We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Tuesday, May 7. 2013
The short-lived fort and town of Frederika on the river/marsh side of Saint Simons stopped the Hispanic (Spanish) invasion from Florida into the English colonies in 1742. Its purpose having been served, the population, including many of the Scottish Highlander soldiers, moved to the mainland. The Spanish never tried to invade the coast again.
Most astonishing factoid about Frederika: The Wesley brothers preached there, John and Charles, more or less the founders of Methodism in England. Charles, of course, best known for his splendid hymn-writing. (I once lost a bet of an expensive bottle of wine at a dinner party when I bet that the Wesleys never preached in Georgia.)
A nice Live Oak on the site of the old abandoned village:
Since we had a little time on the road, we also checked out Amelia Island briefly, for lunch. Instead out scouting out the Amelia Island Plantation, we went into Fernandina. Charming little town. Amelia Island is termed the land of eight flags because it has been claimed by eight nations over its history. I'm sure they all wanted to own the golf courses.
A few pics of Fernandina below the fold.
Continue reading "Side trips along the road: Fort Frederika and Fernandina"
Sunday, May 5. 2013
Mohonk. New Paltz, NY. Visited many times growing up. One of my Grandpas loved it.
The Quakers who own it even finally gave in and began serving booze. It used to be that you had to smuggle your cocktails in there and have them in your rooms.
Friday, May 3. 2013
Here's a video report about Little Saint Simons Island, with some outdoor video with our friend, the young naturalist Abby. It's a good video.
Travel and Leisure Magazine lists the place among the 500 best hotels in the world, and it's in that book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
A few more of my pics and comments about the Georgia barrier island.
Salt Marsh, early morning. Despite its short coastline, Georgia has 30% of the north Atlantic coast salt marshes. They go on for miles and are enormously productive. Very productive of Salt Marsh Skeeters too.
Lots more fun pics below the fold, with critters, Southern food, etc. -
Continue reading "A free ad for Little Saint Simons Island, Part 2"
Wednesday, May 1. 2013
My snap above is the main lodge. As I mentioned previously, it's a barrier island accessible only by small boat.
What sorts of people would spend serious bucks to inhabit rustic cabins built in 1910 on the edge of a swamp with far fewer amenities than home, the air full of skeeters, Diamondback Rattlers and gators roaming around, no elegant plantings other than God's, simple home cookin, no umbrella drinks, and where the evening entertainment is an academic talk on bird migration?
Well, as Mrs. BD pointed out, it can be expensive to get that old-timey vigorous WASPy in-the-woods time these days in remote places. A condo on a beach with WiFi and TV, hotel menus, and Pina Coladas and lounge chairs around the pool would be less than half the price tag, but boring as heck. She believes that my Yankee-types, as a matter of taste, like either grand luxe or rustic roughing-it, and nothing in-between. Probably right. In addition, we do not like to sit on vacations. Go Go Hi Ho.
As she also pointed out, the price at Little Saint Simons is all-inclusive - all meals (no menu choices, of course - family-style), all of the naturalist adventures, all the boats and kayaks and bikes, all the booze and cocktail hours and oyster roasts and shrimp boils at the beach. And the entirely private 7-mile island, just for you. Chef is a grad of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America for those of you in Yorba Linda) but he does home cookin like his grandma.
So who was there (all with spouses)? A self-selecting elite bunch of folks. A recently-retired career Army Ranger from Colorado who discovered an interest in natural history. A retired Memphis cotton broker. A NYC doctor. A high school teacher couple from Salt Lake City. An 8th-grade Science teacher from Michigan. A famous nature artist from Massachusetts. An Ornithology prof from Georgia Southern (not a railroad - a university). A professor of something from Boston. A fund manager from Chicago. A jolly, congenial, and intelligent crew, and a tattoo-free zone for sure. Lots of laughs at mealtimes.
Despite the skeeters, they have a high repeat rate. I would recommend March-April-May or October for a place like this. Too hot and too many bugs in the summertime - for me, anyway.
Our temps last week were daytime highs around 76 and nights high 50s-low 60s. Constant sea breeze. Perfect.
I remarked to Mrs. BD that it must be a rare "resort" vacation spot indeed where, when one of the resident naturalists asks for a show of hands for the next morning's 7 AM birding in the marsh, almost everybody present raises their hands.
"Meet at the trucks at 7 on the dot."
More boring travelogue pics and nature details below the fold -
Continue reading "A free ad for Little Saint Simons Island, Part 1"
Tuesday, April 30. 2013
No flight delays, system worked like a charm. Flew into JAX, rental car, got to Saint Simons in time to catch the small outboard out to Little Saint Simons Island. 12-24 guests, 10,000 untouched acres of maritime forest and 7 miles of ocean beachfront without a soul on it - unless shore birds have souls. No roads, just sand tracks. For a Yankee, that ocean water was balmy in April.
At Dr. Merc's request, I will get organized and gradually post a few of the over 60 pics I took. Those barrier islands have interesting ecologies.
And I will post my bird list (our team easily went over 100 species in just a few days).
Thanks to all for pitching in at Maggie's.
Saturday, April 27. 2013
Wednesday, March 20. 2013
It's the time of year for trip planning. A bit early to think about fall hunting, but spring and summer plans are on the menu.
For no reason that I can comprehend, Mrs. BD likes to go places with just me. I enjoy including the kids and giving them special life treats as did my parents for me, and their companionship and getting to know them better as they unfold is a joy.
She has gotten a little carried away, and now has things in the pipeline for 2014 too, God willing.
She has scheduled Little St. Simon's Island in April to catch migration season (to please me), a kid's graduation mini-trip, and the annual family reunion week in Wellfleet in August (for the first time, sadly without Mom but, I hope, with all of the immediate and extended family).
For fall, I dunno.
Before I get old, my short-term (3-yr) bucket list includes:
- a good-sized villa (5-8 bedrooms) in Tuscany for 2 weeks with enough room for the entire family and dearest friends, with a cook and housekeeper (they all come with that anyway) and rental cars for all. I am saving up for that, but it's not really too expensive. As much as I love Umbria and enjoy Sicily, the family all deserve more time in Tuscany. Well, my kids are lucky. They've been everywhere.
- More Sicily. Rent a sports car, drink a little Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso, then drive all over with my cowboy hat and a history text and ignore the speed laws like everybody else. Try to frighten the Mrs. with speed, but that is difficult to do. She likes speed too.
- a barge trip through southern France with the inlaws and family. Dad's a bit too feeble for this now, but he already took plenty of these with my Mom.
- I need to get back to Pine Butte in Montana soon, maybe next Spring for wildflower bloom and Grizzly Bears,
- and to Big Sky in the winter before my joints begin to creak. I need new skis.
- Bermuda again, for a romantic 5 days (we like Cambridge Beaches - they call it luxurious but it is only luxurious by British standards)
- Another Holland-America Line cross-Atlantic trip, as we used to do when I was young. I love the North Atlantic stormy days on a ship.
- Another Holland-America Line history cruise
What's on the top of Mrs. BD's bucket list? A week down the coast of Turkey on a gulet. I would love to get back to Turkey again.
Carpe diem, friends, because memories are all we have of lasting value, and memories rarely include our daily routines and chores. Even if they should, so much of it just blends together.
What do y'all have in the works?
Wednesday, December 5. 2012
It's the time of year when people tend to make their travel plans for the next 12 months. If you are very nice and never naughty, Santa might put a trip in your stocking.
I vowed to finally get the Maggie's HQ basement renovated after our busted water pipe mess 2 years ago before taking another cool trip. A serious mess. We'll see. Plus we need to build a new tractor bridge at the Farm (new concrete footings, I-beams, etc). Plus it's time for a serious generator. But how's the economy doing out there in America? Oh, not so good, eh? Hmmm. And what's this about these new Obamacare taxes? Damn. I don't even want Obamacare. It is economically retarded. And kid's tuition went up again this year? Why? Income tax increases for all? Why, when I need that money to fix the farm bridge and my basement and to buy a generator from an American generator factory? Not to mention my freakin' dentist.
I have so many needs by which to redistribute my money usefully, but the gummint doesn't want me to redistribute my way. My way is for utility and value, and their way is for vote-buying. They have better ideas for my money, like Obamaphones and Solyndra and Government Motors - so much better ideas than my rebuilding my farm bridge by paying guys to do it so the machines and creatures can get to the upper field.
On the top of my to-go wish list right now is more time in Sicily (I'd maybe like to do some of it with bikes or horses); a grouse shoot at a castle in Scotland with Mr. and Mrs. Gwynnie; a villa or tenudo in Umbria for 10 days with pool and a cook and room for entire family and friends - and rental cars for all as if I were a big shot (not really very expensive to do); more time in Turkey along the Asia Minor coast, maybe by sailboat. Also, Israel but only for the ordinary Christian pilgrimage to the tourist traps. That can wait because I do not believe in sacred, holy places anyway and God is only in the heart. I do need to get back to Montana again soon, a place with horses and Grizzly Bears and maybe a sacred, holy trout stream. Also, those riverboat barge trips down the Rhone with the great French chefs and the wines. Would love to take the kids. I will hold off on Egypt for the moment - missed my chance for the Israel-Egypt combo last year. Dang Moslim lunatics interfere with travel plans, which does them no good at all but supposedly Allah likes it. Well, tourist Egypt had just become a tourist trap anyway so best to keep Allah happy and to stay away from Egypt now.
Such a big world, and so little time. A reader thought this joint sounded good (photo): Riad Knisa in Marrakesh. A fun trip might be to combine Barcelona, Mallorca, Morocco. Maybe Ibiza and do the hippy thing. Tunisia is interesting too, been there. Could do it all these wonderful places via high-speed ferry with a little sensible planning and a straw hat.
For me, a vacation means Go-Go-Hi-Ho, not sit - except in restaurants. I cannot sit on a beach for more than ten minutes. My theory is that you can relax, and catch up on TV, in the grave. I wonder whether our readers are making interesting plans for next year (other than routine travel like Florida or Cabo or Cape Cod, visiting colleges, romantic weekend getaways, hunting trips, family visits, summer houses, or ski trips and other boring things like that).
Carpe diem. My parents and in-laws always say that you have to do it now, before your hips and knees begin to ache.
What's on the top of your wish list for cool new adventures? Even if you cannot quite do it right now because of our horrible economy?
Friday, November 16. 2012
- For $50, you can get a NEXUS travel pass between the US and Canada. You just walk through the NEXUS line, no wait, no passport, no nothing.
- For $100, you can get an American Global Entry card "that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States." Again, no lines and you just walk through. I believe it speeds things up for domestic flights too.
Both of these programs do a little vetting of you before issuing their passes. Worth doing, if you travel much. Definitely a form of profiling. These passes put you in the "guaranteed good citizen" catgory, same way that a carry permit does.
Sunday, October 21. 2012
I tend to think of the Caribbean as a place for sailing. Nothing else to do there unless you like to sit in a chair and order umbrella drinks like Milton Waddams. Get to Tortola, grab some snorkeling gear, lease a bareboat and island-hop around the BVI while imbibing rum is a good plan.
But Guana Island is another thing: a nature preserve, a privately-owned 800-acre island, and takes only 30 guests at a time. I'll call it Jurassic Park because they are dedicated to restoring native species. No Limbo Rock, guaranteed.
(The "Enter" button doesn't work. Stop pushing it. Use my link.)
Saturday, October 20. 2012
Mrs. BD and I stopped by the Villa Zuccari last summer, in the wine country of the Valnerina (the valley of the Nera River) outside Montefalco. It's only an approx. 3-hour drive from the Rome airport. The Appennines in the distance. It's an easy rural drive to Spoleto, Spello, Assisi, and, of course, our favorite village of Norcia which means GOOD FOOD. We checked out the Villa's menu, in which nobody could be disappointed.
We felt it would be a perfect spot for a destination wedding. Here are a couple of my pics:
Monday, September 17. 2012
Quirky, quaint, and comfortably shabby and unpretentious, Cold Spring (pop. 1900) is a 75-minute commute to Grand Central Station on the Metro North Hudson line. A few commute daily, but a good number commute for weekends because if your legs are good, you can walk from the train station to everywhere in Cold Spring.
It's nice to see the downtown of a small town so busy with friendly people, walking people, busy cafes, etc. Seems to be the sort of town in which it is impossible to be anonymous.
Terry Teachout went there to escape life for a few days. He "did nothing." (His Dad is more like me - GoGoHiHo).
The NYT profiled the village a few years ago.
Here are some listings of Cold Spring real estate. Some of those listings are remarkably ugly. Prices aren't too bad, all things considered.
The village is about 40 minutes north of White Plains, and a half hour south of Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park, and the great CIA - The Culinary Institute of America with its great restaurants. It's the Juillard of cooking. This view down the Hudson from the lawn of Boscobel, site of the famed Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (their photo, not mine):
This is Lower Main St., with the little gazebo on the Hudson shore. I tried to avoid taking pics of people.
More pics below the fold -
Continue reading "A little American town: Cold Spring, New York"
Wednesday, September 5. 2012
Another Labor Day has passed, and I hope all Maggie's readers had a fine, relaxing long weekend. Barbecues, beer, wine, lawn or lounge chairs, picnics, whatever you typically do on a fine summer holiday, I'm sure you had a good time.
My wife and I, after having drinks with friends at the local swim club on Saturday, relaxed on a rainy Sunday then decided to head into the city on Monday to take a look at the Freedom Tower. We usually drive to Jersey City, park at a mall, and take the PATH train in. Parking and PATH for 3 people (our remaining homebound son joined us) was $22, much cheaper than driving into, and parking in, Manhattan.
They've done plenty of work on the tower and the area is finally starting to look as developed as it was prior to 9/11/2001. We checked for tickets to the 9/11 Memorial, but had 4 hours to wait. We decided to pass on that, and take a walk. Note to self, next time order tickets online before going in. They are free, but donations are welcome.
We headed up through City Hall Park, then turned and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and into the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, where we decided to have pizza for lunch. Grimaldi's is the big name pizza place under the bridge. But the line was too long and we couldn't wait. Ignazio's is around the corner, and turned out to be a great alternative. Good pizza, great location near the water and also under the bridge. I give it high marks for food, service and views.
If you've never walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, I highly recommend doing it sometime. It's worth the effort. Not only do you get to soak up some of its great history, but the views are amazing. Some pictures below the fold. Unfortunately, it was not a bright, sunny day. We had some rain, it was overcast. It was still an enjoyable trek.
Continue reading "Labor Day Stroll in NYC"
Sunday, September 2. 2012
Tuesday, August 28. 2012
Filmed while walking on sand. That might be an error, because the shakiness gives me a headache and I pan too quickly. The minute, despite that, gives you an idea of why we love the spirit-cleansing place. It ain't the Jersey Shore, that's for sure. Nothing against the Jersey Shore, mind you.
Love the beach tents where people put their newborns to keep them out of the sun and wind, and to nurse in privacy. All babies require a little bath in the cool water, though, to help toughen them up for life. They love it. All of our kids have benefited from cold salt water, and still love it.
That's Cape Cod Bay, with Plymouth straight across but not visible. The Pilgrims sailed right past this spot, stealing the Indians' corn until the Indians in Eastham found them and showered them with arrows. Hence Plymouth, where the Indians had all died but left vast cornfields.
Monday, August 27. 2012
Saturday, August 11. 2012
Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro aren't fancy. At least, they are not pretentious or social-climbing summer colonies. Nobody wears red pants or pants with whales on them, and even the rich folks inhabit very humble dwellings. Unlike the islands (Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket), you do not have to spend $10,000/week for summer rentals.
Nevertheless, tons of good fun family-friendly seafood restaurants, and lots of live music at night. It's altogether cheerful and jolly, full of happy, sunburned, and mostly attractive, fit, modest, and presentable folks (ie it ain't Snooki's Jersey Shore). Just right for me.
As much as I love the Farm in the Berkshire countryside, in the summer the sand and salt and piney woods and cheerful people and chilly water and seafood suit me best. Always will have a hold on my heart.
This old fishing and shipping village was in its heyday in the 1870s, when the train came through town. I believe this building began its life as a salt cod and shellfish warehouse - reader corrected me - a Lorenzo Dow Baker banana warehouse:
More pics below the fold -
Continue reading "Fresh Wellfleet architecture pics"
Friday, August 10. 2012
You can rent kayaks cheap at Gull Pond. Gull Pond connects to two other ponds, so you can have a nice time paddling around for a few hours and jump in the water any time you feel too warm. You can bring a picnic, too. Entirely pleasant despite my aversion to unsalted water. Had a chat with a fellow there from Maine. Complained to me that the water was too warm to be refreshing, but his kids seemed to love it.
No powerboats are allowed on any Cape "ponds." That's a welcome community policy. They are really small lakes.
Neat thing about Wellfleet: Lakes, harbor, ocean and bay within a mile's drive or bike. Lots of different ways to play in the water. What else is there to do in the summer, besides reading books and playing tennis? August is my personal Robert Parker Fest.
Next trip, I will bring camera, rent a kayak, and paddle around Nauset Marsh in Eastham at high tide and check out the wildlife. Gosh, I sure do love being up there in the piney woods and the cool salty air. Thankful, too, that both of my parents can still enjoy it. Yes, my Mom still kayaks and chows down on Littleneck clams and Wellfleet Oysters. Dad is a bit too rickety for kayaks but his brain is as Yankee-acerbic as ever.
Sunday, July 1. 2012
Re-posted from last June - Southern Umbria #6: Photo dump of the Todi area in the Tiber Valley, mostly
Through Delta, flew from JFK to Rome via Paris (cheaper that way) on Air France (which I like very much - decent airplane food with cheese and baguettes, etc, champagne when you board, drinks free, charming hostesses). We had the worst seats so you do your best to zone out. I needed some Ambien. The quick 2 hr- flight down to Rome, using Delta, is on Alitalia.
We clever, thrifty Yankees can do a 12-day grand luxe and glitz-free trip around Umbria for the price of a good high-end Mac server. A few travel trips for this first pic dump post:
We got some very good hotel deals via Expedia. We are very particular about where we will stay, as you will see (if you care). Mrs. BD is my planner. We seek out little gems without jacuzzis and absolutely without bellboys with uniforms. We are allergic to that sort of crap, and like to explore places that most people do not. We reserved a fine hatchback Lancia through Costco. Cheap. With the talking GPS - and that came in darn handy because we prefer trying to get lost on back roads unless we are in a rush to the airport. Somehow managed not to get the car in a roadside farm ditch on this trip - but I have done that in the past. Hilarity always ensues! Amusing recriminations also. Good way to meet the local farmer with tractor!
We stayed at one hotel in the Tiber Valley, one in the Valle Umbra, and one in the Valnerina to cover all the of Umbrian geography. View of the olive orchard of our hotel 10 k outside Todi, early morning mist:
More good stuff and fun pics below the fold -
Continue reading "Re-posted from last June - Southern Umbria #6: Photo dump of the Todi area in the Tiber Valley, mostly"
Friday, March 23. 2012
A gorgeous couple of days in New York City give me the opportunity to wander around and see how people are enjoying themselves. Central Park is a great place to take it all in. I started on the southwestern portion of the park, at its Columbus Circle entrance. Plenty of people just resting, looking at the flowers blooming in the Circle, or eating lunch.
Central Park is 843 acres. More below the fold -
Continue reading "Central Park in Spring"
Saturday, March 10. 2012
Regarding gelato, all you have to do is point at random. It's all good. The rule is just one gelato per day.
A friend is visiting northern Italy for the first time, in a couple of weeks. Great time of year to go. Asked for food advice. Here are a few of my suggestions (bearing in mind that no menus will be in English):
- Any norceria platter
- pappardelle al funghi
- Tuscan steak (they are very proud of that Bistecca alla Fiorentina, generally grilled on a wood fire with lauro or rosemary - rare is best)
Another tip: Order one antipasto, one primi, and one secondi - and share them. That's really all you need. They are used to people doing that these days. They understand "to share."
Another: If you want a vegetable or green, like spinach with garlic or asparagus, or a salad, it's a separate order as a side dish. In Italy, a secondi is never contaminated with random vegetables on the plate. Except, sometimes, roast potato. You are supposed to savor just one taste at a time.
Another: Barbera is the local and popular table wine up there. Cheap and pretty good.
Feel free to add your northern Italian favorites in the comments -
Sunday, March 4. 2012
Except for some Romanesque churches and monasteries, and a few old tenuta, there is very little Medieval left in tourist Italy.
The reason is because they became so wealthy during the Renaissance that they knocked down all of the old stuff to build new. The "old stuff" in Florence today is mostly Renaissance-era, except for some early churches. San Miniata is a good old one, and it's a fun walk over the bridge, over the Michelangelo-designed defensive walls, and up the hill from downtown, and you can sit and listen to the monks chant if you visit during a chanting time. Very friendly monks, too, who speak excellent English.
Italy never really bought into Gothic style in the 1200s. Too French. Many Brit builders did buy into it, though.
Photo: The Baptisterie in Firenze is Medieval, begun in 1059 long before the current duomo was built (by Cannobio, with the dome by the great Brunellesci in the 1400s. The fancy facade of the duomo is new - 19th C - which most visitors do not realize. The churches were always renovating and updating.) The previous church had stood in the square when the Baptisterie was built. A Baptisterie was always needed then: unbaptised kids could not enter the duomo. As in many areas of northern Italy, the Eastern Orthodox style of art (thought, at the time, to be based on original images of Jesus, Mary, etc) is prominent inside this wonderful jewel-box. The doors are masterpieces, as is the ceiling art inside. The Baptisterie in Pisa, just down the road a piece, is similarly wonderful.
Saturday, March 3. 2012
The main drag on the isola is an alley (pic from a couple of years ago). Our advice in Italty: Never eat the pizza. Terrible stuff. Sit down someplace and grab a gelato and a tiny coffee instead. Hazelnut gelato is my favorite.
Tuesday, February 14. 2012
I've lived in the New York City metropolitan area for 26 years. I take many things about New York for granted. I still haven't been up to the top of the Empire State Building, and I haven't been to the Statue of Liberty. I did (back in 1982, when I was in college) get to the World Trade Center, and I've been to Windows on World for dinner. I've also been to the Top of the Rock and the Rainbow Room (which I preferred to Windows on the World).
None of these really compare to Central Park, though. It's just a great place to hang out, and thankfully is very close to my office.
(more pics below the fold)
Continue reading "Central Park Pics"
Thursday, January 26. 2012
A friend of mine told me he is taking this trip this winter, with his two brothers through the Strait of Magellan and then up north along the coast of Chile.
He said they decided that they wanted to bond and reconnect before they get old. Sounds like a very cool trip, and cheap. He said he was going to take photos of Albatrosses. I warned him not to shoot one because nothing good comes of it.