ALBANY, State Capital

New York State Capital Plaza

Life is full of surprises! And around each corner is a new adventure if we have the courage to step out and accept the challenges. My life as I knew it changed abruptly four years ago. At that time I never could have imagined how many twists and turns the road would take, how many wonderful people I would meet from all walks of life, what interesting pets I would care for and the Countries I would visit.

Capital State Building

From Rhinebeck it is a 50 minute train journey to Albany. It was a cold, overcast day. We travelled along tracks beside the Hudson River. Often there was water both sides of the track with only a few feet drop. Hard to keep from imagining the train coming off the tracks into the frozen river. Snow was built up everywhere. Arriving at Albany Station I discovered that it was nowhere near downtown so I had a choice, bus or taxi. I opted for a bus. The stop was a couple of blocks up a hill where I saw loads of turkeys, pies and vegetables being packaged for the elderly and homeless for thanksgiving by volunteers. Warmed my heart.

Albany/Rensselaer historic train station

I had coins for the bus fare and a coffee cup in my gloved hands. I was so cold and the bus wasn’t due to leave for another 15 minutes. I accidentally dropped the coins and a Native American man who had been standing near me approached and picked them up. I thanked him and said the day was not starting out well. His reply, “don’t let anything take away your joy!” How profound. Those words kept coming back to me all day. We started talking and I learnt that his 38 yr old daughter had passed away two years ago. He has four other children and still feels incredibly blessed. His smile was infectious. What a difference a moment in time can make. 20 minutes later I arrived at the Capital State Building, Museum, Concourse and Performing Arts Centre to be blown away by this incredible icon. Unfortunately the museum was closed (Monday).

The Museum

The Egg, Performing Arts and Concert Centre

The Governor Nelson A Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, a complex of several State Government buildings including the Capital Building, was eye-opening to say the least. This wide, incredibly long concourse, lined with works of art, houses the Visitor Centre, Restaurants, MCDonalds (of course!), and corridors which lead off to the Egg, (performing Arts Centre), Corning Tower Observation Deck, the Museum and up into the Capital State Building. In the Centre there is a Post Office, Health Centre and other small businesses catering to the workers and tourists.

View looking down the Concourse towards the Capital Building

View looking back towards the street entrance.

I opted to take a free tour of The Capital Building. The tour took us into the Senate Galleries, the Assembly Chamber, the Governor’s Reception Room, The Hall of Governors, the Great Western Staircase and so much more.

There are three interior staircases in the Capital Building. The most elaborate, the Great Western Staircase, was completed in 1897. The art of stone carvers is evident and there are portraits of many famous New Yorkers. I learnt that the Staircase is known as the Million Dollar Staircase as, at the time, it cost around that amount. Galleries, Halls, the Library, Executive Chambers are all located on levels of the building linked by the Staircase. Photos do not do justice to the grandeur and splendour detailed in this Building.

For me a highlight of the Tour was entry to the former Governor’s Reception Room. This is a forty-foot-High rotunda with ceiling murals depicting important events in New York State military history. Now known as the War Room.

New York Coat of Arms

Walking back along the Concourse I stopped for lunch and to look at the map to see what I could view next but that’s for Part 2 of my visit to Albany.

I never thought I would find history so fascinating. So much to see and do in this diverse State.

I hope you enjoy this blog. If you scroll to the end you can make a comment or look over any previous ones you have missed.

Rhonda – Travelling Housesitting Nomad.

RHINEBECK Part 2 – Visit to Home, Library and Museum of President Franklin D Roosevelt.

Beautiful day so I decided to drive to The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Presidential Library and Museum. Once again colours along country road spectacular and I came across a Farm so I stopped to take photos.

I thoroughly enjoyed an hour’s tour of the Roosevelt’s home where the President was born and raised on the Springwood Estate in Hyde Park. Also, exploring the grounds, stables, and museum left me with an understanding of a very determined, committed man who loved his Country and fellow Americans. The 32nd President of the United States enjoyed a privileged childhood on the banks of the Hudson River. FDR, as he was known, entered politics but endured illness and a lifetime of paralysis after a heroic battle with polio spending his working days in a wheelchair. Arguably one of the greatest Presidents, he led America out of the greatest economic depression in its history and guided the Allied Powers to victory in World War II. The Queen of Great Britain, and many other World leaders including Winston Churchill were entertained here.

Guest bedroom.

Main bedroom. Note the phone where the President took calls relating to Federal matters when he was in residence here at his Springwood Estate.

FDR’s wife Eleanor left her own legacy in Human Rights and World peace. She championed social welfare and civil rights. They had a love of horses and dogs and the home is filled with photographs of family. The views from the home stretch over the surrounding countryside to the Hudson River.

The stables tell a story of their own. Housed in a unique building the walls Re lined with photos of Roosevelt from a young boy to his time as President riding and trophies and ribbons won by his horses. I stumbled on two dog houses near the stables reflecting the President’s love of dogs.

Stables.

The President and his wife and their two dogs are buried in the Rose Garden on the Estate. Also Freedom Court has sculptures of FDR and Winston Churchill. The Court commemorates was he shared vision of these two great warriors of freedom. The sculpture “Breakfree” was created from sections of the Berlin Wall by artist Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill. These are human figures breaking free of symbolic barb wire expressing freedoms triumph over totalitarianism (the form of Government that attempts total control over the lives of its citizens. I found it incredibly moving.

I am closing this blog with these powerful words from President Roosevelt. Sadly little has changed in the ensuing years since his death.

Next blog another historic site, very different, and a walkover bridge over the Hudson River.

From beautiful Up State New York, USA.

Rhonda – Travelling Housesitting Nomad.

November, 2018 Part 1 – Fall in Rhinebeck, New York State

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I am continually blessed to be caring for homes in such beautiful locations and for wonderful people who trust me with their much loved pets. Suzi and Paul are both well known artists, he Paintings and she Mosaics, Paintings, prints and Architectural Ceramics. They spend six months here in their summer house in Rhinebeck and the other six in Palm Beach, Florida. Their beautiful home is filled with many of their ongoing works and artefacts from around the World. The first photo is taken from “Art Times” Fall 2016. Paul has recently branched out into painting Ostrich Eggs which are exquisite.

These paintings are a snapshot of Paul’s ongoing works and also an example of his Ostrich Egg Art. This one features their beautiful pet long haired chihuahuas, Hazel and Biku.

The town of Rhinebeck, established in 1686. is a tree-lined village filled with history, art, culture marrying the old with the new but preserving a laid back old-world charm. Wandering around the streets makes me feel like I have stepped back in time. I can picture the horse and carts traversing the streets, the Native American tribes who first inhabited the area before it was later settled by the Dutch. Historic buildings abound housing the Post Office, restaurants, the cinema, museums and most famous of all, The Beekman Arms which is the oldest Inn in America.

This National Trust Building was built in 1700 and was an early stagecoach stop. It has catered for the public continuously ever since.

The Beekman Arms is a popular place for residents and visitors to gather, and eat, drink and talk. Suzi took me here for a drink and to look around. I intend to go back for a meal.

The weather has been cool but comfortable. I love walking along the Country road nearby feeling the falling leaves and admiring the beautiful homes and gardens. There is truly something old-worldly about this district that I love. And the best part – I have another 3 weeks here.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

Rhonda, The Australian Travelling Nomad.

Best of Italy Tour 2018 – Tuscany

PISA

Day 10 of our Tour saw us travel through the plains of Lombardy passing by rice paddies and the forested Apennine Mountains. We caught glimpses of Genoa as our destination of Pisa in Tuscany approached. On our arrival we caught a tourist train to the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles). We had been warned about the hawkers selling all manner of wares and souvenirs but it really was a sight to behold. After pushing our way through we joined the throngs of tourists keen to get their first glimpse of the Leaning Tower. To enter the walled Square you have to enter the Lions Gate a huge wide steel structure.

Inside the Square of Miracles
Pisa Bapistery
Leaning Tower

Declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 the magnificence of the Monuments including the Cathedral and Bapistery, have been admired for centuries. Inside the edifices the significance of the religious history is evident. Paintings, sculptures, gold artifacts, figurines on the ceilings and walls, stained glass windows are breath-taking. You can climb to the top of the leaning tower but there was a queue and there wasn’t time.

Pisa Cathedral
One of many paintings
Art and design of the exterior
Interior Feature
Artwork
Alter
Note the 12 Aposles

Making our way back through the crowds of tourists and hawkers, we boarded the tourist train back to our coach. Next stop Florence, capital City of the Tuscany region of Italy.

FLORENCE

I was in no way prepared for this fascinating City. From the history, art, culture to the Cathedrals, churches, sculptures, shopping, food I was mesmerised. Also known as the ‘birthplace of the Renaissance’ and ‘Athens of Italy’ the most known landmark Is the domed Cathedral Santa Marie del Fiore. Beautiful bridges dot the City traversing the Arno river which courses through the City. All but the Ponte Vecchio were destroyed by the retreating germans towards the end of WW11 in a bid to prolong the war.

View over Florence, Italy

Michelangelo, sculptor, architect and poet, famous for his painting of the Sistine Chapel and the Sculpture of David among many other significant works of art was born here but lived most of his life in Rome. Sculptures abound throughout the City on almost every corner.

Upmarket shops line the streets selling a diverse range of merchandise including leather goods, jewellery, silk scarfs, designer clothes shoes and boots and so much more. Truly a shopper’s paradise. I could not resist. We were given a demonstration at a world renowned leather goods store. I bought a burgundy leather jacket with contrasting collar and cuffs and a tie belt. An indulgence but one I will treasure and I know it will wear well. I also bought a matching wallet both initialised.

Burgundy jacket on model. I bought similar.

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Sights and sounds along the narrow laneways and cobbled streets with tourists ambling around and taking advantage of the outdoor restaurants, searching for souvenirs and designer label shopping is exhilarating.

One of the many narrow streets
Tour of the City

I went into the interior of the incredibly beautiful Basilica Di Santa Croce (Cathedral of Florence). The sheer magnificence took my breath away. I was so moved many times I stood in reverence and awe at what I was seeing. The frescoes (a technique of mural paintings) used in Roman times and by the great Reconnaissance Italian painters, the sculptures, the figurines, the stained glass windows, the floor and ceiling paintings and mosaics and so much more; photos cannot do justice to the mastery, skill and beauty represented here.

Cathedral of Florence

Early Italian Fresco
The Alter just glorious
Sculpture and art fill the Cathedral

The floor is covered with mosaics
Brilliant domes in the ceiling
Gardens within the Cathedral grounds
Before making my way back to the Hotel, taking photos, I was mingling with the crowds of people. I. had a cross body bag. I was asked if I wanted my photo taken by a well dressed young man. He was with several others. I said no and moved on. I cannot be sure but I believe it was then I was pickpocketed. A little later I noticed my wallet and phone were missing from my bag. Luckily a cheap phone I had bought in the States and a cheap wallet with just a few Euros but one of my credit cards was in the wallet. Luckily I always carry two. Apparently they crush up against you in the crowds and are so experienced you don’t even know. Lesson learnt and we had been warned.

My impressions of Florence – a visual extravaganza, exploding all of the senses. To get a real sense of the essence of the City zoom in on the photos. I. enjoyed my time there immensely. However I felt we only just touched the surface. So much more to explore. I hope in the future to return.

Thanks for sharing my journey. Next stop the captivating Tuscan hill Town of SAN Gimignano.

Rhonda – the Australian Travelling Nomad.

Best of Italy 2018 – Italian Lakes; Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands.

The beautiful Italian Lakes
In the Gardens on Isola Bella

This was another part of the Tour I had so been looking forward to. The two days we spent here was so relaxing and the scenery impossibly spectacular. Breathtaking! The only way to begin to describe this part of northern Italy. Our awesome hotel overlooked the lake with views across to the Borromean Islands. Sculptures and paintings adorned the reception and foyer of the Grand Hotel Bristol. Watching the sun set the first evening of our stay was surreal.

Grand Hotel Bristol overlooking the Lake
Foyer in our Hotel

View across to the Islands

We had the choice to take optional extra tours and I am so pleased I did. The first a cruise along Lake Como, gave us views of elegant villas and gardens mostly owned by the rich and famous including George and Amal Clooney. Well hidden behind a hedge of trees their villa is only just visible.

The second boat cruise across Lake Maggorie to The Isola Bella (Meaning beautiful Island) one of the three Borromean Islands was incredibly beautiful. Visions of the harbour, the shore line, across to the Islands, a sculpture and fountain on the Lake and much more, such a spectacular blend of nature and man-made formations.

Cruising around Isola Bella it soon became apparent that this would be another highlight of the Tour. The Aristocratic Borromeo family were merchants and bankers in the early 1300s. Descendants of the family became famous as Cardinals and Bishops of Milan in the 1500s. The Borromean family has owned the Islands since the 16th century. Between 1650 and 1671 Vitaliano Borromeo built a summer palace on Isola Bella for his wife Isabella. The terraced gardens were later added.

Exterior of Palace

The gardens are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Visiting this place took me back to what normal every day life must have been like for the people who lived here. Beyond imagination. Incredibly beautiful gardens blend with sculptures and the crowning glory is the striking white peacocks roaming freely. I enjoyed my short time here so much. A feast for the eyes and one to remember always. Again words cannot do it justice. I hope these photos do.

Before returning to our hotel, we enjoyed a Be My Guest dinner experience on the Island. Great food and wine, great fun, great views and good company topped off an amazing day. My photos of the dinner are again on my DSLR camera so I am looking forward to retrieving them on my return to Australia.

Next stop Tuscany and Pisa. Look for my blog soon.

Rhonda – Australian travelling nomad.

MAY 2018 Best of Italy Tour – Verona

City of Shakespeare’s star crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet; dominated by the Roman amphitheater built in the 1st century AD; Renaissance architecture and art; imposing sculptures and figurines the World heritage City of Verona is a tourist’s delight. Exclusive shopping, piazzas attracting people to restaurants, gardens, parks, fountains attract the young and old. Each year the Amphitheater holds festivals in the Arena attracting thousands of people to be entertained by the Opera and theatre performances.

Arena of Verona
Arena Verona
Inside the Arena

Walking through a huge domed structure filled with exclusive shopping you come out into one of the Piazzas (City Squares). The magnificence of the Cathedral and Basilica dominating the Square has to be seen to be believed. No photo or words can do the exquisite works of art adorning this large imposing edifice justice.

Domed shopping walkway
Verona Cathedral and Basilica

Carved figures

A highlight of our visit to this incredible City was standing in the internal courtyard of Juliet’s building dating back to the 13th century. In the corner stands a bronze statue. Visitors vie to touch her breast to bring luck in love so the legend goes. Looking up there is the balcony where she stood with Romeo serenading her.

Bronze statue of Juliet
Juliet’s balcony

Sculptures in large numbers can be seen seen as you walk around all representing history immortal. The photos below are scenes of interest in this fascinating City.

So much more to see in this fascinating City but, due to time restraints and the need to move on to the next location on our journey, I reluctantly returned to our Coach taking photos and memories with me.

Next blog beautiful Lake Como. Some of us kept asking ‘can it get better than thus’. The answer not better but different. Our magnificent Tour continued.

Rhonda – The Australian Travelling Nomad

MAY 2018 Best of Italy Tour – Venice and Burano Part 2

While in Venice we had the choice of 3 optional extra tours. I did all three. One of these was the Venetian Lagoon Cruise to the Fisherman’s Island of Burano by private boat. Burano is known for its multi-coloured houses and lace work.

Enjoying the sights along the canal

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After a couple of hours enjoying the sights and sounds and souvenir shopping we enjoyed a delicious meal and drinks at a famous seafood restaurant. I was very disappointed as I was unable to take photos due to a flat battery. However I had taken one of the exterior of the restaurant earlier. Suffice to say a great time was had by all. We were very merry on the boat and then the walk back to the hotel.

Some of the sights seen walking around.

Back at the Hotel I decided to go for a walk to the Sea just a short distance away. Very exciting to stand in the Mediterranean Sea. A lovely area with nice homes and quaint shops.

A swim would have been nice but no time.

Two wonderful days had drawn to a close. Memories to last a lifetime.

And so the Tour continued on to Verona, Milan and Lake Coma.

So much more to share next time on my WordPress Blog.

Rhonda – The Australian Travelling Nomad.