Sunday, October 13, 2013



Connecticut & New York State

What does an African elephant, puppets, midgets and a child adventure writer all have in common?  Well, all you have to do is go to Connecticut and New York State to find out.
When we drove into Connecticut from Massachusetts we didn’t see much difference in landscape.  We saw green trees, green grass, green everywhere, dark lakes, miles and miles of country roads and interstates with little towns or villages dotted here and there.  When we drove into our campground in upper CT we felt like we were back in CO with pine trees and lakes and rolling hills.
Our first trip was to see the capitol of Connecticut, Hartford.  To see the State Capitol was such a surprise to what I expected.  This was such a huge, impressive structure that sat upon a hill overlooking the city.  We decided to go inside and explore and we were shocked to see the creativity and designs that went into this monument of a capitol.  It was built in 1878 in a high Victorian Gothic style and is a National Historic Landmark. The marble floors, fountains, custom tiles, statues, designs on the walls and woodwork were all amazing.  The state’s hero and native born to Connecticut is Nathan Hale, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” guy and there is a huge statue of him at the entrance to the capitol. I have to put this capitol on the top of the ‘best state capitol building’ in the USA, so far.

Next, it was off to the Barnum Museum which housed a lot of the famous circus’s memorabilia.  As we pulled up to the building which was located in downtown Bridgeport, CT, I was not disappointed by such a different, red sandstone majestic building.  The only thing that disappointed me was they had a tornado hit the building (yes, a tornado in CT) in 2011 and it did so much water damage to most of the stored and displayed items and to the structure of the old building that they haven’t been able to open the museum up to its full capacity (lack of money) since.


 Picking up my disappointment off the floor we were then escorted by a young volunteer showing just a few items in a small section of the museum.  We were able to see Tom Thumb’s personal horse carriage, chairs, sofa, circus wagon, etc.  Then there was Mrs. Tom Thumb’s wedding dress, some of Mr. Barnum’s personal furniture, pictures of Jumbo the elephant (after he died he was stuffed). 

                                                 Mr. & Mrs. Tom Thumb's small sitting chairs

                                                            Tom Thumb's walnut carriage

We put our money into the donation box and hoped that the museum would be restored in the near future. We walked around downtown Bridgeport for a little while but weren’t impressed with Bridgeport at all.  It was old and not in a good way, very depressed city that had better days as a major seaport city. After a nice lunch in an Italian restaurant we were off to downtown Hartford.
We wanted to see Yale University while we were there, so we drove around the college and just took pictures of the buildings.  Next we parked the car and walled around old town Hartford to experience the flavor of this college town.  What a delightful town, lots of shopping, food and upbeat attitude.   No I didn’t buy a “Yale” tee shirt, just felt it wasn’t me….I’m more of a MIT kinda gal…sure!


One of the places George really wanted to go to was the Mark Twain House.  We found out that his house and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house are right next to each other, so we bought the ticket to see both.  Mark Twain is such an American icon and so I was excited to see his custom house.  What a surprise.  It started off at the entrance to the museum….there stood a six foot replica of Mark Twain in Lego’s.
                                                                           Lego Mark Twain

Next it was a short film by Ken Burns talking about Samuel Clemens’ life.  He was quite the traveler and had many jobs (riverboat pilot, printer, journalist and prospector in NV) before he settled down when he was 34 with his new wife Olivia Langdon.  They hired a famous architect to design this amazing home.  What impressed me the most about the home was Samuel’s comment about it.  He said he was the happiest when he was in the house writing and raising four children in that house, he felt it had a heart and it welcomed them to live there (my feeble attempt to remember what was actually said).  Unfortunately he lost the home after only nine years because of investing heavily in a type setting machine which didn't make it big on the market.

Mark Twain's home - couldn't take interior pictures...not permitted
One of my favorite stories about him living there was the fact that he would have his daughters (he lost his son as a toddler) come downstairs in the library before bedtime and he would start telling them a story and then use everything laid out on the mantle (the servants changed up the various vases, statues, assorted memorabilia daily) to embellish the story.  He also would pretend to be an animal and chase the girls in the glass atrium that held a small pond and lots of plants and trees.  He sounded like he really enjoyed his children and was a good father.
Then it was off right next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe's home (she wrote ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’).  It was a smaller home which was built much earlier than the Twain House.  One thing I learned from the house tour was she was an artist and there were many painting of her's throughout the home.  After seeing the house I tried reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin and just couldn’t get through it…???
Harriet Stowe's home

We have seen and experienced so much while on the east coast that I feel like I could teach a college course on the subject!  One thing we laugh about is no matter how fast we go (as much as 10 miles over the speed limit) the cars in the back of us always act like we are at a snail’s pace.  I guess the speed limit is ‘just a suggestion’ in CT, NY and MA.

Happy traveling,

Peggy (+George & Coco)

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Hershey, Pennsylvania

What can I say, I’m in Chocolate Heaven and I never want to leave.  Chocolate is everywhere in this small town.  Street names like Chocolate Ave and Cocoa Lane tell me I am truly in a town that was founded on Chocolate…one of my favorite things in life.

I wanted to start off the day at the Hershey Museum which told about the man Milton Hershey and how he built this empire.  About a year ago I read the book “Hershey” by Michael D’Antonio and was fascinated by the man and his quest for something that never had been done in the USA.  I highly recommend the book, I thought it would be boring but I breezed through it with ease (got it through the library and the cover looks like a giant chocolate bar).

As I stood on the steps waiting for the doors to open anticipating the whole chocolate experience, George was looking at me like I had lost my mind!  As we went through the doors and purchased our tickets, we started in the museum at the display at how it all began.  He started at the age of 14 with the blessings of his mother to find a vocation (he quite school).  He started out as a printers assistant and quickly got fired for putting his hat in the printer (he hated his job).  Next job he got was an apprentice to a candy maker, which history would tell was his best vocation choice.  Over the years he would learn more and more about candy making…even going to Denver to learn how to make better caramels.  His mother and aunt even helped him make and wrap candy at one point but that didn’t save him from failing and having to pack up everything and move back home…bankrupt. 

The turning point of his life was seeing a display of chocolates at the World’s Fair in      .  He felt that chocolate was the way to go instead of caramels so he sold his caramel company (second business after the hard candy business that went bankrupt).  It took him many years of experimenting with whole milk and cocoa beans to get the texture and richness that we experience today in a chocolate bar. 
He decided to put his chocolate plant about five miles east of Harrisburg which was in the middle of nowhere but had railroad lines and plenty of fresh whole milk all over the countryside.  Milton decided early on that he wanted to create a whole town around the factory.  After building the factory he proceeded to build houses for his employees, plus parks, schools, swimming pool, community center, banks, police and fire departments.  He felt that happy employees would make his factory and business succeed…what a concept!
One of the fun things I got to do was make my own custom chocolate bar in the Chocolate Lab.

 George hasn't shaven for 4 he must wear a hairnet on his face....oh boy!
I put in the works...marshmallows, choco bits, raisins, pecans & cocoa bits

Next it was off to Chocolate World…fortunately George still had a smile on his face.  What that place was all about was selling, selling, selling everything Hershey. They had a place where you could design your own candy bar and also a 4D movie with chocolate cartoons…we passed on those two adventures.  Decided instead for the free ride in a moving car that went through displays (like Disneyland) explaining the chocolate making process (no more factory tours).  All I can say is it was pretty hokey. 
We walked off the ride and were dropped into the gift shop…mercy! 
Will tie dye ever die?
I know you are all wondering what I bought.  I again held to the ‘simple’ lifestyle that we are experiencing and only bought postcards and a small silver necklace with a Hershey kiss pendant about the size of a eraser on a pencil.  It should have an inscription on it saying “in case of bitchiness, please give her a Hershey kiss, or suffer the consequences”.  Of course, it would have to be in size .2 font to fit on such a small space.

I’m really glad I was able to see the town that was built by Milton Hershey and has brought so much joy to about every woman in America.  Thanks Milton, I love you.

Happy Traveling,
Peggy  (+George & Coco)