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Riviera Beaches come to Paris!

Posted on July 31, 2013

Back in 2002, the mayor of Paris decided to gift Parisians who could not join the mass exodus from the city to the famous French beaches, a beach of their own – right on the banks of the Seine!  What many thought would be a one-time, seemingly very extravagant gesture has become a much anticipated annual event.  If you have occasion to visit Paris this summer (beaches are open July 20 to August 18) you will see every inch of the temporary “sand boxes” covered with towels and shaded with Parasols-from 8:00am when they open until closure at midnight!  Opportunities to sun, swim in pools suspended over the Seine, kayak off the beach and free concerts attract many to these temporary shores!  Fun for all and a unique experience and welcome break from museums if you are traveling with children!

Titled, “Paris Plages”, there are three main locations: on the right bank of the Seine stretching from the Louvre to the Pont de Sully; along a stretch of the southern part of the River near the Port de la Gare station, and along the canal called the “Bassin de la Villette” (near metro Jaures/Stalingrad), in northeastern Paris (19th arrondissement).




Posted on August 26, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright home 951 Chicago Ave Oak Park

Frank Lloyd Wright home 951 Chicago Ave Oak Park

While visiting Chicago we took an afternoon to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s home (1889 – 1909) in Oak Park. We took the EL from downtown, a thirty-minute ride on the green line to Oak Park Green then a 10 minute walk to 951 Chicago Avenue. We had not made advanced reservations so had to wait a while in the air-conditioned comfort of the shop….a welcome relief from the summer heat…you can make reservations online: http://gowright.org/calendar/69/10738-Tour-of-the-Home-and-Studio—Guided.html. Docents guide the tour, the size of the group is controlled, and photography is not allowed. Our guide was very informative. The home and adjacent studio (Frank’s office when he established his own practice) have been restored to how it looked in 1909. I was surprised at the modest size of the house (just two bedrooms for Frank, his wife Catherine and six children), the beauty of the Children’s Playroom (a later, much needed, addition with a piano jutting into the stairwell), and the innovative design of the studio with its octagonal workroom. After the tour, we walked back to the El down Forest Avenue where Frank designed 5 homes (400, 333, 318, 313, 210). An excellent day out.

951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302



Studio exterior detail, Frank Lloyd Wright home, Oak Park

Studio exterior detail, Frank Lloyd Wright home, Oak Park

Bike Chicago’s Lakefront Path

Posted on August 19, 2011

Biking Chicago Lakefront Path

Waterfront Chicago Lakefront path

Chicago’s beautiful lakefront boasts 18 miles of dedicated bike/pedestrian path. With stops for lunch, photos and sightseeing we enjoyed an excellent day out. Riding along the lake was a beautiful way to see Chicago and people watch. The path was easy to ride.  Views of Lake Michigan, sandy beaches, the Chicago skyline and parks were the order of the day. Sightseeing opportunities included Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, Millenium Park (slight detour) and the Aquarium and Planetarium. You can take detours onto roads to see Obama’s house and Wrigley Field….we are not confident cyclists so stuck to the Lakeside path. Bike and Roll has several locations. They equip you with a bike, helmet and map and send you on your way. Tandems, kids trailers, kid seats and tag-a-longs are available. At several locations they offer guided bike and segway roll tours.

Bike and Roll Chicago

(312) 729 1000


Oak Street Beach Chicago Lakefront

Oak Street Beach Chicago Lakefront


Posted on August 15, 2011

Art Institute of Chicago from Millenium Park

Art Institute of Chicago

For a visual treat we headed to The Art Institute of Chicago the second largest art museum in the United States. It’s claim to fame is a fabulous collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist Art…amazing as these paintings are they are the tip of the iceburg. There’s an extensive collection of American art including iconic images such as ‘American Gothic’ and ‘Nighthawks’. The modern and contemporary art is awesome and its placement in the light and airy Modern Wing is a special treat. Then there’s armor, sculpture pottery and the best treat of all the doll house size rooms of the Thorne Miniature rooms on the lower level where 1:12 scale interiors show American, European and Asian interiors from the Middle Ages to 1930 when the rooms were constructed…..now I think I finally know the difference between Georgian and Regency.Plan on spending the day here. Audio guides added considerably to our appreciation of individual pieces.

Art Institute of Chicago Seurat, A Sunday on La Grand Jatte

Art Institute of Chicago, David Hockney


Posted on August 11, 2011

We were in Chicago when it was really hot and Millenium Park, a green oasis in the heart of this bustling city was just the place to go, relax and cool off.

We loved the Lurie Garden with its tall green hedges many different flowers and plants. We found the best views were had from the bridge that leads to the modern wing of the adjacent Art Institute.

The Bean, Millenium Park, Chicago

The Bean was really fun, a great place to people watch, take fun photos and enjoy the surreal art it creates in its reflections. Do not miss going under the bean where the concave chamber warps and multiplies your reflection.

The Crown Fountain was super busy with kids of all ages cooling off, splashing in the water. The inside surface of fountains two tower offers rotating video clips of Chicago citizenry. Periodically water spouts from the faces.

Crown Fountain, Millenium Park, Chicago

At lunchtimes and dusk there were free concerts at the Pritzker Pavillion.

Millenium Garage on Columbus Drive was really good value for money if you park before 10am as parking is $14 for the entire day.

Chicago, Lurie Gardens to Pritzker Stadium, Millenium Park


Posted on August 06, 2011

Wendella's Boats Chicago

Chicago, Architectural Cruise, Skyline from the lake

We found the  architectural cruise of Chicago was a great way to see the city. It was very peaceful cruising up the Chicago River as the guide pointed out the buildings and spoke about the architect and style. Even if you’re not into architecture, the guide was informative and interesting. We then headed out to Lake Michigan past Navy Pier to see the see the Chicago skyline from the lake…just beautiful.

Wendella Boats

400 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago

tel (312) 337-1446


Chicago, Architectural Cruise

Chicago Skyline


Posted on August 03, 2011

John Hancock Center, The Signature Room on the 95th floor, View from the loo

It’s fine and dandy to admire Chicago’s from ground level but consider an ariel view. Head for the John Hancock Center at 875 North Michigan Avenue, when it was built in 1968 it was the world’s tallest building, now it is number 4 in Chicago. Rather than pay vast sums to visit the Observatory on the 100th floor we opted for a more modest tab offered by enjoying drinks at “The Signature Room on the 95th floor”.  Views vary depending on where you are seated BUT the most spectacular view of all is the one we found in the Ladies bathroom……check it out!

John Hancock Building, Chicago

John Hancock Building Chicago

Dartmoor National Park

Posted on June 09, 2011



Dartmoor National Park is a vast expanses of moorland rising to rocky outcrops (tors and crags) where ponies and sheep graze intently among the bracken and heather, falling to picturesque wooded valleys where villages shelter beneath the moor. Linger on Dartmoor and enjoy some of the following sights:

Haytor Crags

The view from atop Haytor Crags on the Bovey to Widecombe road is a spectacular one—there is a feel of The Hound of the Baskervilles to the place. Softer and prettier is the walk down wooded Lydford Gorge (NT) to White Lady Waterfall (between Tavistock and Okehampton). A cluster of cottages and a tall church steeple make up Widecombe in the Moor, the village made famous by the Uncle Tom Cobbleigh song. The famous fair is still held on the second Tuesday in September. The pretty town of Chagford at the edge of the moor has attractive houses and hostelries grouped round the market square. Buckland-in-the-Moor is full of picturesque thatched cottages. Buckland Abbey (NT), once a Cistercian abbey and home of Sir Francis Drake, is now a museum with scale model ships from Drake’s time to today among its exhibits At Buckfastleigh you can take a steam train 7 miles alongside the river Dart. Castle Drogo (NT) is a fanciful, castlelike home designed by Edward Lutyens overlooking the moor near Drewsteignton.


Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo


Buckland in the Moor

Buckfast Abbey

Castle Drogo

Wells and Glastonbury

Posted on June 03, 2011

Wells Cathedral

Wells is England’s smallest cathedral city and the cathedral is glorious. Park your car in one of the well-signposted car parks on the edge of town and walk through the bustling streets to Wells Cathedral. The cathedral’s west front is magnificently adorned with 400 statues of saints, angels, and prophets. The interior is lovely and on every hour the Great Clock comes alive as figures of four knights joust and one is unseated. From the cathedral you come to Vicars Close, a cobbled street of tall-chimneyed cottages with little cottage gardens, built over 500 years ago as housing for the clerical community. On the other side of the cathedral regal swans swim lazily in the moat beneath the Bishop’s Palace where at one time they rang a bell when they wanted to be fed—now visitors’ picnics provide easier meals. There’s some delightful shops/stores on the town square. Just on the outskirts of town consider staying at Beryl a delightful B&B in a lovely home.


Nearby Glastonbury is an ancient market town steeped in legends. As the story goes, Joseph of Arimathea traveled here and leaned on his staff, which rooted and flowered, a symbol that he should build a church. There may well have been a primitive church here but the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey that you see are those of the enormous abbey complex that was begun in the 13th century and closed by Henry VIII just as it was completed. The abbey is in the center of town. Legend also has it that Glastonbury (at that time surrounded by marshes and lakes) was the Arthurian Isle of Avalon. Arthur and Guinevere are reputedly buried here and it is said that Arthur only sleeps and will arise when England needs him.


Posted on May 29, 2011

Shottery, Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Not a lot is known about William Shakespeare (1564-1616) but a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon will get you as close as you can get to the bard and give you an insight into life in his hometown. As you approach Stratford look for signposts directing you Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Anne married William Shakespeare in 1582, but until then she lived in a darling thatched cottage at Shottery, a small village just a stone’s throw from Stratford-upon-Avon. You see paintings and photographs of this picture-book cottage all over the world.

Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of the greatest poet in the English language, William Shakespeare. Stratford-upon-Avon is always impossibly crowded with visitors—if crowds are not to your liking, give it a miss. William Shakespeare was born in a half-timbered house on Henley Street (Shakespeare’s Birthplace, now a museum alive with the bright colors and patterns of late 16th century furniture), educated at the King’s New Grammar School and, in 1597, six years before his death, retired to New Place one of the finest and largest houses in Stratford.  New Place was demolished in 1759 but its foundations can still be seen. To give you an idea of what New Place might have looked like visit the adjacent Nash’s House in Chapel Street which is furnished as New Place might have been.

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Downtown Stratford

The playwright would have known the carved timber frontage of Harvard House in the High Street. It was built in 1596 by Thomas Rogers grandfather of the founder of Harvard University.

Simply engraved stones in front of the altar of the Holy Trinity Church mark the burial spot of Shakespeare and some other members of his family. It is a fairly large town, with beautifully renovated timbered buildings and lovely shops. The town’s glory, however, is brought expertly to the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and at its associate theatre, The Other Place

Stratford, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Stratford along the river

Just outside Stratford, though technically in the town, you find Cross O Th Hills Farmhouse, a very handy place to stay just a 15 minute walk across the fields to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.