May 30, 2014

Cape May, New Jersey: Washington Street Mall; things to do

Washington Street Mall 

Along Washington Street.  Though this downtown became an outdoor mall in 1972, it retains many buildings dating back to the 1800s.  Shops are small and most are one-of-a-kind—no Starbucks here!--and also no cars.

Margie D’s Soda Fountain in Dellas 5 & 10 in Cape May, New Jersey

Dellas 5 & 10  #501-503, (609) 884-4568.  M-F 8am-10pm, Sat-Sun to 11pm; $.  This old-time five-and-dime has been going strong since 1947. 

In back, Margie D’s Soda Fountain serves up old-time milkshakes, sodas, egg creams, grilled cheese, hot dogs, and more.

interior of Stewart’s Restaurant in Cape May, New JerseyStewart’s Restaurant  #500, (609) 849-9255.  Now part of a chain, this sweet spot has been here since 1924.  Hot dogs, burgers, and cheese steaks are the perfect sidekicks for the huge and famous $4.99 root beer float or orange-and-cream float (a bigger one is $5.99). 

●Comparison shop the mall for some fresh saltwater taffy

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 28, 2014

Cape May, New Jersey: Historic Cold Spring Village + Cold Spring Grange Restaurant; things to do + restaurant review

gift shop and general store at Historic Cold Spring Village in Cape May, New Jersey
Historic Cold Spring Village  720 Route 9, 3 mi. N of town, (609) 898-2300, x18.  Tu-Sun 10-4:30, June-Aug, some weekends in spring and fall.  $10, 3-12 $8.  No picnicking. 

Early-American history for the period of 1789 to 1840 is brought to life in this open-air living history museum.  All 26 historic buildings are authentic, though most have been brought in from other sites.  Among them is an operating bakery, an ice cream parlor in an old farm house, and a tavern.  While visiting this invitingly grassy and shady property, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and watch in action a blacksmith, potter, basket maker, and more, plus interact with some farm animals.  My favorite demonstration is a scroll saw velosiped dating from 1900 that pedals like a bicycle.  Themed events occur on weekends and might include a Revolutionary War Encampment or antique show. 

Cold Spring Grange Restaurant  735 Seashore Rd., (609) 884-0114.  People in the know start their visit here with breakfast or lunch at the spacious restaurant inside the Grange Hall.  Built in 1912 to serve as the meeting hall for the Cold Spring Grange #132, this is the only village building standing on its original site.  Breakfast includes French toast and oversize fresh-blueberry pancakes, while lunch brings on sandwiches and chicken pot pie.

Old Grange Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cold Spring Grange Restaurant at Historic Cold Spring Village in Cape May, New Jersey
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images and video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 16, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: The Merrion Hotel; hotel review + restaurant review

The Merrion Hotel  Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.  123 guest rooms and 20 suites.  Health spa.  Restaurant.

guest room at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

This luxurious 5-star hotel was created in 1997 from a row of four meticulously restored 1760s Georgian townhouses.  A contemporary-style Garden Wing was built as an addition.  Situated across the street from government offices and just a 5-minute walk to Grafton Street, the hotel holds one of Ireland’s largest collections of private art—it is 90 per cent Irish artists--and has two lovely period gardens.  In addition to sumptuous bedding and furnishings, my spacious room had a luxurious grey-and-white-marble bathroom with a deep tub/shower; I adored the fragrant Asprey Purple Water amenities.

peat brick held by Ciara Ryan at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

The hotel’s famous Art Tea is served in the Drawing Rooms lounges and is a don’t-miss.  Cozy fires in these period rooms burn fragrant local peat bricks composed of prehistoric decay neatly pressed into log-size rectangles.

An indulgent experience, the tea lasts about two hours and can optionally include Champagne--I recommend that it does!  The tea is poured into pale green-rimed Wedgewood china cups.  Among the choices are black teas, including the Merrion Blend, Earl Grey, and Smoked China; green teas, including mild Jasmine Pearls and delicate fruity Morgentau; fruit infusions, including Granny’s Garden, with notes of rhubarb and Bourbon vanilla; herbal infusions, including Moroccan Mint and Honeybush Orange; and a peachy white tea.  I opted for an herbal blend because I am caffeine sensitive late in the day.

Battenberg cake and scones at Art Tea at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

First comes a tiered tea tray bearing delicious little sandwiches (think oak-smoked Irish salmon on brown soda bread, and cucumber with cream cheese and chives on tomato bread) and both plain and fruit scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, as well as striking brightly colored slices of Battenberg cake with almond icing.

art pastries at Art Tea at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

Later, the piece de resistance arrives--a plate bearing exquisite pastry interpretations of three pieces of art chosen from the large collection displayed throughout the hotel.

The hotel's "Art Tea" catalogue, which depicts the hotel’s art collection, is a part of the experience and a gift to take with you.  The price for tea is E36/US$46. 

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images and video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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May 14, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: The Market Bar; restaurant review

interior of The Market Bar restaurant in Dublin, Ireland

The Market Bar  14a Fade St., Dublin 2, 01 6139094.  L-D daily; $$. 

Situated within a gigantic repurposed warehouse, this gastropub literally hums with energy--drawing you in to its inviting atmosphere of red-brick walls and skylights.  Seating choices abound, but I loved the high banquette positioned under a display of shoe forms at the far end.  The tapas menu offers most items in two sizes.  For two people, even the smallest size can be a hefty serving.

tapas at The Market Bar restaurant in Dublin, Ireland

Our excellent selections included marinated olives (so many that we packed up the leftovers to treat a homeless person), Feta and chorizo salad, stuffed roasted little red peppers, and meatballs in tomato sauce with a side of patatas,  Free WiFi is available throughout, and a smoking area is upstairs. 

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 images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 12, 2014

Living History Museums in Virginia; things to do

costumed soldier at Yorktown Victory Center in Virginia

in Virginia

Brushing up on this country’s history is a snap when you step into the past at one of its many “living history” museums.  Virginia is home to a plethora of them, and with careful planning you can easily fit the best into a week-long vacation.  Read more . . .

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 9, 2014

Sinai, Egypt: St. Catherine's Monastery; things to do

St. Catherine's Monastery, exterior, Egypt

St. Catherine's Monastery/Monastery of St. Catherine  Icon museum: LE50/$9.10/£4.65, payable at the museum inside the monastery walls; camel ride to Elijah’s basin is $12.  Bus ride is 1 1/2 hours from Sharm; 9 hours from Cairo. 

Built in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, this is the oldest continuously functioning Christian monastery and the smallest diocese in the world.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at an area high point at 5,000 feet is reached via a pass through jagged mountains and desolate terrain in the White Desert near the Israel border.  This area was annexed in the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel.  My tour made a pit stop at the “Jewish area,” where a latte cost $4 and the restroom charge was 40 cents.  Scenery includes scattered rocks, windblown trash, and the occasional thorn tree--camels love to nibble at them--and Bedouin encampment.  

St. Catherine's Monastery, burning bush, Egypt

Home to a community of Greek Orthodox monks who guard the compound and operate a nearby guesthouse and restaurant, the monastery is built around the Chapel of the Burning Bush, which dates to the 4th century A.D. and is said to be built on the site of the original biblical burning bush.  Tradition says that the bush growing here today is the very one from which God spoke to Moses.  The Church of St. Catherine/Basilica of the Transfiguration holds a small sampling of the monastery's icons as well as one of the best preserved Byzantine mosaics in the world (it is located over the apse).  Monastery must-sees include a collection of ancient paintings and art, and a museum of holy relics and icons that holds the world’s largest and oldest collection of Byzantine icons. 

trail up Mt. Sinai, at St. Catherine's Monastery, Egypt

If you’d like to climb Mt. Sinai to see the spectacular view and sunrise, you can take a tour or do it on your own.  Plan to depart on the trail by St. Catherine's no later than 2 a.m., and take a flashlight and batteries plus water and a snack.  Riding a camel for the first part of the trip up to Elijah's basin is worth consideration (they are for hire just outside the walls of St. Catherine's); then later you can walk down, which is easier in daylight.  It is cold in the desert at night, so bring heavy clothing even in August.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 7, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: Shopping near Grafton Street; things to do

These shops are all just a few steps from famous Grafton Street.

Avoca  11-13 Suffolk St., just off Grafton St., Dublin 2; +353 1 677 4215.  M-W & Sat 9:30am-6 pm, Thur-F 9:30 am-7 pm, Sun 11 am-6 pm.  Named for the rural Irish village of its origin, Avoca claims to be one of the world's oldest surviving manufacturing companies.  It offers a fetching selection of contemporary Ireland-made clothing and housewares.  On another day, I visited the Wicklow-based woolen mill this store originated from.  Downstairs, Avoca’s wholesome café serves up snacks and take-out, and on the top floor the bright Suffolk Street Café serves breakfast and lunch with a city view.

Avoca shop, pottery, Dublin, Ireland

George's Street Arcade, interior, Dublin, Ireland

George’s Street Arcade  S. Great George’s St., Dublin 2.  M-Sat 9am-6:30 pm, Thur 9am-8pm, Sun noon-6pm.  Very little Victorian-era British architecture has survived in Dublin.  This long, airy shopping arcade constructed of red brick and wrought iron in 1881 is said to be Europe’s oldest shopping center.  Nowadays you’ll find vintage clothing and whatnot in temporary stalls down the middle, and more items in permanent shops along each side.  Lolly and Cooks serves up sweet cupcakes and pastries.

Hodges Figgis bookstore, Dublin, Ireland

Hodges Figgis bookstore  56-58 Dawson St., Dublin 2, 01 677 4754.   This expansive store has been here since 1768.  It purveys an extensive selection of books by Irish authors.

Kilkenny shop, Dublin, Ireland

Kilkenny  6-15 Nassau St., Dublin 2, 00353 1 6777066.  Running the length of the south end of Trinity College, this is the largest emporium of Irish-designed contemporary gifts in Ireland.  A restaurant on the first floor overlooks the grounds of Trinity College.

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin, Ireland

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre  59 South William St., Dublin 2  Set in an elegant Georgian house this was once known for its parties, this shopping center is now known for its unique shops. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 5, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: Trinity College + Book of Kells + Long Room; things to do

entrance to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland
Trinity College  on College St., Dublin 2.  Founded in the 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I, Ireland’s oldest university is situated on the south bank of the River Liffey.  Classical and contemporary buildings adorn this busy campus, whose alumni include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett.
line for The Book of Kells in Dublin, Ireland

The Book of Kells  +1 353 896 2320.  Hours vary seasonally.  €9.  It seems everyone wants to see this ornate illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament.  Dating from the Middle Ages—the 9th century--it was hand-painted and hand-written in Latin by Celtic monks.  Expect a long line.  You might be surprised, as I was, to discover that it is relatively small (11 inches by 15 inches) and written on calfskin.  What makes it especially noteworthy is simply that it survives.  Since 2013, you can see the entire Book of Kells online.

interior of Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland
Old Library  After, continue upstairs to see the Long Room, one of Ireland’s oldest libraries.  It measures 213 feet long by 2 stories high and has a barrel-vaulted ceiling, and its floor-to-ceiling oak-wood bookshelves hold more than 200,000 rare books.  An additional claim to fame is that it is seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

●From late May through September you can spend the night on the Trinity College campus

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top two images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
bottom image ©2014 Gene Meyers