Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation

In 1872, William Giles Harding of Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, Tennessee bought a 19 year old English stallion named Bonnie Scotland for stud. Bonnie Scotland had not had a very distinguished racing career. But what a purchase he was! In the very first Kentucky Derby in 1875, six of the 15 horses were direct descendants of Bonnie Scotland. Since then, almost every Kentucky Derby winner from 1972 to 1996,  and most of the Triple Crown winners,can be traced back to Bonnie Scotland. Winners such as: Sea Biscuit, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and California Chrome are all descendants of Bonnie Scotland. What a pedigree! And it all started with a log cabin on the Natchez Trace (road) outside of Nashville.

John Harding purchased the 200 acres of land in 1806 and began farming it. At one time or another, there was a cotton gin, a grist mill, a saw mill and hunting grounds. But John's son William Giles Harding was interested in breeding and racing horses. From then on, Belle Meade wasn't just another plantation. But a famous plantation for breeding thoroughbred race horses. It was said that William Harding's collection of silver racing trophies was the largest in the world.

One of their most famous horses, other than Bonnie Scotland, was Iroquois, who was the first thoroughbred horse bred in America to win the Epson derby in England. Not a small feat as the horse had to be shipped to England by boat, actually get used to the time change and learn to run in the opposite direction. Iroquois was such a star that he was hired out for breeding at $2500 a shot - which was alot of money then - with no guarantees.

The family fell on some hard times - there was a weakened economy and several health problems for family members - and they fell into debt. Selling off the plantation piece by piece, it fell into a state of disrepair. In fact, there are only a few acres left today as the suburbs of Nashville have grown all around it. Finally in 1953 the plantation was purchased by the State of Tennessee. 

Today you can visit Belle Meade. You can see the horse stables, carriage house, some of the slave quarters, a log cabin and take a fascinating tour of the Greek Revival style house. In each room, a costumed guide will give you a little history of the house and the family who lived there. (Incredibly, they have recovered much of the original furniture and artifacts - which had been sold or given away - through ebay, newspaper ads, detective work and word of mouth.)There are group tours, segway tours and summer camps available also.

Along with the tour you can also do a wine tasting of Belle Meade wines - one of their primary money makers now along with weddings and events - and become a member of their wine club. (The grapes are grown about 45 miles south of the plantation) You can eat lunch or brunch at the Harding House restaurant which also caters all events at Belle Meade. 

I so enjoyed my visit to Belle Meade. The family history along with learning about the thoroughbred lineage here was so interesting. My tour group included a family with a young daughter who loves horses, a family who happened upon it on vacation, two couples who came for the wine tasting and me. A little something for everyone. If you're the least bit interested in horse racing or breeding or history and you get a chance to visit Belle Meade, do it. You'll enjoy it.

This post is part of a link-up with: Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Eating Lobster at Abbott's, Costello's and.....Ford's

A good friend loaned us his cottage in the tiny town of Noank, Connecticut along the coast of Long Island Sound. So we picked our daughter up in Boston and headed south for a long weekend. The cottage came with kayaks so we spent a morning kayaking and we took day trips to Block Island and Mystic, Connecticut. And we did the must-do in Noank -we went for lobster at one of the three waterfront seafood restaurants there. 

The first waterfront restaurant we came to was Ford's Lobsters, which started out as a hot dog cart and is now a sit-down seafood restaurant. It's small - and every table was full. It gets fantastic reviews so we thought it might be a long wait. So we decided to move on down the road.

Our next stop, Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, was just around the bend from Ford's and is easily the most famous thing to do in Noank. Founded in 1947, Abbott's is a casual, waterfront, order-at-the-window seafood establishment serving lobster, clams, oysters, shrimp and various seafood rolls. Dining is "first come, first served" with no alcoholic beverages served - but you may bring your own. Even though it was a balmy 55 degree June evening, Abbott's was quite crowded. So we went around the bend again to Abbott's sister restaurant, Costello's Clam Shack.

Costello's is another seafood restaurant located on the Mystic River with waterfront dining. There was hardly anyone here dining so we decided this was our spot - good thing, too, as we were out of restaurants at this point! We ordered our food at the window and waited for our number to be called. While waiting, we watched the river start to churn from the cold winds and wished we had worn warmer clothing. Costello's also lets you bring your own alcoholic beverages so we dined on our seafood - well, some of us - and drank our wine under the plastic tarp covering to shield us from the wind and rain. Not a perfect evening but I very much enjoyed it. I'm not a seafood lover so I'm not the best person to ask how the food was - but Mr. UR said his was good. So there you have it. How many times can you dine at a lobster pound on the Mystic River (unless you live there of course)? For me, only once! But I'd love to go back - there is so much of New England I haven't seen!

How about you? Have you ever dined at a lobster pound? How was your experience?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Telluride, Colorado

Legend has it that the name Telluride derives from "to hell you ride!" - which is what people said when someone was heading to the small, sinful town of Columbia, Colorado - as it was known in the 1880's.( The name was changed because the US Postal Service kept getting it confused with Columbia, California.) Others think it was from the mineral tellurium that is found in the area. But wherever the name came from, Telluride, Colorado is a unique place.

Telluride isn't easy to get to. This small town sits in a box canyon in the rugged San Juan mountains - and the passes through those mountains are only accessable by all terrain vehicles. We made the eight hour trek from Denver by regular road - and it was summer so we didn't worry about snow or ice. And it is a trek with twisty, curvy roads and mountain passes.

What used to be a mining town in Victorian times, is now a ski town that celebrities like to frequent. Tom Cruise and Oprah supposedly have homes here. Jerry Seinfeld, too. But from all appearances, Telluride is a small, quiet town with a beautiful spot in the mountains. With plenty to do. Such as:

1. Hiking
We hiked to Bear Creek Falls which is accessed directly in town from the end of South Pine Street. A four and a half mile hike which gains 1000 feet in elevation (Telluride sits at 8750 feet and Bear Creek Falls is at 9700 feet), your reward at the end is seeing Bear Creek Falls. I'm pretty sure my family was trying to do me in on this one - the elevation gain was killer. But the scenery was definitely breathtaking and they had much patience with me as I needed to stop every few minutes. There are many other hikes such as Bridal Veil Falls and Blue Lake. In fact, hiking ranks as  the most popular thing to do in Telluride in the summer. You can even hire a guide for hiking - contact for more info.

2. Eating - and drinking
We ate at Smugglers Brew Pub which has an upscale brewpub menu. There is outside seating with beautiful view of the mountains - which seem so close that you could touch them. We also whiled away a little time at the rooftop bar at the New Sheridan Hotel, which I found delightful. A perfect sunny afternoon and a rooftop bar. What more could one want? And we stopped at the very popular Telluride Brewing Company on our way out of town. Luckily we beat the lines but be prepared as this is a very popular spot.

3. Skiing
Telluride is known for it's excellent skiing and fantastic powder. As we were here in summer, skiing wasn't an option so we rode the 15 minute gondola - which is free - from Telluride to Mountain Village, another ski resort. Mountain Village is a smaller version of Vail. It has European looks and vibes. And of course, in summer you can ride the gondola up with your bike to ride the miles of trails. The earlier hike did me in so the gondola ride was a nice rest with fantastic views.

4. Float or Raft the San Miguel River
The water looked inviting - but I was guessing it was pretty cold. You can grab a tube and float or hire out with a rafting company to white water raft the San Miguel. 

5. Visit some mountain overlooks
Any way you drive outside of town, there are beautiful views. When leaving town we stopped to see Sunshine Mountain, Black Box and Lizard Peak. 

6. Visit a festival
Telluride is known as a festival town - they have everything from the Telluride Mountain Film Festival, the Brews and Blues Festival and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival to a mushroom and a fire festival. We were there during the Many Hand Fiberarts Festival.

For such a small town in such an out of the way spot, Telluride has really become quite the destination. Home to hippies, artists, celebrities, skiers, outdoorsman and families, it's a favorite of many. My son says it's his favorite place in Colorado. He goes there every time he can. Like I said before, it's not easy to get to. But it sure is worth it!

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!