Tag Archive | Travel

Start Spreading the News…

We finally made it to the Big Apple! Having never actually been there myself, it was exciting planning our road trip.  We made many stops a long the way, but the big feature was a couple days in the big city. 

New York City is probably one of the most well known cities in the world and is one of the largest cities I have ever personally seen!  When you look out over the city, it is endless!  The activity never stops.  Every street corner has something going on!

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Getting off the train and walking into the main terminal of Grand Central Station is truly an impressive thing.  For years, I have seen Grand Central featured in movies, on television and in magazines.  But walking into the main area of the terminal is an unforgettable experience! 

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We bought “off-peak” tickets and even during those “off-peak” times, the crowds were so big compared to what we normally see in our little mountain town.  People rushing from one track to another with bags, briefcases, luggage and what not.  Others running an Olympic sprint and still others were like us, tourists, perhaps there for the very first time who couldn’t help but look up at the beauty of this building.

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In 1831 the first rail line into the City was formed.  It was called the New York and Harlem Railroad.  But it wasn’t until the following year when service began at the terminal located at 4th Avenue and 23rd Street.  And in 1869 when Vanderbilt purchased land between 42nd and 48th Streets and Madison Avenue and Lexington construction of a depot building began of what would become Grand Central Station.

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Years of development and growth followed and in 1903 the winning design submitted by the firm of Reed and Stern became the blueprint for the Grand Central Terminal that we know today.  As with many large projects, nepotism sometimes takes precedence and this was no different.  Reed’s sister was married to New York Central’s vice president of construction, William Wilgua.  After the competition an appeal was filed by New York architects Warren and Westmore, of which Warren was none other than the cousin of New York Central’s chairman, William Vanderbilt.  Needless to say, after winning his “appeal” the firm of Warren and Westmore teamed up with Reed and Stern to become co-architects of the construction of Grand Central Station.

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Ten years of construction and Grand Central Station officially opened in February 1913.  Despite the fact that construction was not completely finished, the terminal still functioned without missing a beat.  It wasn’t until years later after decades of ill repair and neglect that the terminal got a restoration.  In 1998 a complete overhaul began and in 2012, the terminal had finally been restored to the original splendor that it had once been.  This year the Terminal celebrates 100 years and if you ask me, I think it is still a grand place!  And despite whatever challenges it went through at the initial stages, I enjoyed my time visiting it!

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We walked around a little before heading over to the big double decker buses.  The sites and sounds were constant and the characters that we saw was sometimes quite hilarious! From Elvis to the young man dancing in his heels and underwear, there is always something going on.

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We loved the street markets and it suddenly hit me that New York City is made up mostly of small business.  Everyone you look, is small business.  Sure, the big stores and big corporations have their space, but when you go into the different neighborhoods, there is no Wal-Mart or big grocery store chain.  It’s small business running the neighborhoods.  That’s what America is all about!

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There was even a little corner “flea market” and everywhere we looked were the street food vendors.  There was everything from hot dogs, sweets, Asian foods to Middle Eastern foods.

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Of course, we had to stop at the Empire State Building.  This is one of the most famous buildings in the world and is featured in so many movies such as Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and one of my all time favorites, An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. 

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Did you know that the Empire State Building sits on about 2 acres?  No wonder I was so tired after walking completely around the building trying to find the special entrance we were supposed to use with our VIP passes!  Hot city sidewalks that just seemed to be never-ending.  If it weren’t for the scaffolding providing some shade, I think I would’ve just died! 

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Sitting 1,250 feet above street level, the 102nd floor Observatory offers some spectacular views of the City! There are 6,514 windows in this building and they estimate that about ten million bricks were used in the construction of this building.  After walking all over the place, elevator after elevator, we finally made it to the top!  With our tickets, we were allowed VIP access and could bypass the long lines, so we didn’t have to wait the 2-3 hours it normally takes.  So, I knew it would be crowded and it was.  Rows two and three-deep lined the deck, but with a little patience and keeping the camera ready at all times, we were able to snap a few great shots.

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From the top of the world, the views just take my breath away!  I can only look in silence and in awe.  And if I speak, it only comes out in a whisper!

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And the the new Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site is high in the sky!  Not quite completed, it stands taller than any building in the skyline.

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Feeling exhilarated after our sky-high adventure, we jumped back on the open top busses and went looking for more sites of what the City could offer us.  One stop was to see the Cast Iron Buildings.  The City is currently cleaning the buildings which accounts for so much of the scaffolding.  This is the E. V. Haughwout Building at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway.  It originally was a fashionable emporium selling imported cut glass, silverware, fine china and chandeliers.  And this was the place that the new official White House china was ordered by and made for Mary Todd Lincoln.

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And it was in this building that the world’s first successful passenger elevator was installed on March 23, 1857.  It was a hydraulic lift designed for the building by Elisha Graves Otis and was powered by a steam-engine installed in the basement.  It wasn’t until 1965 when the building was designated a New York City landmark that it was protected from being torn down.

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I loved all the little parks scattered through out the City.  Makes the concrete jungle seem less…concrete.  It seemed like every neighborhood had one squeezed in between two busy streets somewhere!  Needless to say we did not have enough time to see everything and want to go back someday.  Stay tuned for more photos from our trip…

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All The Presidents’ Homes–Part 3

This morning is pretty much like the morning that Jeff and I visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  It was grey, it was cold and it was rainy.  The sun wasn’t out making it feel colder than it was. But even in the grey, gloomy mist, Monticello shone brightly, surrounded by the beauty of the blooming flowers around her.

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Best known as the author of the Declaration of Independence, our third President was also a historian, philosopher, and plantation owner who served his country as a public official for more than five decades.  Thomas Jefferson was also the author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and founder of the University of Virginia.

Son of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph, he inherited a sizeable estate from his father and at the age of 26, began building Monticello.  Just three years later he married Martha Wayles Skelton.  They had six children with only two surviving to adulthood.  Sadly they only had 10 years together when she died.  Jefferson never remarried and continued to maintain Monticello as his home for the rest of his life.  He was always expanding and changing it.  He also inherited slaves from his father and father-in-law and owned about 200 slaves, about half of whom were under the age of 16.

Jefferson spent his adult life in public service whether as a lawyer, Governor of Virginia from 1779 go 1781, Trade Commissioner in France (1784) and then as Benjamin Franklin’s successor as minister, and Secretary of State under George Washington in 1790 and after a loss in the presidential race against John Adams, becomes Vice President in 1796. A two-term President, Jefferson defeated John Adams just four years later to become President of the United States in 1780. After his friend, James Madison, succeeds him as President in 1809, Jefferson lives the remaining 17 years of his life at Monticello.  It was during this time he sold his books to begin the Library of Congress collection and founded the University of Virginia at the age of 76.  He led the legislative campaign for its charter, secured the location, designed the buildings and planned the curriculum and also served as the first rector.

Jefferson dies at the age of 83 on July 4, 1826, just hours before his friend, John Adams and also on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

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Jefferson’s beloved Monticello sits nestled in the mountaintop hills southeast of Charlottesville, Virginia, just down the road from the home of his friend, President James Madison. Open every day of the year except Christmas Day, Monticello’s hours gives you a choice of when you want to visit her.  We chose to visit in the early Spring month of April and while on our honeymoon several years ago.

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Construction of Monticello began in 1769 and the original design had fourteen rooms in the home which included the six in the cellar, five on the first floor and three on the second.  In 1796, Jefferson began work on a new design for remodeling and enlarging the house and was completed by 1809.  There are not a total of 43 rooms in the entire structure which includes 33 in the house itself and 4 in the Pavilions and 6 under the South Terrace.

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The ride on the bus from the Visitor’s Center to the house atop the hill is impressive, even in the rain! Of course, the excitement was building for me as I’d never been to Monticello.  No photography is allowed inside the house, so we decided to walk the grounds first before going on the tour.  All the photography and video you want to take is allowed on the grounds as long as it’s for personal use. 

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Tulips, pansies and bluebells line the walkways in the West Lawn garden. I saw varieties there that, for me, had only existed in books prior to our visit.  Needless to say, I wanted pictures of them all!

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Deep oranges, yellows, reds and whites and many more colors as well as other flowers can be found all over the grounds.  Lilac bushes, pansies…this is a flower gardener’s dream!

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We loved the rain drops on the flowers and tired to capture them on camera as beautiful as they were in person.

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Pansies are another one of my favorite flowers.

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Jefferson used the grounds of Monticello as a botanical laboratory utilizing not only the ornamental but also useful plants from all over the world. These flower gardens were not cared for by professionals but by his daughters and granddaughters and sometimes an elderly slave.

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I have always loved the reds and yellows of tulips, but the bi-colored ones hold a really special place for me.

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This is the fish pond where Jefferson’s cook would “catch” the fish for dinner.  Thus allowing them to have fresh fish at their meals.

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About one-third of the windows are original to the house.  They are nice, big and allow a lot of sunlight into the rooms.  And they are absolutely beautiful from the outside!

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From it’s beginning in 1770, the vegetable garden evolved over many years.  This 1,000-foot-long terrace was literally cut from the side of the mountain by slave labor and is supported by a massive rock wall.  At the half-way point is the infamous garden pavilion with its double sash windows.  This was used by Jefferson as a quiet retreat in the evenings.  Reportedly blown down in a violent storm in the late 1820s, the pavilion was reconstructed in 1984 through the use of Jefferson’s notes and archeological excavations.

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Jefferson was quite observant of the natural world.  He was always studying and recording, with remarkable detail, the events of the gardens.  In 1812, the twenty-four “squares” that divided the garden were arranged in part as to which part of the plant was being harvested: fruits, roots or leaves, etc.  And although the garden was a functional part of the plantation, Jefferson experimented with imported squashes and other vegetables and fruits from various parts of Europe.

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It was interesting to learn that Jefferson ate very little meat and used it as a compliment to the vegetables and legumes from his own gardens.  I loved the fact that salads were an important part of his diet as they are for me as well!

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Exiting from the house, you will step onto a beautiful walkway that leads into the garden.

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We loved our visit at Monticello and learned so much about Jefferson’s life here.  If you ever get the chance to visit Monticello, you should.  It’s well worth the afternoon.

The Generals of Lexington, VA

Continuing our day in Lexington, Virginia, our next stop was Washington and Lee University. Nestled in the hills of Lexington, this beautiful campus sits atop the hill next to the Virginia Military Institute’s campus.

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Despite the overcast skies and looming storms, this was a beautiful campus to walk around. It was founded in 1749 and was first named Augusta Academy and went through a move and several name changes, but when native son General George Washington stepped in to help save this all male school in 1796 with its first endowment, it was later renamed Washington College out of gratitude for his generosity.  By then, the College was in its present-day location of Lexington.

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This private, liberal arts school sits between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains and is the 9th oldest school of higher learning in our nation.  Virginia’s other native son, General Robert E. Lee became President of the College in 1865 and worried that his leadership in the Confederacy could bring hostility towards the school.  He said that “it was the duty of every citizen in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony.”  Following Lee’s death in 1879, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the college to Washington and Lee University. It wasn’t until 1972 when women were first admitted to its Law School and undergraduate women were admitted in 1985.

Lee Chapel is where General Lee and his beloved horse, Traveller are buried.  We were disappointed that photography is not allowed inside the chapel or the museum, but did enjoy the small collection that is there.  If you know in advance that you will be there, you can request express written permission from the University, but there are severe restrictions and limited allowances for use of the photos.

When you walk into the chapel’s foyer, you have an entrance on either side. Rows of white pews lining both sides, the middle and the surrounding balcony up above seats 500. It is still used today for the University’s most important events, such as concerts, lectures and other activities.  Just whispering to each other, my husband and I could tell that the acoustics are absolutely wonderful in this Chapel. (One cannot walk into this Chapel and not whisper! It just isn’t right to speak loudly in there!) General Lee’s favorite pew is marked with a plaque and shows that the General enjoyed sitting right up front!

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At the front of the chapel behind the wooden stage, nestles the monument of a reclining General Lee, without his sword at the request of his beloved wife. You may think that he is interred at this very spot, but he is not.  You have to take the narrow, winding stairs downstairs to the crypt where General Lee and several of his family members are buried. Also downstairs is a small museum and gift shop. Traveller’s grave is just outside the door as you exit.

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Our last stop was for another Confederacy General, who happens to be one of my husband’s favorite civil war historical figures. He is General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. A professor at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), he is also buried here in Lexington.  Set right on the main street, leading into town, the wrought iron fence points the way to the tomb of Stonewall Jackson.

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Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Confederate General, is one of the most well-known officers of the Confederacy after General Robert E. Lee. He was considered to be one of the best tactical commanders in the history of our great nation.  He was a graduate of West Point and from there served in the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848. It was during that time he first met Robert E. Lee.  It was at Bull’s Run that General Jackson earned his nickname, “Stonewall”. Crumbling under heavy Union assault, the Confederate lines were lucky to have General Jackson’s brigade there to provide crucial reinforcements stoically demonstrating the discipline that he had instilled in his men. Brig. General Elliott Bee, Jr. inspired his men to re-group by shouting out that there Jackson stood like a “stone wall” and to rally behind the Virginians.  Despite the controversy that followed the intent of the statement, General Jackson was forevermore known as “Stonewall” Jackson.

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We were able to take a few more photos of this serene corner of Lexington.  We didn’t walk all around the cemetery as there was a service in session.  It is a beautiful place for so many who have been laid to rest here.

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Thank you, Lexington for such a nice afternoon filled with so much history!

Smile, You’re on Jeffery Camera–Gettysburg

Enjoy a few more of our photos from Gettysburg National Military Park.  If you’ve never been there, this is a great time to go! 

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Beautiful monuments are everywhere.  You cannot see them all in just one day.

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Winding roads and hills where all the different skirmishes took place are dotted with monuments in tribute to the men who fought and died in these exact spots.

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Part of historic downtown Gettysburg.  This is across the street from a really good ice cream shop which is also a historic home!

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Standing near the stacked rock fence that was here since the War.

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Tree-lined roads make for a picturesque afternoon in the Park.

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So many monuments and statutes to choose to photograph!

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Once stroke of luck, we came around a bend and there was a re-enactor and a couple of photographers.  It didn’t take long for the Park Rangers to swoop in and send them on their way.

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From the top of Little Round Top.  What a view! It is quite sobering to realize what happened on that rocky hill.

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Gorgeous sunset view from behind the fence that represents the fence that was there during the War.

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Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Smile! You’re on Jeffery Camera, it’s March 20, 2012!

We were married in April 2009 and for our honeymoon, we decided on a road trip that encompassed our nation’s Capital City, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, and Appomattox Court House. One of our first stops was in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’d always wanted to see Monticello, the home of our 3rd President, Thomas Jefferson. So, on the way to D.C., we stopped to see Mr. Jefferson’s home.

Our day was a rainy one. The fog sat heavily on the ground, hiding most of the views. Lucky for us, the rain let up for a while and we were able to walk the grounds of Monticello.  What a lovely place it is! I could almost imagine it all those years ago when Mr. Jefferson lived there!

Tulips are my favorite flower, which is why I chose a Spring wedding. I was able to carry them in my bouquet as well. Wouldn’t you know, walking around the grounds of Monticello I see beds and beds of beautiful flowers lining the walkways, including my wonderful tulips!

My super special new Hubby/ Hot Groom decided to take several photos of my favorite flower. As you will see, they turned out beautifully! We’ve begun framing our photography as art in our home. So, now we share them with you!

Enjoy while you tiptoe through the tulips…

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Are these not just some of the most beautiful tulips ever? I’ve been to Europe and saw the beautiful tulips there, but I enjoyed these every bit as much, if not more! (Could it be that it was because I was on a vacation with the Love of my life?)

We didn’t mind the misty rain at all. As a matter of fact, I think it made our photos that much better!

There were some varieties of tulips that I’d never seen up close and in person. So this walk around the garden – where Thomas Jefferson once strolled – was particularly delightful for me!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Every time I look at them my heart and soul is flooded with wonderful memories. And, I can almost smell them!

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This is one of my favorite shots of Monticello. The mist hanging around it, just hugging it, while the tulips stand at attention drinking in every drop of the rain! Simply breathtaking!

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I don’t know about you, but I could just “tiptoe through the tulips” all day! So, let’s keep strolling, okay?

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Wishing you and yours a very Happy First Day of Spring! May your days be as beautiful our stroll!

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.”

-Alfred Lord Tennyson