One of my absolute favorite places on earth is Newport, RI. Actually, I love all of Rhode Island. The road between Providence and Newport is lovely, with wineries along the way, and the promise of a quaint seaside town and towering historical estates ahead. Below, I hope you'll enjoy some pictures from our last trip there...
I admit, I play hooky a lot. I didn't get to do it in high school very much, so ever since then, I've taken all the opportunities I could. I went to the college classes I really liked and played hooky a lot with the ones I didn't. Any job I've held could have expected me to be out once every couple of weeks. And even now, working for myself, I tend to beg off and go do something fun quite often.
This post is from one such day when we were still living in NYC, and my hubby and I grabbed our friends so we could make our way up to the North Fork of Long Island. Most people don't realize, but this rural part of Long Island is chock full of wineries! It's like a mini Sonoma, with vineyards and farm stands and quaint little towns with tea rooms and antique shops.
In 1973, Alex and Louisa Hargrave arrived in the North Fork to plant the very first vineyard, and met with great success! Almost 40 years later, there are 30 wineries in the North Fork, and a whopping 60 wineries total on Long Island. Many of the wines are award winning, and Long Island has been called "one of the country's most exciting wine producing regions today."
For folks like us who lived in a big city (and now live in a semi-big city), getting out to the country for a day can be rejuvenating and inspiring!
Where do you go when you want to play hooky?
It has to be one of my favorite places on earth. The first time I visited was in 2005. I had heard of Versailles and was fascinated with its history, I just didn’t realize that I would fall in love.
It was late March the first time, but the sun was out and light jackets were all we needed. Our tour began on the inside and we were provided with much of the history. If you ever visit Versailles, you can rent an MP3 player to guide you on your tour so you know whose bedroom you are standing in or so you will recognize the Hall of Mirrors. Okay, you would know the Hall of Mirrors on sight and without the assistance of a guide.
There is not enough time to explore the entire palace or all of the gardens. Each time I visited I was with a large group as one of the chaperones to high school students. However, this summer I will return and my time will be my own. I can’t tell you how excited I am. But, the three visits I did enjoy gave me a taste of what I want to further explore. By the way, the gardens will require a separate post.
Originally, when the palace was built, there were two sets of gates. To the left of the first gate were the stables and to the right, the kitchens. The second gate was torn down during the French Revolution.
Everyone could enter Versailles. Several guards were posted to confiscate weapons, search carriages and to ensure the visitor was properly dressed. I am fairly certain that during my visits I was not dressed appropriately for court life. But I was on vacation and I was fairly certain I would not be running into any kings or queens.
It was originally a hunting lodge for Louis XIII. At first the king set out to embellish the original house, and construction lasted over 50 years. In 1682 it became Louis XIV’s official residence, and in 10 years he expanded it, adding two wings and dedicating each common room to its own planet. Louis XIV, or the Sun King, favored the location because it wasn’t too close to Paris, but not too far away either. In our century, it is about a 45 minute tour bus drive away. It was large enough that he could permanently have his court around him, which included aristocracy, ministers, advisors, etc. When royalty was in residence, there could be anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 people living at Versailles.
The main entrance of the tour is to the left and includes all modern technology has to offer, including metal detectors. But soon you step back, into the past. The tours I have taken part of were of the State Apartments. Rich with art, tapestry, woodwork, gold carvings.
Probably the most famous room in Versailles is The Hall of Mirrors. It is filled with 357 mirrors, as well as a row of 17 arched windows overlooking the vast gardens and reflecting back into the mirrors. The king would use this hall to walk from his private apartments to chapel each day. It was also used for celebration and political events. Even in modern day, long after the era of kings, The Hall of Mirrors has stood as a backdrop to history. It was here on June 28, 1919 that the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending WWI. It is still a place where dignitaries meet. I just hope none of them are planning a meeting on the date I want to visit so I can stand in the center of the hall and simply take it in.
by Jane Charles
I toured Palais Garneir, also known as Opera de Paris, on my second visit to Paris. Opera de Paris is the one place my middle daughter HAD TO SEE. It is all she talked about in the months leading up to the trip. Her passion and desire to visit Palais Garneir began when she wrote a paper on its history, and only grew from there. I should also mention this is my theatre child, so it should not have come as a surprise that out of my three children, she was the one that wanted to visit.
Opera de Paris is gorgeous. I can think of no other words to describe the inside. This establishment opened its grand doors for the first time in 1875. I had thought it was much older, bu it is the opera company itself that goes back to the 1600's. This building was simply its home from 1875 through 1978. It now hosts the ballet and the opera has moved to a more modern building.
The theater portion seats around 2,200 people with a giant chandelier in the center. We were able to step inside what would be a private patron's box where we could look down on the seats and large stage below and view the chandelier up above. Additional research told me that the stage could accommodate up to 450 artists. That is one huge stage! At least to me. The stages I’m familiar with would get crowded with only 75 people.
The Grand Foyer rivals the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles and my daughter and I will never come to an agreement on which is more beautiful. Of course, I still favor Versailles.
However, what this building is most famous for is the setting of The Phantom of the Opera." In 1896, one of the counterweights for the grand chandelier fell, killing one. This, as well as the underground lake, cellars, and other elements of the Opera House, inspired Gaston Leroux in 1909 to write his classic Gothic novel, The Phantom of the Opera."* We did not get to go below to see the underground lake but would have loved to. That would have been the icing on our cake.
It is also haunted, if you believe in such a thing. I skipped the opera house on my third visit to Paris, but my colleagues who were there insist on it’s paranormal activity. I didn’t feel any “presence” during my previous visits, but I wasn’t looking to encounter ghosts either. However, I was looking through photos that another parent took and I am convinced she captured a ghost, or the outline, or whatever you call it. I don’t look for ghosts in pictures or anywhere else for that matter. But she told me she kept having trouble taking a picture of these huge candelabra. Indeed, I saw a face and the outline of shoulders. Kind of gave me chills and then I pointed it out to her. Several people had pictures with floating lights, which is not unusual when taking pictures in such old places. The question is, are they ghosts?
By the way, following the tour I took with my daughter, she informed me that she plans on being married there. My thoughts were 1) I had better sell a lot, I mean a lot, of books; 2) we need to hit the lottery (guess one of us should start playing); or 3) it will only be her, her husband and the few people who can afford to travel. I really hope she doesn't have her heart set on this. I haven't asked her recently, fearful of her answer.
*Quoted from Wikipedia