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Stopping by Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts

October 1, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Wayside Inn SignOn a crisp, rainy September afternoon I pulled up to the bucolic Wayside Inn, in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The sign post near the road boasts “food, drink and lodging for man, woman and beast.” I hoped I didn’t fit into the last category.

As soon as I entered, a warm welcoming aura enveloped me. The scent of smoky wood burning fireplaces mixed with the aroma of fresh baked bread and pies. The candlelight tavern bustled with activity, as it has for almost 300 years. Patrons were sitting at wooden tables enjoying meals and conversation. A bride and her wedding party stood near the entrance. Waiters and waitresses scooted about with food and drink trays.

The old tap room (part of the original building) overflowed with laughter from guests standing at the colonial cage bar. A cage- bar was standard in 18th-century taverns, used to secure the house whiskey, rum and wine from lodgers unknown to the innkeeper.Wayside Inn Bar

Eight guest rooms lined a wing on the second floor; my room, number seven, rested at the end of the hall. The space was small and rustic, authentic to the colonial era. An antique double bed covered with a white spread filled the room. Two windows were draped with tab curtains. A wooden chair sat in the corner and an armoire awaited guest’s clothing. The end table featured a framed print of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the private bath included standard modern fixtures.

Sadly I did not fully experience the Inn’s New England hospitality as family commitments kept me elsewhere. Nonetheless, I relished a good night’s sleep in a place with much ambiance and history.

Room in the Wayside InnThe following morning I awoke before dawn, hastily dressing for my 6:30 AM ride to the airport. Everyone else was asleep except for a friendly night watchman, who offered me a cup of coffee and a brief history of the place.

Seems the Wayside is the oldest operating tavern in the US on one of the oldest commissioned roads. David Howe opened the establishment in 1716 as Howe’s Inn, offering provisions for men, their horses and cattle. The renovated old barn rests across the road.

Tradition says Colonel Ezekiel Howe changed the name to The Red Horse, when he succeeded his father in 1746. Colonel Howe led Sudbury farmers to Concord on April 19, 1775, the famous battle that started the Revolutionary War.

After Longfellow published “The Tales of a Wayside Inn’ in 1863, The Red Horse became known as Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, as it remains today.

In 1923, auto maker Henry Ford bought the Inn with the intention of creating a living museum of Americana. The property passed through several trusts and is presently administrated by a non-paid board of trustees dedicated to preserving the historic house and surrounding acreage. All of the Inn’s revenue is used for maintenance and restoration.

I highly recommend Longfellow’s Inn as a way to support cultural heritage and experience the days of Paul Revere and Sam Adams.Wayside Inn -6x4

If you go:

The town of Sudbury lies close to Lexington and Concord, suburbs of Boston. Visitors find many colonial sites and museums in the area, as well as the birthplaces of early American poets and authors.

The Inn’s multiple-roomed restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serves traditional Yankee fare like Clam Chowder and pot roast.

Make reservations early for one of just ten guest rooms, all individually decorated with country antiques and discreet wireless Internet access. Breakfast included. Single occupancy $104-125, double occupancy $125-175. www.waysideinn.org, 978 443-1776.

France ~ Chateau de Chambord, a da Vinci Design

September 16, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Part III- Day-Trip to the Loire Valley

Chateau de Chambord

Excitement grew as our bus approached the last stop of the day–the famous Chateau de Chambord. To me, even the name sounded majestic. This grand dame, a UNESCO World Heritage site, remains closely linked with Leonardo da Vinci and his imaginative designs.

The sheer size of the chateau tips the scale. Chambord rests within a 13,500-acre national forest, surrounded by a twenty-mile-long wall. The fortress contains an awesome 426 rooms, 77 staircases and 282 fireplaces. But, the guide told us, “King Francois I, who ordered construction of what he called a hunting lodge, spent only 72 days there.”

At first glimpse, the immense symmetrical wonder (almost as long as two football fields) flaunts a fantastic array of towers, windows, dormers and hundreds of decorative chimney stacks. The roofline resembles an Old World town whose buildings hint of Seusical whim. Certainly an ideal place for a game of hide and seek.

Rooftop and Chimney Stacks of Chambord

Rooftop and Chimney Stacks of Chambord

The architecture consists of a central square, called a keep, with rounded corner towers, two wings and courtyard. A medieval curtain wall encircles the building and beyond that, a partial moat. I’d say a cross between a fortified, ancient castle and the timely, delicate flourishes of Italian Renaissance.

Begun in 1519, the massive construction project was interrupted by the King’s Spanish imprisonment (1524-1526). After his return, plans were scaled back, truly hard to imagine, since it took twenty minutes just to walk to the entrance.

Francois died in 1547, leaving the royal residence unfinished. His son, Henry II, ordered work to continue, which it did until his death in 1559. One hundred years later, King Louis XIV, who loved hunting, made a few changes but used Chambord just nine times. The French government bought the decaying estate in 1930, and it remains under renovation.

Researchers credit Leonardo da Vinci (whom Francois brought to France) with conceiving the general design and famous double spiral staircase. The structure comprises, “two concentric spiral flights of stairs that wind independently around a hollow central column, so if two people each take one flight, they can each see the other through the opening in the center, but never meet.” Like most visitors, we tried this for ourselves-fun!

Lantern detail on the roof of Chambord

Lantern detail on the roof of Chambord

Needless to say, our tour visited only a small portion of the rooms, but highlights included the ornate carvings on the vaulted ceilings, the grand staircase, king’s chamber, lantern and the chimney stacks. Laura liked the winding stairs and rooftop best. I enjoyed looking out at seemingly endless vistas from the terrace, originally planned as a vantage point for hunt spectators.

 

As with the other stops on our day-trip, we didn’t have nearly enough time to absorb Chambord. I understand the mansion and park dazzle with lights, lasers and fireworks on summer nights. How I would enjoy that! If planning a tour of France, I suggest a stay in the Loire Valley to include the grand illumination of Chambord.

Aerial View of Chambord

Aerial View of Chambord

Terracotta Warriors are Terrific, but Marching On

April 9, 2009 by · Comments Off on Terracotta Warriors are Terrific, but Marching On 

Terracotta Warriors Exhibit

Terracotta Warriors Exhibit

My daughter, the critic, is rather hard to please.  So when she called to say, “Mom, the terracotta warriors were terrific,” I was happy.

The museum had this cool video that showed how the soldiers were made,” she added.

And my husband, not the biggest fan of galleries, wholeheartedly agreed. “The visit was fascinating and well worth our time,” he said.

The exhibition comes from one of the greatest archaeological digs of the 20th century, the unearthing of China’s First Emperor’s terracotta army in Xian.  Initially discovered in 1974, more than 9,000 figures were buried for 2,000 years.  The excavations are ongoing, but these pieces exhibited are on loan from the Chinese government.

I was disappointed that I was unable to go to Atlanta, but on Laura’s rating alone, I can honestly recommend the show.  Now hurry, the soldiers are marching on.  They leave Atlanta’s High Museum on April 20, 2009.

Those who live near Houston, Texas can make plans to view them at their Museum of Natural Science after May 22. The last US opportunity to examine the statues will be from November 19, 2009–March 31, 2010 at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC.

To whet your appetite and learn more about the terracotta army, watch this excellent video: A visit to Xian and the Terracotta Warriors

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