When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Day 5: Pardon Me, Boys, is that the Waterford Choo-Choo?

Another day, another adventure.

Today we started things off by taking a ride on the Waterford & Suir Valley Railway.  This 8.5 km train ride on an open car train takes you past the scenic River Suir (pronounced sure) as well as taking you to the land of the faerie folk.  At that stop one is supposed to make a wish.  It was a pleasant jaunt on a somewhat chilly morning.

We bused back to our hotel where we were given whispers (electronic listening devices) in preparation for a walking tour through Waterford.

Our guide for this tour was the affable Derek who was a knowledgeable and entertaining guide, if a bit blue in his language.  Our tour began right outside our hotel as immediately across the street was Reginald’s Tower which houses the Viking treasures of Waterford.  No, we didn’t actually go into the tower.

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Reginald’s Tower

From there it was off to the Medieval Museum.  The museum was actually built around the remains of a castle and held some amazing treasures.  Its rarest treasure was something that had been feared lost forever at one point.  Many moons ago, six priestly garments had been sewn out of solid gold.  It took 20 years to stitch these magnificent garments and they are worth many millions of dollars.  They are kept in glass cases with a special light to maintain them.  Pictures are allowed, but absolutely no flash photography is permitted as it will damage them.

Once we were through in the museum, we were taken to the 1743 Bishop’s Palace to learn a little more about Waterford’s history.  The ruler of this palace had been married to Letitia, the niece of Napoleon Bonaparte.  As such, the palace holds a Napoleon Clock (one of 12 left in existence) and a piano owned and played on by Letitia.

The palace also holds an impressive collection of art and Waterford crystal.  Below you’ll note the pictures of a chandelier and a table filled with crystal glasses and cutlery.  The chandelier is worth 100,000 Euros, but every single item on the table is worth more than the chandelier.  Derek told us how to recognize Waterford crystal and had an anecdote about a Waterford cross he found on Ebay.  He instantly recognized it as being made out of Waterford crystal and bought it for a few Euros, but flipped it for 700 Euros.

The museum also holds the oldest piece of Waterford crystal on the planet.  It is a decanter that was made in the 1780s.

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The oldest piece of Waterford crystal in the world.

At the front of the museum, we meant Sean Egan who is a master glassmaker.  He had worked for The House of Waterford Crystal for 25 years before getting laid off when Ireland’s economy went bust in the early 2000s.  He immediately went across the street to the palace where he was given a place to continue making his beautiful works of art.  Egan’s designs have been sold all over the world.  One of his notable works was a 9/11 memorial he designed featuring the rescue of Father Mychal Judge from the rubble.  Replicas of that work are present in Egan’s shop as well as in The House of Waterford Crystal.

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When the tour ended we had a little break where I dashed off to a local shop to buy batteries for my camera as my recharger had bit the dust the previous night.  After purchasing a pack I had to quickly go back over the ground of the tour and get the photos that I couldn’t take the first time around.

Once getting my pics, I met the rest of the group at the Druids, a pub famed for its Irish Coffee.  Each of us got a free coffee.  Now I don’t drink the stuff, but decided to have this famed local drink and I was wired after drinking it.  The coffee in Ireland tends to be stronger than its American counterpart and I agree with that assessment as the brew certainly seemed to overpower the whiskey in the beverage.

With the break over, we headed over to The House of Waterford Crystal for a tour.  Aside from being famous worldwide, the company also makes the actual prizes for the People’s Choice Awards.  It was a fascinating tour as we watched glass blown, sanded, marked, and etched.  Getting a job in the field is also interesting as one is apprenticed to a master craftsman for five years.  After that time, the apprentice has to make an item in their particular area and, if it passes, he or she gets to study for another 3 years and is then bestowed the title of master craftsman.

When this tour ended, we had the rest of the day to ourselves before embarking on another optional excursion.

We traveled to the village of Dunmore East which is by the Celtic Sea and home to Spinnaker’s, the #1 ranked pub in Ireland.  I spent an evening eating a gourmet beef burger with chips, drinking a Killarney Rutting Red, and listening to the house singer, Skinner, sing a barrage of classic rock numbers.  Our group really began to bond on this outing as well as the bus trip back to the hotel.  On the ride home I entertained our group with an acapella rendition of Jim Croce’s “Operator” which got a rousing ovation.

But it was time for bed as our group would be changing locales again the next day.

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When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Day 4: A Day of Horses, Beer, and Hunger

The new day marked our exit from Dublin.  After breakfast, our group of intrepid travelers boarded the bus and began the drive to our next destination.

I had forgotten the simple pleasure of riding on a bus.  Although we sometimes traveled for a few hours at a clip, the drives never seemed boring with the lovely scenery.  I especially enjoyed driving through the small towns and villages where I soaked in the small town life with the quaint homes, B & Bs, and pubs.

Our first stop that day was the town of Kildare where we stopped at the Irish National Stud farm.  For an institution known for breeding champion racehorses, I was surprised by how few horses the farm actually housed.  Only 8 horses were kept at the farm.  Our tour guide, Chris, was a fount of information about the history of the farm.

It was founded by Colonel William Hall-Walker who was the son of a famous Scottish brewer and was a bit of a ne’er-do-well until his father had the talk with him (shape up or ship out) and he took up a very successful career in breeding horses.  Aside from his love of horses, Hall-Walker also had a keen interest in Japanese culture and astrology.  He often used zodiac signs to determine breeding times and purchases, often to great success.  His love of Japan is reflected in the Stud’s famed Japanese Gardens where we spent a bit of time at the end of the tour.

 

From the Stud, we continued heading south to the town of Kilkenny, where we had a tour of Smithwick’s Experience, the most successful brewery in Ireland.

The brewery actually had an interesting history.  The brewing process used by Smithwick’s was actually inspired by monks.  The water in the region was too hard to be drinkable.  In order to be able to drink the water, the monks brewed the hard water into beer which made it drinkable.  The lime rock in the region was especially suitable to the unique brewing process.

The company was founded by John Smithwick, but the family name was unable to be used for 120 years.  In John Smithwick’s time, Irish laws prevented Roman Catholics from owning land or businesses.  Smithwick’s business partner had to front the business while he ran it quietly behind the scenes.  Once Daniel O’Connell, the Emancipator and personal friend of the Smithwick running the business at the time, got the legislation through that changed the laws, the family name could finally be used for the business.

At the end of the tour, free half pints were given to us to sample.  I tried a blonde ale, but probably should have gone with classic red ale as the blonde was too weak for my taste buds.

 

After the tour, we had a bit of time to tour the region.  Mom and I stopped in a pub where I had a toasted ham, cheese, and onion sandwich with some chips and Dad got temporarily lost.  Luckily, he found his way back in time for us to begin the trek to New Ross.

 

In New Ross, we visited the Dunbrody Famine Ship.  This was one of many boats that helped Irish citizens emigrate to the Americas during the Great Potato Famine.  It was a very informative tour about what life was like on the boats.  There were two classes of passengers:  cabin (first-class) and steerage (everybody else).  Life was hard on the boats as the poor steering class passengers would be crammed into a single bunk and permitted a half hour a day on the upper deck solely to cook.  Cabin passengers had it a bit better as they got private rooms and were able to spend more time on the upper deck.  It’s very possible that the crew had it the best, at least in terms of eating.  The crew was fed extremely well and was the only group to get meat as they needed the strength to sail the ship.  They were also paid well, but wouldn’t get paid until they returned to Ireland for fear that they would jump ship once the boat docked in the Americas.

 

After the tour of the boat, we returned to the boat and drove to our final destination of Waterford and to the Tower Hotel, our home for the next few days.  We got into our rooms and then went to the hotel dining room where I enjoyed a meal of roast lamb and vegetables.  The rest of the evening was left to ourselves as we readied for another day of adventures.

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Tower Hotel

When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Day 3: Going Back to School & A Night at the Cabaret

A full night’s sleep did wonders and I was ready to attack a fresh, new day.  But, first, the inner man needed to be restored.

With one exception, all of our breakfasts were the same over in Ireland.  We always ate in the hotel dining room and enjoyed a breakfast buffet.  The food is pretty much the same as you’d find in America except their bacon is closer to ham, puddings (types of sausages) are available, tomatoes and mushrooms are big breakfast staples, a cereal called Wheatabix is common, porridge is common, and baked beans are often served in deference to British guests as that is a staple of an English breakfast menu.

After dining, we boarded our motorcoach and began a driving tour through Dublin.  Bill educated us on the history of the city, pointed out muse houses, directed our attention to the River Liffey which splits the town like Jekyll and Hyde (everything north of it is the bad side of town while the south is the good part of town).  He also pointed out a hotel owned by the group, U2.

We stopped off at St Patrick’s Cathedral where we spent a little time exploring the grounds and church.  Then it was back on the bus to our final stop over at Trinity College which educated luminaries such as Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

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The rest of the afternoon was ours to spend as we chose.  I decided to take a tour of the college.  Out tour guide was imminent graduate, Alex Gregory, who gave a rather eye opening view to life at Trinity.

For starters, undergraduate college education in the European Union is subsidized by the government which means the students pay no tuition, though Ireland does charge its students a student fee of 3,000 Euros a year.  Alex also showed us the dining hall where all students can eat lunch every day.  Supper is also served, but one has to be a scholar to get that.

Scholar is a designation given to students who score a minimum of 70 on the Scholars’ Exam which takes place each December.  It is an incredibly difficult comprehensive exam given in your major.  It’s a little easier for science and math students as those answers are objective.  As the arts are so subjective the last arts student to get a 70 was Samuel Beckett.  The perks for being a scholar are a dinner every night, a waiver of all fees, and the ability to live on campus for 5 years for free even if you have graduated.

The grounds of the college are immaculate and Alex told us that it is clipped and mowed twice a day every day.  As Ireland prides itself on its grounds, I imagine a good groundskeeper earns a pretty good living in Ireland.

When our tour ended, I visited the Samuel Beckett Theatre and then headed to the library to gaze on the Book of Kells.  It is actually 4 books (the 4 Gospels to be precise) and is the oldest, best preserved Bible in the world believed to have been written about 800 AD.  It is incredibly well preserved and only appears to be a few hundred years old.

I finished up my campus explorations and wandered down O’Connell Street which is a famed shopping district also known for its buskers (street performers).  As I walked down the street, I passed a McDonald’s and decided to stop in for a snack.  I had hoped to try their local sandwich, a Cajun Quarter Pounder, but they were no longer selling it.  I settled for a double cheeseburger and made my way to St Stephen’s Green.

St Stephen’s Green is the Central Park of Dublin and it is a gorgeous property.  The birds there also know no fear.  I could have jumped up and down and shouted, “BLBBBBLBBBB!!!!” and those birds wouldn’t have reacted.

I enjoyed a constitutional and then started hoofing it back to the hotel.  As I walked I made a few observations on Irish drivers and pedestrians.  The drivers seem to be a little hot tempered as I often heard honking horns and jaywalking is the national pastime.  Seriously.  Pedestrians often cross in the middle of a road and raise their arms and the drivers stop for them.

I got back to the hotel and puttered around until early evening as we boarded the motorcoach for our first optional excursion.

We drove to Taylors Three Rock, a famed cabaret restaurant.  This place is a complete sellout 364 days of the year.  The only day it doesn’t sell out is Christmas because it isn’t open that day.  They serve a fabulous meal and I enjoyed Atlantic salmon for my main dish.  The entertainment is also top notch as they use name Irish entertainers.  I chuckled to the jokes of Noel V. Ginnity, Ireland’s cleanest comedian, was enthralled by the harp playing and singing of Rebecca Murphy, swayed to the tunes of Rob Vickers, an Irish tenor who played Jean Valjean in the 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables at London’s West End, and thrilled to the footwork of their world champion Irish stepdancers.

It was a lovely evening that ended much too soon, but we needed to get back to the hotel as we needed our rest as we would travel to a new city the next day.

When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Days 1-2: Jet Lag Stupid

For a little change of pace, I am actually writing about my latest adventure after the fact instead of my normal running commentary.  I just did so much that there simply wasn’t enough time to collect my thoughts and write at the end of each day.

But I get slightly ahead of myself.  For the past 10 days I have been enjoying the great country of Ireland.  I took part in Moostash Joe’s From Ireland’s Ancient East to the Wild Atlantic Way tour in conjunction with Globus Journeys.  Man, it was a blast!  This is a tour for anybody who wishes to experience the beauty and the mystery of Ireland.

As usual, the first day was nothing but travel, travel, travel.

Using Delta Airlines, I flew to Atlanta, GA for a 5 hour layover which I utilized in getting a bite to eat and getting a good exchange rate at TravelEx for my Euros.  Combining my money with my parents (who also joined me on this adventure) got us some pretty good bang for our buck as it reduced the service charge and netted us a better rate of exchange.  We also took part in a special where an extra $5 not only saved us more service charges when we changed the money back to dollars, but also guaranteed the best rate of exchange.

About 8pm we boarded the plane and began our journey to the Emerald Isle.  It was a very comfortable flight which a powerful tail wind that sliced an hour off our travel meaning only 5 hours on the plane.  Delta Airlines also had an amazingly good film library which I made full use of on the trip and had a quite tasty hot chicken dinner.

Before I knew it, we were landing in Dublin and the first thing I noticed was just how green it was.  That may sound a little cliché, but it was just green, lush, and beautiful.  I just may retire to this country due to its temperance (it never gets very hot or cold) and the fact that I could do a bed and breakfast review every day for the rest of my life.  They are everywhere!

Due to the time change, it felt like the middle of the night for our travel group, but the day was just getting started in Ireland.  Apparently, everyone on the planet decided to land in Ireland at the crack of doom because it took over an hour to go through customs.  But we finally got through, collected our bags, and met our Tour Director, Bill, and our driver, Yarrick, who loaded us into our motorcoach to drive us to our first hotel, the Clayton—Cardiff Lane.

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Clayton Hotel–Cardiff Lane

Since we arrived so early, our rooms were unavailable so our dog-tired group could do little except walk around the town a bit or sit in the lounge on the first floor.  Dad managed to find a nearby Catholic church so he, Mom, and I dragged ourselves over to St Andrew’s to attend services.

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St Andrew’s

The church (as many are in Ireland) was very beautiful and ancient.  As cool as it was to attend a service in another country, it was also the oddest service I’ve ever attended.  Being so fogged with exhaustion made it hard to focus on the service which was only exacerbated by the fact that I could not understand the priest due to the poor acoustics of the archaic structure.  There also didn’t seem to be much sense of community as every person attending the service prayed at their own rate of speed, leading my mother to wonder if this was actually a proper Roman Catholic church (it was).

Still, it was an experience to remember.  Afterwards, we dragged ourselves back to the Clayton where we grabbed a light meal in the lounge.  I had a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and nibbled on some of Dad’s chips (the European word for French fries).  As I ate, I looked around the lounge and saw our weary fellow travelers falling asleep on chairs and at tables.

About 3pm, we were finally able to get into our rooms where we all passed out for a nap.  Feeling somewhat refreshed after a few hours of rest, I cleaned up for the welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant, Stir.

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Dinner was wonderful.  I enjoyed a delicious barley risotto with mushrooms and wild rice and a true Guinness.  The Guinness served in America has nothing on the real thing.

When dinner was done, we all returned to our rooms for a night’s sleep to begin the tour proper in the morning.

An Independent Man in Independence, MO: The Silver Heart Inn

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It was a scorching summer’s day to start another of my little road trips.  But a little AC and some tunes made for a very quick and pleasant drive.

I was off to Independence, MO where I would be staying at the Silver Heart Inn, owned and operated by Perry and Melanie Johnson, as well as reviewing The Crucible for the Barn Players.

I only made one miscalculation for the trip.  With only an overnight stay planned, I had to be selective in the activities I chose to do.  I decided to visit the Truman Presidential Museum and Library and figured an hour would be enough time to get through it.

It was not enough time.

I did manage to get through Truman’s presidential years, but did not make it through the section detailing his personal life.  Rest assured, I will rectify this error if and when my travels bring me through this area again.

Truman was a very interesting President.  He was a common man who came from a period where you didn’t have to be wealthy to run for the Presidency.  He was a simple farmer who had deep ties to labor.  He wasn’t a good speaker.  He was put into power by a political machine, yet he was a incredibly honest man who vowed to get things done the right way.  Despite holding the prejudices of his time and place, Truman helped launch the Civil Rights movement after observing the horrible treatment of black people after World War II.  He made the decision to drop the atomic bomb.  Truman also had the biggest upset in political history when he was reelected to the Presidency in his own right when it was believed he would be crushed by his opponent, Thomas Dewey.  This was due to his Whistlestop Campaign where he rode a train through numerous communities to share his message, sometimes speaking at a dozen stops a day.

What I found most interesting about Truman was that he seemed to have no aspirations to be President.  It was his everyman quality (especially his ties to farming and labor) that secured his nomination for the Vice Presidency.  In reality, the Democrats were really looking for the next President as it was obvious FDR would not be long for the world.  In fact, he died shortly after he was reelected to his fourth term.

I also had great respect for Truman’s decency.  When his term of office expired, he was not a wealthy man and could have earned fat fees doing public speaking tours, but he refused to trade on the office of President.  Instead, he founded the Presidential Library which was the first in our country and I look forward to completing my tour of the museum some future day.

About 3pm, I headed to Silver Heart Inn to check in.  I pulled into the parking area, sidestepped a few chickens wandering about the property, and headed to the back door entrance where I was quickly greeted and led to my room.

I had been expecting to stay in the Roy Gamble Room, but was upgraded to the Napolian Stone Room instead.  It was one of the smaller rooms I had stayed in, but I enjoyed the rich brown of the walls, the soft and comfortable queen bed, and the gas fireplace.  I made my normal explorations and then killed a couple of hours reading Face to Face by Ellery Queen and brushing up on Silver Heart Inn’s history.

The Silver Heart Inn was built 1856 by local businessman, Napolian Stone.  The house used to be twice its original size and originally built in a T formation.  That changed when Judge George Jennings, the house’s owner in 1923 had the house split in half and moved to the same side of the street.  This was done as Jennings recognized that Noland Street (where the home is located) was becoming Independence’s main thoroughfare.  The inn, itself, was the back wing of the house.  The front wing fell into disrepair and was destroyed in the 1960s.

At 5pm, I headed off for an early dinner.  I once again dined at Corner Café, which you may remember from my trip to Liberty, MO about a year ago.

The restaurant was packed so I took advantage of my solo status to dine at the counter.  I ordered the Turkey Melt, one of the house specials, with a side of loaded French Fries.  Within five minutes of my hour, a plate of piping hot food appeared which I relished as I continued to read my novel.

Once fed, I drove to Mission, KS to enjoy another stellar production by the Barn Players.  It was one of the finest dramas I had ever watched and I could not wait to get back to the inn to start writing.  You can read the review here.

After I finished writing, I curled up in my bed for a restful night’s slumber.

When I awoke the next morning, I drew a hot bath and enjoyed a long soak before wandering downstairs in search of breakfast.

Breakfast was a rather pleasant, if quiet, affair.  I continued reading my mystery as I enjoyed a dish of yogurt, blueberries, granola, and cream for an appetizer followed by the main entrée of turkey sausage (I think) and an Eggs Benedict omelet served with goblets of water and orange juice.  After this tasty affair, I settled up my bill and headed off to worship services at St Mark’s before heading for home.

I definitely would recommend a stay at Silver Heart Inn if you find yourself in the Independence area.  It’s quiet and comfortable and you’ll get yourself a tasty meal (and some other perks offered by the inn if you’re so inclined).  You’ll just be minutes away from the Truman Museum and can’t pick up a little history if you wish.

Until the next time, happy travels.

Scenic South Dakota: Sioux Falls & Steever House

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Steever House

It was one of those weekends where everything falls into place.  I’m just finishing up a stay at the Steever House in Lennox, SD and my only regret is that I can’t stay for an extra day or two.

But let’s start at the beginning.

It was an absolutely perfect spring day for one of my jaunts.  The sun was bright.  There wasn’t a cloud to be seen.  And the temperature was, mmm, just right.

I hopped into my car and began the drive to the Sioux Falls area of South Dakota where I would be staying at Steever House as well as reviewing Jesus Christ Superstar for the Sioux Empire Community Theatre.

The drive was great and it was nice to enjoy some new scenery as I headed north to South Dakota.  Once I crossed the border into the state, I admit I did a double take when I saw the 80mph speed limit.  Maybe I’ll try the max speed on the empty Sunday roads, but not being used to that type of speed, I kept things to about 75mph.

I arrived in town about 12:30pm.  Regrettably, I was only doing an overnight so I didn’t have the normal time that I usually allow my explorations.  But if I were going to do one thing, it had to be a visit to the town’s namesake falls.  So off I went to Falls City Park.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in a park in my life.  As a testament to the absolutely gorgeous day, families galore were having picnics, exploring the Sioux Falls, riding bikes, and meandering.  Heck, a group was even taking wedding photos there.

The Sioux Falls once powered a hydroelectric plant for the city and you can actually take a self-guided walking tour full of informative tidbits about the falls’ past including the remains of the first hydroelectric plant and mill.

The falls themselves were quite the sight and I found myself mesmerized by the beautiful waterfalls and even saw salmon trying to swim upstream for the first time.  The day was so pleasant that I took a nice shady spot under a tree to catch up on my reading.

About 2:15, I headed over to the small town of Lennox to check into Steever House, owned and operated by John & Sara Steever.  This lovely home is certain to trigger relaxation as it is on a secluded piece of property about ten miles outside of Sioux Falls.

As I pulled into the driveway, I was greeted by John who introduced me to his wife Sara.  He led me to the Dakota Suite, the inn’s newest room and my base of operations for the night.  This is the biggest room I’ve ever had at a B&B and I instantly felt calmer with the room’s soft blue walls and carpeting.  It consisted of a massive bedroom/living room area with a comfortable king sized bed and a couple of plush leather easy chairs set in front a fireplace.  I also had a sitting room and a ginormous bathroom with a whirlpool bathtub.

I had an early dinner reservation so I organized my belongings and drew a bath.  The tub was actually a “smart” tub with a little computer panel to activate the jets and even warm up the water (so I assume as I saw the temperature go up a few degrees during my bath).  I rested my head on the bath pillow and let the jets work their magic.  There was a set of jets shooting water into the small of my back and it felt like a massage therapist knuckling the area.  I could have sat there for an hour or more having the area kneaded.

But since I didn’t have an hour or more, I lingered for as long as I could then got into my suit for dinner and a night of theatre.

I had made dinner reservations at Carnaval Brazilian Grill and, trust me, if you’re in the area, you need to eat here.  Reservations are highly recommended as the place was packed when I got there and it was only 5pm.  Thanks to my reservation, I was immediately led to my table where I ordered a Brazilian cream soda and the famed Rodizio meal.

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Carnaval Brazilian Grill

Brazilian steakhouses are fun because it’s almost like a buffet.  Instead of ordering a standard meal, you get to visit a hot and cold salad bar plus waiters will bring skewers of meat to your table so you can have as much or as little as you want.

This was probably the most in depth and impressive salad bar I have seen with gourmet style vegetables such as champagne soaked onions.  I whipped up a little plate of spinach salad topped with onions, fresh jalapenos, bacon bits, and ranch dressing along with a spoonful of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and caviar medley.

I returned to my table to enjoy my salad, then flipped my tower for the meats.  Brazilian steakhouses give you a disc (or a tower in my case) that is green on one side and red on the other.  When you want some meat, you turn it to green so the waiters will stop by with their skewers and flip it to red when you want a break.  Over the next 90 minutes, I had a sampling of top sirloin, lamb, glazed barbecue pork, and a signature beef marinated in Carnival’s homemade marinade.  That last was the tastiest dish.  I also tasted grilled pineapple basted in cinnamon which was amazing.  Coming from me, that’s something as pineapple is one of the few foods that I genuinely dislike.

I realized I had made a wise choice in having an early dinner as I exited.  Where the restaurant had been packed before, it was now overflowing and spilling out the doors.

From there I hopped into my car and made my way to the downtown area of Sioux Falls which is quite reminiscent of the Old Market area of my hometown of Omaha, NE right down to the lack of parking.  I easily found the Sioux Empire Community Theatre and you are permitted to use most of the empty business parking lots in the area which one-ups Omaha since you now have to pay at the Old Market parking meters during the weekend.

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Sioux Empire Community Theatre

This was one of the best nights of theatre I have experienced.  The theatre is beautiful and it was a sensational production.  You can read my review here.  I even had the pleasure of meeting the theatre’s artistic director Patrick Pope and the show’s director, Eric Parrish.  Patrick told me I’d be welcome back at the theatre any time so I look forward to reviewing more shows at this little jewel.

Then it was back to Steever House for a little writing and a most restful night’s sleep on my bed’s soft mattress.

I felt fully refreshed when I awoke the next morning and went downstairs to enjoy a tasty meal of fruit, granola and yogurt, ham, Dutch baby, and baked apples.  I also had a pleasant conversation with the Steevers and another couple staying at the inn.

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But now it’s back to reality.  But if you’re in the Sioux Falls area, stay a night at Steever House.  It’s comfortable, secluded, quiet, and the hospitality can’t be beat.

Until the next time, happy travels.

Cotton Patch Really Redux, Days 3-4: Historical Jaunts

When I awoke in the morning, I was ready for some more of Norma’s fine home cooking.  Today’s morning repast was a dish of oranges, blueberries, and strawberries, French Toast, bacon, and scrambled eggs.  Once again I enjoyed a blissful breakfast while continuing to read my Sherlock Holmes mystery and keeping myself up to date with the daily news.

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I was dedicating today to the exploration of several historic sites around the area.  The first two were in or just outside of Petersburg and they were the grave of Ann Rutledge at Oakland Cemetery and Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site.

Ann Rutledge is widely considered to be the first love of Abraham Lincoln.  Nobody is entirely certain of the extent of their relationship.  What is known is that Lincoln was devastated after her death.  So hard did he take it that a friend of his took away his pocketknife because he was afraid Lincoln would hurt himself.

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Ann Rutledge’s Tombstone

Lincoln had lived in New Salem for about six years.  It was considered a turning point in his life because he was a little lost when he first arrived, but discovered his calling to politics while in this town.  When he left town to pursue this calling, the town folded up shortly afterwards.  It was almost as if it had come into existence solely to inspire the future president.

The site is not without some features of interest with an exhibit hall that tells of Lincoln’s time in New Salem and holding some of his surveying equipment, but the village is a pretty good reproduction of the actual town and a few of the buildings are original.  Still I thought the site lacked a certain oomph and I quickly made my way through it.

From there, I returned to Springfield where I visited the Dana-Thomas House, a construction of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright designed the house for Susan Lawrence Dana.  She had been the daughter of the mayor of Springfield and when her father and husband perished in rapid succession, she opted to use her $3 million inheritance (modern day equivalent nearly $80 million) to have the family home completely redesigned.  She wanted a place that could serve as a home, a place for the arts, and a place for entertaining people.

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Dana-Thomas House

The house is actually a marvel in architecture, but I was disappointed that pictures inside the house were disallowed.  It featured stain glass windows with a butterfly motif, murals with a sumac motif, a bowling alley, a ballroom, an intercom system, and even a doorbell alert system due to the numerous doors of the estate.  It is free (donations encouraged) and certainly worth a look around.

Afterwards I visited the tomb of one of the greatest men in the history of our country (possibly even in general history).  The mausoleum is certainly an awesome sight.  In front is a giant bust of Lincoln and people often touch its nose for good luck.  The path to the tomb is peppered with statues of Lincoln along with various quotations of his.  His tombstone is massive and there was a certain weightiness to knowing that the man who saved our country lay 10 feet under my feet.  Across from Lincoln’s tombstone lay the remains of Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their sons.  The fourth is buried in Arlington, VA at the request of his wife.

I certainly felt humbled as I left the tomb and returned to Branson House to begin writing my articles.  At 4:10 it was time for church.

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St Peter Catholic Church

I attended services at St Peter Catholic Church and went through a rather speedy service (it was finished in 40 minutes and that included a full contingent of hymns).  Even with the quicker than normal service, I did get a rather fascinating sermon from either a deacon or a visiting priest.  It was a very humble homily talking about how nobodies are still somebodies in the eyes of God.  The speaker was quite honest about feeling like a nobody in his youth until he realized the simple truth.

When services ended, I decided to eat dinner.  I was weary after the multiple round trip visits to Springfield and decided to eat in town.  I visited Los Rancheros which proved to be an excellent choice.  I chose the Rancheros Burrito which came with a side of Spanish rice and refried beans.

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With another relaxing meal under my belt, I decided tonight would be a good night to write, organize photos, and just put my feet up in general.  And I did just that before calling it a night.

After a hot shower and shave, the next morning, I was greeted with a breakfast of cinnamon rolls, oranges and cream, and egg bake filled with cheese, sausages, and onions.  I ended up having a great conversation with John about my adventures and he gave me a little history on the town.

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Alas, the time had come for me to head for home.  But if you’re in the neighborhood, give Branson House Bed and Breakfast a visit.  It’s nice and comfortable in a quiet little town and you can experience a lot of history in the area, especially in Springfield.

Until the next time, happy travels.