Travel Theme: Benches

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is a surprisingly thought-provoking one–benches.  Some people (like, apparently, Ailsa) find them intriguing and somewhat romantic.  I tend to overlook them.  Important life lesson to be had here: pay at-bloody-tention.

Belhurst Castle, Geneva NY.  The vast lawn behind the castle is full of greenery and planters and carefully appointed koi ponds.  And exactly one lone bench, facing eastward to meet the sunrise.

Good morning!

Good morning!

Meanwhile, at the Old City Hall in my beloved Boston, George fails to recognize the looming menace of a statue of a brass donkey as he sits on the cleared stone bench outside the landmark building.

Hey, pal. One of us was here first, and it wasn't you.

Hey, pal. One of us was here first, and it wasn’t you.

In Rome (or, you know, cities in general), anything can serve as a series of benches, depending on the mood of the crowd.  A view from the top of the Spanish Steps.

Because all those people need to sit *somewhere*.

Because all those people need to sit *somewhere*.

And in Florence, simple wooden benches serve as pews in the Chiesa de San Salvatore al Monte, a beautiful 15-th century church overlooking the Arno.  San Salvatore is largely overshadowed by its flashier neighbor, the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, but it is no less lovely.  And since more people go to San Miniato, San Salvatore is much, much quieter, which can be an incredible luxury.

If you're looking for a place to sit and be self-reflective...

If you’re looking for a place to sit and be self-reflective…

Annnnnd…there is a gem of an amusement park close to my home.  Knoebel’s has been operating as an amusement park (albeit on a smaller scale) since 1926, and it is still family owned and offers free admission.  And?  It is awesome.  They have a Sky Ride that glides its riders up the side of a mountain and back down again; these are the bench seats from the top of the Sky Ride, deserted after an afternoon rain.

Welcome to Knoebel's in all its sylvan splendor.

Welcome to Knoebel’s in all its sylvan splendor.

Happy bench hunting!  Enjoy the travel theme.

Travel: Sunrise, Belhurst Castle

My boyfriend and I spent an amazing, romantic couple of days at a beautiful castle–CASTLE, FOR CHRISSAKES–on the Finger Lakes.  Belhurst Castle, located right along Seneca Lake in Geneva, NY, is a gorgeous spot for couples.  The rooms are huge and lovely; mine had a lake view and a fireplace, and a jacuzzi complete with a complementary rubber duckie.



The spa was amazing (ask for Lindie), the winery was impressive (try the Cabernet Franc).  The restaurant…meh (my steak was cooked correctly but the vegetables were steamed into oblivion, everything needed seasoning and the breakfast was entirely uninspired and unimaginative).  However, Geneva has some really good restaurants to choose from nearby (starting with Pure, the Indian place that’s maybe a five minute drive up the road, try the vindaloo and their spicy food is no-joke hot) so it’s no big deal.  And the surroundings were extraordinary and facing eastward, which is why I decided it would be in my best interests to get up before the sun and take pictures of a sunrise over Seneca Lake.

This isn’t a decision I make lightly.  I enjoy a good sleep far too much.

Good morning.

Good morning.

As this is the sort of blog that provides its own narrative, I’ll let the pictures tell most of the story, with not so much text.  All pictures taken on Belhurst grounds, either down at the dock or from the back lawn.


Down along the waterline.







And up on the lawn.

And up on the lawn.












Behold! Beautiful Belhurst Castle, in the morning light.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

A few years ago, my friend’s little girl asked me what was my favorite color.  It’s green, I told her, and then she squealed like only a four-year-old girl can and said, “HeeEEEeeEeeeeyyy!  That’s MY favorite color too!”  I asked her if we could share and she sized me up, mouth puckered to one side, head cocked, brow furrowed in thought and then–thankfully!–she nodded happily and said, “OK!”  From that point on we were favorite-color-is-green sisters.  She is now six and I’m pretty sure her favorite colors have shifted to pink and purple because she is a six year old girl, after all.  But I love that story, and it’s never far from the topic of “green” for me.  So this photo challenge is coming to you from me and my little friend Violet, even if her favorite color is purple now.

Public Gardens, Boston.

The Public Gardens are directly across the street from Boston Common.  On a map it sort of looks like it’s one big park, but the Common is clearly a city park while the Gardens always remind me of Fairyland.  There’s a swan boat floating nearby and willows twisting in the breeze.  I love this little structure. I have no idea what kind of birds those are; I’m totally willing to learn.

The Jewett Steps, Wellesley College.

One day during a summer trip to Boston I took a side trip to my alma mater.  Sensibly, the college does a lot of renovation work over the summer, when students are not present.  The Jewett Steps were always one of my favorite spots on campus so I was initially mildly disappointed to see the scaffolding but then I realized…it looked pretty cool.  I love how the trees are flourishing in the middle of all this straight, spare, pretty severe architecture, and that you can just see more trees through the arch in the distance and peeking over the sides.  It reminds me that nature will have her way with this, eventually, despite our best efforts.  I don’t want that to be for a fantastically long time, but it’s always there.  And!  That’s how it should be.

Where I live.  Beautiful Central PA.

Well.  It’s not exactly my backyard, but it’s really really close.

Chateau Renaissance, Finger Lakes, NY

Chateau Renaissance is this fun, interesting, quirky little winery on Keuka Lake.  The owners are pleasant and talkative and happy to see people.  The tastings are free and the tasting room is cozy.  They make a killer champagne rouge that I need more of, so if anyone’s going up that-a-way, please let me know.  And I have no idea why their back room has green lighting, but there you have it.  I felt like I was looking at some kind of movie set or something.

Venice, Italy.

Like there was any way I could not take a picture of the greenest boat in the world?  For some reason it pleases me to no end that it’s been dubbed the “Veritas”.

Murrisk, Ireland.

I had to finish with the Emerald Isle, land of my people.  The peak in the background is Croagh Patrick, St. Patrick’s holy mountain.  There are all sorts of legends that surround Croagh Patrick; this is where St. Patrick defeated the druids, banished the snakes, won the right to judge the Irish on Judgement Day.  The mountain is also surrounded by green, but as this is Ireland that’s like saying it’s surrounded by oxygen.  It’s true what they say: the Irish are wonderful hosts, and it is called the Emerald Isle for a reason.

Go here for more of this week’s photo challenge.  Thanks for reading!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreaming

When your vacation rains on you, appreciate what’s beautiful about that.

So what if it rained for nearly the entire week we were in the Finger Lakes?  It was beautiful regardless.  I got a lot of reading done.  I got a lot of writing done.  My boyfriend played a lot of guitar.  We hired a car and went on a wine tour  And I took the opportunities, when they presented themselves, to wander down onto our dock and enjoy just how lovely our surroundings were, whether seen in rain or shine.

We also got a ton of fog.  The liminal quality of fog (I’ve written about it before here) inherently imparts a dreamlike quality to its surroundings; when you remember your dreams are they ever in anything but soft focus?  Except for maybe dreams about vampires.  Those are always crystal clear.  Or is that just me?

Anyway.  Welcome to Dreamland.  What does this make you think of?

You can see the rest of the photo challenge here, and I’ve also included some of my favorites entries from this week.

Enjoy them all!

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