Portugal Praia (beach)

I haven’t been to the French Rivera. I haven’t been to the cliffs of Amalfi. I have driven, toured and run the soft sparkly sand through my fingers at the Algarve. The Algarve is Praia eo Camilo (Lagos)150 kilometers/90 miles of coastline.

We drove to S. Vicente, the Cape Cod of Portugal, the most southern point, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.

It isn’t true if you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all. They are all so different.

The Hawaiian personality of the thatched umbrellas was at the Falesia Praia, the picture below, and at no other.


We discovered all the beaches are topless, but not all the women were. No, you can’t see the ones that were topless. I don’t have them to share.

The path begins at the Nossa Senhora da Encarnação fort (GPS 37.09474, -8.46976), which is at the top of the steep hill leading to the left (east) side of the beach. The boardwalk extends for 570m to the car park at the top of the Algar Seco cliff (GPS 37.09332, -8.46556). A typical walk takes around 10 minutes but often takes much longer as the beautiful scenery is admired. The wooden path means that it is suitable for all and is perfect for less mobile visitors or families. At the base of the Algar, Seco cliffs is the Boneca Bar, a great setting for drinks and light meals.

Do note: The Carvoeiro Boardwalk does not extend down to the Algar Seco and to reach the base of the cliff a long flight of steps needs to be descended.

The town of Carvoeiro, where the stars reside, is a town known for entertaining kings and queens. You can find cafes at every turn. There were so many cafes,  it was hard to choose.



Cafe Pine Cliffs Hotel, Algarve

We didn’t see any famous stars. The praia (the beach) was the star, with hills, cliffs, houses in the cliffs, sheer dropoffs, eloquent seascapes. Fishing boats right next to beach umbrellas, people at rest, children at play.

Custard tarts & and coffee (those tarts are outrageous) This pastéis de nata recipe makes as-close-to-authentic Portuguese custard tarts with a rich egg custard nestled in shatteringly crisp pastry. Tastes like home, even if you’re not from Portugal. If you live in Connecticut, buy these at Chaves Bakery in Bridgeport on Madison Ave. 


Portuguese sundae, yum (atypical)







Coffee (above) is serious business in Portugal. Usually, espresso is served after every meal. After lunch at one of the cafes in Carvoeiro, we indulged. Decaf, brewed of course. We were horrified at our Tivoli Hotel in Villamoura, where they served Nescafe, a decaf espresso, not brewed. It wasn’t too bad. And that’s only b/c it was Nescafe. I tried another brand, not brewed, it tasted like bug spray smells.
Plowing through all these places gave us both infinite pleasure. Not once did we see rain.

Alfama, Portugal is Lisbon’s oldest district made famous for its tight winding corridors and for having been one of the few neighborhoods to survive the devastating earthquake of 1755. Photo by Laura Pastores from Westminster College. – See more at:

The white sand beach and cliffs of the beach of Praia da Rocha soft and reflective. The waves broke against the rocks and splashed up sizzling in the sunlight with colors of the rainbow.

My Wild Walk on the Beach

My Wild Walk on the Beach

Rockaway Beach Morning Shoreline by Maureen E Ritter

I was alone. A sultry day in July, the sun was blazing, the temperature in the nineties. A walk on the beach sounded like a great escape. Sneaking away from my family was no big deal.

Jumping into the soaring waves was refreshing, revitalizing, invigorating. I waited for the next wave, then the next. Giggling at the cool spray that tickled my skin. The heat no longer bothered me after each successive splash of cold water coated my arms and legs. Suddenly, I found myself overcome by a giant wave. Unexpected. Scary. Gasping for air and flailing my arms I couldn’t stop the pull of this force of nature.

Would someone see me and come to my rescue? I hadn’t noticed a lifeguard. Who thinks about that when there’s so much fun to be had. I tried to drag myself out of the frothy water, onto the safety of the beach, but my strength was fading fast. The undertow pulled me farther and farther away from shore.

Rockaway Beach

Desperate. Frightened that I would drown, I fought the waves with all my might, dragging myself back. Finally, I managed to stand and slog my way through the shallows to shore.

I was eight years old.

Since that day, I have told this story hundreds of times. I promised myself I would never take the power of nature for granted ever again. I was pretty tall for my age and was a good swimmer, but it didn’t make a difference. I was at the mercy of the tides. Since then, I never go into the ocean when the waves are bigger than me.

Those lovely old cottages

Jones Beach undertow

My family had a cottage just up the street, in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York. The experience put a damper on my love of the ocean. The almost-drowning is what I think of whenever I see a gigantic wave today.

I spent many a summer at Jones Beach watching my own kids jump in and out of the waves. I didn’t want to stop their fun or diminish their pleasure, but I was ready at a moment’s notice to leap to the rescue if one of my kids needed me.

Nature is beautiful but it’s also untameable. Wild. Have a safe summer.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in the fall of 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.


Barcelona beauty to Disney Magic

Barcelona beauty to Disney Magic

Barcelona welcome

The Birds . . .

Hey, if you love to travel then have some fun while I take you on the start of our recent two-week trip of amazing sightseeing and cruising.

Our first stop was Barcelona, Spain. What a glorious city. It was good to be back. We spent three days there. Everywhere we went, there was beauty and delicious food. Especially the tapas! If you go to Barcelona, you have to eat tapas-style. It’s a fun way to eat with plenty to choose from. We all enjoyed the selection. My hubby, Tom, our son Paul, daughter-in-law, Joanne, and I did a pretty good job of trying many different tapas dishes.

Tapas are on every counter in every café and restaurant. And don’t ask how we got seated, because you can’t get served unless you are sitting down or taking it away. Every tapas place we visited was packed. We always wanted to sit at the counter, those were favored spots because then you could pick from the tapas close up. But it was tough to get those seats. The four of us ate our way through the most popular and delicious tapas. By the end of the three days, we were ‘tapased’ out.

Las Ramblas, the famous street that appealed to tourists and locals is the most popular, busiest street in Barcelona. A tree-lined pedestrian mall, it stretched for less than a mile connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. Wikipedia.

Thoughtful memorial


Tom and I remembered the street performers from our 2010 trip. We wished they were there so we could all see them do their thing, maybe next trip. Flowers dedicated to those who lost their lives a few weeks before we arrived, were spread over the base of the Christopher Columbus Monument, at the entrance of the wide avenue. A beautiful and fit memorial.

Casa Batlló roof

We were surrounded by the designs of Antonio Gaudi,19th century architect who thought out-of-the-box. Nowhere else in the world will you see his designs as in Barcelona. His church, the most famous anywhere, the Sagrada Familia, which began construction in 1882/1883, is still under construction. Really!

If you like dragons, you’ll love the Gaudi apartments and rooftops. On Las Ramblas all streetlights and benches are Gaudi designed. His Art Nouveau creations are all over the city.

Barcelona’s main means of travel

Our accommodations were divine at the AC Marriott on the north side of the city. They had their own restaurant with great food and tapas, of course. Designs were contemporary and sleek in steel, glass and leather. Transportation was easy by taxi, metro or bus and walking. So many walked or motorbiked and sometimes you see manual biking.

Getting around Barcelona is easy on the metro. Clean and sparkling!

I have to tell you about the bathrooms and the subway. Everywhere we went, every one of them were sparkling clean. We can learn a thing or two from these Europeans, don’t you think?

Joanne finding polished glass in the sand, fun to look.

We loved our little jaunt to the beach. Joanne waded in the Mediterranean as we cheered her on, we picked polished glass from the sand, enjoyed the sand castles with fireplaces, and danced in the plaza with all the dancing couples. We didn’t want the dream to end.


Sand fireplaces

I forgot to mention the VIP greeting that we received when we arrived in Barcelona. Thank you to son Paul’s client. She took us through the airport and out to taxi service. Imagine VIP status, even temporarily?

Pluto greeting on Disney Magic

After our three-day whirlwind stay in Barcelona we boarded the Disney Cruise Ship for a ten-day cruise across the Atlantic. I’ll tell you more about that amazing “boat trip” next week.


Indigo Sky for the reader who enjoys historical romance! @AmazonKindle Indigo Sky available on Amazon buy link:
Author page:








Boardwalk bench

Boardwalk bench

A visit to Coney Island in 2010 and hundreds of photos later, I began painting the Wonder Wheel while studying portraits with my friend, and portrait artist, Laurel Stern Boeck. Laurel said, “You grew up in Coney Island, you love it, why don’t you paint images as an art project?” I took her suggestion and ran with it. Half a hundred paintings later, Susan Gilgore, Director of Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, invited me to exhibit my work at the museum. My project will be installed on July 9, 2016. Art bash to be held on Thursday, September 8, 2016, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Crowded beach

Crowded beach

A sultry day in Brooklyn, you can see the heat rise up from the streets, you can smell the heat, it’s like dancing in a frying pan. Kids in my day didn’t open up fire hydrants, they gathered their friends and bathing suits and went to the beach. A walk across the street, climb the stairs and catch the train (BMT) to the beach. Coney Island, Surf Avenue—last stop.

Custard cone

Custard cone

On the walk from the train station, we stopped for nothing, the quest for sea and sand took precedent. Later, on our way home, came the fun foods, a bite of Nathan’s hot dogs, Chow Mein on a roll and sugary cotton candy that melted in your mouth. Custard with sprinkles; piled high on a cone, you couldn’t lick fast enough as it dripped down your arm.

Picture booth

Picture booth

We paid frequent visits to Coney Island, at first mostly to visit my grandma. I fell in love with this playland, this dreamland, a place of make-believe and fantasy, like imagining being Cinderella.

Cyclone ticket booth

Cyclone ticket booth

My friends loved the famous Cyclone, a ride I dared to take. The ride moved me to frightening frozen tears. Never again, twice in my lifetime was twice too many. We took pictures of ourselves in picture booths, went to the freak shows, the house of wax, the animal nursery, restaurants—like Child’s on the boardwalk—rifle ranges, push cart rides and parades.

Washington Baths pool

Washington Baths W. 21st big pool That’s me somewhere in there.

I swam in the briny Atlantic, bobbled floating over the waves, cooled off and played under the boardwalk, and watched the fireworks on Tuesday nights. I belonged to Washington Baths where I swam in a huge salt-water pool, dived from the low diving board. No one complained about stinging eyes from the chlorine, but mine were sure red after all those hand stands under water. I sunned myself on the private beach. When I got there in the mornings, I left my friends on the beach, donned my glove and played blackball on the Washington Baths handball courts. The experienced, intelligent men were super competitive. I did well, but I think those seniors went easy on me; they kept calling me pretty girl. Hmm, I wonder?

I will never forget the polio scare. Kids were dropping, and we all thought we were going to get sick. I didn’t, and none of my friends got sick. We were lucky. The Polio scare didn’t deter us, we kept on coming to Coney Island.

Finally in 1952, I got the Salk vaccine.

My Coney Island paintings can be viewed at

Freak show

Freak show



I write, and I paint. Is it possible to do both? Really?

Wonder Woman 1942

Wonder Woman 1942 ( I used to own these, mom made me throw out all my comic books. Imagine?)

The Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective by Stephanie Bower

The Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective by Stephanie Bower

Comic book visuals that captured the hearts of America, mystified me. My pencil crossed the blank page pulling lines to create yesteryear’s super heroine, Wonder Woman. I don’t remember coloring the pictures. It would have had to be crayon, so I just used my pencil.

I sketch on location. Like my long time architect friend, Stephanie Bower. She takes groups all over Seattle, Italy, Hong Kong, Asia, and more. She teaches sketching and makes perspective easy. A great tool for drawing is her new book, Urban Sketching Handbook, Understanding Perspective: She says in her book,  How does perspective work? And where is that darn vanishing point? Understanding Perspective helps you bridge the theoretical world of Perspective concept with the real world of on site sketching. Stephanie shows you how in her book and online with her Crafty classes video.

Where is writing in this creative world of mine?

I didn’t get to choose between writing and painting until I decided to paint Bierstadt’s Domes of Yosemite. Captivated by how the painting came to life, although told as fiction, this true romance, Indigo Sky, is based on Bierstadt’s journey.

After extensive studies and writing workshops, I realized that I could never get this book written while I was still painting. My writing hijacked me, and held me prisoner until the ‘end.’ The time flew by.

Metaphors and similes, the tools serious writers need made a difference, I learned and I loved writing . . . Truly!!!


Indigo Sky

Invitation to Gail's Art Bash and book signing-Thursday, September 8, 2016, 5:30-7:30 PM

Invitation to Gail’s Art Bash and book signing-Thursday, September 8, 2016, 5:30-7:30 PM

Suspended . . . Coney Island painting project. The beach, Washington Baths, swimming, blackball, cool sand under the boardwalk, with friends watching Tuesday night fireworks, Nathan’s hotdogs, French fries and steamed corn.

Today’s blog sees the culmination of my book and my Coney Island project. Indigo Sky is published as an Amazon eBook, and will be out in paperback and audiobook by August.

Coney Island project to be installed at Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum on July 9, 2016. An art bash and book signing exhibition is forthcoming on Thursday, September 8, 2016. An invitation is at the left.

Knowing that I can’t write and paint simultaneously, my dilemma is to choose. Like notable American novelist Peter Selgin says, “It’s like choosing between two lovers.” One is like a water sprite leaping from rock to rock in a babbling brook—delightful, delicious and delectable. The other is serious, elusive with thoughts examining and imagining experiences and occasionally describing them.

Drawing a breath, is like drawing a line. My passion for painting and drawing is like breathing. My tools . . . pencil, paintbrush, and sketchbook are indispensable, like my morning coffee.

Choose writing, and I become a thinking machine. It’s difficult to raise up a world of words that express traits in my characters. My readers ask that I keep writing. I am torn, and still sketching and painting. My writing is waiting.



Ritz Carlton

Ritz Carlton

A hidden gem, right near the beach, boutique shopping and four centuries of history, why not go there? If you are fortunate enough to find out about Amelia Island . . . it’s worth a visit. Last year, we found it by accident on our way home from Florida. This year, we planned a visit. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway, this unspoiled barrier island is just two miles wide and 13 miles long.

Amelia island sandWith wide white beaches, sand dunes and the oldest lighthouse in Florida, it is a perfect setting to write your next book, paint your beach scenes or sketch the charming waterfront town that serves as an island hub.

Amelia is footsteps in the sandBeachcombing is popular to walk barefoot and feel the cool sand between your toes, gathering shells and shark teeth. Endangered sea turtles are also partial to Amelia Island’s beaches and return every year to lay their eggs in protected nests on the island’s shores.

amelia mapimage



The 19th century well-preserved Fort Clinch and Park is not the only history to be discovered. With 4,000 years of natural and human history, Amelia Island is the only piece of land in the entire United States that has actually been under the rule of eight different flags, six of which are France, Spain, England, Mexico, Confederate and their own Patriots of Amelia Island. You’ll have to visit to find out more. Or, that pirates once roamed off Amelia Island shores.

Amelia is beachWe stay in Fernandina Beach on the northern half of Amelia Island. Honored by the National Trust for its historic preservation, and home to a 50-block Historic District. Fernandina Beach is a lively town that is popularly described as a “tropical Mayberry.”

gardens in the rear of Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island

Gardens in the rear of Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island

We saw golfers challenged by the oceanfront holes and marsh-view greens. The charm of this city is art-inspiring. We have two favorite places to stay, both Marriott, Residence Inn where you can eat in and have a free breakfast or order the best pizza ever from Towne Pizza, or the Ritz Carlton, depending on your mood and wallet . . . country informal or high-brow formal. Jeans are acceptable everywhere!



fwFireworks fwFireworks-History-Gear-Patrol-Lead- fwfourth-of-july-fireworks-statue-of-liberty fw1Fireworks fw4th_fireworks sofliberty fw0701_fire_crop fw1024px-Artilleryshells1 fw1024px-Hogmanay_Party fw1024px-Miamifireworks fw1280px-1_epcot_illuminations_2010 Inspired by the fireworks, and my painting project of Coney Island, I’m writing a few memories. Those fireworks bring back more than my youth at the beach. They bring up the history of our freedom and the celebration of it all.

Tuesday night is here again. The day and sunshine used up . . . riding, swimming, volleyball, handball. Time to cuddle on a beach blanket. Uh oh, wait a minute . . . did I say cuddle? I meant to say time to watch the fireworks. Didn’t you say that’s what you were doing Tuesday night after a day at the beach? Who watched the fireworks? Did I? Did you? The Coney Island sky is filled with fireworks color and the sounds of fireworks filled the air. No one knew where to find anyone. Maybe on the sand, maybe on blankets, maybe in the shadows under the boardwalk. That’s what Tuesday night was about. We all hung around so we could do our Tuesday night thing. Was it romantic? Was that what Tuesday night was, romance on the beach? Yeah!

What started this thing called fireworks? The earliest records of fireworks dates back to 7th century China where they were first used to frighten away evil spirits with their loud sound and to pray for happiness and prosperity.

America’s earliest settlers brought their enthusiasm for fireworks to the United States. Fireworks and black ash were used to celebrate important events long before the American Revolutionary War. The very first celebration of Independence Day was in 1777, six years before Americans knew whether the new nation would survive the war; fireworks were a part of all festivities. In 1789, George Washington‘s inauguration was also accompanied by a fireworks display. This early fascination with their noise and color continues today.

In 2004, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, pioneered the commercial use of aerial fireworks launched with compressed air rather than gunpowder. The display shell explodes in the air using an electronic timer. The advantages of compressed air launch are a reduction in fumes, and much greater accuracy in height and timing.

The Walt Disney Company is the largest consumer of fireworks in the United States.

Who doesn’t love to see and hear fireworks? What do you think of fireworks?




Helen Mar Hotel

Helen Mar Hotel

Buzz words . . . Miami Beach, a place everyone wants to be in the winter. It never snows,  and the sun shines mostly all the time. Hush, don’t tell I said it, but Miami Beach is New York City South. Miami Beach isn’t even little New York—it’s big, with the arts,  music, theatre, famous restaurants  and some pretty interesting history. What else? Fantastic shopping, from the outlets to the elite. It’s all here, so is the traffic, the people and the tourists.

Miami-BeachMiami Beach has been one of America’s pre-eminent beach resorts since the early 20th century. In 1979, Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. miamiarchitectural miamideliThe Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world and comprises hundreds of hotels, apartments and other structures erected between 1923 and 1943. Mediterranean, Streamline Moderne and Art Deco are all represented in the District. The Historic District is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the East, Lenox Court on the West, 6th Street on the South and Dade Boulevard along the Collins Canal to the North.

South-Beach-Miami-hotelsEach December, the City of Miami Beach hosts Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the largest art shows in the United States. Art Basel Miami Beach, the sister event to the Art Basel event held each June in Basel, Switzerland, combines an international selection of top galleries with a program of special exhibitions, parties and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture and design. Exhibition sites are located in the city’s Art Deco District, and ancillary events are scattered throughout the greater Miami metropolitan area.

Frank Gehry's New World Center

Frank Gehry’s New World Center

Miami Beach is home to the New World Symphony, established in 1987 under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. In January 2011, the New World Symphony made a highly publicized move into the New World Center building designed by Canadian American Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry.  The new Gehry building offers Live Wallcasts™, which allow visitors to experience select events throughout the season at the half-acre, outdoor Miami Beach SoundScape through the use of visual and audio technology on a 7,000-square-foot projection wall.

I remember Miami Beach long ago in the 1960’s when it was a sweet small beach town.  Since then, the town has grown up into a mega metropolis.

Have you experienced Miami Beach?


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