Monday, June 26, 2017

Planning a weekend getaway to Providence RI

Providence is a city that has reinvented itself. It is no longer the dingy city that is was in the past. You will notice the difference right away especially if you haven't been here in a while. It is a great place for a getaway. A weekend getaway to Providence Rhode Island offers activities for lovers, seniors, friends, and families.

Providence is connected to just about everywhere with TS Green International Airport. They also have an Amtrak Station which is connected to the NE Corridor. 

Driving into downtown Providence is also easy as Interstate 95 goes right through and coming from the west Route 6 takes you through Eastern Connecticut.

Downtown there are great hotels. The Omni is connected with Providence Place Mall by a skywalk. You never have to go outside. The Biltmore is a historic hotel which also has a spa in their building so if getting away to a spa sounds wonderful, the Biltmore is a great choice. If you have the kids with you, the Providence Hilton has an indoor pool to keep them entertained and is within walking distance of just about everything. If you want breakfast included the Hampton Inn will satisfy your needs.

In the summer months, Waterfire is a great weekend attraction. Fires are set along the three rivers in downtown Providence. The water gleams, the smell of wood fires fills the air and it is both an exciting and a romantic time in Providence. It does attract quite a crowd so makes your plans early. Waterfire begins in May and runs through early November.

Providence is a walkable city but if you would like to take a trolley tour it is a great way to learn about the layout of the city and also some interesting information. Providence Trolley Tours offers tours every day but Tuesday through the end of September.

If you are interested in history and art a walk on Benefit Street with a stop at RISD Museum of Art is in order. If you are coming for a weekend, save your visit for Sunday morning when the entrance to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum is free. There is an interesting permanent collection with the addition on changing exhibits.

If you have the kids along, Providence Place Mall not only has an IMAX theater they also have Dave and Buster's which is guaranteed to entertain the children all the way from the wee ones to the teens.

Be sure to check what show is happening at the Performing Arts Center. This amazingly attractive art deco building has a full schedule of great shows. 

Providence is a great place for dining. They are especially famous for their Italian food and if you want the best you can head to the Federal Hill neighborhood where the best of the best are located. If you are not sure where it is, taking the trolley tour will introduce you to it. Al Forno is one of the most famous of the many Federal Hill restaurants.

If you are looking for Seafood, McCormick and Schmick has a downtown location and for steak Flemings Steakhouse. If you want a French style bistro, give Bravo Brasserie a try. They are located right across the street from the Trinity Repertory Theater.

Lots of things are always s going on in Providence. Check out Go Providence for what is happening when you are planning your getaway weekend in Providence. I have spend many weekends in Providence and it never gets old. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to avoid boredom on a cruise

Have you been hesitant to take a cruise because you were afraid you would be bored? It is amazing how many people feel that way. You could not be more wrong. If anything you will be overwhelmed by the variety of things to do on your cruise.


~Are you a person that loves to work out? On most cruises, you will find a state of the art gym with a selection of cardio and strength training equipment. In addition, there are classes offered in everything from aerobics to yoga. There are personal trainers as well as qualified instructors and you don't have to be a professional athlete to take the classes, many will be beginner level.

~If you prefer the ocean air, most ships have a jogging track or at least a deck that is marked off for walking. You may find a basketball court, volleyball, table tennis, rock wall, skating rink, shuffleboard and even bocce. And if golf is your passion you can find cruises with golf simulators and putting greens.

~Most cruise ships have one or more pools and hot tubs. You can lounge around them or swim laps. If you need to get your sore muscles worked on, you can visit the spa. Spas can perform a variety of services from scrubs and wraps to facials and massages. Pedicures, manicures, teeth whitening,and acupuncture are other possible options.


~Are you competitive? Take part in a trivia contests, Wii completions, Newly Wed Game and much more. When not in port, you can head to the casino and take part in games of chance or use the slot machines. Lesson on how to play poker are often offered and then enter a Poker Tournament.

~Dancing the night away under the stars is certainly an option or in the night club. If you need dance lessons, most cruises will offer them. You can listen to music in one of the lounges and have a fancy frozen drink almost anywhere on the ship.

~Are you an art lover? You can preview and then attend an art auction on some ships. Sometimes the works will be hung on the ship where you can preview them for days before the auctions, others have a preview before the auction. You can attend the auction without any requirement to buy.

~Most cruise ships have a large theater where you will be able to view Las Vegas style reviews, comedians, magicians and singers, and dancers. Many ships also offer films either in a theater or outdoors near the pool.


~You can attend lectures, take a computer or photography class, learn new cooking techniques, tour closed parts of the ship or just read a book. Check out what the cruises you are considering have to offer, there is a great deal of difference one cruise to another and one cruise line to another.


~The size of the ship will likely determine the amount of shopping available. The new larger ships have a variety of shopping opportunities beyond just the obvious shipboard offering.

~At most ports there are shopping opportunities and especially in the Caribbean, they even offer lectures on how to get the best deals from their specially selected stores.


~Many cruise lines are getting away from more formal dining and offering guests lots of options. Specialty restaurants give guests the opportunity to avoid the crowds and dine in a smaller more intimate location. It can be formal or as casual as Johnny Rockets.

~These days, cupcake shops and coffee bars are common and don’t rule out a brick oven pizza or donuts.


~If you want to get off the ship there will be excursions offered at each port and you can do everything from parasailing to historic tours. While these are an additional charge in most cases, they add a great deal to a cruise.

Every ship and every cruise line offer different activities, it is important that you do your research so that you are not disappointed with your cruise.

If there is one thing that you can be guaranteed of on a cruise it is that you will not have the time or the energy to do everything that will be offered. Bored, not for a minute, more likely you will be exhausted and happy to take a little snooze by the pool.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Visiting enchanting Longwood Garden

Known as The World's Premier Horticultural Showplace, Longwood Gardens are located in the Brandywine Valley between Philadelphia and Wilmington Delaware. The area was originally inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Indians and in the 18th century by a Quaker family by the name of Peirce. Pierre du Pont was the third generation of the famous du Pont family and he purchased this land early in the 20th century to save the trees that were growing on the property. 

Over a period of more than twenty years, Pierre created the garden as it is today. While Pierre created the garden it was the Pierces who created an arboretum of fabulous trees that are in many ways the cornerstone of the gardens even today.

When you arrive at Longwood Gardens you will park and then purchase your ticket in the Visitor Center. There is a four-minute orientation video and then you exit out the rear of the center. Which way you head is up to you. Along with your ticket, you will receive a map, be sure that you have one, this is a large place and it is pretty easy to get confused.

There are always special things going on so you should check that out before you go into the gardens. The fountains do their show at set times as well so you may want to arrange your visit so that you are close by to watch.

Every season is different at Longwood so be prepared to enjoy your visit even if it is a repeat. Christmas time when the bushes are covered in lights is especially lovely. Really every season is lovely. If you go right when you leave the Visitor Center then you will walk along the Cow Lot then turn right and walk past the Open Air Theater and into the Flower Garden Walk. 

This Garden is lovely and the flowers are grown together by color. All blue flowers in one bed, then purples and then pinks. Different varieties that complement each other on one-half of the garden and then reds, oranges, and yellows on the other half and in the middle a fountain. If you are interested in plants there are plaques to tell you what each plant is.

You can walk through the woods to the Large Lake and on to the Italian Water Garden. This garden was designed by Mr. DuPont himself after a garden he saw when he visited Italy. You can walk back through Peirce's woods. This area is rustic but there are surprises, a fountain here a lovely view there. When you leave the woods you are at the DuPont House.

You walk through the house and you can sit and watch another video "Pierre Samuel du Pont A Man and His Garden" which lasts about 15 minutes and runs continuously. 

This was the du Pont's weekend home and they entertained many famous people here. The house was originally built by the Peirce family in 1730 and it was enlarged four different times. The du Ponts added a house of equal size to what was there and then connected the two with a conservatory. In the house, there is a museum with lots of pictures and more.

After the house, you can head for the Conservatory and the wonder selection of exotic flowers. If you love orchids and humidity this is the place for you. If you haven't seen the fountains yet, this is the time to do that as you head to the Topiary Garden and the Rose Garden.

A restaurant and a great gift shop round out the attractions. You can spend two or three hours or a whole day at Longwood Gardens. It is really up to you.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Elle Day Spa Pittsfield, Mass.

Located on the exterior of the Crown Plaza in downtown Pittsfield, Elle Day Spa offers a wide variety of services for women and for men. Since we were on our anniversary getaway, I often book us for massages so that we can really relax and enjoy our time away. 

We had appointment at 5:15 p.m. on the first full day we were staying here. Very little information was required of me when I booked over the phone and I have to admit this is the first spa I have ever been to where I was not required to fill out any paperwork with medical questions etc. Very strange but they didn't tell me to arrive 15 minutes early which is also another thing that is always done. We did arrive early and were escorted to the relaxation room to wait for our therapists. 

I am not going to review my therapist, I didn't ask her permission to write about her so I won't get specific except to say that we did not talk throughout the 80 minutes of my hot stone massage. Since we all know that I like to chat this was a little stressful for me rather than relaxing but I was able to maintain the silence and just enjoy the feeling. 

The spa is small, I didn't see any showers and if I had chosen a scrub, I would have had an issue with that, I hate having to put my clothes back on when I can still feel the grit from the salt. Yes I know, they wipe it off but invariably I feel gritty. I want to take a shower right away before they put on the lotion. 

I was very comfortable, the spa is clean and no pressure to buy any products. I would definitely come here again if I am in thee neighborhood. Al enjoyed his therapeutic massage as well.They offer a wide selection of massages, facial, manicures, pedicures and more so check out their website for additional information. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Stop at the Norman Rockwell Museum Stockbridge, MA. Home of Illustration Art

Talk about bad timing, we decided to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum on June 9, 2017. The exhibition Inventing America : Rockwell and Warhol opens on the 10th of June. Bummer. I could see some of the items in the exhibition through the open arches and it looks phenomenal, I will have to come back. It runs June to October. 

I am going to suggest that if you want to get the most from your visit you pay the extra $5 for the audio guide. It was excellent and we certainly enjoyed listening to Norman Rockwell's son tell us about his father. 

I think like most American's I know who Norman Rockwell is but I have never visited this museum before and now that I have I can't help asking myself "what were you waiting for"? It is a wonderful museum. He had as one person described him, the "eye of a camera". He could capture a moment in time and add so much detail to it that it could take hours to see it all, maybe even a lifetime. This museum has the largest of original work by Norman Rockwell in the world. 

The museum is not huge, it is very doable and the fact that there are several exhibits every year means that you can come again and again and it is always changing. You will see some covers from the Saturday Evening Post that are very familiar but there are also paintings that may be new to you. The Four Freedom's has its own room and deservedly so. 

Seating is provided throughout the museum and docent talks are also offered. We listened to the one at 1:30 p.m. and it was fascinating. An enthusiastic docent is a wonderful thing. 

We stopped to grab a sandwich in the cafe. The sandwiches and salads are catered by the Red Lion and the food is exceptionally good. They also have local SoCo ice cream, which I highly recommend. You can visit the artist's studio if you are interested and the grounds. 

The museum shop offers a fantastic selection of his prints in frames and without. Check out their website for upcoming exhibits. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Visiting Edith Wharton's Home The Mount in Lennox, MA.

I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea that The Mount even existed before I found it online yesterday. It is the home that was designed and built by Edith Wharton. She was very active in the design of the home, especially with her first architect and friend  Ogden Codman Jr.

Tours of the house are offered on the hour and we arrived in time to take the noon tour. Tour of the gardens are also offered as well as an evening ghost tour on Wednesdays. Parking is offered at the gate where you pay and it is a quarter mile walk to the house. However, if you have issue with the walk, there is parking up at the house which is what we did. Do take the time to enjoy all the sculpture in the grounds on the way to the house.

You meet in the courtyard outside to begin your tour. Our guide was Kelly, and I can't say enough good things about her, she was very knowledgeable and she made everything she told us about  Edith and her world, seem totally fascinating.

To say I didn't know anything about Edith Wharton is an understatement but now I feel like I know her quite well. She grew up in an old New York family "the Jones" and it is thought that the phrase keeping up with the Jones refers to her family.

She spent 6 years of her life, from age 4-10 traveling around Europe with her parents and came home having learned three languages. She also developed a love a Europe that remained with her for the rest of her life and she eventually moved to France. 

This is a unique tour in that you are encouraged to sit and enjoy the furniture but given the fact that it is not original to the house, this is more understandable. 

You visit three floors of the house, if you can't do stairs there is an elevator. The first floor are the public rooms, then upstairs for the bedrooms and down two sets of stairs to the kitchen area. 

The tour ends in the gift shop and you are encouraged to enjoy the gardens. You can also visit the cafe for a light bite to eat. 

The tickets are a little pricey but they are good for 7 days so you can feel free to come back and enjoy more. When the tour is over you can walk around the house at your leisure. Check out their website for additional information. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hancock Shaker Village

Located on the outskirts of Pittsfield, Mass., Hancock Shaker Village was founded in the late 1780s. It reached it's peak in the 1830s when there were more than 300 believers here. 

The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming were founded in Manchester, England in 1747 by mother Ann Lee. She and a small group of followers came to the United States in 1774. The name shakers was given to the members in a derogatory way in the early days because of the way they whirled and dance during their religious services. At some point, they decided to add the name shaker to their official title and it came into common usage. If you attend the presentation on Shaker Music and Dance that takes place in the brick building, you will notice that the name shaker is used in some of their songs. 

Hancock Shaker Village is open from April to October and it is the sort of place that changes with the seasons. In the spring, there are young animals born on the farm and the fields will be in the process of being planted. At other times of the year you may see things growing or being harvested. You can visit it in all the seasons to enjoy different happenings. 

When you first arrive you will be given a schedule for the day. I suggest coming as close to opening as possible so you don't miss anything. Crafters work in the village as well and they may be displaying their expertise in the morning or in the afternoon. 

On the day we were there,  Weaving was happening in the Dairy and the Weave Shop in the morning, Blacksmithing in the Tannery  from 10:30 a.m. to noon and Woodworking at the Brethren's Shop in the afternoon.


10:30 a.m. Farm Friends in the Discovery Barn
11 a.m. Interpreter Talk in the Brick Building
noon    Farm and Garden Tour meet at Brick Poultry House
1 p.m.  Water Turbine Demo Laundry and Machine Shop
1:30 p.m.  Shaker Music and Dance in the Brick Building
3 p.m.  Interpreter Talk in the Brick Building

As you can see, in addition to visiting all the buildings on both sides of the street and walking the woodland and farm trails at your leisure, you can fill an entire day with activities. You can do all or none of the these added activities and still have a great visit. Children will love visiting the Discovery Barn and among other things getting to dress up as Shakers. 

If you get peckish, the cafe has some very delicious food. We stopped before we began our tour and had a very good ham and cheese sandwich. 

Begin you visit by watching an 8 minute video about the Shakers and Hancock Shaker Village in particular. Also in the Visitor Center is an exhibit entitled Days of Youth: The Lives of Shaker Children. 

20 buildings are located throughout the village. Visiting them requires the ability to climb stairs and cross the street. While the visitor center, store and restaurant are accessible, most building are not. My Fitbit recorded over 5,000 steps during our 2.5 hour visit. A behind the scenes tour is also offered for an additional charge, you can ask about it at the desk in the Visitor Center. 

By all means spend some time visiting their wonderful store, I bought a high quality broom the last time I was here and this time I got more of the delicious jelly that they sell.