I had an opportunity to attend a workshop recently in Hershey, PA, at The Hershey Company. Wow, I’ve gotta tell you, that whole town stays in character: super-sweet, squeaky clean and family-friendly. Hershey is Disney-esque and is truly “the town built on chocolate”. The street signs are shaped like chocolate kisses.
I didn’t get many pictures because I was quite busy, but here are a few that will give you a feel for the place. There’s a hotel, a golf course, gardens, a zoo, Chocolate World, the Hershey Museum, a fabulous gift shop and lots more stuff to do in this small town that reeks of middle America wholesomeness. Reeks in a good way, that is…everything smells like chocolate. Really.
The Hotel Hershey is immaculate.
I would come back here and spend a little more time. It’s a very sweet place.
For more about Hershey and a plethora of pictures, visit this blog.
Looking through some of my photos, I found a couple of an abandoned building in the Cline Ranch State Wildlife Area near Como, Colorado. I took them in February of this year, and forgot about them.
I’m sure the horseshoe was reason I snapped the picture of the door below; it speaks to the hopeful mindset of the cabin’s inhabitant, whoever and whenever that was. When I looked closer and saw the dried flowers (put there by someone else later, right?), I knew I had to write a haiku about the still life they form together.
I realized the haiku would make the most sense on the door itself. Enjoy.
Click here for another post with lots more photos: Cline Ranch State Wildlife Area. But beware, if you love a winter scene, these photos will stir your wanderlust and you may find yourself searching for discount airfare for Colorado in February…
I finally posted the salmon recipe I created a few years back in Westport, Washington, and realized I should share some pictures to help you get to know this quaint little oceanfront town.
One way to enjoy Westport is the way we did a few years ago, as a stop on a ten-day journey up the Pacific Coast, starting in San Francisco and ending in Seattle.
Big-time Salmon Fishing
Westport was a 2-night stay on our Pacific Coast Highway trip, primarily to take advantage of the deep sea salmon fishing. Fish were caught! Five of them, weighting 50 lbs. total.
It’s not just about the fishing in Westport, though. There’s a lot more to do.
Stroll the Marina
The marina area is a great place to stroll and soak in the local culture, feasting your eyes on boats and birds.
Bennett’s Fish Shack
And then there’s Bennett’s Fish Shack, an eatery that perfectly fits its surroundings. Even the building has a cheery, casual, “aren’t-we-lucky-we’re-not-in-the-Big-City-Rat-Race” feel, so you can imagine how the servers are. Delightful.
And seafood, do they ever have seafood! Fried seafood, boiled seafood, broiled seafood, grilled seafood, sautéed seafood, on-the-half-shell seafood, seafood in a salad, seafood on a sandwich…you name it, and if it is Pacific seafood, I bet they have it. My choice was the mussels and clams you see below, and they were stellar. Plump, cooked perfectly, and in a succulent sauce that the perfect balance of lemon, butter and white win. There was plenty of bread for sopping and a decent wine, perfect for the lovely summer evening when we visited.
Lunch and Wine Tasting at the Westport Winery
While our menfolk were fishing during our only full day in Westport, my mom-in-law and I had a leisurely day that enabled me to take all these photos, and included a 2-hour stop at the Westport Winery. There’s a lot to do there!
The grounds are covered with charming, quirky and thought-provoking art.
The restaurant, aptly named the Sea Glass Grill, is sophisticated without being stuffy, and choices range from upscale salads to the Bubba Burger. All of the menu choices have recommended wine pairings – yum! I had the Crab Louie, and my mom-in-law selected the crab cakes. Alas, I took no photos! But below you’ll see the crab cakes from the Westport Winery web site. And yes, they tasted as good as they looked, and double-yes, the food was artfully plated, just like in the photo.
And of course we did the requisite wine tasting! Wine is what the Westport Winery is all about, even though they are now officially the Westport Winery Garden Resort, providing facilities, to eat, drink, shop and sleep. Did I say shop? I daresay we spent half an hour in the winery’s gift shop – really – because it had such a great selection of cool gifts and collectibles. And wine. And just now, looking on their web site, I saw this great description:
“The gift shop was selected as one of the top ten among Washington wineries in 2015. It is known for its incredible selection of gourmet food, apparel, books, and home decor. You can gather unusual and beautiful plants for your home garden from the winery’s nursery after finding inspiration in the acres of display gardens.”
That pretty much sums up our experience. Westport, you’ve got a winning winery. We’ll be back!
Nice Vacation Rentals
We stayed in a lovely waterfront condo and enjoyed watching the birds and ships. The Coast Guard staged a marine rescue training activity one evening during our stay – great free entertainment, and very comforting, besides.
TripAdvisor has tons of listings for vacation rentals in Westport.
More to See
We didn’t have time to tour the town’s museums, but really enjoyed driving around. The town is really colorful, and welcoming, and speaks of the sea everywhere.
A recent trip to Scotland had many surprises, including a wonderful interlude with a couple of owls. Yes, owls. And no, it wasn’t on a walkabout in the verdant Scottish countryside – it was smack-dab in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
The beautiful and wise-looking creatures were surveying a small crowd outside of Gladstone’s Land, a museum run by the National Trust for Scotland.
The human handler for the owls looked wise, too, and shared stories and myths about them, which piqued my interest.
Back at home, curious, I realized that the only thing I knew about owls was that it really bugged my mom when a family of them made a nest in the rafters of our home at the beach when I was growing up (I thought it was kindof cool, but I didn’t have to deal with the situation). I did some Googling, and learned that owls have inspired myths and legends for centuries on several continents. Bad stuff like stealing babies, seeing into the darkness of the human soul, being a harbinger of death and doom … and good stuff, too, such as clairvoyance, bringing enlightenment and truth through dreams, symbolizing wisdom and strength. Looking at the closeup of one of the owls I met that day in Edinburgh, I can see why they’ve captured imaginations through the ages. There is an undeniable sense of mystery and knowing in those eyes, as though she actually could see right through our souls to the other side.
She-Owl: a Haiku
soaring through the skies holding secrets, truths and lies in amber-wise eyes
More hateful violence by bad actors in Paris this week, and therefore, all the more reason to reinforce the goodness and light of that beautiful city. Reblogging this post in solidarity with Parisians and folks all over the world who reject prejudice, hatred, violence and vitriol.
I am very sad about yesterday’s shootings in Paris. It is such a beautiful, magic place, populated with wonderful, friendly people who enjoy life and rich with history, architecture, art, cuisine and culture. My heart is heavy for the victims of the shootings and their families, and for all Parisians as they struggle to recover from the shock and horror of the violence.
My tiny contribution to the healing process and return to normalcy is to reinforce the positives. Today’s post is just a quick couple of photos I snapped on my iPhone as part of a texting dialogue with my son while I was walking along the Seine. He traveled with me to Paris 5 years ago and we had an amazing experience, but that is literally another story (click here for “The Thankful Foreigner”). He has great memories of Paris, and longs to return.
Read the online reviews of Bistro Des Augustin in Paris and you’ll be hooked. There’s no way to overstate the simple deliciousness of the gratin at this humble little restaurant at the corner of the Pont Neuf and the Seine river in Paris, on the Left Bank.
Also billed as a wine bar, Bistro Des Augustin is known primarily for its gratins and provides a nice selection of them, from vegetarian with tomatoes or eggplant, to duck breast or chicken, to smoked salmon. But the one that four of my colleagues chose on a recent summer evening after work (on a business trip) was the Bistro Gratin.
As you can see, this dish is swimming in creamy, cheesy goodness, browned to perfection on top and sprinkled with extra herbs of Provence. Bits of bacon dot every bite of the perfectly cooked potatoes. All four of my colleagues who ordered this meal were close to swooning with the goodness of it. I realized after begging a bite that I had made a huge error in judgment by ordering a (very good) smoked salmon and goat cheese salad, copying our only French colleague in the group and trying to eat healthy. Mistake! The salad was lovely, fresh and flavorful, but the Bistro Gratin far surpassed it – it was downright heavenly. You know those dishes your grandmother made waaaaaay back when you were a child and no one has ever been able to reproduce, no matter how hard and how often they tried? That’s the taste in this gratin; it’s grandmotherly good,an instant and permanent deep-seated taste memory.
The menu lists the ingredients for the Bistro Gratin: potatoes, cream, egg, bacon, herbs de Provence, garlic and Emmental cheese. I haven’t been able to find a recipe with this precise mix of ingredients on the internet, but I am on a mission to recreate this cheesy, rustic masterpiece.
I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough, and noticed in the online reviews that many of the testimonials include a mention of eating there two or more times during the same vacation! In addition to the mouth-watering, jealous-making (if you didn’t order it) gratin, Bistro Des Augustins has a Parisian homey charm and an authentic, true sense of place. Did I mention that it is tiny? There are perhaps a dozen tables, half inside and half out.
Here’s one final shot of the Bistro Gratin, until I can replicate it at home and share it with you here.
Arepas are a traditional bread from the native tribes of Venezuela that resembles both pita (in shape) and fried cornbread (in texture). I learned about them from a colleague when she brought them to our Breakfast Club at work last year (click here).
And Then Came the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market at Castle Terrace
A few weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, and there was a farmers’ market and street festival right in front of my hotel. Score! The smell of the arepas was amazing, although I was too full from lunch to enjoy them. I took loads of photos to share here in the blog, and of course I sent a few to my Venezuelan coworker. (Irritatingly, auto-correct changed “arepas” to “arenas”…I guess my iPhone thought it was smarter than I was.)
The Pleasant Peasant Tried Arepas and Now Calls Them His New Favorite Food
And now I’ve seen a marvelous post about arepas from another blogger I follow, who rolled up his sleeves and mastered the art of making them. Don’t those vegetarian arepas from The Pleasant Peasantlook great?! You can read all about his process and yummy vegetarian fillings via the link in the Resources section below; the photos are from his blog post.
I’m going to give arepas a try one day soon, and will share the results with you.
More to Come about the Edinburgh Experience
I haven’t done the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market in Castle Terrace justice with this post and will share more on another day. It is charming, and somehow you feel so connected to the past when shopping in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. The city really knows how to blend the richness of its past with its present. There was also a jazz festival going on, and a palpable sense of celebration under the chilly gray Edinburgh sky.