Monday, May 21, 2018

Tuckahoe: Childhood Home of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson spent seven years of his childhood at the James River plantation of Tuckahoe. His father Peter came here with his family to be the guardian of the Randolph children who had lost both of their parents.

The house is the only frame house on the James River north of Richmond that was not destroyed during the Civil War. Its survival can be credited to the lady of the house who happened to have danced with the Colonel who was charged with burning her home. Instead of burning the house, he stayed to tea and so Tuckahoe was saved.



The front of the house dates from 1733. It was a four-room house, two over two. The additional part of the house was constructed in 1740 after the influx of cash from William Randolph’s marriage to Maria Judith Page. Original slave cabins have survived as well as the overseer’s cottage. On the opposite side of the house is a former gardener’s cottage which was used as a schoolhouse for the Randolph and Jefferson children. The doomed roof may have inspired the young Jefferson.



Formal gardens are located close to the house. They are more formal today than they would have been in the 18th century. A Randolph family cemetery is also located on the grounds. At one time, there was quite an amazing boxwood maze to the east of the house but they have been removed and this lawn is now used as the ceremony space at many wedding that takes place at Tuckahoe.

The inside of the house has very fine wood carving done by an English indentured servant. It has survived in amazing condition for almost 300 years. Photography is not allowed inside the house so you will have to trust that the black walnut is in outstanding condition and the staircase, which was a wedding gift, is still pristine.

Once you leave the original section of the house, the wood paneling goes from black walnut to oak. You get to visit two bedrooms in the original section of the house. No one knows where young Thomas Jefferson actually slept but he was only a child so since the blue bedroom was not the master bedroom, it might just be that room or it may have been in part of the house that is not open to tours.

On the first floor of the original section are the Burnt Parlor and the White Parlor. The names of the rooms are descriptive and honestly, a visit here will fill in the blanks and is highly recommended.

The newer part of the house includes the Great Hall which is a bright and airy space with a door to the side of the house. There are several others rooms that are part of the guided tour of the house.

Plantation Street is the location of the slave cabins which are mostly private residences today but the restroom and a small museum are in one. An herb garden is located outside the kitchens.



From the rear of the house, there are beautiful views all the way down the steep bluff to the James River. At one time, Tuckahoe was a railroad stop and the remnants of the tracks are still clearly visible. The views are so outstanding that on the day of our visit, artists and their easels were lining the ridge overlooking the river.

The house has a fascinating history that continues long beyond the time of the Randolphs and Jeffersons. However, ask about the scandal from the Randolph days, it has it all, intrigue, adultery and murder. Additionally, there is a connection between Tuckahoe and Nemours the great estate of Alfred I DuPont in the Brandywine Valley.

There is also thought to be a resident ghost, Mary Randolph. This is another story you will hear during your fascinating tour of the house and grounds.

Tuckahoe is open to the public only for pre-arranged private tours. There is a small charge for the tour. Our tour lasted about 90 minutes and was fascinating. The history of the home as it relates to Thomas Jefferson is what brought us here but there is so much more to this amazing estate than just this one era in its lengthy history.





Monday, May 14, 2018

Family Vacation Destinations in the Northeast

Summer is a great time to visit the Northeast. So many things to do and places to see are offered that truly, there is something for everyone.

If you ask anyone who lives in the Northeast they will tell you that New England can get very hot and humid during the summer. That is why beach and lake vacations are so popular with locals and tourists alike. The good news is that the Northeast is packed with gorgeous ocean beaches and crystal clear lakes. Surely one will fit everyone's wants and needs.


Saltwater Beaches


If you want to get a real feel for what summer in the Northeast is all about, pack your car, be sure to have a reservation and get in line to cross the Sagamore or the Bourne Bridge onto Cape Cod. No place is more quintessentially New England than the Cape. There will be crowds, prices will be high, you will have to wait to eat at the most popular restaurants but it is worth it for heaping plates of seafood eaten with the smell of the Atlantic Ocean surrounding you.

Have a bowl of "chowda", picnic on the National Seashore, visit Chatham Light and climb the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown. The National Seashore offers miles of pristine beaches and gorgeous sand dunes. This is what summer is all about on Cape Cod.

If you prefer to run the other way when it comes to crowds, then head farther north to Maine. Crowds flock to the beaches in lower Maine, Old Orchard Beach, York Beach and even much farther up at Bar Harbor, however, in between there are many other beaches where you can enjoy a moment of solitude with the sound of the waves crashing in your ears.


Lakes

If you like the idea of a freshwater beach vacation with lots of activities and amusements, there are lakes in the Northeast that offer that experience. Lake George in New York and Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire are as commercial as anyone could want. You will find go-cart rides, water parks, miniature golf and much more to keep you active all through your vacation.

How about a quiet lake where it is still possible to hear the birds tweet and the crickets chirp? Upper Vermont is home to Lake Willoughby where it seems time has stood still since the 1950's. You can rent a cottage or stay at an old-fashioned motel and enjoy talking to your kids and playing games. There isn't much to do up here except relax and that is just the way it should be.


Historic Villages

If you want to spend a day in a historic village there are four very fine ones in the Northeast:
Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, N.H.
Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Mass.
Plimouth Plantation in Plymouth Mass.
Old Mystic Village in Mystic, Conn. 


Presidential Sites

Presidential sites abound with Coolidge, Pierce, Van Buren, Kennedy and two Adams all having sites that are worthy of a visit. Coolidge has sites in both Vermont and Massachusetts, Van Buren in New Hampshire and the Adams and John F. Kennedy in Massachusetts.


Cities

Plan a visit to some amazing cities the Northeast. New York, Boston, Hartford, Providence and Portland all have a lot to offer to visitors. Great museums, exciting festivals, and local walking tours are all available to the many tourists who choose summer to visit.

The Northeastern United States is a great place to spend your summer vacation no matter what you consider the perfect getaway. So pack up the car and the kids and head on up, you will find a warm welcome. With seven states to choose from, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, the possibilities are nearly endless. What are you waiting for?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Visiting the Monastery of St Jeronimos in Belem Portugal

Santa Maria de Belem is the official name of the Monastery of St. Jeronimos. It is one of the most famous monuments in Portugal. Built in the Manueline style, the monastery took over 100 years to build and was home to the Hieronymite Order of monks. The monastery was built on the site of an earlier chapel where sailors came to have their spiritual needs looked after. It was in that chapel that Vasco da Gama prayed before taking off on his journey of discovery.

In 1495 King Manuel I asked the Pope for permission to found a monastery on the site. It was granted and as they say, the rest is history. The connection between the monastery and Vasco da Gama is obvious and his grave is located within the Monastery Church. This is certainly one of the things that you must see on any visit to St Jeronimos.

Belem, pronounced bell-aim is no longer a separate village but part of greater Lisbon and also the home to a number of historic and significant sites to visit. You can combine a visit here with a visit to the National Coaches Museum, the Belem Tower, Monument of the Discoveries and the Ajuda Palace. It is a whole day adventure. The 15 Tram and the 28 Bus come out from downtown and there are several bus companies that also offer cities tours that will take you to the Abbey including Dianatours and Greyline Tours.

The Monastery is an amazing work of art and over the years the many renovations and restorations have changed it, added to it and some cases taken away from it bringing a little bit of each centuries style along with it. It is not purely Manueline in style but combines many styles and is a strikingly beautiful building.

The South Portal is anchored by a statue of Our Lady of Bethlehem holding the baby Jesus and a coffer with the gifts of the Magi in her free hand. Below her are the twelve apostles. Between the two doors, there is a statue of Henry the Navigator, who by the way never got on a ship to travel because he was very prone to seasickness, but that is another story altogether.

When you enter the Monastery the graves of Vasco de Gamma will be on your left and one the right Luis de Comoes. The Abbey also contains the tombs of King Manuel and also the empty tomb of the young King Sebastian who was killed in a battle in North Africa and his body was never recovered.

Beyond the Nave, you can visit the Chapter House where you will find the tomb of the first mayor of Belem, the chancel where King Manuel I and King Joao III and their wives. To see the purely Manueline style of the monastery visit the Cloister.

In 1834 all religious institutions in Portugal were disbanded and the order of St Jerome was no exception. Today you can visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Monastery of St. Jeronimos.  The church is free to visit and the Cloister was 4.50 Euros.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Hotel Review: Hyatt Place Dulles South Chantilly, VA

We have stayed in this area while we visit with my friend Leigh several times, this is, however, the first time we have stayed at the Hyatt Place. Let me say first, it is a lovely hotel,  the lobby is a stunner. 
It isn't just the building that is lovely, it is the staff. I would be remiss if I didn't give kudos to the beautiful Heidi at the check-in desk. She is the one who solved our room issue, made me a cappuccino and was just so friendly every time we passed through the lobby. 

When we arrived on Thursday, the wind was blowing very hard. In our first room, 618 we could hear the wind whistling through our window, it would have made sleep difficult. Heidi found us another room, 611 and we had a great 4-day
stay. 



I love the rooms at the Hyatt Place, we stayed at one in Buffalo last year and loved it. It is two rooms, not really a suite since there is only a half wall separation between the rooms but the sectional sofa and the ottoman are a great addition. 

The room includes a desk and free internet, fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. The bathroom has only a shower and the sink is located outside the bathroom. A closet is offered in that nook. 

The bed was large and comfortable. I love the charging station located on the nightstand. 

Breakfast is included and is a step up from most. The yogurt is Greek, the hot offerings change we had waffles scrambled eggs and homefries with sausage the first day and bacon pancakes and scrambled eggs the second. Donuts were also available day two and the fresh fruit had the addition of blueberries and blackberries. 

Cold boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, and fixings as well as toast and muffins and juice. On day one there was also bananas foster compote which was delicious in the yogurt!! 

The pool is outdoors. 

Food and Starbucks coffee are available 24/7 if you need a snack and I can tell you the cookies were very good!!

We had a lovely stay here and they do allow pets so I suspect we will be back here pretty much every year.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

Springhill Suites Greensboro, NC

Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this particular Springhill Suites. When we arrived the lobby had a line to check people in and two more people came out to the desk to make sure check-in was quick and friendly. 

Our room was on the 4th floor since I always request a high floor and was two rooms, a parlor area and a bedroom. There is a not a full wall between the rooms and one TV is shared by the two rooms. 

When you walk in the door you see the bar ahead of you with a small sink, microwave, fridge and coffee pot. Love that the coffee pot isn't in the bathroom. 

The parlor has a desk, sofa, coffee table and lots of lighting. The TV has the option to watch Youtube and Netflix. We had a king bed and it was very comfortable, too high for Al, he prefers a lower bed but I loved it. 

The bathroom has the sink area outside the area where the toilet and shower. My one complaint was that the fan in the bathroom was loud, really loud and annoying. So much so that we could not leave the light on when we closed the door to give us a clear sightline. 

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, they have a Manager's Reception. We were there on Wednesday and they offer two types of pasta, one white with chicken and one pink and wine, beer and soda. Seriously, we did not need to go out to dinner, it was our dinner. 

Breakfast was also a very plentiful affair with make-your-own waffles, scrambled eggs, and sausage, boiled eggs, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, fresh fruit, including beautiful huge strawberries and blueberries. Lots of things to toast including bagels, English muffins, and bread. But beyond that there were croissants. We do a lot of these buffet breakfasts and this was one of the better ones. 

The Springhill Suites includes an indoor pool and a gym, no hot tub, however. 

If you are going to be in the Greensboro NC area, we can recommend this hotel with confidence. You won't be disappointed. The area is very quiet, but that also means it will be a little drive to find a nice restaurant if you don't happen to visit early in the week. But not nearly as far as I thought you just have to leave the parking lot and go right. 

We have two small complaints, first only two large towels (they are nice and big) in the bathroom, no small towels or facecloths. They were located outside the bathroom. I use two towels, one for my hair and so Al doesn't get a fresh towel and only two coffee pods, one regular one decaf. I am not sure that Springhill Suites really has more single room people than doubles but seriously, I should not have to go ask for more coffee just so that we can each have one. 

These complaints are very minor and compared to the wonderful manager's reception and the friendly staff, easily forgivable. 


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Best Western Windsor Hotel Americus, Ga.

I stayed in Americus because of this historic hotel. It is more than a hundred twenty years old. Of course, it is also well located to visit the Jimmy Carter Historic Site and Andersonville Confederate Prison. One thing I need to warn you about, don't stay here on a Sunday night, the two restaurants in the hotel are both closed, as well as just about every good restaurant in town. 

We were lucky enough to find a parking spot in front of the hotel. All parking is free in town and if you don't get a spot in front, there is a lot down the first street on the left of the hotel. 

We chose a chamber room, it was located on the third floor and while there is an elevator, we still had to go both up and down a small stairway. If you don't or can't do the stairs, go the opposite direction that the signs tell you to go to the room, ours was 322 so go the direction for the lower number rooms. Of course, we didn't find this out until we left. 

Another issue was the fact that I got the breakfast rate. Unfortunately, when I booked online it defaults to the one person in the room so we had one free breakfast. It was my own fault, but annoying none the less. 

The room was pretty, the door was gorgeous. We had a queen bed and there was an armoire, a desk, a fridge, and microwave. The coffee pot, which is a Keurig,  was in the bathroom, however, the coffee and cups are in the room??? Not my favorite place to have it, even though this was a very large bathroom. Internet was good and the TV had plenty of channels. 

Also, the towels are small, plush enough but not oversized in the least. I did, however, love the shampoo that was provided. 


Our breakfast was good, the selection isn't huge but it has enough options. Al had an omelet, I had scrambled eggs. The bacon was particularly good. I was rather surprised in a white tablecloth restaurant to be given individual Smucker's strawberry jam packs, not what I would have expected. 

I took lots of pictures inside the hotel, the lobby is stunning and it is just so pretty all over. The staff was very friendly and everything was clean and in good repair. I had a little problem with the blow dryer but it was my own fault again, the cord pulls out, I didn't realize that and thought it was just so short. lol

If you are looking for a beautiful historic hotel to stay at while visiting historic sites in the part of Georgia, you will be hard-pressed to find anything to compare to the Best Western Windsor Hotel.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Best honeymoon destinations in Vermont

Vermont is a wonderful destination for a honeymoon. It is a four season state that has something to offer any time of year. Here are some of the best honeymoon destinations in Vermont.

Equinox Resort

Manchester, Vt. is the location of the Equinox Resort and Spa. It has undergone a multi-million dollar restoration and has been restored to its former glory. The resort is spread over four distinctive buildings and includes rooms from superior to suites.

For a honeymoon, the deluxe rooms would be a good choice. They are more spacious and include a king size bed and excellent views of either the village, Equinox mountain or the resort gardens.

The resort has an online concierge, you are asked to send them your requests at least 48 hours before your arrival so that they can guarantee that your visit will be as pleasurable as possible.

You can book your spa treatments, a golf tee-time, archery lessons, a land rover driving lesson or a scenic trip, falconry lessons, a day of fly fishing school, or a reservation at one of the restaurants. You will be able to have a wonderfully unique honeymoon in a gorgeous resort that offers lots unusual amenities.

You can swim in the 75-foot indoor pool or lounge in the outdoor hot tub. If you are a fitness buff, you can take a class or just enjoy the state of the art equipment. In the winter, there is skiing in the area and during every season you can enjoy shopping in Manchester Village. You can be as active as you like or just relax in your room, enjoying the views of the area and your new spouse.

Twin Farms

If you are looking for an exceptionally romantic vacation in Vermont, Twin Farms is the perfect place to fulfill that wish. They have received five stars from Mobil and many awards. Everyone from Conde Nast to the Robb Report finds them outstanding. They offer a chance for a private retreat in one of their 10 cabins or one of their 10 other suites scattered across three buildings.

You can relax in front of your private fireplace, or enjoy the great outdoors on their 300 acres of woodlands and lakes. Partake in a variety of activities including fishing, kayaking, hiking, skiing in season and snowshoeing. You can wander to nearby Woodstock Village for shopping. There is an on-site spa available and you can schedule an in-room couple’s massage. Food is included in the rate and they have an exceptional wine cellar. The rate for this amount of luxury is high, but a honeymoon is a very special event.

Vermont is an ideal place to spend your honeymoon. Whether you want an outstanding resort or a romantic bed and breakfast, the allure of Vermont has been calling newlyweds for years. No matter the season, the Green Mountain State is the perfect place to spend some time with your new spouse.

For more information:

Equinox Resort