Tag Archives: USA

Smack Dab in the Middle of Texas, Part Three: History & the Kitchen Sink

When this mini-series was started, I thought Texas might be my last stop on a line of trips I had been taking, so there’d be a slew of time to really dig into it. Wrong. But I still want to do it proper justice and wrap this up right.

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Fredericksburg has a big German history. Apparently a ton of German settlers made their way to Texas in the 1800s and left their mark.

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This might be the best tour guide ever, and of course I can’t remember his name. He brought us through the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch, complete with house, stables, museum, schoolhouse, cemetery and tons of land.

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Former president Johnson’s house has been perfectly preserved with almost all of its original furnishings. I loved Lady Bird’s touches as well, like this pillow on the presidential chair that said “This is my ranch and I’ll do as I damn please”.

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Not only did they have the “Texas White House” and school on the ranch, they had LITTLE FARM ANIMAL BABIES. There’s a whole section just for them as well as period homes to reflect what Johnson’s childhood would have been like.

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Ranch hand at the farm overlooking everything.

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I think I mentioned the Hangar Hotel before, but it was a real treat to stay here. Everything looks like it’s been frozen in the 1940s. My favorite part was the swanky cocktail lounge. I wish I had some slinky dress to wear in there while I sipped my martini.

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I’m not crazy about history, but the brand new WWII museum in town really kept me riveted  They have these great bomber jackets and memorabilia on display. There’s a reenactment type exhbiit on Pearl harbor with a massive tank that made me tear up, it was so moving and amazing.

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These two weren’t on the itinerary, but they hung around the Hangar Hotel and offered rides in this 1929 airplane. Winston was the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen and I fell in love the moment I saw his unfortunate mutt.

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Right?!

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Smack dab in the middle of Texas, Part One: Food and Art

I’ll be doing a brief three-part series on the culture of Fredericksburg, Texas, getting into the real nitty-gritty when the spring issue of Canadian World Traveller is released!

You think by now I would get used to be blowing away by new places but it really never gets old. Like many Yanks, I had plenty of predispositions about Texas in my head before I ever stepped foot in the state. Luckily, all these ideas were totally smashed by such a hospitable, humble group of people. Texans really are a rare breed – sure, they may not be hip to the latest song or fashion craze, but they exude such an inspiring humility and a smart, quiet, hard-working persona that is infectious and leaves me wanting to lead a simpler life.

This was most prevalent among all the insanely talented peopled I met at the wineries, locals shops, restaurants and art galleries. some people may poo poo at a full itinerary, but it gave me a rare chance to not only experience a new destination, but truly learn about the people behind the scenes that make it all come together.

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My first introduction into the art scene of Fredericksburg was a small taste at four very different but all equally impressive galleries in town. For a town of only 10,000, they have one of the coolest and most eclectic art areas I’ve ever witness in the country.

Of course they have mostly realist, traditionally Western art, which I think can be best experienced at Whistle Pik Galleries. They have curated a collection that is both classic and contemporary, featuring notable talent such as G. Harvey and Robert Moore.

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Two new and fresh galleries, Insight and Good Art Company had contrary feels but lots of personality.

The Good Company had one of their resident artists, Omar Gaza, right in the front parlor, proudly displaying his intricate masterpieces of horses and cowboys. Further into the gallery features bold jewelry statement pieces and a few more abstract still lifes and landscapes.

Insight was open and airy with plenty of natural light to perfectly compliment the collection. They also had a basement floor with skylights that held more work from international artists.

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At the end of the day, the Artisans at Rocky Hill really rolled out the red carpet for us. Featuring ten of their in-house artists, many from the area, this gallery had everything from grandfather clock sculptures, silk-dyed scarves, oil paintings, mosaics and plenty of take-home pieces.

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They even made us homemade goodies and offered great Texan wine while we got to listen to their amazing stories. I love how some would mention how they were bankers or business owners then turned thier focus to art instead, following thier passions and talents. I wish I could name them all, but do check out their website and see for yourself all the great work these individuals are doing.

As much as I wish I could wax poetic all the amazing eats in Fredericksburg I was honored to sample, I’ll have to stick to the highlights for now.

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Fried pickles at the Fredericksburg Brewpub. Amazing and a bit spicy!

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Grilled Mahi Mahi at the Bejas Grill & Cantina

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Part of our four (!) course lunch paired with Texas wine at the beautiful Woodrose Winery

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Some indulgent chocolates I brought home from the Chocolat company downtown. They do specialize in liquor-filled sweets through, which I obviously grabbed a box of as well.

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As the grand finale, an elegant dinner presented by the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. This rack of lamb wasn’t even my meal, I had the venison, but each presentation, and taste, was flawless.

The art is different than big city offerings like London, but it certainly had it’s own flavor to admire. I’m obviously stuffed and satisfied, literally and figuatively. Next post will dive into the music and culture scene of Fredericksburg, which got better and better everyday I was there. I’m not even a history buff, I usually find myself snoring through museums, but this place really did have some amazing hotspots that made it all come alive.

Have you ever visited somewhere and was surprised at what you found? Texas so far was definitely one of those places for me and I can’t wait to go back someday.


Where else can I find you online talking about travel?

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Although I’m lacking in sleep, my time in Texas has been absolutely fantastic. It’s true what they say though – most of Texas wine is drunk in state, and I am certainly the one drinking it all. I can’t keep up, there’s so many delicious varieties! Besides wine, there’s art galleries, Texas nouveau cuisine, cozy accommodations and really, truly, the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

But that’s all I can say for now, because our days are jam packed with things to do! I’m on call in 20 minutes and haven’t showered yet!

While I wander around, I thought I’d just offer all the other places on the web I’m actively chatting about my adventures. I’d love to find you there too and interact!

Twitter

Instagram

Foursquare

ViviTrip: A fun little site that acts like Facebook for travelers – allowing you to post pics, comments and track your trip on a world map alongside others.

Quilt: This primarily is a smartphone app where you can hook up with other travelers and “stitch” together the story of your trip through posts, tips, photos and whatever else you like to share.

Even LinkedIn!

Look forward to connecting on all platforms and I’ll be back soon with details from this Texas trip!


A Jersey Hidden Gem: The Bernards Inn Review

I don’t know where the time goes…it flew by and now it’s almost April! or so says the calendar, because I’m still freezing and walking through slush in New England. Hurumpf.

Luckily, last week I was able to drive south a few hundred miles to at least escape the snow and have a little break. It as a quick business trip to Northern New Jersey and I wasn’t expecting many surprises – a bit of shmoozing, some dinner and back on the road. However, I was invited to stay at The Bernards Inn for my evening in the state and couldn’t have been more thrilled to have such a memorable time at this charming, elegant and hidden-gem worthy of a place. There’s nothing I love more than accommodations with character, and the inn was bursting with stylish decor and amenities that were truly one of a kind.

In the small town of Bernardsville, about a 1/2 hour west of Newark, is a destination steeped in history that takes pride in it’s past stories of settlement, wealth and success. On a hill are some beautiful mansions once own by several notable investors, which mirror the class and style of the inn located in the center of town.

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Rooms are frilly, yet sophisticated, and each have their own decor, which exudes a grace and mimics a time long forgotten when attention was paid to the details – from dark wood, four poster beds to plenty of storage space tucked into practical, yet masterful furniture. I love how I was welcomed with a beautiful note and treats whipped up in the restaurant downstairs – these things are standard at an inn with outstanding hospitality. Bathrooms are perfectly suited to the space as well, with plenty of toiletries branded with their signature, shiny silver “B” stickers.  Not only are the rooms gorgeous, this theme was carried through the entire property- right down to the roaring fireplace in the spacious, comfortable lobby.

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I’m trying to figure out how I can justify a future wedding in the middle of New Jersey, because the property was that lovely, especially its event spaces. The massive reception room adorned with chandeliers, ideal for an unforgettable ceremony, was my favorite. Downstairs are cozy rooms and parlor-style areas that boast original stonework from the stables that adjoined the space a century ago. Style carries through to the wine cellar as well, paring each meal upstairs perfectly with a flavorful libation.

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By the way, the cuisine alone should have it’s own post. Whether you’re passing through the area or staying a few nights, make time for a sit-down luncheon, dinner or at least a cocktail in their stunning restaurant. I was thrilled to have lunch there, complete with towering, fresh salad, lobster pot pie and a tangy blueberry sorbet. There’s space for a quiet meal as well as a large bar, complete with grand piano that has live music on the regular to set the tone.

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Bacon/radish mega salad with homemade dressing

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Giant chunks of lobster buried under a puffy, flaky crust (food is seasonal though, check the menu!)

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So many blueberries in this sorbet!

Absolutely blown away by this hotel. Hands down one of the best and most hospitable places I’ve stayed in my travels so far. These are the spots that keep me going when I don’t want to drive one more hour or get aboard another plane – it’s the people who are eager to show off their accomplishments and reflect this mantra in their amazing passion for tourism, accommodation and unwavering hospitality. Kudos to the staff, owner and whole team at The Bernards Inn for making my road trip to Jersey an easy one. The full report will be live on In The Know Traveler soon, so keep an eye out!

After a predicted hectic Easter weekend, I’ll be off to Fredericksburg, Texas for a (hopefully) relaxing week of wine, hiking, art, history and anything else I can cram into my first experience in this state. Next time though, I’ll update you on my unplanned 24-hours in Philly that I took as a detour on my New Jersey journey.

Freelancer Tip #4: Reach out to everyone and anyone. It can be easy to feel isolated, so when the opportunity to meet clients in person arises, jump at it. Forming a face-to-face bond is often longer lasting then something online as well. Even a quick Skype date comes in handy to forge those professional relationships!


A look back on a fall travel tradition – Amesbury, Massachusetts

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It’s just so cold and blustery and blah here that all I can accomplish today is hiding under blankets and reflecting on warmer days of the past. While I do get great joy out of stick my freezing feet onto unsuspecting passer-by that can only get me so far. Instead, I look back to cheery fall and remember the encounter I had in northern Massachusetts on a kitschy and charming farm.

Apple picking is so. New. England. That is, if you’re a girlfriend who spends too much time on Pinterest and feel you NEED to drag your poor boyfriend to an orchard. Or, if you are a parent with easily amused children (what child ISN’T easily amused?) that have slight ADHD tendencies who want to blow off some steam by running around an orchard.

But why can’t just a couple of twenty-something gals also grab a cider donut and haul home a hundred pounds of apples?! We decided to break through the stereotypes and have a mini trip adventure to Cider Hill Farms in Amesbury last October after a Zorbing plan went awry. No worries, we went with plan B and ended up at this apple picking paradise, complete with bee hives for honey, flowers, a corn field, general store and even a few strawberries left over from the summer. Oh and those crack donuts, AKA fresh and hot cider donuts from heaven.

Is is proper to spell donut like that, or must it be doughnuts?! Has Dunkin’ Donuts ruined my spelling so bad that I think this is grammatically acceptable? Anyway I digress.

This farm had every type of apple under the sun, which we sampled (for science!) until I thought I might go into a diabetic coma. Yes we did get a few odd stares on the hayride from families and couples wondering if we were in some weird lesbian polygamous situation, but other than that it was a blast.

I was high on apple hunting and didn’t get as many photos as I wanted, but here’s a few of the scenery. I love visiting farms in general, so I think I’m going to make an effort to experience more nature next time I get to Europe, South America, wherever. Is apple picking only a thing in the northeast? Can you do this elsewhere in the world?

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New York City, An Old Friend: Hotel Americano Review

The city is well-known to me as I’ve visited a dozen times in my life, but it’s also my crazy, insane, unpredictable friend. Like that one you keep from college who’s still taking tequila shots and waking up next to strangers. It’s hilarious to catch up, hear their stories and maybe even indulge the old lifestyle a little, but man am I exhausted by the end and ready to go home.

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I covered The New York Times travel show last weekend for In The Know Traveler and was able to brush shoulders with other freelancers, industry operators and tourism boards. Intimidating at first, because I had no idea what I was doing. But after watching some of the pros expertly approach booths and act like they owned the place, I tried to follow suit and did pretty decently for my first crack at it. From private jet tours and women-centered excursion to destinations like Korea, Costa Rica and St. Lucia, there really was a little bit of everything. I chatted and networked my tail off, hopefully made some great connections and look forward to the next show where I’ll feel even more ready.

New York itself was ridiculous and a blast. I stayed at the Hotel Americano and loved feeling on top of the trend for once, as its sleek decor and eco-friendly nature was fresh. Rooms were comfortable and minimalistic, stocked with a pre-loaded iPad, Aesop bath products and funky amenities like a denim bath robe.

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Friday was spent indulging in NYC’s restaurant week at The Red Cat in Chelsea, then off to a hookah bar on the seemingly other side of the world. Totally worth it though for the pineapple and passion fruit infused concoctions and pumping music. Spending Saturday on my feet and working was a lot to take on, so the night was a little more casual – dinner at Hotel Americano’s swank Latin/French restaurant (churros, get the churros, trust me), as well as a cocktail at their rooftop bar. I did venture out to be cheesy and see the Empire State Building too. Freezing, but the night time view and lack of lines was worth it.

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Back to work now as I sift through business cards and make sense of this whirlwind of a trip. Can’t wait to go back soon though, because no matter how much NYC turns you upside down you’re always dying to return and do it all over again.


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