Toast Our Coast Cocktail Party

The New Canal Lighthouse.

The New Canal Lighthouse in New Orleans. Copyrighted
Copyrighted by Elaine Marie.

March 6 enjoy live a band, dinner buffet, and an auction of Southwest Airline tickets, a party at the New Canal Lighthouse and more. Proceeds benefit the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and support programs and projects for the Pontchartrain Basin and the New Canal Lighthouse.

For more information, visit


St. Augustine Night Fest and Lighthouse 5k


Painting of St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Copyrighted painting of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

You test your muscles and stamina when climbing a lighthouse.

Now is the time for another good workout at the Lighthouse 5k on March 5. Stop by the lighthouse today and tomorrow afternoon for your race packet.

After the race, celebrate at Night Fest. Join the Junior Service League’s commemoration of the St. Augustine Light Station’s restoration. Explore the lighthouse grounds, climb the tower, enjoy live music. Night Fest is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Walking the Plank in Madrid

Palacio de Comunicaciones

I saw a sign welcoming refugees at the Palacio de Comunicaciones.

My trip to Madrid was supposed to be a drive by.

With four days in London and one day and two halves in Madrid, I felt their would be little time to really enjoy and see Madrid. My daughter asked me to arrive on a Thursday and leave the following Thursday. She was taking business classes and had fit me in during her down time.

With so little time in Madrid, I gave more thought to my trip to London. I downloaded the app VisitaCity and planned our London trip. My son advised me to at least research Madrid. Sure that it would only frustrate me, I ignored his advise. My daughter offered to take me sightseeing in Madrid, I still said a firm no. With no plans for Madrid, I boarded the plane.

After a pleasant flight on American Airlines, I arrived at Madrid. I walked on what seemed like an endless plank and followed the crowd to customs, an elevator and caught a train to the baggage area.


I walked over to a Cabifly stand where a nice lady helped me make arrangements to catch a cab to Madrid.

I was supposed to tour the city—but I decided to rest. Later that evening we had tapas and Churros. Friday, I was refreshed and ready to catch a tour bus to see the city, visit the Museo del Prado, meet my daughter at Museo Reina Sophia then have dinner.

My daughter had classes. So she downloaded Google maps to guide me to the tour bus stop. After getting lost once, I caught the tour bus.

Museo Arquelogico

Museo Arquelogico

In the middle of the Madrid City Tour, I jumped off amazed at all the beautiful architecture.

Puerto de Alcala

I got off the bus when seeing Puerto de Alcala.

I walked through Parque del Retiro and decided to forego the Prado. Losing track of time and not checking in with my daughter, I wandered throughout the Park and city captivated by the marvels of Madrid.

Monument to King Alfonso XII.

At Parque del Retiro, I changed my plans after seeing the lake and monument to King Alfonso XII.


I left Parque del Retiro, to walk through Madrid.

I finally caught a cab to Museo Reina Sophia and waited an hour in the lobby for my daughter. She had gone into the museum and wasn’t happy to find my in the lobby. Worried because I hadn’t checked in, I think she would have asked me to walk a plank if she could have.

The Best Guide in Europe

A view of Madrid.

The most distinctive geographical feature of Spain is its mountains. Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe besides Switzerland.

I dreamed of painting picturesque lighthouses on mountains in Spain but found no guide to take me there. Like most of my life, my plan to paint European lighthouses did not materialize.

In Great Britain, Trinity House, overseer of most of Britain’s lighthouses, had no organized guides for tours to all of their lighthouses.

Disappointed, I scratched my plans and settled for two lighthouses. Trinity Lighthouse in London and St. Catherine’s a few hours away from London.

St. Catherine’s Lighthouse at the Isle of Wight soars above the British shore poetically. Day trips are only $100. With that in mind I made plans.

To my dismay, two weeks before my trip, the ferry port for the Isle of Wright caught fire. All trips were cancelled. I considered that a spiritual red flag and reluctantly made plans to just paint the Trinity Lighthouse.

My daughter who made the discovery about the fire consoled me and said “Maybe things will change by the time we get to London.” However, when we arrived in London, things changed from bad to worse. The storm Imogene was brewing off the coast of Isle of Wright making the day trip impossible.

Thankful I could at least visit one European lighthouse, we caught the London Tube to the hamlet of West India.

Sign for Trinity buoy wharf.

Trinity Buoy Wharf awaits.

My heart raced as we walked a few blocks to Trinity Buoy Wharf to the lighthouse.

Trinity Lighthouse

Trinity Lighthouse.

While I sketched, my daughter sipped hot chocolate at a quaint diner nearby. Reading the lighthouse signage, I glanced at another one about a lightship. Funny I had not even noticed the lightship behind until I read it. “Wow, two lighthouses,” I thought. God had quietly guided my steps.

Signage for Lightship.

Signage for Lightship.

He has a better plan if we allow only allow Him to unfold it. I did not have to travel far and wide to find two European lighthouses.

Lightship at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Lightship at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

God guides and orders our steps even when we are unaware of it. When pass we pass through the fire and the storm, He is with us.

Later, leaving London and grasping my bible, I heard a Brit say “you’re following the right guide.” I gave him a hug and agreed I was.

The Royal Treatment in London

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace.

I love tea. My son has running joke about how I once said in one of the low points of my life “tea is the only thing that makes me happy.” I said that while warding off my daughter’s attempt to grab my tea.


Walkway to the “Orangerie.”

So it came to as no surprise to my daughter that a “High Tea” was on my list of priorities when visiting London. My daughter is a savvy budget traveler. Not eager to pay the hefty prices I had settled for, she a found a moderately priced “High Tea” at the “Orangerie” in Kensington. It was off a busy street, nestled behind Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace. What a royal setting!


Menu for the “Orangerie.”

We walked through the gardens, entered the “Orangerie” and asked to be seated at a table with a garden view. After looking at the menu, we selected the cheapest offering. We talked to the server about my daughter’s citrus food allergies and I asked about vegetarian options. To our surprise, the server said my daughter would have to talk to the manager before ordering food. The manager had a serious but cordial discussion with my daughter about available food options and the possibility of cross contamination. After she agreed on substitutions, she ordered her food.

Inside the orangerie

Inside the “Orangerie.”

When the food arrived I reminded the server that I was vegetarian. A few minutes later a side platter of delightful sandwiches arrived. We had the most flavorful mint tea seeped in mint leaves. Looking at the elegant setting and our food my daughter remarked that she didn’t know any guys who would enjoy a “High Tea.” I made a mental note to add this my checklist of things for her potential suitors!

Afternoon High Tea.

Samplings of an Afternoon High Tea.

I was really happy with the tea, sandwiches, scones and desserts. My daughter didn’t think the food was extraordinary stating that is was not like the brunches in America. Of course not, I thought, there is nothing like a fine English High Tea! After all even now in the best of times “tea is one of the things that really makes me happy.”

Picture Perfect Stay in London

Big Ben and The London Eye.

Big Ben with the London Eye in the background.

What you see is what you get at the Nadler Victoria in London. I found that to be a rarity in most hotels. The promises on the website and the realities on the ground often bare little resemblance at other hotels.

The Nadler Hotel.

My room at the Nadler Hotel.

To my delight our room was exactly like the picture on their website. I had read the reviews before booking a room for a four night stay. It was our first stay in London and I didn’t want to take any chances with a shoddy hotel.

Nadler Victoria Hotel.

Outside the Nadler Victoria Hotel.

I had booked rooms before that were recommended on Tripadvisor and had not been disappointed. My room at a B&B in Brooklyn was outstanding and my rooms at Pensacola and Daytona Beach Shores were great too. Forty four customers rated the Nadller Victoria outstanding and one customer had rated it excellent. At the time of my booking, the hotel was rated 5 out of over thousands of hotels in London in customer service. By the time I arrived it was rated number two in customer service.

Lobby of the Nadler.

Cozy lobby of the Nadler.

The Nadler Victoria Hotel also had a certificate of excellence from Tripadvisor. With such a stellar rating, I felt assured. My daughter prepaid the room on the Nadler’s website saving 30% off the hotel bill.

Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey.

When we arrived, the desk clerk at the Nadler escorted us to our room and explained all the features. The room was well appointed. The sumptuous towels and shiny silverware were warmed. We sunk into our luxurious bed with plush pillows.

Changing of the Guards

People gather for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

The hotel was less than five minutes away from Buckingham Palace, restaurants and the London Tube. Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were a 15 minute walk away. I was a short cab ride away from the Tate Britain. It was the best of all worlds for me.

Tate Britain Museum.

Tate Britain Museum.

There was a bakery next door. The surrounding area was pleasant and appeared safe as well. While there was construction across the street, our room was pleasantly quiet.

We did have a problem with our thermostat but the staff responded quickly and reset it downstairs. Other than that our stay was uneventful. The staff was attentive and helpful throughout our stay.

Kitchenette at the hotel

Fully equipped kitchenette at the Nadler.

The room was equipped with a kitchenette that had a microwave, electric teapot and expresso machine, kitchenware—all the conveniences needed for a picture perfect stay.

“Turning” Point at the Tate Britain Museum

Self portrait of Turner.

Y Self portrait of JMW Turner.

I admire the works of JMW Turner a romantic artist who is known as Britain’s greatest artist. I had seen the movie “Mr. Turner” and was thrilled now to be in London where his works were exhibited in the Tate Britain Museum. There are other artists in the Tate Britain but it was only Turner who I wanted to see.

As I entered the museum, I asked about the Turner paintings. Walking toward the gallery, I was hoping the paintings would not be a disappointment. Thankfully, I was overwhelmed by breadth of the exhibit. It was like taking a walk with a mentor and learning what inspired him. Each group of paintings captured a phase in his life and gave me a clearer understanding of my life as an artist.

Turner's sketchbook.

Seeing Turner’s sketchbook was very moving for me. When an artist shares his skektch he is sharing his heart. It reminded me of my sketchbook.

For most of my life, I had struggled with my calling as an artist. Coming from a family of mathematicians and scientists, I was never truly understood or appreciated as a child. At the Turner exhibit, I finally found self acceptance and inner peace as I strolled through his life.

Turner had the support of a loving father and excelled early as an artist. He won many accolades throughout his life. Turner would sometimes finish a painting while it was hanging moments just before an exhibit opened to the amazement of fellow artists.

Chichester Canal.

Chichester Canal.

Turner loved the ocean and captured it eloquently. He unleashed the fury and power of the ocean in his paintings.

Waves breaking on a Shore.

Waves Breaking on a Shore.

His art revealed life with all its sorrows and emotions. Turner felt deeply about life and it is reflected in his paintings. He did not paint as a spectator.

Death of a Pale Horse.

Death of a Pale Horse.

He was not afraid of controversy. He faced criticism as his paintings became more expressive and less representational. He continued to challenge societal norms and himself throughout his life. He left an indelible mark on Great Britain and me. Here’s to Turner! Britain’s greatest artist.