Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

As we write we’re back in Los Gatos staying with our friends Maky and Mark and having a wonderful time with our grandsons Cian and Caleb who just turned 5 and 3 respectively; and catching up with neighbors and friends. Of course, Adele is having a ball meeting up with her vast network of friends from Bridge, Mah Jong, the British Group etc., etc.

For those of you, who are “Followers” of our Blog you know where we’ve been so far; to follow our odyssey around the US over the next 14 months or so, please view our Blog  you can also sign up as a Follower.
Christmas Day we will celebrate with Kilian, Melissa (who is in great good health after her battle with cancer), Cian and Caleb; Tony & Stella and Cearull & Leslie. Then as has become tradition, we will depart on December 26th for the UK where we will celebrate all over again with Jennifer, Karl, Hannah, Molly and Ciaran.

Adele & Tom the RamblingRovers wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine boasts of being the oldest permanent European settlement on the North American Continent.
Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain in 1513, between then and 1563 the Spanish sent many expeditions to explore their new colony
In 1564 Fort Caroline was the first French colony in the present day United States. Established in what is now Jacksonville, FL, under the leadership of Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere it was intended as a refuge for the Huguenots. It lasted for just one year before being obliterated by the Spanish after the French had sent boats to attack the Spanish in St Augustine. They were caught in a storm and the attack failed; the Spanish then marched north and slaughtered all the French and called the place “Matanzas” Spanish for “slaughter”.
Once again it was pure luck we hit Saint Augustine on the first weekend in December - this is “the weekend” to visit Saint Augustine, we arrived Friday afternoon. The Holiday celebrations officially start Saturday morning with a Christmas Parade at 10am; we set the alarm to make sure we would not miss it - life can become very relaxed on road. Being the road warriors we now are, we checked where we could park in town on the internet and learned that we could park for 24 hours in the Civic Centre car park for $10. This proved a great decision as we were right in the center of everything and later in the day when it became chilly we returned to the car for jackets and continued our enjoyment.
The Christmas Parade was very good, there were: School Bands, Cheerleaders, Beauty Queens, an Elvis impersonator (singing Merry Christmas), Cinderella (in her crystal coach), religious themed Crib Scenes, The Grinch, Gymnasts, Kick Boxers, a Colonial British Army with their maiden followers in 17th century costumes, a Pirate Ship with a banner “How the Pirates Stole Christmas” - every so often the pirates would fire the canon at the back of the ship, finally on a fire tender - Santa Claus. It was an excellent parade for such a small town.
We then literally walked across the road to Castillo de San Marcos whose history begins on the edge of the known world.  A bastion of the largest empire ever created, the Castillo was built between 1672 and 1695 to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World and Spanish Galleons returning with gold, silver, sugar, tobacco, chocolate and pearls from the Privateers (Pirates with a license from other kingdoms). The Castillo was built of coquina a rock/shell natural substance which is so resilient that it withstood cannonballs. Though later caught in the whirlwinds of colonial warfare and intrigue, it was never defeated in battle.  Its scarred walls still stand witness to over 330 years of history and culture.

There was a 17th century British Army encampment set up on the Town Square where they drilled and answered questions, we discovered that one third of the British Army in America in the 17th century were German soldiers on loan from different Princes. This was a business deal; the Prince received a large payment, plus bonus while the soldiers were paid by the British Army.
After lunch we meandered up St George Street a pedestrian only street which is very pleasant, quite narrow and with many old Spanish buildings. Town people in period costumes walk about adding to the atmosphere as that evening an enactment of “the British are coming” is being held. In the center of town there are 3 beautiful building, all were originally hotels built by a man an oil tycoon (partner of Rockefeller in Standard Oil) called Flagler. He visited San Augustine and decided to develop the little town, built his hotels, bought the railroad and arranged for stops on its way south in Florida; this is why San Augustine is such a tourist attraction today. All three hotels surrounded a square that had a formal garden with a fountain in the center. Only one of the hotels functions as a hotel today. The most beautiful building inside or out is Flagler College - a University - the foyer and dining hall are magnificent, adorned with Tiffany glass ceilings and windows and beautifully carved staircases and pillars. 
At 7.30pm we made our way for the Plaza de la Constitucion where Government House is situated and from where the parade was scheduled to start. As we sat on the wall of St. Augustine Basilica we noticed that most people had a lighted candle or lamp in their hands and were informed that the British arrested anyone out after dark that did not have a candle or lamp; we decided to take our chances on not being noticed in the huge crowd of onlookers.  On the dot of eight the festivities started with a speech by the “British Governor” from the balcony of government house, not a word could be heard! On command the soldiers; British in their red and blue coats, Scottish in kilts and Germans in tall brass mitred hats marched down and then back up St George Street to the accompaniment of music played on tin whistles and drums. All followed by civilians dressed in 17th century costumes who, in turn were followed by a motley crowd of 21st century Americans.
This was a fun stop, even without all the fun we experienced this is a lovely, walkable town with lots to see and do.

Friday, December 9, 2011


1 Kevin Barry was an Irish hero
2 Dockside shops
3 Bob's your Uncle, Fanny's your Aunt and 6 to 4 the field
4 Horse and Carriage tour
5 "Gothic" Temple Mikve Israel 
6 The house where "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" was filmed
7 The Cafe where we had afternnon tea
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Since we started thinking and planning this odyssey of ours Savannah was prominent among the places we wished to visit. The very fact that we made reservations to return for St Patrick’s Day 2012 before leaving should convey a sense that Savannah was everything, and more than we thought it would be.

Founded on February 12th, 1733 by General James Edward Oglethorpe who carefully planned the city's streets by using a grid pattern with 24 park-like squares, Savannah is a beautiful town whose houses and public buildings are all beautifully restored; many are originals. Oglethorpe was granted a Charter by King George the Second as he wanted a buffer between the Spanish in Florida and the already established English Colony in South Carolina. Interestingly, although one of the Charters main purposes was “to serve as a place where debtors in prison could go to start anew”, nevertheless it prohibited slavery, lawyers, Catholics and hard liquor. We won’t speculate on the prohibition on lawyers and hard liquor; the fear with Catholics was that they would be more loyal to Catholic Spain.      

On our first day we took an excellent trolley tour and purchased a walking tour guidebook that provided greater information about the buildings, monuments etc. at each stop (there were 15 stops). As we had no idea when to hop off we stayed on until almost the end. We got off the trolley at stop #12, had lunch and then walked in reverse along the tour route; taking ample time in all the parks, each of which is not just beautiful, but has its own history. Every park commemorates an event or honors people like Oglethorpe or John Wesley and to our amazement a square is named for an Irish Orator and Patriot Robert Emmet who was hanged for treason by the British for leading an uprising in Dublin in 1803. Emmet Park has a big Celtic cross which was hand carved in County Roscommon, Ireland; this park is central to the St Patrick Day festivities each year. Thanks to a very active group of ladies 22 of the original 24 parks still remain to be enjoyed by locals and visitors.

Some of the highlights of our 2 day walking tour are: Hamilton-Turner House on Lafayette Square where part of the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil “was filmed, also on Lafayette Square is the house where Juliette Low held the first meeting of the American girl guides (scouts) after she had returned from England where she had meet Sir Robert Baden-Powell the founder of the scouts and guides and been inspired by him to do the same in the United States.  

We also saw the square where Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump sat on a bench waiting for his bus holding his suitcase and box of chocolates; the bench it is now in one of the museums. 

Savannah was also the home of Flannery O’Connor an author we must read up on - she grew up near St John’s Catholic Cathedral.  There are many, many churches of different Christian persuasions in the town; one First African Baptist Church was built by slaves in 1777; each night after working in the fields all day the congregation would walk into Savannah to work on building the church and make its pews, altar and pulpit. Savannah also has the only Gothic-style architecture Synagogue in America Mickve Israel which was built in 1876 in pure neo-Gothic style, reflecting the fashionable architecture of the Victorian era.

This town like most had it fair share of fires yet escaped the fate of other towns during the American Civil War. Sherman’s march to the sea included the taking of Savannah however, rather than putting it to the torch Sherman sent a telegram to President Lincoln on the 22nd of December saying “Mr. President…I beg to present you as a Christmas Gift the city of Savannah”.

The old docks remain where many of the old buildings are adorned with still visible names and advertisements from the 18th and 19th centuries; these have now been transformed into shops, restaurants and hotels. There’s a nice paved walk along the river and towering over this area on the site of the  old cotton exchange is the gold domed Town hall. Savannah was a major exporter of cotton but the boll weevil destroyed the cotton crop and devastated Savannahs economy for many years.

On our second day we shopped, visited a few museums and had afternoon tea in the Gryphon Tea Rooms located in a turn of the 20th century old Pharmacy that was lovingly restored by the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). The interior is much the same as it used to be; the walls were lined with narrow shelving and part of the lower wall had little wooden drawers with “oint” “sup” and “asp” written on them, the top of the walls had a continuous row of stained glass windows depicting the pestle and mortar, our waitresses (an art student) told us that the windows opened into the offices upstairs allowing the owner to survey and control his domain.

We're looking forward to returning for St Patrick's Day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Milledgeville, Georgia

Thanksgiving Day we decided to drive east along 1-20 from Atlanta in order to head south along 441 (the Antebellum trail) on our way to Savannah. This trip required an intermediate stop and with the luck of the Irish we picked Milledgeville – inspired! However, in driving along there was not a plantation house to be seen. We pulled into the RV Park which had a pool and a hot tub; things were looking better. The next challenge was where to go for Thanksgiving Dinner – we opted for Ruby Tuesday’s and had very nice seafood platters followed by tiramisu for dessert. So…we will be looking forward to our Turkey dinner at Christmas.

Historic Milledgeville, which was the Capitol of Georgia from 1801-1868 was our destination the next morning and what a lovely surprise this town turned out to be. We picked up a “walking tour” town map from the information center which presented an immediate challenge which way was North, South, East and West on these maps. As #1 was the information office, off we headed for the rest of the tour - each place of interest was numbered, had a little history of the house/building and a line drawing enabling us to know that we were looking at the correct place - this was a great help. On our walk we passed the Old State House, a Gothic building, which now houses the Georgia Military College; this is a most unusual building in a large park. Up and down we walked passing Churches, houses, shops and the Old Governor’s Mansion, we even walked through the graveyard.

As we walked down a residential road we said “hello” to a man who was going into one of the featured houses and he invited us in. This was one of his houses and has been for sale for the past 4 years - he lives elsewhere in the town now. The interior was beautifully decorated and furnished, we remarked on this and he told us his wife is an interior decorator. One notable feature was that the hall is wide, as are the stairs and landing; is this because the ladies dresses were so long and wide in the late 18th early 19th centuries?
He told us that he was a retired psychologist from the State Lunatic Asylum which is near town; this had a patient population of over 10,000 at one time, now there are close to 1,000; makes one wonder if this is the result of cutbacks in the healthcare system. After having taken our leave from this gentleman we noticed that many of the houses on this particular road had “for sale” signs out front.   

Milledgeville is also home to Georgia College and State University which takes up a very large area in the center of town. Built of red brick in the Neo-classical style it is very elegant and is laid out in a lovely parkland setting; one of its features is the Flannery O’Connor Room. This was a very warm day so we frequently sought the shade of the many trees that lined the roads.

We stayed two days in this area and then headed down 441, by-passing Dublin 70 miles to the west of Savannah, and onto I-16 making our way to Savannah.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Asheville NC

1 London bus coffe Shop
2 How much is the doggie in the window ?
3 Office building
4 A restaurant front
5 A view of the valley covered in clouds from our RV Park
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Asheville, NC and Marietta, GA

On our next journey from Natural Bridge to Asheville, North Carolina we did not gamble on the weather and so opted not to take the Blue Ridge mountain trail, instead we drove down 1-81. Asheville which is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains is definitely a hippy kind-of town, a real gem of a place.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are truly blue; a beautiful blue haze is settled on them all the time. Asheville is famous for its many art deco buildings, with shops like Woolworth’s,  locally owned department stores and cafeterias still with their art deco exteriors but inside they house little shops and boutiques. “The Grove” is a beautiful shopping center whose outside is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants while inside is ascetically tasteful, including five beautiful wood surrounded telephone kiosks lining a wall. Very much a local treasure is the independent, free spirited, old bookstore and coffee shop “Malaprop’s” right in the center of town; it was good to see how busy an independent bookstore can be. A 1.7 mile self-guided walking tour around town features about 30 sculptures portraying the history of Asheville. Thomas Wolfe wrote a semiautobiographical novel “Look Homeward Angel” which was set in his mother’s boarding house and was banned in Asheville for a year. Adele has downloaded it onto her Kindle and started reading it last night to learn why it was banned.

Asheville also boasts the Biltmore Mansion and boy is it expensive to visit - $69 a person, having already visited several mansions in Newport, RI we felt that it was a rip off and instead visited another Asheville landmark “The Grove Park Inn”.  This was renovated recently; the outside is made of large granite boulders in a lovely ginger color, with red clay roof tiles and beautiful views over the town.

Adele was so disappointed that the doors of St. Lawrence’s Basilica were locked on Saturday and could not see the interior that she headed there for Mass on Sunday morning (hope you survive this bit of news Barbara) the Basilica has a very large dome and is beautifully decorated throughout. Sunday afternoon we drove up into the Blue Ridge Mountains and visited the Craft Center which had an array of amazing crafts on display. Once every year a very big Art Fair is held there.

PBS frequently has interesting programs on local history, a local celebrity or a topic of local interest from which we are learning a lot. Our TV is a HDTV and as most RV Parks provide cable we are well catered for. Sadly the Wi-Fi signal is not always reliable, with the park(s) antennae at an elevation of about 15 feet; we are looking into purchasing a signal extender/booster – suggestions most welcome. Another communication problem is that cell phone signal coverage is definitely not national, we have come across many dead spots so sometimes we have cell signal and sometimes we don’t.

From Asheville we transited through South Carolina (no we’re not counting this as a visit and will return in the spring) to Marietta, GA a suburb of Atlanta, where Peg and Norm longtime friends whom we had not seen for about 8 years live. We had a lovely reunion visit with them the Monday before Thanksgiving; we knew that they were flying to Dallas early Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with one of their sons and family. One thing we agreed on was that we, all four, are looking so well! We have kept in touch through Christmas letters every year but it’s so much better to see our friends in person. 

On Tuesday we went to Stone Mountain State Park with the intention of taking the Swiss Gondola Summit Sky ride which whisks visitors to the top. As luck, or lack thereof, would have it Tom took a right turn instead of a left and we ended up at the foot of a mile and a half hike up the back of the mountain and as we needed a good hike off we went. About halfway up we realized that we were indeed hiking up a mountain. The day was hot and there were lots of people of all ages hiking up and down, obviously a very popular hike. And…well worth the effort as the views from the top (360 degrees) are spectacular, we could literally see for miles. On our return to base camp we drove around to the front of the rock where the large Confederate Memorial Carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback are carved into the mountain.  We discovered that one Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to sculpt this monument and having carved Robert E .Lee’s head and shoulders had a disagreement with the Commissioners and was fired. Shortly afterwards he received the commission to create what is now known as the Shrine of Democracy in the Black Hills of South Dakota where he carved the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. 

The next man to take up the job at Stone Mountain decided to obliterate Borglum’s work and started the now smaller carving. Money was scarce in the South and the two World Wars passed before it was finished. To complete an excellent day with lots of walking we visited the Antebellum Plantation, where numerous buildings portraying different socio-economic backgrounds are on display with period furnishings from that era.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Appalachian Trail or was it Trial?

From Lake Anna, VA we headed for Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains (Appalachians) along Route 33 and it starts to rain! We had some good and beautiful days in the preceding 2 weeks and had not checked on the weather channel and although we know that at this time of the year there can be bad days, we had not anticipated this. As we pass through the National Parks Gate at the top of the Shenandoah Mountains we are literally in the clouds with fog all round and can see for only about 150 yards in front of us. This provides for very difficult driving with clouds swirling about on an unknown road; we can’t turn back as the roads are narrow with lots of curves. So we end up taking 2 hours to travel just 40 miles in these conditions and emerge into the James River valley and make our way to I-81 which passes through the mountains; here all is well - no fog, traffic moving freely and we get to our destination “Jelleystone RV Park” in Natural Bridge just before dark. That night and the following day it rained so we decided to take an easy day; Adele baked brown scones in our little oven and made soup, we caught up on writing our blog and planned where to head for next - so the day passed quickly enough.

On the next day we drove to Lexington, VA where Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson  both lived yet at different times. We wondered why would a parent call their son Stonewall…the answer - his name was Thomas Jonathan Jackson however, he earned his nickname during the Civil War for standing his ground in battle. Stonewall Jackson was an exemplary citizen, deeply religious, a dedicated family man who taught in The Virginia Military Institute one of the local universities the other being The Washington and Lee University. We took a self-guided walking tour around Lexington where many of the buildings are pre Civil War (Stonewall Jackson’s house which we toured) included; as the town is on a steep hill we had plenty of exercise.
Washington and Lee University is a private school which has a student population of less than 2,000 was originally founded in 1749 as The Augusta Academy and renamed Liberty Hall in 1776; in 1782 it was chartered as Liberty Hall Academy by the Virginia legislature and empowered to grant degrees, then in 1796 George Washington saved the struggling Liberty Hall Academy when he gave the school its first major endowment--$20,000 worth of James River Canal stock. The trustees promptly changed the name of the school to Washington Academy as an expression of their gratitude. In 1865 after the Civil War General Robert E Lee reluctantly accepted the position of president of the College a position he held until his death in 1870. After Lee's death the trustees voted to change the name from Washington College to Washington and Lee University. Robert E Lee is buried in a magnificent Virginia marble tomb, which bears his likeness lying in full military uniform, in the Lee Memorial Chapel.

Adjacent to Washington and Lee University is the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) which was founded in1839, students of General Stonewall Jackson helped train Confederate Army recruits during the Civil War. Today, a co-ed institution, all students dress in military uniform. As we toured the grounds and museum we were greeted and welcomed by the students as they walked by. Students who are civilian soldiers of the State of Virginia may, after graduation, be commissioned into an arm of the US forces or undertake a civilian career.

VMI’s most famous past student is George C. Marshall architect and implementer of “The Marshall Plan” who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our time with Carole and Fred

1 Murals at Reading Metro Station
2 Tom in line at Redding Terminal Market
3 Our Phili Cheesesteak being made
4 At Longwood Gardens
5 Checking the camera
6 Beautiful flowers
7 Chatting over lunch
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Maine, Mass & Rhode Island

1 Eileen and Adele at LLBean's
2 Celebrating Halloween (early)
3 Rover at a truck stop
4 On board the Mayflower
5 Plymouth Rock
6 Mayflower
7 Preacher at Plimouth Village
8 A Mansion in Newport Rhode Island
9 The Breakers (Vanderbilt Mansion) RI
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lake House, Lake Anna, Virginia

Charlie was keen to have a trip in the RV as he would like to have a road trip himself, Pam needs some convincing, so Saturday morning Charlie sat up front with Tom as we headed for their lake house.  On the way we stopped at The National Museum of the Marine Corps. This proved to be a much more interesting stop than we had imagined.  The building is designed to look like the iconic photo of “Raising the Flag” on Iwo Jima. 

A docent suggested we start our tour by viewing a film of the landing of 65,000 marines on Iwo Jima with commentary of the plans to take the island. We lucked out in meeting a survivor (considered a treasure by the marines) 84 year old Frank Mathew who was one of the marines. What a delight speaking and listening to Frank tell his story; he was 18 and a half years at the time of the assault, this was his first assignment as a marine, there were many of photographs of the landing also. The was docent tipped us to ask Frank about playing the organ for various religious services on Iwo Jima; he was delighted to recount playing the little portable organ with members of the different denominations at his shoulder advising him what and when to play. His proudest moment was when he was “ordered” to play the Star Spangled Banner as the “second” flag was being raised.

Another docent gave us the scoop on the famous photo of “Raising the Flag” it turns out that that was the second flag to be raised - the first was a household size flag and not very visible. The Commanding Officer had a large flag and he sent a Lieutenant, four marines and a photographer to raise the bigger flag. The marines had no pole but found an old water pipe close by, they attached the flag to the pole and the photographer takes photos as they raise it. Afterwards the photographer takes a posed photo with about 10 marines and sends his film to Hawaii to be developed. Later he is asked if he had the Marines pose with the flag and answered “yes” he was thinking of the photo with the 10 marines. It was not until he finally saw the developed photos that he realized that he had taken the photo that became the historic “Raising the Flag”. Great stories of sacrifice, heroism and history made – an excellent Museum and a must visit.  

Charlie and Pam’s lake house is beautifully set among trees on the shore of Lake Anna in a very nice gated community. As it is off-season we had lots of room near the boat ramp to park “Rover.” The yard was under a cover of leaves so we all took a rake and cleared the lawn and driveway – the next day the yard was hidden under leaves again.  Pam arrived Sunday and we were all invited to a neighbor’s house for dinner where we met many of their friends and had a most enjoyable night. 

Monday Charlie and Pam drove us to Fredericksburg the scene Fredericksburg Battle.  Once again the casualties on both sides were terrible and, the dead and wounded were left behind for the locals to bury or treat. On the outskirts of town there’s a large cemetery with thousands of unknown soldiers buried up to 8 to the grave, so sad to see. Charlie led us on a walking tour around the town; the main part of town has brick buildings most of which have multiple bullet holes from the time of the civil war. The day was lovely and warm – a tee shirts kind of day.

Tuesday and it was time for us to be on our way so we said “good bye” to our wonderful hosts promising to return and rake the leaves next Fall/Autumn.     

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tunnels and RV’s

We learned they don’t go together as we drove down I-95 on our way to Washington DC through Baltimore. The GPS while identifying “toll roads” does not advise about tunnels (we have a Tom Tom, we wonder if any of the other GPS providers check and advise for tunnels). We had not realized that I-95 has a tunnel in Baltimore, very near the tunnel we see a sign that lets us know there is a tunnel and “No Hazardous Materials” with an outline of a propane tank, allowed. We take the next exit, see a sign for a truck stop so head towards it, just as we approach the gate we see a sign – no RVs! Oh ****! We are now 30 feet from the gate, can’t reverse and there’s no room to turn. Adele goes up to the window tells the lady we are lost, can’t turn and would she allow us enter, turn and come straight out again. Of course, no problem and she also gave us directions on how to go around Baltimore which involved going back north on I- 95 to 695 a ring road and pick up I- 95 again south of the city. Maps will now be studied for tunnels. 

Although old Newcomer friends, Pam and Charlie Hoffman who live outside DC had invited us to park RamblingRover on their driveway we had booked into an RV Park for the first night – we need to make sure that we can fit on private driveways.  After hooking up in “Cherry Hill” we headed over to Pam & Charlie’s for dinner and to check out their driveway. Tom & Charlie surveyed the driveway area after which Charlie chopped off a branch so that we could drive in easily. The following day we moved the RV over and Charlie drove us to the “Kiss & Ride” entrance for Metro which we took to The National Mall. We exited at the Smithsonian into a bright, cold, sunny day and walked along the Mall to see the war memorials. They are so different - the WW2 Memorial being the best - it honors the 400,000 who died and the 16 million who fought and the millions more, including Rosie the Riveter who worked in the war effort.  We also saw the Korean Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Woman’s Memorial. From there we went to the Lincoln Memorial where a school band from Taft CA was playing on the steps front, we sat across the road and had a hot cup of coffee and listened to the band. Next we visited the newly opened Martin Luther King memorial which is spectacular. Being short on time (closing hour is 5 pm) we took a quick visit to the Museum of Natural History and saw the Hope Diamond and other precious gems in the company of many teenage girls who were admiring the gems and dreaming (as the young should) that they will have one when they grow up and are Princesses.

The next day turned out to be a wet day but it never bothered us as we spent the day indoors visiting the Capitol Building. After taking an official guided tour of the building and hearing about its history and the workings of the government we headed over to South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson’s office and got tickets to enter the Senate and the House Representatives. Before going to either house we had lunch in the restaurant in the basement. We then went to the Senate where a Senator was finishing his speech (to an almost empty chamber) after which a vote needed to be taken. This was fascinating as all the Senators streamed in, cast their vote, chatted with each other or just voted and walked back out again; we saw many we recognized.  We then went over to the other wing to the House of Representatives in time to hear its adjournment for the weekend, so…we sat and admired the well-proportioned room.

Thankfully as there’s a tunnel from Congress to the Library of Congress we did not have to go out into the weather and with our usual luck we were in time for the last tour of the day.  This is a beautiful, ornate building where we had an excellent docent who pointed out all of its beautiful features, the decorations on the stairs, the walls, the ceilings as well as a potted history of the library. As Tom had been very active in the Irish Network we had an invitation to the Irish Embassy for coffee on the following morning. The Embassy, on Embassy Row, is located on Sheridan Circle in a beautiful building. After our visit and coffee we walked around the area and admired and marveled at the ornateness of some of the embassies. We then walked further afield to DuPont Circle and on to the neighborhoods around there. After lunch in Starbucks where we used their Wi-Fi we headed back to the Smithsonian Museums. First we went to the Natural Museum to see a 3D movie about Tornadoes’ Alley - hope we never are caught in one. Then on to the sculpture garden where we walked past a sculpture of a house six times - it turned inside out as one passed. Then we went into the Art Gallery where we tagged along on a tour that had already started and learned how to look at a painting. Once again we are the last group to leave the Museum. 

Charlie and Pam invited us to their Lake House in Virginia for a long weekend, so that’s where we’re headed next.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An early Nor’easter

The promised Nor’easter arrived in the area with a vengeance Sunday night, thankfully we were on the periphery but as you never know so we decided to move on and not visit Cape Cod. Carl had advised on which roads to travel driving south, however as we could not find an RV Park open we settled in to drive over 420 miles to our next stop outside Philadelphia – in Clarksboro, NJ to be precise. By far our longest journey yet using almost 2 tanks of gas (we get between 8 & 10mpg).  We stopped to get gas about three and a half hours into our journey to discover there was no electricity in the area as a result of the Nor’easter. As they believed that they would have power in about an hour we parked at the pump and proceeded to make and eat our lunch as potential customers came and went. It was Halloween so Adele donned her spider hat and went out to talk to the other stranded customers, one of whom was driving a 5th wheeler and could not move another mile without gas. After an hour and a half later we decided to drive to the next exit hope there would be electricity in that area, thankfully they had. As darkness fell we arrived at the RV Park in Clarksboro, NJ.  

Our friends Carole and Fred Desantis live outside Philly and hoping to see them we sent emails and called but got no reply. We had known they were going to China in October and hoped they would be home by the time we reached PA. Shortly after we’ve hooked everything up at the RV Park Carole called to let us know they had returned the previous day. What great timing?  We were immediately invited to dinner for the following evening after which, as Carole and Fred were finding it difficult to stay awake, we played cards. Graciously, they invited us to park our RV on their very large driveway and stay in their magnificent home. The following day we visited Old Town Philadelphia, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell; afterwards we took a walking tour with a guide called Bill who was dressed in 18th century garb, including a large woolen cloak that sailed out behind him as he strode down the road and, this was a hot day! There were just 3 of us on the tour, we walked around the old building and got a feel of the old town.  Bill was quite a character and we enjoyed his sense of humor very much.

Next day we drove “Rover” to Carole and Fred’s driveway and settled into a plush two bed-roomed luxury apartment in the semi basement (the house is on a hill). From there we could see out into their woods where one day their nephew, Chuck was in a blind (camouflage tent) hoping to shot a deer with his bow and arrow. He had no luck on that day but he did shoot a deer while Carole and Fred were in China. The following day we drove west to Lancaster to visit Amish country where our first stop was at a quilt shop that had us in awe of these very gifted people. Deciding to walk around the countryside we set off on a side road and bought produce from an Amish woman’s roadside shop. The roads are not made for walking; even side roads are too dangerous for pedestrians so we returned to using the car. One item on our “bucket list” was to take a trip in an Amish Buggy, which we did taking a one hour tour including with a farm visit.  Seven of us shared the buggy, 4 in the back 3 in the front, one on a tiny stool - it was sardine style seating, legs interlocking and Adele retorted “I hope we don’t go over too many big bumps”. We visited a dairy farm which had the friendliest cows we have met since an English cow tried to eat Adele’s skirt so she made sure to keep away from their friendly licks.

Carole and Fred joined us the next day to the Reading Terminal Market by train where we wanted to have a “Philly Cheese Steak” or a Hoagie to those in the know.  Reading Terminal Market is an indoor market in the center Philadelphia where about 50% of the stalls are run by Amish; we explored every isle.  After lunch we headed out to explore the center of the city and saw lots of protesting 99%ers camping on the pavement outside City Hall. The streets were not busy as it was a Saturday. Carole knew that the Comcast building had some sort of a display so nothing would satisfy us all but to find out; sure enough they had an interesting song and dance showing on the wall of the foyer, very much worth visiting.

On Sunday all four of us headed for “Longwood Garden” which had a Chrysanthemum festival.  Did you know that you can have over 100 blossoms on one stalk, amazing?  The Glass houses were laden with enormous chrysanthemums, decorating the columns, walkways, arches and ceilings. That weekend there was a Japanese theme with many Bonsai on display and an Ikebana competition.  We sat and watched a lady make 3 different floral displays.  It was a lovely day so we took a walk around the gardens which were beautifully laid out and had nice fall/autumn colors. 

Monday we headed out to Gettysburg and the beginnings of our education about the Civil War 1861-1865, the numerous battles and the awful death toll of that era. We saw a movie in the Visitors Center took a guided bus tour of the 4 day Gettysburg battles and visited the Museum - all were very informative. The tour included the various battle sites where the guide gave a talk and had us visualizing the battle and the carnage. Most States erected a memorial to their dead around the battle fields

That night we went to an Italian restaurant “Trattoria Giuseppe” which had a Frank Sinatra impressionist to entertain the patrons - he was terrific and had all singing, dancing and generally having a good time. Carole requested “I did it my way” and we sang along with “Frank”.  The food excellent and we all went home with doggie bags.

Before leaving the next day we walked around the large garden with its woods and river, once again a lovely sunny day. We were sorry to leave our friends and their luxurious accommodations.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Really, Really Back on the Road this time

So why have we posted no Blogs since our promise of October 28th?

A couple of reasons really: foremost is the fact that we have been having such a good time with old friends from Los Gatos that we had no time to write, secondarily we had technology problems which are now thanks to the wonderful folks at Lenovo resolved so we’re now busily (on a dull rainy day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia) recalling experiences and writing several weeks/months blogs - photos to follow.

We arrived back in Boston on route to Augusta, ME on October 24th. With a few hours to kill before our flight, and to stay awake, we walked around the terminal so you can imagine our surprise to hear Adele’s name being called from a coffee shop; as there are not too many people called Adele we turned to discover that it was Sue and Bob our good neighbors from across the street in Los Gatos. They had spent the weekend in Boston visiting their daughter at BU. We enjoyed chatting with them and getting caught up on the news of our respective families, friends, the neighborhood and Los Gatos. It was wonderful to meet them and we all marveled at how small the world is.

It was dark by the time we caught our little plane to Augusta so it was lovely to see the lights of the towns twinkling among the trees. On our way down to Boston, a day time flight we flew along the coast. The plane was a small 9 seater Cessna which stays low providing a wonderful sightseeing tour both ways. When we arrived in Augusta Eileen and Carl were there to greet us; we could see them from the plane which brought back memories of landing in Guernsey and seeing our grandchildren before we deplaned.  It was good to be “Back in the USA”. We spent the next four nights with Eileen and Carl, buying supplies, washing clothes and generally getting our act together. As a big Nor’easter was forecast for the area and to avoid bedding down with the Barth’s for the winter we decided to get on the road.

On the 28th we headed down to Middleboro, MA from where we planned to visit Plymouth, Rhode Island and Cape Cod.  Next day we headed for Plymouth and saw the famous Rock in a Greek like granite structure on the shore, one leans over the rail to see the rock. We also toured the “Mayflower” an exact replica of the original it was a very small ship where on-board actors dressed in period costumes assumed the speech and persona of the original passengers in 1620. A dockside exhibit provided the many stories of the passengers, what they packed, their food and the conditions they travelled under on board. We reckon that 3 or 4 people used the same hammock - when one saw an empty hammock one got in and had a rest. There were cannons and guns on board, this was a time of piracy on the high seas and, religion or not, they had to defend themselves.

We then went on to visit the Plimouth Plantation as spelling was not fixed at that time names and places often had several spellings. Located on the banks of the Eel River again, we met costumed actors who took on the role of a person who lived in the village in 1627, speaking Shakespearian English. We have a great video of a chicken complaining as we chased it out of several houses; it was a cold and wet day so it was looking for shelter. The houses look much the same as any peasant’s house in England in the 17th century. The village a fenced wall around it with cannons for protection and also rare breeds of goats and chickens in a pen. We (visitors) were summoned to the big hall at the top of the village were we got a much too long lecture on the Bible and the religious beliefs of the Plymouth Brethren. After a decent time we left and headed over to the Native Peoples (Wampanoag tribe) village - there actors dressed as period Native Americans spoke English. They were "living" in the winter home, a large hut built of bark that they striped from the trees in the spring when the sap is soft, there were lots of skins on benches around a central fire that vents through a hole in the top of the hut - it was nice and cozy in there. One actor told us that he was married to an Irish girl - many times on out travels we have met people who have Irish blood running in their veins.

As we drove through town on our way home we saw there was Mass in the church in the center of town, as it was Saturday we decided to attend. 

Next day we woke up to a covering of snow, it was a cold, sunny day so we decided to head for Newport, Rhode Island and visit the Mansions.  We toured two of them “The Elms” inspired by the 18th century Chateau d’Asnieres, this magnificent villa belonged to the coal magnate Edward Julius Berwind and “The Breakers” which was built by one of the Vanderbilt’s at the cost of $11 million in 1892; this mansion was modeled after the Petit Trianon at Versailles. These very large mansions were used for just 8 weeks of the year when the rich left New York to get away from the very hot summer weather.

Afterwards, we walked along the famous Cliff Walk and enjoyed the view of several other mansions. We then went to see the “Casino” (A Sports Club) Americas answer to Wimbledon? This is the HQ for the Tennis Hall of Fame - a beautiful building and lovely grounds. It hosted tennis, horses jumping, bowling and many more sports.  The town of Newport is very similar to an old English town, narrow streets in the middle of the busy town center.  We dined in an Irish pub owned by the Crowley family, whose ancestors hailed from County Cork, Ireland.  It was a bright, sunny day yet cold out of the sun but ended up as an enjoyable day for both of us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Initially, as the Blog is primarily to record our “Lower 48” odyssey, we had not intended to do a posting about our Israel trip; the journey was so enjoyable, enlightening and educational that we decided that we must share our experience.

Having celebrated Hannah and Adele’s birthdays in the UK a few days earlier, we travelled to Tel Aviv on September 21st and arrived to a delightful welcome from Rina and Ami and were immediately whisked on the road to Jerusalem where we spent a few nights. The following morning we headed out from the hotel, walking of course, to the Jaffa gate of the Walled City where we met Dvri our guide for the day. Entering the city we were struck by the hustle, bustle and vibrancy of the place as we walked past King David’s castle on our way to the Temple Mount which is venerated by the three monotheistic religions: Jews, Christian and Muslims, it is said to be where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. The Temple Mount encompasses the Western (Wailing) Wall recognized as the world’s largest Synagogue, the Dome of the Rock whose western foundation is the western wall of the last Temple, is unbelievably large (think multiples football fields) includes the 7th century Al Aqsa Mosque.

Security was extremely stringent to access these historical religious sites. As we had decided to undertake a private visit to the Western Wall the following day, Dvri “knowing the scene” was able to circumvent all obstacles for us to gain access to the Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to enter the mosques – there are two of them – we were, however, glad to be able to see the Al Aqsa Mosque up close, its blue/gold dome is immense.
From there we walked to the palace from where Pontius Pilate ruled and where he condemned Jesus to be crucified; here we encountered numerous groups of Christian pilgrims - mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe – devoutly walking the Via Dolorosa, some bearing crosses. We visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is remarkable as it is shared by so many Christian denominations, each with its own church within the church.

The next day we returned, with Rina and Ami to the walled city and found our way, via some spectacular underground excavated walkways to the Western Wall, Jerusalem must have been an amazingly beautiful place in ancient times. Having spent some time at the wall we headed for Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) which was, without doubt, the most emotional experience of our trip. Words cannot possibly suffice to describe or give expression to this recording (mostly by the Nazi’s) of documents, photo’s, movie clips and other artefacts of man’s unbelievable inhumanity to fellow man. Without shame or apology we both admit that we were overcome by emotion and cried throughout our visit. Other places we visited in Jerusalem were King David’s Tomb, the almost next door upstairs room where the Last Supper was held and the Chapel of the Ascension.

We traveled north the next day to Rina and Ami’s home in Timrat which was our base for our further exploration of Israel. From there, over several days we visited: the site of the Baptism at the River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, St Peter’s house, Tiberius, Capernaum, the Golan Heights (from where we overlooked Syria and Jordan in the distance), Nazareth, a Druze village where we had lunch with a family, a Kibbutz where again, we had lunch and Haifa which has a spectacular Baha’i Temple. Our final trip was to the ancient port city of Caesarea – think Rome’s Coliseum multiplied by a huge factor, awesome!

After having celebrated Rosh Hashanah with Rina, Ami, Limor, Ronnie and little Barkai we left Israel with the commitment to return again as we had only scratched the surface of exploring this fascinating, historical land.      

And...much later!

Today, November 16 it’s a dull and wet day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia so we're taking the opportunity to catch up on everything chores, blogs etc. that need doing since September 10. We have several blogs in process that we will post incrementally over the next days; too much to include in one posting. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

We've returned and are on the road again!

A quick post to let you all know that we have returned from our extended visit overseas.

We had a really marvellous time:
celebrated Hannah, Adele and Molly's Birthdays;
toured Israel from our friends Rina & Ami's home (a return visit is a must);
toasted Jennifer's in-laws Bas & Glennis on their 50th anniversary;
Tom got to spend time with his Mum (90 and still going strong);
and, we spent a week in the English Lake District with Jennifer's family including our grandchildren's four grandparents.

We will do a blog of the six weeks overseas in the coming days.

On our return to Maine we spent 4 days with our great friends Eileen and Carl, from their home we moved to Middleboro, MA to visit Cape Cod and Rhode Island. Destination on this leg is Miami by early December.

More later!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island (MDI) which is home to the Acadia National Park encompassing lots of trees, countless lakes and ponds and a fjord is a very popular Maine vacation spot and as we scheduled being there for the Labor Day weekend we booked ahead. Heading north and east on Hwy’s 1 & 3 was a pleasant scenic drive which took us through the town of Belfast. We were fascinated by the very noticeable changes once across the bridge onto the island, it truly is a different world, no megastores, malls etc.; small wonder then that the main town was once known as Eden. Since arriving in the eastern US I have discovered why so many people ride around on their little John Deere tractors cutting their grass - if they don’t - trees will pop up as trees seem to grow like weeds here, just love the rich soil. The town and harbor of Bar Harbor are quaint and inviting with many tourist-oriented shops and restaurants; both are kept busy by the visiting cruise ships (during the season on Wednesdays and Sundays) which disgorge close to 4,000 passengers each week. On the day we visited there were 2 cruise ships in, one docked and the other so large they had to use tenders to bring the passengers ashore.

MDI has an excellent FREE (LL Bean are big sponsors) transport system which we utilized for the 4 days we were on the island, just using the car once to go grocery shopping. There are 5 bus routes four of which travel to different scenic attractions and points of interest, the 5th collects passengers at the various RV Parks. Our park was bayside on a pebble beach which afforded us wonderful views of the sunset. A local enterprising fisherman visited our park daily between 5 and 7 pm selling lobsters while another entrepreneur drove around the park tinkling a bell to announce that he had pies for sale.  Much to my chagrin we did not get to hike MDI as my knee was still out of action and I was still putting both feet on each step I climbed.
Wednesday we headed back to Eileen’s and Carl’s in monsoon like rain for our pre-arranged and scheduled visit; our shelter from the hurricane was an unscheduled stop that was much fun and greatly appreciated. On Thursday Eileen, her friend Jean and I went shopping and treated me to a tour of the close by lakes and towns while Tom and Carl installed a new door for Jeremy. Later on we emptied our refrigerator into Eileen’s as on Friday we were traveling to Boston on the first leg of our 6 week UK, Israel, and Ireland trip.
Friday afternoon Carl & Eileen dropped us off at August Airport in sunny, blue-sky weather for our Cape Air Cessna flight to Boston; traveling at about 5,000 feet we had a bird’s eye view of the Maine and Massachusetts shoreline, ending with a thrilling landing over downtown Boston. We stayed at the Hyatt Harborside that night as our transatlantic flight was early on Saturday morning. During dinner and a walk along the harbor side afterwards we enjoyed a lovely sunset.

Saturday morning we were up before the dawn to witness an amazing sunrise and a cruise ship entering Boston harbor - I was very tempted to call the Barth’s as they think we’re sleepy heads – well…we are definitely not early morning people. The only downside to this trip was that I hardly slept a wink Friday night, my nose was running and swollen and it took me 2 hours to realize that I was having an allergic reaction the feather pillows.
We are posting this from Jennifer’s.

Perhaps we’ll post something from here, Israel or Ireland…we’ll see, no promises.
Definitely more in late October! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Shelburne Museum and Ferry

1. Dining Room of the Ticonderoga Paddle Boat
2. The Grand Staircase on the Ticonderoga...remind anyone of Titanic?
3. Adele on Steam Train
4. Tom reliving his childhood
5. Adele reliving hers
6. RV on the ferry crossing Lake Champlain