? For my male readers - His Lordship or Carson the butler. Sadly, I don't think I would spend much time upstairs at all. With my luck I would be the laundry maid (I don't think she even gets a walk-on part, but she must have existed) or had I worked very hard and been very lucky I might have reached the giddy career heights of Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Chanticleer: a pleasure garden.

Chanticleer Garden
"We were once a private estate, and we like to keep the feeling of a private garden ... a place of beauty, pleasure, escape  ....  ultimately, we want our guests to leave in a better mood than when they arrived." 
R. William Thomas, head gardener and executive director at Chanticleer.*

These words perfectly sum up the mood of Chanticleer. Tucked away in a quiet suburban street, 30 miles north-west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chanticleer with its slow-paced, welcoming atmosphere was the loveliest garden we visited.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Kettering Incident and Australia's most enduring UFO mystery - the disappearance of Frederick Valentich.

Frederick Valentich plaque at Cape Otway

"That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again .. it is hovering and it's not an aircraft". 

These were the last words ever spoken by 20 year old Frederick Valentich, the young pilot at the centre of Australia's most enduring UFO mystery.

In the early evening on October 21, 1978, Valentich left Melbourne's Moorabbin airport for a flight to King Island in Bass

Friday, 15 July 2016

Longwood Gardens and why you shouldn't go back to places!

The world is divided in two types of people - 'gardening people' who love nothing more than spending their time mucking about with dirt and 'non-gardening people'  who don't! Can you tell which one I am? 

David is a 'gardening-person'. He loves gardens. He spends hours and hours at home coaxing exotic plants to grow in our harsh Australian soil. In spring, when our quiet little patch of the planet lights up with colour it makes all the work worthwhile - or so he thinks.  I like gardens too - just not working in them!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Wintethur and the art of avoiding museums on your travels!

Winterthur
The world is divided into two kinds of travellers. I call them the 'museum people' and the 'spending an afternoon in a museum is my worst nightmare people' ('non-museum people' for short). Can you guess which one I am? It is not that non-museum people won't set foot 'ever' inside a museum (imagine coming home from Paris and announcing to your friends that you skipped the Louvre because it sounded boring!) it is just that in order to survive large museums you have to have a plan - and you have to stick to it.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cycling the Mount Vernon Trail to Tudor Place and Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington D.C.

The Mount Vernon Trail in Washington DC runs for 18 miles (29 km) from Mount Vernon in the
Tudor Place, Georgetown, Washington DC
south to Theodore Roosevelt Island, just past Arlington Cemetery - click here for a trail map. Still jet-lagged and nowhere near as fit as we would have liked to be (are we ever!), we parked the car at Daingerfield Island about 7 miles from our objective at Georgetown. I know, I know 7 miles is pretty whimpy but we had just flown from Sydney,  Australia.

The sealed surface of the trail made the cycling easy - thankfully! Even the few small uphill sections slipped easily beneath the rhythm of our wheels. With a single interruption where we passed Ronald Reagan Washington Airport (I love airports as long as I don't have to arrive or depart from them) this section of the trail runs along the western bank of the Potomac River and has some beautiful views across the water. There is nothing like a nice view to make the cycling easier.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Washington D.C to Maine: - A road trip and cycling adventure.

The USA has some of the best off-road cycle paths in the world, thousands of kilometres of them, and we are on a mission to cycle as many as we can - well David is, I'm just along for the ride. Each year for the past few years we have flown our bikes over from Australia (don't get me started on the hassle of flying with bicycles), or sometimes bought cheap ones at Walmart, and set out to explore bike trails in different parts of America. Not being total masochists we also hire a car. Did you know it is possible to fit a car bike carrier into a duffle bag  - neither did I until we started this madness.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Gunston Hall - the home of George Mason, a man who refused to sign the U.S Constitution.

No-one can deny that the Washington DC area has many great tourist attractions. If you haven't been to the city before, you probably shouldn't miss sights like the Capitol, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and Mount Vernon. There is a downside to all of these however - their very popularity transforms the experience. Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial surrounded by enough other tourists to populate a small European country, detracts a lot from the magic of the moment.