A Walking Tour of Santa Fe: The City Different

To know the history of Santa Fe is to enhance your visit—the City Different is a confluence of its storied past and vibrant present.

A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing, we provided an historical perspective on Santa Fe, the City Different.

The center of it all, the Santa Fe Plaza. One glance tells you what sets this city apart—adobe architecture hose soft, rounded corners soothe the eye.

Want to orient yourself quickly? Take a trolley or walking tour with a professional guide. Or set out on your own. But remember to pace yourself. You’re at 7,000 feet here, so drink plenty of water.

Come with us as we take a short walk to see just where the fascination and enchantment began.

On the north side of the Santa Fe Plaza, the Palace of the Governors was laid out at the same time as the plaza. A fortified building, it served as residence, offices, workshops, and storerooms for the representative of the Spanish king; thus, they were called “royal houses.”

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

General Stephen Kearney stayed within these walls when he arrived with troops to claim the territory of New Mexico for the United States. The 54-inch-thick adobe walls, at that time still covered by a sod roof, furnished the quiet needed by Territorial Governor Lew Wallace to finish his novel Ben Hur.

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional  Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves.

Just west of here, by the golden clock, is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. A short stroll west takes you to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.

Head east on Palace Street and duck into Sena Plaza, a hidden placita—or courtyard—just one block from the city’s plaza and just across the street from the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral. Note the sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint.

Just west of the Palace of Governors by the golden clock is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Just west of the Palace of Governors by the golden clock is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll on San Francisco Street to the graceful facade of La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe’s most historic and authentic hotel and restaurant experience. This historic, landmark hotel sits quite literally at the terminus of the Old Santa Fe Trail. This charming, landmark hotel has delighted travelers since the early 1920s when the original hotel was built on the oldest hotel corner in America. Indeed, early records show a fonda, or inn, on the historic corner of San Francisco and Water Streets since the founding of Santa Fe in 1607.

La Fonda is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. Very few hotels have such roots that go back to the 17th century! Indeed, it was also the site of one of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s many marriages—this time to Conrad Hilton in 1942.

We’ve had several memorable meals at La Plazuela at La Fonda. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere incomparable with friendly, helpful, and efficient staff. It’s truly one of Santa Fe’s treasures.

The staircase in the Loretta Chapel—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The staircase in the Loretta Chapel—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you continue you’ll discover shops and open air vendors all along your stroll, with merchandise from exquisitely tooled leather boots to replicas of Kachina dolls, from Navajo blankets to ristras—festively strung wreaths of red chilis.

For the last leg of this walk, head south on Old Santa Fe Trail to the Loretto Chapel, completed in 1878. What draws the visitor is the spiral staircase inside that leads to the choir loft. The chapel’s small sized made access to the loft possible only by ladder.

When none of the local carpenters could build a staircase that wouldn’t encroach on the limited floor space, the Sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Soon a mysterious stranger arrived, looking for work, and built an elegant spiral staircase. Without presenting any bill for payment, he disappeared as suddenly as he had come. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. The identity of the builder remains unknown.

Afterwards, continue south on the Old Santa Fe Trail to East De Vargas Street and San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in America, the key site to the Barrio de Analco Historic District. Oral history holds that San Miguel Chapel was built around 1610, and it has been rebuilt and restored several times over the past 400 years.

As you continue east De Vargas Street becomes Canyon Road, once a meandering Native American trail to Pecos Pueblo. Nestled into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Canyon Road is a magical half-mile of over a hundred galleries, artist studios, clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, and gourmet restaurants.

Aptly named Museum Hill, two and a half miles south of the city’s plaza, is a day onto itself. Museum Hill offers a central destination for exploring some of the city’s finest museums and some of the world’s greatest collections of Native American art and artifacts. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and the Museum of International Folk Art are the major institutions located on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill.

Worth Pondering…
If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

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Bardstown: Bourbon, History & Much More

If you like visiting warm, welcoming small towns with beautiful old buildings and colorful history, you’ll love Bardstown, Kentucky. And if you favor bourbon, that’s an added bonus.

The Old Talbott Tavern had its share of famous guests over the years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Old Talbott Tavern had its share of famous guests over the years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of Bardstown’s most prominent buildings is the Old Talbott Tavern, the oldest stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains, dating to 1779. The tavern has had its share of famous guests over the years, including Abraham Lincoln (as a young boy), Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, French King Louis Philippe, legendary outlaw Jesse James and many others. In fact, legend has it that bullet holes found in one of the rooms were left behind by James, although some discount those claims (Frank and Jesse James made a number of trips to Bardstown during their heyday, fueling a distinct connection to the town).

If the walls could talk, they would tell of the regular meetings of a group of volunteers known as the Bardstown Mustangs, who left Kentucky to fight in the war of Texas independence, all but one of them dying in the massacre at Goliad.

Federal Hill has gained worldwide fame as My Old Kentucky Home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Federal Hill has gained worldwide fame as My Old Kentucky Home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The walls would tell of how, in 1862, the tavern was taken over for two weeks by Confederate troops, who used it as a staging area for the bloody battle of Perryville.

The Tavern still operates as an inn and restaurant with rooms named in honor of some of its more notable guests and a menu offering popular Kentucky dishes like the Hot Brown, burgoo stew, and Southern fried chicken.

Bardstown has about 200 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the two most famous are Wickland and Federal Hill.

Wickland, generally regarded as one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the state, was the home of three 19th-century governors, all from the same family.

It’s Federal Hill, however, that has gained worldwide fame as, legend has it, the subject of composer Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home. It was here in 1852 that Foster allegedly traveled to visit his cousin, Judge John Rowan, and was so taken by the beauty of the house and its 450 acres that he tapped out an elegy on his flute. True story or not, My Old Kentucky Home became the official song of the commonwealth, and Federal Hill became the My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Central Kentucky is the birthplace of America’s native spirit, and Bardstown can legitimately lay claim to being the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” At one time, the area was home to as many as 22 distilleries, producing bourbons said to “have a bite that would blow your ears off” and were supposedly as harsh as the outlaws and desperados they fueled.

Today, only five of those distilleries remain around Bardstown: Barton’s 1792, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and the recently opened Willet Distillery across the road from Heaven Hill.

Heaven Hill is America’s largest independent family-owned distillery and the second-largest holder of aging bourbon whiskey in the United States. Visitors can tour the impressive Bourbon Heritage Center and sample Heaven Hill’s best in a tasting room, shaped like a barrel.

Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside Bardstown are two of the world’s most famous distilleries, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. Beam, the world’s largest bourbon distiller, specializes in the production of handcrafted small-batch bourbons. It sits amid gorgeous hills in a tableau rivaling anything Napa or Sonoma has to offer.

Maker’s Mark, in Loretto, just south of Bardstown, is a collection of distinctive red and black buildings in a rustic setting on picturesque Hardin’s Creek. Here, in the nation’s oldest working distillery on its original site (since 1805), you can dip your own bottle in Maker’s signature red wax.

Just a 30-minute drive from Louisville and an hour from Lexington, Bardstown, whose motto is “There’s nothing small about this small town,” is a genuine slice of Americana — perfect for travelers interested in antiques, country inns, history and bourbon.

Worth Pondering…

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,

Weep no more, my lady,

Oh! Weep no more to-day!

We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,

For the old Kentucky Home far away.

—Words and music by Stephen Collins Foster, 1853

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Santa Fe: The City Different

There is no place like Santa Fe.

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional  Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ve never seen anything like this before. A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter.

Santa Fe is the most exotic place you can visit without crossing an ocean. The secret is in its history, the blending of three cultures—Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo.

Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of Santa Fe is a long and rich one. Occupied for many centuries by Pueblo Indians, the Spanish conquistador Coronado claimed this land for Spain in 1540. Recaptured by the Pueblo Indians for over a century, the Spanish again took over the region in 1692 and Santa Fe developed and grew. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in the mid 1800s and with the advent of the Santa Fe Trail, American traders, trappers, and pioneers began to settle in the area.

In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado charged north from Mexico with 300 soldiers in search of the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. What he found was Zuni Pueblo, which he promptly conquered. Thus began some 200 years of alternating strife and precarious calm between the two cultures, a time marked by repeated Pueblo revolts that drove the Spanish from the area only to see them return with more soldiers and repressive measures. By the mid 1700s there existed a greater respect between the two peoples. Catholic and native religions existed side by side and the Spaniards and Pueblo people fought together against the encroaching French and Pawnees.

The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Spanish brought irrigation in the form of acequias—canals that still functions today—farms, cattle, sheep, and orchards. They practiced silver and goldsmithing, woodworking and weaving—crafts carried on today by their descendants. And in 1610, a decade before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they laid out the Santa Fe Plaza and began building the Palace of Governors. Today this is the oldest continuously occupied building in the US.

In 1821, the year that Mexico celebrated its independence from Spain, American trader William Becknell drove a wagon laden with goods into Santa Fe, making it the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. Americans traders and settlers soon entered the area. One of the most famous was Kit Carson who for 42 years called Taos his home.

The US was eying the territory for western expansion and in 1846, President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico. All of New Mexico was vanquished—bloodlessly—by 1,600 soldiers under the command of General Stephen Watts Kearney.

The influx of artists was the finishing stroke. What drew them here? Everywhere you look there’s a painting awaiting a canvas. Joseph Henry Sharp is usually given credit for starting the art boom who in 1883 spent the summer painting in Laos. Other artists and writers filtered into Santa Fe-Taos area including Will Shuster, Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, Mary Austin, and the woman perhaps most associated with New Mexico art, Georgia O’Keefe.

La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To know the history of Santa Fe is to enhance your visit—the City Different is a confluence of its storied past and vibrant present. The 400 year-old streets now glitter with galleries, shops, and restaurants.

There is so much to do and see that it is impossible to do it all in a few days or even in a few weeks.

Walking the streets of this charming city, evidence of the early Spanish influence is apparent in the historic missions and houses. But where to start?

And that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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Historic Triangle: 400 Years & Counting

Traveling through America the past is often hidden, masked by strip malls and suburban sprawl. However, restoration and reconstruction projects are occurring in cities and towns across the nation to preserve our past for future generations.

Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestowne Settlement. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestowne Settlement. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Historic Triangle is formed by Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield, three cities that were instrumental in America’s development, freedom, and democracy.

On May 14, 1607, the ships sent by the Virginia Company of London, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, landed at Jamestown Island with 104 passengers—all men and boys. They began building America’s first permanent English settlement, predating Plymouth in Massachusetts by 13 years.

Decimated by disease, famine, and Indian attacks, less than half of them survived the first year. However, with more settlers arriving every year and the establishment of their first cash crop, the tiny settlement began to flourish.

Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestowne Settlement. Located about a mile from the original site, Jamestowne Settlement is 10 minutes from Williamsburg, Jamestown’s successor as capital of the Virginia colony.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum, a colonial American city on the verge of war. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum, a colonial American city on the verge of war. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your visit to Jamestown Settlement begins with an introductory film that presents an overview of Jamestown’s origins in England and the early years of the colony. Exhibition galleries chronicle the nation’s pre-17th-century beginnings in Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English, and western central African cultures.

Leaving the indoor exhibits, visitors arrive at the Powhatan Indian village where costumed interpreters discuss and demonstrate the Powhatan way of life. From the Indian village, a path leads to a pier where the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discover are docked. Visitors can talk with costumed interpreters about the four-and-a-half month voyage from England.

Triangular Fort James is a recreation of the one constructed by the Jamestown colonist on their arrival in 1607. Inside the wooden stockade are wattle-and-daub structures and thatched roofs representing Jamestown’s earliest buildings including dwellings, a church, a storehouse, and an armory.

More settlements followed and it was in Williamsburg that the seeds of revolution were sown by the intellectual and independent thinkers who flocked to the city.

Explore Yorktown Battlefiedl, the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Explore Yorktown Battlefiedl, the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Become a resident of a city on the verge of war—or in the midst of it—as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg. Encounter townspeople on their own soil as they live through a time of change and uncertainty. Buzzing with political discussion and dispute, the city comes alive. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Many of the buildings, like the Courthouse, Magazine, and Wetherburn’s Tavern, have stood in Williamsburg since the 18th century. Others, like the Capitol and Governor’s Palace, have been reconstructed on their original foundations. Some of the buildings are used as private residences and offices. Flags out front indicate areas open to guests.

The port city of Yorktown forms the third point of the Historic Triangle, famous for its decisive battle and end to the Revolutionary War.

As you stroll through historic Yorktown, let the past envelop you as you immerse yourself in 300 years of history. Here you can experience many 18th century homes, visit the location where the surrender terms for the Battle of Yorktown were negotiated or the home of the Virginia militia with its walls still bearing the scars of cannonballs fired upon the village in 1781. Explore the battlefields, fortifications, and historic buildings where American independence was won.

The 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects Jamestowne Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects Jamestowne Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans won their independence here during the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781, when British troops surrendered to General George Washington and his French allies.

Today, Yorktown Battlefield is joined by the scenic Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown and is located just 12 miles east of Williamsburg.

Worth Pondering…

On the whole, I find nothing anywhere else…which Virginia need envy.

—Thomas Jefferson

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Marietta: Ohio’s First City & Historic River Town

Ever since the 1882 arrival of Marquis de Lafayette, widely considered to be Marietta, Ohio’s first tourist, this charming river town has been rolling out the welcome mat for visitors.

Take an escorted tour of the W. P. Snyder Jr., a 1918 steam-powered "pool-type" stern-wheeled towboat. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take an escorted tour of the W. P. Snyder Jr., a 1918 steam-powered “pool-type” stern-wheeled towboat. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its outstanding museums, river cruises, and historic attractions, it’s easy to understand why it is such a popular destination for travelers.

Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, it’s not surprising that Marietta has a strong river heritage. It also has a prominent place in Ohio history as both the state’s and the Northwest Territory’s first organized permanent settlement, founded in 1788. It was once considered the “Gateway to the West” for travelers from the East seeking land and new opportunities.

Glance at what this lovely river town offers with a narrated 90-minute trolley tour, which meanders past numerous landmarks and heritage sites. Tours depart from the Levee House Cafe on the corner of Ohio and Second streets from July through October. While a great place for lunch or dinner, the structure also has historical significance. Built in 1826 for a dry goods merchant, it later became a hotel, then a tavern, and today is the town’s only remaining riverfront building.

Schafer Leather Store was established in 1867 and has progressed from the local harness shop to a unique, diversified store offering a variety of quality merchandise. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Schafer Leather Store was established in 1867 and has progressed from the local harness shop to a unique, diversified store offering a variety of quality merchandise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a stroll across the Harmar Pedestrian, an old B&O Railroad bridge over the Muskingum River that links the downtown shopping area with Historic Harmar Village. This where Fort Harmar was established in 1785 as a garrison for US soldiers. Today it’s a neighborhood of brick streets (seven miles of original brick street—more than any other Ohio town) and quaint buildings housing crafts and antique shops, and several museums.

Stop by the memory-laden Marietta Soda Museum and view a fun collection of vintage soda-related items including soda machines, coolers, and advertising signs and gimmicks. Sit at a 1950s soda fountain and order a hot dog, a malt, or chocolate-cherry Coke.

Complete your trip down nostalgia lane with a browse through the Children’s Toy and Doll Museum a few steps away. Located in a restored 1889 Queen Anne style home, the museum hosts an impressive collection of antique dolls and vintage toys from around the world. Highlights include a reproduction carousel horse and Circus Room featuring dioramas and circus-related miniatures including animals, tents, and circus trains.

For over 65 years, Mahone Tire Service has served the entire Mid Ohio Valley with the best tires and tire services. © Rex Vogel, all rights
For over 65 years, Mahone Tire Service has served the entire Mid Ohio Valley with the best tires and tire services. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Head back across the river and stroll Front Street. Boutique-style shops are filled with artisan jewelry, collectibles, antiques, quilts and fabrics, confections, furnishings, gifts, fine clothing, and craft brews.

The aroma of craftsmanship permeates a leather goods store that has been in operation since 1867. Yes, you can still haggle over a harness for your buckboard. Schafer Leather Store has progressed from the local harness shop to a unique, diversified store offering a variety of quality merchandise including, jewelry, handbags, wallets, belts, men’s and ladies’ clothing, hats, buckles, bolo ties, and over 3,000 pairs of men’s, ladies’, and children’s boots.

The fascinating story of the birth and growth of Marietta, Ohio’s first city, is told in two outstanding museums, Campus Martius and the Ohio River Museum. Both will immerse you in the days when America’s rivers were her highways.

The Campus Martius Museum preserves the history of America’s migration west, its earliest native inhabitants, and Marietta’s pioneers. The museum named for the fort was built on the site in 1788 by the Ohio Company of Associates was erected over the Rufus Putnam House. The Ohio Company Land Office, the oldest known building in Ohio, was also moved to the museum site.

The boutique-style shops on Front Street are filled with artisan jewelry, collectibles, antiques, quilts and fabrics, confections, furnishings, gifts, fine clothing, and craft brews.  © Rex Vogel, all rights
The boutique-style shops on Front Street are filled with artisan jewelry, collectibles, antiques, quilts and fabrics, confections, furnishings, gifts, fine clothing, and craft brews. © Rex Vogel, all rights

The Ohio River Museum consists of three exhibit buildings, the first chronicling the origins and the rich lore of the area’s waterways. The history of the steamboat on the Ohio River system is featured in the second building, along with a video presentation on river steamboats. The last building features displays about boat building and tool and equipment from the steamboat era. Take an escorted tour of the W. P. Snyder Jr., a 1918 steam-powered “pool-type” stern-wheeled towboat.

After your museum visit, enjoy a 90-minute scenic cruise on the Ohio River aboard the Valley Gem, a working sternwheeler docked next door to the Ohio River Museum. What better way to fully appreciate a true river town than to see it from the river?

Worth Pondering…

I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.

—William Shakespeare

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4 Best National Parks For RVers

The US National Park Service administers a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural, historic, and recreational sites. In an earlier post, Vogel Talks RVing selected four national parks that are great for RVers. Following are the four best national parks for RVers.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

801,000-acre Big Bend National Park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
801,000-acre Big Bend National Park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Far West Texas, along the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park, there’s a magical place with a great deal of silence, beauty, and space—creating an ideal habitat for the turkeys, javelinas, roadrunners, and coyotes.

The 801,000-acre park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and two Mexican states. But the park touts more than a famous river: In the middle of Big Bend there’s a grand series of peaks known as the Chisos, accessible by dinghy and small RVs along a narrow and curved access road. Ponderosa and pinyon pine carpet the cool flanks of these hills, providing a haven for black bears and cougars. The park bisects one of North America’s most significant deserts, the Chihuahuan, creating an abundance of variety.

Big Bend has four campgrounds: Rio Grande Village RV Campground (25 full hookup sites), Rio Grande Village Campground (100 non-hookup sites), Chisos Basin Campground (60 non-hookup sites), and Cottonwood Campground (24 non-hookup sites).

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

The best way of acquiring a feeling for Mesa Verde is to follow the 6-mile Mesa Top Auto Loop Road which traces Pueblo history at 10 overlooks and archeological sites.

But for an intimate look at the kivas and actual living accommodations take the 15-minute hike from the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum to Spruce Tree House. If you would like to explore Cliff Palace, Balcony House, or Long House guided by a ranger, stop by the Far View Visitor Center for information and tour tickets.

Mesa Verde offers great camping just 4 miles inside the park at Morefield Campground. Because there are 267 sites, there’s always plenty of space. The campground rarely fills. But if you want one of the 15 full-hookup sites, reservations are a must.

Zion National Park, Utah

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Follow the paths where ancient native people and Mormon pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon.

Catch a shuttle for Zion Canyon, the only vehicular means by which you can access this gorgeous area in the summer. And as you progress, soak up the splendor offered by the Court of the Patriarchs and the Temple of Sinawava with their secluded hiking trails.

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. South Campground (127 non-hookup sites) and Watchman Campground (176 sites, 95 with electric hookups; reservations recommended) are near the south entrance at Springdale.

Situated at 7,890 feet above sea level, the Lava Point Campground (6 primitive sites) is off the Kolob Terrace Road, 25 miles (45 minutes) north of the town of Virgin. It takes approximately one hour and 20 minutes to drive to the campground from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.

There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons. Private RV parks are also available near the park’s entrances.

Death Valley National Park, California

Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.

Death Valley offers six campgrounds suitable for most RVs: Furnace Creek (136 sites, a few full hookups), Stovepipe Wells Village (190 sites; 19 full hookups), Sunset (270 non-hookup sites), Texas Spring (92 non-hookup sites), Mesquite Spring (30 non-hookup sites), and Widrose (23 non-hookup sites). A high-clearance vehicle is required to access Thorndike (6 non-hookup sites; 7,400-foot elevation) and Mahogany Flat (10 non-hookup sites; 8,200-foot elevation).

Worth Pondering…

Not to have known…either the mountain or the desert is not to have known one’s self.

—Joseph Wood Krutch

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Charleston: Deep South Charm

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Charleston. Avid tourist? Charleston is the city for you. Lover of good food and charming scenery? Charleston has your number.

Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes deep South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline.

Charleston also has a collection of some of the oldest and most impressive churches in America, including the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, The Old Bethel Methodist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history, including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city's skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best known Charleston landmark is Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. At that time, Union forces occupied the strategic Fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. The South demanded that Fort Sumter be vacated, the Union army refused, and the rest is history. After a two-day bombardment, the North surrendered the Fort to the South. Nearby, visitors can also tour Fort Moultrie, which also played heavily in Civil War significance.

Perhaps the best way to see this town is by foot. Around every corner visitors can discover another hidden garden, great restaurants, historic houses, quaint shops, and friendly people.

A walk down any of Charleston’s quaint avenues, especially in the area designated as The Battery, is a walk back in time. Many houses date from the 1700s and 1800s, and a large number of these are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour more than a dozen of these homes, including the Heyward-Washington House, built in 1772. This house was owned by Thomas Heyward Jr., a Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791.

Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a  convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a
convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Other houses of note that visitors can tour in Charleston include the Aiken Rhett House, one of the most intact building complexes showcasing urban life in Antebellum Charleston; the Joseph Manigault House, a premier example of neo-classical architecture built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, a neoclassical mansion considered one of America’s premier Federal townhouses.

Just outside of town, you can visit a number of Southern plantations, including Boone Hall and Drayton Hall. Boone Hall’s world-famous Avenue of Oaks leads to the Plantation house and gardens, and its original slave street and slave quarters. Located a stone’s throw from Boone Hall is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and historic Snee Farms. Pinckney was an original signer of the US Constitution, and was very influential in the document’s language. Drayton Hall, built between 1738 and 1742, is the oldest preserved plantation house in America.

While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive-through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.

Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights

The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

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Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Edisto Island, a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, lies only about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Edisto, part of a chain of more than 100 tidal and barrier islands along the Atlantic coast between the mouths of the Santee River in South Carolina and St. Johns River in Florida. is a world apart.

This is a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations.

RVers and other visitors to Edisto Island choose to come here—they don’t come by accident. And so it was with us.

Using New Green Acres RV Park in Walterboro as our home base, we spent an enjoyable week exploring the Lowcountry. Known as The Front Porch of the Low Country, Walterboro, county seat of Colleton County, is situated just off of I-95 and is a popular stop for RVers.

It was pleasant 75-degree day in early December that we toured Edisto Island: Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto River, named for the Edisto Indians (original inhabitants of the area), is the longest and largest river system completely within the state. It rises from springs 260 miles north, splits into North and South branches to flow around diamond-shaped Edisto Island (which is actually made up of numerous islands) and into the Atlantic.

ACE Basin, an acronym for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and South Edisto rivers that arc through it, spans 350,000 acres, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. These many acres of diverse habitat include protected uplands and wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands and beaches, and a host of wildlife.

The North and South Edisto branches flow into the ocean a little more than a dozen miles apart and roughly half way between the two is Botany Bay and Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area, a near-wilderness that makes up nearly a fourth of Edisto Island.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Edisto River is one of the most unique waterways in the world. It is the longest undammed or free flowing “black water” river, and takes up twelve counties in the state. It is the longest and the largest river completely within the borders of South Carolina.
The most interesting part of the Edisto River comes to fruition near Edisto Island. The consistent yet peaceful current makes it perfect for wildlife and for paddling enthusiasts. Floating the Edisto River will show you banks filled with ancient live oaks, Spanish moss, and many forms of wildlife.

Our first stop, Edisto Island State Park, includes an interpretive center and two campgrounds that offer 112 standard sites with water and electric hookups—ocean-side and near the salt marsh. 49 of the standard campsites offer 20/30/50 amp electrical service. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Each campground is convenient to restrooms with hot showers. Reservations are recommended.

Following our island drive with stops at several locations along the extensive beach, we toured Botany Bay Plantation, a South Carolina state historic site and wildlife management area, located off SC Highway 174 about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. You’ll follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends and turn left at the gate and into the property.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pure bliss. That’s the only way to describe Botany Bay Plantation.

The 4,630-acre plantation on Edisto Island was a gift from the Margaret Pepper family. It was given to the state in 1977 by Mr. Pepper, but was only able to be used after his wife passed away so she would have the opportunity to continue her years on the land she loved.
The land itself is full of nature’s rich beauty—from the sunflower fields to the salt marsh and fresh water ponds to the Spanish moss draped oaks to the miles of private beach; it is emblematic of Lowcountry’s unique environment and appeal.

The clearly marked driving tour showcases the features of the plantation including the archaeological structures of historical significance. Take a walk down any of the trails and absorb the unique beauty of this unspoiled land.

Touring Edisto Island and Botany Bay Plantation provided us with a chance to step back in time and fall in love with the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Worth Pondering…

There is a peculiar pleasure in riding out into the unknown. A pleasure which no second journey on the same trail ever affords.
—Edith Durham

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4 Great National Parks For RVers

The US National Park Service administers a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural, historic, and recreational sites. From these Vogel Talks RVing selected four national parks that are great for RVers.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California's southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation.
Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California’s southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California.

With 8 different campgrounds offering about 500 developed campsites, Joshua Tree offers a variety of options for RVers. There are no hookups for RVs at any campground in Joshua Tree. Black Rock (99 sites) and Cottonwood (62 sites) have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations. At Hidden Valley (44 sites) and White Tank (15 sites) RVs may not exceed a combined maximum length of 25 feet. Additional campgrounds include Belle (18 sites), Indian Cove (101 sites), Jumbo Rocks (124 sites), and Ryan (31 sites).

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit Arches and discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks. This red rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.

Devils Garden Campground is located eighteen miles from the park entrance and is open year-round. There are 50 individual camping sites. Facilities include potable water, picnic tables, grills, and both pit-style and flush toilets. There are no showers or RV dump/fill stations.

All sites are usually reserved in advance during the busy season (March through October). As an alternative numerous private campgrounds are available in nearby Moab.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia may be the nation’s most compelling hikers’ park despite the fact that most hikes begin by either an ascent or descent.

The two-lane Skyline Drive is 105 miles long and it is important for campers who want to begin their explorations of Shenandoah by simply driving. Along the road dozens of pullovers provide views of such spectacles as Old Rag Mountain which contains some of the nation’s oldest rocks. All trails lead to attractions, such as the park’s 15-some waterfalls including 93-foot-high Overall Run Falls, its highest. Or it might lead to Hawksbill, the park’s highest mountain at 4,051 feet.

There are four campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park; three campgrounds will accommodate large RVs. Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, and Loft Mountain all have pull-through and deep back-in sites which can handle an RV with a tow vehicle. There are no hookups for RVs at any campground in Shenandoah but potable water and dump stations are available with the exception of Lewis Mountain.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo, who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.

The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. Archaeologists believe that people have lived here for more than 5,000 years making it the longest continuously inhabited area on the Colorado Plateau. Ancient ruins are tucked along its cliffs, as are centuries-old pictographs.

The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads—the North and South Rim drives. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800 foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls and a site of special significance for the Navajo.

Cottonwood Campground is located in a shallow valley less than ¼-mile from the visitor center. The campground is large with approximately 100 spacious campsites, plus a large group camping area. During our visit we had no difficulty in finding a suitable site for our 40-foot motorhome.

Worth Pondering…

Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.

—Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

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4 Places To Go Camping This Summer

Summer is peak season for RVers to travel the highways and byways and experience the wonders of the US and Canada.

Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But where to go?

Following are four great summer destinations for RVers to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Trade the customary Howdy! for Willkommen! and head to Fredericksburg, a community in the Texas Hill Country that celebrates its German heritage. Settled in the 1850s by immigrants from the Old Country, the town retains much of its Germanic influence through shop and restaurant themes, seasonal festivals including the annual Oktoberfest with its oom-pahs, polkas, and bratwurst.

The Marktplatz in the center of town commemorates the peace treaty between the German settler and Comanche Nation. Shopping in the Historic Shopping District on Main Street offers art galleries, restaurants, and unique boutiques.

Don’t leave Fredericksburg without a visit to the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site and National Museum of the Pacific War. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific during WWII, grew up in Fredericksburg.

Holmes County, Ohio

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

The clip-clop of horse hooves is a familiar sound in the historic town of Millersburg, founded in 1815. Along with Berlin and Walnut Creek, it makes up the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country.

What makes the area unique is that they have the largest concentration of Amish in the US.

They made their living primarily through agriculture, but today the Amish cottage industry is growing. The area has a large concentration of hardwood furniture builders. They’re also a huge producer of cheese, especially Swiss cheese, with several of their cheese houses using only locally produced Amish milk. A visit to Heini’s Cheese Chalet, home of the original Yogurt Cultured Cheese, or Guggisberg Cheese, home of the Original Baby Swiss provides a glimpse into how cheese is made. Plus, at Heini’s you can sample more than 50 cheeses, purchase Amish foods, smoked meats, fudge, and more while Guggisberg offers 60 verities of cheese.

Redding, California

Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge, Redding © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With mountains all around, miles of hiking and biking trails, a river running through it, and national parks nearby, Redding is an outdoor paradise for all ages.

Cradled by Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, Redding has 300+ sunny days per year. Redding is also home to the famous Sundial Bridge, world-class fishing, and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails for all abilities. Head out on a day-trip to see the bubbling mud pots and boiling lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park, or get refreshed by the waterfall at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Eight miles west of Redding, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is located at the juncture of the Klamath Mountain range and the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley. The park features Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta Bally mountain (6,209 feet), and numerous waterfalls, providing outdoor enthusiasts opportunities for water recreation, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Urbanna, Virginia

Framed by a protected cove on Urbanna Creek off Rappahannock River, the charming, historic Colonial port town of Urbanna is a Tidewater Virginia gem. With the open waters of Chesapeake Bay a few nautical miles away, Urbanna has more boats than people, according to locals.

Urbanna’s marinas, boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and trove of 18th century historic buildings are all within an easy stroll through town, making for an enchanting visit and stay.

Rosegill Plantation consists of an impressive range of 18th century buildings: a washhouse, the dwelling house, the kitchen, and a storage house. The buildings standing today stylistically date between 1730-1750 and are a significant example of colonial plantation architecture.

Urbana: Historic Port Town With Old-fashioned Flavor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Urbana: Historic Port Town With Old-fashioned Flavor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven buildings in town have been in continuous use since the colonial period. Four of them are on the National Register of Historic Places. All are located in Urbanna’s historic district.

Worth Pondering…

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Wizard, Lord of the Rings

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