Last Sunday, we headed out to Gardenworks Farm, in Salem, NY, to visit with our good friends and the farm’s owners, Meg and Rob Southerland, and to select our Christmas tree. It was just like old times, piling into the car with our two sons, worried about whether our younger son would feel car sick on the drive over hill and dale to get to the farm. Surprise — our “boys” are now in their mid-twenties, having returned home during the pandemic to work from our home, yet both were enthusiastic about accompanying my husband and me on our tree venture — and no one got car sick! Indeed, I had hoped to go to the farm a few days earlier, but my sons complained that their work schedules didn’t allow them to go then, and how could I even consider not including them in such a classic family tradition?
Last fall I spent a magical week taking an adult education course at Oxford University, in Oxford, UK. Following the conclusion of my program, I headed to London and met up with my husband, who flew in from the States to meet me. After a couple of days that allowed him to acclimate to the time zone, we hopped on a train at Kings Cross Station and took the two-hour ride north to the city of York.
After spending a few days in York we rented a car and stayed on the grounds of Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage Site. During our stay, we explored the ruins of the Abbey and the adjacent Studley Royal Park. We spent a day taking a historic steam train through the Yorkshire Moors to Whitby, a coastal town known for its fish and chips, as well as being the location of a ruined abbey that was an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We also explored some of the beautiful landscape in this part of Yorkshire, which is England’s largest county.
For nearly 35 years my closest friend from childhood, who now lives in New York State’s Dutchess County, has rented a place on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard for an August getaway. She has been generous in her invitations to me to stay with her, and I’ve been blessed to spend time there. This summer, 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of her plans, and mine, were cancelled because of concerns of being in crowded spaces in a place that attracts visitors from across the world.
Following up on my post about Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City, La Casa Azul, I’d like to share photos I took of the murals painted on walls in the Mexican National Palace by Diego Rivera, Frida’s husband.
Each June, the formal gardens at Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont, overflow with an abundance of heirloom peonies. Built at the turn of the 20th century as the summer home of Robert Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Hildene was saved from development by local residents in the 1970s after the last descendant of the Lincoln family living there died in 1975. The Friends of Hildene purchased the estate in 1978, worked to restore the home and gardens, and then opened it to the public. Here’s a quick history of the property from the Hildene web site.
I know there’s no shortage of people ruminating on the Web about being stuck at home and the various ways they are trying to cope during the Covid-19 shutdown. I am intensely grateful that I can do my work for our business from home, I don’t often have to venture into public places, and I don’t have young children at home who need help with schoolwork! Above all, I am thankful that most of my friends and family seem to be healthy and weathering the storm.
The line up on our kitchen counter. Grateful to have a can of Lysol spray.
But since we can’t physically travel, and are pretty much confined at home, I haven’t published an article on my blog since January, when I wrote about our visit to Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City. So even though I can’t share some wonderful destination, I can share what’s been happening in my house in northern New York State.
One of my “blogger friends,” Janet Simmonds, who publishes an elegant blog called The Educated Traveller, recently posted fascinating material about the origin of the word “quarantine.”
Janet splits her time between her native England and Italy, primarily Venice. She explains that beginning in the 14th century, various “plagues” arrived in Venice, decimating the population. In the early 16th century, the Venetians set aside an island in the lagoon where arriving ships would be isolated for forty days, which was the length of separation believed to be necessary to be prevent the spread of disease through the population. The Italian word for forty is “quaranta.”
I hope you will give Janet’s blog a read. Here is the link to her fascinating article entitled Venice — Health, Quarantine and Santa Maria Della Salute.
In early January, we made a visit to the home of famed Latin American artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), in Mexico City. Also called La Casa Azul (“The Blue House”), the property is operated as Museo Frida Kahlo, and much of the home has been left furnished as it was when the artist died. Judging by the crowds, and the difficulty of obtaining tickets, I would say this is a pilgrimage for fans of the artist.
This fall, my husband and I had the great fortune to stay at Middlethorpe Hall, one of three National Trust UK’s country house hotels. Middllethorpe Hall is just a few miles outside of downtown York; the other two National Trust hotels are located in North Wales and Aylesbury, the latter being about an hour from London. All three hotels were acquired by the National Trust by donation.
I recently managed a quick, two-night, mid-week, pre-Christmas getaway with my best friend at the historic Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass., in the heart of the Berkshires. The Inn is shown at the right of this 1967 illustration done for McCall’s magazine by Norman Rockwell, titled Home for Christmas (Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas). Rockwell’s own South Street home appears at the far right.