Christmas at the Newport (Rhode Island) Mansions

Christmas at the Newport (Rhode Island) Mansions

Scenes from the Gilded Age at the Newport Mansions [Photo Gallery] No expense was spared in the luxurious homes of Newport's affluent. Catch a glmpse of these opulent mansions in festive Christmas decorations. | Newport | Rhode Island | New England | USA #travel

The Newport Mansions at Christmas

Scenes from the Gilded Age

A visit to Newport, Rhode Island is incomplete without seeing the Newport Mansions at Christmas. There are ten incredible estates that The Preservation Society of Newport County maintains year round. Guests may explore independently or follow guided tours by headset.

Through the holiday season, four mansions are open daily to visitors: The Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and Marble House. Each was once a private residence for the well-to-do, including famous families like the Vanderbilts, who retreated to the mansions’ grandeur along the cool shores of Rhode Island for summer months.

Their lifestyle was supported by behind-the-scene efforts of a large domestic staff catering to their every need. Tours showcasing little seen servant areas (“Beneath the Breakers“) and servant stories (“Servant Life“) give fascinating detail. (Tip: These tours are on a limited basis, so I recommend getting tickets in advance.)

Holiday evenings at the mansions are alive with entertainment, complete with Christmas Carolers, Dinner Dances, Nutcracker Performances, and Bands of the era.

I’ve toured the mansions on several occasions (they are a little more than an hour from my hometown), but this was the first time I visited the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. Let me just say, I wasn’t disappointed. The mansions are beautifully decked out for the holidays through January 1st. (Photo Gallery follows.)

The Breakers

The Breakers was the Vanderbilt family’s summer “cottage,” located in Newport, Rhode Island. It is considered the most grand of the Newport mansions. The 70-room, 5-floor structure is now a museum managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County.

The Breakers - Newport RI | Resplendent with marble, gilded walls, architectural craftsmanship and an impressive art collection, The Breakers itself occupies about 1-acre, and is situated upon a 14-acre property with waterfront views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a throw back to a grand time, indeed — the magnificent Gilded Age!
The 70-room, 5-floor structure is now a house museum managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County. Resplendent with marble, gilded walls, architectural craftsmanship and an impressive art collection, The Breakers itself occupies about 1-acre, and is situated upon a 14-acre property with waterfront views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a throw back to a grand time, indeed — the magnificent Gilded Age!
The Breakers - Newport RI | The wrought iron gates welcoming guests to The Breakers are tastefully decorated with wreaths for the holiday season. The gates, weighing 5,000 pounds each, are works of art in themselves, topped by an ornate crown piece. They were recently restored to their original grandeur.
The wrought iron gates welcoming guests to The Breakers are tastefully decorated with wreaths for the holiday season. The gates, weighing 5,000 pounds each, are works of art in themselves, topped by an ornate crown piece. They were recently restored to their original grandeur.
The Breakers - Newport RI | Four immense chandeliers adorn The Grand Hall of The Breakers mansion. They are suspended from soaring ceilings and flanked by layers of gilded crown molding. It’s easy to imagine the hundreds of elegant guests gathering here for one of the Vanderbilts’ large parties.
Four immense chandeliers adorn The Grand Hall of The Breakers mansion. They are suspended from soaring ceilings and flanked by layers of gilded crown molding. It’s easy to imagine the hundreds of elegant guests gathering here for one of the Vanderbilts’ large parties.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A bronze cherub is poised beside a soaring tree made of poinsettias in the Great Hall of The Breakers Newport mansion.
A bronze cherub is poised beside a soaring tree made of poinsettias in the Great Hall of The Breakers Newport mansion.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A vintage angel heralds the Christmas Season atop one of many festive fireplace mantels at The Breakers.
A vintage angel heralds the Christmas Season atop one of many festive fireplace mantels at The Breakers.
The Breakers - Newport RI | Vibrant holiday decorations surround the Campan marble fireplace of the gilded Music Room, once used for recitals and dances.
Vibrant holiday decorations surround the Campan marble fireplace of the gilded Music Room, once used for recitals and dances.

One Mansion, Thirty Christmas Trees!

Opposite the fireplace, the Music Room is aglow for the holidays, complete with a red-themed Christmas tree.
The Breakers - Newport RI | Festive glass ornaments and other baubles adorn one of thirty magnificent Christmas trees during the holidays at The Breakers mansion.
Festive glass ornaments and other baubles adorn one of thirty magnificent Christmas trees during the holidays at The Breakers mansion.
The Breakers - Newport RI | The Dining Room of The Breakers features twelve Corinthian columns, 18-, 22-, and 24-karat gilded walls, and an elaborate ceiling fresco. Two baccarat crystal chandeliers shimmer from above. Surely more than a few elite and famous guests have dined in the opulence of this majestic room.
The Dining Room of The Breakers features twelve Corinthian columns, 18-, 22-, and 24-karat gilded walls, and an elaborate ceiling fresco. Two baccarat crystal chandeliers shimmer from above. Surely more than a few elite and famous guests have dined in the opulence of this majestic room.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A vintage stuffed horse and an old-fashioned Saint Nicholas at The Breaks bring good cheer to children visiting The Newport Mansions at Christmas.
A vintage stuffed horse and an old-fashioned Saint Nicholas at The Breaks bring good cheer to children visiting The Newport Mansions at Christmas.

Luxury Lifestyle

The Breakers - Newport RI | Mr. Vanderbilt’s stately bedroom on the second floor of The Breakers, his summer “cottage,” no doubt offered a comfortable repose at day’s end.
Mr. Vanderbilt’s stately bedroom on the second floor of The Breakers, his summer “cottage,” no doubt offered a comfortable repose at day’s end.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A luxurious bathtub at The Breakers, carved from a single slab of marble and weighing almost one ton, offered the ultimate in relaxation. Four spigots ran hot and cold salt and fresh water. The salt water was piped in from the Atlantic Ocean and considered therapeutic.
A luxurious bathtub at The Breakers, carved from a single slab of marble and weighing almost one ton, offered the ultimate in relaxation. Four spigots ran hot and cold salt and fresh water. The salt water was piped in from the Atlantic Ocean and considered therapeutic.
The Breakers - Newport RI | The rear facing rooms of The Breakers Newport mansion offers views of the manicured property leading up to the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliff Walk follows the perimeter, dividing the two.
The rear facing rooms of The Breakers Newport mansion offers views of the manicured property leading up to the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliff Walk follows the perimeter, dividing the two.

Behind the Scenes

The Breakers - Newport RI | Diffused light pours through grand windows of the hallway leading into the kitchen of The Breakers. One assumes this area was frequented by staff alone, but with such exquisite woodwork and turned rails, who would mind?
Diffused light pours through grand windows of the hallway leading into the kitchen of The Breakers. One assumes this area was frequented by staff alone, but with such exquisite woodwork and turned rails, who would mind?
The Breakers - Newport RI | Heavy copper pots gleam in the spacious kitchen of The Breakers, where scenes from the original <a href="http://amzn.to/2ktO6yy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Great Gatsby</a> movie were filmed. (In fact, several movies were shot at The Breakers.) Outfitted with a massive 21 foot (6.4 m) cast iron stove fueled by a coal, a zinc workspace, and a large marble mortar, one can imagine the kitchen bustling with activity in order to satisfy the Vanderbilts and their guests.
Heavy copper pots gleam in the spacious kitchen of The Breakers, where scenes from the original Great Gatsby movie were filmed. (In fact, several movies were shot at The Breakers.) Outfitted with a massive 21 foot (6.4 m) cast iron stove fueled by a coal, a zinc workspace, and a large marble mortar, one can imagine the kitchen bustling with activity in order to satisfy the Vanderbilts and their guests.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A tray of expertly decorated sugar cookies are strewn with red ribbon by the Pastry Chef and ready to be hung on a Christmas tree. I bet they’re delicious!
A tray of expertly decorated sugar cookies are strewn with red ribbon by the Pastry Chef and ready to be hung on a Christmas tree. I bet they’re delicious!

Rosecliff Mansion

Architecturally inspired by The Grand Trianon (the garden retreat at Versailles commissioned by Louis XIV), Newport’s Rosecliff mansion is on a smaller scale yet no less grand.

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | The entryway of Rosecliff features an open-air colonnade, paired ionic columns, second story pilasters, and a roofline balustrade.
The entryway of Rosecliff features an open-air colonnade, paired ionic columns, second story pilasters, and a roofline balustrade.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | An elegant stairway sweeps upward into a heart shaped opening at Rosecliff. This space catered to elite social gatherings in its hayday, as fictionally depicted in scenes from the original <a href="http://amzn.to/2ktO6yy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Great Gatsby</a> and other movies. Today, Rosecliff continues to serve beautifully as an upscale wedding venue.
An elegant stairway sweeps upward into a heart shaped opening at Rosecliff. This space catered to elite social gatherings in its hayday, as fictionally depicted in scenes from the original Great Gatsby and other movies. Today, Rosecliff continues to serve beautifully as an upscale wedding venue.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | This curvaceous stairway as seen from the landing above is an elegant combination of art and engineering!
This curvaceous stairway as seen from the landing above is an elegant combination of art and engineering!

Largest Private Ballroom in Newport, RI

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Rosecliff is home to Newport's largest private Ballroom, at 40 x 80 feet. With two massive chandeliers suspended from a coffered ceiling, gleaming wood floors, a gothic fireplace, and a string of arch-headed windows overlooking the front gardens, it's simply magnificent. And, did I mention the 8-acre manicured property offers stunning ocean views of the Atlantic Ocean? Yup, fairytale wedding venue, for sure.
Rosecliff is home to Newport’s largest private Ballroom, at 40 x 80 feet. With two massive chandeliers suspended from a coffered ceiling, gleaming wood floors, a gothic fireplace, and a string of arch-headed windows overlooking the front gardens, it’s simply magnificent. And, did I mention the 8-acre manicured property offers stunning ocean views of the Atlantic Ocean? Yup, fairytale wedding venue, for sure.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Natural light pours into the Ballroom through large windows, which give view to the lush formal gardens gracing the entrance. On the opposite side of the Ballroom, more windows overlook the adjacent canopied terrace. Steps lead from there down to the back grounds overlooking the Atlantic ocean beyond.
Natural light pours into the Ballroom through large windows, which give view to the lush formal gardens gracing the entrance. On the opposite side of the Ballroom, more windows overlook the adjacent canopied terrace. Steps lead from there down to the back grounds overlooking the Atlantic ocean beyond.

Hers & His

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | The Salon, decorated with a lighted Christmas tree amidst French Renaissance decor, was a comfortable receiving area for the lady of the house's guests. Here, a working, carved Gothic fireplace provided ambiance as well as heat in addition to the mansion's central heating. A large portrait of the home's hostess, Theresa "Tessi" Oelrichs, oversees the room.
The Salon, decorated with a lighted Christmas tree amidst French Renaissance decor, was a comfortable receiving area for the lady of the house’s guests. Here, a working, carved Gothic fireplace provided ambiance as well as heat in addition to the mansion’s central heating. A large portrait of the home’s hostess, Theresa “Tessi” Oelrichs, oversees the room.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | The rich woodwork and masculine decor of this room were intended for the gentlemen of Rosecliff mansion. A model ship and fine art collection might have been worthy discussion pieces while enjoying the finest of cigars.
The rich woodwork and masculine decor of this room were intended for the gentlemen of Rosecliff mansion. A model ship and fine art collection might have been worthy discussion pieces while enjoying the finest of cigars.

Relaxing in Style

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | A gilded desk occupies a corner of this spacious bedroom, one of three located on the second floor of Rosecliff mansion. Each bedroom is filled with lovely furniture, artifacts of the day, and fine art. As a writer, no doubt I could become well acquainted with this inviting creative space.
A gilded desk occupies a corner of this spacious bedroom, one of three located on the second floor of Rosecliff mansion. Each bedroom is filled with lovely furniture, artifacts of the day, and fine art. As a writer, no doubt I could become well acquainted with this inviting creative space.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Vintage books--one with a marbled edge--are stacked and ready for the bedroom guest's repose.
Vintage books–one with a marbled edge–are stacked and ready for the bedroom guest’s repose.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Perhaps a tasty nightcap before retiring? Every amenity is covered in this lavish bedroom retreat.
Perhaps a tasty nightcap before retiring? Every amenity is covered in this lavish bedroom retreat.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. It put me in a festive spirit!

What is your favorite tidbit of information about the Newport Mansions and/or life in The Gilded Age? Let me know in the comments below or by emailing me. I’d love to hear from you.

A Beach Lover’s Getaway to Cat Island, Bahamas

A Beach Lover’s Getaway to Cat Island, Bahamas

Cat Island, My Island Paradise

I celebrated a certain “big” birthday in the Caribbean. Cat Island, Bahamas is a dreamy place. It’s one of the six Bahamas Out Islands, which also include The Abacos, Acklins, Andros, The Berry Islands, and Bimini. It truly is my island paradise.

There are no high-rise hotels, five-star restaurants, shopping malls or casinos here. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend you opt for more popular Bahamas destinations, like Nassau or Grand Bahama.

Cat Island was right up our alley: Long stretches of powdery pink sand to ourselves, al fresco dining along the tranquil, aqua sea, unsurpassed Bahamian hospitality, and one incredible sunset after another.

This picturesque and friendly island is an ideal place for disconnecting from technology and leaving the daily hustle behind. Clearly, it was a perfect fit for this laid back couple.

Sea & Sand

island paradise at the beach on Cat Island
Crystal. Clear. Water.
Take only memories, leave only footprints
“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” My feet sank in the powdery pink sand. Secluded beaches stretch eight miles along the eastern coast of Cat Island.
A whelk shell washed ashore on Cat Island Bahamas
A lovely pink whelk shell washed ashore on Cat Island, Bahamas. Souvenir!
Aqua sea, pink sand…how does it get better than this?
My feet in the sand = HAPPY!

Accommodations

We spent eight days at Fernandez Bay Village Resort in November for a much-needed escape from cold New England weather. The hurricane season had cleared out, missing the island as it usually does, and the resort had just opened for business. We enjoyed the company of two other couples, a solo traveler, and a young group from Germany who was island hopping by private plane.

With so few guests, the hosts upgraded us to the Royal Palm Cottage, a large private room with a wraparound porch just steps from the pristine water. The room was air-conditioned and had a private, open-air bathroom. How wonderful to shower with warm breezes and a view of the sky!

A Taste of Island Life

Every morning offered a full buffet breakfast to start the day off right. Our days were tranquil. We relaxed, swam, read, napped. When we felt like it, we kayaked, took a short boat ride, and walked along the shoreline. No pressure at all.

We especially loved Happy Hour with hors d’oeuvres (our favorite: Caribbean Lobster Salad seasoned with lime and cilantro) and the famous “honor system” bar. It was always stocked with Fernandez Bay’s famous Rum Punch, as well as beer and wine. Buffet dinners included Bahamian specialties, like grouper and fried plantains, served under the stars. We were very pleased with the food!

The Club House at Fernandez Bay Village is the resort’s central gathering spot and offers guests dining by the sea.
I loaded a breakfast plate with fresh and wholesome foods for a great start to my day…yum!
My morning view…pure heaven.
Just look at that color!
A kayak called me to explore the mangroves…
Loved our private beachfront accommodations in the Royal Palm Cottage. The big decision of the day? Afternoon nap here or in the hammock on the wraparound porch…
Bougainvillea blooms brightly outside my cottage window on Cat Island, Bahamas.
The beach-side bar at Fernandez Bay Village is well stocked with rum punch and more. Yummy!
Yes, I could get used to this life very easily.
Warm breezes, ocean air…Life is better at the beach!
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The Hermitage

We arranged to rent a car for a couple of days to explore the island. It was relatively inexpensive. (FYI, even though we let our U.S. bank know we were traveling out of the country, the transaction did require a phone call to process.)

One must-see attraction was The Hermitage. We climbed Mount Alvernia to see the small but impressive dwelling built single-handedly by Father Jerome. Stations of the Cross led up to Father Jerome’s remote home, the highest point in the Bahamas. We took in breathtaking water views from a peaceful vantage point on high.

It was worth the walk up Mount Alvernia, also known as Como Hill to see the Hermitage.
The elevation at the peak of Mount Alvernia is the highest in the Bahamas. Here, Fr. Jerome single-handedly built what’s known as “The Hermitage.”
You can catch a perfect ocean view on high as seen through an archway of the hermitage, or ring the tower bell.

The Regatta

We also visited the Regatta, where we hear there is a booming nightlife. During the day it’s pretty quiet, but lovely just the same. It’s the gathering place for locals on the island. We passed an island party getting ready for a beach wedding. How romantic!

A dog guards a brightly painted building at the Cat Island Regatta.
One of the best places on earth is under a palm tree.
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Gentle waves take on a surreal color in the Caribbean Sea.

More Island Exploring

We found some of the most memorable sites off the beaten path. Beautiful ruins and colorful homes dotted the island’s curving coastal roads. We loved the natural beauty and meeting interesting people wherever we went as we toured the island from head to toe.

An abandoned property is a beautiful contrast to the aqua shores of Cat Island, Bahamas.
Wildflowers glistened with dew…their simple beauty makes me smile.
Fish doesn’t get fresher than this! Prep work outside Da Smoke Pot in Cat Island, Bahamas.
We were delighted to find a collection of giant conch shells along the shore from which to choose.
Next, we met a lovely woman weaving straw into hats, purses, placements and more…beautiful work!
Colorful layers of weathered paint, like a fine patina, add character to these Bahamian homes.
I wouldn’t mind being shipwrecked on Cat Island. Would you?

Greenwood Beach Resort

We happened at Greenwood Beach Resort to take a midday break and decided to celebrate my birthday in an island way with tasty pina coladas. Having just missed Open Mic (an informal music jam) at Greenwood the night before, the innkeeper broke out his guitar and offered another to Jim, so I enjoyed a private concert! Who would have thought?

Feeling Adventurous?

The Atlantic side of the island was quite a bit windier than Fernandez Bay but just as lovely. For the more adventurous, Greenwood Beach is an excellent place for diving, snorkeling, and kiteboarding. Also, sportfishing–more specifically, bonefishing–is very good here!

We celebrated with two cold piña coladas at Greenwood Beach Resort. Yummy!
Innkeeper Andre was more than happy to play a little impromptu guitar with Jim at Greenwood Beach Resort. What a great afternoon!

Sunsets

If you’re looking for a private island paradise, this may just be it. It is certainly ours. Eight incredible days culminated with one colorful sunset after another. I’d love to say everyone should visit Cat Island, but part of its appeal is it is not overrun with tourism. It’s a romantic, remote, getaway…that’s for sure.

Ahh…sunset. You never disappoint me in the Bahamas.
Did I mention that each sunset seems to be better than the last one Cat Island, Bahamas?
Another spectacular sunset over Fernandez Bay. That’s a wrap!
The sunset silhouettes a beautiful shipwreck on the north side of Cat Island.
Ahh….paradise found.
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We loved Cat Island, Bahamas! Have you been to Cat Island or another tranquil destination we might love as well? Let me know about it! I’d love to hear from you.

 

24 Hours in Venice During “Carnevale”

24 Hours in Venice During “Carnevale”

Visiting Venice, Italy During the Carnival

We were delighted to learn our trip to Italy coincided with Carnevale di Venezia. In addition to romantic gondolas navigating waterways of the Grand Canal and Italian baroque architecture, we were truly enchanted by costumed Carnevale guests. The weather at this time of year was cool and damp, but it was a small price to pay for the opportunity to experience the surreal world of Carnevale.

Gondolas, Gondolas, Everywhere

Beautiful Venice, Italy. Even an overcast day is picturesque.
The simple curves of the gondola are reminiscent of the waves themselves.
Along the piers, a row of gondolas await.
This gold and red gondola seems suitable for royalty. Now that’s traveling in style!
A dapper gondolier ushers one of many flat-bottomed boats through the Canal Grande with ease.
Seriously, what’s more romantic than a gondola ride through Venice, Italy?

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Baroque Architecture

There is no shortage of architectural beauty along the Grand Canal or throughout Venice.
Behold, the beautiful baroque exterior of Santa Maria della Salute (Our Lady of Health) as seen from the waterways the Grand Canal. Salute!
Layers of paint and resurfaced walls erode to reveal beautiful textures from years gone by. If only walls could talk…

Saint Mark’s Square

Saint Mark’s Cathedral is as ornate as cake frosting…amazing craftsmanship!
The Lion of Saint Mark overlooks the Piazza San Marco from high upon the clock tower, a renaissance artifact filled with meaningful symbols.
Friendly pigeons surprise a visitor to St. Mark’s Square!

Delicious Things to Taste

This is the best kind of window-shopping as far as I’m concerned…decisions, decisions. I’ll take one of each, please!
Al fresco dining is a welcome option after a touring the area by foot.
Delicious sandwich combinations on fresh-made ciabatta make a satisfying lunch. This on is pancetta, pickles, and provolone. Yum!

Wonderful Costumes

Colorful masks are everywhere in Venice. This one’s a bit sinister! Ready for Carnevale? It’s a great souvenir, too.
This mysterious woman wears an ornate mask and jewels that compliment her beauty.
An interesting character at Carnevale di Venezia is guarding…his heart?
Completely hidden beneath gold and white, this masquerader remains an elegant mystery!
These two colorful Carnevale enthusiasts remind me of Mad Hatters! Wonderful costumes!
Butterflies in whimsical motion adorn this colorful costume. Fun!
Finally, the woman in blue. She’s just stunning! Carnevale in Venice Italy…it’s surreal.

Which is Your Favorite?

We’d love to know which costume is your favorite. Let us know in the comments, below.

If you enjoyed this photo gallery of Venice, Italy, we invite you to follow Enjoy Travel Life on Instagram to see more photos from around the world.

© 2017 EnjoyTraveLlife.com All Rights Reserved

Photo Gallery: Positano Italy

Photo Gallery: Positano Italy

48 Hours in Positano Italy

I’d scheduled only one night in Positano before I’d leave the Amalfi Coast for my family’s inland hometown of Ariano Irpino. That changed as soon as I arrived.

Positano begged me to stay.

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The private balcony on the third floor with sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, colorful homes chiseled into the mountainside architecturally reminiscent of Greek influence, and small shops with handmade linen dresses.

How could I possibly say no?

I immediately requested a second night at the Hotel Villa Gabrisa. Because it was the off-season, they were able to accommodate. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so lucky.

Going Solo

For 48 hours, I explored solo what’s traditionally known as a couples’ destination, savoring picturesque moments to myself without regret.

I only wish I had more time to capture beautiful Positano on camera. Perhaps next time, because I know I’ll be going back.

Enjoy the photo gallery, and click to enlarge.

All photographs were taken by Jackie Gately with a Canon EOS Rebel or iPhone 7 Plus camera for exclusive use by Enjoy Travel Life (c) 2017.

Photo Gallery: Manchester Vermont

Photo Gallery: Manchester Vermont

A Road Trip to Manchester Vermont

All six of us (two adults, four kids) piled into the car one weekend and headed north to Manchester Vermont. Our destination: the Wilburton Inn, a hilltop estate which includes a Tudor-style mansion and several other smaller buildings for lodging.

The multi-talented Levi family owns and runs the inn. They are on-site and always happy to engage in conversation. We enjoyed live entertainment and delicious farm-to-table dining al fresco on the patio. It was a nice opportunity to get to know the other guests.

Mount Equinox

We also ventured the 5.2-mile drive up Mount Equinox. The birds-eye perspective of the mountain range from the summit of Mount Equinox is incredible!

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So, have a look at the photo gallery, and click to enlarge. The view is just spectacular!

All photographs were taken by Jackie Gately with a Canon EOS Rebel or iPhone 7 Plus camera for exclusive use by Enjoy Travel Life (c) 2017.

 

Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun

A Italian Memoire by Frances Mayes

If you’ve seen the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, you’ll know that recently divorced, middle-aged Frances Mayes meets Marcello, a handsome Italian who takes her to Positano, Italy. They eat with his family on the beach, drink homemade limoncello, and have a short-lived love affair.

Under the Tuscan SunHaving seen the movie many times–it’s one of my favorites–of course I had to make a pilgrimage to Positano while visiting Italy. (I also made the trip to Cortona, where Frances bought a villa; more on that later.) As I walked the beach and listened to the Tyrrhenian Sea roar, I imagined the scene where Frances and Marcello walked along together, flirting with the future. Later, navigating the winding streets of Positano, each with stunning views of mountains and sea, I kept an eye on the balconies above for a handsome Italian man to call down to me… No such luck, but I remained enchanted.

Avid literary fan that I am, I decided to read the book that inspired the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun by (the real) Frances Mayes. I was surprised to find it was very different from the movie I so loved! Once I got past that little disappointment, I enjoyed romantic descriptions of the Tuscan countryside and the true life story of Frances Mayes’ journey. I understood how descriptions of Tuscany and some quirky characters could inspire the movie. But, it is truly a horse of different color. Nonetheless, I found the setting, culture, and characters delightful. Mayes’ is a master at articulating the richness of the Italian countryside; No doubt, you will feel as though you are in Italy while reading.

 

5 Must-Haves for Fashionable Florence, Italy

5 Must-Haves for Fashionable Florence, Italy

Travel Essentials

I did a little shopping before going to fashionable Florence Italy to update my look – just a few things I thought would travel well: some trendy jeans, clean walking shoes, some tailored cotton shirts, a light weight Michael Kors jacket that squished down into a carrying bag should the weather turn, which came in soooo handy! After all, I couldn’t go to the “Cradle of the Renaissance” looking disheveled. I targeted “neat” because on most occasions, I’m more of a functional, practically-dressed girl. Fashion was really never my thing.
MIchael Kors Navy Chevron Quilted Packable

Tommy Hilfiger Women's Floreda Sneaker

Beautiful Italian Women

When I got to Florence, there was something about the Italian women that truly inspired me. Many of them were so beautiful! I watched in awe as they passed me by, sunglasses glinting in the sun, tossing their shiny dark hair, smelling good, with big leather bags slung over their shoulders, and leather boots clacking on the city’s ancient cobblestone. What was it about them?

After a while, I noticed it wasn’t that the women’s physical characteristics were so striking (although I did envy their high cheekbones, big dark eyes, and olive skin); It was that they held themselves with such an air of confidence. What is it they say? “Confidence is the sexiest attribute a woman can have.” I saw it for myself in Florence. It’s 100% true.

5 Quintessential Fashion Accessories Inspired by Fashionable Florence, Italy

Now, you can’t buy confidence. But I suppose it didn’t hurt that they were sporting beautiful pashmina scarves and jewelry from the shoppes at Ponte Vecchio. Shopping in Florence was so tempting even I could not help but pick up a few must-haves as gifts from fashionable Florence. I narrowed it down to five quintessential fashion accessories one must bring (or take home) from Florence. I was ready for the transformation.

1.    Pashmina Scarf

You can find gorgeous pashmina scarves inexpensively at street vendors in and around the Piazza de Santa Croce, a famous and bussling square in Florence. Soft and colorful with intricately woven patterns, they can be worn looped around your neck or gracefully draped over your shoulders like a shawl. Everyone wears scarves, even the guys wrap them smartly around their necks.

Nine Seven Genuine Leather Women's Pointed Toe Chunky Heel Side Zip Handmade Trendy Designed Ankle Boots

2.    Leather Boots

You’ll find stylish, soft leather ankle boots in many of the store windows. You will be even more surprised at their affordability. A comfortable low heel makes a great finish to jeans while still looking classy — and you can’t beat the Italian leather. Regrettably, I didn’t splurge on the leather boots while in Florence. (What was I thinking?!)  Knock-off boots were the first thing I bought when I returned home.

Steve Madden Women's Twill and Plaid Reversible Ruana3.    A Stylish Wrap

There is something so artistic about wrapping yourself in a fine poncho wrap and tossing one side assymetrically over your shoulder. There were many beautiful, woven styles in natural fibers, it was hard to choose which to take home. Again, the prices were so affordable! I settled on a black plaid that makes a tasteful statement at work or play to complete an outfit or serve at outerwear. I get compliments whenever I wear it, and It’s one of my prized possessions from Florence.

4.   A Leather Purse

The rich smell of leather will likely draw you into more than one leather shop in Florence. Fine stitching, classic styling, and super soft leather makes it hard to leave the shops without taking a genuine leather purse with you. I expected to pay a lot more for the quality of the bag I bought on

Michelangelo Assisi - Woman Shoulder Bag Azalea

Via dell’Oriuolo. It’s big enough and so well-made that I even use it to carry my laptop and paper notebooks on short trips. No regrets.

 

 

5.  Sunglasses

What woman’s mystique isn’t improved by a pair of great sunglasses! Whether you chose something Sophia Lauren might wear, or some cool Gucci aviators, no look is complete without them. I negotiated a Newbee Fashion-"Berrysweet" - Oversized High Fashion Sunglasses for Women with Rhinestones Blingbling UV Protectiongood price on some cheap sunglasses (10 Euro!) with a little bling on each side and wear them year round. Even when it’s not sunny, they are still my go to hair accessory.

To feel truly transformed by fashionable Florence, I discovered you must embrace fashion. As I pull my wrap asymmetrically around me, zip up my boots, toss my big bag over my shoulder and throw on my dark sunglasses for mystique…There I am, finally: Perfectly confident and ready to take on the world.

Breakfast in Positano, Italy

Breakfast in Positano, Italy

An Assortment of Goodness

Delicious Breakfast Choices

As I fill my dish with an assortment of delectables from the complimentary breakfast spread at Hotel Villa Gabrisa in Positano, Italy, it’s hard to choose what to take and what to leave behind. It all looks so good!
Cut fruit, fresh mozzarella balls, slivers of ricotta pie, prosciutto, and bright clementines picked fresh from the trees outside. Even the glossy prunes, which I don’t normally eat, are delicious here. They are fresh, tender, mild, and sweet, with no weird “what is that?” preservative flavor. Not a hint of rubbery.

If only it were fig season, but no such luck in this off-season of February. Those odd-looking fig trees are everywhere; also olive, lemon, orange, all in living color and contrast to our aging grocery store produce in the states. 
Breakfast would be incomplete without a slow frothy cappuccino — or two — served in bright hand-painted cups.

'Breakfast would be incomplete without a slow frothy cappuccino -- or two...' #Positano #Italia #Cappuccino Click To Tweet

Anticipating the Day Ahead

Today I bring my breakfast back to my room on the third floor, comfortably overlooking the Amalfi Coast from my balcony. Diffused light fills the air, as does the sound of aqua waves lapping the beach below, poised along the Gulf of Salerno and filled by the warm Tyrrhenian Sea.

I’m told the sand is black and sugar fine but have yet to bare my feet in it. The sun tries to burn through a morning fog, warm and moist, surrounding the steep cove. I am hopeful she will succeed, if only per una momento.

 

Exploring Positano

Housekeeping clamors in the room next door, reminding me I’ve lingered too long at my keyboard this morning.

With camera-in-hand, I will climb up and down what’s sure to be a thousand steps of Positano for the amazing scenes of the Amalfi Coast.

You can walk back and forth on the road for miles as it slowly winds up the cliffs of Positano, or find la scala (stairs) which cut through the mountainous tiers at a dizzying incline to reach the cliff top residences and shops quickly. Going down to the beach is waaaay easier.

Ultimately, as I sling my trusty camera across my neck like a purse, I know the best images will be those forever impressed upon my memories.

All photographs were taken by Jackie Gately with a Canon EOS Rebel or iPhone 7 Plus camera for exclusive use by Enjoy Travel Life (c) 2018.

 

An Off-Season Waterfront Weekend in Sandwich, Cape Cod

An Off-Season Waterfront Weekend in Sandwich, Cape Cod

89 North Shore Boulevard

I couldn’t have been happier with the accommodations at this adorable two-bedroom cottage located on East Sandwich beach just steps from the ocean. Owners Tom and Ellen went out of their way to make sure I had everything I needed for an off-season weekend stay at their property, which has breathtaking views of the ocean. This space offers comfort, peace, and privacy, and is ideal as a beachy getaway for 1 to 6 people on- or off-season.

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An Embarrassment of Mangoes

A Caribbean Interlude

I enjoyed being an invisible stowaway on this couple’s two-year sailboat adventure from Canada down to the Caribbean. I learned a lot about sailing (of which I knew nothing), US waterways, procedures, risks, weather, islands’ culture and people.

I also loved the food, fishing and recipe elements covered in the book. The notion of this couple leaving daily responsibilities behind for a two year adventure was very appealing to me, especially as Jim and I are also freelancers. No doubt we would choose very similar off-the-beaten paths toward getting to know the “real” island life.

These two made it happen and reaped big-time personal growth (and no doubt, creative) benefits. Kudos! Reading this book was an excellent getaway from the daily grind, and I am so happy this couple successfully achieved one of their dreams and captured it so well. Thank you for sharing a most interesting and entertaining story. Very inspiring, indeed!

Other books by Ann Vanderhoof: