lake como in the snow

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Last year, I spent January 1st by the piers of Monterey and the final days of December next to these chilly harbors. Lake Como, as far as I understand it, is a celebrated summer oasis for boaters, architecture-lovers, and relaxation-seekers alike: of course we visited in the middle of winter, and spent our only full day dodging icy rain.

Yet Como’s weather deities smiled upon us at last during our final four hours in the area, and I had the opportunity to capture a waterscape unlike any I’d ever photographed before, pairing blue waves with distant snowy peaks!

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2017 in wandering

As repetitive as they has no doubt become, I’ve nonetheless very much enjoyed this week’s reflections on 2017!

From the narcissistic standpoint of my personal life, it was quite a mercurial year–featuring a volatile blend of unexpected medical troubles (remember when I injured my neck and spent weeks lying on the floor, or when my wisdom teeth attempted to destroy me?), drastic life changes (somehow I’ve completed a quarter of my MA by now!), and stunning romance that would have seemed impossible a year ago (hey, 2015-me, it’s very important that you get involved in snail mail and decide to write to a certain Welsh pen pal…)

At the same time, I enjoyed a shocking amount of whirlwind travels in 2017, at home and abroad: the saddest part, perhaps, is that my quasi-hiatus from blogging kept me from sharing many of those photos with you, readers! Consider this post, then, a bit of a preview for some travel-blog catching up that awaits later this month.

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you have my hart, linlithgow

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I promised you castle photos–now, castle photos ye shall have!

Linlithgow Palace in Linlithgow, Scotland, isn’t quite the oldest castle you’ll ever encounter–though in a ruined state, it’s actually looking pretty good hundreds of years past its heyday in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Back then, it was a part-time royal residence, and today, it allows visitors (especially weird historians like me) to enjoy a thrilling opportunity to roam labyrinthine Renaissance halls and towers and dungeons completely unaccompanied. You can basically do whatever you want here, provided you respect the architecture! I even sang approximately three notes of a Palestrina motet to test the acoustics.

Most importantly, as the title suggests, there is a ridiculously adorable deer sculpture on its very ornate, extant, and functional fountain!

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King Arthur’s Court in Connecticut: Gillette Castle

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Most of my earliest childhood memories of the Mainland relate to the many trips we took from Hawai’i to Connecticut to visit my grandparents on the coast of Long Island Sound. Perhaps the oddest of these–one that I suspected I might have just invented–was a faint recollection of riding in a carriage towards the ruins of a great stone castle. As you might imagine, we don’t exactly get a lot of thirteenth-century European architecture here in the States.

It turns out, though, that Gillette Castle State Park is all too real: even if it was built in 1914 rather than 1214. The former mansion of eccentric and actor William Gillette, this architectural-folly-slash ruin is basically my Romantic heart’s wildest dream. And, to be honest, if I were a millionaire actor with cash to burn and land to buy, I’d also choose the forests of Connecticut as the ideal spot in which to live out my Arthurian fantasies.

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Lake District, Part I: Arts & Crafts

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The Lake District is the place where many (non-British) forest girls’ dreams were born–exploring the land of Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth felt like returning to a childhood home that I’d never visited before. I imagined all the romanticized visions of idyllic woods-and-country life from children’s stories playing out before me as we drove by the lakes and trees and mountains and stone cottages…

The first stop, though, was a place entirely unlike a simple “cottage”: Blackwell, a great Arts & Crafts manor decorated in the most beautiful Art Nouveau-esque style. Every grand, sweeping room included tiny windowside reading nooks, tucked-away places for contemplation and creation.

(So who wants to contribute to the “let me live in an Arts & Crafts house in the Lake District” fund? I promise it will be a good investment [for me, at least]!)

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U.K. Travels, Past & Future

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A view from the London Eye, March 2013
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Glastonbury Tor, February 2013

Ten years ago, I was about to leave North America for the very first time–setting off on a journey to England for a summer writing program just days after my thirteenth birthday. I’d never been away from home for more than a night or two, and I couldn’t believe that I could hop on a plane and wake up in an entirely different country.

I enjoyed my sunny weeks in Cambridge so much as a preteen that I decided to return to the U.K. in college: except this time, I swapped the River Cam for the rugged cold! During my six months in Edinburgh, though, I did journey down from Scotland and into England a few times, eating chocolate-covered rice cakes from Tesco and navigating local bus systems in the rain to visit places like Glastonbury Tor and assorted non-Stonehenge megaliths.

And now, three years since I last left the British Isles, I’m going back!

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“The Painting of the World”: Florence, Italy

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Nearly seven years before I set foot in Florence, a younger Keely discovered a phenomenal musical: Adam Guettel’s 2003 The Light in the Piazza, set in the same city. I fell so in love with this remarkable story and incredible score that I even performed the title song at an awkward voice recital.

One of the musical’s leads, Clara, describes Italy as “the land of naked marble boys,” and I couldn’t help wryly remembering her various comments as I browsed Florence’s galleries and museums. I would say that it’s also the land of sweeping architecture, pale yellow houses, tourists gaping at masterpieces, and one spectacular vegan Italian restaurant. I certainly can’t show these photos to my sixteen-year-old self, who was constantly singing Piazza lyrics under her breath and dreaming of Europe–but I’m happy to finally share them with anyone who plans to find their own way to these piazzas!

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