Locking our Love Forever with Love Locks

Happy Valentine’s Day! We wanted to celebrate the annual day of love by sharing the story of our love locks.

A couple of weeks ago, Bob and I attached a little gold padlock to the new Love Lock Bridge near the Riverwalk in San Antonio to lock our love forever, then kissed and took a selfie to mark the occasion. On our lock was written in Sharpie “RG & LH,” inside a hand-drawn heart pierced by Cupid’s arrow. The bridge was actually a chainlink fence along the San Antonio River, but it was covered with hundreds of locks of other couples declaring their undying love.

It was the 15th time we have declared our forever love by placing a lock on a bridge. Normally we are not super-sentimental people, but love locks are a ritual we have grown to cherish during our travels, leaving our mark on bridges and walls all over the United States, Europe and Mexico (so far).

Paris, France

It all started in the summer of 2016, when I was planning to accompany Gavin’s scout troop on a week in the romantic city of Paris. Before we left, Bob gave me a padlock and asked me to write our initials on it and hang it on the Pont des Arts Bridge, which was famous for having so many lovers’ padlocks affixed to it that it groaned under the weight, and authorities had had to cut them off. He had seen the bridge during a weekend he spent alone in Paris during a business trip, and thought it would be nice to have our own lock there.

Surprised and touched by this rare sentimentality, I happily obliged. After the troop set off for the next leg of their trip, Switzerland, I went down to the River Seine and searched for the love locks. The city had decommissioned the Pont des Arts Bridge in 2015 because of the weight of the locks, so I went to the Pont Neuf. It was covered with thousands of lovers’ padlocks tumbling down the banisters and onto the railings of the river walls beyond. Across the River Seine from where I stood was a magnificent view of the Louvre. I locked our padlock, blew a kiss to Bob across the ocean, and took pictures. I’m sure if the locks get too heavy, authorities will cut them off again. But until then, RG & LH will grace the Pont Neuf in Paris, the city of lovers.

Paris

It was a grand, and small, gesture of love. It felt good. It made me think about why I had married this man, what we had experienced together, and how special our life was.

Hamburg, Germany

Three years later, we were visiting my brother Patrick in Hamburg, Germany, and walking along the Elbe River when we saw another bridge covered with lovers’ locks. We didn’t realize the tradition had expanded beyond Paris. Since we were leaving the country the next day, we went and found a hardware store to buy a lock, wrote RG & LH with a Sharpie and enlisted Patrick to hang it for us. A few weeks later, he sent a photo of our lock on the bridge. (Thanks, Pat!)

Hamburg

And with that, we were off, searching for love lock bridges, or creating our own, everywhere we went, together or apart. While on a five-week tour through Europe, we hung locks everywhere.

London, England

In London, we strolled across the pedestrian Jubilee Bridge and listened to a street musician playing Caribbean steel drums while we snapped our padlock in a spot all its own and kissed above the Thames River.

Rome, Italy

After a long day of sightseeing as a family in Rome, when Gavin’s and my feet were aching from miles of walking, Bob trekked back in the rain to hang a lock over the Tiber River. 

Rome

Sorrento, Italy

Farther south in Sorrento, on a solo weekend trip while I was off doing genealogy searching with some Italian cousins, Bob discovered an iron fence with love locks along the Mediterranean coastline about a mile from his hotel during his morning run. He spent the afternoon searching for a padlock and a Sharpie, but a torrential downpour forced him to wait to return until the next morning, when a break in the rain gave him time to quickly walk there and fix the lock in place before heading for the train station.

Sorrento

Hydra, Greece

In Greece, during a daylong boat trip, Hydra, an idyllic fishing village where bleached-white houses climb up the mountainside from the azure Mediterranean, offered herself as an entrancingly scenic host to our love lock.

Ludlow, Vermont

The tradition continued when we returned to North America. First, we affixed a love lock to a bridge in Ludlow, Vermont, where we have our second home.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Then we headed down to live in Mexico for the first six months of 2019. During a two-night on break the road trip south, we took the streetcar to hang a lock on a chain-link fence in New Orleans, under a banner that read Love Locks NOLA in front of the Eiffel Society, a club built from parts of a former Eiffel Tower eatery.   

Leon, Mexico

When we came to Mexico in January 2019, the first city we stayed in was Leon, where we found the Puente Del Amor (love locks bridge) at one end of the Causeway of Heroes, a wide pedestrian walkway that serves as the gateway into the old city. After spending an afternoon looking for ferreterias (hardware stores) to buy a padlock, we put our lock through the padlock of another lock at the top. The bridge looked down upon a highway, with mountains in the distance.

Lake Chapala, Mexico

We never found a good spot in Tlaquepaque, where we lived for four months, or Guadalajara, the city next door. But we visited beautiful Lake Chapala, half an hour south, for a day trip and walked out to the end of a fishing pier to hang our lock on a rusted turquoise railing overlooking Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. On the way, we had been stopped by announcers for a local radio station who were broadcasting live, and thus posed for the obligatory selfie in our new orange Guadalajara T-shirts.

Guanajuato, Mexico

By far the most interesting place to hang our lock was the magical town of Guanajuato, where there’s an alley so narrow that people can kiss from across two balconies. There’s a tragic legend of a young man who was killed for stealing a kiss from the daughter of a rich man. We put up our lock and kissed across the alley. (Fortunately, Bob survived.)

Montreal, Canada

We lived in Vermont during summer 2019, and took a couple of trips to Montreal, Canada, hanging one lock on a bridge overlooking Gay Village and the other on a small bridge in the main pedestrian area along the St. Lawrence River, looking out at a huge Ferris Wheel.

The Farm, Cascade, Pennsylvania

When we visited The Farm, the family homestead in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania where Lisa’s paternal grandmother grew up, we hung a love lock from the rusty metal rope that secures the entrance to the old lane.

Thwarted

We were occasionally thwarted in our efforts. In the beach town of Cambrils, Spain, there was no official Love Locks bridge, so we scouted the promenade along the ocean but never found a spot where we could thread a padlock. There was an official Love Locks spot in Barcelona, but we didn’t have time to visit it. We have looked several times while in Burlington, VT, but have not yet found a spot for a padlock.

Part of the tradition of the Love Locks is to throw the keys into the river to seal your eternal love, but we don’t do that because we don’t think it’s good for the health of the fish or the river. Thus we still hold all the keys to each other’s hearts.

Our Love Locks Map

Click on each pin to see an image of the lock in its home!

Up Next …

We have just arrived in Mexico City and are looking for a place to hang our 16th lock. We’ll keep you posted!

Enjoy the video of our love locks experiences on the Messy Suitcase YouTube Channel. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By Lisa & Bob

New Orleans, Part 2: The National World War II Museum

On our single full day in New Orleans, we opted for history instead of entertainment and headed to the National World War II Museum. It was, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular, illuminating museums I have ever experienced in my life. This museum, which started out as the D-Day Museum in 2001, and is located in New Orleans because most of the landing craft used on that turning-point day in history was manufactured here. The D-Day Museum was so well received that it was expanded a few years later to become the National WWII Museum.

Lisa’s dog tag

You start by getting a dog tag to represent a soldier you will be tracking all day at check-in stations, and board the same kind of train many soldiers took when they embarked on their journeys. It was a truly immersive experience as, with seats rocking, the train whistle blowing and the grainy black-and-white landscape flying by, the conductor welcomed you aboard.

Beyond Boundaries Film

After getting off the train, we started our explorations by watching the 48-minute film Beyond Boundaries, a 4D experience narrated by Tom Hanks that used film and other sensory effects, including a 1930s wooden-cabinet radio, falling snowflakes, a plane cockpit that lowered from the ceiling to punch out an air battle scene, and more to introduce us to the sheer magnitude of World War II. The mini-documentary stunningly put into perspective the global threat presented by German Furer Adolph Hitler, Italian Benito Mussolini, and Emperor Hirohito of Japan, the Axis leaders who wanted nothing less than global domination. It ended at the climax, the bombing of Pearl Harbor that dragged the United States in the war and engaged every person in the country in the fight for the very survival of democracy.

We learned how the ill-equipped United States, previously hesitant to join in the war as Nazi forces took over country after country, stepped up when it came under attack. Men young and old rushed to join the war effort and defend their country against the invaders. Women, who were home raising children, took factory jobs and churned out an incredible volume of planes, jeeps, weapons, artillery and more.

The European Theater

The WWII Museum is comprised of five buildings, and we only had one day, so we chose to enter the Road to Berlin: European Theater gallery. I don’t even know how to describe the experience after this. We spent five awe-struck hours being assaulted from all sides by grainy black-and-white film, sound and lighting effects, real-life voices telling their stories, radio broadcasts, flashes and explosions, and much more.

This breathtaking exhibit took us through the major steps in the European campaign, starting with North Africa and moving across Italy, southern France, Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, D-Day, England, and  Germany, that culminated in the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. We experienced the shock that troops felt when they discovered the atrocity of the concentration camps and the slaughter of 6 million Jews, as well as millions of others deemed inferior to Hitler’s Aryan race. We met military leaders and foot soldiers, journalists (including Ernie Pyle’s life and death) and pilots. We saw airplanes and jeeps, nurses’ uniforms and bomber jackets. We shivered in the snowy woods in Germany and leaned away from incoming anti-aircraft fire from a small plane. I thought of my three Troisi uncles who flew many missions in Europe and for the first time had a concept of what their experience was like.

A plane goes down during an air battle

My dog tag soldier, John, was a 17-year-old who went to Canada to pursue becoming a pilot when the United States rejected him because of a previous broken neck. He ended up doing bomb runs for Canada, and then England, before the United States decided to let him join. He won a medal of honor and was a prisoner of war in Germany for more than a year.

Planes, Jeeps and Submarines

We also visited the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, where we saw a number of WWII planes and jeeps, as well as the Medal of Honor Exhibit.

Wartime aircraft
Medal of Honor recipients

We still need to go back to see the other Campaign of Courage: The Pacific Theater, especially since that’s where Bob’s dad was stationed on a Destroyer Escort in 1943-45. There’s a whole hall, the Arsenal of Democracy, that we didn’t have time for, and a doomed submarine experience I’m interested in. The outdoor area is under construction to create a Freedom Garden.

New Orleans is about a lot more than Jazz and Jambalaya. If you visit this city, definitely devote a day or two to the National WWII Museum. To get the full experience of the museum, watch Bob’s video on the Messy Suitcase YouTube channel.

By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

New Orleans, Part 1: Jazz and Jambalaya

We just spent a couple of nights in New Orleans to break up the road trip from Pennsylvania to Mexico City. We rented a lovely, pet-friendly cottage through AirBnB that had a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms, just a short Uber ride from the action.  It was pristine, affordable and super comfortable.

After working out and showering, we spent our first NOLA night on Bourbon Street, a place we barely got to explore last year when we came through because it was just too loud for Gavin. But this time, with Gavin off at college, we headed down there again. Mardi Gras is still a month away, so it wasn’t high season yet, and we headed out early to avoid crushing crowds and deafening noise.

Bourbon Street is the heart of the touristy French Quarter, and we were planning to go to historic Preservation Hall to see classic New Orleans jazz. For $20 seats on the floor, we would need to stand in line outside to get day-of-show tickets. After a day spent driving, we weren’t in the mood.

Bourbon Street

So we instead opted to get a more local experience recommended by our Uber driver, Joe. First we shared a mouthwatering dinner of blackened redfish and jambalaya at an oyster bar on Bourbon called Le Bayou. Jambalaya is a kind of dirty rice with spicy tomato sauce and andouille sausage. We also enjoyed hurricanes, a classic New Orleans drink with rum and fruity juices. Our waiter kept calling us “y’all,” so we couldn’t forget we were truly in the south. After filling our stomachs, we strolled along Bourbon, taking in the crowd scene, and even saw a school band marching up the road, followed by a small parade of what I assume was a krewe, a social organization that helps put on a parade or ball during the carnival season, which runs January and February.  

Bourbon Street is amazingly loud, even in the off-season, and the road is closed to traffic so people can just wander at their leisure. Musicians with saxophones, guitars or even just spoons and plastic buckets, entertain for tips on street corners. The shops are filled with colorful art, with candy skulls, masks, voodoo paraphernalia, and jazz accouterments.

We walked about a mile to Frenchmen’s Street, a locals’ favorite area. Frenchmen’s is lined on both sides with lively bars and restaurants. As you wander along the sidewalk, you can listen to the music blasting out the open doors and choose your poison. Most have no cover and a local clientele. We chose Marigny Brasserie, and enjoyed an hour of music by a sweet jazz duo. A drunken regular celebrating her 71st birthday alone plopped down next to me at the bar and I was friendly to her. That turned out to be a mistake as she subsequently kept hitting me to get my attention, then ranting in a slurred voice about the injustices of her life and why it was horrible that the bar was showing The Waterboy and Captain Phillips on the big screen when people should be getting to know each other instead. Since she sitting on a stool between me and the band, it was impossible for me to watch the band. I guess if you want to be where the locals are, sometimes you have to put up with a local!

But we ducked out and wandered, encountering an Art Market where local artisans sold jewelry, paintings, even hand-made three-string guitars.

The band at Bamboulia’s

On the second evening, we ate at Bamboulina’s, a cozy bar with exposed brick walls, and enjoyed incredible pulled pork and a wonderful blues band. If I lived in NOLA, I think I would go to Frenchmen’s every weekend and try a different bar each time! Our last Uber driver encouraged us to try Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans next time, so watch for that blog in the spring when we pass through again on our way back north!

Up next … The National World War II Museum

We Have Booked Our Mexico City Lodging!

We have booked a wonderful penthouse apartment just a couple of blocks from Chapultepec Park in Mexico City for our 2 1/2 month stay this winter and early spring.

We have done a bit of research into Mexico City, talking to friends who have lived here or visited, and reading books and perusing online resources, to determine which were the safest and most fun neighborhoods to live in — Polanco, Juarez, Roma Norte and Condesa among them. We knew we wanted to live near a park for running, near public transit, and within walking distance of restaurants and other amenities.

The kitchen and dining room

This apartment in Juarez was on sale for half-price because it was a new listing on Airbnb, so we are getting a big place in a great location for pauper’s prices. It’s also a new apartment, and newly furnished, and the landlord says most of the other apartments in the building are not yet occupied. It has two bedrooms with large closets, a little room with a bar, a full kitchen/dining/living area, a patio, and even a roof garden, where the landlord, Eduardo encourages us to practice our instruments. He doesn’t normally allow cats but is making an exception after I begged. (I think he thought it was worth it for the income.) This is the unit: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/40229764

This location is perfect for us because it’s just a couple of blocks from Chapultepec Park, one of the largest city parks in Latin America. This park is more than twice as big as New York’s Central Park, with a zoo, seven museums, live music, and of course great running (which we missed in Tlaquepaque). There’s even a lake where I can kayak!  

Chapultepec Forest Lake (Source: Pixabay)

The apartment is also a couple of blocks from Paseo de la Reforma, a wide, tree-lined avenue that runs across the heart of Mexico City. We’ll be able to run down it to the city’s historic district. It’s also about three blocks from Calle Chapultepec, another popular avenue with lots of restaurants and nightlife that starts at the park by the same name.

Paseo de Reforma (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Fortepan — ID 73834: Adományozó/Donor: Romák Éva)

There are several close subway stations, which is good, because we will park our truck in a secure parking spot when we arrive and not use it again until we leave.

We are confident this is an apartment where we – and the cats – will be able to spend a safe, happy two and a half months in Mexico City.

Enjoy our YouTube video about our successful search for a place to stay in Mexico City!

By Lisa
Hamm-Greenawalt

Back in the Saddle Again

It’s hard to believe it has been seven months since we left Mexico. A brief summer interlude in Vermont getting one of our vacation homes ready to sell and settling our youngest child, Gavin, into Champlain College in Burlington turned into a much longer stretch in the USA when Bob’s mother, Jane, called us in August to say she had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Enjoying a boat ride in Montreal during a weekend off working on the Vermont houses

So after spending the summer painting a house, tiling a kitchen, planting two gardens, refinishing a floor, staining two decks, replacing windows, and doing more tasks than I care to remember on both houses – punctuated, thank God, by a couple of long weekends in Montreal and Burlington and many visits to local craft breweries – we moved into Jane’s house in Mechanicsburg, PA, in October to care for her in her last months.

While living here, we kept busy. Lisa signed up for National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) in November and wrote a long-postponed book. Bob threw himself into the editing of his many videos from our time in Mexico for the Messy Suitcase YouTube channel. We both spent countless hours studying Spanish and practicing our instruments (Bob saxophone, Lisa guitar). We spent 9 days in Cancun in November, during a period when Jane was doing better and we needed a break.

The official winner’s certificate for Nanowrimo. Lisa wrote a YA fantasy novel called Elephant Rock.

We also spent time with some of Lisa’s family members around the winter holidays, and got to know Jane’s neighbors in her over-55 community. As her health deteriorated, we became quite attached to her regular visitors from Homeland Hospice, who became our family’s lifeline: her CNA (certified nursing assistant) Sherry, who came every day to bathe and dress her; her hospice nurse Hannah, who visited weekly; and our social worker Pam, who supported us all in too many ways to count.

Jane was able to lift a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. She passed away a week later.

Meanwhile, we cared for Jane and tried to keep her comfortable. We watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with her. The kids came home for Christmas break and got to spend time with their grandmother. Bob’s sister Beth came to visit regularly.

And on Jan. 7, 2020, at the age of 89, Jane Greenawalt left us.

Now the funeral is over, the spawn are back at college, and we are officially empty nesters. Although Jane’s stuff still needs to be sorted and dispersed, and her condo needs to be fixed up to sell, we are deferring that till the summer.

It’s time for us to get back to our lives, at least for a while. So we are planning to return to Mexico later this month and spend the rest of winter and half of spring there. We’ll come back in late April, before Gavin’s school lets out for the summer, and spend some time in Vermont before returning to PA for the next round of heavy lifting.

This time we are headed for Mexico City! We are excited at the prospect of living in a big city, after spending the summer in rural Vermont and the fall in this Harrisburg suburb.  We are currently deciding between several condos in a safe neighborhood – Condesa, Roma Norte or Polanco – near a huge park (a requirement for us as runners). We are also looking at language schools, because we plan to study Spanish every day, at least for the first month, the way we did in Tlaquepaque last year. It will only be for two hours a day this time, because Lisa is editing her book and we want time to enjoy the city.

We’ll keep you posted as things develop! Right now the plan is to leave Jan. 28 and drive our trusty Toyota Tacoma (with two cats on board; the third now lives with Gavin at school) slowly south, stopping in Cincinnati, Memphis and Austin on the way so we can see some friends and take some breaks from the road. We should arrive in CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico, Spanish for Mexico City) on Super Bowl Sunday.

Wish us luck! Hasta luego!

Mexico City, here we come!

Vermont Open Studios 2019, Part 2

Meet the Artists

We visited the studios of about 13 artists during Fall Vermont Open Studios Tour weekend. We met artists who crafted using a large variety of media, including potters, wood workers, painters and a digital artist who combined computer art with oil, markers and other media. Below is a list of the artists we visited, grouped by type of art. I have included addresses, phone numbers and websites in case you have any interest in visiting their studios or purchasing their products.  Meet some of the amazing artists we encountered!

 
POTTERY/CERAMICS
 
 
Diane Echlin
Diane favored blues and greens that she created for her pottery, and attached decals from a US artist to some of her pieces.
428 S. Wardsboro Rd
Newfane 05345
(802) 365-7874
 

 
 
 
 
Walter Slowinski
Walter’s specialty was teapots and vessels, and he often attached found pieces of wood and even beads to his one-of-a-kind pieces.
658 Orchard St
Brattleboro 05301
(802) 257-1030

 

 
Maya Zelkin
Maya worked out of an unheated barn off the grid to create pottery for the home in earth tones.
116 Coldham Rd
Shrewsbury VT 05738
(802) 492-2045

 
Naomi Lindenfeld
Naomi crafted unique jewelry and pottery for the home using swirling layers of colored clay.
330 Meadowbrook Rd
Brattleboro VT 05301
(802) 258-6475

 
David Stone
David created simple, affordable, useful pieces for the home, including coffee mugs, soap dishes, sponge holders, and bright orange ceramic jack-o-lanterns.
1735 VT Rte 103
Cuttingsville 05738
(802) 492-2301

 
 
 

WOOD

 
Rich DeTrano
Rich’s turned bowls and vessels, often accented with sticks, were the highest quality we saw. His dragons were amazing, but alas, not for sale.
488 Andover Rd
Ludlow VT 05149
(802) 228-8894

 
Gerry Martin
Gerry handcrafted spectacular bowls while celebrating the natural imperfections of wood, often leaving live edges.
998 Lincoln Hill Rd
Shrewsbury 05738
(802) 492-2244

Gerry with his optician’s stand-turned-tool holder
 
Gene Felder
Gene Felder use a noisy lathe to turn his wood, preferring instead to create artistic bowls with hand tools.
149 Adams Rd
Shrewsbury VT 05738
802-558-9068

 

GLASS

 
Zachary Grace
Under the watchful eye of his caged parrot, Zac created copper and glass pieces using a hand-made furnace.
446 Williams ST
Brattleboro 05301
(802) 251-0402

 
Contemporary craft gallery and open studio experience featuring live glass blowing by Randi Solin and the open ceramic studios of Natalie Blake. Randi demonstrated how to create maple leaves out of hot glass.

(This wasn’t part of the Open Studios Vermont circuit, but we dropped in and got a wonderful glass demonstration.)

 

METAL ART

 

Stragnell Art

R Sanford Stragnell
 
Sanford, a former electrician, used castoff tools and electrical parts to create metal sculptures of animals and nature.
PO Box 394
Castleton 05735
(802) 468-2327

 
 
 

 Vermont Rocks, Original Sports Sculpture

John Davis
John, a triathlete, created unique pieces comprised of native rocks and stainless steel figures of athletes, including rock climbers, runners and fishermen.
442 S. Wardsboro Rd.
Newfane VT 05345
(802) 380-9773
 
 
 

 
 

PASTELS

 
Lesley Heathcote
Lesley used pastels to create bucolic images of animals and birds.
32 Larkin St.
Brattleboro VT 05301
(802) 257-0951

DIGITAL ART

 
Michel Moyse
Michel, a former film editor, created unique digital art projected onto an interactive screen.
81 Pleasant Valley Rd
West Brattleboro 05301
(802) 257-7605

Vermont Open Studios 2019, Part 1

Incredible Artistry in the Green Mountain State

We recently spent a peak fall foliage weekend visiting artists’ studios and workshops around southern and central Vermont. The quality and variety of the craftsmanship that we discovered on Saturday, the first day, was so enthralling that we repeated the expedition in a new region on Sunday.

Vermont Open Studio Weekend is a fascinating event organized twice a year by the Vermont Crafts Council, a nonprofit comprised of artists that seeks to nurture public appreciation for “the quality, beauty, and history of Vermont crafts and artwork in order to encourage and sustain the creation of original craft and art work in Vermont.”
 
Vermont is amazingly welcoming of artists, and they return the favor with a fierce devotion to their craft and by generously welcoming people into their studios and even their lives.
 
Open Studios Map and Guide
We found nests of artistic production and inspiration on Main Streets and at the ends of dirt roads. We saw price tags in galleries ranging from $10 to $1,200. We often found the cast-offs, pieces discounted because they were not deemed high enough quality, to be as interesting as the finished pieces. Unfortunately, as wanderers whose possessions need to fit in the back of our truck, we are not in the position to acquire art right now, but we saw many pieces that we wanted. In the end, I bought one colored-clay necklace.

The Tour

We spend the first day around Brattleboro, a city in the southeast corner of the state that attracts a disproportionate percentage of artists, many of them New York transplants. The second day we visited a studio in Ludlow, where we’re staying, and then headed west toward Shrewsbury, Castleton and Rutland.
 
 
The Studios
 
We discovered that most Vermont craftspeople work in
studios located in or close to their homes. Some were near downtown areas (Brattleboro) or even on the main street (Castleton), but many more were in remote areas, far off the beaten path. We drove many miles up narrow mountain roads and around bends, through gold-and- red dappled fields and past squawking wild turkeys, to find studios inside barns surrounded by trees and fields. These were places we never would have discovered on our own, but bright yellow “Vermont Open Studios” signs directed us to each new discovery and beckoned us in.
 
The artists’ studios were amazingly diverse and told part of the story about their residents – whether it was a basement transformed into a woodturning workshop, a drafty wooden barn, a retrofitted garage, an upstairs bedroom or a large, beautiful dream studio made of barn wood and giant windows. A former film editor who had worked on major studio films in New York had built a huge, slick studio barn for his oversized digital art.

Diane Echlin’s studio
Nature’s Turn’s studios
Maya Zelkin’s off-the-grid studio
 
Orchard Street Pottery studio in Brattleboro
Michel Moyse’s Digital Art studio

The Tools

 
The artists’ tools, often self-crafted, showed real ingenuity.
 
One woodturner had retrofitted an optical stand he bought for $5 at a local fireman’s auction into a tool holder. Another created an electric hammer because his hands got so sore from hammering metal. Several had designed and built wood kilns or stoves out of bricks and mortar, sometimes even dismantling them to move and then reconstructing them in a new location. Most of the potters, not satisfied with any commercial product, created their own glazes.

Maya Zelkin’s handmade wood-fired kiln
Sanford Stagnell’s Hammer Machine

The Effort

Not one did anything the easy way.
 
They labored painstakingly to produce the detailed result they wanted, even if meant waiting a year while wood cured before carving it, rebuilding an entire kiln because it didn’t heat right, or disregarding wood-turning machines in favor of the rougher precision of hand tools and elbow grease.

 
 

Next up: 

Vermont Open Studios 2019, Part 2: Meet the Artists

Author: Lisa By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

Hike up Mount Philo

Bob and I just did our first almost 1-er in Burlington! (As opposed to the multiple 14ers Bob did back in Colorado.)

We hiked up Mt. Philo on a recent Sunday while visiting Burlington for Champlain College Family Weekend. Mt. Philo State Park, which sits atop 968-foot Mt. Philo about 13 miles south of Burlington, was created as Vermont’s first Vermont State Park in 1924. With 237 acres offering breathtaking views of the Lake Champlain Valley and New York’s Adirondack Mountains, the park is a favorite of local hikers, picnickers, and even college students.

The hike was short but steep and challenging. The view of the Vermont countryside and Lake Champlain from the top was spectacular. We also found inspirational poetry at the top …

… and we loved the message in the field below.

 

There are several camping sites at the top, as well as a group cabin, and we were surprised to see they were not in use. The best part was the Adirondack chairs that beckoned us to sit and enjoy the beautiful day and the view.

We met a couple of artists on our way down painting the view with watercolors.

Selfie of the day!

 
 

By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

All Aboard the Green Mountain Flyer

Beto and I recently had the lucky opportunity to take a lovely, relaxing fall foliage ride on the Green Mountain Flyer, a scenic ride on a vintage train from Chester to Rockingham in southern Vermont. The train whistle blasted our eardrums to oblivion as the ancient train noisily announced its arrival at Chester Depot. The bright red engine was pulling about five dark green cars, each labeled Green Mountain Railroad.  

Inside the Train

The fall foliage expedition on the Green Mountain Railroad was a free event sponsored by the OkemoValley Regional Chamber of Commerce, based in Ludlow, of which I am a
new member. We checked in with Diane, the organizer, and got into line while waiting for the refreshments to be loaded on the train. Finally, a young woman from the Chamber climbed up on the stairs and called out, “All Aboard!” and we boarded the train. 
 

 
Bob and I grabbed a forward-facing seat in the first car, in an open booth with an enormous wood table and another double seat across from us. The windows were huge and the view was great, but after 20 minutes or so I got a hankering for some refreshment and set out to explore the train.

Discovering the Bar Car

I wobbled back on the jerkily moving train, holding on to seats for dear life to keep my feet under me, through three cars that featured plush leatherette high-backed bench seats facing each other. Just when I thought I was at the end, I found a car with a table covered with white paper bags, and a narrow hallway ahead on the right. I inched through, and discovered a sweet little bar car with about 20 seats (some occupied by Chamber staff) and a musician, Bill Brink, singing and playing guitar and kazoo. I hustled back get Beto, ordered us up a couple of surprisingly good glasses of Chardonnay, and we settled in to enjoy the rest of the ride in the Bar Car.
 
 
Directly in front of us was the bright red engine chugging away. The engineer would occasionally walk jauntily along the jerking engine and enter our car from the front. ()
 
I tried to digitally capture the roaming engineer and
musician Bill Brink, but you can see the jerking motion
of the train did not allow for quality pictures.
We relaxed with our wine, bag dinners provided by the Chamber (courtesy of Mr.
Darcy’s Restaurant) and enjoyed the ride.

What We Saw

We rode alongside a scenic, winding river, passing a stunning river gorge that was almost past before we could get the cameras out, and crossing a heavy red iron bridge.
 
River gorge photo taken from a moving train
Vermont is famous for its spectacular autumn foliage, but we are still about three weeks before peak colors, so the ride featured mostly green foliage, with occasional bursts of bright yellow, fiery orange or deep red in sections of trees that acted as a precursor of things to come. The shrubs along riverbeds seem to have gotten the memo early, though, and preened with deep burgundy and crusty golden leaves.
 
We passed a couple of covered bridges, a signature sight in Vermont that never loses its appeal. One’s identifying sign read, “Built in 2012,” a melancholy reminder of the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Irene that September that washed away or severely damaged many of these classic structures throughout the Green Mountain State.
 
 
We saw (and smelled) cows grazing in fields, and admired field after field of corn stalks.  Lisa, a fellow CHamber member with a cow farm, told us those fields would be turned into mash for its farms to eat, but hers are grass-fed. (Beto plans to visit her farm this fall to serenade her cows on saxophone.)

Take a Ride Yourself!

If you‘re interested in taking a ride on the Green Mountain Flyer, you can learn more here. To learn more about the Okemo Valley, which offers so much more than its world-class ski mountain Okemo Mountain Resort, visit the Chamber’s website, yourplaceinvermont.com.
 
 
By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt

Where Are We From?

It happened again recently. We were sitting in a rooftop bar in Montreal, sipping palomas and enjoying the view of the waterfront, when a woman at the table next to us leaned over and asked, “So where are you from?”

“Uhh…,” I offered hesitantly.
 
“Umm…?” Bob said questioningly.
 
It’s a difficult question right now, “Where are you from.” How do we answer it?
 
We’re from Mexico. At this moment. Sort of. Except where in Mexico? A few months in Guadalajara/Tlaquepaque, a few in Guanajuato. Next up, Mexico City.
 
But we’re currently living in Ludlow, Vermont.
 

But …

But we’re not “from” either of those places, because we just finished living for a decade in Colorado.

But we’re not “from” Colorado, either, because before we moved west, we lived for about 20 years in New York.
 
But we’re not really “from” New York, either, because we were both born in Pennsylvania (Bob in Mechanicsburg, outside Harrisburg, and Lisa in Williamsport, the home of Little League Baseball). And we both lived in a ton of different places before meeting in New York.
 
In Mexico, when they ask, “De donde es?” (“Where are you from?), they are asking, “Where you were born?” We can say “Somos de Estados Unidos” or “Somos de Pennsylvania” (We’re from the United States, or We’re from Pennsylvania.)
 
But to everyone else? Lately I’ve been saying, “We split our year between summers in Vermont and the rest of the year exploring Mexico.”

Ask the Kids

We asked the kids how they would answer the question, “Where are you from?”
 
“Easy,” Gavin said. “I just tell them I’m from Colorado. They want to know where I came here from before college. That’s Colorado.”
 
“Colorado,” agreed Aryk. “Except that I was born in New York. And I live in England. But I just say Colorado.”
 
And that’s where we’re from. Right now. What would YOU say?

By Lisa Hamm-Greenawalt