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Downton Abbey Christmas Supper Club – Camp Lucy

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aaaaaaaaOh Glorious Day………it is time for the Downton Abbey Supper Club at Camp Lucy!

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Preparations had been ongoing for weeks for this most anticipated event…

Remember Camp Lucy from the last Supper Club – East Meets West?  CLICK HERE to see that post…

Every time we arrive at the gates of Camp Lucy we feel like Alice going through the Looking Glass into a magical world…

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We had to stop and admire the beautiful creek that runs through Camp Lucy as we crossed the bridge…

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We came to the top of the hill and found our way to the most luxurious cottages on the planet

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Beautiful – Simple – Elegant

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A quick nap and then up to dress for the evening…….

Husband wore is Black Mink for the evening

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Our friends stayed in a Cottage across the way and came over so that we might walk to the festivities together…

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Off to Ian’s Chapel we went.. the original chapel, pavilion, and events hall, along with surrounding gardens, stone terrace, arch, and great lawn are collectively known as Ian’s Chapel to honor Whit’s son who not only sparked this grand adventure, but also left this world far too soon on December 23, 2011….

Upon entering the Great Hall we are whisked into Downton Abbey…

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Elegance, Grace, Charm, Pure Delight….the room a buzz with excitement and conversation…

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What a grand adventure we have embarked upon…

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Our Hosts, Whit and Kim Hanks, so gracious ….

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After delightful cocktails and hors d’oeuvres around the massive fireplace…

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…….we are seated for dinner……be still my heart…

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As the song goes……….”these are a few of my favorite things”

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We begin with Fried Oyster with Celery and Bacon Cream and Caviar and Sorrel Coulis paired with Deviled Quail Egg and Pickled Red Onion

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Followed by……Butternut Sage Bisque with Cranberry Brie Croustade..

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Oh …………did I mention Wine……lovely, lovely Wine…

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The Room was filled with the clinking of glasses and joyous laughter…

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Oh my I was so busy with the wine that I forgot to photograph the salad!!  Watercress and Fennel with Stilton-Leek Tartine and Rhubarb Vinaigrette…

Now the Entrée ….Herb Tournedos of Beef and Truffle (yes I said truffle) Madeira Jus

Asparagus with Hollandaise and (get ready for it) Chive Popovers with Foie Gras Butter

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Oh swoon…….would that this would never end……but alas here comes dessert….

Floating Islands with Shaved Black Plum, Grand Marnier Anglaise and Salted Pistachio Brittle AND Sticky Toffee Pudding..

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……oh yes and did I mention wine….

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What is most delightful about these Supper Clubs at Camp Lucy is that the evening is never rushed and guests walk and mingle during dinner, fully enjoying the experience…..here is husband with our lovey hosts ….

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New friends were made, selfies were taken

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A most lovely and enjoyable Downton Abbey Evening at Camp Lucy

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If you are ever driving on 290 between Johnson City and Austin, Texas …..you MUST stop by Camp Lucy

A Most Magical Place

Just give them a “like” on Facebook and you won’t miss the fun!

CLICK HERE

 

Uncommon Journeys – Canadian Panorama – Across Canada by Train

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It began as dusk approached and gathered us into her arms….we walked to Union Station in Toronto to begin our train trek across Canada.

Excitement abounded……..we were all a dither with expectations of a wondrous trip…

Outside the station was a beautiful sculpture of the Olympic Torch..

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Passengers bound for distant points all converged together…

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The time drawing near for our departure…

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Uncommon Journeys (click here for information) conducts this two week fully guided tour across Canada, but once a year.  We had decided that we would give it a go.  Never had we been on a guided tour before and therefore our apprehension of someone owning our time was great. 

The itinerary for the trip included the following:

Day 1: Arrive Niagra Falls

We had a terrific stay at the Sheraton on the Falls (Canadian Side of Border)

You can read about that part of the Journey by clicking HERE

Day 2: Arrive Toronto

We had a grand time in Toronto the Westin Harbor Castle.  We spent our free day exploring this wonderful city which was highlighted by a welcome dinner at the acclaimed Canyon Creek Grill, a favorite haunt of the great and near-great in Toronto.  You can read about it by clicking HERE

Day 3: Depart Toronto

 The stunning train is a perfect 1950’s time capsule with the famed Vista-dome cars, a real old- fashioned dining car and first rate dining and service.

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The first night we joined for cocktails in the swank, end of train ‘Bullet Lounge’ before our welcome aboard dinner in the art deco diner as we roll west over the Canadian National Railway

We were given a private dining car to enjoy a most marvelous dinner..

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Day 4: En Route

We booked a Suite on the Train which gave us a king sized bed, two baths and two picture windows to enjoy the beautiful Canadian sights.

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It was amazing crossing the Canadian Prairies aboard the Canadian.

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Civilized amenities abound including hot showers, a special lounge just for First Class passengers and the best dining on any train in North America, deluxe train travel at its very best in a manner that has all but vanished. 

Each morning, the staff delivered Breakfast to our Suite…

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We had no desire to leave our suite and the cabin staff was so very attentive to our needs.

We enjoyed reading and before dinner cocktails in our suite, unencumbered by anyone…

 

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Day 5: En Route

We were overnight on train en-route as the Canadian sped across the great prairielands over the Canadian National Railway

The views were breathtaking…

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As part of booking the suite, the Canadians call it the Romance Package……and it was, we had Champagne and Flowers delivered to the suite each evening….

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Day 6: Overnight Jasper

After lunch the Canadian begins its ascent of the eastern slope of the Rockies, a not to be missed spectacle.

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This afternoon, we arrive in gorgeous Jasper and transfer to the Amethyst Lodge for our overnight stay in this magical and unspoiled mountain hamlet. All evening free to relax in this glorious setting

Wandering about the town were Elk…….what fun..

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We had a delightful time wandering about and visiting with locals…

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We dined at Papa George’s and had some of the finest French Cuisine…

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Day 7: Overnight Banff

We spent a stunning day of sightseeing as we traveled to Banff via the Columbia Icefields Parkway

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 We were thrilled to get a ride on the Glacier itself on a ‘Sno- coach’  before our arrival in Banff for our overnight stay

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Day 8: Overnight Banff

We enjoyed a full day in Banff beginning with the gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain

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followed by a visit to the Banff Hot Springs that have made this village famous.

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Later that night we had a special dinner at Le Beaujolais….

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Day 9: Overnight Banff

Another magical day with a sightseeing tour to Yoho National Park that takes in Bridal Veil Falls, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise with all afternoon at leisure to further enjoy Banff

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 A fun “selfie” with our great tour director, Patrick…

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Day 10: Overnight Banff

Our final day in Banff we planned to sleep in and to enjoy Banff at our own pace

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Day 11: Depart for Vancouver

We depart this morning after breakfast bound for Jasper with a special sightseeing tour north over the Icefields Parkway stopping at Peyto Lake and Sunwapta Falls en route….

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Later we board the westbound CANADIAN, featuring spectacular views of the Rockies from its many vista-dome cars, one of the great travel treats in the World.

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Drinks in the classic Observation Lounge are a highlight tonight followed by dinner in the diner as we roll west over the historic Canadian National Railway.

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Day 12: Overnight Vancouver

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The CANADIAN arrived in Vancouver after breakfast time…….we had the most marvelous Duck Confit Eggs Benedict on the Train…

 

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 We enjoyed a brief sightseeing tour of this beautiful city, Canada’s third largest.

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The balance of the day was leisure…. we found a delightful Japanese Restaurant, tucked away on a side street….

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We are anxious to get to sleep, because the next day we would meet Virginia of Bel’ Occhio’s Blog

Day 13: Spend the Day with Virginia

We spent a grand day with Virginia and the Good Husband…read about it CLICK HERE…

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Day 14: Journey Home

Alas, our incredible Canadian Adventure has come to an end….aboard the plane…….

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Home Sweet Home

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I must admit that as I close my eyes each night, the vision of our nightly Champagne comes to mind…

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Hope you enjoyed this trip across Beautiful Canada with us…

Remembering Memorial Day

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Originally posted on Tales and Travels of the Tinman:

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Memorial Day is a Federal holiday in the United States which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.   Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day.  It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in United States national cemetery.

A fact that you should probably know is that African Americans are the reason that Memorial Day even exists in the first place.

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According to Professor David Blight of Yale University, the event began on May 1, 1865.  A group of former slaves in Charleston, SC gave a proper burial to 257 Union soldiers who’d been put…

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Madrid – Spain

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While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  This reason is perhaps why we so love to visit this magnificent city.  We always stay in the old section near the center so that we can walk to all the interesting places.  We find Madrid to be so clean, friendly and fun.

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Madrid  landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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Many contend that the original name of the city was “Ursaria” (“land of bears” in Latin), because of the many bears that were to be found in the nearby forests, which, together with the strawberry tree have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages.  Whatever the derivation of her name, she remains a noble and beautiful city of the world.

When Toledo surrendered to Alfonso VI of León and Castile,

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 Madrid was conquered by Christians in 1085, and it was integrated into the kingdom of Castile as a property of the Crown.

This becomes important to us because King Alfonso has added Augustine’s family (PENALVER) to the Royal Court just before and given them the Cross of St. John, symbol of the Templars as their crest…

….which is also the Flag of the Country of Malta….where the Knights of Templar took possession of the island, a gift of the Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII.,

 including the Knight Penalver from Spain….

The Penalver Family has left their Castle in Penalver, Spain to join King Alfonso IV in re-establishing the Royal City of Madrid….

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Madrid has a beautiful street named after the Penalver’s first Count……

El Calle del Conde de Penalver…

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The perfect place to stop and enjoy a coffee….

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 Christians replaced Muslims in the occupation of the center of the city, while Muslims and Jews settled in the suburbs…

The Calle de Conde de Penalver begins with this iconic street corner…

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On this trip we began and ended our visit to eight countries in Madrid.  From the photos you will see the difference in the weather during those visits.  The initial visit was cold and overcast and the end visit was sunny and fair, as you can see from these photos of the Plaza Mayor…

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We always stay in the Hotel Ibis Prado, which allows us to exit the lobby and find ourselves in the middle of the old city.

The hotel has a Wine Theme, which works perfectly for our tastes!  We always stay on the top floor and have a private balcony, wonderful for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening…

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The colors and art of the hotel are so vibrant and reflect this wonderful city….

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One evening we were sitting on the balcony and suddenly the city erupted in firework, music and shouts from every direction!  We were astounded by the noise.

We had to go out into the streets to see what had transpired………they were PACKED with thousands of happy people…

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Oh……..Madrid had just won the world cup in Soccer ……….how we get it!!  Of course we joined in the fun!

I suppose our favorite part of visiting Madrid is the food……..TAPAS……..TAPAS………TAPAS……..

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One of a fast, fun, favorites is el Museo de Jamon, located near the Plaza Mayor…..there are many other locations; however, this one is always the best…

Here is the inside…………a world of culinary delights…….

We had to order EVERYTHING…..

Then of course there is Meson el Jamon de Gran Via…….with the best croquettes EVER….

………….oh and then there was this place…….I have forgotten the name!

…..but the Serrano Jamon and Seafood Delights were amazing…..

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Perhaps some crepes at Cerveceria Santa Ana…..

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At the heart of the old city lies the Plaza Mayor…..a center of continuous activity and to be entered through these marvelous arches….

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Once inside the world changes………

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the street performers delight and entertain…

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Here are some more shots of this most beautiful city…..

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…..one of our most FANTASTIC dining experience of our lives took place just outside the Plaza Mayor…

El Rincon de Madrid…an unassuming small place with a typical Tapas Bar….the difference…at the end of the bar is a stair case leading down into a vaulted chamber that dates to Knights Templar…

europe2 895The staircase open into this most marvelous dining area with four small tables….the owner shows us around…europe2 891

We have the place to ourselves………..

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The food is wonderful……….but the experience is over-the-top!!

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The Paella from his Grandmother’s recipe……..he said he is still trying to perfect it to what she prepared….a true passion and love for food…

We so love visiting this most wonderful city and look forward to returning again soon….

Grosseto – Italy

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grosetto3You always know when you are entering Tuscany……the surroundings suddenly begin to look sculpted, as if you were walking in a work of art…

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Our destination is Grosseto, whose origins can be traced back to the High Middle Ages.

Grosseto was first mentioned in 803 as a fief of the Counts Aldobrandeschi, in a document recording the assignment of the church of St. George to Ildebrando degli Aldobrandeschi, whose successors were counts of the Grossetana Mark until the end of the 12th century.

Grosseto is enchanting, in part, due to the fact that the city is surrounded by ancient Medicean Walls.

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The walls embrace this beautiful city and no vehicles are allowed!  Peaceful, quiet and simply divine!

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  Grosseto has a long and turbulent history.  In 1137 the city was besieged by German troops, led by duke Henry X of Bavaria, sent by the emperor Lothair III to reinstate his authority over the Aldobrandeschi.

In the following year the bishopric of Roselle was transferred to Grosseto.

In 1151 the citizens swore loyalty to the Siena, and in 1222 the Aldobrandeschi gave the Grossetani the right to have their own podestà, together with three councilors and consuls.

In 1244 the city was reconquered by the Sienese, and its powers, together with all the Aldobrandeschi’s imperial privileges, were transferred to Siena by order of the imperial vicar.

Thereafter Grosseto shared the fortunes of Siena. It became an important stronghold, and the fortress (rocca), the walls and bastions can still be seen today.

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In 1266 and in 1355, Grosseto tried in vain to win freedom from the overlordship of Siena. While Guelph and Ghibelline parties struggled for control of that city, Umberto and Aldobrandino Aldobrandeschi tried to regain Grossetto for their family. The Sienese armies were however victorious, and in 1259 they named a podestà from their city. But Grosseto gained its freedom and in the following year and fought alongside the Florentine forces in the Battle of Montaperti.

Over the next 80 years Grosseto was again occupied, ravaged, excommunicated by Pope Clement IV, freed in a republic led by Maria Scozia Tolomei, besieged by emperor Louis IV and by the antipope Nicholas V in 1328, until it finally submitted to its more powerful neighbour, Siena.

The pestilence of 1348 struck Grosseto hard and by 1369 its population had been reduced to some hundred families. Its territory, moreover, was frequently ravaged, notably in 1447 by Alfons V of Sicily and in 1455 by Jacopo Piccinino.

Sienese rule ended in 1559, when Charles V handed over the whole duchy to Cosimo I de Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany.

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Later you will see that we had the privilege of dining in an ancient Medici building that was an amazing experience.

In 1574 the construction of the Medicean Walls was begun and we are so glad they survived and protect this beautiful city today.

We knew that our visit to Grosseto would include staying at the marvelous Grand Hotel Bastiani

grosetto4We had stayed here once before and fell in love with the old world charm and elegance of the hotel

It is located just inside the ancient Medicean Walls and on the Piazza Gioberti, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Grosseto…

grosetto6I do not usually gush on about hotels; however, this one is on the top of the list of our favorites…

A beautiful staircase….

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europe2 161Our suite was so very luxurious and comfortable…

europe2 163…..and nothing……….nothing beats an Italian Breakfast……..nothing….

europe2 160Okay, enough gushing…………..onto the city….

The Romanesque cathedral, the main monument of the city, is named for its patron St. Lawrence, and was begun at the end of the 13th century, by architect Sozzo Rustichini of Siena.

It was erected over the earlier church of Santa Maria Assunta, it was only finished in the 15th century (mainly due to the continuing struggles against Siena).

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The façade of alternate layers of white and black marble is Romanesque in style, but is almost entirely the result of 16th century and 1816–1855 restorations: it retains decorative parts of the original buildings, including Evangelists’ symbols.

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The layout consists of a Latin cross, with transept and apse.

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The interior has a nave with two aisles, separated by cruciform pilasters. The main artworks are a wondrously carved baptismal font from 1470–1474 and the Madonna delle Grazie by Matteo di Giovanni (1470).

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The campanile (bell tower) was finished in 1402, and restored in 1911.

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The Church of San Francesco is located on the Omonym Square, it was built in the Middle Ages.

It was an important Benedictine convent, before moving to the Franciscans.

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At the center of the cloister stands the characteristic Pozzo della Bufala (Well of the Buffalo) in travertine; another well is located in the square outside the church.

Then there is the Church of San Pietro. the oldest religious building in Grosseto, it was built along the stretch of the Via Aurelia that crossed the center and was originally a plebeian and stational church along the old consular road.

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The beautiful Palazzo Aldobrandeschi whose origins are medieval.  It is now a Neo-Gothic edifice with ogival mullioned windows and merlons in the upper part of the walls.

It houses the seat of the province of Grosseto. The architect was Lorenzo Porciatti.

europe2 165The city is filled with marvelous shops and the people are all so relaxed and friendly……………

…..I do believe it is the absence of vehicles!

europe2 166The weather was perfect during our visit and we enjoyed the moon during the daytime….

europe2 173As we venture about town we stumble upon an ancient structure whose upper portions have collapsed over the years…

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The Ristorante Locanda de Medici de Peccianti…WOW……….we must eat here!

europe2 176We find the entrance into the ancient Medici cellars that now house this fantastic restaurant…

We learn that these ancient cellars were used as bomb shelters during World War II…..

europe2 168We venture into a world of culinary delight….

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Leonardo, the Chef – Owner waits on us!  The pasta is hand made………no machines….

grosetto13The Cheeses are aromatic and delightful…

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grosetto14What a delightful and enchanting visit we have had here in Grosseto…….now it is off to bed to dream of the rest of the journey ahead….

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……….until next time ciao!

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Syracuse – Sicily

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Syracuse  is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse.

The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes.

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This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times,

when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world.

Syracuse is located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Syracuse next to the Ionian Sea.

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The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state.

Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth, exerting influence over the entire Magna Graecia area of which it was the most important city.

Once described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, it later became part of the Roman Republic and Byzantine Empire.

Our trek to Malta took us to this enchanted city for only a brief time…

on our way we passed by Mount Etna,  the tallest active volcano on the European continent, 10,922 feet high.

It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity, which was quite amazing to watch…

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We had met a lovely couple in Messina, who suggested a stop in Syracusa to visit the Piazza Duomo

We stayed in the Hotel Roma which is actually part of the Temple of Athena, now the Syracuse Cathedral….

We arrived at night and the city was magical……with all sorts of promises for daybreak….

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We stayed in the Hotel Roma…….which was once part of the Temple of Athena..

in one section of the hotel you could look though the glass floor and gaze upon the Altar of Atena….quite literally walking on history!

Our room had a marvelous balcony with views of the Piazza Duomo …

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In the morning we dashed off around the corner to see what treasures were hidden at the back of the hotel…

There it was the Temple of Athena, now the Syracusa Cathedral…..

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The charm of this construction of a modern place of worship upon a much more  ancient one is heightened by the fact that some of the columns “trapped” within  the walls have been tilted and twisted by earthquakes that the cathedral has endured  during its history.

In these deformities one can see “frozen” in time the awesome  force of nature that shook Syracuse in its ancient history.

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The temple of Athena in Doric style was erected in the fifth century BC the tyrant Gelo after the victory against the Carthaginians in the Battle of Imera.

The Athenaion had six columns in front, with 14 columns along the sides. Part of the temple is currently visible on the left side of the cathedral…

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In the seventh century the temple was converted into a church by the bishop of the city Zos.

The church, of Byzantine style, was dedicated to the Nativity of Mary.

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The floor dates from the fifteenth century and in 1518 the nave was covered with the wooden ceiling still preserved.

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In the sixteenth century was also erected the bell tower. In 1728 the façade was reconstructed.

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We found being in this structure that survived so many years and served so many people in different capacities so very interesting…

Now off to the markets……..

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The city is brimming with beauty….

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We come upon the Fountain of Diana……

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……so this Siracusa, known to English speakers as Syracuse, was a wonder to behold…..

One of the great ancient capitals of Western civilization, founded in 734 BC by Greek colonists from Corinth which soon grew to rival, and even surpass, Athens in splendor and power.

This magical place became the largest, wealthiest city-state in the West and a bulwark of Greek civilization.

Rulers such as Dionysius filled the courts with Greeks of the highest cultural stature—among them the playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides, and the philosopher Plato

We are left, sitting on the Piazza Duomo, sipping our cappuccino, preparing for the next leg of our journey……

…..suddenly the air if filled with beautiful music…..and there he is…

a young boy sitting on the steps of the Temple of Athena with his accordion….

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……….like a dream, I say…………..like a dream…….

ciao

Barcelona – Spain

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Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona.

After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon.

Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean is located in Barcelona.

The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.

It was going to be difficult to top our experiences in Valencia (http://the-tin-man.com/2013/07/23/chapel-of-the-holy-grail-valencia-spain/), but we felt that we must stop in Barcelona.

The Hotel was quite nice and centrally located.

We immediately found the city to be much more dirty than other cities in Spain.

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I know, I know, I know……everyone raves about Barcelona………

…..and a trip there is not complete without a visit to see the works of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet

Gaudí was a Spanish Catalan architect born in Reus, in the Catalonia region of Spain in 1852.

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Much of Gaudí’s work was marked by his big passions in life: architecture, nature, religion.

Gaudí studied every detail of his creations, integrating into his architecture a series of crafts in which he was skilled: ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry.

He introduced new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as trencadís, made of waste ceramic pieces.

After a few years, under the influence of neo-Gothic art and Oriental techniques, Gaudí became part of the Modernista movement which was reaching its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

His work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by nature.

Gaudí rarely drew detailed plans of his works, instead preferring to create them as three-dimensional scale models and molding the details as he was conceiving them.

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 Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Gaudí’s works reflect his highly individual and distinctive style and are largely concentrated in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, notably his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família, his masterpiece, and still-uncompleted ,

is one of the most visited monuments in Catalonia…..so of course we had to go….

…this is when my realization that I did not like Barcelona began to take form..

The walk to the church was through sidewalks strewn with litter and with people bumping into you and panhandlers in the streets…….so very, very different from any other city I have ever visited in Spain…

Then we come upon the Gaudi masterpiece…………

…a carnival atmosphere, shouting, lines of people, tour buses with loud speakers, walking tour guides with bullhorns……….for the love!!!

Then there is the church…………sorry to all you Gaudi lovers…………it is ugly…

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After that visit, I needed a more traditional building……The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia

The cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century

europe2 130The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city.

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One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square……….

and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity.

The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street, according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulàlia, see much more traditional.

The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.

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The choir stalls retain the coats-of-arms of the knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

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Augustine found that his people had also left their mark in the Cathedral…

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….but wait, there is more…….more Gaudi…now off to Parccount eusebi Guell

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The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Güell, after whom the park was named. It was inspired by the English garden city movement

We did pass this most beautiful entrance to a private home on our walk to the Parc….

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Upon our arrival at the Parc, we were once again taken by the carnival atmosphere…the Parc was filled with vendors, street hawkers and panhandlers….and so very, very dirty and littered with garbage….

…..a World Heritage Site……………..REALLY!

……here are some shots from inside….

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the view was nice….

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Okay off to see more sights….one more Gaudí……

Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera  (meaning the ‘The Quarry’)

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 the building was designed by  Antoni Gaudí and built during the years 1906–1912. It is located at 92, Passeig de Gràcia

Standing outside the balconies reminded me of Mardi Gras masks…

The work of Gaudí is too whimsical, too hobbit-like, too gnomish and just a bit too creepy for me…

Some other sights around town…

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Then we come upon the Torre Agbar.

According to the designer, the shape of the Torre Agbar was inspired by Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona,

by the shape of a geyser rising into the air, and by the male genitalia, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel in association with the Spanish firm B720 Arquitectos and built by Dragados.

Jean Nouvel, in an interview, described it as having a phallic character. 

As a result of its unusual shape, the building is known by several nicknames, such as “el supositori” (the suppository), “l’obús” (the shell) and some more scatological ones.

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It is quite striking at night…

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Well we enjoyed our exploration of Barcelona, as we know it holds great memories for many; however, we did not find it enchanting.

…………off to the Train Station and on to France…….

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Chapel of the Holy Grail – Valencia, Spain

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It was time to board the train from Madrid to Valencia.

The anticipation was great, as we were going to visit The Chapel of The Holy Grail, something I had been looking forward to on this trip.  I could hear the music from the Indiana Jones movies playing in my head, as the train was zipping through the countryside of Spain.

We arrived at  Estacio del Nord in Valencia and began our quest for the Holy Grail

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First a bit about this special city;  Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC.

The city is situated on the banks of the Turia river, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula,  fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea.

VALENCIA

Major monuments include Valencia Cathedral

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 the Torres de Serranos,

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the Torres de Quart,

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the Llotja de la Seda  declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996

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and the City of Arts and Sciences,  an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela

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The Museu de Belles Arts de València houses a large collection of paintings from the 14th to the 18th centuries, including works by Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya, as well as an important series of engravings by Piranesi

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The Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia  was consecrated in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia after the Reconquista, Pere d’Albalat, Archbishop of Tarragona, and was dedicated by order of James I the Conqueror to Saint Mary. It was built over the site of the former Visigothic cathedral, which under the Moors had been turned into a mosque

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The cathedral contains numerous 15th century paintings, some by local artists (such as Jacomart), others by artists from Rome engaged by the Valencian Pope Alexander VI

who, when still a cardinal, made the request to elevate the Valencian See to the rank of metropolitan see, a category granted by Pope Innocent VIII in 1492

Here are a couple by Goya….

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On our way to find the Chapel of the Holy Grail we stumble upon a mummified arm in a glass case…….yikes!

Turns out it is that of Saint Vincent, the Patron Saint of  Valencia.

Tthe story of Saint Vincent the Martyr begins (ends) when they tried to burn him but his body wouldn’t burn so they tied 4 horses to each of his limbs, whipped the horses and let them run, tearing him apart in the middle of the city, so today one of his arms rests in the Cathedral.

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Okay, past the arm and ……..hello …….tombs…

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Okay, move on,  it is time to find the Holy Chalice the most revered in the world right here in one of this cathedral’s chapels;  this chalice has been defended as the true Holy Grail

………and there it is!  The Chapel is filled with the smell of incense that has been burning for hundreds of years…..

Most Christian historians all over the world declare that all their evidence points to this Valencian chalice as the most likely candidate for being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper

It was the official papal chalice for many popes, and has been used by many others, most recently by Pope Benedict XVI, on July 9, 2006

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 This chalice dates from the 1st century, and was given to the cathedral by king Alfonso V of Aragon in 1436.

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It was quite exciting to be in this place and be in the presence of this acclaimed artifact (by now the music score from the Indiana Jones Movies was BLARING inside my head)…..time to move on..

We visited the rest of the Cathedral, which was quite beautiful and filled with amazing artifacts…

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……wow that was a most exciting and interesting visit…now off to explore the city….

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We found Valencia to be incredibly clean and well kept.  The people were so helpful and friendly!

We had heard about Canela, a most well respected and sought after restaurant….

We arrived when the owner was closing and locking the door…………..NO, please let us in, please……guess what …….. he said yes!!

We went upstairs and the art was amazing…

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The meal was the BEST of our entire lifetimes!  A seven course delight…

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the final course ….. Paella con Arroz Negro…..Paella with rice made with squid ink

Over the Top AMAZING

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If you are ever near Vallence….you MUST eat at Canela

But you know the Tin Man………it is now time to search out the sweets Valencia is known for …….CHOCOLATE

We found it at Valor, known for their outstanding Chocolates….right on the Plaza de la Reyna…

Of course we  had the Chocolate Flight with Churros…..

What experiences and delights we enjoyed in beautiful Valencia….but now it is time to move on…until next time…Adios

Zurich, Switzerland

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We love to travel Europe by Train………the Global Eurorail Pass allows the freedom to explore where and when you want….

We decided to take the train across Switzerland and enjoy this beautiful country…

As we approached Zurich and this is what we saw out the window, we knew we were in for a real treat……..

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The city was beautiful and pristine………..

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Zurich  is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in north-central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich.

turiThe municipality has approximately 390,000 inhabitants, and the Zurich metropolitan area 1.83 million.   Zurich is a hub for railways, roads, and air traffic.

 Both Zurich Airport and railway station are the largest and busiest in the country.

The Train Station is clean, organized and beautiful….

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Permanently settled for around 2000 years, the history of Zurich goes back to its founding by the Romans, who, in 15 BC, called it Turicum.

However, early settlements have been found dating back more than 6400 years ago.   During the Middle Ages Zurich gained the independent and privileged status of imperial immediacy and, in 1519, was the place of origin and center of the Protestant Reformation in German-speaking Switzerland, led by Ulrich Zwingli.

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Zurich is a leading global city and among the world’s largest financial centers.

The city is home to a large number of financial institutions and banking giants. Also, most of the research and development centers are concentrated in Zurich and the low rate of tax attracts overseas companies to set up their headquarters there.

Monocle’s 2012 “Quality of Life Survey” ranked Zurich first on a list of the top 25 cities in the world.   According to several surveys from 2006 to 2008, Zurich was named the city with the best quality of life in the world as well as the wealthiest city in Europe.

We could believe that as we had our coffee on the Limmat River, which flows through downtown…

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……..and Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate……….EVERYWHERE….

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The people were all so happy and friendly, the city filled with nooks and crannies ……

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We loved wandering this beautiful city and enjoying all the fountains..

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We had lunch at  Restaurant Schipfe on the banks of the Limmat River, can you imagine a river running through a major city in the United States …………this clean!

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The people at the restaurant were all so friendly… and the food divine…

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After lunch we continued to explore Marvelous Zurich…..

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We visited the Fraumünster Church built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women which was founded in 853 by Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard.

He endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zurich, Uri, and the Albis forest, and granted the convent immunity, placing it under his direct authority.
Today, it belongs to the Swiss Reformed Church.

The Windows were designed by Marc Chagall and installed in 1970…..

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I loved the  décor in our hotel, the Ibis Zurich West ………the bar and the restaurant…..

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….but with all wonderful trips…………it is time to MOOve on……

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What’s in a Name

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Ever wondered how some towns got their names?

Let’s take a look at some American towns and follow the timeline back to see how their were named

Here we go……….

Peculiar, Missouri

Peculiar is near the Kansas border, just south of Kansas City and currently has around 1,800 residents

In 1868 the Postmaster, E.T. Thomson wanted to name the town Excelsior; however, he was informed that the name was already taken

Mr. Thomson reapplied with several other names, only to be informed that they too were taken.

He finally told postal officials to assign the town a unique name, one that was “sort of peculiar”

Well that is the rest of the story….

 

 
Lizard Lick, North Carolina

Located 16 mines east of Raleigh this town has been home of lizard races since 1972

Back in the day, the area was home to a federally operated liquor still…

…lizards were brought in to cut down on the number of insects…

Traveling salesmen noticed the creatures and dubbed the community

Lizard Lick

Hell, Michigan

In 1841, George Reeves, an early settler was asked what the town should be called……..you guessed it..

He said “You can call it “Hell” if you want to…..

This is the place people refer to when they say “When Hell freezes over”

In the Winter, Highland Lake dam often gets icy enough to stop the water flow

There are several festivals in Hell…..

Satan’s Holidays in the summer

Run to Hell – a road race

and, of course, in  October is Halloween in Hell

Chicken, Alaska

This small village, near the Canadian border is named for a bird….no not the chicken…….the ptarmigan

You see this grouse-like creature who somewhat resembles a chicken from a distance is the Alaska State Bird

in the late 1800s the area was settled by gold miners and in 1902 the town decided to incorporate

Problem was that no one knew how to spell ptarmigan so they went with chicken

The town now has a full-time population of about 30 people and mail delivery is every Tuesday and Friday

There is a saloon, but no telephones or central plumbing

Noodle, Texas

Texas slang in the 1800s included “noodle” to mean “nothing”

In the late 1800s that is what settlers found when they arrived at this locale near Abilene

Noodle now proudly contains two churches, a store and an old sign

Embarrass, Minnesota

This town, located 205 miles north of St. Paul, is typically the coldest spot in the continental United States.

Midwinter Temperatures are often minus 60F

It snows in June

The name comes from the original French settlers who used the French word for obstacle – embarrass – to describe the hardships they faced in the territory

Slapout, Alabama

In the early 1900s, the town grocer, Oscar Peeples, would tell his customers he was “slapout” of items his customers requested that were not in stock

The town is located in central Alabama, north of Montgomery and is not just a crossroads

A church, a bank, barber shop and the remains of Mr. Peeples old store, slapout of everything

Joe, Montana

Well you guessed this one…..

In 1993, when Joe Montana signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, a Missouri radio station urged the residents of Ismay, near the North Dakota border, to change their town’s name to Joe

All of the citizens, yes all 22 of them, voted in favor to change the name

Money raised from the selling of “Joe Montana” souvenirs has enabled the town to build a new fire station

Spot, Tennessee

This really is just a spot in the road an hour west of Nashville

The town acquired its name from a sawmill operator who was asked to give the area a name by the postal authorities….as he was sitting with pen in hand to respond to the request……..

wait for the drumroll……..yes, a spot of ink dropped to the stationary and ………..well the rest is history

Satan’s Kingdom, Vermont

Home of a beautiful river gorge, with towering cliffs this area has been known as Satan’s Kingdom since the 1820s

There are many theories about how the town got its name, one of the most prevalent is….

There was a Native American Tribe leader named…….Satan

another is that the area was inhabited by many of society’s outcasts and therefore became known as Satan’s Kingdom

 

I will leave you with some other Town Signs ……. you can research the origin of the names on your own……