Monday, June 29, 2015

Virginia: A visit to Chatham Manor, Fredricksburg

Historic Chatham Manor 

Built between 1768 and 1771 in the Georgian style by William Fitzhugh, Chatham Manor has been witness to the historic events that surround this area during both the Revolutionary and the Civil War. FitzHugh was a friend of George Washington and entertained him and many others on his thriving plantation. During his time there was a racetrack where he could pit his blooded horse against those of the other wealthy planters in the area. Fitzhugh’s daughter Molly would later marry George Washington’s step grandson George Washington Parke Custis. Their daughter would later marry Robert E Lee.

In 1806 Major Churchill Jones purchased the house and his family retained ownership for the next 66 years. At the time of the Civil War it belonged to James Horace Lacy. As a plantation and slave owner, his sympathies lay with the Confederacy and he joined as a staff officer. His wife and children remained at home until they were forced to leave by the Union army. They established their headquarters here in 1862.  Chatham Manor has the distinction of having been visited both by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

In November 1862, the assault on Fredericksburg by river was launched from below Chatham. Today you can see an example of what the bridge looked like on the property. The resulting Union defeat turned Chatham Manor into a hospital. At one point both Clara Barton and Walt Whitman were working with the wounded at Chatham. 

Later in the war, the house was used as housing and when fire wood grew scarce, the paneling was pulled from the walls and burned. When the war ended, the house had bare walls covered with graffiti and blood stained floors and the grounds had been used as a burial ground. The gardens no longer existed and the Lacys, who were no longer able to maintain it, left in 1872.

In the 1920's Daniel and Helen DeVore took on the task of restoring Chatham Manor. We owe the present condition of the property to their loving care. The property’s last owner John Lee Pratt opened it to the public and in 1975, willed it to the National Park Service.

Today as with many Park Service homes, there is very little furniture. What you get to see are the bones of what is a beautiful house. Jane was our Ranger and she took us though the house and told us the story of its history. More time is spent on its Civil War period than on the Colonial period but there are many more famous people visiting here during that time. What we do find out is the entrance area door is original.  

 We enter through the rear door of the house, the front is the door that faces the river. We walked through the garden to get to the back door, even in October there was plenty of color still left. Take the time to walk the grounds especially the front toward the river, the views are beautiful.

Friday, June 26, 2015

France: Favorite photos

Notre Dame in Paris

A really lovely dessert


Oh yum an apple crepe

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Flashback Thursday: Dining in the center of Dijon

We stopped for lunch at Le Grands Ducs after our morning at the Beaux Arts Museum. It is usual in France for museums to close for lunch, and this cafe was just across the street from the entrance to the museum courtyard. It was packed with local office people also out on their lunch breaks. A word of warning -- this whole restaurant was smokey, I would assume today the rules on smoking are different. We stayed because we were cold, tired, and hungry.
The decor was unexceptional, wooden tables, paper place mats, and napkins. Our table was tucked into a back corner, but there were no others available, so we were happy to get it.

I started with vegetable soup; everyone else ordered the onion. The onion soup was excellent, redolent with onion and a hint of wine, topped with thick bread and cheese. The vegetable, on the other hand, was Knorr, or I'll eat my beret, not even good Knorr. It certainly had me wondering why I hadn't ordered the onion.

Al was the brave one in the group; he ordered the Jambon Bourgeonneis, which was ham in a green aspic with cornichons (little pickles). It looked really gross to me, but Al said it tasted good. It's supposed to be a local specialty. It was served with bread and frites.

I opted for a Crocque Monsieur, which is a grilled cheese sandwich with the cheese on the outside. It was served with a salad with a creamy Dijon dressing. It was very good.

The service here was spotty. We got our drinks pretty quickly, but after that, nothing ever seemed to go quite right. Now, in all fairness, it was busy, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

The food was not worth coming here for; it was very ordinary, but the location is excellent. Sometimes we sacrifice the exceptional dining experience in favor of a short walk, especially on long days. The reviews of the restaurant pretty much share the experience that we had so don't expect much except convenience.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What's Happening In Nashville this Summer

Summer in Nashville

Summer Time in Nashville - Nashville Summer
Nashville is having a hot time this summer and is putting together a soundtrack of everyone’s summer favorites for Music City visitors. Live music, unique festivals and events, culinary excursions, family fun and new exhibits all combined with summer sunshine and the great outdoors makes Nashville the perfect place for your summer getaway.
Also, make sure to check out what new things Nashville has to offer while listening to the “Summer Fun in Music City Playlist” and plan your trip to Music City!

Summertime concerts, festivals, and series

Nashville July 4th - Nashville SummerHope you have your calendar cleared, because you're not going to want to miss this summer in Nashville. It's back to back festivals, weekly series, fireworks, GRAMMY nominated artists, legendary acts, bucket-list concerts, and outdoor amphitheaters. To get you started, mark you calendar for CMA Music Festival, Music City July 4th: Let Freedom Sing, and Live on the Green.


Free Music, Free Nashville

CMA Music Festival in Nashville - Nashville SummerMusic City boasts a live music scene blasting out your favorite tunes each and every day for free. Why would we do such a crazy thing? Because music should be shared - we know that, and now you know that. Plus all the other free events, art galleries, and more that don't cost a thing to visit.


Experience Something New

Kings of Leon Nashville's Walk of Fame Park - Nashville SummerNashville's growing. New restaurants, new museums, and new festivals are popping up everywhere and we mean EVERYWHERE. The good news is that means there's even more to entertain your eyes, ears, and taste buds in Music City.



Music City Wine and Food Festival - Nashville SummerNashville doesn't just enjoy food, we celebrate it. During the summer months almost every week offers a party for the culinary arts inside Music City's eclectic neighborhoods. From beer festivals to full out wine celebrations there's something, in Nashville, for every type of foodie, wino, or craft beer enthusiasts. And at anytime enjoy the beautiful weather, a bite to eat, and a great drink at the many restaurants with awesome patio seating in Music City.


Family Fun in Music City

Nashville Shores Lakeside and Resort - Nashville SummerSchool's out for summer! And Nashville is the place to be to ensure you don't waste a second of all that freedom. There's one amazing zoo, multiple water parks, museums, exhibits, and more that will make both the kids and adults happy this season.



Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art - Nashville SummerThe talent in this town is not limited to music. Venture to any art gallery or performing arts event and you will see that Nashville holds something that no other city can match: a creative spirit bringing breathtaking performances and stunning visual art on a daily basis.



Defiance Flyboard - Nashville Summer Your next summertime adventure is in Music City. Here, in Nashville, we have rivers to kayak, lakes to swim, and parks to explore. Plus you can dust off the cobwebs on your bike to cycle the Music City Greenways! Don't forget to check out the new shiny, and OH! so pretty First Tennessee Park home of the Nashville Sounds. AND U.S. Men's National Soccer Team will play Guatemala at LP Field on Friday, July 3, at 5:30pm.


Still looking for more?

No worries. Music City has you covered. Feel free to browse through things to do, explore our neighborhoods, or check out must-see in Music City! If you have any questions, just ask us on Twitter: @visitmusiccity.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Connecticut: New Britain Museum of American Art

Last weekend was Open House in Connecticut. I took advantage of the free entrance from 10 a.m. to noon to visit the Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut. Here is a little of what I saw. 
Exterior of the museum

Your first view of the galleries

Shaker furniture

Chihuly sculpture

Collection of early photos

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flashback: St Michel Church Dijon

In Dijon, we visited St Michel Church which has a remarkable Renaissance front, it looks totally out of place in Dijon except it has the usual Burgundian triple entrances. It is obviously a favorite meeting spot because there were lots of young people hanging around the front and sitting on every available space. 

Inside, we spent quite a bit of time praying, actually. They have a local saint in the making Blessed Elisabeth Catez, and they have a whole area set aside to tell her story and for people to learn about her devotion to the Blessed Trinity. She died young (26), and her casket can be seen through a grill in the wall of the church.

It is an attractive and interesting place to visit if you happen to be in Dijon. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Texas: San Antonio Photo Tour

San Antonio has so much to offer visitors. The Alamo is one the of most popular tourist destinations in the country. The Riverwalk offers something unique and the mission church is a great place to enjoy a mariachi Mass.

Remember the Alamo

Riding on the Riverwalk

Performers from the mariachi mass perform outdoor's after.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Flashback: Vercingetorix

In 52 BC, the Gauls under Vercingetorix, a chief of the Arverni tribe, revolted against the Romans. Vercingetorix was an able leader and held off the Romans for quite some time by strategically retreating and burning the villages behind him to keep the Romans from living off the land. He made his final stand at Alesia. His strategy, however,  was no match for the wiles of Julius Caesar and he was carried off to Rome as a trophy of war and was put to death there in 46 B.C.

The exact location of Alesia was a matter of debate for many years and Emperor Napoleon III decided to end it once and for all by putting up a statue of Vercingetorix on the hillside in Alise Saint Reine. He commission Aimee Millet to produce the statue and it now looks out over what turned out to indeed be the site of the Battle of Alesia. This statue is very impressive and there is a look on the face of Vercingetorix that makes you hope that he will win the battle, he has that defiant Braveheart kind of look.

The Battle of Alesia was not quick. It involved a long siege and there were fortified earthworks erected by the Romans. Evidence of these as well as a museum full of artifacts was recovered. These can be visited at the Museum of Alesia in Alise Saint Reine.

Of course, since it was January when we visited, the museum was closed but we walked up the hill to appreciate the view and the amazing statue.  You can see how large it is compared to the live person next to it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jamestown and Yorktown June Happenings



1600s-Era Clothing Highlighted in June 27-28 Fashion Show Weekend

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., June 1, 2015 — Clothing, from single thread to whole garment, will be the focus of interpretive programs June 1-30 during “Fashion in Colonial Virginia” at Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center living-history museums. The month’s activities will culminate in “A Stitch in Time” period fashion show June 27 and 28 at Jamestown Settlement.

Throughout the month, visitors can explore how apparel of the period was fashioned from leather, linen and silk, and examine types of clothing worn by 17th-century English sailors and colonists, Powhatan Indians, 18th-century Virginia farmers and Continental Army soldiers — doublets, slops, cassocks, bodices, petticoats, coifs, leather aprons, metal helmets and breastplates, waistcoats, breeches, shirts, regimental coats, and tricorn hats.

Theme month highlights:

·         “Defending the Crown” Exhibit – British military uniforms depicting soldiers from 1607 Virginia militia to Afghanistan will be on display at Jamestown Settlement throughout the month.  Original and reproduction uniforms will be on display, highlighting key military victories over the last 400 years.

·         National Tailor’s Day, June 3 – Honor the legacy of the tailor as Jamestown Settlement historical clothing tailors will show period techniques used to design and create period clothing.

·         Dressing Founding Fathers, June 21 – Families can visit the Yorktown Victory Center to dress up dad Revolutionary-style! Try on military and civilian clothing from the Revolutionary War and learn what rebellious dads wore in the 1770s.

·         A Stitch in Time, June 27 and 28 – Take a special look at 1600s clothing styles as historical images in the museum’s exhibition galleries are brought to life at Jamestown Settlement through weekend fashion shows depicting the English, Powhatan Indian and west central African cultures.  Behind the scenes tours of the museum's shop will be offered twice a day during the weekend.

Visitors can assist with processing plant fibers for cloth, learn how dyes were made from plants to produce an array of colors, watch as clothing is laundered with boiling water and lye soap, and observe the stitching of simple apparel from pieces of cloth and deerskin. Types of implements used in cloth production will be on display, including bone needles in the Powhatan Indian village at Jamestown Settlement and, at the Yorktown Victory Center farm, a flax break, scutch and hatchel, and spinning wheel.


In Jamestown Settlement’s Powhatan Indian village, historical interpreters will explain how Powhatan Indians fashioned their clothing with shells and bones and adorned their bodies with paint. At the ships’ pier, visitors can learn the types of clothing that sailors would have packed for an extended voyage, such as the 144-day journey across the Atlantic to Jamestown in 1607. In the re-created colonial fort, visitors can learn how dress reflected a person’s social status and occupation.  

Interpreters in the Yorktown Victory Center’s re-created Continental Army encampment will tell of George Washington’s efforts to develop a standard uniform for his troops. Visitors also can learn how to make an epaulette, an accessory soldiers wore on their military uniforms to indicate rank. At the re-created farm, historical interpreters will show visitors how families took great pride during the Revolution in recycling worn clothing by repairing and re-dying to avoid wearing English goods.

Visitors are encouraged to share their experiences on social media channels, including Facebook at and Twitter @historyisfunorg using the hashtag #‎colonialfashion.


“Fashion in Colonial Virginia” is included with admission to Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center. A combination ticket to both museums is $21.00 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6 to 12. Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $16.75 for adults and $7.75 for ages 6 to 12; Yorktown Victory Center is $9.75 for adults and $5.50 for ages 6 to 12. Residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, including College of William and Mary students, receive complimentary admission with proof of residency.

Hours & Location

Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and until 6 p.m. June 15 through August 15). Jamestown Settlement is located on State Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg. The Yorktown Victory Center is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown. The museums are a 25-minute drive from each other along the Colonial Parkway. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Texas: McNay Museum San Antonio

In order to understand this museum, you need to understand the woman who created it. Jessie Marion Koogler was a woman born before her time. She was the only child of a Doctor who became wealthy when oil was discovered on his land. Jessie attended the University of Kansas then the art school of the Art Institute of Chicago, it was during this time that she began to use her middle name. In 1917 she fell in love and married the great love of her life, Don Denton McNay. 

Tragically he died in the influenza epidemic of 1918 less than a year after their marriage. Marion married and divorced several times but she always returned to the name McNay and also gave it to the Museum she left which was the ultimate tribute to Don.

In 1926, Marion commissioned a house in San Antonio which she called Sunset Hills. Built in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style it is the home which holds her collection today. Around this same time, she became a serious collector of Art, at one time there was even a school of art on the property. The first painting she purchased is entitled, Delfina Flores.

When Marion died in 1950, she left a collection of over 200 items and it was opened to the public in 1954. She also left an endowment and together with further donations the collection has grown to over 1600 items about 900 of which will be on display at any given time. The McNay is primarily about modern art but you will be amazed by the wonderful medieval items. You walk into recreated rooms that take you to back to the middle ages complete with paneling and furniture and works of Flemish art. 

There is no guarantee about what will be on display but we saw a Mary Cassatt head of a young girl, Degas, Seurat, Pendergast, Homer, Picasso, Klee, Chagall and a monumental Monet of can you guess lily pads. There is also a nice collection of Galle vases.

The Interior courtyard, The Blackburn patio is worthy of a tour. The tiles were made especially made for the patio. It is the home to several very beautiful sculptures done in bronze and one in aluminum. It was used as an outdoor artist studio in Mrs. McNay’s day and is still a favorite spot to sketch today.

We began our visit by watching a short orientation film that introduced us to Marion and the museum. Don’t pass on this, it really sets the stage for your visit. The museum is set on two levels but there is an elevator and is wheelchair accessible.

Free parking is available in their parking lot. Take the time to walk in the grounds. There are sculptures and even in January, the gardens were worth a look. The gift shop as expected was quite well stocked with a variety of eclectic items. Entrance is free but you are strongly encouraged to donate $5 per person.

Additional reading about things to do in San Antonio:

Madhatters Tea Room

The Alamo

Monday, June 8, 2015

Texas: MadHatters Tea House and Cafe San Antonio

What a great name for a tea shop and café, MadHatters. It is every bit as interesting as its name would imply. There are three dining areas in this café though the back room was closed when we were there.

The idea is quite simple. You get a menu from one of the employees and find a table. You then decide what you are going to try and go to the cashier and order. If you are having hot tea, then stop by and pick up your cup and saucer. When your food is ready it will be delivered to your table.

We were debating the pros and cons of ordering the high tea and the afternoon tea. Both are $18 for two people The high tea gives you three types of sandwiches, a scone to share and 2 petit fours. The afternoon tea has cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches and cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, two scones, and two petit fours. I don’t like salmon and Joe didn’t want to share a scone. Al didn’t want to eat so we twisted his arm.

We decided it was every man for him or herself. Al got the club sandwich, I ordered the cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches from the tea menu and Joe got a cup of pumpkin soup and half of an egg salad sandwich. Joe and I both got a pot of English breakfast tea and both of us ordered the 4 berry cobbler served warm with ice cream.

We went happily back to our table to wait for our feast. It wasn’t long to arrive. First, the tea is in very different and eclectic pots arrived. Then came Al’s sandwich, I have never seen the like, it was huge, I mean two man huge. Even Al who is a good eater was intimidated by this behemoth. Ham, turkey bacon, tomato lettuce and huge slices of bread and excellent flavor to boot. My sandwich was served crustless with a sliced strawberry in the center of the plate, these were not only pretty but very delicious sandwiches. Joe’s half an egg salad sandwich was also huge but the cup of soup was normal size.

The four-berry cobbler was served in small cups very warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was perfect, not too sweet with loads of berry flavor.

If having tea is not your idea of a good time don’t despair their menu offers plenty of other options. As I have stated the sandwiches certainly are generous, there are salads and burgers and lots of vegetarian choices as well. The dessert case was also loaded with pies and cakes and all sorts of very delicious looking items.

They open early in the morning and served breakfast as well. I am almost sorry that we will be getting breakfast at our B&B because I would have liked to try some of the things that they offer here. We did, however, return for lunch another day.