Royal Victorian Manor Woodstock McHenry County Illinois

Movie Buffs: Do you remember the stately Victorian bed & breakfast that Bill Murray’s character stayed at in the movie “Groundhog Day” target=”_blank”>Groundhog Day“? Now you can spend the night in this same b&b in Woodstock, McHenry County, Illinois. Inn keeper/owners Karla Stewart Martin and Everton Martin completely renovated the home beginning in 2008 and opened the Royal Victorian Manor for business this summer.

We were welcomed by a roaring fire in the entry way fireplace which took the chill out of the overcast, drizzly morning. The Martin’s invited us in to their parlor where their niece Mghnon Martin treated us to several pieces on the violin. While living in Milwaukee, the couple decided to relocate and began a search across the county. When they saw this house in Woodstock, the Martin’s knew they found the perfect home.

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Inn keeper/owners Karla Stewart Martin

The main floor of the house is warm and inviting. Visitors can lounge in the large parlor providing the mid-century leather recliner, dining area or the wrap around porch overlooking the gardens. Enjoy a restful evening in one of the five unique guest rooms each with a private bath.

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Manor Suite

Guests will be sure to wake for breakfast as Karla selects recipes based on who is visiting. She told us guests often sit with them in the large kitchen and chat over coffee while they fix the meal. Breakfast is served in the large dining room.

The Groundhog Day movie was directed by Harold Ramis and stars Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott. The home was used for outdoor scenes of the b&b and interior shots of Bill Murray as Phil Connors the weather man looking out the bedroom window. Of course, the Martin’s have a copy of the movie you can watch during your stay. The home is available for bridal or baby showers, renewal ceremonies, corporate events and retreats.

Click on the picture below to see a video of our visit to the Royal Victorian Manor in Woodstock, Illinois.

Our trip was sponsored by the McHenry County Visitors Bureau and Royal Victorian Manor.

Royal Victorian Manor
344 Fremont Street
Woodstock, IL 60098
(815) 308-5432
http://www.royalvictorianmanor.com/

Mile High Ghost Town Jerome Arizona

This week, April M. Williams and the crew of “Where Are You Today?” go back in time to visit Jerome, Arizona. Once a thriving mining town, Jerome is now home to an artist’s colony nestled amongst the relics of days gone by.
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On our trip from the Grand Canyon to Phoenix, we stopped by Jerome, Arizona. The mines closed long ago and the town was but a ghost town. For most areas in this predicament, the story would end here as the earth reclaimed the buildings crumbling down the hillsides it was built on.

Not in Jerome. Artists found this quite town near Sedona perfect for living and working. Small shops opened to showcase their works. When tourists driving through the winding turns on Route 89A pulled over to shop, cafes and restaurants opened catering to their needs. Soon visitors found bed and breakfasts sprouting out of newly renovated homes.

A local craftsman creates custom sundials and sells them in town. Did you know they will only be accurate if they are designed for the exact location they will be used?

We had lunch at the Mile High Grill & Inn. Arriving at midday, the restaurant was not crowded. We dined near a large window which lit up the large room. The staff was friendly and helpful.

Mile HIgh Grill Jerome AZ

I had a vegetarian sandwich called Greg’s Aria which was roasted red pepper, pesto, red pepper aioli, and mozzarella on ciabatta bread. I choose tater tots over french fries.

Wondering what else we found in Jerome? Click on the image below to see this episode of “Where Are You Today?”


Mile High Grill & Inn on Urbanspoon

Louis Sullivan Works Exhibit at Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center current display of Louis Sullivan works is not to miss for anyone interested in architecture or history. Sullivan, an architect, was a leader in Chicago’s rebuilding post the Great Chicago Fire. With blocks of stores, factories and home decimated, he had a clean slate to design and build his modern works. Sullivan began using steel to create high-rise buildings as an inexpensive and versatile building material.

Many of the buildings highlighted are no longer standing including the Transportation Building from the Colombian Exposition and the White City era. The iron gates and photos are all that remain from Chicago Stock Exchange.

There are a few of his works still standing. I graduated twice in the ornate Sullivan designed Auditorium Theater now part of Chicago’s Roosevelt University. Over sized photos show the Theater Building crowded with tables. The former Carson, Pirie, Scott store on State Street with the decorative iron work is one of my Sullivan favorites.

In this exhibit, descriptive text combines with two story prints of the buildings designed by Louis Sullivan and large chunks of now torn down buildings. Walking through the installation, I felt as if I was strolling down the streets of Chicago during the early 1900’s.

Louis Sullivan Works Exhibit at Chicago Cultural Center

Louis Sullivan Works Exhibit at Chicago Cultural Center

Unlike most museums, the molded concrete and steel segments of once stately buildings are at hand and eye level for visitors to see and touch. Beyond the building remnants stand photos of the building where you can see the segments as they were.

If you visit Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, stop by to see Louis Sullivan’s final resting place.

This free exhibit runs Jun 26, 2010 – Jan 2, 2011.

Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602

Doris Dukes Shangra La Honolulu Hawaii

Doris Duke created Shangra La, a home on a five acre patch of ocean front property over looking Diamond Head. The home is decorated with Duke’s passion, Islamic treasures collected from around the world.

Doris Dukes Shangra La Honolulu Hawaii

Doris Dukes Shangra La Honolulu Hawaii

This is the first view we had when the front door opened.

Oh, to live in Shangra La!

So You Think You Know Hawaiian History?

We travel to Hawaii often and likely know more about Hawaiian history than the casual tourist to the islands. Our visits include stops at cultural and history sights important to making Hawaii the diverse location that it is. Then we met Richard Wong, tour guide for Ohana Tours. When our friends at Ohana Tours heard about our love of history and Honolulu they invited us to check out the weekend walking tour of the downtown area. We took our ohana (family) to meet Richard on a recent Sunday morning.

Our adventure began in downtown Honolulu in front of the golden Kamehameha Statue in the heart of the city. You can see this statue on the Hawaii state quarters released as part of the state series. For the next two hours Richard shared history of Hawaiian culture, religion, politics and people. As history buffs ourselves, we were overwhelmed by the detailed stories our guide shared with us. Richard is a gifted story teller. His vivid words and smooth delivery made the tales come alive for us. Drawing on a long career as a Honolulu police officer, he personalized his tales with accounts from his time on the force.

We found another link between us and our guide. To bring the islands to us when we are in the Midwest, we started watching the Hawaii 5-0 television series starting at the pilot. I get chills every time I hear the Hawaii Five-0 theme song playing. The show ran for 12 years from 1968 to 1080 and was filmed in Hawaii. The second floor of the Iolani Palace was the fictional state police headquarters. Many scenes were filmed at the iconic Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki overlooking Duke Kahanamoku’s Lagoon and the Honolulu Marina. Richard worked security during many of these shoots and shared stories of the cast and crew. He even had a few on screen parts.

You can read more about our tour on the www.808talk.com article. Listen to how Richard started out our tour below. If you are  staying in Honolulu over a weekend, check out Ohana Tours for information or reservations.

The Journey to Chicago’s Lakefront

This weekend we made a journey into the city to see the Burnham Plan exhibit at Millennium Park on the lakefront. It was a trip we contemplated for a while but were discouraged by the time commitment.  As we traveled into town, we reminded ourselves why we don’t do this trip very often.

Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM we started out by car and 100 minutes later had crawled our way as far as Wrigleyville. We stopped there to park our car at reasonable rates. A 10 minute walk to the el,  then a 20 minute ride before another 10 minute walk. Over 2 hours of commute time one way.

Now some of you may suggest we opt for public transportation. The train is 20 minute drive  from home, runs once an hour and takes 90 minutes then a 20 minute walk to the park. No time or money saved there. The closest el stop is almost an hour drive from home. And buses? Never see them out here.

So now we are at beautiful Millennium Park on a warm late summer evening with my Dad. We took video at the Crown Fountain where children and adults are delighted by the smiling faces and surprise awaiting them.

Millennium Park Chicago Lakefront

Millennium Park Chicago Lakefront

Our journey was inspired by the Burnham Plan exhibit with lighting  by artist Tracey Dear.  After our walk we happened upon Hot Woks, Cool Sushi and had dinner under wall art commissioned by the restaurant. The artwork changes colors like the pavilion across the street. We talked to David, one of the owner of this new restaurant to get the scoop. If you like sushi and art – this is the place to be. The service was slow during our visit. The waitress did not get to our table for over 10 minutes when we arrived. Our appetizers arrived before our drinks. Just open since June, they may still be ironing out a few kinks.

Our diners enjoyed the sushi served and gave it hit marks for freshness and presentation. I recommend the sweet potato and asparagus maki rolls. The tempura was served hot with a batter fried light and crisp. Vegetarian items on the menu were clearly marked.

For the art lover, take a stroll along the long narrow room where each area displays a different artists work. You can read up on the artists in their bios within the menu.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Just wish the commute time was shorter. If the 2016 Olympics land here, perhaps the infrastructure will improve and travel times will drop.


Hot Woks Cool Sushi on Urbanspoon

Street Named for Duke Kahanamoku on Waikiki Beach Hawaii

Last week the city of Honolulu named a street for Duke Kahanamoku, surfing legend complete with Hawaiian traditional blessings. The Duke was known as an Olympic medalist and ambassador of Aloha. The street runs along the Ilikai Hotel next to the Hilton Hawaiian and recently renovated lagoon also named for the Duke. No waves for surfing on Duke’s Lagoon!

Duke Kahanamoku

Duke Kahanamoku

World War Two Pearl Harbor Survivor Herbert Weatherwax

We are enjoying our visit to Honolulu on the always beautiful island of Oahu in Hawaii. Yesterday we visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial and met a 92 year old Pearl Harbor survivor of the day which has lived in infamy, Dec. 7, 1941. Herb Weatherwax was born in Oahu and was at Pearl Harbor during the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Herb later served in the Battle of the Bulge before fighting in Germany.

Raised in Hawaii, Herb found the Midwest winters too cold and returned to the Hawaiian Islands after World War II. Herb can be found volunteering at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center three days a week. He enjoys meeting with and signing autographs for the thousands of visitors he meets each year.

Click on the image below to view this episode of “Where Are You Today?” Turn up your speakers and listen as Herbert Weatherwax introduces himself to you. Enjoy this history moment of history.

I am very grateful to have met several Pearl Harbor survivors on my travels to Hawaii. Many of these soldiers toured the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center last year for the final Pearl Harbor Survivors reunion. As they reach their 90’s it is harder for them to travel, especially long distances. Here are the stories of other Pearl Harbor survivors.

The Thrill of the Hunt Geocaching in Hawaii

Have you heard about geocaching?

I discovered I could incorporate several activities I enjoy within a single hobby. I like spending time with my family and friends, solving puzzles, seeking out new adventures, exercising and being environmentally “green”. Geocaching is treasure hunting with a GPS receiver. You can search for geocaches online by zip code and download the coordinates into your hand held GPS unit. You seek out hidden geocaches based on longitude and latitude.

Sometimes the jackpot is as small as a prescription pill container with a piece of paper rolled up inside so you can log your visit. Some containers are so tiny; you need to bring your own pencil. Other containers are as large as a Tupperware food saver or an army surplus ammunition box filled with trinkets. Our geocaching equipment includes a bag of tchotchkes that we swap based on the theme of the geocache.

For me though, the fun is not in finding the treasure, but the thrill of the hunt. We geocache while in Hawaii as an activity to challenge our brain and seek out new adventures.

This is a hobby the both family and friends can participate in. My husband and I often take others with us to introduce them to the hobby. We took keiki with us to the Honolulu Zoo to find their first cache. When we return to the island, their first question for us is “Are you going to go geocaching?” Other times we need subject matter expertise. One of the geocaches in the North Shore, Hawaii required solving a puzzle to figure out the coordinates. Ten car logos were pictured from different auto manufactures around the world. After identifying the car model and country of origin, the digits of the location could be determined. I recruited a couple of world traveling gear heads to help figure out that one out.

Williams Family geocaching at the Honolulu Zoo

Williams Family geocaching at the Honolulu Zoo

While geocaching we learn about local history. A geocache is hidden on the estate of the last reigning Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lydia Liliuokalani. The site overlooks the drainage canal built to convert water logged taro fields into dry land becoming Waikiki.

A multi-stage geocache requires several stops. At each site you visit, you find clues to identify the next location. We learned about local leaders during a 5 stage history tour to five statues along Waikiki. Each statue had a plaque which told a story. There is Father Damien, who came from Belgium, to Hawaii in 1864. He devoted the rest of his life to the leper settlement on the island of Molokai before succumbing to the disease himself. He has been nominated for sainthood. During the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy led by U.S. business men, Princess Kaiulani spearheaded a campaign to restore the throne. Beloved native son, Duke Kahanamoku, born of Hawaiian royalty, was a swimming sensation earning Five Olympic medals. “The Duke”, starred in Hollywood movies and is known as “The father of modern surfing.”

You can get a good workout in a day hiking up Diamond Head, the extinct volcano which stands at the east end of Waikiki. If you have comfy shoes, cache your way around the volcano on foot enjoying a heart healthy work out and spectacular views of the Pacific, Waikiki and downtown Honolulu.

Get away from the crowds and cache in Kailua. There are finds along both the busy and the quiet parts of the beach. Don’t forget your sunscreen and snorkel gear. You’ll be hungry after a day of swimming and caching. Check out the yummy handmade cookie store in town for a snack.

When you are on Oahu, you don’t have to go far to find these treasures. There are hundreds of local finds. From the crowded pedestrian malls of Chinatown to the top of Diamond Head to the shores of Kailua, there is a cache for every interest and ability.

While we are getting our exercise, learning about the area and catching up with friends and family, we also pick up trash. We carry in a couple of empty garbage bags to snatch up any litter we spy while we are out. This is referred to as “cache in, trash out”.

You can learn more about the hobby at geocaching.com. I enjoy the opportunity to combine time with my family, brain exercise, and physical activity all in one hobby. If you like history, culture and the great outdoors, you should give geocaching a try.

Profile for Diamond Head

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