Category Archives: Historic Interest
Sites, museums, UNESCO, & more
If you loved PBS’s Downton Abbey series and really miss it like I do . . . good news. The Downton Abbey Exhibition in New York City is extended until September 3rd, 2018.
Enough said, enjoy the pictures.
Mix one-part flea market, toss in some high-end china and silver, sprinkle in some Chinese repros, add seasoned sellers, and first-time vendors; now combine with a few thousand treasure-hunters and you have the Brimfield Antique Show. It’s all that and more.
The well-known show is held in the middle of southern Massachusetts three times a year, with the May show billed as the largest (others are during the summer and fall). It rained the two days we attended. And, it was cold; in the 40s. We arrived a little after 8 AM on Saturday morning and had a few hours before the downpour began. Almost immediately, we saw some interesting glasses that my friend contemplated and didn’t buy. Later she regretted her decision. They say at Brimfield “buy it when you see it.” Show officials say that because they are warning the item might sell, but I maintain you will probably never find the booth again.
The event takes over the small town of Brimfield with various show organizers occupying fields throughout the town. Not all shows are open all days and you should navigate the less-than-wonderful websites in advance to get the details. Tents of all sizes offer some protection from the elements, but steady rain did cause quite a few vendors to pack up early and abandon ship. Be prepared to walk; we covered almost six miles in a day.
While it was still dry we literally wandered into the middle of a taping for a HGTV show. There was Lara Spencer (also from Good Morning America) taping her Flea Market Flip show (catch it on HGTV Fridays at 9 PM).
One nice surprise was the quality of the food. It’s an outdoor collection of booths and trucks – but everything we had was good. The lobster roll, chowder, and roast beef we tried were prepared freshly and were delicious. Our first day, we hiked back to the car so we could eat in a dry, warm location.
There is a lot of furniture and items that would be great in a yard or on a patio. We only purchased small items since we had planes to board. For others without easy transport, there are packing/shipping options conveniently located throughout.
Our second day was still very cold and muddy, but the rain held off and made for a much better experience. Throughout both days we enjoyed conversations with the many vendors we met. One of my favorites was the fun-loving couple selling items from unclaimed storage units. And yes, they had been on A&E’s Storage Wars TV show.
We learned about some interesting items, bought a few small treasures of our own and most of all, had fun.
If you go:
Next 2018 shows are July 10-15 and September 6-9.
Download the app: Brimfield Flea Finder
The closest town of note with hotels is Sturbridge, MA; we found nice accommodations in nearby Stonebridge at the Stonebridge Conference Center.
It’s crazy, informative, quirky, and fun, all rolled into one hectic experience.
I look forward every year to The Villagers’ Historic Hunt.
For more than 30 years The Villagers have held their Historic Hunt in various parts of Miami-Dade County. This year, they sent hunters to the far-south Redland area. For those who haven’t explored this part of greater Miami – it’s known for agriculture. The long straight roads are lined with farms and nurseries, many with exotic tropical plants. Here and there are wonderful berry farms and amazing fruit markets. Stopping for a strawberry shake is always at the top of our to-do list when we are anywhere nearby.
But the Hunt didn’t allow any time for malingering – we had just two hours to find 10 sites and answer the clues. Historical gems were still to be found where you would least expect them. We visited the 100+ year-old Redland Farm Life School, Art Deco-inspired Seminole Theater (The Villagers donated funds to restore the iconic marque), and the pink St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church with its gigantic black church bell sitting like a sentry on its front porch.
My favorite find was the Lilly Lawrence Bow Library, now the Homestead Redevelopment Center. To get to this limestone rock building, we drove through the entrance of Pioneer Village – a charming residential area of Homestead I didn’t know existed.
Most hunters were captivated by the beautiful Buddhist Temple (there really was a sign on one of the buildings that proclaimed “Welcome to Buddha Land”). The sprawling campus certainly has an important place in our modern-day history.
We finished in third place, but having so much fun with friends, sharing new experiences, and learning fascinating historical facts, we all felt like winners.
We set out early with a private guide, for a day-long tour of the surrounding area. It was cold and dry as we climbed on what’s known as the “high road” to an elevation more than 9,000’, higher than Santa Fe at just under 7,200’. At first glance, the landscape just looks brown, but we learned to see the subtle shades, desert colors and really appreciate the scenery under the guidance of our very interesting and colorful guide Nat. We visited the well-done small Poeh Museum, in the Pojoaque Pueblo. They are currently getting ready for a huge Smithsonian Exhibit – an attempt to repatriate some of the large, striking pottery indigenous to the area that was removed by white explorers in past decades.
Visitors are thrown back in time passing isolated Spanish villages that have been in existence for more than 200 years. Everyone in our group was touched by our visit to the church known as the “Lourdes of the Southwest” – Santuario de Chimayo. The 200-year-old church is famous for the healing powers of its legendary sacred dirt. It was an emotional visit. On a lighter note, we also entered the neighboring Santo Nino Chapel and found the most enchanting, colorful church I have ever seen – all themed (as its name indicates) around children. It was a happy place.
It was very special for me to visit Taos Pueblo, in existence much as it always has been, for the last 1000 years and now designated a National Historic Landmark. These amazing multi-level structures of clay straw and water, built to blend in with the rise and fall of their surrounding landscape, have defied the sensibilities of many modern-day builders. North and south portions are divided by the Red Willow Creek. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs that day, due to a ceremonial dance that had taken place earlier. Members of the tribe’s decision-makers were in their underground Kivas, and we could only wonder what issues were being discussed or problems solved. The complex was large and I counted at least four Kivas, with dogs waiting patiently (tails wagging) for their owners just outside the ladder entrance. Only about six families live at this UNESCO World Heritage site permanently, with others coming in for special occasions, all tribe activities, and/or to run their small shops. There is no electricity or water. Power is provided by propane or burning wood, water from the nearby river.
The city of Taos itself was like a miniature Santa Fe and we had a wonderful lunch at Doc Martin’s at the Historic Taos Inn. After lunch we needed to walk off a bit, so we got out of our van and walked across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Frankly, I found it a bit terrifying, but then I have a thing about bridges. The gorge was created by a fissure in the earth (not the river) and has provided a natural path for the river to run. You don’t even see the gorge until you are right on the edge, I can only imagine what it would be like to come upon it by horseback at the turn of the 20th century.
We took a very scenic, curvy, sometimes scary, 2.5 miles dirt road to begin dropping down in elevation, eventually following the Rio Grande and heading back towards Santa Fe. Along our route back we were able to see the famous off-the-grid Earthship Biotecture Project, a development that uses all natural and/or recycled materials to build homes, and has created self-sustaining electrical power and water sources. These are no shacks, there are about 200 homes in the area and they sell for hundreds of thousands. It was fun to also pass by the Classical Gas Museum, like a graveyard for old gas pumps and other memorabilia, right out of American Pickers.
Taos Pueblo: Closes for about 5 weeks at some point in the spring (often without much notice) and for various ceremonies or funerals. http://taospueblo.com/
Our terrific local guide: Nat Shipman firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlottesville, Virginia is a beautiful town in a lovely part of the country. They’ve gotten some bad press lately due to divisive protests initiated by outside forces. I hope the coverage doesn’t keep visitors away from this generally genteel community with its gently rolling hills and scattered horse farms. The area also has both feet firmly planted in the history of this country.
The Boar’s Head Inn is an interesting historic hotel, with a history dating back to the 1700’s. The exact location first served as a welcoming spot for travelers in 1759, as an inn named Terrell’s Ordinary. In the early 1800s, Thomas Jefferson convinced a friend to move to the area and purchase the land. Through the 1900s the estate was known as “Birdwood” and was owned by Henry Fonda at one point in its storied past. Today, the remaining 573 acres and facilities are owned by the University of Virginia Foundation.
Of Note: There is no connection with Boar’s Head Provision Company (famous for the meats and cheeses so many of us enjoy). The logo for the resort used to display a boar with a left tusk and the Provision Company a boar with a right tusk. I’ve seen references the Florida-based Provision Company objected to the Inn’s use of the boar artwork, but maybe UVA simply didn’t want to extend the meat-supplier’s brand . . . . in any case, the Inn no longer uses an image of a boar as part of its logo. But you can still see this handsome fellow just inside the front door of the Inn.
With just a few hours to spend in Montréal, we headed for Vieux Montréal, the 375-year-old center of town. City leaders and preservationists have done an excellent job here of keeping historic buildings and celebrating their legacy.
Entering this section of town, you feel like you are transported to Europe with brick streets, grey-stone buildings and sidewalk cafes and shops (500) for every taste. We re-grouped by starting with lunch in a cute café. There are so many, we finally selected one for ambiance and the thought it might rain. Once situated in front of large plate-glass windows with a good view down the main street Rue Saint-Paul, we shared a steak, salad, and pomme frites and watched tourists dodge raindrops.
It had been so many years since we were there, we took in as much as we could before the encroaching thunder “drove” us back to our car. Highlights include the imposing City Hall, dramatic Notre-Dame Basilica, striking Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (now a museum), imposing Marché Bonsecours, now housing trendy shops, and the lively Place Jacques-Cartier marketplace lined with sidewalk cafes and filled with street artists and performers.
The birthplace of the city is by the river and the Old Port area also has parks, rides and very large ROPES-style course fashioned to look like the rigging on an old ship.
There are lots of parking garages on the outskirts and we had no trouble finding one near Chinatown. Day rate was about $15 CA, which was reasonable. It’s hard to find the tourist information centers; I couldn’t even get a nearby site in the Old Town to come up on my iPhone, so be prepared. You can download a map/guide in advance from http://www.vieux.montreal.qc.ca/infos/pdf/attr_09a.pdf.
Note the traffic is awful, in every direction, construction is everywhere. Plan accordingly for it to be busy during peak rush hour times. We actually went to a Costco to get gas for our rental car, only to find out in Canada they require a Costco MasterCard, not Visa like in the U.S.
Le Château Montebello is about an hour from Mont Tremblant, Montreal or Ottawa in the Outaouais region. Situated on the Ottawa/Outaouais River, you feel like you’ve stepped into the pages of a fairy tale. The lobby is huge, yet cozy, with seating groups, game tables and an incredible, massive six-sided fireplace anchoring the center.
It’s the largest log cabin in the world, appropriately known as the “log castle.” Huge black logs make up the distinctive six-sided structure. Trimmed in bright red, the color theme is carried into the lush gardens, and the expansive lawn stretching to the river features plenty of intimate seating areas. The complex is extensive and includes just about every form of recreation you can imagine, from ATVs, golf and swimming in warmer months, to bonfires and ice fishing in the winter. I just want to have hot chocolate and read by one of the fireplaces.
I can’t believe I didn’t know about this place (thank you, Walther). Now a Fairmont hotel, for 40 years it was a private retreat, The Seignory Club, and membership included Prime Ministers, royalty, and Canada’s business elite. Built 1930, workers used 10,000 hand-cut red cedar logs from the forests of British Columbia. It took 3,500 craftsmen 3-4 months (depending on which hotel info you read) to complete. Amazing.
In 1970, it was opened to the public by Canadian Pacific Hotels and has hosted U.S. Presidents Reagan and Bush, as well as celebrities like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
I can just imagine this place at Christmas, in the snow . . . with all those fireplaces roaring.
After a leisurely morning and breakfast, we piled into our van and headed out for the noon Distillery Tour ($14) at Woodford Reserve. It’s a beautiful country drive through horse country, rolling hills and endless fences to Versailles, about half an hour from Lexington.
Another historic property with National Register designation, Woodford’s beautiful gray stone buildings reflect the personality of its Scottish founders. Owned today by the Brown-Forman conglomerate (based in Louisville), we watched them bottle Old Forester, helping a sister-product meet demand.
Learning about the process is interesting. I have been surprised about the smells during the cooking and fermentation process. The closest overall is the smell of banana bread. That was a surprise. We tasted the sour mash today and it was not pleasant. It’s very warm by the 100-year-old cypress fermenting tanks and the mash is a bubbling, sometimes moldy-looking, a grainy, yellow stew; not appetizing.
Once in a Rickhouse you feel as if you could become intoxicated just from the smell. The 10% evaporation during the bourbon’s first year in the barrel (and 3-5% each year after) produces the scent, known as the Angel’s Share.
The Woodford property is sophisticated and sleek with lovely grounds, leafy trees, lots of stone and dramatic triple copper pot stills. A 500-foot-long gravity-fed barrel run is still in place. After our informative tour and tasting, we enjoyed a nice lunch from Glenn’s Creek Café on the back porch before making the one-hour drive to Louisville.
In Louisville, we stayed in the elegant, historic Brown Hotel. Tonight, we enjoyed an amazing Chef’s Table dinner, in the kitchen of the English Grill. Under the stewardship of English Grill Manager Troy Ritchie (who also wears the dual hats of Wine Sommelier and Bourbon Steward), we enjoyed the handiwork of archeologist-turned-chef Dustin Willet, and server Kelly. Troy surprised us with a visit to the rooftop for a beautiful aerial view of Louisville and a sneak peek into the Mohammed Ali Suite, chock-full of Ali memorabilia (for the uninitiated, Ali was from Louisville). It was an amazing evening.
Favorite Fact: Opera singer Lily Pons let her pet lion cub roam free in her suite at The Brown Hotel.
Woodford Reserve: www.woodfordreserve.com
Bourbon Trail: www.kyboubontrail.com
I have been a bourbon drinker since I was a J-school student at the University of Tennessee. Something about the hills, and football . . . . but the love of bourbon stayed with me ever since. Through the last few years, I developed a heightened interest in visiting some of Kentucky’s many distilleries. Finally, with the urging of some good friends, we made it happen.
Eight friends, four days, six distilleries, great food and a lot of laughs later, we headed home.
First stop – Buffalo Trace. The largest property not on the nine-site official Bourbon Trail, Buffalo Trace has deep roots in the community that go back more than 200 years. During the Trace Tour, our third-generation guide, Freddie, kept us entertained while imparting details of the company’s colorful history, as well as facts about the much-sought-after Pappy Van Winkle bourbon now produced here, (they acquired the Van Winkle business in 1972). This is a huge distillery and when their current expansion is finished they will have 1 million 53-gallon barrels in storage warehouses (known as Rickhouses in the distillery world).
On the National Registry of Historic Places, this is one of the only free distillery tours, and runs every hour on the hour. A highlight this day was seeing the by-hand bottling of Blanton’s Single Barrel. I learned about the differences between wheat and rye bourbons and am pretty sure I prefer the wheat. We loved Freddie’s folksy stories and enjoyed learning how to identify a few of the smells and differences between the White Dog Mash (which is really legal moonshine) and their more refined products. We clapped and rubbed hands filled with the clear White Dog, smelling how it changed. Ultimately it proved to be a good skin softener. The group favorite at the tasting was the Bourbon Cream Liqueur handcrafted from small batches of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Delicious, and even better when mixed with root beer. We can’t wait to try it in a root beer float.
Buffalo Trace is located in Frankfort, about 30 minutes from Lexington and the 21C museum hotel, our home for the night. At the hotel, we enjoyed a bourbon flight in the Lockbox bar, under the direction of the hotel’s very capable, bourbon steward. I tasted a few new to me and picked the Wellers 90 (a Buffalo Trace product) as the best of the group. Bourbons can be ordered in a .5, 1.5 or 3 ounce pour, and the assortment, organized by distillery, was impressive. No Pappy Van Winkle, however, at any price.
Favorite Fact: Buffalo Trace kept operating during Prohibition, for “medicinal” purposes. With a doctor’s prescription, you could get a pint every 10 days.
Buffalo Trace: www.buffalotracedistillery.com
Bourbon Trail: www.kyboubontrail.com
If you are a history buff, a business expert, or maybe a little of both, you might enjoy reading my latest articles, written for the Dade Heritage Trust’s bi-annual magazine, Preservation Today. Find out what some of Miami’s oldest businesses have to say about their secret of survival.