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Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Saturday in Downtown Roanoke



It was a beautiful day in downtown Roanoke today.




Lots of folks came out to attend the sidewalk art show. As usual, I walked away empty-handed. Nothing really jumped out at me. I wasn't allowed to take photos so I am unable to show you what I thought was interesting or tacky.


One artist on the market who was not part of the show, Cheryl Dolby, had no problem with having a photo taken. As you can see Cheryl has some really unique pieces and you don't have to wait once a year to see them. You can find Cheryl every Saturday downtown so do stop by and say hi!


This was the first time I have seen the new pedestrian market area crowded.


It was quite an improvement from the last couple of times I witnessed the sad sight of lonely tables, lots of empty space, and tumbleweeds blowing through.


There were quite a few vendors and most of the tables were filled as well. Of course, I'd say about half of them had Roanoke's finest homeless utilizing them. It was almost like an invisible dividing line broke up the have and the have nots. The "haves" is the side with all the umbrellas.


Frankly, I wouldn't sit at any of those tables unless I first wiped the seats down and sprayed them with Lysol. Yes, I do happen to carry a small canister of Lysol as well as wipies in my magic bag of germophobe tricks. I also visited my friend Mandy at the History Museum and then took the elevator to the top to get a couple of shots of the city.








One of the many things I do not understand about Roanokers is their need to take their huge dogs to every single festival. What's up with that? This fellow has the right idea...


"You go ahead mom, I'll just lay on my chaise in the window if it's all right with you..."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chris Shepard & Exiled

So...you know when you're taking pics in a dark club and you're looking at each one of them thinking, "Man, these are great!" only to wake up the next morning, download them, and realize "Man, these are pretty crappy!" Yeah, well, that's what happened to me. I got a couple of decent photos of some of the musicians from last night at The Coffee Pot, but not what I had hoped. What wasn't crappy was this guy...Chris Shepard.

 
Not only were his covers excellent -- c'mon, how many local guys have you heard play "Alcohol" by Gogol Bordello recently? -- but I really got a kick out of his originals. One of my favorites was "Mean People Suck." Love his lyrics..."All my girlfriend's causes become bumper stickers..."  Ha! I have to say I was really impressed with him, and if you know me and my taste in music, you know that's a pretty big deal. You can check out his sounds here ,and I understand he will be performing at the Parkway Brewing Company this Friday.

No, there was only one of him but it sounded at least like two...
Chris was the opening act for a local Rolling Stones cover band, Exiled, that's been getting some good press and making the rounds.


The Stones are one of my favorite bands, and I'm familiar with one of Exiled's musicians, guitarist Will Henson (that's him on the right) who've I've seen solo, as well as leading a Pink Floyd cover band, so I thought I'd give them a shot. Even though there seemed to be some "technical difficulties" with Henson's guitar, I thought they were all excellent musicians.

Ralph on bass

My only suggestion would be to boost those vocals more!


All in all it was a good evening and the best $5 I've spent in Roanoke lately. Too bad it was a holiday weekend and they didn't get a nice-sized crowd.


 By the end of the night I felt like I was seeing double and my brain started to feel like this...


Red, red, cheap wine will do that to you, and those youthful CBGB days are long gone. The bounce-back is not what it used to be, but the "bright side" is red wine has joined the "never again" ranks of tequila, blackberry brandy & peach schnapps. Let's see how long this lasts. As soon as I got home I had to throw my clothes downstairs because they reeked of cigarette smoke and I fear I may never get the nicotine yellow out of the white part of my hair. It was about ten years since I'd been to The Coffee Pot and it hasn't changed one bit.















Friday, May 9, 2014

Agecroft Hall in Richmond


I'd had enough of the Civil War, so the last attraction in Richmond I chose to visit was from the late 15th century -- Agecroft Hall.


From their site: On the rolling banks of the James River stands a remarkable Tudor estate. And by Tudor, we're not simply referring to an architectural style. This manor house was actually built in Lancashire, England in the late 15th Century. For hundreds of years, Agecroft Hall was the distinguished home of England's Langley and Dauntesey families. At the end of the 19th century, however, Agecroft fell into disrepair, and in 1925 it was sold at auction. Hearing of this tremendous opportunity, Richmonder Thomas C. Williams, Jr. purchased the structure, and had it dismantled, crated, and shipped across the Atlantic, and then painstakingly reassembled in a Richmond neighborhood known as Windsor Farms. Today, Agecroft Hall stands beautifully re-created, in a setting reminiscent of its original site on Lancashire's Irwell River.


Now, this was my type of house.



Unfortunately, once again, I was not allowed to take pictures inside this maginificent home. Heck, we were barely allowed to breathe while in there. The tour guide was quite strict with her admonishings of what we could not do. Don't dare sit on the furniture, (I think that's a given at most historical sites) but dare ye not to brush against a wall, door, or furnishings, or face the wrath of the self-proclaimed lady of the house. With the rather large crowd ranging from toddler to senior, squeezed along tiny halls into tiny rooms, it was challenging for the guide. She spent a good portion of the tour making folks aware they were in too close proximity to something. I wished she would have spent more time on the actual furnishings and architecture of the home. The inside is extraordinary and when the guide said we were allowed to touch the banister as we walked upstairs, I caressed it the entire flight. At the end of the flight was the study...my dream room..wall to wall, floor to ceiling bookcases. From what I saw, I would be very happy living in that home.

There were outdoor gardens that were just beginning to bloom. I was allowed to take pictures outdoors...










I highly recommend visiting Agecroft Hall. The ten minute film at the beginning of the tour documenting how it came to be re-built in Richmond from Lancastershire is very interesting as well.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Historic Tredegar in Richmond

After I decided I'd seen enough plantations we headed back to the city and spent a Sunday night in Richmond. We had a delicious brunch at a restaurant I can't remember the name of, but it was on a corner and right across the street from the Farmer's Market in the Shockoe district. The food was excellent, but my mimosa was disappointing...not the right mix, too much juice.

From there we headed to Historic Tredegar Iron Works which houses the American Civil War Center. It also is the welcome center for Richmond National Battlefield Park.


Although I wasn't allowed to take photos inside, I did scribble copious amounts of notes and if I could decipher my handwriting I'm sure they will prove most helpful. Here are some photos of the grounds. Wished I would have had more time to explore them further, and still kicking myself for not visiting the battlefield.




For more information on Tredegar's history click here.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the museum. It is laid out really well, and through videos, photos, interactive displays, letters, artifacts, etc., the Civil War story is presented from both "sides," before the beginning, and further than the end. I highly recommend it. Tredegar is located across the street from the James River. The shores of this branch certainly look different from the ones further south.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Berkeley Plantation

A couple of miles from Shirley Plantation we headed down another pebbled road to Berkeley Plantation.

The view from the back of Berkeley's main house
The plantation has quite a history, starting from 1619, and you can read about it here, but when you visit in person you can watch a film about it in the basement of the large estate. Behind the walls of the film projector, what was once an underground tunnel now sports a museum. I found it to be very interesting and informative. While you're waiting for the guided tour to begin, or after its ended, you can check out the Coach House and view some more exhibits, including info on their slaves, and other stuff including recommendations for restaurants. Fair warning...there are only two nearby.

A costumed tour guide was very knowledgeable and interesting when we toured the inside of the home, but for me, the real star of Berkeley are its grounds.



You are allowed access to various gardens, a grave yard, the first Thanksgiving Shrine, historical markings, and the shores of the James River.


It's quite beautiful, so tranquil. I felt like I was standing still in time with my feet embedded in the sand and eyes gazing across the river experiencing what the early settlers felt and saw. With no one around, the soft lapping of the tiny waves, and bright sunlight dancing diamonds in the river, one could easily transport themselves into another history past. Very spiritual in nature.


Anyway, here's some photos and you can see for yourself what I'm trying to convey...





I never realized the extent of retribution the signers of the Declaration of Independence underwent

This is where Taps was written by a Union soldier. There's a recording you can play. It made me weep.



We spent more time here than we did at Shirley so we missed lunch and realized it was too late to see any other plantations. I sorta felt after the two we saw that day, you've seen two, you've seen enough. So, we decided we would partake in an early dinner. We drove to Charles City and stopped at a converted farmhouse restaurant which was set in the middle of plantations and farms called Charles City Tavern. Although they wouldn't start serving dinner for another hour they took pity on us and allowed us to sit at the tiny bar. After a drink we moved into a screened porch area that overlooked the peaceful landscape. Every once in a while a car would drive down the road, but the birds singing drowned them out. The staff was friendly, the food was excellent -- tasted farm fresh, generous portions, and selections you'd be surprised to find in the middle of nowhere -- well worth the wait, and I highly recommend it..

I'll close this post with this...




Virginia is indeed quite beautiful, but I still want to be buried back in Brooklyn...