Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

Coolifornia

I’ve traveled …. a lot.  Close to home – Canada and Mexico close to home.  Every state except Hawaii and North Dakota  Most of the banana republics of Central America and the Latin States of South America.   17 island nations of the Caribe, islands of French Polynesia, Great Britain and some places that I can’t even remember the names of, just vignettes of incidents that blend in my mind to make me thankful for the colors I’ve seen and experienced.

Among my very favorite places is California – swimmin’ pools and movies stars, right?  And it’s somewhat true – you can’t have that many folks in the entertainment industry in the same place without bumping into some – yesterday I rode the Air Train from rental car return into the air terminals at SFO with Eric Bana.  I recognized him and we chatted casually – he was on his way back to NY and I was returning to NC.  Thank goodness I didn’t try to address him by name since the only thing that popped into my mind was Liev  Schrieber.  For once I didn’t stick my foot in it, but my sense is that he would have thought it funny.

My California isn’t so much of the south, though I have family in and around San Diego and have spent some time around Laguna Beach,  but of the northern half, with family there too.  One most excellent summer, my father was free from work, (a supportive union was out on strike and he didn’t have to report for work until the ironworkers ended  their walkout}.  I’ve taken to calling it “The Summer of Creedence”.      We rode horses in the foothills of the Sierras, played endless games of pool in the garage, snuck drinks of Jug Wine (think Boone’s Farm in fake ceramic jugs) and endlessly listened to CCR’s Green River album, “…Walkin’ along the river road at night, Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight….”, The Carpenters, and tried to grow up.  That California is pretty far removed from the LA/Valley scene, even in the names of the towns –  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   Cool (really), Dew Drop, Secret Town, Yankee Jims and the everlasting Grass Valley.   During that summer, Grass Valley was the habitation and habitus of “them hippies”, according to my Dad and Uncle Buck – also affectionately known as “Uncle Blob”.    Grass Valley has retained its flavor with newer influences evolving the scene.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Freeway billboard along the 101

My Coolifornia has a few palms scattered here and there, but it’s a place of dry hills, sprinkled with Cedars and other relatives of the Sequoia, Live Oaks and the various Elms – American, Chinese, Siberian and the more uniquely named, Zelkova.

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I-80 Rest Area scenery

Take time to visit my California – take I-80 north from San Francisco, get off this highway that wanders from two to six lanes, which does NOT improve traffic flow, at Auburn and enjoy the Old Town – think old Key West still with a gold rush flavor.  Head west and south out of town on Hwy. 49.   The road twists and turns, like the Blue Ridge, down canyons to the American River, with plenty of turnouts to enjoy the views – and take note of the various weeds, something far too many overlook when traveling – the Star Nettle and many others .

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California Star Nettle
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Along the Salmon Falls Rd near Pilot Hills, CA

 

Drop down across the American and climb the switch backs on the other riverbank.  Pass through Cool and wind your way through the opening land to Folsom.    And, holy cats, don’t fail to watch for reminders of California’s more recent past…..

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The Prison is still a major presence there with sprawling lands, bordered by the Johnny Cash Art trail and Folsom Lake.

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American River Gorge

Finally, for the painterly, this is a chance to visit Northern Italy without the bother of international travel – landscape, scenery and the lemony blue light.   I’ll be going back, all things staying equal, to Coolifornia, to visit, paint and again feel the wonder of my youth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

Back in the U.S, back in the U.S., back in the USSR – (U Sleep Slightly on Return), and a Taste of Maine

Sorry, this is not about Moscow girls, Leningrad girls or JoJo, who hasn’t been on my mind.

First, indulge me in a comment on Airline Economy Class upgrades- some are nothing more than the vehicle to charge you more for a seat that has some, real or suggested, advantage –  “oh look, I’m four whole rows closer to the deplaning exit..” (but  you’re still in row 30 instead of 34).   But the airlines DO have some wicked cool names for your freedom to pay more for essentially the same, well, everything –  American Airlines can allow you to upgrade from Basic Economy to Premium Economy, United has Standard Economy to Premium Economy, Delta from Economy to Comfort, and so on.

Darth

However, one basic upgrade level I can recommend is Virgin Atlantic’s “Economy Delight”..( skyrockets in flight, economy delight…).   Yes, this whimsically named upgrade has some real benefits.  First, since if you are flying, say Boston-Heathrow – 5-1/2hrs and 7hrs on the return, the extra 3.5″ of leg room is great, especially compared to the 2″ additional on some other carriers.  Next, you board with Premium instead of the cattle call and have guaranteed overhead storage.  Seats are roomy with  excellent curved headrests and worth the $ spent.   As they say onboard – “Economy Delight – look for the Champagne coloured seats..”

vs seats

We flew LHR-BOS on Sunday, had our baggage collected & were in the rental car by 6 p.m and headed for Maine.  After traveling 4000 miles into the headwind, and inevitable delays on the taxiways of Beantown, the 90 minute drive up Rt. 1A and I-95 to our friend’s house in Maine was kein problem!  We would spend only that night, the next day and the following morning in Maine before driving back to Boston and flying back to North Carolina.

Maine is a world apart by almost any measure.  The year-round population of just over 1.3 million is almost exactly that of Charlotte and Raleigh, NC without their suburbs.   More than 75% of the state is wooded and 13% of homes are totally heated with wood.  In fact, Mainers are leading the way with decreasing dependence on oil for heating purposes, with almost 7% switching to wood between 2009 and 2014 alone.  Yet, far from Utopian, Maine has about the same per capita population of folks who are finding comfort, and hellish lives from Meth and Heroin.

For all that, after moving away 19 years ago, I would still like to live in Maine….from April through October.  I’m not lazy – I would just rather not spend every minute of free time shoveling snow, ice, slush and other various forms of increasingly solid water states for about 5 months out of the year.

I would rather again live right near the ocean, especially during the non-tourist times to walk on the beach in the morning, pick up hen clams after a storm and catch the “they’ah gonna be heah any day now”, stripers.            OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                         A crowded spring beach in Maine

And if you’re a water sport, you never know who you’re gonna catch a wave with…

MOOSEONBEACH

I’m back in NC now, back to some recreational and non-stop grass mowing, whacking away with paint on canvas and maybe throwing some mud on the pottery wheel.   But part of me is always traveling……..

MB

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

Doc Martin and I…er, We

So let me start out with some gratuitously cute photos I took this morning of the sheep in the pasture immediately behind the barn we’re staying in.  These weren’t taken with a zoom – I put a patio chair out in the pasture to sit in while I worked on a painting of the barn from the rear and the sheep came up and encircled me…………….very peaceful!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, particularly if you are an American and you haven’t watched the Brit TV series, “Doc Martin”, you’ve missed out on a pleasure.   We drove the two hours from our lodging right outside Wincanton, Somerset, through Devon to Cornwall to visit Port Isaac.  The village, perched directly between two headlands jutting into the sea, stands in as Port Wenn on the Doc Martin series.   Carrolle began watching  the production first and I watched all seven series with her just to be companionable.   Then to prove how great a companion I am, I watched the entire seven seasons a second time…then eventually, a third time.  The series features great acting, spectacular scenery and some insight to a part of the U.K. that remains pretty fiercely independent.   Most of the directional and informational signs were printed in both English and Gaelic..   except for these, which were pretty much executed by different age groups in the Graphic style..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Apparently, all the tourists who brought their dogs, and there were a bunch of them, have been something less than discriminating about the collection of their dog’s “poo”.

Before we actually got to Port Isaac, we stopped at the Cornish Arms in Pendoggett, Cornwall, for lunch.  We suspected, and rightly so, that the prices for the fare would be meaningfully less expensive than eight miles down the road at Port Isaac.  Besides the really good food – and I cannot highly enough recommend the Fish and Chips enough – big, meaty pieces of Cod, battered in snowflake light beer mix.   Besides the food, the real treasure was “the Maid” of the bar, Gemma.   Gemma was not only really personable, but entertaining as well.  She’s appeared as an extra on Doc Martin and has lived, so far, her entire life in Cornwall – where the appropriate greetings are, “Alright, me lover”, and “‘Ello there, me ‘andsome”.    If you are going to visit, practice, practice, practice.   There are videos on YouTube – according to Gemma, the one of the biggest thorns to the side of locals are the really bad, fake, Cornwall accents!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   The Cornish Arms – Pendoggett, Cornwall

Besides the obligatory photos once we arrived in Port Isaac, Cb at Doc Martin’s Surgery, etc.   There are a lot of very interesting doorways, alleys and narrow streets – all of which I’m especially attracted to photographing..

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The above and below are “streets” in Port Isaac 

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And now for obligatory Doc Martin type shots……..

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Port Isaac from the headland above the house that is the location of Doc Martin’s House.  Louisa’s “school” is visible directly across the harbor..large white building that looks like a church building.
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Carrolle entering “Doc Martin’s Surgery”

And later in the day, we drove over to Tintagel, which is the mythic place of conception of King Arthur, or more accurately of soon to be Baby Arthur, but actually was a rocky outcropping sticking high and deep into the sea that has been inhabited since about 600 A.D.   In about the year 1230, the Earl of Cornwall, wanted to get a little swagger on and connected the building of castle at Tintagel with Arthur’s legend and the place has been popular, especially with authors of Arthur legend, conceivers of conspiracy theories and promoters of legend-plagiarized art ever since.   In any case, it is very cool and if you’re one of those folks who is trying to get in 10,000 steps a day, this is the place to do – wear your comfortable and rugged hiking shoes – its just a little bit of up and down!

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view from top of Tintagel
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Above and Below – Ruins of the 1230 castle

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In short, there is a whole world of exploration to do in England’s Southwest coast.

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Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

A Tale of two trains…..

Dateline: Saturday, 12 May –  We had taken the train from Templecombe, Somerset to London for a surprise experience primarily for  Carrolle, of riding the London Eye.  As a quick note, the Eye (extremely prominently promoted by Coca-Cola), is a 443ft tall, very slow moving ferris wheel, in which the captives, er, riders, are contained, 12 at a time, in a large spaceship shaped gondola.   The Eye takes just about 1/2 hr to make a complete rotation and only actually stops if someone that is wheelchair bound is getting on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP5110160.JPG          The Eye has it!                                                            The Bird’s Eye View

Like so many things in life, the anticipation was as good as, or even better than the actuality.  You can see most of London, so much so, that even if you’re familiar with the locations, it gets confusing.  All in all, it was enjoyable, especially since the rain held off until after we boarded.

Then the fun started.

We disembarked, took the Tube from Waterloo Train station to one of the stations near to the British Museum.  My amazement, when we arrived to find every other tourist, looking for an attraction out of the rain, cannot be overstated.  The line was approximately 2 hrs long, so we nixed that idea and headed for a bus station to get back to Waterloo.   We bought bus tickets, found that no fewer than six routes went to Waterloo .  We chose Route 188.  Because, why?  Because the 188 bus was on the way to the stop when we got there.  We boarded.  I asked the driver, a broadly smiling young man from a Balkan country,  “Does this route go to Waterloo?”   Mirov answers immediately, “Yes, yes, Waterloo, yes!”  Another very broad smile.  We wind our way around St. James Square (a nice park actually), and on the second circumnavigation, the bus pulls up to a stop and shuts off.  The driver announces that all passengers must exit and wait for next bus.  I asked the driver, just conversationally, “Is the bus broken down?”  “No, just break time – next bus in 14 minutes, you board and go to Waterloo – Route 188!”  Ok, so not a big deal.  Mirov then hand rolls a cigarette and walks around the outside of the bus, occasionally darting in to answer a radio call from his supervisor.  Exactly 14 minutes later, he enters the bus, starts it and pulls up to us, from 30 feet away, opens the door and announces, “Route 188 to Waterloo and points east!”   We arrive Waterloo, a little soggy, about 8 minutes and two stops later.   Our spirits having been dampened, just a little, but now it was beginning to be a little funny and warm food and drink were inside.

We board our return train, Waterloo to Templecombe, promptly and found a table seat where the four of us could face each other eat some cheese and crackers we picked up at Waterloo in a very nice little boutique grocery store right in the station.  train seating 2   Good seating for a two hour tour

Even though the itinerary included four more stops than on the outbound trip, the schedule showed us arriving back at Templecombe Station only four minutes longer than the trip time inbound into London – so not bad.  We met some nice folks, had some laughs about our American accents (I told them we were all Cockneys but we were practicing our American accents).  Every single person we met told us we were spot on!   Things were good as we rolled in Templecombe.  I led our foursome to the back of the car, pressed the button that allowed us out into the vestibule between cars, stepped through and pressed the button that actually opened the outside doors and…nothing!  Pressed again, no open doors.  I looked around for the attendant, saw him the next car back and was about to call him when the train started moving.   We were about to experience being “over-carried”.   We rode to the next stop and purely by chance, there was another train headed back to London coming into the station in 90 seconds.  We gathered up our stuff, ran up the stairs to the cross-over bridge, back down and as promised the eastbound train pulled in.  Back to Templecombe at last.

Today was another sort of train experience in every way.   An afternoon Cream Tea on the East Somerset Railway, departing from Cranmore, Shepton Mallet, Somerset station.  The engine is steam driven, the speed is slow – it takes 45 minutes to travel the 2.5 miles down and the same back and the experience was a step back  to a more genteel age.P5120164.JPGOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                        A perfect afternoon on a great day!

I highly recommend that if you find yourself in the area, wend your way to Cranmore and book your own Tea!   The experience is made even more memorable by some of the more esoteric sights to take in –

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sign inside the men’s urinal closet

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The British have an overseer for every occasion and activity….sign seen outside the WC.

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The (Rock)Bourne Identity

A very enjoyable day today spent at the Rockbourne Trout Fishery.   English fishing, by my reckoning, is a very expensive proposition – what with annual fishing rod taxes (is there any item in the U.K. that is not specifically taxed??), licensing, paying, in most places just the cost of being able to wet a line there.  Well I am here to tell you that Peter and Simeon, the owner and fisheries manager respectively, have not only put together a class operation – with the very real possibility of catching some high quality fish, but at a streamlined cost for such a great time.  The nuts and bolts, briefly is that if you are not a season pass holder, you can fish on a daily basis and your costs are fixed – you can purchase a daily pass for a given number of fish, in our case, the four of us each had a 2 fish ticket.  We did need to purchase from the British Gov’t a one-day license (GBP 6) and the total fishing cost was £38 each, or about $45 USD.  Still pretty stiff, you say?  Check out Exhibit #1 below: Buddy and the fish.jpg

This is my very good friend George Edward “Buddy”.  As an aside, Buddy is an “X”, in other words, the 10th in his family line with exact same name (excepting for the “Buddy”).  Buddy caught this super Blue Trout on fly, 5.5lbs!  Be like Buddy, if you’re going to catch fish, catch big fish!

Buddy was not the only one to score, both his wife Sue and I managed to land fish too – Sue’s Rainbow weight was 4 lbs and my very enjoyable Rainbow catch came in at a respectable 3 lbs, all taken by wet flies.

P5100150.JPG                                                         Sue catches fish, she just doesn’t hold them!

 

P5100153 (1).JPG                                                     My last minute Rainbow

And lest anyone start in with the “well that’s just like shooting fish in a barrel” manUray,  We fished hard for three hours, changing retrieves, flies, presentations, the works and fishing in each of the six lakes available to us.  But here’s the beauty part;  if you don’t fill your tickets, or even if you don’t catch any – you’re not going to go home empty handed.  Rockbourne smokes fish onsite and they give you sealed packets of smoked trout to take with you.  These packets retail at £6.50 each.  Also, if you’re not into fresh fish, you can trade your catch (this is not a catch and release fishery – it’s catch and filet!), for smoked fish.  Want the fresh fish?  They will handle the dressing out for you at a cost of £1 for each fish.  Simeon didn’t charge me and thank you very much!

To sum up, if you’re in the life position where you’re weighing costs -vs- benefits (I know all about that), Rockbourne Fisheries is an excellent value all the way around –  I now know, and value the RockBourne Identity!

For more information, go here:     http://www.rockbournetroutfishery.co.uk/ or contact Peter and Simeon on their Facebook page, Rockbourne Trout Fishery

Disclaimer-  Rockbourne management and owners do not know me and in no way offered any compensation or inducement.  The opinions and experience contained herein is solely mine based on our experience today.  That said, anytime I’m in the U.K. I will be returning again!

 

P5100149.JPG                                                 A view across Spring Lake

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The stay’s the thing

We were in Bath, England, (that’s Baahth if you’re pronouncing it in the British manner), today, right down on the River Avon.  Being on the very waters that Shakespeare bathed, had his close washed in and used as a privy, put me in mind of some of his best remembered phrases, which I have shamelessly changed for my own use above!

I’ve stayed in some megalithic hotel properties and slept in places high in the Andes that some folks wouldn’t board their dog in.  I really don’t care for glass and chrome, unless I have to stay in such a place.  Typically, when we travel, we’ll rent a house outside of town and have a much better stay all the way around than in hotel or motel.

This trip to the U.K., we’re staying in a pig barn.    How modest of us – but not really-joke!

I cannot highly enough recommend, to those seeking shelter in the Southwest of England, booking lodging with Tanya Peatroy at Lois Barns, just outside Wincanton.   Our lodging really was a pig barn, but has been very nicely converted to very comfortable and relaxing lodgings for hire.P5100156.JPG

Lois Barn rental

The barn sleeps six in three king bedrooms, with a full bath and another with a roomy stand alone shower stall.  Attention has been paid to every detail and lodging sports the original beams in the two upstairs bedrooms and in the living room, which is fitted with a  nice little fire place.

Not only is the barn very comfortable, free from traffic noise, but has great neighbors!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just now there are 30 ewes, each with twins in the pasture right behind the house, and instead of being awakened by the blat of motorcycles, we wake gently to lambs playing. (No, there is no silence, they are all very much vocal).

Good lodging is the foundation of a great trip and we have it here.

If you’d like to explore a stay at Lois Barns in the Somerset are of England, get in touch with Tanya Petroy at the below information:

Tanya
01963 371329
07711 423456
tanya@loisbarns.co.uk
http://www.loisbarns.co.uk

Next up:  From Bed, Bath, and Beyond

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Good old British Manors

One of the most common reasons people visit the U.K. is to take in the sense of history, of longevity, and of human endeavor that is connected with grand structures.  At times, these edifices are grand and at other times grandiose.  Which may depend on how you feel about those who have, and do, live or work in such buildings.   One of our personal favorites is Highclere Castle, mistakenly thought by many Americans as               “Downton Abbey”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                 Carrolle, Sue and GeorgeEdwina (Buddy) tread the path the Crawleys trod

Just as imposing and even more majestic in their own right, are the massive trees, Cedars of Lebanon,  primarily planted over 300  years ago.  Not in the age range of sequoias perhaps, but just as amazing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA               One of the 50-60 remaining Cedars of Lebanon thriving at Highclere

Highclere was yesterday. Today, after a full night’s sleep – not just suggested, but bodily mandated after the previous night’s flight from BOS to LHR, a less ambitious, but just as rewarding was our quick drive to Shaftesbury.  The town is first best known for the view from the top of Gold Hill –OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The views from the hilltop are genuinely spectacularOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And finally, just before winding back to our rented barn near Wincanton, we had to also walk the way of those who had gone before…………OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA               *(I was the barefoot one, but had to run down to snap the shutter….)