Castle

Gillette’s Castle

Long before Benedict Cumberbatch, Actor William Gillette made famous the world of Sherlock Holmes through his theatrical depictions. Quite a bit different from King Camp Gillette, creator of the face shaving razor of fame, William Gillette built a weird-sauce castle in CT made of fieldstone and eccentricity.

Castle For years the external appearance of the castle turned me off. Frankly, it’s ugly. The fieldstone is quirky beyond my comfort level. Still, it’s considered a major CT tourist spot so I’ve had it on my list as something to see.

IT WAS AMAZING.

Honestly, the fieldstone facade was a major distraction from the real awesomeness: the beautifully carved wooden mechanisms that filled the house and the picturesque landscape spooning the Connecticut river.

All of the light switches, doors, door handles, etc were designed by Gillette and carved by his master woodworkers. No mechanism was duplicated, every one was unique and filled the house with a playful atmosphere. The tour guides were more than willing to demonstrate the operation of the mechanisms and the engineer in me loved it. Each new room had me on a scavenger hunt searching for clever mechanisms.

Unlike the external face of the castle most of the interior was wood, accented with stone set in colored grout. The attention to detail was obvious. Each component of the house had purpose from the uneven stonework of the chimney column (for planters) to the hanging decorative edging of the table designed as a playtoy for Gillette’s cats.

Main Hall

The Castle sits on a huge plot of land full of hiking trails. Gillette had a affinity for railroads so he built his own mini-railroad. The rails are mostly gone off the property but the retired rail passes make for wonderful trails including a train tunnel.

Tunnel

I strongly recommend checking out the castle if you’re in the area.

NewLook2

Another different look?

Okay. Theme attempt #2. I like the structure of this one a bit more, but I don’t think it’s as pleasing to look at. The fact that the comment count shows along with each full blog post (less photos) is kinda nice. I could toggle back so that each featured area only shows a snippet… the jury’s still out.

Also nice about this one is that the Favicon finally works (thank you Shamus).

So far, which one do you prefer?

If you didn’t get to see one or the other, let me know and I can switch back and forth between them.

SChips

AMERICA!

This morning America slapped me in the face with freedom. First as I drove to work a Bald Eagle swooped over the highway leaving behind jet trails of liberty. And then when I got to work? Boxes of free Sun Chips for all the employees.

Nothing says America like soaring eagles and free Sun Chips.

Anewlook

A new look?

The recent trouble I had with MikeDiDonato.com was caused by a database issue. I exceeded the size of my database for what was allowable with the newest version of WordPress (4.0).

The frustrations surrounding this incident also led me to the realization that I’m well overdue for a new website theme.

Thus begins my experimentation with a few new themes. Please feel free to provide your feedback!

Woo!

Procrastination Nation

Hello Internets!

I have been a horrible poster! I have been procrastinating the Italy picture posts for AN ENTIRE MONTH. Horrible.

In the mean time plenty of exciting things have happened that warrant sharing:

A trip to Gillette Castle!
Beautiful hikes!
A visit to Essex!
Garage painting!
New guitar efforts!
New exercise efforts!
A weekend at Cape Cod!

And a wealth of cooking adventures that all warrant a few words on this faithful site.

Yet here I sit, procrastinating these as well.

Excuses and rationalization pour through my head, but honestly I think it comes down to the fact that writing posts is a lot harder than watching the newest episodes of Sherlock on Netflix.

Hotel Room

Cinque Terre in Terrible Pictures

After a few hours of trains, we arrived in Monterosso!

Monterosso is the northernmost of five cities perched on the edge of the Mediterranean known as Cinque Terre. As our last major event we planned on hiking along the trails between the cities and relaxing on the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean. Let’s explore this last destination with the worst of my worst pictures.

1. Our hotel? Hotel Porto Roca? AMAAAAZING. This picture was taken at night, and I think we rotated it backwards.
PortoRoco

2. SERIOUSLY… LOOK AT THIS VIEW (deeply overexposed)
View

If you’re going to stay in Monterosso, make sure to stay in OLD Monterosso. New Monterosso isn’t as quaint. Old Monterosso is connected to New Monterosso with a pedestrian tunnel.

3. The Pedestrian Tunnel – nothing in this picture is in focus.
Tunnel

I think I actually got a picture of Jen taking that picture of the Hotel Porto Roca sign up above. Please note, I am making a shadow puppet on her body – I am particularly proud of this.
Dog

4. The water was beautiful, here’s some water with some rocks in it with some trees around it. Pretty D- composition if I do say so myself.
Water

Yes, our vacation was pretty excellent. Right up until the last day when I got food poisoning – presumably from some local fish. I threw up SO HARD that I blew a blood vessel in my eye. It was like sharknado out of my mouth except with local sea bass.

I asked Jen to document the event.

Sick

NEXT WEEK, I will post some good pictures of our 11 days in Italy!

Tuscan Hills

Florence in Bad Pictures (Part II: The Chianti Region)

Ahh, Chianti.

Jen and I took a one day trip into wine country as part of our exploration of the Tuscany region. Here’s a photodocumentary of our adventure featuring the worst photos from the trip.

We hopped in a van with 6 others and started winding our way out of downtown Florence. I was lucky enough to have a window seat as we soon began passing through beautiful tuscan hills. Olive trees and Vineyards extended as far as the eye could see. The landscape, peppered with castles and villas, was idyllic in every way. While we were zooming along the road, I leaned out the window with my camera to try and capture the scene and caught this first perfectly timed picture:

1. Tuscan hills: There is an amazing villa immediately behind that sign.
Tuscan Hills

The focus of this trip was Chianti.
Chianti was one of the first alcoholic beverages that I found myself enjoying. Defined by DOCG as a red wine with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes, Chianti is preferred by the locals with cheese or bread – almost never alone. It’s also conveniently cheap almost wherever you go! An expensive Chianti shouldn’t be more than about $35.

2. At the first winery, my face once again appearing fairly quasimodo.
Winery1

3. Wine Cellar! Taken in shutter priority mode without proper timing.
Wine Cellar

Our second winery was at a beautiful villa, complete with gardens and dining room where we tried 6 different wines and enjoyed cheese, honey, and pasta. We relaxed in the gardens before venturing back to the city.

4. Jen took this gem of the gardens. I stepped in at the last second and she got this shot of my camera. That’s my chin in the upper right.
Chin

After a wonderfully relaxing day, we got back to the hotel.

5. Our hotel room. The lights switched off just exactly as I snapped the shot.
Hotel Room

Tune in tomorrow for terrible pictures from Cinque Terre!