Monthly Archives: August 2012

Stonehenge-Weird, Wonderful, Both?

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Some people may look at Stonehenge and think it’s just a big, old pile of rocks, thinking “Yeah, so what?” Okay, it is a big, old pile rocks, sure, but it’s much more than that.

I’m not a religious person or even spiritual by any means, but I found Stonehenge quite captivating. Maybe because there’s so much mystery surrounding the monument. Maybe because so many people are drawn to it. Maybe because it has stood on that patch of land for thousands of years. I don’t know. Or maybe it’s because Spinal Tap did a song about it.

       

There is nothing like Stonehenge anywhere else in the world. It was a burial site, ritual site, temple, community meeting place and a calendar for the people of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Some people say that the Druids used the site for pagan festivals during the summer and winter solstices, but there is conflicting information on whether or not the Druids had anything to do with Stonehenge.

It is thought that the name Stonehenge could mean “stones hanging in the sky,” but the word “henge” means a circular ditch with a bank outside and one or more entrances. At this site, on the Salisbury Plain, this ditch, or henge, was believed to have been created over 5,000 years ago. About 4,600 years go, a wooden structure was built in the center and then about 4,500 to 3,500 years ago the stones were added and re-arranged for almost 1,000 years.

One of the biggest mysteries of the site is how it was built. Over 5,000 years ago there obviously were no tools like we have today. And the population of Britain was much, much smaller, so there wasn’t an unlimited supply of workers. The stones are not from the area, some coming from 240 miles away in Wales. So, how did these gigantic stones get transported to the site and lifted into place? The largest stones weight about 45 tons each! It is thought that it could have taken several thousands of years to build Stonehenge. I can see that. What else did these people have to do with their lives?

If so much time and effort was spent on building this monument, it must have had great importance. It was originally much, much larger than it is today. It was in use for more than 1,500 years by nomadic people as a gathering site for different events. But as civilizations evolved, becoming more settled than nomadic, Stonehenge became less important and began to erode and fall apart. That’s why it looks like it does today.

Theories abound regarding Stonehenge’s construction. My favorite one is that aliens built Stonehenge. Aliens have been credited with the creation of crop circles, the Nazca lines, the statues on Easter Island, why not Stonehenge?

Whatever you see in the site, or don’t see, I think it’s an interesting place to visit, full of history…and mystery.

Dates of Visit:  May 2005

http://www.stonehenge.co.uk/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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The Tupelo Honey Café and Their Awesome Sweet Potato Pancake

TEDDY’s RATING: 

On one of my many trips to Asheville, North Carolina I was looking through a magazine and came upon a marvelous photo of the Tupelo Honey Café’s Sweet Potato Pancake. I could have licked the page, it looked that delicious. So, I vowed that I would get to the café to sample this delight.

Well, on that particular visit, the Tupelo Honey Café had had a flood in the basement and was closed! Noooooooo! I would have to wait until my next trip. It may have been a year later, but I have to say, it was well worth the wait.

Tupelo Honey Café is known for its Southern style cuisine, but with a different twist. Using farm-fresh ingredients from local suppliers, Chef Brian Sonoskus has designed dishes like Root Beer Molasses Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Green Apple Salsa and Southern Fried Chicken Saltimbocca with Country Ham and Mushroom Marsala, neither your traditional Southern fair, but original creations that make this restaurant a must try. They also offer soups, salads and a variety of sandwiches. They have a yummy dessert menu and have gluten-free options as well.

But back to the Sweet Potato Pancake. This is what Tupelo Honey Café is famous for, what was pictured in that magazine article. This buttermilk pancake is flavored with cinnamon and sweet potatoes and is topped with their fabulous peach butter and spiced pecans. It actually fills the entire plate. I’ve never been able to eat the whole thing in one sitting. I can’t imagine getting the double stack.

I almost hate the fact that this pancake is so good because it has kept me from trying all the other wonderful food that they have. Next time I’ll have to go there for two different meals so I can try something besides the sweet potato pancake.

Tupelo Honey Café has been part of the Asheville food scene since 2000. They now have two Asheville locations, downtown and southside.

Dates of Visit:  May 2009, May 2012

http://www.tupelohoneycafe.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

Categories: Eat, North Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Explore Asheville on the Red Trolley Tour

TEDDY’s RATING: 

If you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina before, or even if you have, taking the Red Trolley Tour is a great way to spend your first couple of days in town.

The fully narrated tour takes you to some of the best of Asheville, a city that’s more full of history than you might expect. The Red Trolley Tour is run by Grey Line, a worldwide leader in city tours. The drivers are very knowledgeable about the area and some of them are very entertaining.

       

What’s great about this trolley tour is that it’s a hop on/hop off style tour. You can get off at any of the 9 stops and spend as much time there as you’d like. Grab a bite to eat, go shopping, stroll around. Then, just hop back on when the next trolley comes around. With trolleys stopping every 30-60 minutes, you have a chance to explore the stops at your leisure or just stay on the trolley for a one and a half to two hour tour of the city.

The ticket price includes two full days of unlimited riding privileges. You can catch the trolley and buy your ticket at any of the stops, but the best place to catch the trolley is at the Asheville Visitor’s Center where they have free parking and restrooms.

       

Here are the 9 stops on the Red Trolley Tour:

Stop 1: The Asheville Visitor’s Center. Here you can get all kinds of information about the area-hotels, restaurants, activities. And there’s a gift shop!

Stop 2: The Grove Park Inn. This legendary hotel is a must see, even if you don’t stay there. The views of Asheville and the surrounding areas are beautiful from the Grove Park Inn. You can also visit the Grovewood Gallery and the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum on the property.

       

Stop 3: Thomas Wolfe District. Your Red Trolley Tour ticket includes free admission to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Historic Site. (Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit the Thomas Wolfe House, though I had wanted to. We ran out of time!)

Stop 4: Pack Place, Pack Square. This is right in the heart of downtown Asheville. From this stop you’re within walking distance of some great shops and restaurants.

Stop 5: Haywood Park Hotel. This is another stop in downtown Asheville, close to the St. Lawrence Basilica.

Stop 6: Grove Arcade. The Grove Arcade is a lovely shopping area with some great restaurants and shops.

Stop 7: River Arts District. Asheville has a rich art community and the River Arts District is at the heart of it. Painters, potters, jewelers, sculptors, furniture makers, glass-blowers, photographers, all have studios in this area.

Stop 8: Biltmore Village. This historic area outside of the Biltmore Estate is a collection of cottages, galleries, shops and eateries.

Stop 9: Grand Bohemian Hotel. This stop is also inside the Biltmore Village.

And if you’re more daring, why not try the Haunted History & Murder Mystery Ghost Tour? This 75 minute tour takes you through “the dark side” of Asheville where you’ll hear ghostly stories about the Pink Lady of the Grove Park Inn, the mystery of the WhiteGate Inn and the child spirits at the haunted hospital. This tour departs from Pack’s Tavern on the weekends. Check the website for dates, times and prices for all tours.

Dates of Visit: May 2012

http://graylineasheville.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

Categories: North Carolina, Play | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Latin Flavors Abound at the Columbia Restaurant

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I’m a very picky eater. So, when it comes to reviewing different restaurants, I’m not that easy to please. You already know that I’m not crazy about seafood. Well, I’m also not crazy about Latin food. Now, many of you who read this probably do like seafood and Latin cuisine, and that’s great. Take what I say here with a grain of salt, if you like salty food!

The Columbia Restaurant is very, very popular. It’s been in business for well over 100 years. And that should tell you something. There are eight locations around Florida: Celebration, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Clearwater Beach, Sarasota and three locations in the Tampa area, the oldest location in Ybor City (outside of Tampa.) This is the one that I visited with friends. It opened in 1905.

Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez came to Ybor City in the early 1900s along with a lot of his countrymen looking for a new homeland. He opened a corner café that catered to the workers in the cigar-making industry. Now, over 100 years later, 4th and 5th generations of the original family still own and run the restaurants. Not only is Columbia the oldest restaurant in Florida, but it claims to be the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.

When my friends said they wanted to go to this restaurant, I perused the menu online to find something that I could tolerate eating. I don’t like spicy food, or black beans and rice or really anything in the Mexican, Spanish or Cuban realm. But I did see that they had their “1905 Salad” which was something I could try. It was good — Romaine lettuce with ham, cheese, tomatoes, olives (I chose to opt out in the olive area) with a garlic dressing. USA Today said that the Columbia was “One of 10 Great Places to Make a Meal out of a Salad.” And that’s what I did. Accompanied by their yummy Cuban bread, the 1905 Salad does fill you up.

I also tried one of the appetizers, Croquetas de Pollo — six fried chicken croquettes rolled in Cuban cracker crumbs. These were very good. Other entrees my party tried were Pollo Manchego (breaded chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and basil) and Camarones Rellenos “Jesse Gonzalez” (shrimp with crab meat and lemon butter.) Both were tasty, but somewhat salty.

The menu is quite extensive with several seafood, chicken, steak and vegetarian entrees. There’s a wide variety of tapas to choose from as well as salads, sandwiches and soups. The Columbia also has a gluten-free menu.

After reading the menu online, I was looking forward to trying the Silver Meteor cocktail, a combination of Spanish Sparkling Cava (champagne), blood orange liqueur and elderflower liqueur. I have to say it wasn’t what I expected. It just tasted like a glass of plain champagne. They are known for their Sangria, which is what I should have ordered.

The décor at the Ybor City location is quiet extraordinary with hand-painted tile work and elegant chandeliers. The service was wonderful. We had two waiters that were very attentive and knowledgeable. This location also features performances by Flamenco dancers (Monday through Saturday) and a live jazz band (Tuesday through Saturday.) They even have a gift shop where you can buy the 1905 Salad dressing, sangria mix, and pottery imported from Spain.

The Columbia Restaurant has won many awards, including being named one of the top restaurants in Florida since 1967. It’s been named an All-American icon by Nation’s Restaurant News. And with 8 locations and various other accolades, they must be doing something right. Just because I’m not a big fan of Cuban food doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. But if you are a big fan, you probably already have!

Dates of Visit:  July 21, 2012

http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/ 

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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