Thursday, October 19, 2017

Springhill Suites Fishkill New York

Springhill Suites in Fishkill is a new hotel and the design is just gorgeous. The rooms are sleek and modern with a very stylish appearance. We loved it at first sight. The person who welcomed us at the desk was friendly but did not tell us what time breakfast was served or that a side door was much more convenient for our rooms. 

I was not welcomed as a silver member which I always am and thanked for my loyalty. Usually I arrive in my room to find extra towels and pillows which I have requested, they are not guaranteed but usually, they are there, not here they weren’t.

Another thing that I found odd was that I received an email about noon on the day we were checking in asking me if we were still coming. Since I had two rooms reserved and would have been charged a very high cancellation fee if I didn’t show, I certainly was. What if I had not looked at my emails as we were driving, would they have given my room away? That I found rather disturbing.

Once we got to our room, we were quite delighted with what we found. I had a king sized bed, a very comfortable one I have to say, A desk that was part of a room divider, a sofa that turns into a single bed and a trundle bed a coffee table with a tray on top, Keurig coffeemaker, microwave, and fridge.

The bathroom is downright glamorous, with a huge walk-in shower, sleek white countertops and sink, a night light which I love, glass barn door and separate, though not closed off toilet area. Also a good sized closet and though Joe did not have a luggage rack in his, we did in ours. A metal bench  covers the radiator and it served as a good place for him to place his luggage.

The room was very clean and had plenty of plugs but the nightstand on the left side of the bed had no plugs so I couldn’t plug in my phone unless I changed sides of the bed which I didn’t want to do, that I found inconvenient. How do they know that both of you don’t want to charge your devices on your nightstand? Breakfast is a wonderful affair with scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey sausage, cheese to top the eggs and soft tacos to wrap your eggs and salsa. Chocolate croissants, bread, bagels, and muffins. Oatmeal, cold cereal and make your own waffles, you won’t go away hungry.

Marriott has also decided to get rid of the hot tubs in their newer hotels or ones that they update to the new design. I am not at all pleased with this decision and it may well be what drives me into the arms of another chain. When we travel, I enjoy a soak in the hot tub after a long day on the road, I find their decision very disappointing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Structures built for world fairs that you can still visit

World’s Fairs and Expositions have been happening for over 150 years. They have been located in many different cities and the structures are usually built with the intention of being temporary. In spite of that, there are a number of structures that have remained for many times longer than their original designers intended. Here are a few of them that you may just want to visit.

Probably the oldest extant structure that was built for a World’s Fair or Exposition is the Eiffel Tower which was constructed in 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The International Exposition of Paris lasted for 180 days and welcomed over 32 million people. It was certainly the first of its kind to achieve this scope of influence and the Eiffel Tower was the showpiece of the exhibition. Imagine how impressive it was over 100 years ago before there were buildings as tall as those we have today. And yet, there is hardly a person who would visit Paris in 2016 and not see and be impressed by the marvelous building designed by Gustav Eiffel.

The Parthenon in Nashville was built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897. It was originally supposed to open in 1896 which was the actual 100th anniversary but none the less it was a great success welcoming almost 2 million visitors in the six months that it was open. The Parthenon was the Fine Arts Building at the exposition and proved to be one of the most popular. So popular in fact that it was not torn down with the rest of the temporary buildings. That is not to say that the gorgeous building of today is totally original, it isn’t. It had to undergo a massive rebuild in order to make it permanent. Any visitor to Nashville will agree, it is amazing. So amazing in fact that when the Greek Government was going work on the original, they used the Nashville version to help them, pretty impressive for a temporary building.

One of Brussels Belgium’s most iconic sights is the Atomium. It was built for the 1958 World’s Fair and was the main building of the fair. Five of the spheres on the structure are open to the public and offer a permanent exhibit, temporary exhibit space and also some wonderful views. No visit to Brussels is complete without at least having your picture taken in front of this unusual structure. It was built in an era where atomic energy had been used to end a war and ways were being looked at for a peaceful use of atomic energy.

These are just three of the many interesting buildings that have been built for World’s Fairs. A few others include the Vasco da Gama Tower in Lisbon, Portugal, The Unisphere in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., The Space Needle in Seattle, Wash., The Palace of Fine Arts in Chicago and the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas.

As these all indicate, being the location of a World’s Fair can mean that a tourist attract will be left behind for visitor’s to enjoy for years to come.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fall antique shopping in Essex , Ma.

Essex, Ma. is a mecca for antique lovers. It is a charming small town that combines a wide selection of places to shop with some amazing food. It is the ideal location for a fall weekend getaway.

Located just 34 miles north of Boston, it is a short trip from most areas of New England. Route 133 runs through the center of town and connects Essex with Ipswich and Gloucester. Along this route, you will find many of the antique stores that the town is famous for. For the serious antique lover, there are some first class shops here. For those who like to browse through shops piled high with affordable treasures, there is plenty of that as well.

Alexander Westeroff Antiques is quite unique in its location, the owners have done a wonderful job of re-purposing the former Methodist Church. They specialize in lighting and dining furniture with a truly superb collection of well-documented pieces at all times. Not everyone can afford to shop here but browsing is free.

Another great shop in town is David Neligan Antiques. This writer was immediately reminded of the shops of the Cotswold village of Moreton in the Marsh. David has a good eye for something special and that may be the result of his years at Christie’s. The shop is filled with an eclectic mix or furniture and decor that is constantly changing. You need to return here often to see what new treasures have come in.

If maps and historic prints are what set your heart fluttering, a stop at The Scrapbook will be called for. Vincent Caravella the owner is proud of his shop and will be happy to give you a history lesson about anything that might catch your interest. The stock in the shop is always changing but you can expect to see great botanical prints, maps from around the world and some amazing art. Vincent also does quality framing so you can take home the complete package. There are also some gifts in the shop which coordinate with the prints; you have to see them to really understand.

Robert Coviello has two shops on Main Street, Main Street Antiques and Robert Coviello Antiques. Main Street Antiques is as brash and bold as Robert Coviello Antiques is sophisticated and staid. Both of these shops warrant a visit and are very enjoyable, for totally different reasons. Main Street Antiques is chock a block filled with things you never knew you had to have and his other shop offers some wonderful collectible items from around the world as well as furniture at both locations.

The White Elephant is as eclectic a shop as you will find in Essex. While you are probably not going to find a rare and unusual antique here, there are abundant books, glassware, and bric-a-brac. The room with $1 books is guaranteed to keep most people occupied for quite some time. If you are really looking for a bargain, they have an outlet that is open on the weekend and is located on the road to Ipswich where everything is half price.

If you are looking for something to bring home that is made locally, the place to go is  Sea Meadow Gift Shop. There are many great things to enjoy here even before you get into the shop. The yard is filled with birdhouses and wind art for your yard. Inside there is jewelry, soaps, books and toys and lots more. It is a great place to just poke around.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to antiques and shopping in Essex. There are over 30 antique stores alone and though this writer wanted to visit them all, it will take a couple more visits to accomplish that.

Be sure to book at room at the George Fuller House Bed and Breakfast and plan some wonderful dining at all the amazing restaurants in town. You can make a whole weekend out of antique shopping in Essex.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Things to do in Charleston, South Carolina in the fall

Charleston, South Carolina is a great place at any time of the year. There are lots of events, festivals, and entertainment that are geared to people of all ages. As the summer heat moves out of the Low Country, here are just a few of the things to do in Charleston, SC in the fall.

The Charleston Farmers' Market is open at Marion Square on Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is a great opportunity to get some great fresh local produce and handmade products. From September 3 through November 28 come and enjoy the best in food, arts and crafts as residents and visitors have been doing for the last 26 years. In December there is a holiday market on both Saturday and Sunday.

For a month, for the last 39 years, homes and gardens in Charleston have opened up for tours. For 2017 the dates are October 5-29. The tours are a fundraiser for the  Preservation Society of Charleston and highlight architecture from the Georgian period right through to the present day. Private homes, historic buildings, and churches are all included.

For most of these buildings, this is the only way you would ever be able to tour them. It goes on for almost 4 weeks and there are a variety of different ticket options. You can tour a single destination, an entire area or buy the entire time. This is a highlight of the fall season in Charleston. 

The fall is the perfect time to enjoy The Sound of Charleston. The fall concert series will begin early in the month of September and run through December. The programs will be presented at  the Circular Congregational Church on Wednesday and/or Thursday evenings at 7 p.m.   It combines music with the history of Charleston and is something that will be of interest to older children, adults, and seniors.

The Harvest Festival in North Charleston's Wannamaker County Park takes place on November 4, 2017 in Mullet Hall Equestrian Center. A full day of fun for the entire family.  

If you are feeling the urge to get in the holiday spirit, for three days in mid-November the  Charleston Holiday Market comes to the Charleston Area Convention Center. Bring your camera to get pictures of the kids with Santa and have your wallet and credit card ready to do some serious shopping. It is a great time for the entire family.

Doing a ghost tour is a favorite thing to do at any time of the year, but in the fall with Halloween, it is even more exciting. You can take a 90-minute walking tour of the Provost Dungeon in the Old Exchange Building with Bull Dog Tours until November 30th. Would you prefer to tour in a mule-drawn carriage? Palmetto Carriage Tours offers a ride to some of the most haunted graveyards and buildings in the city.

Perhaps you would like to join Mike Brown of Old Charleston Tours on a 90-minute walk that is guaranteed to give you a look at some of the lesser known stories that you won’t hear anywhere else.

These are just a few of the many things that are available to do in Charleston, South Carolina in the fall. There are many more. The CVB has a calendar that lists most of the events that are taking place this fall. You will need to make your reservations for accommodations early as this is a very popular destination.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Chicago is a great place to visit in the fall

Chicago is a wonderful place to visit in the fall. The heat and humidity of the summer has gone and the air is crisp and cool. The wind may be whipping off of Lake Michigan so hang on to your hat and watch the bright leaves as they swirl through the air.

In the fall, there are plenty of farmers markets all over the city that will provide fresh fruits and vegetables plus all the items you will need to decorate for fall. There is nothing like a crispy apple or a piece of spicy pumpkin pie to set the mood for a perfect fall weekend.

The Chicago Botanic Garden will have many special events throughout the fall. Be sure to check their event calendar. Among the many events is a costume parade for pooches and lots more in October and the Holiday Market on December 6 from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.  There is always something happening at the Botanic Garden.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a Chicago favorite and it is free. In the fall you can enjoy Fall Fest which will include a corn maze and hay rides as well as some attractions that require tickets and Spooky Zoo Spectacular which will include shows, trick or treating,  and other family activities.

If you are going to be in Chicago on Halloween or anytime for that matter make reservations to take the  Chicago Haunting Tour. Rated one of the top ten ghost tours in the country, there is no better time of year to find out about all the spectral sightings that Chicago has to offer. You can't miss the black Haunting's Bus which you will meet across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe.

Chicago knows how to celebrate Oktoberfest and St. Alphonsus Church is the location to be for an authentic German Experience. September 25-27 you can enjoy homemade brats, live German music and plenty of cold beer.

The Magnificent Mile Light Festival takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It is the kick-off event of the holiday shopping season. Hundreds of thousands of lights will be twinkling and there are activities for all members of the family.

Some of the stores will have their holiday window displays in place and the Parade is sure to please everyone. For many families it is a holiday tradition. After the parade watch the fireworks that take place along the Chicago River.

Join over 300,000 other visitors who will enjoy the Chicago  Chriitkindlmarket beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving and running through Christmas Eve. Entertainment is featured, the Annual Christmas Tree lighting, and a children's lantern parade. You can shop at the booths, eat traditional holiday foods and get into the spirit of the upcoming Holidays.

Yes, fall is a great time to visit Chicago and these are just a few of the special events that will be taking place. You can always visit the Art Institute, The Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and the Navy Pier. Book your accommodations early as this is a popular time of the year to visit Chicago.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Arkell Museum at Canajoharie New York

The Arkell Museum was created by the founder of Beech-Nut Packing Company Bartlett Arkell. He collected works by some of the premier American artists of the late 19th and early 20th century. Unfortunately, many of them were not on display when we visited. I certainly would have loved to see the Mary Cassatt!!

What we did get to see were two exhibitions that were set up to celebrate the anniversaries of the Women’s Rights movement and the Erie Canal. In spite of our disappointment at not getting to see more paintings from their collection, we did enjoy our visit here. I did like having a face to put on some of the women who worked so hard to get the vote for women.

Given our experience, I would suggest checking their website to see what actually will be on display when you plan to visit.

They don't allow you to use photos of their collections, you need permssion and I believe they charge. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Seeing Shakespeare in Stratford on Avon

I have been to Stratford on Avon several times, by several I mean 5 or 6. Part of any visit to Stratford is taking in a play at the RSC.  Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC ) is a repertory theater company. What this means is that the plays rotate and that the same actors must learn multiple roles in multiple plays. It is not every actor who is up for this challenge so you can expect to see the best of the best. 

The RSC has been operating under the name Royal Shakespeare Company since 1961 but it has been around under different names for over 125 years.

It was in 1875 that a local brewer, Charles Edward Flower first decided that Stratford being Shakespeare’s home needed to have a Shakespearean Theater. It was opened four years later but it took them over 20 years to attract major names to their productions. They were granted a royal charter in 1925 but the theater was destroyed by a fire the following year.

A worldwide campaign was launched and a new theater was constructed. By the 1940′s major actors were performing in Stratford. Many names are ones we all recognize, Vivien Leigh, Michael Redgrave, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier.

The sixties saw the name RSC attached to the company and it is now considered a great honor to be one of their players. A new crop of actors has sharpened their skills here including Judi Dench, Ian Richardson, and Trevor Nunn.

The Swan Theater was added in 1986 and used part of the shell of the 1926 building.  The main theaters in Stratford are the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan. The Swan is a much smaller more intimate venue.

While you are in Stratford, take the time to visit Shakespeare’s grave which is in the church an easy walk from the theater complex. Walk along the river Avon, feed the ducks get to know the city that Shakespeare knew. It is a bit of a tourist trap but in a good way.

I am a great Shakespeare fan and have enjoyed many Shakespearean plays but the one that will always stick in my mind was the one I saw on September 11, 2001, it was Hamlet and it was in Stratford. A very modernistic version with the sound of a whirling helicopter and the exceptional cast made for an unforgettable night, especially given what had occurred in the U.S. on that day.

In 2006 I saw the Canterbury Tales Part I at the Swan Theater and it was so good that when the RSC brought Part 2 to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., it was a no-brainer whether to go and was well worth the trip.

There is nothing quite like seeing Shakespeare performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and if you want to see the best there is, make an effort to see a performance. They do travel the world so you may not need to go to Stratford, but in my opinion, nothing else compares. 

Of course, while you are there you can see the homes that are a part of the story of the live of the bard and even visit his grave.