When I was visiting Rehoboth Beach, DE recently the museum I had wanted to visit in Rehoboth was closed for the day, so I remembered that there were a few museums in Lewes, DE, a small town right down the highway so I headed there and found the Lewes History Museum at 101 Adams Avenue. The museum was the old library which has since moved across the street.
The museum is very interesting and well set up. The museum is one big room that is broken down in different sections which helps explain the history of the town. Each display moves you through the…
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas. I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before nightfall
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockage District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brillantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Annex and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.
Don’t miss this interesting little candy shop in Downtown Cape May, NJ.
Louisa’s Candy Bar at 106 Jackson Street in Downtown Cape May, NJ.
Don’t miss this interesting and fun little candy shop specializing in Fair Trade and small batch chocolate bars and homemade desserts and hot chocolate served with a smile. It is so beautifully merchandised.
Louisa’s Candy Bar at 106 Jackson Street in Cape May, NJ
Louisa’s Candy Bar is a quirky little candy and dessert store in the Washington Mall in Downtown Cape May that has an impressive array of chocolate bars and rich desserts in this tiny space right near the well-decorated Village Green.
The tiny shop is lined with small batch chocolate bars from boutique brands that are either small batch companies or Fair-Trade Chocolate brands. Louisa’s even has their own private-label brand of chocolate bars that are made in Marine Park, Brooklyn. One of my favorite private label candy bars is their Milk Chocolate with Salted Caramel ($8.00), pricey but delicious. The combination of flavors is interesting and you really can taste the saltiness in the caramel.
The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is located at the back of the Cape May Airport. Just follow the road to the back of the airport at 500 Forrestal Road in Hangar #1.
This interesting museum is a treasure trove of artifacts from WWII to today from jeeps to cars and trucks to airplanes. Some of the vehicles you can step into and see what it was like to ride these pieces of aviation history.
There are several airplanes that with the assistance of the staff you can enter and see what air travel was like for these pilots. All the planes have been carefully restored and displayed for viewing and use by tourists. There is…
The Avalon History Center is at 215 39th Street in Downtown Avalon, NJ
Recently I took a tour of small Jersey shore towns and their historical societies. These interesting little museums are packed with information on the history and development of these towns. The progress of these towns from fishing and hunting villages for the Native Americans to the modern day resorts and permanent residence’s have a fascinating history.
The Avalon History Center was the last museum on my visit to the shore that day and it had become very gloomy outside. The town was relatively quiet when I got there on a late Thursday night. I ended up having the whole museum to myself to tour. The curator came out and greeted me nicely and…
The Sea Isle City Museum is located inside the Sea Isle Library at 4800 Central Avenue just off Downtown Sea Isle City, NJ
On a recent trip of touring the small towns of the Jersey shore, I set out to visiting many of the historical societies that tell the histories of these towns and how they have progressed from small Native American fishing villages to the resort and residential towns of today. Each of these museum has their own unique focus to how they tell their story.
The Sea Isle City Museum at 4800 Central Avenue is located in the back of the Municipal Building right next to the Sea Isle City Library. This small museum that is manned by volunteers is packed with local historical artifacts, pictures and…
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 realize that it would take three years to do. Funny how time slips by:
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 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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
The entrance to the Franklin Museum 32 Evans Street in Franklin, NJ
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
I had time to walk ahttps://welcometonarrowsburg.com/exploreround 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.
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 artsy entrance to The Heron Restaurant at 40 Main Street
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.
I highly recommend the Fried Chicken the Heron Restaurant
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 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 overall 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.
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.
The Sterling Hill Mine Museum at 30 Plant Road in Ogdensburg, NJ
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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 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.
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.
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 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.
Me setting up breakfast
I cooked an elaborate breakfast menu for the members of our company, our honorees and family members.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 in 2018, 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.
The Weekend before the Convention 2018:
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.
The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May at 301 Howard Street
The window sill was beginning to rot and I could see in the gingerbread 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 tablecloths and the over-head chandeliers. It is like stepping into a Southern Plantation. It is elegant and homey at the same time.
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 offset the Fried Chicken. The nice part was the vegetables were really fresh and it had a well rounded flavor to it.
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!
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 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.
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 at the Chalfonte Hotel
It is amazing to meet an 87 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.
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.
NJ State Firemen’s Convention 2018 and 2019:
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 and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) 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 Bill’s at 261 Beach Avenue 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 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.
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.
The Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue
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 adapted 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.
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 for all three years of the Convention (2018, 2019 and 2021), 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 éclair ($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.
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.
The Bakery at the Ravioli House is amazing!
There was no Convention in 2020 because of COVID and in 2021, the Convention was a one day walk through where we showed our cards, went into the Convention Center, filled out our forms and voted. We exited the building and then signed in with the department representatives. That was the extent of the Convention. About fifteen minutes.
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 and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
In 2018, 2019 and 2021, the owners were outside shoving menus into everyone’s hands in the three years I attended the Convention in Wildwood and one of the items on the menu was a breakfast special for firefighters for $5.99. I thought I have to try this. I was not disappointed in the three years I ate here and now look forward to visiting the restaurant every time I come to the Wildwood Boardwalk.
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 caramelization 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.
Don’t miss the breakfasts at Franconi’s; they are excellent!
In 2021, I had the number eight breakfast special, which was two slices of French Toast, two scrambled eggs, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage and hash browns for $7.95 which included hot tea and coffee. The breakfast could have fed two people easily. The eggs still tasted the same with the wonderful flavor of the clarified butter and the French Toast was two big Texas Toast slices cut in half so it was four big pieces. The French Toast was loaded with cinnamon and had the most wonderful sweet caramelized flavor to it.
In 2018 and 2019, 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 University of Delaware (We can’t seem to beat them!) Watch the game below.
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.
NJ State Firemen’s Convention 2021:
In 2021, things had changed a lot due to COVID. The Convention went from a two day event to a one day walk through where all we did was get scanned in and then fill out the form to vote and get that scanned and then walk out of the convention center. Some people wore masks and some didn’t but we were not there long enough to worry about it.
I decided this year to make this a working vacation trip since I had pulled my back out and needed to catch up on trips down the shore to visit museums. I was going to stay at the Chalfonte Hotel again for two nights and do the walk through voting but on my way down to Cape May, I decided to visit many of the shore towns to visit their historical museums for my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com.
So my trip started early Thursday morning with my first stop being the Ocean City Historical Museum at 1735 Simpson Avenue in downtown Ocean City, NJ. It was a beautiful morning with not much traffic so it was easy to manage the trip into town. I forgot what a picturesque town Ocean City is when you enter it. It looks like a little New England town.
It took a bit to find the museum until I realized that it was part of the town’s Municipal complex and you had to go through the museum to enter it. It really is an interesting little museum. I liked the history of the shore town with its Victorian hotels, the progression of the Boardwalk over the years, the ship wrecks of the coast line and the exhibit dedicated to Princess Grace Kelly whose family used to vacation here during the summers. I was surprised when the Royal family visited as well when she came home (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
After the visit to the museum, I walked down a few blocks to the shoreline where the Boardwalk was located and took a long walk down the length of the Boardwalk to see what was still open. My therapist suggested a lot of walking for me and that is what I did going all the way to the end and back. Still it gave me a chance to visit old businesses I had been to before.
I started with lunch at Manco & Manco Pizza at 816 East 9th Street on the Boardwalk. I love the pizza here and when I am in Ocean City, NJ this is the only place that I go. The sauce is well spiced and the pizza is always delicious. It has that nice tomato sauce swirl that is so famous at the Jersey Shore and they use a high quality mozzarella cheese on their pies. The place was mobbed that day and the line was ten deep while the other places on the boardwalk were quiet (see my review on TripAdvisor.com).
After that, I walked back down the Boardwalk to Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk for a small popcorn for dessert. I had tried the caramel corn many times before and this time I decided on the Cheese popcorn. It was amazing! (See my review on TripAdvisor).
You could tell it was a combination of Cheddar and what tasted like Blue Cheese as well. It was so rich and savory you could taste it in every bite. They really loaded on the cheese coating. I happily munched on it on my way back to the car needing several napkins to wipe up what I could not lick off. What was nice is that they give it to you in a bag so the extra popcorn spills over and you get extra. This more than filled me up on my next trip to Sea Isle City Historical Museum.
Sea Isle City was really quiet the afternoon that I was there and it seemed that the whole town had rolled up its sleeves and then left. There were not that many cars on the road so it was easy to get around. It took a bit to find the Sea Isle City Museum as it was tucked into the Municipal Building behind their library. It was a small historical society manned by very dedicated and helpful volunteers. They looked like they were happy to see a visitor and explained the whole museum to me.
They had a very interesting ‘Wedding Dresses through the Ages’ exhibition when you walked in which displayed residents of Sea Isle City’s wedding costumes from the late 1880’s through today which the volunteers said were very popular. There were various historical displays of kitchens, fishing equipment and items from old hotels and restaurants. There were also binders of families that lived here for generations. Outside there was a Diamondback Turtle Refuge and a small botanical garden dedicated to the former President of the museum.
I knew I would never get to Stone Harbor in time to see their museum so I took my time to drive to Avalon, NJ. There was no one on the road but me so it was a quick trip and I got to the Avalon History Center at 215 39th Street in time to have about an hour to tour the museum. It was just the right amount of time.
Since I got there before it closed, I was the only one in the museum and a staff member greeted me and let me know if I had any questions that he would be in the back. After that, I was alone to enjoy looking at the displays.
The Avalon History Center is similar in displays to the other shore historical societies. There were displays on local hotels and restaurants, a small history on the growing music scene from the 1960’s and 70’s, the formation of the railroad head at the shore and big display on the Beach Patrol, which is a big part of the culture at the shore. It recorded the competitions over the years and its importance in the town. Outside these is a small garden and out buildings to explore.
After I left Avalon, I followed the Shore Highway to Wildwood and wanted to walk the Boardwalk there have a stretch before I arrived at the Chalfonte Hotel for the evening. So with a brisk walk with the ocean air, I found myself back at Franco’s again at 3318 Boardwalk indulging in a Cheesesteak ($8.95). I would highly recommend it. It was the best cheesesteak I had eaten outside of Philly (as Wildwood caters to the Philly crowd and probably knows their way around a cheesesteak). The sandwich was on a fresh chewy roll loaded with thin steaks and a large portion of Cheese Wiz on top. It was like heaven in each bite.
The cheesesteaks at Franconi’s rival anything in Philly
I got to my room at the Chalfonte Hotel later that evening. I have to say that I have been staying at this hotel now for almost six years and I have never seen it so run down. It just looked like they had not done any renovation work in a long time. I was not impressed by the peeling paint and the stained carpets in the second floor hallways. My room had water damage in the corner of the room (I could not believe that they would sell this room).
Voting the next morning took only fifteen minutes. We showed our ID’s, filled out the form and had them scanned and walked out of the Convention Center. Done in minutes and then off to the Boardwalk again to visit restaurants and stores.
Breakfast again was Franconi’s and I swear their breakfasts are the best on the Boardwalk. You can not top their French Toast platter with scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage with a side of Hash Browns (see review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
I spent the rest of the morning walking off breakfast by touring the entire Boardwalk and then walking back. From here I visited a series of museums that have been on bucket list for a long time. I also stopped by a series of farms along the way to look for the elusive Beach Plum jelly.
My first stop was the Stone Harbor Historical Museum at 9410 Second Avenue in Stone Harbor, NJ. This delightful little museum has an extensive collection of artifacts packed into a small space just off Downtown Stone Harbor.
The museum like many along the shore has the history of their tourism, the competition in the Beach Patrol, artifacts from homes and families from the area and even had a 9/11 exhibition that was donated from the Stone Harbor Fire Department chief (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum at 500 Forrestal Road
The next museum on my list was the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum at 500 Forrestal Road in West Cape May. This unique museum at the Cape May Airport explains the region’s role in WWII. Serving as an Army base during the beginning of WWII, there were stories from locals about their time in the armed forces, how the area catered to our uniformed soldiers and their stories about training in the area and then all the vehicles from planes to trucks. Plan to be here for a few hours (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
On my way back from visiting all the museums, I stopped at two farms in search of Beach Plum jelly, something of a local delicacy in Southern New Jersey. My first stop was the Beach Plum Farm which is part of the Cape Resorts. I love coming here for breakfast (See TripAdvisor review) and to just look around at the gift shop and the grounds. It has really expanded over the years.
The gift shop had an array of gift and food items to choose from and the small restaurant even expanded since my last visit two years ago. There are many fresh and frozen items to choose from as well as gourmet gift products and even fresh eggs from their chickens. There were lots of breakfast and lunch items on the menu.
I love walking the grounds and looking at the garden beds, chicken coops and looking at the crops which were in their last stages of growing as the summer grew to close. It has gotten very commercial since my first visit about ten years ago but the farm has grown more popular and has really expanded. I could not find the elusive jelly.
Down the road is the more authentic working farm, the Rea Farm and their Market. This is more of what you would think of as a farm. The fields are in the back and the owner of the farm’s wife works the farm stand market. She and I talked for almost an hour about life on the farm and the Farm Act and protecting precious New Jersey farm land.
It was here that I found the Beach Plum jelly ($6.95) which I thought was reasonably priced. Mrs. Rea said that she made the jelly herself and that all of her fruit jams and baked products are made at the commercial kitchen they had in the old farmhouse. They also too had a nice selection of baked products and fresh eggs. It was less fancy as going to Beach Plum Farms but just as nice of an experience.
Dinner that night was back at the Ravioli House in Wildwood, NJ. Because of COVID and the number of people at the Convention, the restaurant had set up a tent with outdoor dining in their parking lot next to the restaurant. Thank God it was a nice sunny warm night that was perfect to dine out.
I love the food here and before dinner I managed to sneak in a piece of pastry from their bakery. I had one of their St. Joseph custard filled pastries ($3.75) about an hour before dinner. I should have waited though as it did put a slight damper on dinner. Still I was starved.
The Ravioli House bakery is located behind the restaurant
Since it would be both lunch and dinner for me and I planned to head back to the hotel after dinner for a long walk, I decided to have a big meal when I saw some of the things on the menu that I had not tried in my last few trips to the restaurant.
I started with the Chicken Pastina soup ($4.25) which was a flavorful chicken stock loaded with fresh vegetables, chunks of chicken and Pastina, which are small pieces of pasta in the shape of a thumb nail. The soup was rich in chicken flavor and was the perfect starter for a cool night.
Since I was starved, I decided to try the Trip Around Italy ($26.95), which was a sampling of all the pastas on the menu that included two stuffed shells, four ravioli and a big portion size of both Gnocchi and Spaghetti along with a large meatball and a piece of sausage. All the pastas were fresh and made in house and the meatballs and sausage were also made in house along with their fresh red sauce.
The dish was amazing but filling. I was starved and somehow I ate everything including a whole bread basket of fresh rolls to dip the sauce in and butter. The pastas were delicious and the cheese filling in the ravioli and stuffed shells was a combination of parmesan, ricotta and mozzarella which felt creamy and you could taste the complexity of the mixture. When the waitress came to collect my plate she could not believe I ate everything on the plate plus the rolls. She said most people take half of it home.
The ‘Tour Around Italy’ can feed two people
After a dinner like that I did not need any dessert and ended up taking a long walk around the neighborhood to work it off and digest. I think I walked about a mile and a half from the restaurant to the Boardwalk and back.
I drove back to Cape May through the Wildwoods and could not believe how quiet it seemed. Most of the hotels in town were not full and even the Boardwalk seemed quiet that evening. It was busy but not like two years ago. I think most people voted and then went home. The hotels by the Boardwalk still had vacancy signs. When I arrived back in Cape May, their downtown was hopping.
The next morning I toured around Cape May and revisited some of the sights from the day before and walked down to the beach. It was so warm that people were hitting the beach and walking around downtown. I tried to go to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House again a few blocks away but the line was about fifty deep with families and a waitstaff that was hustling as fast as they could. So I walked a few blocks away and went to an old standby, The Mad Batter at 19 Jackson Street for breakfast.
Unfortunately it was the same thing but this time with young couples and older families waiting outside. I lucked out with the host and she let me eat at the bar so I was immediately seated and served. Breakfast as usual here was fantastic. I could not believe how fast breakfast came out as the whole restaurant was mobbed from the time I got there to the long line left when I departed.
The bar area at the Mad Batter at 19 Jackson Street
I had a Three Egg with Cheddar and Bacon and a side of home fries with rye toast. The bartender at The Mad Batter does mix a very strong Mimosa. The omelet was excellent and so well spiced. The hash browns had a bit of kick to them with the peppers. The service was excellent. When I left, the line was still long to get in.
On this beautiful morning, I left for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to visit my mother for an overnight trip. I owed her dinner for her delayed Christmas present. So off I went taking the ferry again across Delaware Bay while watching the Michigan State-U of Miami Game. I did not even see the beautiful views as I was glued to the set. By the time we arrived at Lewes, DE we won the game.
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry can be a real treat on a sunny day
The evening my mom, her partner and I went to Big Fish at 20298 Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach, DE which was part of my mother’s Christmas present that we had not been able to plan since I had gotten hurt over the summer. It was a relaxing evening where we all indulged in their sweet Fried Shrimp platter and various appetizers. After three days of running around visiting museums, stores and restaurants for updates on my blog and visiting small towns and farms to add to these blogs, it was nice to just relax.
The Big Fish Grille at 20298 Costal Highway in Rehoboth Beach, DE
The next day I took off for home but not after another visit to the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. I had to have my Louis Pizza fix. Louis Pizza at 11 Rehoboth Avenue right near the Boardwalk and is the best place in town to get pizza. After a slice and a quick walk on the Boardwalk to enjoy the sunshine, it was back home again to answer calls and get back to work.
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.
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 façade.
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.
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
Michigan State University versus University of Miami game in 2021:
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 cousin’s 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 guy’s 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 ziti’s, 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 at 118A Main Street 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. It’s 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 get away from him and got out of there.
The Big Duck Visitors Center and Gift Shop
I continued my way through the backroads 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.
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 sautéed 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 going from one end of the state to another. When I finally reached Cape May I made a big mistake and took a turnover 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 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 towners at the mass.
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 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 a 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 snowstorm 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 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 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 at 502 Sunset Boulevard in West Cape May
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.
The Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street 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 crab cakes 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 owner’s 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 looked 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 at 83 Market Street
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 Rehoboth Beach, DE with my family
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 Jackle Lantern 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.
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.
*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.
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale