Tag Archives: quaint

Artistic New Port Richey, FL

New Port Richey, with a population of approximately 15,000, is about 35 miles northwest of Tampa in Pasco County on the Gulf of Mexico. One to two story buildings comprise the main thoroughfare which is lined with street lights topped by old-time glass globes, adding charming ambiance to mainly small businesses and restaurants, and much of the architecture of years ago has been preserved. The Pithlachascotee River (try to say that three times fast!) meanders through the downtown area with a river walk for visitors and residents alike to enjoy. In the 1920’s, New Port Richey was gaining a reputation as the Hollywood of the East, since many famous people and movie stars visited and bought homes here. The depression years changed that and it remained a small, but lovely city.

Over the last several years artists have been encouraged to paint historic themed murals on the downtown buildings and I recently decided to walk around and take pictures. What was originally to be a photographic exercise turned out to be a relaxing and delightful afternoon’s stroll of discovery.

Some of the murals had a whimsical feel, others were a tromp l’oeil experience. I had the feeling some of the likenesses were of past leaders of the community, people with whom I was unfamiliar, but it didn’t matter. If that were true, I was glad they were recognized.

I returned home feeling pleased I live in such a creative community, a place where people value history and the arts. I felt inspired to try being creative in some way too. I felt happy.

Does something about your community inspire you or make you happy?

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Filed under Art, history, Travel

Romantic Transylvania by Coco Ihle

I’ve traveled to many countries, but my favorite is Romania, in particular, the republic of Transylvania. Many people who go to Transylvania want, especially, to see Bran Castle, associated with the stories of Vlad the Impaler and the novel Dracula, created by the Irish writer, Bram Stoker, over a century ago.

Bran Castle, Transylvania

Although Bran was fascinating, I felt my imagination soar in Sinaia (pronounced “Sin-EYE-ah); a village nestled deep in the Carpathian pine forests. It seemed to me a timeless place right out of a fairytale with its unique cross-timbered buildings tucked against lush steep mountain slopes.

I remember, one clear night as darkness settled, I unlatched my window and leaned out. It was so quiet I could hear the sighing of the trees in the forest. I don’t know how long I lingered there listening, but after a
while, I became aware of the howling of wolves echoing in the mountains. Before long, dogs in the village joined in the eerie chorus. I’ll never forget that stillness and those haunting sounds. They were both beautiful and frightening; conjuring up images and memories of the tales I’d heard or read of this exotic land of vampires and nocturnal creatures.

The next day, I visited Peles Castle at the edge of the village. It is truly the most exquisite building I’ve ever seen. Both inside and out. While not a new castle as castles go, its building was begun in 1883 by Romania’s longest serving monarch, King Carol I, as a summer residence. I was amazed to learn this magnificent royal palace, with its fairytale turrets and pointed towers rising above acres of green meadows, was the first castle in Europe to have central heating and electricity.

Peles Castle, Sinaia, Transylvania

The characteristic features of the external architecture are specific to the German neo-Renaissance style. The interior is dominated by the same elements, but have combined various styles: Italian and Gothic Renaissance, German Baroque, the rococo, Hispanic, Moorish and Turkish styles. The architects used an abundance of wooden decoration both inside and out, which gives the building that fairytale quality.

Quite outstanding are the big Armory Room, the small Armory Room, the Florentine Room, the Reception Room, the Moresque Room, the French Room, the Turkish Room, the Council Room, the Concert Room and the Imperial Suite, 160 rooms in all.

Interior of Peles Castle, Sinaia, Transylvania

The library conceals a secret passage leading to the second floor of the castle. There is a gallery of mirrors and the dining room has a leather clad ceiling. Scenes from age old Romanian fairytales adorn the stained glass windows in the Poetry Room. Paintings, sculptures, silver, gold and marble are everywhere.

During Ceausescu’s era, the castle was used as a private retreat for leading communists and statesmen from around the globe. U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi and Yasser Arafat were all entertained by the Romanian dictator in Pele’s fanciful rooms, each furnished to reflect a different European country.

Peles Castle truly took my breath away. If you ever travel to Romania, I cannot recommend highly enough, a visit to Peles Castle and Sinaia.

Have you visited a place whose very essence made your imagination soar?

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Filed under fiction, musings, photographs

My Handy Research Tools by Coco Ihle

I’ve found being a pack rat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of my trips to the U.K. were family vacations and because these were special occurrences, I didn’t want to forget anything. Taking photos, saving receipts, keeping a trip diary, buying brochures and even audio recording various tours and people became the norm for me.

This collection came in handy while compiling photo albums to share with the family later. I didn’t have to wonder where the heck a certain mystery photo was taken or try to remember an itinerary or timeline. I was so glad I had documented everything.

Since trip planning fell to me, I wanted to make the experience as rich as possible. One year, my (former) husband and I, his parents, and our son went to the U.K., rented a car, and set out touring England, Scotland and Wales on a six-weeks adventure. Since we had three generations in the car, my goal was to include sights that would interest everyone.

We saw battlefields, military monuments and museums, visited Brands Hatch British Grand Prix Race Track and had pints in local pubs to satisfy the guys. Madam Tussaud’s, the planetarium, taking a class in brass rubbing, listening to bagpipers in Scotland and seeing suits of armor up close were fun for our son. Visiting and staying in historic manor homes and castles, attending medieval banquets with the Ladies of the Court in period costumes and strolling in topiary gardens were treats for my mother-in-law and me. We all enjoyed driving through the lush countryside and stopping in quaint villages with their thatched roof cottages; and speaking with the locals gave us different perspectives on the things we had seen and experienced.  At every turn, we tried to make each day interesting and unforgettable.

One night, we stayed in the thirteenth-century House of Agnes Hotel in Canterbury, mentioned in Charles Dicken’s, David Copperfield. Another, in the The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, a seventeenth-century coaching inn. Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland was once an eleventh-century monastery and is said to be haunted. Lord Dalhousie at Dalhousie Castle flirted with my mother-in-law during our postprandial cocktails, and she blushed for weeks afterwards. I could go on and on.

To help refresh my cherished memories, I have shelves full of brochures, audio tapes, photo albums, music, artwork, you name it. When I began writing my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, set primarily in Scotland, I needed details for descriptions of castles and the countryside, on people in the villages, their personalities and their speech patterns. Even though I had Scottish friends at this point, and the Internet, I relied heavily on my experiences and documentation of the many trips I had taken.

I’m so glad I am a pack rat! Any of you, pack rats, too? Has it been good, bad?

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Filed under books, fiction, musings, writing