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Warning: Plan Ahead to See William Penn

September 22, 2009 by · Comments Off on Warning: Plan Ahead to See William Penn 

William Penn on City Hall

William Penn on City Hall

The City Hall Tour Requires Reservations

The City of Brotherly Love proved itself quite the opposite when my daughter-in-law, two grandchildren and I set off to view the statue of William Penn above City Hall.

We knew observation desk tours were available and researched the Internet for details, checking Will Penn’s homepage. The website boasts, “This is where you will find everything you ever wanted to know about Philadelphia City Hall (and then some!) A second page stated,” Tours of the tower run every 15 minutes from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. A group interior and tower tour of City Hall meets at 12:30, Monday through Friday. All tours are free.”

We also checked a few other tourism websites to confirm. Then, off we drove, paying the toll to cross the Delaware River from New Jersey. Unable to find street parking, we pulled into a lot charging $5.75 per 30 minutes for the first two hours, or $27 per day.

We walked to Penn Square, entered City Hall and were directed to the gift shop to purchase tickets. What happened to free? An employee explained fees were $5 per adult and $3 per child and reservations were necessary. Reservations? Did we want the next available time slot in an hour and a half? An hour and a half?

I wasn’t upset by the cost, but waiting over an hour with a five and six year-old wasn’t an option. The kids wanted to see the statue up-close and I expected to take a few photos. Thoroughly frustrated, we returned to the car, paid for parking and drove home.

Come on Philadelphia tourist bureau– please give your visitors a fair shake if you can’t bestow a little love. Update visitor information websites now.

Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll know to make reservations over the phone. Call 215 686-2840, but another warning–they are only offered on the day of your visit.

France ~ Chateau de Cheverny: Tally-Ho and Tintin

August 27, 2009 by · Comments Off on France ~ Chateau de Cheverny: Tally-Ho and Tintin 

Chateau de Cheverny

Chateau de Cheverny in the Loire Valley, France

My bus trip continued to the Chateau of Cheverny, a Loire Valley location renown for fox-hunting. Cheverny was built in the 1620’s for Henri Hurault, the Comte de Cheverny and Governor of Blois. The architecture flaunts Louis XIII style with classical symmetry, five pavilions (divisions) and two roof-top domes. The 1640’s interior decoration presents some of the finest paneling, painted ceilings, and fireplaces of the era.

Diane de Poitiers, who owned Chateau de Chenonceau (which Laura and I had visited earlier that morning), also held deed to an earlier castle on this site. She sold the property back to the original family owners in 1565.

The current mansion underwent a major twelve-year renovation during the late 1770’s. The Hurault de Vibraye family, descents of the original builders, acquired the estate in 1825 and have kept it in the family ever since.

Tintin_and_Snowy

TinTin

Perhaps the facade, decorated with sculpted roman busts looks familiar? Cheverny inspired the mythical Chateau of Moulinsart in Herge’s famous Tintin stories. We noticed some darling children’s toys and Tintin memorabilia in the gift shop, but Laura did not recall the story. I recognized TinTin, but honestly have never read the books.

Cheverny

The ground of Chateau de Cheverny

After entering the main gate, visitors walk down a long, wide gravely path dividing a manicured lawn. They enter the house through the small main door, into the lobby boasting a grand limestone staircase with elegant carvings. The ceilings feature finely painted exposed beams which create a lively colorful mood. The walls are covered with wood paneling decorated with more flowers and mottos. The swanky drawing room dazzles with examples of French decorative arts and period furniture.

We toured the bedrooms including the King’s Chamber where Henri IV slept, the dining room, and armory. I was impressed but felt at ease with the gracious home-like atmosphere. Some members of the bus tour group visited the private apartments, which were used until 1985. They raved about the interior but time was short with so much to see.

Dining Room at Cheverny

Dining Room- Interior of Chateau de Cheverny

Laura and I chose to walk across the grounds to the kennels. We heard barking, then found at least seventy fox hounds of mixed English and French breeds. Our guide said feeding time is popular with tourists, especially children, who delight in watching the dogs gobble their dinner.

The Dogs of Cheverny

The Dog Kennels at Chateau de Cheverny

Sadly we missed seeing: the formal gardens, the organery (where the Mona Lisa was secretly kept during the Second World War), the woodland park offering boat rides on the lake and the trophy room- filled with over two hundred stag horns. Hunts are still held on the property.

But, our schedule demanded departure: tally-ho and away we go. Next stop-Chateau de Chambord .

Imagine Traveling to Athens and finding the Acropolis Closed?

March 2, 2009 by · Comments Off on Imagine Traveling to Athens and finding the Acropolis Closed? 

acropolis-13207-medium1.jpg

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Last Thursday guards at the Acropolis went on strike, closing the site because they weren’t getting paid.  They planned to stay out for three days.

Just imagine arriving in Athens, Greece, only to be locked out of this must-see.

I’d be sick.

Unfortunately, seems the government is struggling with the economy. Who isn’t?

Back in 2000, I experienced the awe-inspiring ancient Acropolis, rising majestically above the crowded city.  I climbed up the rocky Sacred Way, past columns shaped as women, the Caryatids, to see the remains of the Parthenon.  The ancient marble temple was built between 447 and 432 BC in honor of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

How sad for anyone to miss that view.

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