Monday, May 29, 2017

Gainesborough's House, Sudbury, Suffolk

Gainsborough House is the former home of Thomas Gainsborough. This is the house where he was born. He lived here with his parents until he went to London at the age of 13. It has been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and it also houses a very nice collection of his works and some personal items of his. None of the furnishings, however, are original to the house; they are just to set the atmosphere and are from the correct time period.

Everyone here is very friendly. When I asked to take pictures, the woman who was working in the gift shop got the curator for me and he gave me permission as long as I didn't feature the paintings. I was very careful not to, as this was a great privilege.
The mulberry tree

We had the funniest experience on our whole trip here at Gainsborough House. When we were in the gift shop Linda told us to make sure we tried the mulberries in the garden as there is a 300-year old tree there and some of the fruit was still on the tree. She warned us to make sure we ate dark fruit otherwise it would be sour. Well, we've never seen a mulberry in our lives so we wandered out to the garden in search of one. 

We found some round red things that looked like crab apples so Joe and I took a little nibble of a couple of them. I then began a short conversation with a woman who was eating her lunch in the garden and she asked me why we were eating the rose hips. Rose hips, we thought they were mulberries, she looked at us like we were crazy and pointed out a large tree across the garden. 

That is the mulberry tree. We spit the rose hips out pretty fast let me tell you. Don't worry she told us they are high in vitamin C. Red-faced, we went over to try the mulberries, and all we need to do now is say rose hips and we get silly laughing.

In the hall is a small case with personal items a snuff box with his initials, a pocket watch, and a sword stick.

One of the portraits in the house is of a boy and it is believed to be the earliest portrait he painted, also, two pictures, one of a boy and one of a girl that were originally one picture, you can see her dress in the bottom of his picture. More of his paintings are on display here than anywhere else in the world.

It is an amazing experience to be able to see the artist's work in a venue that is of the period he was painting in. Come here to get a feel for what his world was like and to take a brief step back in time. Admission is 4.5 pounds. The house is open Mon -Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

On our second visit to the house a few years later we also walked along High Street in Sudbury and enjoyed some of the shops especially the thrift shops.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Planning a trip to Germany

Germany is a fascinating country with an amazing variety of things to see and do. The first order of business when considering a visit to Germany is deciding where you want to go. Are you looking to visit the Black Forest, Berlin or Bavaria? It would be impossible to see everything of interest in one trip so you either need to be satisfied with seeing a lot of areas briefly or concentrating on one or two areas. Once you have narrowed down the area you want to visit, it is time to head to the Internet.

A good first stop would be The Official Tourism site for Germany. It's a great place to begin to find out what there is to see in each of the places you have decided to visit. It even has a list of all the Christmas markets by geographic area. There is a lot of practical up to date information on this site as well.

Bookmark each of the sites you use so that you can go back and check on them. Another very informative site is Come to Germany. One of the blocks on the front page is Specials. It includes Spiritual travel, Abbeys Churches, cathedrals and minsters Traditions and customs, Family attractions, Theme parks, Worlds of discovery, Zoos & wildlife parks, Indoor & interactive, Luther Contemporaries Places associated with Luther Biography Contemporary history Luther Routes.

You may want to visit Everything about Germany which includes travel tips, everything you need to know about Oktoberfest and dangers and cautions. Not as all inclusive a site as the first two but it does have some information worth looking at and is written by a former American soldier who was stationed in Germany.

When it comes time to start picking your accommodations, be sure to check out Trip Advisor and Rough Guides. These sites offer suggestions for where to stay, reviews and things you need to know before you book. You can't trust websites that are owned by accommodations to give you truthful reviews, look for other review sites.

If you are looking for bed and breakfast accommodations in Germany this is a good website. It has a map of Germany and you click on the area where you plan to stay and it gives you a list of the available bed and breakfasts. By clicking on the name of the B&B you can get detailed information about the hosts and the accommodations.
If you prefer to rent an apartment or a self-catering house, try this site.

To find a hotel you can use any of the large search engines such as or to do your search. Book directly with the hotel if at all possible. To find out some of smaller more out of the way hotels just Google hotels in the city of your choice. One chain that is particularly nice are the Romantik Hotels. They have 106 member hotels in Germany.

With these sites you should have all the tools you need to plan and book a wonderful German vacation. When you get to each city be sure to visit the local tourist board and pick up all the free information that they are sure to have.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Marriott Hotel Springfield, Mass.

The Marriott Hotel in Springfield is located in the downtown area. It is within two blocks of the Mass Mutual Center where our NERGC Convention was held. It has its own parking level in a parking garage but it is not near the entrance to the hotel but rather on Bridge Street which is on the opposite site of the building.

Once you have parked, take your ticket with you to the desk and they will add the $17 a day charge to your room. An entrance on C level of the hotel takes you right in and out to the garage. A ramp makes it easy to get your luggage into the hotel.

The lobby is attractive with lots of marble and check-in was a breeze. Three elevators meant that we never had to wait long to get to our room on the 12th floor.

We had a standard two double bedded room and it was small but well equipped. The bathroom was positively tiny. It was one of the smallest bathrooms I have ever seen. 


Comfortable beds with lots of pillows. 

Enough plugs to keep our devices charged. 

A small refridgerator to keep our drinks cold. 

The room was very clean. 

Good selections of TV stations.


While the internet was strong it was difficult to log on and we ha to keep logging on every day. 

The coffee pots is located inside the cabinet in the room which is very incoveneient. 

Very small bathroom. 

Small TV. 

Overall, we enjoyed our stay here. The staff is very friendly and helpful and housekeeping, which we didn't allow into the room, kept us suppied with extra coffee and plenty of toiletries. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Country Inn and Suites Hagerstown, Md

Country Inn and Suites in Hagerstown, Maryland has a great location. It is just a mile from I-81 and there are restaurants and Valley Mall all located within walking distance. I chose it for this great location.

The lobby is very welcoming with the great stairway that you can take to the second floor. It makes it look more like a mansion than a hotel. There is of course, an elevator so you don’t need to use the stairs but when you come down to breakfast it is the shortest route.

Speaking of the breakfast room, it is spacious and bright and with the good weather, it spills over into an exterior area.

The pool and spa is under construction at the moment so we were not able to use it but it is a large area and I look forward to using it the next time we stay in the area.

We had a king room which is quite spacious and has lots of amenities including a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker and that is just in the room. The closet has a safe and ironing board and iron.

The HD TV offers a good selection of channels. Unfortunately, when we were here, none of the local channels were coming in which was very disappointing but not the norm. The desk staff was absolutely no help when I called them.

The desk is a good size and has a very comfortable chair. The room has an additional chair if you like sitting to watch TV.

The bathroom is typical, granite countertop, tub, and shower combo but this one is a nice deep tub that really did invite taking a bath. The towels are plush and there were three large ones.

The bed was very comfortable but I have to admit I am not an admirer of what I call shiny bedspreads and this one fell into that category. Plenty of pillows were provided and the sheets were crisp and white.

A business center with a computer and printer are just off the lobby and coffee and hot water is available 24/7 along with apples and cookies.

Breakfast is included and is a generous spread. Whether you want a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and sausage or make your own waffles or a continental, there will be plenty of choices. Four kinds of juice, cold cereal, yogurt and plenty of carb choices, lemon and poppy seed muffins, English muffins, Danish, two kinds of bagels, three types of toast. A fruit salad and then fresh whole fruit was also available and of course coffee.

I am getting to be quite a fan of the Country Inns and Suites.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cruise ports: Royal Naval Dockyard Bermuda

If you are taking a cruise to Bermuda, chances are you will be docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard unless you are on a smaller ship. We have been docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard twice and in Hamilton twice. Two wharfs hold cruise ships, King's Wharf and Heritage Wharf. Even if you are docking in St. George or Hamilton, the Royal Naval Dockyard is just a short ferry ride away. Why do you want to visit  Here are a few reasons. 


Most people come to Naval Dockyard for shopping. Bermuda is known for its rum cake, wonderful jelly, local crafts, fashion and delicious smelling perfumes. Jewelry is also a popular item to shop for here. You will find lots of unique items to bring home as well as lots of gourmet food items. 

National Museum of Bermuda

Located in former military buildings and the Commissioner's House you will learn about the 500-year history of the island of Bermuda. You can also visit Dolphin Quest which is part of the museum and here you can enjoy interacting with dolphins up close and personal. 

Dockyard Glassworks Hot Glass Studio and Gallery

If you have ever wanted to see glass blown, this will be your chance. You can also buy some of their beautiful creations. 


Dining is a popular pastime at Royal Naval Dockyard. You will be able to dine on local favorites as well as international cuisine. 

A free shuttle train travels around the dockyard and you can get on and off as often as you like. 

If you are visiting Bermuda, chances are you will want to spend at least a few hours enjoying all that the Royal Naval Dockyard has to offer. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Carpenter Street Inn Springfield, Ill

The exterior of the Carpenter Street Hotel in no way prepares you for what you will find inside. The exterior is quite plain and reminiscent of several chain hotels. The lobby is quite small and has an adjacent breakfast room and the elevator is also small. Since the hotel is only three stories, this is not an issue. When you open the door to your room, you are in for a wonderful surprise. It is very boutique like with a pretty patterned neutral carpet and soothing taupe walls.

We had a standard king room, and the bed was done with crisp white bedding and plenty of pillows and one burgundy pillow for a pop of color. Although it was understood that this was a limited service hotel, from what was seen, there are plenty of services.

For one thing, the hotel has a van that will shuttle guests to downtown locations. How convenient is that? Not that the hotel is far from anything, it is only a few blocks from the Old State Capital and the Lincoln Herndon Law Office as well as several area hospitals and plenty of dining. You can certainly walk from here to just about anywhere you want to go.

In addition to the bed, the room had a chair and ottoman, a work desk and ergonomic chair, a microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker and a 32-inch flat panel TV. 

The lights on the wall in back of the nightstands include electric plugs, which is very convenient for keeping all the electronics charged. A large padded bench and a full-length mirror are also included. The closet is open and a dresser sits under the TV. Plenty of lights in the room, including one on the desk and a floor lamp next to the chair and ottoman, keep things as bright as you prefer.

The bathroom looks brand new and had a one-piece shower and tub and of course a sink, large mirror and all the things you expect from your bathroom. The water pressure is strong and provided a great shower.

A new gym has been recently added. The entire hotel is smoke-free, Internet access is free and strong, and there is no charge for parking at the hotel. The staff is exceptional friendly and wake-up calls or extra towels are available if needed. This makes you feel very welcome.

Breakfast, which is complimentary, is served from 5:00 a.m. to 9 a.m. It is the basic free buffet that most hotels offer: pastries, juice, yogurt, bagels, boiled eggs, two hot dishes (scrambled eggs with cheese and potatoes when this writer visited) and make-your-own waffles. The breakfast room is pleasant and there are enough tables to accommodate guests.

The hotel originally opened in 1997 to meet the demands of family and patients at the local healthcare facilities. With its new updates and renovations, it has expanded its customer base to include tourists and business people as well. The prices are good, the location is great and the rooms are upscale enough to satisfy everyone. I would not hesitate to recommend The Carpenter Street Hotel to anyone visiting the area and would certainly stay here again myself.