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Saint Germain des Prés

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  • May 1, 2019
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Oldest Paris Church Restoration

Must-See Paris Architecture

An Interview with David Sheppe, American Friends for the Preservation of Saint Germain des Prés (AFPSGP) director.


“Just go. Go and visit the church and you will be able to see now what the works have accomplished and what they will provide in terms of linking us to the past and the future in ways that surpass our ability to merely explain in words here.” David Sheppe

David Sheppe leads United States fundraising efforts to restore Saint Germain des Pres, the oldest Paris church. Photo submitted.
David Sheppe is leading the current “Adopt A Saint Germain Star™ Campaign in the United States. The AFPSGP is a 501(c)(3) charity devoted to United States fundraising efforts that support the Saint Germain des Prés church restoration project that began in 2012.
Read my interview with David to learn more about the organization’s collaboration with its French counterparts, The Preservation of Saint Germain des Prés Foundation.

“The church is today in serious need of renovation and restoration owing to the ravages of time, use, and under-funding.” David Sheppe

Q & A Interview with David Sheppe
What is the history of the Saint Germain des Pres?

There has been a church or abbey on the same spot in central Paris since the founding of Saint Germain des Près by Childebert, son of Clovis, the first Frankish King, in 543 AD. The current structure is one thousand years old, which makes SGP . Today, it remains a vibrant parish and community in the heart of Paris’s most resonant neighborhood.

Two previous church structures were destroyed by Viking and other raiders in the eighth and ninth centuries. The current church, finished in 1014 AD, is unique in France as it is an amalgam of Romanesque architecture and multiple pre-Gothic and Gothic influences.

For many centuries SGP was the home to the Benedictine order of monks who were renowned for their religious and secular scholarship and who was instrumental in the founding of the Sorbonne in the 13th century. The church was the site of the publication of the first Bible in French (as opposed to Latin) and became a center of publication and research during the entirety of the High Middle Ages in France.

During the French Revolution, the church was shuttered and then transformed into a gunpowder storage building by anti-clerical revolutionaries. Anti-clericalism reached its apogee in 1792 when 102 priests were massacred in one of the church’s side chapels. Shortly thereafter, the gunpowder storage room blew up and much of the surrounding Abbey and part of the church was destroyed.

Victor Hugo was instrumental in saving the church from being razed by the city authorities in the early 19th century and was the driving force to a major renovation undertaken soon thereafter. Another renovation was undertaken in the 1830s and 1840s – the last renovation before the project now underway in our time. A key contribution to the restoration in the 1840s was the work of Hippolyte Flandrin, who painted a series of massive murals lining both sides of the nave that are now undergoing significant restoration work. 

Much of the current church is original and there are several vestigial pieces of the ancient predecessor churches dating back more than 15 centuries. There are two original stain glassed windows in the church that are 800 years old and have survived endless imprecations and assaults over time. (Two further original stained glass windows are in the United States – one at the MOMA in NY and the other in the Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore.)

In 1860, the church was granted full Monument Historique classification and is therefore provided with full landmark preservation status. The church is today in serious need of renovation and restoration owing to the ravages of time, use, and under-funding. 85% of the budget for renovations must come from public hands as, quite simply, the City of Paris (which owns the structure) does not have sufficient funds to meet restoration needs of all churches in its care.

Paris architecture, Paris church, Paris must see, Paris sightseeing
Saint Germain des Pres is undergoing a restoration project that is expected to be completed in 2021 or 2022.
Southern Sanctuary — Photo © Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier. All rights reserved.

The current restoration project was launched in 2012 and, funding permitting should be completed in 2021 or 2022. The French fundraising committee and American Friends for the Preservation of SGP are working in extremely close cooperation.

(For a short and useful overview of the church history, see Abbey of Saint Germain des Prés on Wikipedia.)

Please describe the location, neighborhood, and visualizations of how the church blends in with its surroundings.

The church is and has always been, the central defining monument and lifeforce for an entire neighborhood which, uniquely in France, was named for the church (rather than the usual other way around). It remains by design the tallest building in the neighborhood and stands like a shepherd over the comings and goings of flocks of the faithful and many, many tourists and lovers of Paris.

The SGP neighborhood is ancient and remains today at the intellectual heart of the city, surrounded as it is by great numbers of art galleries, publishing houses, museums (including the Academy Française and the École des Beaux Arts), world class restaurants and cozy cafes, bookstores, movie houses, and venues for music both classical and modern. 

Why was the church slated for restoration? What are the restoration team’s goals?

The church is not in danger of falling down. Notwithstanding that, there has been in the 170 years since the last restoration an incredible degradation of artistic and architectural elements at SGP – mostly, but not exclusively, on the inside of the church. The works are proceeding by tranches and are about 60 percent complete, but funding for the remaining 40 percent is not in hand. We need to raise further dollars to ensure timely and integral completion of the project.

Who are the architect-of-record, project manager, primary and secondary funding sources for the project, construction manager, interior designers (if applicable), and anyone else who has had a significant role in the restoration?

The renovation project is being conducted by and on behalf of the City of Paris, the owner of the church. More specifically, the project falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Department of Historic Monuments. The master Preservation Architect in Chief is Pierre Antoine-Gatier of Historic Monuments department. 

Please explain how this restoration differs from a renovation.

The dividing line can be subtle, an exercise in shades of gray. Notre Dame was, and now is owing to the fire, in full restoration mode because its outside physical envelope is in need of serious repair and replacement to preserve the integrity of the structure.

At SGP, the outside structure – though not in flawless form and thus in need of attention – is in reasonably good shape. (Exceptions abound however and will be the object of attentive work in the years ahead). Most of the current SGP project is devoted to (a) restoring architectural elements which have been damaged or depredated to the point of existential threat and (b) renovating artworks (of all kinds: in stone, in woodworks, in painted and sculptural works) to bring them back to their original form and sheen. So, the SGP project is a painstaking marriage of both renovation and restoration.

Why is the art in this church worth the time, effort, and cost to restore?

The SGP church is a unique and iconic example of Romanesque architecture. It houses world-class art and stained glass and sculptural works. It is the site of ancient and ongoing scholarship and research. It is the oldest church in Paris. It is universally recognized and universally loved. Proof of this is that so many people from all over the world have contributed and will continue to contribute to the restoration and renovation of this irreplaceable element of world patrimony. It has a secular and religious history which thrills and inspires. It is ethereally beautiful. It is a living church today, with many outreach programs in Paris, in France and around the world. Its music program is incomparable. Its thousand-year-old bells sound the hours today as they have for over 10 centuries.

What was your first impression of the church?

My own first impression was that this place, this church, speaks to fundamental questions of the relationship of man to his beginnings and to his future. It is an intimate church, not overpowering. It whispers where others shout. After 15 centuries of history, we have received this church in trust and we are determined to pass it on and into the next 15 centuries of living history and inspiration.

How is the project funded?

As mentioned, the City of Paris owns the church and has provided 15 percent of the overall funding for the project. The remaining 85 percent of the cost will be borne by private hands – individuals in the main, many donors of small amounts in the main – from all over the world. The entire project has been priced out at approximately $7 million. Of the 60 percent of monies raised to date, some 40 percent has been raised in the United States. Currently, we are running low on funds and much more needs to be done.

What are a few of the setbacks, if any, the team has encountered and is the project moving along according to schedule?

It is particularly satisfying to note that the project is currently on time and on budget – a remarkable achievement for this kind of project. Again, our financial resources are today at a low ebb, so we need to redouble our efforts to reach friends of the church, of Paris and her history, and of the project to respectfully ask for additional support. Every dollar donated is a precious gift, hugely needed and immensely appreciated.

When you think of the finished restoration, what do you visualize?

The child is a father to the man. The works completed to date are breathtaking, extraordinarily beautiful and inspirational. And they suggest just how amazing the church will be when finally finished in 2021 or 2022. So, the best answer to this question is: just go. Go and visit the church and you will be able to see now what the works have accomplished and what they will provide in terms of linking us to the past and the future in ways that surpass our ability to merely explain in words here.

Is the church open now or closed to the public during restoration?

The church is now open and will remain so during all renovation works. There is no admission charge (except for during regular organ and classical music concerts, very well attended by locals and tourists alike). Some of the current works are cordoned off by scaffolding, ropes, plastic tarps, and the like, but these are extremely localized. The completed works and the areas to undergo future works are all fully available to all who come – so do go.1

How does the church plan to celebrate the grand opening or the completion of the project?

There is no definitive plan as to how the finalized project will be celebrated in two or three years. That said, last year, at the end of the third tranche (of seven), the City of Paris held a gala evening of thanksgiving and celebration under the direction of the Mayor of Paris who was there that evening. It was a night for the ages, grandiose and filled with meaning and vibrancy. Something similar will occur when all is done. It just remains to be seen what will be planned.

For a full view of the works completed to date and the works slated for completion in the years ahead, you can review the renovation catalog on our website.

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Orvis Fly-Fishing 101

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  • April 17, 2019
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Orvis Free Fly Fishing 101 classes

FREE Classes Await You.

Orvis Free Fly Fishing 101 classes
Register for a free Orvis Fly Fishing 101 class. Learn to fly fish from one of Orvis’ certified instructors.

CAUTION: FLY FISHING IS ADDICTIVE.

Spring is the perfect time to recharge your love for nature.

Have you dreamed of discovering a new hobby that will allow you to spend more of your free time outdoors? If you feel antsy from the long-term effects of being cooped up all winter a trip to your nearest Orvis store can help.

Believe me — learning fly-fishing fundamentals and buying fly-fishing gear is as much fun as shopping for designer shoes. You could literally spend hours in pursuit of the perfect waders, wading boots, a vest, fly rod and reel combo, and a selection of flies. The free Fly Fishing 101 course focuses on teaching you fly-fishing basics but you’ll also receive “retail” guidance so when you’re ready to venture to the water’s edge, you’ll have everything you need to wade with confidence and possibly catch a fish on your first day out. I’ve already put to work the skills I learned at a free Fly Fishing 101 class at the Orvis Manchester, VT flagship store.

Use this link to shop for fly fishing gear.

Orvis

Orvis Fly Fishing 101 classes have attracted more than 15,000 participants each year since the first class was held more than 10 years ago. Men, women, and families flock to the spring classes offered at many Orvis retail outlets throughout the world. Certified instructors who are also experienced anglers, will guide you through fly-fishing fundamentals from knot tying to casting and reeling in your catch. One of the benefits of taking the Saturday morning class is you’ll leave the store with the skills you need and equipment that’s right for you.

The Family That Fishes Together…Orvis instructors can help prepare you and your whole family for a day of fly-fishing fun.

All ages are welcome to take the free Fly Fishing 101 class but children
under 16-years-old must be accompanied by an adult, so why not share your interests and bring your whole family. Teaching your children to respect and preserve our natural resources is more impactful when you show them why our waterways and fish are so important to the environment. A river or stream is an ideal mobile classroom for you to demonstrate stewardship.

Orvis offered its first Fly Fishing 101 class 10 years ago and to celebrate the milestone, Orvis will donate $1 to Casting for Recovery® for every student who attends a 101 class this year.

Upon completion of the class, participants will receive special in-store offers that can be used towards the purchase of Orvis equipment and a Free Trout Unlimited membership. ($35 value).

Take a moment to watch an Orvis Fly Fishing 101 instructor teach our group to tie one of the most commonly used knots.

Learn fly-fishing basics at your local Orvis store. Classes are held on Saturday during the spring.

Reservations are required. Visit https://www.orvis.com/flyfishing101 to find a class near you.

Disclaimer:

My trip was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

DISCLOSURE:

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of these companies and by linking to their product or a party that sells their products, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and definitely not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

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BOLETE

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  • April 17, 2019
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Bolete Dinner

Indulge In Unhurried Dining

Bolete James Beard Foundation Semifinalist Nominee for "Outstanding Restaurant."
It’s no secret Bolete is a popular dining spot in Bethlehem. It’s time for you to carve out time from your hurried life to experience this James Beard Foundation semifinalist nominee for “Outstanding Restaurant.”

In the kitchen of a former stagecoach inn, Chef Lee Chizmar gets down to business preparing stocks, pasta, and sauces and planning his daily menu. The chef and his team prepare everything on-site and that personal touch is reflected in every morsel that appears on your plate.

View the menu here.

If you live in the Lehigh Valley region, you’re close enough to Bethlehem to plan an impromptu dinner date at Bolete [bo-leet], 1740 Seidersville Road but don’t let an hour or two drive stop you from experiencing one of the best meals you’ll have. When your travels lead you to Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton, add Bolete to your itinerary. My meal was superb.

Bolete Dinner Chef Lee Chizmar
You won’t be rushed through your meal so be sure to take time to appreciate the artful presentation before you pick up your fork. Photo courtesy of Bolete Restaurant

My evening with the staff at Bolete evolved while I was a guest at The Sayre Mansion. I arrived in Bethlehem in the early afternoon and immediately, my thoughts turned to planning my coverage of this magnificent inn. But food also crossed my mind. It always does when I arrive in a city or town for a travel assignment. You might have experienced the confusion that comes with narrowing your dining options in a city with so many options. I’ve literally spent hours sifting through online menus. Who wants to do that, particularly when your day is jam-packed with sightseeing or business meetings?

Fortunately, the management at The Sayer Mansion recommends Bolete and I made my reservation for 7 p.m. so the remainder of my day I could set up my tripod and camera gear, interview staff, or walk around town.

Bolete Restaurant
Many thanks to my server for taking my photo as I savored every bite of my meal.

Prepare to be dazzled

If you haven’t dined at Bolete, allow me to paint a picture of what you can expect to find. Imagine a cozy family-owned restaurant housed in a former stagecoach inn on the outskirts of town, owned and managed by an accomplished chef and his wife, who has spent her life dreaming of opening a restaurant. A solid plan and diligence have helped the couple build a business that caught the attention of the culinary world and landed them a spot in the running for one of the top awards. Chef Lee Chizmar and his wife, Erin Chizmar, were selected as semifinalists in the James Beard Foundation, “Outstanding Restaurant” category.

Chef Lee commented,

“It was remarkable for our whole team to hear of the nomination. They each work tirelessly to make each guest’s experience great. And it was such an honor to be considered among those other industry titans.”

Paying HOMAGE to the Mushroom

Bolete Bethlehem James Beard Award Nominee
Do you love the flavor mushrooms impart? Chef Lee Chizmar incorporates mushrooms into many of his menu items. Photo provided courtesy of Bolete.

Bolete, or mushrooms, are one of the key ingredients Chef Lee adds to many of dishes. If you’re not a fungi fan, you can always request your meal without them.

Why mushrooms? Aside from the fact that Pennsylvania is the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” and an abundance of varieties make them a convenient choice, Chef Lee and mushrooms have had a long and interesting career.

“Mushrooms have been an integral part of each restaurant I’ve worked at in my career, so when we moved to PA (Pennsylvania) to open Bolete, it was a natural fit,” Chef Lee said.

If you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what I ordered, I began my dining with a first course: The menu description reads, “Liberty Gardens Mixed Greens (Salad) WITH 12 pickled local mushrooms, parmesan, sunflower seeds, cipollini, garlic sourdough crouton, mushroom “Caesar” vinaigrette” but I asked my server to hold the croutons because I limit my gluten intake. I didn’t leave so much as a sunflower seed on my plate and the subtle mushroom taste, combined the shaved parmesan is the perfect prelude to all of the second-course options. I decided on the Cast Iron Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops 36 hand-rolled gnocchi, local mushrooms, bacon, swiss chard, Burgundian snails, parsley, and porcini puree.

The Decor: A Meeting of Rustic and Romantic

The former Stagecoach Inn sits at the crossroads of a busy intersection so, after sunset, passers-by can catch a glimpse of the soft glow of romantic lighting coming from the windows. My first reaction, as I found my parking spot in the on-site lot, was “Oh, this is perfect.”

You, on the other hand, might wonder why you’ve never dined at Bolete. Once you’re inside, the history and the unpretentious antiquity speak to you. Anyone with an affinity for history will appreciate Chef Lee and Erin’s choice of casual seating in the bar area or the dining room and their collection of carved wooden mushrooms in each of the windowsills. Softly candle-lit dining areas and a memorable meal awaits you at Bolete.

Bolete Restaurant Celebrates Mushrooms
The woodsy flavor of mushrooms are an integral part of Chef Lee’s menu.

Make your reservation online.

Disclaimer:

My meal was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experience.

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Update Your Look

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  • March 23, 2019
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Sunglass Warehouse Spring Collection

Cut the Glare — Protect Your Eyes

6 Reasons You Should Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses do so much more than frame your face. Think of them as a “sunscreen” for your eyes.

Yes, sunglasses are a seasonal accessory (and they do indeed make a fashion statement), but think about the last time you were outdoors on a brilliantly sunny day without your sunglasses. You might have noticed spots dancing around in your eyes after driving, sunbathing, skiing, or fishing under bright sunlight. They’re annoying and can, in fact, damage your eyes.

The glare from the sun is more than a nuisance. Long-term UV (ultra-violet) from exposure to the sun without eye protection is equally as hazardous to your eyes as basking in the sun without sunscreen is to your skin. An annual eye exam is one way to assess and preserve your vision but between visits to your optometrist or ophthalmologist, be sure to grab your sunglasses before you leave your house.

According to the experts at sunglasswarehouse.com, protective eye wear:

  • Blocks out sunlight
  • Protects your eyes from harmful UV rays year round
  • Keeps eyes moisturized during windy days
  • Prevents sunburn to the sensitive skin around the eye
  • Prevents Macular Degeneration
  • Prevents your eyes from suffering long-term damage.

Whether you spend your days floating around your pool on your favorite raft or you fly fish, Sunglass Warehouse has affordable eyewear for every adventure.

What’s your style?

Retro? Festival? Flat Lens? Brow Bar? 90s Style? Polarized? Shopping for frames is easy and convenient with filters that let you narrow your choices.

Three years ago, they provided me with samples of the hottest shades and I kept three pairs in my car, one in my fly-fishing vest, and two pairs at home. If you lose a pair, no worries. Replace them quickly and easily at sunglasswarehouse.com. Simply click on the link below and use the code, “SAVE15,” when you shop for the latest arrivals.

15% Off at Sunglasswarehouse.com

joanmatsuitravelwriter.com is proud to partner with sunglasswarehouse.com. The affiliate links in this post are provided at no cost to you. Sunglasswarehouse.com is a company I know and trust and I will earn a commission if you buy a product using a link in this post. 

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Lifestyle

Wildwood Park

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  • March 22, 2019
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Joan Mead-Matsui Wildwood Park Nature Preserve

Where City Life Stops and Conservation Begins

Dauphin County Park Host To Year-Round Learning

Chris Rebert Wildwood Park Manager
Chris Rebert, Wildwood Park manager, celebrates the natural beauty of the park he manages on the outskirts of Harrisburg, PA. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui, Travel Writer, Photographer, and Award-Winning Freelance Journalist.

On a chilly autumn day, Chris Rebert, Wildwood Park manager, was eager to introduce me to the array of wildlife that inhabits the park. As we walked along the path surrounding the Benjamin Olewine III Nature Center, Chris pointed to the waterfowl and other wildlife that find the park a safe haven.

Wildwood Park Harrisburg Pennsylvania
The marsh adjacent to Wildwood Lake is home to waterfowl, amphibians, reptiles, and migratory birds. Depending on the time of day you visit, you might find the sun peeking through the tree-lined path.

Wildwood Park has a rather unique location along the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania where suburbia and urban sprawl meet. Yet, the tract of land that was set aside as a preserve on the outskirts of Harrisburg, PA, at 100 Wildwood Way, speaks of peace, solitude, conservation, and protection. While Chris shared the park’s history, the songbirds communicated as other fauna dashed across the path in search of food.

Wildwood Lake Surrounding Marsh area
As far as the eye can see, nature abounds at Wildwood Park. Take a stroll along the trails and see how many waterfowl you can spot in and around the Wildwood Lake marshes.

Wildwood Park is a natural setting you won’t soon forget. Leave your worries behind and focus on nature’s healing power as you stroll under the canopy of mature trees. Visitors will find ample quality time to reap the rewards of taking time away from work, school, and electronics. Wildlife can be seen from all angles along the winding trails that run adjacent to the road around Wildwood Lake. The boardwalks that link trails add a contemporary touch to the surroundings.

Wildwood Park Nature Preserve Harrisburg PA
Visitors explore Wildwood Park, a four-season haven for waterfowl and other wildlife. Maps are available to help you navigate through the trails.

Don’t forget to bring your camera when you visit the park. Known as a bird watcher’s haven, seven well-maintained trails, ranging from one to 2.1 miles, are the perfect setting for photo opportunities. Be sure to include the lake in at least one of your photos. If you have more energy to spare, extend your hike and increase your chances to see more of the natural habitat by combining the trails.

Joan Mead-Matsui Wildwood Park Nature Preserve
Nature provides endless opportunities for travel writers who specialize in outdoor recreation. Read other stories by Joan Mead-Matsui, Award-Winning Freelance Journalist to learn more about her favorite hikes and trails. Photo by Chris Rebert

Numerous displays and learning stations inside the Olewine Nature Center reinforce and enhance the lessons children have already learned while on the trails and in school. Take advantage of the numerous displays, learning stations, programs, and special events held at the Nature Center.

Park Hours of Operation

Plan your visit and return throughout the year if you’re able, to see an everchanging landscape. Wildwood Park is a year-round resource for learning and exercise.

The park is open daily from dawn until dusk. Nature Center Hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Chris Rebert talked to me about the challenges associated with land management and the evolution of Wildwood Lake. He’s shown along one of seven nature trails available to Dauphin County residents and visitors.
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The Sayre Mansion

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  • March 13, 2019
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Timothy Bobb Sayre Mansion Innkeeper

Settlers Hospitality Group

Personalized Service The Common Thread

One common thread that ties the Settlers Hospitality Group’s properties together is they’re all distinctive. But there’s more to Settlers’ success than the individualized decor, superbly comfortable accommodations, and the outstanding food served in the on-site restaurants. It’s the personalized service each guest receives.

The Sayre Mansion, 250 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem, PA, features 22 guest rooms and is one of five properties owned and managed by Settlers Hospitality Group, a Hawley, Pennsylvania-based company. Settlers is well known for transforming historic properties into luxury boutique hotels with the authentic style and details very much intact. Four of those properties are located in Northeastern Pennsylvania but Sayre mansion has its home in Bethlehem. The grounds and many of the guest rooms offer a sweeping view of the downtown that’s an invitation to explore the restaurants, shops, and university life. Robert Sayre, a town entrepreneur, raised his family in the mansion until the early 1900s. In the years that followed, the building was used for a variety of purposes, from boarding to a fraternity house.

The Sayre Mansion is a member of the Historic Hotels of America (National Trust for Historic Preservation).

Inside the mansion, you’ll meet the innkeeper, Timothy Bobb, and his attentive staff who elevate hospitality to a new level above and beyond what you might expect. Timothy, a quintessential conversationalist, is eager to learn more about each of his guests and does so in a non-intrusive manner.

Timothy assures, “You will be greeted by a person and not an automated check-in.” He or a member of his staff is always on hand to help guests settle into their rooms and they’ve all mastered the art of making guests feel at home.

Sayre Mansion innkeepers
Sayre Mansion innkeeper, Timothy Bobb and his sidekick, a French Bulldog named “Bradford.”

“If there’s bad weather and guests are traveling (by plane), more than likely, I know there was a delay. When they finally arrive, they probably want to find a restaurant or they need a moment to refresh,” Timothy said. “I’ll be sure to ask, ‘Do you need a glass of water? Would you like a cup of coffee? Can I suggest a local restaurant?”

Timothy Bobb, Innkeeper

Customer Care: A Rewarding Experience

The reward, he said is to watch that person evolve from the harried, aggravated traveler to a very comfortable relaxed guest in a short amount of time. The Sayre Mansion, a boutique bed & breakfast, is the only Settlers’ property that currently, does not have an on-site restaurant but you will be treated to an outstanding breakfast each morning in the hotel’s dining room during your stay.

Bradford the French Bulldog
Bradford is a hit at The Sayre Mansion. His responsibilities include meeting and greeting guests.

PET ALERT: Canine friends are welcome at this pet-friendly bed & breakfast but be sure to contact the inn before you book your reservation.

What makes Timothy particularly well suited for his position as The Sayre Mansion innkeeper?

He began his career in interior design, held similar innkeeper positions, and also owned and operated a catering business before joining Settlers Hospitality Group at Silver Birches Resort, a sister property in the Lake Wallenpaupack region of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains

The Sayre Mansion Conservatory

The “Conservatory” is a favorite with guests who yearn to sleep under the stars and city lights. Photo courtesy of Settlers Hospitality Group.

BETHLEHEM TRAVEL AND DINING FACT: Finding the perfect restaurant will not be a problem. Bethlehem is home to a variety of restaurants and many are within walking distance from The Sayre Mansion ranging from Asian, Italian, and pub to diners. You name it and you’ll likely find a palate-pleaser meal along the streets of historic Bethlehem. My dining experience at Bolete is a “10-plus.” (more details forthcoming).

The Robert Sayre Library was my home during my stay. My recently renovated suite featured two rooms: a spacious bedroom and library decorated with turn-of-the-century furnishings with a plush chaise-style lounge chair that became my second all-time favorite piece of furniture. The queen-sized bed dressed in lavishly comfortable linens is at the top of my list.

Accommodations: The Mansion and The Carriage House offer a variety of lodging options and depending on if you’re traveling alone on business or you have your family in tow, there’s a room for you. I toured every guest room in the mansion and they’re all furnished with comfort and elegance in mind.

Breakfast at The Sayre Mansion
The breakfast buffet features fresh fruit, home-baked muffins, breads, pastries and a heartier breakfast that’s made to order.
The Sayre Mansion Robert Sayre Library Guest Room

You can count on extreme comfort in every guest room managed by Settlers Hospitality Group.

The Sayre Mansion Robert Sayre Library Sitting Area
The voracious reader will have no problem finding a comfortable chair by the fireplace to read a book, work, or watch TV in the library.
Sayre Mansion Living Room

Relax by the fireplace as you sip your favorite tea or coffee. The inn is decorated with antiques and period-style furniture.

Sayre Mansion Decor
The decor is elegant and thoughtfully accented with art and antiques. You’ll feel at home without the “overwhelmed” feeling.

When the opportunity to travel to Bethlehem unfolds, The Sayre Mansion is a model bed & breakfast, with exemplary service and amenities for the consummate traveler or anyone who wants to experience a bed & breakfast at its finest. Robert Sayre found the location to his liking only steps away from city life in historic Bethlehem.

Points of Interest: Lehigh University, St. Luke’s Hospital, and most historic attractions are within walking distance. Tourism information can be found here.

Book a reservation at The Sayre Mansion online or call
610.882.2100 for more information.

Additional properties owned and managed by Settlers Hospitality Group:

The Hotel Anthracite, Carbondale, PA

Settlers Inn, Hawley, PA

Ledges Hotel, Hawley, PA

Silver Birches, Hawley, PA (adjacent to Lake Wallenpaupack)

Disclaimer:

My lodging was comped by Settlers Hospitality Group but my opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

Partner: Transcription of my interview was provided by Transcribe.

About us: Transcribe has been around for 8 years. We began as a simple do-it-yourself transcription tool but evolved as the overall speech recognition technology matured. We introduced a dictation (voice typing) feature a few years ago when it became reliable enough. Last year we introduced a state-of-the-art automatic machine transcription for pre-recorded audio and video. We support a wide set of languages.

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Say “Ciao” To Your Morning

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  • March 13, 2019
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CIAO! Bakery Cafe Harrisburg PA

Bricco’s answer to “What’s for Breakfast?”

Sweeten Your Day

Rosemarie Barbour’s typical workday begins around 5:00 a.m. when she arrives at work in downtown Harrisburg. Rosemarie is Bricco and Ciao Bakery’s executive pastry chef.

“Ciao” is Bricco’s answer to “What’s for breakfast?” and once the door opens at 6:30 a.m., the display case at the front of the cafe is filled with European-style pastries and bread, croissant breakfast sandwiches (with egg and locally sourced cheese) and the aroma screams “freshly brewed coffee.” Customers line up, one by one, to buy scrumptious baked goods and breakfast sandwiches with their favorite morning beverage.

When your morning calls for breakfast on-the-go or it’s your day to bring breakfast to your family or colleagues at your office, “Ciao,” has a selection of sweet and savory treats to please everyone. You can also order gluten-free and vegan cakes and cupcakes.

From the moment you peer into the case, you’ll notice the delicacies are artfully arranged and an up-close glance will further complicate your decision about what to order. Coconut Macaroons and signature Pignoli Cookies are so popular they might not be available but you can special order them or any other bakery item.

Ciao fruit tarts
Ciao fruit tarts are one of the uncompromising baked goods available to customers.

Bricco is Harrisburg’s only Distinguished Restaurant of North America (DiRoNA), Wine Spectator and Santé magazine award-winning restaurant.

If you live near downtown Harrisburg, PA, chances are Ciao, 304 Chestnut St, Harrisburg, PA, is already your weekday go-to bakery but if you haven’t already discovered this gem, you should make it a point to stop by when you’re downtown. You’ll find European-style croissants (some filled), danishes, scones, muffins, coffee cake, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and sticky buns, made fresh daily on-site. Ask about the seasonal offerings, specialty cakes, and gluten-free selections.

Ciao Bakery Cafe
Ciao is downtown Harrisburg’s go-to bakery and cafe.

A MADE-TO-ORDER DELI SANDWICH?

Don’t Forget Lunch

Allow time in your day to stop by the cafe for a deli sandwich. Ciao Artisan bakers have taken bread making to a new level of perfection with a light, flaky crust that accentuates the cheeses and deli meats Ciao sources locally in Central Pennsylvania. Do you have a hearty appetite? Add soup and dessert to your repertoire.

CHEF SPOTLIGHT

Rosemarie Barbour
Rosemarie Barbour is the Bricco and Ciao executive pastry chef.

Rosemarie works alongside and shares her expertise with interns from the Olewine School of Culinary Art. The students bring their talents and ideas to Bricco’s kitchens and enhance their already blossoming careers alongside seasoned chefs. Rosemarie described how an internship directly benefits culinary students.


“The program benefits students because they not only get hands-on experience, but they get to work with people with different talents,” she said.

Rosemarie Barbour, Bricco executive pastry chef


Each season and holiday warrants a return of customers’ favorite and also a debut of most unexpected desserts using ingredients like summertime’s juicy berries; pumpkin, apples, and cranberries enhanced with culinary herbs.

What can you count on?

Ciao takes its customers on an evolving culinary journey that begins with extraordinary.

Rosemarie explained, “We do specialty and wedding cakes and a whole lot of French pastries. It varies what we put on the case. We try to keep brownies and the lemon bars stocked at all times but we also create more upscale confections using cream layers and crazy torts, for example. Our customers love them.”

Ask about specialty cakes and desserts.


While most of the cafe’s business is focused on the pastries and bread, Rosemarie and her staff also prepare desserts and bread for Bricco and the 1700 Degrees Steakhouse, the Harrisburg Hilton’s signature restaurant. Being in charge of customers’ dessert destiny is a role Rosemarie embraces with unwavering creativity.

“I love it because I can come up with new ideas flavor combinations, especially with savory desserts. You don’t see that a lot here in Central Pennsylvania,” she said. “I use lavender a lot and have added Jasmine and Rosemary. Herbs add a great flavor.”

Herbs elevate flavor combinations and add great flavor.


MORE ABOUT ROSEMARIE BARBOUR

Rosemarie joined Bricco’s team 13 years ago and returned to a full-time position in October 2016 but she discovered her love for baking many years ago. She received her Associate Degree in Culinary Arts from Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, Pittsburgh, and her Bachelor’s Degree from the Restaurant School in Philadelphia.

Visit Ciao Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The bakery is closed Saturday and Sunday.

DISCLAIMER:

My media trip was sponsored by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and based on my experience.

Check out happenings in Central Pennsylvania at https://www.visithersheyharrisburg.org.

PARTNER: Transcription of my interview was provided by Transcribe.

About us: Transcribe has been around for 8 years. We began as a simple do-it-yourself transcription tool but evolved as the overall speech recognition technology matured. We introduced a dictation (voice typing) feature a few years ago when it became reliable enough. Last year we introduced a state-of-the-art automatic machine transcription for pre-recorded audio and video. We support a wide set of languages.


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Harrisburg Dining Harrisburg Restaurants Lifestyle Where to eat in Harrisburg?

BRICCO BRUSSELS SPROUTS

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  • March 11, 2019
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Bricco Harrisburg

You’ll Savor the Flavor

The word on the street is Bricco Harrisburg prepares the best Brussels Sprouts.

“Try them,” I was told. I ordered them and it’s a fact.

What makes them extraordinary? Prepared with a Sriracha, honey & lime vinaigrette, the “Crispy Brussels Sprouts” appetizer is the perfect start to any meal you order at Bricco. The truth is you can satisfy your sweet tooth with one serving of Brussels Sprouts while adding a vitamin-packed vegetable to your diet.

Bricco Brussels Sprouts
Crispy Brussels Sprouts are the perfect beginning or start to your meal at Bricco, Harrisburg.

So why focus on an appetizer when the entree is equally as delicious? The sprouts set the stage for the food that followed. Chef Collier and his team prepared an organic chicken breast (made to order gluten and dairy-free) that was brimming with flavor. The variation, with mushrooms (of course from Pennsylvania – The Mushroom Capitol of the World) elevated the meal to a new level of perfection.

Chef Collier Culinary Team
Bricco customers can watch Chef Collier and his team create your meal within the open kitchen area.

If you’re wondering what night to dine at Bricco, keep in mind the menu changes weekly but the theme — inventive Mediterranean dishes, California-style stone-oven pizza, and homemade pasta does not vary. Guaranteed, whatever you order, will be a crowd-pleaser. Chef Collier and his team draw from favorite flavors from the South of France, Italy, Greece, and Spain and quality and flavor are consistent.

Bricco is Harrisburg’s only Distinguished Restaurant of North America (DiRoNA), Wine Spectator and Santé magazine award-winning restaurant,

Expect Joseph Benkovic, Bricco restaurant manager, to stop by your table and answer any questions you might have about the restaurant, food or wine menu, or ingredients. He can also give you a historical overview and more information about The Olewine School of Culinary Arts.

Bricco is a collaboration between The Olewine School of Culinary Arts and the Harrisburg Hotel Corporation. Up-and-coming chefs bring their ideas and skills to the kitchen. The program was founded and funded by the Benjamin Olewine III family. Bread and delectable desserts are among the creations the apprentice chefs create for Bricco clients.

Bricco Harrisburg
Bricco is conveniently located in downtown Harrisburg, PA, and within walking distance to many historic attractions.

Bricco is open for lunch and dinner daily. You can view a menu or make reservations here.

My trip was comped by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and based on my experience.

Learn more about Hershey and Harrisburg at https://www.visithersheyharrisburg.org.

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Award-Winning spas Forest Bathing Hawley PA lodging Hiking, fishing, and nature trails in Northeastern Pennsylvania Lifestyle Lodging with outdoor activities Northeastern Pennsylvania lodging Pennsylvania spas and resorts The Lodge at Woodloch Where to stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania

The Lodge at Woodloch

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  • February 22, 2019
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Forest Bathing - The Lodge at Woodloch

Reconnect With Nature

What is Forest Bathing?

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “Forest Bathing?”

I admit I was somewhat confused and intrigued the first time I heard the phrase. Is it frolicking under a cascading waterfall or immersion in a cool mountain stream?

Actually, it’s neither. Forest Bathing, or its Japanese counterpart,
Shinrin Yoku (forest bath), was developed in Japan in the 1980s as preventative health care that promotes healing as we absorb nature through our senses. The management at The Lodge at Woodloch, an extraordinary award-winning spa destination in Hawley, Pennsylvania, added Forest Bathing to its long list of services. Activities are centered on enabling guests to leave their worries behind as they unwind and reconnect with their true inner being. The management team and staff take their roles as hosts and concierge seriously to the point that every detail, from the decor, activities and classes, men’s and women’s spas, and dining areas, is purposely tailored to promote self-care. Forest Bathing is an ideal vehicle for guests to cast their worries to the wind.

Forest Bathing - The Lodge at Woodloch
Allow nature to heal you and replenish your zest for life. Try Forest Bathing, an activity available to guests at The Lodge at Woodloch, an award-winning destination spa resort in Hawley, PA.

Watch clips from my recent assignment at The Lodge at Woodloch to learn more Forest Bathing and this extraordinary destination in the Pocono Mountains’ Lake Region.

Our guide, Derrick, took us on a gentle meditative walking tour of the grounds surrounding The Lodge at Woodloch. We rooted about for edible native plants, listened intently to forest sounds, meditated for brief intervals, and rounded out our Forest Bathing experience with a brief stopover at the lodge’s greenhouse, where we enjoyed a cup of woodland tea. Watch this video to catch a glimpse of my first Forest Bathing experience.

During a recent assignment at The Lodge at Woodloch, I bundled in layers of clothes as I set out on my first Forest Bathing experience with our enthusiastic guide, Derrick and an inquisitive, nature-loving husband and wife team who were also guests at The Lodge at Woodloch. Winter had already set in with below normal temperatures but the cool air was invigorating. We met at the lodge and after an introduction, we stopped along a path to enliven our sense of smell with a sprig of wintergreen.

Travel Note: Forest Bathing is not synonymous with exercises like hiking or jogging. The pace will vary but the focus is on nature as medicine. Your guide will likely stop periodically and encourage you to reflect on what you see, feel, hear, smell, and possibly taste.

Forest Bathing is one of the many activities, workshops, and events available to The Lodge at Woodloch guests. Whatever your passion, whether you’re artistic, love to cook, can’t get enough of the outdoors, I guarantee your retreat will be memorable and uplifting year-round. The schedule changes daily. You’ll find an up-to-date schedule here.

Foraging plants while foraging for native plants
Forest Bathing offers an opportunity to get outdoors and learn more about woodland plants, herbs, and reacquaint you with nature’s healing benefits.

Before your stay comes to an end, you should carve out time for a spa treatment at the lodge’s newly renovated men’s and women’s spas. Couples can reserve individual “me-time” to unwind after a busy day.

Robert Baldassari, The Lodge at Woodloch general manager, said he is honored to receive many awards and accolades over the years and attributes each and every award to his “truly amazing team.”

Baldassari commented, “One thing that sets The Lodge at Woodloch apart from other destination spas is our motto of curating choice. Guests can choose to be as active or relaxed as they like, they can choose to enjoy our healthy and artfully crafted spa cuisine or splurge on a steak and wine. Furthermore, they can choose among dozens of offerings each and every day.”

Call 1.800.966.3562 to book your stay and schedule your appointment.

Disclaimer:

My visit was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experience.

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Harrisburg Dining Harrisburg Restaurants Harrisburg Vegan Vegetarian Restaurants Lifestyle Where to eat in Harrisburg

Plant-Based Food & Brew

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  • February 2, 2019
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The Vegetable Hunter Vegan Vegetarian Restaurant logo

Whole Foods and Boutique Brewery Meet on Harrisburg Restaurant Row

Years ago, if someone suggested I limit my meals to include only vegetables, I would have said, NO WAY.

But incorporating plant-based food options into my daily regimen is nothing new. My diet has always been centered on vegetables with meat, poultry, and fish as side-dishes unless of course my mother’s homemade meatballs and other comfort foods I’ve grown up enjoying are on the menu.

The Vegetable Hunter vegan vegetarian restaurant
The Vegetable Hunter is owned by Kristin Messner-Baker and conveniently located on Harrisburg’s restaurant row. Shown is the “Superfood Protein Bowl” packed with energy-rich ingredients.

Fast forward to 2018 when “The Vegetable Hunter” quickly became one of my favorite restaurants. During a recent media trip to Harrisburg, arranged by Rick Dunlap, Visit Hershey-Harrisburg, I had an opportunity to sample a variety of menu items Harrisburg restaurant owner Kristin Messner-Baker and her staff brought to the table. The menu caters to vegans and vegetarians with generous portions of quality plant-based whole foods made to order.

“The Vegetable Hunter” is where Kristin’s hunger for travel, culture, and different types of cuisine met with recipes rich in made-from-scratch healthy ingredients she created and tested. After experimenting for several years, while raising her family and practicing law, she decided to open The Vegetable Hunter in 2014.

“I had a dream of opening a restaurant,” Kristin said. “I worked in restaurants with many different types of cuisine before, during, and after attending college and law school.”

Kristin Messner-Baker
The Vegetable Hunter Restaurant Harrisburg
Eat in or take out one of Kristin Messner-Baker’s vegan and vegetarian selections. The menu includes Appetizers, Large Plates, Bowls and Tacos, Sides, Desserts, Handcrafted Small-Batch Beer, Cocktails, Smoothies, and an assortment of cold drinks.

What makes The Vegetable Hunter’s menu so appealing?

Kristin has compassion for her patrons who are not accustomed to a vegan or vegetarian diet and she recognizes and caters to them in the same way she feeds her customers who pass on animal-derived ingredients. Her goal is to offer “creative vegetable-driven quick dishes, magical elixirs, complimented by small-batch beer made with unique and fresh ingredients.” The menu offers such a variety of tastes and textures with the sweet or savory selections that will suit everyone’s hankerings.

From left, Raw Brussels Sprout Salad; Kale and Quinoa; Chick Pea Salad, and Asian Noodle Bowl.

She developed her restaurant model with help from her husband, John Baker, a graphic designer, illustrator, and high school history teacher. John helps at the restaurant when he’s not teaching and their love for music and traveling are a few of the elements that give the restaurant a unique spin.

Kristin Messner-Baker, “The Vegetable Hunter” owner, offers a selection of made-to-order vegan and vegetarian fare and thirst-quencher options. She incorporated a boutique brewery, featuring handcrafted small-batch beer selections and created a relaxing atmosphere.
The Vegetable Hunter vegan vegetarian restaurant Harrisburg Restaurant Row
When a contractor’s estimate to renovate the former barbershop decor exceeded her budget, Kristin said she, “Came in with a sledgehammer and ripped out the walls and floors.” The exposed brick is an ideal backdrop for memorabilia and images of some of her favorite musicians. Her family and a contractor helped to put the interior back together.

Recommendations (based on the plates we shared)

Asian Noodle Bowl: Rice Noodle Broth Bowl with bok choy, carrots, broccoli, chili sauce, and boiled egg (Vegans can request no egg).

Superfood Protein Bowl: kale salad, chickpea salad, thyme roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa, spicy raw beet salad, boiled egg, and homemade hummus (Vegans can request no egg)

Chick Pea Salad: garlic, cumin, shallots, and parsley

Spicy Raw Beet Salad: lime juice, cayenne, and jalapenos

Raw Brussels Sprout Salad: with balsamic vinaigrette

Curried Egg Salad: Mixed greens, tomato and onion in pita

You can view a full menu here.

Location

614 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg, PA.

Telephone Number:

717-695-6229

Disclaimer:

My trip was comped by Visit Hershey-Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and based on my experience. Don’t miss a beat! Check out upcoming events in Hershey and Harrisburg.

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