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Friday, June 28, 2013


In honor of our upcoming birthday on July 4, 2013.
The American Bald Eagle, our National Bird
I took these photographs in Ketchikan, Alaska

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Clermont, Hudson Valley, NY
Clermont's main entrance faces the Hudson River.
Visitors arrived by boat and came up to the grand home.
 If New York City based Justin Ferate has not been your tour guide, you’ve missed out!   I’ve just taken my fifth tour with Justin, and it was Rob’s second.  The encyclopedic knowledge of the man who wrote the NYC Tour Guide Licensing Exam should be sufficient reference, but that is only part of my recommendation.  His mesmerizing and enthusiastic presentation makes even the most basic fact part of a spectacular whole, and I always come away from his tours entertained, educated, enthralled by the subject, and thoroughly determined to take another tour with Justin.

Our bus left Garnerville, New York at 7:15 AM on a tour to explore the “Livingston Lifestyle.”  While the title might appear mundane, by the time we retuned to Garnerville at approximately 7:00 PM, the Livingston family had become old friends.  I do mean OLD.  We’d learned their history from the 1600s when Robert Livingston arrived from Scotland until the mid 1900s when the second of the two homes we visited was no longer inhabited by descendents of the family. 

Clermont, Hudson Valley, NY
Can you imagine owning both sides of the Hudson River
farther than the eye can see?
 The Livingstons were preeminent residents in the Hudson Valley.  Frankly, through grants and rewards the family basically owned a good part of the Valley if you can imagine controlling more than half a million acres on both sides of the Hudson River.  The amount of holdings is difficult for me to imagine.

The two homes we visited, Clermont, a State of New York Historic Site, and Montgomery Place, managed by Historic Hudson Valley sit in quiet grandeur overlooking the Hudson River.  The views are spectacular.  At one time the views must have been even more open as the trees are ancient with tall, thick trunks.  Black locusts that stand in stately order in front of Montgomery Place sometimes block the view, and our local house guide ruefully admitted that it is just too expensive to keep the view entirely open to recreate what the inhabitants might have enjoyed seeing.  Visitors do not have to stretch their imaginations to any degree to see the beauty of the Hudson.

Clermont, Hudson Valley, NY
In a separate building on the grounds is a
museum and gift shop
(and lavatories)
The Clermont Estate was established by Robert Livingston, Jr. who inherited it from his father.  The first Robert Livingston was Lord of Livingston Manor.  He was the second largest landholder of colonial America.  He graduated from what is now Columbia University, was politically active concerning the Stamp Tax Act, probably was involved in the Sons of Liberty, was a delegate to the Continental Congress, was appointed Chancellor of New York and in that position swore in George Washington as our first President at Federal Hall in New York City.  President Jefferson appointed him to the Court of Napoleon, and he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase.  Not enough?  He was a sponsor and mentor for Robert Fulton who invented the steamboat.

Because of Livingston’s activities, his home, Clermont, was burned during the Revolution but Clermont was rebuilt.  Seven generations of Livingstons lived in the house until the 1920s.  Clermont was named a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

We visited the house and toured most of it and three of the gardens.  Impressive.  Most impressive.  I cannot begin to write everything I learned about the man and his family.  Justin just filled us up. 
Clermont, Hudson Valley, NY
The Walled Garden

Clermont, Hudson Valley, NY
In the South Spring Garden

Clermont, Hudson Valley, NY
Toward the Children's Playhouse and Garden
This is the cut flower garden so there would always be
flowers in the house.

While the flowers were not in full bloom yet, the beautiful and peaceful solitude of these gardens is already evident.

When our bus pulled into the Clermont parking lot, a couple was unloading their horse van.  The grounds, riding and hiking trails are open to the public.  The riders were just back from their ride several hours later when we were about to leave.  Sweet.

Montgomery Place, Hudson Valley, NY
Montgomery Place was occupied well into the 20th century.
Unfortunately they were doing some tree pruning while we were there.
Notice the "porch" on the side.
The second home we visited was built by Livingston’s daughter, Janet Livingston Montgomery in 1804.  She was the widow of Richard Montgomery who was killed in the Battle of Quebec, one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War.  She named the home Chateau de Montgomery.  As she had no direct heirs, the house passed from relative to relative.  It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1975 and given by the Delafield family, the last of the descendants to live in the house, to what is now Historic Hudson Valley in 1986.  The home was opened to the public in 1988.

Why did the Delafields give up on the house?  It was too rough despite the indoor plumbing, telephone, etc.  Getting water to the house was a challenge.  The house simply could not be truly brought up to the times. 

There is what I’ll call a porch, though that’s an understatement.  It's beautiful and a work of art in itself.  This type of outdoor seating area was unique in its day, and it is thought  that it might be America's first outdoor area designed specifically for seating.   The woodwork is magnificent. 
Montgomery Place, Hudson Valley, NY

Montgomery Place, Hudson Valley, NY

Both Clermont and Montgomery place have portraits of President Andrew Jackson hanging on the walls, gifts in commemoration of the work the Livingston family did for his administration.

The views of the river and the Catskills are breathtaking.  The gardens were not in full bloom yet, but there were flowers.  This is where I also met the cicadas and heard their beating wings filling the air with their thrum.
Montgomery Place, Hudson Valley, NY
From the back of Montgomery Place toward the Hudson

Montgomery Place, Hudson Valley, NY
This is the rest of that view!

Montgomery Place, Hudson Valley, NY
One garden at Montgomery House

Montgomery Place, Hudson Valley, NY
Imagine this walkway when all is in bloom.

Whether you visit to tour the homes or the gardens or to walk the trails and take in the views, you will thoroughly enjoy your visit to Clermont and Montgomery Place.  Historic Hudson is attempting to revive Montgomery Place as a working farm, and in the fall, produce and apples are available for sale.  Trust me in this.  These are two places worth visiting.  Come here on your own.

Photography is not allowed inside the homes, but you will be awed by the interesting painting and antiques as well as the knowledgeable guides who take you through the family's quarters.

This tour was sponsored by the Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library in Garnerville, New York.  Karen Romaner who arranges programs is a dynamo, and each tour I’ve taken through that library has been excellent. 

Trust me also.  Get on Justin’s email list and try to take a tour with him.  You will be richer for it.

Every Friday Justin presents a free tour of Grand Central Station sponsored by the Grand Central Partnership.   Meet in the sculpture court at 120 Park Avenue (south east corner of East 42nd Street) across the street from Grand Central at 12:30 on Friday afternoon. For more information call 212-697-1245.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Fawn--newborn deer
Born on our property, this baby had not even tried his/her legs yet.
This time of year we still see them wide-eyed and spotted.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Chalet Suisse, Aruba
Chalet Suisse
Eagle Beach, Aruba
 If you ask your friends for restaurant recommendations on Aruba, almost without fail you’ll hear the name Chalet Suisse.  We heard it at home, and we heard it from people at our hotel.  Chalet Suisse became a “must do” on the list.  After our evening there, we joined the chorus.  Our dinner at Chalet Suisse was one of the highlights of our evenings. 

If you check the reviews of Chalet Suisse, you must note that people return year after year.  That idea is important on two counts.  People who come to Aruba for the first time decide that this happy island is perfect for a return trip.  Many return trips.  For some of these yearly visitors are perpetual diners at Chalet Suisse.  That says a lot to me.

On one of Rob’s walks along the beach toward the low rise hotels at Eagle Beach, he passed Chalet Suisse.  Doesn’t it look inviting?  Yes; perhaps it seems out of place on a Caribbean island, but that is part of its particular allure.  Part of the romantic image.  The chefs are European trained, and the meat and fish, except for the locally caught fish, are flown in from the east coast of the United States.  Everything we tried was fresh, presented artfully, and made the evening an absolute joy.

We began with drinks and Escargot “Bourguignnone” prepared with garlic butter, shallots, herbs and just a touch of cognac.  The escargot was tender, and the butter sauce begged to be soaked up by bits of delicious breads.

We moved on to our entrées.

Here I was in a Swiss chalet, so I chose the Zuricher Geschnetzeltes.  If you can’t pronounce it, don’t worry.  But you might like to try this superb dish.  It is billed as a “typical Swiss dish made with slices of veal tenderloin in a fresh mushroom and Riesling sauce and served with homemade spaetzl.”  I loved it.  The sauce was tasty and the veal wonderfully tender.  I could not have asked for anything more.

Famous rack of lamb - Picture of Chalet Suisse, Aruba
This photo of Rack of Lamb is courtesy of TripAdvisor but it could have been Rob's rare lamb.

Chalet Suisse’s most recommended dish—at least from everyone we spoke to—is the Whole Roast Rack of Lamb delicately herb crusted and served with stuffed baked tomatoes.  That was Rob’s choice.  The artist in the chef emerged with this presentation of tiny, tender chops made purpley rare just as Rob asked.  They formed a circular pattern on his plate.  In the middle was a serving of piped mashed potatoes crisped along the edges, and an herb sprig rose from the center.  The stuffed baked tomatoes added lovely color.  I’d say it was almost too pretty to eat, but almost doesn’t count here.  Rob delighted in his dinner.

Chalet Suisse, Aruba
Our shared Banana Boat
Yes, it was a good as it looks
We gazed around the dining room as we ate, and we saw one gorgeous and very tempting dessert after another pass by our table.  Too tempting to resist.  With our coffee, Rob and I shared a Banana Boat for dessert.  This classic ice cream dessert of fresh bananas, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce was a perfect final act to a beautiful and very delicious meal.

One thing is certain.  We will join the other people who return to Chalet Suisse each time they come to Aruba.

Chalet Suisse is just a short taxi ride from either the high rise hotels or Oranjestad, so make sure you put this on your must-do-dinner-here list!

Friday, June 14, 2013


This is a 17-year cylce CICADA we'll come familiar with this year.
When you hear their thrumming, you will be amazed at the volume.
We were up in Ulster County last week and this fellow and his friends made an incredible amount of noise.
They actually increase in volume as the day passes.
They're virtually harmless, and you won't see them again for another 17 years.

Friday, June 07, 2013


Take a trip to old New York and travel with it through time in Edward Rutherfurd’s New York: The Novel.  This panoramic view of my favorite city traces the lives of several families arriving as immigrants during different eras of the city’s history and coupling their own strengths with the invisible vibrancy of New York as they search for what each considers a success. 

New York: The Novel begins in New Amsterdam in 1664 with the single line paragraph “So this is freedom.” 

Freedom is the primary theme of the book.  The desire for freedom brought most immigrants, and once they tasted freedom’s deliciousness they drank deeply. They worked hard to profit from it and to build something for themselves and their families.  That universal desire is as real in the 21st century’s characters as it is the 17th century’s characters. 

The last single line paragraph is “Imagine.  Freedom.  Always.”

This is New York come full circle.

Painted on New York’s historical canvas are events that depict the bad as well as the good and the corrupt as well as the noble.  From the battles of the Revolutionary War to the attack on the World Trade Center, New York has been the scene of momentous events.  George Washington was sworn in as President here in New York City.  But there were times that disease came as regularly as summer weather and water was difficult to obtain to wash away the filth and the stench.  Interesting to me is Rutherfurd’s juxtaposition of “old money” and “new money,” and how that sociological development influenced the growth and movement of neighborhoods.  The distinction is actually a relatively recent one but definitely part of the New York psyche.  To me, everything about this city is interesting.  Cole Porter said it right: "I Happen to Like New York."

While it’s obvious that the author loves New York, he does not sugarcoat it.  His vivid descriptions of the New York Civil War draft riots probably surprise many readers by the violence, the class-consciousness, and the human cost of the war.  Filth, corruption, and greed are not bystanders to the story; they are part of it.

If you are a New Yorker—and particularly a native New Yorker—than you must be a lover of the city (how’s that for an assumption?) who enjoys recognizing the landmarks as well as the out-of-the-way places that you’ve enjoyed.  When Rutherfurd mentioned Jackson Hole, a restaurant on the East Side, a smile crossed my face as I recalled scrumptious burgers.  Unfortunately, I passed there last Sunday and the doors were shuttered.  Another chapter closed.

Rutherfurd is not without a sense of humor either, and you might chuckle at some of the names especially when you come across two intriguing characters named Vorpal and Bandersnatch.  You’ll have to peek at Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” for that one!  Most of the names, however, he has researched and do represent places of origin.

The families traced through the generations, the neighborhoods and their changes, the landmarks and their origins, and the movement and development of the city are all covered.  You’ll get involved in the individual lives of his fictional characters, but along the way you will probably learn a lot about New York City.  Since Rutherfurd takes us right through to 2008 (the book was published in 2009), you will be part of the story too.

So many of the places Rutherfurd mentions still exist, so it could be fun to visit some of them today. 

Other books, of course, have dealt with New York City’s history.  If you like this one, please consider Pete Hamill’s Forever.  It will blow you away.

New York City’s history is BIG, and so are the books about it.  My Kindle made New York: The Novel “light,” and you might consider the ebook if you are taking this traveling.  But it is a good read, and you will enjoy it.