Friday, July 26, 2013

Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 26th July, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Sonnenberg Mansion and Italian Garden
That day at Sonnenberg Mansion and Gardens at the Finger Lakes in New York State was a day of fascinating contrasts.

Starting our tour with an exploration of Sonnenberg's rabbit-warren greenhouse, we must have explored 8 or so different interlinked glass rooms. As we wandered, sunlight filtered through glass panes dappled with moss.

At times the greenhouse appeared to be in an advanced stage of delapidation, but then as we made our way further in the lush splendour of moss-covered terra cotta pots overflowing with rampant geraniums, deep pink coleus and brilliantly coloured bromelliads captured my imagination.

There was something magical about the place. Surrounded by dense vegetation an ancient stone statue of a child standing in a shell shaped fountain overlooking a pool with golden carp performing a sinuous dance in cool waters, transported me back in time.

The greenhouse, young in the 1800s but now showing signs of rusted pipes and peeling paint on metal frames provided an unusual backdrop for orchids that would have looked at home in a Thai jungle.

With romantic appelations; Wedding Gown, Summer Lace, You-Me Emotion and Let's Dance Starlight, I discovered a random scattering of rare and beautiful hydrangeas.

In other rooms a recorded story of the life and times of the original owners followed us as we captured photographic images of cacti covered in Spanish Moss.

For 'bug phographers', models in the garden were abundant. Nicola, my daughter, whose passion is photographing bugs, discovered a snail with a recently hatched baby no bigger than a button on a new born infant's jacket. From then on 'mother and child' were transported around the garden in a coffee cup as she searched for props on which to photograph them. At the end of the modelling session they were tenderly placed on a wild plant to continue their foraging.

In this flowery haven bees, phosphorescent green bugs, spiders and Two-tailed Swallow-tail butterflies live in glorious contentment. Dragonflies and damselflies dart in a flurry of wings from flower to flower.
Photographs copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Thursday 25th July, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The news of the birth of the Duke and Duchess’s son was announced today with an easel proclaiming the birth standing outside Buckingham Palace, just as Prince William’s birth was announced in 1982.

The young family will make their home at Kensington Palace, where the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry grew up. The royal homes are in the private side of Kensington Palace, but visitors can explore the side open to the public, and see the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments. With such a glamorous and stylish mother, the new baby is likely to be equally well dressed. Visiting aspiring little princesses and princes can gain inspiration from the new prince’s ancestors at the new Fashion Rules exhibition at the Palace, featuring dresses of the Queen, her sister Princess Margaret and Diana, the Princess of Wales.
The Duke of Cambridge took his first steps in public on the grounds of Kensington Palace. A popular place for parents to take their kids to play is the Diana Memorial Playground. It was inspired by J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan stories and features an enormous pirate ship. Just a five-minute walk from Kensington Gardens, this is a must-visit for families.
He may be christened in a replica of an intricate Honiton lace and satin gown, from Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, which has been used as far back as 1841. Prince William and his father were both christened wearing the original gown in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Travelers can visit Buckingham Palace, home to the baby’s great grandmother, The Queen, through the summer. A new special exhibition celebrates the Queen’s Coronation 60 years ago, displaying the robes worn, the Diamond Diadem and even the personal invitation sent to four-year-old Prince Charles for the occasion—allowing visiting families to experience history first-hand! Open July 27 – September 29.
The Duke and Duchess’s country house will be at Amner Hall in Norfolk, England. The Royal Family spends Christmas just down the road at Sandringham, the Norfolk retreat of Her Majesty The Queen. Open to the public, visitors have the opportunity to personally experience what makes the estate such a special place including the house and exquisite gardens. Sandringham’s Country Park offers 600 acres of beautiful land—plenty of ground for all members of the family to explore and enjoy. There are also holiday cottages for visitors who want to vacation on the grounds. Open March 30 – November 3, except July 27 – August 2.
Anglesey, Wales where the couple began their married life together is an ideal backdrop for a family vacation. Pristine beaches such as Newborough are great splash pads for families. The White Eagle pub, where the couple has been known to dine, offers scenic views and a yard for children to play. Kate might want to pick up some cute outfits for her son at Tinkers and Belles in Beaumaris, a charming seaside town that is home to Beaumaris Castle.
Returning to Scotland where the couple met, the Earl and Countess of Strathearn, as the new parents are known in these parts, may want to dress their newborn in traditional Scottish wear. Little Legs Baby Kilts is a Glasgow-based company that specializes in making sure tiny ones can stay true to their Scottish heritage. When they decide it’s time to take baby back to St Andrews to show him where his parents met, he can look the part! The St Andrews Aquarium would be a great stop for family fun and learning. Whether it’s sharks, seals or penguins that catch your eye, there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy here.
Photo Copyright Anne Gordon

Post from Visit Britain on 23rd July, 2013

Oaxaca in a highland valley in the southern reaches of Mexico is a city of sunshine minus the oppressive heat sometimes experienced in these climes.  Oaxaca has a community that speaks 16 different languages and they come from hundreds of diverse ethnic groups. 
A city of narrow streets lined with colourful Mexican architecture makes it a delightful place for strolling. 

The zocala, similar to the main squares in Spain is the venue for festivals and traditional dance. Mariachi bands entertain whilst Oaxacans relax in pavement cafes sipping and enjoying the country's national drinks. 
For the non alcoholic variety of Oaxacan drink visitors should try Tejate made with corn, seeds, Rosita flowers and cacao beans.  For those who enjoy more of a kick, Mezcal with its smoky flavour and a worm in the bottom of the bottle is the way to go.  Made from the Agave cactus it is an extremely potent tipple and one should imbibe with care.
Photos copyright Anne Gordon.
Posted on Tuesday, 23rd July, 2013. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

1,693 people kicked up their heels in Dublin to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest Riverdance Line of Dancers
(Toronto ON, 22 July 2013) -- Ireland broke the Guinness World Record this weekend when 1,693 people from 44 countries gathered on the banks of the River Liffey to perform the Riverdance - The Gathering Longest Line. The event was watched by an audience of thousands, who lined the quays from Dublin’s Samuel Beckett Bridge to the Sean O’Casey Bridge, cheering on the participants as they danced into the record books. The previous record of 652 people dancing in a continuous line was held by Nashville, Tennessee.
The Ha'penny Bridge crossing the Liffey River in Dublin
The participants, who gathered from as far away as Mexico, Uzbekistan and Japan to take part in this once in a lifetime event, were led in their performance by Jean Butler and 100 members of the Riverdance troupe. Following a starting signal provided by the LE Niamh, the Irish Navy ship, the banks of the Liffey came alive to the iconic sounds of Bill Whelan’s Riverdance, and the 1,693 dancers began the very special Riverdance - The Gathering performance, and in doing so set a new Guinness World Record on Sunday 21 July.
See all the action on YouTube
Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Post from Tourism Ireland on Monday, 22nd July, 2013

The Hotel Napoleon in Paris

Standing at the window of our suite in the Hotel Napoleon I look across the rooftops of Paris through a petalled vista of red geraniums.  In the distance the Eiffel Tower, a sparkling monument in a myriad of lights, looks for all the world like a Christmas tree.

Decorated in the Empire style favoured in Napoleon’s time, this hotel was a wedding present from a wealthy Russian émigré to a young Parisian art student. He wanted her to have a place where she could complete her studies in wonderful surroundings.

Painting in the Hotel Napoleon
Its 101 guest rooms includes 47 suites providing luxury and comfort for guests. Our two nights will be in the hotel’s Youssoupov Suite a dramatic setting in red and gold with a leopard skin print carpet that makes me feel more like Empress Josephine than a Canadian travel writer. Named in honour of Prince Felix Youssoupov who saw it as his duty to Tsar and country to kill Rasputin. When lacing wine and chocolate cake with potassium cyanide failed he ended up shooting the “holy man”. Numerous photographs of Prince Felix and his wife Princess Irina decorate the walls in the suite.

The rooftops of Paris
With my imagination in overdrive, I open the French doors and the warm fragrant scent of the City of Light drifts in. Tonight I can stand on my mini balcony high above the racing traffic on Avenue de Friedland and imagine that I am the Empress Josephine and the traffic below, carriages.
Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Monday 22nd July, 2013

A coastal view in Kauai
The natural beauty of Kauai, Hawaii's garden island, was formed over millions of years. Waimea Canyon the spectacular Na Pali cliffs, 20 bogs that make up the Alakei Swamp and its rainforests are just a small part of its attractions.

Leis of Kauai
Kauai is a rural hideaway for a people who value their connection with other islands but also value their unique place. Many say that the Hawaiians from the other islands favour Kauai above all for having retained the Hawaiian spirit.

Hanalei Colony Resort on the island of Kauai
The glitzy developments of Hawaii's other islands are low on the priority list of nature loving islanders. There are few streetlights here, no high rises and most buildings are no taller than a coconut palm. 

Plumeria blossoms on the island of Kauai
In spite of that, Kauai is no slouch as far as activities are concerned. Fancy a massage, a cave adventure or kayaking to the Na Pali cliffs, one of the most dramatic scenic beauties to be found anywhere, everything is at your fingertips. For the robust a hike in the Waimea Canyon or a walk through Alakei Swamp will be a revelation for those interested in the natural wonders of the island. Snorkelling in the crystalline waters around the coast take you into a world of slow motion drifting with currents where sharks and other sea creatures watch with curiosity the antics of human invaders of their watery world.
Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Monday 22nd July, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A massive intricately carved wooden seat at the hotel entrance conjures an image of two Victorian ladies whispering secretly behind fluttering fans as they await their carriage and a ride to afternoon tea with a titled friend.

The Greenbank, with large windows that open to a spectacular view of a flotilla of yachts at anchor, certainly has the prime position on the sea wall overlooking one of the largest natural harbours in the world.

In our room with a view, we take a momentary break before setting out to explore. Within minutes we are confronted at the window by a curious seagull. Strutting up and down, squawking as they do, and finally hopping onto the window sill and knocking over a half empty cup of tea in its efforts to snatch a cookie, we are formally adopted for the next three days. No matter what time we return, there he is, and if we don't open the window, he taps urgently on the glass with his beak. I must admit to enjoying and photographing all his facial expressions as he watches us from his window perch.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Sunday, 21st July, 2013


Located just a few minutes walk along the harbour front from the centre of town, Falmouth's Greenbank Hotel's décor is genteel olde-world English as opposed to North American glitz.


To reach the hotel we pass a sea wall sprouting clumps of pink and scarlet Valerian, and Originon dappled on slender stems like delicate lace. Along the way roses, blowsy in the heat of summer, hydrangeas and fragrant honeysuckle perfume miniature gardens.


Leaning on the sea wall, I watch enchanted as a party boat breaks free from surrounding yachts. Music trails like a bridal veil from the rear of the boat, and seagulls, hundrds of them, like tossed confetti swoop and dive in its wake. 


Standing in the foyer I can imagine Florence Nightingale, a one time

guest, making her entrance in a no-nonsense, I'm in charge manner. In the sitting room with its large comfy chairs and quiet elegance I also imagine Kenneth Graham, author of that children's classic, “Wind in the Willows”, writing the letters to his son that subsequently became part of the “Wind in the Willows” story. Graham wrote those letters while staying in the Greenbank Hotel.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Sunday 21 July, 2013