Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cape Ann Museum Gloucester, Ma.

The Cape Ann Museum is not an art museum, it is not a history museum, it is not a decorative arts museum, it is all of these and additionally it has a library where researchers can come and find out information about Cape Ann and if you have roots in the area, perhaps trace your ancestors. I did just that and spent about an hour with the delightful staff that was eager to help. It is not a huge library but it has over 2500 titles covering a wide range of topics. Vessel log books, maps, letters, photos and a whole lot more are available to look at. The library is open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is included in the price of admission to the museum.

Located in the heart of downtown Gloucester is the unexpectedly amazing Cape Ann Museum. Cape Ann is an area of Massachusetts with a deep history and a strong identity. It is not Cape Cod and it is not Boston. It is a cape that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and includes the towns of Gloucester, Rockport, and Manchester by the Sea, as well several hamlets.

On the date of our visit, there was a tour offered at 11 a.m. It was an hour long and covered the main highlights of the collection. While it was interesting, it was absolutely not necessary to enjoy the museum. It was centered on the art primarily and did not touch on the decorative arts at all. This is a shame in a way because though the art is interesting, the furniture is as well.

In the FitzHenry Lane Room there were many pieces of his artwork but there was also a gorgeous tall clock, a pianoforte and a model of America’s Cup. It seems FitzHenry Lane was the first artist to immortalize the race on canvas. Take the tour by all means, but then go back and look at all the treasures on your own.

The tour did go to the second floor and tour an area that the children in the group most particularly liked. It was a diorama of the Gloucester harbor front as it appeared in 1893. This exhibit was created as a display for the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago. It is in amazing detail and was interesting to the adults in the group as well.

Across the hall was another maritime exhibit including one for the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo, Captain Alfred Johnson. The boat he sailed in was on display and he made the trip is 66 days from June 15 to August 21, 1876 as a celebration of the Centennial. He did it on a dare and considered himself crazy for having accepted it.

The museum is located over three floors with the library in the basement.

While the more energetic can use the stairs, there is an elevator and there are handicap ramps. A small gift store is located on the main level across from the entrance desk. Check the website  for currents entrance fees and exhibits.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A pilgrimage to Ilam Peak District, England

Why you might ask did we want to go to Ilam? I asked that same question of my friend, it was his idea to visit Ilam. While we were visiting Chesterfield we had stopped by the visitor center which had a nice selection of brochures about the entire Peaks District. One that we used to help us decided where we wanted to visit was called "From the Cradle to the Grave" and what got his attention was the picture of the marble monument of David Watts Pike on his deathbed. So on a rainy January afternoon, after having visited the Royal Crown Derby Visitor Center, we headed out to find Ilam.

It is not the easiest place to find, it is a small village and finding a sign to direct us there resulted in us taking what I happily referred to as a goat path. Was it steep? Oh yes, it was. Was it narrow? Oh much too narrow. Did it keep raining? Oh yes, it did and eventually turned to snow. Finally, we arrived in Ilam, but where was the church? Not in the village, it wasn't until later that I found out that the village had been moved to improve the view from the Hall by Jesse Watts Russell in the 1820's. We finally found a small sign with an arrow pointing down a walking path. We parked the car, whipped out our umbrellas and headed down the path.

Ilam has been a pilgrimage site since Saxon times. St Bertram is buried here. He was a prince of Mercia who married an Irish princess. On the way back from Ireland she had their child and they stopped near here so that Bertram could hunt for food. While he was away wolves killed his wife and child. He was devastated and became a hermit and ended his days here. There isn't much of the Saxon church left but the baptismal font is Saxon and the images on it are said to depict the life if St Bertram. It is a very fine font and it might be worth visiting on its own.

In order to get to the church, you need to go through a sheep's gate. With winter clothing it is no easy task. We all had to suck it in to manage it. The church was open and there are small guide books that you can purchase.

We headed right to the front of the church to see the Pike Monument which was carved by Francis Chantry. It shows David Watts Pike on his deathbed blessing his daughter Mary and her three children. Mary was Jesse Watts Russell's first wife. There is a curtain across the chapel where it is located and there is also a light which you can turn on to get a better view. It is very impressive, probably one of the most impressive I have ever seen.

On the opposite side of the church is the chapel with the monument to St Bertram, much less impressive, and also a monument to the Meverell family from the 17th century. Over the door to the chapel, you will see some dried flowers hanging. The story of why they are there is on a small plaque, you will need to visit to find out the reason.

The National Trust owns the Hall and there is a Youth Hostel there. There is also a Tea Room but of course, the day we were there it was closed. Obviously, January may not be the ideal time to visit Ilam, in the warm weather there will be more options for tea etc.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spending the day in Mount Dora, Florida

Mount Dora is located in central Florida about 45 miles southeast of where we live in Ocala. It is a charming town with some hills which makes it rather unique in this part of the world. Mount Dora also have a large and beautiful lake. We often meet here with our friends who live in the greater Orlando area, it is a lovely place to meet, shop. eat and just walk around.
We usually meet at Donnelly Park. Free parking is available in this area and this time we parked above the pavilion. Our friends were on one of the sides. A quick call and we connected. 

We ate lunch here and did some fun shopping, here are some places I enjoy.

Barrel of Books and Games

This is an adorable bookstore. I passed it on the way down to the dock at the lakefront and noticed a book entitled "My Grandmother Lives in Florida" how could I resist? I had to get a cop for Jack!! While I was in the store I saw a book by Phillipa Gregory that I also had to have. I could have spent a lot of time here, I love a good bookstore.

The Spice and Tea Exchange

This store has the most amazing spices. I could spend a fortune here and just look around sniffing for an hour. The staff encourages you to smell everything that interests you. I love salts and found one I couldn't live without as well as a spicy coating for ham and a rub for roast beef. I could have bought a lot more.

Mount Dora Gold Exchange

I loved this store and I was able to find just the perfect gold pinkie ring at a price that I felt was a fair price. It is a small shop but the salesperson was very helpful and friendly and I felt immediately comfortable.


I love this shop they have the best selection of soaps and I really can't resist soap. One of my granddaughters shares my love and I had to stop and pick her up a Christmas present. 
We don't really have a favorite spot for lunch we just chose one of the many restaurants in the downtown area. This time we chose The Lost Parrot. The food was good, nothing exceptional and the service was a bit lacking due to crowds of people and not enough waiters. We enjoyed it none the less. 
We did stop for an ice cream at Scoops on 5th which is across the street from Donnelly Park and offers Hershey ice cream and some wonderful looking baked goods. It was a nice respite from the heat. 

If you are looking for an adorable town with great shopping, you will enjoy Mount Dora. Lots of artists co-ops are located all over town and you will have lots of selections of local artists to choose from. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring cruises on Germany' s Rhine River

While the Rhine River may be best known for its fall and winter cruises and Christmas markets, there are many opportunities to cruise this beautiful river in the springtime as well. Trips start in Amsterdam and head south and others begin in Basel Switzerland and head north. 

Longer cruises use the Rhine to connect to other rivers as well so if you want a longer cruise that includes cruising the Rhine, that is also possible. Several different cruises lines provide the opportunity to choose a cruise that can fit your interests perfectly.

No matter which of the cruise lines you choose, the ships will be much smaller than the ships that travel on the seas. 

Because the water level is much lower in the rivers the ships have a much lower profile and are designed to travel in a river. Most rooms on a river cruise will have windows and offer spectacular views.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon offers cruises beginning in the first week of April. There are several options including an 8-day trip that begins in Amsterdam and ends in Basel. Spring is magical in the Netherlands with their amazing tulips and this is an ideal way to not only see the Rhine River towns and villages but to enjoy the beauty of springtime in Holland.

Among the stops on this particular cruise are Cologne, Koblenz, Mainz, Strasbourg, France and Breisach, Germany. At each of these stops, there are a variety of options for excursions that include visits to Heidelberg and the Black Forest among many others. 

You can just tour the cities on the river and enjoy walking through the streets and shopping or visiting historic sites.

Avalon’s fleet of ships is among the youngest in Europe and offers quite a high degree of comfort and amenities. Things such as WiFi are available as well as luxurious accommodations and delicious food.

What you won’t get are things like a swimming pool and Broadway type shows. It is a different and more relaxed experience to cruises the Rhine River.

Viking Cruises 

Perhaps the best known of the Cruise lines for Americans is Viking Cruises which does extensive advertising in the U.S. They offer cruises beginning in April as well and follow the same itinerary choices as Avalon. Excursions  are offered to many different destinations from the different stops and the accommodations are luxurious with spacious rooms and lots of included amenities. Readers of Conde Nast Magazine have voted them Best Small Ship and Top River Cruise Ship. You can also choose to extend your cruise with more cruising or tours and hotels.

These are just two of the options available if you want to choose to cruise the Rhine River in the spring. Prices for cruises on either line will be lower in April than in June and it is the weather that will be the major difference when it comes to choosing which spring month works the best for you. It is more likely to be rainy in April than in June but you also get the benefit of viewing the early spring flowers and trees beginning to bud.

Spring is a great time to enjoy cruising the Rhine River and it is less crowded than the more popular summer months. You can choose spring cruises on the Rhine and enjoy more flowers and smaller crowds.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

South Wing restoration at Monticello

Monticello has begun an exciting new phase of restoration in the South Wing, where archaeologists and architectural historians are now excavating and peeling back layers of modern building fabric. The project will restore and interpret the cellar of the South Pavilion – the first building Thomas Jefferson constructed on the mountaintop – and, for the first time, a slave quarter where Sally Hemings lived.
You can be part of this when you visit Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Cruise review: Holland America Veendam

We took the Veendam from Boston to Bermuda in June 2016. It was our first time trying a Holland America cruise. We fell in love with the ship, the crew and Holland America. The Veendam is not one of the mega-ships. as a matter of fact, it is probably one of the smallest ships we have ever sailed on. That is part of what we loved, we were never lost.

Check in

Check in was flawless, Because there are not 6,000 people trying to board the ship, we found it very easy and totally stress-free. We had little or no wait time to get our boarding documents.


We chose an interior cabin and while it was small, it was perfect for what we wanted. It was clean and well equipped and the bed was comfortable. The closet was a good size and easily held our clothes and our suitcase. The bathroom was not overly small. Our friends had a balcony room and it was a very nice balcony with a chaise lounge. 


Since we booked last minute, we were not able to get a guaranteed early seating. Having said that, we managed to dine early any time we tried. We dined 3 out of 7 nights in the dining room the other nights we ate buffet and were happy to do so. The food at the buffet was the best we have ever had on a cruise ship. They have a salad bar that is excellent. Food was very high quality.

We went to tea several days in the afternoon and it was wonderful. It is not always traditional English tea either which kept it exciting. 


I have never seen happier staff. We made several friends among them and it was the most fun we have ever had on a cruise. They went out of their way to please on every occasion. 


I have to say, the evening entertainment was pretty lame. We went to two shows and then skipped it. But honestly, it really didn't matter to us at all. 


We loved the spa. We bought a package that allowed us to use the relaxation room anytime we wanted to. It had a mineral hot tub and heated tile lounges and steam rooms. My friend and I had a massage as well and it was an excellent massage. There was a little pressure to buy more services and products but that is quite normal. 


I loved the cooking demonstrations that they offered. Also, the computer classes. We did play trivia once or twice and I actually won the chocolate one. We didn't do too many things, we were more interested in relaxing. 

Even exiting the ship was enjoyable and flawless. I love this ship and can't wait to take it again, I don't even care where it is going. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Visiting the DAR Museum in Washington DC

Throw out any preconceived notions you may have about the DAR and come here prepared to see some beautiful rooms, a fantastic genealogy library, and a lovely building. It is probably not at all what you would imagine a museum that belongs to such a staid group would be like. It is amazing and you will wish that you could join.

Upon arrival, walk around the lobby area. Security is very strict here; bags are looked at, and one has to go through metal detectors before getting a badge. You need a badge to tour the building. The member who greeted suggested passing the time until the next tour by visiting the library; there is a charge to use it.

On a docent tour, you will learn the history of the DAR, that they owe their existence to the fact women were denied membership in the Sons of the American Revolution. The DAR building covers a whole city block, C to D Street between 17th and 18th Streets. Edward Casey designed the building, and the portico has 13 columns that represent the original 13 colonies. It is not hard to identify your home state if it was one of the original colonies.

The library was formerly a theater, and you visit it by sitting in what would have been the box seats. You get a bird’s-eye view of all the bookcases. There are flags hanging all around the room, representing the states, and they are hung in the order that they entered the union. The ceiling is made of glass, and the windows open like skylights to let in ventilation.

More than 30 period rooms are maintained by the membership of their respective states. Each docent will show different rooms; they all have their favorites, but they will try to show you your home state if they have a room. We began with Massachusetts. It is a Sam Adams-period room with furniture from the 18th century. A tea box is said to have been one of those thrown into Boston Harbor. (The fact that it has no water damage may put a lie to that story.) 

Not all of the rooms are period rooms; some of them are collections. One room, Connecticut, is the board room. Other rooms are New Jersey, Texas, and New York. All of them are very different, and each one has its own unique flavor. A repeat visit is in order since there are so many lovely rooms and a single visit won't get you into all of them.

Special exhibits will also be offered. Be sure to check their website to see what will be on display when you plan to visit.

A very nice gift shop and a small museum behind it complete your visit. Allow at least an hour. 

If you happen to visit when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, here is a great article about getting the best photos of them.  

DAR Museum
1776 D St NW

Washington, DC 20006

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Military Through the Ages at Jamestown Settlement

Take in Artillery Firings, Children’s Parade, Military Pass-in-Review

Hundreds of re-enactors depicting armed forces from the fifth century B.C. to modern times will come together on Saturday and Sunday, March 18 and 19, for Jamestown Settlement’s 33rd annual “Military Through the Ages” event.
This popular chronological display of military history, held each year at Jamestown Settlement since 1984, will feature military re-enactors and modern-day units depicting how uniforms, weapons and military tactics evolved through the centuries, as well as aspects of field communication and medical treatment. This family friendly event also showcases a variety of military vehicles and equipment. Visitors are encouraged to interact with re-enactors to learn how soldiers attired and armed themselves, as well as how they were fed and housed in times of war. A highlight of the 2017 event will be the centennial observance of America’s entry into World War I.  Weekend highlights include artillery firings, a Saturday children’s parade and a Sunday military pass-in-review. Merchants also will be on hand to sell reproduction wares.

Timeline from the 5th Century B.C. to the Virginia Army National Guard

More than 400 re-enactors will portray soldiers and military encounters from Greek and Roman times, the medieval period, Hundred Years’ War, War of the Roses, American Revolution, War of 1812, Napoleonic Wars, and American Civil War.  Re-enactors depicting World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War will take visitors through the 20th century.  The National Museum of the Marine Corps and the Virginia Army National Guard will represent the present.

Artillery, Children’s Parade, Military Pass-in-Review
Comparative artillery-firing demonstrations will be presented at noon Saturday and Sunday, with weapons ranging from a 17th-century swivel gun to a modern-day howitzer. A children’s parade at 1 p.m. Saturday, allows young “troops” to march through the museum’s re-created colonial fort and re-enactor campsites to formally present ribbons to each of the participating military units. A military pass-in-review will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday and will feature recognition of re-enactor units judged on camp sites and field demonstrations, as well as awards for visitor and re-enactor’s choice for the top re-enactment unit.

Musical Performances at Military Through the Ages

Music will be performed throughout the weekend, including the booming sounds of The Federal City Brass Band, re-creating a Union Army regimental brass band from the 1860s; Field Musick Virginia, presenting a mix of American Revolution military music and instrumental history; and the Old Cigar Box String Band, offering string band versions of songs from the American Revolution to the 20th century.

Military Aspects at Jamestown Settlement

Arms, armor and military accouterments of 17th-century Virginia can be seen inside Jamestown Settlement’s extensive galleries, featuring films and interactive exhibits that tell the story of America’s first permanent English colony and of the Powhatan Indian, European and African cultures in 1600s Virginia. Families can experience hands-on activities, such as trying on reproductions of English helmets and breastplates, in outdoor re-creations of a 1610-14 English fort, a Powhatan Indian village, and on board one of three ships that brought English colonists to Virginia in 1607 – Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery.

Jamestown Settlement is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round. 2017 admission is $17.00 for adults and $8.00 for ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free. A value-priced combination ticket with the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, is $23.00 for adults and $12.00 for ages 6-12. Parking is free. Jamestown Settlement is located on State Route 31 near the Colonial Parkway in James City County, just southwest of Williamsburg and adjacent to Historic Jamestowne. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or