Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Blogger: Top San Francisco Things to See

Thank you to fellow blogger Leigh Goessl for guest blogging on The Traveling Grandma.

San Francisco is a beautiful and warm-welcoming gateway to the Pacific Ocean. A trip to San Francisco will be a treasured memory to last a lifetime. There is much to see and do in this wonderful city.

A great way to kick off your trip is to take a narrated tour. If you hop on a trolley and tour the city with one of the many companies which offer this service, you'll receive a terrific sight-seeing tour with great commentary from a local tourist guide. It's a fabulous way to get a better idea of what sites you want to explore more in-depth during your vacation.

The tour will show you popular attractions such as the Exploratorium, Presidio, Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, Chinatown and much more. Some tours allow a few stops, the one we had also stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge. The tour lasted about two hours and it was a great time saver for us because we were able to narrow down some areas we wanted to revisit.

My Top Picks of Things to See in San Francisco


This is the number one tourist attraction and if you only plan to go to San Francisco once in your life, this is a must see. It's a good idea to purchase tickets ahead of time because they sell out quickly. The boat trip across the bay is well worth it and you'll want to leave plenty of time to explore this historical prison.


JapanTown is a very peaceful and serene place to visit and you can simply wander around the streets and malls exploring the shops and restaurants. We shopped a while, then stopped to have lunch in one of the restaurants at a mall; the food was incredibly good.

Fisherman's Wharf

What's a trip to San Francisco without a visit to the piers? Between the restaurants, shops, arcades, street shows and other tourist attractions which call the pier home, it's fun to spend a few hours there. The sea lions who sun themselves on Pier 39 are a great free show for the kids (and adults too!). The Pampanito submarine and the Liberty WWII cargo ship are also housed on Pier 45. Touring a submarine is a unique experience, especially if you're a history enthusiast.

The Musee Mecanique

This is an "old style" arcade with historical music machines to video games. It's located down at the piers and is an excellent way to spend an hour or two. This place appears to be one of San Francisco's best kept secrets, we had no idea it was there until we stumbled upon it while exploring the piers. You can even play the nickelodeon machines for a quarter or two in this remarkable museum-like environment.

Lombard Street

The "crookedest" street truly does exist! Definitely worth a peek and it's a great photo to bring home. If you have patience, get in line and take a drive down it for what's bound to be an interesting experience (we chose to view it from across the street because the line was too long).

Off the Beaten Path: Drive along Route 1

This outing will take you out of the city, but it's worth setting aside a day to do this. Driving the west coast shoreline is an amazing and breathtaking view and positively worth the trip. You can buy a parking pass for a small nominal fee and stop at all the beaches along the coastline to drink in the view. You'll bring home some of the most spectacular photographs.

Our trip was during August and while we were prepared for some chilly days, we didn't realize the extent of just how nippy it could get. The highest temperature the week we were there was 60 degrees, but it felt like 50! If you're planning a trip to San Francisco, no matter what the season, make sure you pack some warm clothing.

San Francisco is a great destination to visit with much to see and do. You won't be disappointed!

Be sure to thank Leigh by visiting her blogs. 

Photos by Leigh Goessl
A Visitor's Guide to the Washington, D.C. Metro Area 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Roosevelt Inn Hyde Park, New York

Located in Hyde Park, NY, the Roosevelt Inn has an abundance of charm and comfort to offer. On the exterior, it looks like a typical motel but there is nothing typical about the rustic rooms. They are a blast from the past and reminiscent of the heydays of the motel in the 1940s and 50s.

When it comes to rooms, you have choices. You can stay in one of the rustic rooms or you can choose a deluxe room or suite. If you want a king-sized bed or two double beds, you will need to choose one of the deluxe rooms. These rooms have modern furniture and more space. Check the website for more details about what the different rooms provide. 

We opted to stay in one of the rustic rooms, choosing charm over space. Our room had twin beds with very comfortable mattresses. The other option for the historic rooms is a double bed. The beds were covered with bedspreads from Bates of Maine which will remind you of your childhood at grandma’s house. The walls are tongue in groove paneling giving it a real cabin feel. I found it quite enchanting.

The room has a closet, a desk and chair and a flat screen TV. Wi-Fi is offered in all rooms. The bathroom has a shower and is tiled. Everything was super clean. I fell in love at first sight. I found the closet door quite charming, solid wood with a great shine just like the ones in my mother’s house. 

The closet has your ironing board and extra bedding.  The room is small but you have absolutely everything you need.

Beyond that, however, The Coffee Shop provides a cup of tea or ice if you need it in the evening. Popcorn and a microwave are also available. In the morning, use your room key to get breakfast for yourself. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and orange juice is offered. Make yourself a bowl of cereal or oatmeal. Grab a bagel or donut from Dunkin’ Donuts or make a toast or English muffin. Fresh bananas were also offered. Gluten-free oatmeal was also available.

I absolutely loved this motel and the owner could not have been more friendly or accommodating. She was making up some holiday wreaths in the coffee shop and I popped in to get some ice and stayed and enjoyed a cup of coffee and conversation.And since most of you know me, it was an extended conversation that got into travel and genealogy and DNA.

If you are visiting Hyde Park to tour the FDR Historic Site and the Vanderbilt Mansion, the Roosevelt Inn  has the perfect location. Several restaurants are located less than a mile away. Margaret will give you suggestions if you ask. They do have brochures in the office so that you can see what the menus look like.

I know that personally, I will never stay anywhere else when I am visiting the area and I highly recommend that you give it a try. They will be closed for the months of January and February and they are extremely popular at other times so make your reservations early.

Some of the rooms are designated child-free so that you can enjoy a romantic getaway, however, families with children are very welcome here.  The deluxe suite has two rooms and can accommodate a larger family comfortably.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Derby Cathedral Center

Located across Iron Gate from the Cathedral this Centre offers more than just your regular gift shop. They also have a sweet little coffee/tea shop and in the basement the Cathedral Treasury.

Let’s start with the gift shop, it isn’t just your regular gift shop, yes there are religious items, prayer books bibles and the like but there are also local products and crafts. Since it was early January there were some very good sales on Christmas items, in fact, I bought some very English Christmas cards if you are on my list you may just get one next year. There were also sharply discounted Christmas puddings and cakes. I did look over the local jellies, jams, and chutneys as well but the packaging was just too generous to make carrying them practical. They also have the usual tea towels postcards and souvenir items that you would expect.

We stopped at the restaurant to get a bite to eat since it was after 2:30 and we were a bit peaked. I ordered a bowl of their tomato and red pepper soup with a grainy roll. Al had a jacket potato with cheddar cheese that was so buried under the cheese it was hard to find the potato. Cubby had the same as Al and Joe had a jacket potato with just butter. For dessert Al and I shared a piece of very good lemon cake, it tasted homemade. They had a full range of sandwiches and melts as well as a couple of hot food choices. If you want to have lunch here you must arrive by 2:30, afterward, they only serve tea, they do however serve breakfast.

On the lower level is the treasury of the Cathedral. There are some chalices from the Cathedral as well as some from other parishes in the Diocese which are kept here for safe keeping. You will also get to see the Bishops crosier. There is nothing outstanding down here but it is worth giving it a look all the same. Among their treasures are a bible from the reign of Elizabeth 1, some Medieval fabrics, 18th century Exeter plate and a Charles I prayer book. Everything was not on display when we were there but I am sure it rotates.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Royal Crown Derby Tour

Royal Crown Derby has been in business since about 1750 in Derby.  The current factory has been at this four and a half acre location since 1878. Queen Victoria granted them the right to use the ‘royal” designation in 1890. You may choose to take a factory tour which are offered several times a day (be sure to call and find out exact times and make a reservation) or you can just see the decorating process and the museum. Since we have been on several factory tours we opted to just do the shorter version. 

The current cost is £5 regular £4.5 concessions (students or seniors). Our guide was Sue and she began by taking us through the entire process from slip to finished product.

We see one of the pigs that they do as a piece of green-ware, once it has been fired, glazed, transfers added and then the hand painting. It was very interesting to see how different the pig looks at the different stages. Another interesting fact is that bone china has real bone in it.

Our guide then takes us to the desk where the transfers are inspected and applied. It is a much more work intensive process than you would expect. Each of the colors on a transfer must dry for one day before a new color is added. That means it could be anywhere from seven days to 16 days, and that is for each pattern. These must then be inspected to make sure that they are perfect. 

Applying them is not an easy process either and again must be inspected to make sure it is perfect. The person who applies the transfer is called a lithographer and is paid by the piece so perfection is a good thing. Transfers can be removed until the piece is fired. Every lithographer has a mark that they place on every piece they work on.

One thing we learned was that if the crown on the bottom of a piece that you buy in the secondary market is scratched in any way no matter what kind of button it has the piece is a second.

The next process is the gilder. That is the job that Sue usually does and she uses the initial S. She showed us the way she applies the gilt. The bristles on her bush are made of squirrel fur. When I bought my little pin try in the shop at the end of the tour I made sure it had a letter S on it.

We then watched Jackie work on a $4000 peacock with handmade flowers, loads of hand painting and enough gilding to make it a truly unique and spectacular piece. These are among the many pieces that can be ordered on commission, in other words you can have it your way.

All the flowers are hand done and they employ only one flower maker these days. It takes him half a day to do the flowers for one of the peacocks.

On the second floor of the Visitor Center is the museum. It has rooms filled with cases of gorgeous bone china. I found several pieces that I would love to own, my favorite was an egg cruet with egg cups from the 1820’s. As an egg cup collector it would have been a delightful; addition to my collection.

When you are finished with the museum you can head to the shop. There are plenty of bargains to be had. Some of the dinner sets were marked 50% off. There were paper weights at one for full price a second at half price. I got 10% off my pin tray.

There are also cases filled with the best that Royal Crown Derby has to offer.

If you are hungry there is a café where we stopped to have lunch. They offer sandwiches, several hot cooked meals and tea and cakes. It was served cafeteria style and was appropriately priced.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Old Sturbridge Village Christmas by Candlelight

If you have never visited Old Sturbridge Village at Christmastime you are missing something quite wonderful. The village is decked out with lights and greenery and there are plenty of activities for people of all ages. 

We purchased tickets for Christmas by Candlelight on the OSV website. You choose between tickets for Friday and Sunday or for Saturday night. You also have the option of dining at the village. 

We made reservations for the buffet upstairs at the Bullard Tavern. They offered 3 seatings.It included a salad and wonder bread basket, a carving station and plenty of veggie choices. This was followed by dessert and coffee. The quality of the food was excellent. You can also chose to dine at the cafeteria on the lower level at Bullard Tavern. 

You will receive a program guide and map for Christmas by Candlelight. Docents are located in the buildings and there are lots of things to do and see. You can learn how to dance the only dance mentioned in The Christmas Carol at the Parsonage Barn or listen to singer and dancers at The Meeting House. The tinsmith will let children make an icicle. For adults you can make a sachet that smells delicious and try your hand at some of the toys of yesteryear. 

A horse drawn wagon is available for rides and hot mulled cider was offered to take the chill off at one of the house. 

We had a wonderful time and I would highly recommend it for anyone who needs to get into the Christmas spirit. I left humming and even singing Christmas Carols, it was infectious. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jamestown Fall Visit

Recreated Jamestown at the Jamestowne Settlement

Ship at the Jamestowne Settlement

Commemorative cross at the location of Jamestown

Jane who died and was canibalized

Al on the boardwalk going to to Jamestown
Yes I was here too enjoying myself

Sculpture of Pocahantas
Jamestowne Settlement and Jamestown are great places to visit at any season of the year. 

The first two photos are from Jamestowne Settlement and the rest are from the National Parks Jamestown. Both are worth visiting and offer different experiences while educating about the same events.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Colonial Christmas Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center




History makes the holidays fun at Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center during “A Colonial Christmas,” December 1, 2015, through January 3, 2016. The monthlong event explores 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions with interpretive programs and, December 26-31, musical entertainment of the period.

The two living-history museums tell the story of our nation’s beginnings throughout the year with gallery exhibits and historical interpretation in re-created outdoor settings – a Powhatan Indian village, 1607 ships and colonial fort at Jamestown Settlement, and Continental Army encampment and Revolution-period farm at the Yorktown Victory Center.

Jamestown Settlement

“A Jamestown Christmas” holiday film and special interpretive programs compare and contrast English Christmas customs of the period with how the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of America’s first permanent English colony. In England, the holiday season – extending from December 25 to January 6 – was a time of merriment and feasting. While little is known about Christmases in early Jamestown, “A Colonial Christmas” activities reflect the cultural traditions recalled by English colonists.

Visitors will learn about Jamestown colony’s early years as well as the English colonists’ Christmas at sea in December 1606, the Powhatan Indian hospitality shown to Captain John Smith’s trading party in 1608 during a winter storm, and about the Lord of Misrule, a 17th-century English tradition.

In the re-created fort, visitors can see wattle-and-daub buildings decorated with greenery and demonstrations of fancy cooking. At 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on  December 19-31, fort visitors can experience riddles and revelry by the Lord of Misrule, “grand captain of all mischief.” Throughout the month, historical interpreters will discuss the English colonists’ Christmas at sea aboard the re-created ship Susan Constant and, in the re-created Powhatan Indian village, present demonstrations on typical winter activities, including food preservation and hunting tools and techniques.

Yorktown Victory Center

Hear accounts of Christmas and winter in military encampments during the American Revolution and glimpse holiday preparations on a Revolution-period farm. Visitors to the Continental Army encampment can learn about winter camp life and hear accounts of Christmas during the war, as well as assist the quartermaster in preparing military supplies and, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, observe artillery demonstrations.

At the clapboard farmhouse adorned with greenery, historical interpreters compare and contrast 18th-century holiday traditions with those of modern times and demonstrate a variety of holiday activities, including setting a farmhouse table for a holiday feast. Visitors can see open-hearth cooking in the farm kitchen and take part in periodic candle-dipping activities.

Period Holiday Music & Entertainment

In Jamestown Settlement’s re-created fort church, visitors can enjoy a variety of 17th-century holiday music and dancing at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on December 26-31, including fiddler David Gardner, Barry and Lynn Trott, and Rebecca Suerdieck. Additional performances will be offered December 19 and 20, December 26-28 and December 31. A complete schedule of performances is available online.

“A Colonial Christmas” is funded in part by a grant from James City County.

Tickets & Private Tours

A value-priced combination ticket to both museums is $21.00 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6-12 (2016: $21.25, $10.75 ages 6-12). Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $16.75 for adults and $7.75 for ages 6-12 (2016: $17.00, $8.00 ages 6-12), and to the Yorktown Victory Center, $9.75 for adults and $5.50 for ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free. Holiday packages are available with Williamsburg area attractions.

A History is Fun combination ticket – available online only – offers seven days of unlimited admission to both museums at $21.00 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6-12 (2016: $21.25 and $10.75 ages 6-12) and includes coupon booklets for Williamsburg Premium Outlets and a Historic Yorktown Rewards Card.

Christmas-themed private tours are available for an additional fee with advance reservations for a party of 14 or fewer people. Reservations can be made online or by calling (757) 253-4939.

Holiday Shopping in Museum Stores

In time for holiday shopping, Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center museum shops offer a selection of books, prints, museum reproductions, educational toys, games and souvenirs relating to the 17th and 18th centuries. Admission is not required to visit the museum gift shops, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Shop online at 

How to Get Here

Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, except for Christmas and New Year’s days. The museums are separated by a 25-minute drive along the Colonial Parkway, a National Scenic Byway. Jamestown Settlement is located on Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg. The Yorktown Victory Center is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown. Parking is free. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free, (757) 253-4838 or visit