Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Love A Parade!

April 2006 - State # 20 - Maryland

I had so been looking forward to visiting this state because it meant we could spend time with our dear friends who live there...but who knew that they would hold a parade for us!
Actually, this is a photo of Noon Formation.  Usually held in Tecumseh Court on the campus of the Naval Academy in Annapolis.  The midshipmen line up before marching in for the noon meal.  When you visit Annapolis, plan your trip in order to see this.  Because of high security, guided tours are the only way to visit (unless you have a son or daughter enrolled).  So get there in time for an 11:00 tour and your guide will make sure to have you at Tecumseh Court for this patriotic spectacle.  More on this later, but let's visit those dear friends first...

I met all of these fine folks back in 1998 when Nordstrom opened its first store in the southeast at Perimeter Mall here in Atlanta. Haley (left) actually hired me in 1997 from the War Room at the Ravinia.  Matt (center) was the manager of Logistics and later, Mary, now his wife, was the Visual Display manager for the Mall of Georgia Nordstrom.  And Jose (right) was a server in the now retired PUB inside the Menswear department at Perimeter Mall.

Full Disclosure:  We have visited Maryland on many occasions.  So, not all of the photos posted here are from 2006 (like this shot of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore from Nancy & Steve's boat).  I had to meet Haley's first child after all, the adorable Lily.  And later, her second, the gorgeous Grace.  And we always have a great time with her husband, Mike!

And in 2009 our daughter Jill moved to Richmond, Virginia; and on our visits to see her we always made time for a road trip to MarylandMary and Matt were married in Virginia three weeks after 9/11 and afterwards they settled in Columbia, Maryland(Now they live in Florida - we'll have to double back to State # 9!)

Visits to Maryland allowed us to meet their beautiful daughters, Sarah and Abigail.  And all of these girls were able to meet the "Purse Lady."

And Jose settled in Annapolis after opening Nordstrom's first store in Richmond.

That explains our numerous trips to State # 20...but in 2006, on our official visit in Alphabetical Order, we played the role of tourist in addition to visiting our friends.

This is a photo of sunset at Chesapeake Bay.  And we took it from the balcony of our room at Great Oak Manor.  This inn is located in Chestertown on the Eastern Shore and we recommend this hotel.  As you drive the country road leading to Great Oak Manor, you can imagine what the once-massive estate encompassed when it drew luminaries such as Guy Lombardo, Robert Mitchum and Jack Kennedy.  The road segues from sunny to serenely tree-lined and shaded as you approach, and then the inn suddenly comes into view.  Reminiscent of European manor homes, Great Oak Manor stands majestic at the top of a circular drive.

After breakfast here, we drove the Eastern Shore to the town of St. Michael's.  Since its founding in the late 1700's, this lovely village has depended on the water for its living.  Most of all - Shipbuilding.  Starting with log canoes, then waterman boats and racing boats.  Bugeyes and Baltimore clippers were built here, too.  In fact, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is the best attraction in town.  You can actually talk with the folks who are building the wooden boats right before your eyes!

The Hooper Strait Lighthouse, now standing on Navy Point, was originally built in 1879 to light the way for boats passing through the shallow, dangerous shoals of Hooper Strait, a thoroughfare for boats bound from the Chesapeake Bay across Tangier Sound to Deals Island or places along the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers.  As a "screwpile" lighthouse, it is built on special iron pilings which were tipped with a screw that could be turned into the muddy bottom for a depth of 10 feet or more.

The other marvelous thing to do in this quaint village is SHOPPING!  St. Michael's has a lovely concentration of eye-catching shops along Talbot Street.  Our favorite - OPHIUROIDEA.  This is a lovely establishment filled with unique gifts from local artisans.  (I love that!)  And if you have a sweet tooth you will enjoy ST. MICHAEL'S CANDY & GIFTS.  Delicious handmade chocolates and Baltimore's own Lee's ice cream and a variety of other sweet novelties.

Of course, we expected to see beaches and shoreline in a place called the Eastern Shore, but we did NOT expect to be driving along serenely beautiful roads through the crops of Maryland.  Seriously, the roads were literally ribbons of asphalt through perfectly symmetrical rows of grapevines, peach trees, corn, tomatoes, peanuts and various other crops.  And we enjoyed numerous stops at roadside stands for a fresh treat.  People usually visit this part of Maryland for the beaches; but if you are here during the spring or fall, you'll really miss out if you don't take a short detour and travel these back roads.

Our final day on the Eastern Shore we planned to tour the U.S Naval Academy at Annapolis, see the Noon Formation and spend the rest of the day in Historic Annapolis.  Tucked behind the historic district, standing proudly on the shores of the Severn River, the U.S. Naval Academy has been educating future naval officers for nearly 170 years.

Visitors to "the Yard" can tour the grounds, see a sample midshipman's room  (do NOT call them cadets)  and visit the crypt of John Paul Jones  ("I have not yet begun to fight!")  in the chapel undercroft.  On the tour you will also see Bancroft Hall, the largest dorm in the world and the magnificent chapel, which boasts very unusual windows.  Stained glass on the inside, outside you'll only see blue glass!  And although you can't actually see it in my photo (top left) one entire pew is reserved with an iron candelabra for missing sailors...we were in reverential awe.  Did you know all students here are on "scholarship?"  They pay zero in tuition!  Instead they spend 5 years in the Navy or Marine Corps to earn their education.  After visiting here, we decided this is where our federal taxes go - really, our money pays tuition for a few worthy midshipmen here - not treadmills for shrimp!

On the day we visited, much to our delight, they were holding a Formal Dress Parade for the review of then current National Security Advisor to the President, Stephen Hadley.  And we were invited to stay as long as we did not leave the campus.  So, we had lunch at the Officer's Club(The manager gave me a leather bound menu.)  And toured the museum in Prebel Hall, which is full of items depicting naval history while waiting for the afternoon event.  The parade was stunningly beautiful and made us proud to be Americans!

At each Formal Dress Parade held at Worden Field these 5 sailboats  (all midshipmen learn to sail on these boats)  are launched and sail past the parade grounds while cannons are fired.  STUNNING!  Blue and yellow sails out and white sails back home...this is so POSH?

Posh    This comes from the days of Britain's East India Company.  Aboard the ships that sailed from England to India, the most comfortable quarters were found on the PORT side of the ship going OUT to India  (Because the sun rose in the east, thus warming that side of the ship first, and setting in the west, which cooled that area earlier from the heat of the day).    Returning from India to England, the more comfortable quarters were now on the opposite side of the ship for the same reason, or STARBOARD HOME.  Naturally, these quarters were much more expensive for passengers traveling by ship.  Thus, only the more wealthy families could afford to have the initials P.O.S.H.  (Port Out, Starboard Home)  entered into the ship's log book when they made their reservations.

So, our visit to Historic Annapolis, the capitol of Maryland, was brief.  We only had time for some shopping  (of course)  and dinner.  We really hope to return in the future just to see Annapolis (What do you say, Jose?)

That's all I have to say about our visit to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

Next time...

Family & Friends in Maryland

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Massa - chew - setts

We complEATly expected Cape Cod and Boston to be delicious dining destinations and we were not disappointed.  While planning our visit to State # 21, so many of our friends recommended their favorite places and we are grateful for their advice.  And I did my usual research on the finest restaurants and local favorites.  So in regards to dining destinations, Massachusetts was excellent! 

Following is a list of dining destinations we enjoyed while in Cape Cod:

Twenty Eight Atlantic at Wequassett Resort
28 Atlantic
At the Wequassett Inn and Resort in Chatham
Have the local Bluefish with Saffron Smoked Mussel Risotto!

Lobster Pot
Overlooking historic Provincetown Harbor
Before the Lobster - have Tim's Grand Prize Winning Clam Chowder (say chow-dah)

The Mews Restaurant & Cafe
Tables right on the beach of Provincetown Harbor
Try the Duck Breast and Shrimp with a Popover!

The Dan'l Webster Inn
In the center of Sandwich (the town - not your lunch)
Classic dishes in a classic setting - choose from four dining rooms - we liked the Tavern!

Please come to Boston...
and when you sure to eat here:

Clio Restaurant
Inside the Eliot Hotel (which we strongly recommend)
Start with a specialty cocktail and try the LN2 Gazpacho!
(Frozen tableside with liquid nitrogen)

Pizzeria Regina
Original location in Boston's North End
Serving the best pizza since 1926!

Mike's Pastry
Best Cannoli in the North End!

Grill 23 & Bar
In the Back Bay
Boston's best steakhouse for 25 years!

Originally on Newbury Street now resides in Park Square
Guy's favorite meal in Boston - Delicious homemade sausage!
(Good News: Davio's recently opened in Atlanta's Phipps Plaza)

Sel de la Terre Restaurant
Sel de la Terre
Long Wharf location - next to the New England Aquarium
Brunch here is divine thanks to the onsite Boulangerie!


If this restaurant had a motto it might be - "We aim to please and we always hit our target!"  Indeed, we dined here twice during our stay in Boston.  First, I should tell you that since we dined here L'Espalier has moved into a shiny new space on Boylston Street.  Part of our incredible dining experience was the beautiful dining room housed in an 1886 townhouse on Gloucester Street but I am certain you will enjoy the new restaurant as well.  (Check out the photos on their website - we would choose the Library.)

And the 4 new dining rooms now situated adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel still have the same incredible owner/chef - Frank McClelland.


At the heart of Chef McClelland’s menus of New England flavors with French interpretation is Apple Street Farm, his organic farm in Essex, Massachusetts that is the primary source of heirloom produce and proteins for L’Espalier and his trio of casual Sel de la Terre bistros. The James Beard chef and cookbook author (Wine Mondays) views his life as a farmer-restaurateur as being on-trend. By living this life from his youth, he was early to the farm-to-table or “locavore” dining philosophy.

This dining destination stands out in our memory as one of the finest experiences in our travels.  We had reservations for dinner on a Wednesday evening.  The service was extraordinary; the food magnificent to both the eyes and the palate and while the space was very formal (I love that) it was also warm and inviting.  In the language of baseball...this was a Grand Slam!  (We toured Fenway the next morning.)

As I mentioned, we loved L'Espalier so much that when our server informed us of their Tea Service on weekends, we hastily made reservations for Saturday.  But let's get back to you have learned from this blog we usually like to order different dishes when we enjoy fine dining, but on this evening Chef McClelland offered the Autumn Degustation Menu.  What the...?

Degustation is a culinary term meaning a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods and focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company.  We have enjoyed a small number of degustation menus in some of this country's finest restaurants.  They all share a common theme - the portions are small; there are usually 8 to 10 courses and everyone at the table must order the same menu.  So, we both enjoyed the same 8 courses with wine pairings and we did not choose a winner for each course.  This entire dining experience was an ultimate winner!


This was the Autumn Degustation Menu for the evening of
27 September 2006:

Amuse Bouche
(Sorry...I wasn't writing a food blog in 2006!)

Butter poached Maine Lobster with fresh corn and Anaheim pepper tamale
1999 Westport Rivers "Cuvee L'Espalier, Brut, Westport, Massachusetts

Terrine de foie gras with black mission figs and Sauternes gelee
2004 Domaine de L'Arjolle, "Lyre", Muscat, Cotes de Thongue, France

Roasted Hawaiian candy striped marlin with chickpea-saffron puree;
smoked cockle vinaigrette
2004 Guillot, Macon Cruzille, Burgundy

Grilled River Rock Farm beef striploin;
autumn succotash and crab fritter
2001 Rubbisow-Sargent, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

Grand Fromage
Offley 10 Year Tawny Port

Apple cider consomme with aged gouda and lemon zest

Valrhona dark chocolate mille-feuille
2005 Banfi, "Rosa Regale", Brachetto D'Acqui, Italy

That following Saturday, instead of lunch we enjoyed L'Espalier's Fantasy Tea at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.  Growing up in New Hampshire, Chef McClelland fondly remembers having tea with his grandparents on their gentleman's farm.  Since then he has always enjoyed the art of conversation and sharing delicious bites around the table.  Happily we enjoyed this fine tradition of a full tea experience as guests at L'Espalier.  We noticed several tables with parents and their extremely well behaved children taking part in this lovely custom.  And once we saw the menu it was easy to understand the large number of children in this fine dining establishment.

Fantasy Tea Party

Red Riding Hood’s Basket
L'Espalier's tea sandwiches:

Smoked salmon Ham and Cabot Clothbound cheese
Cucumber with cream cheese
Lobster salad on house-made pretzel roll
Egg salad on brioche

L’Espalier pastries

Make Way for Ducklings

L’Espalier espresso cream swan
Cranberry ginger scones with orange confit

Chocolate decadence cake
Panna cotta with blackberry foam
Coconut macaroons
Tropical mousse cake

Three Blind Mice

An assortment of cheeses from L’Espalier’s award-winning cheese tray served with traditional accompaniments

Tea Selections

English "Keemun Hao Ya"

Finest Earl Grey
Jade Oolong "Ti Kuan Yin"
Linden Flower
Wild Mint
Chamomile Herbal
Crimson Berry
Coffee or decaffeinated

Guess which one I ordered...(you are correct)...I had "Make Way for Ducklings" and Guy enjoyed the "Three Blind Mice."  Did you know that famous duckling storybook was written about the ducks in the Boston Public Garden?

So, that is all I have to say about State # 21 - Massachusetts. 
Before I go I would like to thank the following people:

  • Scott L - Thanks for all of your travel advice and restaurant recommendations.
  • Anita & Stephen - Thanks for keeping the home fires (not) burning.
  • Andy - Thanks for the "Sherpa" service to the airport.
  • Lynn - Thanks for pointing out the Peabody Museum in Salem.
  • Jennifer & Mark - Thanks for the recommendations on dining in the North End.
  • Scott M - Thanks for the great tickets to Fenway.
  • Most of the photos in this post came from our camera; but the gorgeous professional photos came from each of these restaurant's websites...thank you for inspiring me to take better photos!

Massachusetts was one of our favorite states thus far. 
We are looking forward to returning one day on our "Ancestry Tour."

Next time:

"I love a Parade!"
State # 20 - Maryland

Monday, July 4, 2011

Please Come to Boston

Boston (say Bah-stiin) bills itself as "America's Walking City" and walking is indeed the best way to get around.  Established in 1630, the city mostly reflects the original layout; a seemingly haphazard plan that even confuses longtime residents.  Old Boston is filled with alleys, dead-ends, one way streets, streets that change names and streets named after extinct landmarks.  On the bright side, every wrong turn leads you to an interesting sight you might have missed if the city was laid out logically! 

After a quiet breakfast in our suite we got rid of that car!  Armed with directions from a city bus driver, we found the Alamo office and set off to discover Boston.  How about this view from the Alamo garage?

Boston Bay
We spent our first day in Boston wandering through 2 wonderful museums.  Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) was an individualist before strong-willed women were acceptable in Boston society.  She built an exquisite home in the style of a 15th-century Venetian palace and filled it with European, American and Asian paintings and sculpture.  Besides the amazing sky-lit courtyard filled with gorgeous plants and flowers, you will see works by Titian, Botticelli, Matisse, Raphael, Rembrandt and Mrs. Gardner's friends - James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent.

Titian's Europa
(Widely considered to be one of the most important Renaissance paintings in the U.S.)

Opened to the public after her death, Mrs. Gardner's last will and testament forbid any changes to the arrangement of her art in the museum.  You should know that even before 9/11 this museum was taking security very seriously.  No cameras are allowed inside and anything you bring in will be searched.  Let me tell you why...

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole thirteen works of art from its galleries.  The stolen artworks include The Concert by Vermeer (one of only 34 known works by Vermeer in the world), three works by Rembrandt including The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (the artist’s only known seascape) and a postage-stamp-sized Self-Portrait, five drawings by Degas, Chez Tortoni by Manet, a landscape painting formerly attributed to Rembrandt, and two objects, an ancient Chinese Ku and a finial in the shape of an eagle from a Napoleonic flag.

Several empty frames hang in the Dutch Room gallery, both in homage to the missing works and as a placeholder for their eventual return. 

The stolen artworks have not yet been returned to the museum. However, the investigation remains an open, active case and a top priority of the museum and of the FBI Art Recovery Squad. Some media estimates have put the value of the stolen artworks at as much as $500 million, making the theft the largest single property theft in recorded history.

An offer of a reward from the Gardner Museum of up to $5 million dollars
for information leading to the recovery of the stolen artwork remains open.

I wonder if  James "Whitey" Bulger knows where they are? 
(Boston crime boss that was captured last month after a 16 year manhunt)

After a lovely lunch at The Gardner Cafe, we took a short walk (just a couple of blocks) to the Museum of Fine Art - Boston.  This is a must see for anyone traveling to this wonderful city.  The collections are magnificent and the special exhibits make art accessible to all.  We guarantee you will find something interesting to see here!

This is the look I'm going for in my living room!

Can you tell the difference?

Our second day in Boston was all about HISTORY.  We took a walk to the Boston Common to purchase tickets for the Old Town Trolley.  Along the way we stopped by Firehouse # 33 to pick up a souvenir T-shirt from the very handsome firefighters!  (What?...Guy had a gorgeous nurse in New Hampshire!)

The Freedom Trail is a 3-mile line of red paint or red brick in the sidewalk that links 16 historic sights, many of them associated with the American Revolution.  Instead of taking the 2-hour guided walking tour we opted for a day pass on the trolley...(we recommend this way because you can get on and off as much as you like.)  And you must get off to eat PIZZA in the North End!

Our favorites along the Freedom Trail included:

Boston Common
See the memorial to Col. Robert Shaw & Massachusetts's Colored Regiment
(You saw the movie "Glory" right?)

Massachusetts's State House
Samuel Adams laid the cornerstone in 1795
(Then he had a beer!)

Faneuil Hall
Known as the "Cradle of Liberty"
(All those speeches you had to memorize in American History class were given here!)

Old North Church
Officially named Christ Church, it's the oldest church building in Boston - 1723
(Paul Revere made his "midnight ride" after seeing the light here!)

At each of the 16 historic sites you are offered individual guided tours...pick the ones you are most interested in and enjoy.  I prefer churches and government buildings with very tall ceilings...because of my phobia!  (From the Latin word "phobus" meaning - Seriously, you're scared of that?)

Full disclosure:  I have a problem with old buildings filled with antiques.  I can smell death.  I remember clearly, when I was 13 years old, our family visited Washington, DC.  After touring Ford's Theater, we were guided across the street to see the actual blood-stained pillow (encased in glass) that Lincoln's wounded head laid upon.  That did it for me!  I literally ran out of that old a mouse trapped in a maze...and vomited into a trash bin on the sidewalk.  For the rest of the vacation, I was allowed to stay outside, with one of my Dad's handkerchiefs; which he had sprinkled with his after shave.  To this day, I love the smell of Old Spice!

I was delighted to see all the beautiful and innovative ways these city dwellers displayed flowers and plants.  The brownstone pictured above is in Louisburg Square...the most expensive real estate in Boston.  Their next door neighbor is Senator John Kerry.  You will not see a photo of his home here because his garden was pitiful... (dead plants in the pots and weeds in the window boxes.)  I wonder if his Homeowners Association has made him aware of the Covenants!
When you visit Boston, plan on spending time in the North End, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods.  Home to waves of immigrants over the years; it was predominantly Italian for most of the 20th century, but now it is only half Italian-American.  Nevertheless, you will hear Italian spoken in the streets and find dozens of Italian restaurants, cafes and bakeries.   And depending on your timing, you will hear shouts of joy for the Italian soccer team from crowds gathered around TVs.

Our third day in this historical city was all about the Red Sox and shopping. Since it was drizzling rain, we took a $6 cab ride to Fenway Park for a morning tour.  This is a must when you visit Boston!  Steeped in legendary history, Fenway is the oldest ballpark in the country.  (1912)  The tour includes a visit to the Red Sox Hall of Fame and the Press Box...and a walk on the Warning Track, if weather permits.  Since it was raining, our guide took us into the hand-operated scoreboard that fronts the "Green Monster" (37-foot left field wall) instead of on the field.  BONUS!

And even though it was 2006, these fans were still celebrating their 2004 World Series Championship win! had been 86 years since their last pennant win.  After our tour, we took another short cab ride to an incredible lunch in the Back Bay neighborhood at an Italian Steakhouse called Davio's(More about this place in my next post!)  We lingered long enough over cappuccino for the rain to stop and then we went shopping for a treasure to bring home.

That evening we returned to Fenway Park for the Red Sox game versus the Baltimore Orioles.  First, you should know that these are the most expensive tickets in Major League Baseball.  You should also know the seats are tiny.  And the crowds have a reputation for being rowdy.  With all that being said, order your tickets early...nearly every game in Boston is a sell-out.  Thankfully, we know the owner of Second Ticket and he got us great seats on late notice.  (6 rows above the bullpen)  When you go, be sure to have Sausage & Peppers from a street cart along Yawkey Way.

After years of hearing comments about Red Sox fans, we expected everyone to be rowdy in a New England sort of way.  So, we decided to keep a low profile and be Red Sox fans for the night.  We had the best time ever at a baseball game!  First of all, these folks are ALL about baseball.  They stay in their seats and watch the game from beginning to end.  Vendors do NOT sell beer from aisle to aisle; you have to leave your seat for it, so we didn't have to endure any loud drunks.  (Have you been to Wrigley?)  Guy was impressed with the posted and announced Rules of Fenway Etiquette!
The young couple seated on Guy's left (he was from Boston and she was from New York) got engaged!  But she told me "the children would be raised Yankee."  We had so much fun with the folks seated around us, we all walked out of the ballpark together.  In fact, we were enjoying their company so much...we walked right past our hotel!

The next day we started off by visiting 180 Marlborough Street...this brownstone was Guy's father's childhood home.  We will have to return to Boston one day for a Genealogy Tour.  In 2010, after joining I discovered Guy's grandfather is buried here.
After browsing and shopping along Newbury Street and Charles Street, we ducked into what everyone recognizes as "the Cheers bar" but was once called The Bull & Finch Pub.  (See the first photo of this post.)  The location in Beacon Hill looks absolutely nothing like "Sam Malone's" bar.  (There is a spin-off Cheers bar in Faneuil Hall if you want photos.)  This one is a neighborhood bar and has good pub grub, drinks and souvenirs.

In the afternoon we took a short cab ride to Harvard Square.  Guy's grandfather was a graduate of Harvard, along with his good friend Theodore Roosevelt.  We wandered around this beautiful campus and bought a few souvenirs before heading back for afternoon tea at L' Espalier(More on this restaurant in my next post.)  And I did NOT wear jeans to tea!

That evening we had tickets for Blue Man Group at the Charles Playhouse.  Who knew a performance could be so much fun?  Thankfully, we were in the 16th row...the first 10 rows were given plastic ponchos to wear.  These blue men get messy!  After the performance, while trying to hail a cab, we got caught up in a crowd on Charles Street seemingly waiting for a parade.  And...oh say, what did we see?  Red, white and blue buses, fully lit on the inside, carrying all of the Congressional Medal of Honor winners in formal dress!  Absolutely perfect ending to our final evening in Boston - the birthplace of the AMERICAN REVOLUTION!

Finally, our flight home wasn't until 4 in the afternoon on a Sunday, so we took a quiet, leisurely stroll through the Boston Public Gardens and had Sunday brunch in a lovely French bistro.

Next time:


(or all about a surprisingly delicious dining destination)