Tag Archives: Chalfonte Hotel

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

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

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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Washington Street Mall in Cape May

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

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Cape May Fire Museum at 712 Franklin Street

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

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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.

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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.

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The Magnolia Room

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

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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.

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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.

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King Edward Bar at the Chalfonte Hotel

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

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

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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.

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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.

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World War II Tower at 536 Sunset Boulevard

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

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

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

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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.

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The entrance to the Franklin Museum 32 Evans Street

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

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

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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.

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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).

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Downtown Sussex, NJ

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

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

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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.

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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.

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The Narrowsburg Inn

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

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

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Downtown Narrowsburg, NY

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

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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.

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The artsy entrance to The Heron Restaurant

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

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

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

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I highly recommend the Fried Chicken here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fort Delaware at 6615 NY-97 in Narrowsburg, NY

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

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

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

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The Sterling Hill Mine Museum at 30 Plant Road

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

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

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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.

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The mine tunnels at the Sterling Hill Museum

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

Sterling Hill Mining Museum II

The mining transport system

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

Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The colorful rainbow display in the rock formation

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

Happy Travels!

 

Places to Stay:

 

The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

https://www.chalfonte.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

The Narrowsburg Inn

185 Bridge Street

Narrowsburg, NY  12764

(845) 252-3998

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Places to Eat:

 

The Woo Hoo

211 South Bay Avenue

Beach Haven, NJ  08008

(609) 492-5433

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

https://thewoohoo.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

The Chalfonte Hotel

The Magnolia Room/King Edward Bar

31 Howard Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-8409

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

My review on TripAdvisor (Magnolia Room):

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

My review on TripAdvisor (King Edward Bar):

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

 

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

261 Beach Avenue

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-7199

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

The Heron Restaurant

40 Main Street

Narrowsburg, NY 12764

(845) 252-3333

http://theheronrestaurant.com/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Gerard’s Cafe

119 Kirks Road

Narrowsburg, NY  12764

(845) 252-5119

Hours: Seasonable, please call the restaurant

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Franklin Chicken & Ribs

535 Route 23 South

Franklin, NJ  07416

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

(973) 209-0222

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Holland American Bakery

246 Route 23 South

Sussex, NJ  07461

(973)-875-5258

https://www.hollandamericanbakery.com/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Places to Visit:

 

The Long Beach Island Historical Museum

125 Engleside Avenue

Beach Haven, NJ  08008

(609) 492-0700

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

Fee:  Adult $5.00/Children 12 and under free

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Greater Cape May Historical Society: The Colonial House

653 1/2 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ (609) 884-9100

1730colonialhouse.gmail.com

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

Fee: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

The Cape May Fire Department Museum

643 Washington Place

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-9512

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

Cape May Fireman’s Museum

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

Fee: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

The World War II Lookout Tower

536 Sunset Boulevard

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5054

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

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

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

My TripAdvisor review:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Sunset Beach

502 Sunset Boulevard

Lower Township, NJ 08212

Open: During the hours with light

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Fort Delaware

6615 Route 97

Narrowsburg, NY  12764

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

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

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

The Franklin Mineral Museum

32 Evans Street

Franklin, NJ 07416

(973) 827-3481

Home Page

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

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

The Sterling Hill Mine Museum

30 Plant Road

Ogdensburg, NJ  07439

(973) 209-7212

https://www.sterlinghillminingmuseum.org/

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

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May at 301 Howard Street

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

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

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

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

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

Magnolia Room

The Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel

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

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

Magnolia Room Fried Chicken

The Magnolia Room’s Southern Fried Chicken

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

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

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

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

king edward bar cape may

King Edward Bar in the Chalfonte Hotel

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

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

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

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Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel

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

Magnolia Room Staff

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

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

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

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Lucille Thompson at the Chalfonte Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cape May Zoo

The Cape May County Zoo in Cape May, NJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

uncle bills pancake house

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

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

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

wildwood historical museum

Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue

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

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

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

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

joe's pizzeria wildwood

Joe’s Pizza 2812 Broadway in Wildwood, NJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

hereford lighthouse museum

Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue

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

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

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

Ravioli House

The Ravioli House  at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ

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

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

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

Ravioli House IV

The Bakery at the Ravioli House is amazing!

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

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

Franconi's Pizza

Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ

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

Franconi's Pizza II

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

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

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

Cornell versus Delaware

Cornell versus Penn

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

 

Places to Eat:

 

Magnolia Room/King Edward Bar@ The Chalfonte Hotel

301 Howard Street

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

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

(609) 884-8409

http://www.chalfonte.com

My review on TripAdvisor of The Chalfonte Hotel:

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

My review on TripAdvisor of the Magnolia Room:

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

My review on TripAdvisor of the King Edward Bar:

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

Closes for the season October 1st.

 

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

261 Beal Avenue

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-7199

http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

Joe’s Italian Pizzeria

2812 Boardwalk between Magnolia & Poplar Streets

Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 522-7010

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

Ravioli House & Bakery

102 Bennett Avenue

Wildwood, NJ  08260

(609) 552-7894

http://www.raviolohousewildwood.com

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

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

 

Franconi’s Pizza

3318 Boardwalk

Wildwood, NJ  08620

(609) 552-2800

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

wildwood.orderfranconispizzeria.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Place to Visit:

 

George F. Boyer Wildwood Historical Museum

3907 Pacific Avenue

Wildwood, New Jersey 08206

(609-523-0277

http://www.wildwoodhistoricalmuseum.com

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

Fee: Free; donation asked

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

The Hereford Lighthouse

111 North Central Avenue

North Wildwood, NJ  08260

(609) 522-4520

http://www.herefordlighthouse.org

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

Fee: Free; donation suggested

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Cape May County Park and Zoo

707 US Route 9

Cape May Courthouse, NJ  08210

(609) 465-5271

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

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

Fee: Free but they ask for a donation

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Chalfonte Hotel

The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, NJ

History of the Chalfonte Hotel:

(Provided by the Chalfonte Hotel History Website)

Chalfonte Beginnings:

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

President Lincoln and the Chalfonte:

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

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

Sawyer’s Chalfonte:

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

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

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

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

Chalfonte Today:

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

The University of Delaware versus Cornell Football game in 2018