Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tombstones and Graveyards and Churches, Oh My!

At the Family Reunion with cousins Linda 
Garrison Sessoms (l) and Kolby Garrison (r) and
her precious guide dog Amelia.
I had the opportunity, recently, to attend the Garrison Family Reunion, in Wilmington, NC.  This is my mom's side of the family and as I have mentioned in prior blogs, she was one of 12 children, which produced many grand and great grand children.  Unfortunately, only two of the 12 are still with us but both were at the reunion!  What a blessing that was!  There were probably 35 or so relatives there, which is a smaller number than when we had the reunion years ago, but still a great turnout, considering how busy everyone's lives are.

We had the reunion at my cousin's house which had the perfect backyard for such an event.  It was a gorgeous day and everyone had a great time.  We talked about reunions of the past, and special memories of those we have lost.  It was so nice to see everyone. Thanks to my three cousins, Delores, Debi and Gwen, who put it together.

One of the subjects we discussed was our family history, the genealogy we have worked on, and trying to find out who the father of my Great, Great Grandfather John Wesley Garrison really was. Several of us have looked into it and have found no definitive answer, but more on that in a later blog.

Mittie Hayworth Garrison's family home, before it was 
taken down.   The gentleman who owned it was going 
to renovate but must have thought it was too far gone.  

Our first adventure, after the reunion, was to try to find my grandmother's family home near High Point, NC.  We had an address, put it into the GPS and off we went.  Sadly, when we arrived at the address, we realized that they had recently torn it down.  You can't image the sadness when we made that discovery. Thank goodness, my cousin Anne and my Aunt Gladys had visited there not long ago and taken some pictures, so we do have a visual record.  After leaving the location where Grandma's home had been, we started hitting the cemeteries that were close by, where some of my relatives were buried.  

I had always heard tales of Abbott's Creek Primitive Baptist Cemetery and how beautiful the tombstones were.  The way they were intricately carved, showed pride and workmanship by the person who created them.  Unfortunately, many were very old and well covered with moss or lichen, which made them very difficult to read.  Some of the different styles are shown above.  

It was cold and rainy that day and my husband was a real trooper, marching through the graveyards with me, during that week of Halloween. We visited about six cemeteries that day, including two where my Quaker relatives were buried, Deep River Friends Meeting (est. 1754) and Springfield Friends Meeting (est. 1773). The gravesites we visited in these two places went back to the 1700's and 1800's. 

While visiting the Springfield Friends, and looking for Micajah Haworth's gravesite, I met the new Pastor, who had just started weeks before.  He was a very nice man and was very helpful in helping us locate the tombstone. He also gave me the name of someone higher up, should I need further help in the future.  

I couldn't make it to all the cemeteries that day, but I got to a lot of them and enjoyed seeing many of the family plots for myself.  It became obvious, very quickly, that I could spend weeks, trekking around the state, walking through many more burial grounds. But that will have to take place at a different time.  I will share more about this fact finding trip in the next blog.  Needless to say, being this close to where my family members lived, just reignited the fire to find those elusive, long lost relatives!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Trip Through Italy, Finale

Our last stop on our Italian journey took us to Sicily. We were so excited about this part of the trip because we had plans to do some research on my husband John's grandparents. Knowing this might be a difficult task, researching in another country, none of us had high expectations, but we did have high hopes. We weren't certain where to start and only had a slight grasp of the language but we had a great deal of enthusiasm for the project. Little did we know what excitement this part of the trip would bring.

John and his son were hoping to find lots of fun tidbits about their family history so we left Naples and headed, by train, to the island of Sicily, birthplace of their grandparents/great-grandparents. But first, how do you take a train to an island that has no railroad bridge or tunnel that takes you across the water? Well, we found boat. The train cars were loaded onto a very large boat with tracks inside.  After that, we were ferried across the water to the seaport of Messina, on Sicily. Then unloaded, hooked to a new engine and off we went. We traveled to the Taormina-Giardini/Naxos stop and walked to our little Miramare Bed & Breakfast. What a delightful place it was! Beautiful views of the water and a walking distance to some of the best parts of the town. The owner, Aldo, was so nice and very helpful! We would highly recommend it if you are in the Taormina area. Click here for more information.

Our views from the Miramare Bed & Breakfast.
Our first full day we headed to the small town of Bronte, which is the birthplace of my husband's grandfather. John and his son, J, were looking for genealogical information and certification on his birth. We figured the building that had the information would be in the center of town, so that is where we headed first. We all thought Bronte was small but were very surprised when we arrived and found it to be a very bustling, good sized town. It is the only place in Italy where they grow and process pistachios. They take great pride in that. We drove right through town, and came out on the other side, without really seeing a place that looked like a government building. So, we decided we would park the car and go around asking where the building might be. There was a government looking building where we parked, so John went in to ask if they knew where it was and as luck would have it, that was the place. So the search was on. 

We found a gentlemen, Nino, who, in very broken English, said he could help us, and took us to the room with all the old books and started pulling them off the shelves. We knew the basic information as to when his grandfather was born and his name, and with that, they pulled the book that had just the information we were looking for. Nino made official certificates of the information that they found in the books and the guys took pictures of the handwritten data, that was all in Italian. 

John and J in Bronte, Sicily, Italy
One of the interesting things about Italy is that they take a siesta each day, usually around 12:00 to around 3:00. We arrived with just an hour to research before that siesta began. Once they found the data, they asked Nino where we could go to eat lunch. He said he had a great place and just to follow him. So we did. Now, this could have turned out real bad. We didn't know this guy and yet we are following him as he goes further and further out of town. He stopped at one point to drop off his wife, at their home, and continued on. However, where he took us turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We went up a hill to a resort, that overlooked Mt. Etna and the valley just below Bronte. We ended up having a full multi-course Italian meal, which ended with some of the best pistachio gelato I have ever had. 

Pistachio gelato at Feudo Marullo Resort.
Come to find out, the resort is owned by the same people who own the local, large pistachio plant. We headed there after the meal to have a quick tour. Nino was well connected in the town of Bronte which was obvious by the places he was able to get us into. We felt very blessed that we made his acquaintance that day. He helped us with the pertinent family history information we needed and led us to a great place for our meal. I think we may have not seen the last of our new friend Nino.

The next day we headed to Giarre, where Grandma Politi came from. We had no idea where we were going here but once again, the helpful Sicilians came to the rescue. A couple drove us to the building we needed to find the same type of information we found the day before on grandpa. These folks did not speak any English, however. Communication was a little more strained. But a very nice man, who was standing in line behind us, asked if he could help and he translated for us.  He told them we were looking for birth information on Grandma Politi. The man behind the counter said we would have to come back on Monday. We told him we were not going to be able to do that because we would be leaving before that. So he said to come back later that afternoon. When the guys went back, they weren't real hopeful that there would be anything for them, but sure enough, the guy pulled out the same type of books and got them the information that they were looking for. 

One of the stories, that bounced around the family, for years, was that their grandfather didn't come to America at the same time as the rest of the family. The story goes that he had an affair with someone and ended up killing her husband. It shamed the family so they left for America to get away from the shame. However, in there research they found that their grandfather actually did come to America. What they found out this day, was that grandma had been married before their grandfather. Was this the man who actually went to prison for killing the man? A new trail to check into? A new story to be told? The guys left Giarre with another goldmine and were thrilled they had made the trip to find out more about their family. 

We spent the last day touring around the beautiful town of Taormina. It sits up on a hill, overlooking the coast and has some gorgeous views.  We hated to leave this beautiful island but the next day we had to head back to Rome, to catch our plane home, the following day.  

Pictures of Taormina but these were taken on our last trip there.
They were better.

The amphitheater in Taormina.   

We had to do the ferry ride again, and had a long train ride back to Rome but the scenery was great and the trip very relaxing.  The plane trip home the next day would not be near as interesting and a whole lot longer.  But it was worth it for all the fun and adventures we had during our stay in the wonderful country of Italia!

This is the ferry we took from Sicily back to the
mainland of Italy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Trip Through Italy, Part 4

The next leg of our Italian vacation took us to Naples. Now if you are like me, you have heard many a story of how bad Naples is...dirty, lots of pickpocketing, etc. But I have to say it was not like that for us. Yes, there is graffiti everywhere but I will tell you, Rome was worse. I don't think I would want to live there but it was nice visiting. Never once did we feel in danger of having our purses or wallets stolen. That is not to say that it doesn't happen. We all knew it could, because on our last trip to Italy, one of us was pickpocketed in Rome. It happened on the subway with the typical diversion tactic. It made us all very aware of our surroundings for the rest of the trip.  We carried that awareness into Naples.
Naples has it's own kind of charm. It is supposed to be the birthplace of pizza but repeatedly we found that you couldn't get a pizza until after 7:00 p.m. We never found out the reason for that. Speculation was that they didn't fire up the pizza ovens till later in the day.  

One of the days we were in Naples, we took the ferry and went out to the Isle of Capri. It was so beautiful there. When you arrive on the island you take a funicular to the top and the views were magnificent. It really is a pretty island. The downtown area was very touristy with lots of high end shops and gelato stores. A great place to take in a little respite and enjoy a glass of wine or beer.

We decided to go even further up to Villa Jovis, the palace where Emperor Tiberius lived, that was built in the first century, B.C. It was quite a hike to the Villa but it was worth it. The walkway up was lined with beautiful homes and gardens. Lots of photo ops! The palace itself, was fascinating and a lot of it is still standing, which is remarkable considering how long ago it was built. Even a mosaic marble walkway is still visible. Rumor had it that if Tiberius didn't like someone, he would take them to this one area, affectionately called Tiberius' Leap, and they would be pushed off the cliff.

Entrance to someone's home, through the garden.

Part of the mosiac marble walkway.

One of the sheer cliffs at Villa Jovis.  Tiberius would
     throw people off these cliffs, if he didn't like them.          

We went the next day on a guided tour of Pompeii.  What a great tour it was!  We had a fun tour guide, who was well versed on the history of the volcano and the town of Pompeii.  He made the tour very interesting, adding humor to the facts.  We took a tour in the afternoon of Mt. Vesuvius and quite frankly, it was disappointing.  It was pretty much self guided with no help from the guide (different than the morning).  The best part of that tour was the pizza lunch they provided for us.  

Here are some of our Pompeii pictures.  

This face was once a fountain from the aqueducts of long ago.

Mt. Vesuvius as seen from Pompeii.

First Pizza oven in Italy?

There are lots of things to do in the Naples area.  We only touched the surface.  Guess we'll just have to make return trip.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Trip Through Italy, Part 3

A view of the town of Vernazza from the
 top of the castle tower.
We continued our Italy trip by leaving Rome behind and heading for Cinque Terre, (The Five Lands), which I think was my favorite part of the trip. I have a lot of wonderful memories from this vacation, some from each stop, but most come from our three days visiting these five towns.

Each of the towns,  Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, have their own unique characteristics. They even have there own dialects. But one thing they have in common is beautiful scenery and great food! They are known for their white wines, which I must say were delightful!

We spent some time in each town but we stayed in Monterosso al Mare, which has a beautiful beach area.  The beach was always crowded but you could hardly see the people for all the colorful umbrellas.  They made for pretty pictures.

The beach on Monterosso al Mare.
We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast at the top of the hill on Monterosso. We walked with our bags to the top, and thought we were going to have a stroke.  But it was so worth it.  (We took a cab down the day we left!) Hotel Villa Steno had a big patio that overlooked the town and the water. We loved sitting out there as the sun set, watching the stuff going on down the hill but not hearing the noise.  This B&B had a garden full of fruit trees, flowers and herbs.  Most of the town is one building after another, attached together with very little green space. It was a nice little garden to walk through and we could see it from the patio where we ate breakfast.

Lots of umbrellas!!
We walked through all the little alleys of the town and couldn't believe how they twisted and turned. At each junction, you had another beautiful building and many had flowers or decorations of some sort.

My friend Kathy and I, walked down to the end of the beach and stuck our feet in the water.  It was so nice and warm. There was a private, gated club there, too, but I don't think it could have been any nicer than where we stayed, at Hotel Villa Steno.  And the staff was as nice as they could be. Click the link above to see some of the views from the hotel.  If you go to Cinque Terre, I would highly recommend you check them out.

There are trails between each of the towns that you can walk, if they have not had bad rains that wash them out.  We came in right after one of those rains, so the main trail was closed but the alternate route was open.  Out of Corniglia, it took you up one mountain, through the small town of Volastra and then down to Manarola.  It took us about 4 hours to do it but we did stop in Volastra for a snack (wine, beer, meat and cheese).  They have train service between the towns so we decided to take it back to our town.

View of Vernazza, from the little restaurant on the hill.
The next day we were going to walk from Vernazza over to Corniglia but decided we had enough fun the day before hiking, so we just went up the trail high enough to get some good pictures of Vernazza.  There was a cute little restaurant up there that we sat at and enjoyed the view for awhile. The picture at the top of the blog was taken from the castle out on the point, in this picture of Vernazza.  This town is the only one of the five that had a natural harbor.

Cinque Terre is a unique, beautiful area of Italy to visit.  If you haven't been there, make sure to check it out on your next trip over the pond!

Other views of Cinque Terre!

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
The coastline as seen from Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Trip Through Italy, Part 2

A window box with beautiful flowers in
Piazza Navona, one of my favorite squares in Rome.
If you have never been to Rome, I would recommend you add it to your bucket list. We were blessed to spend three days there, this trip, and it was great! We were there several years ago and wanted to see all the sites, but it rained and made it very difficult. One of my strongest memories is standing in the rain, holding an umbrella, looking at the Forum and trying to figure out what was what.  Without someone there to explain it, it was really difficult to discern exactly what we were seeing.  So we made a promise to ourselves that if we ever got back, we would hire a guide to walk us through the many ancient ruins, so we would know what they were, and we would pray that it didn't rain.

 Views of the Forum from on top of Palatine Hill.  From
 the top  of this hill you could see most of Rome. 
Well, we did just that.  We had beautiful weather this time around and our little guide was fantastic.  She had a great knowledge of the history of Rome and all that it entailed.  She took us to the Coliseum and explained the history there, then down to the Forum to walk through the ruins in that area.  What a fascinating tour!  I remember going to Boston one year, and really enjoying the walking tour, hearing about how things were so old...over 200 years old.  In Rome, there are things that date back hundreds of years; in some cases over a thousand years.  It is amazing to see the many structures the Romans built, all those years ago, and how many of them are still standing.  Their craftsmanship and attention to detail were amazing.

We had an afternoon tour of the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and a few other locations, but they paled in comparison to our morning sites.  We did have a gelato stop in the afternoon that was the highlight of the tour.  (We tasted gelato in every town we toured.)  The best was in a little place, on a small street, in downtown Rome.  I loved the way they looked when they first opened the stores, before anyone has placed an order.  They were beautiful colors and they always had so many different flavors.  Decisions, decisions! My favorite combination was the peach along with the plain cream. Yum!

Each day we walked almost everywhere we went.  We wore our Fitbits and put lots of steps on them during the trip.  I think you get a much more intimate look at a city when you walk through it.  I always try to remember to look up too, because there is so much beautiful architecture there and a lot of it is up high.

We went to the catacombs on of the days we were there and I found them very interesting, but if pressed for time in Rome, would probably skip them.  We rode the train to a certain stop, then got on a bus that took us to the outskirts of town, where the catacombs are located.  I never realized how many there were.  Just in the one we toured, there were thousands of little cubicles, cut out of the rock, where they laid the dead.  Once again, the way they built them was very interesting. They started high and as they finished a level, they would dig down, lower the walkways and continue on another level.  At one time, there were Popes buried there, too, but they have since been moved to another location.

Rome is beautiful at night, too.  If you ever get there, make sure you take a ride through the town after dark.  All the big monuments and major ruins are lit up and it is so pretty.  

One of my favorite things to do, in Rome, is go to the Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, right now, it is closed for renovation. They say if you throw a coin into the fountain, it will ensure you a future trip to Rome.  With it closed off, we couldn't do that, but I feel certain we will find a way to get back to this romantic, exciting city, at some point in our future.  Caio, for now! 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Trip Through Italy

Well, it has been some time since I have posted, but I have a very good reason.  I was on a fabulous vacation to Italy.  We were blessed to be able to spend 15 days, in country, seeing Rome, Cinque Terre, Naples, Isle of Capri, Pompei, Mt. Vesuvius and Sicily.  It was a relaxing experience and the weather was picture perfect.  Here are a few pictures of the trip. We made a lot of great memories and have many fun stories to tell.  More to come in another blog. 

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
Monument in Rome.
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
A church in the Roman Forum.

One of the many beautiful fountains in Rome.
Isle of Capri

St. Peter's Basillica in Rome.
Do you see something odd about this picture?