A grand future ahead for the S.S. United States

IMG 2056 SSUS

After waiting for announcement regarding the S.S. United States, I was excited to hear even better news than expected. What I’d heard prior to that was the possibility of the ship being moved from its current dock near Penn’s Landing to New York, according to this philly.com article. My hopes were that renovations would lead to a museum and hotel combination with multiple dining options; maybe serve as an event space? Our flagship could be the east coast and American version of the Queen Mary, an impressive attractive in a California dock.

With Feb. 4 came news of plans to make the ship seaworthy again with the help of Crystal Cruises, via the S.S. United States Conservancy. Such a reveal had me instantly excited to one day witness that very scene of the S.S. United States leaving port for a voyage! Given the worldwide attention this cause has gained, I believe that we’ll see it happen. The ship is a beloved, amazing piece of maritime history and ever since I first learned about it, I kept my hopes up. Even when I felt uncertain about the outcome, I couldn’t imagine things not working out for the best. So many have come together to follow what lay ahead for the S.S. United States.

Getting to see up close the ship in its current state during onboard photo tours, I could only hope that a scrapyard wasn’t in its future. I had no idea what the choices were, not knowing the specs and not having that expertise. But I figured, it’s a good sign that at least it was safe enough to allow a small group of people to board.  The photo tour, by the way, was limited to conservancy members. Even though a lot of work is ahead, it’ll be well worth all of the conservancy’s efforts to see the S.S. United States completely restored and back in action.

IMG 2821 SSUS

IMG 3029 SSUS

Until then, I am grateful for all that has been done preservation-wise to date, as it would be terrible to lose a classic ship with such a grand past. What a spectacular a sight it would be to watch as the S.S. United States embarks on a new journey! Maybe I’ll get to board for a cruise. If I were among its passengers, I’d feel honored sailing the seas and experiencing the ship’s long-awaited rebirth.

Check out the following to learn more:

  • The Big Ship: The Story of the S.S. United States, by Frank O. Braynard
  • “SS United States: Lady in Waiting” (2008)

Keep up-to-date on this historic ship through the S.S. United States Conservancy. Here’s to its sea-faring future!

Posted in Historic, History, Maritime, News, Philadelphia, Ships, Transportation, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel hopes and goals for 2016

Hope everyone is having a great start to the new year! As I watched from home the coverage of festivities in Times Square, one TV personality exclaimed about the iconic New York spot, “This is the place to be!” I always feel that way when tuning in and awaiting the ball to drop, wishing I were in town, too. Maybe one of these years, with a hotel room from which to take in the celebration, I’ll finally check this off of my travel list.

A few recent excursions to NYC were to see Broadway shows; for lack of time, no extensive sightseeing. So, along with my goal to ring in the new year in Times Square, I’m hoping to return to the Big Apple and check out a city loop bus tour. A stop at Serendipity 3 for their famous frozen hot chocolate, as well as a stroll through Central Park are also on the agenda to enjoy more of this exciting place.

IMG_8994-II

In the meantime, a couple of possible firsts are coming up soon, both in U.S. and international travel. Each destination has held my interest for as long as I can remember and I’m hoping to go on both trips. Kicking these goals into gear, I plan to attend a meeting later this week for more information about going abroad.

Early in 2015, I wrote a blog post about a study abroad program flier I noticed on campus. It was for creative writing in England. If I go to this history-filled country, it won’t be until later in the summer for 10 days. The academic focus will be similar to that of my time in Ireland, learning about business on a global level. It may be a while before anything is definite, also depending on financial aid or even scholarships. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed; it’ll be an amazing experience to visit England, see its countryside, literary and film sites, castles and more!

If I do find myself in England, I wouldn’t be able to resist exploring the neighboring country of Wales. Remember the story of a meteorologist whose report covered weather for a Welsh town with a rather long name? He pronounced it so effortlessly. Anyway, while I was on a bus tour from Dublin to Galway, I noticed several decals of European cities. One of them was for that same Welsh town, the name encircling a red dragon symbol of the country. Aside from knowing the town’s name for its unique length, I wonder what other interesting history I could learn firsthand from visiting.

Travel Decals Inst

For a bit of Welsh travel inspiration, read this Photo Journey blog post I wrote about the enchanting sites I’d love to see there.

State-side, the travel first for me is sunny California. In part, I want to attend an event to be held in Los Angeles, which could help my academic and career path. I didn’t go to the same event when other cities hosted it in past years. But as a big fan of movies, I’ve been holding out for the chance to visit the City of Angels and during leisure time, explore the world of Hollywood. At the top of my L.A. must-see list is Griffith Observatory, featured in several cinematic works among those I love to watch.

Last November, I had a chance to spend a weekend in Connecticut, yet needed to cancel a month or so ahead of the trip. Well, “postpone” is a better term. After all, I’ve never been to CT and would love to see more of the New England region sometime, especially during the fall season!

So, these are just a few places and each one sure will make for wonderful travel experiences in their own way.

Where do you hope to go in the new year, whether it’s a first-time or return visit? No matter the destination, safe and happy travels to you!

Posted in California, England, International, Los Angeles, New England, New York, New York City, Study Abroad, Travel, UK, USA, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating the art of photography throughout November

As someone who enjoys writing, I know about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a challenge to finish literary work. That’s a goal I’d love to reach someday, including nonfiction novels with a travel theme, as well as other genres. I’ve also thought about working on books of photography as a way to help get my visual work out there. Another fun means to do so is NaPhoPoMo, a creative event that runs through November. It was actually half over when I first learned about National Photo Posting Month. However, I tried to snap some images as my schedule allowed during the remaining days. After all, photography is an art form I love!

Out of the photos I took for the visual challenge, my favorites include those I took while visiting Valley Forge National Historical Park. I hadn’t noticed this three-sided (one side is a fence) structure during previous excursions to the revolutionary war era site. This time, however, the vibrant yellow leaves of autumn that surrounded it caught my attention. I was on the trolley tour, heading back to the visitor center and decided to go back to this particular spot separately. It’s was near the Washington Memorial Chapel, which wasn’t one of the scheduled stops on the tour. By the way, if you’ve never been to the chapel, definitely check it out!

VF Autumn Three Side 2

VF Autumn Three Side 12

The little wooden structure is not far off the road and just on the edge of a parking lot. However, in some of my photos, it looks as though it’s isolated deep in a wooded area. Just imagine wandering in a forest and stumbling upon an old, lone shed or other such building. It sure would be mysterious! With so many old houses I’ve taken photos of over the years, it also falls right into my favorite subjects to capture in images.

What is your favorite subject to take pictures of in your travels? If you took the NaPhoPoMo challenge, what drew your attention the most for great photo composition?

Check out my new Flickr album, NaPhoPoMo, for more photos from this past month. I’m looking forward to next year’s challenge.

Posted in Flickr, Foliage, Historic, NaPhoPoMo, National Parks, National Photo Posting Month, Nature, Pennsylvania, Photography, Tours, Travel, Valley Forge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall flavors and crafts in downtown Media

Pumpkins, gourds, scarecrows and autumn flowers decorated the corners, windows and store entrances of downtown Media. It was time for the 35th Annual Food and Craft Festival, an event filled with flavors and creativity of the season.

Mini Scarecrow Flowers

One delicious bite into a pumpkin-flavored pizzelle was enough persuasion to buy a pack to take home. Carol’s Pizzelles also had other flavors available that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, including chocolate chip and coconut.

CP Pumpkin Pizzelle

Many vendors lining State Street included those of restaurants and stores within the designated event area. Tempting pasta was cooking at the Spasso Italian Grill tent, set up just beyond their al fresco dining patio. As a local from only several towns away, it was hard to believe I hadn’t tried Spasso’s food until then. I ordered one Spiedini di Mozzarella, an amazing mozzarella stick served on a plate of sauce and big enough satisfy while awaiting a main dish.

Spasso Grill

Spasso Mozz Ch

Still early in the festival hours and more food to taste, I didn’t have any pasta at the time. I’d save that for next time in town; everything certainly looked worth the wait for another stop in town.

Spasso Pasta MB

One store called Earth and State also had tent-covered tabled set up along the street, featuring creative Halloween artwork. A young guy was just finishing his chalk writing of the store name on the street. Several interesting pieces on display included Jack-O-Lanterns with ghoulish zipper mouths. A spider with a green beaded body was posed to crawl over the corner of a wooden crate. Its legs, also dotted with green beads, were bent, yet still spanned wider than adult hands. Large blue gem eyes leered at passersby.

Earth And State

If any festival-goers wanted to find a relaxing spot, 320 Market Cafe made a great choice. Just inside, bread on display added to the image of a warm home setting. A string of small golden lights glowed near a small pumpkin and gourd set up on the counter. Good music played on around patrons’ muted conversation. If just going in for a small snack, try the Pico de Gallo and Corn Tortillas.

320 Market Tortillas

Joining the street crowd once more, I stopped to try a spin-the-wheel game and won a ticket for a show at the Media Theatre. I had never been there for any of the stage productions; what a nice surprise!

Another food vendor was Margaret Kuo’s, where egg rolls and sweet and sour chicken were among the crowd favorites. With a purchase of the egg rolls for now, I’d have to come back to town another time to try a full dish on their menu. That’s what I love about these events – getting a quick taste of food offered by local restaurants, inspiring plans for dining out somewhere I haven’t been to for an entire meal.

MKuos Food

Usually, my family goes to a different location of Trader Joe’s at a shopping center near a mall we frequent. However, there is one in Media as well and while in town, it was a go-to place for food items that didn’t need to quickly be taken home. After all, the day of downtown festivities wasn’t over yet. With so many things coming out in pumpkin flavor this time of year, I spotted a display of cereal boxes – Pumpkin O’s! Yes, I had to try them. There were many other items to buy in celebration of the season, including sizable pumpkins and a variety of gourds for a nice fall feast.

TJ Fall Harvest

One last bite to eat before heading home was a generous plate of sugar-covered funnel cake. Not like that pictured below; with its tempting layer of toppings, I just had to snap a photo. Another one next to it had chocolate and cream for extra flavor.

Funnel Cake Topping 1

Coming away from this festival, I found that I’d really like to take in more of downtown Media again sometime. I’ve never wandered around its streets much in the past. Now, knowing more of the dining and shopping scene, I’d love to gather there with friends from time to time. Outside of the Seven Stones Cafe, a nice courtyard area welcomes visitors with benches and a fountain centerpiece.

Seven Stones Cafe Sign

Posted in Crafts, Dining, Food, Foodie, Halloween, Holidays, Media, Pennsylvania, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A flavor-filled day at the Chester County Restaurant Festival

CCRF Banner

The celebration of delicious local flavors arrived on a beautiful afternoon, drawing a crowd ready to dig in. Food lovers attending the 36th Annual Chester County Restaurant Festival could find restaurant and truck vendors with menus to satisfy anyone’s taste. A popular event, both Market and Gay Streets in West Chester, Pa. were filled with great eats and artistic work for sale. Live bands added to the entertaining atmosphere at several points.

After finding a good parking space in a downtown lot, paying $5 for the day, it was just a short walk to the festivities. First stop for a bit to eat was a food truck called GiGi & Big ‘R’ Caribbean Soul Food. I tried a sample of their jerk chicken, which was spicy, a little more than I usually go for, yet not too much to handle.  It was a very good quick-bite start to the day.

GiGi Big R

Continuing down Market Street, I browsed some framed artwork with themes including nature and pop culture. Even when I don’t buy crafts, I love simply admiring the creative talent it takes to make them. A grilled cheese vendor, Bees Knees, was set up nearby and just imagining the taste of melted (almost any cheese) had me hooked! A sandwich called the “Come Up” sounded particularly appetizing and with avocado in the mix of this cheddar delight, it was amazing! Bees Knees also offered beverages and several other grilled cheese works, along with gluten free and vegan choices. Each sandwich on the menu was priced at $8.

BK Come Up GC

Several more arts and crafts vendors were in sight, one of which displayed necklaces sparkling in the sunlight. It was difficult to decide among an ornate heart-shaped pendant and many other designs. I looked around further, moving on to the next vendor while deciding on any purchases.

Funnel Cakes. That’s what a large yellow banner with uppercase red letters advertised at the Snack Shack. My favorite carnival (or boardwalk) food, I couldn’t resist a plate of this crunchy treat. Sometimes, I’ve seen funnel cakes come out a bit skimpy; at this vendor, they were of sharing proportion!

Snk Shk Funnel Cake

At some food festivals I’ve been to, it seemed that most people were eating as they walked. In this case, several tables were available at various points along the buzzing streets. Sitting down definitely made it easier to take turns breaking off a chunk of sugary funnel cake.

Just beyond the immediate group of tables, a row of business awnings were decorated with pretty strings of light. This is what I love, I thought to myself; a delightful ambiance to admire in a town!

Festive Lights Inst

An Italian restaurant called Mercato was among those with lights strung above the sidewalk and they were also one of the food vendors. It was too soon to eat again, so I took a photo of their meatball sliders as a reminder to try them later in the day.

Mercato MB Sliders

For now, it was time to walk off the food eaten so far. As this two-sided sign showed, there were many more tempting dishes to try!

Restaurant Sign 1

Restaurant Sign 2

It seemed even more crowded while walking along Gay Street, where I spotted the tent for a familiar vendor: The Meat House. At the moment, I skipped it since my family knows where their store is and we’re all in the area often. Located not too far from my neighborhood, delicious food can easily be brought home. When we have a family get-together, we can stock up on their items.

Taking a short break from the street scene, I got a booth inside Ryan’s Pub and tried a tropical-flavored beverage. A waitress said they weren’t serving the full menu, due to the food festival. But I’d love to go back there again and stay a bit longer. I loved this Irish phrase over the doorway, welcoming patrons.

Ryans Pub Door

After more strolling up and down the street, I felt my appetite growing. This time, Iron Hill Brewery was the restaurant of choice and their pumpkin ale was back! Last year, we made a stop in here and I sampled a drink called “Ichabod imperial pumpkin ale.” Not much on drinking a full glass, I had another sample this time, along with a filling cheddar cheeseburger.

IHB Cheddar Ch Burger

That would be it for the day. I wasn’t going to be able to try those meatball sliders after all! Of course, I could always come back to West Chester and dine at Mercato. Another option, Gadaleto’s, a seafood market. They had a tent set up for the festival and were offering lobster rolls. If only my stomach weren’t full at this point!

Gadaletos Lobster Roll

Before leaving, a stop at Carlino’s Specialty Market was a must for some great take-home food. If I lived in West Chester, I’d shop here all the time; they have a great selection and several tables at which to sit and eat. Outside, more tables were available for those who wanted to take in the nice weather as well. On this stop, purchases included a few slices of meat and cheese lasagna, a mini pumpkin pie and two packs of pizzelles (one chocolate, one vanilla).

Throughout the restaurant festival, I also took photos of stunning architecture I hadn’t seen before in West Chester. I’ll share those on a separate blog post. The fun foodie event was a two-for-one experience, giving me the chance to explore more of the town than in the past. It also inspired me to revisit this charming town and check out more dining establishments and entertainment. If you’re in the Chester County area when next year’s restaurant festival is held, it is definitely worth checking out!

 

Posted in Crafts, Dining, Food, Foodie, Pennsylvania, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing Chadds Ford Days

CFD Event Sign 2

A cloudy sky lurked overhead on the day I planned to attend the 50th Annual Chadds Ford Days event. I debated whether or not to hold off until the following afternoon instead. However, it paid off to chance what turned out to be only slight drizzle for learning interesting history, tasting great food and more.

Volunteers awaited as cars turned left off of Creek Road near the border of Chester and Delaware counties. A makeshift path was set up in the field outside the designated festival grounds. Car parked and standing in line, I watched as re-enactors in Revolutionary War era costumes walk by with their gear. Several visitors had their dogs out to enjoy the dog-friendly with them. One couple had a large-sized, beautiful fluffy white dog named Cody.

The gate opened at 10 a.m., allowing visitors to walk the short leaf-covered, grassy path onto the main grounds. Up ahead were two tables sheltered by a large blue tent, the point at which to buy admission tickets ($10 for adults, free for children and CFHS members).

Off to the left, abstract shapes of wood were stacked into several piles as the sawing sounds filled the air. Vendor tents were just beyond, the first of which had Halloween-themed crafts. Gourd-like decorations hung from a display rack and were painted to show various Jack-O-Lantern expressions. Another vendor had crafted little statues representing the classic Universal movie monsters.

At another tent, I noticed several brochures, including one for the 34th Annual Covered Bridge & Arts Festival at Knoebels. That sure would be a nice autumn excursion to go on sometime! On the back, I found information for the Columbia Montour Visitors Bureau, including its town of Danville, Pa. Another reason I decided to keep a copy was that my mom and grandmother once took a trip there to meet an ancestry contact. I couldn’t make it at the time, but they said I’d love the town of Danville, what with all of the historic buildings.

Several antique cars were lined up on the lawn near the CFHS barn, my favorite model being this for its stunning shade of blue.

Antique Blue Car Inst

Food vendors were just around the corner and visitors needed to get tickets like those for carnival and amusement pier rides. These were available at the first table in the area outside the barn. A list of vendors provided prices for all the good eats in one spot so customers could easily figure out how many tickets they’d need.

Vendor Food Tix

We had gone past the ticket table at first and decided on trying food at The Meat House tent. After going back to get our tickets, I chose a smoked pulled chicken sandwich and red bliss dill potato salad. As I was walking away with my order, a young woman saw my food and said, “That looks amazing!”

Meat House Food

A number of picnic tables were set up and from our vantage point, we watched a costumed group engaged in a dance. Nearby, a middle-aged man was giving demonstrations with his Revolutionary War era gear. Classic rock tunes could be heard playing somewhere back beyond the food vendors.

The food, by the way, was delicious! I never actually tried any sandwich with pulled pork or other meat prepared that way. Great flavor in both the chicken and in my potato salad. It turns out that The Meat House has a location along Route 202 on the southbound side; worth a visit to see more of what they offer.

Back on foot, I wandered over to two tables with a number of books on display. Local authors were selling their published works, which covered a wide range of history topics. One book caught my attention because I could easily follow in the footsteps taken to write it:

  • West Chester Six Walking Tours, by Bruce E. Mowday (Photos by Rick Davis)

Glancing through the pages, it surprised me how little of the old architecture I had seen in West Chester myself so far. I attended West Chester University of Pennsylvania for a couple of semesters and admired several buildings on campus. A number of houses near the college also had charming details. Hoping to explore the town further myself in the future, I decided to buy Mowday’s book, which he signed for me.

At the second table, I bought the following two books by Gene Pisasale; he also signed them:

  • Ten Days In Paris: An Historic Walking Tour
  • Abandoned Address The Secret of Frick’s Lock

I have never been to Paris, but it’s another European city that I’ve always wanted to visit. The spiral-bound book included such helpful information on sightseeing, that I’ll definitely bring it with me if I get the chance to travel to the City of Lights.

The word “abandoned” was part of what drew me to the fiction paperback novel about a real place called Frick’s Lock. I heard very little about it before and as ghost towns go, that only made the idea of wandering the site seem more unusual to explore. If there were any official tours, I’d look into it for a off-the-beaten-path road trip. Such places always being quite eerie, the book featuring this particular location would certainly make for a good read. Especially since even a lone old, worn house rouses my curiosity and inspires a sense of mystery within its walls.

Finding books like these makes me think about how you never know what you’ll learn when attending local events. In this case, it also brings to mind other places I want to visit and what I may come across in those travels as well.

Shortly afterward, a light rainfall began and we took to the barn to look around while waiting it out. Browsing the souvenir shop, I found a few more books of interest, although passed on buying them until next time:

  • Reporting The Revolutionary War, by Todd Andrlik
  • The Philadelphia Campaign (Volume I and II as separate books), by Thomas J. McGuire
  • The Four Seasons of Chester County (Volume 2), by Red Hamer and Rose-Marie Hamer Collins

In a room down the hall, this old book and pair of specs sat among other items on display. These were my favorite objects of those to be found inside the barn.

Old Book Specs

Later, a man dressed as George Washington walked inside carrying a modern two-toned umbrella. He made his way down the hall to room I’d look around in, which also had a flat screen television up in one corner. Myself and a few others wanted to take photos of him. Laughter arose when one person, standing near the entrance, said, “Oh, I don’t want the tv in the shot with Washington!”

Even though the rainfall hadn’t been a downpour, it hindered getting to see a lot more vendors this time around. Not only that, but my phone needed a charge. Taking photos on short trips were draining it all too fast lately. So, I’m hoping to check out this event again next year; it’ll be a part two blog post.

Twig Heart

Do you have any favorite local events in your area? What do you like the most about them?

Posted in Antique Cars, Crafts, Dining, Food, Foodie, Halloween, Historic, History, Holidays, Pennsylvania, Travel, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming posts, a new phone and travel apps

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the Chadds Ford Days event held during the weekend before last. As of now, I’m almost finished drafting a post for that and will also be working on one about the Chester County Restaurant Festival. An event with a wide variety of food, it took place on Sept. 20 in West Chester. I’ll post as soon as I can about these Pennsylvania events, revealing more of why I enjoyed both and recommend them to others.

Until then, I still have a number of photos to transfer to my laptop and sort through for use in my blog. The battery in my old phone was draining rather fast lately, even during the shortest excursions. I had it for a while and probably wore it out with so much use. For that reason, I also used the phone of a family member who also attended the restaurant festival, to continue snapping photos there. On Monday night, I went to Best Buy and found it was time to upgrade to a new model; no more batteries were being made for the iPhone 4S I’d been using. Now I have an iPhone 6 Plus with 64GB, after 8GB on my old phone. I’m glad for the much needed larger space available, especially considering how many photos I take wherever I go.

There is also the matter of mobile apps. Not for gaming, which I’m sure take up a lot of space. I stick to a handful of social media apps such as Twitter, Foodspotting, Instagram, Facebook and Foursquare. I also use a few travel apps and have been wanting to download at least a few others for a while, yet doubted I had enough room to spare.

I decided that once I download more handy apps to help with any future travels, why not write blog posts about those as well? When I was an undergraduate, writing for The Loquitur at Cabrini College, I wrote articles about the travel apps listed below:

Do you have any particular favorite travel apps? If so, what features stand out to you in using them?

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