06-20-18 It’s Been A Year Part 2

It’s been a year since we started this adventure – Update #2:

Over the last dozen years or so we have taken a number of river cruises and had booked one on the Douro River with our friends Gloria and Jerry.

Here we are with Jerry and Gloria in Lisbon having our first glass of wine.

We met them several years ago on a tour of the UK and been able to convinced them to join us several times on various river cruises in Europe. Starting in Lisbon

Belem Tower at the entrance to the harbor in Lisbon.

and moving to Porto with the group was enjoyable. We have been to both areas previously but it was nice to be able to share it with Gloria and Jerry.

Queen Isabel was our ship for the River Cruise on the Douro.

The cruise up the river was relaxing and filled with fun times – we became part of a group of 12 or 13 passengers

Our River Cruise Group had its own private dining room – we were to load in the main lounge.

who all dined together and exchanged experiences.

Once the boat returned to Porto

Porto and the Douro River from the bridge.

we had a chance, for about 10 minutes, to connect with Janeen’s old high school friend Cherlyne

Janeen’s friend, Cherlyne, we were able to catch them for about 10 minutes in Porto! Another one of those small world situations.

and her husband David, who live in Eastern Oregon. They were with a different group and we caught them just before they went to taste Port wine!

Vineyards along the river

From Portugal we flew to Stuttgart Germany. The prior December (remember this is now late September) we had ordered a Mercedes Benz for foreign delivery. It was now time to pick up our new car!

Here’s our new cars first Baby Pictures!

There really is something special about buying a new car and picking it up from the factory. After several days in Stuttgart we packed everything up and headed to Venice stopping in Igls Austria for the evening and continuing through beautiful vistas of the Alps and Northern Italy.

We stopped for a picture as we were heading through the Italian Alps on our way to Venice.

In Venice we picked up Jason and Terri from the airport as they were going to join us for several days in Venice

Venice – oh what a beautiful part of the world.

after their adventure drinking great beers as part of OctoberFest.

After Venice we really didn’t have any plans other than to head south through Italy along the Adriatic side (east) with the intent of trying to get all the way to Sicily.

Here I am with Chef Massimiliano Alajmo – Le Calandre in Rubano Italy  – #29 on list of best restaurants in the World

We stopped along the way and enjoyed the sights of Silea, Padova, Barietta, Campoposto, and Torre di Palme to name just a few places we stopped. We took a tour of a

Barrels with aging Balsamic Vinegar – an interesting process very much like the sherry solera process.

Balsamic producer and learned how long it takes to really make the aged stuff – like 50 years! We toured various gardens learned about the local cultures, ate great meals and drank wonderful wines. Along the way we met any number of interesting people – both fellow travelers and locals.

While on a long trip eventually you want to have clean clothes. We learned a lot about how to do laundry on the road.

As we got further south in Italy, around Bari (just above the “heel” of the ‘boot’) we decided to turn north and head to France. Along the way we stopped at Paestum and walked some Greek Ruins,

Paestum in Italy has fantastic Greek ruins. It was great to explore and learn about the time the Greeks were here.
Of course, the selfie stick was used.

visited Tivoli Gardens near Rome,

The Fountain of the Owl at Tivoli Gardens

Neive in the Piedmont region

We stopped in Neive in the Piedmont region of Italy to say high to the guide we had when we visited several years ago.

and stopped for a few days in Genoa along the Mediterranean.

We stopped for lunch in Genoa next to this beach – difficult to find but great food and the views were wonderful.

On our way to France we passed through an 8-mile long tunnel – half way through it we went from Italy to France.

Our goal in France was the Loire Valley. We found a fantastic VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) in a small village of Rochecorbon. I loved this place – out the door and about 50 yards down the road was a boulangerie where I would walk down and pick up a warm baguette and croissant for breakfast. Fantastic! During our stay we visited several

Fall colors at the entrance to the Chateau
Rigny-Ussé – a privately owned Chateauú open to the public.

Chateau’s and gardens – wonderful time.

Janeen getting her Garden Fix at Villandry.

From there we went to Brittany – northeast France for a few days and then to Bayeux

Bayeux Cathedrial

and the Normandy Beaches plus

The Beaches of Normandy have lots of monuments. We toured several of the landing sites, a museum and the National Cemetery. A very moving experience.

a day trip to St Mont Michel

Le Mont Saint-Michel – we spent a lovely day exploring this treasure of a place.

. Then off to Paris, via Rouen, to drop of our car for shipment to the dealer in Virginia.

Next stop London! We went from Paris to London via the Chunnel

Here we are on the EuroRail train going through the Chunnel to London.

taking all of 2 ½ hours or so with average speeds of well over 160 Mph. We had another VRBO apartment this time in Covent Gardens. Over a week, we saw 3 plays,

Three plays while were in London.

shopped in Harrads,

Harrads Department Store – all the windows had wonderful Christmas decorations.

had a fantastic meal

The Chef and crew at Ledbury Restaurant in London. Considered the 27th best restaurant in the world.

and generally appreciated being in a country that speaks English!

A flight to Dublin

Our first pub in Dublin – Ferryman – just down from our hotel. Had a great conversation while drinking Guinness.

to got us set for a 10-day introductory bus tour with CIE Tours around Ireland.

McDaids pub in Dublin – one of the oldest in the city.
Our CIE Tour of Ireland was well worth the time and money. This was our route – duh.

After the tour we spent Thanksgiving in Kilkenny a town south of Dublin .  We had not been to Ireland it was amazing. Stops in Waterford,

Waterford – Fortunately we didn’t buy anything.

County Kerry, Blarney Castle to KISS THE STONE,

Janeen kissing the Blarney Stone!

Galway, Cliffs of Moher,

The Cliffs of Moher were clear but cold. Well worth the hike to get the view.

Giants Causeway,

Giants Causeway – a fascinating place filled with myths and stories.

Belfast and lots of other places.  There is one thing that there are a LOT of in Ireland – Sheep.  We visited a place where we were treated to a sheep guard dog demonstration – really neat.

World class sheep dog moving the sheep around. Really cool.
We did the entire tour of Guinness – well worth it and you get a pint at the end! It does taste better in Ireland!

We will be back to Ireland!

Scotland – Glasgow

WE didn’t stop in at the Tiki Bar in Glasgow

and Edinburgh and LOTS of scotch. It was Christmas Market

The Christmas Market and fun zone in Edinburgh

time and we visited several in both cities along with the historical sites of course.

Chef Mark at his restaurant Mark Greenaway in Edinburgh.

From Edinburgh we flew back to Paris and connected with Ryan and Chris in the apartment I had leased for the month.

Christmas in Paris!

Ryan, Janeen and Chris on a bridge over the Seine River in Paris

Our friend Claudia joined us and we all had a fantastic time touring,

One of several open air markets where we shopped while in Paris.
This music box store, in Paris, was filled with musical treasures.

visiting various places,

Here we are walking along the streets of Paris.

taking in the sites

Ryan and Claudia in the Paris Opera House.

and of course eating and drinking great foods and wines.

Chef Alain Passard at his restaurant, Arpège in Paris – the 12th best restaurant in the world. Our lunch was wonderful and about 12 courses!

New Years Eve was spent at a traditional French Bistro where we expected to be done in a couple of hours,

Here we are celebrating New Years Eve at a traditional French Bistro in Paris. Wonderful evening.

but were there for over 5 hours and rang in the New Year over an extravagant dessert!

I would hope you know what this is…

OK, we have now been in Europe for four months and it is time to fly back to the States. During our time in Europe we had visited 9 countries collecting a number of stamps in our passport. We boarded our flight back to start part 3 of our yearlong adventure.

Having some bubbles on our flight home to Virginia.

06-19-18 It’s Been a Year Part 1

It’s been a year. Yup, a full year since we drove away from our house in Alhambra and started our Gap Year Adventure.

Our home is ready to rent!

Since that time we have traveled through 20 different States of the Union (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina) and visited 9 European Countries (Portugal, Germany, Austria, Italy, San Marino, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland). While in the US we have visited with great friends and seen wonderful places and travelled over 8,000 miles before heading across the ‘Pond” to Portugal. In Europe we traveled over 5,500 km (3,417 miles) in our new car prior to dropping it off for shipment to the dealer in Virginia.

A good part of the drive across country was reconnecting with friends and family. When we left our home our first stop was in Morro Bay to visit with our friend Claudia

Claudia – our friend in Morro Bay who joined us in Paris for Christmas and New Years.

at her B&B where we invited her to join us in Paris for Christmas – which she did! We reconnected with a friend, Myrt,

Myrt – a friend from Bethlehem PA where we lived in the mid 70’s and have not seen since then!

from when we lived in Bethlehem PA 40 years ago and she reconnected us with another friend from that time frame living in Savannah who we visited too! The drive through Northern California was beautiful visiting with friends, seeing the sights and relaxing.

Beth, who lives in Sonoma and our host for a couple of days prior to heading further north.

We tried to stay off the interstate and took the local highway as much as possible.

Gary Peter and Jaynese with us for dinner in Berkeley prior to going to a one woman show.

Sure there was roadwork and single lane situations but it was a grand drive.

My sister Georgia, my brother Richard and my other sister Marilynn – all together at the Cousins Reunion in Oregon.

Once out of California we made our way to a Cousins’ reunion – cousins and family we have not seen in years. A week on the beach with good family was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that both of our sons and their family were able to be there too.

Jason and our lovely granddaughter at the Cousins Reunion in Oregon.


Of course Oregon for us means the Willamette Valley and wine.

My family all together at DDO Winery in Oregon.

We were fortunate to have close friends at Stoller Vineyards and were able to stay in one of their cottages on the property for 2 weeks! After leaving the International Pinot Noir Celebration, held each year, we drove to Seattle to celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.

Janeen at the Chihuly Glass exhibit in Seattle

A visit to the Chihuly Glass Exhibit prior to dinner at RN74

Celebrating our 48th wedding anniversary at a nice restaurant in Seattle – RN74.

made the day very special. A visit to Bainbridge Island to visit with some of Janeen’s childhood friends, a tasting of great Champagne at Fat Cork

In Seattle we stopped at Fat Cork to drink some great champagne with Bryan and his wife Abby.

and off we went heading east.

The skyline of Seattle

We had planned to stopping a couple of times going East from Seattle but the smoke from the various forest fires in Canada and Montana made the air unpleasant, so we pushed through to Bozeman, Montana and a visit with Bonny and David.

David and Bonnie during our tour of a history museum

Bonny was matron of honor at our wedding so we have known them a VERY long time…and it was wonderful to reconnect with them and catch up. Sure we exchange Christmas cards and calls, but being in their home was wonderful.

Throughout our trip, thus far, we had not stopped at any of the various National Monuments or Parks. Well, as we were driving along, there was a sign for the Battle of the Little Big Horn

Little Big Horn Battlefield

and it was just off the road! Seemed like the thing to do and we did. Our ranger guide was very knowledgeable and brought the entire battle to life with his discussion.

Sometimes the world becomes incredibly small. We made a snap decision to drive through the Sand Hills area of Wyoming. After cruising along for a couple of hours, it was time for lunch so we stopped at a Subway in Lusk, Wyoming for a sandwich. Nothing special about the place and the sandwich was as good as any other Subway provides. Just as I was about to close the car door and drive away, I noticed two people we actually know! Dale and Roxanne live in Arizona.

Roxanne and Dale – friends met on the road in the middle of no-where!

We first met them in Oregon at IPNC but they haven’t been to the event for several years. Turns out they are on vacation. Roxanne’s mother lives in Nebraska and having completed their visit, they were heading to Mount Rushmore when they too decided a break and a sub would be a good idea. What a treat to find friends literally in the middle of nowhere!

Carhenge – this is a strange place in Alliance, Nebraska. We have been to the original in Salisbury UK

Back on the road through miles and miles and miles of cornfields, we made our way to York, Nebraska where we reconnected with friends from Michigan – John and Lora.

John and Lora – we met these folks in East Lansing Michigan in the early 70’s.

We have not seen these guys since we left Michigan in 1973! Sure Christmas cards exchanged most years kept us in touch but meeting up with them again after all these years was fantastic. It was like we had seen each other only yesterday. Great visit. From Nebraska, through a lot more cornfields, we got to Macomb, Illinois and Janeen’s dad.

Janeen and her dad during our visit in August.

We stayed a couple of weeks visiting and getting everything together for our next hop to Virginia – stopping at Fallingwaters (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Fallingwater – I could live here but the maintenance cost would not be fun to pay!

which was specular and our final stop – Springfield, VA and our son Jason, his wife Terri and most importantly our granddaughter Katie Beth.

Janeen and our little miss on the Potomac River on my birthday.

Our friends Jessie and Phil from Pasadena made it to the East Coast and more particularly to be with us for my birthday!

Terri, Janeen, Jessie, Phil and David at his (David’s) 70th birthday celebration in Alexandria during our pub crawl to start the day.

It was really a treat to have them with us for several days prior to our taking flight to Europe

Two weeks after arrival in Virginia, we boarded a plane

Here we are settling in for our flight to Lisbon.

and flew to Portugal; the beginning of our planned 4 months in Europe. Look for Update #2

This has become on motto.




06-12-18 Home Brewing

Former President Jimmy Carter may have a somewhat mixed record, with a Nobel Peace Prize on the one hand and a lost 1980 reelection bid on the other. However, it is thanks to Jimmy Carter that there is craft brewing – and more importantly home brewing! In 1978 Carter signed into law the ability for home brewers making less then 50 gallons for personal use to make beer legally and without the need to pay any taxes! Prior to that time home brewing was hidden behind closed doors and illegal.

Since that time, craft brewers have exploded resulting in hundreds if not thousands of small producers starting in their garage and turning it into a real business (yes, at that point they have to start paying taxes). Jason, our eldest son, has been home brewing for several years and we have tasted the results often. (He has no intention of turning this into a business.)

While we were visiting recently Jason decided to make a batch of what he calls G’Nu Castle Brown Ale, a “clone” of New Castle Brown Ale.

Following the spirit of the original New Castle, this brew requires two separate fermentation tanks (buckets). One batch is prepared to an Original Gravity (O.G.) of 1.050, while the second is prepared to 1.035 OG.

Here’s the gear to make beer

Gravity is a measurement of the wert’s density, and in home brewing is a measure how much malt (sugar) is dissolved into the water.

Everything has to be cleaned – this is the brew kettle.
The first step, fill the brew kettle with purified water – 10 gallons

Distilled water has a Specific Gravity (S.G.) of 1.000. The first batch, which is denser and has a higher Gravity, will end up with a higher Alcohol by Volume (abv). The second batch will have a lower abv because it has less malt to convert to alcohol.

The fence is keep little people away from the burner – adding grains to the wort steeper
Steeping – Pouring the boiled water onto the grains for conversion.
Mixing it all up
Checking the temp – need to be at 154 degrees for an hour.

The unique qualities of these two batches help give this New Castle clone it’s distinctive taste. The higher Gravity means the yeast converts the malt faster (more food to eat, so it eats faster) and the product has a “fruitier” flavor to its alcohol. The lower Gravity batch converts slower and will end up with a more “malty” flavor. These two batches are combined after fermentation into a single batch, and mixed thoroughly.

Pre-crushed 2-row pale malted grain – the first (and biggest) ingredient
Hop Pellets – Added at intervals for flavor (30 minutes before end of boiling) and for bittering (15 min before end of boil)

After about two weeks, the two batches are each transferred to a new (sanitized) fermentation tank. This accomplishes two objectives; first the “debris” that has settled on the bottom of the primary fermentation tank (which is called “trub”) is unwanted and gives poor flavor and clarity to final beer, the second is the transfer re-originates the beer and reinvigorates the yeast to convert more malt to alcohol. During this transfer an additional Gravity reading is taken.

Sparging – taking the first few gallons and pouring it over the grains to wash the malt and maximize malt conversion from the grains.

At this point the Gravity was approximately 1.035 for the first batch and 1.018, which is about half of the fermentation that is expected. The yeast will continue to convert malt to alcohol for the next few weeks.

Grains ready for more steeping – Steeping container isn’t large enough for the batch we made, so we had to steep in two rounds.
Adding more water to the grain – a second run through.
Preparing Wert for boil – After collecting the wert from steeping, it is returned to the brew kettle to boil for one hour.
Wert at boil
Steeping – Second round of wert is steeping

Once no further malt conversion is occurring, which can be judged by taking several Gravity readings over several days until there is no change in the reading (or just letting it sit for a long time and then arbitrarily deciding “it’s done!”), it’s time to prep for bottling.

Final gravity readings are taken (1.021 for batch 1, and 1.008 for batch 2) it’s time to combine the batches and add bottling sugar. The bottling sugar is a relatively small amount of sugar that re-vitalizes the yeast and causes them to convert just a little more alcohol. The by-product of this is carbonation; which gives the beer that nice mouth feel. Because the beer has been sealed behind a bottle-cap, the CO2 has no place to escape to and becomes “dissolved” in the beer until the bottle is opened.

Irish Moss – A single table spoon of Irish Moss is added 15 minutes before the end of boil. This works as a “magnet” to bulk the unwanted organic material together for easier filtering.
Terminating boil – After boiling for an hour, the wert is removed from the brew kettle for cooling to aprox. 65 degrees.
Cooling – A copper coil with cool water running though it, is submerged into the wert to quickly chill.
Used grain – Perfect for brewers bread (lethal for dogs)
Fermentation begins – After pitching the yeast, an airlock is attached to the lid to allow off-gasses to escape but keep unwanted bacteria out of the bucket. From this moment on, the wert is now beer.

Using a special bottling wand, which only allows the beer to flow from the bottling bucket when it’s depressed inside the each bottle (which have all been very well cleaned and sanitized), the beer is transferred from a bucket where everything has been re-mixed into the bottles.

Mixing batches – Mixing the two batches together then adding bottling sugars
Here’s the brew on it’s way to the bottling line.
Filling the bottles – gravity sycphon attached to a bottling wand, ensure each bottle is full with a small gap to keep the bottle from exploding during bottle fermentation
Sealing the bottles – Placing caps on the newly filled bottles and “folding” down the edge to seal it in place.

After bottling, the beer is left to sit for two to three weeks, during which time the yeast converts the small amount of sugar into both alcohol and carbonation.

This batch turned out very well, with an estimated final abv of 4.5%, and a flavor that is very much like New Castle. We used a little too much sugar for bottling, so it’s a little over-carbonated, which is why we had one bottle explode during bottle fermentation.

Because this is a home brew, the yeast remains “alive” because there’s no pasteurization process to kill off the yeast. So, as the beer continues to rest the flavor may change subtly over the ensuing weeks and months.

Farnum St. Brewing – G’Nu Castle Brown Ale
The first pours of the new batch
Jason with the finished product!

This adds a new element to home brewing as you could have something that’s pretty terrible after the first two weeks, but is actually really great after two months!



05-27-18 Asheville, NC Arboretum, Blue Ridge Parkway and Dinner in town

We arrived in Asheville to visit our friends Gloria and Jerry and had a lovely evening. The following day, being nice and sunny, we headed out to

Entrance sign to the Arboretum

The North Carolina Arboretum. This place, about 434 acres in size, includes a lovely arboretum, botanical gardens and a lot of walking paths to explore.

Although the idea for the arboretum stretches back to landscape architect in 1898, the actual place was not developed until quite recently – 1986 – so it is new and filled with lovely plants. While the place is still under development, there are a variety of hiking and bicycling trails along with several mature gardens. Our goal for the day was to get to the bonsai collection.

Inside the main building was a travelling exhibit, Making Scents: The art and passion of Fragrance. While we have seen similar examples of fragrance displays, including a museum in Paris, it was neat to see someone Janeen knows from the Huntington Library and Gardens in CA as part of the exhibit! Tom Carruth

Janeen knows this guy – he is the rose curator at the Huntington Library and Gardens Tom Carruth! Everywhere we find roses we seem to find Tom

is the curator of the Rose Garden and is known for breeding scented roses such as Sentimental and the Juila Child Rose

After looking over the traveling exhibit we headed outside

Janeen, Jerry and Gloria trying to figure out the map.
Blue Ridge Quilt Garden – very nice indeed.
NC Arboretum Greenhouse.

and walked towards the bonsai garden and past the model train (which it seems every garden needs to have)

We have not visited two different gardens both of them have had model railroads. Not sure what happens when the snows come…

and past a number of lovely areas. Eventually we made our way to the bonsai area

The entrance to the Bonsai garden with it’s winding pathway.

that was specular. It always amazes me to see these huge trees pruned to be so small!

A little forest about 18 inches tall.
Japanese maple
Lovely little treasures
This Azalea was in full bloom and about 18 inches tall!
I could never been patient enough to grow these.
Gloria and Jerry at the bonsai area.


After the Arboretum we drove out the Blue Ridge Parkway

There were at least 12 tunnels along the way.

and stopped for lunch at Pisgah Inn. This restaurant is at the top of the

The dining room at Pisgah Inn
The view of the mountains from our lunch spot at Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway

mountain overlooking the various surrounding hills. Nice views, lunch was OK views were better.


For dinner we hit a Mexican restaurant called Limones Restaurant.

Limones Restaurant where we had dinner in Asheville.
Here we are having dinner at Limones Restaurant in Asheville.
Halibut with crimson lentils, organic kale, grained mustard-lemon sauce, pineapple-green onion pico.
Ceviche Sampler – shrimp, trigger fish and tuna.
Roasted Beet Salad with watermelon, mint, gruyere cheese, aged cider-cardammon vinaigrette
Three Cheese Chile Relleno with pico de gallo, black bean sauce, crema

Not overly crowded and had delicious food.

05-22-18 Charleston Walking Tour

In order to truly understand a city you need to walk the streets, see the sites and learn its history. To do this we took a walking tour conducted by a 13th generation Charlestonian – Martha and her sister Anne conduct tours of their city having lived in it for generations. Martha, our guide, is also a practicing archaeologist for 25 years. Her unique perspective and information was a treat as she walked us around the historic part of Charleston. Her ancestor arrived on the first ship (Carolina) arriving in 1670.

Founded in 1670 as Charles Town, honoring King Charles II of England, it became the fifth largest city in North America within 10 years.   Incorporated as a city in 1783 at the close of the Revolutionary War; is defined by its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages

Carriage rides through the old town – we didn’t take one

and pastel antebellum houses particularly in the elegant French Quarter (where we stayed) and the Battery district.

Edmondston-Alston House built 1828

The Battery promenade and Waterfront Park both overlook Charleston Harbor, where Fort Sumter, is located and where the first shots of the Civil War rang out.

Originally the town had a fortification along the waterside made of brick and an earthen barrier on the land side to protect it from attack.

Herman Moll’s 1733 Town and Harbor of Charles Town in South Carolina, showing the town’s defensive walls.

This made Charleston the only Walled City in the new world. Needless to say, nothing of the original wall remains visible (some foundations yes, walls no) but quite interesting to learn. Our walk included visits to a number of historical buildings (see photos) and through pedestrian alleyways.

Janeen in the Philadelphia Alley with some wall decorations.
Philadelphia alley 1766 – with old brick on both sides and along the pathway.

The style of building of homes called ‘single house’ usually had two large rooms on each floor with a doorway and stairs in the middle.

Typical style house – two rooms on each floor.
This lovely garden in front of the typical house.

Entrance from the street was along the side of the house, not at the front but on the side. Many of these have a piazza or entrance hallway on the outside (open air) giving a place to relax in and catch the evening breeze.

An interesting point, Martha mentioned, was there are no rocks anywhere to be found anywhere around Charleston.  ALL the cobblestones and stones used for buildings came from the ships ballast.  Ballast stones were added to the bottom of ships coming to Charlestown and removed to make room for all the outgoing cargo.  Virtually ALL the streets have cobble stone base but with asphalt installed to smooth the ride.  There are a couple of streets that have been left as well as many sidewalks.

The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston, was built of Bermudian limestone between 1694 and 1712

The number of church steeples and spires throughout the historic district is the reason Charleston is often called the “Holy City”. Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, Presbyterian, French Haguenot,

The French Protestant Huguenot Church 1844


St. Michaels – this has two very large Tiffany Stain Glass windows.
Alter Stain glass by Tiffany in St Michaels
The Ascension stain glass by Tiffany in St Michaels

and other churches all have major sites throughout the area; many of them built in the early 1800’s.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

During the early days trading was the mainstay of the city but this changed over time to include rice, indigo and cotton.

US Custom House – been in operation for over 100 years.

As we all know slavery was the labor force for many of these industries and Charleston was certainly in the center of those activities.

The Central Market, an open air but covered, has been in use as a market for over 200 years.
Nice wood stuff…
Sweet grass baskets – a local tradition.
Lots of baskets

The historic part of town has the last remaining site that was used for slave auctions – originally a fire station and then a slavery auction site ,it is now a museum.

Former German Fire Co. Engine House and Old Slave Mart Museum built 1859
Former German Fire Co. Engine House the slave market is next door.

Our tour ended in the garden of Martha’s parents home – now a B&B where she shared more information, some cold drinks and answered questions. The tour and the overview of the City was very interesting and we are very glad we signed on for this tour.

05-21-18 Charlestown – The French Quarter Inn – SNOB Restaurant

From time to time you just have to throw out the rules and jump in with both feet. While we were visiting with Bob and Linda in Savannah, Bob talked about a hotel in Charlestown called The French Quarter Inn. Well, while we were waiting for our tour to start at the Owens-Thomas House. I called them up to see and made a reservation for Monday and Tuesday Evenings. Didn’t know ANYTHING about the place just took a leap of faith and booked it.

The French Quarter Inn entrance

The French Quarter of Charleston is a section of downtown and is basically within the original “walled” city. The area began being called the French Quarter in 1973 when preservation efforts began for warehouse buildings on the Lodge Alley block. The name recognized the high concentration of French Merchants in the area’s history.

The stairs lead from the Valet to the main lobby.
Lobby of the hotel

At the French Quarter Inn, old world charm meets Charleston’s authentic southern hospitality with extensive daily amenities in a comfortably upscale setting. The Inn is located in the city’s Historic District just steps away from the bustling City Market and the city’s top dining, shopping and cultural destinations.

The patio was open all the time and we had breakfast here. Lovely, no noise and private.

Having undergone a design refresh in 2016, the 50-room property features turn-of-the-century inspired elements invoking a European flare while remaining true to the property’s southern roots. The lobby features elegant design touches, including hand-crafted iron work and a majestic skylight.

Our room!

Our room, on the first floor, had two queen beds a large bathroom with both a tub and a separate shower and windows overlooking Market Street. When we checked in we did have some sparkling wine (they call it Champagne but it doesn’t come from the Region so it’s really sparkling wine) and got cleaned up prior to going to dinner at SNOB (Slightly North of Broad)

The restaurant sign SNOB – quite a story, too long for here, about the name.

where we had a lovely dinner!

Janeen trying to figure out what to have – twice as hard here.
Squash Blossom – Stuffed with cheese and herbs.
Trigger fish – this was fantastic.
Duck Breast – purple cauliflower ginger custard, spring pea & peanut gremolata, honey thyme reduction
David enjoying his Trigger Fish.

Having so much fun, even before getting to bed for the first night, I booked a third night!  Sometimes you just have to splurge and enjoy things and it seemed about the right time to do this as we start our trek north!




05-19-20 Savannah Touring

The following day we headed into Savannah to catch the Hop on Hop Off Trolley. Our Trolley

The Savannah Hop On Hop Off Trolley

tour took us past a bunch of 17th, 18th and 19th century historic buildings, around the 24 squares usually with statues in the center

The Confederate Soldier – 1879.
John Wesley – Founder of the United Methodist Church

and along the river.

Florence Martus, also know as the “the Waving Girl”, took it upon herself to be the unofficial greeter of all ships that entered and left the Port between 1887 and 1931.

As Savannah was spared by Sherman’s destructive March to the Sea, there are a number of buildings that date back to the early 1800’s.

The Green-Meldrim House built in 1850’s

Savannah has had an active seaport for years what with the cotton trade and all the other items coming and going along the river.

The Savannah Harbor Range Light – a 25 foot cast-iron ornamental shaft, resembling a street light, was the rear light to help ships navigating past obstructions in the water.

It currently is the third most active container-shipping center on the East Coast.

One of the oldest places in town is The Pirates’ House.

Pirate House

It has been a restaurant and tavern since 1753. A portion of the structure was built in 1734, making it the oldest standing building in the state of Georgia. At one point, it was rumored to have a tunnel from the basement to the river where those who drank too much were shanghaied into becoming sailors.

At stop number 8, on the Tour, Janeen decided we would hop off and tour the Owens-Thomas House.

Owens-Thomas House

Built in 1819 its original owners had some financial issues and it was purchased by George Welshman Owens in 1830 and occupied by the family for many years.

The garden was originally a work yard.
Janeen in the garden

Restored and now maintained by Telfair Museum it is a wonderful example of period architecture and furnishings, including the slave quarters.

Upstairs of the Slave Quarters
Parlor on the first floor.
Lady’s Parolor
Master bedroom
Stairway going to the upper level of the house.
Here we are at the stairs in the House.
This was the informal dining room.
Formal dining room

After the tour of the house, we headed to Leopold’s Ice Cream but the line was out the door and down the street, so we passed. Back on the trolley, we finished the circle tour and headed to dinner with Bob and Linda at B Mathew’s Eatery.

We had a lovely dinner with Bob and Linda

05-17-18 Savannah – Reconnecting with old friends

After leaving Nashville, we spent a couple of days just relaxing and doing basically NOTHING but catching our breath. Once we were back to full strength, we drove to Savannah to meet up with Bob and Linda Reeves.

Bob and Linda – nice to reconnect after all these years.

Bob was my boss when I worked at Leigh University some 40 years ago. We had not been in contact with him really since that time but as part of our road trip last June when we reconnected with Myrt, who also worked at Leigh, I reached out and he invited us for a visit. We arrived at their place on Skidaway Island on Thursday afternoon.


They live in a private, residential community with several golf and country clubs called The Landings on Skidaway Island. There home,

Bob and Linda’s home on Skidaway Island. Just a little place on the lagoon.

a small place of about 4,800 square feet (I upsized when I retired Bob said) right on a lagoon was wonderful to call home for a few days.

The large screened porch on the back of the house and the lagoon where alligator’s live!

Skidaway Island is just south of the main part of Savannah by about 10 miles and virtually the entire island is made up of this private community. With walking and biking trails, several different golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and all the usual stuff it seems like a really nice place to live.

One of dozens of model airplanes Bob has made – this is a Spitfire
Here’s a Bf 109E – flown by Adolph Galland.

After getting settled in, and some laundry started, Bob took us on a driving tour of Savannah to give us a quick overview of the City.

The southern Oaks interlocking over the rod with Spanish Moss. Lovely.
Spanish moss in abundance!

It was a great way to get a little orientation prior to our venturing out on our own the following day.

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia having been established in 1733 along the Savannah River. General James Oglethorpe and settlers from the ship Anne established the settlement with the help of Tomochichi, a Yamacraw Native American, who befriended them early on their arrival.

During the Civil War local authorities negotiated a peaceful surrender to General Sherman, thus saving Savannah from destruction. The City has diverse neighborhoods with more than 100 distinct areas. There are 24 different squares in the city many with statues of significant people from the past.

Here we are at dinner at the Club

05-13-18 Belle Meade Plantation

Sunday – Mothers Day – a trip to an old Southern Plantation seemed like the thing to do. In 1807, Virginian John Harding bought

This is the original log building dating from 1807.
Split rail fencing and the old log house.

Dunham’s Station log cabin and 250 acres on the Natchez Trace – the main road through Nashville. Harding did sufficient business to build the first of two mansions on the property.

Front of the Mansion.

The plantation, that he named “Belle Meade,” French for beautiful meadow, and known as the “Queen of Southern Plantations”, was not used for farming, but rather various service enterprises such as a blacksmith shop, cotton gin, and a grist and saw mill. By 1816, Harding was boarding horses for neighbors such as Andrew Jackson and breeding thoroughbreds for the plantation which became renowned throughout the world.  William Giles Harding inherited Belle Meade Plantation in 1839 and enlarged the mansion and the estate into a 5,400-acre plantation with

Slave quarters – there over 100 slaves prior to the civil war.

136 enslaved people. Racing and breeding operations came to a halt in the South with the onset of the Civil War but the plantation was able to survive during the war.

After the Civil War, Harding resumed his successful horse operations, though as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 there was a reduced workforce. Of the 136 slaves living on the plantation prior to the war, only 72 workers chose to take employment with William Harding, though most lived off the property.

The front of the smoke house
Inside of the smoke house

In 1868, his daughter Selene Harding married Confederate States Army General Williams Hicks Jackson on the one condition that the couple stay at Belle Meade following their marriage.

One of the upstairs rooms just showing how work might have been done.
Room cleaning
The upstairs ‘guest’ bedroom – note the cat on the foot of the bed.

Selene managed the household affairs and Jackson co-managed the farm with his father in law. In 1875,

Pride of place – the horse painting on the wall.

Harding and Jackson decided to focus exclusively on breeding, turning the plantation into an internationally renowned Thoroughbred farm and showplace.

Front sitting room.
This was the Gentleman’s Room.
Front lobby entrance and stairs to the second floor.
Front parlor

Belle Meade had many successful studs, including Bonnie Scotland and Enquirer, whose bloodlines still dominate modern racing. Jackson brought Belle Meade international fame by purchasing Iroquois in 1886 to stand at stud, becoming the leading sire of 1892. In 1881, Iroquois had been the first American-bred Thoroughbred race horse to win the prestigious Epsom Derby in England..

Janeen, my lovely wife, at the green house
The Green House and garden shed.
This was the doll house for the children to play in just adjacent to the Mansion.
The dairy on the property.

Following William Jackson’s death in 1903, and that of his son later the same year, it was decided to sell the plantation as a result of years of adverse financial conditions. A business syndicate called The Belle Meade Land Company purchased the plantation and developed the residential neighborhood of Belle Meade.

Inside the Carriage house
Janeen ready to get in and take a ride.

The mansion had a series of successive owners, and remained a private residence until 1953, when the State of Tennessee purchased the mansion and eight outbuildings on 30 acres. The state in turn deeded the property to the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities.

We toured the Mansion, Smoke House, Carriage House and other building on the property. There is also a winery making wine from local grapes as well as from juice shipped in from California and Washington.

Beverage Time!

An aura of Victorian elegance and family business of a plantation has been preserved by the APTA and a “catalog” of Tennessee thoroughbreds adorns the mansion walls to this day. Southern magnolias adorn the grounds and southern hospitality is preserved as surely as the gold tempered red panes of glass over the entrance to Belle Meade.


05-12-18 Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Saturday we decided to go to the Ryman Auditorium and then to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. Two different events in one day!   Fortunately they were only a few blocks apart and while the Ryman is filled with history, it wouldn’t take long to tour. Arriving for our self guided tour shortly after it opened, it is clear this is a special place. As a result of a tent revival experience, Thomas G. Ryman, captain of several riverboats and a well to do man in Nashville, decided to build a permanent structure for the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

A painting of what it might have looked like when it was just completed.

This was to be places were all people could gather and worship – along with be entertained. Upon his death in 1904 it was renamed the Ryman Auditorium. Over the next 20 years or so, the Auditorium limped along until Lala C. Naff took the help and started booking various acts.

Displays of some of the performers who have been on the stage of the Ryman.

It wasn’t very long before she had made a repetition of bring quality entertainment to the Nashville community. In June of 1943, the radio show The Grande Ole Opry moved in to do it’s weekly broadcast both providing a steady income stream and making the Ryman a household name across the country.


When you walk through the doors of the historic Ryman Auditorium, one thing becomes clear right away: this isn’t just another nightly music venue, and it’s so much more than a daytime tourist stop. This place is hallowed ground. This is the exact spot where bluegrass was born,

This is really the official birth place of Bluegrass music.

where Johnny Cash met June Carter, where souls were saved and a slice of history was nearly lost. It was right here that country music found an audience beyond its own back porch, and countless careers took off as deals were signed on napkins and paper scraps backstage.

The upper level – the entire place holds something like 2,900 people.
All the seats are really church pews – don’t think the hard wood would be comfy after a while.
Here we are on the upper level of the auditorium

Showing it’s age,

Janeen with a statue of Minni Pearl
Displays on the upper level held items from some of the performers at the place.

it was closed and the Grand Ole Opry House was opened across town and the doors closed. It was saved from the wrecking ball and restored 2012 and brought back into prominence with performances again.

After the Ryman, we walked the several blocks to The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Entrance sign on the outside of the building.
Here we are at the entrance to the Museum

Chartered in 1964, the museum has amassed one of the world’s most extensive musical collections. As the collection continued to grow, a new building was opened in 2001 to house the collection and make it more accessible to the public. In the museum’s core exhibition, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, we were immersed in the history and sounds of country music, its origins and traditions, and the stories and voices of many of its architects. The story is revealed through artifacts, photographs, and text panels, recorded sound, vintage video, and interactive touchscreens.

Just as we got off the elevator, on the 3rd floor, was an entire section dedicated to Loretta Lynn.

Loretta Lynn had an entire area dedicated to her life.

Starting from her early Kentucky years through a west coast pathway to stardom, it was a huge collection of things – dresses, sheet music, notes, photographs, musical instruments – lots and lots of stuff. It was an interesting introduction to the life of one of Countries’ most memorable performers.

The wall on the left had posters and posters and posters – the display areas on the right were part of the historical collection.

From there we wondered around learning more about Country Music then you could ever want! Displays of the early pioneers of the music to modern day were represented. Many with displays of special clothing designed by Nudie Cohn plus the

Front of Webb Pierce car.
Inside of the car – silver dollars on the saddle in the middle.

1962 Pontiac Bonneville convertible that he customized for Webb Pierce. Elvis Presley’s 1960 Solid Gold” Cadillac limousine was also on display. With hundreds of historic musical instruments, including Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5, Earl Scrugge’s banjo, Bob Wills’s fiddle and Bill Monroe’s mandolin

bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 on display

there were things everywhere.

Gram Parsons’ legendary Nudie suit, on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame
A close up of the front of the Nudie Suit
Lots of interesting guitars where on display
Pairing of cloths and instruments for a number of people were on display.
All of the inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame have a plaque in this room.
Another display of folks
A display of some of the early country music performers.

The audio tour was well worth the extra cost and we spent the better part of 3 hours touring the building. It was well worth the time and effort to visit.