Friday, December 02, 2016
Friday, December 02, 2016
Monday morning, Lisa and I had the privilege of walking the Cliff Walk under sunny skies. Rhode Island’s most popular trail is perched on the rocky shores above the Atlantic, ocean on one side, the backyards of the massive Bellevue Avenue mansions on the other. In the summer months, this 3 ½-mile route is crowded with hundreds of folks yearning to see the sloping lawns and backside of those summer “cottages” the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and Astors built at the turn of the century. This time of year, you’ll pass the occasional dog walker or jogger as you take in the expanse of the sea all by your lonesome. Park your car on Narragansett Avenue near the walk and proceed to the right. The sun was beating down on the clear and shimmering ocean waters. We soon spotted The Breakers, the Italian-style villa commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1895. Another highlight is the red and gold lacquered Chinese-style pagoda at the Marble House. We enjoyed learning about the history of each estate at sign posts scattered throughout the walk. Simply type the number into the website and you’ll get the scoop.
Thursday, December 01, 2016
Just returned from a rejuvenating 24 hours in Newport, one of my favorite stopovers in New England any time of year. Starting today, the historic seaport gets into the Holiday spirit with a month-long citywide celebration simply called Christmas in Newport. The long list of activities includes live music at The Breakers estate and lantern walks over the twisting cobblestone streets. Newport is also home to a slew of intriguing boutique shops, ideal for Holiday shopping. Not far from the mansions on Bellevue Avenue is the Alloy Gallery, owned by a Rhode Island School of Design-trained jewelry artist who displays contemporary wares created by her and her colleagues. Women’s blouses, dresses, and jackets can be found at Tyler Boe, at Bannister’s Wharf. Kids will like the quirky games, clothing, books, and other odd miscellaneous knickknacks found at Pleasant Surprise on Thames Street. Close by is the Newport Historical Society Gift Shop, selling sea soap, shells, gardening and history books on New England.
Friday, October 21, 2016
A family favorite, this 600-acre Mass Audubon sanctuary in Natick is a popular birdwatching and walking retreat in the western suburbs. Bordering the Charles River, nine miles of trails weave over marsh and river on boardwalks and into thick forests of tall pines. There’s even a small waterfall to be seen. Rest atop one of the bridges to look for lounging turtles or to spot a great blue heron spreading its vast wings and slowly taking to flight. Other birds include kingfishers, osprey, and wood ducks. Trails are open dawn to dusk and cost $5 for nonmembers.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
It might sound macabre to hike through a cemetery, but Mt. Auburn is no ordinary burial ground. Opened in 1831, it is the first large-scale designed landscape in the country. Now a National Historic Landmark, the 174-acre arboretum is known for its peaceful strolls along ponds or in dense woodlands which boast more than 700 types of trees. Walk amidst the century-old sugar maples while you visit the graves of Winslow Homer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Isabella Stewart Gardner. The Friends of Mount Auburn offer guided walking tours during the fall. Visitors are welcome every day of the year from 8 am to 5 pm.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in his best known work, Walden. Thoreau ventured to the woods with ax in tow in March 1845 to build his historic hut. Never would this modest writer imagine what an impact his philosophical musings would have on the world 160 years later. For two years, two months, and two days, Thoreau lived alone in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in his rustic abode built near the shores of Walden Pond in Concord. While a replica of the hut only exists now, the woods make for a wonderful ramble, especially in mid-October with the maples aflame.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
It could actually hit 80 degrees today in Boston. If my bike ride to Concord this past Saturday is any indication, we’re starting to see the first phases of fall foliage in the region. So take advantage of the wonderful weather and the fall colors this week to visit some of my favorite walking spots around Boston. With its maze of one-way streets, rotaries, and few parking options, Boston can be hell on wheels. It is, however, one of the best walking cities in the country. This is especially true when you consider all the green spaces we have around town or in the near suburbs. So ditch the car and take a quiet stroll at the locales I’m going to discuss this week.
It’s easy to forget you’re still in Boston when walking under century-old elms, maples, and beeches at Arnold Arboretum. Located in Jamaica Plain, the 265-acre plot was donated to Harvard University in 1872. The immense botanical garden is known for its exotic array of flora including Australian trees, Japanese Gardens, and every type of rose imaginable. To learn more about the flora, consider taking a guided tour during the weekend throughout October. The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year and admission is free.
Thursday, October 06, 2016
Rhode Island’s most popular trail is perched on the rocky shores above the Atlantic, ocean on one side, the backyards of the massive Bellevue Avenue mansions on the other. In the summer months, this 3 ½-mile route is crowded with hundreds of folks yearning to see the sloping lawns and backside of those summer “cottages” the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and Astors built at the turn of the century. Come fall, you’ll pass the occasional dog walker as you take in the expanse of the sea all by your lonesome. Park your car on Narragansett Avenue near the walk and proceed to the right. You’ll soon spot The Breakers, the Italian-style villa commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1895. Another highlight is the red and gold lacquered Chinese-style pagoda at the Marble House. If you were smart, you booked a room at The Chanler at Cliff Walk, the only property on the Cliff Walk. The 20-room inn is best known for its acclaimed restaurant, Spiced Pear, a favorite foodie outpost in town.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Beach lovers headed to East Beach on Chappaquiddick have to pass the Japanese-style garden called Mytoi. Worthy of a stop, azaleas, daffodils, dogwoods, and rhododendrons line the fresh water creeks. The dirt road eventually crosses a bridge, stopping at East Beach. Walk the beach to see one of the most pristine stretches of coastline on the Atlantic. Part of the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, this barrier beach is the best place to birdwatch on the Vineyard. Ospreys, oystercatchers, piping plovers, terns, and the occasional bald eagle nest here. To get a close up look at the birds, sign up for the guided kayak tour with the Trustees.
It’s been fun to reminisce about my favorite Trustees sites in the commonwealth this week. Don’t forget that tomorrow is the kick-off of the Trustees 125th anniversary summer bash. The Great House on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, the Old Manse in Concord, and seven other historic homes will be open to the public for free for “Home Sweet Home” Historic Open House Day. Enjoy the weekend and keep active! I’m off to Ithaca to pick my son up at Cornell, back on Wednesday.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
As editor and publisher of the Atlantic Monthly, Ellery Sedgwick worked with some of the finest writers of his time, including Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost. Yet, it’s his marriages to not one, but two accomplished gardeners and horticulturists that has had far more of a lasting impression. In 1916, Sedgwick moved with his first wife, Mabel, to a 114-acre hillside property on the North Shore. The house sits atop a drumlin staring out at forest, but it’s the wonderful gardens at Long Hill that will capture your attention. No matter what season you visit, there will be something in bloom, from blue forget-me-nots to exotic Chinese redbuds to the soft yellow and very rare Molly the Witch peonies. The assemblage of trees is also intriguing, from the tall dawn redwood planted by Sedgwick’s second wife, Marjorie, to the century-old signature copper beech in front of the house.
Monday, February 22, 2016
When you wake up every morning watching a hawk tend to her nest in upper branches of a palm tree, like I did last week in South Naples, Florida, it’s hard not to appreciate the nature of this part of the state. This only whet our appetite for the Naples Botanical Garden, where every type of palm tree imaginable shades the walkways as you peer at another glorious orchid or stop to sniff the lemon verbena and mint plants. We walked across the bridges in the Japanese Garden, spotted herons and egrets in the creek beds, and then stopped for salads and sandwiches in the café. An added bonus was the live jazz performance in the meadow on Sunday afternoons. There’s a reason why the parking lot was packed on this cloudless afternoon—this is a gem of a spot to spend several hours in a tropical oasis.