Churchill War Rooms, London

by Sandra Hutchinson

If you’ve seen the recent movie The Darkest Hour, for which Gary Oldman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his depiction of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II, you’ll know that some of the pivotal scenes take place underground, in what were called the Cabinet War Rooms. 

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This warren of rooms is located underground, below a government building just a few blocks from the Parliament building, in Westminster. It was the command center for the British armed services from 1939 to March 1945, when the German bombing ended. 

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Stopping by Liberty of London

by Sandra Hutchinson

Continuing with my posts about some of my favorite London spots, here’s the view inside (and one of the outside) of Liberty, the landmark London department store.

First, the building itself, on Great Marlborough Street in London’s West End— an imposing Tudor revival, built in 1924, using timbers from two sailing ships. Note the weathervane.

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Must see (and taste) in London: Harrods and Fortnum & Mason Food Halls

by Sandra Hutchinson

It might be a touristy thing to do, but when in London, many visitors feel compelled to make at least one visit to the Food Halls at both Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.

Harrods Food Halls are legendary. Located in a sprawling building on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, Harrods is now owned by the state of Qatar, but the Food Halls are still quintessentially English. The space is not only a feast for the palate, but for the eye, too, with magnificent tiled walls and ceilings, gleaming glass cases filled with everything from meat pies to Scotch eggs to locally-sourced shellfish to exquisitely crafted tiny cakes, smartly outfitted and aproned staff wearing straw boaters, and a seemingly unlimited selection of teas and biscuits. There are dine-in options (like the Seafood Bar and the Fish & Chips counter), and a vast selection of prepared foods perfect for a picnic in nearby Hyde Park (or in your hotel room).

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Diana: Her Fashion Story — exhibit at London’s Kensington Palace

By Sandra Hutchinson

While in London in May, 2018, I visited the popular exhibit “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” at Kensington Palace, the late Princess of Wales’s former home.

The exhibit includes outfits, largely dresses, worn by Princess Diana, and follows her style progression from tweed suits, tartan dresses and over-the-top “Dynasty” glam gowns to the more sleek, body-fitting and sophisticated attire that Diana was known for during the last years of her life.

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Historic Garden Week in Virginia

By Sandra Hutchinson

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At Morven, in Albemarle County, Virginia

If your interests run to historic homes and gardens, I urge you to request some vacation days, board your pooch or kitties, fire up your GPS and head to the beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia during the last week of April to take in some of the tours offered during Historic Garden Week. Now in its 85th year, Historic Garden Week is organized by the Garden Club of Virginia and offers tours in various communities over the course of eight days, providing glimpses into homes, buildings and gardens across the commonwealth, most of which are normally not open to the public.

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A week in Cuba — Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad

By Sandra Hutchinson

Americans began flocking to Cuba in 2009— after the Obama administration lifted some of the travel restrictions that had effectively banned most types of travel there by Americans since the early 1960s. In the fall of 2017, the Trump administration reversed some of the Obama era policies, reinstating the business and travel restrictions which had been loosened by the Obama Administration. Yet it is still possible and not terribly difficult for Americans to legally travel to Cuba.

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Vintage cars in Havana that are available for hire as private taxis.

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Enjoying the mineral baths at Saratoga Spa Park’s Roosevelt Baths

By Sandra Hutchinson

Ever since the Native Americans discovered the naturally carbonated spring water that gave Saratoga Springs, New York, its name, people have been drawn to the waters there for bathing and drinking. The Roosevelt Baths are the only mineral baths remaining in use in the park, and the only public mineral baths in the Northeastern United States. Going there to soak in the effervescent waters in one of the original cast iron tubs is an experience not to be missed.

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The Roosevelt Bathhouse, Saratoga Spa State Park, in the summer.

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Los Angeles— travel tips and a few of our favorite spots to visit

By Sandra Hutchinson

With our older son living in, dare I say it — Hollywood —we have been making regular trips out to Los Angeles from northern New York state to visit him since he moved there in the fall of 2014. A city that initially seemed to us overwhelming in its sprawl and sheer unmanageability now feels more familiar. We’ve found neighborhoods, restaurants and spots we particularly like, and my husband and I have grown to look forward to our periodic trips to La La Land.

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Seen from the air —flying west into LAX, downtown Los Angeles rises above a sprawling expanse. In the distance are the Hollywood Hills, part of the Santa Monica Mountains (that white horizontal blur near the left side at the top of the first range is the famed Hollywood sign), and the San Gabriel mountains beyond.

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A weekend in Old Montreal

By Sandra Hutchinson

During one of the unseasonably warm weekends we experienced this October, we headed north to Montreal with friends to enjoy some old world ambience and great food. Montreal is less than 180 miles north of our home in the Glens Falls/Lake George region of New York, and it’s an easy and scenic drive up the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87).

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Autumn day in and around Cold Spring, NY— Stonecrop Gardens; Buddhist monastery

By Sandra Hutchinson

During Columbus Day weekend, I spent a pleasant day with a friend in the Hudson Valley, in and around the historic and lively village of Cold Spring. Located on the east side of the Hudson River, directly across the river from West Point in the area known as the Hudson Highlands, much of the village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The central business district contains many nicely preserved 19th century buildings that house antique shops, restaurants and specialty shops. Cold Spring is about 50 miles north of Manhattan, and easily accessible by Metro North Railroad, and many urbanites make their way here for weekend getaways.

On Saturday, the village was bustling with autumn leaf peepers, Hoping for a leisurely lunch, we managed to grab a small table on the porch of Le Bouchon, a cute French bistro at 76 Main Street. The basket of French bread was ample, and I enjoyed a generous portion of perfectly seared salmon with haricots verts and sautéed fingerling potatoes, paired with a nice house Pinot Grigio on this unusually balmy October afternoon. My friend had a croque monsieur, which she pronounced “très bon!”

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