April 2009


Old Stone Church

Old Stone Church - Exterior After a wind blown visit to Castlewood Canyon State Park we take sanctuary at the first church built in Castle Rock. Today the Old Stone Church serves cuisine instead of a congregation. Where the confessional once stood a table for two awaits diners as does the choir loft.

We always enjoy the creative dishes from chef/owner Jeff Richard. Trained at The Culinary Institute of America, Richard features fresh ingredients with a sense of adventure. I like the southwest influences and order the shrimp enchiladas with goat cheese and chipotle cream. A half-dozen grilled shrimp fill each enchilada. Packed with flavor, I soak up every drop of the chipotle cream with tortillas and the Mexican rice. Old Stone Church - Java Salmon

Bob chose the Old Stone Church because he was lusting after their salmon. Java salmon is rubbed with coffee, ancho chile powder and brown sugar, served over a goat cheese pasta and topped with a corn relish. Sighs of contentment come from his side of the table.

While we waited for the entrees we dipped warm pita pieces in a thick sauce of herbs, red pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Old Stone Church - Ladies Lunching Although we didn’t have any on this visit every soup I’ve ever tried at The Old Stone Church has been perfect. I especially remember the cream of asparagus on our last visit. I believe Chef Richard shines when it comes to soups and sauces.

Locals consider the Chaplain’s Bar, next to the dining room, their secret. From 3-6pm  they relax with $5 appetizers and drink specials.

The only complaint I’ve ever held is that we’ve never had a host/hostess that seemed glad you’ve walked in Old Stone Church - Leaded Glass Window the door. Once we start interacting with the wait staff we feel welcome and receive good service but the initial greeting could certainly be improved.

Flickering tea lights, a softly falling fountain, original stained glass windows and music creates a relaxed, a reprieve from a busy day, atmosphere. I feel I must confess we don’t come to the Old Stone Church frequently enough.

Find It!

Old Stone Church - Castle Rock, CO
Old Stone Church – Castle Rock, CO

When You Go:

Old Stone Church Restaurant

210 3rd Street

Castle Rock, Colorado

303-688-9000

Open Tuesday – Saturday

Lunch 11am-2pm

Dinner 5-10pm

Closed Sunday & Monday

2009 Governor’s Invitational Art Show and Sale

governors-show-logo-miniThe 18th annual Colorado Governor’s Art Show fills the galleries at Loveland Museum/Gallery through May 17, 2009. Featured are the works of 56 of Colorado’s finest painters and sculptors. The show is staged by the Thompson Valley Rotary and Loveland Rotary Clubs with proceeds used for Rotary projects in Larimer County. All works – watercolors, pastels, acrylics, oils, mixed media and sculpture – are for sale.

Show director, Judy Archibald says, "The governor’s show offers an excellent opportunity for collectors to view works by some of the best and brightest artistic talents." Paintings by Kit Hevron Mahoney, Quang Ho, Michael Untiedt are annual favorites. A large number of sculptors make the Loveland area home. Locals George Lundeen, Rosetta, George Walbye and Fritz White are among the 15 represented in this year’s show.

The show is open Tuesday – Friday 10am-5pm, Thursday evening until 9pm, Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday noon – 4pm. No admission fee is charge; you can support the show by purchasing the full-color catalog, raffle tickets and, of course, the art. Donations gratefully accepted.

The Loveland Museum/Gallery is located at Lincoln Avenue (Northbound US287) and 5th Street in downtown Loveland, Colorado.

Nancy’s Notes: You’ll find sculpture in publics places throughout the Loveland community – "Mighty Casey" by Mark Lundeen at the Barnes Softball Complex, in front of businesses and firehouses, in parks and the civic center. A trip to Loveland should include a search for sculpture. Benson Park Sculpture Garden at 29th and Beech Drive exhibits the highest concentration with over 100 permanent installations. Studios, galleries and foundries further the visitor’s art experience.

My favorite lunch site in Loveland is Schmidt’s Bakery & Deli at 808 14th SW. Don’t leave without something from the bakery – a sweet treat.

Find It!

Loveland Museum/Gallery
Loveland Museum/Gallery

Visit Las Cruces

las-cruces-gate-in-adobe-wallThere’s plenty to do in the Las Cruces area to warrant several days in the area. Las Cruces ranks as the second largest city in New Mexico – yes, larger than Santa Fe – and home to New Mexico State University. You’l lfind an active art scene for both visual and performing arts. Numerous publications and organizations have pronounced Las Cruces a "Dream Town" for retirement and one of the best college towns for retirement. Golf courses and a purported 350 days a year of sunshine add to the appeal.

las-cruces-old-mesillaThe town lies west of the Organ Mountains along the Rio Grande River. White Sands National Monument is 45 miles east. Historic Old Mesilla, once a major trading center, is a popular destination with shops and restaurants around a public plaza. Fort Selden State Monument and nearby ghost towns attract history buffs. Don’t overlook  the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum - definitely worth a stop.

las-cruces-chilesLocated in the center of the heart of chile-growing country we find delicious, authentic Mexican food. Many family owned restaurants use recipes handed down for generations. Especially on weekends, dinner may be accompanied by a live mariachi band. Several wineries welcome visitors to tasting rooms and wine festivals.  Then there’s my favorite – Stahmann Farms for gourmet pecans.

Las Cruses is located in southern New Mexico at the junction of I-25 and I-10, 38 miles west of El Paso, Texas.

Find It!

Las Cruces, New Mexico
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Too Short a Stay

logo-staybridgeThis was our first visit at a Staybridge Suites, designed primarily for extended stays. Although we stayed only one night at the Las Cruces Staybridge I see thoughtful details that would be fully appreciated during a longer stay. For instance, the clothes basket in the closet great for collecting dirty clothes as well as trips back and forth to the laundry room.

The laundry room is larger, better equipped and brighter than the typical motel facility. Too often they are tucked under the stairs or in a closet-sized space, poorly ventilated and just a bit spooky.

In Las Cruces the registration area is small but other common areas seemed well proportioned and maintained. The Great Room with gas fireplace, comfortable furniture and televisions opens to an appealing landscaped living area. We also find an outdoor pool, hot tub, putting green and grill. The well-equipped fitness center stays open 24-hours a day, there’s no excuse for neglecting the workout routine.

The business center offers several computers, printer/scanners and plenty of work space. In case you have a bit of free time and didn’t bring anything to read there’s a small library, also a few games. Internet access in the business center and guest rooms is free and high-speed – and it worked!

Special features at the Las Cruces Staybridge Suites are a Home Theater on the 2nd floor, Internet Cafe on the 3rd floor and a public/private meeting space on the 4thfloor. The Home Theater is furnished with recliners with drink holders, extra large digital HD screen, surround sound, DVD and Blue Ray players  – and a popcorn machine.

las-cruces-staybridge-suitesAlthough we reserved a one-bedroom suite we were given a two bedroom/two bath. Being able to set up the laptop in the extra bedroom and work early in the morning while Bob still slept was an nice bonus. Quality bedding and linens contributed to a much needed night’s rest.  The equipped kitchen included a stove top, microwave oven, full refrigerator and dishwasher. My only negative comment is that there is no ice machine in the hotel. They expect you to use the ice maker in your frig; however, if it’s not turned on when you check in it can’t keep up with demand – even for two people.

The morning breakfast buffet served a number of hot items and more selections than we’re used to at Holiday Inn Expresses. I immediately noted the fact that we were eating on pottery dishes with real silverware  – a welcome up-grade. The layout of the buffet and separate drink corridor was also appreciated.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings the hotel hosts Evening Sundowner Receptions with food, drinks and a chance to socialize from 5:30 – 7:30pm.

We’ve stayed in hotels, motels, historic inn and B&B in Las Cruces. By far the Staybridge Suites gets my vote for the place to return to. Next time we’ll plan more than one night.

Find It!

Las Cruces, New Mexico
Las Cruces, New Mexico

When You Go: The Staybridge Suites – Las Cruses is located near I-25 exit 6 at 2651 Northrise Drive on the north side of Las Cruces.

Thank You

Thank You

Thank You

A few days short of five months “Where To Go – Travel USA” had its 5,000th visitor today. To all those who have taken a look I send my thanks. Whether you’re family or friends, found the blog searching for a particular location or completely by accident I appreciate your visit.

When I started this blog I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t even sure I would stick with it five months. Each visit and every comment have inspired and encouraged my efforts. Thanks – please come again.

Nancy

Make Your Reservations

Lodging Available in National Park Lodges

New opportunities exist for summer travelers to several National Parks in the western United States. More travelers are making reservations on the web closer to their date of travel and many families are being careful with travel plans because of the current economic situation. Rooms in lodges within the National Parks traditionally fill months ahead of travel dates. Savvy shoppers may not only find available rooms but also money saving packages.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates lodges in six of the most visited National Parks.
old-faithful-inn-porch4

Old Faithful Inn - Yellowstone

The company also operates the Grand Canyon Railway, between Williams, Arizona and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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El Tovar - Grand Canyon

The U.S. Travel Association predicts nearly three-quarters of all Americans will visit a national park in 2009. Dave Hartvigsen, marketing consultant for Xanterra, offers planning tips for 2009 national park vacations.

  • Booking online is usually the quickest way to secure a reservation.
  • Be flexible. Be as flexible as possible with dates and choice of lodging for the best chance of getting a room on short notice.
  • Consider traveling during the first two weeks of June, the last 10 days of August or the first two weeks of September. Individual parks have unique soft spots. For example, Yellowstone has considerable availability during the entire month of May and late August through the end of the season in mid-October.
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    Lake Yellowstone Hotel - Yellowstone

  • Be timely. Group tour operators reserve blocks of rooms. If all the rooms are not sold, operators must release them for resale approximately 30 days out. Want reservations for July 30? Try booking on June 30 or July 1.
  • Be persistent. Rooms open up due to a variety of reasons. You might be the lucky one to re-book that room.
  • Watch out for third-party reservation web sites. Xanterra’s reservation services are FREE.
  • In addition to lodging, book activities and dinner reservations. Popular activities like the Old West Dinner Cookout at Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Lodge fill up quickly. Find information on making reservations on the Xanterra web sites.

    old-faithful-inn-interior1

    Old Faithful Inn - Yellowstone

  • Look for packages. The Grand Canyon Railway offers a variety of packages including train fare, lodging in Williams and Grand Canyon South Rim, and some meals. Yellowstone Summer Getaway Packages represent discounts up to 25 percent that include specially priced lodging and, in some cases, tours of the park.
  • Just show up. Travelers who arrive between noon and 6 pm often find last-minute rooms available. Once in a park, the front desk at any lodge can check availability for all rooms with the park.

Nancy’s Notes: I’ve tried them, many of these tips work. If you decide on the “Just Show Up” option have a plan B, gateway communities to the national parks often fill to capacity. Happy planning, safe travels.

White Dove of the Desert

san-xavier-del-bac-front-with-cactus

Renovated and unveiled San Xavier del Bac Mission glistens in the Sonora Desert, south of Tucson. For the first time in years no scaffolding obscured the front or west tower of the famed, "White Dove of the Desert."

On our previous visits the mission was undergoing major work to preserve the historic gem. I got very excited when I learned that a portion of the work was complete and the scaffolding removed. Plans were for work on the east tower to start in mid-March, restoration projected to take three years. We would have a chance to see the entire front facade unblemished by construction.

A nearly cloudless sky was all the enticement we needed to head to the mission in the late afternoon. Activity around the popular destination was winding up for the day. No buses waiting for camera-toting passengers idled in the parking lot. Only a couple of Tohono O’odham families were still packing up from their food booths. There would be no fry bread or Indian tacos for us this visit.

san-xavier-del-bac-doors-nBuilt from 1783 – 1797, the church frequently is proclaimed to be the finest example of mission architecture in the United States. Records reveal little about the architect and artisans responsible for the original construction. Influences of Moorish, Byzantine and Late Mexican Renaissance architecture blend to create the strikingly unique edifice. We can only surmise why the east tower was never completed.

The Tohono O’odham people lived in the settlement of Bac ("place were the water appears") long before Father Kino, the Jesuit missionary and explorer, arrived in 1692. By the time the present church was built the Franciscans were in charge of the mission. Still today San Xavier del Bac serves the Tohono O’odham as a parish church within the Diocese of Tucson. Services are open to all and the church is open every day of the year.

san-xavier-del-bac-west-tower1The building has a long history of respectful care followed by neglect and restoration. For three decades in the 1800s priests were sent home to Spain. Parishioners safeguarded church furnishings in their homes but the building fell into disuse.

The latest restoration began with the interior in 1992, a six-year project. Once the elaborate detail of the ornate interior was completed work begun on the exterior to stabilize the walls and domes. Viewing the newly completed west tower we see the successful use of a mud plaster "recipe" used by the Tohono O’odham peoples. When baked in the Arizona sun, the coating gives a bright white finish and resists the affects of the harsh desert climate.

A museum details history of the mission and preservation work. I’m fascinated with the video showing the intricate skills required by conservators. The knowledge, patience and attention to detail are to be admired.

san-xavier-del-bac-west-tower-window1san-xavier-del-bac-east-tower-window2 san-xavier-del-bac-east-tower-window-detail2 san-xavier-del-bac-window-detail1

As we take photos we can’t help but compare the two towers; eroded plaster, gaping holes and faded paint of the east tower increases appreciation of the flawless renovated west tower. We can imagine how magnificent it will be when all is complete.

san-xavier-del-bac-interior1We sometimes hear the gasps of wonder as visitors step into the church for the first time. Every surface seems to resonate with color: altars, statuary, arches, retablos, frescoes, carvings. Some have called this the "Sistine Chapel of North America." It’s quite a compilation of baroque and folk art. Whether one says a prayer and lights a candle or sits quietly observing the features this is a time to pause and contemplate.

Our visit ends as the setting sun brushes the walls with flecks of gold.

When You Go: San Xavier del Bac Mission is approximately 12 miles south of Tucson, exit 92 from I-19. The church is open daily 8am-5pm, museum open 8am-4:30pm. A gift shop is open 8am-5pm every day except Easter Sunday and Christmas. Admission is free, donations gratefully accepted. Please remember this is a place of worship, be respectful.

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san-xavier-del-bac-altar1san-xavier-del-bac-side-chapelsan-xavier-del-bac-doors

san-xavier-del-bac-front-in-late-light1

Find It!

San Xavier del Bac Mission
San Xavier del Bac Mission

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