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Wipe Your Feet

As a Tour Director for Starr, there are many days and nights throughout our busy travel season that I, like my fellow Tour Directors and like our passengers, are away from our own homes.  I have to admit, passengers aren’t homesick for too long, especially when the tour includes visiting some pretty unique, historic, and even haunted houses.   All guests have to do is “wipe their feet” and they are welcomed into the private homes of rock stars, corporate executives, historical figures and sometimes homes of those who have left this world… or have they?  Below is a short list highlighting some of these intriguing homes that open their doors to Starr customers.

 

GRACELAND, Memphis, Tennessee—Available on the Memphis/Nashville Tour.

Home to Rock n’ Roll Legend, Elvis Presley, this colonial mansion has been frozen in time complete with original furnishings and shag carpeting.  You’ll be treated to a glimpse of the famous “jungle room,” and billiards room where a large tear can be seen on the pool table.  Culprit unknown.   You can pay respects to Elvis and his family members in the Meditation Garden which is adjacent to the house.

 

HEARST CASTLE, San Simeon, California—Available on the Cross Country by Bus Tour.

Sitting high on California’s Central Coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is William Randolph Hearst’s Casa del Mar.  The media genius built his dream house in 1947.  It boasts 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens.  Actors, politicians, business executives, and newspaper moguls were often guests to his “Enchanted Hill.”  It was here that they would meet for cocktails, conversation and just plain fun surrounded by Renaissance and Baroque tapestries as well as masterpieces of paintings and sculptures.  The Neptune and Roman Pools are only two reasons to see for yourself what money and power looked like back then.

 

Photo by anoldent on Flickr

MAGNOLIA PLANTATION, Charleston, South Carolina—Available on the Savannah/Charleston Tour.

It’s easy to fall into the Southern expressions of “yes ma’m” and “bless your heart” after visiting these 70 acres dating back to the 1670s.  The primary crop was rice which eventually took a backseat to the beautiful gardens which were constantly being expanded deserving the title of “America’s Oldest Romantic Gardens.”  The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.  The plantation bore witness to both the American Revolution and Civil Wars.  So its no wonder that stepping onto their grand porch gives you the feeling of being greeted like long lost relatives—much like in “Gone With the Wind.”

 

Photo by David B. King on Flickr

LIZZIE BORDEN HOUSE, Falls River, MA—Available on Ghosts of Providence, Rhode Island Tour.

Now a Bed and Breakfast Inn as well as a museum, this house is especially popular during the Halloween season.  Registered with the Fall River Historical Society as a tourist attraction, this three-story Victorian house is where the 1892 infamous axe murder of Abby and Andrew Jackson Borden occurred.  Their daughter, Lizzie Borden, was tried and acquitted.  Visitors can see most rooms in the house and then make their way over to the gift shop for some unique purchases.  In case you have a family gathering, wedding or need to schedule a seance, the entire house or individual floors are available to rent!

 

Photo by Christopher Hollis

MONTICELLO, Charlottesville, VA—Available on Presidential Homes of Virginia Tour.

Visiting the home of our third US President, Thomas Jefferson, gives you the opportunity to share in the interests of this Renaissance man.  The estate shows off his 43-room house that he designed in 1769 and finished in 1809.  His plantation was a source of food as well as a laboratory for plants from all over the world.  Jefferson’s parlor is one of the rooms where he would entertain his political peers.  On your visit, be sure to check out one of three house privies or as Jefferson called them his “air closets.”

 

STEGMAIER MANSION, Wilkes Barre, PA—Available on Pocono Fall Foliage Tour.

If you are fond of the Victorian Era,  then you will absolutely love the home of Frederick and Mary Steigmaier, founder of the Stegmaier Beer Company.  Said to be the aristocrats of Wilkes Barre, the Stegmaiers weren’t only highly regarded because of their world-renown “Gold Medal” beer, but for their philanthropy as well.   Restored by its present owner as a Bed & Breakfast and venue for special events, you are in for a real treat as each room is over the top Victorian—wallpaper, furniture, household furnishings.  Doesn’t matter if you have lunch in the Ladies or Gentlemen’s Parlors, you are transported back in Victorian time!

 

Photo by Jay Peterson

BEAUVOIR, Biloxi, MS—Available on Mississippi Gulf Coast Tour.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis had a stunning view of the Gulf of Mexico from his large estate.   Willed to him by, Sarah Ellis Dorsey, Davis lived out his final years at Beauvoir.  With his passing, his second wife, Varina Howell Davis sold it to the Sons of Confederate Veterans with the stipulation that it be used as a Confederate veterans home.  It is on the National Historic Landmark Registry.  Besides touring Davis’ home, visitors are treated to museum and library Civil War artifacts.  Be sure to ask about the Camel Corp—it is fascinating!

 

EDSEL AND ELEANOR FORD HOUSE, Grosse Pt. Shores, MI—Available on Agawa Canyon, Ontario Canada Tour.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t seen it all!  Although Edsel, the son of Henry Ford, had multiple houses, this one on Lake St. Clair was where he and his wife Eleanor raised their four children.  Built on 87 acres and designed by the premier landscape designer, Jens Jensen, this house tour is as much about the outside as the inside.  Jens managed to combine woodlands, meadows and wetlands in such a natural way that guests are mesmerized.  Each building on the estate is fashioned after English cottages including their daughter’s playhouse complete with plumbing and electricity!  The wood paneling, doors, fireplaces, and chimney piece come from various areas of England.  The kitchen counters made of sterling silver and a secret photography darkroom are more reasons not to miss this tour.

 

So, when you feel like “running away” from your own home for a at least a little while, consider taking a Starr bus tour and visiting one of these wonderful homes! You won’t be disappointed!

 

Happy travels,
Christine Durling, Starr Tour Director

New Year’s Travel Resolutions For the Young At Heart – Mississippi’s Gulf Coast

This week we travel south to Mississippi where one of many highlights on your New Year’s Resolution vacation is your stay at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, but the great things about this trip don’t stop there. Take everything you would expect at a beachfront destination, add historic attractions, beautiful towns, delicious cuisine, and mix in a heaping spoonful of Southern hospitality. Now that’s a recipe for fun!

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Beau Rivage Resort and Casino

You’ll stay at the luxurious waterfront Beau Rivage Resort & Casino located on the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, MS. A AAA Four Diamond Award recipient, this hotel overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and offers fabulous gaming, a large and diverse selection of shopping opportunities, and 12 options for dining with everything from a great buffet to fine dining and a 24 hour cafe.

Get the real southern coastal experience with a Shrimping Trip and Marine Adventure Cruise. “The pride and heritage of Biloxi comes alive aboard this unique and interesting cruise.  Learn everything you ever wanted to know about catching, cooking, and eating this delicious southern delicacy, Mississippi Gulf Coast Style. The crew will entertain and educate while dropping a 16 foot trawl and dragging the bottom of the Mississippi Sound for all of the delicacies she has to offer. Upon leaving the harbor, the shrimping net is set out with full details of how and what makes the net spread and operate correctly.”¹ The net will catch shrimp and other sea creatures in its path. You’ll have an opportunity to see one or all of the following: Blue Crabs, Flounder, Stingray, Oysterfish, Squid, Pufferfish, and numerous other species of local marine life.

Biloxi, Mississippi

Experience the city of Biloxi, one of the oldest communities in the country, settled in 1699. The city is a cultural melting pot set against a backdrop of sugar-white sand beaches, museums and historic sites, tantalizing seafood restaurants, and more. Our unique tour of Biloxi will take you back in time on an historical journey though Old Town Biloxi and the Hurricane Katrina devastated areas.  You’ll get to see Biloxi’s Visitor Center & Museum, Hurricane Memorials, Biloxi Town Green, and Biloxi Lighthouse.

Speaking of history, another highlight of this trip includes a visit to Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  The beautifully restored Beauvoir house dominates the sprawling complex that includes antebellum outbuildings, a Civil War museum, a historic cemetery, the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and nature trails.  You’ll also pay a visit to The Little White House Historic Site – the cottage where Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. Preserved as it was on the day he died, you’ll see original furniture, memorabilia & the portrait on which Elizabeth Shoumatoff was working on when the President suffered a stroke.

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French Quarter, New Orleans

You’ll love New Orleans, yet another highlight on this vacation. Your New Orleans City Tour is a thorough and fascinating introduction to the endless variety of sights found in America’s most European city. Then, experience a wonderful Jazz Brunch Buffet at the Court of Two Sisters before having free time to explore the French Quarter on your own. See the famous architecture, gaze at the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square then head across the street for a famous beignet from Cafe du Monde. The French Marketplace isn’t far from here, and the French Quarter itself is teeming with art and antiques and unique shops. And then there’s the music… it is hard to go anywhere in the French Quarter without hearing some of that fabulous New Orleans jazz. This is a city that will keep you coming back for more!

The Gulf Coast is home to many special southern treasures and this is just a small sample of all that you’ll see and do on this vacation. Come with us and see what Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has to offer!

 

Reference:
¹Biloxi Shrimping Trip