Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Kennebunkport is a well-known Maine vacation town, made all the more famous as President GHW Bush who has a family home there and made it his summer White House; in fact he still spends a great deal of time in Kennebunkport.
Several years ago we had driven through this area but missed out on a real exploration, not so this time. Our RV Park was very nice and quite near the town; most of our neighbors were French Canadians so we had many “Bonjour” greetings as we came and went. We arrived on July 15th and needed to mail birthday cards to Sairsha and her Mom Leslie; so after hooking up we went downtown to find the Post Office but by the time we found it, it was closed! The beach beckoned, where we had a cooling swim.

Eileen and Carl drove down from Winthrop to visit the next day which was the hottest day in Maine for about 15 years! Intrepid travelers that we all are that didn't stop us; we parked our car outside the town center (no time limit) in order that we would have no concerns. We had a delicious lunch in Allison's Restaurant which has been in town for years, excellent food. Afterwards we walked miles out of town to see the Bush Summer Compound and a very elegant Episcopal church the recipient of endowments from the Walker family; an unusual feature of the church property is that it has an outdoor sanctuary where services are held during the summer months. From there we returned to town for ice cream after which we ended up in Ryan’s Irish pub for a few cool drinks and to avail of their air conditioning.

The following day we drove south to see the town of Wells which is in no way as pretty as Kennebunkport. It appeared the beaches were mostly privately owned with very little public access. We drove along the beach road behind the houses which front on to the beach; they looked lovely, we reckoned that the owners know one another for decades. Without access to the beach we headed back to Kennebunkport Beach for a swim. The day was little cooler with a gentle sea breeze; we enjoyed the water, the beach and the breeze from under our beach umbrella.

Kennebunkport is a thriving prosperous town with a very busy little harbor sheltering lots of sail boats and motor boats. In the middle of town near the bridge in perfectly safe waters we watched children learning to sail while others were swimming to a central river float. There’s a great buzz about this town and is well worth a visit.
We were so busy we missed out on visiting the Bush's!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Old Sturbridge Village, MA

Sturbridge, MA approximately 150 miles from Newburgh, NY was our next stop. Nearby Old Sturbridge Village provided an interesting diversion for us; a recreated village with authentic buildings, some from 1790 with costumed historians providing narrative. We visited on Sunday and started the day with an "all you can eat brunch" at the Oliver Wight Tavern we packed it in, the food was very good and the tavern was busy - always a sign of good food.

The costumed historians and they were historians explained life in the 18th and 19th centuries. A village shop had clothing materials from China, England and Ireland; spices from India, Ceylon and the Spice Islands. And, yes…back then there was a big trading tradition with China for furniture, clothes, spices, tableware and ornaments from the very large to very small. We learned from the shoe maker that while he made shoes for individuals, his bread and butter came from orders received from one of the many shoe companies in New England for a given number of shoes a day to be delivered – shoes were not made left or right – the wearer’s feet over time dictated that. The shoe company sent to the wholesalers who, in turn sold them to the shops. From the Tin Smith we learned that in the 18th and early 19th century tin was like plastic is today; most household vessels were made of tin and highly decorated. The tin came from Wales in sheets of about 24 inches by 18 inches packed in boxes of 50; the Tin Smith would then press or hammer them into various shapes and sizes. We saw how to make a mug, remember the edges must all be curled to ensure that there are no sharp edges.
We explored several houses most of which had been moved from other New England locations, they were all furnished with period furniture and accessories. We watched three women dying wool outdoors using natural dyes in big vats over an open fire, and then hanging them on a line to dry. The wools had beautiful natural colors and the products used to dye them came from many countries – as you can imagine Adele had many questions, all answered by one of the ladies; the ladies were dressed in all the garb of an 18th century farmers wife. It was a very hot day and we cannot imagine how the ladies coped in 2013 in 18th century clothes. Another house had an exhibit of how artificial light has progressed through time; the candle was almost useless, oil lamps with glass bulbs gave good light, gas lights were a big improvement, the trouble being they were difficult to light. Followed by electricity, since which all workers work longer hours!

There were two oxen harnessed together pulling a heavy stone, the farmer was training them to work in the fields. A couple of village girls were launching paper hot air balloons. We passed a pen of horned sheep whose wool looked pretty dirty; those poor sheep should be on grass not dirt.
We finished off the day with a stage coach ride on an 18th century dirt road, uncomfortable! One cannot imagine the discomfort of a coach/carriage ride on cobblestones.

Old Sturbridge Village Photographs

Wool dye shed

Hot air balloons

On a Stage Coach ride

Stage Coach

Farm workers

The Tin Smith
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West Point Military Academy Photographs

Name, rank and serial number?


Interior of new church

Elaborate tomb in graveyard

The view up the Hudson River

A view of West Point Military Academy
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West Point Military Academy

Imagine driving a Motorhome through Manhattan? Neither could we, so to ensure that we avoided the worst of New York traffic we navigated well inland; in this part of the world all roads lead to the Big Apple ! Even well to the west the traffic is horrendous, while some truck drivers think they are in the Indy 500 (the minority we hasten to add – most are wonderful and courteous) the Indy guys drive fast and come so close that it is frightening, as a result we stay as far away as possible from heavy traffic.

The trip to this part of New York State was planned with a visit to West Point Military Academy in mind. What a beautiful campus this is on the banks of the Hudson River, well within reach of the city. Our drive took us through the picturesque Catskills Mountains however; the site of West Point is awesome. It is built on a cliff overlooking a quite narrow bend on the Hudson River. Our visit started in the visitor’s center where we saw a movie illustrating the daily life of the cadets. These guys (male & female) are literally the "crème de la crème". 15,000 out of substantially more than that number qualify as eligible persons for consideration; all 15,000 will have received either a Congressional Nomination or a Service-Connected Nomination. 1,200 are successful. The Cadets have a tough military based regime of study and physical activity; they have minimal vacation. They also visit many countries for charitable causes or diplomatic reasons.
The museum has exhibits from all American wars; from the war of independence to Iraq. We were both interested Adele very much so, in the period from 1776 to 1861 particularly in the many wars of that period and rarely mentioned. What we learned through these exhibits is just how difficult it was to establish the nation and form a stable democratic government. The British were not happy at the prospect of losing their American colonies, hoping at the least to hang onto New England, New Scotland (Nova Scotia) and New Brunswick. This interested us greatly.

We concluded our day long visit with a two hour guided tour of the campus; visiting two non- denominational churches (the old and the new), saw this year’s recruits training, enjoyed the spectacular views, admired the many statues to our heroes including one of Patton who took 5 years to graduate, facing the Library a place its said he never visited during his tenure there - his excuse for below par academic achievement was that he couldn't find the library. Our tour included a tour of the graveyard where so many heroes are buried each with their own story.
Well worth a visit and just 50 miles from Manhattan.

Monday, July 22, 2013

New Castle & Winterthur, Delaware

Cobbled street and red-bricked pavement, New Castle

Perambulating, with care, on the red-bricked pavement

Adele and William Penn

Reflecting pool at Winterthur

Winterthur garden pathway

Winterthur pasture
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

More of Delaware

Leaving Ocean City we traveled north to an RV Park a few miles into New Jersey, yet spent our days sightseeing in Delaware. Our first task however was to make a dinner date with our friends Carole and Fred DeSantis. Carole did the research; made the reservation so all we had to do was turn up at the Mendenhall Restaurant…we liked that idea.

The day we were to meet Carole and Fred was spent first in the town of New Castle on the banks of the Delaware River; a suggested destination in one of our tour books. New Castle is a well preserved old town with quite an abundance of historical buildings including Ye Olde English Tavern Jessop’s where we had lunch; this turned out to be a good decision, excellent food served by wenches.

New Castle is a gorgeous town and not that small, a little below Wilmington, it is where Penn first landed and held a ceremony when he was handed some soil and a twig to symbolize taking possession of the land in the name of the King. Some of the streets are still cobbled with large stones that must have been ballast from ships, other streets and most of the pavement/sidewalk was paved in red brick which presents a challenge when walking as tree roots push the bricks upwards at differing angles. The houses are very old country (British). We wandered round the streets following a walking tour map; we talked to 4 men who were sitting by the river, all over 80 but joked that they were lining up waiting to be hired as day laborers. One of them gave us 3 pencil sketches he had drawn as a memento. Right across the river is the state of New Jersey which does not own any of the Delaware River; New Jersey has sued, without success, including to the Supreme Court for rights to half the river. The state boundary of Delaware is the river coast line on the New Jersey side. An interesting bit of trivia we learned…to add insult to injury Delaware owns a pocket of land on the New Jersey side of the river.

Later on as we were strolling we stopped to admire the Old Library Building - it was closed - but there were two men chatting outside; they were docent volunteers so we ended up having a private tour. Of course we admitted to being Irish (must be something to do with the brogue) and apart from the tour received extra special treatment, and…yes we did inform them that we are American Citizens. The common feature as we travel – 47 states now, is that Americans are so hospitable and just love to talk to foreigners. The day was hot, very hot with high humidity.

From New Castle we headed northwest of Wilmington to Winterthur (named after a village/town of the same name in Switzerland) Henry Francis DuPont inherited the property, then a home. His vision and mission was to develop the gardens and expand the house into a museum to display his collection of artifacts, art and furniture. That afternoon we managed to do one of the house tours (there are several). Then it was time to meet Carole and Fred at Mendenhall in Pennsylvania. This was a beautiful old hotel (have we lived too long in CA? We think everything on the east coast is old) we had a gourmet meal at a very reasonable price thanks to Carole’s research. Carole and Fred had visited us in April in Saint Augustine. So it was good to catch up on news. We visited three states on this day New Jersey where we were staying; Delaware where we toured; and Pennsylvania where we dined.

The following day we went back to Winterthur to view an old maps of America exhibit and learned how important maps were in everyday life in 18th century America. There where maps of all sizes on display including pocket maps which folded up to an incredibly small size. Afterwards, we took a tour of the gardens. Henry Francis du Pont had studied Agriculture and Horticulture Science at Harvard and developed a lifelong passion for both disciplines. The result is that the grounds and gardens - all 60 acres of them - are beautifully laid out to look natural, all planned and supervised by Henry du Pont himself. The gardens behind the house are any gardeners dream; reflecting pools, rocky waterfalls, babbling brooks and pathways through flowering shrubs. It was so cool in the shaded gardens although once again it was a hot day.

Due to all the rainfall in the eastern US everything is lush and very green. Rain falls mostly at night so our travels thus far have been mostly in sunshine.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ocean City

Firework display July 4th

Beach scene

From the waters edge


Adele's 1,000 piece jigsaw

Welcome to Maryland
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Delaware and Ocean City

On our way south in 2011 we bypassed Delaware due to the severe cold so on this trip we were really focused on visiting in order to allow us finally affix the tiny State of Delaware sticker to our map on the side of the RV.

Traveling up Highway 1/Coastal Highway from Ocean City towards the RV Park we just had to laugh on learning that we were a mere 100 yards into Delaware. We did want to stay near Ocean City (more later) but we also wanted to stay and sleep in Delaware so this was definitely the killing of two birds with one stone. Did we mention that we were lucky to get a reservation at the RV Park? This was July 4th week! Busy, busy!
We thoroughly enjoyed our week in Ocean City…the RV Park was the largest we have been in -over 1,000 sites; it was very clean and well run, with lots of walking to get from place to place – surprisingly no golf carts as they’re not allowed. It had a large supervised activity center where Adele was able to leave her jigsaw on a table for the week; there were activities for children every day. The Park had 2 pools, both with lifeguards; one pool was for under 21’s - the other adults only. We wondered why the adult pool needed a lifeguard as most of the bathers would not drown even if they wanted to.

Ocean City is 6 miles long on a strip of sand/land with water visible on both sides; really a sand barrier. The Atlantic beach side is lined with hotels, apartments, shops and restaurants; the intercostal is lined with residential areas and Trailer Parks (manufactured homes) all set out nicely but obviously there a long time. We walked the 3 miles, each way along boardwalk on south Ocean Beach – due to the high heat and humidity we did it over two days. One morning we had breakfast in the restaurant where our daughter Jennifer worked as a waitress on a J1 student Visa during a summer vacation from Trinity, Dublin many, many moons ago. We enjoyed the shops, the beach and the excited, eclectic crowds. As this was the 4th of July week the place was buzzing and fun; we watched a firework display with thousands of others in the North Side Park, in fact, we watched several displays at the same time there were so many around the general area.
On the Saturday we spent the day at Bethany Beach which is in Delaware; this is a smaller version of Ocean City with a much smaller boardwalk lined with shops and hotels. We bought a beach umbrella, which will get much use in Saint Augustine. We sat on the beach and swam in the ocean; it was welcomingly refreshing as the day was extremely hot and humid, the beach and ocean were crowded which brought back memories of family vacations on the west coast of France in the 80’s.

We did not have cable TV so this year Adele did not manage to watch the early rounds of Wimbledon. As happenstance would have it Tom wanted to watch the British & Irish Lions Rugby Tests from Australia so, innovator that she is Jennifer set up her iPad in front of the TV in her home in England and voila Tom was in seventh heaven. Later on Jennifer repeated the process for the Ladies Final and again on Sunday for the Gentlemen’s Final. So we watched rugby and tennis on the iPad in the good old US of A. Technology! What would we do without it?
At times we scratch our heads at what passes for news on TV here. At the moment we have wall-to-wall reporting (if one can call it reporting) and talking heads on the Zimmerman trial in Florida with scant attention to either the Arizona fire, Asiana airplane crash in San Francisco or the tragic train crash in Quebec province. For us that a train crash like the one in Canada does not occur more frequently is surprising; these are accidents waiting to happen. As we drove across the northern states we were fascinated at the number of mile(s) long trains transporting dangerous chemicals and flammable liquids; the highways frequently run parallel to the railway lines and we could read the warnings on the containers and tanks. The cargo trains run day and night – one of the criteria we use in selecting RV Parks is to be as far away from the railroad as possible because of both the noise and the dangerous cargos. One imagines that these trains go through villages, towns and big cities which causes us to marvel at the safety record of the train operators.

Accidents will happen but why the almost total lack of news coverage? Zimmerman and Snowden appear to be the only hot “news” topics de jour…every jour!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cape Charles, VA

Beautiful haberdashery shelves

Adele enjoying cake at Cape Charles Coffee House

Concrete boats breakwater

Bloomers outside a roadside shop

Ospreys and their two chicks at the harbor mouth
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Monday, July 1, 2013

Of Ticks and White Knuckle driving!

Hiking through the Santee State Park resulted in both of us ended up with an unwanted passenger in the guise of a tick! These American ticks just love Irish blood and as we were nowhere near a medical facility we had to conjure up a home remedy as we had no idea how to remove them. Adele had picked up several ticks on her Friday hikes in CA and ended up in ER each time. On this occasion Adele thought why not spray them with Deet (she should patent this procedure) and see what happens; so we sprayed with Deet and the ticks actually backed out - worked both times; thereupon they were squashed into a tissue, placed in a plastic bag and sealed -  we were taking no chances! Armed with Adele’s new procedure we are now quite blasé.

As we write we are on the beach in Kiptopeke State Park, VA near Cape Charles. Nine World War 2 concrete ships are cleverly moored to create a breakwater that protects a lovely, safe beach and little harbor. This is a very busy State Park and very well run. To reach here from Roanoke Rapids entailed driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which is 18 miles long and cost us a toll of $28. It was a nerve wracking, white knuckle drive through the tunnels – all three of them; they are a two way narrow road with no barrier! The drive into the tunnels becomes very steep and with all our weight it was not easy to go slow; and boy, is it scary when you see a 53 foot articulated Big Rig barreling towards you? In the process of purchasing a much needed E-ZPass at the other end of the Bridge Tunnel we were told that VA DOT offers a service to drive people (in their own vehicle) who are too frightened to drive through the tunnels. Tom likened the drive to driving south on Big Sur…. underground!
Cape Charles, named for King Charles 1st (1607) is a lovely vacation town with lots of big homes which we admired as we cycled up and down its historic streets. Many of the houses are "kit" (Sears etc.) houses which we are told came with 700 pages of instructions. Imagine buying your house from Ikea?

We had lunch in Cape Charles Coffee House which had been recommended by a neighbor to us, especially for its delicious cakes - they were yummy! Cape Charles Coffee House is on the only commercial street, Mason Street and is owned and run by a lady Annette whose mother is Irish, and she looks it with a head of beautiful, long red hair and is an excellent Owner/Hostess. In past lives the building was a Bank when there were four Banks on Mason Street in its heyday. Before Cape Charles Coffee House was established it had been a Haberdashery Store. We commented that we counted at least 12 Churches of various denominations in the town and were told that the resident population is around 2,000, not a lot of souls to fill all those churches!
Before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was constructed Cape Charles was the terminus for the railroad that transported all goods heading south, the goods were then transferred to barges and shipped across the Chesapeake Bay for onwards transportation; its port still ships a lot of cement but the Bridge Tunnel ended the train/barge business. 

Lake Marion and Sylvan Heights Bird Sanctuary

Regrowth from a fallen tree x 2

On the trail to....

Feeding the Flamingoes

Of course I love you too

Believe it or not this is a Pidgeon
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