Saturday, June 24, 2017

April 20th, 2017

While everyone in my dorm were still sleeping, I'm out and about at 6.30am and am heading for the train station at Paddington. I'm on the 8.15am train to Swindon and right on time the train pulls out of Paddington station. I spot the spirea in bloom. Emma Bridgewater wrote in a recent book that the best way to see wild flowers in England is from a moving car or in my case from a moving train. We passed the numerous varieties of wild flower species that dot the sides of the motorway or train tracks. I'm in England on the trail of snakehead fritillaries. What? I know, I know, few people have even heard of them. While roses and peonies are in such abundance, the habitat of snakehead fritillaries is already very limited and is getting smaller. They like their feet kind of wet so a marshy field is ideal. There are only a few areas where they are found in any large quantities. Magdalen field in Oxford is one and the other is Cricklade's North meadow. So I'm on my way to Cricklade. Upon arrival at Swindon, I went to the bus station and boarded a bus for Cricklade. No one knew what I was looking for but the tourism office in Cricklade knew and pointed the way to North meadow. Cricklade is so small, there is only one street and if you walked it to the end, you can't miss North meadow. The display of snakehead fritillaries was spectacular, a wide and expansive field colored purple with snakehead fritillaries. This is the motherlode! Every year in the month of April, they appear and is so magnificent. Few people venture this far to see them but those who do is rewarded tremendously. Mind you I live in Los Angeles and made the effort to track them down. It was a wonderful experience bar none!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Finland in the summer of 2015

I traveled for 3 months in Scandinavia in the summer of 2015. Something had just happened in my life that left me devastated. I was fired from a job I had for some 30 years. My license was placed on probation. Its easier to talk about it now but not at that time. I could not speak about it without breaking down. I've never revealed this publicly though family and close friends all know about it. Not that it has any bearing on my travels. Correction, it does, I had time on my hands and I could just go and stop only when I felt like it. I did, going all over Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and also to England. I wasn't sure how my finances could hold up but after 2 years of the incident (I never went back to work, I didn't need to) and after seeing that my finances was fine and I could weather being unemployed for the rest of my life, did I relax and enjoy my freedom. The 3 months was very liberating, very cathartic, I regained my self respect and could face any challenge thrown at me. Today I just sit, read, write and plan future escapes. Be watching for future escapes.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer 2015

I spent 3 months in the summer of 2015 in Scandinavia. One of my most favorite places is Christiania in Copenhagen, a little hippie community that is so lovely in summer. I went here twice because it was that lovely. I'd go again if I'm in Copenhagen again!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Machair Machair

What is a Machair? These grasslands in the Hebrides are referred to as the Machair. This was the Machair in Calgary on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides last year. I decided that the next year I will visit the Outer Hebdrides where the Machair is even more spectacular. So the next year has arrived and I leave in a few weeks for the Outer Hebrides.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The pleasure of ruins

'The pleasure of ruins' is a book by Rose Macauley. She had a blurb about Ninfa in it. If ruins could talk, and the stories they can tell will be amazing. However the garden of Ninfa has seen its own glory days in the Middle ages and then its own ruin. While it was untouched during WWI, it was close to the action during WWII. Correction, during WWI it was a place they kept captured Austrians prisoners of war. It was very close to the action during WWII when the Allies tried to capture Monte Cassino and destroyed it. An appeal was sent to the Pope to ask the Allies to spare bombing certain historical sites. The Caetani family were in Ninfa and the nearby castle at Norma, high in the hills. One of the Caetani women hung a bed sheet on the castle roof saying 'Americans live here'. Marguerite Caetani was American!

Friday, June 09, 2017

A medieval Pompeii

As one visitor long ago wrote of the garden of Ninfa and describes it as 'a medieval Pompeii.' One of the people in my group asked if the stones were there for effect. How ignorant! Ninfa was once a prosperous medieval city with 7 churches, city walls, castles and stone buildings. It was destroyed by neighboring village people because of jealousy and fell into disrepair for hundreds of years. The Caetani family has always owned it and in the last few decades has drained the Pontine marshes, got rid of the malarial mosquitoes and rehabilitated Ninfa. Today the Fondazione Roffredo Caetani runs the place. There's no other garden like it in the world.

Monday, June 05, 2017

A new ebook

I'm halfway through this book. In my research I found some incredible facts about the Caetani family. They are so inspiring which I will reveal in the book.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Rome and Ninfa

Ninfa is only opened eleven months in the year and only a few days each month. So if your visit to Rome doesn't coincide with one of its opening days, you won't get to visit it. I planned my trip for a whole year making sure my trip to Rome coincided with one of Ninfa's opening days. There were only a handful of us from outside Italy, the rest were Italians. It is the most beautiful and most romantic garden in the world.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Continuing on with Ninfa

Though Ninfa is in Italy it is by no means an Italianate garden. It is planned to look unplanned. Roses and clematis climb up and tumble down from the ruins in a most delightful manner. The family, though of aristocratic Italian roots has English and American in their heritage. The English side brought with them the gardening style and the choice of plants especially the roses and it is so evident in the garden today! I'm writing an ebook on Ninfa right now. I can't put the subject down. This rose is like a Banksia rose though the guide said it wasn't a Banksia. Its her favorite rose!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The garden of Ninfa

A new book came for me today from Amazon.com, rather a used book but its new to my now burgeoning collection of books about the garden of Ninfa. I myself is planning on writing an ebook about it and that's why the books written about Ninfa previously are being left on my door step by Amazon.com. This one that just came today has such magnificent photographs. They are breathtaking. I photographed some of them and here is one.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ninfa

Fountains and nymphs, this was the background of Ninfa, a magical and extraordinary place. One writer said, 'a medieval Pompeii' and another 'the most romantic garden in the world' are all apt descriptions of this place. I've been so privileged and blessed to have visited.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The garden of Ninfa

I can't look at the pictures and not still be thrilled to bits. How can a place evoke such emotions. There are a few of such places in the world, magical and extraordinary. I'm working on an ebook about it. The family it belonged to also has a fascinating history.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The garden of Ninfa

While this is not Ninfa but a house , abandoned outside the gates of Ninfa. It was a thrilling moment when I arrived that early morning. I waited outside with baited breath. I have waited a whole year to visit and now I was at the cuspid of my visit. It finally opened and visitors started to trickle in, mostly locals but then a few foreigners including some Chinese students. I told the Chinese students that the English tour will start later but they told me they were students at an Italian University and was fluent in Italian. Oh well! Pardon my ignorance.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Snakehead fritillary

A close up of this very elusive flower, it grows best in wet and damp areas and bloom once a year. The purple ones are more prevalent though the albino ones do make their appearance.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cricklade North meadow

I went especially to see the snakehead fritillaries and I saw lots of them. While Magdalen field in Oxford is supposed to be the best place but I arrived 2 weeks late. They were mostly spent. North meadow in Cricklade still has them in full bloom and here was where I was the happiest. There were acres and acres of them, purple ones mostly and some albino ones among them.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Whitstable, England

Today is the last day of my month long trip abroad. I head home stateside tomorrow and I'm ready. I've collected lots of stories and inspiration and am ready to work on them. I took the train to Whitstable today. It wasn't beach weather, it rained the whole time. For years I had wanted to go to Whitstable and I finally made it there. I had some oysters, a lunch of lobster with a glass of hard cider. Life is good, very good.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Petersham nurseries, Richmond, UK

No trip to London is complete without a visit to Petersham nurseries in Richmond. This would be my third trip here. I just love this place. Its so beautiful all the time.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pasteis Belem

Finally on my last day I got to eat this. I tried them from other stores but these are better from the original store. The first time I was here a week ago it was so crowded that I couldn't get near the counter. I bought 2 for 2.20 euros, went next door to Starbucks for an espresso and ate my tarts. Mmmmm they were good. Goodbye Portugal, this is my last day, leave tomorrow for London.

Monday, May 08, 2017

St Clara, Porto

A little known church with the most gold. The carvings are wood but painted with real gold and is in such disrepair. It is so sad to see it the way it is. An unpaid caretaker keeps it opened to visitors and works tirelessly and passionately to keep it opened. If not for the walking tour I took this morning I would never have known about it either let alone be able to see it. This was the best part of today, my last day in Porto and I thought I ran out of things to see and do. I leave tomorrow for Lisbon for 2 days before I leave Portugal altogether. You can google this church and see photos of its past glory!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Porto, Portugal

I haven't been updating this blog. I left Madrid days ago, went to Lisbon, then to Coimbra and this morning I arrived in Porto and will be here for 4 days before returning to Lisbon. I arrived to pouring rain and my suitcase wash;t waterproof. So I have all my clothes laid out. Its a good thing there is no one else but me in this 4 person dorm room. This was my lunch today, fried sardines and tomato rice with a bottle of water costs me 7 euros. It was really good too. My FB page is anne chung 56, google it, its opened to everyone. You can even comment except ask to friend me. I'm very selective about the people I friend with!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Cordoba

I was in Madrid for the sole purpose of heading down to Cordoba to see the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba. I did and it was so amazing. It is so hard to describe it in words. For a lot of the places I've been to, the only way is to be there to experience the size and grandeur of the place. I pray at each church that I will never give up this traveling life. The world is so fascinating.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Madrid

I left Florence and returned to Rome yesterday. Today I am in Madrid, arrived a few hours ago, spent almost an hour in the metro trying to find my way to Atocha train station. I thought my hostel was near there but it was not. So from Atocha train station I had to take a taxi. So here I am relaxing at my dorm bed in the hostel after having gone downstairs for some sangria and ham! Its raining and is quite cold. The last day in Rome was quite cold too after the rain. I'll be in Madrid only for a few days before I leave again, this time for Lisbon where I'll spend 10 days.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Florence, Italy

This is Ponte Vecchio over the Arno river in Florence. I took a free walking tour yesterday. I do recommend a walking tour from any organization because these local guides are full of information. I managed to go visit the church of Santa Croce which is a wonderful church, with not too many visitors. This is the place where people like Michelangelo, Leonardo and Dante are buried among other important historical figures. Florence like Rome is packed with visitors. Most people are eating the obligatory gelato. Gelato shops are everywhere. I still managed to enjoy myself and looking forward to returning here in the near future. The high speed trains makes train travel between Rome and Florence so easy and comfortable. What an improvement from when I was last here, over a decade ago.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The sweet life

La dolce vita or the sweet life indeed. Here in Siena is the home of panforte. Mmmmmmm or one can prefer 'la dolce far niente' which is less calorific. I think I'll take 'la dolce far niente.' or the sweet idleness!

Siena Duomo, Siena

My favorite after St Peter Basilica. It is contracted completely of black and white marble, the floors are tiled with biblical narrative, though parts are covered for protection, there are areas where they can viewed. I spent a good part of the day just visiting all areas of the cathedral and at the end had art overload. It was heavy going. I was in Siena some 20 years ago but this time I came specifically to see Siena Cathedral. Siena is an easy one and half hours by bus away from Florence. Its not as busy as Florence and I prefer it to Florence. Florence is one crazy city.

Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Situated next to the train station of the same name is very beautiful. I prefer this church to the cathedral. Its colonnaded cloisters and cemetery is completely frescoed. The frescoes are mostly intact. Few people visit this gorgeous church, the crowds and lines are mainly at the cathedral.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On my way to Florence

The lines for everything was super long. I waited for over an hour to get into the Duomo. I was very disappointed with the stark interior. The exterior looks so sumptuous but its interior didn't match its exterior.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Giardino di Ninfa

I arrived in Rome yesterday. I went to the garden at Ninfa today and have just arrived back in Rome. I took the train to Latina, from there a taxi took me to the garden. Ninfa was an ancient village which fell into ruins. The Caetani family purchased the whole village which wasn't very big and later descendants built a garden among the ruins. Ninfa is touted as the world's most romantic garden. There's no formal planting, it just follows the slope of the land and its numerous springs and streams making it one of the most unusual garden in the world.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Snakehead fritillaries

Jackpot! This was the motherlode. Cricklade has 80% of Britain's snakehead fritillaries, in 40 acres of wet fields. Snakehead fritillaries love wet soil and the purple ones are more abundant. Every year in April a purple haze covers over North meadow in Cricklade. Cricklade is a little village with one main street and no traffic lights. I took the train from London to Swindon, then a bus from Swindon to Cricklade. It was a 15-20 minute walk from downtown Cricklade to North meadow and there they were. What a spectacle. I was in Oxford yesterday and there were some there but the area was closed off. Here at Cricklade I could walk among them and it was so wonderful.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Oxford and snakehead fritillaries


London, here I come

I arrived in London yesterday. This is where I am staying, the Generator hostel in Bloomsbury. I love this area, its close to the tube and makes getting around so easy.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lupins in Anaheim

Lupins in Southern California? It does happen. I've seen them years ago after lots of rain but sine the freeway has been expanded, they were lost! I wasn't looking for them a few days ago when I drove to Anaheim to see my dentist but there was this huge patch of it at a freeway ramp!
So I decided to drive here this morning at 5.30am with my camera, it was an hour's drive from where I live. It was a sight to behold. I was going to change my mind this morning but I'm glad I didn't. I don't know if next year we're going to have the kind of rain we had this season. It was an incredible opportunity, one not to be missed. I'm glad I went and took these pictures.
I always have my eyes peeled, a thing I developed when I travel, always looking out of windows so as not to miss anything. I had my eyes peeled that morning while driving to the dentist. 

101 Freeway California


Yesterday I drove up the California coast on the 101 freeway in search of wild flowers. We've had so much rain the past few months, I thought it'll be an excellent time for wild flowers to show up. It was still a little early for the central coast. However the hills was this emerald green that the countryside resembled more like an English countryside than a temperate Californian landscape and was so beautiful. It was almost a once in a long time happenstance, we had 6 years of drought. I explored little towns that I had only read about Online, Santa Margarita? Where was that? I knew about San Luis Obispo and Cambria. The drive was long, 4 hours each way but it was a good trip.