8-9-18 Hamilton, Macomb and Route 66

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted – so here’s a little update on what’s been happening.

After we got to Springfield, we had two things scheduled – tickets to see Hamilton at the Kennedy Center and an appointment for a long-term visa at the French consulate. Hamilton first opened on Broadway in February 2015. Since that time, it has continued on Broadway and also gone on the road. Broadway tickets are still VERY EXPENSIVE and the Bus and Truck crew also costs a pretty penny. Well, I figured I wasn’t going to see it if I didn’t just dip into the wallet and get tickets. Prior to doing our Northern Loop (Canada, etc.…) I had gotten a couple of tickets for the Sunday performance on July 22nd.   During our Northern Loop we had listened to the sound track a couple of times to be at least familiar with the music; that was a really good thing.

Hamilton – the Musical

The songs and dialogue really go quickly and having some idea of what is being said was a real benefit. The play is well over 2 ½ hours and has lots of action and historical references (we have also been reading the biography of Hamilton written by Ron Chernow which is what inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the play and a good deal of the dialogue comes from the book. We were NOT disappointed and would love to see the play another time.

The second major thing to get done was a visit to the French Consulate to see about getting a long-term visa. Due to an existing treaty, US Citizens can stay in Europe for 90 days in a 180-day period without a visa. Most times this isn’t a problem. However with Ryan and Chris living in Paris, two different April river cruises booked and a desire to tour more parts of the European part of the world,getting a long term resident visa would make it a lot easier to just wander around without having to worry about the time limit. The appointment required a whole lot of documentation to be put together and all of that was ready to go. When we finally got to the “desk” it seemed as if everything was going to be OK until we realized you cannot formally apply for the extended visa more than 3 months prior to going. So, as we were just a little over 4 months prior to our initial departure date ,we gathered everything and left with the understanding we would need to make another appointment sometime late October. The good thing about going when we did it confirmed we had all the information together and also gave us some pointers on what additional materials we might need to make sure we were successful next time.

OK, with all of that out of the way, we packed up to start our trip across country. First stop was Macomb,Illinois to visit with Harold (Janeen’s dad) and make sure he was getting all the care necessary to be comfortable. He is now under hospice care in the long-term care facility, Wesley Village, and doing as well as can be expected for someone who is 101 years old. We stayed a little over a week visiting daily and talking with his caregivers and others. One of the goals was to make sure all of those visiting him understand his condition and that, while it will be a sad day when it happens, he is slipping away to the other side. We were able to make sure he understands we were leaving for California as we have a time -frame to resolve some issues for the sale of our home and a wedding we have committed to attending in September plus a 50th wedding anniversary for friends in the Bay Area.

Now we are on the road. The first day was long – about 500 plus miles to get to Tulsa OK.

Roadside rest stop with a tornado shelter.
A lovely day to drive through the state f Oklahoma.

Next day (today) we drove to Amarillo,Texas. Most of today has been spent driving along Route 66! After getting checked into our Hotel, it seemed like it was time for BBQ.

So, first thing I did was check at the front desk to see if they had any recommendations – nothing really jumped out. Next was to check on Trip Advisor and see what was around. Not surprising there area bunch of places, but the one that caught our eye was a small place called Tyler’s Barbecue.

Tylers Barbeque – opened in 2010 and doing a fantastic job.

All of the reviews were 5-star (at least the dozen or so posted) and it was a small place serving ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage and all the other stuff you think about when thinking BBQ.

Here’s our brisket being cut!
We beat the crowd that’s for sure.

This place did not disappoint. We ordered the three-meat dinner with three ribs, some sliced brisket and a mound of pulled pork.

Ribs, brisket, pork and other goodies.

Along with this were potato salad and a peach cobbler for dessert. The place doesn’t serve “adult beverages” which helped to reduce the cost impact for sure and wasn’t missed actually.

Ribs – more ribs please.
Janeen getting her BBQ on.
Need a boot?

Tomorrow we head further west stopping in Gallop NM and then to Chandler, Arizona to visit with some friends and then to Alhambra where we will work on getting all the remaining stuff out of the house and selling it. More updates as something interesting happens.

07-21-18 Catching up – Portland, Boston, Mystic Seaport

After a delightful stay in Saint John we headed back to the US of A stopping in Freeport Maine to visit LL Bean.

Some big boots to fill outside the entrance

We visited here many years ago and to say the place has changed would be a mild understatement. LL Bean takes up a LOT of space with different sections for various kinds of merchandise.

You can get lost in this place!

Fortunately there really wasn’t anything we needed so packed up and headed to Portland Maine for lunch at Eventide Oyster Company.

Looking over the menu at Eventide

A great selection of Oysters (duh)

A dozen oysters – could have done this selection all over again.

along with some other treats

Maine Lobster Stew – clearly didn’t skimp on the good stuff
Peekytoe Crab Bun – Piled high!

made lunch very nice. After a quick tour of the City we headed back on the road towards Boxford and our friends Joel and Wendy.

Joel – we have know this clown for over 40 years!
Joel and Wendy

Boxford is just north of Boston and their home is hidden amongst the trees. Beautiful spot right now but gosh all the snow that comes makes it a challenge to get to I’m sure. During our visit we didn’t do very much – ok, one trip into Cambridge for lunch at Bartley’s Burger Cottage.

Onion Rings and Meat – hard to beat at Bartley’s Burger Cottage

They have great burgers and wonderful onion rings!

After a short stop to visit with friends Susanne and Peter in Milton

Peter and Suzanne – we would walk our dogs together when we all loved in Cambridge in the early 70’s.

we found our way to Mystic Seaport. Having not been here before it was a lovely day to explore the seaport and tour the area where they are restoring a wooden ship, get on board the last remaining wooden wailing ship and enjoy the day by the water.

Charles W. Morgan – the last remaining wooden wailing ship
Colorful view along the walkways
Here we are next to the Charles W. Morgan.
The cooper at Mystic Seaport
One of a number of pictures with Janeen and life rings. I think this makes maybe 50 or so different ones.

Afterwards, we went back to Bethlehem and stayed in our friends Jim and Carol’s place while they were at their lake house.   We did discover a wonderful ice cream store -Bethlehem Dairy Store – that existed when we lived there but we didn’t know about.

Sunday with a Cherry on top
Sunday with chocolate

Several days to get all the laundry done, relax a bit and off we went to Springfield Virginia and our home base with our son Jason and his family.

Along the entire trip – both when we did our swing to Savannah Georgia and this last time when we got all the way up to Prince Edward Island we have been scouting out places where we might rent a place for a landing pad. As yet nothing has really jumped out at us but we are still looking.

Now we are getting ready for the trip to California via Macomb Illinois (Janeen’s dad) to do a final clearing of the house in Alhambra (to sell it) and to visit with friends. If you have been following along, and are anywhere between Illinois and California, reach out and we will see if we can stop by!

 

 

07-06-18 Saint John, New Brunswick

After checking into our B&B, The Mahogany Manor,

Mahogany Manor Bed & Breakfast

we decided to take our selves for a walk into the city center. Well, not really what we normally think of as a City Center, but certainly the historical center of Saint John. From the beginnings of the American Revolution in 1774, through 1783 some 40,000 British subjects fled north to escape persecution. Many of these “Loyalists” as they were called arrived in Saint John and created a new home.

Trinity Church
The old Post Office
Typical row houses we walked along during our “tour”
Saint John is known for its pub and restaurant scene throughout uptown. Statistics Canada found the city has the third most pubs per capita in Canada.

The town has a number of historic places including the County Courthouse in King’s Square (1825), City Market (1876)

City Market – The building has been in continuous use since 1876. The interior roof supports are reminiscent of a ships hull.

and a number of other structures that have been around for a while. It was an interesting walk with much to see.

We saw this ‘tug’ and couldn’t resist taking a picture
I couldn’t really believe that this was a cruise ship port of call!

Along the way we passed a number of restaurants – Taco Pica, Taste of Egypt, Rocky’s Sport’s Bar, Churchill’s Bar & Bub, Thandi – but the one that caught our eye was Italian By Night. Who knew we would find a great Italian Restaurant in Saint John New Brunswick Canada..

We arrived early for our 5PM reservation, but we were greeted by Dorothy at the Bar with a wide smile and a hug like we were old friends!

Dorothy – The “greeter” and bar tender. She made an excellent Aperol Spritz

It is always nice to be warmly greeted and certainly starts the evening off on a good setting. We were really the first to arrive for the evening – tables still being set by the staff, kitchen staff preparing for the evening –

The inside of the restaurant – very open.

so we took a seat at the bar and had a glass of wine. While we were there we were able to meet one of the business owners, Gord Hewitt.

Gord – one of the co-owners of the restaurant

He was sampling a new Italian wine they might add to the menu and when I said we had previously had the bottle (which we had not too long ago) he shared a glass with us. Very nice.

 

Once we got to our table, Abby, our waitress, took charge and guided us through the menu and offered her recommendations.

Abby, our waitress, did a great job keeping me in wine!

Along the way, Elizabeth Rowe stopped by the table

Elizabeth – another of the co-owners of the restaurant

– she is one of the owners along with Gord and Michele Hooton (we didn’t get to meet her, she is traveling in Italy at the moment). From Elizabeth we learned about the history of the restaurant (formally a family owned furniture store for over 100 years) and how they developed the menu. They had started with a deli about a block or so away and started doing Italian during the evening – thus the name Italian by NIght. Once the realized there was an actual customer base that would support a restaurant they took the big step and moved from a very small space (1700 SF) to a much larger space of over 4,000 SF (the former furniture store). After personally doing the remodel and getting the menu set they opened about 5 or 6 years ago and never looked back.

The menu has a number of traditional presentations and a few with an interesting twist. To start we had the Panzanella – a Tuscan salad of tomatoes, string beans, red peppers, cucumbers, red onion, capers, arugula, and house-made croutons with a house vinaigrette dressing.

Panzanella

Wonderful. Janeen said, after finishing the dish, “I need to get this into my menu plans.” Janeen followed this with Tagliatelle Alla Vongole – House-made pasta, baby clams, grape tomatoes, pancetta, garlic, white wine, parsley, and fresh focaccia

Tagliatelle Alla Vogole

. I had the Lasagna Grande – Fresh pasta, Bolognese sauce, mozzarella with Parmesan cheese. Janeen’s dish was piled high with clams! While I have had lasagna

Lasagne Grande – Fresh pasta, meat sauce, balsamella, parmesan, mozzarella

any number of places this presentation was one of the best. When sou chef Steven stopped by at our request,

Chef Steven – Originally from England

we made sure he knew how pleased we were with our choices. He was soon away to the UK to visit family, but loves St. John and hopes to stay on in New Brunswick.

Throughout the meal, Abby made sure we had wine to drink and all was well with the world. While I don’t have a clue if I will get back to Saint John I can safely say that if I do it will include a stop at Italian By Night.

There aren’t words…

07-05-18 Prince Edward Island

We had started out on this northern loop with Prince Edward Island (PEI) as our goal. This came about as our friends, who live in Bethlehem PA, Rita and Jim, often talked about his (Jim’s) roots that come from the PEI area. As a result we had it in our heads to at least take a gander at this place in the far east of Canada. PEI is a one of the three Maritime Provinces of Canada and is the smallest province in both land area and population. It is truly an island connected to the mainland by both a ferry and the 8-mile Confederation Bridge. We arrived on July 4th – a Wednesday in Canada (thus no fireworks or other events…) and stayed at a lovely B&B in Miscouche called Prince Country Inn.

Our home for a couple of days on PEI

Our hosts

Our host, Herb at the B&B

Herb and Roger have been operating the B&B for a number of years – however, they are snowbirds heading to Florida for 6-months of the year. It was a nice place to base our couple of days on the Island.

The backbone of the economy is farming; it produces 25% of Canada’s potatoes and you see the fields everywhere you go.

New potatoes starting out

Additionally there are of course the obligatory potato products, pictures and places to visit in most of the little towns.  Fishing also plays a part of the economy as evidence by the various stands, boats and lobster pots we saw stacked around.

Fisheries form one of the major industries of Prince Edward Island.

Without a real agenda, we spent the first day just wandering around the area and having a nice late lunch at Open Eats in Summerside. The following day we headed out to the

The Cavendish Boardwalk – a collection of shops on the eastern side of the island

Cavendish Boardwalk – a collection of various local shops towards the Atlantic side of the Island – and had a wonderful Moo ice cream cone. Since spring came late, peonies are in bloom.

Peonies – getting ready to burst forth with flowers.

From there we just sort of drove around on the eastern side of the island enjoying the warm day,

Here’s a colorful fishing villages, this in French River on the Island
There were light houses all around the Island

the beautiful roadside flowers and the views of the ocean. Along the roadside there were lots of lupine in various colors – red, pink, white and purple.

Lupines were all over the place in a variety of colors.

They grow wild along the roadside and added lovely color to our day. For lunch we headed back to Summerside and grabbed a table at the Deckhouse Pub with a view of the water.

We had a delighful lunch on the upper porch where the green and black umbrella’s are located.
Us – after lunch

We finished our visit to the Island and got ready for our trek the following day (which turned into a blowing rainstorm) to Saint Johns, New Brunswick.

07-02-2018 Dinner at Laurie Raphael – Quebec city

From time to time we like to jump into the deep end for a dining experience. Exploring Quebec City was no exception. When we first came into town I checked several of the websites I’ve used in the past to figure out where we might go. After looking at the options, I discovered Laurie Raphael.   This is a family operation having been started by Chef Daniel some 27 years ago and now managed by his son, Raphael. There are two locations; the original in Quebec City and a second restaurant is now in Montreal. The venue has limited seating and a set menu, either a 3 courses or 5-course selection option. We arrived early, as is our custom and were introduced to chef Pierre and staff before being seated in the bar prior to moving to the dining room. Seems they like to start the experience in the bar with a glass of wine or a cocktail along with a amuse bouche or two. I had a nice Sancerre and Janeen a French Rose to go with our two different presentations.

At this point, Hugo, our food guide for the evening, explained the menu options – of which there are two. A 3-course meal with a “sea” and “land” on each course or a five-course meal again with 2 options on each course. Hugo indicated that the overall portion size would be the same whether we had the 3 or 5 so naturally I chose the 5-course option.

Having decided to do the full tasting menu, we were seated in the dining room, which is relatively small and relaxed. The décor featured laser cut metal panels along the window side and muted colors for the seating, walls and floor. In the middle of the room was a brass “tree” about 8 feet tall with a serving table around it for the wait staff to stage items prior to placement on the table. It is clear they are striving for feeling of being in nature. Bunches of fresh vegetables were displayed near the kitchen.

Hugo, our waiter, explained the menu and presented our wines throughout the evening. Janeen had mostly local Niagara peninsula, wines while David had some French, California and Italian selections. We shared sips on all courses to see how they matched the dish presented. Dinner lasted about 3 ½ hours – just about right for a tasting menu.

Always a good time for bubbles – sparking cider for Janeen and a Champagne for David
Halibut ceviche, rhubarb water, celery and salicornia
Magdelen Island’s scallops, blood orange and pomelo, cilantro oil, fresh shiso and candied lemon zest
More wine please!
Coal grilled green asparagus and foie gras, buckwheat sprouts and green shallot puree
Orleans Island smoked mini lettuce, grilled pork confit and egg salad, papilotte puree and bacon dressing
Wines to go with lobster
Lobster claws, cauliflower and broad bean stew, St-Laurence River seaweed
Lobster tail, kale, spinach and lovage from “ferme des Ruisseaux”, hollandaise sauce
Wines for the second land course
Seared veal, thyme and lemon meat juice, market vegetables
Roasted quail, fir meat juice, forest vegetables
At the end, with desserts, we had both a Canadian and a French dessert wine.
The first dessert – Pied-de-Vent cheese Paris-Brest, Quebec strawberries
The second dessert – Rhubarb and basil sorbet, dried meringue, rhubarb and gin jelly
The final dessert – Sweets

The experience was wonderful, the small bites and presentations done very well and the unique flavors of each seemed to come out in unique ways. Janeen was most impressed with the first course “sashimi” halibut and scallops enlivened with citrus and rhubarb flavors. David enjoyed the quail, prepared two ways, with lovely morel mushrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

07-2-18 Quebec City

We decided to take the Hop-on-hop-off bus around the city and learned a good deal about Quebec and it’s history.  Saw a lot of interesting spots and enjoyed the 2 hours or so of the adventure.

Just another fountain.
Lots of the older buildings have copper roofs – this is the train station.
The mural is about 75 feet tall and covers the entire side of the building. Some of the windows are real but most aren’t.
Lots of people wandering around and enjoying the day

We had a nice lunch along the way and walked back to our hotel to get ready for our dinner.

We had lunch in the place with the awning on the right
Just part of the local color of the city
Here we are in the upper city
Neat fountain (see the water in the middle?) where you could fill up your water bottle
This classic luxury hotel was built at the high point of the city by Railroad Baron’s to bring people to the City.
The Funiculaire went from the old upper city to the lower portion of town.
One more fountain along the way
Lots of the older buildings have copper roofs – this is the train station.

We had a lovely time in this City and decided to have a pre-anniversary dinner at Laurie Rapheal – but more about that on the next post

 

06-29-18 Niagara Falls and Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

We left the USofA and went across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada.  Checked into our hotel and drove down to the park and walked along taking some pictures of both the American and Horseshoe Falls.

The American Falls as seen from Canada
Another selfie! American Falls behind us.
Really there are not enough words – I asked if Janeen wanted to do the boat thing but she passed.
Beautiful day to be here.
Horseshoe Falls behind me

There really aren’t enough words, good thing the photos are available.

The next day we came back, via the WEGO bus and went directly to Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens so Janeen could get a garden fix.

One of the largest Herb Gardens in North America!

It was a beautiful day to wander around, smell the roses, see the various gardens and enjoy.

Color contrast within the Herb Garden
We could have taken a carriage ride around the Gardens.
Janeen getting a rose hug at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
The color of the leaves on this tree were amazing!
Light puffy blooms on this bush at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.

After that we went back to the area where the Falls are located and walked around the Queen’s Rose Garden.  Seems the roses at Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens have become deer food so there aren’t a lot of them left.  Lost of them at the Queen’s Rose Garden.

Janeen getting a second fix of roses at the Queen Victoria Park.
OK, this is a selfie picture of us at the Queen Victoria Park rose Garden

Had a delightful lunch along with a full pitcher of Molson’s beer.  Not a bad view of the Falls from our table.

We had a delightful lunch and a picture of Molson beer overlooking the Horseshoe Falls – at Queen Victoria Restaurant.

The next day we left and headed to Ottawa for the evening.  300 plus miles along the Trans Canada Highway.  Lots of lakes and trees but not much else.

06-27-18 Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes is a region of New York State named for its series of long, thin lakes, and known for its vineyards. There are eleven long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes in an area called the Finger Lakes region. There are over 100 wineries and vineyards located around Seneca, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Keuka, Conesus and Hemlock Lakes. The main grape varieties grown are Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Vitis labrusca (an American native). We tried most of these but in limited number during our visit.

There are a number of notable historical events that happened around the general area of the Finger Lakes – most notable might be the birthplace of the Woman’s Suffrage movement in Seneca Falls, Waterloo, the birthplace of Memorial Day and Palmyra, the birthplace of the LDS Church (Mormons). However, our goal on visit was to taste some of the wines.

Wine Enthusiast has a travel guide for the area with recent updates on some of the better places to visit. First on the list is Hermann J. Wiemer, so that seemed like a good place to start.

The entrance sign at Hermann J. Wiemer

Several of their Rieslings have scored some good reviews – 93 points for the 2016 Magdalena Vineyard bottling and 92 for another Riesling.

Vines outside of the tasting room at Hermann J. Wiemer

We arrived after having a light lunch in Watkins Glen – the base of Seneca Lake – in mid afternoon. The Hermann J. Wiemer estate was established in 2001 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It has changed ownership at least once over the years but at present seems to have a stable operation.

Upon our arrival to the tasting room, we were directed to a table to sample a few different wines. The tasting menu has several different options from Chardonnay to their late harvest Riesling.

A pump over was in process at Wiemer.

We sampled at will for the better part of an hour and had informative conversations with the staff. The primary wine is Riesling – although they do make a Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztruminer, Chardonnay and a sparkling wine.

The dry Riesling from Wiemer – nice juice

On the red side of things they make a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc but neither of these were on the tasting menu. The wines were pleasant, we found the Riesling Reserve Dry 2016 most to our taste.

I found it interesting that in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before you Die there is a section on the Finger Lakes and Hermann J. Wiemer is listed; they have a blow up of the page on the wall.

Our next stop, the following morning, was to Ventosa Vineyards.

Janeen at the entrance

Not only do they have a wine tasting they also have a small café that made stopping easy and resulted in a delightful lunch. Ventosa, like everyone else in the area, has a number of white wines – Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay – but we were coming for the red selections – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ventosa Vineyards Pinot Noir

We tasted a number of the reds and were quite pleased with the Pinot Noir and the Lemberger both of which could find places in our cellar (assuming we were going to buy more wine).

Janeen tasting at Ventosa

For lunch, however, we opted for the Dry Riesling, as it would pair better with our lunch. The tasting room was large, well appointed with a large covered porch overlooking the vineyard.

The covered patio at Ventosa Vineyards
Having some Riesling on the patio.

All in all a lovely spot to taste some wines and have a snack – they also have music evenings on Wednesday but not until after 6pm so we didn’t stick around.

From there were off to Damiani Vineyards.

Here’s the sign for Damiani of course

Again, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, make up the bulk of the white side of the house and Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are on the red side of the house.

Damiani – The upper level of this is the tasting room – the bottom is an event space.

The tasting room is a converted home that has a tasting room on the upper level and a large event room below. Much more rustic then the other places we had visited.

Damiani Pinot Noir

The tastings we did required us to drive completely around Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake is the larges of the Finger Lakes, which is 38 miles long, and a combined shoreline of 75 miles.

The Seneca Legion tours around the lake – we didn’t take the tour.

I was surprised to learn it has a maximum depth of 618 feet and has only frozen three times in the last 200 years. The shoreline is dotted with homes, wineries, small communities and lovely spots to just sit and watch the lake. Unfortunately our second day going in the area was rainy and restricted our view somewhat.

While we could spend many more days here tasting wines we have gotten a feel for the area and will move on. The Rieslings are good, not to be compared with those of Moselle Germany, but in a pinch I would certainly drink those from the Finger Lakes area. The Pinot Noirs we tasted were OK but seemed to be lacking some of the structure we are used to, that’s not to say they were not good they were – just different from those we have had from other new world sources.

 

06-24-18 Bethlehem and Fairview Lake

A long time ago, over 40 years at this point, we lived in Bethlehem PA. I had a job at Lehigh University as Director of Housing. The campus was founded in 1856 and has always had a strong engineering program.

Lehigh University has lots of old buildings.

This was during my higher education employment days. Over the course of the three years we spent in Bethlehem, we got to know a number of people, visited around the area (Kutztown, Bucks County, Quakertown, Philadelphia) and generally had a good time. One of the things I remember vividly was touring the Bethlehem Steel Plant with friends of my parents – a superintendent in the production area. We toured a couple of times and there is something really magical about watching a huge crucible filled with molten steel tip and pour out a river of liquid steel.

Steel crucible

Today the plant is closed – and has been for the better part of 20 years –

A view of the Stacks

sections are being reused, Sands Casino, shopping areas, public TV studios, but most is still in rusting degeneration.

The main entrance to the Steel Stack – the area that has been developed.
The blast furnaces in the background with the south side grave yard.

The City is divided into two major parts – separated by the Lehigh River. The South side was the home of Bethlehem Steel and Lehigh University. The North side was the City Center, Moravian College, Church and Victorian splendid mansions. It defined itself in the 1980s as Christmas City. Since our leaving the area, with the steel plant closing, the South side has had to reinvent itself around its immigrant population and University students. There are a number of new business buildings, coffee shops and restaurants, plus a large portion of the steel plant was taken over by the Sands Casino. It seems this Casino is the closest gambling spot to New York City and attracts a lot of bused in business. Other sections of the old steel plant have become art studios, a public TV studio, Industrial Museum and other reuse spaces.

The North side has also had to refocus, but seems to be turning around. The old Bethlehem Hotel has been renovated and made much more comfortable, the Old Town has some interesting shops and various business areas have been developed. There are several large warehouse distribution centers in the area (Amazon has a HUGE operation and FedEx is developing a very large center also) helping the City to survive.

When we moved here in 1975 we decided it might be time to actually buy a home and eventually purchased a duplex on Wall Street for $17,000.

The left side of the house, with the American Flag, was where we lived while in Bethlehem.

We ended up doing a lot of work to this place but it was ready to move in when we purchased it. The house still stands and looks very much like it did when we sold it before moving to California.

During our visit we drove around a bit on both sides of the river.

Main street down town

It is surprising after all the years to be able to find things we remembered from long ago. The Lehigh Campus has expanded with a number of new buildings taking over, many of the fraternities have closed and been taken over by the campus housing operation and the school has become much more of a liberal arts college than just a highly recognized engineering school (which it was when we were here).

When we lived in the city, dining was limited – ok, it was basically none existent. There was a restaurant in Hess Department store in Allentown the country club in Bethlehem, one or two small restaurants – think diners– and nothing like a place with a wine list unless you drove into the Poconos or NYC. Now there are a number of tasty eateries including specialty cafes doing breakfast/brunch only, steak and fish restaurants and a couple of up scale Italian spots.

One of our favorite places to visit while in town was always the Moravian Book Store.

The Moravian book store – once a great place, not so much now.

This place is reputed to be the oldest bookstore in the country and always had wonderful books, artistic gift items, Christmas decorations and other treasures. Well, unfortunately, it is not longer the ‘go to spot’ as it is turning into a Barnes and Noble store for Moravian College. We found the change to be very saddening.

On Saturday we connected with friends Chad and Lynne for dinner.

Chad and Lynne

It was really wonderful to reconnect with them – sure we exchanged the occasional Christmas card over the years but really haven’t seen them since we left Bethlehem (well, not entirely true – Janeen went to their wedding which was held in the National Cathedral in Washington DC). They have lived in the area for over 40 years and seem to know all the movers and shakers around plus a good part of the development history and our conversations provided a nice perspective on the changes and progress of the City.

After visiting in Bethlehem for a few days we left and drove up to Fairview Lake – where Jim and Carol have a lovely lake front “cottage” (1930s chestnut log) they have refurbished and made into a lovely retreat.

The Cottage

The home has two out buildings along with the main cabin allowing them to spread family around when they visit.

Here we are on the porch of Jim and Carol’s cottage on the lake.

Our retreat area was the upper portion of the garage, which Jim had added to the property several years ago, with a great view of the lake. While it was a bit breezy and cool while we visited, it didn’t stop us from going on a lake cruise the first evening or enjoying the patio for afternoon relaxation time.

Of course the cruise did include some wine.
Janeen taking in the sites while on our cruise.

There is no telling when we will be back to either Bethlehem or Fairview Lake but I can certainly see a time when that will happen.

06-21-18 Longwood Gardens

It was time for some gardens. We left Springfield and headed to Longwood Gardens just under 3 hours away in Pennsylvania.

The Entrance sign

This is a botanical garden that consists of over 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows.   It is considered to be one of the premier horticultural display gardens in the US and a place we have visited previously – but not for a very long time.

Longwood Gardens has a long and varied history. For thousands of years, the native Lenni Lenape tribe fished its streams, hunted its forests, and planted its fields. Evidence of the tribe’s existence is found in quartz spear points that have been discovered on and around the property and can be found on display in the Peirce-du Pont House on the Longwood Gardens property.

In 1700, a Quaker farmer named George Peirce purchased 402 acres of this English-claimed land from William Penn’s commissioners. George’s son Joshua cleared and farmed the land and in 1730 he built the brick farmhouse that, enlarged, still stands today In 1798, Joshua’s twin grandsons Samuel and Joshua, who had inherited the farm, actively pursued an interest in natural history and began planting an arboretum that eventually covered 15 acres. The collection included specimens that they collected from the wild as well as plants acquired from some of the region’s leading botanists.

As the 19th century rolled into the 20th, the family’s heirs lost interest in the property and allowed the arboretum to deteriorate. The farm passed out of the family through several hands in quick succession, and a lumber mill operator was about to cut down the trees for timber in early 1906. This threat moved Pierre S. du Pont, American entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist, and member of the prominent du Pont family to take action. On July 20, 1906, 36-year-old du Pont purchased the farm primarily to preserve the trees. He wasn’t planning to create Longwood Gardens, but within a few years, his desire to make it a place where he could entertain his friends transformed a simple country farm into one of the country’s leading horticultural display gardens. The end result is a beautiful set of gardens, green houses, water features, walking trails and space to relax.

We arrived late morning and were able to see the Water display

The water display lasted about 15 minutes – and the main jet can go about 140 feet high.
Here we are at the Main Fountain Gardens

near the main Conservatory area before going on tour of Pierre’s “mansion expansion”. While the Biltmore’s, Huntington, and other early 20th century millionaires built mansions to rival those they saw in Europe, Pierre du Pont brought back the drawings, engineering and vision of a conservatory to entertain in, and gardens as outdoor living space from Italy and France.

Janeen at the front of the Conservatory
The large topiary along the walkway

On a previous winter visit, we were enthralled by the poinsettia “chandeliers”

One of the hardest things to grow in a Conservatory is grass – they seem to have accomplished it very well here.

and tropical warmth of

The Conservatory was huge with several wings and different planting areas. This water feature was lovely.
Another section of the Conservatory.
This was a very large staghorn fern hanging from the ceiling. I had one about this size at one time.

Longwood’s rooms of orchids and Mediterranean plants. In summer, now, one can marvel at the lotus and water lily display.

One of the things I really like about the Bonsai was they had the year the plant was started. The oldest was started in 1909!
Some of the lily pads were better than 3 feet in diameter

The fountain gardens, originally designed in the 1930s,in 2014 were completely removed, reimagined, and reinstalled over huge tunnels that power a spectacular water show with jets shooting into the air and streams of water dancing to programed music, with lights on summer nights. This opened May 2017.

This waterfall flowed into the Italian Garden area
The Italian gardens were a ways from the Conservatory but well worth the walk.

The Italian Water Gardens inspired by the Villa Gamberaia,

Well, this would be David at the Italian gardens duh.
The Italian Gardens

reflect a mixture of the formal fountains and pools of the Versailles vision, connected to English Garden waterfalls and “natural” jumble of meadow and woodland paths. En route is a children’s delight tree house overlooking the native plants meadow.

Tucked within a grove of woods was this treehouse.
This Tower has a full chime and strikes every 15 minutes and plays tunes throughout the day.
Lovely flowers around this water feature
All this treehouse needed was a bedroom, bath and we would be set!

Circling back to the entrance after pausing for refreshment, we rested in the rose arbors with the flower garden walk overlooking our Solstice Garden visit.

When Pierre du Pont died in 1954, he “had in place a well-funded yet adaptable mechanism for Longwood to continue.”