Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fantastic Metal Beasts and Where to Find Them in Salem

Looking for something free and extremely out of the ordinary to do in Salem, Massachusetts?  How about a visit to a yard full of metal sculptures? Yes, you read that correctly.  If you’re visiting Salem or live nearby, you should stop by this outdoor sculpture gallery located in, yes, someone’s front yard.

The remarkable sculptures range from recognizable to, well, rather abstract.  Each of the peculiar pieces of art is made from recycled and reused metal materials that the owner-artist has salvaged or saved.  From giant insects to robots riding rolling machines to mechanized fountains, you can’t help but smile when admiring the rather unique display.  There’s even a large collection of antique and whimsical door knockers assembled on the yard’s fence. Both adults and children will surely be amused by this curious collection.

If someone is home, they’re happy to let you wander around the yard to get a close up look.  If not, you can easily see everything from outside the fence, as we did.

Things to Know

The home is adjacent to a parking lot for the Salem Ferry, but the parking is not free.  You may be able to find a space on the adjacent main road. Otherwise, pull the car over, put on your hazard lights, and enjoy for a few minutes. 

Location

The yard of metal sculptures is located at 10 Blaney St. in Salem, Massachusetts. Click on the link for directions.

Follow the signs for the Salem Ferry 

Hadrian’s Wall: The Extraordinary Remains of Roman Life in Britain

Hadrian's Wall I’m on Hadrian’s Wall to defend Roman Britain from the barbarians in the north! Hadrian's Wall Actually, I’m at Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall, which was built, starting in 122 A.D., to protect northern Britain, which was part of the Roman Empire, from attacks by the Picts and other tribes living in what is now Scotland.  Along the wall, there were forts, garrisoned by both cavalry and infantry units, and surrounded by communities, every 5 miles. Turrets and milecastles, with smaller garrisons, guarded the areas of the wall in between the forts. Around 410 A.D., the Romans abandoned Britain, but archaeological evidence shows that native Britons continued to garrison the wall through the 5th century.  Over the next few centuries, the wall fell into disrepair, Hadrian's Walland many of the stones were taken away to build other structures. Today, visitors can hike almost the entire length of the wall, can explore the Hadrian's Wallexcavated remains of several Roman forts, and can see fascinating collections of artifacts that reveal how Romans, soldiers from all throughout the Empire, and local people lived together, socialized, traded, and intermarried in the forts and communities along the wall.

 

Housesteads Roman Fort is the most complete of all the forts along Hadrian’s Wall.  Construction began on the fort in 124 AD, only two years after the beginning of the Hadrian's Wallbuilding of Hadrian’s Wall.  The original name of the fort was Vercovicium, which means “place of the effective fighters”.  Today, visitors begin the self-guided tour in the excellent museum which gives a necessary and interesting overview of the layout of the fort, the various stages of construction, the use of the site over time, and the daily lives of the soldiers and families garrisoned there.  Next, venture out into the remains of the fort.  A wonderful guidebook, which I highly recommend purchasing, will explain the nature and purpose of each building.  There are also signs placed throughout the Roman ruins to help you understand what you’re seeing and see what the buildings once looked like.  Here are some of the remains that are interesting to explore:

  • the bakery where bread was produced for the soldiers and their families
  • the granaries (photo upper right) in which wheat was stored; be sure to read about the intriguing system that was used to keep the wheat dry and protected from vermin
  • the barracks (photo upper left) where the soldiers and their unit commanders lived; the soldiers were not native to Britain but rather came from provinces all across the Roman Empire including northern Africa, Germany, France, Belgium, Hadrian's Walland Italy; globalization isn’t only a modern concept!
  • the bathhouse in which soldiers could not only clean themselves but also socialize and relax
  • the hospital where soldiers were treated for sickness and injuries with medicine that was surprisingly advanced for the time
  • the principia, or headquarters, which served as a basilica in which justice was provided and orders were given, a shrine to the gods and to the Roman emperor, and a strongroom to hold valuables
  • the praetorium, or commanding officer’s house
  • the latrines, or restrooms, (photo to the right) which are the most well-preserved Roman latrines in Britain
  • the walls, ramparts, and gates
  • the civilian settlement where approximately 500 local people lived, worked, traded with, and intermarried with the Romans

Hadrian's WallWhen you’re finished touring the remains of the fort, I highly recommend taking a Hadrian's Walllong walk along Hadrian’s Wall.  Doing so will allow you to see the amazing feats of engineering it took to construct this defensive structure across the different terrains in northern England.  In addition, you’ll experience some breathtaking landscapes which I’m sure you’ll want to take photos of, like I did.  All alone, way out along the wall, you can contemplate what life was like here in the past when Romans and native Britons lived together, socialized, traded, shared ideas and customs, and even intermarried.  If I close my eyes now, I can still see the amazing landscapes along the wall.  It’s an experience that you’ll never forget.

 

Location of Houseteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall

Houseteads Roman Fort is located at Haydon Bridge outside the town of Hexham in the country of Northumbria, England.  For specific driving directions, click on the map below.   If you don’t have a car, from the beginning of April to the end of September, the Hadrian’s Wall Bus (AD122) can get you to any of the forts, Roman sites, and museums along the wall, including Housesteads.  This website provides detailed information about locations and timetables.

 

York: A Walking Tour of the City’s Most Medieval Destinations

York is a bustling English city with incredible medieval roots. Join me on a walking tour of the city’s medieval sites including the most intact city walls in Britain, a castle and prison, a street straight out of the Middle Ages, a magnificent cathedral, and a Holy Roman emperor’s sword!  Let’s go back in time to explore medieval York.

 

One of things that York is best known for is its city walls.  York has more miles of intact walls than any other city in Britain!  The walls date back all the way to Roman times, and you can see the best preserved structure from Roman Multiangular Tower Yorktimes if you visit the Multiangular Tower in the Museum Gardens (the free, public, botanic gardens in the center of York).  The tower is a defensive structure that is, likely, and addition to the Roman walls built around 310 A.D.  While the surviving Roman structure is fascinating, we’re here to see the medieval city walls, which were constructed from the 12th to the 14th century.  The medieval walls are interrupted by four gatehouses which are known asBootham Bar York “bars”.  These bars not only provided a way to close off the city in times of war but also to restrict traffic and allow the collection of tolls.  Collecting tolls to enter a city is not a modern invention!  The oldest of these gatehouses is Bootham Bar.  Bootham’s archway dates from Norman times, but the rest of the gatehouse was constructed during the 14th century, when the structure was heightened to add a portcullis.   In 1501, a larger knocker was added to Bootham Bar because the gate was kept locked and any visiting Scots were required to knock and obtain the permission of the Lord Mayor to enter the city.  I would imagine most people followed the rule because the heads of traitors were often mounted on the gate! Today, visitors are welcome to climb across and through Bootham Bar while they walk along the 2.5 miles of walls surrounding York.  The walls are the most complete of any English city, and I found the scenery along the wall walk to be incredibly beautiful.  Here’s a link to  map of the city’s walls, which I used during my walk.  If your mobile device can’t access the internet in the UK, be sure to print out a copy before you leave your accommodations.

 

York Minster The next stop on our tour of medieval York is the city’s most famous and most popular tourist destination.  York Minster, officially the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St. Peter in York, is a Gothic cathedral built over a period of 250 years between 1220 and 1472.  I bet you’re wondering why it’s called a “minster”? The first church on the site was built in 627, and during Anglo-Saxon times, important churches were called minsters, hence the cathedral’s name.   Many also don’t know that York Minster was originally built as a Norman-style cathedral but was dismantled as the Gothic architecture replaced the previous one. Today, York Minster has the highest proportion of surviving medieval stained glass of any European cathedral. This includes, what I considered to be the highlight of my visit to the minster, a chance to see the breathtaking rose window, which is often referred to as the “Heart of Yorkshire”.

 

 

If you’re like me, you might be interested in seeing how York looked during medieval The Shambles Yorktimes.  The Shambles is a street that allows us to do just that.  Many of its half-timber buildings date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  The name “Shambles” is likely short The Shambles Yorkfor “Great Flesh Shambles (Shelves)”, indicating that all of the butcher shops of the city were once located along this street, all the way up through the Victorian Era.  Outside some of the shops, you can still see metal hooks that meat once hung on. Slaughter houses were located behind the store fronts, and meat would be sold from what is now the window bottoms. Looking up, it’s evident that the second floor hangs over the street, likely to prevent the sun from hitting the meat for sale.  Visitors will also notice that the sides of the streets are higher, creating a channel through which the blood and remains of the butchering process could be washed away. Medieval Europe was definitely not known for its sanitation!  Don’t worry because the butcher shops are long gone and today the street is lined with shops, pubs, and restaurants and is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.

 

The next stop on our tour is lovely St. Helen’s Square, which is the site of one of the most elegant Mansion House Yorkbuildings in York, Mansion House.  When I visited, Mansion House had beautiful trees of petunias standing in front of it, so I couldn’t help but stop and smell the flowers.  In England, a “mansion house” is home of the city’s Lord Mayor.  Completed in 1732, York’s Mansion House is the oldest in England, making it twenty years older than even London’s equivalent.  The Lord Mayor of York, who is also Chairman of the City Council, is appointed by that council each year and serves as the city’s civic head and its first citizen.  So why are we stopping at an 18th century structure on a tour of medieval York?  Well, since York’s first Lord Mayor was appointed by King Richard II in 1389, the Lord Mayor is second in precedence only to the Lord Mayor of London.  So the Lord Mayor of York would have presided over the city in medieval times.  In addition, York’s Mansion House is open to the public and features period furnishings, one of the largest collections of city-owned silver in England, and a display of civic regalia, including a sword once owned by a medieval Holy Roman Emperor.  That’s what makes Mansion House a worthy stop on our tour of medieval York!

 

So we’ve seen a medieval city walls, a towering cathedral, a street straight of the Middle Ages, and some medieval weaponry.  Let’s finish off our tour of medieval York with a castle, albeit one with a rather tragic past.  Clifford’s Tower, the keep of York Castle, has a dark and sad history.  In 1190, a group of 150 Jews were offered the official protection ofClifford’s Tower York the king against a mob of violent anti-Semitic riots sweeping through England.  A group of local gentry, who owed large debts to Jewish money-lenders, saw widespread rioting against Jews as an opportunity to rid themselves of their debtors.  Fearing betrayal, the Jews locked out the royal constable, who summoned knights and siege engines to open the tower by force. A local monk, who was inciting the mob gathered outside, was accidentally killed by a falling rock.  This event further enraged the crowd, who increasingly called out for Jewish blood. Faced with the fear of being killed by the mob or being forced to be baptised, most of the 150 Jews inside committed suicide and then set fire to the keep, which was wooden at the time.  A few Jews who did not take their own lives died in the fire, and the remaining were killed by the mob. An investigation, ordered by the king, was later held, and the city was forced to pay a heavy fine. However no people were ever tried or punished for the horrific crimes.  The tower was rebuilt out of stone and used as a jail until an explosion destroyed the interior in the 17th century. The ruins became a tourist attraction and are managed today by English Heritage. In 1978, a memorial tablet was installed at the base of the tower to remember those that died there, and in 1990, the 800th anniversary of the pogrom was held on site.

 

While you’re at Clifford’s Tower, I highly recommend visiting the York Castle Museum.  Located on the site of a former York Castle Museumcastle, the museum is located inside of an 18th century prison that once held both male and female prisoners.   If you purchase tickets to the museum you can tour (for free) a section of the original prison cells and what learn what life was like there for some York Castle Museumrather infamous inmates.  The museum itself contains many fascinating and regularly changing exhibits.  The main attraction for me was Kirkgate, an entire Victorian street that has been recreated inside the museum.  You can wander in and out of each of the shops along the street.  Each shop is based on an actual business in York, some of which are still in operation today!  Some of shops include Banks Music, Sessions Printers, Cooper’s Saddlers, Horsley’s Gunsmith, Cooke’s Scientific Instruments, Edward Allen Taxidermist, The Little Dust Pan Ironmongers, Kendrick’s Toy Dealers and Fancy Repository, George Britton’s Grocers, and John Saville the Pharmaceutical Chemist.  You’ll also wander into an alleyway known as Rowntree Snicket which shows us the poverty of Victorian cities and a working class family’s home.  While exploring the street, you might run into one of many Victorian characters who can tell you more about their lives or catch the Magic Lantern Show.  York Castle Museum is one of my favorite museums in the world, and therefore, I consider it a “must” to any trip to the city.

 

Locations in York

I’ve created a clickable map with all of the destinations mentioned on our tour.  Click on the map below and then click on the marker for each location to get detailed walking or driving directions to it.  York is a very walkable city, so I’d recommend plotting out a route by using the map and then hoofing it, like I did.  Clifford’s Tower and York Castle Museum are a bit of a distance away from the other sites, so you might want to see those on a different day, use public transportation, or hail a taxi to reach them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chatsworth House: An Opulent Day Out in Derbyshire

Chatsworth HouseChatsworth House is a spectacular mansion house and estate located in the Peak District of England.  The home has seen its share of famous personalities.  MaryChatsworth House Queen of Scots was held as a prisoner at Chatsworth numerous times between 1568 and 1572, and the house’s owners, Bess of Hardwick and Sir William Cavendish, were entrusted by Queen Elizabeth I as the Scottish monarch’s jailors.   Other famous visitors to the house were Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were entertained there in 1843. Chatsworth Chatsworth Housewas also the filming location for] the 2015 version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, and the 2013 TV version of Death Comes to Pemberley.  Experts believe that Jane Austen actually based descriptions of Pemberley on her visits to Chatsworth House.  You can see a photo of me and Mr. Darcy (well, his statue!) below.  The 2008 film the Duchess (also Chatsworth Housestarring Keira Knightley), based on a biography of Georgiana Cavendish, wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, was also filmed at Chatsworth.   The fascinating tour of the state rooms  introduces you to all of these personalities and gives us “common people” a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the ultra rich upper crust.

 

Chatsworth is located on a 35,000 acre estate that contains a plethora of gardens and landscapes to explore.  The Cascade at Chatsworth House was voted best water feature in England by a panel of experts.  Originally built in 1696 by a French hydraulic engineer who worked for Chatsworth HouseLouis XIV, it was redesigned and doubled in size in 1708.  The Cascade is a set of 24 stone Chatsworth House Gardenssteps over which water flows from a set of fountains at the top, where Cascade House, a faux Baroque Temple is located.  The Cascade is one of many water features in Chatsworth’s 105 acres of gardens.  Be sure to allocated some time during your visit to explore them.  Some of my favorites were the Grotto House and Pond, the maze, the rock garden, and the Ravine.  There’s also an adventure playground and a farmyard for the children.  As a nice break in your day out, have a bite to eat in one of the estate’s restaurants, located in the former stables, and browse through the lovely gift shop.  You and your family can enjoy an entire day out at Chatsworth Estate!

Location of Chatsworth House

Chatsworth is located in Derbyshire, England, about 1.5 hours outside of Manchester, in an area known as the Peak District.  The mansion and gardens can get very busy, so I would advise purchasing your tickets online and arriving when they open.  Then take the earliest tour of the house and explore the gardens and grounds after.   Click the map below for directions to Chatsworth House and Estate.

After visiting Chatsworth, consider a side trip to Haddon Hall.  It’s only 20 minutes from Chatsworth.  We combined both into a lovely day out.  For more on Haddon Hall, see my post “Haddon Hall: The Finest Example of a Medieval and Tudor Manor House in Britain”.

Chatsworth HouseChatsworth House

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau: Thrills for the Entire Family!

Alpine Coaster OberammergauThe Alpine coaster Oberammergau is a thrill ride (with a view!) for the entire family.   You ride the coaster in a cart on the world’s longest weatherproof toboggan run with a magnet system. How would I know? I’ve done it myself, and I don’t even like roller coasters!

 

What You Need to Know about the Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

 

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

chair lift to the coaster

 

First, purchase a ticket for both the chair lift and the alpine coaster.   Then, you’ll take the chair lift (like the ones at a ski resort) for a ride up the mountain, where you’ll board the coaster at the top. The chair lift ride is incredibly scenic.  Looking forward, you’ll get lovely views of the forest and mountain, and looking behind you, you’ll see the gorgeous Bavarian countryside and Alps.

 

Once at the top, you’ll transfer over to a cart to ride the Alpine coaster.   Here are the details:

  • The coaster features a modern, magnetic break system. You control the brakes, which are levers that are located on both sides of the cart.

 

  • Seat belts are required for safety.

 

  • The fastest that you can go is 25 miles per hours, and believe me, that’s fast enough!

    Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

    rear view from the chair left

 

  • Each cart seats either a single user, an adult and a child, or a taller adult and a smaller adult. If two people are going in one cart, one person sits inside the legs of the other. Be aware that the smaller person must sit in the front.  My fiancée and I went in one cart, but one of us is much taller than the other.

 

  • Children ages 3 and up can only ride with an adult.

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

where you board the coaster

 

 

  • Children age 8 and taller than 4 feet 7 inches (1,40m) can ride alone.

 

 

  • The track is an 8,530 foot (2,600 m) slide, with many twists and turns, that goes down the side of the mountain. There are not any huge rises and falls, like on a roller coaster; it’s more like a toboggan run.

 

Are You Hesitant to Ride?

I definitely was too! I don’t enjoy roller coasters, and I’m afraid of heights. I went on the Alpine coaster because my Alpine Coaster Oberammergaufiancée really wanted to.   We rode in one cart because I was too scared to go on my own. I would highly recommend riding together if you’re scared. Let the other person control the breaks and tell them you don’t want to go very fast. I made it through just fine, although I did close my eyes around many of the turns!   My fiancée absolutely loved it, and took another ride by himself.  You can check out the video below that my fiancée took of a portion of his ride.  It will give you a sense of what to expect.  My advice to you . . . Do it!  If I did it, so can you.  It’s a vacation experience you won’t forget and will regret not doing, if you don’t go.

 

Location of the Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

***Be sure to check the park’s website before you go. Hours can very from month to month and are weather dependent.

The Alpine Coaster Oberammergau is located at Kreislainenweg, 82487 in Oberammergau. The park is right off highway B23 but can be a bit tricky to find if you don’t have a GPS or a cell phone with the internet. If you have internet access on your cell phone, click on the map below to get driving directions.   If not, print the directions and a map of the turns near the park before you leave. There is one tricky turn in which you’ll have to go under the highway to enter the park.

Alpine Coaster oberammergau

Other Activities at the Park

From June to early November, the park also features a ropes course, playground, and hiking trails. In the winter, a ski facility operates on site.

 

Other Activities in the Area

Here are my guides for other destinations near the Alpine coaster:

Video of Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

Here’s the video that my fiancée took of a portion of his solo ride.  It will let you know what to expect in your ride.

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Fussen: A Guide to Your Home Base for Exploring Southern Bavaria

Fussen GermanyFussen is a town in southern Bavaria that makes an excellent home base for travelers who want to explore Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles or the Bavarian Alps, in general. The area around Fussen is gorgeous with the Alps all around you and the German countryside at your doorstep.  Fussen has only a few attractions in its own right, but its convenient location and many services make it an attractive place to spend one or more nights. Tourists have many hotels, b&bs, and apartments to choose from, and the plethora of restaurants, cafes, shops, and gelato stands make for relaxing evenings after long days of sightseeing.  Here are my recommendations for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what day trips to take.

 

Where to Stay in Fussen

Fussen Germany

Mein lieber Schwan

While in Fussen, we stayed at Mein lieber Schwan, an Art Noveau home that’s now divided into a series of four apartments rented by a local family, who also lives in the house. They also own another building in town that contains two other apartments. We spent three nights in the Leda apartment, which was exceptionally large for European standards, nicely decorated with German antiques, and very comfortable. Our apartment had a bedroom, living room, eat in kitchen (with all of the appliances and amenities that you would ever need!), bathroom, and balcony with Alpine views. The apartment was exceptionally quiet and very reasonably priced. There is one free, but tight, parking space available, but instead, we chose to park (for a fee) at the nearby garage, located under the Theresienhof Shopping Mall. The apartment is located on a small side street in the middle of town, with less than a 5 minute walk to restaurants, cafes, and shops.

 

Sites in Fussen

Early evening is a nice time to walk around town to take in the sites. You’ll see everything in less than an hour. Here are the highlights.  For a map of these locations, see the “locations” section below.

 

  • In the center of town are Hotel Hirsch, a pleasant garden, and interesting water sculptures. Across the main street is one of only two stone towers from Fussen’s medieval town walls.

    Fussen Germany

    Church of the Holy Spirit

Fussen Germany

medieval tower

  • Head down to the Lech Riverbank for a lovely walk, along Flosser and Stadtbleiche Streets.

 

  • Stop at the Church of the Holy Spirit to take a look at its painted façade.

 

  • Step inside the gates of a former monastery to see what’s now the Fussen Heritage Museum. Even if you won’t want to go inside the museum, step into the courtyard for a look.

 

  • Climb up the hill to see the best sites in Fussen: St. Magnus Basilica and the High Castle. The former home and church of the Bishop of Augsburg dominate the landscape and provide amazing views of town. Be sure to walk into the castle’s courtyard to see how it’s painted to make flat walls look 3D.

 

Eating in Fussen

 

Dinner

Fussen Germany

Fussen Heritage Museum

For dinner, I highly recommend the following reasonably priced restaurants in Fussen. We ate at both and enjoyed our food and experience tremendously!  Both also have menus available in English and other languages.

  • Restauarant Ritterstub’n – excellent authentic German food – if the weather is nice, sit in the cozy courtyard in the back

 

  • Schenke & Wirtshaus – delicious traditional Bavarian dishes in very German setting

 

Dessert

Eiscafe Hohes Scholoss (Gelato/Italian Ice Cream) – serves the best gelato in town. We went there all three nights that we were in Fussen!  And if you’re dairy free, like me, they offer a large variety of delicious sorbets (sorbettos).

 

Breakfast

Fussen Germany

Clock Tower of the High Castle

For breakfast, we choose to eat on the go.   Each day, we stopped into the local REWE supermarket (located in the Theresienhof Shopping Mall) and bought freshly baked bread (they have a whole counter of bread and pastries baked in store!), German sandwich meats, fruits, and snacks to have a delicious meal to take with us. The market also sells pre-made sandwiches at the bread counter in the front of the store.

 

Day Trips from Fussen

Fussen is a less than 10 minute drive to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. This is extremely convenient because you’ll want to arrive at the castles when they open to avoid the hordes of tourists and tour buses that descend on the site by 9/10:00AM.

 

Driving distance from Fussen to other destinations:

  • Oberammergau & Ettal Monastery – 1 hour
  • Zugspitze – 1 hour

    Fussen Germany

    statue of St. Magnus in Fussen

  • Mittenwald – 90 minutes

 

Please see my other guides to destinations nearby Fussen:

 

Locations in Fussen

I have placed all of the locations listed above on a Google My Map that you can access by clicking here.

Alternatively, click on the names of any of the locations below to be taken to specific walking directions.

Mien lieber Schwan is located Augustenstrasse 3 .

Hotel Hirsch and the medieval tower are located at .

The Fussen Heritage Museum is located at .

The Church of the Holy Spirit is located at

St. Magnus Basilica and the High Castle are located at

Restauarant Ritterstub’n is located at

Schenke & Wirtshaus is located at

Eiscafé Hohes Schloss is located at Reichenstrasse 14.

The REWE supermarket is located at .

 

 

 

 

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Things to Do in Tampa: The Henry Plant Victorian Hotel Museum

Henry Plant Museum

Minaret of the Henry Plant Museum

If you’re visiting Tampa, Florida, then you’re probably enjoying a vacation of fun in the sun. Did you know that people have been visiting Tampa for its wonderful tropical weather since the late 1800’s? You can see how these rich “high rollers” of the past spent their vacation days at a former opulent Victorian hotel that’s now a museum. And it’s right in the heart of downtown Tampa!  Visit the Henry Plant Museum.

 

From 1891 to 1932, Henry B. Plant, a railroad and steamship millionaire, operated a grand hotel for the rich in the new, rustic resort known as Tampa. Today, the former hotel is the Henry Plant Museum, where you can explore what it was like to stay at this sumptuous, state-of-the-art resort.  Henry Plant spent $2.5 million dollars to build the hotel and then traveled through Europe to collect $500,000 worth of furniture, antiques, and collectables to decorate it.  His hotel was the lap of luxury and featured splendors that were almost unknown at the time, including electricity, telephones, and private bathrooms in each room!  Visit a recreated suite and learn how guests were pampered and waited on hand and foot.  Wander through room after room of fascinating artifacts and displays about how visitors were lavishly entertained (by celebrities!), wined, and dined.  If you love Downtown Abbey, you’ll be in heaven at this hotel museum!

 

Henry Plant MuseumWhen you’re finished exploring the Henry Plant Museum, you can wander through the remainder of the hotel, which is now used by the University of Tampa as an administration building.  Don’t forget to take pictures of the glistening, metallic minarets and sweeping, exquisitely carved verandas. Sit for a spell, close your eyes, and imagine yourself as a Victorian gentleman or lady enjoying your tropical vacation. Now that’s the life!

 

Getting hungry? How about some Cuban food?   La Bamba is a Cuban restaurant frequented and beloved by locals. The food is as good and plentiful as eating in your Henry Plant Museumabuela’s kitchen. Don’t be put off by the exterior, which makes the restaurant appear to be an office building.   Grab a tray, get in line at the cafeteria-style kitchen, and allow the staff to explain to you the variety of meals available that day. Your taste buds will be as happy as your wallet, because meals are only $7.00!  Just be aware that his hidden gem is only open for breakfast and lunch (closing at 3:00), so fit it into your plans accordingly. You won’t be disappointed!

 

If you’d like to make a day out of your time in Tampa, I suggest visiting the 56-acre Lowry Park Zoo. In 2009, it was voted as the #1 family zoo in America by the readers of USA Today!   The zoo is divided into “park areas” including, but not limited to, Wallaroo Station, Safari Africa, primate world, Asian gardens, and the Florida wildlife center. There are also rides for kids and animal shows. My favorite part is feeding the giraffes!

 

Locations

 

The Henry B. Plant Museum is located at 401 West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, Florida. It’s located on the grounds of the University of Tampa. Free parking is available in the adjacent admissions lot (ask for a parking pass inside the museum).  Click on the map for directions.

La Bamba Restaurant is located at 4815 West Laurel Street in Tampa.  Click on the map for directions.

The Lowry Park Zoo is located at 1101 West Sligh Avenue in Tampa.  Click on the map for directions.

 

What to do in Tampa Florida

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