Stonehenge: The mystery remains

Gray day mystique at Stonehenge

Gray day mystique at Stonehenge

Sometimes gray days just add to the atmosphere.  At least it did the day we left London to see Stonehenge, one of those places we had read about for years but really didn’t know if we’d see in our lifetime.  As you can imagine, we were in awe of this site to see.

Stonehenge, located in Wiltshire, is about two and a half hours from London, giving us time to drive past Eton College and Windsor Castle.  The Visitor Center at Stonehenge, filled with information, artifacts, and visuals, drew us in immediately with a theatre-in-the-round experience showing the stone formations in various seasons. We stood “in the round” facing the ever-changing visuals, feeling as if we were there on snow days, sunny days, and even during summer solstice when the sun appears over the heel stone.

Sun coming through an opening at Stonehenge, from a video at the Visitor Center.

Sun coming through an opening at Stonehenge, from a video at the Visitor Center.

Of course, the mystique draws everyone in.  Theories notwithstanding, Stonehenge can be appreciated for what you see as much as for what it must have meant to the people building it some 5,000 years ago.  Volumes have been written about the purpose of Stonehenge, how the stones were found and moved to the site, and how the formation was constructed.  But even with all the research, mysteries remain.

Video shown at Stonehenge Visitor Center capturing a snowy day

Video shown at Stonehenge Visitor Center capturing a snowy day

Outside the Visitor Center, an assemblage of Neolithic thatched huts offers a glimpse of the tools and construction you might see during the New Stone Age.

Neolithic huts on display at Stonehenge

Neolithic huts on display at Stonehenge

And in the attempt to answer the question of how heavy bluestones were transported from the Presili Hills in Wales almost 200 miles away, an exhibit of an oblong boulder perched atop massive timbers provides insight on “how they did it.”

Demonstration of how stones might have been moved to site of Stonehenge

Demonstration of how stones might have been moved to site of Stonehenge

After spending time at the Visitor Center, we were ready for our pilgrmage up the long, winding walkway to what loomed large in the distance:  Stonehenge.  People stopped all along the way to point and take pictures. And we did the same.

The distance from the Visitor Center to the site added to the mystique at Stonehenge

The distance from the Visitor Center to the site added to the mystique at Stonehenge

Around 2500 B. C., sarsen stones (the larger ones) and bluestones were brought to the site and arranged in two concentric circles.  A horseshoe formation of five trilitons (two large stones topped by a lintel) stood inside the circle.  Only three are standing today.  Time has taken its toll on the stones and the formations, but the basic structure remains.

Mysterious Stonehenge

Mysterious Stonehenge

People stood near the roped-off site, quietly observing all angles of Stonehenge.  Some hugged their loved ones. Others stood with families and friends.  Some found a quiet spot to stare at the formation alone.

People react differently to Stonehenge.

People react differently to Stonehenge.

We stood without talking, taking pictures and pointing at what we saw.  And we moved slowly around the circular path to check out this place we were finally seeing with our own eyes from various perspectives.

A closer look at Stonehenge

A closer look at Stonehenge

With our telephoto, we zoomed in and out, trying to get close-up shots of weathering and nature’s forces on the stones.

Ever-changing view of Stonehenge

A walk around reveals another view of Stonehenge

In fields nearby, sheep grazed while cars and tourists rolled in to the area.

The drive to Stonehenge through rolling countryside

The drive to Stonehenge through rolling countryside

The bottom line is this: Stonehenge deserves to be seen.  There are many circles in the United Kingdom — some used for burial grounds, others for worship.  Some for both.  But if you can only visit one, make it Stonehenge.

Crowds stand in awe around the formation known as Stonehenge.

Crowds stand in awe around the formation known as Stonehenge.

Whether you’re drawn to construction, artistry, mystery, or religion, you’re sure to find something to admire.  And the visual of this spot, this formation, this moment when you see it . . . will stay with you forever.

Mysterious Stonehenge

Greeting Stonehenge one on one.

The mystery remains.

Stonehenge is an English Heritage site.  For more information, visit their website.

For more posts on our travels in England, click here.

 

 

Posted in Destination, England, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Parting shots: London

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

St. Paul’s Cathedral at sundown

Not many people would spend such a short time in London — only a day and a half for us. And most visitors would want to see all the places marked in bold print in their tour guides.  But since we’d checked off the Tower, Buckingham, and Westminster Abbey years ago, we decided just to stroll the streets in our few short hours, picking up city vibes from the sights and sounds in the Mayfair district.  We’d round out the trip with a ride on The Thames down to The Globe to fulfill an English teacher’s dream.

What it all boiled down to for us was a glimpse at the people and places that make Mayfair and Marylebone special.  A few shots from a brief stay in London.

The Bird Man at Marble Arch

Standing in front of Marble Arch.

Standing in front of Marble Arch.

A quick walk from our hotel, Grosvenor House, landed us squarely in front of Marble Arch. The structure, built in 1825 as a gateway to Buckingham Palace and moved to this location in 1851, faces Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  We came to see it and take the obligatory picture in front of it, noting our presence for future slide shows, I suppose.

But what we didn’t expect to see was a man feeding the birds.  So mesmerizing was the experience of watching him patiently throw out crumbs to eager birds that we took more pictures of him than of the arch itself!  Add to that, a closer look at the photos revealed notables in the background:  the back side of Still Water (largest free-standing bronze sculpture in London — it’s a horse head, by the way) and a double decker bus.  Pretty nifty London parting shot!

Feeding the birds at Marble Arch

Feeding the birds at Marble Arch

(By the way, we’ve discovered a fascinating blog detailing walks through London by Stu who dubs himself the London Wlogger.  His walking adventures like “Marble Arch to Mayfair: Streets and Squares” would make great guides to take along the next time you’re in the city.)

Carnaby Street

Call us hippies if you wish, but we really don’t have an identity tied to a particular decade. We do, however, remember the world spotlight focused clearly on The Beatles in the 60s when we were freshmen in college gathered round TVs in college dorm rooms watching the “Ed Sullivan Show.”   And later in the 60s, we were drawn to a skinny but svelte young lady from the UK who took the fashion world by storm: Twiggy.  It was a time when places like Abbey Road and Carnaby Street became household terms even for those of us who had never been to England, let alone walk the famous streets.

Carnaby Street in 2016

Carnaby Street in 2016

But here we were in 2016, and the banners just seemed appropriate.  After all, we like peace, love, and harmony as much now as we did then.  Maybe more.

The Lady in Liberty

We remembered the store called Liberty of London on Regent Street from the time we last visited (oh, gosh, has it been that long?) 42 years ago!  But now, we think it’s just called Liberty or, as the website calls it, Liberty London.  It was a luxury department store known for beautiful scarves — and still is if the goods displayed are any indication.  As a young traveler, I was enamored with fashion, but now I gaze admiringly at architecture —  especially old architecture — and finishes such as the floors, stairwells and rails in Liberty.

But our parting shot has to be this one: a refined, yet quite fashionable sales lady who approached us quietly and demurely just to see if we had any questions or needed her support.  She epitomized salespeople we remembered from the “old days” when department stores, those bastions of customer service and fine goods for “milady,” catered to shoppers and their every need.  Her dress, jewelry, even her personal stature made a statement, and also a memorable shot of the London we had remembered,  still here at Liberty!

Poised and fashionably dressed -- the lady at Liberty

Poised and fashionably dressed — the lady at Liberty

With all its vibrancy and history and frenetic big city bustlings, London remains one of our favorite destinations.

We take a breath.  Vow to come back.  And hope it’s not 42 years from now.

Lululemon sign in London

Do you have a favorite memory of London? We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

And to read more posts on London, click here.

Happy travels — Rusha and Bert

Posted in Boomer Travel, Destination, England, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Stay the Night: London’s Grovesnor House, a JW Marriott Hotel

First impression the night we arrived at Grosvenor House in London!

First impression the night we arrived at Grosvenor House in London!

Settled squarely in the Mayfair section of London with a posh Park Lane address, Grosvenor House puts you in the center of uptown luxury.   But with a focus on gentility, service and personal attention, it’s much more than just a place to stay.

The Welcome

Nothing spoke more to us after a long inter-continental flight than what happened upon arrival.  We were greeted by a welcoming, beautifully lighted entrance and two official greeters decked out in tails and top hats.

Welcoming committee of two -- Grosvenor House

Welcoming committee of two — Grosvenor House

Even the lobby said “Welcome!” with plush seating in soft, cream-colored leather and sink-in fabrics.  Originally built in the ’20s, the hotel has undergone multiple renovations, most recently a major one lasting four years (2004-2008).

Tastefully decorated with comfortable seating: the lobby at Grosvenor House.

Tastefully decorated with comfortable seating: the lobby at Grosvenor House.

But it still maintains the appeal that we suppose it did when it opened in 1929 on the site previously inhabited by the Dukes of Westminster, whose family name was Grosvenor.

Elegant seasonal arrangement in main lobby.

Elegant seasonal arrangement in main lobby.

A welcome touch!

A welcome touch!

Today, the hotel exudes opulence but also maintains its modernity in terms of color palette and decor. With seasonal decorations like the towering central lobby table arrangement and clean, fresh Christmas trees trimmed in simple, yet elegant gold balls, we knew this was a place that valued appearances as well as comfort.

The Accommodations

If our bedroom is any indication of what the other 428 rooms are like, you can’t go wrong here.  We stay at Marriott hotels for the quality and comfort of the beds and the silky, sink-into linens that we love.

Superb linens on comfortable beds -- one reason we return to Marriott hotels.

Superb linens on comfortable beds — one reason we return to Marriott hotels.

But the bathroom was a real surprise.  Creamy white and gray marble floors and counters greeted us.  And as we looked around, we couldn’t have been more pleased with the brass-fitted shower head, soft robes, and (oh, yes!) a heated towel rack.

Would return just for the marble and heated towel rack!!

We’d return just for the marble and heated towel rack!!

Cleanliness, too, must be a top concern.  Each day, our room was put to order just the way we found it on Day One.  Imagine our surprise when we came upon a meeting of the staff responsible for all this polish — ladies that we commended for jobs not just well done, but outstandingly done.

Of one accord: staff at Grosvenor Hosue, London

Of one accord: staff at Grosvenor Hosue, London

The Extras

If you stay at Marriott hotels often, be sure to sign up for their loyalty program.  The points you earn can land you in some of the best Concierge Lounges in any city of the world — and, aside from saving you money on breakfast and evening snacks, they are comfortable places where you can dine — usually with a great view — and meet people from all over the world.

Historic documents and photos line the wall behind this gathering of guests in the Concierge Lounge.

Historic documents and photos line the wall behind this gathering of guests in the Concierge Lounge.

Part of the art display in the Concierge Lounge.

Part of the art display in the Concierge Lounge.

Grosvenor House didn’t just put out one table of fresh food in their Concierge Lounge — there were several.  Arranged beautifully, the varied offerings appealed to our senses — sight and taste.  Most items were labeled, so we knew what we were sampling. Drinks, too, were no exception.  If we didn’t see a wine or water or soft drink to our liking, the staff would try their best to find something to please.

One of several buffets at the Concierge Lounge in Grosvenor House.

An American Night buffet with breads and fruit — one of several in the Concierge Lounge.

Grosvenor House is home to several restaurants conveniently located throughout the building — all with varied menus from formal fare to casual dining. And all offered the same comfort we enjoyed in the lobby, room, and Concierge Lounge.

One of the restaurants in the main lobby.

One of the restaurants in the main lobby.

But one thing set this big-city hotel apart from others we’ve enjoyed: the advice we received from the concierge himself.  When we sought help on transportation, he suggested sites we could see within walking distance of the hotel and helped us prioritize what to see in a limited amount of time.  More specifically, he provided spot-on tips for purchasing an Oyster Card for public transportation, suggestions on how to hail a London taxi, and well-marked maps leading to all the best spots.  (Like Hamleys Toy Store for Paddington Bear.  It was Christmas, after all.) But it wasn’t just the concierge who was attentive.  All staff seemed to take an interest in guests.  The lady pictured below wanted to see the photos I took of the black doors on Park Street.  (She even understood our Southern drawls. Well, we think she did.)

At your service: the friendly staff at Grosvenor House.

At your service: the friendly staff at Grosvenor House.

If you’re looking for a deluxe stay in London with a knowledgeable, caring staff, check out Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel.  It offers a luxury stay, for sure. But with all the amenities, incomparable service, and useful advice, this could qualify as a bargain in many ways!

Elegant Christmas touches at Grosvenor House, London.

Elegant Christmas touches at Grosvenor House, London.

For more information:

Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel, 86-90 Park Lane, London; +44-20-74996363; http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/longh-grosvenor-house-a-jw-marriott-hotel/

Note:  We were not reimbursed in any way by Marriott International or anyone at Grosvenor House for writing this post. All opinions are our own.

 

Posted in England, Hotels, Stay the Night, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Three things to do at Shakespeare’s Globe even when the play’s not the thing

Shakespeare's Globe, London

Shakespeare’s Globe, London

Visiting the Shakespeare’s Globe after teaching the works of the bard to countless high schoolers — some in love with the form, others just tolerant — is a rite of passage, or at least it was for me.  But visiting in winter months when there are no productions means I had to find appreciation for the structure any way I could.  It did, however, turn out to be an easier task than I imagined.

Sign at Globe Theatre, LondonTraveling by boat down the Thames River at sundown only added to the drama of the eventful moment.  There it was, just as I had imagined.  Well, sort of.  It was draped with white lights, the likes of which Shakespeare could never have foreseen. And we formed a group led by a knowledgeable, animated tour guide instead of being seated by ushers. During the off-season (productions run April thru October when weather is more favorable) the non-acting players lead bard lovers like me through the Globe. So, here’s the winter’s tale of what to do in the off-season.

1. Appreciate history.

If you join a tour, and I strongly recommend you do, you’ll sit in the seats where visibility is good and listen to a lovely recount of The Globe evolution.  What you see today is the third iteration of this venerable structure.  Built in 1599 of timber from The TheatreThe Globe was primarily owned by six shareholders.  (Shakespeare was among them but with only a 12.5% stake.)  Alas, the “Wooden O” as it was known, went up in flames when a cannon, fired during a production of Henry VIII, set the wooden beams and thatching on fire.  Rebuilt in 1614, the second Globe was shut down by the Puritans in 1642, and not until 1997 did this third one called Shakespeare’s Globe open for productions — and tours.

Stage of Shakespeare's Globe can serve as an interior or exterior setting with one or two levels.

Stage of Shakespeare’s Globe can serve as an interior or exterior setting with one or two levels.

2.  Pretend you’re a groundling.

During Shakespeare’s time (and maybe after), you could stand in the pit — enduring the elements, of course — for merely a pence.  Called groundlings, these penny payers could enjoy the same comedies, tragedies, and histories seen by wealthier counterparts, but groundlings had to endure long periods of standing snuggly together, often in the rain or blistering heat.  On tour, however, you, too, can stand where groundlings stood and simultaneously look up at the sky and ceiling of the stage.  You can imagine what it would have been like to watch a play standing upright for oh, about three hours or so.  Even today, our guide told us, theatre-goers can opt for groundling experiences.  “Just check the weather forecast,” he warned, “and be prepared with poncho or sunglasses or both.”

"Groundlings" taking pictures during tour of Globe

“Groundlings” taking pictures during tour of Globe

3.  Close in on the stage.

If you come during the season of productions, you may not get up close and personal with the stage since you’ll be in the stands or in the pit watching the action.  But winter tours allow you to stand and look longingly at the stage itself.  You can examine faux-painted columns, hand-painted backgrounds, and a star-studded ceiling.  It’s here that you can lose yourself in the bard’s words, letting your imagination take you back to the time you quoted Macbeth’s soliloquy for senior English:  “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage . . .”

Or not. You may just want to enjoy the structure.

Ceiling of Shakespeare's Globe and glimpse of sky from Wooden O

Ceiling of Shakespeare’s Globe and glimpse of sky from Wooden O

If you’re lucky enough to visit London and Shakespeare’s Globe, don’t strut and fret over the lack of productions in winter.  Take a tour and enjoy the scenery.  Where else can you form a picture in your mind of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet or the tragic events on the Ides of March?

Ah, yes.  The play’s the thing.  But Shakespeare’s Globe is fun to see all on its own.

Shakespeare's Globe at sundown as seen from the Thames River

Shakespeare’s Globe at sundown as seen from the Thames River

For more information:

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London; box office: +44 (0)20 7401 9919; tickets: tickets@shakespearesglobe.com

Shakespeare’s Globe Summer Season 2017.

Posted in England, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude

Solitude

Sometimes being alone doesn’t literally mean ALONE.

Sometimes solitude is carving out me-time in the midst of worldly things.

For more expressions of solitude, move quietly and singularly to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude and check ’em out.

Posted in Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Clancy’s — repurposed and classy!

Look closely, and you'll see the handsome coffered ceiling and classy bar at Clancy's.

Look closely, and you’ll see the handsome coffered ceiling and classy bar at Clancy’s.

A recent Knoxville event, Chef’s Table Tour, came with a surprise . . . an unexpected one.  After strolling downtown sidewalks listening to bits of history from our guide, we ducked into Clancy’s Tavern & Whisky House ready for good food and a sip of the Irish.  But what we saw redefined this downtown corner for us.  What was now Clancy’s Tavern had been — at least for all the years we’ve lived here — Clancy’s Optical, a venerable establishment known for quality eye exams and glasses.

The way it was: Clancy's Optical. (Photo from Google Images.)

The way it was: Clancy’s Optical. (Photo from Google Images.)

Clancy’s Optical stood on the corner of Gay Street and Clinch Avenue for 75 years in a building that has a storied history.  Before offering fashionable eye wear, Clancy’s had been the location of a bank, J. C. Bradford’s, The Shamrock, and The Exchange Restaurant.  But it’s been Clancy’s Optical as long as we could remember.

Members of Chef's Table Tour file into Clancy's, ready to be surprised!

Members of Chef’s Table Tour file into Clancy’s, ready to be surprised!

In 2014, however, owners Danny Clancy and Josh Turbyville renovated and “repurposed” the old corner building for what it is now — the richly appointed Clancy’s Tavern & Whiskey House.

The richness of handcrafted ceilings by Art Clancy at Clancy's Tavern in Knoxville

The richness of handcrafted ceilings by Art Clancy at Clancy’s Tavern in Knoxville

The classiness greets you at the door.  You can’t help but notice the rich browns and artful craftsmanship of coffered ceilings and restored wooden floors.  Designed by Art Clancy (family, of course) of Clancy Custom Woodworking, the old-world interior speaks to the elegance of fashionable members-only clubs and taverns known throughout Europe.

It’s a tribute to what’s happening now in downtown Knoxville — a renaissance marked by tasteful renovations and purposeful “repurposings” that are transforming the city into a destination in its own right.

Clancy's Tavern & Whiskey House, Knoxville, TN

Clancy’s Tavern & Whiskey House, Knoxville, TN

Thanks to new owners with a vision and savvy woodworking crews, the new Clancy’s is Irish done right!

For more “repurposed” locations and things people have posted, check out the DailyPost Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose. 

For more information:

Clancy’s Tavern & Whiskey House, 602 South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN; 865.219.1266; clancystavernknoxville@gmail.com

East TN Tourshttp://www.easttntours.com/

 

 

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Chef’s Table Tour offers a taste of Knoxville with a side of history!

Gathering around the "Rowing Man," ready for the Chef's Table Tour in Knoxville

Gathered around the “Rowing Man,” ready for the Chef’s Table Tour in Knoxville: Joel, Mapsy, Lori, Julia, Bert, and Lauren. (I’m taking the picture!)

In one three-hour span, you can tour downtown Knoxville, learn a bit of history, meet new friends and sample East Tennessee fare.  It’s all part of the Chef’s Table Tour, one of the offerings from East TN Tours combining food and fun in this ever-evolving Southern downtown destination.

Tour guide Lauren Quinn holds the door open for Bert Sams at Clancy's Tavern

Tour guide Lauren Quinn holds the door open for Bert Sams at Clancy’s Tavern

Organizer and tour leader Lauren Quinn offers the Chef’s Table Tour several times a week for groups of 2 to 12 with the opportunity to sample regional food from five local restaurants. Coupons to area attractions are often part of the deal, and larger groups (parties, etc.) can be accommodated with advanced notice. Even though we’re long-time residents of Knoxville, we dined at five new-to-us restaurants selected for the tour that day and welcomed newcomers to our revitalized city.

We walked about a mile on the tour all totaled, but movement energized us.  Lauren’s website posted the warning — “Don’t eat too much at any one stop” — but good food is hard to pass up.  So, if you take the tour, know that the 1.2 miles you walk will be an asset.

Showing us the Bijou and the new Knoxville sidewalks, Lauren Quinn relays a little history of the area for our tour.

Showing us the Bijou and the new Knoxville sidewalks, Lauren Quinn relays a little history of the area for our tour.

Lauren carries vintage photographs with her to show you the “way it was” in Knoxville. It was fun looking at old photos and then the urban renewal in front of us. At strategic spots, Lauren shared interesting tidbits — like what these stairs positioned high up on the side of the Bijou were once used for.  (The stairs led to the entrance used by the hired help who were required to climb up to get into the building.)

Stairs high on one side of the Bijou had puzzled us for years.

Stairs high on one side of the Bijou had puzzled us for years.

Lauren included a brief stop at one of our favorite architectural renovations — Maple Hall.  It’s home to Knoxville’s boutique bowling alley as well as a full-service bar where you can order drinks and small plates.  On some nights, live music fills the air.  Floors above the bowling alley and restaurant offer residential space.

 

The real stars of the Chef’s Table Tour, of course, were the owners/chefs/managers who partnered with Lauren to share the history of their restaurants and samples of what’s made them so popular.

Frussie’s Deli & Bakery

Owner Jay Brandon says, “It takes a special kind of crazy person to come make bread every morning,” but he is just that crazy person.  Jay, who eats half a Frussie’s sub every day, served us his best-selling Italian Sub (AKA The Usual) with homemade dressing. And with one bite of that fresh bread (They have 11 kinds!), house-cured meats, and flavorful dressing, all of us were hooked.

Do you see anything left of those Italian subs?

Do you see anything left of those Italian subs?

Lauren took time to show us a grid of downtown Knoxville, and we looked over the Frussie’s menu for what we’d like to order next time we stop by.  No surprise to me, husband Bert had his eye on the Three Little Pigs sub: pork loin, ham, bacon, Archer’s barbecue sauce (local), coleslaw, and cheddar cheese.  But I’m coming back for the Dirty Bird: house-cured pastrami, Thanksgiving turkey, mayo, mustard, and Swiss Cheese.

Clancy’s Tavern & Whiskey House

Clancy’s Tavern had us at the front door:  an Irish tavern in a beautifully renovated historic building.  Owned by Danny Clancy and Josh Turbyville, Clancy’s Tavern has been a bank, brokerage, restaurant, and optical shop (Clancy’s Optical, owned by Danny’s family).  But this is not your ordinary pub.  After noting the craftsmanship of the carpentry — coffered ceilings and all — we focused on the equally noteworthy food.

Emily, our server, gushed (and well she should) over shepherd’s pie, panko breaded and fried mozzarella (table fave) and chicken wings.  We really had to weigh in on what to eat and what to bag up to go.  Clancy’s Tavern may sound like a pub food place, but it’s so much more:  Old World recipes mixed with creative flavors and textures.

The Tomato Head

We were familiar with this Market Square establishment, but who in Knoxville isn’t? Owner Mahasti Vafai was one of the first to use locally sourced foods in her restaurant, a place where she once made her own bread (and maybe she still does) from scratch each day.  We’ve loved her pizzas for years with fresh combinations and interesting blends of flavors (Fresh Spinach & Black Bean with Andouille Sausage; Chicken, Roasted Portabello & Mushroom; Smoked Salmon & Pesto White Pizza), but we were here to try soup.  Oh, my.

Rich, tomato chipotle soup with a little heat!

Rich, tomato chipotle soup with a little heat!

With two choices, we couldn’t go wrong:  Cream of Cauliflower or Tomato Chipotle.  And so we made our choices, took closer looks at the fresh, light decor of our surroundings, and vowed to return soon.  After all, Tomato Head also does chocolate cookies! Big ones!

FIVE Knoxville

 The words “Prepare to be amazed” should have preceded our entrance to FIVE.  With its ceiling of several dozen chandeliers and an eclectic wall of paintings, the word “dazzling” seemed an understatement.  With only five offerings per menu category, life does get a little simpler here — and quality takes center stage.

Our sampler came from the Dinner Menu under the category of Snacks: Southern style Deviled Eggs topped with cayenne candied bacon, Fried Green Tomatoes with tomato jam, and sweet and spicy Asian Shrimp.  All good.  All gone. In a heartbeat.

Deviled Eggs, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Uptown Shrimp at FIVE Knoxville

Deviled Eggs, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Uptown Shrimp at FIVE Knoxville

If you were wondering if vegetarians are welcome on the Chef’s Table Tour, wonder no more.  With an advanced request, Mapsy received vegetarian alternatives at every stop.  “Very nice” seemed to be her rating du jour.

Sugar Mama’s Knox

With bellies and to-go boxes bulging, we sidled down the 100 Block of Gay Street to Sugar Mama’s Knox, the newest restaurant for owner Hannah McConnell who’s known for her fresh-baked breads and cookies.  It was dessert for us tourists, but it looked more like a basket of goodies at the end of a rainbow.

Owner Hannah McConnel beams when you talk about Sugar Mama's cookies.

Owner Hannah McConnel beams when you talk about Sugar Mama’s cookies.

Filled with signature pastries and samples of sweet treats like Hannah’s Amaretti Almond Cookies, we ate what we could and took home the rest. This tiny but busy little restaurant offers a sizable breakfast (now serving Quail Egg & Cheese Biscuits!) , sandwiches made with locally baked bread and cookies — even gluten-free ones — that round out their cold brewed coffee quite well.

With one last tour stop to see Knoxville’s Underground — trust me, there is one — under the 100 Block of Gay Street, Lauren bid us all farewell.

Lauren Quinn, of East TN Tours

Lauren Quinn, of East TN Tours

We had had that taste of Knoxville as promised — a feast, when it was all said and done. And a glimpse of what’s putting Knoxville on the map.  If you want to be a part of Lauren’s Chef’s Table Tour, go online to register or call her. (For more FAQs, click here.)

So, come hungry.  And come to be impressed.  The lineup of restaurants as well as the food may change, but the quality will stay the same.  After all, you’re touring Knoxville, one of the South’s newest foodie towns.

easttntours

For more information:

Click on any of these links to find out more about the tours and restaurants featured in this post:  East TN Tours, Navitat Canopy AdventuresMaple Hall, Frussie’s Deli & Bakery, Clancy’s Tavern & Whiskey House, The Tomato Head, FIVE Knoxville and Sugar Mama’s Knox.

In addition, East TN Tours also sponsors Bountiful Brunch Tours on Sunday afternoons.

— Rusha Sams

 

 

Posted in Boomer Travel, Restaurant, Tennessee, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Miniature circus brings big joy: Tibbals Learning Center at The Ringling

With the announcement that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will perform for the last time in May 2017, we are re-publishing our post of August 19, 2015, on the Tibbals Learning Center at The Ringling in Sarasota.  Although the understand the position of the owners, we personally regret the loss of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus because, for us, it was “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Even though the show cannot go on, we are grateful that the miniature circus created by Knoxvillian Howard Tibbals will remain a testament to the creativity, hard work, and showmanship of traveling circuses everywhere.  If you haven’t visited The Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, put it on your bucket list.  There’s a lot of greatness in miniature under the Big Top!

At the end of this post, check out the links to articles in The Knoxville News-Sentinel and The New York Times as well as vintage photos from past visits by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in Knoxville.

Lining up for the Big Show -- in miniature -- at Tibbals Learning Center at The Ringling, Sarasota, Florida

Lining up for the Big Show — in miniature — at Tibbals Learning Center at The Ringling, Sarasota, Florida

It’s not often you get to see a lifetime project laid out as meticulously as this, but when you go to the Tibbals Learning Center at The Ringling to stare at the tiny circus — figures, tents, animals, wagons, and more — you become enthralled with the lifetime labor of love of Howard Tibbals.  Housed on The Ringling campus in Sarasota, Florida, the million-piece miniature Howard Bros. Circus Model that Tibbals began crafting in his teens is ready to take you back to simpler times, the years from 1919 to 1938 when the biggest thing to hit small town America was the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Extraordinarily, Tibbals (now in his seventies) created almost all the miniatures himself, fashioned after the old-timey circuses he watched as a kid.  Today, it’s on exhibit daily for “children of all ages.”

Using the scale of 3/4 inch to one foot, Howard Tibbals fashioned animal cages, train cars, people and tents for his miniature circus. Looking at the back side, you can see the behind-the-scenes action in miniature.

Using the scale of 3/4 inch to one foot, Howard Tibbals fashioned animal cages, train cars, people and tents for his miniature circus. Looking at the back side, you can see the behind-the-scenes action in miniature.

The former owner of Tibbals Flooring Center in Oneida, Tennessee, Howard Tibbals financed the development and set-up of this remarkable miniature circus, including a $6.5 million donation for the current installation on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.  But when he asked if he could use the Ringling name for his miniature version, he was turned down.  No problem, though.  He just named it Howard Bros. Circus.  

And elephant peeks out the door of a yellow train car belonging to Howard Bros. Circus.

An elephant peeks out the door of a yellow train car belonging to Howard Bros. Circus.

And what a circus it is! The stats alone tell a story of determination and stick-to-itiveness:  over 500 circus animals, 1500 performers, 152 wagons, and enough chairs and dishes to seat and serve over 900 people.  (Source: Florida State University website.)

Just sittin' a spell before the show starts -- Howard Bros. Circus at The Ringling

Just sittin’ a spell before the show starts — Howard Bros. Circus at The Ringling

 

A sign at the exhibit offered an insight into what a production it was just keeping the workers fed:  “Typical day’s order: 30 gallons of milk, 226 dozen eggs, 285 pounds of butter, 2,220 loaves of bread, 2,470 pounds of meat, 200 pounds of tea and coffee, and 50 bushels of potatoes.”

Feeding the workers: Howard Bros. Circus.

Feeding the workers: Howard Bros. Circus.

Since we’re from Knoxville, we were surprised to see so many familiar buildings from our city used as backdrops in the first part of the exhibit.  But we shouldn’t have been — after all, Howard Bros. Circus debuted at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville.  The new, more permanent, even larger, glassed-in exhibit at The Ringling measures 1.5 times the size of a football field!

Knoxville warehouse district forms the backdrop for the entrance exhibit to the Howard Bros. Circus at The Ringling.

Knoxville warehouse district forms the backdrop for the entrance exhibit to the Howard Bros. Circus at The Ringling.

As you walk the perimeter of the circus (and it’s a long perimeter), you get a feel for every aspect — and Tibbals’ keen eye for what humans do.

  1.  Behind-the-scenes work — transporting the animals, setting up tents, hiring workers, and feeding the people who make it all happen.
Workers in action moving crates of produce to feed those who make Howard Bros. Circus come to life.

Workers in action moving crates of produce to feed those who make Howard Bros. Circus come to life.

2.  Here comes the parade! — animals and performers prepping townspeople for what’s to come under The Big Top.

The parade is where you get to know the performers before you see them under The Big Top. And oh, what a show it is!!!

The parade is where you get to know the performers before you see them under The Big Top. And oh, what a show it is!!!

3.  Selling the circus — ticket sales, concessions, programs, and seats.

Popcorn anyone?

Popcorn anyone?

Get yer Frozen Delight before the show starts, ladies and gentlemen!

Get yer Frozen Delight before the show starts, ladies and gentlemen!

Tall Man? Tiny Man?Bearded Lady? Well, step right up!

Tall Man? Tiny Man?Bearded Lady? Well, step right up!

4.  Performers — trapeze artists flying through the air with the greatest of ease, lion tamers,  horseback riders, and stars taking center stage in spangly suits.

And, now, ladies and gentlemen, may I direct your attention to the flying trapeze?

And, now, ladies and gentlemen, may I direct your attention to the flying trapeze?

5.  Animals — always charming the crowd.

The king of beasts!

The king of beasts!

6.  Clowns — making us laugh even when in miniature!

In Tibbals’ own words, it’s a “magical world over 50 years in the making.”  And even now at our age, we’re fascinated beyond belief.  Save time to look closely and longingly.  You, too, will feel like a kid again.

Under The Big Top at Howard Bros. Circus at The Ringling

Under The Big Top at Howard Bros. Circus at The Ringling

Tiny is big, if you’re looking closely at the wondrous Howard Bros. Circus.

Working hard for Howard Bros.

Working hard for Howard Bros.

For more information:

Tibbals Learning Center at The Ringling; 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota, FL 34243; www.ringling.org/circus

References:

Cox, Billy. “Howard Tibbals and the huge miniature circus.” Herald Tribune (January 19, 2012). Retrieved from http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20120119/ARTICLE/120119467

“Miniature circus finds home at FSU’s Ringling Museum.” Retrieved from https://fsu.edu/news/2005/07/21/miniature.circus/

Boomer Travel note: The Tibbals Learning Center is easily accessible for all with ramps leading around the circus.  There is ample parking at The Ringling and golf cart transportation is available for those who need assistance getting around the complex.

Inclusions in updated post:  January 22, 2017

Articles of note after the announcement that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will no longer perform.

Bledsoe, Wayne (January 20, 2017). “Circus memories: East Tennessee Veterans of ‘The greatest Show on Earth’ share their stories. Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved from: http://www.knoxnews.com/story/entertainment/2017/01/20/circus-memories-east-tennessee-veterans-greatest-show-earth-share-their-stories/96745696/

Knoxville News Sentinel (January 15, 2017).  “Archive photos:  Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in Knoxville.” Retrieved from: http://www.knoxnews.com/picture-gallery/news/2017/01/15/archive-photos-ringling-bros-and-barnum–bailey-circus-in-knoxville/96611250/

Rosen, Kenneth R. (January 22, 2017). “Retired Big Apple Circus Animals Prepare for their Second Act.” New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/nyregion/retired-big-apple-circus-animals-prepare-for-their-second-act.html?hpw&rref=nyregion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Boomer Travel, Florida | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Party-ready men’s fashions: Selfridges in London

Posing outside Selfridges, where fashion and class come together on Oxford Street.

Posing outside Selfridges, where fashion and class come together on Oxford Street.

When you travel, you may hit those travel book high spots starred and written in boldface.  Why not?  They’re tourist stops for a reason.  We check ’em off our list like everyone else does.  But we also like walking neighborhoods, stopping in at little markets and local restaurants, and checking out what’s au courant, if you will, at the big stores in town.

So, when Bert said he needed new socks, we ducked into Selfridges (We’re fans of Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece) and headed straight upstairs to the men’s section.  And that’s where Party-Ready Fashion, London style, greeted us squarely at the top!

Now, if you follow our blog, you know we fall into geezer categories — safe, comfortable travel; safe, comfortable travel clothes.  Nothing flashy.  Rather ordinary.  So, consider Selfridges the point at which our learning curve began.  And try to picture us being Party Ready!

Greeting us at the Men's Department at Selfridges: Party-Ready Style!

Greeting us at the Men’s Department at Selfridges: Party-Ready Style!

It was upstairs to the men’s department where it all began.  And we knew we weren’t in Tennessee any more.

Menswear at Selfridges, London

Menswear at Selfridges, London

For one thing, there was a nod to Bieber and ball hats from NY all in one place.

Second, some fashion attire fell into the category of scary, at least for us.

Hoodie on display at Selfridges

Hoodie on display at Selfridges

Third, we recognized a few familiar labels, like Burberry and Tom Ford.

But new things kept popping up at every turn.  Are these what we think they are?  Full patterned suits — flamingos, Christmas, even cartoon characters?  Yep.  That’s what they are!  And flying off the racks.

And shoes.  Hundreds of shoes.  Racks and racks of shoes.  Fashionable ones by designers we knew . . .

and some we didn’t know.  (We don’t get out much, I suppose.)

Bert finally spied a pair of running shoes he could wear to Big Orange UT football games in Knoxville if we had room in our carry-on.

You never know when you'll find Big Orange shoes in London!

You never know when you’ll find Big Orange shoes in London!

But back to the beginning of this journey.  Remember those socks that led us upward to the men’s department of Selfridges? When it was all said and done, Bert had found some in every color, stripe, and design.  In the end, however, he selected a conservative, throwback, gray argyle to wear on the trip.  Sigh.

Happy Socks at Selfridges, London

Happy Socks at Selfridges, London

We’re just not party-ready, I guess!

Not sure why, but Bert wouldn't even try on clothes from A Bathing Ape.

Not sure why, but Bert wouldn’t even try on clothes from A Bathing Ape.

 

For more information:

Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London, England.  http://www.selfridges.com/GB/en/content/store/london

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selfridges

Posted in England, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Shiny and black: Doors on London’s Park Street

A passerby checks his phone in front of an elegant London doorway.

A passerby checks his phone in front of an elegant London doorway.

When you travel, walking the neighborhood near your hotel is one way to get a feel for how people really live.  And, if doors are any indication of the people inside the homes in the Mayfair section of London, we could expect to meet some very British residents, comfortable in their formality.

Doors on Park Street reveal some things in common:  Almost all are beautiful, and almost all are coated with high gloss, black paint.  Park Street doors reminded us of quaint London taxis bearing shoppers on Bond Street and those ever-popular (at least in the States) glossy boots by Hunter, the brand that outclasses almost all other rain gear on the market today.  Park Street doors are the ultimate chic, if you will, in this quiet neighborhood in the Mayfair section. And the color hints at lineage or status — the color not of royalty, perhaps, but of understated elegance that would never dare to scream, “Notice me!”

Who wouldn’t want to turn the knob, walk in, and see what’s behind any one of these doors?

With so many types of doors surrounded by entryways worthy of ambassadors (and some live here!), a walk in the Mayfair section of London may be in order.  It’s a place where variety reigns but uniformity is the gold (or, should we say, black) standard for doors.

For more doors, check out Norm Framton’s site: Thursday Doors, January 12, 2017.  It’s a welcome site to see!

Posted in England, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments