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Portofino, Italy

Well Portofino is probably the most photographed fishing village on the Italian Riviera! Whatever you have in mind, relaxing is in store since there is not much to actually DO here! Be prepared to just stroll around the boutiques, the harbor and walk up to Castello Brown maybe and of course, don’t forget people watch!

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The yachts that grace this picturesque harbor are luxurious to say the least but it is also full of small fishing boats.  Don’t forget this was always a fishing village!

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It is worth the short hike up to Chiesa di San Giorgio and Castello Brown.  The views from both spots will not disappoint you!

Chiesa di San Giorgio has had a commanding presence over Portofino and the Ligurian Sea since it was constructed in 1154 or perhaps even earlier.  This Romanesque church was sadly bombed during WWII and then reconstructed in 1950.

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Chiesa di San Giorgio
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Chiesa di San Giorgio

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Castello Brown was well suited as a defensive site and was used as such since the 15th century. There are 2 methods to ascent to the Castle. You can walk up the steep staircase or take the winding path up.  We walked up the stairs and down the path which opens up the best panoramic views of this town.

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Castello Brown

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Don’t miss a chance to walk around this picture perfect town!  The brightly colored buildings just beckon you in. Sit and sip in the Piazzetta or at a seaside bar in the U-shaped harbor or grab some gelato, always a favorite.

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Don’t miss the Chiesa di San Martino in town with its beautiful bronze doors is just up the hill off the Piazza.  Note the mosaic on the landing made from rocks gathered on the shore.

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Portofino is a very convenient day trip from Genoa, Milan, the Cinque Terre or the towns just above it of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo.  We made Santa Margherita Ligure our home base to travel the Riviera heading to The Cinque Terre, Portofino and exploring the wonderful town of Santa Margherita Ligure.

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See Santa Margherita in the distance

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If you are looking for luxury; look no further in Portofino than the Belmond Hotel Splendido.  This is a luxury hotel built in the 1920’s and sits on a hill overlooking the sea and its lovely gardens.

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2018 Italian Grand Prix

This is one of the longest running events on the Formula One circuit and has been held continuously since the World Championship was introduced back in 1950. With the exception of one year it has been held in Monza, IT just outside Milan since 1922 when the Grand Prix was established.

Monza-2Monza-4When you arrive the Fan Zone is a place to have fun while waiting for the events to begin including music, old cars and games and of course: FOOD and DRINKS!

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Poor guy is always carrying my bag and not complaining!

They had some of the original race cars on display.  How far technology has come but these cars are gorgeous! So fun to look back as we enjoy today!

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One of the original race cars

This year Kimi Raikkonen held the pole position but sadly Ferrari couldn’t close the deal and Lewis Hamilton on the Mercedes team took the prize.  That did not make the crowd (Tifosi – pronounced [ti’fo:zi] the Italian word used to describe a group of supporters in sports) happy or my husband who was rooting for Ferrari and Kimi! The Ferrari team has actually won the most times: 19 to be exact but Michael Schumacher is credited with the  most individual wins and widely considered one of the greatest Formula One drivers ever.

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Italians are fanatic about their Ferrari team and the crowd (Tifosi) enthusiasm is infectious from the flag waving to the chants!

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I highly suggest you do not ask your spouse or significant other what is the one thing they would love for their birthday (a big one!) anywhere in the world. My husband said the Italian Grand Prix as he has been a car racer himself and a major racing enthusiast his whole life. So off we went — of course, with some negotiation I got to stay in Italy fo 2 weeks!!

The race starts with a fly over by the Italian Air Force showing the Italian colors in the airstream.  Sadly it was over the roof in the stands where we were sitting.

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The race, for those who have never been to a Grand Prix, is crazy fast!!! I mean up to 210 mph!!!!! The circuit is 3.6 miles long.  Luckily we had seats right between the start and the finish line.

Monza-10Of course, getting there was an adventure in itself! First we had to catch a train from Milan to Monza, then a shuttle bus from the train to the park and then a crazy long walk to get into the arena and then do it all in reverse at the end of the race. Whew!!!

I will say it was quite a challenge getting tickets for Formula One as tickets are not actually printed until right before the race so we were going a little nuts trying to get them to the US before we left for Italy.  Food there is a challenge as are the “facilities” but we had a great time in spite of the inclement, cold weather. Figures the only day in our 2 weeks that was not sunny and warm.

There were races all day thankfully since we got there first thing in the morning and there was even a Porsche Cup Event race in between the Formula Two and Three and Formula One events.

There is even a Ferrari store in Milan at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele where you can grab your Ferrari gear and look the part before the race! Of course, we were sporting our Ferrari shirts 🙂

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All and all I would say a very happy hubby and a well deserved birthday present.  If you get the chance to go to any major sporting event the crowd excitement is infectious and a ton of fun albeit very expensive!!

MILAN, ITALY

Recently I had an opportunity to travel to Milan and the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. I only spent a few days in Milan near the Piazza del Duomo while starting my exploration of the Lombardy region.

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Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region in Northern Italy and is surrounded by the famous Lakes region. This city is usually associated with fashion, travel, finance and of course, architecture!

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Milan’s Gothic Cathedral towers over the Piazza del Duomo and is the 3rd largest in Europe and the country’s second largest behind St. Peters. On one side of the Piazza you will find The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele with its shops, all sorts of entertainment and rooftop bars and restaurants.

The impressive enclosed shopping arcade known as The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele features high end shops, like Gucci, Prada, Versace, Ferrari and Louis Vuitton. The 19th century Belle Epoque domed ceiling is the crowning piece of architecture.

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The Galleria was the first building in the city to have electric lighting!!

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The paintings at the base of the dome represent Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

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The Cathedral has stood on this spot in Milan for 2000 years. It has fifty-two 100′ pillars which represent weeks of the year.

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Don’t miss the chance to walk up to the roof and marvel at the 2245 marble statues and 135 marble spires that adorn the church.  The white marble was quarried in the nearby  lakes region of Lake Maggiore.

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Milan’s streets radiate out from the Duomo stretching out to its very contemporary financial district.

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If you are in this region be sure to find a day to visit Milan!

 

Time to Order those Bulbs!

Okay I know you are thinking: WHAT!!! It’s still summer, but in many parts of the country bulbs go in the garden in the fall from late September until frost so start perusing those catalogs now and get your orders in.  If you have favorites, you’ll want to order them quickly in case those special bulbs get sold out!

If you are on Instagram you can’t miss all those lovely photos of fields upon fields of tulips just waiting to be sent to us 🙂

Here are just a few varieties and collections for you to consider when planning your spring garden.  Combine Daffodils, Muscari, Alliums, Hyacinths, Tulips, and Camassia for a long lasting display!

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COLORBLENDS- Moris Gudanov Tulip
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Allium Globemaster- my all time favorite!

 

Bulb Sources: COLORBLENDS     Old House Gardens   

White Flower Farm     John Scheepers

Daylilies – my secret passion “besides travel!”

Day Lily is just what it means! A new bud opens and then closes every day.  There are daylilies that start early in the summer and others that open later so it is completely possible to have daylilies for months! They are reliable, simple to grow, require no fuss and I have to say a favorite of deer in some yards, thankfully not mine!  I have had some deer damage this year but for the most part they have left them alone.

Daylilies are good companions to many perennials like Shasta daisies, Black-eyed susans, Phlox, Coneflowers, Liatris, Russian Sage, Bee Balm, Grasses, Catmint, Shrubs and annuals.

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Magenta Princess

Daylilies are great flowers for beginner gardeners as they are not fussy plants in any way! There are literally thousands of varieties in every color and form. The actual name for a daylily is Hemerocallis from the Greek words day and beauty. As I mentioned blooms last only one day but each scape has multiple buds!

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Passion’s Lunar Eclipse
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Sweet Aubergine
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Primal Scream
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Punk

 

 

If you are truly devoted you might consider becoming a member of The American Hemerocallis Society (AHS)  They recognize seven main daylily types, including singles, doubles, spiders, sculpted, minis, multiform and others.  New varieties are being hybridized daily by hundreds of gardeners who are truly passionate. There are nearly 90,000 varieties registered with The AHS.

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Olallie George Darrow
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Olallie Ethel Peters

 

 

 

Many gardeners start out as casual lovers but quickly get consumed with this lovely plant. Most can be grown in Zones 3 through 9 and vary in height, bloom size and basically prefer sunny locations.

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Olallie Perky Purple
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Pride of Wells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A great benefit is that if you want more you can divide the clumps every 3-4 years either when they first come up or after bloom is finished.

Have fun and trade with friends! There are many daylilies to try beyond the reblooming daylily- ‘Stella de Oro‘ seen everywhere.

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Pardon Me -A great reblomming Red!

Day tripping in CT at Lavender Pond Farm

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In their effort to make the world a more beautiful place the owners of Lavender Pond Farm have created a little slice of heaven right here in Connecticut on 25 acres now filled with all sorts of lavender varieties.

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Located in Killingworth, CT the Farm caters to lavender and garden lovers alike.  Lavender typically blooms from June into August but can last later depending on the weather.  With almost 10,000 plants in the fields there are 12 varieties including: Grosso, Munstead, Edelweiss, Hidcote Giant and Provence.

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Children old and young enjoy walking thru the fields, taking their family photos and just enjoying the outdoors. Check out the Rooster and his harem or play some chess on the life size board.

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To help with the necessary pollination they have honey bees which play an important role.

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Honey bees hard at work!

Recently they built an authentic covered bridge on the property and there is a lovely gazebo to sit and just surround yourself in this sea of lavender! Stay tuned as they are planning to open a bed and breakfast!

Want to take some home? No problem, they sell lavender plants and a variety of lavender based products in their on-site shop, including sachets, soaps, scrubs, linen sprays, oils and lavender lemonade to name a few.

 

BUTTONWOOD FARM – SUNFLOWERS FOR WISHES

The Annual Sunflowers for Wishes is taking place this now! – This is a blog I wrote several years ago on this wonderful place supporting a wonderful cause.  Enjoy it again!

The event runs from July 21 – 229, 2018 this year and Buttonwood Farm is located at 473 Shetucket Turnpike in Griswold, CT.

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The fields stretch forever

Bring your kids or just the kid in you as there are hayrides, and a cow train ride, sunflowers for sale and cows to check out! The hayride and cow train rides run throughout the day and are about 25 minutes long going first through the cow pasture and ends up going through the sunflower field.  All proceeds from the rides go directly to Make-A-Wish! Since 2004 they have been able to raise a total of over $930,000.  This year will push them over the $1 Million mark!

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Happy Trio
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Reaching higher and higher

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Looking up

Sunflowers are available on a first come first serve basis.  Bouquets are $10 for a bouquet of five sunflowers.  Again, all proceeds from the sunflowers as well as T-Shirts and notecards which are for sale all go directly to Make-A-Wish!

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Close up before the birds east the seeds or the cows are let into the fields
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Not yet ready to party
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Just opening

 

Go Enjoy and support this great effort to support Make-A-Wish!

The Magic of Georgia O’Keeffe @ NYBG

The New York Botanical Garden was founded in 1891 and is a National Historic Landmark world renown for its plant research and conservation programs.

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Georgia O’Keeffe was an American artist known mostly for her paintings of oversized flowers from New Mexico and Hawaii.  She achieved worldwide acclaim for her innovative impressionist images.  She is widely considered the “Mother of American Modernism”.  Known for her paintings of Oriental Poppies, Cow’s Skull, Heliconia to name a few.

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Start your visit in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory:

Enid Haupt Conservatory

 

The Visions of Hawai’i exhibit reflects her depiction of the Islands of Hawaii while on commission for the Dole Pineapple Company in 1939 for their promotional campaign. Her works are a study in understanding the natural environment of the islands.

The exhibit highlights the flora of Hawaii both inside the Conservatory and outside in the Garden showcasing the flowers and fruit of Hawaii like pineapple, papaya and bananas. There are more than 300 varieties of plants including ti plants, frangipani, bougainvillea, heliconia, hibiscus, bird-of-paradise, ginger and other tropicals.

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Red-Ginger Alpina purpurata

In the Conservatory courtyard pool you will find aquatic plants like Water lilies and Lotuses.  The Lotus is a sacred plant symbolizing eternal life in Buddhism. Chose your color! You will see the lilies and lotus in yellow, pink, purple, and blue. Pineapple plants surround the pool.

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Lotus ‘Perry’s Giant Sunburst’

Water lily

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There is also an incredible collection of 17 paintings in the Mertz Library Gallery not seen together since 1940 highlighting the influence of Hawaii’s dramatic landscapes and exotic plants. The exhibit includes Heliconia, Crab’s Claw Ginger, Pineapple Bud, and Hibiscus with Plumeria to name a few. There is a short film featuring letters to her famous husband who was a photographer, Alfred Stieglitz. NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED! These are photos of her paintings only.

Native Plant Garden highlights plants native to the Northeast including trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns and grasses. The pool is fed by recycled stormwater as it flows over stone weirs.

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Rock Garden

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Rosen Seasonal Walk showcases perennials, grasses and bulbs highlighting their shape, structure and color throughout the season as emphasized by Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf.

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Lily with Echinops

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Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Garden was just exploding with color and textures. The path winds through four themed garden rooms each with its own distinct personality. Here you will find daylilies, hydrangeas, black-eyed susans, nepeta, yarrow, begonias, caladiums, chives, salvia, crocosmia and amsonia to name just a few. Each garden room is devoted to a color scheme: The Fall Room: plants at their peak in autumn; the Bog Room: plants that love the moist and wet soil; the Hot Room: here bright flowers and foliage dominate like red, yellow and orange; and then the Cool Room: flowers and foliage in the silver, pink, blue and purple families.

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This garden changes seasonally so if you can try to visit during every season as you will never see the same exact landscape twice! I guarantee it!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Such a Happy Place – The Bronx Zoo

This zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the US and one of the largest in the entire world.  The Bronx River flows through the Zoo and it is a neighbor of the NY Botanical Gardens.

I can honestly say going on the Fourth of July in close to 100 degree heat was not the brightest idea but it was a friend’s birthday and on her bucket list and she was here from Arizona and – well….. you know what you must do for friends!!!

Grizzly Bears:

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Be prepared however if you want to enter the Children’s Zoo that it is an extra fee. Also the concession stands throughout the park do not open until 11:30 but the park opens at 10:00 am so bring water if it is hot.

Within the Children’s Zoo you can see: Prairie Dogs, A Two-Toed Sloth (if it is out), Flamingos, Squirrel Monkeys, Porcupines, Tortoises, Skunks, Rabbits, Screamer Chicks,  and Mini Nubian Goats

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Prairie Dogs
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Well we know who is boss!

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Did you know: Flamingoes tip their heads upside down to eat!

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Did you know: Porcupines use their spiky quills to keep predators away.

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Did you know: Tortoises can feel vibrations when people or animals walk by.

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Other attractions:

American Bison:

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African Plains featuring: Tigers on our visit it was so hot the tigers were not moving, just panting in the heat trying to keep themselves cool like we were!

Himalayan Highlands: Snow Leopards were trying to stay cool in the shade. Do you sense a theme here! A 7 day heat wave in New York in not a common event.

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Birds of Prey: Bald Eagles, Snowy Owls and King Vultures

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Bald Eagle Symbol of our Freedom in the US
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King Vulture!! This is the scariest Bird I have ever seen!!!
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Sorry had to do a close up!!!

Did you know:  While all owls hunt at night, Snowy Owls also hunt during the day since they live near the Arctic Circle.

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Snowy Owl

Madagascar: Red Ruffed Lemurs, Coquerel’s Sifaka, Ring-Tailed Lemurs

Did you know: Ring-tailed Lemurs raise their striped tails like flags to signal their location to other group members when traveling.

Did you know: the Collared Lemur uses its long tail for balance when leaping across branches

Did you know: The Red-ruffed Lemur is hunted by people on parts of Madagascar but is free from that threat in Masoala and Makira.

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Red-ruffed Lemur

Père David’s Deer has Back-pointing antlers, a long head with small pointed ears found in China on the marshy grasslands.

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