A Tale of Two Parks

I recently spent a few days in New York City.  It’s the third time I’ve visited and it’s a city I love, love, love. This time we decided to try a little ‘new’ along with the ‘old’, so along with the trusted Central Park, we also took in Prospect Park and the Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn.


CENTRAL PARK is great. Created in the 1850s, this magnificent expanse of greenery and lakes lies slam-bang right in the middle of Downtown, But, because it’s Downtown, everywhere you look there are tourists – I know, I know,  I was one of them!


Amongst them, a group of British Policemen and women over from England running for charity.  And turtles.  Who knew there were turtles in Central Park?  (Although, as I recall, the Heroes in a Half-Shell used to live in the NYC sewers, didn’t they?)


And then of course, there’s Strawberry Fields, with its iconic Imagine mosaic. Definitely worth a visit.

So how did PROSPECT PARK measure up against its better known neighbour?

Extremely well, indeed.

Built in the 1860s, it covers 585 acres and is only a short subway ride from Manhattan. We visited on a Sunday to find an oasis of tranquility with family groups enjoying picnics and multi-generational games of baseball.

PP1 pp2

Just next door are the Botanical Gardens and they are gorgeous.  We just missed the cherry blossom and lilacs, but loved the bluebell woods and displays of azaleas, iris, peonies.

fountain   iris

And don’t forget the Japanese Gardens. With a great visitor centre and restaurant, this is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and allow the scents and scenery to soothe your soul.



Novodevichy Cemetery

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Moscow. Growing up in the west in the 60s, 70s and 80s, for me Moscow conjured up the frightening May Day parades in Red Square, reported by the BBC, where the Soviet Union displayed its terrifying nuclear arsenal.


So to actually visit …  Yes, I was scared, but also excited.

I’ve never cried in a museum before, but I cried in The Armoury Chambers of the Kremlin Museum. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos in there, but if you ever want to witness the skill and imagination and wonders that human beings can create, many of them are gathered there. I doubt there is a museum in the world that can hold a candle to the glories they have on display.

But with no photos of the museum, what else captured my imagination in Moscow?


I don’t know if it’s a ‘writer’ thing or not, but whenever I travel, I love to check out the local cemeteries. I have some friends who believe that graveyards are literally a waste of space, but I love wandering through them and discovering the stories they tell.


So in Moscow, I visited The Novodevichy Cemetery where many of the great and the good of the Soviet era are buried.  As someone who grew up in a country where graves are very understated, to see the dead realised as if in life was more than a little bit creepy.


And then there was the grave of Stalin’s second wife –  Nadezhda – to whom he was married from 1919-1932.  Officially she died of illness, but the belief is she committed suicide after quarreling with Stalin.

Following the death of his first wife –  Ekaterina – who died of typhus in 1907, Stalin is reputed to have said at her funeral: This creature softened my heart of stone. She died and with her died my last feelings for humanity. Interesting to speculate how history might have been different had she lived.

Finally, the grave of Boris Yeltsin, memorialized by the modern-day Russian flag. When I was at university in the early 80s could I have envisioned the fall of the Soviet Union? In a single word – No.


The Great Canadian Bucket List.

My daughter has travelled the world and one of her favourite travel writers is Robin Esrock.  He was here in town a few weeks ago promoting his new book The Great Canadian Bucket List so I went along to hear his talk.

We all know Canada has the most amazing scenery and fabulous history.  Living here in Calgary, I’m fortunate enough to have the Rockies in my backyard. But I didn’t know Canada has its own Dead Sea.  Or its own Da Vinci Code? Did you?

I’ve always fancied a cycling holiday in France – all that great scenery, food and wine  – but it turns out I don’t have to cross the ocean to savour the experience. Quebec has its own 230 km bike trail Le P’tit Train Du Nord (ski trail in winter) that sweeps through forests and villages, past rivers and golf courses and – best of all – is mostly FLAT!


Bothered and Bewildered

You know that horrible feeling when you sleep through your alarm and spend the next few hours trying to play catch up?  Welcome to my day.

Here’s the thing… I’ve been planning on starting a blog for a while.  I’m going to be publishing  a series of books this autumn, and with that comes the requirement for a website.  A friend recommended it might be better to get the whole website/blog thing figured out beforehand so I can then concentrate on my writing.

Flash forward to today.  The perfect time, I decide, to start pulling my website together.  I’ll put in a few photos, a little bit of text, and then over the next week I can pull together a couple of blog topics before I push the ‘live’ button.

How was I supposed to know it went live as soon as you sign up?  They only had three TV channels when I was growing up!

So here I am, scrambling to introduce myself and this blog.  What’s it going to be about?  Three of my passions; the craft of writing, travelling and the history of the Second World War.  If you enjoy these topics, I hope you will join in the conversation.

Thanks for stopping by.

(Hmmm.  Maybe I’d better double check my alarm clock tonight.)