Category Archives: Travels

Visiting Virginia – Delta – British Columbia – Canada

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You have heard Tin Man speak of his love many times…….

Virginia of Bel’ Occhio’s Blog

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When Tin Man started his blog one of his first followers was Virginia…a friendship blossomed….

In the Spring of 2014 Tin Man rode a train across the entire country of Canada and ended the journey by spending the day with Virginia and the Good Husband…

You can read about that trip HERE  

This time The Tin Man was able to spend three delicious days with Virginia and The Good Husband..

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Virginia’s home is Paris….

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We had a delightful time on the front patio, surrounded by beautiful flowers…….

sipping bubbly, noshing and waving to the neighbors as they drove by…..

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Then one day ………off to the beach we went…..

but first …..the red lipstick from Theadora of Paris: People, Places and Bling…to match the cute red handbag also from Theadora….

Our Theadora, as she has become to known, lives in Paris and is another blogger who has become part of the family…

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Off to a friend’s home for an evening party….

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Magic and Delight abound when one is in the presence of Virginia….

Of course……..culinary delights abound…..Aromatic, Marvelous Chicken Curry…..Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Sauce…..Cheese Puffs…..oh swoon….

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Of course these delights are picked fresh from the garden………

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The Back Porch is the perfect place to take an afternoon nap or enjoy a good book….

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A pleasant evening of companionship and conversation….

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The Good Husband builds model Ships….intricate and amazing work….

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Forever the beautiful ambiance and culinary delights….

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Three Days of Pure Delight….Tin Man rested in the lap of Buddha receiving blessings for the journey home…

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The Bengal Lounge – Fairmont Empress – Victoria – British Colombia

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Located within the walls of the beautiful Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Colombia

is hidden a jewel of the old world.

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The Bengal Lounge…….

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Drawing inspiration from Queen Victoria’s role as the Empress of India,

this colonial style lounge is known throughout Victoria for its authentic curry buffet and signature cocktail menu

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The hallway to the Bengal is adorned with beautiful fabric tapestries from India…

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Cocktail and martini aficionados will appreciate The Bengal Lounge’s extensive selection of signature drinks with such names as the Bengal Tiger, Ivory Hunter and Tiger’s Kiss, to name just a few!  

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For a meal, English Fish and Chips seemed appropriate….

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The Bengal Lounge is quite a proper sort of place to sip on a cocktail, not at all like the casual sports bars found in the U.S.

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The Beautiful Bengal Tiger Fur Hangs over the fireplace, a reminder of times gone by…

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Tin Man was reminded of Madonna’s song: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun when he spied these two…evidently a cocktail too many…hehehehhe

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Pure Delight at every turn inside this Grande Dame of a Hotel….

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The Empress Hotel – Victoria – British Colombia – Canada

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When it was time for Tin Man to celebrate his 60th Birthday there was no hesitation as to where the event would take place……..The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Colombia.  After a brief stay in Seattle, it was time to take the ferry over to Victoria Island….

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Canada 072………and then after a peaceful voyage, we arrived and our beautiful Empress Hotel…..the Edwardian, château-style hotel was designed by Francis Rattenbury for Canadian Pacific Hotels as a terminus hotel for Canadian Pacific’s steamship line, whose main terminal was just a block away.   The hotel was to serve businesspeople and visitors to Victoria, but later as Canadian Pacific ceased its passenger services to the city, the hotel was successfully remarketed as a resort to tourists. Victoria emerged as a tourist destination beginning in the mid-to-late 1920s.

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The hotel was built between 1904 and 1908, opening for service in that year. Additional wings were added between 1909 and 1914, and in 1928.

During this time, The Empress (as it was known then) played hostess to kings, queens, movie stars and many famous people.

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In 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales waltzed into the dawn in its Crystal Ballroom – an event considered by Victorians to be of such importance that almost 50 years later, the obituaries of elderly ladies would appear under headlines such as, ‘Mrs. Thornley-Hall Dies. Prince of Wales Singled Her Out.’

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In the 1930s, Shirley Temple arrived accompanied by her parents amid rumors that she had fled from California because of kidnapping threats, a story borne from the presence of two huge bodyguards who took the room opposite hers and always left their door open.

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On May 30, 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended a luncheon at the Empress, as guests of the Provincial Government.

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For many years the hotel did not have a sign above the front entrance. The strong emotions the hotel evoked in Victorians and its guests and protectors is exemplified in the statement made by an irate gentleman, as workers raised the sign above the front entrance:

‘Anyone who doesn’t know this is The Empress shouldn’t be staying here.’

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The hotel has received several accolades including Travel + Leisure Best Hotels of the World and recognized on Conde Nast Gold List. The hotel became Victoria’s first Five Green Key hotel as acknowledged by the Hotel Association of Canada for sustainability practices.

The Tin Man booked a Fairmont Gold Two Bedroom – Two Bath Suite at The Empress, as it was to be a grand celebration….

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The Suite faced the harbor and as it went around the corner also faced the Government Buildings…..Marvelous views….The Tin Man could often been seen at the window waving to tourists below as if he were English Royalty…

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The Gold Level Suite provided a lovely lounge in which Tin Man relaxed everyday and had a delightful breakfast…..

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With Beautiful Views of the Harbor…and occasionally a visitor…….. 

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In the Afternoon, Tin Man enjoyed Tea in the Lounge……never leaving the Gold Floor to explore for the first several days……

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The Morning of his 60th Birthday, Tin Man was awakened by the doorbell and a bellman delivered a most beautiful gift,  a Fairmont Robe, monogrammed in gold with Tin Man’s initials………….

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The Tin Man scampered down the hall to enjoy breakfast in the lounge

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…..upon return ……look at the most delightful gift left in his suite….

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The Afternoon of his Birthday, Tin Man decided it was time to leave the floor and explore the hotel…….but first….

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Yes, that is correct, time for the Formal Afternoon Tea, served in the Tea Room of the Hotel….

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 A time honoured tradition for over a century, the world renowned tea lobby of Fairmont Empress has served England’s most beloved ritual and Victoria’s grandest tradition of Afternoon Tea to famed royalty, celebrities and dignitaries alike.

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Surrounded by rich chintz fabrics, antiqued tapestries and rugs, elegant wing back chairs, vintage furnishings and hand-carved tables, the picturesque backdrop of the Inner Harbour provides the quintessential Victoria experience to all who grace Afternoon Tea.
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Chef and Team prepare house-made signature Empress scones, delectable pastries and tea sweets daily, reflecting locally sourced ingredients to ensure an authentically memorable experience.

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From the original blend of The Empress Tea created specifically for Fairmont Empress, served in dainty William Edwards china and sterling silver service to the enchanting ambiance of the live piano

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After Tea, a walk about the Hotel and Grounds….

Oh …….the most beautiful Flowers…..

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 Canada 132Canada 134Attached to The Empress is the Victoria Conference Center….oh beautiful architecture….

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The Empress holds many charms to behold….

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Pure Magical Delight…..a most marvelous adventure.

The Staff of The Empress was over-the-top attentive and worked to ensure that everything was perfect.

Duane LaChance, the Concierge Gold Manager, was absolutely incredible and made this a most memorable stay.

So, it was time to enjoy the last beautiful sunset from our suite and continue our adventure…..

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Pike Place Market – Seattle – Washington

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………and so the journey began…off to the Emerald City

It had been years since the Tin Man had ventured to one of his favorite cities, The Emerald City : Seattle

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 We found a most interesting hotel……The Arctic Club…

The site of the Arctic building was originally owned by Joseph R. Lewis, the Chief Justice of Washington Territory and a direct descendant of George Washington‘s sister Betty.

The home he built on the site in 1875 was considered one of the finest in Seattle at the time. The house was replaced in 1892 by the three-story, brick Seattle Theatre, designed by the firm of Saunders and Lawton.

The newly formed Rainier Club occupied the office portion of the building until it and the theater were replaced by the Arctic Club Building in 1916.

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The Arctic Club was formed in 1908 by successful veterans of the Klondike Gold Rush.

The existing Alaska Club was merged that year into the Arctic Club. In Seattle, it was a fraternal men’s club for businessmen with Gold Rush or Alaska connections.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a lovely welcoming Cheese and Fruit Tray….perfect after a long day of travel…

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The Accommodations were very masculine and warm…the hotel had an old world charm.

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Canada 015The Northern Lights Room is over 100 years old and features a domed, stained glass ceiling that uses natural light to showcase the beautiful stained glass …

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A nice walk along the waterfront to Pike Place Market..

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YAY…….arrived at Pike Place Market…….

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It has been a while since Tin Man visited and he was quite disappointed to see that the market and his favorite surrounding fooderies have become so commercialized….the hometown feel is gone…..but it was nice remembering the good ole days….

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An old time favorite….used to be called the Russian Bakery now……Piroshky, Piroshky…

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A long line with que out in the street……this once unknown now a tourist destination…the fare much smaller and not as delightful…

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Oh well……….it was still fun……..and then the Turkish Delight Shoppe……oh…closed today….oh well…

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Even the Emerald City has changed…….time to sit for some Gelato….

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Back to The Arctic Club to Club Juno for a nice dinner and some chardonnay…. 

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All though things have changed and Tin Man missed the simpler times, it was a lovely visit

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Mille Fiori – Chihuly Exhibit – Seattle – Washington

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While trekking through the Emerald City, Seattle, Washington, we decided to visit the Mille Fiori Exhibit by Chihuly. Mille Fiori, Italian for a thousand flowers, is an exhibit in which Chiluly assembles gardens of glass that include many of his series of works. First exhibited in 2003 at the Tacoma Art Museum, the techniques used to create the Fiori rely less on tools and more on the use of fire, gravity and centrifugal force. The artist has said that memories of his mother’s garden serve as inspiration for these “gardens of glass.”

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Upon arriving at the Exhibit Entrance, neatly tucked under the Space Needle….

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….. one is greeted by delightful flowers…

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……taking its cues from the light and architecture of the museum’s largest gallery designed by acclaimed architect Antoine Predock. Like the large, sculptural work Chihuly has installed throughout the world, this work is specific to the building and far different from all previous work.

Canada 352Canada 320The blending of the art glass with plants and flowers in the garden was breathtaking…..

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A Beautiful and Restful Café allows guest to relax in the shade while enjoying the beauty that surrounds them…

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Then the Magnificent Exhibit within the Hall itself………..stunning ……..

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Simply AMAZING…….and DELIGHTFUL….

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Somewhere………….over the Rainbow…. 

St. Helena – California

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The City of St. Helena is located in the center of the world famous wine growing Napa Valley, 65 miles north of San Francisco. The area was settled in 1834 as part of General Vallejo’s land grant. The City of St. Helena was incorporated as a City on March 24, 1876 and reincorporated on May 14, 1889.

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The St. Helena area was home to the Wappo people, a Yukian-speaking group who were the area’s earliest inhabitants. The local Callajomanes tribelet village was called Annakotanoma or Anakanoma and was located where Sulphur Creek meets the Napa River. The earliest white settlers in St. Helena were John York, who lived on what is now Dean York Lane, and David Hudson, whose house is still located at Beringer Winery.

We loved the quaint feel of the town and so appreciated that the old buildings were kept in their original manner

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We were planning to have lunch at  the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

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….but alas…..they were closed!!!!

We came upon COOK and decided that the place was perfect for a lunch break..

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We loved the décor and found the wait staff to be relaxed and friendly..

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The Menu was quite lovely and promised all sorts of delights…

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The Kitchen was open so the Tin Man went to investigate the happenings…

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A cozy table was found and the culinary journey began…

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The faux trophy in the lobby was beautiful…

california 326 Of course then it was off to the streets to find a sweet something…….

Oh look…….The Model Bakery……..

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It is lovely here in St. Helena ……but we must get back to Napa and have dinner….

Beautiful Vineyards ……..

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So……….finally some food!……….Dinner in downtown Napa..at Celadon..in the Historic Napa Mill

Lovely rustic environment and first class service…..

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Sangria…….Soup………Crab Cakes……….Mussels……..ah perfection…

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It has been a day filled with culinary delights…….hope you are ready for a nap……..I am!

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Acacia Winery – Carneros Valley

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Our travels to Acacia began with a text from a friend in the wine business. 

He informed us that he had obtained passage on a private industry only tour and tasting of the Acacia Winery as a surprise for us on our visit to the wine country of California! 

We drove through some of the most beautiful vineyards on our way to Acacia…

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The beauty that surrounded us was so very peaceful and serene..

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We came upon the Acacia Winery, quietly tucked onto a hillside…Acacia Vineyard is located in the heart of the Carneros district off “the beaten path” very close to the Napa/Sonoma Marsh Wildlife area. The one thing you notice when you step out of the car at their parking lot is how absolutely quiet it is, especially when you compare this to the main part of Napa Valley where we spend considerable time. In this part of the Carneros, the roads are small but there is usually little traffic – bicyclists love the Carneros for this very reason, not to mention its scenic postcard views. You are surrounded by rolling hills – a sea of vineyards.

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Headed by general partner Mike Richmond and winemaker Larry Brooks, Acacia debuted in 1979 and quickly distinguished itself as one of the first California wineries to offer vineyard-designate Pinot Noir. Fruit was sourced locally from Carneros growers until the mid-1990s, when Acacia began acquiring properties surrounding the winery. Today these holdings comprise the 150-acre estate that produces Acacia Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

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In 1986, Acacia was sold to Chalone. Since the 1990s, Acacia has focused on Chardonnay wines, as well as some sparkling wine.

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Acacia also bottles under the Caviste label. The annual production is around 55,000 cases.

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In 2005, the Chalone Wine Group was purchased by beverage giant Diageo.

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When we arrive the vineyard workers were filling barrels with Pinot Noir

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We were given a tasting of all the wines produced by Acacia

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Our host allowed me to roam about the barrel room to explore on my own and take a few pictures…..It was delightful being the only people in the winery!

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I love the smell of French Oak and fermenting grapes…..that heady fragrance that promises delightful wines in the future….

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The Acacia visit was as calm and peaceful as the drive to the vineyard.  Their name comes from a single Acacia tree which is still growing in between the rows of grapes in one of their vineyards. This tree is located just down the road 

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Mission San Francisco Solano – Sonoma, California

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Mission San Francisco Solano was the 21st, last and northernmost mission in Alta California.

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 It was the only mission built in Alta California after Mexico gained independence from Spain. The difficulty of its beginning demonstrates the confusion resulting from that change in governance.

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You see, the California Governor wanted a robust Mexican presence north of the San Francisco Bay to keep the Russians who had established Fort Ross on the Pacific coast from moving further inland. A young Franciscan friar from Mission San Francisco de Asis wanted to move to a location with a better climate and access to a larger number of potential converts.

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Here is a photograph of the Mission in 1910

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and one taken by the Tin Man……….notice that the building is very much the same today and the original bell stands where it always has…

 

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The Mission was successful given its short eleven year life but was smaller in number of converts and with lower productivity and diversity of industries than the older California missions.

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The mission building is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park and is located in the city of Sonoma, California.    

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Sonoma is considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano, so Tin Man considers this a most important historic landmark!

We so enjoyed walking about and exploring the historic site…..alas we were the only ones inside, the trinket shops were packed but there seemed to be no interest in history today……

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On July 4, 1823 the soldiers placed a large redwood cross on the place in the Sonoma Valley where they expected the ‘new’ Mission San Francisco de Asis to be established. Then they celebrated Mass to consecrate the location. They then returned south to begin gathering men and materials to begin construction.

Tin Man imagined marvelous breads baking in this oven all those years ago….

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Beginning in October, 1823 Fr. Altimira had the opportunity to build his new mission at the location he chose but since Mission San Francisco de Asís would remain open this Mission needed a different patron saint. Altimira chose San Francisco Solano, a 17th-century Franciscan missionary to South America.    His company of soldiers and neophytes set about building all the facilities needed in a California mission. His annual report for 1823 listed no baptisms, one marriage, one funeral.

Father Altimira was admonished by investigating church officials for his over-use of flogging. Fearful of a native uprising, he left for San Rafael and then moved on to Mission Buenaventura in southern California. As a result of growing Mexican pride, there was considerable sentiment in favor of forcing out priests who were Spanish-born. In 1828, Father Altimira voluntarily returned to his native Spain.
His replacement was Father Buenaventura Fortini, an older priest, who was both a fine administrator and a kindly man of the cloth, who gained the respect and trust of the Indian population.

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Adirondacks – Leaf Peeping : Saratoga – North Creek Train Trip

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We decided to venture off to New England to do some serious Leaf Peeping…

Included in that trip was a stay in the Adirondacks and a Train Ride on the Saratoga – North Creek Railway

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This train is also known as the Polar Express Train.  It is extremely popular and we booked our seats months in advance. 

We booked the Diamond Class Service, which gets you a very comfortable seat in the Glass Domed Cars and access to Full Wait Staff and Food……..you know how important those two items are to The Tin Man….

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The Train Ride from Saratoga to North Creek takes about two to three hours and is an amazing adventure…

Bloody Marys and Omelets were in order…

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The Sights along the way were breathtaking…as the train traveled along the Hudson River….

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It was just marvelous to watch all the beautiful scenery go by..

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The entire time the train staff was attending to our every wish and desire….

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Our visit to the Village of North Creek was quite fun……I went to the local hair salon, Trimmers, and got my hair cut while visiting with the most delightful characters…….in just one hour we had reimagined the entire town and designed all sorts of festivals!!

The train trip back was just as thrilling as the one up….

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Sorry for all the large pictures; however, the beauty was too great to insert small pics!

What a delight this train ride was………the day was just grand on all avenues….

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Until next time………bon voyage…..

Sweet Baby Vineyard – New Hampshire

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We ran off to New England to catch a glimpse of the Beautiful Autumn Colors

A stop at some wineries along the way seemed a pleasant way to spend the afternoon

Sweet Baby Vineyard  is located in East Kingston, New Hampshire, near Powwow Pond

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Sweet Baby offers handcrafted quality wines that have won numerous medals in international wine competitions

All of the produce for the fruit wines comes from New Hampshire farms. 

The grapes are grown in their own vineyard and purchased from fabulous vineyards around the world. 

All of the fruits and grapes are picked at their peak and then pressed and fermented to create a truly fabulous wine. 

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Having come from a family of wine makers, I always enjoy the smell of a winery that is not overly commercial or sterile

When we entered the facility there was no one around so we made our way upstairs, past a window lined with the winning bottles…

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Upon entering the Tasting Room we were greeted by a lovely young woman and browsed among the wines to decide which ones would be in our tasting…..

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We were given such cute tasting glasses to keep as mementos, in fact they now reside in our Wine Cellar, along with a bottle of Apple – Cranberry Wine from Sweet Baby Vineyard….

Along with the Wines to Taste, we munched upon a large block of Vermont White Cheddar Cheese………pure delights…

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What a lovely visit we had.  If you are ever out Leaf Peeping or just running about this area of New Hampshire, drop in.  You will have a lovely time and enjoy some great wines.

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