Thursday, August 24, 2017

Places to sample the tastes of summer

What exactly is the taste of summer? It varies from one region to another. In the summertime, fruits and vegetables are at their freshest. If you want to taste them where they grow, here are a few suggestions.

When most people think of New Jersey, they don’t necessarily think of it as the Garden State, but that is its nickname. In the summer, heirloom tomatoes are in season and New Jersey is the perfect place to try their luscious goodness. Wildwood, New Jersey is a wonderful summer vacation destination with activities that will keep the whole family happy. Five miles of gorgeous white sand beaches are free to use. A two-mile boardwalk offers all manner of entertainment and dining options. Be on the lookout for restaurants that feature fresh local produce and you will get to taste the best that New Jersey has to offer in the summer.

Summer in Maine is all about lobsters and blueberries. Head for Route 1 and stop in any of the coastal towns and you will find a lobster shack. The tiny wild Maine blueberries will show up in desserts such as crisps and pies and in breakfast pancakes. In August the place to be is Rockland, Maine for the Lobster Festival. 20,000 pounds of succulent lobster is just waiting to be eaten but in addition, you will find live entertainment, a parade, arts and crafts and carnival rides and games. The whole family will be entertained.

Further north in the Province of Quebec, the Ile d’Orleans is known as the bread basket of Quebec. You will find summer is a time of delectable fruits with the largest juiciest strawberries you have ever eaten along with fresh raspberries, blueberries and wine made right here on the island. The Farmers Market in Quebec City has plenty of opportunities to buy all the fresh bounty of summer and places where you can also eat some fresh foods. Summer on the island is all about fresh fruits and fresh local made ice cream in the favorite maple flavor.

It is not something most people think about but in Gilroy California, there is one thing that reigns supreme, garlic. Every year people come from far and wide to enjoy the Gilroy Garlic Festival where garlic is celebrated in ways that most people have never considered. You can eat foods of all kinds cooked with this flavorful vegetable. It isn’t just garlic that thrives in this area, they are also known for their mushrooms and locally produced wines. There will be lots of entertainment, a cook-off, children’s area and food, food, and more food. Come hungry and leave satisfied.

Corn on the cob is one the best vegetables that come to us in the summer. The Midwest is known for the quality and abundance of their corn. Head to the countryside of northeastern Ohio where the Amish live and taste not only their great corn but also the delicious foods that they offer in their local restaurants. You will want to bring home a jar of apple butter and chow-chow that amazing relish made with all the bounty of summer.

These are just a few of the best places to enjoy the taste of summer. From north to south, east to west, fresh fruits and vegetables are available to tempt your palette in the summer, you just need to go out to find them.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Visiting stately homes in England

When it comes to stately homes in England, there is an abundance of choices. Several are or were owned by the crown including Windsor Castle and  Hampton Court, both within an easy day-trip from London.

Ten of these homes are referred to as the Treasure Houses of Britain These homes belonged or still belong to aristocratic families in England. They are the best of the best of the private homes and years ago treasures from these homes travel to the United States in a wonderful exhibit which piqued the interest of many American.

Most of these homes will require a car to visit. They are located in the countryside and quite far from public transportation. These homes are an attraction to not only tourists but to locals and a day-out to a stately home is a way for many Brits to enjoy the outdoors in a lovely garden or park.

Woburn Abbey is located in the town of Woburn, Bedfordshire and is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. This home has been in the Russell family for almost 400 years. The house is located within a 3000-acre deer park. The Red and Fallow Deer of Woburn are one of the major attractions. You will glimpse the herds as you drive through the park. It is a very impressive sight. The ticket that you purchase to enter the house also gives you access to the gardens, the deer park, and the antique centre.

Though this is, without a doubt, a stately home, there is a warm feeling to the decor. Woburn has an outstanding art collection, one of the finest of the Treasure Houses if not the finest. Among the many old masters displayed there are 21 views of Venice by Canaletto. A spectacular Sevres porcelain collection is also a highlight of any visit.

The restaurant on site serves lunch and tea and there is a very nice gift shop. The antique centre is located away from the house and it always has a good selection of items on offer. There are some very expensive pieces but also some smalls that anyone can afford. A Safari Park is a favorite family destination.

Chatsworth is located near Bakewell in Derbyshire. It is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The Cavendish family has lived in this home since it was first built in the 16th century by Bess of Hardwick. It has been enlarged greatly over the centuries and today is truly one of the most amazing of the stately homes. One of the most famous of the residents of Chatsworth was Georgiana who was the subject of a book and movie in recent years. The Duchess, starring Kiera Knightley, was partially filmed on site at Chatsworth.

Today, the house has been adapted to allow visitors to tour through more areas than ever before while still allowing the family to have their privacy. There are audio tours, guided tours, and talks. You can spend as much or as little time visiting as you would like. There is a fine art collection on display throughout the house including works by Rembrandt, Van Dyke and Veronese. Things are never static here; they are always updating the exhibits and opening up more areas of the house.

The house usually opens in March and stays open until December 23. In addition to the house, there are exceptionally lovely gardens, a farmyard, and The Devonshire Collection which focus& on the collections of the family throughout the years.

There is a wonderful gift shop and you can also stop and have a snack or lunch at the restaurant. A visit can certainly fill an entire day. Even in the off-season when the house is closed, a visit to the grounds or to the local churchyard to visit the family graves is worth doing.

Blenheim Palace is located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. It is the home of the Churchill family, the Dukes of Marlborough. It is also the place where Winston Churchill was born. It was built for the First Duke in the early 18th century after the victory at the Battle of Blenheim. It is one of the largest private homes in England and certainly can be described as stately. The house is open from February through the end of December.

One of the first rooms that guests visit on a self-guided tour is dedicated to Winston Churchill. He really should not have been born here, his parents were visiting and he was born early. The house is filled with the collected treasure of the last 300 years. The house is set in over 2000 acres of stunning gardens.

These are just three of the best stately homes that England has to offer, there are many more and certainly one to suit anyone's taste.

The other 7 Treasure Houses of Britain are Beaulieu, Castle Howard, Leeds Castle. Burghley House, Harwood House, Hatfield House, and Holkham Hall. The owners or former owners of these homes read like a who's who of British history. A visit to a stately home is a history lesson that the whole family can enjoy. I have visited all of them except Castle Howard and enjoyed them all. 

Further information:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer activities in Plymouth, MA

Plymouth has a great location on Cape Cod Bay and has plenty of beach area along with great historical things to visit. Plymouth is a very family friendly destination and in the summer, the long days allow for even more time to do all the things that are available. Summer activities in Plymouth, Mass. offer excitement for every member of the family.

Plimoth Plantation

Plimoth Plantation is a reconstructed village that is a living history museum. In the village, the year is 1627 and you get a chance to see how the colonists survived. The houses can be visited and there are costumed role players who have taken on the identity of the colonists who populated the village. You will learn about their thoughts, opinions, and life. There are gardens for vegetables but also for flowers. They go about their lives and you basically walk into their lives. They stay in character and especially encourage children to learn and interact with them.

Also at Plimoth Plantation, is an Indian homesite. The Wampanoag were the original residents of this area and in the early days, were very helpful to the Pilgrims. While the home site is traditional, the people who are on this site are real Native Americans and are not in character, they will discuss the Native American experience from a modern day perspective.

There is a lot more to do at Plimoth Plantation, you can spend the whole day here.

 Mayflower II

Berthed in Plymouth Harbor is the Mayflower II. Walking onboard and seeing the conditions and the small space where the Pilgrims spent their days on the journey to America is an eye opener for children and adults alike. Crew members onboard are happy to answer questions and as a matter of fact, really appreciate the interaction. This is enjoyable for the entire family.

White Horse Beach

With its great location on Cape Cod Bay, you would expect Plymouth to have great beaches, and they do. White Horse Beach is a public beach. There are some cons of this beach, it is far from the parking lot and there are no bathrooms, but on the upside, on a hot day, if you are not staying at a beachfront hotel, this is a great way to cool off and also to enjoy a picnic lunch


Plymouth Harbor Cruise

Summer is the perfect time to take a cruise of Plymouth Harbor. The Pilgrim Belle is a paddle wheeler which offers daily cruises in the summer months. You can also choose to take a brunch or dinner cruise.

Harbor Activities

The end of August is the time for the Waterfront Festival. It offers a craft fair, car show, food trucks and vendors and a whole lot more. Check out their website for a full list of events and activities.

With this many things to do, you will probably want to stay overnight in town. The Pilgrim Sands Motel is a resort located right on the beach and The John Carver Inn has a convenient downtown location and a pool that children will really enjoy, it is a big attraction.

Plymouth offers visitors a wide variety of summer activities, these are just a few of them. Of course, it goes without saying, you will also want to take a look at Plymouth Rock.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Amazing Forest Park in St Louis, Mo.

Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. It is 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City, just to put it in perspective. It was created in 1874 and at the dedication ceremony, Chauncey Shultz described it this way "I present to you, the people of St Louis, this large and beautiful "Forest Park" for the enjoyment of yourselves, your children and your children's children forever...the rich, the poor, the merchant and mechanic, the professional and the day laborer, each with his family and lunch basket, can come and enjoy his own, all without stint to hindrance and there will be no notice "Keep off the Grass". I am delighted to say that his vision is very much alive today.

Forest Park has been the site of some wonderful history. In 1904, the St Louis World’s Fair took place on the grounds of the park. This was one of the most amazing events in the history of St Louis with over twenty million people coming to see all the exhibits. This was the largest World's Fair ever and it changed the park into a magical world of entertainment and exhibition. When it was all over, the park was returned to its original park like setting.
Around the same time, it was decided that St Louis could use a municipal golf course and it was also constructed in Forest Park. It is still around today, having been upgraded and updated many times over the years. The great pleasure it brings to St Louis residents has never diminished.

Forest Park is surrounded by museums among them are the St Louis Museum of Art, the Missouri Museum of History and the St. Louis Science Center. The St Louis Zoo is also located in Forest Park. This park really does have something for everyone.
Forest Park St LLouis is open to all people, there were several large family groups with their tables, chairs, volleyball nets and grills enjoying the grass and shade within the park when we were there. Joggers, skaters, and walkers were active everywhere even though it was in the high 90's.

Paddle boats were for rent in one of the ponds and some of the most beautiful fountains I have ever seen. This is what a park should be, free, open and accessible to everyone. It is also very confusing to drive through which is how we got to see so much of it while traveling between museums.  I highly recommend Forest Park if you plan to be in the St. Louis area.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Garden Rockford, Illinois

Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Ill. is designed to look as if it were in Switzerland. As a matter of fact, it is one of the few houses of Swiss style still in existence in the United States. Robert Tinker became enamored with the design style on a trip to Switzerland and decided to create one in of all places, Rockford. In his own words, "I only wanted to build a home that would give Rockford a name." The location of the gardens is historic, it belonged to one of the founders of the city of Rockford, Germanicus Kent. The house itself is located on a bluff overlooking Kent Creek. 

Robert is an interesting man. He was born in Hawaii, his parents were missionaries and he came to Rockford to work for the company that John Manny had built in Rockford. He married Mary Door Manny, the rich widow of John, 8 years his senior. She had a mansion that had belonged to her first husband but he wanted to have a place that he created. The Tinkers had no children of their own but they raised Mrs. Tinker's two nieces. After Mrs. Tinker and one of the nieces died, Robert married the other niece, Jessie, and together they adopted a child. He became a father at the ripe old age of 72. 

The 20 room cottage was donated by the second Mrs. Tinker to the Rockford Park District. It opened as a museum in 1943. It is a time capsule of the Victorian age. The Tinkers were the only people to ever live in the house (75 years) and it is filled with original furnishings, portraits, and diaries. It almost feels as if the family is out for the day and will be back at any moment.

The house must be visited on a guided tour. All tours begin in the barn. The first room you enter into is the conservatory. It was the last addition that the Tinkers made to the home. Of particular interest is the library with its soaring ceiling. A railing running around the second level is created from carved wood. A gorgeous wood staircase connects the library to the second-floor balcony. Surprisingly, there are very few books in the library but the Tinker book collection does contain some rare first additions.

On most days, there would not be two busloads of people visiting but that was the reality the day that we visited. It did affect our ability to move from room to room and also to get our guide to answer questions. In spite of that, it was an amazing experience.

Many special details around the house are special including painted ceilings and wonderful fireplaces. Look for the portrait of Robert Tinker in the formal parlor. 

You can visit two levels of Swiss Cottage and also the gardens. The museum is open every day except Monday. Check the website for hours and prices. A variety of special events take place at the museum seasonally as well as exhibits.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Late summer getaway to the Hudson River Valley

We live in Connecticut, the Hudson River Valley is an easy drive and makes an ideal destination for a late summer getaway for a week or a weekend. You just go out Interstate 84 and then take Route 9 North once you get to Fishkill. Within minutes, you are in the heart of the Hudson River Valley. 

We began our weekend on Friday by having lunch at the Culinary Institute of America. This is something that you have to plan well in advance, actually, months is not a bad idea. Dining here is very popular and if you don't plan ahead you may not get the restaurant of your choice. Before you decide which one you want to dine at, be sure to check the dress code, yes, some of the restaurants have a dress code.

It was August when we were there and we wanted to be able to wear casual clothes so we chose to dine at American Bounty Restaurant. It was one of the highlights of the weekend and I highly recommend that if you are going to be in Hyde Park you plan to dine here.

The Hudson River Valley offers many places to visit. We had to limit ourselves to just a few since we didn't have that much time. Several historic mansions are perfect for a visit. We chose the Vanderbilt Mansion and the Italianate Gardens. The Mansion has a beautiful location on the Hudson River and it is quite interesting to see how the other half lived. It was very hot inside the mansion however so I would recommend a visit in the fall when heat isn't such an issue. The gardens in August were gorgeous.

On Sunday we also visited the Samuel Morse home which was quite interesting as well. Several important homes in the area that we didn't get to include Springwood, FDR's home, and Eleanor Roosevelt's home Val-Kil. We opted to go to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome since one of our friends is more of airplane enthusiasts than a historic homes person. The aerodrome is a great place for the whole family. Not only are there a lot of airplanes on the ground but your ticket gets you a seat at the air show.


If you enjoy shopping, downtown Rhinebeck is lots of fun, there are plenty of small shops to poke around in. On the way home, we also stopped at the Millbrook Vineyard and took a tour through their operation. You get to sample some of their very fine wines as well as learning about the production and bottling of wine.

On this particular trip, the "Inn" I chose was not at all what we were expecting. I would not recommend it however, we have stayed at the Hyatt House in Fishkill and it is a step above most hotels and we just loved the old fashioned charm of the Roosevelt Inn in Hyde Park. 

The Hudson River Valley has a lot to offer any visitor in just about any season. Located just an hour north of New York City it is a little piece of heaven that several famous people obviously recognized.