Category: Travel

National Museum of Funeral History

A chance drive by led to a visit to the National Museum of Funeral History.  This museum is located on the north side of Houston just of I-45 at exit 64. The building itself doesn’t stand out and you might just drive by it without giving the industrial-looking facade a second glance. Instead, consider paying the reasonable entrance fee (around $10 or under with discount) and take in the some 35,000 items on display through this museum’s permanent and special exhibits. All of which focus on the history of funerals. Such exhibits include:

Some of the more interesting findings during my tour of the museum continues as follows:

Presidential Funerals Exhibit

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Copy of George Washington’s Funeral Bill and Eulogy

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News Clipping of Lincoln’s Death

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FDR’s Death News Clipping

History of Embalming

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The Museum Display of Egyptian Mummification

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Early 19th Century Embalming Supplies

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Coffins and Caskets

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A Glass Coffin

Fantasy Coffins from Ghana Exhibit

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Historical Hearses

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Hearse of Princess Grace of Monaco

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Website Refreshed

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You might have noticed that drnicktravels.com looks a little different as I recently felt like the blog needed a refresh. In taking advice from my fellow blogger, “Living The Q Life” on their Annual Website Review post, I decided it was time to do a refresh of the blog including the theme. Consider leaving feedback letting me know your thoughts on the new layout.

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A Visit to Monticello

Monticello

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During our visit to Thomas Jefferson’s historic plantation known as Monticello or ‘little mountain’ in Italian, we explored the house, grounds, and gardens. Monticello as a name sake does fit estate  sites on a hill with wonderful views rolling hills and distance views of Charlottesville. During our time at this historic southern plantation, I learned more about the life of our third president and the intertwined connection of slavery here. This is one of the most visited historic sites in the area. Monticello and the University of Virginia are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Touring the Estate

There are several options to tour Monticello depending on the amount of time that you have to explore the plantation and area. In general, I would dedicate about 2 hours minimum to allow enough time to see most sites of this large plantation. You could spend most of your day here taking a “Behind the Scenes-Tour”, The Slavery-Walking Tour, the Garden Walking Tour, and enjoying time in the museum near the entrance at the foot of the mountain.  In addition, don’t miss the family grave site of the Jefferson.

We took time to do the ‘Behind the Scenes Tour” I do recommend booking tickets early as these sell out fast as a limited number of slots are available. You get to explore the house from top to bottom. Unfortunately, only certain areas of the home allow you to take photo.

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Doom Ceiling

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View from the Dome Room

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Doom Room

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The Cuddy

The Cuddy was a hideaway off ‘The Dome” room that Jefferson’s granddaughters often took advantage of using to get away from the noisy house. Learn more about the Cuddy.

Sally Hemings

Slaves were present and a part of daily activities on Monticello. One of these known enslaved individuals was Sally Hemings. You can learn more about her and the relationship she had with Thomas Jefferson by watch a video online and through exploring a moving exhibit at Monticello.

The Slavery of Monticello Tours is an outdoor walking tour that we took advantage of during our time visiting the UNESCO World heritage site. The tour is included with all ticket purchases and I highly recommend it. Of course, weather permitting.

Finally, we explored the gardens and listened in on the Garden and Grounds Tour , which is another outdoor waking tour of the gardens and grounds of Monticello. This tour is offered a couple of times a day and begins at the fish holding pond with tour hours posted here.

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Poppies in Bloom

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Views of the Lower Garden

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The Walk to The Family Cemetery

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Travel Advice – Be Vigilance

Travel Safety

As a frequent traveler, I am careful with guarding my personal effects including my wallet, which is always placed in my front pocket during the warmer months. In the cooler months, I wear a coat that has inside pocket near the upper right or left chest. Throughout all my travels, I have only had one attempt at pickpocketing with someone taking the hotel key (what they probably thought was a credit card) that I placed in my back pocket.

Fanny Pack Wearer Be Warned

Fanny Pack

Photo by M. Garret

I have never been a fan of these fanny packs. They just mess with my style and are just too easy for would-be thefts to gain quick access to your valuable and move on to the next victim. Please avoid wearing such extra items that make you stand out as a tourist and potential victim of the next pickpocket.

Traveling by Train in Europe – My Advice

One of the benefits of traveling in Europe over the U.S. is the exceptionally connected train service. Please don’t let anyone tell you that train travel in Europe is unsafe. Indeed, it is intimidating with some language barriers to manage, but the agents are used to tourist and foreign travelers. When in doubt; just ask ONLY official agents at booth. This will make sense later.
Some of my advice to make your next European train trip make it even safer.
  • Advice #1 – Never Put Wallet in Back Pocket – I haven’t placed my wallet in my back pocket in over 20 years. Never do this while traveling. How will you know it is gone until you reach for it? Instead, move it upfront (front pocket). If you are wearing a jacket, inside the front zipper as most have these areas. While on the metro/train, keep your hands in your pants pockets or near it.
  • Advice #2 – Bring Only What You Need – Cash is often best, but don’t go overboard bring too much so that you stand out in the line when paying. You will also need a credit card. Bring more than just that favorite rewards credit card. I recommend at least two (one for main use-outings) and a back-up credit card (kept safe somewhere). Please look for a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transition fee. They are growing in number.
  • Advice 3: Keep to yourself – I know it might seem like strange advice, but the metro/train is where picket-pockets look for their next victim. It is often through casual, unexpected conversation in your native tongue. You get excited that someone speaks your language and next thing you know, something is missing. Avoid speaking to someone who STRONG wishes to talk to you.  Positively, state you are fine or a “no, thank you….”
  • Advice 4: Avoid High Traffic Hours – you don’t want grab that metro/train that is so crowd that you have to squeeze on like sardines. This is makes for prime grounds for pickpockets. Try and book/move to/catch the next train/metro. After all, you are on vacation and why rush?
  • Advice 5 – Why the Purse? – In packing for your European trip, the purse might seem like a wonderful idea. Think twice (if you can) and avoid bring such an easy target for pickpockets. If you must bring it, don’t bring your Hermès, bring something far less expensive. Pack only things that if snatched would not be end of the vacation. 
  • Advice 6 – The Line 9 of Paris – This Paris Métro Line 9 is known to have lots of pickpockets. If you must take it, keep this in mind.
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Not the Line 9, But Like the Photo!

Hope you find my list of travel tips helpful as you begin to plan your next trip. Enjoy!

Cathedrals Of France

A visit through France offers one the opportunity to explore this great European country from its rich history, wine regions, and food. During your tour, consider taking in some of the many beautiful cathedrals dotted throughout the country. Some are within city centers while others stand out as beacons guiding one safely from the sea into the harbor.

Bordeaux France

Bordeaux France

Inside Our Lady’s Church

Our Lady’s Church

Our Lady’s Church or known locally Notre Dame  is in Bordeaux offers some outstanding baroque facade that contrast the simple interior of this cathedral. The chapel features  various trompe-l’œil ornaments, which are a series of 10 religious paintings by Brother André from the 17th century. In addition there are a series of beautiful 19th century stained glass windows, attributed to the famous Bordeaux glassmaker masters Hutrel and Villiet

Mont St. Michel

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Mont St. Michel

Mont St Michael

The Abbey

The Mont St. Michel is very busy welcoming nearly 2.5 million visitors including both pilgrims and tourists. The location of this UNESCO World heritage site in the middle of the bay offers wonderful views. In addition, the entrance to the medieval town below is where you will find the Tourist office. This definitely worth a visit. Learn more about visiting Mont St. Michel 

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The Priory of the Sacré-Cœur

As you glance down the side street, you might notice the above building and wonder what this might be? This the Priory of the Sacré-Cœur, which shelters a monastic community of sixteen Benedictine Sisters, who fulfill their vocation of the spiritual and material facilitation of Basilica of Sacré-Cœur.

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Basilica of Sacré-Cœur

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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I end this post with a image of the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Paris prior to the devastating fire earlier this year.

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Benefits of Traveling

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

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Travel should be a joyous experience. A journey in which one can captures the sense of wanderlust and you longing for more destination travel, cultural experiences, new foods to eat, and people to meet. You shouldn’t have to wait until your retirement years to begin traveling. Please read some benefits of travels and perhaps these will inspire you to book your travel locally or far away?

Finding a New Purpose

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” – Danny Kaye

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Photo by P. Apichodilok 

Exposure to new ideas, people, culture, and lifestyles makes you further understand your home country. You just might gain an appreciation that you are sharing a small portion of this larger planet we live on with others who often are seeking out the same purposes in life; careers and education goals. If you feel stuck in a rut, consider going on a trip to gain that new sense of purpose and direction.

Appreciate Your Home Even More

I can attest to the fact that being away from after a week or two, that I appreciate it even more and this is often two if traveling to locales that might not have the same luxuries as my place. For instance, a trip to the Serengeti National Park in which we camped in a tent that ran with generator power for a few hours during the day and bathing rain shower offer by a 5 gallon bucket.

We may take for granted our abundance supply of fresh clean drinking water. There are parts of the world, such as South Africa, India, and Ethiopia in which people don’t have as much access to clean drinking water.  Consider exploring water.org for opportunities to support ending the water crisis across the globe. It is through traveling to these areas that one is exposed to others plight and can appreciate what we do have. Sometimes this may one wish to support others to have a greater quality of life.

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

The more we travel, the more we realize that our home is so much more than the town, city, state and even country that we’ve grown up in; we realize that our home is the world, this planet, and we become more conscious of how we can harmoniously live and support one another.

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Do You Really Know That Much About The World?

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

You can watch all the shows, read books and magazines; but these are just concepts until you experience travel yourself. The world is often much different once you have experienced it. I still hear the myths that traveling is just too expensive and dangerous. You may realize that you can save more traveling, especially on lifestyle expenses while traveling this great planet of ours. There are many ways to save on travel through booking sites such as Booking.com  You have the whole world to see, experience, and learn. You can meet new people and experience new culture. Why not travel?

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A pleasure cruiser on the Douro River | Apexphotos/Moment/Getty Images

Life is a Wonderful Gift

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

A cheesy thought as I finish this blog post, but nevertheless. Life is a wonderful gift and we need to experience the most of it and travel. You won’t have many regrets realizing that you have seen this wonderful planet of ours rather staying shying in your hometown wonderful ‘why if I had?” Go on and travel!

Normandy France – A Brief Look Back

D-Day Remembered

June 6, 1944 marked the invasion of Allied troops to Normandy and this year marks the 75th year of what is still the largest air, land, and sea invasion in history against the Hitler’s forces. History will be lost without remembering the past.

A drive through this region of France offers the opportunity to reflect back to honor the sacrifices of our U.S. and Allied troops. troops. We stopped at the Juno Beach Centre , which is dedicated as a museum to honor the sacrifice of some 45,000 young Canadian men and women who fought alongside Allied forces to liberate France during World War II.

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The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day. Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.” – from Juno Centre’s website

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A Plaque in the Centre

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First Aid Supplies

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Bunker from Outside

Learn more about our visit to Juno Beach by visiting Normandy France- Juno Beach

Juno Beach

Once you have finished your visit to the Juno Beach Centre . You should consider explore the historic Juno Beach just over the sand dunes, if weather permits.  I highly recommend this museum and a walk on the beach, if you are ever in Normandy.

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The Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery

We further visited the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, which contain some 2,048 WWII Canadian soldiers with around 19 unidentified soldiers. The cemetery is beautiful and peacefully quiet. This cemetery is located about 1 kilometer east of the village of  Reviers, France.

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Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery

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A Plantation Home of George & Martha

Mount Vernon

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Mount Vernon Facing The Potomac

This plantation home of the first U.S. President and his wife Martha was built during 1757. Mount Vernon served as the home of George Washington for over four decades. You are able to tour part of the original estate, the gravesites of George and Martha Washington and other family members. In addition, the property includes the Ford Orientation Center and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. Each of these newer additions to the grounds offer the opportunity to learn more about our first President through film, artifacts, galleries, and exploring what life might have been like during this time. Consider having lunch or dinner at The Mount Vernon Inn restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner daily except on Sundays.

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The mansion is going through some renovation as you might notice in the above image, but you are still able to enjoy tours of the home and grounds.

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View of the Potomac from Mount Vernon

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Reconstructed Buildings

Inside the Mansion

The public tour of the mansion can go rather quickly as this is one of the most visited places in Virginia and the world. So, there was not much time to shoot photos. Below are a few that I managed to grab during our walk through this historic site.

The tour we took allow us to explore the basement of the mansion, but honestly this was more of novelty for those who might have seen the movie “National Treasures.”

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Basement of Mount Vernon


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Exploring the Grounds

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The Necessary in the Lower Garden (not just for one)

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Slavery at Mount Vernon

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Slavery did exist on Mount Vernon and often during tours I hear individuals ask the docent such questions as “how were the slaves treated” or “did the owner treat them well.” The answer is often varied, but generally the summary is the same as they are enslaved and any form of bondage is cruel. Please click on the image below to watch and learn more about Slavery at Mount Vernon.

Tomb of George Washington

George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. As you walk down the hill toward the current tomb, consider taking a slight detour to the original location of the family vault nearer to the river. ‘The Old Vault” is still present here, but no longer contains any graves.

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The Original Grave Site Closer to The River

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The Old Vault

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Tomb of George Washington

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A Self-Guided Tour Of The White House

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U.S. White House (Photo by A. Kittredge)

In planning another visit to Washington, D.C., I wanted to attempt a visit to the historic White House. I was happy to secure tickets through our representative. I recommend planning ahead of time if you plan to visit the inside of the U.S. White House. It is recommended to secure dates about 3 months, but no later than 21 days from your scheduled visit. Explore Whitehouse.gov for more details on how to schedule a self-guided White House tour.

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The General William Tecumseh Sherman Statue (circa 1903)

The self-guided White House tours security checks begin front and just to the right as you are facing the Tecumseh Sherman Statue in Sherman Square. You will find a gate with a small white booth with two uniformed Secret Service guards and someone with a blue vest here to check your tickets and IDs. If you have purse or bag, these will be searched as well. Please read Whitehouse.gov  as to what is allowed and not allowed in the White House. We witnessed a couple that was turned away because they attempted to bring an item that was not permitted.  You will walk behind the statue and go through another ID check and then, airport style security and two more security checks prior to entering the East Wing of the White House. It took us about 25 minutes to go through this process. Please plan your schedule accordingly.

East Wing

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The Library

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China Room

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The Ballroom

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The State Dining Room

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The Red Room

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The Blue Room

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Staircase to Residence

Painted Presidents and First Ladies

As you explore the East Wing of the White House, the painted eyes of presidents and first ladies watch over you. It is a tradition to select an artist and have a portrait made to be placed in the White House. Enjoy the view of as you explore our famous landmark during your self-guided tour.

Painted Presidents

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George Washington

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Abraham Lincoln

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Andrew Jackson

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John F. Kennedy

The Painted Ladies

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Edith Carrow Roosevelt

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Laura Bush

 

 

   

The Apothecary Museum in Old Town Alexandria, Va

A short metrorail trip from the Ronald Regan Washington National Aiport (DCA) allows one to see one of the top smallest cities in the country, Alexandria Virginia.  I recently took the metrorail to the King Street stop to explore Old Town Alexandria.  You can take leisurely walk down King Street to see why this is such an attractive and historical city. Don’t let just explore this one avenue. Go beyond it and you will find more history as I did with the Apothecary Museum

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King Street View Toward Potomac River

**The Metrorail from King Street Station** is under construction and will be closed among other stations from May 25, 2019 through September 8, 2019.  I recommend exploring this link to learn more:

As one walks along historic King street, you can take in the sites and sounds coming from the local shops, restaurants, and antiques. Of course, there are some national chains present, but don’t let this discourage you from seeing some of the most historically preserved part of our history by visiting Old Town Alexandria. It is wonder Alexandria is often rated small-towns live. This is a very easy to walk city and commuter friendly to other major city.

The Apothecary Museum

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During our walk, we decided to explore the Apothecary Museum. The museum is located at 107 S. Fairfax Street just a half block off of King Street. They offer a 45-minute guided tour of the first and second floors of this historical pharmacy. This museum is now owned by the City of Alexandria and has been preserved for future generations.

Most of the contents of Apothecary includes original herbal botanicals, hand-blown glass jars, and medical equipments. Some well-known figures have appeared in documents, including Martha Washington and Robert E. Lee.

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Request from Ms. Martha Washington.

The Museum (circa 1792)

First Floor

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Mix of Medicines Used Here including Opium and Arsenic (old lace)

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Nursing Equipment of the 1800’s

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Forde’s Electric Razor

 

Second Floor

Exploring the second floor offers a look beyond the scenes to manufacturing of goods and products for the apothecary. The docent this day was informative and excited to show the group several unusual items on display.

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If you are interested in learning more and perhaps visiting this gem of a historical pharmacy, please visit the City of Alexandria’s website to learn more about hours and tour times.

Thank you for reading  and please do share your thoughts and comments.