Back in the USA

We have spent the past month in Pennsylvania. It took us several days to feel ourselves our being away for two months. After we caught up on our sleep and replenished our refrigerator, we were ready to get back to normal.

We have been doing some volunteering at the local soup kitchen which we all enjoy. Marcus and Cali have spent time with their grandmas. They had fun with their cousins and Aunt Janie and Uncle DJ. Marc, Marcus went to Ohio fishing with Grammy Carol and Grandpa Eddie. Cali spent a few days crafting with Grammy Red. We visited Uncle Sean and Aunt Linda. We went to Sight and Sound and Shady Maple Smorgasbord in Lancaster. Marcus and Cali helped work in the garden. Marc replaced the injectors in our bus and worked on his motorcycle. I had lunch with cousins and helped my friend Denise at her barn. Cali got her ears pierced. We met up with our friends, the Cappettas. It was a great month. Now we are headed to Maine for a few weeks with our traveling friends.

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Six Years

Six years ago today we left my moms driveway in Tunkhannock and began traveling. Today we thank God for all he has provided us; the time we have spent with family and friends, the sights we have seen, and the people we have met along the way. Our travels have looked different over the years; visiting the state capitals, learning about our country, volunteering. We really never know where God will lead us. We just know He will be there with us.

Over the last year we have moved to a new to us 1983 bus, spent time in Mexico and traveled in Canada for a month. Along the way we have faced challenges, but are stronger having faced them.

That leads us to where we are today….right back in that driveway where we started. Since leaving Pennsylvania in the fall, we have been planning for our next chapter. In about 10 days we leave for Europe. We will be there for two months, part of the time in a small RV. Marcus and Cali are on their third year of world history and are eager to see first hand what they have been learning about.

If you would like to follow our blog about our European travels follow us at http://www.perrysineurope.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/europe-here-we-come/

Biltmore III

This is a continuation of our aforementioned trips to Biltmore House. On our third trip up (or geographically down) to the Estate, we held reservations for a lunch buffet at the Deer Park restaurant. Our chauffeur (know to us as Dad) had us right on time. If you’re not typically a fan of buffets, go to this one. Fancier than most, we ate until we couldn’t move. I didn’t eat again until lunch the next day. After completing the meal, we continued on the house. We didn’t have much left to see, having been two previous times, and already have taken the audio tour. We did the walk through for the third time and looked at all the Christmas decorations. With not much left inside to explore, we drove down to the picturesque man-made fishing pond, hopping to get moving after our filling lunch.
We wandered around, enjoying the landscaping and greenery. As I said before, the lawns were designed by the creator of Central Park in New York, so they are both similar in many ways. The rose gardens weren’t really in bloom, ’cause it was rather fall-ish (is that an okay way to describe it?). I’m sure if we visited in spring or summer, we would have spent double the time we did exploring the nature and gardens on the Estate. If it was winter we would have spent half the time we did (us Floridians are such wimps when it comes to cold weather).

Well, for us, visiting checked one more thing off the list of Places to Go. Now we only have that list that’s, oh, maybe 4 feet long of places to go.

Cali

Biltmore II

Alright, you’ve heard about the history of Biltmore, and most of the rooms I’ve written about. Now on to the ones we were unable to visit last time because of the crowds, and some more facts now that we’ve taken the Audio Tour.
Walking up to the house never ceases to amaze people. You always have to take a moment (and maybe a selfie, if your THAT person), to enjoy the grandeur of the palatial place. But hey, on the second time, you really don’t need more photos than the two hundred you took last time. Let’s keep walking.
On to the small shack to the right of the entrance, we got our time slot and tickets for the audio tour. To kill time, go to the Carriage House gift shop and sample all good things they have for sale.
Entering the house, we picked up our audio devices and headed to the rooms we missed first time around. To be completely honest, the Great Hall didn’t have a large wow-factor for me. I was kinda like “Oh, another too large room.”
Maybe it was just hard for me to get the full-scale of how big it was. Back in the good old days of us touring capitols, I became a veteran of large grand spaces with lots of lavish decoration.
The dining room was next, and to me it was very dark and foreboding. Part of that was probably to protect the priceless Rembrandt and other famous paintings, but I feel like it was a  little too dark. Walking into the next room is kind of like stepping into the sun. Based off of Turkish design, there were lots of bright colors. On the wall there was a very famous engraving by Albret Durer. That small rhino print wasn’t the only Durer in the house. In fact, he had a whole music room filled with his work. Back when they were restoring the house, they found a fireplace mantle covered in hay in the carriage house. The hauled the several ton marble block into the room where it now sits. Carved on either side is an A (left) and a D (right). In the middle is a date. It is thought the mantle was carved by Durer himself, but they have no records on how George Vanderbilt could have come across it. I just love mysteries, don’t you?
Well, that is the end of the previously unseen to us rooms.
The famous artwork gave us more appreciation for Vanderbilt’s efforts to keep art preserved and in his collection.

Cali

The Biltmore House and Estate I

Mr. and Mrs. George Vanderbilt were big spenders. At least that’s the conclusion I draw when I look at their houses, the furnishings in the houses, even the portraits of them that hang on the walls in the house. They look like regal, rich, high-class people. Which is exactly what they were. How did they get the money? Georgie inherited it all from his super-rich grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt. He was the richest American until his death in 1877. All his money was made on the railroads. He split the money between his children. That generation pretty much doubled the money their father had made, especially Cornelius’s oldest son William Henry Vanderbilt. William’s son, Cornelius Vanderbilt II was the next “Head of House”. Now the grandkids spent it. Cornelius II’s younger brother was the owner of Biltmore. Most all of the extremely large mansions in America were built by the Vanderbilt family. Biltmore is just one example. We’ve seen others like The Breakers, in Newport, RI (see our experience here), and the Vanderbilt Mansion in New York state (and this one here).
Enough about the family. If you want to know more, Google it. So lets talk about the house.
THE HISTORY:
The project started in 1889, and 6 years later was completed and opened on Christmas day of 1895. Can you imagine being a guest at the grand opening? Nothing like this house had been seen before. Edith, George’s wife, loved to entertain, and this house was built just for that. To wow people.
In 1899, their only child, Cornelia, was born. I imagine her name was a tribute to her Great-Grandfather. Her mother and father took her all over the world as a child. When they left her home, she had plenty of people to look after her. Sadly, in 1914, George died in surgery. Edith was left with a teenage daughter and a huge estate to manage. She did it though. When Cornelia married John Frances Amhearst Cicel, a British diplomat, Edith walked her down the isle in place of her father. The guest list contained some pretty influential names, such as Astor, Pulitzer, Rockefeller, Churchill, Warton, Roosevelt, Taft, and Coolidge. Cornelia wore a veil worn by her mother, and her mother’s three sisters. The veil was originally worn by the Grandmother. All the females in the family wear the veil when they marry, even the most recent this last spring/summer. It is currently 114 years old, and 7 or 8 generations in the female line has worn it at her wedding. Cornelia and her husband moved into Biltmore, where they had their two sons. After Cornelia and John divorced in 1934, John stayed in the Bachelor’s wing of Biltmore until his death in 1954. Cornelia never returned to the estate. When she died, her sons, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil and William A. V. Cecil Sr., continued to keep the house open to tourists, as it had been since the 1930’s, when there mother had lived there. When both brothers had died, William A. V. Cecil Jr. took over and turned it into a major tourist destination. He ran it up until his recent death.
THE ARCHITECTURE:
The house is designed by Richard Morris Hunt, one of the leading architects of his time. He had worked with the Vanderbilt family before, on other mansions. The gardens and grounds were done by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also did Central Park, in New York City. Biltmore, he considered his last great project before his death. These two, plus Vanderbilt were a good team, and each had respect for the others. Together, they created one of the most notable houses in history.
Most of Biltmore was based off foreign architecture, from France, Italy and Greece. The mansion is full of famous artwork. Many of the uncompleted rooms were used to store incredibly popular paintings. I’ll let Marc tell a bit of what he liked.
“My favorite room is the library, ’cause it’s full of books and had very interesting architecture. It had a humgo black marble fireplace on one side of the room. I would describe the outside Gothic Chateau, which I a style I find interesting, one of my favorite styles. I like Gothic in general, because of all the spires and attention to detail, with all the small but very ornate statues perched around the outside. I find the style mysterious and dark. The one word I’d use to describe Biltmore is immense.”
Large, is one word I would use. At 178,92 square feet, it is one of the biggest privately owned properties in the world.
Now, on to our experience at Biltmore. We purchased season tickets, because that was the cheaper way for us to go. We went on Saturday, and it was incredibly busy. It took us 2 hours to make our way through the house, and we skipped the first floor, all except the Tapestry Hall and the Library. We didn’t go to the Great Hall, Music Room or any of that, knowing that we’d be back. The spiral staircase going up stairs was wonderfully big. I don’t even know how many Christmas trees there were. Wow. I just looked it up. In 2013 they put up 56 Christmas trees around the house, including a 35-foot tree in the Great Hall. On the property, at Antler Hill Village, the hotel, restaurants, and everything, there are 58 additional trees. In the house, 30,000 lights light up the trees and house, mixed with 150 candles. I know that there was a least one tree in every room we saw, and most of them had two to four.
Because its fall, the gardens weren’t all that impressive, but the conservatory was pretty amazing, and I’m pretty sure I went over board with photos of the flowers. Mostly just poinsettia and orchids, but still, it smelled like summer.
After completing our inspection of the mansion, we headed to Antler Hill Village, to learn more about the Vanderbilt family. They had a display on the weddings in the Vanderbilt family. William A. V. Cecil Sr., George’s Grandson, married Mary Lee Ryan, cousin to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, who married J. F. Kennedy. The cousins were both married in their Grandmother’s wedding dress.

We ended our trip after peaking in some of the village shops.
In all, I think we enjoyed the trip a lot. Of course we are planning to go back at least once, maybe more. Next time we are paying the extra 11 dollars each for the audio tour.
Thanks for sticking with me through the long post!
-Cali

October 2017 in Pennsylvania

After being in Pennsylvania for  a month, we have gotten on the road again, headed down south to follow the warm weather. But I do believe I left you after Canada, right? It didn’t take long to get from Canada to Pennsylvania, because we only made a few Wal-mart overnight stops. One night, or I guess two, we spent in a campground to see the Henry Ford museum. There we also had issues with the bus. I couldn’t tell you exactly what went wrong, but we were delayed from going into Pittsburgh. We ended up spend the whole day in 90 degree weather and Dad spent all of the time underneath the bus. We only got to the nearest Wal-mart, where we spent the night, and headed on to Pittsburgh early the next morning. That day was spent with Aunt Kelly, mom’s friend,  hanging out. The next morning, we chilled in the Wal-mart parking lot and before noon went on to Gettysburg, PA, near our family.

After ten days at the campground, we spent a month parked across the street from Grandma Carol’s house. We spent time with Grammy Carol and Grammy Red.  Now we are with Sams and Windy, family friends, parked next to their house.

The bus, on the whole, stood up to the journey okay. We had some problems, and fingers crossed we won’t have to fix anything major before Florida. Our plans are to stay in a Thousand Trail campground near Winston-Salem, North Carolina for 3 weeks, to maybe visit friend and to definitely spend time with our Uncle Bill and Aunt Krysta, who live down there.

Thanks for reading
-Cali

Poutine

This is officially our first post all about food! That is quite surprising, because we do like our food. We try and get some popular local food wherever we stop. When we entered Canada, the one food that was widely popular was Poutine. If you don’t know, poutine is a dish made of thin cut potatoes, like french fries, topped with cheese curd, or some kind of cheese. Poured over it is a gravy of some type.

First stop, DQ (a.k.a. Dairy Queen)

Restaurant: Dairy Queen

Price: $5.69

Review: Served in a small round bowl, the fries were okay, the cheese was okay, the gravy was beef, and was also okay. It was probably the okay-ist poutine. Really, it wasn’t amazing, blow your mind good. It was okay. That is the best way I can describe it.

Restaurant: Costco

Price: $4.69

Review: It was HUGE. I mean, our friends warned us it was big, but it was larger than we thought. I must say, it was our least favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, just not as good as the rest. The fries were thick and not crunchy. They gravy was beef, and heavy. Sure it was flavourful, if you’re into that. The cheese curds were large, and very good. They, I think, were the best part.

Restaurant: Humpty’s

Price: $7.50

Review: Before I tell you how it was, let me note that Humpty’s is a sit down, diner type restaurant, not fast food, as with the rest. It was yummy, and the gravy was homemade, so that made it extra great. And topping is wasn’t cheese curd, as is typical, but shredded mozzarella cheese. It was a good idea, and if you didn’t have cheese curds, it is a good substitute. Over all, I think Humpty’s was my second favorite.

Restaurant: McDonald’s

Price: $4.38

Review: Normally, I criticize McDonald’s, because they are the most popular chain restaurant, with the worst food. But the poutine they have IS THE BEST I’VE HAD. It’s probably due to the fact that I love their fries. And maybe because the gravy was chicken, instead of beef like the rest. Really, it was delicious. Everyone (Mom and Dad, because Marc won’t eat it) thought it was the best.

Maybe if we had gone to more than four restaurants and rated them, we’d have a different review, but we didn’t. And now, poutine is one of my favorite foods!

-Cali