Category Archives: Travel

An afternoon in Detroit

Last Friday, I visited a friend who recently became a grandmother and spends her days with her granddaughter while her daughter and son-in-law are at work. My friend is thrilled to be able to spend so much time with her granddaughter. We walked to a neighborhood restaurant, and along the way, I took these pictures of some of the houses in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit.

I loved this whimsical way to line a flower bed!

One of the people we stopped to chat with along the way was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of the Eiffel Tower and the words: Detroit, the Paris of the Midwest, an expression I had not heard before. I know the word Detroit is a French word (meaning a strait and referring to the Detroit River) and that the French explorers were the original settlers, but I had never heard the Paris comparison. A little digging turned up a piece on a local show called CuriosiD about the origin of the comparison and this postcard.


As we walked through this neighborhood, I was thinking about how one does not necessarily have to travel far to discover something new and interesting.

A visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden

I love whimsical gardens, and my visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden was pure delight.

Their current exhibit is called Trolls: Save the Humans by Thomas Dambo.


This was whimsy on a grand scale!

At the end of the exhibit in September, one of these giant trolls will remain as a permanent part of the Garden.

Dale Chihuly pieces from past exhibits currently grace the Garden.


Other whimsical sculptures and water features dot the landscape.

Particular to Charleston

Charleston has lots of alleyways, which you can see on walking tours. We learned about Philadelphia Alley, though, through an article about the hidden gems of Charleston.

Instead of “open” and “closed,” one shop I walked by had “open” and “later.”

Some parts of the waterfront are lined with historic mansions and other parts are lined with rowhouses.


And then there is the pineapple fountain.


Flashback to Italy

I recently visited Charleston, SC, traveling with someone I met on my tour of Tuscany and Umbria last fall, so Italy was on my mind as soon as she greeted me at the airport.

Then, the Italian cypress trees reminded me of Tuscany and all the cypress trees we saw there. On our walking tour in Charleston the first day, the tour guide called them “Italian Cypress trees,” so maybe they are a specific type of Cypress. It was the first time I remember seeing Cypress trees in the States (perhaps because I have not spent much time in the deep South).


Then I saw shutters that reminded me of the “eyelash” shutters in Lucca, Italy.


And then we attended a Luncheon Lecture – Behind the Gates: Beloved Gardens of Charleston, which was part of the Festival of Houses and Gardens. Glen Gardner (love the name), is a landscape architect, and he presented pictures of local gardens and talked about garden design. He also shared that he had studied in Italy and returns regularly for inspiration as well as buying pots, planters and other garden accessories. He specifically mentioned visiting Lucca and Florence, two places I visited last fall.

I am by nature a connector, and I love when a new experience connects me to a past experience.

After the lecture, I asked Glen if he was familiar with Sergio Ricceri’s terra cotta studio near Florence. He was not, but said he is going to Italy in the fall and will be sure to check out Sergio’s workshop.

Luncheon Lecture – Behind the Gates: Beloved Gardens of Charleston

Sights of Charleston

Charleston, SC, is a wonderland of sights–from the blooming flowers to beautiful doors to interesting ironwork to wraparound porches to brightly painted houses and decorated alleyways. I was fortunate to be there when the Jasmine was blooming, sweetly scenting the air.

Spotting unusual house numbers was one more thing that made walking around Charleston interesting.


Have you ever been to Charleston, SC?

For twenty years, Charleston, SC, has been on my travel wish list, and I finially visited this past week. The Festival of Houses and Gardens was in full swing, and I attended two events–a harbor history tour and a lunch/lecture on the gardens of Charleston.

On a walking tour the first day, I learned about the history of Charleston and archeticture of the houses and commercial buildings. It will take me a while to process all that information, but what immediately attracted my attention were the flowers in boxes and planters. Here are a few.


Irish Sea coast

In August 2012, a few months after my friend Jim died from brain cancer, I went on a week’s silent retreat at a retreat house on the Irish Sea coast in Ireland.

Eight days on the coast with sun every day. It was a wonderful time of rest, peace, prayer and restoration. The photo at the top of my blog is from that week and this one, too.

These flowers were in front of the house where I stayed. For you, Liz of Exploring Colour.

Olive oil in the Chianti region

Another stop on our tour was at Pruneti Olive Oil Mill where we learned about the process of growing olives, care of the olive trees and pressing olives for oil. This small, family-owned mill only produces extra virgin olive oil. We toured the facility and then did an olive oil tasting, sans bread.

Olives waiting to be pressed.

Our taste-test leader, Emanuele, was very serious about olive oil. When someone in our group suggested mixing balsamic vinegar with olive oil for dipping bread, he held up his hand in a stop gesture and said, “If you are going to mix balsamic vinegar with olive oil, please, just don’t tell me.” A purist, I thought.

Olive oil tasting room

From Gaida, the Villa owner, to the people at the goat farm, to Sergio the potter, to Emanuele, what amazed me the most about them was their passion. Each of them works very hard and each has a pride in her or his work.

Perhaps it is in the nature of the people of Italy or perhaps these hand-selected folks were the perfect choices to show and teach us about Italian life and culture. I was continually impressed with the level of passion we observed at each of our stops.

Since returning home, though, I have wondered where I could find that kind of passion here, where I could find people willing to commit their lives to what they love, even if it is hard work with little monetary reward. I wondered about my own passion and commitment. What is it that gets me juiced up? that animates me? that burns so brightly inside me that others can’t help but notice?

Exploring the Chianti countryside

Another stop on our tour of the Chianti region was at the terra cotta workshop of Sergio Ricceri.

Sergia Ricceri throwing a pot.

Here we learned about the high quality of clay in this region, which produces superior terra cotta pots and decorative items. I was attracted to the planters decorated with lemons and also the roosters.


Sergio’s works are available directly from him (and several people in my group ordered pieces which he shipped–and they arrived perfectly intact).

These three pictures are from Sergio’s website; the painted pieces are hand-painted.

Picture from Sergio’s website.

As we left Sergio’s workshop, the sun was setting, and everywhere we looked, the sky was vibrant pink.