Europe with 2 Granddaughters, Part 3–Paris

Our Airbnb in Paris was larger than London and a whole lot quieter.

Our neighborhood and our building

It did have a problem however, which was that we didn’t have hot water! It was fortunately quite warm outside so taking cold showers wasn’t too awful. We did complain but were told that the hot water was controlled by the whole building and we should wait a bit as it was probably being used a lot. We waited 6 days and it didn’t change. The owner was the only rude French person we met on the trip. He just didn’t seem to care about being a good host. It didn’t keep us from having a great time though.

Our first full day in Paris we started out walking to the metro when we saw a street market which we immediately stopped at and bought food for dinner and breakfast and snacks. Then after putting it in the apartment we set out again in route to the Eiffel Tower getting off at the Trocadero.

invalides

Walked all around that and down to an equestrian jumping contest. It seemed to be a very big event and the girls who are both equestrians (Tessa was on the high school eq team and Leila will probably do that, too), were quite impressed with how high and wide they were jumping. They’d never seen that caliber of jumping.

 

We then walked along the left bank past the beautiful Pont Alexander III,

the Grande Palais and Petit Palais

grand p with g's

and up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

arc d t

We did stop for lunch at a nice cafe for the girls to have their Nutella crepes and they said they would try escargot if I had it so of course I did.  And they did. (!)

Did a little souvenir shopping, too.

IMG_9608

A beautiful day and introduction to Paris.

The next day was Tessa’s birthday and a Sunday so our stop at the Place Vendome

where all the fancy jewelry stores are unfortunately didn’t have all their jewels in the windows. The obelisk in the middle is a tribute to Napoleon with all his battles around it. We walked by the Opera

then through the Tuileries,

past the Louvre

where the girls pretended to be one of the statues.

Then we walked to the river

and the Ile de la Cite to see Notre Dame

then to the Pompidou Centre

where we enjoyed the outside sculpture. We continued through the Marais (which was originally the Jewish Quarter of Paris) with stops at gardens

and the Picasso museum.

Guernica, flowers, and Picasso-designed jungle gym (!)

There is a great restaurant around the corner from our apartment where we went for a fabulous dinner to celebrate Tessa’s birthday. It was highlighted by Coconut Shrimp with a peanut sauce, Rosemary Lamb that was so tender you didn’t need a knife and Filet Mignon with a sauce au poivre.

Then for dessert Tessa had profiteroles, and we shared a flour-less chocolate cake that was filled with a gooey fudge. All way too rich but delicious.

Each morning I would get up earlier than the rest and go down to the patisserie around the corner to get our fresh croissants. Not a bad way to start the day!

 

We started the next day at the Place de la Concorde. Unfortunately there was a lot of construction or reconstruction going on in Paris so some of the beautiful squares we remember were filled with scaffolds, fences and trucks.

They did try to minimize the effect by covering much of their scaffolding with faux pictures of what the original wall or building should look like some of which were in previous pictures.

We moved on to L’Orangerie where Monet’s Water Lily paintings covered the walls. We were very sorry not to be able to take the girls to Giverny to Monet’s house and the lily ponds but there just wasn’t enough time. They’ll just have to go back.

L’Orangerie is at one end of the Tuileries in the Parc Champs de Mars so we got to walk through the gardens again past the fountains and statues and stop for a picnic lunch before going through the Louvre.

It was incredibly crowded at the Louvre and there were lines everywhere.

l crowd

In front of the Mona Lisa it was so packed it felt like we were sardines.

monalisa

(Photo credit: Leila)

We did get to see quite a bit, though,  including some amazing ceilings.

And some great statues including the Winged Victory and Venus de Milo.

We wouldn’t recommend visiting Paris in the summer as the lines everywhere were rather ridiculous. After we left the Louvre we walked along the Seine to Saint Chapelle to see the gorgeous stained glass windows

and then to the Luxembourg gardens

where they have the fountain with model boat races. One expected to see Stuart Little piloting one of them. It was almost 5 and Leila kept bugging me to climb the Eiffel Tower so I finally gave in and went with her while Denny and Tessa went back to the apartment. We didn’t realize, when we told them to wait for us for dinner, how long we’d have to wait in line. It took 50 minutes to get our tickets to go up. We got tickets to walk up the stairs thinking we could take the elevator from the second story up to the top as recommended by our guidebook. It turned out after walking up 669 steps

669

to the second floor there was a huge line for the elevator and we didn’t have the right tickets. It was also 7:00 by then so we took pictures, enjoyed the view

and headed back down the stair for home. It was almost 8:00 when we got there and Denny and Tessa had been waiting for us. (We planned that wrong). We picked up a pizza for us all.

 

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Europe with 2 Granddaughters, part 2

 

The next morning we set out at what we thought was early —9:30 for an 11:00 changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We were sadly mistaken as there was already a huge crowd around the yard but we were able to find a place where we could watch the procession in and hear the music that was played. Since there were so many people we didn’t see Christopher Robin or Alice.

Afterwards we walked around St. James Park and gardens which were lovely.

Rose-ringed Parakeet, Mute Swans

Then we walked through the Palace gate

 

to Hyde Park to the Wellington Arch then Marble Arch

Wellington Arch, gate and statue

and eventually found our way to the British Museum.

It is so huge that we were only able to see a part of it but what we saw was fascinating. There was a piece of the Rosetta Stone

7:5 Brit m rose stone

and lots of really old statues from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt.

There was a docent who let us hold a hand ax that was 35,000 years old.

7:5 Brit. Mus hand ax 35,000 y.o.

We also went through exhibits from all parts of Africa with amazing masks and sculptures.

It’s really quite a wonderful museum that one could spend days walking through.

Sadly, this was our last day in London.

We went to Kings Cross the next morning for our trip on the Eurostar through the chunnel to Paris, stopping in the station at platform 9 3/4 for the girls to get their pictures taken with their Harry Potter scarves on.

7:6 king X

The Eurostar was not a great experience however.

We had tickets together which we had purchased back in January. However, the day we left there was a fire on the earlier train so it didn’t run and all those people were trying to get on our train. When we went through the ticket taker the girls got their tickets and seats and Denny and I got marked as having no seats. There were hundreds of us in the same boat. We were told we’d have to wait for those with seats to board first and they would see what seats to put us in. They assured us that everyone would get on. So the girls got on and we waited while they called names and handed out seats. I kept trying to get their attention so that they would know we couldn’t leave our 2 granddaughters on alone but no one would acknowledge me. Finally after giving out many tickets (none to us) they announced that those who didn’t have seats would have to take the next train. After a great deal of panic and a lot of yelling and screaming we finally got someone to let us on. They gave me a seat in coach 1 and Denny in coach 8 and the girls were in coach 15 but they didn’t know if we were on the train or not. Finally after we got going I was able to make my way up to coach 15 to see 2 much-relieved girls. As I passed Denny it looked like there were empty seats near him so the girls took their bags back to coach 8 to sit with him. When we got there the conductor was telling Denny he didn’t have a seat and the girls had to go back to theirs. Denny almost had to sit on his luggage along with a few others in between cars but one of the servicemen in the dining car found him a place and even gave him some complimentary cokes.

We finally arrived in Paris about 2 hours late where we made our way on the metro to our Airbnb in the 16th Arrondissement.  And no one told us to “mind the gap”! (at least not in English).

Europe with 2 Granddaughters, part 1

This is a big year for our granddaughter Tessa. She graduated from high school and turned 18. She starts college, Washington State University, in the honors program in August. To celebrate all this we wanted to do something special for her so we asked her where we could take her and she responded, London. Then her 14 year old sister spoke up to point out that by the time 4 years passes we might not be able to take her anywhere, being maybe too old? Unfortunately she had a point so we decided to take her along and add where she wanted to go—Paris!

On June 30th we set off from Boston on Iceland Air for London. Arriving the next morning with almost no sleep we were in no shape to do much so once we settled into our Airbnb we took a walk about the area.  ..

7:2 our neighborhood

We were situated just south of central London right next to a bus stop that could connect us to everywhere we wanted to go. It wasn’t a great neighborhood but not unsafe. Its main problem being noise but as one of the other folks staying there said “what do you expect, you’re in London!” We were there when England won their world cup game and there was nowhere that night that was quiet!

 

After a good night’s sleep we set out to see the sights. Our first stop was Westminster Abbey where we spent about 4 hours touring the abbey.

 

We had audio guides which we were happy to see that the girls listened to all of being fascinated by the history. Denny’s favorite part was poet’s corner, which I also liked but even more liked Stephen Hawkings marker (next to Sir Isaac Newton) which said “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking” along with a mathematical equation.  Not sure what the girls liked best but they were very impressed with how old some of the markers were. When we left there we walked around Parliament Square

 

Mandela, Gandhi, Millicent Fawcett (suffragette), Lloyd George, Churchill

and across Westminster bridge

 

and along the Thames.    Lamppost (with locks), Tessa and Leila

 

Big Ben, War Memorial, New Scotland Yard and Royal Lamppost

Then we walked through a bit of St. James Park where we saw lots of avian life on the river.

 

 

Greylag Goose, Grey Heron, Common Pochard

7:2 Thames with Eye

We found a boat that would take us along the Thames to the Tower of London and back to the Royal Observatory so the next day we started out early on the boat. The boatman told us all the things we passed along the way including where Helen Mirren lived, where Sir Walter Raleigh laid down his cape for the queen, a pub  Charles Dickens frequented and wrote about, where pirates were tortured by tying them down on the edge of the Thames at low tide and watching them drown as the water came up. Sounded pretty cruel. He also pointed out different buildings and bridges along the way

7:3 London Bridge

including London Bridge

 

 

 

St. John’s Wharf, the Shard, Cleopatra’s Needle

 

Helen Mirren’s house, Oliver’s Wharf

We got out at the Tower Bridge and went for a tour of the Tower of London.

7:3 tower bridge plaque

 

 

 

I think we spent about 5 hours here, first with our Yeoman guide giving us a great and entertaining overview, during which we went

 

into many of the towers to see torture chambers, where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned,

 

and where Mary, Queen of Scots and Ann Boleyn were kept. We also saw where the Tower Ravens were kept and the area where the be-headings of the more royal people occurred. Most of the public be-headings happened on Tower Hill.

7:3 Execution site

There were numerous sculptures of the animals that they used to keep there.

 

 

We got back on the boat and went the other direction to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich where we saw the Cutty Sark.

7:3 cutty Sark

She was for a long time the fastest ship around until the steamships came along. We walked through the Naval Academy and up a steep hill to the observatory.

 

This is the source of Greenwich Mean Time and the historic Prime Meridian where east meets west.

7:3 Greenwich mean time

We saw the giant telescope they use and some of the many time pieces.

 

We got back for one of that last boats back to the dock. Really fun day.

The next day we took a train for about an hour’s trip through the countryside to visit Windsor Castle.

 

This is quite an impressive castle with over 900 rooms.

 

Of course there were some birds there:  Magpie, Mallard and Jackdaw

 

The castle and grounds:

7:4 Windsor pano

 

We could only tour the chapel, the state apartments and the Queen’s doll house. Through a bit of confusion we lost one another while going through the chapel and I thought the girls had moved ahead so went that way and Denny went back and found them then couldn’t find me. I finally ran into them coming into the State apartments as I was coming out. Sadly, it was too late for them to see the doll’s house which I looked for them in and ended up being the only one who got to see it. We couldn’t take pictures so they had to settle for seeing the pictures of it on line.

 

 

Back to the cold

We rode the bus back to Nogales, Mexico, then crossed the border and picked up a rental car and got a really lousy motel in Nogales, AZ.  Fortunately it was only for one night!  We were in time to meet our friends Judy and Don at Wisdoms for dinner.  If you’re ever near Tubac, AZ,  check it out.  They are famous for their fruit burros (burritos) and the rest of their food is great, too.  Had a great visit with Judy and Don to boot.

Next morning we went to Tubac for the regular Tuesday morning bird walk and to see all our friends from that area.  I guess most all of them were there, too, as 45 people showed up and we only found 43 birds! It was still fun to see everyone.  Sue Emerson had Sally Hills visiting, both from back home and we went out to lunch with them after the walk.  Then we ran a few errands and went up to Tucson where we had a nice Airbnb reserved for our time in Tucson.

We hadn’t gotten much sleep the last few days so we were beat and Wednesday was a day to do laundry and shop and recoup.  We did end up at Ft. Lowell Park for a walk to see some birds but basically crashed early.  Ft. Lowell is a city park that has a pond where they have some domestic Peking ducks mixing with the wild ones.  You can see the evidence of their promiscuity in the strange colors on the Mallards in particular.

pond ft lowell

The next day we went back to the Green Valley area (the rental wasn’t that far away) to have a picnic at Madera Canyon–one of our favorite places.

Judy and her friend Carol who was visiting met us there.  The birding was kind of slow but we did get nice looks at Red-naped Sapsucker and Rufous Hummingbird and 29 other birds.  After a beautiful day we went back to Judy and Don’s house for dinner and root beer floats!  They are from Iowa but moved permanently to Green Valley two years ago.  Their house is on a golf course with a patio facing it.  With lots of feeders around they have great birding in their backyard.  We saw 21 birds just sitting there having appetizers.

The next day we spent in Tucson going to Agua Caliente Park and picnicking at Saguaro East National Park. “Agua Caliente, literally meaning hot water, is a unique 101-acre park that features a perennial warm spring and pond that is home to an exceptionally rich mix of plants and animals. Agua Caliente Park has a long and interesting history with evidence of human habitation dating back about 5,500 years. In 1873, a ranch and health resort was developed to promote the curative properties of the warm springs.”  There were lots of ducks and turtles on the water and nice birds in the trees.  Our picnic at Saguaro East was somewhat bereft of birds as we only saw 6 while we were there.  Still a lovely place to picnic and have a hike.

The weekend was all Tucson Festival of Books and it was fabulous.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event it happens at U of A and they take over the whole campus. There are hundreds of authors and other exhibits.  If you follow the above link you can get a sense of what is offered.  They usually have over 100,000 people attending it. We were fortunate to get into quite a few of our first choices.  We started off with a program on Memoir with Amy Tan and Mary Karr.

amy

They were great together, each one trying to one up the other with whose mother was worse!  If you’ve read their books you’ll understand why.  After this panel we grabbed some lunch and went to get in line for the next presentation.  We were early enough to get there in time to see almost half of the panel which was with 3 sports writers — Scott Simon, who just wrote a book on the Cubs winning the pennant, Leigh Montville and Erica Westly. Next came a mystery panel with J. A. Jance, T. Jefferson Parker, and James Rollins.

 

tj

These 3 authors had an interesting discussion which included the point that none of them likes to outline.  They were quite adamant about it.  In the next panel of 2 mystery writers, Sophie Hannah (who has been conscripted by the Christie family to write more Agatha Christie books)  and Craig Johnson (author of the Longmire series),

craig johnson

both talked about how they couldn’t imagine how anyone could write a mystery without an outline.  In fact Hannah (who is British) said that when authors say they start out with a few characters and let them take them where they will it was a bit “twee”! It was all entertaining and gave us new ideas for books to read.

After the day’s presentations were over there was a free concert of the Rock Bottom Remainders.

concert

This is a rock band made up of authors that changes depending on who happens to be nearby for an event.  This time it included: Dave Barry, Sam Barry, Amy Tan, Mary Karr, Ridley Pearson, Mitch Album, Alan Zweibel, Scott Turow and a few more we didn’t catch the names of.  They are really fun and do a lot of fun things; Amy Tan dresses up in leather, boots and a whip and sings “These Boots are Made for Walking”; Scott Turow wore at least 3 different wigs, one Rasta, one Elvis and one looked like a head of tinsel when he sang “Wild Thing”.  Dave Barry wrote a song about being in love with a proofreader who would never be caught saying “between you and I” and Mary Karr did her ‘slut’ song about the ‘me too’ movement. All very fun.

Sunday we only saw 2 presentations but they were good ones.  First was Billy Collins and Juan Felipe Herrera who were both poet laureates of the US.

Herrera and Collins

We found Collins somewhat disappointing as we had heard him many times on Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air and really enjoyed him but he didn’t seem like he was really into the presentation.  Herrera on the other hand was terrific and very enthusiastic.  In the afternoon we saw a solo presentation from Scott Simon.

Scott

He is such a charming man and so compassionate I love to hear him talk.  If you haven’t tuned into Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR to hear him and his morning essay you are missing a treat.  He always brings along his lovely French wife and his 2 adopted Chinese daughters and this time their dog, Daisy.  He also brought his cousin Pam Simon who worked for Gabby Gifford when she was shot.  Scott and his wife are friends of Gabby and her husband also and he teared up talking about it.  His presentation was a sweet way to finish off the festival.

The next day we volunteered to help organize and clean up the thousands of signs that were taken down, throwing out those that were damaged or dated and entering the others in a data base for next year.

Our last day in AZ we went on another Tubac bird walk.  This time there were 34 birders and we found only 32 birds.  It’s migration time for Common Black Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk so we spent some time at the Hawk watch site and saw a bunch of them.  Then we went out to lunch with some more friends at a lovely restaurant in Amado called Firefly. We sat on the porch overlooking a beautiful pond and garden and view of the Santa Rita Mountains. It got up to 85 degrees that day.

Next day we left the beautiful weather and sunshine and came back to Massachusetts where it was cold and snowing when we arrived.  It isn’t springtime here yet but it’s coming.  Next weekend we’re off to Stamford, CT, for another fun weekend of helping with judging at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Until our next adventure,

Peace,

Nancy & Denny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weeks in Rocky Point

We leave for Arizona tomorrow so I wanted to wrap up our time here.  The weather got somewhat warmer and definitely sunnier but not what you’d call hot until 2 days ago.  It’s still cool in the mornings and evenings but during the day we get to 70.  The unfortunate thing about the weather is that we never did get to go on the boat to Bird Island.  We did a lot of other things and when it wasn’t so great out I got to paint.  I started a series of warblers (along with one Kestrel).

American Kestrel, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow Warblers

Black throated Gray Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler

While looking through the options for birding hot spots we found a water treatment plant here that we took a taxi to see.  Raul, our rental owner, called it the “stinky place” which it only partly was but there were lots of birds there.

Loggerhead Shrike, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Bonaparte’s Gull

The citizens of Rocky Point don’t seem to care much about litter and many tend to just dump their trash wherever they are.  The water treatment was no exception.

The next day Raul and his wife Erica asked us to join them for a ride around the area that we hadn’t seen yet.  We drove to Hermosa Beach

hermosa beach

and up above the Malecon past some of the more posh resorts and then out to Cholla Bay which is way out on the end of a peninsula.

Cholla Bay doesn’t have much more than a few restaurants and a bar and since it is far from town and basic shopping it has a limited population.  There are some really beautiful homes and quite a few not too great but is really a beautiful spot.

One of the things we went by on our travels was the golf course which we noticed had a few ponds with birds on them so the next day we got on our bikes and rode over there.  As we walked through the desert next to the golf course we spotted a Coyote.  There were a few birds there and on the pond which were new for the trip– Orange-crowned Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, and Bufflehead.

The next day we went on the Estuary trip with CEDO. It was chilly and windy so we weren’t able to get in the water and do the tide pools but it was an interesting place with an Oyster farm run by women.

There were some nice birds there including Curve-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, American Oystercatcher, another Bufflehead and a Red-breasted Merganser.

Alejandra, our guide, said she was once again going the next afternoon to the tidal pools and we were welcome to join her.  So after taking a long walk over to Rodeo Drive where all the artisan shops are we went back down to the tidal pools.  The people who said they were coming didn’t show but there was a couple there who were writing an article about CEDO for the Mexican version of Lonely Planet who did come.  This time we got pictures of some of the more interesting things there:

We have gotten into taking very long walks to different parts of Puerto Penasco and 2 days ago we decided to walk to one of the beaches that we had stopped at with Raul.  We ended up walking about 9 kilometers stopping a few times for a cold drink.  The following are pictures we took along the way.

As we approached our casita we could see smoke from a huge fire in the distance.  We never found out what that was.

This is our neighborhood, a combination of very nice houses and a lot of empty lots and half-finished or half-destroyed houses and lots of very noisy dogs.

Yesterday we took our last trip to the Malecon walking most of the way.  We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant on the sea wall.

 

view from the restaurant

Heerman’s Gull, Red-breasted Merganser

port

At 4:00 the parade was supposed to start downtown for Carnaval so we decided to go watch it.  We got to a place on the street by a park where people were lined up to see the parade at about 4:30 but the parade was very slow in coming and it was at least 5:30 before they got to us.  Each group had to stop and perform a number at every corner.  Anyway, when it did come it was fun to watch.

It has been fun here but would have been better if we had a car.  We are not in a neighborhood that has lent to meeting our neighbors so it’s somewhat lonesome but tomorrow we go to Nogales and will have dinner with friends from Green Valley.  On Tuesday we will bird with our old bird group from Tubac and see lots of folks we know again.  Then we go to Tucson until the 14th.  The weather is getting a lot warmer which is very nice.  Hope that trend continues when we go home.

Mexico II

After the last post our weather changed.  It got cloudy, windy and cooler (low to mid 60’s).  We even had what passes for rain around here which isn’t much.  The wind stopped us from riding our bikes but we either walked or taxied instead.

We visited a place called CEDO – Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans.   They gave a talk about what they do and had an exhibit of different creatures from the ocean including a skeleton of a juvenile Fin Whale.

Nancy and Fin Whale, view from CEDO, Cholla Cactus on the trail around CEDO

 They also offer a few expeditions.  We signed up for two of those –  Exploring tidal pools and visiting an estuary.

On our drive down to CEDO we discovered a whole street that had artisan shops on it.  This was in biking distance so on a fairly decent and partly sunny day we visited it and wandered through the shops.

Shop lined streets, Giraffe, Interesting moth

Lots of murals in this area

Last Thursday the owner of our rental, Raul, offered to take us to El Pinacate for the day. He brought his 23 year old son, Eric, with him.

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve
The 714,566 hectare site comprises two distinct parts: the dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and, in the west, the Gran Altar Desert with its ever changing and varied sand dunes that can reach a height of 200 metres. This landscape of dramatic contrast notably features linear, star and dome dunes as well as several arid granite massifs, some as high as 650 metres. The dunes emerge like islands from the sea of sand and harbor distinct and highly diverse plant and wildlife communities, including endemic freshwater fish species and the endemic Sonoran Pronghorn, which is only to be found in northwestern Sonora and in southwestern Arizona (USA). Ten enormous, deep and almost perfectly circular craters, believed to have been formed by a combination of eruptions and collapses, also contribute to the dramatic beauty of the site whose exceptional combination of features is of great scientific interest. The site is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

This was a fascinating place.  We were immediately greeted by a Golden Eagle that seems to have become somewhat of a pet as he is always around.

Golden Eagle

We got to walk around three different craters – Elegante, Tecolote, and Colorado.  Elegante is the largest with a diameter of about a mile and is about 800 ft. deep.

Colorado is less than half that diameter and only 328 ft. deep. There is a very primitive campground at Tecolote which is the smallest of the three craters.  We climbed around on the rocks to get good views of the area.  The first picture below is looking down at the campground where you see a few cars.  The second picture shows Eric at the top of rock and the third is of Denny next to some cactus and a Palo Verde.

The landscapes were beautiful with all the lava around.

Colorado is a tuff formation made of clay and volcanic ash has a reddish color, hence its name.

There was a new visitor’s center that we visited that had very informative exhibits and a movie.  It was a great day despite the spitting rain and chill. Here is the view from the visitor’s center.

view from vc

The next morning we went on the Tidal Pools exploration with CEDO.  We discovered all kinds of creatures that we never would have found on our own or known what they were.  We saw Brittle Starfish, Sea Stars, Volcanic Sponge, Fiery Worms, a bunch of different Anemones, some fish including Bleni, Turban Snails and other snails, Turkey wing Clams and lots of shore birds.  Unfortunately we didn’t bring our cameras for fear of getting them wet so we didn’t get pictures but yesterday we rode our bikes down there and took some pictures. The weather has gotten better- sunnier and a little warmer but we haven’t gotten back to the 70’s yet.  As long as the sun is out and it’s in the 60’s we’re happy.

Beach, tide pools and incoming tide

Cheerios Anemone, Sand Anemone, Coral

Snowy Egret, Ring-billed Gull, Semi-palmated Plover

We have 2 more weeks here and have plans for the estuary visit on the 27th and are still trying to arrange a trip to Bird Island.  More later.

 

Puerto Peñasco

This winter we are spending a little over a month in Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point, Mexico.  We got here Feb. 1st and are staying at an Airbnb casita.  It is not too far from grocery shopping but a bit of a distance from the Malecon (seawall) and lots of other touristy places.  We do not have a car but after a few days we decided to buy a couple of used bikes from a place that said they would buy them back when we leave.  Unfortunately the streets right around us are sand and don’t make riding easy but once we get to the paved street we can do it.  Neither of us are big bikers so it’s a bit of a challenge to ride in Mexican traffic so we’re into taking taxis now for some places we go.  We are considering renting a car but so far haven’t found anything that isn’t totally outrageous price wise.  We probably should have done it on-line before we left but we thought we could walk everywhere.  Oh well, maybe something will turn up.  In the meantime we are biking locally, walking or taking taxis.
melacon

We’ve been to the Malecon twice and enjoyed walking along the seawall, watching the many birds there and enjoying some great food.

There are a few boat rides we’re looking into that we hope to do before we leave.  One is a sunset cruise and the other is a trip to Isla San Jorge or the Bird Islands. That latter is an all day trip so we’re trying to figure how to get down to the dock by 6:30 am.

Today we went to an area called the Reef which is a beach just west of all the fancy resorts and condos.  Had a great walk long the beach and got to see a bunch of shorebirds we haven’t seen yet.

Then we have a wonderful meal on the beach at a restaurant called Wrecked at the Reef.

 

We certainly can’t complain about the weather here.  It has been in the mid to upper 70’s most days with lots of sun and down to low 50’s at night.  We’re here until the 5th of March and would love for anyone to come down and hang out with us (especially if you have a car. “-))

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018

If you don’t think about the loss of so much and so many we care about in this so-called democracy it has been a busy and enjoyable year for us.  But it is hard to ignore a daily reminder that our country’s leadership(?) has gone seriously awry.  We try to do our part to call, write, march and donate to those who are fighting this insanity and hope that things can change in the coming year. The good part of all this is that it has activated the electorate to speak out as we haven’t done probably since the 60’s.  KEEP IT UP!

elizabeth warren

Elizabeth Warren speaking at Greenfield Middle School

Back to the enjoyable year.  We were fortunate to spend time with our son and his girlfriend, our grandson, and our granddaughters all in separate special times.  I’ve written about our time with Sam (g-son) in Florida in February, Tessa and Leila in July but I don’t know if I mentioned our visit from David and Cindy in October.  They came in during the time my show was running at the Greenfield Gallery which I was really happy they could see there.  Cindy had never been to New England so they tried their best to squeeze in as much as possible.  They flew into Boston where we picked them up and spent the day walking around enjoying the great architecture and history of the city.

David & Cindy in the financial district, David with Red Auerbach and Larry Bird’s shoes

David, Denny and Cindy along the harbor

They came back to Greenfield where Cindy got to spend a few days seeing some of the area high points and visiting with some of David’s old friends who live around here.  Then we took them back to Boston the day before their flight and went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

gardner museum

Atrium at the museum

Then we walked around Copley Square and had a lovely meal at Legal Sea Food.

copley square

Copley Square

In November I participated in our annual Mary Lyon Spelling Bee.  Sadly, Denny was sick with a bad cold and couldn’t do it so we got a friend, Mike Fleck, to fill in with Cheryl Denton and me.  This is a charitable event that benefits a scholarship fund for students. There are teams of 3 people sponsored by different business in the area and there is a trophy for the best dressed (which we have won 3 times), and for each round and of course the final round.  This year we won our round but were beaten out of the best dressed by a team covered in LED lights and wearing tutus.

spelling bee

Mike and Cheryl are 2 bees and I am NOT 2 bees!

December brings us to the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count which we do each year with the Northampton area.  It’s always fun albeit cold but interesting to see how many birds we can count in a 24 hour period.  There are 34 different areas within our larger count area and our area found 39 species including a beautiful pair of Bald Eagles, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Cooper’s Hawks and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  We also found 1 of only 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches in the whole count.  The group as a whole found 85 species with a few record numbers including 108 Eastern Screech Owls!

Our count area includes Skinner State Park and Mt Holyoke and some big fields next to a tree line along the Connecticut River.  Also, within our area is Barstow’s Farm, store and restaurant where we go to get warm and have lunch.  The day before the count I hung a small show of bird collages there which will be on exhibit until mid March.  Here are a few of them:

Eastern Towhee, Barn Swallow, Common Redpoll, Northern Shrike, and Pileated Chicks

The end of December brought our 53rd wedding anniversary.  We celebrated with our friends Cyndie and Andy Rothschild with a lovely dinner out.

anniversary pic

D anniversary

We opened the new year with a fun potluck and Mexican train dominoes game at the Solar Store in Greenfield with our regular dominoes friends, Claire Chang (owner of the store), Nancy Hazard and Clarita Shaffer. Good food, good friends, good fun to start the year.

In February we will be in Puerto Penasco, Mexico from the 1st to March 5th.  Then we go to Tucson until the 14th.  We seemed to have picked the wrong time to get away from the cold as it continues to be in the single numbers around here.  Hopefully that will end soon.

May the new year bring only good things to all of us.  Keep healthy, stay happy, fill your lives with love and kindness and keep fighting for all that in this difficult time.

Peace,

Nancy & Denny

Out of Africa exhibit

opening night

Since many of you were unable to make it to my exhibit I thought I’d bring it to you.  This picture is from opening night.

tuning up

This is an overview of part of the wall with my friend and musician Hal Bosco.

the band

The whole band: ‘Uncle Hal and his Crabgrass Band”

We had a great opening night with wonderful music and lots of people–many old friends we haven’t seen in a long time.

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This is a picture of the gallery window at night.

The following are pictures of all of the work:

Triptych of the Cranes of South Africa

Wattled Crane   Grey-crowned Crane   Blue Crane (this one is the national bird of So. Africa)

2′ X 4′ each, Acrylic collage

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The Pride

Acrylic/ collage  30″ x 40″

NB_070617_05_

At the Waterhole

4’x 2′  Acrylic/collage

jacaranda and friends

Jacaranda and Friends

16″ x 20″ Acrylic/collage

Penguins on the Rocks copy

Penguins on the Rocks

16″ x 20″  Acrylic/collage

The little animals below the Penguins are Rock Hyraxes.  We saw quite a few of these where we saw the Penguins.

kruger new

Kruger

16″ x 20″  Acrylic/collage

Kruger was the place that we saw the most large mammals like the Elephants here.  The bird painted here is a Malachite Kingfisher and I don’t remember what kind of beetle that is.

PCG

Pale Chanting Goshawks

14″ x 18″ Acrylic/collage

Bathtime for Flamingo

Bathtime for Flamingo

14″ x 18″ Mixed Media

Lilac breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

11″ x 14″  Acrylic/collage

The last 10 paintings are all 5″x 7″ watercolor or watercolor collage:

A Ramification of Impala

A Ramification of Impala

Aren't I Gorgeous?

Aren’t I Gorgeous?  (This bird is actually named ‘Gorgeous Bush-shrike’)

Bateleur

Bateleur (one of many Eagles we saw)

cape rockjumper copy

Cape Rockjumper

Could you Kudu? copy

Would You, Kudo?

giraffe

I’m Horny!

hippo copy

Hip, Hippo, Hooray!

lesser bush baby copy

Lesser Bush Baby

Southern White-fronted Owl

Southern White-fronted Owl

zebras copy

It’s Not All Black and White

 

Where has summer gone?

Haven’t posted in a while as I’ve been crazy busy.  When we got home from Florida in mid-March we went as usual to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where we got to judge again.  Very fun. Then it was time to get down to work.  I was hoping to get a large enough body of work (paintings) to have a solo exhibit at the Greenfield Gallery.  This is a relatively new gallery in town and it is a beautiful space with some great owners–Kate and Rachel.  My plan was to put together work from our trip to South Africa.  I did enough to convince them to give me a show in October.  This took a lot of work and kept me busy until mid-July when our granddaughters came to visit.

We did have a short trip in June to visit our dear friends Jane and Hsein Hsin Chang

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Jane and I at Botanical Gardens

in Minneapolis.  Jane and I were co-presidents of our arts co-op for 2 or 3 years.  They moved back to Jane’s hometown area several years ago and we finally got to visit her new place.  We got the grand tour of the area including the Minneapolis Art Institute, the Botanical Garden and Minnehaha Falls.

Hsein-Hsin and Denny
Hsein Hsin and Denny at Minnehaha Falls
minnehaha falls 2
Minnehaha Falls

In mid-July our 2 granddaughters came to visit.   Tessa (17) was only able to spend a week with us but we packed it full.  We had a fun night of Mexican train dominoes, they went to the Y with me and played pickle ball, we had a neighborhood ice cream social, hiked the High Ledges,

high ledges

went to the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield

4 of us

image2

at seuss

and briefly to the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst and we volunteered at and saw a Mohawk Trail Concert of chamber music.  Had a fun time.  Leila (13) stayed another 2 weeks which was really great.  Leila is very interested in Marine Biology so we took her to Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute on the Cape and got a wonderful tour of the whole spectrum of what they do.  It was quite fascinating  to see all that they do and Leila seemed to really enjoy it.

woods hole

We camped for 2 nights nearby and went to the beach and visited the Edward Gorey House which was also fun.  I’ve been a fan of his illustrations since art school and have a lot of his books.  Many of you may know him from the opening titles of Mystery on PBS.

When we got back home we did the usual summer things, swimming, playing games, going for walks. Denny took her swimming at the pumping station a few times so I could work on more paintings for my show.  We also went to another Mohawk Trail Concert.  This one featured a comedian/clarinetist along with the house quartet of 2 violins, a viola and a cello.  It was a really fun concert.  At one point he mentioned that the thing about chamber music was that there isn’t a conductor and thought it would be fun to have a conductor.  He asked for volunteers and no one put up their hands so he picked someone and that was Leila!  She was terrific and got lots of complements at intermission.  The woman in the seat behind us tapped me on the shoulder and said “you can tell me the truth, she really rehearsed that, didn’t she?’  We assured her it was a surprise to all of us. I think Leila’s ego was boosted quite a bit that night.

Leila also really loves little kids and I connected her with a friend who has 19 month old twin boys who needed a little help.  She got to play with them a few times and they loved her and wished that she could stay longer.

After Leila left it was time to start repainting a very large mural in downtown Greenfield that I had helped with 27 years ago.  It was started as a cultural exchange with our sister city in the Ukraine and designed by a NY woman who had gone with a group to the Ukraine where they painted a bus.  They decided to have them come to Greenfield to paint a mural here.  Unfortunately there were complications and delays and when they came we hadn’t started painting.  Then Janet, the artist/designer, had to return to NYC to teach at which point I stepped in to coordinate the painting and make a few necessary changes due to window placements.  Anyway, that was 27 years ago and it had faded considerably so Bekki Tippens (the original instigator of the mural) and I decided it was time to refurbish.  Bekki got us a grant from the local cultural council and a lot of donations.  We put a box in the library asking for suggestions of changes from the community and got lots of them.  Between the 2 of us we figured out how to incorporate most of the suggestions and I proceeded to draw all the pictures.  I think there were 28 to 30 new or altered designs.  The mural is meant to be a historical depiction of our community with faux postcards of old Greenfield landmarks surrounded by a sort of sampler of small pictures of important things in the area.  We updated a lot of the smaller pictures and added things that are currently important to our community from the suggestions.  On August 2nd we started painting.  We had many volunteer helpers but it mainly depended on us being there from 9 to 6 everyday (with the exception of a few rain days) for a month!  Sometimes I’d have to go home and rework a picture  or draw a different one. Bekki would continue to work on donations and PR.   It was exhausting.  We did get a lot of pictures in the local paper and were on the local TV news.

The following is an article from the local paper published when we were almost done. 
recorder image
GREENFIELD VETERANS MALL
Refurbished mural puts county’s best face forward
Celebration concert set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hawks and Reed

By AVIVA LUTTRELL

Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — After a month of work by 100 volunteers, the mural overlooking Veterans Memorial Mall has been refurbished and updated to reflect how Franklin County has grown over the last 27 years.

To celebrate the completion of the project and raise money for additional expenses, Rebecca Tippens of Colrain, who produced the original mural, has organized an event at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. The celebration will feature musicians, storytellers and more.

“We invite all to come and celebrate this beautification in town, but also what the mural means and will mean for us all,” Tippens said, adding, “this has truly been a community effort that has not only given brightness to the county, but will also be an important historical record of our county.”

The mural, which features images of Franklin County landmarks, including Poet’s Seat Tower and the Eunice Williams Covered Bridge, was originally painted in 1990.

looking at mural

New images

Several new images were added during the refurbishment in an effort to reflect recent happenings in Greenfield, including images of alternative energy sources and Wi-Fi; artistry, including easels, palettes, brushes and musical instruments; fruit; cross country skis; contra dancers; the rag shag parade and people advocating for freedoms.

Nancy Baker worked alongside Tippens to gather ideas for the mural, which Baker then created.

Tippens said the mural is nearly completed, except for a layer of acrylic protective coating and UV varnish that is scheduled to be applied this weekend. The more than 50 volunteers who gave at least six hours of work or contributed more than $100 to help meet mural expenses had their names added to the wall, but Tippens said many others also contributed.

“It was kind of extraordinary to me because there were so many people involved — it felt like it was truly a community- created project,” she said.


Montague WebWorks also organized a team to put together a brochure and website about the mural, which Tippens hopes will be completed in September or early October.

“This will be an important educational tool in describing the history and meaning of the images,” she said.

Visitors will also be able to add their own stories through the website, once completed.

Wednesday’s event at the Hawks and Reed at Main Street and Court Square will feature at least eight performers, including storyteller Peter Kozinski, musicians Molly Scott, Russ Thomas, John O’Connor, Pat and Tex LaMountain, and more. There is a $10 suggested donation.

 

At the end of it all we had a celebration (and fundraiser) at Hawks and Reed, a local venue for music and performances.  There were 8 acts from singers to storytellers all relating to our wonderful community and the mural.  One of them even wrote us a song!

A Yodel to Our Mural
A parody of Hank Williams’s “Lovesick Blues,”
honoring the volunteers who revived Greenfield’s downtown mural,
inspired by Rebecca Tippins and Nancy Baker

The wall was beat up with dis-use! Oh, Lord!–
Years of weather and some dings.
It sure was looking kind of shabby–
Bumper scrapes and scratchy things. Oh, Lord!
But Bekk and Nancy spoke up loud,
Inspired our neighborly crowd:
Come paint here, come paint there—come volunteer some labor!
You can climb a scaffold if you’re free of acro-
Phobia,
Or just paint from the ground.
Come resuscitate our mural,
And make it whole and sound!
They spread the word, and folks said yes!
Let’s bring it back from a beat-up mess!
Let’s do this,
And beat the beat-up blues!
There is love! There is love in this beautiful town!
There’s nothing wrong with our heart!
There is love! There is love in our beautiful town!
Check out this work of art!
Sure, there’s wear and tear, just like anywhere,
But we can build a team.
So now if something’s shabby,
We can make it gleam!
Using yellow, green, and blue–oh, Lord!–
Not to mention red and white,
A super-dedicated crew
Has fixed the mural so it’s right (oh, Lord!)!
They slapped on paint day after day
Without one penny of pay:
A dab here, a dab there—they really got it shining!
Lord, we love to witness how they polished up this
Masterpiece!
What a sweet tour de force–
Inspired by Bekki and Nancy
Who kept the volunteers on course!
So now behold this work of art,
A gift of love from Greenfield’s heart,
Revived now,
With no more beat-up blues!
Thank you, Bekki!
Thank you, Nancy!
And everybody!

Copyright 2017 Russell Thomas, Free Lunch Music, BMI

Here is a picture a friend took with her IPhone.

Small Edited Best

Last weekend the final varnish was put on and it is finally be done.  We are having a brochure made that explains all the pictures and there will be a website also.

On Labor Day we went on our annual trip to the Adirondacks.  There were 11 of us camping there.  While we usually canoe the weather reports were not looking good so we opted not to bring our boat.  One of our friends had an RV that he let us stay in so we didn’t even take our pop-up trailer.  As it turned out it was a good decision.  His RV was warm and protected us from all the cold and wind and rain that we had.  Unfortunately that was not the case for everyone as 3 couples were in tents.  One day they did get a window to paddle for a few hours.  We walked the 3 miles around the lake when it wasn’t raining and one time we started that and got halfway before it started to rain.  We still had a great time, playing games, sitting around the campfire that wouldn’t start because the wood was too wet and doing a lot of cooking and eating.  As for me it was just what I needed after such an exhausting summer.  I got a lot of sleep and didn’t think about any of the responsibilities I had back home.

Now I’m re-energized to finish what I need to for my show in October.  I may even get to work in my garden and clean my house!