Tag: US Travel

Embassy Tours – A Cultural Tourism Annual Event

Embassy Tours – A Cultural Tourism Annual Event

Foreign Embassy Tours

Every year at the beginning of May, Cultural Tourism DC hosts an event called “The Around the World Embassy Tour.”  I have been lucky enough to go in the past, and I went again this year.  I think it is probably one of the coolest free events I’ve ever been to, with the possible exception of the Ceremony of the Keys in London.

On May 6 of this year, 43 embassies representing countries in Africa, Asia, and South America opened their doors and invited the general public in to learn more about their culture and heritage.  The European Union embassies will follow suit and host an open house on May 13.

To give you a better idea of what it’s like, I took a lot of pictures.  Our first stop was the Embassy of Peru.

Peru

Inside, we got to see beautiful Peruvian hand crafted items, sample some Peruvian chocolate, and we got to see the ambassador’s office and conference room.  Peruvian food was available for purchase both inside and outside the embassy, including Pisco sours, empanadas, and Alfajores cookies.

embassy tours peru
Some of the handicrafts in the Peruvian embassy.

Then, outside the embassy, we experienced music and Latin dancing.

embassy tours peru dancers
The dancers outside the Peruvian embassy.

From there we walked up Massachusetts Avenue, aka Embassy Row, and marveled at the beautiful buildings now serving as embassies. The Colombian embassy was ROCKING. Loud party music and bright colorfully-clad dancers attracted everyone’s attention. It also had a line of people that went down the street and around the corner. Having already gotten a late start, we decided to visit the embassies that seemed to have little to no wait to enter. Otherwise, we would have probably only seen two!

The first one we happened upon was Indonesia.

Indonesia

I am not exaggerating when I say it’s the most beautiful house I have seen on this side of the Atlantic. When we walked in, the first thing we saw was the grand entrance.

embassy tours indonesia
The foyer of the Indonesian embassy

(I don’t know about you, but every time I see a place like this, I imagine myself in an evening gown and lots of diamonds, slowly gliding down the stairs to the tune of dramatic-yet-elegant music.  No?  I’m the only one?)

As it turns out, the building is also known as the Walsh Mansion, and it Dates to 1903. At that time, it was the most expensive residence in the city, with a construction cost of $835,000.  The original owner, a Thomas J Walsh, came to this county from Ireland without a penny to his name in 1869. Over the next 25 years, he built up a small fortune through his business pursuits, then lost nearly everything in the Panic of 1893.  In 1896, he took his family to Colorado, and purchased a mine that most thought was of no value. However, it wasn’t long before mine workers struck a massive vein of gold and silver, making Walsh a multi-millionaire.

Walsh’s daughter Evalyn married into the McLean family, which owned The Washington Post.  In 1910, her husband bought the Hope Diamond for her at a cost of $180,000 (that’s $4.6 million in today’s economy).  Over time, rumors developed that the Hope Diamond had a curse on it.  Evalyn Walsh McLean’s first son died in a car accident. Her husband ran off with another woman and eventually died in a sanitarium. The Washington Post went bankrupt, and eventually her daughter died of an overdose, and one of her grandsons died in the Vietnam war. Evalyn never believed the curse had anything to do with her misfortunes.

In 1952 the government of Indonesia purchased the mansion for use as an embassy. Thankfully, they have preserved the beauty of the historic home, including this very large and ornate organ:

embassy tours indonesia
Upper part of the massive pipe organ in the Indonesian embassy.

The pipe organ’s wind system and some of its pipes were located in the basement, making this a two-story pipe organ.  I don’t know what it sounds like, but based solely on its appearance, it is impressive!

The painted ceilings and crystal chandeliers are probably very much like they were before it became the Indonesian embassy.

Embassy tours Indonesia
A doll on the mantle in the Indonesian embassy

A small glassed in walkway connected the residence portion of the house with the offices, which were more modern.  As you enter the office area, you pass by a huge gold bird, the heraldic symbol of Indonesia.

embassy tours indonesia

Our next stop was going to be the Chilean embassy, but the line was incredibly long, so we wandered up the street a little farther and found a performer outside the Korean embassy.

Korea

Just above the heads of the people gathered around to watch, we could see a man walking a tightrope while making jokes via an interpreter. There was also this little statue:

embassy tours korea

This is a Dol Hareubang, which means Stone Grandfather.  They are from Jeju, a small volcanic island off the southern coast of Korea.  Dol Hareubang is a guardian deity, and the people of Jeju erect these statues to ward off danger and harm.

Right next door to Korea was the Kyrgyz Republic, or Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan

I’ll be honest.  I don’t know much about Kyrgyzstan, other than that it’s a relatively new country.  It was a very enlightening visit.  First, I learned that Kyrgyzstan shares a border with China. As we made our way through the embassy and looked at the displays, I learned that many people of Kyrgyzstan live in yurts.  We saw scarves and slippers and multiple other woolen items, beautifully made. But their talents do not end there. I thought this painting was just adorable:

Embassy tours Kyrgyzstan

They were also offering shots of a cognac from their country. Nearby, these lovely ladies in traditional native costumes greeted and posed for everyone.

Embassy tours Kyrgyzstan

Haiti

The Haitian embassy was all about art.  Every room we entered had beautiful, brightly colored paintings done by Haitian artists. The one hanging over the fireplace was especially striking.

Embassy tours haiti

And in the back of the house, just before we stepped outside, we saw a beautiful collection of bottles covered in sequins.  Then we exited the house and stepped out onto a gorgeous patio. The biggest wall had an arrangement of metal decorations that was pretty incredible.

Embassy tours Haiti patio

There were tin lanterns hanging all over the place, with designs of dragonflies, and other small animals.

By this time the event was coming to a close, so we started walking back toward the Metro station.  On the way, we passed a stunning display outside the Guatemalan embassy.

Embassy tours Guatemala

 

The white parts were rice, and we guessed that the colored bits were dyed sawdust.  From a distance, it looked like a rug.

After that, we followed the sound of music until we happened upon the embassy of the Dominican Republic.  There were people everywhere – some were in line for food but quite a few were dancing.  It was such an awesome display of living in the moment, anyone watching couldn’t help but smile.

I cannot recommend the Around the World Embassy Tour enough. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about other cultures and see some magnificent art and architecture.  If you’re ever in D.C. on a Saturday in early May, check it out!

Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana

Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana

The Myrtles Haunted Plantation

A forty minute car drive north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the small town of St Francisville, there is a beautiful antebellum plantation dating from 1796. General David Bradford, a man known for his role as a radical leader in the Whiskey Rebellion’s March on Pittsburgh, built the Myrtles in 1796.

The main house is Creole cottage style, with a 125-foot long veranda that extends the entire length of the façade, and wraps around the southern end of the house. An ornamental cast-iron railing, with an elaborate grape-cluster design complements the porch and adds tons of southern charm.

The Myrtles haunted Plantation cast iron railed verandah

The Myrtles has 22 rooms spread over two floors. The spacious entry hall runs the length of the house and features a French Baccarat crystal chandelier weighing more than 300 pounds. The flooring and most of the windows in the house are original.

The plantation landscape features a large pond with a small island accessible by a bridge. (How romantic!) The oldest structure on the grounds sits just to the rear of the main house. General Bradford lived in this location while he waited for the main house to be completed.  Nowadays it goes by the name The General’s Store, where you can purchase tickets for a guided tour and/or souvenirs from your visit.

But it’s not the original owner of the property or its stunning architecture that put Myrtles Plantation on the map as a place to visit.  It’s Chloe.

The Ghost of a Slave Girl

Chloe was a slave on the property and one version of the story goes that she was also the mistress of the plantation owner. Chloe was caught eavesdropping on her master and, as punishment, her ear was cut off. Shortly afterward, Chloe baked a birthday cake containing extract of oleander leaves, which are extremely poisonous. She hoped to make the family ill and then nurse them back to health, thereby regaining their favor.  However, her plan backfired. Only Sara and her two daughters ate the cake, and all died from the poison. When it was discovered how the family members had been poisoned, Chloe was then hanged.

A photograph taken in 1992 appears to show the figure of a slave girl in between two of the buildings on the property.

ghost of chloe at myrtles haunted plantation
Do you see the ghost of Chloe?

The figure is the right size and proportion to be human, yet it appears to be transparent – you can see the lines of the exterior siding running right through what would be her torso.

Also, guests at the Inn often report that one of their earrings disappears.  Perhaps because one is all that Chloe needs?

But Chloe’s not alone. A mirror located in the house supposedly holds the spirits of Sara Woodruff and two of her children. According to custom at the time, people covered all of the mirrors in a house after someone passed away. Legend says that after the Woodruffs died, staff overlooked this particular mirror. Legend has it that the spirits of Sara and her children were trapped in the uncovered mirror.  Ghostly figures are occasionally seen in the mirror, while at other times there appear to be handprints on it.

The Seventeenth Step

William Drew Winter was an attorney who lived in the plantation from 1865 until 1871. A stranger shot him.  Trying to reach help, he staggered inside the house and attempted to climb the stairs. He died on the 17th step. Today, visitors and employees in the hotel say that they can hear his dying footsteps.

You can visit the plantation to learn more about the ghosts (or maybe even spot one yourself!), or you can stay there.  Rooms range from $148 for a Garden Room to $290 for a suite.  If you are traveling with more than one person, you can rent a cottage ($295; sleeps 4) or the caretaker’s house ($400; sleeps 6).

The Myrtles Plantation is located at 7747 U.S. Highway 61, St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775.  Telephone 1-800-809-0565.

The 50 Most Romantic Places in the US

The 50 Most Romantic Places in the US

the most romantic places in each state

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you may be trying to choose the perfect place to celebrate.  If you’re about to get engaged, or if you’re married with children and looking for a child-free getaway, read on!  Here are my picks for the 50 most romantic places – one  in each of our glorious 50 states.

Alabama

Gorham’s Bluff in Pisgah is a luxurious inn that offers spectacular mountaintop views of the Tennessee River Valley.

gorhams-bluff-view most romantic places alabama
View from the gazebo at Gorham’s Bluff

The lodge has six suites, each with a massive stone fireplace, soft down pillows, and whirlpool tubs. There are also five cottages if you’d like something bigger. If a stay isn’t in your budget, you may want to consider just dining there. Gorham’s Bluff also boasts an outstanding restaurant that offers everything from boxed lunches to four course dinners. The surrounding area boasts many places of natural beauty, including caverns, waterfalls, and forests. Gorham’s Bluff‘s address is 101 Gorham Drive, Pisgah, AL 35765.  Telephone 256-451-8439.

Alaska

Denali National Park offers stunning views that look like they just might have inspired a Bob Ross painting. Can you think of a better backdrop to declare your love?

denali-national-park most romantic places alaska
Denali National Park, Alaska

If you’re the adventurous type, you can enjoy a snowmobiling trip, take a guided dog sled trip. With its extreme northern location, you can also spend a great evening of stargazing… perhaps even catch the aurora borealis if you’re lucky. What could be more romantic than that?  Denali National Park is about four hours north of Anchorage and two hours south of Fairbanks. Telephone 907-683-9532.

Arizona

The Desert Botanical Garden features beautiful trails of colorful desert plants.

Desert Botanical Garden - most romantic place in ARIZONA
Sunset at he Desert Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden occasionally offers themed dinners. Sip wine and dine al fresco on customized menus from talented chefs while taking in the desert scenery.  The Desert Botanical Garden‘s address is 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008.  Telephone 480-941-1225.

Arkansas

The Bell of Hot Springs is a riverboat on which you can take a lunch or dinner cruise around Lake Hamilton, including a sunset dinner & dance cruise.

belle-of-hot-springs most romantic places arkansas
The Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat

As you cruise around the lake, you will see million dollar mansions, natural islands, quaint resorts, and panoramic views of the Ouachita Mountains. The Belle of Hot Springs‘s address is 5200 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR, 71913. Telephone 501-525-4438.

California

In the Marina district of San Francisco, there is a temple-like building known as the Palace of Fine Arts. It was built in 1915 as one of ten buildings for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, and was supposed to be demolished after the event. People found it so beautiful, though, that it stayed.  You can certainly see why:

Palace-of-Fine-Arts-San-Francisco most romantic places california
The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts’ address is 3601 Lyon St & Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123.

Colorado

If you’re looking to be pampered with your love, look no farther than The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

the broadmoor most romantic places colorado springs
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

Not only do they offer beautiful, richly decorated rooms and cottages, but they also have a lake on premises, a full service spa, a top notch golf course, and a dozen or so dining options. You and your love can enjoy horseback riding, scenic mountain trails, rock climbing, fly fishing, golf, tennis, zip lining over waterfalls, and more. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Broadmoor. The Broadmoor address is 1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Telephone 855-634-7711.

Connecticut

The historic village of Stonington Borough (simply called “The Village” by locals) is a postcard perfect New England small town. The Inn at Stonington is a beautiful waterfront 18-room inn that would be ideal for a romantic getaway.

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The Inn at Stonington

Just a short stroll from the lovely Dubois beach, several excellent restaurants, antique shops and galleries, the Inn offers uniquely decorated spacious rooms with balconies, fireplaces, and scenic views of the village or Fisher’s Island Sound. The Inn at Stonington’s address is 60 Water Street, Stonington, Connecticut 06378.  Telephone 860-535-2000.

Delaware

If you like your romance with a dash of intrigue, you can step back in time for a cocktail at the speakeasy-themed Hummingbird to Mars in Wilmington.

speakeasy bar hummingbird to mars most romantic places delaware
Speakeasy-themed bar – CR Hummingbird to Mars in Wilmington, DE

You can only access the bar from outside, and you will need a password.  (Check their Facebook page to find out what the current password is.) The speakeasy is decked out with Victorian furniture, including an antique bathtub filled with champagne bottles. The lights are dim, the cocktails are intriguing, and the patrons are dressed to the nines.  Well worth a visit for a history-loving couple. The address for CR Hummingbird to Mars is 1616 Delaware Ave – Trolley Square, Wilmington, DE 19806.  Telephone 302-654-9700.

Florida

The appropriately named Lovers Key is a state park near Ft Myers that is renowned for its pristine white beach and wildlife viewing opportunities.

lovers-key-most romantic places florida
Lighthouse at Lovers Key Florida

The park features five miles of hiking and biking trails through a shady maritime hammock ecosystem. Visitors can see manatee, gopher tortoises and wading birds along the trails. You may even see dolphins swimming in the distance. Lovers Key State Park’s address is 8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.  Telephone 239-463-4588.

Georgia

The Chateau Elan Winery & Resort is perfect for wine aficionados or anyone who likes a bit of luxury. The resorts is a castle surrounded by rolling vineyards… you will think your’re in the French countryside.

chateau-elan-winery most romantic places georgia
France?  or Georgia?

In addition to a 275-room inn, there is a European spa, championship golf course, award-winning wine and food, and plenty of opportunities to relax in luxury. The Chateau Elan Winery & Resort‘s address is 100 Rue Charlemagne, Braselton, Georgia 30517. Telephone: 678-425-0900.

Hawaii

Seriously? Like just about anywhere!  But if I have to pick just one romantic destination in the island paradise – and I promised myself I would – my choice would be Hulopoe Bay on the island of Lanai’s southern coast.

hulopoe-bay-hawaii most romantic places
Hulopoe Bay, Lanai

It’s a great place for snorkeling and swimming, and there are large tide pools located at the eastern side of the bay. Carved out of volcanic rock, these tide pools are well protected, keeping the waters calm for exploring. Many hermit crabs, sea stars, opihi (limpet) and small fish dwell there. Dolphins can often be seen in Hulopoe Bay, while the winter months bring visits from humpback whales. Also, if you hike about 15-20 minutes from the bay, you will see Puu Pehe, a large rock rising from the sea.  It’s name is Sweetheart Rock.  How appropriate!  (Actually, the legend that goes with the rock is more along the Romeo & Juliet lines, with both of the lovers dead at the end.)

Idaho

Some may consider it cheesy, but I love places that have themed decor.  The Anniversary Inn bed and breakfast in Boise is one such place, with many different themes to choose from.  My favorite is the Lighthouse #19, but there are so many others I would like too.

anniversary-inn-boise-lighthouse-suite most romantic places idaho
Lighthouse #19 Suite at the Anniversary Inn in Boise

Other suites include the Hawaiian, the Presidential, Mysteries of Egypt, Biker Road House, Jungle Safari, Hollywood Romance and so many others. Really, if you’re in Idaho, you should check this place out!  The Anniversary Inn’s address is 1575 South Lusk Avenue, Boise, ID 83706. Telephone 1.800.324.4152.

Illinois

In Chicago, the most romantic restaurant is widely considered to be Geja’s Cafe, which has a low-lit dining room filled with small booths and tables with curtains draped throughout to give an even more intimate feel.

gejas-cafe-chicago most romantic places illinois
The dining room of Geja’s Cafe in Chicago

Premiere fondue dinners are a four-course meal, including cheese fondue appetizer, salad, assorted fresh vegetables, eight dipping sauces, flaming chocolate dessert fondue and freshly brewed coffee. The fondue dining experience lets you cook your food at the table. Live classical and flamenco guitar add to the romantic ambiance. Geja’s Cafe’s address is 340 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614.  Telephone 773-281-9101.

Indiana

How about a romantic train ride?  The Spirit of Jasper offers a Chocolate, Wine & Dine ride that couples are sure to enjoy.

spirit-of-jasper most romantic places indiana
All aboard!  Take a romantic train ride on The Spirit of Jasper

Featuring chocolate from Jasper’s locally-owned Chocolate Bliss, the Chocolate, Wine & Dine combines taste-tempting treats while you ride the rails in luxurious comfort: scrumptious chocolate, wine tasting, and Schnitzelbank meal with dessert.  The Spirit of Jasper operates seasonally in summer and fall.  The address is 201 Mill Street, Jasper, IN 47546. Telephone: 812-482-5959.

Iowa

The Mont Rest Inn in Bellevue is not only a great bed & breakfast with a rooftop hot tub (!), it also features regular special events, such as murder mystery dinners and other themed evenings.

rooftop-hot-tub-at-mont-rest-inn most romantic places bellevue iowa
The rooftop hot tub at Mont Rest Inn

In addition to their theme dinners, the Inn has several other packages, from winery tours to eagle watching excursions.  There is something for everyone to enjoy here!  The Mont Rest Inn’s address is 300 Spring Street Bellevue, Iowa.  Telephone: 563-872-4220.

Kansas

Surround yourself with natural beauty at Botanica Wichita, a collection of garden landscapes that are the perfect backdrop for a romantic outing.  Botanica features a butterfly garden, aquatic garden, rose garden, and a rock garden.

botanica-wichita-shakespeare-garden most romantic places kansas
The Shakespeare Garden at Botanica

Fans of Shakespeare will find the Shakespeare Garden – a perfect spot to sit and read sonnets to each other.  (I recommend #116.) The address for Botanica Wichita is 701 Amidon St, Wichita, KS 67203-3199. Telephone: 316-264-0448.

Kentucky

Couples who enjoy adventure travel will love Cumberland, Kentucky. At Cumberland Falls Resort Park, you’ll see the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi and, if you’re there at the right time, a rare lunar rainbow.

cumberland-falls-moonbow kentucky most romantic places
A lunar rainbow, also called a moonbow, at Cumberland Falls KY

There are also 1,200 miles of shoreline to explore, and 70 miles of wilderness trails. Often, the park offers special romance package, which may include dinner theater, dancing and resort lodging. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park‘s address is 7351 Hwy. 90, Corbin, KY 40701. Telephone: (606) 528-4121.

Louisiana

Nothing evokes the romantic antebellum south like Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie. Can you imagine how lovely it would be to stroll up to this house, holding hands with your loved one?

oak-alley-plantation-louisiana most romantic places
Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana

Those oak trees are 300 years old, buy the way.  The plantation features a variety of exhibits on the Civil War era, including a tour of the house and a self-guided tour of the grounds. Oak Alley Plantation‘s address is 3645 Highway 18 (Great River Road), Vacherie, Louisiana 70090.  Telephone 800-44-ALLEY.

Maine

The Norumbega Inn is a beautiful stone mansion in Camden that has a fancy-yet-unpretentious vibe.

norumbega-inn-maine most romantic places
The Norumbega Inn of Camden Maine

Whether you choose a room that has a view of Penobscot Bay, or the Library Suite for bibliophiles like me, you will enjoy your stay at the Norumbega.  And you will definitely eat well while you’re there!  Co-owner and executive chef Phil Crispo is a classically trained chef who loves to use his creative finesse in the kitchen. Prior to moving to Maine, he was a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America and succeeded in scoring a ‘win’ on the Food Network’s “Chopped”. (His credentials prior to that are noteworthy, as well.) Hi partner Sue is “a business exec who screwed up making mashed potatoes in a ‘Boot Camp’ class she took at the CIA a while back. Phil fixed her mashed potatoes and love ensued.” The address for The Norumbega Inn is 63 High Street, Camden, Maine, 04843.  Telephone: 877-363-4646.

Maryland

The Grammercy Mansion bed and breakfast in Stevenson is the most romantic place I have ever stayed. I think the Tudor Room is probably my favorite, but each room is luxurious and well-appointed.

grammercy mansion tudor-room marlyand most romantic places
Grammercy Mansion’s Tudor Room

If you feel like venturing out (but, seriously, why would you?), there are plenty of museums, restaurants, and shops in Baltimore, just a short drive away.  Grammercy Mansion‘s address is 1400 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153.  Telephone 410-486-2405.

Massachusetts

Sweet Brook Farm offers horse drawn sleigh rides in the winter and hay rides in the fall.

horse drawn sleigh massachusetts most romantic places
Over the river and through the woods…

Nothing could be more romantic than snuggling up with your loved one on a sleigh for 45 minutes or so and taking a break for hot cocoa in “The Old Sap Bucket Inn,” a cozy cabin in the woods. Sweet Brook Farm‘s address is 580 Oblong Road, Williamstown, MA 01267.  Telephone: 413-884-4246.

Michigan

Nothing says romance like the majestic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, with its extended waterfront porch and uniquely decorated rooms – none of the 300+ rooms are alike!

the-grand-hotel-mackinac island michigan most romantic places
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

You will never forget the spectacular views from a rocking chair overlooking the Straits of Mackinac from the world’s longest porch. Here, meals are an event and traditions such as Afternoon Tea in the Parlor and nightly dancing remain a noteworthy part of the guest experience. And while you’re on Mackinac Island, you can enjoy horse & carriage rides – no cars are allowed.  The Grand Hotel’s address is 286 Grand Ave, Mackinac Island, MI 49757.  Telephone 800-334-7263.

Minnesota

For literary-minded couples, The Rivertown Inn in Stillwater offers exquisitely decorated rooms based on famous world authors. I’ve tried to pick a favorite but the truth is they are all so romantic and luxurious!

oscar-wilde-rivertown-inn minnesota most romantic places
The Oscar Wilde Suite at the Rivertown Inn

Other rooms/suites offer tributes to Lord Byron, Agatha Christie, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and other notable authors. If you can bear to leave your literary accommodations, you  can spend a day with your loved one exploring the unique shops and galleries of Stillwater, taking an old-fashioned trolley for an architectural tour, or enjoying any of the cafes and fine dining restaurants in town. The Rivertown Inn’s address is 306 Olive Street West, Stillwater, MN 55082. Telephone: 651-430-2955.

Mississippi

There are not many activities that have as sultry a sizzle as Latin salsa dancing.  If you’re in Jackson on a Saturday night, stop by Salsa Mississippi for a quick lesson at 9:00, followed by a Salsa Dance Party from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am.

salsa_mississippi most romantic places
Couples dancing at Salsa Mississippi

If you like it, sign up for some classes! The address for Salsa Mississippi is 605 Duling Ave, Jackson, MS 39216.  Telephone: 601-213-6355.

Missouri

Who needs Paris when you have the Old Red Bridge in Minor Park, Kansas City? Couples in Missouri are celebrating their love just like so many visitors to Paris have done – placing a lock on the bridge and throwing the key in the water below as a symbol of their enduring, unbreakable love.

red-bridge-love-locks missouri most romantic places
Love locks on the Old Red Bridge

Locks can be purchased at the Minor Park Golf Pro Shop, or ordered online with custom engraving. Click on the link for details: The Old Red Bridge runs between Holmes and Blue River Road on Red Bridge Road in Kansas City, MO.  

Montana

Located near the beautiful Glacier National Park, the Izaak Walton Inn has a variety of unique and romantic lodgings to offer couples.  Guests can stay in a railroad caboose or a luxury train car.  Or, if you prefer more traditional digs, a room in the lodge.

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The lodge and one of the luxury rail cars at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT

(I do not recommend renting a cabin for a romantic outing here as the cabins are very close together.)  Because of the location and the age of the property, rooms do not have televisions or telephones, and cell phone service is not available within a 30 mile radius. You will be blissfully cut off from the world and able to focus entirely on your mate.  The Izaak Walton Inn’s address is 290 Izaak Walton Inn Rd. Essex, MT 59916.  Telephone: 406-888-5700.

Nebraska

If your love is too big for just one state, be sure to walk hand-in-hand across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha.

bob-kerrey-pedestrian-bridge omaha nebraska most romantic places
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge cross the Missouri River between Nebraska and Iowa.

When you stand in the center of it, you’re half in Nebraska, half in Iowa. Share a kiss, gaze out at the river, and plan your next adventure together. The address for the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is 705 Riverfront Dr, Omaha, NE 68102.

Nevada

There is a restaurant at the top of Las Vegas’ version of the Eiffel Tower, and not only does it have great food, it also provides an outstanding view of the fountain show at the Bellagio.

eiffel-tower-restaurant las vegas nevada most romantic places
The Bellagio Fountains, as seen from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

My goodness, the only way it could be more romantic is if you could get there via the gondolas from The Venetian!  The Eiffel Tower Restaurant’s address is 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109.  Telephone: 702-948-6937.

New Hampshire

Look no further in New Hampshire than the historic hotel Wentworth by the Sea on the island of New Castle, one of New Hampshire’s oldest settlements.

Wentworth-by the sea new hampshire hotel most romantic places
Wentworth by the Sea

This luxury Marriott-owned hotel blends historic elegance with 21st century convenience. It features 161 rooms and suites,many of which have ocean views. In addition to attractions in the surrounding area, the hotel has intimate restaurants with imaginative cuisine, pampering spa services, indoor and outdoor pools, and fitness centers.  Wentworth by the Sea‘s address is 588 Wentworth Rd, New Castle, NJ 03854.  Telephone: 866-384-0709.

New Jersey

Creating things together can be one of the most romantic things a couple can do.  If you’re in your relationship for the long haul, why not try your hand at making wine together at The Grape Escape?

wine-and-romance grape escape new jersey most romantic places
The Grape Escape offers couples a chance to custom make their own wine

Your and your love will choose the region, grape type, barrel type, and the amount of aging it receives. You actively participate in the four key steps of wine making. You personally crush the grapes, press the must, rack the wine and, finally, bottle your own premium wine!  To finish, each bottle is customized with a label you create yourself. It’s a lengthy process, but at the end of it you will have a one-of-a-kind creation that you made with your partner, and that’s very romantic, indeed!  The Grape Escape’s address is 12 Stults Road, Suite 101, Dayton, NJ 08810.  Telephone: 609-409-WINE.

New Mexico

A trip on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway will take you along nearly three miles, soaring above canyons and breathtaking terrain.

sandia-tramway new mexico most romantic places
The Sandia Tramway offers stunning views of the wilderness.

See some of nature’s more dramatic beauty unfold before you, and visit the observation deck atop 10,378 foot Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest. Try to time your visit so that you will be there at sunset, when the desert skies produce a spectacular array of color. Sandia Tramway is on the eastern edge of Albuquerque in the Sandia Foothills at the end of Tramway Road. Telephone: 505-856-7325.

New York

Decades ago, it was considered THE honeymoon destination on the East Coast.  Niagara Falls is amazing to see in person, especially at night when the falls are lit up in different colors.

niagra-falls-night most romantic places new york
Night time view of Niagara Falls

In the warmer months (May-October), they also have fireworks several times a week.  The best address to use for GPS purposes is 24 Buffalo Avenue Niagara Falls, NY, 14303.  Telephone the state park visitor center for more information at 716-278-1796.

North Carolina

Treehouse Vineyards is a North Carolina family owned Vineyard and Winery.  It also has, as you might have guessed, treehouses.  But the really cool thing here is that you can actually rent/stay in the treehouses.

vineyard-treehouse north carolina most romantic places
Papa’s Dream Treehouse at Treehouse Vineyards

Papa’s Dream Treehouse is tiny (only 100 sq. ft. living space), but it has all the necessities you might need – plumbing, electricity, heat and air conditioning, efficiency kitchen and even a deck with a grill. Cozy, unique, and romantic!  Treehouse Vineyards’ address is 301 Bay St, Monroe, NC 28112. Telephone: 704-283-4208.

North Dakota

The International Peace Garden is over 2300 acres spanning the US-Canada border. There are sunken gardens, a peace chapel, a 9/11 memorial, conservatory, Westminster chimes bell tower, a floral clock, and more.

international-peace-garden north dakota most romantic places
International Peace Garden

The park also offers picturesque picnic areas,  modern campgrounds, hiking trails, and bike paths. There is a wildlife refuge, too, where you are sure to spot deer, moose and other animals in the natural environment. The International Peace Garden is north of Dunseith, North Dakota, at the northern terminus of U.S. Highway 281 in Rolette County. A passport is not required, but recommended to speed the re-entry process when you leave the garden. Telephone: 888-432-6733

Ohio

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Visitors can take in panoramic views of Lake Erie from the tower, and it’s a popular spot to take in a sunrise or sunset.

marblehead-lighthouse ohio most romantic places
Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio

The grounds surrounding the lighthouse offer excellent picnic spots when weather permits. The Marblehead Lighthouse‘s address 110 Lighthouse Drive, Marblehead, Ohio 43440.  Telephone for park office: 419-734-4424

Oklahoma

Visit the tiny town of Medicine Park, known as America’s cobblestone community. The round red cobblestones – an abundant, native geological phenomenon of the area – are found in most structures and give the town with a distinctive look.

medicine-park-oklahoma most romantic places
Medicine Park, Oklahoma

You can take a stroll on scenic trails by Medicine Creek or Bath Lake, dine in fine restaurants, or bask in the glow of the sun setting over the surrounding Wichita Mountains. Make a weekend of it by booking a place to stay, and visiting the shops that sell all manner of arts, crafts and gift wares. Medicine Park is near the cities of Lawton and Fort Sill.

Oregon

Snuggle up and watch a movie together at Cinetopia.  This theater chain offers stadium seating in all of their theaters, but the type of seating varies on which theater you visit. The Living Room, for adults only, offers the most romantic seating with couches and oversized chairs you can share to sit in.

cinetopia-living-room-theater oregon most romantic places
The Living Room theater at Cinetopia

Not only can you lounge on an oversized couch, but you can also order food right from your seat. Cinetopia is in Progress Ridge Townsquare, 12345 SW Horizon Blvd #231, Beaverton, OR 97007. Telephone: 503-597-6900.

Pennsylvania

Proclaim your love at the Smith Memorial Arch’s whispering benches in Philadelphia.

Smith-Memorial-Arch-Fairmount park philadelphia pennsylvania most romantic places
Smith Memorial Arch, Fairmount Park

One sweetheart takes a seat on the stone bench in the curve of the Smith Memorial Arch while the other sits on the bench across the street. When you whisper into the monument, you will be able to clearly hear each other, despite the distance. The Whispering Benches are located in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

Rhode Island

Block Island is located 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, in the Atlantic Ocean.  It has 17 miles of beach, a gorgeous red brick lighthouse, a few sites of historic significance, and many lodging and dining options.

Southeast Lighthouse, Block Island, Rhode Island most romantic places
Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island, Rhode Island

If you’re lucky, you might find one of the 550 glass floats hidden on the island – a perfect souvenir from your romantic day.  Block Island can be reached via ferry boat in Point Judith, Rhode Island.

South Carolina

SkyScapes of America, based in Anderson, provides romantic sunrise balloon rides. Trips are available in spring, summer and fall, and include champagne.

sunset hot air balloon south carolina most romantic places
Fly off into the sunset in a hot air balloon.

The company requires a minimum of four people to make the tour, so if you want to book a private flight – for example, to propose to your partner – be prepared to pay extra. Skyscapes of America operates their balloon rides in Anderson, SC.  Telephone: 864-221-0552.

South Dakota

Book yourself a stay at Audrie’s Bed & Breakfast in Rapid City.  Audrie’s has cozy cabins with all the comforts of home in a tranquil setting.  Most are log cabins, some have hot tubs, and all of them have big comfy beds you won’t want to leave.

audries august haus south dakota most romantic places
August Haus at Audries B&B

What could be more romantic than snuggling under the covers in a tiny log cabin?  Audrie’s Bed & Breakfast’s address is 23029 Thunderhead Falls Road, Rapid City, SD 57702. Telephone: 605-593-9361.

Tennessee

Beautiful caverns, sculpted by nature, and a charming underground lake are yours to explore at The Lost Sea in Sweetwater.

Lost sea sweetwater tennessee most romantic places
The underground lake at The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, TN

Your visit will begin with a guided tour of the caverns in which you will learn about the cavern’s exciting and colorful history.  At the bottom of the cave you will board a glass-bottom boat for an exciting trip on the Lost Sea, America’s Largest underground lake. The address for The Lost Sea is 140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater, TN 37874.  Telephone: 423-337-6616.

Texas

The Riverwalk in San Antonio is not just shops and restaurants, although those are great places to begin a romantic evening.

San Antonio Riverwalk Texas most romantic places
One of the waterfalls tucked away along San Antonio’s Riverwalk

If you walk the length of the Riverwalk, you will find many semi-secluded spots with hidden waterfalls, artwork, or other beautiful settings.  Where better to steal a kiss? The San Antonio Riverwalk is one story below the vehicle-traveled streets of downtown San Antonio.  

Utah

Watch the colors of Bryce Canyon come alive as the sun appears above the horizon at Sunrise Point.  Grab a blanket and some snacks, get up really early, and wait for sunrise to happen.

Bryce Canyon Sunrise Point Utah most romantic places
The view of Bryce Canyon from Sunrise Point (at sunrise)

Bryce Canyon National Park is about 210 miles south of Provo. Telephone: 435-834-5322.

Vermont

The Inn at Round Barn Farm is a beautiful scenic weekend getaway in the Mad River Valley, a unique Vermont destination. The property features ponds, meadows and its own organic garden.

round-barn-inn-vermont most romantic places
The Richardson Room at the Inn at the Round Barn Farm

Each guest room is unique and has views of the surrounding trees, gardens, meadows and mountains. For some extra romance on your weekend vacation, request a room with a gas fireplace and a whirlpool tub. The Inn at Round Barn Farm‘s address is 1661 East Warren Road, Waitsfield, VT  05673. Telephone: 802-496-2276.

Virginia

The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was voted one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in the country.  One of the reasons why is the romantic Crim Dell Bridge.

crim-dell-bridge williamsburg virginia most romantic places
The Crim Dell Bridge on the campus of the College of William and Mary

Legend says that if two lovers cross the bridge together and kiss at the crest of it, they will be together forever. If that couple separates at any point thereafter, however, the lady must throw her ex-lover off of the bridge and into the water to break the curse of being forever single.  Choose wisely!  The Crim Dell Bridge is on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Washington

Nothing says romance like Victorian ginger-bread style architecture, and Port Townsend Washington has got plenty of it.

Port-Townsend washington most romantic places
Port Townsend, Washington

The town is a “Victorian Seaport and Arts Community,” which not only has many beautiful buildings, but also several festivals held throughout the year.  Boating and maritime life are central elements in this port town, with regattas, weekly races and a multitude of recreational opportunities.  And you’ll enjoy all of it against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains. Port Townsend is about 75 miles southwest of Bellingham.

West Virginia

A getaway to the romantic Hillbrook Inn has everything from lodge rooms to cozy cabins and luxury suites.

hillbrook inn.jpg
The Hillbrook Inn in West Virginia

The on-site restaurant offers four- and five-course gourmet dinners.  Your stay includes a gourmet breakfast at no extra charge.  The inn also has a spa, offering facials, massages, and an array of services to pamper and relax you. The inn even offers a proposal package with roses and champagne for couples who get engaged there!  The Hillbrook Inn’s address is 4490 Summit Point Rd Charles Town, WV 25414-4682.  Telephone: 800-304-4223.

Wisconsin

The historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee originally opened in 1893 and continues to operate today.  It has a grand interior with one of the largest Victorian art collections found in any hotel in the world, sweeping staircases, painted ceilings, twinkling chandeliers… you will feel like a royal couple!

pfister-hotel-lobby milwaukee wisconsin most romantic places
The lobby of the Pfister

Be sure to get access to the Pfister Club lounge, which is located on the 23rd floor of the hotel’s expansion tower.  There, you will find views of the city, hot breakfasts, and snacks/drinks throughout the day. The Pfister‘s address is 424 East Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202.  Telephone: 800-558-8222.

Wyoming

In Jackson Hole, you and your love can ride an aerial tram 10,500 feet up to Rendezvous Peak and enjoy waffles at Corbet’s Cabin.

corbets-cabin
Corbet’s Cabin at Rendezvous Peak near Jackson Hole.

Their waffles are famous, and include such gourmet flavor combinations as peanut butter and bacon or Nutella and strawberries. Although the interior of the restaurant lacks romantic ambiance, the tram ride and breathtaking mountain views offer great opportunities to snuggle close and be romantic.  Corbet’s Cabin is atop Rendezvous Peak, Teton County, WY.  Telephone: 307-739-2688.

So, there you have it: one romantic place in each state. I could have included so many others! However, I’d be remiss to end this post without saying that romance is, first and foremost, a state of mind. You don’t need a fancy hotel or a breathtaking view in order to create a romantic moment with your loved one. (But it does help!)  😉

Beachcomber’s Paradise: Metompkin Island, Virginia

Beachcomber’s Paradise: Metompkin Island, Virginia

You Want to Do What?

I’ll be honest, when my husband told me that he wanted me to join him on a long canoe ride the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I was not too excited.  Canoeing is definitely not my kind of fun. Faced with unseasonably warm weather and a promise that I would enjoy it, I begrudgingly agreed.  We began our Saturday morning with a very long drive to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is the third and southernmost part of the Delmarva Peninsula (Del=Delaware, Mar=Maryland, Va=Virginia). The Delmarva Peninsula has the Atlantic Ocean to its east and the Chesapeake Bay to its west.  The Virginia portion of the peninsula is so isolated from the rest of its state that I’ve often wondered if its residents feel like everyone else who calls the state home doesn’t even know they exist.

metompkin island map best seashell beaches
The Eastern Shore of Virginia – everything south of the gray dashed line.

You Want to Go Where?

We drove and drove until we reached an area called Gargatha. There is a public boat ramp at the end of Gargatha Landing Road, and that’s where the water leg of our journey would begin. It would end on Metompkin Island, which I had never heard of before.

metompkin-island-map-zoomed-in best seashell beaches
This map is the zoomed in version of the one above.  In both cases, the red pin marks Metompkin Island – our destination.

So this is fun?

We got the canoe in the water and headed out.  The wind was blowing against us, which is pretty much my worst nightmare when I’m in a canoe.  You have to paddle twice as hard to cover the same distance in the same time.  Basically, for every two strokes, we were only advancing one. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that we kept getting pushed off course.

At one point, we ended up stuck in some tall grasses. We were so tired and frustrated that we decided to just sit there, eat our sandwiches that we had brought with us, and rest for a few minutes. Then it was time to paddle some more. We hadn’t gone much farther when I saw this:

metompkin-island-danger-sign best seashell beaches

This was most definitely not what I wanted to see, especially since there were no details offered. What danger? Dangerous for whom? Hubs assured me that it was for larger boats, not canoes or kayaks. Apparently the water isn’t very deep there.

I could hear a very loud but distant noise and we seemed to be moving toward it. It turned out to be the ocean, which meant we were close! I was so relieved to see the beach ahead of us! We pulled our canoe up on the land and went out to explore.

Surprise! It was worth going after all.

I couldn’t believe how many shells there were – the beach was absolutely littered with them!  It has to be one of the best seashell beaches in the mid-Atlantic, and certainly the best I had ever been on!

best seashell beaches metompkin island virginia

I told Hubs that I hoped I would find a piece of sea glass while we were there. Three steps later, I found myself looking at a spot of cobalt blue off to my left. It was roughly 2 inches square, part of an old glass Milk of Magnesia bottle.

Sadly, I didn’t find any other pieces of sea glass that day.  However, I hit the jackpot when it came to seashells, as you might have guessed. There were clam shells, oyster shells, whelk shells (at least two kinds), periwinkles, scallops, limpet shells, cockle shells, and sea snail shells. I also found some non-shell items like a mermaid’s purse and a whelk egg case.

Fortunately, Hubs thought to bring one of my extra big Thirty-one utility tote bags, because when I got out to the water I was running all over the place and picking up shells like a kid who had (a) never seen a beach and (b) had consumed a week’s worth of sugar. “Oooooohhh, look at this one,”  I’d yell, and hold it out for him to see. I wouldn’t even wait for a reaction before I’d start looking for more.

There were really big shells:

metompkin-island-big-shell best seashell beaches
Women’s size 9 flip flop shown for scale.

And there were tiny little ones:

metompkin-island-tiny-shell best seashell beaches

For some reason, I always said “Awwwww!” whenever I found a tiny one. Like it was a puppy or something.

After just an hour of combing the beach and gathering cool shells, our bag was full – and heavy:

metompkin island bag of shells best seashell beaches

We left it at the canoe and headed off in the opposite direction, determined to not pick up any more shells.

Well, that resolve faded faster than most New Year’s diets! By the time we spent another hour on the beach, all of our pockets were full, we were carrying some in our arms, and we had even filled an empty tortilla chip bag full of shells.  Clearly, it was time to leave. If we had stayed longer, we might not have had room in the canoe for us!

Yeah. It’s a little addictive.

I cleaned, dried, and sorted all of my new shells after I got home. Curious, I decided to count them too. I picked up close to 300 shells! Now, all I have to do is figure out what to do with them.  🙂

Not that a lack of ideas will keep me from going back. It’s at the top of my list for things to do once it gets warm again.

Metompkin Island is part of a 60 mile chain of barrier islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Some of the islands are not public lands, and regulations prohibit certain activities on the public ones. Check before you go.

National Park Service Free Admission Days for 2017

National Park Service Free Admission Days for 2017

US National Parks Free Admission Days 2017

Every year, there are specific days designated for national parks free admission. (However, it is worth noting that the admission charges are not exorbitant to begin with. Typically, national park admission runs $25-ish per car at most, and it’s good for seven days.) So, if you’re traveling near a national park in 2017, these are the days you can visit them for free:

  • January 16th: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 20th: Presidents’ Day
  • April 15th-16th & April 22nd-23rd: National Park Week weekends
  • August 25th: National Park Service birthday
  • September 30th: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11th-12th: Veterans Day weekend

Also, other properties in the National Park system observe the free admission days, including my personal favorite, Assateague Island National Seashore.  The National Park system totals 417 properties, at least one in every state and territory.

Because most of these days fall on a Monday or Friday, it’s the perfect opportunity for an extended weekend trip.  So what are you waiting for?  Be sure to check out a national park this year!

 

 

50 of the Strangest Place Names in America… and How They Came to Be

50 of the Strangest Place Names in America… and How They Came to Be

I love looking at maps and checking out the names of places.  Some of them are unique, while others are funny and a few are just downright weird.  Here are some of my favorites, including how they got their names.

Scratch Ankle, Alabama got its name from train workers who always saw the locals scratching their ankles from mosquito bites.

Mary’s Igloo, Alaska took its name from an Inupiat woman named Mary, who welcomed miners, trappers and others into her home for coffee. During that period, Mary’s Igloo was a transfer point for supplies for the gold fields upriver.

Why, Arizona derives its name from the fact that two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y shape. As a result of Arizona law that required city names to have at least three letters, the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.”

strange town names why arizona

Smackover, Arkansas comes from the name that French settlers gave the town in 1686: “sumac couvert,” which translates to “covered in sumac bushes.”

Weed, California has nothing to do with marijuana or poor landscaping.  Rather, the town gets its name from the founder of the local lumber mill and pioneer Abner Weed, who discovered that the area’s strong winds were helpful in drying lumber. The town motto is “Weed like to welcome you.” (ha ha ha!)

Troublesome, Colorado takes its name from nearby Troublesome Creek.  The creeek got its name because soldiers had difficulty crossing it.

Yeehaw Junction, Florida got its name in the 1950s. Some say the community’s name comes from how locals would yell “Yeehaw!”  Others believe the name is close to the Seminole language word meaning “wolf”. According to town historians and several original newspaper articles, the town’s original name was either “Jackass Junction” or “Jackass Crossing.” That strange town name stemmed from local ranchers ring burros to visit the Desert Inn (the local brothel).

Experiment, Georgia took its name from the University of Georgia’s Agricultural Experiment Station, which is located there.

Dickshooter, Idaho received its name from Dick Shooter, a man who “established a homestead there.”

Goofy Ridge, Illinois was a camp near the river bank where moonshiners and other carousers met weekly to do their drinking. One night, a local game warden declared his relative sobriety by vowing that he could shoot a walnut off the head of a volunteer. The game warden placed the target on the volunteer’s head, aimed his .22 rifle, and shot the nut right off. A witness described the incident as “one damned goofy thing to do,” and the camp was consequently known as Goofy Ridge.

French Lick, Indiana (also hometown of NBA legend Larry Bird) was originally a French trading post built near a spring and salt lick.

strange town names french lick indiana

Fertile, Iowa got its name due to the quality of the soil in the valley there.

Protection, Kansas received its name from a political issue in the 1884 presidential selection.  There was a lot of popular support for a protective tariff, and the town drew its name from that.

Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky got its name because when looking at a map of Ballard County, it resembles a monkey’s head. The town Monkey’s Eyebrow is, of course, where the monkey’s eyebrow would be.

Boring, Maryland‘s name was not chosen for the pace of life, but for postmaster David Boring.

Hell, Michigan offers multiple theories for the origin of its name. My favorite: the original settler, George Reeves, was asked what to name the town when Michigan achieved statehood. His response was a surly, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell for all I care.”

strange town names hell michigan

Sleepy Eye, Minnesota took its name from Sleepy Eye Lake, which was named after Chief Sleepy Eye of the Sioux. Chief Sleepy Eye was known as a compassionate person with droopy eyelids.

Tightwad, Missouri got its name when a store owner cheated a customer, who was a postman, by charging him an extra 50 cents for a better watermelon. (Some sources claim the transaction involved a rooster rather than a watermelon.)

Two Dot, Montana got its name from the cattle brand of George R. Wilson, who donated the land for the town. “Two Dot Wilson” had a cattle brand of two dots, placed side by side on the hip of his cattle.

Searchlight, Nevada (hometown of US Senator Harry Reid) received its when George Frederick Colton was looking for gold in the area in 1897. He supposedly said that it would take a searchlight to find gold ore there.

Loveladies, New Jersey began as a small, 10-acre island in the bay adjacent to a US Life-Saving Station was owned by a man named Thomas Lovelady. The area was called Lovelady’s, which eventually evolved to Loveladies.

strange town names loveladies new jersey

Rush, New York was either named after the rushes growing along the creek, or after Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father of the United States.

Whynot, North Carolina came from residents debating a title for their community. A man asked, “Why not name the town Whynot and let’s go home?” Nearby towns at the time with equally interesting names include Erect, Hemp, and Lonely.

Zap, North Dakota got its name because of a coal mine at the edge of town. The railroad company official in charge of naming new villages knew a coal-mining town in Scotland called Zapp, and thought that would be a good name here. However, he chose to Americanize the name and spelled it with only one “p”.

Pee Pee Township, Ohio took its name from Pee Pee Creek.  The creek got its name when an early settler inscribed his initials (P. P.) on a tree along its banks.

Okay, Oklahoma took its name from the OK Truck Manufacturing Company. Okay? OK.

Idiotville, Oregon got its name because of its remote location.  People said that only an idiot would work there.

Intercourse, Pennsylvania in Amish country, received its name in 1814. In those days, the word ‘intercourse’ meant the social interaction and support shared in the community of faith.

Ninetysix, South Carolina has several different theories for the origin of its name. My favorite is that it is an interpretation of a Welsh expression, “nant-sych,” meaning “dry gulch.”

strange town names ninety-seix south carolina

 

Two Strike, South Dakota received its name in honor of Lakota Chief Two Strike, whose native name was “Nomkahpa,” meaning “Knocks Two Off.” The chief’s claim to fame was that, in a battle with the Utes, he knocked two warriors off their horses with a single blow of his war club.

Sweet Lips, Tennessee received its name from settlers who declared water from a creek to be “sweet to the lips.”  Alternative versions of the story say it was wandering hobos or thirsty Civil War soldiers.

Uncertain, Texas derives its name from surveyors who were attempting to delineate the border between Texas and Louisiana.  They were uncertain as to which side of the line they were on, hence the name.

Humptulips, Washington comes from a local Native American language, meaning ‘hard to pole’, referring to the difficulty local Native Americans had poling their canoes along the Humptulips River.

War, West Virginia took its name from the nearby War Creek.  The creek got its name from the frequent battles between Native Americans near the stream.

strange town names war west virginia

Spread Eagle, Wisconsin got its name from the Spread Eagle chain of lakes. When seen from above, the lakes resemble an eagle with its wings spread.

Travel Trivia

Travel Trivia

I often joke that I can remember a fact that I learned in fifth grade, yet I can’t remember why I walked into another room.  It’s not quite that bad, thankfully, but I do have a knack for holding on to useless knowledge.  So I thought I would share some of my favorite bits of travel trivia.  I hope you find them as interesting as I do!

  • One state in the US has more national parks than the other 4 – California is home to nine national parks. (Alaska is a close second with eight.)
  • The largest active volcano on earth is Mauna Loa, in Hawaii. Its last eruption was in 1984.
  • The Philippines has the only national flag flown differently depending on whether it is at war. The blue portion is on top in times of peace and the red portion is on top during war time.

philippines-flag travel trivia

  • At 5772 miles long, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world. It crosses 3901 bridges.
  • The Republic of Nauru, an island nation in Micronesia, has no capital.
  • South Africa, by contrast, has three capital cities:  one administrative/executive, one legislative, and one judicial.  Fourteen other countries have two capitals.
  • Three countries in the world are completely surrounded by only one other country:  Lesotho, San Marino, and Vatican City. Lesotho lies within the country of South Africa, whereas San Marino and Vatican City are within Italy.
  • In the list of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one still stands today – the Great Pyramid of Giza.

great_pyramid_of_giza travel trivia

  • Many people have heard that the city of Venice Italy is slowly sinking. However, it may surprise them to learn that Mexico City is also sinking – at 10 cm per year, a rate that is ten times faster than that of Venice.
  • The world’s oldest subway is London’s Underground. At its opening in 1863, it measured four miles long. Today, it is approximately 250 miles long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these bits of travel trivia! If you have a fun fact to share, please comment below.

Ten Libraries That Should Be on Every Bibliophile’s Bucket List

Ten Libraries That Should Be on Every Bibliophile’s Bucket List

I love books.  I mean, I pink-puffy-heart love books.  Always have.  I could easily spend hours in a library or book store, even without taking any books home.  Just looking at them, holding them, and thumbing through them is, in my mind, an excellent way to pass the time.

So I was thinking about some of the nicer book stores and libraries I’ve visited, and I thought it would be a great thing to create a travel bucket list for bibliophiles like me.  So here are what I think are ten of the loveliest libraries you could ever hope to step foot in.

1. The Strahov Monastery Library

The Strahov Library in Prague, Czech Republic contains over 200,000 volumes, including over 3,000 manuscripts and 1,500 first prints stored in a special depository. Admission will cost you a little over $4.

strahov-monastery-library-czech-republic

2. The Kelmentinum

Also in Prague, the Klementinum’s Baroque Library Hall is the stunning home of the Czech National Library, housing 20,000 books from the early 17th century onwards. The hall is decorated with magnificent ceiling frescoes, and remains unaltered since the 18th century.  Admission is less than $10 and includes a guided tour of the entire complex, not just the library.

klementinum-czech-national-library

3.  The George Peabody Library

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland houses the George Peabody Library. It is stunning.  The library’s 300,000 volume collection is particularly strong in religion, British art, architecture, topography and history; American history, biography, and literature; Romance languages and literature; history of science; and geography, exploration and travel.  Admission is free, but if you want to have your wedding there (be still my heart – wouldn’t that be amazing?!?!) you will have to rent the facility.

rsz_george_peabody_library_baltimore_md

4.  The Austrian National Library

Located in Vienna, the Austrian National Library is another beauty. It is the largest library in Austria, with 7.4 million items in its various collections. The library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Admission is free.

austrian-national-library-vienna

5.  The Morrin Cultural Center

Located in Quebec, Canada, the Morrin Cultural Center is designed to educate the public about the historic contribution and present-day culture of local English-speakers. The library provides access to English-language books in a largely French-speaking city. Admission is free.

morrin-cultural-center-library-in-quebec

6.  Trinity College Library

The library at the very top of my bucket list is the one at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The ancient Book of Kells is located at this library.  But perhaps even more famous is its Long Room:

trinity-college-library-dublin-ireland

7.  Stuttgart City Library

I am very partial, as you can see, to libraries with multiple levels of shelving, dark-ish interiors, and  art.  It almost feels like a home, inviting you to come inside, relax, and get lost in the pages of a volume.  However, the much more modern Stuttgart City Library also appeals to me for the exact opposite reason… here the books are definitely the stars of the show, and little can distract you from them.  Admission is free.

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8.  Royal Portuguese Library

Okay, back to dark and cozy.  The Royal Portuguese Library in Rio de Janeiro Brazil is just that.  It is the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest in the world.  Its collections include about 9 million items. Admission is free.

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9.  The Mortlock Wing State Library

Located in South Australia, the Mortlock Wing State Library is housed in a stunning Victorian era building built in the French Renaissance style.  It has two galleries and a glass domed roof.  Admission is free.

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10.  The King’s Library

Finally, the King’s Library (part of the British Library, and also called the King George III Collection) in London is not to be missed.  When King George III came to the throne in the mid-eighteenth century, England did not have a proper library.  He set about the business of acquiring book collections and setting up a royal library.  Today, many of the books from his collection are on view to visitors behind UV-filter glass.  Admission is free.

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So, there you have it.  Ten amazing, beautiful libraries that you can visit in your travels around the world.  Have you been to any of them?  Let me know in the comments if you have, or if you think I overlooked an amazing library that should have made the list.

 

The Winchester Mystery House -San Jose, CA

The Winchester Mystery House -San Jose, CA

If you’ve heard of Winchester rifles, you have heard of the same Winchesters who owned the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. Sarah Winchester, the widow of the gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, once called it home.

Upon the death of her husband in 1881, Mrs Winchester became the subject of gossip. One story claimed that a medium in Boston told Mrs Winchester that her family and fortune were haunted by ghosts.  She also said Mrs Winchester would only be able to appease these spirits by moving west and building them a house. Construction began in 1884 and took place day and night, around the clock, until Mrs Winchester passed away in 1922.  If that sounds terribly expensive, don’t worry – the widow Winchester inherited more than $20 million and had an ongoing income of $1000 per day.

Whether or not the story about the Boston medium was true, Mrs Winchester did, in fact, believe that the spirits of people killed by Winchester rifles haunted her family and fortune. As a result of her fear, she would not permit construction on the house to stop. Without the benefit of either architect or blueprints, the house grew and grew until it became a seven story mansion.  In an effort to confuse the evil spirits, the house contains doors and stairs that go nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms and stairs with odd-sized risers. Due to damage from an earthquake in 1906, it is now a four-story building, but the remaining oddly-placed windows, doors, and stairs are still very much intact.

winchester mystery house doors in the floor
A window in the floor

There is a seance room in the mansion, because Mrs Winchester consulted the spirits every night to get building instructions in an ongoing quest to appease them.  The room has only one entrance but three exits. One of the extra doors is a cupboard that opens secretly into the room behind it.  The other opens onto an 8 foot drop into a sink in a kitchen below.

winchester mystery house kitchen

Mrs Winchester had severe arthritis in her feet, so many of the stairs in the house are “easy risers,” small and close to each other.  It was easier for her to climb those.

winchester mystery house crazy little stairs

Unfortunately, the practicality ends there. There is a “goofy staircase,” for instance, to reach the Hayloft on the next floor only 9 feet above. It has 44 steps and seven complete turns.  There is also a staircase that descends seven steps and then rises eleven.

The Grand Ballroom in the mansion was built almost entirely without nails. It cost over $9,000 to complete at a time when an entire house could be built for less than $1,000. Ironically, the ballroom never hosted any social events. The story goes that Mrs. Winchester believed the earthquake of 1906 was a warning from the spirits that she had spent too much money on the front section of the house, which was nearing completion. After the workers repaired the structural damage, she immediately ordered that they seal up the front thirty rooms – including the Grand Ballroom.

Winchester Mystery House ballroom organ
Organ in the Grand Ballroom.  Mrs Winchester was an accomplished musician.

Because of Mrs Winchester’s extravagance, the normal parts of the house are quite lovely.  Some rooms have Tiffany stained glass, others have hand-inlaid parquet floors and trim.  The house also had state-of-the-art modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and push button gas lights.  It’s luxurious and grand, even if it is wacky as all get out.

Winchester Mystery House bedroom
Sarah Winchester’s bedroom, although by some accounts she slept in a different room each night to prevent the evil spirits from finding her.

Winchester Mystery House dining

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One of the stained glass windows at Winchester Mystery House. This window contains 13 colored stones because, in addition to her other quirks, Mrs Winchester had an obsession with the number 13. 

 

The house by the numbers:

  • 24,000 square feet
  • 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms
  • 2 ballrooms (one completed and one unfinished)
  • 47 fireplaces
  • over 10,000 panes of glass
  • 2000 doors
  • 52 skylights
  • 40 staircases
  • 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others)
  • 3 elevators.

The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, CA. Telephone 408-247-2000.  Hours vary by season, so call or check the web site when making your plans.

Sea Glass Scavenging in the US

Sea Glass Scavenging in the US

From May through September, tourists crowd the mid-Atlantic beaches near my home. As a result, looking for sea glass is generally not a fruitful endeavor. In fact, I have only found one piece in 15 years at my local beach.

However, when I went to Port Isaac, Cornwall, I happened to glance down and notice a piece of sea glass when walking through the harbor at low tide. Then another. And another. Within a half an hour, I had two pockets full of sea glass – not to mention a new obsession, fueled by Pinterest. Since I’m not likely to return to Port Isaac any time soon (alas!), I started looking for sea glass destinations on this side of the Atlantic. And I’m happy to report that scavengers can find sea glass in abundance at many locations in the US. Here are what I consider to be the top five.

Eastport Maine

The deepest port on the East Coast, Eastport is located between Cobscook Bay and Passamaquoddy Bay.  The area is notorious for its ripping tides and powerful currents. Plus, if you find you need a change of scenery on your quest, there are two other great sea glass beaches are nearby – Cobscook bay (about 30 minutes drive) and Lubec (about 60 minutes drive).

Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, California

This cove – a former dump site – is completely covered in sea glass, but you must not remove any glass from the northern section of the beach, as it is state park land. However, if you head south at the edge of the bluff, you’ll find a path that leads to another unprotected beach where you may take glass; it’s not as plentiful as on Glass Beach, but it’s legal. When you’re done beach combing, you can visit the International Sea Glass Museum, which is nearby.

looking for sea glass fort bragg california glass beach

Glass Beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai

This glass beach is where you’ll find millions of smooth glass pebbles in blue, aqua, brown, green and occasionally a rare red. It is located near Poipu on Kauai’s southern end, and not the easiest to get to, but for avid collectors, it’s worth the effort.

Spectacle Island, Massachusetts

Spectacle Island is just a ferry ride away from Boston. One of the island’s beaches is loaded with sea glass and pottery from up to 100 years ago. The island’s sea glass may not be as smooth as shards found on an ocean coastline since the currents and surf within Boston Harbor are not as active. The upside is that many pieces of glass, while having smooth edges, will have a lot of their original shape and surface texture. This ini turn leads to easier identification of the sea glass’ origins. It is not uncommon to find decorative, depression-era sea glass here. Unfortunately, removing any of the glass or pottery from this beach is illegal.

Homer, Alaska

Homer is a popular site with sea glass hunters. Be sure to look among the rocks for the sea glass, however, as most people find them there rather than on/in the sand. There are tales of people finding glass floats from Japanese fishing boats on Homer beaches. The floats are absolutely stunning.

looking for sea glass floats alaska beaches

Do you know of any good beaches for finding sea glass not listed here? Comment below and share your discovery!