• Kathy

Each year I sit down on January 1st with new hope and reevaluate the past year and what's on the horizon of the new year. I've learned over time that no matter how many lists I make to keep me on course, I falter with resolutions. So maybe I need a new approach. As we begin this decade together, instead of concentrating on changes I need to make in my life, I want to focus on the positive things I am blessed with daily. Yesterday I heard a comment from one of my favorite influencers from Instagram, Sara Jo from @bryartonfarm, she said "from gratitude we find happiness in what we have". Those powerful words from an amazing woman resonated with me and by implementing them in my life this coming year, perhaps everything will fall into place for the new year.

As a soul that craves a creative outlet, whether it's my photography, writing, decorating, cooking, or exploring, I found solace in the stories of so many strong and influential women on Instagram this past year. I love to watch their stories and see how they survive their daily lives with work, children, husbands, pets, and the reality of it they so often share. Although their feeds may show the most put together posts, they often share the behind the scenes reality of the chaos in their lives, and they just make me laugh and feel like I'm part of a community. As a photographer I can relate. Although I want you to see my best foot forward each and every time I post, it's not always the case or reality, and 2019 was no exception. I had many highs and lows throughout the year that no one saw. I tend to become extremely introverted when lows occur in my life. I don't want to bring others down or burden them with a sad or bad mood, so I tend to pull back from friends and the things that bring me happiness. Seems rather backwards now that I put that on paper, but some of you may relate to what I'm saying. Through social media though I was able to find inspiration and ways to cope in 2019 through these ups and downs. Say what you may about being on social media, through this outlet I found a few daily smiles to keep my spirits up from women all around the country. For that I thank them.

I set out in 2019 with a plan to reconnect with family and friends and get some home projects completed. When mapping out my vacations and adventures for the year, I included a trip home to Illinois to see my momma, family and friends in the spring and to cover my best friends daughters wedding in the fall; a trip to Michigan to have a girls vacation with my bestie, Jeanne; a trip to the city with my son and his girlfriend; and a solo trip to Maine. In addition to putting a lot of miles on my truck, I also wanted to find time to get a few projects around the house accomplished. Did I accomplish everything I set out to do? Well, yes and no. Let's revisit some of the highlights!!!

In 2019 I began a bullet journal. Not sure about you, but if it's not in writing, it won't happen in my life. With the craziness of my scheduling for work, a photography business, and family, it was a godsend!! Lists are my life. I am visual and this is how my brain is wired. So a fully inclusive planner for all areas of my life was the first thing on my list to accomplish in 2019. If I was to be organized, it was a must. Anyone that knows me, knows about my lists!!! So bullet journaling was the one way I could organize my life in the way I needed to. Although I started off strong with stickers and artwork, I quickly learned that the foo foo wasn't going to happen each and every month so I adjusted and found a clear concise way to keep everything I needed on paper so that I could be more organized!! For those of you who don't want to do it on your own and just want a planner that is organized and aesthetically pleasing... one of my favorite bullet journalists has just created one for you that you may like to start with. Her name is Amanda Lee, and check out her new planner she just launched this year!!! This resolution was one for the win column, and will be continued in 2020.

Shortly after that, I worked on separating my personal and business social media accounts so that I could focus more photography on one and my personal life on the other. After reviewing the year on both, they still overlap. That was a resolution fail. In my defense though, I had the most difficult time getting my Instagram sharing features to coexist with the correct accounts so things did not get posted always to both Facebook and Instagram correctly. Did anyone else have this issue when creating a business page? I ended up abandoning my personal Instagram and focusing on the business one, and once again focused on my personal Facebook and ignored the business one. I think I may have it figured out now so 2020 I hope to do better!!!

I also found Marie Kondo in 2019. The art of folding only joyful items was short lived. Although I still do this method when folding to fit more things I don't need into a small space, I didn't get through the massive amounts of paperwork that needed to be sorted and disposed of, or items in the basement. 2020 I will do better!!!! This was a resolution win and fail all in one. Very Marie Kondo!!

Music was still a huge part of my life in all aspects in 2019. I began the year with a Birthday bash and some of my favorite musicians, Enter the Haggis at The Egg. These guys are the most talented musicians and all around great guys. Proud to call them friends. As an added birthday bonus, I got to see Skerryvore, as they opened for them that night!!! Wow what a treat that was!!! Happy Birthday Kathy!!!

March was a busy music month for me with Celtic music statewide. On the list was We Banjo 3 at Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute; Colin Farrel's band, Lunasa, in Troy as they were joined by Natalie Merchant at The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, The High Kings at The Palace in Syracuse, The Moxie Strings at the Heritage Hill Brew House , and rounding out the spring full of my favorite musicians were Trevor, Craig, Brian (from Enter the Haggis/House of Hamill) and Rose (House of Hamill) at the Brae Loch Inn as they joined us in early April. Could it get any better?

Well yes, as 2019 was also the year my sister and I shared music together. It began in May when she treated me to a night of music without my camera as we saw Foreigner at the Turning Stone where we danced and sang like we were back in high school!!! We followed that up with several shows at CMAC over the summer as we saw Lionel Richie, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Daryl Hall and John Oates together. Although I had to work for these shows, I loved looking over seeing her singing and dancing in her seat!!! Love that we are close and we got to share these moments together...so thankful for her this year when I needed her most!! (I also captured Jason Isbell, but she didn't make that particular show with me).

The summer music series kept me busy as I continued to cover shows for the St. Joseph's Lakeview Ampitheater, NYSMusic, the final Great American Irish Festival held in Frankfort, and last but certainly not least my beloved Syracuse Irish Festival. So thankful for my relationship with with all of these partners as I am truly blessed to capture these moments and bring the highlights to those who love them as much as I do.

You know I love a wonderful night of country music and Chris Young did not disappoint. With Dylan Scott opening and showing what he has and Chris Janson on the harmonica, I was blown away. Just wow!!!

Peter Frampton was a bucketlist show for me this year. Sadly it would be his final tour, and he certainly shone for all that night and made me so happy to be there to witness it and capture it. With Jason Bonham opening, I was in my glory reliving some of my favorite tunes from the 70's that night.

What can I say about Shinedown that I haven't said before. I just love them. Four classy guys who totally bring it for their fans. And Brent Smith is the ONLY musician that makes it a point to shake each photographers hand. You're okay in my book Brent. You can always count on me to be at one of your shows.

The Great American Irish Festival held what would be their final weekend at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds in July of 2019. With a new direction being taken in 2020, it's bittersweet for me to know now that the photos from that weekend would be the last of their kind. I treasure the memories I've made over the years and like a flash in time, they are now over. It's moments like these that I truly appreciate the ability to capture these moments to recall and reminisce in the years to come.

For those of you that may not know, in August, the day after I covered the Daryl Hall and John Oates show at CMAC, I experienced a loss in my life. My father unexpectedly passed away. As I reflect back I think to myself, I wish I could have seen him more, or called him more, or told him more that I loved him. I wish I could have gotten out of work earlier the day I covered the show to be able to stop by and say "I'm just passing through for a second, but I love you Dad". I didn't push the issue for reasons I can't get into, and I'll always regret it. What I am consoled with though is this, throughout this year I did surprise visit him several times having funny and interesting conversations, and in my last conversation with him a few days before his passing, our last words to each other were I love you. He called me at work and it was the first time I had a chance to speak to him after he had been discharged from the hospital. His cell service was sketchy where he lived so to reach him had been a game of phone tag. Normally I don't answer personal calls at work, but I had been so worried about him and his health, I did that day. I thank God for that call. It was our last conversation.

The day after his funeral I needed some time to myself to find my smile again, and what fills my heart the most when I'm sad is music. So I drove to cover a show at the Great NY State Fair. Standing in the rain holding an umbrella over my camera equipment, I shot the always magnificent Mavericks. It was exactly what I needed. As I was passing by the buses several hours later I noticed Raul Malo, lead singer for the Mavericks, spending time with fans by the bus area. Stepping up to meet him I introduced myself and asked if he minded if I took a photo for the article. Think the photo ended up being cut out of the article during editing, but it was a pivotal moment for me, as it showed me that music and good people are all around us to help bring us a smile when we need it most. Thanks Raul. You know what else I learned that day? A rainy day at the Fair is the best day to go because there was no waiting or crowds for anything!!! Bam!!!

A few short weeks later music and friends once again brought light to my life as I covered one of my most favorite music festivals, The Syracuse Irish Festival. It's one my favorites because it's like a family reunion. From the day I began working with them, they welcomed me as one of them. It's a small group of people and volunteers that work tirelessly to bring a fun filled weekend of music, culture, and wonderful memories to those in the area..and for free. Doesn't matter if it rains or shines, this will always be one festival I'm front and center for. Stay tuned for more on this festival in an upcoming blog. I really want to highlight more on this amazing event and share with you how truly special it is.

I also had a chance to mark another moment off my bucket list. I got to cover the Professional Bull Riders Show at the Oncenter for two nights. What a spectacular event that was and what great folks to work with!! Bet you didn't know I had secretly wanted to be a cowgirl!!! Can't wait for them to make their way back soon. Hopefully again in 2020!!!

My travel adventures began in May with a trip home to see my momma, family, and friends. Check out the recap of this wonderful time as I recharged my heart to full once again.

In July I headed off to Michigan to see one of my dearest friends, Jeanne. Jeanne and I met back in the late 80's as our husbands were both in the Navy in Charleston, SC.

Sharing so many of life's ups and downs together I'm am so happy we've stayed friends over the years. It was high time we took off for an adventure together. Riding shotgun, I tortured this poor lady as we chased lighthouses all along Lake Michigan for a book I'm working on. We began our adventure in Frankenmuth, MI. I had always wanted to see this quaint little Bavarian town and what's better than sharing with your bestie? Sharing it with two friends as my friend Joanne joined us for the day!!! All three of us spent the day eating brats and pretzels, and wandering all around the town shopping and exploring. Ending it all in the worlds largest Christmas shop Bronners, it was a fun filled day for us all!!! And one I cherish dearly. Thank you so much Joanne for joining us and keeping Thelma and Louise out of trouble!!!

After a few stops at local antique marts in the area, we hit the road for Frankfort, MI where we stayed a few days along the coastline watching glorious sunsets, searching for the states best Bloody Mary's, and chasing lighthouses up and down the coast. After making our way back to our home base in Wyandotte, we took our obligatory trip to IKEA where I spent way more than I should (of course) and was in all my decorating glory!!! This was such a fun week and something that was long over due!!! Think I need to add another trip there soon...after all there is still the Upper Peninsula we really haven't touched, and so many more lighthouses calling to us!!

In August I took my son and his girlfriend on a trip to NYC. I think of this trip as a learning experience. I learned that summer is way different in NYC than fall and winter. I learned that NYC smells way different in summer than in fall and winter. Finally I learned that you just don't go to NYC in the summer because it's just way different than fall and winter. We had a great time and explored new things such as The Vessel and the High Line, but we also learned that the subway lacks fresh air in the summer, Central Park is super crowded, and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is a test of patience as I found by the end of the walk across I was yelling at tourists like a real New Yorker to get out of the bike path before they hurt someone or get hurt. Yep, learning experience.

Solos adventures played a huge part of my sanity this year. They rejuvenated me when I needed it most. Because I was traveling around the US this year I didn't get to join my Celtic sisters as they jotted over to Ireland twice and cruised with The Elders in the fall. It was tough I have to admit not being with them!! But we did the next best thing...I recorded a message to take with them over to Arklow for the grand opening of the Asguard Theater...and we video chatted at the grand opening so I could be a part of it!!! Thank goodness for technology!!! The solo trips really helped me regroup and remind myself that this year was about family and doing other things I had on my to do list. If I could, I would visit the world and see all my friends all over, but unfortunately my day job only allows us so many paid days off...so until I get picked up by the Travel Channel or get a sponsor (open to discussing both)...I have to alternate my excursions.

The first solo trip was actually just a day trip to Ithaca and Taughannock Falls. I always wanted to see these falls so I combined this day trip with a surprise visit with my Dad, a hike in the gorge, and covering a show of a new artist at a new venue. Will link my blog here for you to see. It really helped me regroup, and almost killed me at the same time!!! Seriously, read it. You'll see what I mean.

The second solo trip was my trip to Maine in September. This was the first time I took a solo trip to an unknown destination. I didn't know anyone on the other end, I didn't visit it previously, and I didn't know what to expect. This trip was life changing for me. I don't want to go into here too much, as I will feature it in it's own blog, but just know that everyone needs to take solo trips in their lives to learn about themselves. It's really eye opening and empowering. Just what I needed.

As I reflect back throughout the year sharing these memories with you, although it was a tough year for me and I'm glad to put it behind me, there were so many wonderful moments too. Of course there's my musical moments and my travel adventures I've just shared...but I loved the every day things too.

I golfed for the first time with my son this year!!! It was so much fun and something I know we'll do more in 2020. I don't know why we never did it before.

My granddaughter celebrated her first birthday this year!!! What a blessing she is in my life. Just look at her....she loves cake like her Grammy!!!

I made over my front porch this spring, and I finally fixed the fence and put in the flower bed out front. You know...projects I've wanted to get done for a long time. The front porch needed a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling and floor, and a little sprucing up on the decor. Took me a few days, but after one long weekend of working, it was completed!!

After that I set out to create a nice flower area in my front yard by the fence. Don't know if you've ever done this, but I thought it would be a good idea to buy my plants from one of those catalogs. You know...the ones with the already designed flower areas that outline what everything is and where to place it? Picking out the perfect combination of flowers for all day sun I set to work to clear and prep the area just waiting for them to arrive. When I received the plants a few days later, they were root balls and all labeled by their latin names. What?!!!! I had to google each and every one to make sure I was planting in the correct area so the taller ones weren't towering in the front and not by the back fence...then....I had no idea if I was even planting them upside down or right side up!!! That was fun! Not!!! Well, over the course of time some came up, some didn't. Operator error? I think not!! I was set up for failure on that little task. Moral of the story? Buy local...from my son Ryan and Olney's where I know what I'm buying and if it's being planted correctly. Despite my botanical fail I do consider this one for the win column!!! Why? Because I gardened!!! My grandparents and my Dad G. were smiling down on me as I blistered my hands and broke my back. The whole time I have to admit, I was secretly smiling inside knowing they would be proud of me.

In October, my sister and I decided to commemorate my father's birthday a way he would approve...we got tattoos!! Oh, my Dad wasn't the normal conventional Dad...he loved hunting, fishing, motorcycles, and yes tattoos!! Even after his motorcycle accident that almost cost him his life and took the use of one of his legs, it didn't stop him from buying a Harley trike and bungie cording his walker to the back. Yes, my Dad was a character. And he raised us to be hard working, tough, independent women. We spent the day remembering the good times with him and reminiscing with my sister in law, Tammy, the funny times we all shared. It was the perfect way to honor him on his day. Every day now I have a little bit of him with me.

Christmas was very special for me this year as I got to spend it with (almost all) my children and grandchildren. With several of them living out of state, I don't always get to share holidays with them, so when my daughter messaged me to say she was coming for Christmas to see us, I was giddy!! It was an amazing holiday full of love and fun memories as we laughed, had family game night, and got to enjoy each other for the short time we spent together. It was perfect, and made my heart full!!

2019 was a great year for my photography business. I love watching the trends as they unfold each year. I don't do major marketing. I normally work on referrals and happy return customers. So each year brings new opportunities to be creative. This year's trend was just right. I had a few weddings, several family shoots, and several senior photos.

I also was able to complete a few commercial shoots this year. Helping out my son's friend develop her portfolio, I covered the Cazenovia College Fashion Show. The show featured some of the most talented designers, and I am certain that one day you'll see their designs on the runway!!!

One of my favorite shoots this year was a band promo shoot. I've hesitated to share any of the photos from that shoot as I'm not sure what they will be using them for yet. However, here's one I absolutely loved and they said I could share with ya'll!!! They were such good sports. Thanks Trevor, Brian, Craig, Mark, and Bruce for your patience with me...the hours of wandering...and always being willing to try anything. Was truly my honor to have you trust me with these.

All in all, 2019 was an amazing year. I think when we stop and really reflect on things collectively in a grander picture than a single particular moment, it puts things into focus. No matter what ups and downs that come my way, I want to stop and recall all the positive things I am so blessed to have with gratitude. Then all the other negative things that seem so detrimental, will be in a more realistic perspective.

2020 will be a different year and different decade. A blank slate. Not sure what's in store yet for me, but no matter what life brings my way, I am so blessed to have an amazing support group of family, friends, colleagues, and opportunities afforded me. As long as I stay focused on gratitude, I feel that I will tackle this new decade with gusto. Thank you for coming along on this ride with me, I so appreciate each and every one of you, and I hope you stay buckled in for whatever new adventures I take you on as the year unfolds!!!

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." George Bernard Shaw

Slàinte My Friends


It was about this time last year that I began packing for what would be one of my favorite adventures. For years, my friends, The Elders, had talked about their hometown Irish Festival, The Kansas City Irish Festival, and what a spectacular event it was each year. It was high time I checked this out!

Like most of my adventures, it was planned out way in advance, which I highly recommend for two reasons; first because the hotels often sell out quickly, and secondly because we wanted to get a good deal on airfare. Not certain where they stand at this point being this weekend, but hey..give them a try if you're heading that way!! They may still be able to squeeze you in. Arriving at the airport, our friends who had flown in from Boston had prearranged a ride to the hotel, however there is Uber and rental cars available as well if you need a ride around town. Arriving downtown to our hotel, The Sheraton, it was simply spectacular and within walking distance to everything for the weekend. The area downtown known as Crown Center Square, was the stage (literally several of them) for this festival and had been blocked off in anticipation of the three day event. (See the map below for this years set up to find your way around). The hustle and bustle of getting everything ready sent an energy into the air, and hugs and introductions were made as we greeted our friends both old and new arriving at the same time.

The hospitality of the Committee was top notch. Coming from our own festival(s), we were greeted with open arms and the quality of care they took to make certain we had everything we needed, was above and beyond...all while doing what they had to do to pull off their own event. They were outstanding, and I can't thank them enough. I would personally like to thank them as well for the carte blanche they gave me for photography all weekend. The photos here are all because they allowed me the same credentials as their own photographers. It was truly appreciated and I hope you enjoy these captured moments I'll cherish forever!

One of the first things I noticed was how well it was set up. Although stages were back to back in some areas, they didn't compete with each other. Four main stages and 10 areas in all, each and every one was packed each day and evening with fans celebrating a variety of Celtic sounds and featured events. Similar to ours, there was a traditional stage (Miller Lite Stage) and main stage (Boulevard Stage) for acts as well as a more intimate setting throughout the grounds at others (i.e. Magners Park Stage, Whiskey area, Comedy Stage, KC Cultural Center Stage, etc).

Scattered throughout the grounds you'll find food vendors, children's activities, whiskey tasting, shops and local artisans and vendors featuring their arts and wares. It was so well set up, easily accessible, a great variety of items, and so well run all weekend long.

The lineup last year featured many of my favorites such as The Elders in their final performance at the festival, We Banjo 3, The High Kings, Eileen Ivers, Gaelic Storm, The Young Dubliners, Red Hot Chili Pipers, Kian Bryne, and The Colin Farrell Band. I also collected a new favorite as I was introduced to Doolin'.

The whole weekend was filled with wonderful musical memories. With it being the final show for The Elders, it was a family reunion on stage both nights they played. Everyone loves The Elders, both fans and peers. The talent that joined them up on that stage was not only musical magic, they were a family wishing them a fond farewell.

So many great moments I would like to highlight for you. The first moment worth mentioning was when local musician, Kian Byrne, was joined by friend and one of the most animated fiddle players I've ever seen, Shane Borth from Quixotic. Check him out below. Dancing around the crowd and standing on chairs as he fiddled, I was mesmerized by this musician. Talk about involving the crowd. Everyone was on their feet by the end of this tune! One of my favorite moments!

Another favorite moment was when Doolin' joined We Banjo 3 in a rap that blew my socks off. It was the coolest, and have to say the first time I had ever seen a Celtic rap composition. Well done, Wilfried Besse, well done.

Then there was the moment that the newly married couple joined We Banjo 3 on stage to be serenaded for their first dance. What an epic moment and memory for that couple! Hope they are able to celebrate their anniversary this year at the festival as well!!

I also loved when the local school choir joined The High Kings for an amazing accompaniment. They were so very talented and was a perfect moment with the lads.

I finally saw first hand the love Kansas City gave The Elders. As they played their last festival in Kansas City, they made certain they went out with a bang. There were both happy and bittersweet moments where they recognized friends from afar and near and thank them for their support and love they'd shown over the years. Dancers joined in, fellow musicians, local bagpipers, and in a sea of people that went on as far as the eye could see, they raised "A Parting Glass", and shared a special moment of love that left not one dry eye in the city. It was a moment they will not soon forget, and one I shall never forget.

It was absolutely one amazing weekend of fun, friends, and music. And just when you thought the evening was over each night, and you headed back to your hotel, the sessions began. If you've never been at a session, it's an improvisation of music as musicians come and go and join in randomly. It's something you must experience at least once, and the perfect accompaniment and ending to each day of amazing music. It's the musical brandy to top off your night.

And then the weekend was over. On Monday morning I awoke and went outside to find where the stages and vendors were only hours before, was now local traffic making its way to and from businesses as though it all was a dream. This sealed my opinion of this festival. They had their ducks in order, they knew how to put on a festival, they treated their staff and guests and musicians like royalty, and they totally made me a fan.

So if you are on the fence about heading out there this weekend, I hope this helps make up your mind. Although our Elders aren't there, and We Banjo 3 won't be back until March (go get your tickets now), they have invited my friends, Enter the Haggis back along with The Moxie Strings. And returning once again are fan favorites Gaelic Storm, The Red Hot Chili Pipers, High Kings, Kian Byrne, Colin Farrell Band, and Doolin'. We also have Pigeon Kings who I have never had the pleasure to see, but am very curious about!! So let me know your thoughts on them below.

As a music journalist, I have the opportunity to go and cover many, many shows, and festivals and I must say, this is one for the books. You will not find a more professional team that pays attention to the smallest details. This is definitely one of my favorite festivals, and although I can't be there in person this year I am definitely there in spirit and urge you to be there in body!! See the schedule below, you won't be sorry!! And tell everyone the gals from The Great American Irish Festival said hi!

Till next year!!


Updated: Jul 7, 2019

Living in Central NY affords me a mecca of weekend getaways to choose from when I am in need a quick out of town experience. Being a lover of the outdoors, I can travel an hour or two in any direction to experience any excursion I am in the mood for. Heading west towards the Fingers Lakes, I can have a weekend sampling wine at a plethora of wineries along the lakes, where one enjoys not only a wonderful vintage, but a spectacular scenic view.

Heading south I can enjoy some majestic waterfalls and hiking in and around the gorges nature has carved out as playgrounds for our enjoyment.

Heading northeast brings me to one of my favorite happy places, the Adirondacks where kayaking, swimming, hiking, etc. fills your agenda from dawn to dusk in dozens of quaint little towns and villages.

Or if I'm in the mood for a faster pace. I can enjoy a weekend of big city life in the Big Apple by jumping on the train and heading into the concrete jungle where your senses are placed on overload.

But if you were to head north towards the Canadian Border you would hit the jackpot, where you can satisfy your mood for some salty air and water activities in and around the Thousand Islands. A favorite village and central hub for all your summer fun is Alexandria Bay, or as we commonly refer to it as Alex Bay or The Bay.

Nestled in the Thousand Islands along the St. Lawrence River, Alexandria Bay is a tiny community of less than 1,500 residents during most of the year. However, once the summer hits, it expands to almost 15,000 visitors who enjoy the boating, swimming, fishing (named one of the top 10 fishing destination in the country), scuba-diving (amongst several shipwrecks), golfing, shopping, and camping in the area. It was here that I escaped back in June of 2017 for a quick overnight trip with my friend.

Being a popular destination I knew I needed to book way in advance if I wanted to secure a room with the view I wanted overlooking the St. Lawrence River and Boldt Castle. I booked in February for a June stay and that way I was able to secure the room with the view I longed for. I highly recommend you do this as it does book up quickly for the best rooms at the best hotels.

There is nothing more soothing to me than sitting on the balcony in an evening/morning with a glass of wine, beer, or cup of java and listening to the water, the sea gulls, and the huge ships and barges, as they pass by signaling to each other. Ahhh....I feel the tension just melt away thinking about it again.

There are several ways to stay in Alex Bay, and their website is a great tool to find what suits your needs best. For me, all I needed was a room with a view so I chose The River Edge Resort, located right in the heart of the village.

A little on the pricey side, it's well worth the investment to be able to see the water and Boldt Castle at night right from your room balcony! Plus if you were to travel with a friend, as I did, you can split the cost of the room, making it so much more affordable.

Arriving in town early enough to enjoy a day of exploring, we checked in and grabbed lunch right at the hotel. Was very good and not too overpriced.

Shortly after settling in, we headed down to the docks, to catch the shuttle over to Heart Island, home of the breath taking Boldt Castle. To make the jaunt across the river, Uncle Sam's Boat Tours will shuttle you across, and is located right by the hotel, so purchasing our tickets was easy and convenient. If memory serves me, we actually were able to purchase both the shuttle over and the tour of the castle right at the dock and all together, for a very affordable price of less than $20. Not certain if they still offer that convenience (purchasing together), but if not it will be around $9.50 for the shuttle over and $10 for entrance to the island (adult rates). Prices of course are less for children, senior citizens, and military personnel. To me this was the best money spent on this trip. They also offer a few other scenic and dining cruises that may be on my next agenda! (Note: no passports are needed for any of the Uncle Sam Tours.)

Making our way across the Bay it was smooth sailing as we waved to freighters as they passed by and I snapped a few pics of Sunken Rock Island Lighthouse!!!

As you approach the island the first thing you see is the Yacht House. The year we went (2017), the high water levels kept us from being able to tour the Yacht House, and a few other areas on the island for safety reasons. In fact, they actually had to build up areas on the docks for us to even enter and exit. (You'll notice throughout some of the photos the high water levels.) This year we once again experienced a rainy spring and sadly the Yacht House is currently closed again. I recommend checking the website as they will update once it's reopened. Having said that, even without being able to tour the actual area, you can see just how majestic it is as you arrive to the island. The Tudor style of architecture of the Yacht House is one of my favorite styles so I find I'm automatically drawn to it. One day I will go back to tour it. It is here you can see not only some amazing antique boats, but some of the original Boldt fleet.

You also can't help notice as you approach (and exit depending on how you arrive) the island the magnificent Entry Arch Adorned with three massive deer on the top, they mimic and symbolize the deer from the family crest. Built to allow larger boats to approach and drop off visitors, it's grand entrance area sets the stage for what's to come upon arrival.

Once on the island, you are given a map and you can browse the island all day if you so choose, looking at everything. Taking as much time as we wanted, it was a gorgeous day so the ride over on the shuttle was smooth, and our time there on the island was truly lovely!!

This would be my second trip to Boldt Castle, having visited about ten years prior. I was amazed at the renovations they had accomplished in that time frame. The castle was originally built by George C. Boldt, owner of the Waldorf Astoria in NYC, for the love of his life, his wife Louise. Constructed on an island in the shape of a heart seemed fitting for such a testament to their love. Unfortunately, the plan was never fully completed. Louise's sudden death broke George's heart and he could not complete the home so all work came to a complete halt. There it sat for the next 73 years falling victim to deteriorating and vandalism until such time the Thousand Island Bridge Authority took over and began to renovate the structures. Still in various stages of renovations, the painstaking work is top notch and period pieces are a fine example how life would have been for the Boldts had they been able to enjoy. It now is one of the most sought after venues in the area for weddings and one of the areas largest visitor attractions.

The Main House is breath taking. As you enter the home along the shady veranda you are instantly greeted by a massive staircase with light pouring in from above through the stain glass dome.

As you wander through each of the rooms on several floors, you can't help feel a range of emotions from happiness at the testament of love he put into the each and every detail planning the estate, to the sadness realizing that the family never really got to enjoy this tribute. But you can imagine. You can image as you meander in and around each of the rooms how the family and their guests would have lived in each of the spaces had the vision played out.

The one thing I love about Boldt Castle is that it's offered to you 'as is'. Some rooms are completed, some aren't. Unless safety is a concern, they are free for you to roam. From the bottom floors to the very tip top, you can visit, learn, and admire its splendor and magnificent views from all around the home.

The castle tells a story throughout. From original drawings and plans, to photos captured of the family and construction, to the final renovation and decorations you see today; you truly get a feeling of the grandeur. The details and materials used were not spared, and no matter where you turn, you can see that prominent "B" on items throughout the home.

As you exit the home and make your way along the northern side of the island, you come across The Dove Cote, which was once a raised water storage area serving the island, while their collection of doves resided up top of the tower. Now a shell, you walk in and around grabbing a bit of shade before proceeding onward towards the Italian Gardens.

The Gardens are magnificent. Overlooking the north eastern side of the island atop a hillside, the Italian Garden hosts a variety of both flowers and shrubbery with many designed to display the prominent Boldt B or crest.

As you make your way down to the lower level of gardens you are beckoned by The Power House. The Power House was built to house the generators that would have supplied power to the island. With a medieval bridge to the castle like structure, it makes for a fairy tell like atmosphere. One of the most photographed areas on the island, you are able to tour the structure however; due to high waters, it was closed to us the day we visited.

As you leave The Power House and make your way back up towards the house, you can't help but notice an underground entrance that some would think off limits, but for me...it's an invitation to explore where I probably shouldn't!!!

Leading you through the secret tunnel below the house you make your way to a grounds keepers area and a huge surprise....a pool!!

Rather primitive, and so very unexpected, it's one of my favorite things on the island.

As you leave the pool area and make your way toward the Alster Tower, you stroll along paved areas in and around the main house. Beautifully landscaped with planters, a fountain, and Gazebo throughout, it's a place you would love to just sit and read a book as the breezes blow off the river to the shady areas.

The Alster Tower was considered the play house. With an area for bowling, a kitchen, areas to sleep, and billiard room, this would have been the ultimate man cave. Now closed for renovations, I was fortunate to be able to see it prior to it's renovations and could just imagine what it could be.

As you leave the Alster Tower and make your way back up to the main castle, you can't help but be in awe of everything you've taken in. The craftsmanship of yesterday and today along with the amazing landscaping and maintenance of the island would make both George and Louise Boldt so extremely happy knowing that their love is continuing on through the work and dedication of others.

Exiting the island, you leave along the north and travel south westward back to the docks at Alex Bay. Looking back it's here you see the grand Entry Arch the best. Looking back towards the island as everything gets smaller, I couldn't help but feel like it's still larger than life.

Disembarking onto the town, we found ourselves famished so after a quick trip back to get ready for dinner, we settled on Cavallario's Steak & Seafood, which was a quick walk from the hotel. A family owned restaurant, this local eatery was fabulous and more of a high end dining establishment in town. From everything from steaks to seafood to italian cuisine, our meal was delicious and the service excellent.

Meeting our friend who has a camp up in Alex Bay after dinner, we took a quick stroll after all around the small village. The shops and pubs and locals were amazing offering a variety of things to do and see for an evening.

After witnessing a gorgeous sunset from downtown we closed out the day on our little porch with the door open and a breath taking view of the castle all lit up across the bay.

Our second day began back on the porch looking out onto the water and castle as seagulls dove for fish, tour boats began their cruises, and fishermen headed out with hopes of getting the big one.

Meeting our friend at her camp, we decided to spend day two exploring the nearby village of Clayton, New York. A small town just up the road.

Making our way to Clayton we passed by the Thousand Island Bridge which is absolutely spectacular in all it's green splendor!! And of course, I had to stop to capture!!!

Only twenty minutes up the road, Clayton is the cutest little village with shops and restaurants. Starting out at the River Rat Cheese Company where we stocked up for a lunch picnic, we made our way in and out of souvenir shops until we made our way to The Cruet, a speciality shop featuring gourmet olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I could have spent the entire day in this shop tasting all the different vinegars. I highly recommend stopping at both of these shops to stock up.

Next we found Coyote Moon Winery where we had a sampling of their award winning wines and had a picnic out on their porch overlooking the river.

Clayton was a great day visit, with some amazing street art and waterfront views. A perfect way to spend our last day in the Thousand Islands.

So as weekend getaways go, this one rocked!!! I highly recommend to anyone who can, take an overnight trip to the Alex Bay area. There is so much more to do in the area, which I will be planning in the near future, so stay tuned for a part two to Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay!!!

Slaintè my friends!!


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© 2018 by Flashback Photography

Kathy Stockbridge | 315-225-5952