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The Berkshires: A Hop, Skip and a Jump from Manchester

Located an easy 1 hour and 20-minute drive from Manchester is the Norman Rockwell Musuem.

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Last Friday, we took a short drive up 91N to 90W to exit 1.  Then, followed the signs to the Norman Rockwell Museun in Stockbridge, MA.  Earlier in the week, I checked out the website and made reservations for 11:30 a.m.

We arrived a few minutes early and I took some pictures of the grounds.

Norman Rockwell Museum
Administration Building
3870A109-6CA2-49C0-A6F0-16D0ABB2096D_1_105_c.jpeg Norman Rockwell’s Studio  and Garden

We had 90 minutes to tour the museum.  Everyone had a mask on.  Each room was limited to a certain number of people depending on the size of the room.   All of the Saturday Evening Post covers are on the wall in the basement room.  It’s incredible how one person could produce so many graphically detailed illustrations and paintings. His life’s work is inspirational and well worth the trip.

After touring the museum, the terrace dining area is a cool place to get sandwiches and salads for lunch.  The tables are more than 6 feet apart.

Terrace Dining

Next, we drove a short distance down the road to Chesterwood.  We also made a reservation ahead of time to visit.  Only the grounds are open.


This museum was the summer home of sculptor and artist Daniel Chester French.  He was most famous for creating The Minute Man statue in Concord, MA, and the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

The formal gardens around the home are beautifully landscaped.

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Near the barn, there are walking trails with surprise sculptures along the way created from fallen trees by Rick and Laura Brown.

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Another exciting feature of the home is the railroad tracks that lead up to a large door.

E026470B-CD04-4005-B310-1CEE17626804Apparently, Daniel used the tracks to wheel a sculpture out of his studio into the sunlight.  Since his sculptures would be located outdoors, he wanted to see how they looked in outdoor light.

The attractions in the Berkshires, like all other tourist destinations, during this COVID summer, are scaled-down. It’s disheartening to lose so much live music, theater, and dance productions. Tanglewood performances are online-only this summer but, you can make an appointment to tour the Tanglewood grounds to learn its history and experience the beautiful views. The galleries at Willams College Art Museum are temporarily closed. Still, The Clark and Mass MOCA are open with timed ticketing. Mass MOCA has outdoor live performances with appropriately distanced audience space and a bring-your-own chair policy.

I’m grateful for all of the creative ways people have found to open their doors to visitors this summer. (Thanks to Beller’s, we were still able to hear live outdoor music in Manchester.) Above is just a small sampling of activities in the Berkshires. Some of the other enjoyable places to visit in-person or virtually include Jacob’s Pillow, Williamstown Theater Festival, and The Mount.  If you have the time, go up and explore. Follow the links below to reserve you time and order tickets. You won’t be disappointed.

Norman Rockwell Museum



The Clark


Jacob’s Pillow

Williamstown Theater Festival

The Mount


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Eagle Viewing at Shepaug Dam

In early February, before we were under CQ, we took a ride out to the Shepaug Dam in Southbury one Saturday morning. The gate is opened by a volunteer at 9:00 a.m. and cars are directed down a short road to the parking lot for the Eagle Observation Area. Visitors can view and photograph eagles and other winter birds. A wooden shack, divided into two small rooms, serves as an indoor observation station with large openings facing the river. One side of the cabin was open space, and the other had telescopes set up. There were also wooden benches pushed under some counters along the walls and a small heater.

Shepaug Dam

The shelter is about 100 yards from the Housatonic River, where the eagles like hanging out. A more powerful camera lens is needed to get a close-up shot. This picture was taken with my camera.

A couple of eagles hanging out in a tree

One of the volunteers helped me take this picture using my phone held up to a telescope.

Same eagles taken with iphone and telescope.

Around 10:00 a.m., the volunteers asked all visitors to leave one of the rooms so they could set up for a program. The telescopes were removed, and the benches were pulled out from underneath the counters. Rows of seats were set up like in an old-time one-room schoolhouse. A speaker from the Audobon Society of Fairfield proceeded to share information about some of the previously injured birds she brought along. Volunteers at the Fairfield Audobon Society nurse the birds back to health. The birds continue to live out their lives at the refuge because they would not survive in the wild.

Cooper’s Hawk?
American Kestrel?
One-eyed Boreal Owl?

During the talk about the birds, each was identified. If memory serves, the identities of the birds in the captions are correct.

The Shepaug Dam is only about an hour from Manchester. Eagles like to fish there in the winter because the water doesn’t freeze. This year with the warm winter in Connecticut, very few lakes froze over. Eagles had many bodies of water to find fish in northwestern Connecticut. So, fewer eagles were hanging out at the Shepaug Dam.

I am grateful to the people who volunteer to care for birds and animals and build structures for viewing and donate time and expertise. I long for the post-CQ era to once again meet in groups and learn from knowledgeable people about the incredible variety and beauty on this magnificent planet.

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Digital Photography at the Senior Center

It took me more than a year after retiring to enroll in some of the classes and groups at the Manchester Senior Center.  I am grateful to have discovered the varied and appealing offerings and began taking classes in January of this year.DSC_0216

On Monday mornings I spend my time with the Digital Photography Group. We have been watching a series of videos by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore, sharing and discussing pictures we have taken on our own, and creating a bulletin board for some of our favorite photos.


I’ve met some really nice people in this group with an interest in photography and a willingness to share tips and pointers. March 9 was our last session together before everything was cancelled.  It was a beautiful, sunny, late winter day and we took a field trip to the greenhouse at Elizabeth Park in Hartford.

Here are some more of my photos from that trip:

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I am looking forward to re-joining this friendly group of senior shutterbugs when this crisis is over.

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Shelburne Falls, MA

Manchester, CT to Shelburne Falls, Ma is an easy and picturesque Sunday afternoon drive in October

Shelburne Falls, Ma is an interesting place to visit any time of year.  One of the conveniences of living in Manchester is the highway system that takes one to the Mass border in a half hour.  From there it’s another 50 minutes up 91 to route 2 and west to Shelburne Falls.

An old bridge over the Deerfield River to Buckland was saved and up-cycled to create a bridge of flowers.  A recent frost killed the tender perennials on the bridge but some mums and more hardy flowers added fall color when we were visiting last Sunday.

Bridge St. has some interesting shops, restaurants and coffee houses which remind me of a miniature downtown Manchester.

A waterfall and glacial potholes formed about 14,000 years ago are the big attractions.  In the summer people find their way down to the rocks for sunbathing and swimming.

A one mile hike up nearby High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary will offer a spectacular view of the town and surrounding area.

Bridge of Flowers Pictures

Town Views

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Waterfall, Dam and Glacial Potholes

Views from Hike at High Ledges


Unfortunately, I forgot to bring along my camera so all of these pictures were taken with my cell phone.  No camera really captures the true essence of a place so if you get a chance take a drive and a short hike some Sunday afternoon.


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Best Decision Ever!!! Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY

Last Thursday some friends and I took a ride to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. We originally  planned to go in the spring but for various reasons had to postpone the trip to September 13.  As we watched the weather channel on September 12, we talked about postponing again since a hurricane was scheduled to hit the Carolinas that evening and it was pouring rain outside.  We agreed to hold off on our decision until 8 the next morning.  Best decision ever.  We will go.

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We met in Hartford and drove on 91 South to the Merritt Parkway and then to the Hutchison River Parkway.  After going through Westchester County for a short time we drove through the Bronx and across the Throgs Neck Bridge into Queens and finally into Brooklyn.  We drove up Ocean Parkway past Abraham Lincoln High School to Brighton Beach Avenue.  We took a left on Brighton Beach Ave and drove up and down numbered side streets (Brighton 1, Brighton 2, etc.) until we found a parking spot.  We put some money in the meter and then walked right down to the beach.

Laurette, Sue and Vicki

It’s just another world when you get there.  The main street, Brighton Beach Avenue, has an elevated train running above it and some really interesting shops.  Produce stands line the street.  Walk one block south and you’re on this huge beautiful white sand beach.  It’s just amazing!!

Apartment Buildings along Brighton Beach

Some of the apartments on and near the beach are large enough to be their own voting district! Between the beach and Brighton Beach Avenue are many older apartment buildings in a variety of architectural styles.  North of the avenue there were single family homes with tiny little driveways that you have to be careful not to block when parking.

We walked around the beach filling our senses with ocean smells and the cool water on our feet and legs and the sounds of sea birds and crashing waves.  Only a few brave souls were swimming but the boardwalk had a lot of pedestrian traffic.  People were walking, biking, roller blading or sitting on the benches up and down the board walk, alone or in pairs.  They were talking to each other or reading or people-watching or looking at the ocean.  We didn’t see many cell phones and nobody seemed to be in a rush.

Then we found a spot on the boardwalk, Tatiana Grill to have some lunch.

Lunch at Tatiana Grille
View from our table
Another view from our table

After lunch we walked back to Brighton Beach Avenue for a little shopping.  It was an overcast day with a nice breeze coming off the ocean.  Just a perfect day to make a trip like this.  Imagine that you can take the subway to get here!

Laurette, me, Sue and Vicki

Vicki and I stopped to get henna tattoos while Sue and Laurette went on a hunt for candy cordials; especially ones filled with peach brandy.


There are many little grocery stores, bakeries, specialty clothing stores, produce stands and restaurants up and down the avenue.  Once our tattoos were finished we joined them on the hunt and also stopped to buy fruit and veggies. Although many thousands of people live and work in this neighborhood of the “Big Apple” there was a peacefulness to the flurry of activity generated by the crowds.  Our 4 hours of parking were coming to a close so we headed back to the car.

Sue grew up in Brooklyn and it’s always better to visit a new place with a local as a tour guide.  She took us on a tour of Coney Island where we saw Nathan’s and all of the rides, Brooklyn College, Bedford Ave, past Midwood High School where Sue and 2000 other students graduated one June not too many years ago.  We went through some beautiful neighborhoods and stopped to look at the apartment building that Sue lived in as a child.

Childhood Home for Sue

Sue told us a story about growing up on the fifth floor of this apartment building in Brooklyn.  She and her friends used to play outside in the summer.  When they heard the bells for the ice cream truck they would shout up to their mothers sitting near the apartment windows, “Mom, the ice cream man is here!”  A few seconds later little pieces of white tissue paper wrapped around 15¢would come flying out different windows of the apartment building.

As we drove through the various parts of Brooklyn we noticed middle school students in uniforms walking home from school in groups laughing and talking.  We didn’t see any of them with cell phones.  They all seemed to be enjoying themselves on the busy city streets.

After our tour of Brooklyn we headed up Flatbush Ave and began our trip home.

There are occasions in our lives when we experience the wonder and beauty of the great outdoors and the warmth of humanity all at the same time.  These times for me have been rare: a Bruce Springsteen Concert at Rentschler Field,  sitting by an outdoor fire in our driveway on Halloween with our wonderful Manchester neighbors distributing candy while watching a movie, a Red Sox game at Fenway Park shortly after 9-11 where the Sox fans sang “New York, New York” during the 7th inning stretch.  The Brighton Beach trip was spectacular and fascinating and serene and definitely one for this list.