Fete Paradiso

The carnival has come to town!

This summer, French company Fete Paradiso, has made its American debut at Governor’s Island; bringing vintage 19th and early 20th century carnival rides, games and carousels to one of New York City’s prettiest spots.

Set in amongst the old yellow houses of Nolan Park, I imagine it’s a nice little surprise if you don’t know it’s there. The distant sounds of bells, horns, and children’s laughter draws you closer until you spy hints of *something* between the trees.

The rides and attractions have been beautifully restored and maintained. The detail on some of the pieces is remarkable.

French accordion music, interrupted every so often with cuts from the Amelie soundtrack, pumped in through the speakers adds a great touch to the atmosphere.

By far my favourite thing was this bicycle carousel, the “Velocipede”, one of only two in the world. You actually have to pedal to get the carousel going. And then they make you go backwards! Considering how much work you have to put in to it, it was great fun.

And this we just couldn’t resist, because what’s a day without a little treat? Though I think I can happily go another ten years or so without having another bite of candy floss.

My only complaint? The food! There was just one vendor and they were serving things like croque monsieur and burgers. Where are the cone crepes I can get on every street corner in Paris? Caramel popcorn? What about hot dogs in baguettes with spicy French mustard? Next year, maybe next year…


Duke Farms

New Jersey is known as the garden state, but it’s not always easy to see why. Duke Farms, which just opened to the public last year is one of the largest nature preserves in the state. At some 3000 acres it is three times the size of Central Park. It was the former estate of J.B. Duke, a famous industrialist and namesake of Duke University. The estate passed on to his daughter Doris at the time of his death, whose wish it was that it should be used to promote conservation.

The farms have a number of lakes, waterfalls, meadows, gardens and trails – something for everyone. There is a tram service that will take you around to the main sections, but after that you’re on your own. Though there are some signs around in case you get lost, it’s best to pick up a map at the visitor centre as a lot of places look exactly the same.

This is the otter lake, unfortunately we didn’t spot any while we were there.

The conservatory where Doris Duke grew her orchids. This was restored before the opening and is now full of a number of native species.

This is the old foundation. J.B. Duke had plans to build a large mansion on the property, but for still unknown reasons abandoned them within a couple of years. The foundations remain as they were when the work stopped. Doris Duke did move back on to the property after the death of her father, but it wasn’t clear when we visited where exactly she lived.

The steps leading down from the old foundation. The manicured lawns that were created for the family are currently in the process of being restored to their natural state as a wildflower meadow. They are doing everything they can to create a habitat for birds and other animals.

Though conservation is the main goal of the farms, it’s the amazing open space that I think brings people in. Great for bike rides, jogging and long walks and just perfect for a summer picnic.

On to Santa Fe

We picked up Zippy here and saw a few more things in Albuquerque before heading on to Santa Fe.

Petroglyph National Monument is not too far out of the way and makes a nice stop before getting on the highway.

The monument is actually made up of a series of dormant volcanoes. There are four trails you can take, with one of the shortest have the largest number of view-able petroglyphs. We managed to see quite a lot in the couple of hours before we hit the road.

Although it wasn’t our original plan, renting a car was one of the best decisions we made. So much of what we loved of New Mexico we were only able to see on the drives. Curving, steep mountain roads with gorgeous views and plenty of lookout points so you can stop and take it all in.

We arrived in downtown Santa Fe in the early evening and saw a notice for a walking tour leaving from our hotel, we decided on that to get our bearings and learn a bit about the city.

Santa Fe as it is today was planned mostly in the early 20th century when New Mexico became a state, but its history stretches back hundreds of years to the Spanish and the Pueblo Indians before them. By city ordinance all new buildings must be built in the Pueblo (adobe) style, and for the most part that’s what you’ll see, the main exception being the St. Francis Cathedral.

Downtown Santa Fe isn’t all that large and you can see a lot of it in a couple of days. There is a lot of history so having a guided tour can be helpful. The majority of places are a short distance from the plaza – galleries, art studios, restaurants, market stalls, and shops – so I recommend staying close by if you can.

A Real Winter

It’s cold in New York tonight. The kind of cold that has you pulling your hat over your eyes and your scarf up to meet it. The kind of cold that stings your eyes and burns your cheeks. The kind of cold that makes you wish you were at home snuggled under a blanket.

12 degrees, but feeling much colder. The streets fast becoming wind tunnels pushing me forward at once and forcing me to push at the next turn. Every person seemingly a smoker, wisps of white blowing out with every breath.

It’s been a while since we’ve had weather like this and I quickly realised I’m not prepared. Luckily Uniqlo is on the way home and I was able to stock up on some HeatTech. The stuff is amazing.


Now to see if I can survive the rest of the week. I look forward to a weekend being filled with bowls of soup and endless mugs of hot chocolate.

Oh Christmas Tree…

My favourite part of the holiday season is definitely the Christmas tree.

Going to pick out the perfect (or sometimes, not so perfect) one. Inhaling the rich, sweet scent. Getting lost in the tangled strings of lights. Unwrapping ornaments. Drinking lots of wine. I love it.

This year, my sister and brother-in-law are going to his parents’ for the holidays so we all got together this weekend for a little early celebration.

Here it is getting wrapped and trimmed. Normally we’d make a morning of it, spend and hour or so walking around the farm, sipping hot chocolate. But this year we went with the quick, commercial option…

All lit up. We need a lot more, but all just would not be right in the world if all of the lights worked properly.

Some of the ornaments.

I love the way the crystal sparkles.

Finished! All that’s left is to start putting presents under it.

One Year!

This blog is officially a year old!

(Actually I’m a couple of days late, but really what’s new?)

So, I started this blog mainly because I’ve never been one to keep a journal and this seemed a good way to have a record of the things I’ve done and the places I’ve been as well as getting me to organize my photographs (another thing I’ve never been good about).

But it’s been so much more than that. I find myself documenting the day-to-day things just as often as the big events and trips, and it’s so great to be able to look back through photographs and enjoy everything all over again. And something I never thought I’d hear myself say – I like writing again, something I haven’t done since I left university.

And, of course, all of the people who have read, commented and followed. I didn’t think that would matter so much, that I would just write for me and be happy with it.  Which I am, but it does put a smile on my face to know that someone has enjoyed what I’ve done here.

Now, let’s see if next year I can make it without disappearing for almost four months…


Story of a Hurricane

No power for a week and the days all begin to blend in to one another. Each night colder than the one before, you wonder how much longer you can last.

A lot of my time was spent like this, curled up under blankets with a book. So many times I’ve wished that I could take time off and do this all day, but I was going stir crazy and got out as often as I could. I even missed being able to do all those mundane things that I normally hate doing, like laundry and vacuuming. Really.

But I was definitely luckier than a lot of others – hot running water, a gas stove, and a fireplace made the experience bearable. Not sure that I could have gone much longer though, food supplies had started to run low and without a refrigerator I wasn’t exactly eating well.

I’ve been out to volunteer in the cleanup and donated warm clothing and supplies and have seen that things are still very bad for a lot of people. I feel badly that I’m back up and running when so many others aren’t…

Missing in Action

I haven’t updated here in a while and I’ve been trying to figure out how most of the summer went by without a single post. So what have I been doing?

There was some volunteering, which is hungry work, so naturally it was followed by long, boozy brunches and lunches.

Brunch at Recipe

Lunch at Fatty Crab

A few great shows, because without them no summer of mine is complete.

There has been a LOT of house hunting which, again, is hungry work. Pounding the pavement all day rushing to appointments means you grab something along the way. But as you can see fast food doesn’t have to be boring.

The Wangding from Asia Dog comes topped with Chinese bbq pork belly.

The Cardoz Num Pang – black pepper braised lamb with chili yoghurt.

Lots of laughs at Indecision in the Park during Summerstage.

John Hodgman was the MC for the night. A lot of regulars from the show – Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Al Madrigal – were there, but the highlights for me were Rory Albanese (one of the show’s producers), Mr. John Oliver, and the hysterical Lewis Black.

Sushi of course…

And an amazing performance by The New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Alan Gilbert conducted Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Respighi’s Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome.

The night ended with a fireworks display over the city.

A Brief Escape

No matter how long I live in the city, deep down I’ll always be a country girl. I spent most of my childhood tramping through fields and meadows, picking flowers, walking along canals, and riding horses through the countryside. In the summer I try to get back to that as much as I can, so to that end I recently took a day trip with some friends to Watchung Reservation in northern New Jersey.

A fairly thick canopy provided just enough shade and still let the breeze through, keeping us cool.

We just went for a hike, but the reservation has such a varied landscape and a lot to offer in the way of interesting attractions. There are stables and riding trails, a golf course, a museum, camp grounds, a lake, and beautiful views from the Watchung Mountains.

These old cabins can be found hidden in the woods and were formerly used for camping.

A wildflower meadow.

One section of the reservation houses the Feltville Historic District. It was originally built as a kind of model village for mill workers. Almost the entire village (about 15 buildings) still exists. There were houses, a school, a church and a general store.

Initially I thought this was just one of the buildings that had been preserved and was used as a museum, but signs indicates it’s actually a lived-in private residence. All of the other buildings are deserted, so I can’t imagine who would want to live here.

This was the old district store.

This is Lake Surprise, yes that’s its actual name. Years ago this lake was used for bathing and hosted swimming and boating events, there was even a beach on one side.

This rock wall serves as the dam for Lake Suprise. It had been raining the few days leading up to our visit, so we were lucky enough to catch the waterfall.

It will never be quite like home, but at just a 40 minute drive from NYC, it does make for a perfect day trip.