California – San Francisco, Part 2

Day 3, Another beautiful day as we headed into SAN Francisco. The girls had more surprises in store for me as we walked and talked just enjoying the character and atmosphere of Pier 39 with views across the Bay to Alcatraz the notorious prison which I had visited on a previous sojourn in San Francisco, restaurants, attractions and shopping. This turned into a day I will never forget. My love and appreciation to Dixie, Lynda and Kathy.

Known as the Embarcadero, the roadway situated along the City’s eastern shore, is home to several waterfront attractions including the 1898 Ferry Building delighting locals and tourists alike as well as the cruise terminal. We strolled past the gourmet shops and farmer’s market with interesting produce.

Lynda, Kathy and Dixie enjoying the sights.

Strolling through Pier 39 the sights, sounds and smells captivated the senses. Fruit stalls with every conceivable variety, ice cream parlours, seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, coffee pastry and cake cafes and an aquarium all vying to grab the tourist dollars. Moored in the Bay ships of all shapes and sizes danced in the wind while there were some coming and going full of excited tourists. Making the most of our day we hitched a ride up to The Buena Vista Cafe which, I was to learn, is not only famous for its Irish Coffee but has been welcoming guests at its Fisherman’s Wharf location since 1886. Known to locals as the “B.V.”, the Cafe has survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, the Great Depression, and keeping abreast of SAN Francisco’s ever-changing eras. The Cafe is in an iconic location perched at the foot of Hyde Street overlooking the cable cars, Aquatic Park, Alcatraz Island and the Pier Maritime Museum.

Lynda and I enjoying Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista.

A bygone era.

By this time it was well into the afternoon and I learned that there was yet another surprise for me. We stopped for some sustenance and to get directions. I was told where we were going was not too far. Yeah! Meanwhile up hill and down dale as the saying goes and finally we came to the Restaurant Trattoria Contadina in North Beach. Wow another wonderful treat in store. The extensive menu of tantalising dishes made choosing difficult. Not so difficult choice of cocktail. The food was delicious. As we sat there we saw several trams going by which we probably could have caught up the hills. Had a good laugh about that.

Completely sated we left the restaurant and walked around a couple of corners where the girls had their final surprise for me. This one really blew me away. We had tickets to see the political and pop culture musical revue, Beach Blanket Babylon, which has enthralled audiences since 1974 from all around the World including royalty. Spectacular costumes and outrageously large hats as well as the prominent use of satire are features long associated with the show. It is difficult to describe this particular type of entertainment. Suffice to say I have not laughed so much in a very long time. And judging by the packed audience’s reaction a good time was enjoyed by all.

The next day was the day of my departure to family in Jersey City. Dixie, Kathy and I went shopping, had a lovely lunch and soon it was time to depart. What an awesome few days I had had. As the saying goes, I left my ❤️ in San Francisco. I will be back. Thanks once again to Dixie. I even made friends with her pet cat, unheard of apparently 🐱

And so after a night in a hotel near the airport and a very early flight the next day I continued my journey to Jersey City/New York looking forward to spending quality time with my family.

Rhonda – Australian travelling nomad.

First Stop CALIFORNIA – Part 1

A one night’s stay in a Hotel near San Francisco Airport and a good night’s sleep prepared me for a fun-filled visit with friends I had met on my Italian Tour last year.

I am indebted to Dixie who made me so welcome, sharing her home, driving me around and making sure my visit was crammed with great food, great wine, and visits to tourist regions around her hometown of Redwood City as well as SAN Francisco. Accompanied by our other friends, Kathy and Lynda we talked, laughed, wined and dined enjoying the wonderful weather. Lynda had had a fall and soldiered on with a sling on her arm to support a break in her wrist.

The first day saw us visit the beautiful seaside town of Capitola. I had previously housesat nearby at Santa Cruz but had not been to this wonderful, scenic destination. After a delicious lunch and the obligatory cocktail we wandered around window shopping with Lynda purchasing a beautiful over the shoulder bag. A stop for coffee on the way back and a couple of glasses of wine at Dixie’s reminiscing on our incredible Tour of Italy completed an awesome day.

Aptly named Venetian Court

Oh what a day the girls had planned for me on my second day here in this beautiful State. A trip to Napa Valley Wine Country no less. Beyond excited 😜 🍷🍷 We drove to Michelle, a friend of Dixie’s, piled into her car and the adventure began. Just wow 😲 The drive past extensive vineyards with imposing, monumental structures dedicated to producing the best quality grapes and wine, the impressive landscapes and gardens and wine tasting venues did not disappoint.

And then we arrived at V.Sattui Winery! What a treat awaited me. One of the oldest and most successful wineries in the US, originally established in San Francisco in 1885 by Vittorio Sattui, the St Helena Napa Valley Store was opened in 1976. Known for its large retail store, extensive selection of cheese and deli products, picnic area and the annual Harvest Ball, and wines which have won many awards sold exclusively at the winery or online.

First of all was the wine tasting experience. Our Sommelier (wine steward) certainly knew his stuff. Holding several partially filled glasses he ran them along the edge of the counter top, swirling each of them before offering one to all of us. I had never seen this done before. Absolutely mind-boggling! Too quick to get a photo.

After purchasing the wines of choice and selecting lunch from the Artisan Deli, we wandered out to the picturesque picnic grounds through beautiful rose gardens. We had been blessed with a warm sunny day and clear blue skies. Along with great company, good food and wine 🍷 I couldn’t have asked for more.

I took some time to wander around the vineyard. The relevant history evident in the antique wine presses and other objects, the old delivery vehicle, photos and signage added to the ambience of the property.

For dinner that evening Dixie took me to a Mexican Cafe where I had the best tacos I have ever tasted. After a couple of glasses of wine and and with the promise of even more surprises the next day sleep beckoned.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to my return to the States. Much more to come.

Rhonda, Australian Travelling Nomad

New Adventures travelling to the USA, the UK and Ireland and Who Knows Where…….

Mt Cootha Views to Brisbane City, Queensland

PERIPATETIC = A Person Who Travels From One Place to Another or Moves Around a Lot. A perfect description for this Australian Housesitting Nomad.

After a short time back in Queensland, Australia, house and petsitting for friends, the wanderlust gene is calling me once again overseas to visit family and friends in places I have grown to love and to travel to new destinations to explore and experience different cultures.

I leave tomorrow flying to SAN Francisco, via Auckland, for four days to visit with friends who were with me on the Tour of Italy this time last year. We became friends following a funny incident at the Colosseum in Rome. I was wandering around in a daze taking endless photos on my iPad. Suddenly a person says, you are photo bombing us Rhonda. I had no idea what she was talking about so she grabbed my arm and said, come on you might as well be in the photo with us. I had a house and pet sit in Santa Cruz, California some time later and we got together for lunch. We laughed about the ‘photobombing’ episode. 🤣 I have no doubt they have a fun time planned for me.

I then fly to New Jersey to family. Always the highlight of my travels. My grandsons now 6 and 4 will keep me busy along with their Nanny who is also visiting.

From there I travel by train to Washington DC for a house and pet sit. And no, I will not be visiting with the President! I have been here before for 3 days. Actually it was where I broke my nose while walking along the pavement. And no, not 🥴 drunk although I had had one glass of wine.

And then….back to my home away from home 30A, Florida. Catch up with my many friends and house and pet sitting two beautiful small dogs and an African grey parrot who, hopefully, I am going to teach some Aussie slang 🤣. Summer in Florida so pool and beach weather.

Back to New Jersey to family before August across the ditch to Ireland via London for a 9 day Tour from Dublin to Dublin embracing the south and north. September I have two housesits in England and in between I am visiting the first homeowner Duncan and I housesat for 8 years ago. So looking forward to our catch up as we have both sadly lost our husbands.

From London back to New Jersey before travelling back to 30A Florida and perhaps a trip to Europe. Quite an itinerary and one which has taken much time and effort planning.

I am looking forward to sharing my adventures and I am sure, misadventures, with you all as I travel from place to place.

Stay tuned

Rhonda – the Australian travelling housesitting nomad.

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.