Highlights 2017

Happy Trails from Traveling Tales: 2017 

Wel­come to our year in review. What’s hap­pened over the peri­od? Web­sites, TV, and print media have bom­bard­ed us with neg­a­tive images and sto­ries. More than any pre­vi­ous time, we invite you to  join us for a more opti­mistic look at our plan­et beyond nation­al and glob­al pol­i­tics, tur­moil, and strife.

Make your­self a cup­pa’, take a com­fort­able seat, and breeze through these images and words at your own pace, full of  faith that kind­ness and com­pas­sion still exist in our world. Let us walk togeth­er and not only find these valu­able qual­i­ties, but make a con­scious effort to give them freely.

Onto a snap­shot of 2017. After the local sheep crossed the road, our first  inter­na­tion­al stay of the year began at Fawsley Hall, Coun­try Retreat, near Dav­en­try, Eng­land (pho­tos above). Appar­ent­ly we arrived late for the main event: some 400–500 years after King Hen­ry VIII (1491–1547) and lat­er Queen Eliz­a­beth I (1533–1603) had vis­it­ed the manor. Born to Hen­ry and his sec­ond wife Ann Boleyn (yup, one of two who lost her head), Eliz­a­beth remained sin­gle her entire life. Per­haps a famous dad with six mar­riages put her off the idea.

Click on a top­ic below or sim­ply scroll through the text. Put your cur­sor on any pho­to to enlarge or to read a cap­tion. The Sources sec­tion has addi­tion­al links to web­sites offer­ing unique images and gut­sy details about the famous peo­ple and places men­tioned. Many pic­tures and few words tell the sto­ries of 2017.

Please post com­ments at bot­tom under “Leave a Reply”. You can check a box if you’d like noti­fi­ca­tion by email of any fol­low-up mes­sages. Give us a call or send an email. We’d love to hear from you and learn more about your year.

With affec­tion,

Stephen & Rita


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Cel­e­bra­tion! Left to right: Stephen, Joanne, Michelle, Chris, Rita


Around Sugar Land

A sur­prise Octo­ber vis­it from Stephen’s daugh­ter Joanne who lives 5,000 miles away in Eng­land knocked our socks off. We arrived at (son) Chris and Michelle’s for a veg­gie BBQ and were peer­ing into the fridge when Joanne leaped from the laun­dry room! Hard to believe she was able to keep qui­et about her where­abouts ear­li­er when she chat­ted with Stephen.

The year includ­ed a Valentine’s Day flower arrang­ing class (yup, even the guys loved it), Stephen’s b’day by the pool with Chris’ new whale play­mate, grand­cats Pop­py & Mol­ly in full Hal­loween dress ready for vis­i­tors, qui­et times on the Gulf Coast at Galve­ston, a vis­it to the new local the­ater to watch The Nut­crack­er Bal­let, Bear & Fam­i­ly’s new Christ­mas clothes, and Stephen’s  gourmet treats.

Action Central

Stephen has embraced strength train­ing, chal­leng­ing him­self with a local Boot­camp pro­gram designed to pump those pecs. In addi­tion to con­tin­u­ing his inde­pen­dent work in the finance realm, he serves on the Board of the com­mu­ni­ty Homeowner’s Asso­ci­a­tion, plan­ning for the future and ensur­ing cur­rent issues impact­ing res­i­dents get resolved, includ­ing dam­age from August’s Hur­ri­cane Harvey.

Grate­ful­ly, our home, along with Chris and Michelle’s, escaped dam­age. In Europe at the time, we gasped when we heard on the BBC about seri­ous flood­ing in our town, espe­cial­ly since our house stands just feet from a lake/waterway. A num­ber of friends had to be evac­u­at­ed by boat. We wor­ried the local wildlife (a.k.a. alli­ga­tors) with their habi­tat seri­ous­ly dis­rupt­ed might come out in force. (Note: they didn’t.)

Expand­ing her options to keep out of trou­ble, Rita enrolled in a Cam­bridge (Eng­land) Uni­ver­si­ty train­ing offered at a Hous­ton lan­guage insti­tute and gained the “Cer­tifi­cate in Eng­lish Lan­guage Teach­ing to Adults” (CELTA). The intense, four-week pro­gram proved chal­leng­ing. Rita’s first prac­tice teach­ing includ­ed stu­dents from 12 dif­fer­ent coun­tries — includ­ing Rus­sia, Peru, Japan, Colum­bia, Egypt, El Sal­vador, and Moldo­va. After hours of class­room learn­ing, count­less writ­ten and prac­ti­cal assign­ments, sev­er­al all-nighters, and a few cropped fin­ger­nails: she passed and now teach­es pri­vate classes.

San Antonio, TX

A quick break in the near­by home of the Alamo pro­vid­ed a fun chance to cel­e­brate our birth­days togeth­er. We stayed in the Pearl Dis­trict at the edge of town so we could eas­i­ly gain pedes­tri­an entrance to the cen­ter of things via the unique Riv­er Walk. Fif­teen miles of side­walks and paths pro­vide access to restau­rants, hotels, muse­ums, and the His­toric Old Town. Tour boats and water taxis make the expe­ri­ence avail­able to all. We loved get­ting up ear­ly (before the crowds) and ven­tur­ing out when wildlife were most vis­i­ble and the sur­round­ings so peace­ful. Learn more about the Pearl Dis­trict in Sources.

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Bucky Waits for Good­bye Hug from Ken & Chari


Ohio Reunion

You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl” so the say­ing goes. We loved see­ing Rita’s for­mer class­mate Ken and wife Chari, watch­ing their gor­geous horse Lig­gy run so grace­ful­ly through the grassy mead­ow. Just before we left, Chari gave an unex­pect­ed gift: “Bucky” the dog, to hold us until we took the leap and got a real one.

Rita’s delight­ful school­mates Bill & Mary invit­ed us for a deli­cious, home­made Sun­day brunch, joined by class­mate Rev. Doug and wife Susan. We man­aged to see Rita’s fel­low cheer­leader Bet­ty, horse train­ers Peach & Lar­ry, musi­cians Mark & Jody, school­mate Rober­ta & foot­ball play­er John, along with  oth­er team mem­bers Loren & Dan­ny, neigh­bors Helen, Sis, Mandy, & Snook­ie, and oth­ers at the High School Reunion din­ner. Gen­uine Mid­west­ern hos­pi­tal­i­ty con­tin­ues through­out a life­time; no mat­ter how long you’ve been away, it’s still home!

Old friend and neigh­bor Chuck and wife Susie shared the new Kent (Kent State Uni­ver­si­ty) land­scape with us, com­plete with health food stores and hip eat­ing spots. First-grade pal Janet joined Rita for a marathon 4‑hour break­fast at the local café. (Note: not enough time; sched­ule more next vis­it.) A renew­ing, laugh­ter-filled gath­er­ing with fam­i­ly end­ed our Buck­eye stay.

Michigan Revisited

Land of so many mem­o­ries, Michi­gan holds a spe­cial place in Rita’s heart. She often trav­elled to Ann Arbor where broth­er Josef attend­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan School of Music. The Michi­gan Union host­ed dance con­tests — think “jit­ter­bug” — where the broth­er and sis­ter duo earned a tro­phy (and a claim to fame). Not far away live old friends Sandy and John and their kit­ties (who couldn’t get enough of Texas cat­nip toys). Our hosts took us for a hike in Kens­ing­ton Metropark’s enor­mous grounds: 4,486 acres with 1,200-acre Kent Lake. Favorite unex­pect­ed expe­ri­ence: a wee talk with park farm animals.

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Stephen, Joanne & Bet­ty Stroll the Hast­ings, Eng­land Promenade


England First

Joanne sug­gest­ed a train ride (Amer­i­ca, please, more pub­lic trans­port!) to Hast­ings, Eng­land, allow­ing us to arrive relaxed and ready to walk the sea­side paths. Foyle’s War, British detec­tive TV series (2002 – 2015) set dur­ing and after WWII, was based in this fish­ing town on the south­east coast. One of us has want­ed to vis­it this intrigu­ing loca­tion FOREVER! Back at home base, Grand­dog Bet­ty demand­ed Stephen’s unwa­ver­ing atten­tion, first in the com­forts of her home and lat­er in town as they both watched with aggra­vat­ed trep­i­da­tion as a giant (small-dog eat­ing?) canine approached them.

Friends Reunited

Long-term friends and col­leagues from our Euro­pean work­days, Pru and John  joined us din­ner in Read­ing at a 17th cen­tu­ry pub. The cozy set­ting with open fire­place and deli­cious food set the tone for a mem­o­rable evening, full of sto­ries going back as far as 20 years.

Scottish Castle Reception

We delight­ed in attend­ing a wed­ding recep­tion at Sorn Cas­tle, Ayr­shire, for the daugh­ter and new son-in-law of our friends Pat and Grant. The venue’s pink sand­stone cas­tle dates from the 14th cen­tu­ry with lat­er addi­tions, over­looks the Riv­er Ayr, and fea­tures exten­sive flow­er­ing gar­dens: a mag­i­cal place to cel­e­brate the mar­riage of Stephanie & Neil. We loved the roman­tic ambiance, live music and danc­ing, and the incred­i­ble cake with mar­ble frost­ing (made by the mul­ti-tal­ent­ed bride her­self). We styl­ized a few pho­tos to show the arty, dreamy feel­ing under the white cel­e­bra­tion tent.

Scotland Connections

Troon and Glas­gow remain ever present in our minds as we vis­it the places we’ve known and loved. Our friends Far­ley and James remind us we first met in a weight-lift­ing class; our rec­ol­lec­tion is feel­ing sweaty and bad-tem­pered after over-doing it (well, that would be one of us…). Amaz­ing our friend­ship began and con­tin­ues, cel­e­brat­ed by spe­cial din­ners when­ev­er our paths cross.

Stephen’s sis­ter Jean and part­ner Andy invit­ed the Glas­gow Clan over for a love­ly din­ner – always a bit more com­pli­cat­ed when your rel­a­tives are veg­e­tar­i­an. We enjoyed catch­ing up with the fam­i­ly and learn­ing about everyone’s trav­els and work/school/life experiences.

We’re hap­py to report that our Scot­tish friend Pat recent­ly had her first book pub­lished: Till the Dust Set­tles — a thriller nov­el about Sep­tem­ber 11 in NYC. See Sources at end for link to publication.

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Gon­do­las Relax­ing on the Grand Canal


Locat­ed in a lagoon in the Adri­at­ic Sea, Venice, Italy is built on more than 100 islands, con­nect­ed by canals and 400 bridges. In 1987, Venice became a UNESCO World Her­itage site. Many prob­lems face Venice today includ­ing ris­ing water lev­els, high cost of liv­ing, poor hous­ing and ser­vices for locals, along with huge num­bers of tourists on a relent­less dai­ly basis. Venice remains vul­ner­a­ble to its own success.

Despite its chal­lenges, the city’s over­whelm­ing beau­ty con­tin­ues to draw vis­i­tors from around the world. From Saint Mark’s Basil­i­ca and the Grand Canal to see-every­thing cafes and sophis­ti­cat­ed out­door restau­rants, Venice has it all – even snazzy shops offer­ing bras with hand-blown Mura­no glass inlays.

Our expe­ri­ence in Venice ranks high on the list, except for one minor detail: after sev­er­al self-planned excur­sions, we near­ly didn’t make it back to our hotel. Why not? We got lost. Even our handy-dandy pedes­tri­an phone map aps couldn’t cut it. Google and Apple left us on the edge of deep water, lit­er­al­ly. We final­ly resort­ed to fol­low­ing lit­tle signs paint­ed on his­toric walls direct­ing walk­ers to a par­tic­u­lar chiesa (church), piaz­za (square), mer­ca­to (mar­ket), bib­liote­ca (library), or darse­na (boat dock). Mean­while, we strug­gled to read our water-stained, crum­pled paper city map. Goes with­out say­ing: we enjoyed every moment ful­ly immersed/lost in space.

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Greek Island Harbour


Thira & Santorini

Blue domes. Deter­mined don­keys. Stag­ger­ing steps. Friend­ly peo­ple. What more could you ask for? As an art teacher, Rita’s mom always used to say, “It’s the light in Greece that artists love. It’s the light…” Some­thing about the pure, unadul­ter­at­ed stream of ener­gy that flows around and through you as you look out over miles and miles of pure sea with noth­ing to block your view. We’ll take it. The sim­ple life with sim­ple pleasures.


After a fit­ness work­out, we just want­ed to relax so we hopped on a City Sight­see­ing Bus and toured the town, jump­ing off at the Parthenon, an all-impor­tant bak­ery, a few church­es, and the Nation­al Gar­den – an oasis of tran­quil­i­ty. After a few drinks (beer for Mr., choco­late milk for Ms.), we tried to res­cue an errant tur­tle from cer­tain dan­ger, but he refused our help.

Mykonos & Corfu

Wan­der­ing the stone steps of these islands proved a delight to the sens­es: food, flow­ers, fan­tas­tic water off Cor­fu for swim­ming — right along­side a dar­ling don­key (named “Mari­ka”) who liked to nuz­zle for­eign­ers and a lucky black cat who wait­ed by the front door for tid­bits. Speak­ing of ani­mals, we missed see­ing the famous “Pet­ros”, white pel­i­can of inter­na­tion­al fame, who fre­quents local cafés wel­com­ing vis­i­tors. We met him only once (on a pre­vi­ous trip) — quite the gen­tle­man real­ly. And yes, even seabirds have feelings.

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La Cité de Car­cas­sonne Sits Proud­ly Above



Bed and Breakfast MilliFlore 

at La Cave De Gay­da, Brugairolles

Our Scot­tish friends Pat and Grant rec­om­mend­ed this pri­vate B & B  run by two British res­i­dents. We loved every minute in the qui­et retreat, enjoy­ing the com­pa­ny of the local feline “Hen­ri” (please use the prop­er French pro­nun­ci­a­tion: ahn-REE), walk­ing and bik­ing through the adja­cent vine­yard, enjoy­ing the refresh­ing salt-water pool and the tasty, healthy break­fasts. Our gra­cious hosts Susan and Gra­ham made us feel com­plete­ly wel­come and at ease; we didn’t want to leave.

Click below on Trib­ute to watch Henri’s short video, accom­pa­nied by the music of Irish singer-song­writer Damien Rice, “The Blow­er’s Daugh­ter.” Check Sources link at end to hear the whole song and watch its poignant video with Julia Roberts and Jude Law (from 2004 movie Clos­er, avail­able on STARZ).

Trib­ute to Hen­ri le Chat Video

La Cité de Carcassonne

Medieval Citadel

The Car­cas­sonne site  has been inhab­it­ed since ancient times. In the 13th Cen­tu­ry, after many inva­sions, occu­pa­tions, and a cru­sade against reli­gious heretics, the town took the form of a fortress. In 1853 a restora­tion began, return­ing the city in 1911 to its for­mer, his­toric glo­ry. UNESCO’s World Her­itage list­ed the mon­u­ment in 1997.

If you look at the pho­tos below, you may ask, “Why is Stephen sit­ting in front of giant food offer­ings when there’s so many excit­ing things to see and do?” Answer: He’s hun­gry. Or maybe, more real­is­ti­cal­ly, his trav­el­ling part­ner bought them with her last Euros and now he’s stuck with gooey home­made Ital­ian piz­za and cap­puc­ci­nos with choco­late sauce, fresh whipped cream and mints. Good grief. “Och, aye, somebody’s got to eat it,” com­ments the Scotsman.

For ten amaz­ing facts about Car­cas­sonne, see Sources at end.


Pat and Grant’s Place

The sojourn to France appro­pri­ate­ly end­ed with din­ner al fres­co at Scot­tish friends’ hol­i­day home. Pre­vi­ous­ly Grant had giv­en us a tour of the sur­round­ing area and the land­scape he and Pat enjoy when­ev­er they can. Look­ing out from the back gar­den with our hosts, we admired an ocean of grapevines, fruits almost singing as the sun fell behind rows of misty moun­tains — the whole vista rem­i­nis­cent of an Impres­sion­ist paint­ing. How fit­ting. All was well with the world.

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View of Riv­er Dart from Green­way Inspires Storytelling


Greenway: Agatha Christie’s house

Near Brix­ham, Devon, England

The famous British author (1890–1976) had known about Green­way as a child. Many years lat­er, it went on the mar­ket and Agatha had to have it. The hol­i­day home brought many hap­py times. Once she would com­plete her lat­est book, the fam­i­ly would retreat to this mag­i­cal spot near the water, full of flow­ers, trees, and pri­va­cy – just to relax. Dur­ing WWII, the house was req­ui­si­tioned first for child evac­uees and lat­er for the Coast Guard. (All Amer­i­cans know about grand British homes being con­vert­ed dur­ing wartime, thanks to watch­ing Down­ton Abbey.)

Agatha ranks as the best-sell­ing nov­el­ist of all time, out­sold only by Shake­speare and the Bible, accord­ing to her web­site. Her acco­lades include the world’s longest-run­ning play, The Mouse­trap, 66 detec­tive nov­els, and 14 short sto­ry col­lec­tions. Where would we be with­out Her­cule Poirot, the icon­ic Bel­gian pri­vate detec­tive? Christie’s nov­el Dead Man’s Fol­ly was adapt­ed for the TV series Agatha Christie’s Poirot and was shot main­ly at Green­way Estate, along with its orig­i­nal boathouse on the Riv­er Dart. A stun­ning­ly beau­ti­ful and inspi­ra­tional place to visit!

See Sources below to learn more about this renowned writer.

Upton House & Gardens

Near Ban­bury, England

The build­ing of Upton House began in 1695; major inte­ri­or remod­el­ing took place in the 1930’s while the exte­ri­or remains large­ly unchanged. Wal­ter Samuel, 2nd Vis­count of Bearst­ed, (who inher­it­ed his for­tune from his father, co-founder of the Shell oil busi­ness) acquired the prop­er­ty in 1927. For the curi­ous: from top down, the ranks of Eng­lish “peer­age” are Duke, Mar­quess, Earl, Vis­count, Baron.

No mat­ter what your rank, you may view the vast col­lec­tion of art, paint­ings, chi­na, and porce­lain fig­urines on dis­play in the house and then saunter freely through the ter­raced gar­dens with pools and abun­dant flow­ers for company.

Canons Ashby

Near Dav­en­try, England

The Dry­den fam­i­ly called Canons Ash­by home for over 400 years before donat­ing it to the Nation­al Trust in 1981. The most famous kin was John Dry­den (1631–1700), England’s first Poet Lau­re­ate in 1668, wide­ly rec­og­nized as a polit­i­cal satirist.

Across from the manor house stands St. Mary’s Church (Canons Ash­by Pri­o­ry), a rem­nant of the area’s his­to­ry going back to the 12th cen­tu­ry. Built by canons (reli­gious cler­ics) appar­ent­ly known for fre­quent vis­its to the local pub­lic house (pub) and asso­ci­a­tion with “sloven­ly” Oxford stu­dents, the pri­o­ry was sup­pressed in 1536 and giv­en to a child­hood friend of Hen­ry VIII. The cur­rent size cov­ers about ¼ the orig­i­nal priory.

Snowshill Manor and Garden

Snow­shill, England

Walk­ing into this house pro­duced a com­pelling need to grab the trusty lit­tle guide­book Clear Your Clut­ter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. The Chi­nese method of orga­niz­ing every­thing around you to reflect har­mo­ny and bal­ance, allow­ing ener­gy to flow flu­id­ly, has no place in this home­stead! How­ev­er, if you love to col­lect things – any and all man­ner of trea­sures, then you will delight in this quirky house full of stuff from around the world.

Who put all these dis­parate items togeth­er in one place? Own­er and archi­tect Charles Wade, born in Lon­don, gained his enthu­si­asm for col­lect­ing from his grand­moth­er. In the ear­ly 1900’s he pur­chased Snow­shill and (with an inher­i­tance) ded­i­cat­ed him­self to his pas­sion. So renowned was his col­lec­tion that writer Vir­ginia Woolf and even Queen Mary vis­it­ed the manor.

See Sources below for link to feng shui book.

Montacute House

Mon­ta­cute, England

Com­plet­ed in 1601, this mag­nif­i­cent struc­ture was home to Sir Edward Phe­lips, lawyer and Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. Its sur­round­ings include a gar­den and park. Sir Phe­lips played a key part in one of the most famous tri­als of the cen­tu­ry as he gave the prosecution’s open­ing state­ment against Guy Fawkes (who plot­ted to assas­si­nate King James I in 1605.)

The house received a makeover in the late 1700’s and became a part of the Nation­al Trust in the 1927. On a fun note, Mon­ta­cute House served as loca­tion for sev­er­al scenes from the film ver­sion of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sen­si­bil­i­ty (1995) and The Hound of Baskervilles (2000) for Cana­di­an TV.

See Sources to learn about Guy Fawkes and his 12 co-conspirators.

Lytes Cary Manor

Near Som­er­set, England

The Lyte fam­i­ly made Cary Manor their home for six gen­er­a­tions, end­ing in the late 1700’s. The orig­i­nal res­i­dent was William le Lyte, a feu­dal ten­ant of the estate in 1286. A lat­er rel­a­tive, Hen­ry Lyte, com­mit­ted him­self to geneal­o­gy and botany and in 1598 pub­lished Niewe Herball (trans­la­tion of a Flem­ish herbal­ist), ded­i­cat­ed to Queen Eliz­a­beth. The home’s chapel was built around 1343 and ren­o­vat­ed in 1631 with stained glass added in 1912. Col­or­ful spring daf­fodils bal­anced rain-threat­en­ing skies dur­ing our visit.


Near Som­er­set, England

Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 7th baronet, want­ed a tem­po­rary coun­try lodg­ing built where he and his fam­i­ly could live until a new grand house was fin­ished. He engaged Lon­don archi­tect John John­son; a local builder com­plet­ed the house in 1779. Once the home was ready, John­son designed the sta­bles, fin­ished in 1780. Sir Acland start­ed, but nev­er fin­ished, the more lux­u­ri­ous prop­er­ty. Proof of its exis­tence was just uncov­ered by a vol­un­teer arche­o­log­i­cal team in 2017.

With 6,400 acres, the Killer­ton estate includes the fam­i­ly res­i­dence with cham­ber organ in the music room, 2 chapels, and gar­dens along with 18 farms and 250 cot­tages. A fur­ther 3 prop­er­ties sit on the land: Clyston (Water)Mill, Marker’s medieval hall house, and Bud­lake Old Post Office.

A la Ronde

Exmouth, Devon, England

One of our favorite all-time sto­ries! Imag­ine a sin­gle Eng­lish woman in 1784 adven­tur­ing off to Europe with three oth­er females, tour­ing for sev­er­al years around France, Ger­many, Italy, Switzer­land and per­haps, also Spain and Por­tu­gal. OK, her dad was a wealthy wine mer­chant from Devon. Meet Jane Parminter who took along her sis­ter, cousin, and a Lon­don friend. Appar­ent­ly flu­ent in many lan­guages, Jane and cousin Mary nav­i­gat­ed the group’s trav­els with great intel­li­gence. In France, they vis­it­ed Ver­sailles where they saw Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and Dijon where they spot­ted the King of Prussia.

After return­ing from her trip, Jane built A la Ronde, a unique 16-sided struc­ture with views of the sea (even in the dri­ving rain), full of memen­tos (espe­cial­ly shells) from years abroad. In 1799, Mary and she became full-time res­i­dents. Jane died in 1811 and left a detailed will nam­ing in sequence six unmar­ried women who would inher­it A la Ronde in turn, with strict con­di­tions for pos­ses­sion. She spec­i­fied the inher­i­tance could not be negat­ed by mar­riage, as British law at the time pro­hib­it­ed mar­ried women from owing prop­er­ty in their own right.

Hehe…justice pre­vails.

Colton Fishacre

Kingswear, Devon, England

This coun­try home was com­plet­ed in 1926 for Rupert (the­ater own­er and hote­lier) and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte (daugh­ter of the 2nd Earl of Cran­brook). Colton Fishacre shows off its Art Deco style with grace and ele­gance. The design and fur­nish­ings reflect its min­i­mal­ism with pale col­ors and lit­tle dec­o­ra­tion, yet sophis­ti­cat­ed enough to fea­ture in Coun­try Life mag­a­zine in 1930.

Hot off the press: The BBC Coun­try­file Mag­a­zine (with input from read­ers) has announced Colton Fishacre as one of five nom­i­nees for the “2018 Gar­den of the Year” Award. With its stun­ning sea views, coastal cliffs, and micro­cli­mate sup­port­ing exot­ic plants from dis­tant places, Colton Fishacre ranks high by hor­ti­cul­tur­al stan­dards. We loved walk­ing through its curv­ing gar­dens, enjoy­ing a wide array of spring blos­soms, nat­ur­al pools, and trick­ling streams.

Basildon Park

Low­er Basil­don, Read­ing, England

Sir Fran­cis Sykes, 1st Baronet (1732–1804) and mem­ber of the House of Com­mons, pur­chased Basil­don Park estate in 1771. Join­ing the British East India Com­pa­ny, Sykes amassed a for­tune in Ben­gal. He need­ed a manor that appro­pri­ate­ly reflect­ed his wealth and status.

After Sykes death, the yet unfin­ished house was sold to the Mor­ri­son fam­i­ly who held it from 1838 to 1928. Dur­ing WWI, the estate served as a con­va­les­cent home for offi­cers and sol­diers. In WWII, again the prop­er­ty host­ed the mil­i­tary: this time, the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion of the Amer­i­can Army for D‑Day train­ing. Lat­er, as a pris­on­er of war camp, Basil­don housed Ger­mans and Ital­ians (hard to imagine).

Dunham Massey

Altrin­cham, Cheshire, England

The property’s name comes from “dun” or hill in Anglo-Sax­on, while “Massey” rep­re­sents the loca­tion as seat of the own­ers, the Massey barons, who held medieval Dun­ham and its envi­rons for 400 years until the 14th cen­tu­ry. Fam­i­ly cas­tles and a manor house sat in the area through­out their own­er­ship, but Sir George Booth built the cur­rent red brick res­i­dence in 1616. The moat­ed site also includes sta­bles, car­riage house, gar­dens, and a 172-acre park – home to a wide range of wildlife and fal­low deer.

Not to miss: the rich trea­sures assem­bled over 300 years num­ber near­ly 30,000 items. The property’s accred­it­ed muse­um col­lec­tion includes sil­ver, tex­tiles, por­traits, fur­ni­ture, books, fam­i­ly and ser­vant cloth­ing and more.

When you have a bit of time, all can be viewed online at Dun­ham Massey Col­lec­tions list­ed in Sources.

Nymans Home & Garden

Near Hay­wards Heath, West Sus­sex, England

Although Nymans has its foun­da­tion in the 17th cen­tu­ry, its sto­ry start­ed in earnest when Lud­wig Mes­sel, a mem­ber of a Ger­man Jew­ish fam­i­ly, moved his fam­i­ly to Eng­land. He worked hard to become a suc­cess­ful stock­bro­ker. In 1890, he pur­chased the prop­er­ty and cre­at­ed an inspired Eng­lish gar­den around the house. In 1968, Ludwig’s great-grand­son, pho­tog­ra­ph­er Antho­ny Arm­strong-Jones mar­ried Princess Mar­garet, sis­ter of Queen Eliz­a­beth II.

A cat­a­stroph­ic fire almost demol­ished the home in 1947, leav­ing it in ruins. Only a small part of the res­i­dence was ever repaired, leav­ing the gar­den and grounds to be the stars of the show. The enor­mous, gnarled trees edg­ing a long walk around a pas­ture tru­ly made us smile, while the aro­ma of fresh, hap­py flow­ers soothed our senses.

Go back to the begin­ning of the letter



Spring Beau­ty Shows Off in Nyman’s Gar­den, Nation­al Trust



Nation­al Trust UK com­pris­es over 500 his­toric hous­es, cas­tles, ancient mon­u­ments, gar­dens, parks, and nature reserves.

Nation­al Trust for Scot­land man­ages 129 prop­er­ties, includ­ing 15 his­toric hous­es, 10 cas­tles, a palace and many oth­er places relat­ed to Scot­land and its history.

Pearl Dis­trict, San Antonio

Till the Dust Settles 

10 Amaz­ing Facts about Carcassonne

The Blow­er’s Daugh­ter” Offi­cial Video 

Clear Your Clut­ter with Feng Shui

Guy Fawkes

Dun­ham Massey Collections

Agatha Christie


Go back to the begin­ning of the letter 

2 replies on “Highlights 2017”

So much fun to relive our child­hood days at the café! I remem­ber you once plant­ed 300+ daf­fodil bulbs around your house (as an adult) and cre­at­ed an amaz­ing gar­den — to rival the Eng­lish Nation­al Trust prop­er­ties we visited.

What a year for you both! I can’t believe all the won­der­ful places you trav­eled! Loved read­ing your sto­ry and see­ing all the won­der­ful pictures!

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