Thoughts on Walking



This week, Amy has suggested that we Keep Walking for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I feel that I have as many thoughts about walking as I do photographs to illustrate the theme, so I decided to combine the two for this challenge, on a blog that I use mostly when I have more to write about. I obviously can’t claim credit for all the pictures as I appear in some of them.

To begin with, our family never owned a car. We relied on public transportation and our own two feet to get us from place to place. Up until the age of 7 I lived in London and every Sunday morning, my father would take me for long walks, usually to places of historical interest including local cemeteries. The memory of those walks has stayed with me because they were always so interesting and because it permitted me to see the happier, more relaxed side of my father. He was a very private person and didn’t have an awful lot of patience at home but he loved walking and sometimes he would sing while we were going along. I particularly remember a song called ‘Mollie Malone,’ which, at 5 years of age, I found rather sinister and most intriguing.

Of course, I did a lot of walking with my mother too, mostly back and forth to school and also to the local parks, but sometimes we would hop on a bus or tube train and go further afield to walk around Regent’s Park Zoo or The British Museum. We also did a lot of walking when we visited her parents who lived in Kent, strolling for miles along country lanes, picking wildflowers and listening to the birds singing.

Summer holidays at the seaside usually involved quite a bit of walking either along the prom (where the brass band played tiddly-om-pom-pom) or crunching over the shingle beaches with the seagulls screeching overhead, sometimes walking down the Leas Cliff path to the next town along the coast. When I think of all the walking I did when I was a child, it makes me laugh now to hear the kids today complain about having to walk around the block.

When we moved out of London, Dad and I no longer went for our Sunday walks.  He was a cockney born and bred and he missed the city and without those walks we seemed to grow further apart. The only walk that I clearly remember taking with him in those days was not a particularly happy one. My mother had persuaded him to take me to Whipsnade Zoo for the day and we had missed our bus. The next one wasn’t due for at least another hour and there was no way he was going to wait that long so he bluntly informed me that if I still wanted to go, we’d have to walk. I wasn’t too perturbed by the idea but after a 7-mile slog, mostly uphill, I wasn’t quite so chipper.  Add to that all the walking that we did in the zoo, and I was thankful that we were able to catch the bus back home.

Later, after we had moved to the USA, my mother became my constant walking companion, joining me in jaunts around various trails at parks, nature centers and gardens, sometimes accompanied by the youngest of my three girls.

Some of my longest walks over the past few years have been with this daughter and her husband. Together we have spent countless hours touring the streets of Chicago or hiking mountain trails in Utah but the most memorable walk was the shortest, when my husband and I walked her down the aisle on her wedding day.

Nowadays I walk mostly alone, enjoying the peaceful solitude and recalling earlier rambles, grateful to have had the opportunity to share those walks with loved ones.


Thoughts on Hair


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Not the musical, but just hair in general. It’s strange how certain everyday actions bring back a wealth of memories. Every time I towel-dry my hair after a shower I recall my mother undertaking that same thing for me when I was little. Sometimes performing that simple task is very comforting but there are times when it brings such an overwhelming sense of loss that it brings me to tears.

When I was a very young child I had a cute little curl on the top of my head but somewhere along the line it straightened out. In fact, you couldn’t have had straighter hair if you’d tried.  It’s funny how we’re never satisfied with what we’ve got. Some people pay a fortune to get their hair straightened while others long for natural curls.
It didn’t help matters when my mother, God bless her, insisted on trimming my bangs, short and right across the entire width of my forehead, which prompted my grandfather to sing this little ditty to me.

“When I was a baby, not so long ago,
On me little topknot, ‘air began to grow.
Mother took a basin and put it on me ‘ead.
Cut me little locks off and turned to me and said……
(Chorus) Oh you do look funny with yer ‘air cut short.
Shake that rattle what yer father bought.
Call in the neighbors living down our court,
‘Cos you do look funny with yer ‘air cut short.”

I think it might have been an old-time cockney music-hall song. I’ve tried Googling it but didn’t have any luck.

My grandfather’s own ‘hairy’ experience came just after he returned from the horrors of WWI in France and Belgium. Like most other servicemen at that time, he became infested with lice whilst in the trenches and, when he got home, my grandmother had to shave his head completely bald. Until then his hair had been as straight as mine is now, but when it grew back out it was thick and wavy. Both his parents had wavy hair so maybe it was a family trait that was just waiting for the right opportunity to show itself. (I’ve never had the nerve to try it for myself.)

Mum was a great fan of ‘the perm’ and because she didn’t have money to spare to go gadding off to the hairdressers, my Dad gallantly took on the job, starting early on a Sunday morning, dabbing and curling as the pungent smell of perming solution filled our little two-room flat in London. It was always one of the things that surprised me about him. He didn’t have a lot of patience with most things, including me, but he was willing to fiddle about with pins and potions in order to help Mum feel like a movie star (Not such a stretch of the imagination when I recall that she was once mistaken for actress Jessie Matthews by a director while dining at a restaurant near Elstree Studios.)

Naturally, I ended up with a perm or two of my own, thanks to Mum’s ministrations. I was probably about eight years old when I got the first one and when my teacher looked at our class photo and asked, with uncontrollable laughter, “Is this girl in our class? I don’t recognize her.” I knew the results had not been all that I could have hoped for.

During my teen years, while other girls were proudly strutting about with beehive and bouffant hairdos, I was desperately back-brushing and coaxing my baby-fine hair without success. Since then I have gone from long hair to crew cuts and back again.

Before my parents came to live in the US, my father used to have his hair cut by an Italian barber who visited our house periodically. But when they arrived in American he more or less handed me a pair of clippers and said, “You can do just as good a job.” I was absolutely terrified of making a mistake but luckily most of my hairdressing errors were made at the back where they weren’t easily visible, at least not to my father. I don’t think he minded, really. He didn’t want to pay someone else to cut his hair and since I could do little wrong in his eyes, I was the natural choice.

When our three girls came along, I submitted to having my hair curled and crimped by budding beauticians (I seem to recall having to cut my way out of a disastrous entanglement with a hairbrush) and one of them did eventually go on to become a very successful stylist at a fancy salon in downtown Chicago. Whenever she visited home, there would always be a queue of family members waiting to get a haircut from someone who had styled hair for fashion models and had been featured in magazines and on TV.

We even visited her at the salon, something I, for one, could probably never have afforded without the good old family discount.

She has since become a Doctor of Pharmacy and has moved out of state so we are now forced to make other arrangements when it comes to getting our hair done.

These days, I rarely see the inside of a salon. I’m going grey but refuse to dye my hair. I know I’m growing old and so does everyone who knows me, so why bother to hide it. For now, I’ve decided to grow it again. It was never exactly my ‘crowning glory’ but for some reason I feel like it’s the way it was meant to be.

Thoughts on Music


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Once upon a time I had an Uncle who asked me, “How can anyone not like music?” The question was immediately followed by the emphatic statement, “Without music you’re nothing!” We were standing in a crowded London pub at the time and the conversation was no doubt accompanied by the sounds of someone playing “Boiled Beef and Carrots” on an untuned piano.

My Uncle was rumored to be the son of a famous singer who, rather than tarnish his reputation with a messy divorce, had declined to marry my Grandmother and left her to bring up her son with the help of a very understanding family, so in a way it wasn’t surprising that he held such passionate views about music. Uncle Bert later enlisted in the army during World War II and, with the assistance of a troupe of fellow artistes known as The Valley Vagabonds, entertained the troops in Africa.

My Grandmother’s family included numerous brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins many of whom had true musical talent and, according to my mother, when they all got together for a party, which was quite frequently, would perform their own special party pieces which might be a song or poem or a tune played on the piano or violin.

I was still very young when the family began to split up and move further afield so I only remember one or two of these impromptu performances which included my Grandfather singing some rather risqué songs that he had learned in the trenches during World War I and a couple of uncles doing a comedy number wearing grass skirts and cocoanut shells.

They were rather a rowdy bunch when they got going but there was, however, a classical element introduced into the evening’s entertainment when my great-uncle Freddie sang ‘Vesti la Giubba’ from Pagliacci. Not only did he have a wonderful singing voice but he was also a brilliant concert pianist. He too had entertained the troops during World War I.

Not to be outdone by her siblings, my Grandmother would give her rendition of the song ‘My Hero’ from The Chocolate Soldier, a show in which her erstwhile lover had apparently performed, and at the conclusion she and her four sisters would all inevitably break down in tears, evidently remembering her doomed romance. This had a domino effect as it would invariably cause my mother to cry whenever she heard that particular song and when I took her to see the show, just a few years before she passed away, we both sat and wept through almost the entire thing. We are an emotional lot!

There had been an attempt to teach my mother how to play piano when she was a child and for a brief period she took lessons, but Mum wanted to do things her way and eventually her music teacher told my Grandmother that she could no longer continue to waste her time on someone who didn’t want to do as she was told. Although she couldn’t read music, Mum had a good ear and played by that method and Dad frequently told the story of how he had gone to visit her in the maternity hospital, when she was expecting me, only to find her entertaining all the other expectant mothers by playing the piano in the visitor’s lounge.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. I have absolutely no aptitude for either singing or playing an instrument. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love music. Music plays a very important role in my life. In fact, it’s probably helping to keep me alive at this point. In order to prevent further blood clots from becoming a problem, I usually go walking at the indoor track several times a week, especially during the winter months. It’s not something I particularly enjoy doing. It’s not that I can’t handle the exercise but the boredom of walking round and around in circles is more than I can stand or it would be if not for the trusty iPod.

My taste in music is eclectic. Everything from Tchaikovsky to Rod Stewart, with a bit of Django Reinhardt, Luciano Pavarotti and David Garrett thrown in for good measure. I love listening to marching bands and symphony orchestras, The Rolling Stones or Renee Fleming. Whether it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or my Grandson playing in his father’s band, it keeps me going when I would otherwise give up.

So yes, Uncle Bert! How right you were! Without music I probably would be nothing.

Suburban Travels – Oak Brook


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I think we’ve probably been visiting Oak Brook for years without even realizing it.  You know how it is when you come across an interesting place without really knowing exactly what town you’re in.  When I decided on Oak Brook as my next port of call for these Suburban Travels and started doing some research, I was surprised to find that I was already familiar with one or two of the Village’s more notable sites.

I’ll begin by mentioning McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters and Hamburger University, only because by next year they will no longer be in Oak Brook.  I got to know Hamburger University through the American Lung Association Walks which were held in the grounds in early autumn. The first time I participated, I captured this image of a re-creation of Ray Kroc’s office that was set up in the lobby of the University.

Apart from the fact that these walks were for a very worthy cause, it was a pleasant experience strolling through the grounds on Jorie Boulevard.

Graue Mill, on York Road, is one of those places that we’ve visited several times in the past.  Water from nearby Salt Creek was first used to turn the wheel at the mill in 1852 and Frederick Graue kept it in operation for 70 years, grinding wheat, corn and other grains, until modern methods made it obsolete.

The mill eventually fell into disrepair and it wasn’t until 1950, when local residents formed an organization to restore it to its former condition, that it took on a new lease on life. The building now houses a museum that illustrates life at the mill and in the surrounding area from the mid to late 1800’s, but although water was running through the wheel when we first visited, subsequent trips have indicated that it might no longer be functioning.

Our latest visit to the mill was just after some very heavy rains and Salt Creek was racing over the dam, on its way from Fullersburg Woods which is just a little further along the road.  Oak Brook was originally named Fullersburg after an early settler, Ben Fuller.

For those of you who enjoy a walk along easy nature trails, Fullersburg Woods is the place to go, in Oak Brook.  They have an interesting Nature Education Center located right next to Salt Creek where you can sit out on the deck and enjoy the sun (if the weather cooperates.)

Mayslake Peabody Estate is another one of the places that we’ve visited before, although this time was our first look inside the Hall itself. Mayslake Hall, a Tudor Revival-style mansion, was built for coal magnate Francis Stuyvesant Peabody in 1919.

Mayslake was named after his first wife and their daughter and was part of an 848-acre estate which included a farm that supported 60 buildings.  What remains of the estate is now owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage. They are in the process of restoring the house and you can take a tour on Wednesdays and Saturdays to see how it’s progressing.

Also in the Mayslake grounds is a beautiful replica of the Portiuncula Chapel in Assisi, Italy. More about this and the Mayslake Peabody Estate in a future post.

After a busy day exploring it’s time to head over to Oakbrook Center for something to eat.  Oakbrook is an upscale shopping mall that opened in 1962, although many big-name stores have come and gone since then. Thank goodness The Cheesecake Factory is still there!



Suburban Travels – Naperville


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I have to admit that we haven’t had the opportunity to do much suburban traveling this year, or traveling of any kind, so I had to go back in the archives for some pictures that I took last autumn on our visit to Naperville, Illinois.

Joseph Naper arrived here in 1831 and founded what would later be called Naper’s Settlement on the banks of the DuPage River.  The Settlement is now a museum with 30 historic buildings located on 12 acres.

The Schultz Building originally occupied the corner of Aurora Avenue and Webster Street in the 1920’s and 30’s and served as a combination of filling station, grocery store and restaurant.

The Century Memorial Chapel was built in 1864 and moved from it’s original location on Jefferson Avenue to the Naper Settlement in 1970. With seating for 175 guests, it is now a popular venue for weddings.

Carpenter and merchant, Alexander Hamilton Howard, one of Naperville’s early postmasters, built the Paw Paw Post Office in 1833. The house was also used as a stop along a stagecoach route than ran through DuPage County.

Although the log cabin at Naper Settlement is not originally from the Naperville area, having been dismantled and shipped from Jonesboro, Illinois in 1978, it is a good representation of how Naperville’s first settlers lived.

Built in 1883, the Martin Mitchell Mansion, originally called Pinecraig, was not only the Martin family home but also a place of business.  George Martin owned large quarry works along the DuPage River. In 1936, Martin’s daughter and last surviving heir, Caroline Martin Mitchell, left the house to the City of Naperville.

The Dandelion Fountain, seen here across the street from Naperville Public Library on the right, is just one of many items of interest along The Riverwalk that runs beside the West branch of the DuPage River.  It is interesting to note that in a 2010 study, Naperville was ranked as the wealthiest city with a population exceeding 75,000, in the Midwest.

The Amphitheater is an open-tiered area that plays host to many community events and performances.

Some whimsical artwork on display in Naperville; River Reveries by Jennifer Hereth and Best Friends by Dale Rogers.

Part of the scenic 1.75 mile walk along the river in Naperville. You can just make out Moser Tower in the background behind the covered bridge.

Moser Tower and the Millennium Carillon stands 158ft tall with 253 steps and 72 bells the largest of which weighs 6 tons.

Paddleboat Quarry, part of the historic Naperville Quarry. By the time we visited the city in November most of these things were closed including the interiors of the buildings at Naper Settlement, so I’m looking forward to returning to Naperville at an earlier time next year.








The Big 7-Oh!


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Here I am, Mac & Elsie’s girl, turning another corner in my life and celebrating the big 7-Oh where did that time go!!!  The sun is shining which, I think my mother told me once, means that I’ve been a good girl all year.  Well, maybe!

I imagine my parents thought I was destined for great things. That’s me with the Mayor of Tottenham, doing a promotional gig for welfare orange juice in 1948. I look like I was taking my job very seriously.

When I was still quite young I thought I might like to be an actress but, by the time I was old enough to do anything about it, my self-confidence had completely deserted me and I spent my theater years backstage, helping with props and scenery. And it seems like I’ve been backstage, figuratively speaking, ever since.

Several years ago, my grandson sent me an email requesting that I help him complete his homework assignment.  He wanted to know what my greatest accomplishment had been.  For the life of me I couldn’t think of a damned thing and I sat at the computer and cried.

I’ve thought about that question a lot since then, and my answer now would be that I helped to raise a loving family; three girls who are caring, intelligent and extremely good-looking. I have four wonderful grandchildren and, according to the happy news received last week from that same grandson, an expected great-grandchild.

So Happy Birthday to me!  I’ve made it to the big 7-0h! Onward and upward. For more on the Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post go to Corner

Suburban Travels – Mount Prospect


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Mount Prospect will be celebrating its centennial in 2017 and it has a lot to celebrate. The Village motto, “Where Friendliness is a Way of Life”, although not something that can easily be said of its notorious neighbor, Chicago, may quite well be true of this flourishing, northwest suburb.




The Village Hall, Police & Fire Station and Library serve a community of some 55,000 people many of whom use the train to commute back and forth to work and school.  The train station parking lot becomes home to the farmer’s market on Sunday mornings as well as Bluesmobile Cruise Nights on Saturday evenings.



You can’t go too far in Mount Prospect without coming across the name Busse; florist, car wash, avenue, road and park, all named after one of the area’s more prominent families.




There are several parks in Mount Prospect, the largest of which is Melas Park which is shared with the neighboring Village of Arlington Heights. Here you’ll find some nice walking paths as well as baseball, football and soccer fields.  Melas also hosts the annual 4th of July carnival and firework display.



Clearwater Park, although smaller, has a walking track and tennis courts and is a surprisingly great place to see wildlife, especially water birds, including heron, egrets and cormorants.



Tucked into a corner of downtown Mount Prospect is a miniscule park named after one of the Village’s founding families, the Moehlings.  Built in 1880, The Old General Store, once owned by the Moehlings, is the oldest commercial building in the village and was moved in 1999 from its original location to where it now stands, next to the park. It currently houses Campanari’s Ice Cream Parlor. 




Many years ago Mount Prospect boasted the first enclosed mall in the Chicago area and the largest enclosed air-conditioned space in the United States.  Back when we lived in the city, going to Randhurst Mall was considered something of a treat, a great “day out” especially in the winter when walking around an indoor mall was a comfortable and convenient way to shop.

Built in the 1960’s, at the height of the cold war, the mall included a fall-out shelter that was large enough to accommodate every citizen of Mount Prospect, which must have been a very comforting thought for the residents in those days.   The multi-level mall had a food court and a carousel and was anchored by several large department stores which over the years included Weiboldt’s, JC Penney, Bergner’s and Montgomery Ward.

But once Schaumburg’s Woodfield Mall came on the scene followed by other more upscale shopping centers that quickly blossomed in the surrounding towns, poor old Randhurst went into a decline and was eventually torn down to make way for a new ‘lifestyle center’ called Randhurst Village.





Despite its new-found glitz and glamor, however, Randhurst Village has, in my humble opinion, all the personality and appeal of a damp sock.  I miss the old indoor mall! 


You don’t see this something like this every day, especially in an apartment or condo complex. These columns, sunk into the lake at Huntington Commons were, according to an online source, originally part of the old Federal Chicago Building which was demolished in 1965.





stmp-23Although technically located in Des Plaines, Friendship Park Conservatory, which sits right on the border with Mount Prospect, is maintained by the MP Park District and is home to the Mount Prospect Garden Club.  The Conservatory has a banquet hall as well as a seasonally decorated atrium which makes it a poplar place for weddings.  The plant sale, held just before Mother’s Day, is always well attended and the Christmas festivities, I’m reliably informed, usually include a visit from one of Santa’s reindeer, although the only animal I encountered on a recent visit was what looked suspiciously like the Easter Bunny.


Huzzah and Gadzooks!


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Hovering on the borders of Wisconsin and Illinois, Bristol has been home to an annual tradition that dates back more than 30 years and, for just a few brief weekends during the summer months, people flock to this extravaganza by the thousands.



It used to be called King Richard’s Faire, then the name changed to The Bristol Renaissance Faire, but whatever name it goes by, it all adds up to an expensive day out.  As with most amusement parks and fun fairs, there are parking and entrance fees, but it doesn’t end there. Once inside, you are confronted by hundreds of opportunities to part with more money; face painting, kiddie rides, exorbitant prices for food and drink, not to mention those quaint little stalls that sell everything from jerkins to gherkins. So be prepared!huzzah-6


Don’t get me wrong. Despite complaining about the expense, I still love visiting the Faire. The opportunities for photography are excellent and the entertainment value is well worth the price of admission.  Sword fights, bawdy comedy, juggling, jiggling and jousting are all part of fun at the Faire.


And it isn’t only us who keep coming back. Many of the performers and artisans are the same people we encountered years before, as I discovered when I compared a picture of our daughter, who was then in junior high, having her arm decorated, with a similar shot taken last weekend featuring her daughter having her face painted. I’ll swear it’s the same guy doing the artwork, and a very nice job he makes of it too.



Then there’s Broon.  I always wonder if he’ll still be around when we return after several years’ absence, and there he is, that popular performer, doing his thing with the bowling ball, fire brand and apple.  Huzzah!!


They’re all there, all the old faces, everyone from Moonie to the Mud Show with lots of new acts in between.  Most of them are hilarious and some are just plain creepy, like Gabriel Q, a puppeteer who, amongst other characters, appears as a most bizarre baby.huzzah-2


Trading insults with the knave in the stocks, or cheering the villain in the joust, it’s all good fun; stepping out of reality for just a few hours, into the make-believe world of the Faire.  Just bring plenty of cash. Gadzooks!!!



Mackinac Island And The Unintentional Bucket List


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Long before the term ‘bucket list’ became popular, stretching way back to the days of my childhood, I dreamed of seeing and doing things that I never in a million years really thought I would do.  Looking back over my life so far, I realize that there are actually several of those things that I can cross off my unintentional bucket list; seeing the Bolshoi Ballet, hearing and seeing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing in Salt Lake City, visiting Niagara Falls and, more recently, taking a trip to Mackinac Island.

Mackinac main street

My desire to visit the island began when I first came to the USA. Living in the hustle and bustle of a city like Chicago, the idea of a place where motor vehicles were forbidden was rather appealing. In reality, you still have to watch your step when crossing the roads as there is a constant stream of bike riders zipping about and horse-drawn wagons, though going at a more sedate pace, are still a hazard.

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In fact, almost as soon as you step off the ferry, you notice the definite whiff of horse but that is certainly preferable to the more obnoxious odor of petrol fumes. As attractive as a carriage ride seemed, however, we opted to get about on foot, which gave us the ability to stop whenever we wanted and take side roads and diversions at will.

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We climbed up the hill to historic Fort Mackinac which was established by the British during the American Revolutionary War. From there we had a wonderful view of the harbor and surrounding area. The British didn’t give up the fort until 15 years after American independence but apparently there was still one soldier who had been left behind and the canon is only fired now for demonstration purposes.

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Naturally, being a major tourist attraction, most things on the island are very picturesque (the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark) and churches, houses and hotels cried out to be photographed.

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On the subject of hotels, strictly speaking, my original fantasy of visiting Mackinac Island had centered around staying at the Grand Hotel but when I tell you that they wanted $10 per person just to walk inside (if your weren’t registered there) you will probably understand why we opted to stay on the mainland. I was quite happy to look at it from the outside. Alright! I’ll admit to a smidgeon of envy as I watched guests strolling around the gardens and pulling up to the forecourt in horse-drawn carriages.

The Grand Hotel

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But I still got to see the flowers and the beautiful scenery on the way back to the harbor.  Once again, we were very lucky with gorgeous weather and we were able to sit and enjoy the view out over the lake.

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The ride back to Mackinac City on the Star Line hydro-jet ferry was exhilarating and we managed to get a closer shot of both lighthouses as well as the Mackinac Bridge on the way in.

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Of course, there is a lot more to the island than what you see here, but as usual we were on a limited time schedule and I was just thankful that I’d been able to visit and cross one more item off my unintentional bucket list.