Tag: Shopping

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Chestertown, Maryland

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Chestertown, Maryland

Recently, my day job took me to the small historic town of Chestertown, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The quiet beauty and historical elegance of the town impressed me so much that I thought I would share it with you via some photos.

Chestertown’s History

Chestertown, named for the Chester River, was founded in 1706. It enjoyed prominence as one of the Maryland colony’s six Royal Ports of Entry. By the middle of the eighteenth century, Chestertown was the second leading port in the colony. As such, it was a wealthy town, with a growing merchant class. Well off residents built brick mansions and townhouses along the riverfront.

Visit Chestertown Maryland: Elegant old townhouses line the streets near the riverfront.
Historic townhouses in Chestertown, Maryland (Source: By Acroterion – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Additionally, Chestertown is home to Washington College, the tenth oldest liberal arts college in the nation and the oldest college in Maryland.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the country’s largest private, nonprofit preservation organization, named Chestertown, Maryland, to its 2007 list of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, an annual list of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States.

“Chestertown is a treasure hidden in plain sight,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “A small, historic and relatively unspoiled Eastern Shore town, Chestertown had the good sense to hang on to what makes it so special. The result is a vibrant community that offers travelers an ideal retreat.”

Need more convincing? Here are some of the reasons why you should visit Chestertown, Maryland:

1. Sultana

Visit Chestertown Maryland: The Schooner Sultana calls Chestertown home.
(Source: By Acroterion – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Chestertown serves as home port to a schooner named Sultana. Docked at the end of Cannon Street, Sultana was built largely by local volunteers. They used designs based directly on a 1768 Royal Navy survey of the original Boston-built merchant vessel, the smallest schooner ever in the British Royal Navy. Because the builders had access to the survey, it is one of the most accurate 18th century replicas in the world today. The ship offers educational tours for area schoolchildren, which are based on more than 2,000 pages of the original vessel’s log books, correspondence, and crew lists.

2. The White Swan Tavern

Visit Chestertown Maryland: The White Swan Tavern Bed & Breakfast

The White Swan tavern has been a fixture in Chestertown since before the Revolutionary War. It is conveniently located in the center of downtown, within walking distance of shops and restaurants, the Chester River waterfront, and the weekly Saturday farmer’s market.

In 1978, the property was impeccably restored to its 1793 appearance, with one room devoted to the display of many artifacts found in an archaeological dig on the site. During the entire process of restoration, the owners acquired pieces of furniture, both antique and reproduction, which they thought appropriate to the building. They furnished the remainder of the building with the ideals of simplicity and comfort in mind. Following painstaking analysis, the original paint color was reproduced for wall paneling and trim. A set of early chargers recovered from the tavern site became the models for the contemporary stoneware dishes.

Visit Chestertown Maryland: the White Swan Tavern is a colonial era bed & breakfast
Breakfast at the White Swan Tavern

The inn serves an afternoon tea and offers six deluxe rooms for rent. My personal favorite is the John Lovegrove Kitchen, which features a open beam ceiling and brick floor.

3. The Tea Party

One of my favorite festivals on the Delmarva Peninsula is the Chestertown Tea Party.

Delmarva Festivals: Celebrating the rebels of the American Revolution at the Chestertown Tea Party.
Image courtesy of Chestertown Tea Party Festival

In 1774, when the citizens of Chestertown learned that the British had closed the port of Boston in retaliation for Bostonians dumping tea into the harbor, they issued The Chestertown Resolves. The Resolves stated that it was illegal to import, sell or consume tea. Further, the citizens of Chestertown gathered at the town center, marched down High Street to the brigantine Geddes, and tossed her cargo of tea into the Chester River. Every Memorial Day weekend, Chestertown residents not only celebrate the event, they reenact it.

4. Fountain Park

Visit Chestertown Maryland: a beautifully ornate fountain is the centerpiece of Fountain Park.

The fountain in the center of Chestertown’s Fountain Park is nothing less than stunning. One of the earliest depictions of the fountain appeared in the 1853 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book. It soon became associated with the style and elegance of this community. The figure of Hebe, cupbearer to the Gods on Mount Olympus, stands at the top of the fountain, pouring water. In addition to the fountain, the park is also home to summer concerts and other community events throughout the year.

5. The Shops

Walking along High Street in Chestertown, you will see all manner of great shops and art galleries. The best thing about these shops is that they are not chain stores. They are unique, locally owned businesses with strong ties to their community.

I had enough time to check out a few of them, and especially enjoyed She She on High, which is part gift shop, part DIY studio, part vintage clothing store. Literally, everywhere I looked in the store, I saw something cool, displayed beautifully.

Visit Chestertown Maryland: High Street offers many great shops, including She She on High
One of the stunning displays inside She She on High

In addition to She She on High, you can find stores specializing in beautiful art glass, Maryland theme gifts, boutique clothing, vintage finds, and so much more.

Additional Reasons to Visit

Still not convinced? Well, here are a few more reasons to consider a visit to Chestertown, Maryland.

  • The people are very friendly. You could live there 50 years or more and never be considered a local, but you will always feel welcome.

Visit Chestertown Maryland, where the parking is free and the people are friendly.

  • It’s a great day trip destination from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and/or Washington DC. Driving from any of these major cities will take right around 2 hours (slightly less for Baltimore).
  • It has a thriving art community. From galleries lining High Street to RiverArts’ special events and workshops throughout the year, you can tell that Chestertown values the arts and is dedicated to seeing them thrive in the community.

Visit Chestertown Maryland: The small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore is rich in history and also has a thriving arts community.

Have you been to Chestertown? What did you think of it? Be sure to leave a comment below and tell me!

Visit Chestertown Maryland: 5 reasons you should check out this historic town.
10 Must-Have Mother’s Day Gifts for Moms Who Love to Travel

10 Must-Have Mother’s Day Gifts for Moms Who Love to Travel

Gifts for the Traveling Mama

As I write this, Mother’s Day is just over two weeks away. Rather than put off buying a gift for the woman who raised you until the last possible minute, why not put in a little advance thought and get her a gift that she will really love? I’ll even make it easy for you. Here are the best gifts for moms who love to travel. (I know, because they’re on my own wish list!)

NOTE: You can click on any of the images below to get details on personalization, cost, shipping, etc. Because I participate in Etsy’s affiliate program, if you make a purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

1. Travel Journal

There are so many travel journals to choose from. Leather bound or paperback, personalized or generic, plain pages or embellished, specific to a certain destination or suitable for travel anywhere.  And most of them are just stunning. There are journals for listmakers, for those who want to write long flowery paragraphs, for travelers who like to save scraps of paper like ticket stubs, and for those who want to turn the journal into a scrapbook by adding photos.  No matter what kind of traveler your mom is (or aspires to be), you can find a travel journal to suit her. Here’s my favorite:

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - a beautifully hand-crafted travel journal.
Isn’t it gorgeous? Who wouldn’t want to preserve their travel memories in a cool-looking book like this one?

2. Wanderlust Jewelry

There are so many gorgeous pieces of jewelry for travel-loving moms.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Enjoy the Journey charm bracelet.
Great gifts for moms who love to travel - City skyline bracelet

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Compass necklace

3. Passport Cover

Immigration/TSA officials aren’t big fans of the passport cover, but they add a little mystery and elegance to an otherwise boring legal document that contains a less-than-flattering photo of you. Also, moms like me end up holding everyone’s passports, and a cover makes it easier to know which one belongs to each person. Finally, passport covers with slots for debit cards, cash, boarding pass or other items are pretty darn practical. Here are two that I love:

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Wanderlust passport cover

And I especially love this one for its corny humor:

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Alpaca my bags passport cover

 

4. World Map with Pins

What better way to showcase your adventures than with a handsome map of the world and pins marking where you’ve been. This particular one features personalization and a color key – so that individual family members’ travels can be marked and color coded.

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Our World Travels personalized map with pins

5. An End to Cord Chaos

One thing that drives me crazy when we’re traveling is trying to maintain some semblance of order when it comes to our cords, chargers, outlet adapters, etc. This nifty organizing pouch not only has a gorgeous map on the outside, it also has a neatly sectioned interior for storing such items when not in use.

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Cord organizer with world map design

It could also be used for toiletries, pens & notepads, or pretty much any small items that can get easily lost or disorganized.

6. Luggage Tag

Have you ever really taken notice of how many black suitcases go for a ride around the airport baggage carousel?  A lot. So help her luggage stand out with a distinctive luggage tag.  Here are two that I especially like:

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - City at night luggage tag

 

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Air mail luggage tag

7. Graphic Tee

There are some seriously cute graphic tees out there for women who love to travel! Here are just a few:

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Wanderlust and City Dust Tee

 

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Airplane Mode Tee

 

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Live, Love, Travel Tee

 

8. A Secret Pocket

This is a great item because it’s stylish and practical – an infinity scarf with a hidden pocket for ID, cash or credit card. No need to worry about pickpockets with this!

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Map print infinity scarf with secret pocket.

 

9. Vintage Style Travel Poster

Why not get mom a poster/print of one of her favorite destinations (or one that she’s dreaming of visiting some day)? The vintage style prints hearken back to a time when every town had a travel agent on the main street, enticing passersby to come in and book their next adventure.

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Retro style Belize travel poster

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Retro vintage style Egypt travel poster.

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Retro style Peru travel poster

 

10. Neck Pillow

Take it from me, it’s a lot harder to sleep comfortably when traveling as you get older. So how about a neck pillow that will provide comfort and a little style, too?  Check these out:

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Squirrel neck pillow

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Wonder Woman neck pillow.

 

Great gifts for moms who love to travel - Dachshund neck pillow.

 

So there you have it – ten great gifts for moms who love to travel. For more inspiration, check out Etsy’s Mother’s Day Gifts for Wanderlust Travelers. Just be sure to order far enough in advance to ensure delivery by Mother’s Day!

 

Travelasmuch.com presents Mother's Day Gifts for Moms Who Love to Travel

10 Amazing Items Personalized with Travel Photos

10 Amazing Items Personalized with Travel Photos

So Many Pictures!

Digital photography has made it easier for us to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We even carry a camera with us everywhere we go now, thanks to smart phone technology. But while we are taking more and more pictures, we also tend to be doing less with them. We might upload to Facebook or pull out our phone and show a friend, but for the vast majority of people, that’s it. Which got me thinking, why not utilize those photos in a creative way by getting items that are personalized with travel photos from our journeys abroad?

Now, I’m not talking about the standard items that you can get from Walmart or the local drugstore. Things like mugs, enlargements/posters/canvas prints, blankets, photo books, cell phone cases, tote bags, or mousepads.  I’m talking about taking it to the next level. Here are ten items personalized with travel photos that would make the ultimate souvenir.

Bookmarks

Bookmark personalized with travel photos
Personalized bookmark from Shutterfly

This personalized bookmark from Shutterfly would be a great way to remember your travels every time you open your book.  They cost just $6.99 for one or $16.99 for three, and come in a variety of designs.

Notebooks

Notebook personalized with travel photos
Personalized notebook from Shutterfly

This notebook can be made with a custom photo cover for $14.99 from Shutterfly.  Talk about a perfect travel journal!  There are a variety of styles and sizes, with stock images like the one above, or you can provide your own.

Keepsake Box

Keepsake box personalized with travel photos
Keepsake box from Mpix

This keepsake box by Mpix comes in a variety of designs, and measures 5 x 7 x 2 inches.  This would make a great place to store mementos from your trip, like shells found on a beach, ticket stubs, pressed flowers, or anything else that will remind you of your trip.  Cost is $55.

Luggage tag

Luggage tag personalized with travel photos.
Luggage tag from Shutterfly

The luggage tag is perfect to showcase your travel photos! They make a great conversation starter, too.  Plenty of designs to choose from at Shutterfly, just $11.99

State Photo Collage

State photo collage personalized with travel photos
These state photo collages from Minted start at $29 unframed or $42 framed.

What better way to remind you of a trip than a photo collage in the shape of the place you visited? These prints come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 8×8 to 44×44 inches, framed or unframed. Prices range from $29 (8×8 unframed) to $625 (44×44 framed with archival matting and UV safe plexiglass).

Beach Towel

Beach towel personalized with travel photos
Photo beach towel by Snapfish.

Take your travel memories to the beach with you on this 35×60 soft and absorbent beach towel by Snapfish. There are loads of customization options, and the cost is $39.99.

Shower Curtain

Shower curtain personalized with travel photos
Shower curtain from Shutterfly, $79.99

Want to decorate your bathroom in a travel around the world theme? This shower curtain from Shutterfly ($79.99) can be personalized with travel photos from your collection. Choose from a number of different designs.

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles personalized with travel photos
Ceramic Tiles from Image Snap come in assorted sizes.

The great thing about ceramic tiles is that they are very versatile. You can use them as coasters, trivets, incorporate them into a backsplash or countertop, or hang them on a wall.  They are terrific accent pieces, and now you can have them personalized with travel photos.  Image Snap provides the tiles in a variety of sizes – 2″ square up to 12″ square, 3″x6″ subway tiles, and other assorted sizes. Prices start at $5.

Tea Towel

Tea towel personalized with travel photos
Tea towel from Shutterfly, $17.99

Want a little travel inspiration in the kitchen?  Get a tea towel personalized with travel photos at Shutterfly for $17.99. As with most items, there are several designs to choose from, so you can feature one photo or many.

Photo-a-Day Calendar

Calendar personalized with travel photos.
You can feature up to 365 travel photos on a custom calendar from Social Print Studio.

I’ve saved the best for last. Of all the items personalized with travel photos, this one is definitely my favorite! The tear off calendar by Social Print Studio costs just $40 and can feature up to 365 different photos!  There are a few caveats, though, so be sure to read their how-to guide before you start your order.

So, there you have it.  No need to keep those amazing travel photos locked away on your hard drive or in the cloud.  Now you can display them all over your house and be inspired for your next trip!

Header image photo via Flickr by ben.gallagher.

What you REALLY need to know about traveling to Iceland

What you REALLY need to know about traveling to Iceland

Planning is the Key.

I tend to do so much research before I take a trip, I almost feel as though I’ve already been there before I even arrive. So, needless to say, I studied up quite a bit on Iceland before we went there last month. I read all the blog posts, looked at all the pictures, and watched a few YouTube videos. In hindsight, I can say that there are seven things that did not pop up much in my pre-travel research. But they definitely should have, because they turned out to be absolutely vital. Here are the seven things you need to know about traveling to Iceland that other bloggers aren’t telling you.

#1 – Crampons are essential for winter hikes.

While this may sound like a medieval torture instrument for women, it is not. A crampon is a gadget made of stretchy rubber and metal spikes. You pull the crampon to fit over your shoes, with the spikes on the sole. This allows you to walk on compressed snow and/or ice without slipping. We did a 45 minute hike up a mountain and would have definitely been on our backsides a couple of times if we had not put our crampons on.

Click on image to view this item on Amazon.com

They aren’t expensive ($10-$15 a pair), and they’re worth every penny. I broke my tailbone due to a winter fall about 15 years ago. It was incredibly painful and virtually untreatable. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

#2 – You need to have a reusable shopping bag.

Iceland is a more environmentally conscious country than the US.  They do not put every little thing you purchase in a plastic bag.  They don’t put the big things in plastic bags, either. So if you are trying to save money and are buying food at a grocery store (more on that below), you will need a reusable shopping bag to carry your things out of the store.

If you do not have a reusable bag and you need to use the store’s  plastic bags, you will be charged for them. Most stores have free courtesy bags available at most places, but they are small and very thin/prone to tearing.

I like this highly rated reusable bag on Amazon:

This bag holds up to 42 pounds, but folds up small enough to fit in your pocket. (Click to see more details.)

#3 – Iceland may be the most expensive country in the world.

To be fair, a few bloggers did mention that Iceland was expensive. I kind of shrugged it off. I’ve been to the UK, with their 20% value added tax (VAT). It isn’t ideal, but for a week, it’s bearable.

However, Iceland is so ridiculously expensive, it makes the UK look like a third world country.

For starters, they also have a VAT, and theirs is 24%. But their prices are outrageously high to begin with.  Here are a few examples:

  • a burger in a table service restaurant: $25
  • a bottle of beer: $11
  • a gallon of gas: $9

And items for tourists are even more marked up.  We saw beanies for $90 and dollar-store quality souvenir keychains for $6. I bought a souvenir Christmas ornament and it was $25. All of my other souvenirs were photos.

Needless to say, a lot of our meals in Iceland consisted of yogurt and granola. I didn’t mind the yogurt (called skyr) as it’s absolutely delicious and comes in a great variety of flavors.  But even that, after a while, got old.

#4 – Eastern Iceland is a great place to explore.

This almost ignored corner of the island nation was probably my favorite part. It was so peaceful and beautiful, zigzagging around the fjords. It didn’t hurt that we were there just as the sun was starting to go down.

What you need to know about Iceland - Eastern Iceland is one of the most beautiful areas of the country.

Also, we were driving through this area of Iceland when Hubs spotted a reindeer off to the side of the road. I slowed down so we could get a better look. But, when I looked back at the road again, another reindeer was standing in the middle of the road, staring me down. I slammed on the brakes, causing all sorts of exclamations from Hubs and our daughter. I was dumbfounded and just stared at him, which is why I don’t have a cool reindeer-in-the-middle-of-the-road photo to share. For his part, he looked pretty unimpressed with us, and meandered off to join his friend.

Then we spotted a third reindeer, this time on my side of the road. As I took his picture, he immediately pawed at the ground as if he wanted to charge at us. That was my cue to leave.

what you need to know about Iceland - there are reindeer!

It was also in this area of Iceland that we were able to see the Northern Lights.

#5 – You can take the Internet with you wherever you go.

Iceland is nothing if not a beautiful place to photograph. And as a travel blogger, I try to post on my Instagram account every day. But with the sparsest population of any country in Europe, Iceland cafes with free wifi were few and far between.

The solution was a portable 4G wifi hot spot, which cost us $9 per day. It was small enough to fit in our pocket when we were out of the car, and it gave us internet access 24/7.

It couldn’t have been easier – I reserved and paid for the wifi online at the Trawire website and printed out the confirmation. When we arrived at the airport, we picked it up on our way out.  Then, when we were leaving to come back home, we just dropped it in the mailbox at the airport. So easy! Highly recommend if anyone in your party is an internet junkie and/or needs to check email often while in Iceland.

#6 – Don’t choose “fill up” at the gas pump

When we got a text message alert that Hubs’ debit card had racked up a couple of $250-ish charges, we were a little panicked. The charges were from gas stations and while I know that gas is expensive in Iceland (see above), I also knew $250 was excessive for gas.

what you need to know about iceland - don't choose "fill up" at the gas pump if paying with a debit card.
Photo via Flickr by Helgi Haldorsson

Fortunately, Google saved the day. I was able to find out that being charged these high amounts was standard procedure when you choose the “fill up” option at the pump and you’re paying with a debit card. It’s like the pre-authorizations that they do here, but because you’re in a different country it takes a lot longer for it to clear. It will go away after 2-3 days.. but if your account isn’t well-funded, that could be an issue. To avoid this problem, only use a credit card for gas purchases, not a debit card. Alternatively, you can select a set amount rather than a fill up at the pump.

#7 – You might not be able to continue watching your favorite shows on Netflix.

Because I knew we would have internet access while we were in Iceland, I didn’t bother with downloading any shows on Netflix. When we got there, I looked for the show I had been watching the week before we left and it wasn’t listed. First I panicked, then I Googled.

Turns out that there are licensing restrictions in Iceland that make some shows unavailable to view via Netflix. if there is something you are pretty sure you will want to watch while you’re there, it might be a good idea to download it.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Are there any that you would add? Leave a comment below!

Here's what you need to know about Iceland before you go - seven important things that aren't usually mentioned in blog posts about Iceland travel.
Infographic: A Weekend in Canterbury, Kent

Infographic: A Weekend in Canterbury, Kent

A Weekend in Canterbury

Made famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales over 600 years ago, this Kentish town is still thriving and has plenty to offer weekend visitors. Just two hours away from London, it makes the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. From UNESCO World Heritage sites to a Bollywood style dance class, a weekend in Canterbury has something for everyone to enjoy.

How to spend a weekend in Canterbury Kent, England.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Part II – Cape Charles

Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Part II – Cape Charles

Part I of this post focused on the culinary festivals that take place on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, particularly oyster roasts in the fall.  To read that post, click here.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore – Cape Charles

Day two of our expedition to Virginia’s Eastern Shore took us way south to Cape Charles. It’s a small town (population of about 1000) situated on the western side of the peninsula, with beachfront along the Chesapeake Bay.

Driving on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is stress free and easy.  Basically, there’s one highway (US-13) that runs the length of it, north to south. The Virginia end of the peninsula is 70 miles long but only  5-12 miles wide.   So we ambled in to Port Charles, turning off of Route 13 and heading toward the beach.

Along the way we passed lots of small independent stores.  I was just itching to go shopping but Hubs wanted to see the bay first.  We got to the beach and found this great sculpture waiting for us:

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles. This LOVE sign represents the community and greets visitors to the beach.

In a state whose tourism motto is “Virginia is for Lovers,” this LOVE sign adds a unique twist because it represents Cape Charles specifically. The L is made of sea glass and seashells to represent the local community. The O is a tractor tire to represent agriculture. The V is made of kayaks to represent outdoor adventure activities and the E is made of crab pots to represent aquaculture.

Just past the sign, we saw the weathered wood of a fishing pier zigzagging out into the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia's Eastern Shore Cape Charles public fishing pier at the beach

But before heading out to the pier, we took a quick stroll along the beach. It is truly a blessing to live on the Delmarva Peninsula because we have two very different types of coastal beaches.  First is the Atlantic to the east  with its crashing waves and the roar of the surf.  It’s beautiful and intimidating all at once. Then there’s “the bay side” which is the coastline along the Chesapeake Bay. The water there is calmer, warmer, and very different.  What struck me was how clear and calm the water along the Cape Charles beach appeared.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' public beach faces the Chesapeake Bay and has much calmer water.

We walked the beach a little, then headed out to the end of the fishing pier.  We saw a couple of freighter ships in the distance, and a group of a half-dozen or so pelicans closer than that.  Seeing the pelicans was a surprise – I have never seen any outside a zoo and did not even know that they lived in this area!

We left the beach and headed back up Mason Avenue, which is the main street in town. There are several shops, an art gallery, a gourmet market, and a couple of restaurants.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' Mason Avenue

Our first stop was a little shop called The Boardwalk, which was full of beach-themed decor items, gifts, and jewelry.  I saw SO MANY cute and/or awesome things! I probably could have done at least half of my Christmas shopping there if I’d had enough time. This pillow was one of my (many) favorites:

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles shop The Boardwalk offers beach theme gifts and decor.

Another store, which was closed at the time of our visit, had these amazing nautilus shell and stained glass creations in its window:

Virginia's Eastern Shore Cape Charles has a thriving art community.

I did a little shopping, and then it was time to head to lunch.  So we drove on over to The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - in Cape Charles, the Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery offers waterfront dining and fresh seafood.

My husband ordered a clam basket and I ordered a crab cake sandwich.  It was an unseasonably warm day for November, so we got to dine on the deck, and that was a real treat.  The menu offered a variety of seafood items.  When we asked if the clams and oysters were local, our server said yes, and pointed out that we could actually see the clam beds from where we sat on the back deck of the restaurant.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery has seafood so fresh, you can see the clam beds from the restaurant.
(The dark stripes just beyond the rocks are the clam beds.)

After lunch, I was craving something sweet.  Ice cream, to be specific.  A Google search for ice cream in Cape Charles provided me with the name and address of Brown Dog Ice Cream.  We went over there but found it closed until spring.  A visit to their web site suggested we purchase some of their ice cream at Gull Hummock, a gourmet market about one block down from their shop.  The Gull Hummock had some very interesting and unusual flavors of Brown Dog, but ultimately we stuck with something basic – chocolate.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' Brown Dog Handmade Ice Ceam

It was smooth and creamy and quite delicious! We took the pint to go with two spoons.

While we were enjoying our ice cream, and before heading to our next destination, we drove around the town a little to see what we could find.  Imagine our surprise when this sight came into view:

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles is an area where cotton is grown.

In the background, the Cape Charles lighthouse.  But in the foreground – are those what I think they are?  We went closer.

Cotton plants on Virginia's Eastern Shore (Cape Charles)

Cotton plants!  Something I only associated with “the deep South” but was right next door on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  I was out of my cotton-pickin’ mind to think it couldn’t grow here.  (Hahahaha, see what I did there?)

Part III of my adventure on Virginia’s Eastern Shore will feature kayaking and a wine tasting.  Stay tuned!

 

 

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles is a tiny town with a lot to offer visitors!

 

The Best Travel Souvenir

The Best Travel Souvenir

After many years of traveling and looking for the perfect memento from our travels, I think I’ve determined the best souvenir possible: Christmas ornaments.

Think about it. First of all, they don’t take up space on your counter, shelf, or desk. They aren’t so big that you have ship them home. And finally, because you only bring them out once a year, they don’t become just another thing that you see so often it loses significance. When you pull a Christmas ornament souvenir out of storage, you are instantly transported back to the time and place you bought it. As a result, it really is the perfect thing to buy as a souvenir.

Here are some of mine:

best souvenir grand canyon Christmas ornament
We bought this at a Native Americans’ roadside market outside the Grand Canyon National Park. Every image on the ornament has a symbolic meaning (which I can’t recall off the top of my head, but they did provide me with a sheet explaining what they are).

best souvenir Michigan Christmas ornament
I bought this at the Wild Blueberry Festival in Paradise, Michigan.  The five points of the star are seed pods of some sort. The person who was selling these showed us how she took a tree branch and carved slivers of wood so thinly and precisely that they curled into the shape of a flower bloom.  That’s what decorates the center of the ornament.

best souvenir Vermont maple leaf Christmas ornament
We were in Vermont in October last year, and everything they say about the autumn foliage there is true. What better souvenir than a maple leaf preserved in all its autumn glory?  (I wrote Vermont and the year on there with a permanent marker.)

Maryland Renaissance Festival best souvenir blown glass art of fire Christmas ornament
This ornament was a souvenir from the Maryland Renaissance Festival. They have an amazing glass blower there who does live demonstrations of his craft and sells beautiful blown glass wares. Sometimes I think I probably should have gotten one with more color to it, but I do like the way the lights on the tree shine through and reflect off of this one.

Tower of London Beefeater best souvenir Christmas ornament
I bought this cute little Beefeater and four other ornaments at the Tower of London. The others were King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, a Tudor rose, and a palace guard. I love them because they have such fine details.  Also, they are completely fabric, so they were super-easy to pack without fear of breakage.  These will always be some of my favorite ornaments.

Peru gourd Christmas ornament nativity best souvenir
I got this nativity scene ornament on my trip to Peru. The ornament is a gourd, with nativity figures inside it. The outside of the gourd is painted a beautiful dark blue with carved stars on it.

Tangier Island Virginia best souvenir angel oyster shell Christmas ornament
This angel is made from an oyster shell. I bought her at a tiny museum on Tangier Island, Virginia, when we took a day trip there.

Westminster Abbey Christmas Ornament Elizabeth I best souvenir
Very similar to my Tower of London ornaments, I got this Queen Elizabeth I ornament at Westminster Abbey about eleven years later. She’s lovely, isn’t she?

I love shopping in new places.  But most of all, I make a point of looking for an ornament (or something that I can use as an ornament).  So in twenty years, maybe I will have an entire tree full of travel mementos!

How about you:  Do you have any Christmas ornaments from your travels?

Keep Calm and Go to Barter Books

Keep Calm and Go to Barter Books

In Alnwick, Northumberland, there is a very large secondhand book store that occupies the former train station. It’s called Barter Books, and anyone who loves books should put it on their bucket list.

The store houses hundreds of thousands of books, meticulously categorized by genre or topic. They range from modern best sellers to books a hundred years old or more, on every topic under the sun. Boards with literary quotes span the aisles to create a makeshift archway under which you can stroll.

barter books alnwick northumberland
In addition, there are plenty of cozy places to sit and read.

Barter Books Alnwick northumberland
I loved this quote that I found in one area of the store:

beater books alnwick northumberland
There’s even a restaurant on site, so you could conceivably spend an entire day there. Seems like it could be dangerous for us bibliophiles!

But let’s not forget that the book shop is inside a Victorian train station. In a nod to the building’s history, a model train whizzes around the tops of the bookshelves in one room. You can catch a glimpse of it here, in this photo I took of the large mural.

barter books mural alnwick northumberland
The folks in this mirror look like they are having a great time, and that may be because they are all famous authors. To name a few: Jane Austen (far left, blue dress), Ernest Hemingway (center bottom, yellow shirt), Mark Twain (center bottom, white suit), Charles Dickins (top right, hand raised), and Oscar Wilde (top center, swathed in blue fabric).

But more than the books, the quotes, the train, and the mural, there’s this:


You see, without Barter Books, we might never have known about this iconic WWII poster.

In the beginning of Britain’s involvement in WWII, graphic artists designed posters for distribution to the public. The posters were to be uniform in design and morale-boosting in content. As a result, the government printed three different designs. One said Freedom Is In Peril – Defend It with All Your Might. A second said, Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory. And the third is the now iconic Keep Calm and Carry On.  The first two hung in shop windows all over Britain. The government printed nearly 2.5 million copies of the third poster, but never distributed it. They held back on releasing it; waiting for an invasion or other cataclysmic event. Most of those printed copies were later destroyed in a paper salvage campaign.

In 2000, the owner of Barter Books bought a box of books at an auction and found one of the posters in the box. He liked it, so he had it framed and hung it in the store. Customers loved it, so he made prints and began selling them. Of course, you know how the story goes from there.

Some would say it’s been done to death by mass marketing, and they may be right. But to me, the poster is quintessentially British. I often wonder about life in the UK during World War II, and how difficult it must have been. London children sent to relatives in more rural areas (if they were lucky… sent to total strangers if they weren’t), covering windows with blackout paper at night so there would be no lights to show enemy warplanes populated areas, and living with a constant fear of being bombed. I don’t think that most people in the US now would be able to keep calm and carry on the way the British did then.

In conclusion, if you find yourself in Alnwick, be sure to stop by Barter Books.  It’s a great store, and you never know what you might find.

Barter Books is in Alnwick Station, Northumberland NE66 2NP.  Telephone 44(0) 1665 604888.  They are open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.  

 

Oceanside Shopping & Dining in Lima Peru

Oceanside Shopping & Dining in Lima Peru

The Miraflores district of Lima, Peru, is a decidedly more upscale neighborhood than other parts of Lima. There, across the street from a towering Marriott hotel, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is an open air shopping mall.

Normally, I wouldn’t dream of going to a mall while visiting another country. But this one sounded too unique to pass by.

Sadly, the mall is very American. Only the prevalence of Spanish and Spanish speakers reminded us that we were in Peru, and not Hawaii. There is a Banana Republic, Aeropostale (called Aero 87), Brooks Brothers, Burger King, Chilis, Converse, Gap, Guess, Hush Puppies, KFC, MAC Cosmetics, Nike, Nine West, Pinkberry, Pizza Hut, Quiksilver, Radio Shack, Samsonite, Starbucks, Steve Madden, Swatch, Sunglass Hut, TGI Fridays, North Face, Timberland, and Ugg, to name more than a few.

Larco Mar.jpg

We did not shop there, but we did enjoy a meal at Pardos Chicken. The food was tasty and the view was magnificent, even on the overcast day that we visited.

Larco Mar Lunch View edited

Afterwards we strolled through the mall and found a few overlooks from which to take photos of the ocean and beach.

Pacific Ocean

Larcomar is located at Malecón de la Reserva 610, Miraflores 15074, Peru. Telephone +51 1 6254343. Stores are open daily from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. Restaurants are open daily from 11:00 am to midnight.