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!
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.
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!
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.
'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!
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.
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.
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!