Celebrate MLK Day in Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia

If you are planning to visit this southern city, consider a visit to the Birth Home of  Martin Luther King, Jr. Thanks to funding from Delta Airlines this site is open through February 3rd during the partial government shutdown.

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MLK House

Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, is actually a cluster of sites operated by the National Park Service. As we planned our visit to Atlanta, we knew Dr. King was born and raised in Atlanta, but did not realize his full impact on this southern city. We added this site to our list of places to visit along with The Atlanta History Center.


Ebenezer Baptist Church

As you continue to explore the area, don’t miss the Ebenezer Baptist Church, located just down the block from the Dr. King’s Birth Home. Dr. King was co-pastor with his father and this is where his mother was murdered.  However, most will know this church as the place where Dr. King’s funeral was held.


Funeral Wagon For Dr. King’s Coffin

European Road Trip Planner



Château de Chenonceau


Walking up to the Château– The Marques Tower to the Right

During our visit in Paris, we wanted to visit the Loire Valley and we made a stop via the SNCF train system to explore the Château de Chenonceau

This Ladies’ château or castle, is worthy of your time during your visit in the Loire valley.  There is a nicely chronological details of the history of this second castle over the Cher river  that describes how several women left their mark in its construction and history.

As I mentioned, this château in the picture is not the first one over the Cher river. The first château was destroyed by fire as to punish the original proprietors of this property- The Marques family. The only thing left on the property from the original château is known as the The Marques Tower. It is not often for tours and is a cathedral.


Château de Chenonceau

Jumping ahead in history a little as we visited the connecting château later in our 4 days in the Loire.  Henri II dies, his widow Catherine de Medici forced his mistress Diane de Poitiers to exchange one château for another (The Château Chaumont for the Chenonceau).  Catherine enclosed the bridge and made into a gallery. During our visit it was setup for dinner (see below).  Of course, more rooms were added and many parties were had here.


The Gallery Set for Christmas Dinner


The Gardens


The Gardens

By train, air, road

The Château is located in Touraine, on the Cher river, 214 km from Paris, and 34 km from Tours.
Journey time from Paris:

  • 2 hours by car via the autoroute A10 “Aquitaine” (Blois or Amboise exits)
  • 1 hour by T.G.V. Paris-Montparnasse / Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours)
  • 1 hour by T.G.V. Paris-Aéroport Roissy-CDG / Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours)
  • 25 minutes by TER Tours-Chenonceaux
  • The SNCF station is located near the ticket office (400m)

Self-Guides Tours are available as well audio-guided tours

Your can also explore other option for tours below

Guides Walking Tour of Château de Chenonceau



Palace of Versailles

Gates to the Palace

During your visit to Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a must-see as it is just a short and easy train trip at about 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside of Paris. I visited this fascinated and opulent place with its over-the-top decorations during the Christmas season. As you walk through the Palace, you can explore the grounds including: the Royal Apartments, The Royal Stables, the Gardens, the Estate Trianon, and of course, the Hall of Mirrors. In this room, history was made when the Treat of Versailles was signed. The table has now been moved off to a back area.

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Table Where Treaty of Versailles was Signed

Table Where Treaty of Versailles was Signed

Approaching the Palace is amazing. It is incredibly ornate and it’s very interesting to see the apartments along each side of the Palace. We had booked a small group tour in advanced via Viator and met the agent near the tourist station just outside the main entrance to the Palace. This was a great option to avoid the growing line outside the Palace as it was rainy and chilly day.


Gates to the Palace

Gates to the Palace


Inside the Palace, we were guided through a 90 minutes tour and left with time to explore the grounds on own taking in the sites, sounds, and history of the place. As means to learn a little more about the history of Versailles with a little entertainment and drama added, consider the series Versailles . This original hunting lodge of King Louis XIV from 1878 continued to be expanded until his death in 1715. The wealth necessary to build and maintain it is one of many factors for the revolution in 1789.


Sun King-- Louis XIV

Sun King– Louis XIV

Painted Celling

Painted Celling



This time of year was considered low season for visitors, the Palace was very busy and often one had to wait a fe moment before continuing to explore each room. Nevertheless, this site is well worth your time while visiting the France and the romantic city of Paris.

Fellow bloggers have also enjoyed visits to the Palace. Please feel free to explore their posts below:

Living the Q Life 


Christmas in Uneasy Paris

For this year’s Christmas season, we decided to spend time in Paris.  This holiday season the city has been marred by weekly citywide violence that unfortunately became a regular part f the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests. This did not stop us from continuing to enjoy Paris, but with more caution this time around.  One can see the effects the protests and proceeding violence have had on what is often a very busy shopping season.




Entrance to the Musee Du Louvre

The image of the Louvre may be little deceptive as I took early prior to the opening of the museum. Of course, this is to say that early is relative to Paris as sunrise isn’t until after 8:00. Below are some more images during our stay in Paris during Christmas.


Christmas Markets in Paris

Christmas markets began in Germany and spread across Europe, these markets are open from Mid-November through early January in Paris. You can find them at several locations throughout Paris including  Les Halles, Notre-Dame to Les Tuileries, as well as the impressive Christmas Village at La Défense.  You can soak up the holiday season and atmosphere on the streets of the French capital!


Christmas Market near Saint Germain des Près


Christmas Market

Planning Your Next Visit to Paris? Consider exploring Booking.com 

Explore more about Paris by reading my other blog posts Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See Opéra Garnier or Paris’ Opera House  and  Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Paris 

Celebrate our Flying Friends

Happy National Bird Day!

January 5th marks the Avian Welfare Coalition’s campaign to celebrate  the flying creatures that share the world with us. I am adding some images of the birds seen throughout my travels to mark today’s celebration of birds in the wild.


Crimson-collared Tanager in Costa Rica


Black Guan in Costa Rica


Swans on The Rhine River, Germany


Kure Beach, North Carolina’s Pier—Don’t feed the birds!


A Gaggle of Ostrich on the Serengeti, South Africa


Fruit Bat in Ecuador

Hope you enjoyed….


Domaine de Chantilly-France


The Château de Chantilly


As one of the jewels of France’s cultural heritage, we had to visit this site. The amazing part is that this site has survived through the generation and was once a home of the last King of France- Louis-Philippe son’s- the Duke of Aumale. The chateau houses most of the Dukes’ masterpieces and other collected work of arts and he eventually bequeathed the property to the Institute of France in 1886. A journey back in time and worth the short treat outside of Paris.

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Map of the Domaine de Chantilly

Map of Domaine Chantilly

Map of Domaine Chantilly – courtesy of the Foundation for the Preservation and Development of the Domaine de Chantilly



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Ceiling of the Reading Room



Interesting Light Fixtures


Art Galley

After the Louvre museum, you will find the second largest collection of antique paintings in France here. These art galleries were designed by The Duke of Aumale. The layout of the paintings haven’t changed since the 19th Century per the Duke’s wishes. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the galleries, but don’t expect to find any true order to the paintings. Surprises will await you at every turn, though.


“The Madonna of the House of Orléans” by Raphael


Joan of Arc




Wall of Stain-glass

Learn more about the Domaine de Chantilly here

Tour Options from Paris to Explore Domaine de Chantilly 

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Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See


During a most recent trip to Paris, I took the #85 bus to Les Puces de Clignancourt for a visit to  “Marché aux puces,” which literally translates to– you guessed it– “flea market”. The largest Paris flea market is located in St. Ouen and was established around 1870.  The name of this market is rumored to have earned its name because of the ostensibly flea-infested furniture and other wares sold at the market just outside of the city’s northern fortifications. Years later, Pablo Picasso used the markets for walks of inspiration. Woody Allen even used the ‘puces’ for some scenes in his “Midnight in Paris” film.

Les Puces de Clignancourt: The Largest and Most Popular Flea Market

Claiming to be the largest of its kind in the world, the St. Ouen Flea Market attracts more than 11 million visitors per year and boasts over 2,500 stalls ranging from antiques to fashion, minus the fleas. As you begin to explore the area, you may notice that the outskirts of the market is flagged by terrible knock-off and other items easily found out the local dollar store or super-center. Just walk through these aisles and you will come into the more traditional flea market one expects to find here.


Maps of the markets can be find below.

(maps courteous of tourisme93.com)

In addition to this most famous of the “puces”, Paris counts several other fascinating markets to peruse and stroll. The possibilities for eccentric finds are nearly endless: you might happen upon old, charming ​knickknacks, records, clothes, books, eccentric quills or prized antique items. It’s one of the free Paris attractions that the budget-minded traveler should definitely add to their itinerary.


Marché St Ouen/Porte de Clingancourt

Address: Get off at Metro Porte de Clingancourt (line 4) and follow the signs to the market. The market lies between Paris’ 18th arrondissement (district) and the northern suburb of St Ouen.
Hours: Open Saturday, 9am to 6pm; Sunday, 10am to 6pm; and Monday, 11am to 5pm. Entry is free.

Click here to visit the official website 

Some other choices for markets (non-food) to explore during your next visit to Paris. Please note that most of these markets are open ONLY on the weekends with some open on Mondays.


Interesting Display…

Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves

Address: Avenue Georges Lafenestre and Avenue Marc Sangnier, 14th arrondissement
Metro: Porte de Vanves (Line 13)
Hours: Open: Every weekend all year long, 7am to 2pm. Entry is free.

Click here to visit the official website 

Marché du Livre Ancien et d’Occasion (Book Market)

Address: 104, rue Brancion, Parc Georges Brassens (under the pavilion Baltard), 15th arrondissement
Metro: Convention (line 12), Porte de Vanves (Line 13)
Hours: Open: Every weekend, 9am to 6pm. Entry is free.

Click here to visit the official website 

Marché aux Puces de Montreuil

Address: Avenue de la Porte de Montreuil
Metro: Porte de Montreuil
Hours: Open: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 7am to 7:30pm. Entry is free

If you are interested in a walking tour of the Flea Markets, look no further to DiscoverWalks, they offer a reasonable 90 minute walking tour about every Sat. & Sun. Learn more by visiting their website


Opéra Garnier or Paris’ Opera House

The Opéra Garnier

This 1979-seat opera house is perhaps one of the most famous buildings in Paris along with Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. The Opéra Garnier or Opéra de Paris  was built from 1861 to 1875 is worthy of a visit during your time in Paris. This theatre is  a specular depiction of Charles Garnier” goal of opulence and style of the type, who was the architect of this historical masterpiece.  Considering checking out a ballet as we did as you can often find a reason seat and enjoy the beatify of the building while taking in a theatre show.


The Grand Ballroom



The Grand Staircases



Inside the Theatre

A recent restoration of the theatre includes the ceiling with a new painting in a more modern style done by Marc Chagall and is noted in the image in the center of the grand chandelier. Due to our seats, this was the best image I could get, unfortunately.


The Ballet Performers

I had been to Paris some eight + times and for some reason hadn’t been inside the Opera House. In planning this visit I decided that a stay in near the Opera House was needed. A last minute ticket purchase lead to seeing the ballet La Dame aux camélias, which was exceptional. I highly recommend seeking this performance for those who love ballets.  The music, the cast, and atmosphere made for a night never to forget.

To explore current performances for the Palais Garnier please visit The Opéra de Paris

Season Greetings from Biltmore

The Biltmore Estate 

This 8,000 acre estate officially opened in 1895. A vision of George Vanderbilt, he took his inheritance from his father’s railroad and steamboat monopoly and invested in 125,000 acres of land in Asheville, NC.  The Vanderbilts enjoyed this view designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead from one of their balconies. You can learn more about the history of Biltmore here

This 250 rooms and 43 bathrooms estate, is a must see during your visit to Asheville, North Carolina.

During a day here, we took advantage of two tours: 1)  the very busy self-guided audio tour and  ‘upstairs and downstairs’ guided tour of the beyond the scenes. Both are well worth it.  Learn more about tour options for the Biltmore Estate 


Biltmore Estate 2018

Winter Garden-A Delight 

After completing the required security screening and checks of one’s tickets, you enter the main house through the two massive doors that are said to weigh some 800 lbs each.  Then, one is greeted by the winter garden with its wonderful statue of  Karl Bitter’s ‘Boy Stealing the Geese.” The garden is all decorated for the Christmas season very tastefully.


The Winter Garden- Boy Stealing Geese


Banquet Hall 

My favorite room of the house is the Banquet Hall which features a seven-story-high ceiling.  During the Christmas holiday, you will find a gorgeous decorated tree that a wonder to behold.  Also, the triple fireplace is quite interesting.


The Banquet Hall


Tapestries and Fireplaces

As you continue your journey through the estate, one will note the many historic and often ‘one of kind’ tapestries hanging in rooms. In addition, many rooms have themed fireplaces.




The Library

As you continue to work through the estate, each room as its own theme.  The library is no different. The ceiling in the image below is amazing and reminds me of something from a scene in Italy.  Above the fireplace, the tapestry adds to the atmosphere of this relaxing room. This room is a reflection of George Vanderbilt’s love for books.  There are thousands of books to choose from here.



The Library– Behind the Mantel is a Hidden Door.

Sitting Area


Recreation Time


Walkway in Basement- 29 ft below ground.

Taking the main stairs to the basement leads you to a long corridor with granite on each side. The self-guide audio tour states that we are now 29 ft below ground. The sad undecorated pine tree at the end stands out a little.

In the lower level of the estate, you are guided to something that most homes will only dream to include as part of the footprint. First, there is a bowling alley and next, a 70,000 gallon heated indoor pool.  Mr. Vanderbilt also made sure to have plenty of private changing rooms for his guests.


Bowling Ally


The Swimming Pool



More to come….

Every room is full of detail from floor to ceiling.  There are hidden doors to avoid disruption in the decor.  The photos below show a restored mantel, a seating area, and a portrait of Fredrick Law Olmstead in the Third Floor Living Hall.  Finally, a photo of the impressive 50 feet tall, iron chandelier weighing at some 1,700 pounds hangs from four stories in the main staircase.


Stay Options

Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast

The Residences at Biltmore – Asheville

The Inn On Biltmore Estate

The Reynolds Mansion

Things to Do

Tour the Biltmore Estate 

Explore Downtown Asheville




Covered Bridges in NC


Bunker Hill Covered Bridge (circa 1895)

Traveling through the backroads of North Carolina with its cotton, corn, and soy yields can take one back in time. I came across one of the last two covered bridges still standing in North Carolina known as Bunker Hill Covered Bridge. The name intrigued me from my time living in Boston, but this bridge is named for a local farmer in the area and dates back to 1895.

The bridge is free to visit and worth the short detour off Rt. 321 or I-40, which was about 15-20 minutes. This covered bridge is part of the Historical Association of Catawba County’s preservation efforts and other sites include:

Bunker Hill Covered Bridge
Catawba County History Museum
Harper House/Hickory History Center
Murray’s Mill Historic District

All are within a short 10-20 minute detour from I-40.


Please check out my previous post Covered Bridges in Georgia for more details about the history of covered bridges in the souther states.

As it was a Sunday, during the drive a couple of the historic sites were not open including Harper House and Catawba County Museum.  The Murray’s Mills Historic District was open and includes the Mill, an early 20th century home, and an old General Store.

Murray’s Mill


Murray’s Mills (circa 1883)

According to the docent, this mill built by John Murray is still in the family and is operational today. The original dam was wooden, but was replaced in 1938 with what is seen in the image above. The dam was also raised six feet and the general store was move across the street to its present location.


Murray & Minges General Merchandise


View from the Top of Dam–Murray’s Mill

Overall, a relaxing walk through this mill and yards. If you are in the area, consider exploring this history of the south. Consider going during the week, Tuesday through Saturday for a better chance of seeing all of the sites.



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