Boston, City of My Heart

Do you have one favorite city that trumps all the others you enjoy?

I admit, I haven’t been to most of the cities that would come to minds. I haven’t been to Paris or Rome, or even to London, in spite of having been to the United Kingdom a number of times.

I love Dublin. I adore New York and like San Franciso, from what I’ve seen. Montreal and Ottawa have their distinct and undeniable charms.

But the city that has my heart is Boston.

If you’ve been here, hanging out with me for a long time, you knew that, because almost every time I go I seem to feel the need to write about it.

I love the history of Boston, as one of the cities where American liberty was born.

And my own family history is connected to Boston. My many-times-great grandfather lived on this exact site, at the corner of Washington and Essex. He owned this land 125 years before the Liberty Tree was the gathering spot for the Sons of Liberty. Might he have planted the Liberty Tree?!


I love that Boston is surrounded by water. For the first time, we had a view of the water from our hotel and also took advantage of the location and went on a harbor cruise.

I love the sights and sounds of Boston. Like all big cities, there’s always a festival, a gathering, lots of unusual and quirky details.

And I love the museums. We go back to the same museums every single time and visit our favorite pieces and find new treasures, like this glimpse of infinity. Each side of this work had only about 10 glass vessels in a space about one foot deep. The artist,
Josiah McElheny (American, born in 1966), created a brilliant vision—I could look all day.

I know that, when I have an opportunity to travel, I should go new places. I know I would love those other great cities and find them thrilling and intoxicating, too. I know I would expand my horizons and knowledge by visiting more, different cities.

And I know I’ll go back to Boston. In fact, I can hardly wait!

So, how about you? What city inspires your affection? Should I go there soon?

Maine in Late October: Good Planning and Good Luck

It could’ve been a disaster, a birthday to remember for all the wrong reasons. A trip to the northeast corner of the United States at the end of October could’ve been all about cold rain (or snow!), gray skies, closed shops and restaurants, and desolate landscapes.

But, through a combination of decent planning and excellent fortune, our trip to Maine turned out to be memorable for all the right reasons.

To me, the most important part of planning is to mine own self be true. We know ourselves well enough to know that crowds (too much people!) and shopping and go-go-go aren’t fun for us. So we planned a trip that matched our temperaments.

We went to Acadia National Park in Maine. The park, mostly situated on Mount Desert Island, is 47,000 acres of granite, mountains, pines and birches, and crashing waves. The park is wild and lovely, with scenic roads to drive but also trails and paths and carriage roads to walk. (You can click on any photo to savor the details!)

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The island shore is mostly rocky—I love a rocky shore better than most anything.

But for those who prefer a sandy beach, the park provides one perfectly perfect Sand Beach.IMG_9405

And Acadia also provides a new candidate for world’s most perfect mountain.

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Cadillac Mountain isn’t that high but it is the tallest mountain within 25 miles of the ocean anywhere in the eastern US. It has a bare peak, with views all around. A winding, thrill-inducing road means one can drive up the mountain but a number of trails also allow climbing.

One of Cadillac Mountain’s claims to fame is that it is the first spot in the US to be touched by the rising sun, and every morning throngs of people gather to watch that sunrise. With our good planning, we had every intention of being on the top of Cadillac for the signature moment but . . . planning isn’t everything. More on this in a moment.

When it comes to accommodations, my husband and I tend to be seat-of-the-pants travelers, trusting that we can find a place to sleep when we find an area that we like well enough to stay. This time we actually planned a little, though, and found ourselves a cottage to rent right on the ocean’s shore. We watched the tide go in and out, we saw the mist from the cold air drift over the warm water, and, each morning, I watched the full moon set, plop, into the water.

That full moon was part of our good fortune. We had no idea! The first night we were in Maine, we drove to the town of Bar Harbor for dinner. We came over a hill and saw the enormous almost-full moon rising over the ocean. We gasped out loud!

And therein changed our plans for watching sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. The full moon was the next night and, instead of going up for sunrise, we drove that twisty, turny road at dusk to watch the sun set on one side of the mountain. Then we turned our backs on the last bit of light from the sun, to see the pink cuticle of the moon beginning to rise on the other.IMG_9314


Beyond the magic of a full moon over the sea at twilight, we were lucky in other ways. We liked that the touristy town of Bar Harbor was less overrun with people than it is most of the year but it hadn’t occurred to us that this would also mean that most of the restaurants we had targeted wouldn’t be open. MUCH of the area simply closes for the winter! So, we counted ourselves lucky that we still managed to eat reasonably well.

The best of our luck came as a gift from Mother Nature, though. Except for one wicked day, we experienced the best that late autumn could offer. The days started with a crispness that only added to the beauty and drama of the setting and stayed clear and sunny throughout. Many of the trees still had their cloaks of radiant leaves, leaves that glowed against the foil of dark fir trees all around. The ocean and sky burned blue and dazzled. The hot, red foliage of the blueberry bushes contrasted with the cool gray of granite.

Is there a prettier place than the coast of Maine?

I guess you can see, we were pretty pleased with ourselves! We had the good sense to plan to go to a place we could love and the good fortune to find it at its most lovable when we got there!

An Interlude, Sunny and Warm

I am counting myself so fortunate.

To be able to get from this:


Waves of snow on the frozen lake

to this:


Waves of blue

with a three-hour flight.

To visit a spot where the blue of the cocktails echoes the blue of sea and sky.

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Margarita, the color of the sea


Sea, the color of a Margarita

To visit a spot where the wildlife is exotic.


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And to visit a spot where the heat of the sun is exceeded only by the warmth of gathering with family.

I’m back home now, to snow flurries, the frozen lake, and a huge backlog of chores. But the warm and sunny interlude will carry me over. Here’s to hoping that you have sun and warmth in your heart this week!

Ireland, Again

Self-portrait with beach

Self-portrait with beach, and camera

Have I mentioned we were in Ireland? (Insert the emoticon with the big dopey grin here!)

Of course, I’ve mentioned it. And clogged up the internet with photos to prove it!

I love that blogging is not only a way to communicate with you but a way to communicate with the future me, the me who has a tendency to forget the small, perfect moments of a day.

My blog acts, in part, to capture thoughts, emotions, and experiences, so I can come back and visit them, and myself, again. So, I’m going to do this one final post about our trip. It’s sort of a “best of the rest” of the trip, beyond Penn State, Yeats, weaving, and ancient sites.

We’ve been to this splendid country before and have done what we wanted to of the obligatory tourist attractions. That meant that, this time, we could walk on paths less traveled.

And we especially found ourselves on beaches. You have to love an island country, where you’re never far from the sea!

We found lots of moments of quiet beauty that slowed our steps and haunt us.

And we had chances to relish those moments that are quintessentially Irish.

Thanks for allowing me to share so much of this trip with you! Angela, from A Silver Voice of Ireland, gave me all kinds of input. Perhaps her best tip was about the creation of the Wild Atlantic Way, a new approach to seeing Ireland while staying near the coast all the way! We followed it for many miles.

The Ancient and Quiet Places of Ireland

IMG_1603In a previous post I said that, when we left the hubbub of Dublin, we sought quiet. And where better to find quiet than among the ancient folk and the marks they left on the land?

Always drawn to graveyards of any age, we find the most ancient ritual burial places especially fascinating. Who were these peoples, who left symbols carved into gigantic stones? Who left passage tombs and dolmens and wedge tombs and stone circles?

If I were going to urge people to visit just one place in Ireland in would be Brú na Bóinne, near Dublin in County Meath. This large and complex megalithic site is home to Newgrange and Knowth. Here one finds passage tombs, ranging from small and modest to huge and awe-inspiring. These tombs date to 3500 BCE, older than Stonehenge, older than the Egyptian pyramids, older than most things we’ll ever be lucky enough to see.

The majesty of these sites, with their evidence that we are only the latest of the innovative and reflective people to inhabit the earth, defies description.

But they aren’t the only worthwhile megalithic places in the land. We also visited Carrowmore and the Cavan Burren Park.

Carrowmore, in County Sligo, contains passage tombs, as well as stone circles, even older than Newgrange, dating to 3700 BCE.

The Cavan Burren Park, in County Cavan, has a new visitor center and wonderfully constructed walking trails that take one past megalithic tombs, prehistoric stone walls, ancient rock art, and glacial erratics.

Of course, a spot need not be ancient to inspire calm and introspection. From the National Museum of Ireland to Yeats’ grave, we found our quiet places.

May you share the awe and peace we found at these remarkable places.  A huge thank you to Angela, from A Silver Voice of Ireland, for her generous guidance in directing us to many of these wonderful sites!

I Will Arise and Go Now . . .

IMG_1026After the whirlwind that was our visit to Dublin for the Penn State football game, we were eager for a change. It was wonderful for a few days but we’re the quiet types, introverts, really. We needed an antidote to the noise and crowds and . . . well, the noise and crowds.

We found it on the beaches and islands and hilltops.

And we found it in Yeats country.

I’m not knowledgeable about poetry. I don’t read much of it, and I understand less, but I do love what little I know by William Butler Yeats.

When I was still working full time and living in a big city, I kept a framed copy of Yeats’ poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” in my room. I even have an old record of Yeats reading his poem!

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Innisfree always made me think of “camp,” and our lake, and quiet, still summers away from the world. Just reading the poem could transport me to that place where “peace comes dropping slow.”

Now, we live year-round in the equivalent of Yeats’ “bee-loud glade” and I try, always, to consciously appreciate how lucky we are.

So, as we drove through Sligo, I really, really wanted to visit this special isle. My long-suffering spouse acquiesced and we drove around Lough Gill.

First we found Dooney Rock, which inspired my other favorite Yeats poem, “The Fiddler of Dooney.

Dooney Rock

Dooney Rock

Then we drove down long, single-lane roads until we could see tiny Innisfree sitting just slightly off shore, tantalizingly close but inaccessible.

We couldn’t get to it. We couldn’t walk on it. But, that’s okay—that very inaccessibility preserves the solitude and the mystery and the magic.

Just looking at Innisfree, with Yeats’ words sounding in my head, was enough. I felt it in my deep heart’s core. Where is your Innisfree?


Céad Míle Fáilte, Penn State

IMG_0537For the past couple of weeks, while the cats have been posting foolish photos of themselves, my husband and I have been in Ireland.

We love Ireland for many different reasons that I’ll probably enumerate soon but the catalyst for this particular trip was to combine our love of Ireland with our love for our alma mater, Penn State University.

Penn State opened its college football season in Dublin, against the University of Central Florida. For those of you who aren’t from the US, and even some of you who are, this whole fascination with college football must be confounding.

But for those of us who are ensnared, nothing could top this game! My husband and I have five degrees from Penn State between us—one BA, two MAs, and two PhDs. That’s a lot of years and a lot of football games attended—it gets in ones blood.

So, on the last weekend in August, we and about 20,000 of our closest Penn State friends showed up in Dublin, and what a welcome we received!

The focus of much of the activity in the days before the game was Temple Bar.

An estimated 10,000 Penn State fans showed up for the pep rally. That’s a lotta navy blue and white!

The Penn State party was held at the Guinness Storehouse. I never would’ve believed that a party of that magnitude could be pulled off without feeling crowded, without incident, and with such flair!

The game was at Croke Park—what a great place to see it! Before the game, two sky divers targeted the stadium, to deliver game balls. The one with UCF colors and flag missed the stadium entirely—do you think that was an omen?


Penn State skydiver hits the mark!

It was a wonderful game, at least for Penn State fans. Lots of great plays, tense moments, the grim feeling that the game was lost . . . only to win on a last-minute field goal, as time ran out! Woohoo!

The kicker who made the successful field goal is Sam Ficken. My husband and I were at a game two years ago, where Penn State lost by one point, after this same kicker missed 4 field goals. From goat to big-time hero—who wouldn’t be happy for this guy?!

Sam is in the middle of this throng!

Sam is in the middle of this throng!

The city of Dublin has many new American fans, I’m sure. The people were kind and so tolerant of the hordes of fanatics dressed in team colors, behaving in odd ways. They provided at least 100,000 welcomes.

Thank you, Dublin—sláinte!


On Leaving and Returning

Sailing into the sunset? Or safe in the harbor?

Sailing into the sunset? Or safe in the harbor?

I read a blog post the other day, by a couple who sold their worldly possessions and now live their whole, entire lives traveling.* They have no home. And they are happy!

I cannot imagine that. I don’t want to imagine it.

You know how I love home.

I thought my blog would be primarily about the “loving hands” but I’ve found I’m just as likely to focus on “at home.”

But even I can feel the call of the open road, the siren song of other lands, different roads to wander, different beauty to enjoy.

If pressed, I guess I’d say that I like to go (a lot) but I LOVE to come home.

Traveler or homebody? Who are you?

Coming or going? What direction suits you?

Leaving or arriving home? Which do you like best?


* And, of course, I can’t find it now! Sorry!

To Market, To Market . . . Jean-Talon in Montreal

IMG_9005Where summers are short, we must celebrate them intensely!

Montreal knows this, and her people glory in markets and street life, exploding with fresh flavors and colors. I’ve taken you along, in an earlier post, to Atwater Market. Today, we visit Marche Jean-Talon, with a stop in Vieux Montreal.

Whatever season currently prevails where you live, immerse yourself for a few moments in summer!