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.


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.”

06-21-18 It’s Been A Year Update 3

It’s been a year since we started this adventure – Update #3:

We flew back from Europe to Virginia moving back into our ‘room’ at Jason’s home. The first part of our return involved spending a good deal of time with our granddaughter

KB with her Unicorn outfit

and submitting paperwork for new drivers licenses, income tax returns and transferring the title of the Prius to Jason.

We had a lovely dinner with Jason, Katie and Terri while in Virginia

We hadn’t been back more than a day or two and we were notified that our car, which we had dropped off in Paris in November, was available for pick up at the dealer. It was nice to have our new wheels back and allowed us to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. This was very fortunate as we got a call that Janeen’s dad had fallen and was on his way to the Hospital. We left the next day for Macomb, Illinois.

It seemed to be winter when were in Macomb in late January.

Fortunately, he didn’t break anything but he did have a case of pneumonia that needed to be addressed. By the time we arrived,

Yup, snow on our car!

Harold had been moved to an assisted living arrangement for more direct attention. While we were there, Harold had a relapse of the pneumonia and went back to the hospital and upon release, went into a different assisted living arrangement that was much better.

While we were there, Jason, Terri and KB came for a visit which was a great boost to Harold’s well being.

Harold with his great granddaughter

After being there about 4 weeks, we drove back to Virginia and made arrangements to fly to California. It had been 8 months since we had been back to our “old homestead” and while the house

Our front yard still looks good!

was rented we have some great friends who allowed us to stay at their place during our visit. The primary reason to return was to check in with our various doctors and have a general check up to make sure we were still good to go on our continued travel plans.

It was great to see our friends,

Kirk and Denise – winemakers from WesMar in Russian River area. They were in town the weekend we returned to California and it was a treat to have dinner with them.

visit some eating establishments we have enjoyed in the past, and of course for Janeen to get to the

Lovely flowers in bloom at the Huntington Gardens while we visited California.

Huntington Gardens. We also got a few things out of our storage in the garage and a couple of cases of wine to bring back when we returned to Virginia. All in all a wonderful 4 weeks in the sun!

When we arrived back in Virginia, the cherry blossoms around the tidal pool were in full bloom!

Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin in DC
The Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin

We could not have planned a more beautiful day to visit and see the cherry blossoms and enjoy spring! When we left, in mid March, it was still WINTER – cold, snow and wet. When we got back it was SPRING with trees leafing out, flowers blooming and beautiful sites all around. It was now time to return to Macomb and check on Janeen’s dad and plan our southern loop drive.

Janeen and her dad – he turned 101 in March of this year.
Our beautiful MercBlue in front of a lovely dogwood in Macomb.

We returned to Macomb late April and stayed for a couple of weeks making sure Harold was getting all the assistance he needed.

While in Macomb we say this production put on by the Macomb Community Theatre.

Once we had confirmed that, we packed up our car and started our way south. Our first stop was to Cincinnati. Neither of us had been there and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the sites along the Ohio River.

Friendship Park in Cincinnati

We also took in a visit to the National Underground Railroad Museum.

A huge quilt at the Underground Railroad Museum

This Museum covers all aspects of the anti-slavery efforts and also pays tribute to all efforts to “abolish human enslavement and secure freedom for all people”.

From there we drove to Maysville Kentucky. My father grew up in Maysville

My dad, his brother and parents lived on the second floor of this house.

and Janeen and I visited once while my grandmother was still alive in the early 70’s. We were able to drive by both the house my dad grew up in and the home my grandmother was in when we visited. After driving around the town a bit we headed out to try and find the old family homestead.

It is a fact that Lee’s have been in Maysville since the late 1700’s. General Henry Lee purchased the house and land in the late 1700 and his descendants include my grandfather – my dad’s father.

The major farm building still exists (no longer in the family) and we were able to find it.

Leewood – the original family home in Kentucky.

Referred to as Leewood it is a two-story home with twin chimneys with a balcony between. I also learned that the family graveyard was close to the property and it was my goal to try and find it. Once we found the home, we noticed some folks behind the house working some cattle. I stopped and asked if it would be OK to visit the graveyard and was given permission – fortunately there were no cattle in the field we had to go through to reach the graveyard.

The Lee Family Plot – started in the early 1800’s. My great grandfather is here.

The earliest grave markers date to the early 1800’s and include both direct decendents (Lee’s by name) and the related families. Unfortunately the graveyard is really overgrown and many of the stones are unreadable. It would be an interesting project to come back and clear all the weeds; clean the stones and general refurbish the place. Maybe another time we can come back and do that.

After leaving Maysville, I visited with Cousin Bonnie –

My cousin Bonnie – we connected after our visit to Maysville.

the daughter of my dad’s adopted sister. I don’t recall having meet Bonnie previously, but it could have happened sometime in the past. It is always great to reconnect with family.

Bourbon – Whiskey – stuff made in Kentucky that people drink a lot – that was the mission today. First stop, Jim Beam Distillery

Jim Beam – need I say more?

for a tour and tasting. Located just off interstate 65 south of Louisville is the place where they make a LOT of this bourbon. It was an interesting tour going over the entire process and into their aging barns holding hundreds of barrels and finally into a tasting room where we were able to sample the final product. Being a scotch drinker, bourbon is not my first drink of choice but it was a great tour and we are glad we made the stop. Next stop – Nashville

Music City USA – Nashville the city where a lot of music has been recorded, played and enjoyed. Before we checked into our hotel, and toured downtown Nashville, we stopped at Cheekwood Estate and Garden. Once the family home of Mabel and Leslie Cheek, this extraordinary 1930s estate, with its Georgian mansion and 55 acres of cultivated gardens

Janeen peeking out of a greenhouse at Cheekwood Estate and Garden

and expansive vistas, today serves the public as a botanic garden, woodland sculpture trail, and art museum. We spent the better part of the day touring the gardens (a must for Janeen every so often) and the home of the family. Much of the interior of the house has been restored

The drawing room of the Cheekwood Estate.

to the original condition and a lot of the original furniture has been acquired and placed throughout. Nice visit to a lovely spot.  We also visited the Belle Meade plantation – which was a ‘big’ race horse place for a number of years.  The place has been restored and is a good example of the period.

The plantation, was named “Belle Meade,” French for beautiful meadow, and known as the “Queen of Southern Plantations”
The stable of Belle Meade
A cute little house for play for the girls of the family.
Slave quarters at the Belle Meade Plantation

When you think of Nashville you cannot help but think of the Grande Ole Opry that really put the place on the map.

Bluegrass started right here at the Ryman in Nashville.

The Ryman Auditorium was home to the Opry for many years before a new facility was built.

Here’s the author and his wife at the upper level of the Ryman Auditorium

We did a tour of the place and enjoy the history very much. From there it was off to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Sure, I’ve listed to Country Music from time to time but the breath and depth of this museum is beyond comprehension. Spending a few hours going through the building is just the beginning.

Our goal, when we left Macomb on this southern loop, was to get to Savannah, Georgia and connect with Bob and Linda. Bob was my boss when I worked at Lehigh University in the late 70’s. When we left we lost contact but reconnected last June. They have a lovely home in Skidaway Island just south of Savannah and graciously hosted us for several days.

Bob and Linda – they seem to be enjoying retirement living in Savannah

Nothing like catching up after 40 years while visiting an interesting part of the world. Bob gave us a quick motor tour of Savannah and the following day we took the hop-on-hop-off bus to get a more in-depth view of the City.

Stately home on our tour around Savannah

Lots of old homes, great restaurants, city parks, and a lovely city. You know that stuff that hangs from trees called “Spanish moss”? Well, it’s everywhere.

Spanish Moss – lots of it hanging on the trees.

From Savannah we headed to Charleston and stayed at the French Quarter Inn. This was like taking a vacation while on vacation. I had decided we needed a true break and spent the bucks to be able to stay at a really nice place, have some great meals and enjoy the City.

A lovely garden and home we saw during our walking tour of Charlestown.

Fortunately in both Savannah and Charleston we were not overwhelmed by the heat and humidity – both of which can be murderous particularly in the summer.

Leaving Charleston we headed to Asheville, NC and a visit with our friends Gloria and Jerry. Readers of the Blog will remember they were the couple that joined us in Portugal for the River Cruise. It is always a treat to visit with them and see the sights of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We spent a day visiting the state Arboretum,

Gloria and Jerry taking in the sights

having lunch at a spot along the Blue Ridge Highway and dinner in town. They kept suggesting we could move to Asheville and who knows, it could happen. After Asheville back to Springfield, Virginia for a few weeks to recoup and figure out what’s next.

It’s now been a year. We have travelled a lot, visited old friends and generally had a good time. During this last year Janeen and I have been together virtually the entire time and with very rare exceptions have gotten along well. We continue to learn about what we need to have available to us when we are driving around (how many changes of clothes do you really need; how many shoes can you really wear?) and stayed in a bunch of different hotels (mostly Best Western actually) and had all kinds of weather – sun, rain, snow, everything as far you can imagine. Over the next several weeks we are going to do a Northern Loop – through Pennsylvania, the Finger Lakes of New York, Niagara Falls, drive through some of Canada on our way to Prince Edward Island, visit friends in Boston and return to Springfield. Once we return its go west time, checking in on Janeen’s dad, then all the way to California.

Only time will tell where we end up, but so far the Gap Year Adventure has been fantastic. The Blog will continue!

06-20-18 It’s Been A Year Update 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.