Photos from Fonthill Castle

Sometimes I need to take a break from writing about the pictures (as in films) by going out and taking pictures (as in very amateur photography).  On a recent drive out to Doylestown, I stopped at Fonthill Castle for some photo ops.

Click here to learn more about Fonthill Castle and the neighboring Mercer Museum.

More of my photos from the castle and its hollow-esque surroundings can be found below: Continue reading

Gimme Some of that Olde Tyme Storytelling

Remi would like to type you a story...

A few Saturdays ago, a venture out to Chadds Ford, PA resulted in an impromptu visit to the Chadds Ford Antique Mall (inconveniently…I mean, conveniently located right next to the Chadds Ford Winery) where I happened upon the treasure above – an antique Remington typewriter, conspicuously priced at a “gotta have it” 35 smackers.

Now nestled at home in my study, Remi is begging for my imagination to run wild.  How many previous owners were there?  What has been typed on this machine…how many stories…love letters…ledgers…diaries…secrets???

I invite you to let your imaginations run wild, too, and tell me what Remi has seen…what Remi has composed…perhaps Remi is even haunted.  But by what?  By whom?  Leave your “Remi Story” suggestions in the comments field…and see what might become…

Continue reading

Of Canals, Lambertville and Nomad Pizza

There’s really no better way to spend a day off from work midweek than taking a long drive.  It’s especially nice on a beautiful pre-Fall day, and if it’s the first day your car has been out of the shop after an overnight stay for repairs, it’s even better.  I’ve long extolled the wonders of Bucks County, Pennsylvania with all of its wineries and covered bridges, but the towns running parallel to Bucks along the Delaware River on the New Jersey side offer their own rustic charms and often get overlooked.  Quaint historic towns running along the Delaware Raritan Canal in Hunterdon County and stretching across gorgeous wooded back roads into Mercer County (home of Princeton University) are more an extension of the small-town meets gentrified rural setting of Bucks County than they are a connecting strip to the New York-influenced North Jersey and Philly-influenced South Jersey megalopilises.

Last week I ventured up that way, stopping off at Washington’s Crossing State Park on the Jersey side before spending a few hours strolling through Lambertville. Continue reading

Of Al Capone, The Thief Maker and Death by Baklava

On a whim this Saturday I decided to take a friend on a Thief Maker Reality Tour by visiting the famous Philadelphia neighborhood where the majority of my book was set, touring Eastern State Penitentiary and dining at one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  

It had been a well over a year (maybe even two) since I had been back to the Art Museum District centered around Fairmount Avenue (and I’ll be there again next weekend for the Late Renoir Exhibit at the PMA).  Though I’ve only ever been a visitor to the area, it was like returning home as it had lived in my imagination for so long and served as the inspiration for the primary setting of my “first” novel, which now seems like such a distant memory.  It was great stomping around my old haunts, and for the first time, I played the part of a true tourist by paying to enter the famed Eastern State Penitentiary – former home of Al Capone. Continue reading

Sideways in Bucks County

This past Saturday (amidst all the crisp sunlight and gusting winds) was spent on a self-guided wine tour of Bucks County.  It was our little Pennsylvania version of Sideways as we hit many of the spots along the Bucks County Wine Trail, but unlike Paul Giamatti’s character, we did drink some Merlot. 

We visited five wineries in Bucks County (sorry, no pictures for this day-trip…too busy drinking)…and I’m confident in selecting Crossing Vineyards and Winery on Wrighstown Road in Washington’s Crossing as the best of  the Bucks County bunch.  

It was the first on our stop and features beautifully appointed grounds and interiors, warm and friendly service, a fantastic “tasting” set-up amongst the wooden barrels and giant steel drums, and most importantly…the best wine we tasted that day.  The Crossing Vineyards prides itself on presenting the best possibilities of Pennsylvania wine and has won numerous awards.  Their White Viognier and their Specialty Le Nouveau were the highlights for me, and I happily left with a bottle of each to take home. 

Other great wineries along the trail in Bucks: Continue reading

It’s Oh So Quiet

It’s oh so quiet…and peaceful until…the tourist season.

I could hibernate all winter and all summer long.  Give me the mountains in the fall and the shore in the spring when the noise is low and natural, the locals are talkative and happy to see you, and the hushed streets lay out before you waiting to be strolled.

Spectral Victorian houses taking deep breaths and creaking in the gentle breezes.  An empty beach on a Saturday.  The sun shining.  60 degrees.  Perfect. 

Here are some pics from a walkabout through Cape May, NJ.   Continue reading

The Covered Bridges of Bucks County

With fall winding down, this past Sunday was potentially the last nice day to do a day-trip of this nature.  The plan was to tour the Covered Bridges of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Below are some of the photos I captured.  Why so few pictures of the actual bridges, you ask?  Well…we go lost thanks to lousy directions,  Bucks County’s willfully eccentric and confusing system of back-roads through the hills and countryside and non-GPS friendly points of interest.  The roads frequently change names, and some stop dead only to appear miles down another road and running perpendicular to their original selves.  Genius!  If anyone can tell me how to get to Cafferty Road from Dark Hollow Road, a small reward might be paid.  If you do this tour and absolutely must see every covered bridge, my only suggestion is to kidnap an actual native of Bucks County to be your guide. Continue reading

Light in September

In the Deep South of Faulkner Country it might be the Light in August that casts an inspirational glow, but in the Northeast nothing compares to the light in September.  On my annual daytrip out to Batsto Village, I was struck by how the light changed and undulated under the shade of the trees and passing cloud cover, casting an aura over the scenery that really only could’ve been appreciated with a continuously tracking camera that would capture all the nuances.  It’s times like these when I realize the limitations of the snapshot…but that’s not to say I didn’t capture as many of those moments and changes of light as I could.   Some of the photos around Batsto may appear as remakes or re-imaginings of shots from last year’s visit, but I also stopped at an ancient cemetery along Route 542 that boasted graves as far back as the mid-1800′s, and another picturesque graveyard in Hammonton along the White Horse Pike where new images were found. Continue reading

A Visit to Grounds for Sculpture

With the return of Spring comes the return of my Day-Tripping Series.  This week I made use of my new GPS system–oh, how I love it when she tells me in her British accent to “Get on the motorway”–and headed north to Hamilton, NJ to Grounds for Sculpture which is a mere forty-five minute drive from the immediate South Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia.

The website for this beautifully landscaped outdoor park of sculpted and artistic wonders claims there is an entrance fee, but I walked onto the grounds freely, and I imagine so did all the children and their parents and teachers traipsing about.  The park has a gentrified zoo-like feel to it with people milling about and kids shouting, but luckily the grounds are vast enough that you can still capture a few good shots without having somebody walk into frame. Apart from the sculptures on display, there are also plenty of quiet hidden paths to meander about away from the fray of the main walkways. 

Here are some photos I captured on my walkabout Grounds for Sculpture: Continue reading

A Visit to Tomasello Winery and Batsto Village

With a friend visiting from out of town, we decided to kill some time by taking a short drive down to Batsto Village for a casual hike on a beautiful day.  Driving down the White Horse Pike through Hammonton, the “Blueberry Capital of the World” sign was impossible not to notice.  When I mentioned there were some wineries in the area, my friend began to wonder if they made blueberry wine.  Right on cue, the unassuming and nicely appointed Tomasello Winery appeared up on the left.  Lo and behold, Tomasello Winery is famous for their fruit wines, including, of course, a very tasty blueberry wine.  The winery offers free wine tasting, a helpful and personable staff, and very affordable locally made wine.  I highly recommend it, and being a mere thirty minutes from my neck of the woods, I’ll be sure to return.  I left the winery with a bottle of their signature blueberry wine and a bottle of their vintage port.  For more, visit:  http://www.tomasellowinery.com/

Just a bit further down the White Horse Pike from the winery, we made a left onto Route 542 towards Batsto Village.  South Jersey often gets a bad wrap for its lack of scenery, but this is a beautiful stretch of well maintained farmland on the edge of the Pine Barrens that rivals any of the best “country drives.”  Nestled in the heart of Wharton State Forest, Batsto Village offers hiking trails, a beautiful lake, and historic buildings (including an old sawmill) left over from its days of iron and glass making during the 19th century.   For more, visit:  http://www.batstovillage.org/

Below are some photos I captured while walking through Batsto Village: Continue reading