Boo to You!

After a bit of a rest, we met up again with Sam and Ashley for the Mickey’s Not-So Scary Halloween Party. Now we finally have photographic proof that these two people exist!


See, they’re not like a “girlfriend from Canada”. They’re real!

The Magic kingdom was all decked out in fall colors. It looked wonderful, but truth be told, I’m still looking forward to seeing the place in it’s normal state sometime again.


Bunting galore.

The Halloween party is a ticketed event which officially runs from 7:00pm to midnight. Day guests are kindly shuffled out of the park right at 7:00. Guests of the party can, however, enter the park as early as four o’clock. It makes a good bit of sense that if you lay out the money on the party you should spend the morning and afternoon doing things outside of the parks, like hanging at your resort or Disney Springs for example, and then head to the party early. That way you still get eight hours of park time without using up a regular day ticket. This party was a gift to us from our dear friends, so we still went to Animal Kingdom for the morning anyway. Do as I say, not as I do, kids.

Party goers were ushered to the right to a “back stage” area where we received our “trick or Treat” bags and our first stash of candy.


Why, thank you.


These stanchions are dotted around the park letting you know where to get more candy loot.


Cute statuary lined the backstage entrance.

Ashley and Sam are party veterans, so we just let them take the lead for what to do and at what times. While most attractions are open all night, they knew that the Carousel of Progress was not, so we hustled on over to Tomorrowland to take that in first.


Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland

I hadn’t visited the Carousel of Progress in several trips so I was nostalgic to see it again. Unfortunately, there was a crying infant in the theater that wailed the whole time. I felt bad for the mom but I was also a little annoyed because the baby was crying waaaay before the show was set to start, so she had ample opportunity to exit and try again later. End of whining.


Bee costume family on point.

You may recall that earlier in the day, coasters presented themselves as a problem for Jeff.  Fantasyland debuted a new mine train coaster since our last visit that I was excited to try. Now I was thinking of skipping it. Ashley was kind enough to sacrifice one of their Fastpasses to me so I could give it a test run.


Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

This attraction is the centerpiece of the “New Fantasyland” area of Magic Kingdom. We had seen most of the rock work and landscaping on our last visit, it just wasn’t up and running yet.


Beautifully Landscaped. Probably fake, but pretty!


Snow White’s Cottage

This attraction is a perfect addition to Magic Kingdom. It’s a combination of a train coaster, which is fun, while also being super-smooth and not too extreme, along with a perfectly executed “dark ride” portion. The animatronics here utilize the most up to date technology. I felt like it would be a go for Jeff. We’ll see.

We took a stroll on over to Liberty Square to visit the Haunted Mansion, cause you have to during the Halloween party, plus it’s awesome.


Took this gem on the way. Gorgeous!


He wasn’t confident we’d make it out.

Right away we could see that cast members are specifically chosen to work the party. Along with their make-up being extra creepy, the acting was far beyond the usual schpeel. Right as we rounded the corner one cadaverous looking butler popped out and scared the tar out of Ashley!



We caught ourselves some dinner at nearby Columbia Harbor House. It was just fine. I had a lobster Roll and Jeff panic ordered Mac ‘n Cheese with shrimp. It was all just ok. It was fuel for the evening. Sorry, no pics.


A brief respite at the Tangled Toilets. So pretty at night.

There are four main elements of the Halloween Party: special fireworks, the Boo to You Parade, rare character meet and greets  and lastly, trick or treating. I was very excited about the former two, but the latter, not my things. Neither of us are much into candy, so spending time wandering down treat trails wasn’t for us. While I like the characters, collecting pictures isn’t really important to me. I liken this  to collecting baseball trading cards. For some Disney folks, getting a photo with Snow White and ALL Seven Dwarfs is akin to scoring a Babe Ruth rookie card. I may be exaggerating a bit, but it is a conquest!

So this is where we parted ways with Ashley and Sam. We handed off our treat bags so that they could load up with double candy and we made plans to meet up later for the fireworks. Here’s where someone like myself can still rock the party despite not digging major elements of it.  While everyone else is collecting candy and pictures we were getting in (almost) all the attractions we wanted with no waiting!

Our first stop is one that never really has any waits but we love it so we popped in. I’ve given you a play by play of this one before. You remember, right?


The Head Mouse.




Dude, the party is just getting started.

We strolled around without too much purpose whilst I snapped some artsy type pictures that I think turned out super okay.


The Carousel




Backlit Cinderelly.


We passed the Meet and Great for Jack and Sally. Our friends waited two hours to meet them!

We have now reached one of my favorite attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean. This and Haunted Mansion are tied for first, I think.


Five minutes means that’s how long it’s going to take you to walk to the dang boat.


I put in a bid for the Red Head.

I don’t remember where it was, but I had read or heard that in the Pirate’s gift shop you could buy the key ring from the infamous last scene in the attraction. I don’t collect any “Mickey” type souvenirs. I do however have a modest collection of vintage Disneyland attraction poster reproductions.


They’re pretty cool, right?

Yes, they’re Disney but really they are art. I heart them so much. Anyhoo, I thought having this key ring hanging nearby the Pirate’s of the Caribbean poster would be subtle, yet trés cool.


I found them!

These were substantial yet not really expensive at all. I was psyched. Then, Jeff voiced a concern. It bothered him beyond reason that there are THREE keys on the ring when the scene with the dog clearly shows just ONE key.

NO ESCAPE -- In one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction's most memorable scenes, a dog holds the keys - and the futures of some undesirables - in his mouth. This classic moment was recreated in Walt Disney Pictures' "Pirates of the Caribbean:The Curse of the Black Pearl."

Exhibit A

While I must admit he had a point, it didn’t upset me…at all. He, however claimed that he’d be wrenching that ring open when we get home to remove those two extra keys. Upon doing a a bit of research I discovered that the “prison dog” shows up in the Curse of the Black Pearl movie with his key ring and….three keys!


If it pleases the court, Exhibit B.

So, this gives the three key premise some legitimacy. On the other hand, I bought them because of the classic ride. What to do? We’re awaiting a decision.

Next we sauntered into another classic Disney attraction, Peter Pan’s Fight. We hadn’t been on this together since our honeymoon. Awww…


A map of Neverland in the queue.

Jeff had no recollection. It was still burned into my squishy Disney heart after all these years.  This is an attraction that rarely has a wait under 60 minutes. We waited maybe 15 minutes all the while winding through a new, delightful queue bringing you through London and then into the Darlings’ house. You’re sprinkled with Pixie Dust and them… off you go!

When made our way back to Tomorrowland to take a turn on the People Mover.


Oh, Tomorrowland. You look so much more beautiful at night.

The People mover is a perfect place to put your feet up and relax for approximately twelve minutes.



We had a bit of time left before we would be meeting back up the Sam and Ashley. Normally, when there’s time to kill, the Mr. and I would go for a drink, as you do. This being a *dry park it left us without that option.  What to do but get our selves an ice cream?


Plaza Ice Cream Parlor

I had an extensive list of things to try and do that was seriously crossed off on this trip. The “All American Sundae” was one of them.


What’s more American than peanut butter and chocolate? Nothing.

Sam collected us from the Plaza and lead us over to the primo spot he and Ashley staked out for the fireworks.


Dead Center

First, we watched the Celebrate the Magic castle show. This is a show that is projection mapped onto the castle that it so impressive. I may have teared up. Next, the Hallowishes fireworks. These were just fantastic. We took a few pictures, but unless you are a pro photographer it just looks like meh. Trust me, they were astonishing! Or, if you don’t trust me watch them HERE.



Next up was the Boo to You parade. Sam had designs on his usual spot in Frontierland but that was full up. We headed to the hub and found a perfectly situated spot which looked right down Main Street from the hub.


Eerie lighting down Main Street.

The parade starts with the Headless Horseman galloping down the street. Unless you have that pro photog with you, this one’s a blur too.


There he goes!

The parade was great. Intricately themed floats, catchy music and TONS of dancers.


Captain Hook’s Ship.



These “Grave Diggers” drag their shovels across the pavement making sparks.


The waltzers from the Haunted Mansion come to life…or death.


Just like that, it’s the last float.

We all had designs on heading back into the park, but we were too exhausted. We were so tired that dealing with this seemed like a better idea:


Hey, everyone! Let’s go home.



I really enjoyed our time at MNSSHP. While it’s not something I would normally do, it was quite enjoyable. The mood of the party goers was lively and fun. We got to see the park lit up in a whole different way and we experienced the best fireworks display ever. That’s not debatable. It is the best.

We would be saying our goodbyes to our friends this night. Getting to spend time with these two wonderful people was by far the best part of our trip. Disney has been a joy for me for many years, but the connection I’ve made with Ashley has been the most treasured gift.


Happy Halloween!

Next up: Can we actually eat and drink around the world???

Posted in U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Warm Heart of Africa

Today will be our first day in the parks. I was planning on going to the Magic Kingdom, but then Ashley and Sam offered to treat us to the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (yes, that’s the official name) that evening, so I decided to break things up and hit the Animal Kingdom in the morning.


Animal Kingdom: Not a zoo.

First thing, we ran into DeVine. She’s a sort of stilt-walking art piece that ever so slowly skulks around, creeping out guests. The performer does a wonderful job contorting her body into peculiar formations so that you don’t really know what you’re looking at. Her costume, however, is just silly. She’s covered in vines (sure, that works) and grapes! I’m no vintner, but I don’t believe there are any grapes growing in the dense tropical jungles.


DeVine doing her thing…


Scaring the snot out of children.

There are opportunities for close up animal interactions all around the park. You just have to slow down enough to find them. We happened upon an animal care expert and his ‘lil pal.


What have we got here?

This is a Blue Tongued Skink. He did indeed have a blue tongue that I attempted to get a picture of but after about forty tries I gave up.


Blue Tongued Skink. Really.

This park is all about lush landscapes and authentic details. There are so many places to stop and take in the beauty of it all.




Leaf prints and animal tracks are impressed on the walkways.


These two goofs are blocking the best view.


There it is! Stunning.


This temple represents Mount Everest that lies behind it.

We had Fastpasses for the Expedition Everest attraction, which is basically a fantastically themed roller coaster. There are so many details in the queue, even if you to wait in the standby line, it’s not so bad.



It was immediately after this ride that we discovered that Jeff is just not into coasters anymore. Certain jarring attractions have been falling of the list for both of us, but this is one that I still really enjoy. Next time, I may have to fly solo.

We strolled on over to Africa to grab a bite eat.


Cue “Africa” by Toto to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

I had read a lot about a new area called Harambe Market which  boasts some tasty food additions.


Realistic theming just outside the Harambe marketplace. Wiring looks suspect.


Harambe Marketplace


Colorful seating area.

Unfortunately, it was about thirty minutes until the windows would be opening. We just needed a little something to hold us over because we would be meeting Ashley and Sam for lunch at noon. Aha! I thought of the perfect snack: Bloody Marys!


A cocktail AND a salad!

We lounged in Harambe sipping on our liquid snack until it was time for the Kilamanjaro Safari. The safari is always a good take, but I was kind of ruined after one visit when it was pouring rain. This was a bummer in general, but on the safari, the animals were so active! It’s never been quite as good as that, not that I’d wish for rain.


Lackadaisical Giraffes


Lethargic Rhino

It was close enough to our reservations to make our way over. We would be having lunch at a brand new restaurant,  Tiffins. We were still a bit early so we first had a beer in the adjacent Nomad lounge.


Plenty of elegant, comfy seating.


More seating outdoors.

This lounge has a travel theme with queries about life’s journeys written on banners and along the walls.


Banners decorate the high ceilings.


A small, but decent choice of drafts.

We chose an Spiced Excursion Ale. They are dubbing it the “Kungaloosh” which is a deep cut Disney nerd reference to a cocktail once served at the long-gone “Adventurer’s Club”.



We were just a few sips in when Sam And Ashley arrived. We grabbed our drinks a walked across the way to Tiffins.


Gold leaf ceiling.

Tiffins is the first signature dining restaurant to be opened at Animal Kingdom. The reviews have been fantastic, but the restaurant seems to be struggling to fill up. I believe that there are two things at play here. First, the menu may be a bit challenging to the average park goer and secondly, Tiffins is off the current beaten path. I say current because it is situated right at the future entrance of “Pandora”, the Avatar-themed Land which is under construction as we speak. Once this is opened I can well imagine that it will become quite popular, especially the lounge. I kinda hope it stays on the down low though. What an oasis!

There are three “Galleries,” or dining rooms. We were seated in the Grand Gallery. The theme here is a celebration of  animals as well as folk art. A large Lantern wall is paying homage to a night time show “Rivers of Light”. The problem is that the show never premiered. It was supposed to open months ago, but has been plagued with problems and has no opening scheduled as of this dateline. Looks great none the less.


Rivers of Light that never was.


Sculptures of butterflies and other winged creatures.

The second dining room is adorned with artist renderings and design elements of Animal Kingdom, especially the African safari and the new Harambe area we visited earlier.


Architectural design elements.


This art piece highlighting the crazy wiring of the African villages.


A Baobab Tree as seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari.


Artist renderings of the safari attraction.

The third dining room is the Trek Gallery. I didn’t poke my nosy head into that one.  It has an Asian motif and just looking at a few pics online, it is the least themed and most likely is only for over flow dining.

Now that you’re acclimated to the environs, Let’s eat!


Embroidered napkins. I resisted the temptation to stuff one in my purse.


The menus were encased in a hefty leather binding.



Jeff and Sam both started with the Lobster soup. It was served table side. I didn’t get the camera out quite fast enough.


Lobster-Popcorn Thai Curry Soup – Lime-Basil Emulsion, Popped Sorghum

The guys both loved it. Jeff gave me a taste and all the while he was muttering something about it having a familiar taste he couldn’t quite put his finger on. After some time he exclaimed:”Fruit Loops!”. Damned if he wasn’t spot on. He mentioned it to our server later on in the meal and he was all like “Yes! that’s just what I’ve been thinking! Thank you!”. It was so weird that it was both delectable and tasted like a breakfast cereal. Go figure.

I went with the Octopus appetizer. While I’m not afraid of this tentacled sea creature, it’s not something I would have jumped at. I had heard so many reviews saying that this was a knock out dish so I just had to try it. Oh my, it did not disappoint. The fish was tender, perfectly seasoned and charred to perfection. The accompaniments were just delightful!


Marinated Grilled Octopus – Artichoke Barigoule, Saffron Aioli, Lemon-Caper Olive Oil

Ashley chose the bread service. This is in no way similar to the Sanaa Bread service which you HAVE TO try when you come down here, but it was well received despite one selection being too salty.


Tiffins Signature Bread Service – Pomegranate Olive Oil, Harissa Yogurt, Zhough Yogurt, Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

Jeff and I decided to share the “Taste of Tiffins” which is choice of two smaller entree portions for $28. Ashley and Sam did the same. The fish I had doesn’t seem to be on the current menu, so we’ll have to go with my pedestrian description.


Tasty, crispy skinned fish with yummy coconut curry sauce.


Masa and Pulled Pork Tamale Hominy Succotash and Red Mole Sauce served with Jade Blend Rice

These two dishes were stunning. Perfectly composed and so flavorful! It was just enough for two people along side the appetizers we had. We still had a bit of room for left dessert. We had a long night ahead of us so we had a couple of cappuccinos as well.


Do you see a T-Rex or a Kangaroo? It’s the new “Gold Dress” controversy.


Lime Cheesecake Almond-Sesame Tuille, Green Tea Sponge

This dessert was a perfect end to an exceptional meal. We all enjoyed our time at Tiffins so much. While it was not a cheap lunch, it was a great value for the caliber of food and service we received.

After a little R&R and we’ll be ready for the Spooktacular Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!

Coming Up: Can someone who doesn’t care for Halloween or eat candy have fun a MNNSHP????

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Straighten Up and Fly Right

This trip was a long time coming. Jeff and I had had plans to visit Walt Disney World last February where we would be meeting up with our friends Sam and Ashley and staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first time. In the weeks leading up to the trip my father fell ill, and sadly, shortly after passed away. My dad first took me to Disney when I was about ten and once more in high school. This laid the foundation for my love of the parks, and the innovation behind Walt Disney World’s attractions. After things settled down, I began the process of re-planning our vacation. Although we weren’t able to keep our original plans of staying at the Lodge, we were still able to arrange to meet up with Ashley and Sam who happened to be attending a wedding in nearby St. Augustine. Having to rework everything actually turned out to be a good thing, It gave me something to focus on, and certainly to look forward to. So, here begins our epically long, attraction filled, food and drink packed, Disney Vacation!

I’ve gone on quite a bit here with no food pics. We’ve got more blah, blah, blah to get through so here’s a photo of an adorable Mickey pastry to hold you over:


So darn cute!!!

For me, planning a Disney vacation is like a sport. I spend literally hours researching which parks to visit on which day in order to avoid the crowds. I read countless blogs to find the best restaurants and bars to visit and what snacks we must try. I meticulously organize our Fastpasses for attractions so that waiting in lines is not a part of our days. Booking our flights however, is not something I tend to do. I hand that over to Jeff because he’s travelled so much for work and it’s something he’s always done. He just sends me the itinerary and I then add it to my plans.

I tell you all this so that you understand how incredibly dumb I felt when we MISSED OUR FLIGHT!!!! That’s right, I totally whiffed it. I all too casually glanced at our flight times and thought we took off at 8:00 am. Not so, my friends. We were getting our luggage together and buttoning up the house when Jeff looked at our boarding passes. Our flight was at 6:30 am, our return flight was at eight. Nooooo!!! I put my face in my hands and laid on the couch. Probably not the best solution. Jeff called the airline; this was a better plan. First, let me just say Southwest Airlines is fantastic. The gentleman informed us that if we made it to the airport within two hours of the flight, we could be added to the next available flight with no penalty. This is the good news. The bad news is that by the time we arrived, there were no available flights, only stand-by. While Jeff was parking the car I ran in to see if something had miraculously opened up. It hadn’t, but then the woman helping me asked if we would be willing to fly into Tampa instead of Orlando. I asked how far away and she said only about an hour. Yes!!! New plan: we’d fly into Tampa and rent then a car. We made it to the gate just moments to spare! Whew. Now, I realize this isn’t life and death, it’s just a vacation, but I had so been looking forward to just getting there. Plus, our visit with our friends would have been cut in half if we had to wait a whole day to get there. I was simply gutted that I made such a rookie mistake.

We landed in Tampa and after a half hour or so of quibbling with car rentals we decided to call an Uber instead. It was about half what they wanted for a one way rental plus we didn’t have to fuss with where to return the car. Money well spent. This wouldn’t be the last Uber we used on the trip (more on this later) but alas, we made it!!!


See, there was nothing to be upset about.

We checked-in to Pop Century. I’ve talked enough about these accommodations. It’s a clean room and a good place to land. Nothing fancy, but the theming is fun. We normally switch to a Deluxe resort at the end of our trips to have something to look forward to, but budget wouldn’t allow for it this time. It turned out to be much more cost effective to stay longer at Pop and forgo the upgrade.


Welcome home!

We stayed in the Sixties section for the first time. Same rooms, different enormous icon.


Ginormous Yo-Yo.

When are we gonna get to something fun, for Pete’s sake? Right about now. We won’t be going into the parks today, instead we headed to the newly (and still being) renovated Disney Springs.


Gorgeous new shopping complex.


Crystalline waterways add to the theming.

I have mixed feeling about the changes. On the one hand, it’s gorgeous! On the other hand, it’s lost a lot of the Disney charm. You can still find Disney themed shops, but they’re relegated to the old MarketPlace area. The food, however, has been a vast improvement. Many new choices with a range of price points. There are several celebrity chef-owned spots that are still quite affordable.

Our first stop was a true example of old school Disney theming, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.


They’re not putting up the sign, this is it.


Est. 1955. It’s all about the story.

This bar is themed entirely around an obscure character in the movie Indiana Jones Raiders and the of the Lost Ark. Jock was a pilot and airplane mechanic who was frequently hired by Indy to fly the archaeologist to remote parts of the world. The place is crammed with memorabilia and movie references. Even if you know nothing about the films, it’s just a rad place to have a drink.


Orlando Brewing I-4 IPA


Napkins themed after mechanics rags. I see what they’re doing, but they still look like rags.

We had reservations for an early dinner, so we didn’t want to spoil things, but our tummies were a grumblin’ so we had to have a wee, small appetizer.


Air Pirate’s Pretzels – A flight of Everything Pretzels with House-made Mustard and Beer-Cheese Fondue.

These were just perfect. Surprisingly, we both liked the the mustard better than the cheese fondue. They were a bit expensive at ten bucks though. Let the hemorrhaging of cash begin!

It was time to meet up with our dinner companions. Ashley and I became acquainted a couple of years ago through her podcast, WDW Happy Place. We started chatting through Facebook shortly after and made a meaningful connection. We’d both been going through a whole lot of tumultuous stuff and leaned on each other through these times, all the while having never met in real life. This was our first opportunity to get together. Needless to say, there were hugs all around. We were both so travel weary, we don’t have photo evidence of the hugs, we needed naps and make-up before any pictures would be happening. On to lunch!

We headed over to the BOATHOUSE (all caps, that’s how they do it). This was one of the first new restaurants in Disney Springs and it has maintained a great reputation right from the start.


The BOATHOUSE®: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats™ . Quite a handle.


One of the many dining spaces, all nautically themed.


Very nautical.



Ashley and Sam had eaten here before on several trips, including this one, so they were very gracious to indulge me. When the bread arrived she said that they were as close as she’s ever had to her mom’s yeast rolls. I hope I get invited to Thanksgiving at mom’s house!


Pillows of heaven.

I didn’t burden our companions by taking pictures of their food, but it looked scrumptious and they enjoyed their choices. Jeff and I shared a crab appetizer which was light and tasty. I split it before I snapped the picture so pardon its sloppy appearance.


Jumbo Lump Crab and Avocado Tarragon Remoulade

We each choose a main dish and then did splitzies. There were no losers here.


GRILLED FISH TACOS: Jerk Spiced, Crisp Vegetable Slaw, Avocado, Serrano Chili Cream. The fish of the day was swordfish.



These sliders are a must-get. Two generously sized portions of fork tender filet on brioche rolls with a pile of some of the tastiest fries I’ve ever stuffed in my gob for just $14.00. Guys, that is a dollar less than the BBQ burger at the quick service joint in Tomorrowland! No comparison.

We finished our lunch and continued our conversations as we strolled over to another of the brightest spots in the new Disney Springs, Amorette’s Patisserie.



This next-level bakery features the most beautifully constructed cakes and pastries I’ve ever seen.





Mickey under construction.

The pastries here range from $8.00 for the smaller cakes and tarts to $65.00 for larger, more elaborate cakes. We chose the “Reflection in Memphis Peanut Butter Mousse Dome”.


Toasted Chiffon Cake, Banana Pate De Fruit Jelly, and Caramelized Bacon Pieces


Let’s take a closer look see.

We headed back to Pop for a bit of a rest before we moseyed on over to the Polynesian Resort.



This was the first time we’d been to this resort since it had a major remodel. The lobby had previously been entirely made up of a huge, volcano-like waterfall and gardens. While it was quite a sight to behold, it wasn’t very practical. Some old school Disney fans aren’t quite as impressed with the new digs.


Much more space to move about.

We came to the Poly for two reasons: to watch the fireworks and to drink rum out of a gigantic pineapple. One down…


Lapu Lapu!

One of Ashley’s very favorite things to do at Walt Disney World is to find her favorite spot on the Polynesian Beach and watch Wishes. We talked about this moment for months and months and now it was finally here!


A little pre-show with the Electric Water Pageant.


All your Wishes will come true…

We finished the night with some snacks and a night cap back on the Lanai. The food was really tasty but it was too dark for decent photos.


Lanai area

I have to say that I’ve never looked forward to a trip more than this one. Perhaps our little “hiccup” flying out was to make it all the sweeter when we finally arrived. Now we have nine more glorious days ahead to explore this amazing place. You’d better rest up!


Aloha Ahiahi!

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

When the Ship Comes In

We had couple more historical sites to take in before it would be yet reasonable to eat again. We happened upon this formidable building which housed Salem’s Custom House. The doors were wide open and it was free, so we climbed on up the granite stairs.


Salem Custom House

I knew almost nothing about the purpose of a custom house, but I gleaned that it had to do with taxes. Bingo! I was right. This was the place where taxes on imported goods were first collected for the British Government during the Colonial period, then for the American Government after the establishment of the U. S. Customs Service in 1789. So much for the Tea Party.


View from the second floor.

There was a gentleman there leading informal tours. The furnishings were preserved and displayed as if it was business as usual in 1819. Interesting fact we learned from the guide: the workers had to bring their own desk and chair from home. The most notable employee of the custom house was author Nathaniel Hawthorne. We’ll lean more about him later.


There are displays of all the ways the Custom House officers weighed, measured and assessed the value of the goods being imported, down to the level of alcohol is the booze barrels.


Tools of the trade.


Medieval torture device? Not sure how this one worked


If you couldn’t pay, your stuff was locked up until you got the cash.

Also on display was the chronicling of the restoration of the gilded Eagle that was atop the building. It had begun to crumble and was too fragile to be left outdoors any longer.


The original Eagle cost $50.00


Casts were made and a new fiberglass replica was created, which is now perched atop the  Custom house.


The old Eagle is restored and kept indoors, still admonishing us to pay up!!!

Our next stop was sorta historical. Okay, maybe I’m stretching the definition here, but it’s a bar that has the oldest running live music program in Salem. That’s something, right? We dropped in for a quick tipple.


In a Pig’s Eye! I just noticed the street sign. 🙂


Total dive bar. Love it!!!!


Music seven days a week. Impressive!!!

I found this little bôite through the Salem city website. I have to say, it was pretty cool. It had a neat feature where you can tick off from a list what sorts of things you’re into and  it generates a bunch of suggestions. I chose food, beer, maritime, and history, if that’s not already been made pretty clear. One of the suggested destinations was, of course, the House of Seven Gables.


The admission was pretty reasonable at $13.00. Once we entered the property, the gardens and views were worth it alone.


Gorgeous garden displays.


Ocean View!


Duck statue. Significance unknown.


I have serious lawn envy.


Lovely shaded seating. Bet it’s gorgeous lit up at night.


I love being near the ocean. Not in it, just near it.

We were not allowed to take any photos inside the house. I’ll tell you, our tour guide was great. We had a group of about 15 people and he lead us about the home spouting out all manner of facts. The history of the House and Nathaniel Hawthorne is long and complex. Here’s a succinct breakdown:

The house originally had seven gables.  

When Nathaniel Hawthorne visited there it had three gables.                                                                          

He was told tale of when the house had seven gables.                                                                                    

Hawthorne was inspired to write The House of Seven Gables

Centuries later, a new owner was inspired by the book to restore the seven gables.                    

The house now has seven gables along with rooms from the book that were not in the real house of seven gables.

Now, you are up to speed.

I failed to mention earlier that while the city itself was lovely, the roads were a right mess. It seems that the city planner decided to dig up and repave every road in the environs. This city is going to have the bestest streets… in two years.


Construction zones everywhere!

With all the digging up, the old cobblestone streets were left exposed in patches. What a shame that these will be tarred on over again. Although, I can well imagine the day when the streets were first paved a hundred years ago. The people must have been so thrilled to ride in their carriages without their teeth getting rattled!


A bit of history at our feet.

It was getting near grumbly tumbly time so we looped back around towards Pickering Wharf for dinner. On the way by I spotted a shop that was on the to do list.


Joe’s Fresh Fish

This was not a fish monger, but a tackle shop that also sells some curious art. These fish prints are made by painting and using the fish like stamps. Sounds gross, yes, but the result was quite stunning!


A tackle shop avec art store.


A Fish Tale!

And just like that, it was time for dinner. I found this spot from review sites. It had its charms, but we didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as our lunch at Sea Level.


Victoria Station menu, kinda pedestrian.


The view was nice, but not stunning as before.


Wine smooths everything over.

We had a couple of appetizers which were just fine. I failed to take pictures because I kind of thought we might move on, but as the evening unfolded, we got settled in a decided to stay. There was nothing wrong per se, there just wasn’t anything enticing or unique on the menu. We just decided to go all traditional New England and get the good ol’ surf and turf.


Thar she blows, y’all!

This was all just fine and tasty. The prime rib was a bit beyond medium, but the crust had a nice season to it. The lobster was cooked just right and the claw was huge. The “seafood stuffing” was 95% Ritz cracker, but who doesn’t love buttery ritz jammed into a lobster carcass? It filled us up just right. If I were to do things over though, I would have headed back to Sea Level for the food, view and beer selection.

We finished our dinner just in time to take a leisurely stroll and catch the sunset at nearby Derby Wharf.


Derby Wharf Light Station has stood on the end of Derby Wharf since 1871.


Originally, the light was powered by an oil lamp. Today, the light is solar powered.

The sunset put on a spectacular show for us. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.




Our quick trip to Salem was as educational as it was relaxing. We’ve been so busy that it’s taken me well over a month to jot out these few pages. I do think we’re due for another mini-get away soon.

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


August was looking to be quite a busy month for Mr. Jones and me. We had just a few unscheduled days in the coming weeks so I decided a quick day trip before all the craziness was in order. I wanted to find  a seaside town that neither of us had visited before. A quick session on the interweb led me to Salem Massachusetts. Now, I don’t go in for all that witchy stuff, but the maritime history along with the prospect of enjoying some manner of seafood whilst overlooking the ocean was enough of a draw for me. Armed with a scant bit of research, we headed northeast  for the day!

We set out around 10:30 to avoid the Boston traffic (and because I can’t drag myself out of bed before 9:00 unless I’m getting a plane to go to Disney) which landed us in Salem just before noon. Perfect, let’s eat!


Sea Level Oyster Bar

This spot was well reviewed for it’s food as well as the stunning views.


I had to agree.


Fresh and tasty choices


Adorable denim napkins


We started with a bright, citrusy beer.

We were thinking long game when we ordered here. We decided to keep it light so we could try more of what Salem had to offer. I had a lobster quesadilla appetizer.


A tasty start.

While these were not overflowing with lobster, they were flavorsome and well paired with the sharp a arugula salad.  Jeff went with the fish tacos. When he ordered, the server asked if he wanted them prepared with the “Fish of the Day”. He approved of the idea. Just as she was stepping away he asked what that fish was, just out of curiosity. She said, “baby octopus”. Oh my. Now, we’re up for octopus, squid or what have you, but I can imagine there’s plenty of folks who would be quite alarmed when their fish tacos arrived looking like this:


Not for the squeamish.

These were quite good. The mango salsa had just the right kick to balance the sweet fruit. There was also a nice bit of cabbage slaw for some crunch. The Octopus itself was nicely seasoned and rather tender, however it was still quite challenging to manage a bite without some struggle. I would recommend that the chef slice those lil’ guys up for easier consumption. All in all, a great start to the day.


A quick trip to the Loo. The ladies’ room door adornment.

Fortified, we were ready to traverse this historic city.


That’s a whole lot of points of interest.

Like the Freedom Trail in Boston, Salem has it’s own self guided walking tour. However, the path is just a painted line rather than the cute brick paths in the North End.


Gets the job done.

As previously mentioned, the witch aspect was not of interest to us, however, we did cut through one of the tacky gift shops on the way by. The wares were eclectic.


Who doesn’t need a chandelier made of the skulls of their enemies?


Namaste, Witches!

Our first visit was to the city’s oldest cemetery, The Burying Point.



I’ve always found reading old grave stones fascinating. It’s easy to forget how difficult it was to survive into your golden years in this time in our history.


Thirty years old


This family lost three babies.

The wealth of the deceased can easily be detected by the ornamentation of the head stone. This young woman was a captain’s wife.


This family could afford to inscribe a lengthy poem as well.

So many families lost multiple children.


The poem on this marker reads: “Lay still, sweet babies and take your rest.          We trust in heaven that you are blessed”

Adjacent to the cemetery is the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. The memorial was created by artist Maggie Smith and architect James Cutler who based their design on the theme of  injustice:


Dedicated to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials.

The memorial consists of 20 granite benches surrounded by a low stone wall. Each bench represents one of the victims of the trails.  The stone slabs are inscribed with the victim’s protests, which were taken directly from the court records. The inscriptions say:

“For my life now lies in your hands”

“On my dying day, I am no witch”

“God knows I am innocent”

“Oh Lord help me”

“I am wholly innocent of such wickedness”

“If I would confess i should save my life”

“I do plead not guilty”

There’s and interesting push and pull in Salem between the injustice of the Witch hysteria of the 1600’s and the glorification of all things Witch. The protestations of these victims attest that these citizens were indeed not witches and were falsely accused. At the same time, the city is a hub for current day self-professed Wiccans. I guess the take away for us today may be that no one should be persecuted solely for being different, whether in perception or in actuality.

We took a little rest in some comfy adirondack chairs in the heart of Lappin Park. This is tucked into a nice square that has a lot of shops and restaurants, with limited car access.


View from Lappin Park looking into Barton Square.

It’s here that you can find another memorial to a certain witch that has caused a bit of a kerfuffle.


Bewitched Statue

Some folks believe that this fictional TV character may diminish the gravity of Salem’s history. I believe that it is just plain ugly.


Whoof! That’s terrible likeness.

As we made our way back toward the water we happened upon an art installation at the Crowninshield-Bentley House. This house is a historic property stewarded by the nearby Peobody Essex Museum.


Crowninshield-Bentley House + Jeff

Just to the right  of the home stands a StickWork piece by Patrick Dougherty entitled “What the Birds Know”.


“What the Birds Know”

These pieces are constructed using saplings that are collected locally by volunteers. As you walk around and through the structures, the perspective changes markedly.


The static structures seem to sway with the swirl of the design.


Looking up from inside a structure.

For a look at how these and other structures are created, check out and the video below. It’s just about three minutes. Fascinating stuff.

Next Up: So you think you know Nathaniel Hawthorne?

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rolling Home

We left the shops blissfully unaware that we had narrowly escaped the wrath of the Bar Harbor Troll. At this point we were still only in the market for a beer. Sadly, every pub we encountered was closed. We happened … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Keep on the Sunny Side

This gallery contains 1 photo.

After our initial panic about arriving too late to be checked in, we were so happy just to have a place to land. When we finally rolled into the Castlemaine Inn it was well past 11:00pm. We were so completely exhausted, … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Every Mile A Memory

This gallery contains 1 photo.

We made our way back east to our lovely hotel. We were thinking of stopping by a pub for a quick one to commemorate the day, but we also had to watch the time because would be playing a show … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Prince Edward Island is Heaven to Me

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Today we would be carrying out a mission. The whole reason we planned this trip was to bring my dad back home. We had been on the island for a good twenty four  hours and had been wowed by the … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Where am I Going?

After a recuperative overnight at the Chateau Saint John, we were ready to make the next leg of our journey to Prince Edward Island. The vistas became more and more scenic as we moved northward. When we crossed the border … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment