Monday, September 17, 2018

Fairfield Inn Williamsburg, Virginia

Located on Richmond Road, the Fairfield Inn has an excellent location. Within about 5 minutes you can be in Colonial Williamsburg which is just a little over a mile away. It is equally convenient to Bypass Road and from there to the Colonial Parkway.

The hotel itself is big, it may be one of the biggest Fairfield Inns this writer has ever seen. It is two buildings that connect at the breakfast room and recreation area. One thing that is very good is that the breakfast room is appropriately sized for such a large hotel and can handle the number of customers it needs to even on the weekends.

The Fairfield Inn has regular rooms, studios and suites. The studio consists of two rooms, a parlor with a TV and a sleeper sofa and a bedroom with a TV and King bed but there is no door between so it may seem like dueling TVs at times. The suites include two bathrooms and two double beds and a sleeper sofa.

The room is spacious, in addition to the TV and sofa the living room has a desk, chair and coffee table. The bedroom is not as spacious but has a large closet and two nightstands. A bench serves as one suitcase holder and there is another suitcase rack in the closet which fits in the room on the window side of the TV stand.

Near the entrance to the room, are a small fridge, coffee pot and microwave.

The bathroom has a large granite counter top and a two-piece tub/shower. The shower pressure was very good and four large plush bath towels guarantee that you will not have a problem drying off.

The room was very clean and in good repair. Two large windows overlook the parking lot and the pizza restaurant across the way.

Breakfast is included and offers the usual items, yogurt, fruit juice, fresh fruit both cut up and whole, cold cereal and oatmeal, bread, bagels, muffins and Danish. Hot food is also offered scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage and make your own waffles. Cold boiled eggs are also offered. The coffee and tea bar is open 24/7 and has lots of good tea selections.

The gym is not large but offers several different machines. The pool area is quite nice as well. The pool is heated to 85 degrees and was very clean. The hot tub has no jets which are disappointing but it was pleasantly warm at 101 degrees.

The lobby has a new updated look and the staff, especially Kahlid, were so friendly and welcomed us as we came and went. We had a great 5-day stay and I feel very confidently highly recommending this location. The General Manager was very hands on and we got to know her long before we knew she was the general manager.

If you are going to Williamsburg, I highly recommend the Fairfield Inn for location, price and amenities.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Touring Yorktown Battlefield

Yorktown Battlefield is operated by the National Park Service. Entrance is free if you have a Golden Pass or an active military pass. As you enter the Visitor Center, check the wall to the right, it has which houses are open and the times for the ranger tours of the battlefield. It makes planning a visit easier.

After getting a ticket, head to the theater to see the 16-minute film. Knowing that the film is a minute too long, rangers wait to begin the tour of the battlefield until the film ends. In order to enjoy the tour outside visitors need to be able to stand for long periods and walk over uneven ground.

The tour begins in an area where benches are provided and also shade if it is a particularly sunny warm day. Our ranger Jenny was very knowledgeable about the subject of the battle and what happened both before and after. The first thing that needs to be understood is that Yorktown was a siege, not a regular battle. The British were trapped here and pounded with artillery for eight days and nights without ceasing.

To save his men, General Cornwallis has no option other than surrender. The British were outmanned two to one and in a hopeless position. The terms were negotiated by a team from both sides at which neither Washington nor Cornwallis was present. The house where the agreement was reached still exists but was closed when we visited in November.

While Yorktown was the last significant battle of the war, it was another two years before the Peace Treaty of Paris was signed and the United States became a free nation.

Back inside the Visitor Center, there is a small museum to visit. While it is not large, it does hold some real treasures. There are two tents that belonged to and were used by George Washington. The condition of these tents is outstanding considering their age. They were purchased at auction after Martha Washington’s death by her grandson and came into the possession of Robert E Lee and his wife since she is a descendant. The tents were stored in the Custis Lee Mansion at Arlington during the Civil War. One of the servants there knew their value and informed the Union Army who was occupying the house thus guaranteeing their safety and preservation. Today, they are on display for visitors to see and appreciate.

Visitors can also walk inside a boat that has been built into the visitor center. The battle which took place in the Chesapeake Bay was crucial to the success of the Battle of Yorktown.

A driving tour is offered that you can take around the battlefield site. The monument to the Battle of Yorktown is nearby as well just outside of downtown.

While not nearly as showy as the Yorktown Victory Center, what Yorktown Battlefield has is the authentic location and that makes for a very enjoyable visit.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Quail's Covey B&B Hartville, Ohio

Quail's Covey can best be described as an oasis of tranquility. You feel the peace as soon as you enter the long driveway and pass the pond with ducks and the pair of swans. You can almost feel your cares ebbing away. The house is hard to miss; it is quite magnificent. The dark beams of a Tudor beauty with an Alpine feel.

Charlotte, call her Charlie, and husband John (who built the house himself) will welcome you at the front door and you will definitely feel more like a guest than a visitor. Many places claim that you arrive as strangers and leave as friends; at Quail’s Covey it is true. The warmth is genuine and the welcome sincere. Your comfort is the main concern.

We had the Dogwood Suite and to say it is lovely does not do it justice. It is a two room suite with a balcony that overlooks the front lawn and the pond. The king bed is a four poster with cozy bedding that will make you want to stay in bed all day. The good news is if that is what you want, go right ahead.

A comfortable leather chair sits next to the bed with an ottoman which became my workspace. Plenty of electric plugs guarantee that charging electronics will never be an issue. There is plenty of drawer space as well as a closet. The smaller room has a chaise lounge as well as a wicker chair. The Internet connection is strong and there are plenty of channels on the TV. Magazines and books are available in all of the rooms including the bathroom.

The bathroom has a separate room for the toilet, a huge jetted tub and a shower for two. The vanity has double sinks. It is a truly luxurious bathroom.

In the evening, Charlie will deliver dessert to your room. Oh my, can you say apple dumpling? It is amazing served with a cup of coffee and a scoop of ice cream. The second night it was peach cobbler, just as amazing. If you still are looking for a little something sweet, check your nightstand, there should be two chocolates from Hartville Chocolates.

In the morning, an hour before your designated breakfast time, a tray will appear outside your room with a carafe of coffee, freshly squeezed juice and a warm scone, a really delicious moist scone. Listen for the bell ringing, which is the signal that your tray has arrived.

Breakfast is served when you prefer and there are several different places where it can be served. You may choose the more formal dining room, the sunroom or out on the deck under the gazebo. Where ever you choose, rest assured, you will enjoy it. Not only is the food delicious, it is plentiful and Charlie will certainly cater to your likes. We expressed a preference for steel cut oatmeal and that is what we had on the second morning with brown sugar, walnuts, and dried cranberries.

The meal begins with a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt and finishes with toast, bacon and garden tomatoes. The first morning we had the fruit, a perfect omelet with veggies in it and of course, bacon, toast, and tomatoes. In addition, a delicious bread pudding was served that my husband adored. Needless to say, we didn’t eat an early lunch.

Quail’s Covey has 3 rooms on the second floor. There is an additional first-floor room for overflow or for guests who would be challenged by the stairs. Call Charlie for details.

We fell in love with not only this bed and breakfast but with Charlie. She will join you at breakfast if you want or if you are looking for privacy, she will respect that. The property borders on Quail Hollow State Park and you can access the trails right from the backyard.

Hartville is a wonderful small town to visit with great shopping. It is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway and Quail’s Covey is the perfect place to stay.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Visiting Reynolda House Winston Salem, NC

Reynolda House is the home that Katherine Smith Reynolds built in Winston-Salem. She was the wife of tobacco baron R.J. Reynolds. Theirs is a unique love story, a May-December romance of the owner of the company and his private secretary who together planned and built the house that they would refer to as "the bungalow."

At the time, it was unusual to have the deed for the house strictly in a woman's name, it is very telling of their relationship. Katherine was college educated and R.J. respected and admired her mind and her ability to think clearly. In the case of Reynolda House, she had a clear vision of a self-sustaining home where everything they would need would be produced on the estate.

Charles Barton Keen was the architect for the house, the farm and the village which gives the estate a unified appearance. The style of the house reflects the style of the times it was built in. It is Arts and Crafts with a little Colonial Revival thrown in. Craftsmen moved into the village and farmers worked the farm. Everything they needed was right here at Reynolda including a school and a church.

The family moved into the house in 1917. The interlude was short; R.J died 7 months after they moved in. Four years later Katherine married the principal of the school in the village and she herself died in childbirth 3 years later. It was the end of an era.

The stewardship of the house passed to daughter Mary Reynolds Babcock and then to granddaughter Barbara Babcock Millhouse. It was Barbara who began the art collection that is so much a part of Reynolda House today.

Enough about the history, let's get on to visiting the house. There is plenty of parking both regular and handicapped. The entrance fee is $18 for adults but there are also discounts available for seniors, AAA, and children. A headphone tour is included in the price of admission.

The first stop is an orientation center where you can watch an 11-minute video that tells you the background story of the house. Large wall plaques provide information and pictures that you can read and there are phones where you can listen to firsthand accounts about the family and the house.

The house was opened for tours in 1967 and the public immediately came to love the house and its amazing collection of art. We went on a private tour of the house on February 1, 2011. Sharyn Turner from their Public Relations Department gave us a wonderful hour-long tour and introduced us to this lovely house. A note for anyone visiting, there is an elevator which makes this home accessible for people with disabilities.

The house is decorated much as it would have been in 1917. Structural changes have been made to the house and a few other things are different but overall you get a very World War I time period feel. The butler's pantry is very interesting, certainly one of the largest I have ever personally seen.

A few things, in particular, are of interest to visitors. A huge Aeolian Organ in the home provides concerts for guests on some Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The costume collection which has many pieces that belong to Katherine Reynolds and her daughters is also interesting. Of special note are the hats and shoes and a nice selection of children's clothing. A great collection of toys that belonged to the children of the house is on display. Keep your eyes open for the Sonia Henie doll. I will give you a tip, she is near Charlie McCarthy.

A trip to the basement of Reynolda House is an eye-opener. There is a shooting gallery, a squash court, a bowling alley, a great bar area and an indoor pool. While it is obvious that this is a mansion, this part of the house feels like a family home.

We were particularly interested in the important collection of American Art that Barbara Millhouse bought for the house Paintings by Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Hart Benton among others are displayed around the house in a natural setting.

A new wing was opened in 2005 and this gave them some much-needed gallery space. They hold two exhibitions a year and have classes for children their parents every month to introduce them to art.

Gardens, as well as much more, are open to visit and of course a great gift shop. On the way out of the estate, you will drive into Reynolda Village. A variety of very upscale shops and a few places to eat are located there. It is worth just looking around to appreciate the concept of the self-sustaining estate.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Lookout Mountain Incline Chattanooga

Chattanooga has reinvented itself. It has gone from being a rundown industrial city to a lively center for arts and entertainment. There is a lot of history in Chattanooga and you can become part of it during your visit.

Chattanooga was the site of some fierce fighting during the Civil War. It was a vital link in the supply chain of the Southern states and the Confederate Army. From early in the War Lincoln was aware of what an important city this was for the Union army to gain control of. The Confederacy was also aware of its importance and made every effort to secure it from the Union. 

By 1863 the Union was in a position to make a concerted effort to take control. There were two major battles in the area, Chickamauga and the Battle of Chattanooga. As you can well imagine a mountain, especially one called Lookout Mountain, would be an advantage to both sides in a conflict. One of the reasons to take the Lookout Mountain Incline is to get to Point Park. This is maintained by the National Park Service.

A visitor center greets you at Point Park which explains the significance of the Battle for Chattanooga. This is explained with displays and a short video. You also need to buy your ticket to get into Point Park, this is not one of the free Park Department locations. It is inexpensive, $3 for adults but you will want to do it. The view is excellent and the monument erected to commemorate both the Union and the Confederate troops who fought here is unique in the fact that they are shown shaking hands on the top of the monument.

Today getting to the top of Lookout Mountain is much easier than it was during the Civil War. Opened in 1895 the Incline Railway is the steepest incline in the world, at some points 72 degrees, which is very steep indeed. There are two cars that both leave their respective stations at the same time, when they meet in the middle the conductors change cars and go back to the station they came from. Going up seems steeper but getting on the car at the upper station is a production since unlike other inclines no attempt is made to keep you level, you have to climb down into the car, you have to see it to understand but it is tricky.

The track is one mile from top to bottom and it cost $15 round trip for adults, $7 for children aged 3-12 when we were there. There is a running narrative on the incline that plays while you go up and another one on the way down. One thing we learned was that when there is snow or ice the people who live on Lookout Mountain take the incline to get down the mountain. We didn't drive the road up but I can well imagine that it is steep.

Gift stores are located at both the top and the bottom of the incline and they have a large free parking lot at the bottom. It is a little walk to Point Park at the top but most of it has sidewalks. This is an experience that should not be missed if you are visiting Chattanooga. The views from the top are spectacular.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Hotel Review: Boston's Colonnade Hotel

Back Bay is a very popular and affluent neighborhood in Boston. It includes the Prudential Center, Copley Square, Newbury Street and the Colonnade Hotel.

If you want to be at the epicenter of great shopping and nightlife then this is the perfect hotel choice. Part of the Preferred Hotel Group this venerable boutique hotel has been offering quality digs in Bean town for the last forty plus years. It has undergone a major renovation and everything is very modern and very sleek.

The lobby is designed to impress with lots of marble and a modern style. You will find the desk staff to be cordial and willing to answer your questions about what to do and see in the area as well as where to dine. You won’t have any complaints about the elevators either they are very fast and spacious.

While the standard rooms are not large, they have all the amenities that any discriminating traveler could want. Our room had bedding done is brown and white with a boutique feel. A row of pillows lined the headboard.

The mattress had a pillow top and was distinctly cushy and we slept very well even though we were unimpressed by the soundproofing in our room, it could be improved upon. We were able to hear noises from the hall due to the ill-fitting exterior door.

Our room had two beds since we were traveling with our teenage granddaughter. We had to share the small bathroom which was, however, attractively outfitted with good lighting and a marble vanity. Plenty of push towels were provided as well as two robes in the spacious closet. If you want to bring home a souvenir, you will love the duck that is provided to float in your bath.

We got an excellent bargain on our room rate, you will find that on average the prices are typical for a city hotel in a great area. Try to get free parking or breakfast included in your rate. The hotel does not have its own parking but a parking garage is located next door and it has direct access to the hotel. 

We ordered room service which greatly impressed our granddaughter. Prices for this are typical for the area. We had breakfast delivered and were completely satisfied. The hotel does have a restaurant as well but we didn't eat in it.

With its location in the Back Bay area of Boston, you will be able to walk to some attractions and certainly can walk to some great shopping. We chose to take a cab on the way out and the T on the way back. The T stop is just 100 feet from the hotel.

From the Colonnade Hotel you will head to The Freedom Trail or Quincy Market on the inbound and to the Gardner Museum or Fenway on the outbound.

If you like boutique hotels with style, the Colonnade is an excellent choice. While it is not quite in the most historic area of town, it has its own attractions, especially shopping on Newbury Street.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Hotel Review: Boston Marriott Newton

If you are looking for a hotel "near" Boston but would like to avoid the horrible traffic, this is an excellent choice. Located overlooking the Charles River in New Newton, The Boston Marriott Newton is set just off of the I-95 and we encountered no traffic whatsoever. The downside is that we had to drive quite far to find a restaurant. But, the one we found was so good that the drive was well worth it.

I liked pretty much everything about this hotel. The one area that I found weak was when I asked the front desk for a list of hotels that offer delivery to the hotel, which I have done at countless other Marriotts, I was handed three menus. Three choices does not a list make!!  You can eat in the hotel, the bar offers food and there is a restaurant.

I was there for a genealogy conference which was held in the ballroom and other conference rooms. Other than being freezing cold, the facilities were exceptional. It was a smaller conference with only 350 attendees but very well organized.

You enter the hotel on level four, it is built into a hill. Having the lobby on the 4th floor confused everyone pretty much but it worked for us since our room was on the same floor. We had two queen beds, a chair not at the desk and a comfortable chair at the desk. The TV was huge. We also had a small fridge and coffee maker but no microwave which was a bummer.

The beds had all white bedding and were very comfortable. Lots of pillows made for a good night's sleep. I like the extra plugs that were located on the shared nightstand. 

Our room overlooked the parking lot which wasn't all bad as Kathy's car was basically right outside and we had an easy entrance and exit nearby. 

The bathroom had a large shower with rain head. The bathroom, however, was petite, very petite.

The food overall was a weak point, the onion soup we had was alright but nothing to write home about. The Bloody Mary, however, was outstanding. Mine was $7 and a virgin but excellent. I had two, lol. The conference had a continental breakfast and the muffins were tasty but the lunch sandwiches I found to be subpar. 

Normally, parking costs $11 a night, it was included in our conference rate and the Internet also is not free but I am a silver member so it was included. 

I would love to come back to this hotel. It would be convenient for some of the outside of Boston things I want to do like visit the National Archives in Waltham.