Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ninfa 3

Of course when you go is important. To see the roses in their splendorous glory, the first 2 weeks of June is ideal. I was here at the end of April and though the roses did not that much of a splash, I did see some. I will always love the garden of Ninfa, there is none like it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ninfa 2

As one visitor described it as 'a medieval Pompeii' it was once a thriving city with numerous churches, city walls, and castles. Today only the ruins remain and before they were cleaned up and restored, they were covered with ivy that draped over everyone and made it look totally spooky. The Caetani family because of their connection with the Pope was able to acquire the whole village and turned into their country estate which they restored to the dazzling beauty that it is today. Being dubbed, 'the most romantic garden in the world' it certainly behooves us to visit it at least once in a lifetime.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ninfa

The garden of Ninfa, just outside of Rome is known as the most romantic garden in the world. I had the joy of visiting it this las April and it is truly marvelous. There's not another garden like it even as I just uploaded my ebook on the garden and its history. Check it out on Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Foraging for brambles in England

The brambles are early this year. They usually don't ripen till mid to late August. The long lane leading up from the main road to the entrance at Scotney castle was lined with brambles. The walk to the entrance was done with another English couple so while we did a little picking we chatted most of the time. I did a lot more foraging on the way back to the main road where the bus dropped us off. I dawdled, picked and ate. It was a childhood dream of mine living in a British colony and reading books about life in England. I must have been 6 when I read this English reader about a little girl and boy who went out picking blackberries with their grandfather. The grandfather used the crook of his cane to reach those blackberries high above their heads. That story has stayed with me for 60 years and I've always wanted to do that. The past years have seen me do a little foraging but not to the extent I did this trip. This memory will stay with me for a very long time.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Scotney castle, UK

Trust me, this photo wasn't photo shopped even though it looked like it. For a while now I've seen the evocative pictures of Scotney castle and have it on my iPhone to remind me that I need to visit. Its so easy these days, just google anything and the instructions on how to get there pops up. So armed with the information off I went that morning in London. The train from Charing Cross station took me to Tunbridge Wells. At Tunbridge Wells High street, bus 256 will take me to Lamberhurst and from there a long walk (20 minutes) will lead me to the front entrance of Scotney castle. This is the old castle, 630 years old which the owner has let become a ruin turning it into a romantic folly. The residence is up the hill and was built in 1837. There is a massive moat that surrounds this old castle. I walked its whole perimeter taking pictures from every angle. She doesn't have any bad side at all. She's beautiful and so evocative. If you happen to be in London on days that Scotney castle is opened, make the effort to visit.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The beaches of the Outer Hebrides

I was on a quest, in search of the Machair, those flowery meadows of the Outer Hebrides. I found more, I found those beautiful white sand beaches and icy blue ocean waters that are the beaches of the Outer Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides are those far western island chain of Scotland that borders the Atlantic ocean on one side. It is the Atlantic ocean side that has these kinds of beaches. They are so evocative and exceedingly beautiful. I just came back and already making plans to return.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Viewfield House, Portree, Isle of Skye

My Hebridean adventure ends on the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye is considered part of the Inner Hebrides. It is also known as the garden of the Hebrides. It is filled with wild flowers that line the roadside and also unused fields. It lacks the drama of the Machair of the Outer Hebrides but is not any less delightful. Portree, the capital of Skye sees a lot of visitors, a lot of Asian visitors. Most visitors to Scotland, besides visiting the biggies like Glasgow and Edinburgh, also visits Inverness, Loch Ness and Skye. So accommodation is really tight in Portree. I'm staying 3 nights, each night in a different place. Last night was at a B&B outside of town. Tonight I'm staying in this 200 year old mansion. Tomorrow I'll be moving to a hostel downtown. That will signal the end of this trip, as I return home to complete the ebook on the Hebrides, both Inner and Outer! I love the wildness of the Outer Hebrides and I find nothing in the city that could compare to it. I see a field of beautiful purple thistles and I want to run through it. Of course that's not advisable, I'll get pricked in the bottom before I could get very far. Its been amazing! Its hard to top this!

Monday, July 24, 2017

My last day in the Outer Hebrides

This is my last stop, Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides. I'm leaving from Tarbert tomorrow, taking the bus there and then a ferry will take me to the Isle of Skye. Getting accommodations in Skye was a nightmare. I spent most of yesterday making my onward arrangements but I did 2 places to stay in Skye, one for 2 nights and the other for the 3rd night. It is very expensive too if you can find any rooms. I've been told Skye is very beautiful. I shall miss all the wild flowers. It was planned a year ago to be here in July to see the beautiful wild flower fields called Machair. Its going to be a book on the Hebrides. I was at the Inner Hebrides last year. I want to come back. It is so beautiful and unspoiled and the people are so nice.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Outer Hebrides

This was a week ago at the start of my Outer Hebrides adventure. I'm still in the Outer Hebrides wending my way North covering a lot of ground in a short time meeting some of the friendliest people and seeing some of the most wondrous Machair. The Machair is unique to the Outer Hebrides and is absolutely stunning. That is the reason why I'm here. There are fields and fields of Machair everywhere. There are wild flowers everywhere and beautiful scenery, beaches, rock outcrops and wild life. This was taken at Barra airport a week ago.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Howmore

This was my hostel yesterday, at first sight, a very dismal and dumpy place but I had the best time here. I stayed a night here. I was alone, then I was joined by Steve, a bicyclist and mush later Alan, another bicyclist. All three of us talked the night away. I didn't know Howmore was so small. It had no shops, cafes or anything. I had a bar of chocolate with me. I told myself, half of it is for lunch and the other half for dinner. But when Steve arrived, he boiled some pasta left over by another party and there was half a can of canned tomatoes left in the fridge. With that I made a sauce and had enough for lunch and dinner. This trip was all about serendipity. The hostel was right smack in the middle of a mach air and I had the best time of my life living on such minimal of things. There was of course no Internet and I was off the grid for 24 hours.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Home

Home is Southern California, home is Los Angeles, home is Hollywood, home is the Pacific ocean! While I love to be home, I love to wander also. I'm going wandering in a few days and be away for a few weeks. But I can't wait to get home and to entertain again. I wander the whole world over looking for wild flowers and going next week to do exactly that, look for wild flowers. In March this year, I didn't have to wander far, just 30 miles away, to the hills and to this magical canyon which was ablaze with the wondrous sight ever, wild flowers everywhere in them hills. I've never seen Southern California so glorious. I love you, California!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Regrets?

I regret not getting a slice of this gigantic cherry cake when I was in Coimbra, Portugal this May 2017!

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.