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:
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Captain Daniel Packer Inne

PackerInnArt1-2-300x209Her ghost disappears at the first ray of light that illumines the gloom of the  morning. Captain Daniel Packer’s niece haunts the New England-style restaurant, built by Packer in 1756. She died of scarlet fever in 1873 when she was 7 years old. She most often plays in the stairwell and has been known to befriend children who come here to dine.

packer fireplaceThe Inne was built at its present site on the Mystic River over 250 years ago. Former square-rigger Packer purchased the land bordering Water Street in 1754 and completed construction of the building in 1756. From that time to the late 1970’s, the property remained in the hands of the Packer family and their descendants. The Inne was a welcome landmark between New York and Boston in the late 1700’s for weary travelers, who stopped for the night to rest and be served the hearty fare. Packer entertained the guest with his tales of adventures on the high seas. The next morning he transported them—their horses, stagecoaches and all across the Mystic River on his rope ferry. On the opposite shore, he bade his guests a fond farewell and safe journey, then welcomed aboard another group of travelers.

Roast lamb . . . hmmm

Roast lamb . . . hmmm

Restoration of this historic haunted landmark was undertaken in 1979 by proprietors Richard and Lulu Kiley. During the restoration, which took four years, preservation of the original fireplaces, mantles, beams and other structural details remained precious materials and were incorporated in the renovation.

Step back in time, and experience the fine fare and hospitality guest experienced over 200 years ago. The basement bar is original and busy with all those happy hour patrons. Tricky moving through the space, after all people were smaller then, so passages are smaller, ceilings are lower. It’s an experience. Don’t forget to look for Packer’s little niece.packerDPI-PUB-MARCH-2012-104

If you love history and good food and good ghosts, it’s worth a trip.

32 Water Street, Mystic, CT 06355 – (860) 536-3555


So, do you want to know why I blogged this place? The Inne is a historic landmark, I am a history buff. The building, even though renovated is quaint and is reminiscent of an Inne 250 years ago. The food is excellent, and I had hoped to see Packer’s niece, the resident ghost.

Gail Chianese, President of CTRWA, and Author of Bachelorette for Sale

sent me the story below and I asked if I could add it to my post.

Here’s the scoop: I actually heard that story through Courtney who runs the Seaside Shadows and does walking ghost tours in Mystic. There are several restaurants in downtown Mystic that are haunted: Daniel Packer, Ancient Mariner, Margaritas, Voodoo Grill, the Asian place next door, and Anthony J’s. I’ve eaten at the first four. I’ve never seen or felt anything while in them. Although, I have felt like I was being watched outside of Daniel Packer’s Inne and I do get weird feelings when I’m near Factory Square (which is where Margaritas, Voodoo Grill and the Asian place are).

I’ve heard a gentleman dining at DP did see the little girl. In Anthony J’s they’ve had Christmas decorations disappear and reappear a year later. In the Ancient Mariner one of the regulars who had passed away, his bar stool is frequently sitting on the floor in the morning when the rest are resting on the bar like they’d been placed at the end of the night.

There have been several unexplained fires in the town and there’s a few other places with interesting tells, like the former Emporium. If you’re in the area some night, book one of her walking tours. It’s an easy walk and Courtney is a natural storyteller. She also has a book out.


Mystic graveyard

Mystic graveyard

What can you expect from a Seaside Shadows Tour?
View on www.seasideshadows…
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Gail's Christmas angel on her angel tree

Twinkling lights hung on fragrant boughs, laced with golden antiquities; garlands strung from the mantle, framing a glowing fire of crackling pinecones, the family Bible prominently displayed on a table, opened to the greatest story ever told. Walking from room to room, the heavenly scents of fir, pine, hemlock, sweet spices of cinnamon, cranberry, and apple fill the air. Windows are frosted and the walls faintly shudder with the howl of the snow-laden winds outside. Guests filter in and leave their calling cards at the foyer desk, each one a brightly decorated token of the season.

Fireplace in the dining room at the Biltmore

Names are crisply spelled out in fine script, surrounded by pictures and designs in bright, cheery colors. The mail basket is overflowing with cards lavishly printed with the lithographs of Currier & Ives and Louis Prang.  A scrapbook in the parlor, another in the children’s playroom, announce with appropriately selected pages, that Christmas is here in all its spectrum and splendor.

Currier & Ives winter scene

When we celebrate Christmas with family and friends, we have the Victorians to thank for many of its joyful festivities and delightful customs. They revived old traditions, such as caroling, and invented new ones such as sending Christmas cards.

The Victorians also promoted church-going, gift-giving, and charity to the poor as essential parts of the holiday. They transformed the folk figures of Father Christmas and Santa Claus into symbols of holiday generosity, and they greatly popularized Germany’s traditional Christmas tree or Christbaum.

A Christmas Carol

Most of all, the Victorians made Christmas a family celebration, with its primary focus on the Christ Child and children. A Victorian Christmas entailed the exchange of gifts between parents and children; attendance together at Church services; a multi-course family dinner; and visits with friends, relatives, and other families.

Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum Victorian Christmas


Christmas was certainly celebrated in this Victorian Mansion. Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum welcomes guests to enjoy the decor of a true Victorian Christmas. For hours and information please go to: Those of us involved with the mansion are working towards complete restoration. Will you get involved?

Pine tree aromas pine cones all around

From our house to yours-Greetings of the Season







Christmas evening on the grounds at The Biltmore - I could not pass this image up, it is too beautiful.

The Christmas Tree

Christmas at The Biltmore House

Christmas at The Biltmore House

Biltmore keyhole roof

Christmas at The Biltmore House is unlike any other. When you are there it is 1895. Where can you go in this year of 2011 to experience life in 1895? The Biltmore House, of course, where candlelight Christmas is celebrated most every evening throughout the holiday season, starting just before Thanksgiving.  Presented as though the Vanderbilt family were our hosts. We spent three nights at the Inn at Biltmore on the grounds of the estate and enjoyed tea in the afternoon, lunch at the Bistro, dinner in the dining room. Five star accommodations, five star food, five star grounds.

Gargoyle without water spout

"The Grounds" designed in 1895 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Designer of Central Park, NYC

The  landscape was designed in 1895 by Frederick Law Olmsted, who  also designed Central Park in New York City.

Olmsted described Biltmore Estate as “The most distinguished private place.”

Below is my photo of our breathtaking, spectacular view from our room.  Olmsted’s design, with a mountainous backdrop. It was mesmerizing.

Tom Claus & Gail Ingis Claus in the library lounge

Tom and I were dwarfed by the mantle in the library lounge.

Dining room fireplace

Below are images of Biltmore Christmas.





Christmas Biltmore shoppe decor

Poinsettia in the Conservatory

Christmas doggie doll

The Vanderbilt rail empire was created by Biltmore’s George Vanderbilt’s grandfather, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877. It was Commodore that bought out LeGrand Lockwood after Black Friday in July 1869 when Lockwood lost his empire. The same Lockwood who built the Mansion in Norwalk, Connecticut. The same Lockwood who commissioned Albert Bierstadt to paint “Domes of the Yosemite.”

Most of my readers know about my journey writing about the life of painter Albert Bierstadt. My visit to Biltmore Estate was inspired by my research while creating a copy of Domes and henceforth, writing my romance novel.

Tree greens at the Inn at Biltmore entry







What would you do if your home was stolen away by a friend, especially if your friend said he would save you and save your home?

To be continued…




Fallingwater Fireplace in Living Room section

If you are  reading this, you are probably curious about Frank Lloyd Wright Interiors.

FLW was not a singer songwriter, he was not a shoemaker, he was not slothful, and he was not an interior designer. FLW was a creative genius in architectural methodology and an engineer. He knew he was an architect and engineer, but he also thought he was a designer of interiors and furniture maker. Fallingwater is a prime  example of Wright’s
concept of organic architecture, “promoting harmony between man and nature through a design integrated with its site buildings, furnishings and surroundings as part of a unified, interrelated composition.”

His large sitting room at Fallingwater could have had several “conversation groupings.” There is ample bench-like seating that is designed for lots of people sitting side-by-side.FLW lined up the seating all around the perimeter of the room. Unless you are sitting with your sweetheart and holding hands, it is difficult to sit right next to someone and hold a conversation. The best seating is to group conversation areas so folks are sitting across from one another.

When last I visited his magnificent Fallingwater I found it curious there was no seating at the fireplace. The fireplace is a  perfect conversation area, but the rock ledge he designed and installed is in the way.

Lined up sitting

The windows are behind the seating. It would be difficult to enjoy the view. A view or fireplace  are natural focal points to group seating. Neither the view nor the fireplace was considered.

Fallingwater is the ultimate realization of his vision of man living in harmony with nature. Walls of glass enhance the site-and-house connection. But what about the functional connection for those using the space? He argued with his client about design and money. Instead of an agreed budget of $50,000 max, the cost escalated to $155,000.

Keep posted for a look at more of Wright’s ideas.

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