Saturday, August 10, 2019

My Summer Highlights - Part 1

We’re just about halfway through the month of August, which means I’m halfway to my next birthday.  August has always been my midway mark.  After August 6th, I would no longer tell everyone that I was “seven years old.”  Now, I could honestly say I was “seven-and-a-half years old.”  It sounded much more grown up and, of course, growing up was what every kid wanted to do in those days.  Do kids today still look forward to growing up?  I’m not so sure anymore.  

In any case, people are less likely to ask my age these days and I keep that extra “half” to myself. 

Anyway, summer is almost over.  Soon mom and dad will be back to work and kids will be back to school writing compositions on “What I Did on Summer Vacation.”  Now that my husband is retired, we are pretty much always on vacation.  It’s quite wonderful.  Still, there were some summer highlights I’d love to share, in no particular order of importance.  I’ll leave that to you to decide. 


On a beautiful, sunny day in July, I had lunch with my friends Anna and Rachel at the City Tavern in the Independence Historical Park area of Philadelphia. 

The City Tavern opened for business in 1773.  During that hot, steamy summer, delegates to the First Continental Congress, such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, among others, would meet there before and after each session, which took place at nearby Carpenters’ Hall.  Creating a new country was definitely thirsty work. 

On July 4, 1777, the City Tavern celebrated the brand new country’s first Independence Day. 

In 1834, the building caught fire and had to be demolished.  In 1975, an exact replica, based on original plans, surveys and images, was built on the site and opened in time for the country’s 1976 Bicentennial Celebration. 

Authentic 18th Century American food is served on blue and white ceramic creamware, drinks in pewter goblets, by waiters and waitresses in traditional colonial garb.  You would expect the food to be a bit on the heavy side, but Chef Walter Staib prepares it with an unexpectedly light touch.  It is surprisingly very good. 

The moment you climb the stairs to the front porch, you truly feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.  It’s a wonderful place for a private event or to take the family for lunch or dinner and give your children or grandchildren a little taste of history. 

After lunch, we went to the American Revolutionary War Museum around the corner from the City Tavern. 

The Museum opened in 2017 and has been getting high marks from visitors and historians alike ever since.  It is beautifully presented and laid out.  After several hours, we realized we had barely scratched the surface and needed to come back another day to truly take it all in.  There’s just so much to see, enjoy and learn.  For example, I had always wondered why British sailors were called “tars,” as in Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore when they sing that a “British tar is a soaring soul.”  In the Exhibit that includes part of a British ship there is a length of hemp rope from that period used to hoist anchor.  It is covered with tar to preserve it from the ravages of the sea.  Hence, British sailors were often covered in tar from handling the ropes.  I finally had my answer.  I wonder if my British Grandmum knew that?   

Everyone who works there is helpful, cheerful and brimming with enthusiasm for their subject. The children were clearly fascinated by it all asking question after question, all of which were answered knowledgeably and with great good humor by the guards and lecturers.  Everywhere I turned there was an historical reminder of how my British, French and American roots converged in one great conflict that would change the nature of the world forever. 

But the museum’s crown jewel is George Washington’s tent, in which he slept, ate and directed the war efforts from the first through the last days of the Revolutionary War travelling with him from battleground to battleground.  The story of how the First Oval Office was preserved by the wife of Robert E. Lee, Martha Washington’s great-granddaughter, then lost, found and restored reads like a detective story. 

Needless to say, it is the centerpiece of this fascinating museum and not to be missed. 

Here’s a little video showing how the tent was erected by their team of experts.

After our museum visit, we headed back to Anna’s house for some cool refreshment on a hot day.  Anna and her husband live in a fabulous townhouse on a quiet little City street tucked away from the hustle and bustle.  In fact, if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t know it was there. 

The small, secluded garden in the back is Anna’s husband’s pride and joy.


Each time I visit he has something new and beautiful to show me.  It’s their refuge, their Secret Garden in the City.  A sense of peace and calm always envelops me when I'm there. 

Sipping cocktails out here in the company of two of the garden’s permanent residents is the perfect way to end our perfect summer day in the City. 

Next time, more highlights, a “What Was She Thinking?” episode, a favorite find and a little Québec getaway.  Spoiler alert:  There will be some opera.  

Stay tuned for My Summer Highlights - Part 2.  For Part 2 Click HERE

For Part 3 Click HERE


  1. Had I known of this fabulous place I would have gone! I lived 30 miles away from Philadelphia for some years. If I go back to the will definitely be on my list. I would absolutely love to see all of it and to die there.

    1. Philly has definitely changed over the years. I grew up in a suburb just across the Philadelphia border and went into and worked in the City for years. While other areas have sadly deteriorated, the historic area has been beautifully maintained and enhanced, as I write in my Post.

      You should definitely put this area on your list if you come back for a visit. You'll love it, as I do.

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Comment sent to me by my friend Ellin:

    "Merci beaucoup
    Tres intéressant!!

    But I was shocked to see in the tent video that none of the workers were wearing gloves. Thought they would have even though it’s restored. Hand sweat, etc?

    Bises, Ellin"

    1. That occurred to me, as well, El, but I simply assumed that it was probably too cumbersome to work with gloves on this, and I also assumed that they knew exactly what they were doing. The results speak for themselves. Beautiful!!

      Bises, M-T

  3. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    There we are again and you meanwhile lived through some fabulous summer highlights indeed!
    You got me so much captivated that I had to scroll back up after the video as you said you headed back to Anna's house... What did she do? With whom did she go out for lunch - one forgets as you take us all along!
    No doubt that was a lovely luncheon and very interesting history lessons learned.
    Wish we would have things like that here.
    Sending you hugs,

    PS you can read more about the weeks in-between my previous comment on your blog post and this one:

    1. Dearest Mariette,

      I am so delighted you came along w/me for this wonderful lunch, visit to a very special museum and a secret City garden. American history is given very short shrift in schools these days, that I am always thrilled when it is given its proper due in such a great setting as this Museum. You and Pieter would love it. Americans have much to be thankful for.

      Big summer hugs,


  4. Well I must confess I worried about you because it's been a while since you've blogged, or left comments on my blogs. I was going to write you a private email soon inquiring, but common sense told me it was instead a case of a busy summer spent with your newly retired husband.

    I would like to spend more time in Philadelphia. Love the city, the food and the history. My kind of day!

    Enjoy the rest of your summer,


    1. How sweet of you to worry about me. Yes, it's been an extremely busy few months, and I can't blame it all on my newly retired husband. Frankly, most of my time has been spent on very complicated issues I had a to deal with as a member of the Board of Directors for our Community. I'm the Director of Communications, which is pretty much a 24/7 job, and, in addition, I do a quarterly Newsletter which requires a lot of time and effort, which I truly do enjoy doing; however, it does take time away from my first love, my Blog, for which I always feel guilty. In fact, I have an interesting story for Part 2 from the Chronicles of a Board member. Hope you'll stay tuned.

      Enjoy the rest of your summer, too.

      Cheers, M-T

  5. I was thankful that here in the city on Sunday after about 12:00 noon, it was dark, but the weather had turned into a light rain, which stopped around 4:00 pm. After the downpour had halted, I was out and about running errands and such. Other than the wet, it was a mild day. Durning the AM I watched the mourning news programs and continued my reading on Charles II as I want to finish all 3 of his bios. I am haunted by the blatant infidelities his wife, Queen Catherine had to endure ... it is difficult to shake while you are still reading the books. My heart goes out to women of her day, because once you married (or became a mistress for that matter) there were no do-overs. You were stuck with your life and had to make the best of it. She was a good natured, intelligent Queen who's wings got clipped, though she did bring afternoon tea drinking to England.


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