A mid-October weekend found me at Stratford Hall, a historic house museum on the coastal plain of central Virginia known as the Northern Neck. It’s nestled between the Potomac and the Rappahannock rivers, about an hour from Fredericksburg, VA. It was a weekend of discovery, and I wished I lived closer to visit more often.
The region was the cradle of the American revolutionary movement, an outcome of a wealthy, sophisticated, and learned society that honed a uniquely American philosophy honoring civic duty and informed by the values of the Enlightenment.
In this context, I learned that Thomas Lee, patriarch of the Lee family, acquired land along the Potomac in 1713, built a successful tobacco and shipping enterprise. Over the next century, the Lees contributed much to the formation of our fledgling nation – 2 Lee brothers signed the Declaration of Independence – and their influence extended for decades afterward.
Robert E. Lee, who ably led the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, was born at Stratford Hall in 1807.
Nearly three hundred years later, the Lee family’s iconic home, Stratford Hall, is a touchstone to our nation’s agrarian past and start as a Republic. Here’s why you should go….
During a recent trip to Down EastMaine, birdwatching per se was not top of mind. I set out to experience and get in tune with the natural splendor of the of the place, Acadia National Park in particular.
As so often happens, the most enlightening travel experiences come from unexpected quarters. My renewed appreciation of the region’s vast ecosystem came through birdwatching, with a pro, Michael Good, MS.
Oh, I recognize common “backyard” birds: brilliant male cardinals, squawky blue jays, blackbirds with flashy red trim (not a scientific term). I’ve got a bead on swans, geese, various ducks. In summer, I can spot a neon yellow finch, dazzling hummingbirds. Shorebirds, beyond majestic blue herons or elegant egrets, get lumped into one of two categories: “gulls” or “smaller-birds-that-live -at-the-beach.”
Beyond that, I am an ornithological black hole. But here’s what I learned….
Michael grounded this field trip in biology by sharing the Latin name, gender and approximate age for each bird, and weaving the geography and biodiversity of Mt. Desert Island into the bird narrative. His knowledge made it interesting; his passion made it fun.
First of all, what exactly and where exactly, is Down East Maine? It is geography mixed with sailing terminology that broadly refers to the 7,000 miles of coastline – including 4600 islands – from Maine to Canada. In the days of cargo schooners, boats headed to ports along the New England coast sailed “downwind,” from Boston pushed along by the prevailing southwest winds, and in an easterly direction on their compasses. “Down East” – a terse Yankeeism – just stuck.
“It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.!” extolled a disco hit in the late 1970’s made popular by the then-exotic band, the Village People, with waving arms and flexing fingers silently echoing the iconic letters. In Pittsburgh, it is still fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A. which has now morphed into the classy and very hip Ace Hotel, minus the double entendre of the song.
The Portland, Oregon-based chain of locally focused hotels found the perfect venue; the one-time Y.M.C.A-turned-hot-hotel captures the unique aesthetic of the once-gritty East Liberty neighborhood. The Ace proudly respects both its antecedent and the transformation of the Steel City into a biotech and information-based economy in step with its long-standing creative culture. Here’s why, in Pittsburgh, I found that the Ace is, indeed, a place you can go.
Summer along New England’s coastline can be magical – the play of light on water, vacations memorialized in family lore by the childhood summers of carefree ease. Among the thousands of craggy inlets and coves lies Menemsha Harbor, situated along the western coastline of Martha’s Vineyard, part of the town of Chilmark, MA. This post’s picture essay endeavors to capture its essence and provide inspiration for your own summer magic. Continue reading “Travel Inspiration: Magic in Menemsha”
Tucked between the North and South Forks of Long Island’s fabled East End, Shelter Island was a safe haven for generations of seafarers who sought refuge from the ravages of the North Atlantic.
Today it’s a haven from the havoc of modern life with a very family oriented and pet-friendly vibe. Shelter Island has yet to install a traffic light but there is no mistaking its laid-back summer sophistication. Here are some tips as you plan your escape …..