When we moved from a large house to our modern apartment almost five years ago, we saw how much stuff we had accumulated. It was shocking!
We tried to sell a lot before the move but in this country, nobody likes to buy used items so we ended up giving a lot away. It felt so good to have less. I read a book on Japanese minimalism called, Goodbye, Things. The author quotes the movie, The Fight Club:
“The things you own end up owning you.”
Our new apartment was still completely full of stuff, still in boxes. It was very upsetting to live through. Just look at the picture below!
We had already unpacked a lot of boxes and it seemed like all the storage space was full!
Now that we’re getting ready for our next move, we’ve already sent six large boxes of things to family in Venezuela.
We don’t know how much we really want or need, but we still have too much.
I was even overwhelmed in my digital life. Instagram was becoming too time-consuming so I unfollowed 2,500 people! It’s impossible to appreciate that many people. The first reward was this:
What a great feeling! Time to put down my phone. Nothing else to do. I get this message a lot now.
I stopped unfollowing people because I wanted to remain over 6,000 followers. But I ask myself why? In Goodbye, Things, the author says,
We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in being happy ourselves.
My email app badge had 2,100+ unread emails so I unsubscribed to almost all of them. Why receive that much if I can’t read them all? Now I see this all the time:
I have felt truly overwhelmed by how much of everything I have. I miss so many of my blogger-friends’ posts because I’m always too busy on things that shouldn’t require so much time, and then I end up too exhausted to read them.
I already have a lot less in my head and I can think more clearly now. I also need fewer possessions so I can enjoy what I have. My goal is April.
We drove to Nyack to see the house on the right at the dead end street overlooking the Hudson River. It’s haunted. In 1991, a couple in contract to buy it, suddenly wanted their down payment returned when they learned the house had ghosts. They had to take the case to the New York Appellate Court which ruled in their favor. The case is known as Stambovsky v. Ackley And New York State laws now says that an owner has to disclose if a house is haunted. Not too many people know about the law or the house, except for real estate agents and law students.
Our Visit to Laveta Place
A Mini Cooper convertible was parked in front of the house when we arrived, but it didn’t look like anyone was home so we took our picture in front and then walked across the street to a similar house that had a for rent sign. I walked up to knock on the front door but I could see through the window that the house was completely empty, except for a rocking chair. The wraparound porch has spectacular views of the Hudson River. We took our photo.
This empty house felt more haunted than the famous one. A former owner of the 1 Laveta Place home described the ghosts as two girls in 18th century hoop skirts and a small man in a red coat, which indicates a British soldier from that era.
No one was home in either of the houses at the end of this street when we visited, but it didn’t feel like we were alone. A case of nerves, maybe…? Or maybe not…
You might thing that buying a known haunted house would mean a discount. The house the law was written for is valued by Zillow.com at $2.2 million. The other house, the one in our Instagram post, is valued at $5.3 million. It’s much larger, modern and has a stone staircase leading to a tile and stone deck at the riverside!
Do you believe in ghosts?
A HuffPost/You.gov poll found that 43% of people in the United States believe in them. A Chapman University poll found 53% of their survey believe. The comments on my Instagram post were a mix. I imagine the four people who have bought the house in these past 28 years didn’t believe in ghosts, but they didn’t keep the house for very long. This is a house by the water and water is a portal for spirits. That’s why bridges are often rumored to be haunted.
This entire Hudson Valley is filled with rumors and stories of ghosts. From the porch in my photo, you can see the town of Sleepy Hollow, the setting in the famous Legend of Sleepy Hollow! written by Washington Irving in 1820. The famous haunted scene of the story is of the headless horseman on a bridge!.
Saugerties Lighthouse (built in 1869) to signal ships on the river that the town’s harbor was here. It’s now a hotel.
Before going sightseeing in town, check if the high tide will prevent you from returning to your hotel. On my Instagram post (further below), one person couldn’t believe the hotel would let you be stranded away from your room. He thought there must be a boat. Well, there isn’t. That’s why they suggest you pack your belongings in a small backpack. My Insta-friend shouldn’t feel bad for expecting a boat. I did too, and so did some other people we found along the trail.
Even in low tide, make sure you’re back before sunset when the trail closes. It’s the only way back unless you have your own boat to dock. You wouldn’t want to walk the half mile after dark anyway. It’s not the distance, it’s the terrain. You’ll walk through sand and over little wooden bridges and you’d have nothing but moonlight and your cell phone flashlight to guide you.
This is a trail that can flood at times so you really don’t know what you’ll find on the path. The soggy terrain has caused several big trees along the path to fall over and you see the bottom of the trees like a wall as you pass by. This is a sandbar with sediments from an 1888-89 channelization project. There are 100 species of flora here.
Facts About The Hudson River
I told you this is a river. It’s the Hudson River, but it has tides. That’s because it’s not exactly a river. It’s a 153-mile estuary with currents in two directions and contains both salt and fresh water. The river has two high tides and two low tides in every 24 hour period.
Things To Do
So you already know you will be at the hotel between sunset and sunrise, and maybe during the day, depending on the tides. That’s why the lighthouse recommends you bring fishing tackle, swim wear, books, knitting… anything to stay occupied. They tell you to bring your favorite snacks and beverages, too.
You will have to book far in advance. The hotel has just two rooms and one shared bathroom, and it’s difficult to book. They recommend you get on an availability email list. When I checked at the end of July, the earliest reservation was for January 3rd. Here you go: www.saugertieslighthouse.com
The Appeal Of Saugerties:
The views are beautiful and the lighthouse is romantic. You are completely alone at night. Even the hotel staff may not always be present. There’s a little island deck alongside the lighthouse which is a wonderful place to eat or just sit and relax.
So, would you stay in a place like this?
Make you need a quiet place to relax under the moonlight and forget the world for a day or two. Or maybe you would feel trapped.
Day Trip To Saugerties
You can also visit Saugerties for the day. Bring your lunch and eat on the deck where my husband is sitting in the photo. You can call ahead for a tour on the weekend. It’s free, but with a suggested $5 contribution ($3 for children).
You won’t be able to see the lighthouse at night, unless you can rent a boat. Then you can get some awesome photos!
Let me know in the comments.
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You won’t create any #FOMO visiting Atlantic City. There are better places to visit on the Jersey Shore, but last minute reservations and a bed & breakfast right by the ocean left us few choices. I love the beach in the morning and the late afternoon when the sun isn’t so strong. These are also the hours that you get the full benefits of the sun’s rays, so a bed & breakfast a minute from the shore was essential!
Having grown up by the Caribbean, I know that at night is when all of the creatures come out. This photo above was just after a crab bit my foot. I ran out of the ocean as fast as I could and made it with just a small bite mark on my foot.
The first evening, we discovered some brilliant sand sculptures.
The next day, late in the afternoon, we saw the artists at work: a man and his two teenage sons. He told us they enjoy passing the time on the beach creating these….. but we found out it’s more than just that!
Here in Atlantic City, there’s clay in the sand, making this an ideal place for sand sculptures!
The ocean here is rich in marine life.
These sanderlings were so much fun to watch as they ran toward the receding waves to eat the crustaceans and then quickly ran away from the incoming waves. I moved some wet sand with my foot and found hundreds of these tiny crustaceans!
Recommended Bed & Breakfast: The Chelsea Pub and Inn
The dining room is open for breakfast from 9am until 10:30. The woman who manages the hotel prepares breakfast and restocks all the food. She and the staff keep the hotel very clean. The bedsheets smell wonderful and you can run your finger anywhere in the hotel and you won’t find any dust!
All of the rooms are listed online, complete with photos, so you can choose the room you want! Ours was the French-style with a picture of Monet’s Water Lillies, where we were standing just a month ago!
What Is Atlantic City Like?
One of the interesting things about travel is learning all about the place you’re visiting.
Atlantic City is not a nice city to visit, though. Casino gambling was legalized in 1977 but this didn’t do much to improve the standard of living in Atlantic City. Since 2006, when New York State and Pennsylvania allowed a few casinos to open, 50% of Atlantic City’s casinos have gone out of business and 10,000 people have lost their jobs. The boardwalk is a sad place to walk too.
We don’t like gambling or the glitz of casinos so there wasn’t much to do except the beach.
There are some positive signs. The Hard Rock Cafe is re-opening Trump’s bankrupt Taj Mahal, but the city needs to expand beyond gambling. Stockton University is looking into buying a closed casino to use as a dormitory for its students. It’s interesting to learn about how a city struggles to re-define itself.
We visited the neighboring towns of Ventnor, a wealthy neighboring city where residents looked at us with suspicion and didn’t return our greetings because they didn’t know us, and Pleasantville, lower class but Hispanic where we were made to feel at home.
This was an unusual trip for us. We wanted a beach vacation close to home. We loved the beach and the bed & breakfast, but the city is a very sad place and wouldn’t be our type of destination even if things were going well for Atlantic City.
We had a wonderful, relaxing time exploring the beach life here (lazy days but hours walking on the sand each day is the best exercise you can get). You don’t have to go to some place far away or exotic to discover new things and enjoy yourself. You can enjoy yourself on the simplest vacation, even if it doesn’t make for the most exciting blog entry.
The drive home was very scenic along a two lane road where we stopped at various farm stores for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Edward Hopper is a painter I discovered when I moved to the United States. His paintings are full of lonely scenes, even when there are people together, and somehow your imagination always fills in the story.
Ursula, a friend of Edward Hopper’s sister, told us roughly how to find the “house by the railroad” in Haverstraw, NY, but it wasn’t easy (below I’ll tell you how we met Ursula).
Is Artistic License The Same As Lying?
Edward Hopper didn’t paint the house as he saw it, we found out.
Above, it looks like the house is on the level of the tracks.
He cut off two bedrooms and removed part of the porch and a few windows.
The NYC Museum of Modern Art says Hopper added deep afternoon shadows, but on the late afternoon we were there, the sun was on the other side of the house so he added a lot of his own to the painting.
The NYC MoMA says he isolated this 1860 house and made it look difficult to access because of the train tracks, his way of showing how modernization was isolating us.
I took some liberties with my Instagram post, too. Below you can see how it really looks from the spot that Hopper painted it.
The house in my Instagram post was taken from the corner of the property with a wide angle lens for my phone. I wanted the same exact angle as this photo just above. This eliminated the houses next door so I could isolate the house like Edward Hopper did.
I added the house to this photo just above using the Enlight phone app. The photo already had a slight red shade so I made that a little deeper.
I deepened the shadows just like Hopper did and also isolated the house even more by darkening the house behind it.
The sun in my Instagram post is real.
I love how Hopper interpreted the house instead of just painting what he saw. He had a vision of what he wanted to convey. That’s what makes the painting special so I wanted my photo to look as much as possible like the house Hopper imagined.
Film director Alfred Hitchcock was also impressed by Hooper’s “House by the railroad” and modeled the Bates Motel in Psycho after this house. Hitchcock made his own interpretations on the house, adding the long stairs and changing the train tracks for a highway, which isolated Norman Bates in the movie.
Stepping Into History
We parked the car behind the house and I immediately walked up to the porch. As we were taking a few photos, out of nowhere a man’s voice asked, “So you’re Hopper fans?”
This house is large and has several apartments. One of the renters was just coming home. He invited us in and told us about his experiences living in this house.
Then he said he would introduce us to the owners and knocked on their door! Edwin and Lori Castillo have lived here for 40 years. Lori invited us into her beautifully renovated apartment on the second floor with a spiral staircase to the third floor.
Lori told us that the daughter of the original owner actually saw Edward Hopper from the window, sitting by the railroad station, painting away! Lori is very proud of her house’s fame and has a collection of articles written about it. She loves when people come to visit because she gets to share their passion about the house.
How Did We Meet Ursula?
The day began with no plans, just a drive to escape the city on a hot day. As we were approaching Nyack, NY, we saw a sign for the Edward Hopper museum just five minutes away. The museum has very little. All of the artist’s paintings are in museums or in private collections, but here you get a glimpse into his life.
His bedroom had a view of the Hudson River and the morning sun came right through the windows. When Hopper painted “House by the railroad” the population was only 4,400. Today it’s still a small town of just 7,000.
On the porch we met Ursula, who grew up around the corner and knew Hopper’s sister well, but she never felt comfortable talking to the artist. He was very, very tall and stood with a slight hunch and was always grumpy.
Ursula remembered how the wisteria tree behind us in the photo used to reach all the way across the street. The current gardener, she said, doesn’t know how to cut this tree properly. She enjoys volunteering at the house and meeting people and sharing her stories with them.
Loneliness & Isolation In “Modern” Times
It’s interesting that Edward Hopper saw modern life in 1925 as so isolating when we see those as such simpler times, but loneliness is a human condition. I guess that’s why it’s more interesting to see the house by itself with the neighbors removed.
It was a perfect hour for a river cruise as we got to enjoy each phase of the sunset, the golden hour, the pink clouds… and as we passed restaurants along the river, we could see the large screen televisions and hear the people cheering on France. We heard France’s first goal from the boat and we felt the excitement of the people of Paris! Travel is at its best when you feel you are part of a place!
At the end of the cruise, the streets around the Eiffel Tower were wild with honking horns and people wearing the French flag as capes. Our metro ride back to the hotel was exciting and a little scary when the train stopped in the tunnel and the power went out. There was very little air and it was very hot!
It wasn’t all of Paris in euphoria. We had to transfer to another train and this one was very calm.
The Final Game: France vs. Croatia
We arrived in Montpellier and went to the beach late that afternoon and when the game begin, the restaurant on the boardwalk was absolutely full. We asked for a table for dinner to watch the game but they weren’t serving dinner. The cooks and waiters were watching the game too.
We drove back to the hotel, changed and ran into the plaza up the block where each restaurant had a crowd of people in front, cheering on France.
The streets were lined with police vans and riot police. My Insta-friend Emma (@blugalen) from Florence, Italy, started messaging me through Instagram, excited that I would experience the European soccer euphoria up close! My other Insta-friend Mai (@lotus_jazz) from Paris was messaging me the night before during the Bastille Day celebrations. I will never forget how they thought of me at these moments!
All of the tourists watched from a distance in the plaza, a little concerned about how people in the town would react.
We still hadn’t eaten but now it was impossible. The restaurants were completely full to capacity with people getting very drunk. We found a tiny supermarket which was also full of people buying wine and beer. The streets were a little frightening. The next morning, part of the hotel window was shattered.
It was fun to be part of the moment but I also loved this Croatian team. The following day, someone sent me a video about the Croatian players who were refugees. I love watching the exciting World Cup games but in sports, the human stories are always my favorite part.
Read My Last Post! It’s Trending Here On MuchoSpanish
After one of my Instagram posts (below), I got an offer to promote a clothing line. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to sell you anything and they didn’t see me as the next Top Model. They wanted me to buy their expensive clothing at a 20% discount and then better discounts as I sold more clothing to my Insta-friends. I’ve seen Insta-friends promote what they were wearing and now I know the deal.
Google’s news algorithm sent me this story: Instagram Influencers Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy. Hotels are getting a lot of requests for free rooms from real and wannabe influencers. This Medium.com story only has Twitter and Facebook share buttons because it’s viral or nothing!
I’m not an Instagram influencer, although it doesn’t sound like a bad job. My favorite Instagrammers are people I have mutual relationships with.
@Emlee7 is one account I follow, though, and she doesn’t follow me back. She has just 29k followers and only gets about 1k likes per photo, but Emlee’s clothing is designer and she takes photos in luxurious locations. Her photographer applies a filter to make the colors very subtle.
Just for fun, I checked the hotel’s website and the Terrace Room, with just a garden view, costs $1,655/night (breakfast included). When I saw that price, picture me with the same face as when I was climbing up the stairs in Montmartre 😂. So instead I stayed at a budget Ibis hotel by Gare de L’est and still paid over $300 per night, with breakfast. What a change from two years ago when we paid $160/night for the wonderful boutique Idol Hotel, but that hotel now costs $750/night!
Who Is Being Influenced By The Influencers?
A lot of Instagram is double-tapping a ♥️ as you scroll through the feed. Many people don’t even read the captions. So I’m not sure how much sway even @baluevama.
As I said, this was my second trip to Paris. The first time was two years before I had my Instagram account. I still count it as a visit to Paris, even though my photos were landscape instead of portrait 😉
For my recent trip to Paris, I created a folder and started saving some of my favorites photos of Paris so I could take pictures similar ones. These accounts influenced me but nobody made a penny.
My husband once bought me a beautiful @montavenue watch and not so expensive through an account on Instagram. I love it and the company asked me to tag them in a photo with the watch. I did it for free, just because I was so happy with the watch. I’ve bought a few apps from the sponsored ads in my feed.
So how easily can someone convince you to buy something or stay somewhere special? Let me know in the comments… And follow me Instagram: @muchospanish 👍
But a little like scrolling through Instagram, Impressionist paintings are enjoyable and easy to appreciate. Take some extra time and you marvel at how they created such amazing scenes with such simple strokes. Van Gogh even painted selfies.
This visit to France turned out to have an impressionist art theme, although that wasn’t the original idea.
First Stop: Giverny & Claude Monet’s Garden
Monet’s house and famous garden are about 45 minutes outside of Paris, an easy and comfortable train ride from Gare St. Lazare. When you arrive, don’t stop at the store in the train station to buy anything because like we did. A linked train of cars waits to take arriving passengers to Monet’s house for 8€ per person round trip. We missed it.
Our mobile plan in the U.S. gives us free texts and data (although at slow speeds) when we’re traveling around the world and inexpensive phone calls. The station has a list of taxis to call but since we were using our U.S. phone numbers, we had to figure out how to make an international call to Spain. It was frustrating, time-consuming and the taxis cost us 30€ round trip.
Claude Monet’s house and garden was one of the motivations for this vacation. You’ll see the garden’s wide variety of flowers and the pond filled with lily pads, and experience the same views Monet painted!
The highlight of this blog post is the photo below! I stepped into a prohibited area for a quick photo. I was worried about a guard catching me but it wasn’t necessary. The bird above gave me a subtle message to get out!
Hahaha I made it out with just a warning!
The restaurants in the area surrounding Monet’s house are expensive and have a limited menu, so we returned to Giverny, which has a lot of nice restaurants. We bought lunch at a bakery and at a supermarket and enjoyed it in a park.
Aix-en-Provence: Cezanne, Renoir and Van Gogh
Aix-en-Provence is one of the recommended places to base yourself for a visit to this stunning region.
Cézanne’s house and studio was just a 10-minute drive from our hotel in the middle of town. This wasn’t on the original agenda but my Insta-friend Mai (www.instagram.com/lotus_jazz) told us not to miss it. She was right!
Here you can walk the unsculptured terrain around his home but the highlight is his studio on the second floor. You don’t have to worry about crowds here. We bought the tickets and were able to go up 15 minutes later, since they limited the number of people in the studio. His studio is just one room, with this wall-sized window to light his still life subjects. There’s also an emotional letter he wrote to his friend and mentor, Claude Monet, about his return from Paris to Provence to care for his ailing mother. There’s an English translation right next to the original.
Unfortunately our stay in Aix-en-Provence wasn’t long enough for a visit to Renoir’s home or to Arles, a town that has easels in the exact spot where Van Gogh painted! I mention them here in case you’re planning a similar trip.
A post shared by Aixa (@muchospanish) on There are many other places in France to get the impressionist experience but my other motivations for the trip were to see the lavender field I mentioned above and to visit the L’Occitane company store and museum.
Museum D’ORSAY In Paris
If you begin or end your visit in Paris, your impressionist vacation requires a visit to the famous Museè D’Orsay. We came here first because our vacation was going to end in Barcelona, but to see this at the end would have been better.
Warning: this is an Instagram myth breaker post. If you love your feelings of FOMO, then do not read any further.
Two years ago driving to Nice in the south of France, I saw signs for Aix-en-Provence and thought, I have to visit this town named after me! Two years later, here I am. It’s also near the home of my favorite store, L’Occitane (the full store name is L’Occitane en Provence).
The factory is here, the official company store and even a museum dedicated to the history of this company that so many women love!
Provence is such a beautiful region, full of flowers and herbs and some of the most picturesque towns you will find anywhere on earth. If you know where to drive, you will pass rolling lavender fields!
The best time to visit the lavender fields is from the last week in June to the first or second week of July. Harvest is a little earlier because of the heat.
Hundreds of people go to the fields every day to take their Instagram photos. Some go with organized day tours and others go on their own… but remember, this is private property. Even the organized day tour companies don’t get permission from the owners, although the guides make sure you don’t damage any of the lavender.
Instagram is full of photos like mine, rolling purple hills of lavender fields and women with a bunch of fresh-picked lavender in one hand. They buy these lavender bunches and bring them to the fields for the photo. I didn’t think that far ahead, though, and when I saw someone else get off the bus with hers, I knew I should have put more thought into this.
I walked into a row of lavender ready to be harvested, the bees buzzing all around me, and I started to pose, I saw a bunch of lavender that someone else left behind. Look at the color in the photo: it doesn’t even match! And there’s a rubber band around the stems.
Instagram Myth Breaker No. 2
If I did try to pick this lavender, I would have gotten dozens of bee stings. The lavender at the point that it’s ready to be harvested, is full of bees. None of these women there in the fields is so infatuated with the beautiful flower in the moment the photo is being taken.
Other fields have blotches of yellowish wheat mixed in and this is to make the fields less attractive to Instagrammers, like this field below.
My photo below in this mixed field is interesting because of the snails climbing on the lavender. They come after it rains.
Instagram Myth Breaker No. 3
There are two types: Lavender and lavandine. Lavender is lighter in color and has less of an aroma. Lavandine is a hybrid, has a much deeper purple color and a much stronger aroma. They serve different purposes but the point here is that those deep purple colors in your favorite Instagrammer’s photo are saturated with an app. Even lavendine isn’t hat deep a shade of purple.
So why do such a fake stunt?
Instagram has millions of photos like mine. I met a Brazilian woman named Mariani in the fields. She’s a doctor and was in Provence for a conference. She didn’t think of bringing a bunch of lavender either, so I lent her mine when I was done with my photos. We both love lavender and we’re part of the L’Occitane cult. We both wanted the chance to see some lavender fields and go home with some photos.
Anyway, the impressionist painters like Van Gogh and Cezanne thought the fields were worth paining.