See the date of the travel in this post? Wonder why it has taken so long for me to get to it? Know how long it has been since my last travel post? Have any idea how busy I have been with other projects? Surprised that after decades of exploring Vermont, the Berkshires, and northwest Connecticut that I still come up with roads I have not experienced (you shouldn’t be – I work hard exploring)? Yes, early April I filled in more of the map in Vermont, and while writing this on the porch of the RLI, I have surprised myself with newly discovered routes of beauty the past two days- but more on that the next post.

I needed a break (need even more breaks), and escaped for two nights to the Stratford Inn. Ring a bell? Does, “I’m Larry, this is Darrell, and this is my other brother Darrell?” With me yet? I spent hours on YouTube preparing for this adventure, and as you know the more and harder you laugh the better it is for your health – think I have added another 1 1/2 years longevity so far. Alright – long enough – I spent two nights where the outside scenes were shot for NEWHART:

You probably guessed I started writing this in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, but did you know there is a Stockbridge, Vermont? And, it is basically the geographical center of Vermont on the scenic backbone, Route 100. Here is a map to follow of this adventure.

I left I-91 on Route 12 heading to Taftsville, never having been on that segment, and then passed through Woodstock heading north. I checked out Bethel again, and backtracked on 107 to Stockbridge and Route 100. Heading north on Route 100, it takes a sharp left at this red building. It used to be an antique shop Cathy and I would stop at. No longer, and most places I have stopped over the years no longer exist (yes, that white strip is snow).

From this point, turning the camera to the right is Ted Green Ford – yes in nowhere, and the oldest Ford dealership in Vermont, opening its doors in 1913, just ten years after the Ford Motor Company was founded

and turning another 90 degrees to look back south on Route 100 – kinda rural here.

 but you miss the “center” of Stockbridge unless instead of turning left on 100 you go straight up the hill to the common, church and churchyard and old school.

and most of the surrounding area is a Morgan horse farm.

The plan was to cut across the mountains west on Route 125 from Hancock – not gone all the way across before – to get to East Middlebury. A great route, and you pass Middlebury College’s Snow Bowl:

and then the college’s Bread Loaf – a retreat, conference center, and where Robert Frost taught. Great old buildings line the road – I think it would be fun to experience something there.

And climbing down from the hills I arrived at Waybury Inn in East Middlebury. This image is from their website.

the image below from one of the Newhart shows (if you watch enough of them you will see changes) with the Stratford Inn sign hanging outside.

and, my image from my visit

this sign is in one of the hallways

my room

and the lobby where I spent my time – I was the only guest. Most decorations in the hunting and fishing genres. I chatted a great deal with my hostess, and she said many people come in saying, “you changed the inside so much.” No, interior is as the inn has been for about two centuries. The Newhart show was shot in studios, only the exterior is featured in the show. No problem, I still heard Bob carrying on — well, I watched a couple episodes each night.

I ate in the restaurant there each night, and the included large breakfast was amazing. Off season rate – $75 – with a $15 breakfast.

Usually I spend two nights in one place to have the full day in between to explore, and that is what I did on 12 April.

New road for me, I took Route 116 north – mountains on one side, plains on the other. I came to Bristol, a town unchanged architecturally from the early 20th century.

Continuing up 116, I cut cross-lots over to my favorite US 7, and stopped at Shelburne Museum and bought some books in the gift shop. Isn’t that what I am supposed to do?

Then down US 7 to Vergennes to browse the shops and eat a wrap. I continued south on 22A turning east on 17 until I got to 23. Never having taken 23 into Middlebury, that was the plan, and it was a delight through quiet farmlands. Rain was threatening all day, and started when I came in this new to me way into Middlebury and the Sheldon Museum (not Cooper).

Always interesting history here, and there was a special photography exhibit. Outside there is this commemorative plaque to John Deere who learned blacksmithing here prior to inventing the plow.

It was then back to the Inn, dinner, and the lobby to myself doing additional research watching “The Newhart Show.”

Next day, after another wonderful breakfast here, I had no real plan other than head south on US 7, and take a previously unexplored route into Weston. Pulling into “downtown” Rutland I stopped at the “Curiosity Shop.” Opening the door I called out, “I am curious.” Well, Paydirt! If you already have everything you need, you still look, but it is great when also looking for Number 2 son’s new home. Since he bought his home 12 March, I have made a few trips to help and take some things excess to my needs, and also got to know what he needed to fill-in. Bingo – a perfect glass top wrought iron patio set with four chairs. Perfect for his deck or patio, or best on his enclosed three season porch. I took pictures, sent them to him – no reply (ends up he was driving to pick up furniture), so I decided to just buy it (actually a bargain) along with a few other pieces. Success — got the set to Gary a few days later, and just perfect on his porch. We “christened” it the next morning having coffee on the porch.

Then continued down US 7 to Wallingford where I turned east on Route 140 and then south on Route 155 to Weston – I had not been on this section of 155 before. Lunch then at the Bryant House in Weston, and then home.

Finishing this up now on 2 May at the Red Lion Inn. Comcast has not allowed users to send messages now for 24 hours, so no idea when I can tell you I posted this. Hopefully soon, and hopefully soon more intriguing adventures to experience and share. Yours, RAY


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Don’t ever think I am “retired.” And, I will tell you I do not like the “R WORD.” But, “working” hard, I needed another break, and even a few hours away can make all the difference and rejuvenate. This past weekend was the train show at the Big E fairgrounds. I thought I would head down on Saturday, but hesitant for the hour and 25 minute drive since I was “not overwhelmed” when I attended three years ago. Saturday I decided to wait until Sunday. But researching around I discovered an interesting lecture at Historic Deerfield on Sunday. So that was the plan instead – attend the lecture, but I needed to fill in a few more hours. Awaking Sunday it hit me – drive through Turners Falls and Montague on the way. – it had been a long while. There was the plan.

About 9:30 I entered I-91, but exited at Bernardston (MA) to see what changes there may have been along US-5 on the way to Greenfield (remember I need to know everything, and scenery is different every season, and every day). Getting onto Route 2, I headed east a tad, exiting at the Art Deco bridge to cross the Connecticut River to Turners Falls. “Hey, what is that?” I exclaimed. Parking, I walked to the GREAT FALLS DISCOVERY CENTER – had never seen it before.

What a treasure and introduction to the entire watershed of the 410 mile Connecticut River, and some local history.  Entering, I was met by a great state docent.

the emphasis is on the ecology and nature of the area, and to be honest, I need several more visits to absorb it all. Fantastic realistic displays, and this moose stood still for me.

As I was reading the various displays I was so impressed to see several young families come in with children ranging in age from maybe two to ten. Get them introduced early to the pleasure of learning, I applaud those young parents.

Two “non-nature” timelines were of interest to me. The first being Tales of Tourists and Timber, and another the history of the area.

In reviewing my images of the displays, I thought I would relate the following “fast facts” – for me to remember better, and if you skip over them, I will not know until I quiz you in person.

1700s – Hardwoods were burned to make Potash to export to England for textiles and glass
1798 – First dam at Montague Falls cuts off fish migration
1830s – 65-80% of land cleared in the watershed – mountain soils erode
1840s – Holyoke Dam and Power Canal system built for mills
1850s – Tourism begins with hotels built near mineral springs
1860s – North Woods heavily logged, enabled by railroad access
1870s – White Mountains become popular and the idea of a leisure vacation takes hold
1870s – Turner Falls develops its Power Canal system
1875 – First great log drive on the Connecticut River
1881 – Last mountain lion shot in Vermont
1890s – Vermont works to attract tourists, and sells abandoned farms as second homes (New Hampshire does the same thing promoting its abandoned farms)
1890s – Commercial catch of shad has greatly dropped
1915 – Last log drive
1920s – Outdoor camping and downhill skiing become popular
1920s – Automobile travel impacts tourism. Long hotel stays now replaced by tourists moving about
1938 – Great Hurricane impacts nature and humans alike
1950 – Fish elevator built at Holyoke Dam
1970s – Fish elevator built at Turners Falls
1972 – Clean Water Act
1974 – First salmon return to the Connecticut River
1981 – 83% of Vermont reforested
1991 – Salmon spawn in the Connecticut River for the first time in over 200 years

The discovery center is in old mill buildings which adjoin the “power canal” seen here outside the window. You can see on the right the green Art Deco bridge across the river.

Turners Falls dates from the 1860s when the mill town (following the example of Lowell, Massachusetts) was laid out. The power canal was built, and the town laid out with lettered and numbered streets in a grid. Let me give you a feel for the area with a map, to encourage you to easily detour to the area.

Below you see how the river loops through the area of Turners Falls, Greenfield, and Deerfield – I (and you) have to know how it all fits together. The purple area is Turners Falls where the Connecticut River is turning west before heading south again past Greenfield. My ultimate destination was the Deerfield Community Center at the bottom of the map. You can see the “power Canal” through the town to the east of the river. See how easy it is to detour off I-91 or Route 2 and explore?


Avenue A (the Main Street), and its grand brick buildings are as they were and undergoing a resurgence. I had driven through the town before, but never tempted to explore. This time I was, and started with LOOT – LOST AND FOUND – FOUND AND MADE. Wow, I wanted to buy everything. Fantastic original vintage industrial antiques, and unique repurposed items (using the new vernacular). The young clerk said I could take pictures, and I promised to send a link to what I write.

LOOT: FOUND AND MADE in Turners Falls, Massachusetts –


I continued walking down Avenue A to explore. I chatted with several shop owners in this newly renovated block. LOOT was the first neat place in town, but landlords are encouraging the arts to move in. There is even a vintage pinball arcade in this building. I was told that the arts and culture are moving into the area, and people are escaping Northampton and Amherst to live here. Below is this great block (with STUFF and STENHOUSE) from the other side of the street. (sorry on images, it was an overcast day)


and, a venue to watch as it develops is the The Shea Theater. I commented to one gracious shop keeper that Turners Falls, with the interesting restaurants, and shops could be a great afternoon, dinner, evening at the theater, and home in 50 minutes.


 Next on the “new plan” was to scoot down to the Montague Book Mill – remote – not really- but you have to know it is there and consider it a destination location. Cathy and I had stopped several times on book buying trips twenty years ago, but their stock is not what I buy. It is a reader’s shop, and  obviously very successful. I wanted to get a bite to eat at the cafe. Both the cafe and bookshop were comfortably populated by students with laptops, books and notebooks – obviously coming up from UMASS or Amherst to the south.


The mill dates from the 1830s. The cafe is on the lower lever to the left, and the bookshop rambles around. There is a separate building with music and an art gallery.

My chicken curry sandwich was amazing.

walking through the book shop and to the river I realized there is a more formal restaurant on the lower lever, and there is outside seating in the warmer times. Alvah Stone is now “on the list.” Applications for dates considered.


WAZE then provided me a shorter route over to Old Deerfield. Originally I thought I would drive south, cut over to US-5 and head north. But WAZE was smarter than me, and I was minutes away to the Deerfield Community Center for the Winter Lecture Series, “Risky Business: Getting Ahead in the Early Republic” – “Making Crime Pay: The Dangerous Careers of Ann Carson and Mary Clarke,” Presented by Susan Branson, Professor of History, Syracuse University. It was interesting this early 19th century crime in Philadelphia, and how its publishing history made these women money.

But, “on the list” for some time has been to become a member of Historic Deerfield. I have been driving through Old Deerfield for over five decades, and still have yet to see it all. I just found out that the Flynt Center of Early American Life was a modern facility, carefully tucked away. Perfect winter indoor activity, and I had my checkbook to become a member. When a member you don’t mind not seeing it all at once, and often it is to hard to absorb it all at once.

Amazing, fascinating, and worthy of many more visits. I need to spend more time in the exhibit on woods and the making of period furniture.

some items are “exploded” so you can see how they were actually made and assembled.

upstairs is the “attic” – items in storage, but on display for further investigation and learning for visitors. Here is a Spinning Wheel chair, made probably about the time of the Centennial in 1876. Nostalgic of our history, people would make these chairs from spinning wheels that were no longer needed.

The museum closed at 4:30, too early to head to dinner, but YANKEE CANDLE’s flagship store is always a fun stop a couple times a year. I always enjoy wandering through the villages and Christmas displays. I even chatted with Santa (no line of smaller kids). Then I saw something new — instead of candle dipping, an attendant would “dip your hand” to make a wax decoration. A charge, of course, but fun to watch.

Timing was perfect, and I headed to The Whately Inn for dinner. First there last September, and I needed to see if I was still impressed – I was. Here is the Inn from that last visit.

Last time I had the lamb dinner, this time Veal Parmesan – more of a comfort platter, but still 4 courses with appetizer, salad, entree and desert. I went all out and started with French Onion Soup, they even bring you marinated vegetables. I do not know how they do it for the price, and they have done it for decades. Here is everything passing in front of me, and what I brought home was two more meals. Again I had the marinated mushrooms (left) – you can click on an image below for larger savory images.

One of the fun things on my trips is to find something that helps me remember the trip – not necessary, but an extra treat. Guess what?  More “Flickering Flames” and now within reach as I type. Can you figure why I snapped these up (from among maybe 12 choices – but I will go back)?  It was not the $9 each – can you guess?

Home at 8 PM, this was a great 10 1/2 hours off. And,


1 – Explore Turners Falls, Massachusetts
2 – Visit the Montague Book Mill to browse, have lunch,   or dinner

3 – Learn what you can at Historic Deerfield
4 – Experience The Whately Inn

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I had so much fun today — and I have been looking forward to this day since August 20th – six months ago. You can read my post about my finally getting to Muster Field Farm that day – but you also have to learn about Muster Field Farm in Sutton by clicking on this second link. Of course, I have the book about the history of the farm, but when I was there in August I learned about ICE DAY — and finally it was today. AND WORTH THE WAIT. When I confirmed the event by phone I was told that this was the warmest time ever for the harvest — and it was a perfect day.

I arrived about 9:45, parked, and hurried down the path to Kezar Lake to view the harvesting.

now, I have always been fascinated by all things 19th and early 20th centuries — and ice harvesting just one of those things I just had to know all about. Following my August visit I vowed to finally write about Ice Harvesting, and published one of my DID YOU KNOW THAT… articles in the December issue of my publication, THE WALPOLE CLARION. At the end of this post I will include that article.

Wanting to take you through the process, here they are lining up the gas powered saw that does the initial cuts.

Note above that cuts have already been made in one direction, now it is time to do the initial scoring and cuts at a 90 degree angle. And, time to cut away.

and, some action while cutting to view —

here is a second gas driving cutting machine on the ice

following the initial scoring, next comes the final hand sawing. Everyone could cut (cheap labor), and I jumped in also. It was really easy to cut with the hand saws following the line cut by the gas machine.

here is an overall view of the operation  — hand cutting, then moving the blocks to be loaded for removal to the ice house.

and the loading – with a hand operated boom

and onto the assembled volunteer trucks and trailers.

I had forgotten that there were also going to be a number of Snowmobiles on the ice, and fortunately I turned around and saw the five Model T Ford Snowmobile conversions that were there.

Of course, you know that my Dad collected antique cars, particularly Model Ts.  In fact, the first car I drove was his 1919 Model T Touring Car – a tad before the time for my generation. These machines were fascinating, and I enjoyed looking at the conversions since I really do know all the ins and outs of the mechanics and chassis of these ubiquitous automobiles. Later on I got to ride in the below machine.

there is an extra axle and set of wheels – more powerful rear ends – and devices on the front axles to facilitate quick removal of the front wheels when jacked up, and then lowered down onto the skis. (click images below for larger views)

one more for you to savor

and, then it was my turn for a ride

I then headed back to the farm itself to watch the loading of the ice house. In the small center of town is the Follansbee Inn which I mentioned before, and I have to stay at.

I arrived at the small ice house on the farm

when I got there they were unloading sawdust which acts as insulation between the layers of ice blocks.

the blocks of ice (of course I asked) weigh about 280 pounds each

did you see the clear ice below, and the “snow ice” on the top surface? Yes, I asked, the snow ice melts first, but still will be there for summer use.

the bottom layer of blocks in the ice house was still from last year’s harvest. They were laying two levels of blocks, and then a layer of sawdust.


and, that was about it, except for lunch in the School House, I choose the combo – soup, beverage, and desert. About 7 soups, but I had the venison and bear meat Chile, cocoa, and some great cookies. It was all I could do to sit at the school desk.

In summary — RAY RECOMMENDS – investigate and attend the events at Muster Field Farm in Sutton. And, I am now going to  triangulate my adventures between Plymouth Notch, Muster Field Farm, and Old Sturbridge Village.

Let the 2018 adventures begin.

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PRELIMINARY NOTE – Most important event of the year at the end of this post.

I had been pining to see The Red Lion Inn decked out in its Christmas fashions, but following a busy and packed month, as time progressed did not feel like another excursion alone. I had asked a friend to join me, and on the 26th received an email,  “If you are still up for RLI, I am free Thursday this week.” A plan was developed to first visit Ventfort Hall in Lenox, tour around Stockbridge, and then immerse in the splendor of the RLI concluding with dinner. Thursday, 11:25 AM, on my way to pick her up my “check engine light came on.”  Having had strange noises that mechanics have not been able to find I thought “great now we can find the problem,” but that put a damper on a trip.  “Take your car home, and I will drive,” she said – and a great outing was saved.

We arrived in Lenox with plenty of time to explore Ventfort Hall before the 2PM tour.

One of the 80 “summer cottages” built in Lenox, Massachusetts, (yes, Tanglewood), the area was favored for summer escapes and social times, just as others would build their summer homes in Newport, RI, and other famous resorts. About 30 of these massive “cottages” remain in Lenox, with only the Ventfort now open to the public. Fortunately saved 20 years ago, we saw pictures of snow in the main foyer, and missing floor and ceiling in the dining room. Ventfort was built by the sister of J. P. Morgan.

Opulence of the Gilded Age abounded, as did the holiday decorations. Here is the main entrance from the second floor. The curved area with the trees is where a band would play for parties and dances on the open first floor area below.

and some holiday decorations around the first floor (remember with my galleries you can click to enlarge the images).

everywhere you looked there were festive and different holiday touches.

and some images upstairs – throw me back to Victorian times whenever you wish

in a former upstairs bedroom there is a table set with a rotating display of period tableware and place settings. I could not wrangle an invitation – will keep trying.

as much damage, vandalism and deterioration Ventfort sustained, miraculously the original stained glass windows had been covered over and all remained intact. I could not resist this small frost covered one.

on my first visit maybe seven years ago my tour guide (I was the only visitor) took me into some unrestored areas. Much is still unrestored, and now a glass panel is in a second floor hallway doorway so you can see what the association is still “up-against.”

and, then it was south a tad on my favorite US Route 7, to park on Main Street across from:

no longer is all the porch furniture put away in the winter. It is easier, however, at this time of year to get a prime seat. Here is a view of the porch from the Inn’s Pink Kitty gift shop.

In the gift shop I heard the clerk say that Country Curtains was closing. With its flagship location in the Inn, Country Curtains was started 61 years ago by the Fitzpatricks who in 1969 bought the Inn. I fondly remember visiting with Senator and Mrs. Jack Fitzpatrick in the Dining Room on many occasions. But as another victim of on-line competition, 360 people are losing their jobs at the headquarters in Lee, 19 retail outlets (in 12 states) and its operations in Housatonic, Mass.  So, sad – you know I do not like change.

Touring the lobby, here are some (not so great) images of the decorations.

One of the distinctive holiday displays in the dining room has always been (although rebuilt from time to time) this candy model of The Red Lion Inn on this buffet.

and, a close up.

a relaxing and enjoyable and amazing dinner followed – but sadly visits do conclude, and it was time to head back north.  BUT — I will return, and soon — BUT – this post is not over, continue below.

30 DECEMBER — I Married Joanie …..
to Daniel

Was I ever flattered in January when Joanie called and said, “Dan and I would like to come over to talk to you.” In my kitchen they said, “would you marry us on December 30th?”  WOW, what an honor. I applied to become a Justice of the Peace in New Hampshire (my Commission Expires March 22, 2022). And, I have had so much fun for 11 months saying, “I am marrying Joanie in December,” and receiving puzzled looks until I explained. And, yesterday was the day for a festive and perfect outdoor wedding.

You can always tell “true love” in peoples eyes and actions. They assembled and wrote their vows from several sources, and incorporated the Scottish “hand-fasting” ceremony.

Bringing tears to my eyes each time I recite one paragraph, I must share it with you:

Life is given to each of us as individuals, yet we must learn to live together. Love is given to us by our families. We learn to love by being loved. Learning to love and live together is one of life’s greatest challenges, and is the shared goal of married life.

May God Bless Joanie and Daniel, and all of you who may stumble across this post.

Love, RAY

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In October I visited Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) for the first time in nine years, and it had been decades before for my previous visits. I spent the whole day there – loved it – and purchased my membership when leaving. So many events I would like to attend there in 1838, and only about two hours away. And, I journeyed there again 21 December for their holiday event — Christmas by Candlelight.

A perfect fundraiser for OSV, and the perfect setting to experience Christmas history and traditions. But, you must know that in 1838 (the setting for the village’s learning experiences) Christmas was not yet celebrated in New England homes, nor in America.

I arrived when the village opened at 3PM, and took it all in until closing at 8PM. I then waited for dinner at the Bullard Tavern at 8:30. Only thing lacking was a total white covering of snow with bright sunshine.

I climbed on George’s horse drawn wagon for a tour around the Common (the farm and mill area is closed for the season), and then began my walking tour stopping first in the one room law office which was decorated to be Scrooge’s Counting House.

how much fun ! You know I staged my adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL for seven years raising over $25,000 for local food shelves, so what a treat to find the Parson’s House and Barn were staged reflecting on Dickens’ classic tale.

as you entered the home, The Ghost of Christmas Present greeted you, decked out in his finery and mounds of food – faithfully replicating the original illustration in the first edition of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

in the keeping room to the rear the Cratchit family was preparing their Christmas Dinner. In many of the homes flyers were available with period recipes for food and drink. Look at the fire, and you will see their Christmas Goose  hanging on a string which would be twirled. As it unwound it maintained even cooking with the drippings coating throughout. And, don’t fear, to keep all the cooking and dripping even, the goose is next rehung the other way.

I did not go into the barn in October, but did now to listen to the fiddlers and watch the Fezziwig dance lessons. But, catching my eye on a second level was this:

A large ball on an axle to be rolled down the road so people could sing the verses – patriot election songs for the 1840 election, often replayed in the village

Well, one interpreter said this is the origin of “get on the ball” – someone forgetting the words would be told to look at and “get on the ball.”  So, I had to research, and there are stories about “keep you eye on the ball” and “get on the ball,” but at long last I found additional supporting information, which you may enjoy reading (click the link) – which in part says about the 1840 campaign – “AS IF THE CAMPAIGN needed another novelty, Whig supporters started rolling huge paper or tin balls printed with campaign slogans from town to town as part of parades and rallies. The idea owed its inspiration to remarks made by Democratic Senator Thomas Hart Benton … Benton said, ‘I set this ball in motion.’ … ‘Keep the ball rolling’ survived the campaign to become a common American expression.”  Your history lesson, and “fast fact” from this post.

The 1796 Salem Towne House at the opposite end of the Common from the Center Meetinghouse presented a series of Christmas vignettes in three rooms (click the word images for larger reading size).

I continued touring around taking in the Printing Shop (oh, I wish I lived close by and could become an interpreter in the village), other exhibits and the Magic Show. Alright, more fascinating history, sorry. The magician patterned his act after acts done by Richard Potter – the first American born magician making fame – read his story. And, also fascinating, Potter (1783-1835) purchased 175 acres in Andover, New Hampshire, building his estate in 1814.  The area is still called “Potter Place”  – I have stopped to read more about Richard Potter, and I cannot wait to visit Potter Place with BB1 or BB2 and all the points to see.

Remember, you can open this gallery to see larger size images:

Occasionally I would sit at the fire, hear the carolers, and listen to conversations (surprisingly this was the first visit to OSV for many people).

and, soon it was over and time for dinner at the Bullard Tavern which is a recreated building constructed as the village opened in 1946.

There are many common rooms outside the dining area which has a massive fireplace and architectural features salvages from covered bridges. I was seated in front of the fire, and amassed my plate from the bountiful buffet.

and then it was over, and I headed back to the parking lot.

a gallery of images along the way

maybe I will have to start a “door study” page to accompany my “rocking chair studies”


and back to my room at the Oliver Wight House. This time I was on the first floor in a room that originally would have been the keeping room with this massive fireplace.

Heading south to Sturbridge I travelled back roads through Worcester County which is in the middle of the state and extends from the NH to CT borders. When I stopped for lunch at Heavy Evie’s Diner in Rutland, (Massachusetts not VT) I was studying my map (yes on real paper) because I had made a wrong turn somewhere earlier. My server came up shocked, “you are actually looking at a real map,” she exclaimed. I opted for the homemade meatloaf, a massive platter for $8.99 – Heavy Evie’s is worth visiting again. So, on Friday when heading home, even with the impending storm, I wanted to re explore the route home and see where I went wrong (and avoid traffic on the “fast” roads). I have traveled through this area several times in the past 3-4 months, and look forward to further explorations next year in one (and both) of my BBs.

Well, I found the turn I missed off US 202 on the way down. I was on the right road on the way back, and at the intersection there was one of the greatest antique shops I have been in for some time – Nouveaux Riches in Baldwinville, MA – so well decorated with eye candy and treasures everywhere. Owner Elaine was a delight and extremely talented with her choices and displays. Her displays of items for sale change with the season, and her Christmas things were amazing. Her shop in an old Wells Fargo Building alone must be seen.

You know I collect old “bottle brush” trees, and one of her trees “spoke to me.” I had never seen one decorated with old ceramic fruit before. It was special, high on a shelf, with a matching price. But if you have never seen it, it fits in your collection, you “buy it when you see it,” regardless of price so you will not be disappointed later. She had a holiday sale of 20% off, but cut further and said, $35 — no hesitation, my “new” circa 1940s 12 inch tree is in its new home.

You know I like to share. Not all of my trees are out this year, but here are some “not so great” images of my trees that I took today. A gallery first (remember to click to enlarge)

Your collections should evoke memories. Below, the tree with the fence around it I found this year for $20 at Colony Antiques. Santa had been in a box forever, probably from a yard sale in New Jersey. The two cars on the left, ironically, I purchased for $5 each in 1964 in an antique shop on US 20 in Sturbridge or Charlton, MA, while painting a barn. That cast iron fire engine – $4.50 in Gayloardsville, CT in 1962 – and I shared that story with you in October 2014 – and of course the Dinky Toys are an MG and TR3 – not mine as a child, but when I was buying books and antiques in a house in Westmoreland.  Oh, memories surround me.

and here is one of my larger trees in a ring of Santas Mari gave me, and now proudly adorning the porch.

God Bless
Love, RAY

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Update – 16 May 2018 from Santa
Season Opening – June 22, 2018

I received an email earlier this week from Santa inviting me to his ribbon cutting ceremony today before the park opened. I replied, “you don’t even have to ask twice.” At 9:45, owner David related the fascinating history of the park (click this link to read the history), and then thanked the local and state officials that enabled him to achieve his goal. Was I ever overwhelmed when he next publicly thanked me also for my efforts in “getting the word out.” I sure hoped it has helped – you know I love sharing the things I enjoy and feel passionate about.

And, then it was time to “cut the ribbon” with the help of local officials

and Santa was ready to greet everyone

and the lucky visitors entered this magical wonderland – a throw back to a slower pace of life when families were starting to tour the road and stopped at Roadside Americana. (whenever you see my images side to side in a gallery, you can click to open a slideshow)

and they headed up the hill

below is a gallery tour around snow covered Santa’s Land today

but I had to ride the train again. The nice “big kid” that I am, I let a young brother and sister sit in front of me. The engineer let them operate the whistle. Maybe next time it will be my turn. You will see and hear them in the video below.

I have lost track of all my visits — I just love it here, and I hope you take the time to visit also. You may enjoy my other posts documenting Santa’s Land over the years. Click on these links to visit:





Santa’s Land will be open today, tomorrow, December 17 and December 23 until 4 PM. Mrs. Claus told me they will probably close at 2PM on Christmas Eve the 24th so her husband can get on the road with his deliveries. We wish Santa (and David) the best with preserving Santa’s Land, Putney, Vermont, for another 60 years and continue bringing joy to multiple generations. Santa’s Land will be reopening in May 2018.

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I may have shared I considered mid-December Road Scholar Christmas programs at the Biltmore, and another in Williamsburg. For various reasons I decided not to go, holding those areas for adventures in late spring instead. But, I wanted to experience holiday celebrations, and found several local events in my research. Have you heard of Storrowton Village in Springfield, Massachusetts?  I never had either, and you know I love learning. In the process I learned that THE BIG E  (which started in 1916) and SIX FLAGS NEW ENGLAND  (which dates to 1870) are two different places – I thought one in the same.

Entering Storrowton Village looking at the Meeting House 6 December

 lacking snow at the moment, I captured this image from their website

The village is comprised of nine relocated and restored buildings from c1767 to the 1850 stone blacksmith shop from just down the road in Chesterfield. The Big E began as an agricultural fair in 1916. Helen Osborne Storrow was asked to develop a “home department” to attract women to the fair (men wanted to see the cattle). Yes – Boston’s Storrow Drive -was  named for her husband, an investment banker, who led a campaign to create the Charles River Basin, preserving and improving the riverbanks creating a public park.

At first she had small temporary buildings erected each year, but when offered a colonial house, she moved it and restored it in 1927. It was so popular that the idea of creating a typical colonial village came to fruition by 1930 with the addition of more permanent historic structures. Helen Osbourne Storrow created this new village concept before Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, the Rockefellers saved Williamsburg, and the Wells family established Sturbridge. AMAZING, and well done.

We started at the Meeting House (c1834 from Salisbury, NH)

inside there were fiddlers – trying – but it is the thought that counts (remember in all my posts you can click the galleries for larger size images)

I liked the decorations in the windows

we then entered the brick schoolhouse — the tower entryway was a later addition. Unique inside, which I do not recall seeing before, the four walls were nothing but blackboards.

and, a couple “artsy” shots – school desk and shadows on student’s bench

I usually skip blacksmith shops, but we found these two smithys wonderful historians and raconteurs

The Potter Mansion (c1776) Potter was an officer in the Revolutionary War, and a craftsmen in about seven trades including clockmaking.

enjoy these interior views — AND — something else I have never seen before, please take note of the large cranes on either side of the fireplace in the keeping room — for hanging blankets to keep the heat focused. (remember to click for larger views)

and the law office — the small single room building is the “norm.” We have an original one in situ across the river, and one is extant at Sturbridge.

and, the Gilbert Farmstead c1794.

a Christmas card

and, a table set

Leaving the Gilbert Farmstead we crossed the common, and here is looking back at the Gazebo and farmstead.

and, then it was dinner at the Old Storrowton Tavern which is two buildings combined: The Atkinson Tavern (c1789) and a c1822 Baptish Meeting House.

A great evening, and I look forward now to experiencing The Big E this coming September.

In the mood yet? And then it was Saturday, 9 December and the Manchester (Vermont) Holiday Inn Tour.  You may recall the Inn-Dulgence Tour friends and I experienced last year — well, instead of frolicking on that path again, we chose the Manchester tour for new experiences this year. There were thirteen Inns open, but we eliminated three because they are “newer” and can be visited at anytime, and two others friend “T” said – “I looked at their websites, and UGH!” One I had stayed at several times 20 years ago, and another I still wanted to see – hey, I was driving and somewhat in control.

Following a hearty breakfast at the Country Girl Diner in Chester, VT (tour ran from Noon to 4, so we did not want to stop for lunch), we started at The Arlington Inn on historic Route 7A. Cathy and I stayed there maybe 21 years ago. This is a quick image as driving by, sorry.

how is this for a start to a holiday tour?

and some more interior views

There was much discussion as to whether to make the next stop. I wanted to see The Inn at Covered Bridge Green because I enjoy driving across the covered bridge in West Arlington. But “T” said it was the worst decorating ever – mismatched wallpaper everywhere (we tease “C” about her “aversion to wallpaper”, and tacky furnishings. “But how can you resist the bucolic setting,” I said, “and it was Norman Rockwell’s home.”

Inside was HORRIBLE — I did not waste any SD Card space taking interior shots. I am so relieved that when I tried to book a stay a few months ago that they never returned my phone call (hint to B&B owners, that is another way I evaluate you – responsiveness).

We then headed back east on a beautiful dirt road on the south bank of the Battenkill River (cannot wait to traverse in BB1 and BB2), and turned on West Mountain Inn Road and up the hill to the West Mountain Inn.

lots of rooms and nice common areas, they host about 30 weddings a year on the expansive grounds.

headed back to 7A – out of the corner of my “eye”

not too bad a faux replica of a Cretors Popcorn Wagon on a 1928-1929 Model AA Ford (not stuttering – AA is the heavier truck frame version of a Model A). Yes, something I have always wanted, but so tall, and hard to store. Thus I have dear CORNELIA (left) instead. But, I at least know why the above machine is here — you see just across the line in Cambridge, NY, for decades sat the Model T Popcorn Truck (below) that I found 2 years ago preserved in the Saratoga Auto Museum. I stopped in Cambridge many times over the years to enjoy this truck. A local probably needed a replica (under a shed roof he/she had a 1966 Mustang convertible just like I had – need to stop next time BB2 and I drive by)

Driving north on 7A we passed the Ira Allen House we were “passing on,” and turned right on Hill Farm Road to (of course) Hill Farm Inn. What a beautiful setting

they had a total of three buildings impeccably restored – almost “too new” looking, but well done. Furnishings were nice, fresh, sleek, and I loved the unique lamps that had been repurposed, often from farm items. We did note, however, that many walls really did need something hanging.

of course, another “Rocking Chair Study

Heading back north on 7A, for years I have been impressed with The Inn at Ormsby Hill, and now was going to see it.

An amazing history, to the home, that you should take a quick look at. Briefly, owner Edward Isham was a prominent Chicago lawyer, and law partner with Robert Todd Lincoln. Lincoln, a frequent visitor, wanted to purchase land from Isham, but Isham refused saying “You’re my best friend and law partner; you’re NOT going to be my next-door neighbor.” Following Isham’s death, the family sold Lincoln 400 acres, and his estate, Hildene, was completed in 1905. Magnificent inside, here are but a few images.

Continuing north up 7A, just past Hildene, a right turn on River Road to the Wilburton Inn. Now was this a surprise.

Another Chicago industrialist built this 500 acre gentleman’s farm (the largest private property in Manchester) in 1902. A fascinating history leading up to its purchase 30 years ago by the Levis family. We met the two daughters, and their Dad (a retired psychiatrist) who could easily have passed for Sigmund Freud, and was as fascinating. We were taken aback when getting to the front door.

and met by three “pretty” Nutcrackers, and two dogs in Christmas costumes. We later learned it was the night for the “dog sleep-over party.”  They have many properties for rent, many activities, and a number of very reasonable rooms. Probably no charge for the entertainment provided by the hosts. Neighbors have raved of stays there, and I think I will have to stay also in this unique mansion with views (click to enlarge).

Next stop on West Road across the street from the library was The Reluctant Panther. Nice, luxurious, but very new – because it burned in the early 2000s, and has been rebuilt with more of a modern “high end sterile” look inside.

but with an award winning Israeli chef, dining here should be added “to the list.”

We headed to Dorset and West Road. The parking area at The Marble West Inn was packed so we headed up to The Squire House with just enough time before the “witching hour.” And, it was starting to snow.

What an amazing building, impeccable decoration, and gracious hosts. Of interest, the entrance appears to be on the side (and is) and you enter into a very wide and grand hallway running the length of the home. Where you would expect to be the front entrance in the center of the front (see above) is an interior porch type room that can be opened up. Here is a taste of the inside.

My kind of place, with three “common area” rooms for relaxing, but looking at the guest rooms you want to stay there too. At the end of the hallway was the final sitting room, and to beautiful surprise this Rufus Porter mural above the fireplace done by owner Gay.  Absolutely stunning and perfect.

We started chatting, and today I sent Gay and Roger a PDF of the 2005 article done on my Rufus Porter dining room, and images of other items I have. RAY RECOMMENDS – Book a stay at The Squire House in Dorset, Vermont.

Upon leaving, it was 4PM, and beginning to snow heavily. So, back down the road, left turn on Church Street into the village of Dorset for wine and cheese at The Dorset Inn (had to get back). “Sorry, we are closed for a wedding, but why don’t you go to our sister Inn – The Barrows House.” And we did. Also, a must return to for dinner or drinks. When we left, the heavy snow was becoming fiercer, but slow and sure and safely we arrived back home. As we left The Barrows House I rolled down the window (well now you push a button) for this shot.

On reflection, not as much holiday decorations as I expected, but all tastefully done. And, enough discoveries of new places to return to for dinners and stays.

I promise, even more is coming before the holidays. Thank you for getting this far down the page. As always, yours, RAY

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Many “forces” drive me to combine and share words. Earlier this week I reread an article “Remembering the Good old Days of Collecting Antiques,” and on the 2nd in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, I bought yet another candle holder, this of handcrafted pottery. Seems I buy candle holders and miniature Christmas trees when they inexplicably “speak to me.” I have no idea why. While trying yesterday’s purchase in many spots around my home, Jiminy Cricket said, “Ray, you must share your collection on Shunpiking with Ray.” So, here it is.



Oh, another prompt was a friend introducing me to these LED battery operated candles. Years ago in the Connecticut shop we tried battery operated, and they lasted two days. Since then I have had electric candles in each front window, but bothered that candles have electric plugs on them. And, then one year when the electric rates escalated I kept them off, but in the windows.


Now I have these in the windows coming on and off all by themselves – and no cords. Check these out — I bought when on Amazon Prime – must have sold out in their warehouse, so a tad more with shipping from the vendor.

and, turning a tad around and to the north, I “have to look at this” so sad – NOT

A project “on my list” for years has been to document my treasures in words and images, and leave notes in each room so the kids do not put in a dumpster things they may not realize have value. But surrounding myself with “things” is not so bad because those things trigger pleasant memories. The article in the November 6, 2017, issue of Antique Week (I was a big advertiser in pre-internet days – selling about $1,000 in books each month) hits some of those key points. Before I share my “flickering flames” I want to give you some quotes to ponder. These quotes mirror many thoughts and conclusions I have shared on how “things have changed.” In years past there were “antique rows” (and clustered book shops) “where dealers understood the concept of critical mass.” With “the advent of the internet … suddenly collecting became buying. And while the size of collections increased because of the expanded market, the fun started to drip, drip, drip away. … treasures that we never even knew existed are now just a few clicks away.  The world has become keystrokes away, and we delight as a child with packages arriving at the door.” Buying “the old fashioned way [we] remember the year we found a treasure … the name of the town where we found it … we recall on that day we added something stupendous to our collection.” With the internet “are we buyers? Are we accumulators? Or are we collectors?” (I invite you to read this article on my thoughts about collecting.)  Concluding the Antique Week article:

…longtime professional in the field … told me that we would best divest ourselves of our collections because our kids don’t want our stuff, just the money it might bring. But the romantic in me thinks that maybe we should hold on. In the end, what we really have is our memories. And, if our time on earth is brightened by a collection, well then, so be it.  The last three sentences are the KEY – I could not have said it better.

But you have been waiting to see my 115 “Flickering Flames.” Don’t ask how many matches it took to prepare this post. I have (at this moment) the following different candle holders and candles: Porch – 19; Kitchen area – 44; Dining Room – 28 – Formal Living Room – 9 – Informal Wicker Parlor – 9; Hallway – 6. READY?


My first comment on memories (not even mentioning the RLI Millennium plates mounted above, or the “book alikes on the left – more on them later) — see the candles in the “sunburst?” A recent purchase in Manchester, Vermont. A friend and I stopped in a high end consignment shop – nothing under $300 – except this metal holder that was but $17. Not the price, but it “spoke to me” – thus providing a “thing” to prompt the wonderful memories of that excursion and dinner out. Remember, these images are all a tad yellow – hey, after all they are candle light.

Now, above my sink

and, a close-up (yes, the pumpkin is an unlit candle)

On my “island.” The triple in the center is amazing. I walked into the Millerton (NY) Antique Center during a RLI trip, and there it was – $25 – no thought necessary (actually, if you “need it” price is not a consideration). I can walk you around the house and show you treasures from this shop. The glass pair came from the Frank Lloyd House gift shop during a Road Scholar trip in Buffalo, NY – just too perfect. I could not figure out the holders on the outer ends. Look like tree stumps, sorry, forget which shop (but think another trip to Millerton). The Christmas Tree candles in them? Well, just came from the Strawbery Banke gift shop during the trip weeks ago. and are “perfect” in the tree stumps.

The holder below really got me started. My first Road Scholar trip after loosing Cathy was experiencing the The Vanderbilts’ Great Camp Sagamore. That was before I started this travel blog. These bronze candleholders where on each table in the dining area, and I had to have them. About $100 each in the gift shop – I have two, one in each of the north big windows in the kitchen area. But, the memories — and the start of a quest.

and, concluding the room.


Moving into the dining room, I have not yet set the table with my German Festive Red Christmas plates with green trees – soon. But, as you look around the dining room, I invite applications from diner guests – I am becoming a good cook. Oh, the green glass candlesticks – made in Williamsburg, but I found at the Fort Stanwix National Park gift shop in Rome, NY, when heading to a program in Canada, October, 2011.

Gary and I were “filling in the map” one day near Cape Ann, and stopping in shops for things for his home. No luck for him, but I got this massive pillar candle holder – yes, it prompts memories of our day together.

not sure which shop the three green holders below came from, but the holder in the wine bottle (bottle from my stay at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, NH) I purchased from a sutler at an event at the Fort at Number 4. Now, in the front the possibly faux pewter  candelabra is my “traveling” finery. Used during diners in front of “44” during concerts, and heading to the Fort at Number 4 for holiday meals – hey, no electricity there in 1750, and limited lighting.

and, on the outside wall

remember, diner applications considered.


I spend much of my time “working” and relaxing on my porch – almost four seasons depending if below 20 degrees.

See the Yule Log? In eighth grade I cut up birch logs, drilled holes in them, decorated with greens, made a trailer for my bicycle, and started pedaling. I lived in the country – half mile or more between houses. I later wrote an essay for English class, “You want to buy a Yule Log, Lady? $1 per hole.” Was successful, but I remember the house (not the lady’s name) who said, “you have an endangered species on your log – do not use that!” Memories !!!

moving around the porch – group of three cost (with four fascinating glass pieces) but $5 for 7 items a month ago at Colony Antiques. The cut stone pair on the window sill – Sugar Hill Sampler – Sugar Hill, NH – from a noted artisan.

Not really a candle, but a no thought needed purchase when found at a farm shop with the base in Massachusetts off Route 2. Of course, RLI wooden cut out below – recognize my room?

hallway – wall candelabra were Cathy’s — mirror was in the little colonial home I purchased in 1990 (BC – before Cathy – but after D)


this is my room that looks like a library, but there is not a real book on any shelf.  I was told years ago by a book seller friend that the best way to create value for a collection is write a book about it. Long “on the list” is to do a booklet on my book alike collection – something Cathy and I enjoyed building, and most pieces prompt memories of the purchase and what we were doing. Hard to find something new, but still looking — book to come someday.

and above the mantel – my painting is another whole story – the Oxbow on the Connecticut River – noted artist – more memories. Invite yourself for dinner for the stories.


and, my informal “wicker” parlor on the south side of the front of the house.

above are two simple glass candle holders that a neighbor gave me a few years ago. the others in this room are Trench Art – made during WWI by soldiers utilizing spent case shells.

remember I said I also cannot resist miniature trees? Well, they do have to “speak to me.” Click to expand this panorama below that I created this past week for the rear page of THE WALPOLE CLARION.

Guess that is it — remember – collect to have fun, collect for the memories, and if you like it – just buy it.

Catch you soon, as always, yours, RAY – Your HOPELESS ROMANTIC

Posted in Miscellaneous Musings | 7 Comments


Update – 16 May 2018 from Santa
Season Opening – June 22, 2018

I first visited Santa’s Land when moving to New Hampshire in 2002 – I love classic early Roadside Americana. When it came up for sale my late-wife and I even toyed with the idea of purchasing it. It changed hands. I visited with my grandson in July, 2013, and published a post on my travel site – Shunpiking with Ray. That post (click on this link to see it) has had about over 5,200 page views, and actually many more (about 20,000) with the images people have opened up. Since that time I have documented the demise of Santa’s Land, and happily beginning in May, 2017, told everyone of its rebirth. I have been communicating with the new owner, and updating my post, and sharing on Facebook. Those posts resulted in over 1,000 “shares” and more views on my travel blog. TODAY WAS RE-OPENING DAY — and I had

I arrived early, and was first in line.

to be “first,” and I was. So, here is a photo documentary of what I experienced in 2 1/2 hours. I have never seen more people there, and David (the new owner) promises to give me the attendance figures. It was hundreds, if not a thousand folks, and I hope it continues. Open now on weekends through Christmas 2017.

What was most rewarding were the smiles, and I am still hurting from smiling. I talked with folks who had come decades ago, a family with four generations working here, I saw friends who brought their daughter and granddaughter (they last came 60 years ago). Here is a tradition in Vermont that must continue and is amazing – visit soon and often to go back in time to a simpler way of life.

About ten minutes before opening time – 10 AM – there were at least 30 people in line and in the parking lot.

The door opened – I am a gentleman, so let the couple who were in the parking lot before me get the first tickets, which meant I could get this image of the BEGINNING, and first sale.

but, look at the time on my ticket – opening day – (ignore the age thing, only a number)

And, they come pouring in

to journey into the magical entrance to this magical place

here is Santa’s new map of his Land — and you can click on it to open a large image – and even print it out.

I let this young lady and her family move in front of me – I wanted to share in her enthusiasm.

She told Santa above what she wanted (upon prompting from her family), and again to the real Santa who was greeting everyone on the grounds. What did she want? “I want a new toothbrush.” You cannot make this up. Bless her.

crossing the bridge, there was still ice on the pond. The slide (see my earlier post for a video of my grandson enjoying it) will be open in the spring.

I guess being “first” is important when something means so much to you. I ran up to the train station just as the train was pulling out with the couple that I “let” buy the first tickets. “Hey, wait for me.” Engineer Bill stopped, and I hopped on.

Here are two views from the train — now, remember, whenever you see a “gallery” of grouped pictures, just click on one to see larger images.


let me now tour you around even more.


and, the school where you may mail a letter to Santa.

Years ago I believe this building was a gift shop — on Santa’s new map it is Bear Mountain. And, if for no other reason, visit to see the mechanicals Santa (aka David) has installed inside (remember to open the gallery below for full size images)

The Iceberg Slide (now repaired – it had been closed under the previous ownership)

Fresh paint (over 700 gallons) everywhere

and inside Santa’s home.

Iconic “picture op”

Besides the three kiddie rides in the original location there is this merry-go-round that was packed the whole time I was there (I only took one ride)

and now the other rides with young riders.

looking back at the packed parking lot from the kiddie ride area. I was so thrilled to see this.

The train had a problem early on – actually the track. By now you should know I enjoy chatting with people and learning. Bill, the locomotive engineer, told me that a chipmunk (or some rodent) had dug under the track and a spike popped allowing the track to spread. A repair crew was called in (David I bet was nervous all day with happenings like this, but those are the events you solve and then recall as memories and laugh). I was ready as Engineer Bill brought the train back to the station.

and I took another ride

When I got off (had to give others a chance to ride) I waited for the train to finish another look and took a movie. Enjoy

It was (sadly) time to head along, but I noted that Rudolph was extremely pleased with all that was going on.

I got back into the gift shop/entrance, and found a line of people buying memories from the shop.

keeping warm by the fire.

My friends know, and if you have read enough of my posts, you have learned that I have unbelievable timing, or fortunate luck. I opened the door to leave, and there was David (aka Santa – the owner). We chatted, promised to stay in touch. I told him with a chill running up and down my spine how wonderful a job he had done, and the absolute pleasure I saw everyone having. GOD BLESS YOU DAVID, and keep going. Remember folks, “vote with your dollars” – visit and start (or continue) your traditions at SANTA’S LAND, PUTNEY VERMONT

Thank you, yours, RAY

Click this link to read the history of Santa’s Land

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This post is to help you “get in the spirit” – it did for me. Without having a December theatrical production to worry about, for the first time in nine years I have been able to review and decide on Christmas events throughout New England that I would like to experience. I created a list (PDF available, just ask), and the research is what I enjoy prior to execution. I stumbled on 300 Years of Thanksgiving – 90 minute weekend guided tours at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth. What a great way to start my holiday excursions – a plan was hatched, even though usually “I do not do weekends away.” But then this is New Hampshire off season.

I bought my ticket on-line for 1PM Sunday the 19th, booked a room, and headed across Antique Alley to the coast – Route 4 for those of you “not in the know.” Bought 11 books at the third stop on the way. On the way home found 12 more books at two locations. Profit once sold pays for this trip and another – darn, I am good at what I do.

The tour covered three centuries, starting at the Pitt Tavern with Thanksgiving in 1777. There were five in my group, that is not counting the 6 week babe in arms. There have been harvest celebrations for eons, this day in 1777 folks were also celebrating the recent victory at Saratoga. The interpreter greeted us in the keeping room.

and then took is into a front tavern room to make a “harvest craft” – a corn husk doll. The dolls would be played with throughout the winter (mine did not come out well), and then buried in gardens for good growing luck.

by now you should know me and shadows and reflections.

Next stop was 1870 at the Goodwin Mansion. This former governor’s home was moved a short distance to Strawbery Banke (make sure you learn the history of this early living history museum that is in situ). Before President Lincoln established a date for Thanksgiving Day in 1863 it was celebrated at different times in different states. If I recall correctly Governor Ichabod Goodwin, prior to Lincoln, unified the day of Thanksgiving between Maine (a stone’s throw away) and New Hampshire. Here is the Goodwin’s Thanksgiving table set.

The buildings at Strawbery Banke are interpreted to a certain time and resident. We next visited the Shapiro House in 1919. Mrs. Shapiro, recently arriving in the US from the Ukraine, wonderfully related her life and attempts to understand American traditions (she was great).

and the 1919 table set in the Shapiro House

Finally our guide took us into the Abbot-Store House during World War II in 1943. Actually this is one of the original homes from about 1720, but much changed. You know I enjoy old country stores, even the 1940s stores are fascinating, so here are some views.

I first enjoyed Strawbery Banke in 2009 and do have to get back. This tour is run to garner some additional revenue for the museum during its closed season. The tour was nice, but I was a tad disappointed not seeing more festive decorations. BUT, in my research I learned of Festival of Trees at The Urban Forestry Center, a fundraiser for the Portsmouth Garden Club. After I checked into my hotel, off I went.

There were outdoor and indoor displays with trees, miniature trees, wreaths and the like. Here is the path up the hill to the buildings.

and some exhibits in the historic Cape house, built about 1840. (remember to click an image for a larger gallery view)

Now, here is an idea for your yard. Some birch logs, knit caps, and various noses.

A closeup to help you get started

I entered the next building with larger displays. So much festive eye candy, here is just some of what I saw.

A table display

the display below was to the side of the above table. You see these mirrored window frames in repurposed stores, but here it has been decorated to look frosty. Really nice.

And, it was a “Blue Christmas” complete with music

In the center of the next room were many large decorated trees. Joanie — take note of your next challenge below. (remember, clicking on an image in my galleries opens to larger images)

And walking out the door I was greeted with this garden.

These are PLATE BLOOMERS made specially in Red and Green for the Festival. I found these amazing and fascinating.

I really like Portsmouth, and have visited many times and not seen it all. In fact, this is the third November in a row I have stayed there – and the problem is that the history sites close by the end of October. I also have to get back to Star Island. Now on the list – stay two nights in Portsmouth early June 2018, and book another adventure on Star.

To celebrate our anniversary in 2003, Cathy and I headed to the newly renovated and reopened Wentworth by the Sea.  When booking, the hotel misunderstood Cathy saying we were coming for our anniversary. On arrival we were told, “we upgraded you to a tower suite for your honeymoon.” We said, “thank you.” Our suite is in the center tower, fourth floor below.

and, a few memory views for me – the lobby, and where we had dinner (give me white tablecloths anytime).


I wanted to walk to dinner, and reviewing options from my digs at Hotel Portsmouth, it was obvious (as a bookseller, in case you forgot) that I eat at The Library Restaurant.  A fascinating history to the building (do read about it), great ambience, good food, but overpriced. Only need to go once. (note white tablecloths – anytime, please, I am well trained to finer things)



I then walked back to Hotel Portsmouth. When I checked in earlier they said, “we have upgraded your room.” “Is the upgrade in the original mansion,” I asked. “No, but it is a bigger room and bed.” I asked for the original room in the original mansion I selected. I cannot say more about this new boutique chain – Lark Hotels – I was very pleased. My room – second floor in the left corner.

Monday morning I was at Discover Portsmouth when it opened at 9:30 – a 3 minute walk away. I always start with the movies/videos at a museum venue, and enjoyed 300 years of Portsmouth history in 12 minutes. I looked at the exhibits, shop, gathered travel brochures, and headed to Maine. I wanted to do some trouser shopping in Kittery – UGH – not a favorite thing.

Been down the route before (usually opposite direction). The small town of Kittery is interesting, and then I took the shore road to Kittery Point. I pulled out on the dock and looked out at the ocean. Martha, is that Star with the hotel in the center?

My plan was to take NH 101 home and stop at some possible book discovery spots, but a few signs caught my curiosity. There was Newington, only know of it in books in my inventory, and the next Historical Newington. Off I went. If you look at a map you will see that the Portsmouth area is confusing with bays and inlets and lots of water around isolated areas. I was really in nowhere, but lovely, and I arrived.

The road (look at the map) came to a dead end at the limits of the Pease airfield. Here is the answer to your winning Jeopardy question.

Through the centuries the income from timber cuts here financed and supplied materials for the 1872 Town Hall, the schoolhouse and other community projects.

Here is the 1872 Town Hall

and across the street the Parsonage from about 1710 to 1725.

next to it the 1920 fascinating stone facade abandoned schoolhouse

There is absolutely no reason in the world for you to go here, and it is not on the way to anywhere — but take the opportunity to swing in off Spalding Turnpike.

I said I was going to amend my West Point trip on this post, but decided not to. Maybe someday. In brief, AVOID The Thayer Hotel, and make sure to visit the New York State Museum in Albany.

More holiday posts to come – HAPPY THANKSGIVING, and Happy Holidays, As always, yours, RAY

and, finally, for some reason I have a penchant for old miniature Christmas trees. I got some of my collection out today to illustrate the December issue of my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION. You can click this image to open up a large panorama – enjoy.


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