WOW (Weekend of Wonders)!

DAY 1

Our mini-DSTA Tour of the mid-Atlantic region this past weekend brought a bunch of, mostly, great small town surprises.

After checking into our hotel in the small town of Ewing, NJ, we headed toward the town of Princeton, NJ (population 16,027) to check its shops, restaurants and downtown “vibe”, and to wander about the Princeton University campus.

We drove through the historic town of Lawrenceville on our way. The borough features quaint shops, bustling restaurants and some beautiful, stately homes. The town is also home to the Lawrenceville School, whose campus was designed by renowned architect Frederic Law Olmsted (http://bit.ly/btUukk). Entering Princeton, it was hard not to notice Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor of New Jersey.

Gov Mansion

Not that we’re drawn to big places, but in this case we’ll make an exception. Look out Governor Chris Christie! We might decide to run for the top spot in Jersey.

Our first stop after finding a parking space on Nassau Street (Princeton’s main thoroughfare) was a great little Italian restaurant (Iano’s Rosticceria) where we inhaled a couple of slices of thin, crispy crust pizza loaded with sausage, pepperoni and gooey, mozzarella cheese. Vegetarians have choices too…We needed this heavenly little snack to hold us until dinner (more on that later).

Pizza-Slice-2

The Princeton campus, whose main gate opens onto Nassau Street, is magnificent and worth a trip just to enjoy the beauty of the buildings and the grounds. The surrounding town was an added bonus and, even when not crowded with students, was a vibrant, bustling area with an eclectic mix of people and places. Museums, galleries, historical homes, including Albert Einstein’s, local theater, and antiques line this street and many of its side streets.

Nassua Street

Nassua Street 2

The weather was perfect for our afternoon stroll, which helped us work up an appetite for dinner. We found a fabulous (4 ½ stars on Yelp) Chinese restaurant called Yao’s, which is located in an unassuming little strip mall (aren’t they all) in the nearby town of Skillman, NJ – population 6,687 (http://www.yelp.com/biz/yaos-restaurant-skillman). Authentic Cantonese food from a place run by Cantonese chefs. Our carry out bag was overflowing with great stuff, which we took back to our hotel and devoured. “Good night”.

DAY 2

Saturday – another beautiful, sunny day – began with a terrific 2 ½ mile power walk on roads and trails near the place we stayed. Later we set out to meet a friend for lunch at the Yardley Inn, which was founded in 1832. “Overlooking the Delaware River, the restaurant served as a stopping point for farmers traveling to the Philadelphia Front Street Market. In 1882 a Temperance Reform Movement rescinded the tavern’s license. From this time until John J. Fitzgerald purchased the inn and regained the license, the building carried on as a cycler’s road house.”*

Our next stop was New Hope, PA aptly described as an “arts and crafts village on steroids”. Running the gamut from retro to New Age with a little Wicca and tied dye thrown in, New Hope is a colorful mish mosh of old and new, bawdy and urbane, hippie and sophisticated. If you want something a little more sedate, just take a 3-minute walk across the bridge to Lambertville, NJ. We found quiet streets lined with old row houses, art galleries, craft shops and antiques. A totally different experience than New Hope.

INN-ON-RIVER

By now we were starving and, luckily, we stumbled on the Mikonos Greek Restaurant in Ewing, NJ. What a wonderful find! We dug into crisp salads laced with fresh tangy feta cheese and topped with fresh crabmeat, and whole wheat pasta loaded with huge shrimp bathed in the most decadent tomato sauce with a hint of ouzo. It was a feast for all our senses. Our waitress Brie was so efficient, attentive and fun that we insisted on telling restaurant manager George how great she was and how much we enjoyed the restaurant. Thanks Brie and George (who’s also a magician) for a great dining experience!

DAY 3

Our weekend ended on a high note of course. We had “blunch” at a funky local place with our favorite aunt and uncle, Laurie and Stan (it’s weird to call people around your same age “aunt” and “uncle”) who drove in from Cherry Hill, NJ to see us. If you haven’t started your day with a 5-egg omelet, you haven’t lived! This place, called the New Ewing Diner (the “old Ewing Diner” was totally rebuilt and expanded a few years ago in a glitzy style) had it all – including 64 different omelets to choose from. So many choices, so little time.

Diner

Laurie and Stan brought us a wonderful bottle of champagne to celebrate our anniversary, which we decided would be better to drink at a later date, rather than opening and consuming during our 3 ½ hour return drive home to Connecticut.

Moet

Our adventures in the Bucks County, PA and Washington’s Crossing-area of New Jersey were relaxing, informative, entertaining and FUN! Stay tuned…

* Wikipedia

Discover Small Town America Tour (The “Mini” Version) Continues…

While not yet able to re-launch the original itinerary for the Discover Small Town America Tour, Bart & Rorie’s “Excellent Adventure” continues this week in America’s Mid-Atlantic region. We’re shining a spotlight on some wonderful small towns, visiting a friend and celebrating our wedding anniversary! Here’s a sneak preview of some places we’ll be experiencing…

The village of New Hope, PA (population 2,534) is an artsy little town with a scenic countryside location where we hope to take  in “Friday Night Fireworks over the Delaware River”. In 2011 New Hope was named one of the “Top 25 Small Cities for Art” by American Style Magazine.

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Then we’ll take a bridge across the river to the town of Lambertville, NJ (population 3,896).  

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Lambertville has a great community “turnaround” story to tell. Its economy and community vibrance lagged for a long time through the 1960s. But, according to Wikipedia, “young people who had grown up in Lambertville but left to make their fortunes returned during the 1970s with a mission: to re-energize their hometown. Ultimately, revitalization “pioneers” like the Jonsdottir art gallery, Hamilton Grill and the Lambertville Station eatery (a hotel soon followed), the community began to attract artists and other creative types. These days, much of its 18th and 19th century flavor remains—particularly in its houses, many of which have been restored. The town has become a tourist destination, with many shops, galleries, restaurants, and B&Bs. The canal path offers cyclists, joggers and walkers a level place to exercise and enjoy views of the canal and Delaware River in all seasons.

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Next up will be the town of Princeton, NJ (population 16,027). Princeton is best known as the home of Princeton University, which has been in the community since 1756.

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Although Princeton is a “college town”, there are other important institutions in the area, including the Educational Testing Service (ETS), Opinion Research Corporation, Siemens Corporate Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Berlitz International, and Dow Jones & Company. Nassau Street is the main downtown thoroughfare of Princeton. The main gates of Princeton University open onto Nassau Street, which hosts numerous stores and shops.

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We’ll be having lunch Saturday at the Yardley Inn, located in Yardley, PA (2,440), with our friend Linda. 

 

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This town has a great historic story. Again, thanks to the folks at Wikipedia, we know It “was founded by William Yardley, who immigrated to America in July, 1682 with his family. Before leaving England he made an agreement with William Penn to buy 500 acres which came to be known as “Prospect Farm.” William Yardley died in 1693, and his family in 1702-1703, possibly of smallpox. The family’s burial plots are located in Slate Hill Cemetery, one of the oldest Quaker burial grounds in the state.

During the American Civil War, Yardley was a station for the Underground Railroad, an escape route for slaves. Known hiding places were under the eaves of the Continental Hotel (now the Continental Tavern), in bins of warehouses on the Delaware Canal (completed in 1862), and at the General Store (now Worthington Insurance). At Lakeside, the yellow house facing Lake Afton on N. Main St., one brick-walled cellar room is also thought to have been a hiding place.”

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We know there’ll be plenty of other “people and place surprises” along the way and will give you the inside scoop from the road. Stay tuned…

 

 

We’re Going on a “Small Town Treasure Hunt”…and Need Your Help

As we prepare for the next chapter of the Discover Small Town America Tour, we’ve been thinking about how to chose some very small towns to spotlight, and decided to ask for YOUR help:

1. To expand our reach, we’d really appreciate it if you would recommend the this Tour blog site to your friends, relatives, colleagues and others (no, you don’t need to stop strangers on the street). Just email them the DSTA link and ask them to enter their email address to become virtual members of the Tour road crew: http://bit.ly/YU1SNr

2. We’d like your advice about the best VERY small towns in your state or elsewhere (under 1,000 in population) that most folks aren’t aware of. Here’s a list of those towns, organized by state, to help you help us select communities to spotlight (http://bit.ly/15ubNHB)Lexington, VA.

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day! We hope you’ll be celebrating the holiday with family and/or friends at parades, fairs, barbecues, carnivals, picnics, concerts, ball games, reunions or – perhaps – at a terrific fireworks display. Here’s 9 small towns that do a bang up job marking the 4th of July: http://bit.ly/123ZUd2. This fireworks display is from Healdsburg, CA (population 11,254), which the Discover Small Town America Tour will visit later this summer…

Fireworks Show