Bath, UK

The next stop on our UK adventure was Bath. We were so surprised at how tiny the area was and absolutely loved our Bed and Breakfast, Gray’s Bath. Our room was lovely and though Grays was a 20 minute walk into Bath, it sat up on a hill with a beautiful view of the city. This was our gorgeous room for a few days . . .

grays-boutique-bath-room2-01.jpg

We spent our first day doing cheesy, fun and touristy things and had a blast! The Hop on/Hop Off Bus is always a good starting point to get your bearings in a new city. And of course, obligatory selfies by the iconic red phone booths!

We spent our first day in Bath moseying around the city and stopping in places that looked interesting to us. First stop was the Fashion Museum of Bath for an exhibit of gowns of the Royals. Chelsea and I are real “royal geeks” so we didn’t want to miss this collection from Queen Alexandra, Victoria, Mary, Elizabeth and Princess Margaret! We dashed into a nearby, obscure restaurant and were treated to an unexpected phenomenal lunch at The Circus Restaurant. A beautiful dining room and superb lunch! We made our way to the Jane Austen Centre for a kitschy tour and a little Jane Austen history, but alas, no sightings of the elusive Mr. Darcy! Of course we couldn’t miss afternoon tea at The Pump Room Restaurant which was fun but a little touristy - we will be looking forward to more elegant venues when we reach London. After a long, hot day, we made our way up the long hill to our B&B and our cozy room.

After an amazing breakfast in the gorgeous dining room at our B&B, we made our way out for another day of touring and sightseeing in the July heat. The Roman Baths were surprising and the museum and tour was exceptional. We never could figure out just how the Roman’s ended up there and built such an elaborate “spa,” and we also never could find out why they left! Never the less, it is quite a unique find and worth a few hours to visit and photograph! Although we missed seeing the inside of the Bath Abbey, the facade was beautiful and I was able to get a few sketches done.

We ended our day with a dinner at Sally Lunn’s, the oldest house in Bath. Be sure to stop in to have a favorite meat pie served up in a “Trencher,” the famous Sally Lunn Buns used as a plate/bowl for your meal! A final walk along the River Avon at Sunset was a perfect end to our day and our time in Bath.

The Cotswolds, UK

We left North Cadbury just after breakfast and drove slowly through the Cotswolds admiring each little town and narrow road. Our goal that day was to find a local Pub to have our lunch! We heard that on Sundays, the neighborhood pubs serve up a “carvery” or “proper Sunday roast” for their local clientele. We passed pub after pub, town after town, until we found just the right one . . . The White Post Inn at Stratton on the Fosse!

6C40F958-BDD4-4C67-A4D5-C4DD7E836ACA.jpg

It was the sweetest pub, immaculate and cozy. Fortunately an English friend told me that when you go into a pub, you go straight to the bar and order a pint. I was overwhelmed by choices and the owner instantly started pouring me several glasses of the different beer on tap for me to sample. He obviously recognized that we were visitors and asked if we were from America when he heard us speak. We were instantly welcomed by him and all the locals sitting at the bar! The patrons struck up conversations, all wanting to know where we were from. When they heard Orlando, Florida was our home base, of course they had all been there to Disney World! We became a bit of a novelty in the tiny pub and instantly had a dozen new friends, all asking rapid-fire questions and wanting to know about our journey.

You are also supposed to order your food at the bar and go sit down, which we eventually did. Sitting next to us were two elderly couples who said they had just had “the loveliest roast” so we were glad we ordered that!

E8500248-61FC-4EBD-B40C-45407BC20341.jpg

We enjoyed our meal; a gorgeous beef with gravy complete with roasted potatoes, carrots, peas, broccoli and Yorkshire pudding! As we ate, there was great conversation with the locals, including introductions with their full names, who genuinely seemed to want to get to know us. I was once again struck by the fact that we are all on this journey through life together and generally, most people are kind and friendly. I love these reminders when we have so much division and vitriol in our own country. They gave us tips on traveling through the Cotswolds and also recommendations for the rest of our trip as they bid us the fondest farewell.

It was the ‘loveliest’ day with the ‘loveliest’ roast! I am so glad we stayed off the beaten path, chose a place that ‘felt’ right to us and not something we found recommended online. Sometimes when you travel, you just have to trust your gut! Another perk to being a spontaneous and accidental tourist!

North Cadbury, Somerset UK

Who doesn’t want to fly off to the UK for a country wedding in the Costwolds? My daughter and I jumped at the opportunity to enjoy a charming wedding of a dear friend in beautiful North Cadbury in Somerset. And since we were going all that way, we might as well spend a few days in London as well, right?!

Before I leave for any trip, the first thing I do is prep a Travel Journal! I like to make a sketch book and create a few sketches so I don’t face that blank page on my trip. I do a little research and then include a few iconic images and some facts about where I am going - maps, and such.

Our journey started with an overnight flight from Orlando with some sweet upgraded seats on British Airways thanks to me accumulating over 20 years worth of American Express points! A champagne toast, then we bedded down for a few hours sleep!

IMG_9199.jpg

On arrival in Gatwick, we rented a car and drove the few hours to North Cadbury. The traffic was horrendous but we eventually got away from the city and began to enjoy the lovely country roads. While planning this trip, my daughter and I had a massive list of “must do” things while in the UK. Unfortunately, with only 8 days for our visit, we had to cross off some things and Stonehenge was one that didn’t make the cut.

As we were making our way through the countryside, much to our delight and surprise, we began to see signs for Stonehenge up ahead. Laughing, we said, “wouldn’t it be funny if Stonehenge was just on the side of the road and we could see it as we drove by?” Well that’s exactly where it is . . . on the side of the road! We did a drive by of Stonehenge and got one blurry picture - but technically, we did see it! These are the accidental things I LOVE about traveling! I used that blurry picture to sketch and paint a picture later on . . .

6E5A7C61-37E6-4FFA-BB5F-C3F2B0AAA653.jpg

We arrived late afternoon to the wedding venue, North Cadbury Court. It was a lovely old estate, more like a castle, with 23 bedrooms, a ballroom, several dining rooms, a game room, theater, disco and a casino that resembled something you might see in a Christian Grey novel! The grounds and gardens were spectacular and we were so excited to have the entire weekend to stay and explore!

IMG_9452.jpg

It was a fairy tale setting with a beautiful bride and happy family and friends! I always have so much fun with my daughter and I love the way the English celebrate weddings!

Asheville, North Carolina

Before heading home from Western North Carolina, I decided to stop in Asheville for a few days to celebrate the 4th of July.  That's one of the things I love most about being an accidental tourist, I can stop wherever and whenever - pulling off the highway, or making a detour.  I love the unexpected, random and spontaneous types of trips the best.

I managed to get a beautiful room at the Omni Grove Park Inn.  I have been pretty fortunate with getting last-minute rooms at a great deal - another advantage to spontaneous travel, although it isn't always guaranteed!

The Grove Park Inn is an historic hotel, over 100 years old.  I spent hours walking through the lobby and hallways, reading the history and impressive list of authors, poets, artists, politicians and screen stars who have stayed there over the last century. It sits on a hill overlooking Asheville and it was a perfect place to watch the fireworks on the 4th.

One of the biggest reasons for stopping in Asheville was to see the  Chihuly Glass exhibit at the Biltmore .  What an incredible explosion of color and shape!  I love the man-made mixed with the natural in the gardens of the Estate.  I took my time walking through the pathways and discovering the surprise glass sculptures embedded throughout. 

IMG_8962.jpg

Even though the temperature was over 100 degrees, I did sit for a brief time to do a quick sketch of the Greenhouse, one of my favorite spots on the property.

I loved my few days in Asheville - I also made some time to head to the River Arts District and stroll through the galleries and admire other artists' work. The Busker's downtown gave the city a party vibe as I stopped to listen to their music and made my way in and out of the shops and breweries. Don't miss the Sierra Nevada Brewery with its fine food, incredible selection of crafts and IPA's and the grounds complete with gardens, live music and a tour of the brewery!  I definitely plan to return to Asheville - next time with a group of girlfriends to enjoy the city with me!

Western North Carolina

In my mind, I'm going to Carolina . . .

IMG_8632.jpg

Summer begins with a few weeks in Western North Carolina, where I rented a house to find some peace and inspiration in the Smoky Mountains.  There is no better cure than a little solitary time in a rocking chair on a porch surrounded by a continually moving landscape.  You can't help but feel alive when you breath in the fresh air and listen to the nature sounds and birdsong.

I packed my car with art supplies, books, the coziest clothes I had and a hankering to run away to a remote place.  I searched for a lovely home on top of a mountain with my only criteria being something clean, cozy, and with an unobstructed view of the mountains.  I found this home.  Lovingly referred to as , "Waynesville Gem," this cabin exceeded my expectations.  Just one thing to note for solo travelers . . . it is ISOLATED.  Which means if you get freaked out alone on top of a mountain with nothing but the stars to guide you, this might not be your type of adventure. I admit to taking a few days to get used to the night mountain sounds, but after that, I felt right at home!  I rented this larger home so family and friends could come and go, but most of the time I stayed by myself. I highly recommend this type of travel if you need some peace and solitude.

IMG_8674.jpg

In my never-ending search to find that one perfect spot where I want to spend the final season of my life, I thought this town might be it.  It crossed off most of my "must haves" on the list, however there is nothing like actually living in a place to see if it fits.  While Waynesville and Maggie Valley North Carolina are certainly quaint vacation spots, they just didn't have that "I could live here forever" tug for me.

Once I ruled out the fact that it wouldn't be my new home, I was able to settle in and just enjoy the vacation.  Mornings were spent with coffee on the porch, sketching and painting and listening to music.  Why don't I do these things at home? I loved that I was able to truly unplug and spend time on introspection.

For some unknown reason, I was inspired to sketch and paint seascapes, lighthouses and bathing beauties . . . go figure!  I created over 30 paintings while in North Carolina, working on direct watercolor skills - no sketching!  I was so happy to have such a large body of work to stretch my artistic muscles.

My son and his girlfriend came to stay for a few days and they got me off the porch and out and about.  We hiked some waterfall trails in the Pisgah National forest, packed picnics and explored our environment.  We went fly fishing, hit many micro-breweries and tested out the eateries.  It was great to laugh and adventure and after so much solitude, the company was so welcome!

As all good things must do, the trip came to an end but we left refreshed, rejuvenated and happy.  I'm filling up my basket of memories, keeping mental, visual, and written journals of these lazy summer days.

What are you up to this summer?

IMG_8719.jpg