Tuesday, November 29, 2016

An emotional visit to St. Eustache Church in Paris

St Eustache is one of the premier churches in Paris. A church has stood on this site for almost one thousand years. The current church, however, was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and is in the Gothic style with Renaissance decorative elements. It has been enlarged several times and chapels were added during the time of Colbert the great financial minister of Louis XIV.

I came to this beautiful Gothic church not because of its historical connections, though it has many, nor for its beautiful architecture and Renaissance glory, which it has in abundance. I came here because my ancestress, Anne Pineau de la Vieville, was baptized here before coming to Canada as a fille du roi, basically what we would now call a mail-order bride, albeit one with a dowry supplemented by the King. I had hoped to find some trace of her here, but there was none. For my own interest, I found the baptismal font and took a photo in the hopes that it was the one she was baptized in. She shares the sacrament with some illustrious company, Cardinal Richelieu, Moliere and Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, (the future Marquise de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress). Louis XIV made his First Communion here, as I am sure Anne did.


What I did find here was the magnificent Coysevox monument of Colbert, Louis XIV's minister. It is an exceptional piece. I had done my homework, so I knew I would find it, but I didn't expect to find a wooden screen protecting a chapel which was saved by the Princess of Lambale who worshipped here. The chapel opposite has lost its wooden screen and has a metal one like all the other chapels. Just walking through this historic church was a special moment for me on so many levels.

This church is noted for the quality of its acoustics, which are good enough that Berlioz performed his "Te Dium" here for the first time, and Liszt his "Messe de Gran". Unfortunately, we were here on a weekday and didn't get to experience this aspect of St. Eustache. It is really was a shame since in addition to its past tradition it has a magnificent new organ with has been quite a phenomenon in the music world.

I don't want to leave the impression that this is just a historical site; it is a vital, living parish, and Mass is still celebrated here. The church is open daily from 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m., and a priest is available from 3-7:30 p.m.

This is just one of the family churches I visited in Paris but certainly it is one of the most impressive. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas in Newport, RI

Newport, R. I. was the playground of the Gilded Age millionaires. It was a summer destination where families like the Vanderbilts and the Astors came to see and be seen. Their “cottages” are a popular destination for visitors from all over who want a glimpse of a time and place that no longer exists. At Christmastime, there is a special glow and glitter to these magnificent homes and the entire city.

How to get here

The closest airport is TS Greene in Providence. It is an easy drive to Newport from Providence and rental cars are available. Amtrak has rail service in the area. The train stops in North Kingston and there is van/shuttle service to Newport. Driving is the most popular way to get to Newport, there is plenty of parking in the area though some streets can be quite narrow especially in the older historic part. The mansions have parking lots so driving on Bellevue Avenue is not an issue.

Where to stay

There are lots of hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns and timeshares in Newport. The Marriott has a very convenient location and there is a Hyatt on Goat Island. Rates in town will be higher than outside the city but as usual, it is location, location, location. The Hotel Viking is a personal favorite of mine with plenty of charm and reasonable rates.  

Things to do

The Preservation Society of Newport has been in the business of rescuing the iconic mansions in the city of Newport for many years. At Christmas time, three of the homes they own are decorated and open to the public. The three that are open are The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House. There is a combination ticket for all three houses or you can buy any one alone.

The festivities start in November and run until just after the New Year. There are evening as well as daytime activities. Check out the Preservation Society website for times, dates and costs.

There is more to a visit to Newport, than just visiting the mansions, there is shopping. Americas Cup Avenue, Bowen’s Wharf and Thames Avenue all offer the opportunity to indulge in retail therapy. There are some chain stores as well as lots of smaller local businesses. There is definitely some great shopping at the mansions as well and there is a gift store from the Mansions located on Banister Wharf.

Dining

There are many great options for places to dine in Newport. Seafood is an important part of the cuisine of the area and you won’t be surprised to see Italian and even Portuguese dishes on the menu. There are plenty of casual restaurants, as well as fine dining. Brick Alley Pub is a favorite with locals and visitors alike, including me. 


Newport, R.I. is a fascinating place to visit at any time of the year but it really sparkles at the Christmas holiday. This may have been the playground of the rich and famous but today, you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy all the events and excitement that are available every year during the holiday season. Christmas in Newport has lots of ideas to help you with your plans.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sea Crest Beach Hotel North Famouth, Ma

We have been coming to Sea Crest Beach Hotel for more than 12 years. Josh was a little boy when we first came here the day after Thanksgiving. We don't come every year, as a matter of fact, we haven't been here since Jack was just a few months old. We used to alternate with the cottage in Pennsylvania, we go to the Christmas market in Bethlehem. Josh's hockey schedule has played havoc with this tradition. 

Luckily, this year we were able to come back. The place is recently renovated and just lovely. We got a warm welcome last night and our rooms were ready and waiting for us. 

We choose the fireplace rooms. They are in a separate building and include a king bed, sleeper sofa and of course a fireplace. The rooms are spacious and very clean. 

I wish I had known they now have a Keurig in the room, I could have brought some of my own pods, next year lol. 

The bathroom is huge and it has a deep soaker tub and double sinks. 

We had dinner last night in Reds which is the bar/cafe. It was quite good and not over priced. The main restaurant serves a breakfast buffet as well as lunch and dinner. 

Kasey and John used the gym for an early morning workout and they also have a pool and hot tub. Of course, the beach is a big attraction and though we are not beachfront, we can see the water. 

I love this place, It is convenient to many things to do. We plan to head off to Sandwich today. 

I first came to Sea Crest Beach Hotel for a genealogy conference and fell in love with the amenities and location and it is still a favorite getaway. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Popular Christmas vacation ideas

For some people, Christmas is about family and home, for others, it is about getting away. Taking a vacation at Christmas time can be exciting and a great way to avoid a lot of the stress of the holiday. 

One way to enjoy a Christmas vacation is by taking a cruise. This is the perfect way to get to the warm climate that you are longing for and not having to worry about a long drive and depending on where you live, a long flight. Cruises leave the east coast of the U.S. and head for the Caribbean and the west coast and head down to Mexico. Cruising north is not something that usually happens at Christmas time. What could be more enjoyable than having your delicious Christmas meal cooked for you by a dedicated staff who wants to satisfy your every wish? The ship will be decorated for the season and there will be plenty of holiday spirit in the air.

Possibly the most popular of the warm destinations for a Christmas vacation is Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The happiest place on earth is even happier during the holidays with special parades and lights and lots more. Especially for children, there is no place quite as magical as Disney World. The weather in Orlando may not be exactly balmy at Christmas time but it is certainly very temperate and it is a rare year when a winter coat would be a necessity. A wide selection of accommodations is offered both in the park and nearby with prices that can fit almost any budget. The Disney site can help you to make all the necessary reservations including dining.

New York City is a popular Christmas destination. The city is at its best with all the festive lights, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the store windows with their amazing displays and ice skating in Central Park. Even the Metropolitan Art Museum has special holiday exhibits. Radio City Music Hall has their spectacular with the Rockettes and anyone who has even seen a Miracle on 34th Street knows that a visit to see Santa at Macy’s is a must for the kids. There are so many things to do that it just might become a holiday tradition.

Some popular Christmas destinations are outside of the United States. Some are quite close like Quebec City where snow is almost guaranteed and a Gallic flavor that is unique in North America. The Chateau Frontenac offers a close to ideal opportunity to enjoy a luxurious holiday.

Christmas, as we celebrate it today ,is in many ways a German tradition and visiting Germany at Christmas time is a great way to enjoy these traditions in the motherland. There will be Christmas markets, warm gingerbread, and a very festive atmosphere. You can pick almost any city but there are some that are big favorites including Cologne and Nuremberg.


These are just a few of the popular places where you can choose to spend your Christmas vacation. The best place for you will be one that offers everything that is important to you at the holidays.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Following family roots at St. Germain l'Áuxerrois Paris

The church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois is a Gothic gem located right around the corner from the Louvre in the 1st arrondissement. For me, it was like coming home. This is the home parish of several of my ancestors, including the one who carries my mother's family name, Jacques Bernier. It is also the parish of one of my more famous ancestors Louis Hebert, one of the first colonists of Quebec.

Nothing remains of the 17th-century neighborhood where he lived, so going to this church where generations of his family worshiped was of particular interest to me. I got quite emotional.

A church has stood on this site since the 5th century. The church is dedicated to St. Germanus of Auxerre (Burgundy), and since it was the parish church of the Louvre Palace, I imagine that is why the rois (roi is king in French) was added to the name. It has played an important role in history, as well, and it was the sounding of matins by the bells of St Germain that signaled the start of the St. Bartholomew massacre of the Huguenots. This is not a role they are proud of, it is a black mark on their history. The bell tower from which matins sounded still stands though it has lost most of its Romanesque style.

The current church dates from the 13th century and has had many, many restorations done on it. The porch that encircles the whole church and its balustrade are worthy of note and were added in the 14th century. After the French Revolution, the church was used for many things other than a church. Today, it is an active Roman Catholic parish.

This church has seen many famous people pass through its doors, not the least of which is Moliere, who was married here. Coypel, Chardin, and Boucher are buried here, along with the sculptor Coysevox. I was anxious to find the baptismal font. Using my not so perfect French, I managed to converse with a volunteer and ask if he knew the history of the current font. He didn't, and no literature he had provided any inkling of its age. 

I was disappointed, but this is a lovely church to visit even if you don't have roots here. Some Renaissance stained glass remains and the wonderful rose window is beautiful. Pay particular note to the Stations of the Cross on the pillars. They are very modern-looking in such an old church, yet they beautifully link the past and the present. Take the time to visit the chapels that flank both sides; they are very attractive and contain some lovely statuary.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Good reasons to visit LeClaire, Iowa

The city of LeClaire, Iowa is named for Antoine LeClaire. He was important in developing the area where he maintained a sandstone quarry. The city is located just a few miles from the Quad-cities on a bend in the Mississippi, River and is known for its yearly Tug Fest which is a tug of war across the river with the town of Port Byron, Illinois.

LeClaire is probably best known today as the home of “The American Pickers”. Their shop is in the downtown area and is a major tourist attraction. On the day we were in LeClaire, there was a steady stream of visitors to the alley where the shop is located.

The main street in LeClaire is a shopper’s paradise. An eclectic array of shops offer everything from popcorn to upscale fashion. Additionally there is a wine tasting room and a distillery as well as restaurants for every taste.

For lovers of American history, LeClaire is also the hometown of Buffalo Bill Cody. One of the attractions in this friendly city is the Buffalo Bill Museum.



Buffalo Bill Museum


Your visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum begins with an 8 minute film that will give you’re the background that you need to really enjoy this museum. It is eclectic and probably not exactly what you may be expecting. While Buffalo Bill certainly is the raison d’etre for the museum there is a lot more to it including a river boat that is completely inside the building. It is an interesting place to visit and one that the kids will enjoy as well.

  

Mississippi River Distillery Tour


If you are interested in seeing how fine spirits are distilled, the Mississippi River Distilling Company offers free tours daily on the hour between 12 noon and 4 p.m.. Included with the tour is a tasting so that you know exactly which ones you would like to purchase in their retail store. It is a fascinating tour that gives you a lot of information. You don’t move around much so this is perfect for just about anyone. One fact that I took away is that Bourbon can only be made in the United States. Who knew? 


Antique Archeology


There is hardly a person in this country who hasn’t heard of “The American Pickers” and their shop, Antique Archeology here in LeClaire has become must visit place for fans of the show. If you want to purchase souvenirs with their logo on it, you have come to the right place. Don’t expect to see the owners or Danielle for that matter and shop to looks smaller than on TV. You will know you are there when you see the vintage car parked in front of the shop with their name on it. 


Wide River Winery


Located in a historic 19th century building, the Wide River Winery Tasting Room has been open in LeClaire for two years. You can enjoy a wine tasting, buy a bottle of wine and bring your own food to dine on in the Courtyard Garden. Live entertainment is also offered on Friday evenings.

If you happen to be visiting the Quad-Cities area, LeClaire is just a short drive away and well worth the effort to visit. We certainly enjoyed our day there. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Get in the spirit with a visit to Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village will be putting on its Chrismas finery soon and I thought I would share some of my photos from our visit last year in December. 









Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thomas Jefferson's Popular Forest

Thomas Jefferson was a public figure for much of his adult life. As such, people felt that they owned him. Hordes of people would descend on his home Monticello and many expected to stay with him there. At Poplar Forest, who could be alone with his family and especially his grandchildren and for a short time, be a private citizen. 

The land the Poplar Forest sits on was owned by Thomas Jefferson for at least 30 years before he decided to build his small home on it in 1806. He loved the design style of Palladio and created a classic villa that combines ancient, Renaissance, Palladian, 18th century French with a peppering of British and American elements. 

He was already in his 60s and a seasoned architect by the time he designed this house and his maturity is evident in the melding of the designs. He was a self-taught architect, who learned from not only what he read but also from what he observed.

From his earliest designs,  he was always fascinated with the octagonal and here was his opportunity to turn his design into a reality. It is a mathematical design and results in four elongated octagonal rooms with a square room in the center. This design provides a light and airy interior and a striking exterior.

The house can only be visited on a tour. We arrived in time to only have a short wait to go in. You can always visit the gift shop while you are waiting. 

This was our second visit to Poplar Forest and I was amazed at how much the house has changed since we were last here. Great progress has been made with the interior, it was a shell last time and now it has lots of design elements in place. 

If you are expecting a house like Monticello, you will be very disappointed, so don't come with any pre-conceived idea. Poplar Forest is unique and I love this house, it shows you the man the Thomas Jefferson had become in his old age. 

A little more history. At Jefferson's death, the house passed to his grandson Francis Eppes. He only held onto it for two years. It had many owners and  was much altered over the next 150 years. The land went from 4,000 acres down to 50. 

Part of your tour will be to tell you about all the work that has happened here since it came into the hands of the non-profit which owns it now and what they are continuing to do. Poplar Forest is a work in progress. 

You are free to wander around the grounds and there are rooms under the house to visit . The four room office wing has also been rebuilt and it is fascinating to look at all the things they found through their archaeological digs on the property. 

Of particular interest are the octagonal privies that are in the yard.  Work is ongoing on the property to restore the grounds to what they were when Jefferson escaped here. 

For more information or to plan your visit check out their website.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tree Lighting Ceremonies in Lehigh Valley, PA.

2016 Holiday Tree Lightings in Lehigh Valley

November 1st, 2016 posted by Kaitie Burger
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There’s no better way to ring in the holiday season than with a local tree lighting ceremony. Below, find details for ceremonies throughout the region. Each includes its own unique charm, making a perfect outing for the whole family. Add these dates to your calendar now and get ready to welcome the most wonderful time of the year! Event details will be updated as more information becomes available.
Bethlehem Tree Lighting Ceremony,Friday, November 25
To celebrate Bethlehem’s 275th Anniversary, this year’s ceremony is kicking it up a notch! Featuring multiple live performances, community song, free hot chocolate, and cookies and a can drive with New Bethany Ministries, this year’s Tree Lighting is sure to kick off the holiday season in a big way. Details.

Allentown Tree Lighting
Easton Peace Candle Lighting, Saturday, November 26
Explore downtown Easton’s shops, restaurants, and more during this Holiday Open House. While the Peace Candle lighting ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m., you’ll find tons of great family-friendly activities and performances happening throughout the city all day. Details.
Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley Tree Lighting, Saturday, November 26
Get a jump-start on your holiday shopping! Enjoy live entertainment throughout the shops beginning at 3:30 p.m. At 6 p.m. Santa himself will make an appearance to help ring in the season as the Promenade Shops light up their tree. Details.
Allentown Tree Lighting Ceremony, Thursday, December 1
Christmas magic takes over the 800 block of Hamilton Street to welcome the season. Enjoy live music, children’s activities, horse-drawn carriage rides, and even a visit from Santa himself! Free to the public. Details.

Information provided by Discover Lehigh Valley

Monday, November 14, 2016

Boar's Head Inn for the holidays

With colorful leaves swirling around Charlottesville, it’s time to start planning ahead for the holiday events that are coming up starting right after Thanksgiving. If you haven’t already made your reservations, it’s not too late to get tickets to most of these events.

The Christmas Season kicks off on November 25 with the Boar’s Head Inn Store open house from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Carolers will begin performing at 5:00 p.m. followed by the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus at approx. 5:20. Santa will light the Christmas tree on the front lawn at 5:30 p.m.


Families and children may take a complimentary carriage ride following the tree lighting from 6-8 p.m. and photos with Santa are offered in the Pavilion. Hot cocoa and cookies under the Main Inn portico will be and of course dinner is offered in the AAA Four Diamond Old Mill Room Restaurant. Guests are encouraged to walk around the property and enjoy the fire pits that will provide a warm welcome.

Come early on Friday, November 25th , so that you can take a sneak peak at Mrs. Claus' Kitchen tree in the pavilion. Maps for the self-guided Tree Tour can be picked up at the Inn Store.

Enjoy Holiday Tea from December 1-30 every day except Christmas Day in the Old Mill Room of the inn from 2:30-4:00 p.m. Indulge in tea sandwiches, warm scones served with Devonshire cream, lemon curd and orange marmalade and tea sweets. A selection of teas is available.

If you have always wanted to make a gingerbread house but didn’t know where to start, join Mrs. Claus and the Boar’s Head Inn pastry chef on Sunday, November 27, December 4, 11 and 18. Reservations are required. This is a unique opportunity to design and create your own masterpiece.  

Breakfast with Santa is also available but almost totally sold out. There are still some spots available for November 28.



A full schedule of events awaits locals and visitors alike and don’t forget to visit the store at the Inn for a great selection of Christmas gift and decorating items.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

New England getaways: Shelburne, Vermont

Shelburne Vermont is located on the shores of Lake Champlain which of course means that in the last days of summer and early fall, there are still plenty of outdoor activities to keep the whole family occupied but it also has all the makings of a great romantic getaway.

Getting to Shelburne



Shelburne is located on Route 7 which means you can come straight up Route 7 from western MA and Connecticut. This is what can be called the scenic route. If you are in a hurry and would rather not meander then you can take Interstate 91 to route 89 and then do a little scenic driving.

Staying in Shelburne


If you want to stay in a chain hotel you can choose the Quality Inn, The Days Inn or the Econo Lodge. In Shelburne, there are two motels, The T-Bird Motor Inn which is a modern motor inn with all the amenities that you would want including non-smoking rooms and either two double beds or two queen sized beds. Another option is the Countryside Motel which also offers doubles or queens and is also well located. For something a little special, the Inn at Shelburne Farms offers luxurious accommodations. If you want a comfortable country bed and breakfast Elliot House is an excellent choice.  

What to do


Shelburne Museum

The Shelburne Museum is a one of kind sort of place. There are 39 buildings which house an art, folk art, and decorative arts collection that is as diverse as it is exciting. There are marvelous gardens and lots of things to see and do. You can walk around the entire grounds on your own or there is a bus which has several stops around the property. There is a restaurant where you can relax and enjoy a bite to eat. You can spend an entire day here.

Shelburne Farm

Shelburne Farms is a working farm that has a lot for you to do and see. There is a children's farmyard, you can watch them make cheese and you can enjoy a delicious lunch. If the kids have a lot of pent-up energy, there is a lot of open space for them to run around and enjoy the outdoors.

Vermont Teddy Bear Company

You might think that this is just for the kids but the tour is a lot of fun even for adults. There is a hospital where injured teddy bears can be sent to be repaired. You can order a custom teddy bear and you will see everything that goes into producing their very special teddy bears. Of course, there is a store where you can shop for that very special bear and there is also a make a bear area where the kids can make a friend to take home.

When you are ready to take a paddle boat ride on Lake Champlain or rent a boat or a kayak, you head a little north to Burlington and everything you could possibly want is available.

Shelburne Vermont is a delightful place to get away for a week or a long weekend. It is a popular summer destination  but is very enjoyable in the off-season.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mill Mountain Star Roanoke, Va.

Located atop Mill Mountain, it is hard not to notice the huge star shining above the city. It is an easy 15 minute drive from downtown Roanoke up the hill. While the view of the star is better from below, the outlook that was created in front of the star offers spectacular views of the city of Roanoke and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The star is illuminated every day until midnight. Usually it shines white but it can be red white and blue for special occasions and memorials.


Parking is free and facilities are located at the top. Picnicking and hiking are available on Mill Mountain and the Mill Mountain Zoo and Discovery Center are also on the top of the mountain.

Blue Ridge Parkway signpost 120 is nearby and offers an additional way to get to Mill Mountain and the Roanoke Star.

Facts about the star:

·          Height of star – 88.5 feet
·          Weight of star – 10,000 pounds
·          Height above sea level – 1,847 feet
·          Height above city – 1,045 feet
·          Visibility from air – 60 miles
·          Building cost – $28,000
·          World’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star
·          Illuminated by 2,000 feet of neon tubing
·          First illuminated November 23, 1949

If you are planning a visit to Roanoke, be sure to allow enough time to take a drive up the mountain and enjoy the unparalleled views of the city and the Shenandoah Mountains offered from Mill Mountain. The Mill Mountain Star is one of the most popular local attractions.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Lambert Hotel, Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire

The Lambert Hotel  is a former Georgian coaching inn that has been restored and converted into a lovely place to stay along the M-40 just a short drive from Oxford. It is located off of exit 6 and is visible if you are coming from Oxford.

The front of the main building is everything you could want in a romantic looking country inn. Looking Tudor being white and black, it is not nearly that old but rather mid Victorian. There is an additional brick building behind which houses the majority of rooms. Nine are located within the inn and are the superior rooms. The inn sells itself as a wedding venue for up to 120 people and there are event rooms as well.

Rooms are on two floors and there is an elevator, so don't worry about having to carry your luggage. Plenty of free parking is available not far from the room. The room had two twin beds put together as a king size. A plasma TV was on the wall with a nice selection of channels. Two chairs flank a small table that holds a tea tray with biscuits and tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

The room also has a desk with Internet connection which is complimentary. The wireless however, only works in the lobby and the restaurant not in the rooms.Two bottles of water are provided on the desk as well as the information book about available services as well as what to visit in the area, there is a lot.

The room is spacious, not just in British terms but in American terms. It has additional furniture in the form of an armoire and two night stands and an additional small table. Plenty of lights and electric plugs are also offered. The rooms were immaculate, the floors were carpeted and the overall, the decor was warm. There were three mirrors as well, one in the bathroom, a full length on the wall and one over the desk.

The bathroom has a large deep tub, pedestal sink and is also spacious. The shampoo and conditioner is good enough to take with you and use again.

The dining room has one rosette. Dinner was an excellent experience though the fish and chips were a bit heavy with grease. The dessert sampler however, is excellent and worth getting.

Breakfast is served during the week between 7-9 a.m., it is included in the price but it is Continental. If you want a hot meal, there is an additional charge. The Continental is a buffet. It offers cold meats and cheeses, fruit, bread to toast, cereal and yogurt. Plenty of food is provided but it is disappointing to not get hot food for the rates that are charged for the rooms here.

The dining staff in the evening was wonderful. The desk staff in the evening was not knowledgeable and needs to get additional training. If you are looking for a place to stay close to the A-40 this hotel is well- located and comfortable but not as special you might expect from the website.