On our recent USA road trip, we spotted a few pumpkins to celebrate Halloween at the end of October. They make an interesting display:

Looking out from the farmhouse towards the acres of soya bean plantations

Erica strides out amongst the well laid out gardens filled with aromatic herbs

Sunset in Virginia

Tudor - one of the resident cats, rather likes the salad bowl

A lone dolphin circles our boat

The Chesapeake Bay bridge and tunnels - 24 miles long in both directions, linking Cape Charles with Norfolk in Virginia, USA

Madame and Erica with the bridges in the background

YT and Madame riding the wavs with the Admiral up front directing Danny behind the wheel

Cute little sculpture at the entrance to an Arnold Palmer golf development in Cape Charles

Atmospheric Cape Charles house in need of TLC

Three hours along the highway from Annapolis and we found ourselves driving up the long drive to ‘the farm’. No Dallas movies could have prepared us for Pleasant Prospect Farm –  all that was missing was JR and his hat.

Immaculately mowed, clipped, polished and sculpted to perfection, the Farm comprises the main building, an office building, a Roman Bath building, a garage, workshop and sauna building, Guest Cottage (the Flag Cabin, containing all the Admiral’s naval memorabilia), and a small building housing a large fridge and the barbeque!

In the garage are two 1930 Ford convertibles, beautifully restored and in fine working oder. The rooms of all the buildings are finished to the highest specifications and we were quite literally, in clover.

The Farm entrance

Part of the entrance driveway up to the main buildings

View of the buildings from the jetty

Farm kitchen

Farmhouse and some of the outer buildings

Quite naturally with Bud and BA around, the food was nothing short of superb. On the first evening we were treated to smoked chickens and a smoked pork dish outside. This was cooked by right hand man Dan on the largest mobile barbeque you have ever seen – it has to be pulled by a tractor! On the second evening, we kicked off with caviar, bilinis and champagne to be followed by largish veal cutlets cooked on the ‘Green Egg’ – a monolithic version of a Weber.

Dan supervising the chickens

BA and Bud carve up the spoils

Caviar and bilinis

The modest veal cutlets

Erica and Madame prior to a spin in one of the Ford convertibles

History is being made in the Luberon village of Menerbes, France with the granting on Saturday of the coveted French decoration Legion d’honneur to local philanthropist and owner of the Dora Maar House, Nancy Negley.

To say that the village, a haven for locals, ex-pats, artists and several well-known international citizens is divided is an understatement. Whispered conversations are being held around each corner and the exact criteria for the award are being debated ad nauseum. It would appear that the award is being awarded for services to the Community of Menerbes and many philanthropic donations.

Negley represents, or to put it more bluntly, is The Brown Foundation of Texas, USA. (It’s latest published Annual Report – 2009 – lists of $900m in funds available for grants). The Brown Foundation grants funds predominantly to art projects and in Menerbes owns and administers the Dora Maar House which is a haven for artists and writers. (Historical note: Dora Maar was one of Picasso’s many lovers and lived in Menerbes until her death in 1997).

Apart from her philanthrophic activities, Negley was in the headlines during George Bush’s ill-fated US Presidency over a hunting incident involving former Vice-President Dick Cheney and is closely linked to the US company Halliburton (see this link: http://thenexthurrah.typepad.com/the_next_hurrah/2006/02/what_was_dick_r.html)

The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur) is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the First Republic, on 19 May 1802. The Order is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five various degrees: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).The order’s motto is Honneur et Patrie (“Honour and Fatherland”), and its seat is the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris. The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order and appoints all other members of the Order—by convention, on the advice of the Government. Its principal officers are the Chancellor and Secretary-General.

Current officers of the Order include:

Grand Master: Nicolas Sarkozy

Grand Chancellor: General Jean-Louis Georgelin since the 9th of June 2010

Secretary-General: Luc Fons since 2007

The Grand Master’s insignia is the Grand Collar of the Legion. Only the President of the Republic, as Grand Master of the Order, wears a Grand Collar. French nationals, men and women, can be received into the légion, for “eminent merit” (mérites éminents) in military or civil life. In practice, in current usage, the order is conferred, in addition to military recipients, to many entrepreneurs, high-level civil servants, sport champions in as well as other people with high connections in the executive. The members of the French Parliament cannot receive the order, except for valour in war, and ministers are not allowed to nominate their accountants.

Source- Wikipedia

Who wants to make an atmospheric movie of Olde US where time has stood still and the hillbillies predominate? Cape Charles on the banks of the Chesapeke Bay (Virginia) is just such a place. We popped in to the hardware store looking for an esoteric type of screwdriver for John W….. this is what we found!

Free nuts for the customers - crack them yourself

Say no more .......

They might have a department but there was no sign of the catalogue!

Some interesting merchandising

Ordered - or disordered - clutter

A short 45-minute drive from the middle of Washington DC will find you in Annapolis. A smallish town, very historical with bricked houses and walking malls, Annapolis is also the  headquarters of the US Navy Academy. The Academy has over 6,000 members at any one time on a four year course and consequently, the town has a clean, naval feel about it.

Dave and his wife Chris, some of the Admiral’s lieutenants took us out in their boat for sunset drinks, a tour of the various waterways and a ogle at the waterside properties of the well-heeled.

A long view on the right hand side of the US Naval Academy. The river? River Severn.

Madame, Erica and BA chilling with their cocktails

Cute little lifestyle sculpture in the Annapolis village

Originally a convent, now a posh Catholic school - Annapolis

Not a shabby little riverside shack

We liked this vibe. Lounging area out on the jetty - pure class.

Now, this is what you call a boathouse!

The US Coast Guard pulls up at one of the Naval jetties

The Suffragettes memorial within one of the many marbled foyers in the Capitol

The suffragette detail..

Out on the Speaker's terrace - BA, Bud, Madame, Erica and YT

Jackie Kennedy spotted this chandelier on her travels with JFK and ordered that it be placed within the Capitol

The first US Supreme Court was within the Capitol - here are the coat hooks of previous Chief Justices

BA, Erica and Madame stand on the tar marking the exact middle point of the Capitol and the middle point of Washington DC

Our tour took us to the seat of Government – the Capitol. An imposing Romanesque building ‘on the hill’. We were ushered through to the Office of the Minority Speaker – Nancy Pelosi (until recently, Obama’s chosen Speaker). An enthusiastic Communications Director took us under his wing and soon we were marching down long marble passages lined with flags of states and Old Glory herself.

The House of Representatives’ Members have their offices stretched over three buildings flanking the Capitol so it was a short, hot and humid walk to the main building. Apparently there is a maze of tunnels and a train service which ferries Members underground back and forth but we went above ground. (Note to South African Government ANC members – don’t get ideas!).

Although it is a comparatively young country, Americans have a great sense of history and you can feel this inside the Capitol with statues, mementos, artefacts and other symbols dotted around every corner of what is an immaculately clean and well kept building.

On the way - serious security barriers for vehicles

Starting out - the House of Reps Members' passage - YT, Erica, BA Flanagan and the Communications Director

All dressed up for the occasion!

Members wipe their hands over Will Rogers' left shoe toe cap for luck

The impressive foyer outside the debating chamber, lined with statues

The story of American history is told in the foyer

A private Chapel for Members' spiritual needs

The view from the Speaker's office of the George Washington statue

The flat area in the foreground is where the USA Presidential inaugurations take place

The little tourist bus took us from Arlington Cemetry and then we jumped off a the Lincoln Memorial for a short walk towards the Capital and Pennsylvania Avenue where we had heard that the Newseum was well worth a visit. We passed the Washington Memorial which has been closed until further notice due to he recent earthquake.

'Accelerated security' is what the USA calls it. The White House in the background

Sweating it out - Bud, BA, Madame and YT

Approaching the Capital

The George Washington Monument

We stopped off at The Source by Wolfgang Puck for a ‘light lunch’ (if that is possible in the USA), the table agreed that Puck’s twist on a Kobe burger was a great hit and suitably replete we entered the Aladdin’s Cave that is the Newseum. A relatively new addition to the Washington Museum landscape, the Newseum stretches for six floors and comprises some incredible exhibitions and artefacts.

We enjoyed a 4-D movie on historical events that had made headlines, viewed the 9/11 newspaper headlines from around the world, artefacts from the Berlin Wall and famous FBI cases, and copies of all the Pulitzer prize winning pictures since 1975.

An afternoon is too short for the Newseum. You need a day to fully appreciate what is billed as ‘the world’s most interactive museum’. It really is.

Madame and Erica on the viewing deck of the Newseum

The Capital from the viewing deck

The imposing FBI building

The shattered telco antenna from one of the Twin Towers

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances

Extract from the US Constitution which greets visitors outside the Newseum.

The US National Gallery

The imposing facade of the US Supreme Court

Until the next time – tot volgende keer……..

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