Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall in New England

My husband and I visited the Vermont/New Hampshire area the first week of October which turned out to be their peak color time for Fall foliage this year.  The weather did not always cooperate, but when the rain and fog cleared the colors were brilliant!  We stayed three days in White River Junction, VT and explored in different directions from this central location.

There were beautiful trees everywhere we went, especially in the Stowe, VT area.  The Green Mountains were extra majestic in the Manchester, VT area.  There were mountain streams, beautiful waterfalls and even a deep gorge in Quechee near Woodstock, VT.

We enjoyed searching for some of Vermont’s 107 covered bridges. After we found five, my husband had seen enough! A helpful website to locate covered bridges is

While staying in White River Junction we enjoyed a play at the Northern Stage and the food at Jesse’s Restaurant and Tavern in nearby Hanover, NH.

After three days of nature we headed for city life in Boston.  On the way we stopped in Concord, MA to begin exploring historical places of the American Revolution.  The Minute Man National Historical Park was a great place to begin.  The Visitor Center had a really excellent exhibit and multimedia video presentation of the first days of the Revolutionary War. Many people were out jogging, walking or biking on Battle Road Trail. The North Bridge in Concord, the site of the “shot heard around the world”, has the Minute Man statue in a beautifully landscaped park.

We visited the Concord Museum and saw one of the 1775 Revere lanterns that were hung in the Old North Church to warn that the “British were coming”.  There was much more to see in Concord but we were out of time.

In Boston we continued our journey back in time with stops on the Freedom Trail. Boston has a created a unique 2.5 miles long pathway to lead visitors to 16 historical sites that makes the American Revolution come to life. Thanks to the help of hop-on hop-off trolleys we were able to visit Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, Old Ironsides, Bunker Hill, the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, and the Boston Tea Party Ships all in one day.  We even had time for a cruise of the Boston Harbor!


It was amazing how all these historical sites had been preserved in the mist of the tall, modern buildings of Boston.  My favorite was the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was first read from its balcony and the Boston Massacre occurred.

We took a road trip to Plymouth, MA and saw the much smaller than expected Plymouth Rock. 
Nearby was the Mayflower II.  It was very meaningful to me after 25 years of telling the story of the Pilgrims to kindergarteners to actually board the Mayflower and see how the Pilgrims lived on their trip to America.  We continued experiencing their story in the PlimothPlantation.  The re-created Pilgrim village and Wampanoag homesite made me wish for a Kindergarten class to share this wonderful hands-on experience.

We were pleased with the location of the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel.  We were near all types of shops and restaurants in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace as well as the New England Aquarium, the Harbor Cruises and several stops on the Freedom Trail.

While in Boston we enjoyed seeing the really funny Blue Man Group performance at the Charles Playhouse.  The seafood was fantastic everywhere we ate, especially at Legal Sea Foods on Long Wharf.  It was also fun to watch some football and eat at Cheers.

Fall is a wonderful time to be in New England. Our six day trip wasn’t near long enough to do everything there is to do, but we enjoyed a great variety of experiences and had a wonderful time.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gatlinburg May 2012

After 40 years of going to the Smoky Mountains with my family, I thought I was an expert.  I had seen and done it all, and could tell anyone what to do and what not to do.  However, this May I went with my friends instead of my family, and much of what we did I had never done before. It was also a new experience for my friends beginning with our arrival at the really cool Knoxville airport.

After driving leisurely through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, we checked into our cabin by way of Chalet Village.  This time our cabin, Rainbow’s End Lodge, was located near the Arts and Crafts Community instead of Ski Mountain Road. 
It was a wise decision since we started each day shopping in this eight mile loop of shops of over 100 artists and craftsmen.  We greatly enjoyed the variety and quality of the art and crafts as we wandered through just about all of these shops.  We bought copper napkin rings, pottery, handmade soap, wood carved ornaments, candles, carved wooden ducks, chainsaw carved bears, crocheted table runners, flavored coffees, carved slingshots, and pebble decorated salt and pepper shakers.  Add in some t-shirts and candy taffy from the gift shops in Gatlinburg and our suitcases were hard to zip up! If space had not been a factor I am sure we would have bought something in every shop.

As much as we enjoyed the shopping, we also spent a lot of time in the mountains.  We drove into the Smoky Mountain for some sightseeing and even a little hiking.  We enjoyed the breathtaking views of the mountains as we rode the tram to the top of Ski Mountain.  My friends were amazed at the
great number of chalets on
the mountain. 

But what we loved the most was our drive through the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail.  Twisting and turning on the narrow one way road made you feel like you could reach out and touch everything.  The mountain laurel was blooming.  The streams and waterfalls were roaring with more water than I have ever seen before.  We stopped at all the historical landmarks.  It was a perfect place to spend our last afternoon in the mountains.

We tried out some new restaurants.  The Wild Plum Tea Room located in the Arts and Crafts Community was the perfect place for lunch while shopping.  The garden waiting area made the lengthy wait very pleasant.  We really enjoyed pizza at the outdoor sitting area at the Mellow Mushroom Restaurant on the main road in Gatlinburg.  The Applewood Farm House Restaurant was a favorite with its porch swing tables and apple fritters with applebutter.  We enjoyed reuben sandwiches at the Hofbrauhaus Restaurant and Cheese Cupboard.  Our final meal was delicious trout at the Park Grill with the best salad bar in the world. Their desserts are also really great.

Whether you are traveling with your family or a group of friends, the Smoky Mountains is the perfect location for a fun vacation and special memories.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

French Quarter Festival in New Orleans

My husband and I attended the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans this weekend. Several years ago we accidentally happened to be in New Orleans during this festival and really enjoyed it. So this year we jumped at the chance to be there during two of the four day festival.

The French Quarter Festival is a free event staffed by volunteers. The 22 stages set up along the Mississippi River and throughout the French Quarter have different performers scheduled about ever hour and are sponsored by different corporations. There were all kinds of music and it was fun to wander from stage to stage listening to a variety of musicians. There was great food and drinks from local restaurants for sale near the performance stages. The streets and Jackson Square were full of the street performers who always make the French Quarters a fun and unique place to visit.

We stayed at the Riverside Hilton which turned out to be a good choice. The first stage was close by in the plaza in front of the Aquarium. We were able to stay a few hours at the festival and then return to the hotel to take a break.

My husband and I also enjoyed the fireworks on Saturday night. Listening to music, watching the huge boats go by on the Mississippi River, and sampling some of New Orleans’s great food made a spectacular ending to a really fun, beautiful, sunny, and breezy day. We would like to do it again next year!

Some advice for next year’s festivalgoers:
Bring lots of cash. The music is free but the food and drinks are rather pricey. Visitors are not allowed to bring ice chests.

Bring fold-up chairs or a blanket. There are benches and steps in some areas to sit on but you have to be pretty lucky to get one.

Use the festival website ( It has good information and provides the schedule of bands.

Saturday is really crowded. You might enjoy Friday more if big crowds are not your thing.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Natchitoches, LA and Melrose Plantation

The city of Natchitoches is known most for its Christmas Festival of Lights during the month of December each year, but it is a great place to go for shopping and lunch any day.  My friends and I make this trip often because we enjoy the atmosphere of the town and many of the shops on Front Street.   
Front Street


We like most of the shops on and adjacent to Front Street, but we do have some favorites.  The Merci Beaucoup Gift Shop on Church Street is my year round favorite for interesting home d├ęcor.  Cora’s Antiques and Gifts has unique and unusual items.  The Louisiana Purchase and The Plantation Treasures shops on Front Street have merchandise related to the Louisiana and Natchitoches area. 

There are lots of choices for a great lunch.  The Landing and the Merci Beaucoup Restaurant are our favorites.  Everything at The Landing is tasty especially their bread pudding and French silk pie.  The crawfish etouffee at Merci Beaucoup is excellent on their Cajun potatoes, crabcakes, or just rice.  We have been known to eat lunch at Merci Beaucoup and then later stop at The Landing for dessert!

After this trip to Natchitoches we took Highway 494 South along the Cane River National Heritage Trail.  We passed by Oaklawn Manor, Cherokee Plantation, and the Cane River Creole National Historical Park.  Riding by these places made us want to stop and visit but our destination was the Melrose Plantation, and we didn’t have time for a side trip. 

African House
Yucca House

The history of Melrose Plantation centers around the lives of three unique women—Marie Therese Coincoin, Cammie Henry, and Clementine Hunter.  The plantation was founded by Marie Therese Coincoin.  She and her children were slaves before being bought and freed by Thomas Pierre Metoyer, the childrens’ father, who bought the plantation for them.  They built the Yucca House and the African House between 1794 and 1803 while clearing the land, building roads, and raising indigo, tobacco, cotton and other crops.  The Big House was built at Melrose around 1833 by Coincoin’s son, Louis Metoyer.  It was added to later by the Henry family.

The Big House

In the early 1900s Melrose became the home of John and Cammie Henry.  Miss Cammie, as she was known, rescued the colonial buildings and plantation gardens, and accumulated a library of Louisiana books.  She began an Artist Colony by inviting artists and writers to stay as long as they wished.  Our tour guide informed us that they would all eat together daily and were expected to share what they had accomplished that day.  Several days with nothing to share meant it was time to leave.

Clementine Hunter's House

Clementine Hunter worked at Melrose during the 1940s, first in the fields and later as a cook.  She began painting in her fifties by using some paints and brushes that were left behind by another artist.  She became Louisiana’s most famous folk artist.  Some of her paintings can still be seen at Melrose in the Big House, and her murals on the walls in the upstairs of the African House are amazing.  When our tour guide took us to the second floor of the African House we had no idea of what was waiting for us.  All four walls were covered in murals of Clementine Hunter’s early paintings of plantation life.  We all just stood there with our mouths open.  It was amazing to think that this women who couldn’t even read or write could produce such wonderful works.

The tour of Melrose was well worth the $10.00 price of admission.  The Big House was well furnished with pieces from the early 1900s.  The tour guide was very informative of the history of the plantation and the people who had lived there.  We had a great afternoon and learned a lot!