Tag Archives: travel

Life is a Banquet~Sorrento

Sorrento, the land of Limoncello

From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento, squeezing onto the standing-room-only train, suitcases at our feet.  The ride from Naples to Sorrento took an hour. I was glad we were there before the hot summer season approached!


The Circumvesuviana, Naples.

When my friend and I were planning this trip, we reserved four days in Sorrento. Both of us had been to Italy before, but never in the South. There is so much to see and do in this area! Of course, four days is not nearly enough. Our wishlists included: hiring a cute driver to take us sightseeing along the Amalfi coast, taking a boat to Capri, going to  Pompeii and Herculaneum, perhaps hiking Mt Vesuvius, seeing the ruins at Paestum, and, oh yes, I hoped to meet in person an online friend and sea glass collector, Rebecca Di Donna, who lives in Torre Del Greco.

When I was a kid, my grandmother often used the cautionary expression  “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  This adage relates not only to food but to everything, really-especially time.  While I have always slanted toward  Auntie’s Mame’s “Life is a banquet” outlook, sometimes less really is more. My advice to those planning a trip; don’t overfill your dance card. Slow down and savor the details, leave room for the unexpected.



Torna a Surriento

When the train reached Sorrento, a young boy with an accordion came aboard and started playing Italian folk songs. There was a plastic cup for tips attached to his battered accordion. I made sure to leave some euros in it as we departed. I would discover on subsequent train rides that Sorrento was a regular haunt of accordion playing buskers, (but more on that later.)

Home Sweet Home

As arranged, In the town square we met Max, who was sent by our air b&b host to guide us through the maze of streets to our destination. After Naples, this resort town felt a bit like Disneyland, filled with tourist shops and higher priced restaurants.  As we followed Max, I eyed the goods displayed in front of stores-leather purses, ceramics, lemon-based gifts, resort fashions, jewelry and more. We turned at a gelato stand and went back from the street to our air B&B. Casa Torino was located above a florist shop in the heart of old Sorrento. It was airy and comfortably equipped, with a full-size kitchen, fold out couch on the lower level and an upper sleeping loft. We had a view down to the street below and could watch the interplay of tourists until a heavy rain started to pour, bringing an abrupt end to the activity below us.

The view from our apartment, rain emptied streets.

Max offered the services of a private driver for an Amalfi coast tour, and to put us on the passenger list for a small boat to Capri if we were interested. We decided to make reservations for both at the end of the week when hopefully the weather would be better. We settled into our new place and then decided to go out and explore in the rain.

We ventured out with those umbrellas bought in Vasto. The late afternoon streets were empty,  many outside displays were covered with tarps. Hungry, we shopped for cibo e vino at the local deli and fruit stands, and yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach!

Life really is a banquet!


We returned to our cozy apartment with wine, fresh baked pane, salami and cheese. Tomorrow we would spend the day exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii-rain or shine.

Next Post: Pompeii


A Traveler in Italy: Vasto

The dictionary says “when you savor something, you enjoy it to the fullest.”  More than any other single word I can think of, Savor describes the way I feel about my recent trip to Italy. I’m savoring the memories, the sights, the food, the great people, and already thinking about my return. Until then, I will share some of the highlights in a series of posts, beginning with this one, about Vasto, the town of my paternal grandfather’s family. Even if I had no ancestral connection to this place, I would have fallen in love with this “ancient Roman  town in the heart of Italy” and perhaps you will too!

Fishing trabucco, Vasto

As I shared in my previous post, it was through the sea glass world that I met Ornella Di Filippo, who lives in Vasto and operates a very comfortable Air B&B, where we stayed. She and her husband, Marco, were wonderful hosts-even loaning my friend Dennis and me clothing to wear (did I mention our luggage was lost in Rome?) until our bags were sent to us by the airline a few days later. I had packed for the sunny warm days that were predicted, but found myself buying an umbrella and rain slicker, because of the heavy rain the greeted us! That, of course, did not keep us from hitting the beach in search of sea glass on our first morning there.

Thunder, lightning, rain and wind-note the inside-out umbrella of Dennis!

When you live in Washington State, it takes more than a little rain to keep you off the beach!


We walked down a path to the beach, serenaded by birds, passing by giant fig trees and eucalyptus, which made me feel like I was back in Southern California. The air was perfumed by the sweet blooms of flowering acacia trees mixed with the smell of the sea, which Italians call Salsedine.  We were the only people on the beach that morning, save for a couple of fishermen who brought their skiff in later. There were many shells scattered amongst the rocks and lots of sea glass too!

I found a beautiful marble in the shingle!

Even with all the rain, the air temperature was warm, and we spent the entire morning going to a few individual beaches, known to Ornella and Marco for their sea glass.

Ornella Di Filippo, now flying the flag of Tokeland in Italy!

Catch of the Day

Before our three days in Vasto were up, the sun did come out, and Ornella and Marco made sure we went back to the beach to see it’s “true colors” of vivid green and blue water. Again, we were the only people out there, except for the two fishermen.

This fisherman showed me a live seahorse that was part of the catch. After I took this photo, he returned it to the sea.

Vasto is known for its fresh seafood, and we enjoyed clams, mussels, prawns, octopus, scallops in one form or another, every day. Served with local wine, Montepulciano DÁbruzzo, these were meals to savor.

La Bagnante

Vasto is in the Abruzzo region of Italy, located in the south, with beautiful views of the Adriatic. It has recieved the Blue Banner mark for its clean water and eco friendly practices. Overlooking  a long sandy beach,  La Bagnante, a modernistic sculpture perched on a rock, beckons all visitors. Her name translates to “the bathing beauty.”

Ancient Roman Roots

I was surprised to learn that Vasto has a population of about 40,000. It really didn’t seem that large to me. There was none of the heavy traffic or crowds, but plenty of shops, restaurants and other businesses. We could walk into the heart of town from Ornella’s place, following the road that paralleled the sea.

Using the photos in my grandad’s old album as a guide, Ornella and Marco took me to the places in Vasto where my family had lived, and where they are buried.

My grandfather’s handwritten caption says “The place where I was born.”

The Palazzo Palmieri-what a thrill it was for me to see the place of my grandfather’s birth!

There are some lovely churches and the relics of ancient Roman baths, so many charming sights that I feel they deserve a seperate blog post of their own. So I will stick here to my personal sightseeing, and hope to revisit this topic in a future post.


Note the Venetian style architecture of the building to the left-I love the color!


La Mia Famiglia

Ornella arranged for me to see the inside of the house where my family lived until the 1980’s. It is now used as a kindergarten/day care center.

Villa Altruda

My grandfather with his siblings, circa 1905, Vasto. What a lovely place to grow up!


Thie picture below was taken in 1925, in Vasto. My grandfather (on the left) , stands beside the bust he modeled of his friend  (right.)

Me and Melania, who operates the Mary Poppins childcare center. at the front door of our former family home.

Full Circle

On my last day, we visited the cemetary. This too, deserves a post of its, own, but I will say briefly, that the cimetario is it’s own little villiage, filled with family mausoleums and graves, well tended and at the same time, overgrown in places. Individualistic touches and personal remembrances are everywhere.


Remembering my grandfather with fresh flowers.


I’m going to end this post here, as I savor the connection to family. It was a great privilege to recognize and honor my grandfather, Giuseppe Altruda in the town of his birth. I must say a thousand thanks, Grazie Mille, to Ornella and Marco, and family, for their kindness in helping me to locate these special places, for the wonderful meals and the sea glassing.  Ci vediamo lánno prossimo-see you next year!


My grandfather and me in 1981, when I visited him in Bologna.

Dottore Giuseppe Altruda, 1980, Bologna









The Best Things in Life are (nearly) Free

“Will brake for sea glass” photo by Eric Fitzpatrick

Recently I was headed down the coast with my sister to a sea glass festival on the central California coast. Along the way, we stayed a couple nights in Ft. Bragg, to visit world-renowned Glass Beach. This post will include highlights of that journey down Highway 101 through the beaches and redwoods of Oregon and Northern California.

We began in Astoria, Oregon with a thermos of coffee and about a year’s worth of conversation stored up between the two of us.  Our last road trip, the previous March, had been to place our dad’s ashes inside a niche at Forest Lawn.  We had a lot of catching up to do.


Netarts, Oregon

Whatever Happened To? 

We hadn’t driven very far from Astoria when we took a side trip to find Lex’s Cool Stuff  in Netarts. We had not seen Lexi since we were living in Sunset Beach, California, way back in the seventies. Back then she made candle holders and other crafts from shards of broken automotive glass and surely must have been at the forefront of upcycled art. Our brother told us that Lexi had moved to Oregon and opened a shop. We found her tiny place on a road that overlooked the sea. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.



Lex’s Cool Stuff, Netarts, Oregon

Having many miles to travel, we moved on down the highway, vowing to return at a later date. Our drive took us through the towns of Newport, Lincoln City, and Gold Beach with scenic points of interest in between such as Devils Punchbowl, Devil’s Lake and Boiler Bay. Just before spring break, the towns were quiet, the highway uncrowded, perfect timing.

Pt Orford, Oregon

We stopped for the night close to the Oregon/California border, in Pt. Orford. This is a magical little place, with an amazing restaurant and art gallery nestled on the bluff above the small commercial harbor. We took a sunset stroll before checking into our room and then heading to Redfish for dinner. We knew this would be a special dining experience and were so glad to make it there before the final seating of the night!

Daybreak, Pt.Orford harbor

We slept with the sound of crashing surf coming through the open window and woke to a colorful sky at daybreak. We started the day with a walk on the beach as the sun cleared the hills.



Beach at Pt. Orford

Another Roadside Attraction

We had barely said goodbye to Pt Orford and crossed the California border on Highway 101 when we had to stop again-for dinosaurs.

To my sister’s great disappointment, this roadside attraction was closed. We will have to visit the lifesize T Rex and brontosaurus another time, I guess.

We continued south on Highway 101 which offered sublime views as it hugged the cliffside high above the sea before plunging into misty stands of ancient redwood groves. Sprinkled between tiny towns, art galleries and quirky roadside attractions offered everything from redwood burls and bigfoot carvings to monumental metal sculptures and more.

The art of Val Polyanin, it was closed the day we drove by but had a telephone number on a mailbox at the side of the road. Maybe next time?

The Redwood Highway

Trees of Mystery, Klamath, CA. Monumental Paul Bunyon and Babe statues oversee the entrance to gift shop and End of the Trail Native American museum.

We stopped here to stretch our legs and for my sister to buy a redwood seed at the gift shop. The museum is really worth touring, especially if you admire Native American basketry. We drove along the Redwood  Highway, the twisting road flanked by massive trees, dark and moody. It is indeed a “Place of Wonder”.

Ancient Redwood Grove

We stopped to picnic in the LadyBird Johnson Grove.

In  Humbolt county, as we drive through the towns of Fortuna, Scotia, and Garberville, there were ample opportunities to stock up on redwood in many forms for those seeking a souvenir.

Humboldt County

Or maybe something larger?

Bigfoot Country

At the end of a long day’s drive, we emerged onto Highway 1 and reached Fort Bragg at sunset.

Without Further Ado; Glass Beach

Glass Beach, CA

We timed our trip to coincide with the tide, knowing we would have two low tide mornings to explore the beaches. We woke early the next day and drove to the Glass Beach approach. We left our car there and proceeded down to the trail along the bluff. For those who don’t know, what makes Ft. Bragg a major destination for sea glassers is the fact that it had four city dumps located right there on the beach from about 1895 to about 1969.

Our mission was to shoot some of my sea glass jewelry on location at the beach. I did see a few people on the beach picking up glass, but it is highly discouraged by the city of Ft. Bragg, which seek to protect this amazing treasure for all to enjoy. I recommend a visit to the International Sea Glass Museum, operated by Captain Cass. It will give a better understanding of what makes Ft Bragg’s beaches so unique and has well-organized sea glass collections from all over the world on display. As an extra bonus, Captian Cass will mark the best beaches to hunt for glass on the maps for sale in the gift shop.

Sea glass rings by Judith Altruda, at Glass Beach.

Climbing down to the beach, feeling the crunch of sea glass underfoot and seeing the ground shimmer as the sun comes out, is an out-of-this-world experience.


Ravens at Glass Beach

Sea glass and Fiesta ware pottery shard

Sea Glass cove

Sunlight intensifies the carpet of glass!

Farewell, Glass Beach

After two days it was time to move on to Cayucos for the SeaGlass Festival, which will be the topic of a future post. And speaking of the future… those attractions that were closed when we passed by? Perhaps just as well, as it gives us another reason to return.


Sister Shadows

What I did for Sea Glass-Part One

 A Seaham stroll A Seaham stroll

On the last day of 2017, I am finally sorting through the hundreds of photos shot on a sea glass trip to the UK this summer, with the goal of sharing some highlights with you before another year goes by. My friend Jane, who I visited in Sunderland in 2014 (read more in archived blog posts) generously penciled in three weeks for my return visit, which included sightseeing in London, sea glass hunting on England’s Northeast coast and a glamping road trip through Scotland, stopping at every beach or charity shop that crossed our path (not to mention pubs). I traveled by plane, train, car, bus, ferry, and foot-walking an average of 17,800 steps a day, or about fifty-two miles in one week, (thank you fit bit.) Dining experiences ran the gamut from swanky gentleman’s tea in Wynyard Hall to microwavable haggis at a Scottish hostel on a very rainy night, too exhausted to go out, lovely Indian takeaways and delicious home-cooked comfort food prepared by Jane’s husband, Trevor.

Drinking experiences were decidedly egalitarian- in London, Jane and I drank canned Gin and Tonic purchased at a nearby Waitrose store under the Tower Bridge, and also enjoyed the decidedly nicer and more expensive G and T’s in the Kings Cross railway station bar, (almost missing our train to Sunderland.)

 Cheers! Cheers!

When we weren’t on the beach hunting for sea glass,  we were using the scenery as a backdrop to photo shoot jewelry I brought along for this purpose. It was especially fitting because the sea glass used in making the collection was found on the English coast, some of it by Jane and Trevor. Jane was a very good sport about it, especially when her crazy American friend used the very food we ate as photo props!

There are so many great memories in all of it, that I must simply stop for a moment and thank Jane and Trevor again for their wonderful hospitality and friendship.

 Gentleman's tea at Wynyard Hall, with scotch egg, piccalilli, sandwiches, scones, and more-a great setting for a sea glass ring. Not pictured: the glass of whiskey that was included with meal. Gentleman’s tea at Wynyard Hall, with scotch egg, piccalilli, sandwiches, scones, and more-a great setting for a sea glass ring. Not pictured: the glass of whiskey that was included with meal.  Faceted sea glass marble and Big Ben   Faceted sea glass marble and Big Ben

From London we go to the source of some of the world’s best sea glass, the beaches of Northeast England.

 In keeping with protocol I will not be naming beaches, but this is in the general area of Sunderland.   In keeping with protocol I will not be naming beaches, but this is in the general area of Sunderland.

Jane and I had the entire beach to ourselves on a very warm August day. As the afternoon wore on a few other glassers rounded the cove and came into view. I was already friends with one of them through a facebook sea glassing group and it was a pleasure to meet in person. Jane and I flying the flag of Tokeland that day, and our mutual friend took this photo of us.

 Sea Glass Sister. Jane and I examine the sea glass she she picked up that was lying at our feet! Sea Glass Sister. Jane and I examine the sea glass she she picked up that was lying at our feet!  A very rare purple sea glass nestled in kelp near the beach where Jane originally found it. A very rare purple sea glass nestled in kelp near the beach where Jane originally found it.

A view from the top-the beach is accessible by a steep path winding down through the tall grasses.

The reason there is so much sea glass found in along the Northeast coast is because it was perfectly situated to produce glass, having the natural resources of sand and lime and easy transport by rail or ship. Factories disposed of waste glass by dumping into the rivers or sea, which was transformed by the action of tide and time into sea glass.We visited museums and the Glass Centre to learn more about the history of glass making.

 There are many fine example of the glass produced in the Sunderland area in the museum and the Glass Centre, both are definitly  worth visiting. There are many fine example of the glass produced in the Sunderland area in the museum and the Glass Centre, both are definitly  worth visiting.

Coalmining was a major enterprise here, with mines tunneling out under the sea. I am standing in a now defunct elevator, that would transport miner down to the tunnel where they would work off shore. The film Billy Elliot was shot in the nearby village of Easington, and the death scene in Get Carter, the original film with Michael Caine, shot further north of here. I walked along a path with markers outlining the history of the mines, accidents and strikes that ended in the early 1990s when the last mine closed. The environmental damage wrought on the beaches is being reversed, slowly but surely.

Jane and I planned a road trip to visit sea glass beaches in Scotland which included glamping in a “posh pod” along the way as we drove from east to west along the Firth of Forth. In Oban we would take a ferry to the isle of Mull, where further adventure awaited…

 Arriving at Lower Largo as the sun sets. Arriving at Lower Largo as the sun sets.  St Monans St Monans

My new “happy place.”

 St Monan's church St Monan’s church

 Empire Biscuits After several hours walking along the beaches we were ready for a coffee and treat. I love the Scottish bakeries! Empire Biscuits After several hours walking along the beaches we were ready for a coffee and treat. I love the Scottish bakeries!  This was one of the best pieces of glass I found in Scotland. This was one of the best pieces of glass I found in Scotland.

Inside our posh pod, glam-camping with all the comforts of home and a pub within walking distance nearby!

End of Part One-Stayed tuned for Part Two, Isle of Mull and Beyond

Tucson or Bust!

Last week I happily left the rain and darkness of the PNW for the dry sunshine of Arizona. It was a sacrifice, but “somebody has to do it” as the saying goes…Destination: Tucson Gemshow!

 Raw Aquamarine, ready to be cut into gemstones-this piece was priced at $4,000.

Raw Aquamarine, ready to be cut into gemstones-this piece was priced at $4,000.

During the later part of January to the middle of Feb, the city of Tucson plays host to gem, mineral and fossil displays that are unparrelled. Huge tents spring up in motel parking lots, or entire floors of hotels are turned into storefronts, rented by vendors traveling from countries all over the world to vend their wares. I talked with ( and bought from) Brazilians, French, Ethiopian,Chinese, Peruvian,and Finnish gem dealers as well as locals from Colorado who mine and cut their own turquoise. I saw buyers from Vienna to Los Angeles (and points in between) buying everything from rocks, to beads and pearls, to finished jewelry.

 Acres of gemstone beads in a rainbow of colors.

Acres of gemstone beads in a rainbow of colors.

 Crystal balls abound-many from Brazil.

Crystal balls abound-many from Brazil.

 Towering crystal sentries

Towering crystal sentries

 Dinosaur and fossil displays are king at the 22nd Street show   

Dinosaur and fossil displays are king at the 22nd Street show  

 A fistful of fire agate

A fistful of fire agate

I’m back home now, the torrential rains of an “atmospheric river” are bringing inches of rain as I write. But I have a sack full of brilliant opals, rare turquoise and Peruvian opal to keep me focused, and memories of clear blue skies and dry desert air to get me through the rest of this winter. If you get a chance to go-DO IT.

 Taking a break in the barrio of old Tucson   

Taking a break in the barrio of old Tucson  

From Tokeland to Tokyo

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

Its hard to describe the impact the travels in Japan have had on me. It was an amazing journey. On so many levels it was inspirational-and the friendships I made are at the top of these experiences!

In a series of blog posts, I plan to share the highlights with you. From traveling with a band to Japan’s largest rock festival, to picking up sea glass with a wonderful local guide (and friend!), the trip included many milestone moments.

So let this brief post serve as a prelude to much more-as soon as I get back down to earth!

 Tokyo manhole cover and made in Tokeland belt-a match made in heaven!   

Tokyo manhole cover and made in Tokeland belt-a match made in heaven!  

 Sea Glass finds from a Japanese fishing cove.

Sea Glass finds from a Japanese fishing cove.

 Jared Meeker rocking one of my ancient coin rings at Fuji.

Jared Meeker rocking one of my ancient coin rings at Fuji.