Category Archives: Exploring Cape May NJ

Narrowsburg, NY by the Delaware River

Day One Hundred and Forty-Four: Escaping the City & Revisiting Cape May, New Jersey and Narrowsburg, New York August 27th-30th, 2019

I needed a break from walking around New York City and my jobs. The late night edits on my book “Love Triangles”, walking around Midtown East for the next entry on my blog and my three jobs I needed a change of scenery. My recent trip to Washington DC for my interview for Graduate School at Georgetown was hardly a leisure trip with running back and forth from New York City, so on a whim I made two escapes from my home life, one to Cape May, New Jersey on Tuesday night and one to Narrowsburg, NY on Thursday night. There were two restaurants on my bucket list that I wanted to try before the summer was over, The Magnolia Room at The Chalfonte Hotel (which closes for the season September 6th) and The Heron Restaurant, which is run by a follow Alumni from the CIA and I has just passed by in 2016 on my way to a Alumni weekend at Cornell (See ‘Day Seventy-Seven’ on “MywalkinManhattan.com” site). I had planned these revisits but did not realise that it would take three years to do. Funny how time slips by.

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/5116

I left after work on Tuesday on a whim to Cape May. I knew I would be back in two weeks for the NJ Firemen’s Convention but The Magnolia Room would be closed for the season and I wanted to try it one more time for dinner. Also, there was a list of museums that I wanted to add to my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com, before I started teaching for the school year at the college. I did not know how much time I would have once classes started.

So on a rather gloomy Tuesday morning, I called the Chalfonte Hotel to make a reservation for the night and off I drove down the Garden State Parkway to Cape May. From Bergen County it is a straight run from the top of the State to the bottom with a few rest stops along the way. My first stop was Beach Haven, NJ on Long Beach Island, a giant sandbar of an island that protects the coast line. I had not been to Beach Haven since 1975 when we were visiting friends at their beach house (which I am sure does not exist anymore). My destination was the Long Beach Island Historical Association Museum at 129 Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ (See reviews on TripAdvisor.com and VisitingaMuseum.com).

Long Beach Island Museum.jpg

Long Beach Island Historical Association Museum at 129 Engleside Avenue: Destination One

I wanted to make these two trips a working vacation for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” and there was a list of museums that I wanted to visit over the period of four days. I wanted to visit the historical societies of Long Beach Island and Cape May as well as return to some of the sites around Cape May.

I got into Beach Haven in the later afternoon. Things have really changed over the last forty years.  When you come off the causeway, you enter the town of Ships Bottom, which I barely remember. Here and there were still some of the old businesses that had been around since the late 60’s and early 70’s, whose popularity does not wane year after year. Hidden in those pockets is what is left of the old beach cottages that once lined all the streets of the town. I remember all these little shore houses that looked like dollhouses even then. They all looked the same with their one story construction, small yards and never ending towels drying on the outside.

What has replaced them over the years due to a bustling economy, changing times at shore towns and finally storms like Hurricane Sandy, which really wiped out a lot of homeowners, the make up of these towns has changed from more working to middle class families to these upscale homes on stilts that dominate those tiny pieces of land. I could not believe they let these people build on top of one another.

My first destination was the Long Beach Island Historical Association Museum which is located in the historical section of homes in Beach Haven. This unique museum gives a through history of Long Beach Island from the time of the Lenape Indians summering here in the hotter weather to the development of area as a resort for working and upper middle class families from Philadelphia to the current development of a year round community.

Long Beach Island Museum III.jpg

The inside of the museum

After my visit to the museum, I walked around the downtown area which still had a lot of life left into it so close to Labor Day Weekend. The small amusement park was still open but very quiet on this Tuesday afternoon with bored teenagers texting and talking waiting for the next customer. It looked like most of the restaurants and shops were gearing down for the end of the season with sales on merchandise in the stores and limited hours on the restaurants.

After walking in and out of beach shops and gift stores, I took a recommendation from the people that ran the museum and went to The Woo Hoo for lunch. What a wonderful experience! The food and the service were excellent. Located around the corner from the museum at 211 South Bay Avenue, The Woo Hoo is an engaging little drive in concept restaurant with a walk up counter and outside picnic tables (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).

Woo Hoo.jpg

The Woo Hoo at 211 South Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ

For lunch I had a traditional burger ($7.95), which was two high quality freshly ground hamburger patties with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and slathered with mayo. You could really taste the meat which was rich and juicy with the right amount of caramelization. Their French Fries ($4.45) are freshly cut everyday and you can taste it when biting into these fries that are cooked per order. Washed down with a Coke ($2.95), there is nothing like it. The sun peaked out when eating so being outside on the picnic bench was not so bad after all.

I was so impressed by the food that I stopped by before I left Beach Haven to have some of their homemade ice cream. It was heaven. I had a scoop of Strawberry Cheesecake and a scoop of Cinnamon Toast Crunch ($4.95). Each was amazingly creamy and the flavor of the cheesecake mixture really stood out. Not too many restaurants make my DiningaonShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com site outside the City on the first shot but this restaurant is superb.

After lunch I walked around the town’s historical section for a bit and looked at all the old landmarked houses that I had just read about in the museum. This area surrounds the blocks around the Historical Society so look for the plaques on the homes in the next two blocks. After my walk to work off lunch, it was off to my next destination, Cape May and the Chalfonte Hotel for dinner at the Magnolia Room.

Cape May is a really strange exit as you get to 0 (zero) on the Parkway, you exit over a small bridge to enter Cape May and it is literally going from open farmland to a quaint little New England fishing village.

Cape May Harbor

Cape May Harbor at 0 Garden State Parkway

As you drive into town you will be entering the Marina area of the town and the famous Lobster House restaurant, which is known for their fresh seafood dishes. The homes towards the back of the town are newer being built after the war years but as you get closer to the shore, the streets are line with Victorian homes, many of which have been renovated or updated over the years.

My destination was the Chalfonte Hotel, which I have written about several times for this blog especially at the holidays. The hotel was built in 1876 and is one of the old grand beach hotels on the Jersey shore.

Chalfonte Hotel.jpg

The Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street in Cape May

I was lucky that the hotel was quiet the week of Labor Day. The weather was not that pleasant to the oncoming Hurricane Dorian. The waves were rough and the skies dark with slight break for a little sun. When I arrived at the hotel since it was midweek right before Labor Day, the hotel was not that busy and I went right up to my room.

After settling in, it was off to put my feet in the beach. Well not for long because Hurricane Dorian was churning up the surf at the beach and with no life guards and that strong current it was not advised to go near the water. I just let the surf that hit the beach go up to my feet and even that was rough. Those waves went to the middle of the beach. Still the water was cool and refreshing and felt so good after a long trip.

I walked around the stores and shops that are normally closed at the holidays by the shore and finally got to go into places that I had wanted to visit for the last three seasons. This lead me to a long walk to Washington Mall, the main shopping district to walk around the stores there. At least I knew where all the beach goers were who abandoned the rough waves of the shore. The place was mobbed with people having lunch or an early dinner or eating ice cream and relaxing on the benches.

cape-may-i.jpg

Washington Street Mall in Cape May

After my walk in the mall, I visited the Cape May Firehouse Museum again which is right off the downtown next to the Cape May Fire Department Headquarters.

Cape May Fire Museum

Cape May Fire Museum at 712 Franklin Street

This little museum on the history of the Cape May Fire Department is very interesting. The museum covers the fires of the town which is mostly made of wood and the famous fires of the late 1800’s that devoured most of the old wooden Victorian hotels. The resort area has been a lot over the last century. It explains who many of their members were and how they developed the department (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).

Cape May Fire Museum II

Inside the Cape May Fire Museum

After the long walk around town and by the beach, I just settled into my room at the hotel before dinner. The Chalfonte is an old line Southern beach hotel with its own traditions. The hotel was built in 1876 and runs like a hotel in Georgia or any other Deep South state. The hospitality is warm and friendly and it attracts the same families year after year.

I lucked out and they upgraded me to a room with a private bath and a view. It is too bad that over a hundred and forty years has passed since the hotel was built and the only view I got was of the homes across the street. That beach view is long gone.

Dinner is what I came for that night and that meant dining at the Magnolia Room, the main dining room at the Chalfonte whose specialty is Southern cooking. Lucille Thompson, who has been cooking here since she was young alongside her mother, grandmother and now niece just celebrated her 60th year at the hotel and her 90th birthday as well. She works in the kitchen 12 hours a day making the crab-cakes, biscuits (which one of the ingredients is ice cream) and other delicious menu items.

Magnolia Room Staff

Dorothy Burton and Lucille Thompson in the kitchen at the Chalfonte Hotel

Her sister, Dot Burton, had passed around the same time as my dad and I met her niece, Tina, in the dining room on my last trip at breakfast and we had a real heart to heart about our parents. She then introduced me to her aunt. So when I traveled this time, I made an effort to say hello to both of them and the hostess let me talk to Lucille again.

That was fun. Lucille is such a nice lady and one hell of a cook! I had met her the year before on another last minute trip to Cape May when I wanted to eat at the restaurant last year after reading several articles on the fried chicken and rolls that you could order in the Magnolia Room. Now it was time to try Lucille’s crab cakes!

When I asked the hostess if her niece, Tina Browser was in, I was told that she left for the day. When I told her I had met Lucille last summer, she asked if I wanted to say ‘hi’ and then off we went in to the kitchen to see Lucille. She was making her famous dinner rolls (the ones made with ice cream) and was ripping apart kale for a salad. She told me that she was still working twelve hour days at 90 and she would not have it any other way. She told me the secrets of long life and working hard and it boiled down to doing something you love and making people happy.

Magnolia Room

The Magnolia Room

I told her of the time I traveled to Cape May for my first time in the 90’s and had heard that she and her sister were upset when the hotel changed the dress code from jacket and tie to casual resort clothing. She said that that no longer bothered her but she missed her sister, Dot (who passed away five years ago) everyday and how strange it was to work in the kitchen without her. I could not imagine that after working in the same place with your sister for over sixty years! There is a real love of the sister’s food in the Magnolia Room which shows in the crowds that eat here every evening when in season.

Dot Burton and her sister, Lucille

Lucille Thompson with her late sister, Dot Burton with those delicious crab cakes

I said my goodbyes and let her finish her work. I wanted to relax before I came down for dinner at 8:00pm. I was just sitting down for dinner after a long nap in my room when Lucille was leaving for the night. It  was such a nice night and the temperature hovered around 80 degrees that I sat outside on the porch of the restaurant (that and they were resetting the dining room for breakfast and I did not want to upset the table set-ups). What a beautiful night to eat outside with a gentle breeze and you could see the stars poking out in the sky.

Dinner was amazing as usual (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the $39.00 prix fixe menu which is an excellent bargain for the three course dinner with an appetizer, entrée and dessert. I started dinner with a Pineapple Martini from the King Edward Bar ($14.00) (See review on TripAdvisor) and did that pack a wallop! The bartenders here don’t skimp on the alcohol and the drink seriously relaxed me.

I started dinner with a bowl of the Chalfonte Clam Chowder, which is made in a rich roux of butter, flour and heavy cream studded with fresh sweet clams. God, it was heaven on a nice crisp night. You could taste the sweet clams and the richness of the cream in every spoonful. I ordered an additional appetizer and had the Corn Meal Fried Oysters with the homemade remoulade sauce. These were delicious. I received a generous portion of sweet oysters which were plump and well breaded with a coating of egg and cornmeal. The were lightly pan-fried and were crunchy on the outside and moist and fresh on the inside.

My entrée was Lucille’s famous crab cakes, which are more like a crab croquette. You got one nice sized crab cake, which was filled with fresh sweet crab, fresh bread crumbs and seasonings which are lightly fried being crisp on the outside and moist and creamy on the inside. Each bite I got a nice mouthful of wonderful fresh shredded crab. The crab cake came with a side of freshly made creamy coleslaw and a side of the stewed kale that Lucille had been shredded earlier in the afternoon.

I scoffed down those delicious dinner rolls, which were so much better than last year as they had just made them that afternoon and not frozen like last year. Those rolls were golden brown on the outside and pillowy on the inside and I swear I could taste the vanilla ice cream. For dessert, I had the white chocolate pie,that is baked by the owner of the hotel, with freshly cut strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. That is an interesting combination of flavors and the perfect way to end the meal.

Lucille Thompson.jpg

Lucille Thompson with her famous crab cakes and dinner rolls

My waiter was the same woman who I had waiting on me last year, who works here when the hotel is in season. She is a student from the Czech Republic ( I keep asking her if she is Russian or Polish) and she even remembered me editing my book, “Love Triangles” the last summer ( I have to finish that book) when I was eating dinner. We just laughed at that and it was funny how fast a year goes.

After dinner, I  walked over to the King Edward Bar, which is a small room off the lobby to hear a jazz combo perform. It was such a nice performance and it was so crowded that I sat on the outside porch and listened as the wind went by. It had been such a magnificent night of good food, wonderful conversation and just the beauty of this elegant old hotel that I just relaxed and closed my eyes and soaked it all in.

King Edward Bar II

King Edward Bar at the Chalfonte Hotel

I am not sure when I fell asleep that evening but when I got back to my room around 9:30pm after a quick walk around the block, I hit the pillow and went out like a light. The beds at the hotel are so comfortable that I just fell asleep, got back up and got ready for bed and did not wake up until eight the next morning. I had such a deep relaxing sleep. I highly recommend a quick escape night at The Chalfonte if you need to escape your life.

Breakfast the next morning was at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House down the block at 261 Beach Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The restaurant is a typical Jersey Shore breakfast  place with the big windows and equal size portions. I had a breakfast egg platter with scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes with orange juice ($11.00) that was delicious. The eggs and pancakes here are cooked on the grill with clarified butter and that really brings out the flavor of the food.

Uncle Bills Pancake House.jpg

Uncle Bills Pancake House at 261 Beach Avenue is a Jersey shore tradition

Their staff is really young and very perky and always have a smile on their face like they are happy to work here. The wait for food is never long and I have never had a bad meal here.

After breakfast and before I left Cape May, I visited some more historical sites that I had missed on my last trip. First I visited the Greater Cape May Historical Society: Colonial House at 653 1/2 Washington Street (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This small two room home dates back from the 1700’s when it was a three room house and tavern right before the Revolutionary War. The house is decorated in vintage, but not family, furniture and the docent told me the story of the owner and his family. There were spinning wheels, children’s games and in the front room furnishings geared towards the tavern while the back room was more of a living space. The family later built the Victorian home in the front of the property and must have used this original house for guests.

Cape May Historical Society.jpg

Cape May Historical Society at 653 1/2 Washington Street

After visiting this quirky little museum, it was off to North Cape May and visiting the World War II Watch tower on Sunset Boulevard right near Sunset Beach (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) an interesting piece of New Jersey history played a role in watching the coast line during the war for German invasion. German subs were actually spotted off the coast and there was one attack off the coast of Cape May.

World War II Lookout Tower.jpg

World War II Tower at 536 Sunset Boulevard

You can climb the hundred steps up the tower and there are three levels with a landing on each level with a display. The first level is of pictures of local World War II and Korean War vets in before and after pictures and the role these men played in the wars. The second display was of pictures of the tower during the war years and on the top level was a docent who discussed the history of the tower and how it played a role in the war. The view from here of the beach and the surrounding park is incredible and the stories of the tower were interesting. The tower was pretty much out of date by the middle of the war and obsolete by the end as air traffic is what won World War II. Really take the time to see the display and talk to the docents.

My last place to visit before I left for home was Sunset Beach with its gorgeous evening sunsets and large white sand beach (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). In the evening, there is nothing like it watching the sun set over the horizon.

During the day, it is a bright and sunny beach with people milling around and in the later months flying kites and swimming. Any time of the year, including my trips during the holidays, Sunset Beach is worth the visit. I just love walking around the sandy beach with my shoes off and watching the ferries from Cape May to Lewes, DE  sailing through. Just watching the birds fly by is relaxing.

Sunset Beach IV.jpg

Sunset Beach has the most amazing sunset show every night

Even though it is a three hour trip home, I was so relaxed and in such a better mood that it was well worth the trip. I was just enjoying the ride home thinking of the relaxing night at the hotel and all the interesting things to see in just one day. Going up the Garden State Parkway was a straight run and I got home in three hours. Even though it was one night. I was so relaxed that I felt like I had been gone for a week.

Two days later, I was off again to try another restaurant, The Heron, in Narrowsburg, NY. I must be dedicated because only me could travel to two out of the ways spots just to try a restaurant. I had missed eating here in 2017 when I was passing through on my way to Bovina Center, NY (See Day Seventy-Seven on ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). I had gotten to Narrowsburg at 5:00pm that night and had to be in Bovina Center by 8:00pm so I just had about a half an hour to walk through the downtown and pass the restaurant. I vowed I would be back and it took three years to do it. Funny how life gets in the way when you are living it?

My trip to Narrowsburg, NY was also a last minute trip that had been on my bucket list for the summer break from school. After such a wonderful day in Cape May, I wanted to take another drive to revisit the area in more detail plus there were a few museums that I wanted to visit that were also on the bucket list. So after work, I traveled up Route 23 into Sussex County and traveled up the highway to my first stop, The Franklin Mineral Museum (which I had passed years ago). It was a nice little museum on the site of the old Franklin Mine.

Franklin Mineral Museum V.jpg

The entrance to the Franklin Museum 32 Evans Street

The Franklin Museum 32 Evans Street in Franklin, NJ (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) is dedicated to preserving the history of the mining industry, the types of minerals that were found on the property plus interesting displays on fossils from New Jersey and Native American artifacts. Before you start to tour the museum, they give you an option to tour the quarry on your own and look for specimens of rocks. I looked over the quarry to find smaller pieces to take home and they had a black light to look over what you found. I found several pieces of calcite that glows orange under the light.

When touring the museum, leave yourself plenty of time to tour each of the galleries with two standing out, the Illuminated Rock Room and the simulated mine shafts, which take you into a copy of what a mine shaft and working in the mine would be like.

Franklin Mineral Museum II.jpg

The Illumination Room is interesting once they shut the lights and close the door

The other rooms are dedicated to minerals and rocks that are found all over the world. The only problem with the museum is that it is a little dated. Most of the signs are typed and the displays could have had more videos to explain what things were and how they were mined. Still the museum is an interesting stop along the highway.

Franklin Mineral Museum VI.jpg

The Franklin Museum Mineral Room

After my trip to the Franklin Museum, I continued the drive up Route 23 to downtown Sussex, the County seat. I have never been to such a depressed downtown before since visiting Asbury Park in 2002 (this shore town looks nothing like that today).

Downtown Sussex NJ

Downtown Sussex, NJ

Driving through it looks very nice from a distance but when I parked the car and walked around, almost all the storefronts were empty. All these beautiful historical buildings were just sitting around rotting. The historic hotel on the edge of downtown that looked over the rest of the city was falling apart. There was a theater that had been turned into an arts center but the rest of the downtown had not caught up yet. The artists have not found this place yet. Even the Chase branch closed recently so it is telling you about business. I got in my car and continued driving.

The trip up Route 23 continues into the mountains and to the highest point of New Jersey, High Point Mountain in High Point Park. Here you will see a lush forest and a great park to go hiking in. Maybe for the next time. I exited through the town of Port Jervis, NY before making the turn onto Route 19 which lead me into the mountains.

Narrowsburg, NY IV

Route 19 past Port Jervis, NY hugs the Delaware River

Route 19 right now is one of the most beautiful drives into the mountains. The foliage was still green on my way up but in a few months the leaves will start to change colors and the views will be even more spectacular. Just driving slowly up the road the Delaware River Valley shows off its true beauty. My advice when you travel up to Narrowsburg, NY is to take your time and if there is a driver that wants to pass you, stop at one of the stops along the way and take the time to admire the view.

Route 19 Views.jpg

Route 19 views of the Delaware River

I have to admit though that the drive can be a little scary being so close to the cliffs. I had not been this nervous about driving to close to an edge since my trip to Hana in Maui, Hawaii so please take your time, drive alert and drive during the day. During the late summer, just seeing the river glisten beside me and driving through the small towns on the way up the highway was picturesque and romantic.

I got up to Narrowsburg in the late afternoon and the everything in the town was closing down for the night. I arrived at the Narrowsburg Inn by 3:00pm and needed to take time to relax. I met the owners who were preparing for a wedding that Saturday so I did not want to take up much of their time. What surprised me was when they told me that this was their last weekend in business and that Sunday would be their last day running the Inn. Also I was to be their only guest that evening and that they were leaving by 6:00pm for the evening.

All I could think about was the Overlook Hotel in the movie “The Shining” and the rumors that I read online that the Narrowsburg Inn was haunted. The owners assured me that there were no ghosts at the hotel and I would be fine. They showed me to my room toward the back of the hotel with a view of the park and the river in the distance. For $100, I thought it was very nice (See my review on TripAdvisor). It had a nice large bedroom with a small sitting area and bathroom with another small sitting area. The whole Inn had been renovated and made to look rustic to match the environment of the town.

Narrowsburg Inn

The Narrowsburg Inn

I had time to unpack and then explore the town while my hosts returned to their work. Downtown Narrowsburg is right around the corner from the Inn and is a nice walk down the road. Narrowsburg had once been a sleepy little logging and fishing town that had become depressed with the economy of Upstate New York until the artists and restaurateurs discovered the town again and made it the ‘Brooklyn’ of the Catskills.

The small four block downtown is filled with clothing and food stores, small gift shops and galleries and some interesting restaurants. Most of the stores were closed by 5:00pm and would not be opening until 11:00am the next day so there was not much to do but window shop. I walked the whole downtown and passed the grain factory at the end of the block and wondered how long it would be operating with this wave of change. It was nice to see the old and new next to one another and how the town is remaking itself.

Narrowsburg, NY.jpg

Downtown Narrowsburg, NY

I had time to walk around the river and the bridge that lead to Pennsylvania and don’t miss out on this breathtaking view. It is really something to look down the river and see woods and rock formations as well as see the view of the “Big Eddy”, the bend in the Delaware River in the middle of the downtown. The river bends to create a type of lake that naturally flows. At one time, this is where the logging industry used to move the logs downstream but now its used for fishing, boating and photography.

Narrowsburg NY THe Big Eddy.jpg

The Bridge over the Delaware River

After the walk downtown and saw how busy The Heron Restaurant was that evening, I decided to walk a little further to work up my appetite and walked around the other blocks and look at the old homes and small farms that surrounded the downtown. Right down the road there was even a small historic cemetery and Fort Delaware were right down the road from the Inn.

Dinner at The Heron Restaurant was beyond my expectations (See review on TripAdvisor). The whole experience was excellent. From the warm greeting that I got at the host desk, to the view from my deck table (if the weather is nice it is highly recommended that you get a table on deck facing the river) which is amazing, to the friendly and welcoming service. It was one of the best meals I had eaten in a long time.

The Heron.jpg

The artsy entrance to The Heron Restaurant

What is nice about The Heron is that the prices are very fair for the portions you receive and everything I had was consistently delicious. I started off with a side salad of fresh greens with a homemade vinaigrette dressing ($6.00), which was a small side dish that could have passed for an appetizer. It was more than enough. It was a combination of mixed greens, red onions, carrots and radish which was crunchy and delicious.

For my entree, I ordered the Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy ($18.00) with a side of mac & cheese that was made with three cheese, caramelized onions and baked bread crumbs ($6.00). Trust me when I say that the sides of salad and mac & cheese are more than enough. The appetizer portions were much larger and would be too much with a full entree.

The Fried Chicken was excellent. When you have a free range organic chicken you can tell the difference in flavor with that and a frozen chicken from KFC. The chicken was moist, succulent and flavorful. The outside had been coated with a crunchy breading that was perfectly fried and crisp. The mashed potatoes were loaded with butter and the mushroom gravy had a rich flavor to it. The mac & cheese must have contained three cheeses and was sharp, gooey delight. The entree was delicious.

The Heron Restaurant III

I highly recommend the Fried Chicken here

For dessert, I skipped the rich, heavier desserts (even though I really wanted one) and opted for the homemade grapefruit sorbet ($7.00) which was light and tart and the perfect ending to spectacular meal.

The view was the deck was just as breathtaking! As I waited for dinner to arrive, the view changed from a sunny evening that gave way to a beautiful sunset over the “Big Eddy” and the mountains to a starry night where you could almost touch the constellations. I could see the ‘Big Dipper’ perfectly from my table. It was the perfect compliment to the wonderful food and excellent service.

The Heron Restaurant II.jpg

The view from The Heron Restaurant looking over the “Big Eddy”

After dinner was over, I walked around the quiet downtown and walked over to the small deck that is next to the stores down the road and looked at the stars. Up in the mountains you don’t have all the light pollution of the City and you can really see all the stars and admire the constellations. The walk was the end of a perfect evening.

When I got back to the Inn, it was quiet. There was one light on at the other side of the building over the kitchen. I guess one of the cooks stays there. Outside that, when I walked in I saw the empty kitchen and dining room. I walked up the creaky stairs to see the other empty rooms and arrived back in my own warmly lite room and got ready for bed.

If there is a ghost in this Inn, I did hear them. I sunk immediately into the soft, firm, comfortable bed and went fast asleep. When I mean its quiet up here it is silent. I did not hear a peep and slept soundly the whole night. Since the owners were not coming back until noon the next day, I could sleep in and had one of the best night’s sleep since the trip to Cape May. All that driving wore me out.

The owners had recommended Gerard’s Cafe at 119 Kirks Road the next morning for breakfast (See review on Tripadvisor). It had been an old gas station that had been turned into a restaurant (I think they still pumped gas there). It was a pleasant little cafe where all the local farmers ate and caught up on their gossip.

I had a sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with a side of hashbrowns ($10.95) and a blueberry danish that had been brought in from a local bakery ($2.00) and everything was simple and delicious. The hashbrowns could have been warmer but over all it was a nice meal. It was fun watching the staff interact with the local guys and some of them went in the back to kid with the staff and give the cooks a hard time. It is a very nice place to eat if you want to go where the locals eat.

Since none of the downtown stores open until 11:00am, I stopped at Fort Delaware down the road. Fort Delaware is a local historical site (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) that is a recreation of an old fort that used to be on the Pennsylvania side of river. The fort was created in the 1950’s as a local tourist attraction by an area resident historian who later sold it the area Parks system.

Fort Delaware IV

Fort Delaware at 6615 NY-97 in Narrowsburg, NY

The site has three homes that recreate life in the fort as well as a working blacksmith shop and areas for spinning cloth and cooking. There are actors walking around demonstrating their crafts and talking to the visitors. It is a nice place to take the family if they are interested in history. If you visit the fort, remember to take time to walk all around the upper decks of the fort to look inside.

After my visit to the fort, I was able to walk around the downtown area and visit the shops and galleries that line the street. There is very interesting but expensive art to be found in the galleries in Narrowsburg and several nice gourmet shops carrying brands that you do not see to often. Even though the town is becoming a tourist destination, I am not sure who is going to buy all these things in the winter months when the snow comes. The stores really didn’t cater to the locals the way some other small towns up in the Catskills do and the prices were a little high. The quality is there in the merchandise and you will find some nice things from local artists and food artisans. Just note that a lot of the stores don’t open until 11:00am.

After my quick tour of the shops of Downtown Narrowsburg, it was off for the 2:00pm tour at the Sterling Hill Mine Museum in Franklin, NJ. It was about two hours away and it ride back down Route 19 and thank God there was no traffic. I did make one or two stops at the rest areas overlooking the Delaware River to admire the view. Please take your time when coming back down Route 19. You are on the cliff side of the highway and if someone wants to pass you, let them.

Sterling Hill Mining Museum III.jpg

The Sterling Hill Mine Museum at 30 Plant Road

I got to the Sterling Hill Mine Museum just at 2:15pm as the tour began and I was able to catch up to the tour with the group and enjoy the tour. The Sterling Mine Museum is located at 30 Plant Road in Ogdensburg, NJ (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) and is the site of the former Sterling Hill Mine that operated until 1986 and was one of the biggest zinc mines in the world. Unlike the Franklin Mine that I saw the day before, the Sterling Hill Mine still has minerals in the mine but was closed because of cost prohibitive.

The tour starts out with a small lecture inside the main building and then moves into another building that houses the old mining lockers, samples of minerals, old equipment that had been used by the miners for over 100 years, all sorts of signing from the past as well as fossils from New Jersey and Native American artifacts. They give you plenty of time to look around and you can participate in Scavenger Hunt if you want and they will ask and answer your questions.

Sterling Hill Mining Museum VI.jpg

Artifacts inside the main part of the building

Then you get to tour the mine and that was the best part of the tour. The docent explained the workings of the mine and the day to day life of a miner and it must have been a tough experience. Long hours, dangerous conditions and not so working locations in the tunnels was not for the most productive life. Still these men and women endured a structured but dangerous life.

Sterling Hill Mining Museum IV.jpg

The mine tunnels at the Sterling Hill Museum

Still what these people accomplished was amazing as we got to tour the top of the mine tunnels and get to see the inner workings of the miners days. There was a complete foreman’s office to see how the day started, long tunnels to where the actual work was done,  the tracks on how the ore was moved from one part of the mine to the other and how they transported from one part of the mine to the other.

Sterling Hill Mining Museum II

The mining transport system

Most of the mine tunnels have been flooded now by underground streams that used to be pumped out. Otherwise you could go several miles down into the mine. Once you finish the main part of the tour, then the docent will take you to the Illumination cave with the mineral rainbow. When they turn out the lights, it is the most amazing site of colors and designs. Its natures way of showing off.

Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The colorful rainbow display in the rock formation

After the tour is over, take time to look over the gift shop and the snack bar. There are some interesting things on the menu including a meat pie that the miners used to eat for lunch. Just a note, the tour only takes place at 2:00pm so be sure to be on time and wear comfortable clothes and sneakers. I also would not advise people with strollers and canes on the tour even though they say it’s fine. I really saw people struggling here.

Before I headed home for the day, I stopped at Franklin Chicken and Ribs at 535 Route 23 South for dinner and had one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I had had in a long time ($5.50). Franklin Chicken and Ribs (See review on TripAdvisor) specializes in barbecue meats and accompanying salads and sides. There is an extensive menu and the family who runs the restaurant is really nice.

The pulled pork is so tender and well cooked and slathered in rich tangy barbecue sauce and then topped with fresh homemade coleslaw. That with their hand cut fries and a ice cold Coke, there is nothing like it. Grab one of the picnic tables outside and relax while soaking up the sun.

Franklin Chicken and Ribs.jpg

The pulled pork at Franklin Chicken and Ribs is excellent

I also double backed for dessert at Holland American Bakery at 246 Route 23 South (See review on TripAdvisor) for some dessert. You will know the bakery by the giant windmill up front.

The doughnuts here are delicious and I had one of the jelly and one of the blueberry filled doughnuts ($1.25). You will be tempted by all the sweet rolls, cookies, turnovers and the other colorful pastries. Be prepared to dig in and enjoy your dessert out on the picnic benches outside. You may want to take another round in the bakery after you are finished.

Holland American Bakery.jpg

Don’t miss the Holland American Bakery at 246 Route 23

After finishing my early dinner, I drove home slowly through Sussex County and enjoyed the mountain views. There are some really beautiful sections of the county with great museums and restaurants just a short drive away. It was really funny that on both overnight trips I felt like I had been gone a week. There is so much to see and do and to experience. I had passed these places many times but I had never stopped to experience them.

This time I am glad I did. If you get a chance to visit Cape May, NJ or Narrowsburg, NY stop where you can and relax and enjoy it.

Happy Travels!

 

Places to Stay:

 

The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

The Narrowsburg Inn

185 Bridge Street

Narrowsburg, NY  12764

(845) 252-3998

https://www.facebook.com/NarrowsburgInn/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48227-d15202926-Reviews-Narrowsburg_Inn-Narrowsburg_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

 

The Woo Hoo

211 South Bay Avenue

Beach Haven, NJ  08008

(609) 492-5433

Open: Seasonal so please call; Friday-Saturday 3:00pm-10:00pm

https://thewoohoo.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46292-d7646259-Reviews-The_WooHoo-Beach_Haven_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1244

 

The Chalfonte Hotel

The Magnolia Room/King Edward Bar

31 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/dining.html

My review on TripAdvisor (Magnolia Room):

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d1839146-Reviews-Magnolia_Room_Restaurant-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on TripAdvisor (King Edward Bar):

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d3469126-Reviews-King_Edward_Bar-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

261 Beach Avenue

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-7199

Open:  Monday-Friday 7:00am-2:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 6:30am-2:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393950-Reviews-Uncle_Bill_s_Pancake_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/906

 

The Heron Restaurant

40 Main Street

Narrowsburg, NY 12764

(845) 252-3333

http://theheronrestaurant.com/

Open: Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm/Closed Monday-Wednesday/Thursday-Saturday 11:00am-3:00pm-5:30pm-9:00pm (Thursdays) and 5:30pm-10:00pm (Fridays and Saturdays)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48227-d3348484-Reviews-The_Heron-Narrowsburg_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Gerard’s Cafe

119 Kirks Road

Narrowsburg, NY  12764

(845) 252-5119

Hours: Seasonable, please call the restaurant

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48227-d18835919-Reviews-Gerard_s_Cafe-Narrowsburg_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Franklin Chicken & Ribs

535 Route 23 South

Franklin, NJ  07416

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Barbecue-Restaurant/Franklin-Chicken-Ribs-AKA-The-Rib-Crib-412588115948234/

(973) 209-0222

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46449-d17704967-Reviews-Franklin_Chicken_Ribs-Franklin_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Holland American Bakery

246 Route 23 South

Sussex, NJ  07461

(973)-875-5258

https://www.hollandamericanbakery.com/

Open: Tuesday-Saturday 6:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46857-d2074129-Reviews-Holland_American_Bakery-Sussex_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

The Long Beach Island Historical Museum

125 Engleside Avenue

Beach Haven, NJ  08008

(609) 492-0700

Open:  Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm (Open Seasonally so please call ahead or check the website)

Fee:  Adult $5.00/Children 12 and under free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46292-d11444615-Reviews-Long_Beach_Island_Historical_Museum-Beach_Haven_Long_Beach_Island_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3311

 

Greater Cape May Historical Society: The Colonial House

653 1/2 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ (609) 884-9100

1730colonialhouse.gmail.com

Open: Seasonal (please call or email ahead of time)

Fee: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d286395-Reviews-The_Colonial_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2635

 

The Cape May Fire Department Museum

643 Washington Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-9512

http://capemayfd.com/custom.html?id=20402

Cape May Fireman’s Museum

Open: Check the website; usually when the Fire Department is open. Please check their website.

Fee: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d8012176-Reviews-Cape_May_Fire_Department_Museum-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2598

 

The World War II Lookout Tower

536 Sunset Boulevard

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5054

https://www.capemaymac.org/world-war-ii-lookout-tower

Open: Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-4:00pm

Fee: $6.00 Adults/$3.00 for Children (3-12) & Veterans & Seniors/Active Military Free

My TripAdvisor review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d286395-Reviews-The_Colonial_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3306

 

Sunset Beach

502 Sunset Boulevard

Lower Township, NJ 08212

Open: During the hours with light

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g3948623-d103992-Reviews-Sunset_Beach-Lower_Township_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2705

 

Fort Delaware

6615 Route 97

Narrowsburg, NY  12764

http://sullivanny.us/Departments/ParksRecreation/FortDelaware

Open: The last weekend in June until Labor Day; Friday-Monday 10:00am-5:00pm (check seasons)

Fee: Adults $7.00/Seniors $5.00/Seniors (62 or older) $4.00

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48227-d3386995-Reviews-Fort_Delaware_Museum-Narrowsburg_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3299

 

The Franklin Mineral Museum

32 Evans Street

Franklin, NJ 07416

(973) 827-3481

Home Page

Fee: Combination Museum & Rock Collecting: Adults $15.00/Children 3-16 $10.00/Seniors (65+) & Veterans $12.00 Other packages for just the museum and rock collecting are available. Please check the website.

Open: Sunday 11:00-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm/Saturday 11:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46449-d2172670-Reviews-Franklin_Mineral_Museum-Franklin_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3287

 

The Sterling Hill Mine Museum

30 Plant Road

Ogdensburg, NJ  07439

(973) 209-7212

https://www.sterlinghillminingmuseum.org/

Fee: Adults $13.00/Seniors (over 65) $12.00/Children 4-12 $10.00

Open: Sunday-Saturday 9:30am-3:30pm Tours depend on time of the season (2:00pm)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46702-d584517-Reviews-Sterling_Hill_Mining_Museum-Ogdensburg_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3293

Carnegie Hall at Christmas time

Day One Hundred and Twenty Nine: Here comes Christmas: Part Two December 16th, 2018-January 10th, 2019

I swear it was full steam ahead for the rest of the holiday season. December for me just keeps getting busier. From the time we finished the Victorian Walking Tour to after the Epiphany my feet never touched the ground. Christmas tree sales kept me busy on the weekends, class finished up with my final exam night on the second week of December (I am very proud to say that I gave out 28 A’s, 2 B plus’s and 2 B’s) and then I really got busy with my volunteer work.

After the weekend with the Victorian Walking Tour and the Washington’s Crossing event, it was off to visit Lillian again. I had just seen her at Thanksgiving and here it was three weeks later, I was out on Long Island for another family event. The facility she lived in really does a lot of nice things for the families.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I with her Christmas present, Petula the Pup from FAO Schwarz

I had given Lillian a choice, would she like me to come out for the Family Dinner or the the Family Concert the next week? I unfortunately could not do both. Work was getting busy and I had two Christmas parties to plan. So we decided on the Family dinner. We really had a nice time.

We joined her roommate, Marie and her two daughters for dinner that night. The facility had a nice dinner for us with roast beef, mashed potatoes and broccoli that was surprising well cooked and seasoned for a nursing facility and they gave you plenty of it. We had a nice time chatting and getting to know one another when Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance and greeted all the residents and their families. The two staff members who played the roles did a marvelous job with it and made it extra festive.

After dinner and a tour around the building greeting other residents and their families I said my goodbyes to Lillian and her roommate and her family. I had a long trip ahead of me as well. I could tell that Lillian was a little sad by it but I said that I would see her at Valentine’s Day and we would see each other after the craziness of the holidays was over. That is when I surprised her with the small Petula the Pup that we both used to sell in both of our time in the Pre-School Department at FAO Schwarz. She was very surprised and touched by it. It must have triggered something because I saw her cry a little. It made her happy that someone remembered (Please see the blog on Day One Hundred & Thirty-Lillian passed away three weeks after our dinner together).

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8120

The next morning myself and the volunteers who work with me at work had our Christmas party for the residents of the Maywood facility that I work with on my job with the County of Bergen for our Post-Stroke & Disabled Support Group. We had entertainment with Van Martin Productions and we decorated the tables with garland and candy and the room for the holidays. The whole affect was very festive.

The ladies who are part of the group that comes to our events had a wonderful time. Each one of us baked a special dessert for the event and at all the place settings were chocolate Santa’s and candy canes for each resident. We served desserts and coffee to everyone, handed out gifts to all and had a wonderful afternoon of good food and wonderful entertainment.

That evening, I hosted an Italian dinner at my home for the ladies who volunteer for me. Taking everyone to a restaurant gets expensive plus at the holidays everyone rushes you out so I found it more personal to have it at my house.

I cooked the entire meal and served it. We started the meal with homemade mini-meatballs that I made a few days before, sauted shrimp and cheeses for the appetizer and for dinner I made chicken cutlets, spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread and a nice salad all with the accompanying wines. We had a wonderful time and did a lot of laughing that night.

As I was serving dessert which I made an assortment of cookies and cakes, the noise got louder. Other guests joined us later and there was a lot of catching up to do. It was a enjoyable way to spend our last day together before the holidays.

The next day I joined a friend that I had not seen for almost two years for lunch in Sanducci’s at 620 Kinderkamack Road in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor). It was just nice to finally catch up as it had been a long time since we talked. We both agreed that our lives had us running in different directions. We spent our afternoon laughing at things from years ago and in our current lives. It is nice to spend time with friends at the holidays. I had not realized that Nancy and I had not seen one another in two years!

sanducci's

Sanducci’s at 620 Kinderkamack Road

After lunch, I had to prepare another dinner as we held our annual Men’s Association Christmas Party at the tree-stand to end our season of selling. That Friday night, we had four trees on the lot and by the time the party was over we sold them out. We sold 338 trees (one was stolen and one was donated) during the holiday season and that was a new record for us.

I made a batch of stuffed shells for dinner and a batch of chocolate brownies for dessert. I never know what to make as it is a pot luck and all the guys bring something different but two years earlier three of us brought baked ziti. So I know shy away from that. That and I wanted something quick because I was still tired from cooking the night before.

It a fun evening of great food and conversation mostly dwelling on the success of this year’s sale. God, can some of these guys cook! Our former President, Mike, makes a venison chili that is always the highlight of the dinner especially on a cold night. The stuffed shells were put under the warmers and were a big hit. I never have to sell brownies to anyone. I was sure they were gone by the end of the evening.

The weather started to drop that night and after an hour at the party it went down to 35 degrees. Even sitting by the barrel fire, I could not take it anymore. I said my goodbyes by 9:00pm. I was exhausted  from a week of cooking and had still more to do over the weekend. I had to plan two menus for that Sunday and had to have back to back meals. One of the guys later on told me that a group of them were there until 2:00am. Not a night I would have been out.

I had to sleep in that Saturday morning because I was worn out from the running around that week but there was food to prepare, a house to clean and a table to set. I needed a break from it all to put me back into the spirit of the holiday so before I started all the prep work, I went to Ringwood Manor for  their celebration and to see the decorated house.

Ringwood Manor every year is beautifully decorated by a group of volunteers. The house was open for tours of life in the Victorian Age. Each of the rooms was decorated to the hilt with garland and plants and all sorts of decorations.

Ringwood Manor Christmas III

The Ringwood Manor Dining Room

Ringwood Manor has an interesting history. The area around Ringwood, NJ was the center for iron ore manufacturing and was a big player in munitions during the Revolutionary War because of both the amount of ore in the hills and the strategic location near New York City.

Ringwood Manor

Ringwood Manor

In 1807, the land was bought by Martin J. Ryerson who built the first home of the property which was a 10 room Federalist style home. In 1853, Peter Cooper bought the mines and the home and it became one of the biggest suppliers iron ore to the Civil War effort. Peter Cooper’s partners were his son, Edward and his future son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt. The home became the summer estate for Mr. & Mrs. Hewitt and added on to the house in 1864, 1875, 1900 and 1910. The home then had 51 rooms and was designed in the Classic Victorian style with furnishings from all over the world. In 1938, the home, it contents and grounds of the estate was donated to the State of New Jersey (Ringwood Manor Park History).

The tour was self-guided and you could take as much time as you wanted seeing each room. There was a docent on hand to explain all the decorations and furnishings as well as the purpose of the room. One of the points that was made when I was visiting the decorated homes during the holiday season was that Victorians never decorated every room in the house like on the tours.

They decorated maybe the living room and dining room with a tree and garland. Only the wealthiest families would decorate more than that because they had servants to maintain it. Trees and garland were used after the Civil War because Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert was from Germany and brought the Pagan tradition of putting a tree inside the house with him to England (Victorian Christmas History).

After my visit to the manor, it was off to Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY (see my review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) for some baked goods and a tour of the farm. I roamed through the farm stand who just like us were wiped out of Christmas trees. I bought cake truffles ($5.00 each) and a Caramel Apple Cake ($10.95) for my Christmas dinner and munched on Apple Turnovers ($3.50) and Cider Doughnuts ($1.00) while I was there looking around the bakery. In the farm stand area, they have to most delicious jellies and jams to choose from and other gourmet products.

AUntie El's II

Auntie El’s desserts!

When I got home, I spent the rest of the time cooking for our Engine One Brunch for Company members and families on Sunday morning and then for my Christmas dinner with my family on Sunday night. I never left the kitchen.

That Sunday was a busy day for me as I had to pull off two back to back meals. In the morning from 10:00am-1:00pm was the Engine One Brunch and after clean up and saying goodbye to everyone was the early Christmas dinner with my family from 4:30pm to 9:00pm. I had never done back to back meals before and don’t plan on doing it again. Way too much work!

I got to the firehouse at 8:30am that morning and had to deal with a major mess. The Department Christmas Party had been the night before and they did not clean it properly. So the first thing I had to do was clean all the tables, throw out the garbage and mop the floors. That took almost an hour.

Then I had to clean and set up the kitchen for Brunch. Once I got that done, I set the buffet table for the food and then put all the table clothes on the tables in the main room. Then I set up and started to cook and set the tables for breakfast. By the time I was done with all of that, the first guys started to arrived to help me.

Engine One Brunch 2018 III

Me setting up breakfast

I cooked an elaborate breakfast menu for the members of our company, our honorees and family members.

Engine One Brunch 2018 II

Me in front of the Brunch Buffet Table

It really was great meal. I prepared two egg casseroles, one with bacon and the other with Italian sausage, a French Toast Souffle, homemade waffles (I drag that waffle iron all over), fresh fruit salad and then I baked a cinnamon crunch coffee cake, blueberry muffins, a chocolate chip pound cake and brought in assorted bagels from Panera and doughnuts from Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge. There was something for everyone.

We had a wonderful time. About 54 people showed up for breakfast and did people come hungry. We did not have much left. Our Lieutenant, Bernie Valente, gave the welcoming speech and greeted everyone for brunch and wished everyone a happy and safe holiday season. It was a nice morning of good food and conversation.

Engine One Brunch 2018 IV

The Engine One Members at the Brunch

After the Brunch was over, I said my goodbyes to everyone and had to clean and mop the room again. That took some time but the place was spotless when I left.

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/334

I ran home and thank God, I had already cleaned the house, set the dining room table and prepared the house for guests. I was able to take a 45 minute break before my family showed up for a pre-Christmas dinner. I relaxed on the couch for about twenty minutes before my family showed up. I was so grateful they showed up late.

What a great time we had that night! My Aunt Dee and my cousins, Wayne and Bruce came to dinner and we had a wonderful time. Since I was joining my brothers at my Mom’s house for Christmas Eve and Day, I would not be seeing my aunts and cousins this year.

I cooked a four course meal that was my pride and joy. We started with an assortment of cheese and crackers, sauteed shrimp on toasts and mozzarella sticks with a bottle of bubbly to toast the holidays. We had a nice time just catching up with work and family events.

About an hour later, I served dinner. I kept it simple this year making chicken cutlets, a potato puff and string beans with butter. It was the perfect evening of good food and conversation. My cousins told me about work and what was going on in their lives and my aunt was telling me stories about her upcoming holiday events. We always have a nice time.

For dessert, I had the desserts from Aunt El’s. I served the caramel apple pie and the cake truffles. I have to admit that they were all a little sweet but still good. There was a layer of caramel and chocolate on the top of the apple pie. It was a nice way to end the evening.

After a week of cooking for five parties and dinners, I took a break from the kitchen and planned a couple of Christmas events. The first was I attended the Hasbrouck Heights High School Holiday concert. I had a nice time listening to the choir and jazz band. The school was packed with people filming the whole thing. I have never seen so many cells phones out.

The one event I had gone to last year was the holiday concert at Carnegie Hall and looked forward to seeing it again. The ‘Home Alone Concert’ with the New York Philharmonic had been sold out as was the ‘Holidays with Brass Concert’. So I scoured the internet to see if there were tickets left to the concert and I was in luck. It looked like someone had given up their two tickets and grabbed the second to last ticket for the concert and it was on the isle! What a concert!

First, I love going to Carnegie Hall during the holidays. It is so beautifully decorated for the holidays and everyone from the staff to the concert goers are in the festive spirit.  The concert was called “Under the Mistletoe” with the New York Pops with singer, Ashley Brown who had originated the role of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway.

Here is Ms. Brown preparing for the concert I saw on December 22nd.

 

What a wonderful concert! Ms. Brown was accompanied by Essential Voices USA which was a choir that sang during the concert. They opened with much excitement the songs “Deck the Halls” and “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and then introducing Ms. Brown singing “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland”. The rest of the concert was filled with traditional Christmas songs and a lot of holiday cheer.

In the middle of the second act, Santa came down the aisle near me and greeted the crowds. I swear I was having a somewhat rough holiday season missing my father and all and when I saw Santa, I really believed it was him. I was so happy to see him as was everyone else in the room. I could see how emotional people were and knew they felt the same way. It looked like everyone just wanted to believe that night and we are talking of a crowd of concert goers who were in their fifties, sixties and seventies. I guest you are never too old to believe in Santa. It has been a rough year for everyone.

The concert ended with a big sing-a-long with Santa, the Essential Voices USA and Ashley Brown leading the “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along” with the songs, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ending with “Jingle Bells”. Even Santa joined us singing! I swear, that whole concert hall rocked with people singing all the classics and it brought the house down. People were on the feet applauding at the end of the concert. I had never seen so many smiling faces in one spot in a long time.

Carnegie Hall Christmas

The Sing a Long with Santa

The next morning, was still singing the concert in the back of my mind as I was preparing breakfast at the firehouse for the Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town”. A group of us got to the firehouse early to wash the truck, so I cooked the traditional Engine One breakfast before we started the wash and decorating. I made a pancake and sausage breakfast for the guys. We had a ball eating, laughing and talking about upcoming holiday plans.

Santa Around Town 18

The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights before ‘Santa Around Town’

We then got to work washing the whole truck and preparing it for the long trip around Hasbrouck Heights greeting residents with holiday cheer and assisting Santa handing out candy canes to all the kids. It is a long evening but we really lucked out with the weather. It was warmer than usual around 45 degrees and people really came out to see Santa. We had large families of kids and dogs taking group shots with Santa. It is nice to see that people still do believe (See my Blog: The Brothers of Engine One participate in “Santa Around Town” December 23rd, 2018). We had a great time that night.

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/340

The next morning it was off to visit my immediate family for Christmas. I know I have visited Woodstock, NY and Cape May, NJ in the past for the holidays (as you have seen in this blog) but it was time to join the family again on Christmas Day. I had not spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mother and brothers since 1981 and the last time I had spent Christmas with my Mom was in 2010 so it was something I was looking forward to this year.

I spent my morning visiting cemeteries, paying my respect to my aunts, uncles, cousin. grand parents and finally my father, dropping off flowers and arrangements to all locations. I say a small prayer and send my wishes. I think this important at the holidays.

Then it was off for the four hour trip down to my mother’s in Delaware. It really was a wonderful Christmas with my family. We all had not been together for the holidays for such a long time. The last several years I would go down after the holidays and we would spend time together then. Since my father’s passing this is the first time the rest of us have been together as a family.

Christmas Eve was always a lot of fun in my family growing up. We would go over to my parents long time friend’s house from 1969-1981 until my parents divorce. Christmas Day was with my Aunt Elaine and my cousins from 1969-1990 right before my aunt passed away. Those were very special Christmas’s and I will always remember them. Since then it changed from year to year as was Christmas Day. All of us kids moved around the country and with school and jobs everything kept changing.

Somehow the stars aligned this year and we were all available. It really was a nice four days and it was fun connecting with everyone again. My younger brother came up with my niece and my older brother with his husband, so the extended family was all there.

We went to Confucius Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Road in Rehoboth Beach for Christmas Eve dinner (see review on TripAdvisor) and it was packed that night as if everyone in town had the same idea we did. We spent most of the evening either yelling over the table or saying hello to the dozens of people my mom knew in the community. The town was hopping for Christmas Eve and there were cars all over the place with people eating at restaurants up and down the downtown area.

When we got home after a wonderful dinner and tour of the downtown Christmas tree, we just relaxed in the living room and talked. It was nice to finally catch up with everyone in a peaceful environment. In the back of my mind, I still could not believe how Christmas creeped up on us this year or that it was actually Christmas Eve. I slept like a rock that night.

The next morning it was all hands on deck as I was helping my mother in the kitchen after breakfast. After a quick bowl of cereal and a shower, it was off to chopping, cutting and rolling in the kitchen. My mom said she would need my help in the kitchen helping with dinner which was a surprise as she never lets anyone in the kitchen when she is cooking.

I helped her make the breaded broccoli, the pigs in a blanket, making sure that she tied the crown roast the right way (it took some time) and stuff it and then arrange cookie trays for the dessert. Four of my mother’s friends joined us for dinner so there would be ten of us and did we eat that afternoon. My mother is an amazing cook and host and knows how to entertain at the holidays.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach

Cooking in the kitchen with my family

We had a nice afternoon of reminiscing about family Christmases of the past, what my mother’s friends were up to and how all of our lives were going. It was a nice evening of good eating and wonderful conversation. My brothers and I even cleaned the whole kitchen for my mother so she could relax and enjoy her guests.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach IIII

Christmas with my family

The next two days we spent at my mom’s house just catching up and relaxing and my brothers and I each hosted a meal for the other members of the family so that we could give my mom a break from cooking for a large group of house guests.

In the afternoons, pretty much everyone did their thing and then we would meet up for meals. My brother and my niece brought their little French Pug named “Boogie” up to my Mom’s so she would not be lonely. God, did we spoil that dog with attention and treats. She was the cutest most well behaved dog and what was funny was when I was lying on the floor watching a movie with my family, she plopped down next to me on the pillow and slept.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach II

Boogie sleeping next to me

Our first afternoon after Christmas, our family met at “A Touch of Italy” restaurant at my mother’s recommendation. The food was excellent. The most delicious thin crusted pizzas I have had in a long time. The pizzas, pastas and sandwiches are delicious here. For dinner the next night, we went to ‘Big Fish’, a local seafood restaurant my mother wanted to try.

It was now two days after Christmas and people looked like they were having family dinners before everyone had to go back to work. The place was mobbed! Our waiter, Scott, really handled the table well with our ten people. “Big Fish” (see my review on TripAdvisor), is a local seafood restaurant whose most popular dishes is everything fried. A friend of my mother’s said that she always has the fried shrimp when she is dining there. So that is what I had for dinner.

They were like heaven in every bite, sweet and briny and the breading was cooked perfectly. The potatoes and vegetables were also perfectly cooked. Between the entree and appetizers, there was no room for dessert to the shock of my family. Me miss dessert?

Our last morning was tough. My brothers were leaving for home and I was heading up to Cape May that evening to go to the theater to see “The Actors Carol” at the Cape May Theater and spend the night at the Chalfonte Hotel. It was baby steps back into the family Christmas and I still wanted some time alone for the holidays.

My mother made a big family breakfast and then we said our goodbyes over a fritata and sweet rolls. It was nice being able to spend some time with my brothers who live in other parts of the country and my niece who was off from school. We chatted on about the holiday and what we were doing for New Years and then it was off to travelling for all of us.

For the first time, I took the Lewes-Cape May Ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey (see review on TripAdvisor). It was about an hour and a half and had it been a warmer sunny day it would have been a beautiful trip. When I got there, I sat outside and watched dolphins swim by us. Of course, it had to be a cloudy day and then started to get cloudier and sprinkled so I spent the rest of the voyage inside watching a tourist film. I was able to watch the bay go by and it is quite a site. There is a beauty to the Delaware Bay.

I got into Cape May within the hour and settled at my hotel. I had just been at the Chalfonte in September for the Firemen’s Convention and the town was still hopping with tourists. It really has become a big destination for the holidays. It is funny though to see the main hotel closed for the season. It really does look haunted at night when only the spotlight is on it. The place was buzzing when I left nine weeks earlier.

Chalfonte Hotel II.jpg

I settled into the Southern Annex (see review on TripAdvisor) and took a nap before the show. It had been a long but fun four days. It was nice to just relax and be by myself now. It was funny what a year can bring to you and how different you can become. I guess I was no longer that person that needed Cape May or Woodstock anymore. They were perfect for their time in my life but even I felt it was time to step out in the world again.

The show was funny that night. “The Actor’s Carol” was a take on the classic “Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The star of the show within a show was a Prima Donna whose best acting days were behind him and made everyone miserable in this small town production. He was in turn visited by three ghosts from his past to show him how he got to where he was in life. It was not the most original show but very clever in premise.

After the production was over, I looked for a place to eat but a lot of the popular places were either closed for the holidays or closing for the evening. Just wanting a snack after the show and before going to bed, I stopped at Dellas 5 & 10 at 501-503 Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor) in downtown Cape May for dinner. This small drugstore has a soda fountain and restaurant in the back like Woolworth’s did years ago. The food is very good and the burger I had was well prepared. I had fun as the only customer talking with the waiters.

I walked all over downtown Cape May that night as I had the year before. It just seemed different this year as the experience was surreal. It was still Christmas to me but I just felt changed by the last four days. Still downtown was beautiful with all the lights on the trees, the creative window displays and the bells from the church sounding in the back. The gazebo in the main square still had the Christmas lit up and that put me back into the Christmas mood.

Christmas in Cape May.jpg

The Gazebo in downtown Cape May

I got back to the hotel and slept like a log. All this driving and running around got to be too much on me. The hotel annex was really quiet even though it was full of guests. I did not hear or see anyone in my time at the hotel.

The next morning as I checked out, I was surprised to see Uncle Bill’s Pancake House at 261 Beach Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonashoestringinNYC@Wordpress.com) open this year. It was locked shut last Christmas. I guess they figured the town was busy for the holidays and trust me, a smart choice as the restaurant was busy. They have the best breakfasts and their pancakes and scrambled eggs are cooked in butter so there is some extra caramelization to them. The service there is always so friendly and welcoming.

Uncle Bills Pancake House

Uncle Bill’s at 261 Beach Avenue

After breakfast, I walked the downtown again, walked all through the Congress Hall Hotel, where I stayed last year for Christmas (See Day One Hundred-This is Christmas) and then visited the Physick Mansion for another Christmas tour of the house (See TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com). It is always a nice tour and the mansion is so nicely decorated for the holidays. The tour like everything else in Cape May was busy. It was sunny and around 48 degrees that morning.

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/7142

After the tour, I left Cape May, probably to see it later again in the Spring and then headed up the Jersey Shore line to visit Margate and the Lucy Elephant statue (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had not climbed the top of the elephant yet and since it was a nice day wanted to take the tour before the statue closed for the day. I drove up the shoreline to Margate, NJ and got there by 2:00pm.

Lucy the Elephant

The famous Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

I got on the tour which was just about to leave and we climbed the whole statue and got to the top of the ‘howdah’, the transport on top of the elephant. That was the reason why I went the statue.  I had not been able to go to the top in 2015. It is the most beautiful view of the ocean and the best part is that it got warmer toward the afternoon. I was able to walk around the statue and by the beach and it must have gone up to 50 degrees.

I decided since it was early to double back to Ocean City, NJ and have some lunch before I drove home. What a spectacular afternoon walking in the Boardwalk. It was crowded because of the weather and surprisingly this late into the holiday week, a lot of the businesses were open.

I was able to go to Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk (see review on TripAdvisor), which had a line ten deep, for caramel corn. They were making it in small batches and when I started eating it was still hot from the machine. There is nothing like warm caramelized corn on a cool day.

Johnson's Popcorn

Johnson’s Popcorn 1360 Boardwalk

After that, I went to Manco & Manco Pizza at 8, 9 & 12th on the Boardwalk (see reviews on TripAdvisor) for lunch. Their slices were the best. They make a good sauce and it was so busy that the pies are coming constantly so it was fresh. This is a real Jersey Shore pizzeria and the attitude of the guys working there showed it. You have to visit the Jersey shore Boardwalks to know what I am talking about. As the sun started to go down, it was time to leave. It was getting cooler. I got home later that evening in good time because there was no traffic.

New Year’s Eve was just sitting at home relaxing and calling friends. It looked like everyone was bunking in this year and the fact it went down to 10 degrees on New Year’s Eve night I could not believe all those crazy tourists were sitting in Times Square. I went to bed right after Midnight.

Later that week, I did make a trip up to Woodstock, NY to see their Christmas tree before they took it down but it was down already.  The town just seemed depressed when I arrived. I had not been up here since Christmas of 2016 so it had been over a two years since I celebrated a holiday up in the mountains. First, it had a cool damp feel to the town but since you are in the mountains it can be that way. Also, since the holidays were over, a lot of decorations were already down and usually you would keep these up until the Epiphany on January 6th.

The worst was several of the restaurants and clothing businesses that I had remembered from a few years back had gone out of business so there were empty storefronts. It just did not seem like the magical place that I had enjoyed three separate, wonderful holiday season’s. I really wanted to see the tree in the square but you can’t have it all. Still I had lunch at Shindig  located at 1 Tinker Street (see review on TripAdvisor) and they have the best burgers and mac & cheese around. It was nice to sit by the window on this cold but sunny day and watch the world go by. I just walked around the town on this quiet afternoon.

The Epiphany brought my only church visit to Corpus Christi Church and the service was nice. The church was still decorated for Christmas so it was the last thing to keep me in the spirit of the holiday. We had our Installation Dinner at the fire department a week later but that is another story Check it out on my blog, The Brothers of Engine One HHFD below.

https://wordpress.com/post/engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/398

Overall, it was a nice Christmas. Different from the last five years since my father’s passing but it was time to move on and enjoy the new family traditions we are creating. I was ready for the change.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Places to Stay:

 

The Chalfonte Hotel Annex

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Ringwood Manor

1304 Sloatsburg Road

Ringwood, NJ  07456

(973) 962-2240

http://www.ringwoodmanor.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46774-d9564482-Reviews-Ringwood_Manor-Ringwood_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2621

 

Auntie El’s Farm Market and Bakery

171 Route 17 South

Sloatsburg, NY  10974

(845) 753- 2122

https://auntieelsfarmmarket.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48625-d4557200-Reviews-Auntie_El_s_Farm_Market_and_Bakery-Sloatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/180

 

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g34048-d268895-Reviews-Rehoboth_Beach_Boardwalk-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Ocean City Boardwalk:

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46696-d583375-Reviews-Ocean_City_Boardwalk-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Lucy the Elephant

1900 Atlantic Avenue at Decater Avenue

Margate City, New Jersey 08402

(609) 823-6473

http://www.lucytheelephant.org/

Open: Hours are seasonal/only open on the weekends during the winter months 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46600-d518065-Reviews-Lucy_the_Elephant-Margate_City_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/333

 

Emlen Physick Estate

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Friday 11:15am-4:00pm/Saturday 11:45am-4:00pm

Fee: Check with website/seasonal

https://www.capemaymac.org/emlen-physick-estate

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d614851-Reviews-Emlen_Physick_Estate-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1756

 

Places to Eat:

 

Sanducci’s Trattoria

620 Kinderkamack Road

River Edge, NJ  07661

(201) 599-0600

https://www.sanduccis.com/

Open: Sunday 4:00pm-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 4:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46776-d535253-Reviews-Sanducci_s_Trattoria-River_Edge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Road

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3848

http://www.confuciusrb.com/

Open: Check the website for hours because of the seasonality of the beach

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d555742-Reviews-Confucius_Chinese_Cuisine-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Big Fish Grill

20298 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-3474

https://bigfishgrill.com/rehoboth-beach-dining-menus/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-3:00pm & 5:00pm-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:30am-9:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d396017-Reviews-Big_Fish_Grill-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Touch of Italy

19724 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

(302) 703-3090

Open: Sunday-Thursday 10:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm

http://www.touchofitaly.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d4606866-Reviews-Touch_of_Italy-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Uncle Bills Pancake House

261 Beach Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com/cape-may.html

Open: Monday- Friday 7:00am-2:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 6:30am-2:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393950-Reviews-Uncle_Bill_s_Pancake_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/906

 

Dellas 5 & 10

501-503 Washington Mall

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-4568

https://www.capemay.com/shops/dellas-5-10/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 9:00am-5:00pm/Friday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d1067917-Reviews-Dellas_5_10-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Manco & Manco Pizza

8, 9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-0720

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:30am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d459222-Reviews-Manco_Manco_Pizza-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Johnson’s Popcorn

8,9 & 12th Boardwalk

Ocean City, New Jersey 08226

(609) 398-5404

Open: Sunday-Friday 10:30am-5:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.johnsonspopcorn.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46696-d4762196-Reviews-Johnson_s_Popcorn-Ocean_City_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Shindig

1 Tinker Street

Woodstock, NY  12498

(845) 684-7901

http://www.woodstockshindig.com/

Open: Sunday 9:00am-9:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 10:00am-9:00pm/Thursday 9:00am-9:00pm/Friday & Saturday 9:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48915-d7376319-Reviews-Shindig-Woodstock_Catskill_Region_New_York.html?m=19905

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach VI.jpg

My mother relaxing with the Boogie

 

 

Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, NJ

Day One Hundred and Twenty: Visiting Cape May and the Chalfonte Hotel again for the NJ Firemen’s Convention September 6th, 13th-14th, 2018

After such a wonderful Christmas holiday in Cape May,  I decided to change my plans around and stay in Cape May this time for the Annual Firemen’s Convention which is in mid-September. This is the best time to visit the beach as most of the tourists are away, the kids are back in school and the water is still warm. Hurricane Florence was coming up the coast so it was not the greatest weather but I always find things to do.

While attending the convention, I was booked at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, which is considering the Southern Grande Dame of hotels. I had stayed at the hotel’s Southern Quarters, the smaller B & B setting next door during Christmas and it had been a nice stay. The room had been decorated with holiday ornaments and decorations. I had a slept like ‘a log’ during the holidays. It had been so quiet at that time of the year.

When I had originally booked the reservation for the weekend, I was told that the restaurant, The Magnolia Room, would be open. Later I found out it would be closing for the end of the season on September 7th and I would not be able to try it for dinner when I was visiting Cape May. This meant a special trip ahead of time. So after work on September 6th on a whim I made a special trip to Cape May to check out the culinary delights of the Chalfonte Hotel.

I called the hotel at the last minute, booked a room with a shared bathroom ($100.00) and off I went down the Garden State Parkway from Bergen County to Cape May which is one side of the state to another. With one break stop, I was there in two hours and forty five minutes.

I got to the hotel by 4:30pm and it was still nice out. Hurricane Florence was just starting to make landfall in Florida and it was supposed to be gloomy all day long but we lucked out the tentacles of the storm had not hit New Jersey (that would come later the next day when I left) and it was still sunny, clear, warm and still a little humid.

I was  happy because I got my room immediately and was able to get to the beach for a swim before dinner. One thing about the Chalfonte Hotel (see review on TripAdvisor) is that it is old and I mean old. The rooms themselves have been updated and painted and the beds and furnishings are new and comfortable but the room I got with the shared bath could have used a scraping and repainting of the whole room.

chalfonte hotel

The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May at 301 Howard Street

The window sill was beginning to rot and I could see in the ginger bread decoration on the roof was rotting as well. The hallway carpets were clean but could have used a good shampooing to bring out the color. Even though the hotel is clean and maintained, it still needs a good gut renovation to bring it up to current standards. It is nice it could be a showplace.

The beach is only three blocks away and since it was off season already and later in the afternoon, the beach was quiet. The water was perfectly warm and the waves were low and no current from the storm (we really lucked out with that) so swimming was nice. I could ride the waves with not much worries. Still I kept close to shore and did not venture out too far.

It was nice to just lie on the beach and just relax. I had not been to the beach all summer and it was nice to just put my feet in the ocean, hear the sound of the waves and just relax on a towel and get some sun. I had not done this in over a year. The salt air is so soothing. The nice part was the beach at this point was practically empty and was filled with mostly locals.

After the beach, I went back to take a shower and relax. I took a quick nap on the bed which I have to say are soft and firm at the same time and I completely relaxed. I didn’t even want to go down for dinner but there was a fried chicken dinner with my name on it downstairs.

The Magnolia Room (see review on TripAdvisor), the hotel’s main dining room, is off the main lobby and located towards the back of the hotel. You really do feel like you are in a Southern hotel in Charleston or Savannah with the long narrow dining room, the pink table clothes and the over-head chandeliers. It is like stepping into a Southern Plantation. It is elegant and homey at the same time.

Magnolia Room

The Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel

Cape May like most shore towns in the Northeast have to depend on foreign help as the college students have to go back to school and there are only so many people living in town to fill the jobs. My server, Michaela, told me she was from Albania and could not have been friendlier. She was the one that told me that the Fried Chicken Dinner was the most popular. The nice part is that the three course meal is $39.00 which includes an appetizer or soup, the main entrée and a dish from the set menu. Another nice aspect of the dining room is that they give hotel guests a 15% discount for eating there and I thought that was very nice.

I traveled three hours to try the Fried Chicken so off the order went to the kitchen. I started with the Chicken Soup with Garden vegetables. Hunks of chicken in a fresh broth with a rough cut of fresh vegetables made the soup almost a complete meal. A good  appetizer to off set the Fried Chicken. The nice part was the vegetables were really fresh and it had a well rounded flavor to it.

Magnolia Room Fried Chicken

The Magnolia Room’s Southern Fried Chicken

The Fried Chicken was a bit of a disappointment. Even though it was a nice sized piece of chicken (almost half the bird) and the meat was juicy and moist and perfectly cooked, the coating had no flavor to it. It really needed some spices and I had to end up loading it with salt and pepper. Every bite was crispy and crunchy but not much flavor to it. The fresh Parker House rolls the same thing. They tasted good but were not moist (I found out later that they had been made in advance and had been defrosted).

For dessert, I had the Chocolate pie that was created by one of the owners of the hotel. It was pretty incredible with its dense filling and fresh whipped cream topping. I devoured that in a couple of bites.

The specialty cocktail was strong and on top of all the driving I did in the afternoon, it made me even more tired. Still I had enough energy to go to the Kings Bar, which is a small bar off the main lobby for an after dinner drink and listen to one of the local groups that play there.

The King Edward Bar is a small room that is off the wrap around porch and next to the history room that is part of the main lobby. There are about a half dozen tables around the small room which were always full and a small bar in the back. The service there is extremely friendly and the bartenders can mix a drink. Be prepared!

king edward bar cape may

King Edward Bar in the Chalfonte Hotel

It was nice to just sit back and drink a Cosmo and listen to the Jazz band. Every night during the season that have a different group there perform every night. It is nice because you don’t have to just sit in the bar. You can sit on the wrap around porch in one of the many rocking chairs, feel the breeze and listen to the music. I sat in one of the chairs and just relaxed. I started to fall asleep.

I went back to the room in the main building just for a quick rest and then I would go back to hear the music group. I fell asleep the second I hit the comfortable bed  and did not wake up until much later that evening and then went to bed. I had one of the best night’s sleep I had in a long time.

I woke up completely refreshed and ready to start the day. Since the hotel was not full, I had the shared bathroom all to myself with no one banging on the door. I took a quick shower, dressed and went downstairs to try the second part of the culinary trip, the Magnolia Room Breakfast Buffet.

Magnolia Room.jpg

Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel

Now I am big breakfast fan (as many of you must know from my dining blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) and when there is a buffet I am in high heaven. The food at breakfast just had more zing to it then at dinner. I just could not put my finger on why. I found out when I met Tina Bowser, one of the Magnolia Room’s two well know cooks. Her mother was Dot (Dorothy) Burton, one of the two main cooks at the hotel and as we talked we discovered that we lost our parents at the same time.

Magnolia Room Staff

Dorothy and Lucille in the kitchen making the famous fried chicken a few years ago

I never had such a heart to heart with a complete stranger and we both talked about our losses and how much we both missed our parents. Funny how you can bond with a complete stranger who was going through exactly what I was going through. It was interesting when Tina said that she still felt like her mother looked over her shoulder when she cooked and could still feel the nudge when she did something wrong.

After our long conversation, she mentioned that she now worked side by side with her Aunt Lucille Thompson, her mother’s sister who was just as well known. Now I had heard so much about her mother and aunt that I asked for a favor, I wanted to meet her Aunt Lucille. She said no problem and I was able to go back in the kitchen to introduce myself.

Lucille Thompson.jpg

Lucille Thompson at the Chalfonte Hotel

It is amazing to meet an 80 year old woman who still gets up every morning to cook for the hotel guests, make all the biscuits and rolls from scratch and prepare all the crab cakes, chicken coatings and then prepare breakfast. She was sitting down making her homemade rolls when I met here. It is always such a thrill when you meet a famous cook and Lucille and her family are so well known in the industry.

Lucille seemed thrilled when I made such a fuss. She told me of all her time at the hotel and the countless hours in the kitchen. I could tell there was pride in her voice on her cooking like it was her baby. She put a lot of effort into the food to make it special.

It was then she told me she had not been in the kitchen the night before and the she had made the dinner rolls in advance. That was the reason why there had been such a difference in flavor of the food. It’s not that it was not good it was but it just didn’t have that touch that was missing. There was such that sense that the person who gave it that extra care was not there to oversee it.

I complimented her on the soup and on the chocolate pie I had for dessert but she gave the credit to that to the owners wife, who made the delicious chocolate pie and the chicken vegetable soup. It was she though who made the Southern Breakfast I enjoyed so much. She seemed thrilled that I was so thrilled to finally meet her. I then left her alone to do her magic in the kitchen while I got back to the buffet.

Now this buffet is really nice. On the buffet we had fresh scrambled eggs, thick bacon, Amish sausage, fried hash brown potatoes, fried red tomatoes, spoon bread, fresh rolls and Danishes that were made by the kitchen as well as fresh fruits, juices and a complete waffle bar. This was all you could eat and they have never seen me at a breakfast buffet. Unlike other people who just fill up their plates and then to waste food, I circle the buffet, try a small portion of things and then go back for more so that I don’t waste.

My advice is that you have to go to the Chalfonte Hotel just for the breakfast buffet if not for anything else. Those fried red tomatoes are so sweet and crisp and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I had never eaten anything like this before. The home made rolls when they are still hot are addictive and the Danishes are delicious and burst with fruits and cinnamon. The sausage are those fat Amish sausage that crack when you bite into them and you can taste the freshly ground pork and sage. It was wonderful breakfast full of good food, great service and a beautiful room to eat in on a sunny morning.

By the time I finished it gave me a chance to get a quick walk into downtown Cape May, the Washington Mall, to look at the shops before I left. I needed to work off the breakfast. It was a bright sunny day and I could not believe what the weatherman had said. I walked around the beach and the other half empty hotels that proved that the season was over. After a quick rest in the room, I checked out of the Grande Dame of Cape May for a trip to the zoo. It had been a great stay, truly relaxing and just what the doctor ordered. I had needed this rest.

By the time I left the hotel for the Cape May Zoo (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) up on Route 9, it started to get cloudy and by the time I was walking into the zoo, it poured! Going to a zoo in the rain is not much fun as the animals took shelter too and I didn’t get to see many of them unless they were in a protected environment. As there was a break in the weather, some of the peeked out and greeted the visitors. I enjoyed visiting the zoo but have to say it is another Eighties type of zoo that is need of an update. I think there must be more interesting  ways to have animals live then in some of the smaller exhibitions.

Cape May Zoo

The Cape May County Zoo in Cape May, NJ

I decided I wanted to explore the state and drove up Route 9 which would take me directly to Newark. Big Mistake! It took five hours to get home going through all those smalls towns. I really did see the middle of the State of New Jersey but it took over five hours to get home with traffic instead of the two and half by the Garden State Parkway. I am glad I did it once.

The next week I returned to Cape May for the annual NJ Firemen’s Convention when about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey convene for the Annual Convention. I can’t take the crowds of Wildwood and I stayed at the Chalfonte Hotel for a second time.

This time when I checked into the hotel, I was ‘upgraded’ which I find a dirty word in the hotel industry. It means that you are not getting the room that you were promised. In my case, I was moved out of the main hotel to the ‘Southern Quarters’ annex next door. It was no problem for me. I figured the wedding party that checked in that day all wanted to be together and it meant that I got a better room with my own bathroom (no more sharing). The weird part was that I got the same exact room that I had at Christmas when I spent one night here on December 26th, 2017 (See Day One Hundred December 2017). Still I enjoyed the piece and quiet of the annex and it was nicer then the main hotel.

The only part about the room at the annex was that it was a top floor room of an old Victorian house and at one time must have been the attic. I am so tall that I had to lean down to brush my teeth and take a shower. Still it offered a lot of privacy when I finished my meetings.

The first day of the convention was really gloomy. The storm had finally hit land down South and it was misty and cloudy our first day of the convention. Since we did not have to be at the meeting until 1:00pm, I got up early and went to Uncle Bill’s Restaurant at 261 Beach Avenue in Cape May (see review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast since the Magnolia Room was closed. Uncle Bill’s is a institution in the South Jersey Shore area. It was founding in 1962 in Stone Harbor and has expanded to five other locations on the Southern New Jersey shore. I could tell by the food and service it is the typical Jersey Shore restaurant which caters to family who like nice size portions at a good price.

I love the breakfasts here. They cook the eggs in clarified butter so they have that creamy taste to them and the pancakes I ordered in the platter were as light as air. When the Pancake and Egg Platter was served ($12.95), it could have fed two people. It was a great shore breakfast.

uncle bills pancake house

Uncle Bill’s is wonderful for breakfast. A real beach breakfast.

After breakfast I had some time on my hands before the meeting and had planned to visit the Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The Society is only open from 9:00am-2:00pm so the only time I could have gone was that morning due to all the meetings.

The Wildwood Historical Society is an interesting little museum filled with photos and memorabilia from all eras of Wildwood’s history. Rooms were dedicated to the fire department, police department, the military, the schools, the amusement areas and the government. Each room had all sorts of artifacts and loaded with pictures in albums and on the wall.

wildwood historical museum

Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue

In the hallways was old artifacts from the amusement areas that had been part of the fun of the parks over the many seasons.  Many were pieces of the old parts or old rides and signs. Towards the back of the amusement area display were old restaurant menus and hotel displays.

The museum can be a little overwhelming because there is so much crammed into the rooms that there is a lot to see at one time and the only problem with the museum is its limited hours. Surprisingly when I was there, the morning was so gloomy that there were many people from the convention there as well. A group of us were watching a video of the history of Wildwood, NJ before I left for the convention.

The Annual NJ Firemen’s Convention is interesting. There were about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey in the convention hall all ready to vote on issues. We had the usual welcome speeches, flag salute and color guard and then it was business as usual. We wrapped by 2:30pm so we had time to walk around and see the fire equipment displays.

Since it was so cloudy most people packed up and went back to their hotels. I walked the Boardwalk to my favorite pizzeria, Joe’s Italian Pizzeria at 2812 Boardwalk between Magnolia & Poplar Streets (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for one of their giant slices of pizza.

joe's pizzeria wildwood

Joe’s Pizza 2812 Broadway in Wildwood, NJ

The slices at Joe’s are double the size of a normal slice of pizza and they even put a little swirl of sauce on top to finish it off. Their pizza is consistent and delicious and it is fun trying to eat that giant 28 inch slice. There are two problems with the place though. One is that it is cash only in the 21st Century and second is that try to load their glasses up with ice and give you very little soda so you have to ask for just a little ice. Otherwise it is a nice place for a slice.

As I left the Boardwalk it got darker outside and there were very few people walking around the Boardwalk. I left to visit the Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue in North Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The Hereford Lighthouse is a Victorian Lighthouse that was built in 1874 and was operational until no longer deemed functional after the early 1960’s and a more modern structure was built leaving this building to rot away. Preservationists saved the building and restored it in 1983.

I was surprised on how busy the museum was that afternoon. I guess people just did not want to walk on the beach on such a gloomy day. Each floor of the lighthouse shows it use and progress over almost one hundred years, with period furniture, family heirlooms and pictures, sea-going maps and nautical items. Floor by floor you see family living arrangements and the life the families had when they lived here.

The most beautiful view is from the top of the lighthouse on the third floor which had a spectacular view on the ocean and the surrounding area. What fascinated me the most was the history of the families who lived here and how they adopted to life here. The pictures of the holidays in the lighthouse were interesting. They even had a family reunion of the children who lived here a few years ago and to see these kids as children then as senior citizens was pretty remarkable.

What I liked about the museum was the gardens that surrounded the property. Even though it was not a nice afternoon out it was nice to walk through the flowered paths and shrubs and then take the back path to the bay area behind the property and see the bay and ocean. On a nice day in the middle of the summer it must be something.

After my trip to the Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue, I drove through the neighborhood to see the changes in the town. Even though Hurricane Sandy did not affect the Wildwood’s the way it did other shore towns there has been a lot of building in both North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest with the edges of Wildwood proper going through the change.

hereford lighthouse museum

Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue

All these towns are being knocked down and rebuilt with newer homes and businesses. Here and there are traces of the old Wildwood but slowly the towns are coming into the modern age with new condos and homes being built replacing the small shore houses of the 50’s and 60’s. Even the old motels that catered to the tourists are slowly disappearing which is going to affect all of us at the convention as these places vanish. I could see that the towns are becoming year round communities.

For dinner I went to my favorite restaurant in Wildwood, The Ravioli House and Bakery at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).  I love their bakery which is located in the back of the restaurant which has a separate entrance.

The bakery has cases of Italian pastries that are all beautifully displayed and you just want to try one after another. I settled on a chocolate eclair ($3.00) just in time to spoil my dinner but what is wrong with eating dessert first? This delicious pastry was loaded with vanilla custard and topped with a thick layer of chocolate icing. There is nothing better but making a choice was hard. The custard doughnut that looked like a peach would have to be tried as well.

Ravioli House

The Ravioli House  at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ

I managed to walk around a little before dinner and then went in for dinner at The Ravioli House for the second year in a row. It was loaded with fire fighting families and groups of people from the convention. The restaurant was busy that whole evening and I could tell that they were short on help.

It some time for dinner but I was in no rush. Dinner here is well worth the wait. I started with one of their garden salads ($3.95) which was loaded with fresh greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. No hot house vegetables here. The salad was crisp and nicely accented by the oil and vinegar dressing. For dinner, I had the Trio of Ravioli ($19.95) which ended up being a duo since they ran out of spinach ravioli. So I just had the meat and cheese ravioli which are freshly made in the restaurant and were as light as air. The meat ravioli were some of the best I have eaten.

For dessert, I had the Peach Custard Doughnut ($3.95), which was a doughnut, split in half, filled with cream rolled in sugar and liqueur to give it that peach color exterior. It was well worth the second dessert but was a little sweet to end the meal. I ended up talking to the owners daughter again who works the register. I swear it was like ‘Some Time Next Year’ visiting places I had last year.

Ravioli House IV

The Bakery at the Ravioli House is amazing!

I got to bed early that night when I started to get tired after listening to the band at the King Edward Bar for a bit. I said ‘I’ll just lie down for a second’. I woke up at Midnight and then went back to bed.

My last morning in Wildwood was nice. I woke up early, checked out of the hotel and headed to the boardwalk for breakfast. I had walked around the Boardwalk the day before and passed Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ (See review on TripAdvisor). The owners were outside shoving menus into everyone’s hands and one of the items on the menu was a breakfast special for firefighters for $5.99. I thought I have to try this.

Franconi's Pizza

Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ

I have never had breakfast at a pizzeria on a boardwalk before but this is the standard that all should be set. The food was delicious! For $5.99, I got two pancakes, two eggs, two slices of bacon, a mound of potatoes and two slices of toast. The juice was separate. It was meal that could have fed two people and everything was delicious. All the food was cooked in clarified butter and you could taste it in the scrambled eggs which were fluffy and in the pancakes which you could taste in the carmelization of the outside of the pancakes. I was so stuffed that I rolled out of the restaurant. It was one of the best breakfast’s I ever had out and I highly recommend it when walking the Boardwalk in Wildwood in the morning.

Franconi's Pizza II

Don’t miss the breakfasts at Franconi’s; they are excellent!

It had cleared and was sunny and blue outside. It was a spectacular day to walk around the Boardwalk. The morning meeting went by quickly as I could see that everyone wanted to get out of there and go outside to enjoy the sunny morning. We started our meeting at 9:00am, voted for our new officers for the Association and were out by 10:30am.

Most people were outside walking around the fire equipment or walking with their families on the Boardwalk by the time I got outside. I took one last walk on the Boardwalk to stretch my legs before I left for Newark, DE for the Cornell versus University of Delaware football game (we lost 27-10 but not the blood bath of last year). So there was a distance to drive.

Cornell versus Delaware

Cornell versus University of Delaware (We can’t seem to beat them!)

I left Wildwood until ‘Same Time Next Year’ for the next convention. There are a lot more places to explore and restaurants to try. You never know what you will come across in a shore town.

 

Places to Eat:

 

Magnolia Room/King Edward Bar@ The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

Open : 8:30am-10:00pm/6:00pm-9:00pm

(609) 884-8409

http://www.chalfonte.com

My review on TripAdvisor of The Chalfonte Hotel:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on TripAdvisor of the Magnolia Room:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d1839146-Reviews-Magnolia_Room_Restaurant-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on TripAdvisor of the King Edward Bar:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d3469126-Reviews-King_Edward_Bar-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Closes for the season October 1st.

 

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

261 Beal Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com

Open: 7:00am-2:00pm (when in season)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393950-Reviews-Uncle_Bill_s_Pancake_House-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/906

 

Joe’s Italian Pizzeria

2812 Boardwalk between Magnolia & Poplar Streets

Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 522-7010

Open: Sunday-Saturday-10:30am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46931-d5094965-Reviews-Joe_s_Pizzeria-Wildwood_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/375

 

Ravioli House & Bakery

102 Bennett Avenue

Wildwood, NJ  08260

(609) 552-7894

http://www.raviolohousewildwood.com

Hours: Sunday-Saturday-4:00pm-9:00pm/Bakery-10:00am-9:00pm (In season)-Please check with the restaurant as it closes as the season winds down. Both close down on October 14th.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46931-d393862-Reviews-The_Ravioli_House-Wildwood_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/336

 

Franconi’s Pizza

3318 Boardwalk

Wildwood, NJ  08620

(609) 552-2800

Open: Sunday-Saturday-8:00am-12:00am (check hours with them after the season is over)

wildwood.orderfranconispizzeria.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46931-d4441386-Reviews-Franconi_s_Pizzeria_Ristorante-Wildwood_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Place to Visit:

 

George F. Boyer Wildwood Historical Museum

3907 Pacific Avenue

Wildwood, New Jersey 08206

(609-523-0277

http://www.wildwoodhistoricalmuseum.com

Open: Monday-Saturday-9:00am-2:00pm/Closed Sunday

Fee: Free; donation asked

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46931-d1862508-Reviews-Wildwood_Historical_Society_George_F_Boyer_Museum-Wildwood_Cape_May_County_New_Jer.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2303

 

The Hereford Lighthouse

111 North Central Avenue

North Wildwood, NJ  08260

(609) 522-4520

http://www.herefordlighthouse.org

Open: Sunday-Saturday-9:00am-5:00pm

Fee: Free; donation suggested

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46686-d532246-Reviews-Hereford_Inlet_Lighthouse-North_Wildwood_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2296

 

Cape May County Park and Zoo

707 US Route 9

Cape May Courthouse, NJ  08210

(609) 465-5271

Open: 10:30am-4:30pm (when in season)

http://www.capemaycountynj.gov/1008/Park-Zoo

Fee: Free but they ask for a donation

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46342-d268949-Reviews-Cape_May_County_Park_Zoo-Cape_May_Court_House_Middle_Township_Cape_May_County_New_J.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2284

 

Chalfonte Hotel

The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, NJ

History of the Chalfonte Hotel:

(Provided by the Chalfonte Hotel History Website)

Chalfonte Beginnings:

Built in the nineteenth century, the Chalfonte offers ‘the view from yesterday, genteel Southern-style hospitality, ornate gingerbread verandas line with comfortable rocking chairs and a constant sea breeze to rejuvenate and refresh. The Chalfonte’s distinctive ship-like profile, crowned by her Italianate cupola, now occupies nearly an entire city block. The hotel was built in 1876 by Civil War Colonel Henry Sawyer and was originally planned as a boarding house. Sawyer’s Chalfonte underwent most of its expansion between 1876 and 1909 and the present footprint is much as it was in 1909. This venerable grande dame by the sea still retains its Victorian Charm-louvered door to let the breeze through, Southern cuisine in The Magnolia Room and original antiques and fixtures throughout.

President Lincoln and the Chalfonte:

The history of the Chalfonte Hotel begins with a story that rivals “Gone with the Wind”. Sawyer arrived in Cape May in 1848 at the age of eighteen, a supporter of the Union side in the Civil War. He enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment since a New Jersey one had not been formed. After three months service and rising to the rank of Captain, he returned home only to re-enlist in a New Jersey regiment. In June 1863, after being captured during a bloody exchange at the Battle of Brandy in Virginia, Sawyer was incarcerated at Libby Prison in Richmond.

In retaliation for shooting two Confederate Cavalry prisoners of war, the Confederacy proposed to execute two Union prisoners, drawn by lottery. Sawyer was on of the two selected in the lottery of death. When Sawyer’s wife heard new of her husband’s execution, she did not go into a state of morning, instead rushing cross country to Washington to meet with President Lincoln and beg for his intervention. As a result, Secretary of War Stanton warned the South they would execute two Confederates if they executed the two Union prisoners. Upping the stakes, one of the Confederate prisoners selected was the son of General Robert E. Lee. The situation ended with Sawyer being released in a swap with Robert E. Lee’s son. He resumed active duty and returned to Cape May in 1875 as a recognized war hero.

Sawyer’s Chalfonte:

Having bought a parcel of land in 1872 at the corner of Howard Street and Sewell Avenue in 1875, Sawyer began construction of “Sawyer’s Chalfonte” (Chalfonte means ‘cool fountain’ in French; Sawyer’s reason for using the name is unknown). In 1876, Colonel Sawyer bought all the rest of the square bounded by Columbia, Franklin, Sewell and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard.

Cape May’s inclination away from resort hotels in favor of the intimacy of cottages had already begun. This trend was sealed in the fall of 1878 when the city suffered yet another disastrous fire. Previous fires had seen the total destruction of the Mt. Vernon Hotel in 1858 and of more properties in 1869. While the fire of 1878 reduced Cape May’s count of hotel rooms from 2200 to 200 in a single night and marked the demise of large hotel construction in the rest of Cape May, the Chalfonte, standing unscathed beyond the fire’s reach was about to experience an unprecedented expansion.

The same year Henry Sawyer extended his then two year old boarding house down Sewell Avenue, adding nineteen rooms to his existing eighteen. The original residence and addition were significant improvement in architectural refinement over the pre-Civil War hotels. While in no way extravagant, the building had a simple dignified Italian form (some times known as ‘Cube Italian’ in Cape May) with a balanced plan and facade.

In spite of suffering the ravages of time and storm, with minimal foundations, the first three phases of the building are soundly built with an eye to graceful resolution of any geometrical anomalies. Sawyer owned the hotel for another ten years, selling it in 1888 after just thirteen years of ownership.  He died in 1893.

Chalfonte Today:

Between 1888 and 1911 the Chalfonte was extended to its current size, adding another twenty three rooms along Sewell Avenue, enlarging the dining room  and providing delightful architectural riddles for future preservationist to solve.

The University of Delaware versus Cornell Football game in 2018

 

 

Mother Nature Float "Big Mama" at the Sinterklaas Parade

Day One Hundred: This is Christmas-Cape May, NJ, Rehoboth Beach, DE and Rhinebeck NY: Part Two December 10th, 2017-January 1st, 2018

It is never easy when there is a death in the family and is harder when it happens during the Christmas holiday season. This blog is dedicated to my uncle, Donald Snyder (1929-2017), who passed away December 4th, 2017. I had just come back from my Sinterklaas weekend in Upstate New York when we got the news as I was getting out of class on Monday night. So the next week after Sinterklaas weekend was spent preparing for the funeral.

My brother had flown in for the service so it was nice to have some support and I could see that my aunt and cousins appreciated it. At least we could be there to support our family in their time of need.

My aunt had planned a small and tasteful service for my uncle and it was the first time I had met many of my cousins cousins from my uncle’s side of the family. They pretty much talked amongst themselves and were not at the funeral services the next morning.  It was going to be a snowy day the next morning and the commutes would have been tough for everyone.

My aunt kept everything simple and tasteful and it was a short service with a smaller internment service at the mausoleum. It was only the immediate family and friends of my cousins who came to the service and by the repast dinner, everyone was exhausted and it was a small crowd of close family (our side) and friends of my cousins. We had a toast to my uncle and then talked amongst ourselves.

After that weekend, the holidays started to speed up again. It is always tough after a big loss to a family but I found ways to support my aunt and my cousins during the holidays as we planned a Christmas dinner right before Christmas Day.

I took my younger brother to the fire department Christmas Party and that was a cultural awaking for him. He had never been in a firehouse before and really did not understand the culture. He was a little shocked to see adults fighting in front of small children and some of the horse play that the guys do on one another. Even though he had a good time and enjoyed the food, it was a different experience for him.

The holiday month continued on with Christmas tree sales every weekend (we sold out by December 18th this year with a record of 315 trees). We had the Christmas Party for the Men’s Association at the Christmas tree site, which is always interesting. We spend most of the time huddling around a barrel fire to keep warm.

This is when the guys culinary skills kick in and we see some interesting dishes. I always leave it easy. I made chicken cutlets, baked ziti and double fudge brownies ( I am not going to say how many baked zitis, lasagnas and batches of stuffed shells on top of gallons of marinara sauce and pounds of cookies and brownies that I made this holiday season but it was a lot). This party was the first in five meals that I cooked at the holidays trying to keep with the same theme so I did not have to do double time in the kitchen. Plus everyone seems to like Italian cooking so it makes it easy.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Set Up

The party was a great success with about thirty members coming and going all night while we caught up with what each other were doing at the holidays and the parties that they were planning and cooking for their families. December is always a tough month to get anything done as everyone is running around. Leaving at 11:00pm as I usually do because of work, I had heard they were still going strong into the morning hours.

I took an about face and at the last minute decided to go to Carnegie Hall for a Christmas Concert starring Megan Hilty, a Disney star, who was terrific. I got last minute tickets in the nose-bleed section of the theater but still could see and hear everything. I was really surprised being on the top tear and to hear it all so perfectly.

Megan Hilty

Megan Hilty with the New York Pops

It was an excellent concert with many popular songs of the holidays being performed so well. She did a great job with the more contemporary classics such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus is coming to town”. Everyone in the audience got so into the show and the last few songs became a sing along and the whole auditorium became alive with song. People really enjoyed themselves and were still laughing and singing as they were leaving the theater.

Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album

The last full week before Christmas weekend was non-stop cooking, cleaning and running around. We started the week with the Annual ‘Santa Around Town’ that the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department sponsors every year for the residents of Hasbrouck Heights. We take all the fire trucks and equipment to twelve locations around the town and have Santa meet with all the families. Every year this is a very big deal to a lot of residents and some plan their holiday parties around this event.

Santa Around Town 2018 HHFD.jpg

Santa Around Town with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

Our day started early in the morning when myself, my captain and lieutenant and a junior member met for breakfast and then washed and decorated the truck. This is where a lot of my cooking came into play. I made a sausage, egg and cheese souffle, homemade waffles and fresh cinnamon butter muffins. I had cooked enough for the company and it ended up only four of us showed up. So we had a great breakfast and then we scrubbed down the truck inside and out and put all the Christmas lights on it. The truck always looks festive in the dark.

For the trip around Hasbrouck Heights, I made homemade French Bread pizza with homemade marinara sauce and double fudge brownies, two items that are very popular with hungry firemen. Along the way, residents make all sorts of Christmas cookies and other holiday treats for us along the route so we don’t ‘starve’.

The tough part for us was that the generator blew before the last three stops and we had to bring it back up to the house and extinguish it. That was tough as the engine then had to go out of service for the holidays for repair. At least we got it back up to the firehouse in one piece.

The next night I gave my final exam in class and finished the semester on a high note. All of my students got “A”‘s and I could not have been happier with their final project , the tech start up “Buscomonzefi.com” (see ‘Day Ninety-Eight’) and was impressed with them as a class. It was fun going into work every week and I will miss this class.

Buscomonzefi.com Logo.png

Buscomonzefi.com logo

What was nice was I took some of my team to Biagio’s Restaurant in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor) near the college for a wrap up party. I was surprised when only four of my sixteen students showed up. One of my students mentioned that no one would show because of exams and I was almost tempted not to show up but I figured I was starved so at least I could get something to eat. It ended up that all of my Sales & Marketing team showed up and we had a really nice time.

I could not believe how this group of students bonded so much together. I really did see a lot of new friendships being formed that night and for that I was really proud of the project. Plus the food and conversation were excellent that evening. If ever a Professor could be more proud of their students.

I did not have much time to dwell on class as I had to cook a Holiday luncheon for my Stroke & Disabled Support Group that meets every Tuesday in Ridgewood, NJ (See my BergenCountyCaregiver.com site on WordPress.com). I don’t know I got suckered into this but it was a lot of work.

In years past, our group normally ordered in for the party and all I would do is dessert. For years, we ordered in Chinese food but last year most people got sick of it so we ordered in pizza. This year one of the women in the group asked about maybe getting a tray of stuffed shells and of salad. When I mentioned how much that might cost and how I could make it for so much less that’s when I was asked to cook.

Thank God I had made a double batch of marinara sauce because it came in handy. I made the most amazing lunch for everyone and used every skill from catering that I learned from Hyatt.

I got up early that morning and started to cook. I did all the last minute touches and fried out the cutlets and cut up the salad. The last thing I did was prepare the garlic bread before I packed the car up. I never had so much food all over the car as I had to bring it from home to City Hall in Ridgewood.

The party was a huge success! I made Chicken Cutlet Parmesan with a side of plain cutlets for those who didn’t want all the cheese, a lasagna, two small trays of stuffed shells, a arugula salad, garlic bread, assorted cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Some of the members brought fruit and other desserts so we had a lot of food left.

The whole building came up to the conference room to the party so it was very festive. People from different departments who help us during the year joined us so there were people in and out the whole afternoon. I really think that’s what the holidays are about.  Everyone had great time and there was not much left over. All I know is that I was exhausted on the drive home. I had to take a nap when I got home.

There was not much time to rest as I drove out to visit Lillian again on Long Island at her Assisted Living Facility for her annual resident concert (see various blogs on my visits). I had gone last year and had a nice time. I swear even at 99, she has the same spirit that she always has had.

Lillian and I at Xmas 2018

Lillian and I at Christmas 2018

She sang and played the triangle as she did last year and all the residents performed a list of Christmas songs to the other residents and their families who attended. It was a nice concert but it seemed have more guests last year. Everyone who attended really enjoyed it.

After the concert was over, I went off and got Chinese food for our Christmas lunch, which I know that Lillian always appreciates. I go to Dragon House (See review on TripAdvisor) for our meals and this one did not disappoint. I ordered Lo Mein and Chicken and String beans with some eggrolls. I swear that Lillian has a good appetite. She can eat. For dessert, I brought some cookies from Park Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) right next store to the restaurant. To have two such good places to eat right next to one another is great.

Dragon House

Dragon House in Kings Park, NY for excellent Chinese food

After our dinner, we talked for the rest of the evening. Since the weather was going to be nice the next day, I got a hotel room and was able to stay late to talk to Lillian for a few more hours. We just caught up and as we talked more, I noticed how much more came back to her. It was the ‘old’ Lillian who I remember. I think she needed it as well. We laughed so much it was like old times. When I had to leave a little after seven, she had a huge smile on her face. It was a very special Christmas for the two us.

I stayed at a very Hampton Inn on the South Shore in Commack, NY (See review on TripAdvisor) that evening and just collapsed in the room. It had been a long week already and I was tired from all the cooking and cleaning. I just relaxed that evening and read and wrote out Christmas cards.

The next morning I got up and traveled out to Montauk on the very edge of the island.  I wanted to see their famous lighthouse and museum (which was closed at the time). It was a beautiful sunny and warm day for this time of the year.

The South Shore of Long Island is so beautiful and I highly recommend it in the off season. It is just so nice to visit these small towns when they are not overrun with people from the city. The locals are so nice and you really do remember that it is a farming community out there. Outside of the core of East Hampton and the overbuilt areas of South Hampton, the other towns were like visiting a farming community. All the locals were out in their pick up trucks carrying local products. It is so different in the off season but so much nicer. Everyone is so laid back.

I wanted to visit the ‘Big Duck’ (see Review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), a building in the shape of a duck on Route 24 Flanders Road in Flanders, NY. It is very interesting to see a building in the shape of a duck, very similar to ‘Lucy’ the Elephant in Margate, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com). It is a small building in the shape of a duck that was created by the owners back in the 30’s to promote their duck farm. Its cute but the guy that volunteers there must not get too many visitors because he NEVER SHUTS UP! God, I to fray going to the bathroom to getaway from him and got out of there.

The Bid Duck

The Big Duck Visitors Center and Gift Shop

I continued my way through the back-roads to the Hampton’s. I now know why it takes so long to get to the Hampton’s. All the roads once you get off the main highway are all local two lane roads. Most of the towns were quiet before the holidays so it was nice just to drive through.

I got out to Montauk to Lighthouse Park (See review on TripAdvisor) by 2:00pm. I took far longer than I thought but it was well worth the trip. It was a bright sunny afternoon and the view on the point was just breathtaking! The way the sun shone over the beach area and the point was spectacular. The only bad part was the lighthouse was closed that afternoon and would not open until the weekend. The giant wreath on the front of the lighthouse made it very festive.

Montauk Lighthouse

Christmas at the Montauk Lighthouse

I had lunch in downtown Montauk and most of the places were closed for the afternoon. The town was really quiet. I ended up eating at Pizza Village at 700 Montauk Highway in  (See review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area. The pizza is amazingly good and their sauce is excellent. I highly recommend it when visiting Montauk. It really warmed me up.

Then I headed back to New Jersey. Is that a long trip. Going over the George Washington Bridge at rush hour right before the holidays is a nightmare. It took over two hours to go from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Route 46 in New Jersey. The irony was that as soon as I got closer to home, we had a dumpster fire at the local Walmart. Never a dull moment.

As things revved up for the holidays, I had my family over to the house for an early Christmas dinner. Since I was going to be away and my aunt and cousin had just suffered a very hard loss right before the holidays, I had a holiday meal at the house.

Even at a time of loss, we had such a nice time. I went all out for the meal. I cleaned the whole house again, did more shopping and prep work and decorated the house. We had such a nice time. I had my two aunts and my cousin over for a three course meal. As usual, I started the meal with appetizers followed by a full meal and dessert.

I made sauted shrimp on toasts, pigs in a blanket and assorted gourmet cheeses to start with two bottles of Asti to enjoy with it. For the main meal, I made pork cutlets, a potato puff with lots of cheese and eggs, string beans and my aunt brought some of her homemade apple sauce (I hate to brag but she makes it terrific). For dessert, I brought a seven layer cake from Mills Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) and my aunt brought a strawberry cheesecake. We ate a lot.

It was a nice night of good food and great conversation. It was nice to have the house so full of life during the holidays again. It had been so long since everyone had something to laugh about. I have to admit we did have a nice Easter and celebration of our birthdays at the house, so it felt that my uncle was there with us in spirit. Dinner went into the late evening, so I had to clean up the house and run the dishwasher that night so it was a long night for me.

The next day I was off to spend my Christmas in Cape May, NJ. Most of family had their own plans and I like to spend the holidays by myself to relax and write. It was a gloomy day when I started out that afternoon. I had so much to do before I left like the laundry and the vacuuming, so that the house looked good when I got home. I just didn’t want to have to do much before I got home.

It takes about three hours to Cape May from my house. You are literally are going from one end of the state to another. When I finally reached Cape May I made a big mistake and took a turn over the bridge into the Wildwoods. When I tell you that is a dead community at this time of the year, it is DEAD. There were no lights on in any of the homes or in the hotels and there were very few businesses open as well. It is so weird to see a place that you were just in two and half months ago that was so much alive. Since I could find my way out, I had to take the route I knew off the island and drive back down south to Cape May.

When I arrived at the Congress Hall Hotel (See review on TripAdvisor), it was ablaze with Christmas lights. I have to say that the two days that I stayed at the Congress Hall put me in the Christmas mood. Since my father passed, the holidays have been tough on me and the atmosphere of the hotel was just what I needed. The whole place was decorated for the holidays with garland, trees, bright lights and Christmas cheer. It just made me festive for the holidays.

Congress Hall

Congress Hall Hotel at Christmas

I got to the hotel late and wanted to celebrate Midnight Mass and unfortunately no church in town did the Midnight Mass. So I went to the Our Lady of the Sea Church for the 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass. It was a beautiful mass.

Not quite the elaborate mass I was used to at the Dutch Reformed Church up in Woodstock, NY for the past three years but still inspirational and enjoyable. Even though it is church, I still believe mass should not be stuffy or boring. I think it should be inspirational, engaging and make you reflect on the past year.

The church was beautifully decorated for the holidays with secular decorations of holy, trees, garland and poinsettias. I have noticed over the past decade that more churches have done this. The poor priest was suffering through a leg injury but still gave a nice sermon. I think he was surprised by so many out of towner’s at the mass.

Our Lady Star of the Sea.jpg

Our Lady of the Sea at Christmas

After the service, I walked around the Washington Street Mall, which is Cape May’s downtown. It looked like every business was trying to outdo one another for the best decorations. All were so elegantly decorated for the holidays with detailed displays, lights and in some cases bows and garland. Inside there were all sorts of Christmas scenes with Santa’s, reindeer and Currier & Ives type displays. Everyone did a nice job and the downtown was very picturesque with the hotel in the backdrop being so nicely decorated on the outside as well.

Washington Mall Christmas

Washington Street Mall at Christmas

I had Christmas Eve dinner in the hotel’s pizzeria, the Boiler Room, for pizza (See review on TripAdvisor). The service was excellent and the food was wonderful. I had an prosciutto and arugula pizza and it was perfectly cooked and just what I needed after a long drive. They even had music that night. It was a far cry from the two restaurants that I ate at in Woodstock over the past three Christmas Eve’s, where the food was hit or miss.

I just relaxed on Christmas Eve and walked back outside to look at the downtown and the hotel from a distance. I could not believe how packed the hotel was on a holiday. The place was completely sold out.

Christmas was very mellow this year. With my uncle passing two weeks earlier and everything going on in my life and family, I needed a break from everyone and everything in my life.

I slept in and relaxed Christmas morning, had a nice long breakfast in the very busy Blue Pig restaurant, the hotel’s casual family restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) and just enjoyed the quiet morning. The restaurant itself was going full force when I got there. Families were all eating together and it looked like a lot  of family reunions were going on in the hotel for the holidays.

The food there is excellent and I highly recommend eating there when in Cape May. I had this dish, the Eggs Blackstone, that was a unique combination of poached eggs on two cheese biscuits with wilted greens and hollandaise sauce, which I normally do not like that just worked. The combination of flavors mixed so well and with the service of Laura, my waiter that morning, who I could tell has been in the business for years, just made the Christmas morning meal perfect.

I sat for most of the morning on a window bench on the second floor of the hotel, over-looking the courtyard of the hotel and the small holiday marketplace the hotel had in the courtyard for the guests. It was nicely set up around the heated pool.

They had a fire-pit for warm up around, small tents with quirky shops to buy local products (although I thought most everything was WAY over-priced) and a small Christmas cafe with traditional winter treats like hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. Even those were pretty but over-priced ($6.00 for four cookies?). It was nice to walk around and Christmas ended up being a bright and sunny day. We had missed the snow storm that hit Northern New Jersey and I later found out really hit Woodstock, NY.

I spent most of my morning doing my writing, call friends and family wishing them a Merry Christmas and talking to other guests who just happened to see me writing and wanted to know what I was up to.  I swear that I am never alone when I travel, people just seem to find me.

The rest of the afternoon I walked around Cape May, looking at the store windows downtown, walking along the shore and looking at the birds on the beach and the waves and looking at all the Victorian homes that were decorated for the holidays. Even though all the hotels surrounding ours including ours were fully booked, the town was quiet. It looked like a lot of people were away.

I had my Christmas dinner at the Ugly Mug (See review on TripAdvisor), a bar/pub that I had eaten at over twenty years ago. The food is still excellent. I had a bacon bbq cheeseburger with fries, not your traditional Christmas dinner but still was wonderful. The place was really busy with other people who looked like they were done with Christmas as well. Even the manager told me that they are always busy at the holidays.

That night I just walked around town and looked at the Christmas tree in the square, which was so elegantly decorated for the holidays. Cape May knows how to decorate for the holidays. I walked around the hotel and looked at the decorations. The hotel was mobbed with people just looking for something to do and a place to sit and chat. People were jockeying for a place near the fireplace and I could see there were some struggles for that.

Christmas in Cape May

Christmas in the town square at Cape May, NJ

On the 26th, things got back to normal in town. Most of the stores opened and there were sales on everything. I went to the Mad Batter Restaurant (See review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast, wanting some elbow room from the hotel. The food there is excellent. I had this Croustade with scrambled eggs, sausage, peppers and cheese served on a brioche bun. Again a somewhat overdone combination but it worked and was delicious .This institution has been around for years and I wanted to try it for a long time.

I explored the town for the afternoon. I went on the decorated house tour at the Emlen Physick Estate  (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), who was a prominent doctor in the town and his house showed it. His grandfather has invented a famous medical device and upon getting his medical degree, he inherited his fortune and never practiced medicine again. What he did leave was a beautiful home for touring and every room was decorated for the holidays. The woman who gave the tour was an actor playing his mother and it was the week before Christmas. She did a nice job.

Physick home at Christmas

Physick Estate at Christmas

After that, I visited the Cape May Lighthouse (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com) and climbed the whole thing in about twenty minutes, shocking the guy at the admission office who said that I only had a half hour to spend before they closed. I even surprised myself with how fast I climbed it. I swear, this walking project is keeping me in good health. What a view! You could see all over West Cape May and the whole tip of the peninsula. The beach was so quiet yet majestic with all the waves crashing and the birds and dogs running around. They also have a small museum next to the building on Jersey flora and fauna that you should check out as well.

The last part of the evening was when I visited Sunset Beach in West Cape May (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).  What a magnificent beach this is, located on the very western tip of New Jersey.  Sunset Beach has the most breathtaking sunset of any beach I have ever seen and I have been all over the world. The way the sun sets on the beach and the location of where it falls creates a rainbow of colors anytime of the year. Although it was cool on the beach as it fell, the beach was full of people watching the same natural phenomenon. It was just amazing to see all the colors change as the sun changed positions and more fun to watch the Lewis/Cape May shuttle drive past every half hour. If there is ever a beach that you need to visit, it is Sunset Beach.

Sunset beach.jpg

Sunset Beach

That evening was my last night in Cape May and I had to change hotels because the Congress was booked solid for a wedding. I switched to The Chalfonte, one of the oldest hotels and most ‘Southern’ in Cape May. You have to remember that Cape May is below the Mason-Dixon Line and Southern New Jersey is technically the South.

The Chalfonte at 301 Howard Street (see review on TripAdvisor) is located in an older section of Cape May surrounded by Victorian homes. The main hotel was closed for the season (it closes in October) but they keep the ‘Southern Quarters’, a small house next to the hotel, open for the season as it is insulated.

Chalfonte Hotel.jpg

The Chalfonte Hotel during the summer months

As I wrote in my review on TripAdvisor, it was like staying at your Grandmother’s or Great Aunt’s beach home for the night. A little rough around the edges but comfortable, warm and homey. I find places like this charming but they are not for everyone.

I stopped by the Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street (see review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast and to tour the farm. Although the breakfast sandwich I ate was good as well as the home fries, everything was cold or lukewarm. They need to warm their plates. The property is so nicely laid out and it was fun to feed the chickens who were excited about the feed. I did one last walk around the downtown to see the tree on the square and had a slice of pizza at JoJo’s Pizza on the Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor).

My last dinner in Cape May was at the Washington Inn Restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor), considered one of the best in Cape May. The food and the service were all top notch. I had the crabcakes for my entree and the Bananas Foster for dessert both I recommend very much. The service was excellent but for some reason I expected older waiters to be working in a place like this. The rooms are elegant and romantic for couples. For me, it was just the thrill of eating in such a well-known restaurant with excellent food and service. At its price tag though, it is a special occasion treat.

I slept like a log that night, being able to faintly hear the crashing of the waves in the distance. They decorated the room with just enough plants and Christmas items to make it look festive.

The next morning as I was dropping off my keys, the owners son, Dillon, took me on a tour inside the family hotel. It was elegant as it was gloomy. I had read that the hotel was haunted but as he said to me he had never seen anything. It is weird to see a hotel closed down for the season. All I could think of was the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’. It just had that eerie, someone had just been there look to it. After I said my goodbyes, I was off to Rehoboth Beach to visit my mother.

On the trip to Rehoboth, I made several stops to towns I had passed through the previous year. I stopped in Millville, NJ first. The downtown has been creating a buzz for itself as an art center especially with the opening of the Cumberland College Arts Annex and the studio area. Artists from Southern New Jersey seem to be pouring into the town as all the buildings are getting renovated and new restaurants are opening. I stopped in a few galleries and looked at menus of what is going to be an ‘arts hub’ of Southern New Jersey.

The next town I stopped in was Bridgeton, whose downtown had seen better days. Most of the stores were either empty or catered to the Hispanic population who worked in the area. Not exactly the arts district they claim to be. There is not much to see here except a lot of Victorian homes in bad shape.

Salem was my last stop before crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This is a town that has not been discovered yet. The homes are really gorgeous in the downtown area, all built in the 1700 and 1800’s. Beautiful old Federal and Empire style homes are spread throughout the downtown and the sad part is that they are mostly in bad shape.

I stopped in the Salem Historical Society at 83 Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com) . This place is not the usual Historical Society with the musty displays and the dusty artifacts with some woman older than God looking you over. It was an interesting, insightful and beautifully decorated for the holidays building with displays of local interest.

Salem Historical Society

Salem Historical Society

The building is made up of three homes, one of which had a hearth fireplace in the kitchen. That part of the building was decorated for a Colonial Christmas. I loved the spinning wheel with the lights and the tree in the older section of the house. It only takes about an hour to see the whole building but take the time to really look at the displays as they are so well mounted.

I ate at Bravo Pizza and Pasta at 179 West Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area and highly recommend their pizza. The sauce was excellent and the flavor was delicious. What was best was that the owner asked me to wait as he had a new pizza coming out, so It gave me time to walk around the downtown area and look at the old buildings. It was so sad to see many of these old homes in such bad shape. This is a place I am surprised that the artists have not discovered yet. Check out the local cemetery with the large historical Oak Tree that covers the graveyard. It is right around the corner from the restaurant and Historical Society.

I finally got out of Salem, it was the long drive down to mom’s from Salem to Rehoboth Beach. When I called my mother, she was wondering what was taking me so long. When I finally arrived around six, she was asking me what I was doing all this time. I told her discovering my State. I never realized how interesting the State of New Jersey is (no jokes everyone).

My mom and I talked about the trip, the holidays and what we had planned for the next two days. My younger brother was coming up with my nieces to celebrate the post holidays. We really had a nice time. My mom cooked ‘the Dinner’ again and we just sat around and I told her about my Christmas. I now know where I get my love for travel details from as she sees how excited I get when I talk about visiting places.

My brother arrived the next morning and we planned everything. We went took the girls to the boardwalk for the afternoon to walk around and ended up going to Thrasher’s (see review on TripAdvisor) for French Fries. I have never seen four people devour a medium bucket of fries so fast. They were just fried and were oh so good. Even in the winter, I never tire of seeing the shore.

Our first night at my mom’s she cooked so we had a mellow roast pork dinner and just sat around and talked. It was nice for my nieces who never get to see my mom much and for me who see them about the same about of time. They talked about their trip up from Florida and how school is going.

Christmas in Rehobeth Beach V

Christmas in Rehoboth Beach, DE

The next day we took the girls on a tour of Rehoboth Beach and the surrounding areas, we went at twilight to Henlopen Park (see review on TripAdvisor) to see the Christmas lights, which was very similar in feel to the JackleLantern display in Croton-on-the- Hudson. It was a huge display of figures, such as Santa’s, elf’s, reindeer and decorated trees  lit up by lights all over the park and we were able to drive and see all the displays one at a time.

Even tough we were going out to dinner that night, my mother insisted we stop at the Big Oyster Brewery at 1007 Kings Highway (see review on TripAdvisor) for lunch when no one was hungry. I had some pulled pork sliders that were very good but like everyone else did not have much of an appetite. We had had a big breakfast earlier in the day.

For dinner my last night in Rehoboth, we went to my mother’s favorite restaurant, Confucius  Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Street (See review on TripAdvisor) by the beach.  We must have had eight different dishes on the table but you know what, the food here is just excellent and the service matches the food. My mother has been coming here since they opened and know the owners well so they are always coming over to say high or sometimes they give us a free appetizer, which I think is good business.

I had to head home the next day but we had a nice time even though it was so short with my nieces. I wish my brother had planned more time. We didn’t get to do too much on this trip since it was so quick. I headed back to New Jersey the next morning, probably seeing my mom again when the weather gets warmer.

My last day before the New Year began, I joined my other brother in the New York City for Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant at 18 East Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor), one of the mainstays for going for Dim Sum in the city. I swear we must have gone through half the menu. The food is really good and I love when the carts go around with all the dishes. I love to try many dishes when I am at the restaurant.

The only problem with New Year’s Eve is that the city shuts down all their roads by 3:00pm and it was also 20F outside that day. Trust me, it is not a day you want to be in New York City unless you want to sit in Times Square for hours on end to watch the ball drop. It was 9F degrees that evening.

The New Year brought in my Swearing In with the fire department. I am the Department Secretary (now on my fifth year) and Engine One Secretary (now on my eleventh year) and just keep rolling along. Our Installation  Dinner was the second week of January and that pretty much ends my holiday season.

Justin Watrel Firefighter

Swearing in as Secretary of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

It was a lot of running around this holiday season but I also was able to raise a lot of money for charity in between working three jobs, editing my book and all my volunteer work. I never seem to just stop and relax.

Now you all know why I had to put the MywalkinManhattan.com on hold.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Everyone!!

Getting to Cape May, NJ:

Just follow the Garden State Parkway to the very end and there you are in the middle of town.

 

Places I stayed:

 

Hampton Inn Commack

680 Commack Road

Commack, NY  11725

(631) 462-5700

Hilton.com

My review on Tripadvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g47518-d93152-Reviews-Hampton_Inn_Long_Island_Commack-Commack_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(888) 944-1816

http://www.caperesorts.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d92337-Reviews-Congress_Hall-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ 08204

(609) 984-8409

http://www.chalfonte.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g46341-d79381-Reviews-The_Chalfonte_Hotel-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to eat at the holidays:

The Bakeries:

Mills Bakery

275 Valley Boulevard

Wood-Ridge, NJ  07075

(201) 438-7690

http://www.mills-bakery.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46937-d4735011-Reviews-Mills_Bakery-Wood_Ridge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/463

 

Park Bakery

112NY-25A

Kings Park, NY  11754

(631) 269-3825

http://www.parkbakeshop.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48001-d933880-Reviews-Park_Bake_Shop-Kings_Park_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/645

 

Places to eat:

 

Biagio’s

299 Paramus Road

Paramus, NJ  07652

(201) 612-0201

biagios.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46712-d1488625-Reviews-Biagio_s_Ristorante-Paramus_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Pizza Village

700 Montauk Highway

Montauk, NY

(631) 668-2232

pizzavillagemontauk.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48194-d405528-Reviews-Pizza_Village-Montauk_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Dragon House Chinese Restaurant

118 Main Street #A

Kings Park, NY  11750

(631) 544-5438

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48001-d10641889-Reviews-Dragon_House_Chinese_Restaurant-Kings_Park_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/632

 

The Ugly Mug

426 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-3451

uglymug.bar

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393818-Reviews-Ugly_Mug-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Washington Inn Restaurant

801 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5697

http://www.washingtoninn.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393813-Reviews-Washington_Inn-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Boiler Room Pizzeria/The Blue Pig Tavern

Congress Hall Hotel

200 Congress Place

Cape May, NJ 08204

https://www.caperesorts.com/congress-hall/blue-pig-tavern

(609) 884-6507

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d10289837-Reviews-Boiler_Room-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Beach Plum Farm

140 Stevens Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 602-0128

http://www.beachplumfarm.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1867426-d5866138-Reviews-Beach_Plum_Farm-West_Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

JoJo Pizza

507 Washington Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-0404

http://www.jojopizzanj.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d8006294-Reviews-Jojo_Pizza-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

The Mad Batter

19 Jackson Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609)  884-5970

Home

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46341-d393838-Reviews-The_Mad_Batter-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Bravo Pizza & Pasta

179 Broadway

Salem, NJ  08079

(859) 339-0049

http://www.madbatter.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46799-d4514081-Reviews-Bravo_Pizza_and_Pasta-Salem_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

57 Wilmington Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(308) 227-3840

http://www.confucius.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34048-d555742-Reviews-Confucius_Chinese_Cuisine-Rehoboth_Beach_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

The Big Oyster Brewery

1007 Kings Highway

Lewes, DE  19958

(302) 644-2621

http://www.bigoysterbrewery.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34028-d12941936-Reviews-Big_Oyster_Brewery-Lewes_Delaware.html?m=19905

 

Golden Unicorn Restaurant

18 East Broadway

New York, NY  10002

(212) 941-0911

http://www.goldenunicornnyc.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d457884-Reviews-Golden_Unicorn_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Emlen Physick House

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404

http://www.capemaymac.com/physick-estate.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46341-d614851-Reviews-Emlen_Physick_Estate-Cape_May_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1756

 

The Big Duck

1012 NY-24

Flanders, NY  11901

(631) 852-3377

http://www.bigduck.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g754554-d3292234-Reviews-The_Big_Duck-Flanders_Long_Island_New_York.html?m=19905

M review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1735

 

Sunset Beach Cape May

Cape May Point

Cape May, NJ 08212

(609) 465-1000

https://www.new-jersey-leisure-guide.com/sunset-beach.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g3948623-d103992-Reviews-Sunset_Beach-Lower_Township_Cape_May_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2705

 

Salem County Historical Society

83 Market Street

Salem, NJ  08079

http://www.salemcountyhistoricalsociety.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46799-d13368307-Reviews-Salem_County_Historical_Society-Salem_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1742

*Blogger wants to note that the hours change for many of these historical sites and for the restaurants so please check their websites for the most current hours during the off-season and when in season.

 

Events:

Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale

(From Thanksgiving until the trees sell out)

Our Commercial that star’s me!:

 

Hasbrouck Heights ‘Santa Around Town’

(The last Sunday before Christmas)

 

Please see this video of the Congress Hall Hotel by the hotel. It is a magical place at Christmas.

 

 

Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album from the concert