Poking around Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, NYC

by Sandra Hutchinson

We made a quick visit to our Manhattan-based son last week, and we enjoyed a day and half of walking around and exploring the city’s Chelsea neighborhood and Meatpacking District.

We took Amtrak to NYC from Albany/Rensselaer (a gorgeous ride along the Hudson — make sure to sit on the river side!), arriving in the recently opened Moynihan Train Hall, now the entry point into the city for Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains. What a breath of fresh air after the dank, labyrinthian and underground Penn Station terminal.

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Finding the Grimké sisters in Charleston, SC

By Sandra Hutchinson

It wasn’t until I had read a few chapters of The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, that it dawned on me that the characters in the book might have some basis in fact. I think I flipped to the book’s prologue, where I was astonished to learn that indeed, Sarah and Angelina Grimké, the protagonists, fierce abolitionists and women’s rights advocates, were real. Not only that, but they were astonishing in their beliefs and bravery, given the antebellum society, and plantation-owning South Carolinian family, that they were born into.

While visiting Charleston recently (March 2022), we took a walking tour focused on the Grimké sisters, led by Lee Ann Bain. The tour took us through various neighborhoods of historic Charleston, where we saw places the sisters would have known in the early 19th century, and learned of some new research that a Grimké biographer has shared with Ms. Bain. Our tour lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Here’s a link to Ms. Bain’s site where tours can be booked: http://grimkesisterstour.com.

Interestingly, when I booked our accommodations for our spring trip at an 18th century outbuilding on Church Street, within the South of Broad neighborhood, I did not realize at the time that it was the kitchen to a home that sat directly across the street from the Heyward-Washington House, which was owned in the late 18th and early 19th century by the Grimké family. It was in this house, at 87 Church Street, where a horrified, young Sarah looked out her bedroom window and witnessed physical abuse of an enslaved person. It is believed that this deeply affecting event helped form her views towards slavery. Sarah lived in this home from age 2 to 11; the family later moved to a larger home to the north, on East Bay, where her sister Angelina was born.

Heyward-Washington House, 87 Church Street, Charleston, SC

This home was build in 1772 for Thomas Heyward, Jr., one of the four signers of the Declaration of Independence from South Carolina. When the British occupied Charleston in 1780, Hayward was captured and imprisoned in St. Augustine, Florida. The house was rented to George Washington for eight days during the new president’s tour of Charleston in May, 1791. In 1794, Heyward sold the property to John F. Grimké, who had also served as an officer during the war.

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Visit to Simon Pearce & King Arthur Flour

by Sandra Hutchinson

A couple of my favorite destinations are located in the vicinity of central/east Vermont — Simon Pearce, with two locations, and King Arthur Flour headquarters. I recently was in the area for a few days and was happy to be able to stop in.

The original Simon Pearce glassworks, in Quechee, Vermont.
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Checking out the Spa at Inns of Aurora

by Sandra Hutchinson

Earlier this year, I wrote on this blog about my short springtime getaway Aurora, in New York’s Finger Lakes. I returned there in November because I had some family business to take care of nearby. I took the opportunity to visit the newly opened Spa at the Inns of Aurora.


The small village of Aurora is home to both Wells College and the headquarters of the home decor company Mackenzie-Childs. The village is situated on the east side of Cayuga Lake, about a half hour’s drive north of Ithaca and an hour southwest of Syracuse. It makes a nice base for exploring the wineries of the Finger Lakes, as well as the upstate New York landmarks associated with both the suffragist and the abolitionist movements.

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Blessing of the animals, New Skete Monastery

by Sandra Hutchinson

If you’re looking for a blessing of the animals service, traditionally held in October, on the Feast of St. Francis, there may be no better place than the New Skete Monastery, perched on a mountainside in Cambridge, NY. An Orthodox Christian community, New Skete has both monks and nuns in residence, as well as a community of lay companions.


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Perspectives on the pandemic

by Sandra Hutchinson

One of the wonderful things about hosting a blog is that you have the potential to connect online with people who share your interests. Among my “blogger friends,” as I call them, is Janet Simmonds, an Oxford-educated geographer and art historian, travel consultant and writer who publishes an intelligent and well-researched blog called The Educated Traveler. She offers fascinating insight on places and experiences in Italy, throughout the Mediterranean and England. Here’s the link to her blog: www.educated-traveller.com. I urge you to check out her site. It is a joy to read and I always learn something new! Plus, her photography is stunning.

Janet splits her time between England and Italy, largely Venice. She hosts small bespoke tours in Italy, and leads writing workshops. Here’s the link to her tour site: https://www.grand-tourist.com. I’m dreaming of the possibility of participating in one of her trips.

Earlier this year, Janet reached out to me and asked whether I would contribute a piece to her blog concerning how the pandemic has affected my family in northern New York State. She graciously published my piece on The Educated Traveler and I am grateful to her for her kind comments. While admittedly, some things have improved in my neck of the woods since I wrote the piece last spring, there is still great concern about ongoing infections and the long-lasting impact of the pandemic. Please click on the link below, and comment on either my blog or Janet’s with your own perspectives, from wherever in the world you are!


Lake George, New York

Cheap Old Houses — new HGTV show debuts with upstate New York roots

by Sandra Hutchinson

As seen on HGTV’s Cheap Old Houses, hosts Ethan and Elizabeth at a historic home in Gasport, NY.

Elizabeth Finkelstein says that “even as a two-year-old I understood the magic of old houses.”

Her parents, Dr. Joel and Gail Solomon, raised their family in one of the most historic homes in Queensbury, New York, on Chestnut Ridge Road. Called the Nehemiah Wing house, it was named after one of the 19th century owners, a descendant of Abraham Wing, a founder of nearby Glens Falls. The original clapboard part of the home is believed to date to the 18th century. The brick addition was constructed in 1852.

Ms. Finkelstein’s appreciation of old homes has turned into a lifelong passion for her and her husband Ethan; an Instagram account with 1.6-million followers; and now a TV show Cheap Old Houses that will debut on Monday, Aug. 9, on HGTV and Discovery Plus.

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A drive through Cary Hill Sculpture Park at Salem Art Works, in Washington County, NY

by Sandra Hutchinson

In New York State’s bucolic Washington County, on the edge of the hamlet of Salem, is a beehive of artistic activity known as “SAW,” for Salem Art Works. Founder Anthony Cafritz, writes “In a time when a lot of artwork is created in a reductive, ‘hands-off’ approach, SAW’s mission is to blend and create an atmosphere where all methodologies, approaches and concepts are equal. This fluid, investigative curiosity is a timeless pursuit which underpins a large part of the human experience.”

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Finger Lakes getaway — Aurora, New York: wineries, MacKenzie-Childs outlet, boutique inns

by Sandra Hutchinson

During the last week of May, I headed out to New York State’s Finger Lakes region with one of my oldest friends. Destination: the charming village of Aurora, on the east side of Cayuga Lake. After we arrived, we were joined by another friend of mine. We spent several laughter-filled days visiting wineries, shopping at the newly opened outlet store at the headquarters of MacKenzie-Childs, and staying at a beautiful property owned by the Inns of Aurora.

Zabriskie House, part of the Inns of Aurora collection.
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Spring weekend in Grafton, Vt.

After my husband and I were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in March, we were thrilled to celebrate our new status by having a weekend away, in the sleepy picture book village of Grafton, Vermont. My husband wrote a piece about our escape for our newspaper, The Chronicle. I have reproduced it below, accompanied by my photos.

—Sandra Hutchinson

The 19th century Tuttle House we rented in Grafton, Vt. for a spring weekend

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