A Taste of St. Augustine, Florida

October 1st, 2011

Why is it that small towns seem to possess a sense of place and taste all their own that a big city just can’t compete with?  Don’t you love it when you stroll a city’s downtown area poking your head into one place, sampling cuisine from another place …and you immediately get the feeling that you’ve arrived at a very special destination? And don’t you get a big kick out of the unique attractions that only a small town can offer?  You know what I think? Hurray for small town America… and giant Diva kudos to St. Augustine, Florida, for taking small town living to a whole new fabulousity level.

Traveling so much, I appreciate a great place to stay. There are five inns (known as The Inns of Elegance) that you can trust to take care of your every whim: The Casablanca Inn, Inn on Charlotte, Bayfront Marin, Wescott House and the St. Francis Inn.  This time I chose the Casablanca Inn for its central location, Tini Martini Bar, and bay views.  Arriving at the Casablanca inn I was efficiently whisked away to my first floor room.  I loved the elegant sitting room / bedroom combination that also offered someplace for me to work on my computer. The strong, immediate Wi-Fi connection was a BIG bonus.  I treasured the neutral color palate of the room, the generous nicely equipped shower, lots of storage space, the seaside view, central location, and the Inn’s Tini Martini Bar.  Inn keeper Bland Holland couldn’t have been more kind, generous and engaging during my stay. The $15 a day Martini credit gives (in conjunction with the great Wi-Fi) this Inn the Smart Cookie Award for understanding that a good Martini and strong Wi-Fi connection is the 21st century traveler’s ultimate dream date.

With a 3-day pass to the Old Town Trolley Tours, I took two complete spins around the city.  I think it’s always good to get your bearings using an escorted trolley or bus on your first day in a new place, and the trolley did not disappoint.  At about $20 a ticket (adults) purchased online, climb aboard to experience the humorous narrative and interesting points of interest the friendly conductors dispenses, bringing 500 years of American history to life.

A key to figuring out the best dining spots in any city is to take a foodie tour. I took The Savory Faire ($39) tour through City Walks. This tasty 2 ½ hr walking tour explores the historical and cultural influences on the St. Augustine culinary scene.  From Tapas to Desserts, I ate my way through the present day culinary offerings of the City by stopping at several restaurants to sample their signature items.  My tour included a bottle of water at the start of the tour, all tastings, and a special heritage recipe gift.

There are a million and one things to do in St. Augustine from discovering the unique Pirate Museum to exploring the historic fort Castillo de San Marcos, to wine tasting at San Sebastian Winery.  Here are my suggestions of the best of the best for a 2-3 day stay …what to see, do, and eat in St Augustine. Be “carless in St. Augustine” compliments of Old Town Trolley Tours.

Do

Avilies Street:  Unique and refined shopping.  Aviles Street is a narrow, brick road that is chock-full of history and unique shops. It is the oldest street in the United States.  The flower packed historic building gets a special nod for its art & jewelry galleries, a clothing store, a map shop, a glass shop and a custom leather goods shop.  Several great restaurants too, including the fabulous Polish cuisine favorite Gaurfés & Goods.  A special nod goes to Joel Bagnal’s jewelry.  Joel’s shop is located inside Dan Holiday’s Leather Shop.  Over 40 years of truly unique, affordable, and inspiring goldsmithing makes this a must “stop and buy spot” for jewelry lovers.   I especially fell in love with his earrings.  Trolley stop.

St. Augustine Eco Tours:  You can tell a great deal about a water-side city by the way they treat their waterways and eco system.   This dolphin, birding and nature tour is a good example of local passionate conservatorship. For about $40 (adult) interpretive naturalists and USCG licensed Captains guide you on a fun and informational  1 ½  hour trip exploring  the rivers and creeks surrounding St. Augustine,   dolphin and bird watching, and  marine ecology, historic sights, and an amazing boat ride.  A MUST do – but don’t forget a sun hat and sunscreen. Afterwards, be sure and stop for lunch or dinner at O.C. Whites restaurant – right across the street- to indulge in generous portions, killer drinks, and friendly service. Trolley stop.

Tini Martini Bar: What could be better than drinking a cool, elegant martini on the verandah of a historic Inn, while watching a street artist or to and waving at sail boats floating by?   You can have it all at the Casablanca Inn. Enjoy dozens of creative martinis, 32 wines by the glass, and several fine single malt Scotch choices. Beer aficionados won’t be disappointed either, with 28 distinctive brews to choose from.  Just steps from a nearby trolley stop.

See

Lightner Museum: Relics of America’s Gilded Age are elegantly exhibited on three floors of the former Hotel Alcazar. Can you say history, history and more history?  Costumes, furnishings, mechanical musical instruments and other artifacts give a significant glimpse into 19th century daily life. Don’t miss the exquisite cut glass, Victorian art glass and the stained glass work of Louis Tiffany. While you’re there do lunch at Café Alcazar, or if you’re really lucky they do dinner once a month.  The café sits in the same space where the hotel’s pool was located over 120 years ago.  Chef Jesse has created a lunch and dinner  menu you won’t soon forget.  Very chic – a place to see and be seen.  Trolley Stop.

Villa Zorayda: Weird, wonderful, and beautiful all at one time.  Step back into time to experience one of the most magnificent examples of Moorish Architecture in the US. A 19th century masterpiece, you’ll be in awe of the family history, and their art and antique collection.  Seriously took my breath away.  Completely renovated – 128 years of history is right at your fingertips. Admission starts at $10, but can be offset by various discount opportunities. Trolley Stop.

Hot Shot Bakery and Café: Located in the heart of beautiful downtown Saint Augustine between the Lightner museum and the Villa Zorayda, this Bakery is open for breakfast and lunch daily, but the true attraction may be the (locally grown) datil pepper challenge.  The datil has been used by the Minorcan community in St. Augustine since the 18th century, and rates from 100,000 to 300,000 on the scoville scale. Find out if you’ve got the right “hot stuff!  Come eat a chocolate dipped datil pepper and make it on their Wall of Flame! One is enough for most, but the current winner stands at consuming about 32. Fun, high-spirited fun…and darn good eats as well. Across the street from a trolley stop.

Eat

Bistro de Leon:  Fine French cuisine in a relaxed bistro setting.  Locals love this place and I know why.  -affordable, classy, personable and delicious describe this place to a tee.  Owner/Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard is the master of great French sauces.  A trip to Sr. Augustine would not be complete without a visit to the restaurant.  If you’re like me, you’ll make time to visit several times over a 3-day period. Near the historic town square and trolley stop.

Rhett’s:  An adult oasis for all of us.  Check out this late night piano bar and brasserie nightclub for outstanding appetizers, desserts, a nightcap and jazz.  Luxe martini’s include favorites such as a Lemon Drop Blush and the luscious Chocolate Cake.  I loved this place and 27-year old Chef Barry Honan is one to watch.  Creative, entertaining and invigorating are apt descriptors for this happening place.  Near a trolley stop.

Athena: Get your Greek food fix here.  Come  try one of their fabulous Greek Salads, gyros (my personal favorite) , or flaming cheese (called spanakopita). I loved the quaint little diner located across from the historic town square featuring mural decorated walls and graceful arched ceiling. Service is exceptional.  Be sure to purchase a bottle of Frixa Olive Oil. A first cold press olive oil, natural and unrefined, it has a special flavor to it that I haven’t experienced before.  Rich, flavorful and aromatic, this “liquid gold” is a hit with locals and tourists.

Sara’s Crepe Cafe:  On the lighter side of the St. Augustine cuisine trail, Sara’s is a great  place to stop for a light, freshly made savory or sweet European style crepe and some people watching .  Using original recipes from her grandmother (and restaurant name sake), offering a delightful courtyard area, and showcasing music every night, owner Margarita Abramov will spoil you rotten.  A true indulgence for the spirit and palate.

 

For additional information about this magical place, visit www.innsofelegance.com.  For a quick visual tour of St Augustine, watch this great video.

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Picadillo Recipe

Try pairing with  an Italian  Chianti  or an American  Sangiovese. These light red wines are bright and earthy, which allows them to work well with this dish. As a result of the colonization of Cuba by Spain, one of the main influences on the cuisine is from Spain. There are many different variations of this dish. The one that we are giving you is a simple one that you can add to.

Cuban versions include peppers, onions, garlic, oregano, cumin, tomato sauce, stock, olives and on occasion raisins, potatoes, and capers, and is usually sautéed in olive oil and white wine, depending on the region. Cuban picadillo is served over rice with black turtle beans.  Compliments of  St. Augustine City Walks St. Augustine, Florida.

Ingredients:

• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1/2 lg. onion, diced

• 1 lg. green pepper, sliced

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. lean ground beef

• 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

• 2-3 dry bay leaves

• 1 tsp. Oregano

• 1/2 tsp. Cumin

• 1/4 c. white vinegar

• 1/2 c. Vino-Seco dry cooking wine

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 3/4 c. raisins – optional

• 1/2 c. gr Spanish olives – optional

 

Instructions:

In a large saucepan sauté in oil onions, peppers, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper until onions are soft.

Add ground beef; cook until browned.

Add tomato sauce, vinegar, and cooking wine; add raisins and olives.

Simmer 20-30 minutes uncovered. Serve over white rice.

Many Latin American countries also serve with fried plantains and/or black beans.

Enjoy!

 

Story & photos by:  Linda Kissam


Discovering a Sensual Czech Republic

September 27th, 2011

I am one lucky Wine Chix.  I received an invitation from the Czech Tourism Department to explore the wine, food and activities of the trending Czech Republic via Prague and South Moravia.  It was a short trip – just 5 days, but oh what a great 5 days it was.  I had the opportunity of a lifetime not just to explore, but to discover the soul of this sensual country.

Vineyards Church Near Painted

No one should need an invitation to visit Prague and the wine districts of the Czech Republic.  You should go just because it’s an amazing place to be a part of.  I think foodies, shoppers, and wine lovers will especially love what this area has to offer. Soft adventure opportunities abound – so get your bicycles, fishing poles, and wine glasses out and ready to use.  My suggestion is to go during the fall like I did.  The tourist crowds have thinned a bit.  The weather is beautiful and the festivals are beginning to find their groove.

Prague is a city that needs to be seen on foot.  Meeting with a group of nine international writers in the lobby of the Andel’s Hotel , local guide Martina Kaderová set us off on a 4.5 walking tour of Prague. That is not a typo.  Most American’s would hide if they thought they were going to be walking for more than 20 minutes, let alone 4.5 hours.  Certainly this California girl would have second thoughts about such a long walking tour.  But as it turned out, it was a real treat – easy, breezy and mostly downhill once the tram deposited us at the top of the castle district.  The first thing tourists learn is to look up.  All the really cool sites are framed against the sky.  Towering castle spires, 400-year-old astronomical clocks, and gorgeous statues are all heaven bound.

Road to a Nature Preserve

Wear flat shoes, bring a camera and allow several hours to tour Old Town, the Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge.  Stop a while at the various wine gardens and restaurants to acquaint yourself with the local food, wine and beer. All beautiful, all wonderful.

After our walking tour we strolled to the Restaurant V Zátši from the Charles Bridge for dinner.  Opened in 1991 as one of the first private restaurants in Prague it showcases a quiet and intimate ambience.  The night I was there, it was packed… and for good reason.  We were treated to a pre-fixed Bohemian meal of traditional Kulajda Soup, Mead Roasted Quail, Pan Seared Fillet of Pikeperch, Crispy Duckling, Red Cabbage, Herb Dumplings and Duck Sauce with Cumin and Warm Rhubarb and Apple Tartlet – all served with complimentary local wines. I especially like the Tramín and Riesling. The dinner and wines came to about $117 US per person.  We took public transportation back to our hotel.  I was beginning to feel like a local.

Day 2 found us on a bus with our guide Martina and Czech Tourism rep Pavel Macek heading out to Bystřice nad Pernštejnem. Bystřice nad Pernštejnem is a small town with a population of 9,007 that serves as a public administration center. The town is a center of cultural and social life in the area. There are nine educational institutions there. The scenery between the deep valley of the river Svratka and the foot of Žďárské vrchy (the Žďár highlands) leads me to believe that there will be a rapid development of tourism in the future which will include breathtaking unspoiled hiking, biking, fishing and camping. The mayor told me, “We are not so much interested in sharing our region with mass bus tours, but with families, singles and couples who want to stay awhile and enjoy the natural beauty.”  Lunch was at the restaurant Agrofarm Habři.  We all took the opportunity to continue our exploration of local food, wine and beer.  We got to order off the menu, so there were lots of different dishes to look at.  I had the local garlic soup and a salad that reminded me of a Greek Salad (not exactly, but similar).  I was also introduced to the Czech version of Coke.  I liked it for its less sweet, less bubbly taste.

Pernstejn Castle

Next we headed out to the Pernštejn Castle where we toured the small castle and had a private wine tasting. The castle is located on a rock above the village of Nedvědice and the rivers Svratka and Nedvědička, in the South Moravian wine district. Pernštejn came to be known as the marble castle because of the marble-like stone used to frame the doors and windows. Pernštejn Castle is a very rare example of a near perfectly preserved castle that that looks today almost exactly how it did 700 years ago. It’s open April – October .

Castle Tasting Sommelier

Our wine tasting at the castle was magnificent – about 16 wines – led by a local sommelier.  The cool Czech weather and sandy soil produce better whites than red. My overall impression was solid winemaking skills produced very good wines such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cab, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and local white favorites Pálava (a young vine originating in Morava in the 70’s gaining huge popularity in recent years. Grapes are partly grayish, partly reddish, spicy in taste with tough skins. The wine itself has a golden hue, vanilla and spicy tones as well as Muscat notes. Smooth, very round, slightly acidic it goes well with spicy dishes, meat in a sweet marinates as well as goat and sheep cheese) and Tramín (Gewürztraminer). Think lean wines on all varietals.  The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was especially memorable. Cost per bottle is about $15-$20 US.

Castle Vineyard Grapes

Ending day 2 we transferred to Znojmo, the historical city of Moravia associated with a slew of wine traditions including the Historical Vintage Festival, historical sights, and delicious gherkins. The tour people had my attention now as we were in one of the most famous Czech wine districts.  We stayed for two nights at the Hotel Prestige which was in walking or bicycling distance of many wine cellars, the festival, and the big Vintage Festival which attracts over 80,000 a year.  Dinner was in the hotel’s restaurant.  Must say… a great bar, many choices of wine and a solid local menu made this a pleasure to dine at.  Also would like to note that both the Andel’s Hotel in Prague and the Hotel Prestige offered in room Internet.  There is a fee of anywhere between $10-$20 per 24 hours.

Our final 2 days were spent discovering the Znojmo wine region.  While some of our group went cycling others went shopping.  Each of the 10 wine-growing regions in Moravia is connected by its own wine trail loop. Visitors can choose from one-day trips or longer tours on which to discover local culture, wines and sites, all from a 750 mile network of cycling trails. Our group picked up bikes at the local train station and cycled for a little over an hour.  The trail was challenging, but invigorating. Be aware you will be on city streets, larger automobile roads and quaint small village streets. The cost  for a six hour bike rental is about $7 US. Bicycling and winetasting is a widly popular activity and should be a priority for you to try. Those of us who went shopping were also not disappointed.  The Czech has invented itself into an international shopping site.  Europeans – especially from the eastern blocks – come here for glorious bargains on shoes, handbags, clothing, glass, and jewelry (especially garnets).  One whole day can be dedicated to shopping.  This California girl was dazzled by the lovely craftsmanship and plentiful selection. I scored big in the shoe and sunglass department and was sorely tempted by some brilliant gold sapphire hoop earrings.  If the bus hadn’t been touting its horn for me, I’d be living large with new gorgeous earrings.

Lunch and Wine at Restaurant Moravsky

Lunch was a very interesting experience at Restaurant Moravský sklípek in the town of Šatově.  The food was excellent with most of us opting to try the local favorite potato dumplings with homemade smoked meat and stewed cabbage (about $5 US) and the oh so delicious crepe like dessert Palačinka ($3 US). The shopping group arrived before the biking group and was offered a taste of a harvest time wine known as Burčák .

Burčák – roughly translates as “Young Wine.”  It originates as an intermediary product during winemaking, several days after fermentation begins.  We drank Burčák that had been crushed just 4 days earlier. This fun fizzy grape juice can only be called Burčák for two to three days, when the sugar and alcohol is approximately balanced – about 4-5% alcohol. The importance of this beverage is defined in the Vintner and Winemaking Act, which specifies when Burčák may be offered for direct consumption. The partially fermented grape juice may be distributed for consumption only if it is made exclusively from grapes, which were harvested and processed in the Czech Republic. The act also specifies that it may only be sold between the 1st August and 30th November of the current year. I am glad I was there because it’s really special. It’s way too sweet to drink much of as it is often made from the Muscat grape, but it matches the festive nature of Czech fall and all its festivals.  And it’s incredibly cheap – about 75 cents a glass.

Shopping in Znojmo

We also had a great wine tasting in the cellars of the restaurant.  Centuries old this cave now offers wine lockers for rent for about $45 US and includes the ability to store 75 bottles of wine, offers  3 hosted tastings a year, use of the caves for private parties, and a complimentary bottle of wine each year.  A steal of a deal.  Our wine tasting was 6 lovely wines from one of the largest producers in the Czech Republic and included Pinot Noir, Grüner Veltliner (a fragrant white Austrian grape wine), Rhine Riesling, Sav Blanc, Cab Rosé, and Pálava. Most notable were the Cab Rose and the Sav Blanc.

Cave Entrance In Satove

After the tasting we walked about 15 minutes to Chateau Satov also known as The Painted Cave Winery.  On the way through narrow streets we discovered many private entries to the extensive underground caves in the area.  It was fun to see people sitting out in front of the many unmarked cave entrances on casual chairs drinking wine from the various cellars. At the painted caves we were treated to a 30 minute tour of the most interesting caves ever. A project of love that spanned 1914- 1967 a one armed folk painter painted various “life” and fantasy scenes over the many years.  It was not until the early 60’s until there was any light in the caves.  The artist utilized candles on his hat to light the cave walls. The guide told us only one scene has been lost – that of Hitler saluting  enthusiastic crowds.  It was changed after the war to a smiling baby  waving to her mother.

Our last day was spent exploring the famous Znojmo Historic Wine-Harvest Festival.  It takes place throughout the town of Znojmo. From the original grand costume spectacles and new-wine celebration (Burčák), the traditional Znojmo grape harvest festival (first held in 1966) has developed into a stylish, 2-day fun-packed presentation of music, dance and entertainment. It occurs very September it attracting tens of thousands of visitors from across the country. The event is dominated by a ceremonial procession through the town on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon made up of several hundred people in period costumes, horses and jugglers ending with the arrival of king and queen – Jan Lucemburský with Eliška Přemyslovná. The procession ends with a festive scene on the main stage. Once that part is completed visitors are treated to jousting knights, music everywhere,  historical markets  with craftsmen, merchants and endless stands serving food and  Burčák wine.  Music lovers and Burčák aficionados will especially love this festival, but I can heartily recommend it for families, singles and couples of all ages.

Painted Cellar Bikes

Not to be missed during the festival is the Znojmo Underground- one of the most extensive underground labyrinths in central Europe located right in the middle of the festival.  The underground dates back to the 14th century. The classic tour route features an excursion of the underground corridors and passages with a presentation focusing on the history of the origins of the Underground and its further development in the course of time. Since March 2009, the classic tour route has been extended with the “Mysterious Underground” exposition, during which visitors see an alchemist’s workshop, rocks, bats and goblins brought to life, as well as dungeon cells and many more. The atmosphere is augmented by special light and sound effects. The tour is about an hour and requires good balance and flat shoes.

Hotel Adria

I was sorry to leave Znojmo, but it was time to hop on our bus for the 2-hour return to Prague for our individual flights home the next day.  We arrived at the centrally located Hotel Adria in an upscale historical, business and shopping area of the city.  Wow is all I can say for all the store choices.  The district was alive with hundreds of shoppers. Wish I could have been one, but I needed to check my email (in room Internet was $20 US for 24 hours), pack and get ready for dinner. The hotel’s upscale Art Nouveau style TRITON Restaurant (1912) is located in a unique stalactite cave and features a gourmet menu, a  wine-cellar and ancient statues as a backdrop.  Quite an upscale dinner experience featuring  a special Prague Ham appetizer, 1/4 Roast Duck with Red Wine Cabbage and Potato Dumplings and Apple Strudel with Sour Cream.  Most of the writers chose beer as their beverage of choice; I had a local Sav Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Some tips for you when visiting the Czech Republic:

  1.  English is spoken in most tourist areas.  Get off the beaten path and you’re likely to need an I-Pod ap to help translate
  2. Although part of the EU, local currency is not the Euro, it is the Koruna or Czech crown. You can use Euro dollars in some places, but not all.  US dollars are converted to Koruna not Euros at the hotels.
  3. Soft adventure possibilities abound in this wonderful place.  Take full advantage of the biking, walking and fishing tours.  Use a guide for your first couple of days.
  4. Internet is available but is expensive for in-room service.  Many hotels offer Wi-Fi in the lobby or will direct you to a nearby Interne Café.
  5. Eat and shop locally.  Be adventurous.
  6. Bring a suitcase for all the wonderful items you’ll be bringing back.

 

Craving more flavors from the Czech Republic?  Click here for a recipe for Traditional Czech Garlic Soup, courtesy of Linda Kissam. 

 

By Linda Kissam / Photos by Linda Kissam, except where watermarked “Czech Tourism”. Hotel Adria courtesy of Adria Hotel.

 

 

 

Gettysburg Travel Tips

September 12th, 2011

Story and Photos by Allan D. Kissam, CityRoom Contributor

I am in Gettysburg, PA, visiting a deciding battleground in the U.S. Civil War. In 2013 comes the Sesquicentennial of the 1863 battle and its outcome largely decided if our perpetual union would survive.

I resist retelling the details of a battle that is documented elsewhere. Instead, I will concentrate on how to entertain a family while taking them to a historical destination.

What is it about this place that draws people for nearly 150 years?  Gettysburg is considered the deciding battle by us today, but the Civil War went on for nearly two more years.  Vicksburg, Mississippi, was strategically more important.  Ahead was the burning of Atlanta and President Lincoln’s reelection that even he had doubts could happen.  People recognize that at this battle, both sides put it all on the line as never before – the Confederates were well into Pennsylvania, a Union state.  Washington, the Union capitol, was at risk if the Union lost.  Important to the Confederates, a victory here could secure recognition by England.  These facts are the setup for a drama that survives like Agincourt and Shakespeare’s King Henry V with the lines -

“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

We are the future of their time, and yet we struggle in our own time as they did with divisive issues.  As in so many things related to Abraham Lincoln, his words in 1861 are prophetic – “The struggle of today is not altogether for today; it is for a vast future also.”

I also think the answer to why Gettysburg draws people is that the Civil War is about good versus evil, and fascination with the belief system of men from both sides being so strong.  Their motivation was so strong that they endured years of living like hobos, away from comforts and family, only to face a possibly torturous death.

That I just violated tradition, calling the civil war a contest of good versus evil, is not news to me.  I went to college in Atlanta, segregationist Lester Maddox was governor, and they still played Dixie everywhere.  However, even today, a Gettysburg park ranger at the visitor center told me that some people walk out of the introductory film.  It portrays in some scenes a view of human abuse and not the traditional Lost Cause theme, so I imagine facing the truth is difficult.

Talking with people during the tour stops, I discovered foreigners taking time to see this great battlefield. One man from Sweden was on his third trip. Foreign tourists and Americans, as if attracted to a majestical object, seem to flock to Gettysburg to get an answer to some unanswerable question.

Accommodations

I stayed at the Wyndham Hotel, located at the Gateway Gettysburg campus.  This is a development of hotels, theater, and restaurants. My room included a bar area, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and a 5×5 shower with side spray nozzles. The hotel offers a huge enclosed pool for the kids, and three restaurants to choose from (one providing pizza and family-food). Reasonable luxury is the best description of my accommodations with prices about $225, depending on the season.

I observed prices in the area at “econo-beds” to be nearly the same as the Wyndham and yet with nothing more to offer a guest. The Gateway Gettysburg campus includes a movie theater across the parking lot. Between the pool, exercise room, pizza party, and theater it is hard to get bored.

In the Wyndham’s 1863 restaurant, I enjoyed the spinach salad and Scottish salmon steak along with a glass of California Mirassou 2009 pinot noir. The spinach salad is with bleu, pecans, and a warm cider vinaigrette. My salmon steak was a thick cut but cooked to perfection throughout. The salmon plate is served with butternut squash risotto, asparagus, and a pecan relish. A special treat, compliments of the chef, was the pan seared scallop in an apple cider with rum butter sauce – really good. This fine dinner was about $39.00 total.

Executive Chef Claude Rodier, is French in both birth and degreed culinary education. He brings extensive experience in fine restaurants to the Wyndham hotel, including his most recent position as Executive Chef of Blackie’s Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Claude Rodier is bringing to the Wyndham his specialties in pastry and seafood.

City Center

A shuttle runs into downtown from the Gateway Gettysburg campus and takes about 5 minutes. I drove my car around the battlefield and found parking at all of the points of interest. However, around the center of town where the tourists congregate the parking was difficult. A spot in town to visit is the Reid Winery tasting room (built in 1820) and it is the birthplace of Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the battle. Other winery tasting rooms in the center of town are located amongst ice cream parlors and places to hang out for people watching.

Gettysburg Battlefield

The park visitor center is located on the battlefield and its museum is excellent. The displays showed me artifacts of the period but also the battle flow is artfully brought into the display. From here, my choice was to walk the park, rent an official guide, buy a self-tour CD, or just follow the crowds and read the signs.

20th Maine Remembrance from 2011 Children of Maine

I did not purchase a tour CD for my car. I found that the audio tour road signs and notes on the free map to give me enough information. Unexpected were the helpful people that study this history and could tell me details beyond my knowledge. I simply listened to someone explaining to their partners and when appropriate asked my question. These self-educated experts enjoy sharing their knowledge and even point out what to go see across the fields. However, my advantage is I have been here before and studied the battle in films and books. Licensed guides or a bus tour can be hired at the visitor center, and the self-guided audio CD is supposed to be excellent.

Seeing the battlefield takes a full day by car including pulling over to walk around. Many people take a second day or a good part of it. For example; I could see the “angle” from the road in my car, but it was a good 100 yards away. I had to get out and stand at this critical spot – the angle is the point of the Union lines where the now famous Picket’s charge focused while advancing under deadly cannon and rifle fire.


Another famous spot is the Little Round Top bayonet charge by the Union 20th Maine Regiment. Despite seasons passed since the Civil War, visitors continue to love their fighting men of the period. I came to walk the famous grounds again (last visit was in 1973) and I was touched by and photographed this note left behind on the 20th Maine monument at Little Round Top.

gburginfo.brinkster.net is a web site that I found with lots of photographs and interesting things to look for at the battlefield. Most of this is not offered in tours and car maps.

civilwartraveler.com/audio/podcasts.html is a podcast site that has free tour guides for important points throughout the major civil war battles.

What else to do – Wine & Music festival anyone?

I had to focus on what will induce my wife to come along on another trip before the Sesquicentennial. She is not into the historical tours, although many women are as engrossed in the activity as are the men.

Wonderfully, there is a Wine and Music Festival going on every September at the Gateway Gettysburg campus. The Wyndham has special offer packages for the Wine & Music Festival. I have more to see in the area and this is enough to get her interested, plus the shopping at the Gettysburg downtown square.

A day trip down highway 15 from Gettysburg is the city of Frederick, Maryland. Here is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the Monocacy Battlefield fought by General Lew Wallace (later the author of Ben-Hur), and a great place for lunch.

I had seen many of the same display at Gettysburg as in the Medicine Museum, except for the section on injuries and treatment of wounds. Displayed are shattered bones showing the longitudinal fractures caused by a Minie ball. Pictures of soldiers show the horrible damage and how elementary plastic surgery let men continue in life including marriage and children.

I found the Monocacy Battlefield (1864) to be less engaging than others, and probably so because it was a feint to draw Union forces away from besieged Richmond. On my next trip, I will be taking in the 1862 Antietam Battlefield about 35 minutes drive to the west. This is where the horrors of modern war were captured on photographs for the first time by Matthew Brady.  The display of these photographs in Washington, D.C, was shocking and drew huge crowds.  It is possible to drive from Gettysburg in the morning, see the museum in Frederick, have lunch, and go over to Antietam for four hours of viewing before returning to Gettysburg.

Even today, after many years, my wife asks me if the bugs got on me during my walking around. I had dragged her through these places 40 years earlier. Yes, battles are fought outdoors and sometimes it is hot. I remembered to wear my hat, walking shoes, have bottled water, and use sun block. Wonder what it was like for the men wearing wool uniforms in the humid 87 degree temperature at Gettysburg, July 3rd, 1863?

Private Pilot Airport Information

Gettysburg Regional Airport (W05) has a 3,100’ x 60’ single runway and no services.  It is possible to land and park without a hassle, just bring your own gas.  Enterprise Car Rentals in Gettysburg is (717) 337-9000.

Nearby is Frederick, MD, providing full services.  A suggestion is to do the Gettysburg trip in reverse.  Start at Frederick with the Civil War Museum, see nearby Antietam, then have dinner in Gettysburg at the Wyndham Hotel.  Or fly up to Gettysburg and call for a rental car.

Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK) has two asphalt runways, 5,220’ x 100’ and 3,600’ x 75’.  Elevation is 303’.  Noise abatement procedures are required.  Phone is (301) 600-1457.

 

Another treasure at Gettysburg?  Lincoln’s Lost Treasure, a family-friendly, fun-for-all interactive day tour!

 

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