Monthly Archives: September 2020

Towns with the Name Vienna

There are 8 towns of consequence named Vienna in the United States and 8 others so small as to barely be visible in places like Texas and Michigan. Most of the towns named Vienna were named after the capital of Austria, a city of almost 2 million people. There are also places named Vienna in unlikely spots like Vanuatu and Italy.

Most Viennas are not like the original. The Vienna in Missouri is a minuscule town about 22 miles north of Rolla. It was definitely named after the city in Austria. Rolla is about 100 miles west of St. Louis, and many St. Louisans have attended its School of Mines, a division of this state’s public institutions. Rolla is almost a city. The Vienna in Illinois is almost 3 times larger than the one in Missouri and the half way point on the infamous Trail of Tears. It’s in the southern part of a state not especially known for forests, but Vienna is not too far from Metropolis, IL and on the edge of a vast forest area. For years Metropolis has capitalized on its name and fostered a Superman connection. Vienna, GA is described as a Graceful Southern Lady due east of Americus, the home of ex-President Jimmy Carter. It’s large enough to be the home of the Georgia State Cotton Museum that can be seen by appointment. North Carolina’s Vienna is in the Winston-Salem area.

The 2 largest US Viennas are in Virginia and West Virginia. Vienna, VA is in the Washington, DC area, has a population of nearly 16,000, and has been highly rated on Money Magazine’s list of the best 100 places to live. It’s near both Tysons Corner Shopping Center and Wolf Trap, the famous entertainment venue. The West Virginia Vienna is across the Ohio River from Ohio and has become part of the Parkersburg area.

Two of the more interesting Viennas are in New Jersey and Maine. New Jersey doesn’t have much open land, but its Vienna is in the north central part of the state and fairly rural. It’s near Hackettstown, another unknown town to me. Vienna, ME is in Kennebec County near mountains and also rural.


Hereford Lingers in the Mind

I have written about Hereford, England’s Black and White House and its Cathedral with the awe-inspiring Mappa Mundi and chained library, but I have otherwise neglected it as a worthwhile destination. It eminently is and is also full of constant surprises. Both the house and the cathedral are commendable stops in “The Rural City” where history is very much part of the scene, so I must make my rural England loving readers aware that this is an underrated destination with 4 unusual aspects.

A stroll up Widemarsh street is rewarding. Before that famous date in invasion history 1066, this city was already a capital, the main town in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. As a populated area, it actually goes back to the Iron Age. As the commercial town on the Wye River developed, Widemarsh Street led to one of this town’s six city gates. Today Widemarsh Street gets interesting just past the butter market and continues to yield glimpses of the past for several blocks. Those blocks are now a mix of modern and very old, like an English Baroque Mansion dating from 1697, some contemporary shops in historic buildings, and what’s left of the Blackfriar’s Priory that is now a fine rose garden.

The Butter Market is a 19th century walk through a series of fun stalls that remind visitors that Hereford has traditionally been a market town in the center of an agricultural region known for cider, fruit, and cattle.

My favorite attraction in Hereford besides the massive cathedral turned out to be the singular Cafe at All Saints. Odd but it works, this medieval church down a pedestrian street from the Black & White House and the Butter Market that sells far more than butter doubles as a fine restaurant. We ate there twice because it was so unique and tasty. In addition to concerts and church services, All Saints opens as a restaurant on Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 4 pm and remains a church that has a major service on Sunday morning. That church is available to diners daily during restaurant hours too. This has worked for 23 years.

Another aspect of Hereford that appealed to me was its Polish population. Further down the same street are a few businesses that cater to the Polish families that came to live in England and tend to the apple trees that produce a variety of hard ciders that this part of England has become known for.


Repeated Hotels

Because we travel so much, Ruth & I have to be careful where we stay. We will soon begin to find out how COVID is affecting accommodations. At the end of the coming week we will have our first venture out in several months. When we have traveled in the past, cost has been a deciding factor in choice of accommodations. We most often go for price and don’t tend to repeat much. This often means poor to interesting accommodations both domestically and internationally. Oh, there are places where we tend to stay in the same hotel or motel every time we go there. Three especially come to mind: the Hotel Edison, Springhill Suites, and Premier Inns.

Premier Inns is now the largest hotel system in the United Kingdom. There are more than 800 hotels in this chain in England and Ireland. They also offer rooms in Scotland, the place that some consider the most scenic and best destination on the planet. Premier Inns is also going international. There are now Premier Inns in Germany and The Emirates. Its website calls their accommodations “smart and well-presented”. I would call them “bare bones and decidedly basic”. Don’t expect luxury. Don’t even expect above average. But do expect good placement and a cheap room. Their many facilities now offer an enhanced cleaning commitment, whatever that means. Premier Inns are especially popular in London. There are well-placed Premier Inns in Covent Garden, at Leicester Square, and near Westminster Abbey. We have happily stayed at their inn almost across the street from the London Eye, their location with the most voluminous survey results. The last time we went to Great Britain, we stayed at a Premier Inn in Cheltenham. We had no rental car, but there was a bus stop in front of it that took us everywhere. One final word. These accommodations are very desired, so book long in advance of need to guarantee availability.

Our son has moved from St. Louis, but I still have 3 sisters and many friends and contacts in this Midwestern metropolis. We will be returning to St. Louis eventually, and we will more than likely stay at the Springhill Suites on the Chesterfield Parkway. This is truly a home away from home kind of place for us where we appreciate the staff even though our favorite employee has passed away. The word “suites” is quite appropriate in its name because all the rooms in this accommodation are the same. They all have a sitting area with a sofa for entertaining guests, modest kitchen facilities, and comfortable beds. They have thought through every comfort their guests crave. We have stayed in other hotels here, like the glamorous Moonrise, but we tend to return to the Springhill Suites most often.

New York is an expensive city to visit. Of course, we crave to be near Times Square. That’s why our choice in New York tends to be the Edison Hotel. This venerable place to stay has been in the area since art deco was popular, and many of the room we have stayed in have needed refurbishing. This is not universally true, however, since many of the rooms have been redone and modernized. The Edison is one of those places to stay where getting to know the staff is essential. Once you are in a room that works for you, you will find that the Edison Hotel is extremely well placed, within walking distance of many attractions, and reasonably priced for New York.


A Novel Aquarium

Ruth and I visited the new aquarium at Union Station is St. Louis just before COVID shut it down for about 6 weeks. The aquarium struck us as fairly small, children oriented, and distinctive. I do recommend it.

Our journey began with a simulated train ride, which was very appropriate for an aquarium inside a train station. All of as sudden the train took off into the sky and we were soaring over and then in The Gulf of Mexico to see sea life. Disembarkation found us in a fun area studying the fish in the Mississippi River, which makes this different from any other aquarium of our experience. This display was even of interest to those who have spent their lives living near this mighty river.

Family fun continued as doctor fish ate dead skin on our hands in a tank. Kids especially loved this. A large display was devoted to sharks, many of which were visibly napping since sharks are nocturnal creatures. We watched otters feed with vivid commentary and saw King Stanley, a rare blue lobster, move about.

After spending time in the aquarium, I hope that parents and the like get to enjoy some of the other new and suitably adult attractions in the Union Station complex. There’s the St. Louis ferris wheel that takes those who board 200 feet into the air in 42 gondolas for a unique viewing experience, a carousel, a fountain and fire show that we didn’t get to see because it was only being offered on weekends when we visited, and the historic Carl Miles Fountain across the street from the station. My favorite thing to do in Union Station, however, is to have a drink and see the Grand Hall Light Show projected on the ceiling in the expansive and grand bar of the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. This on-site Curio Collection by Hilton hotel has 539 rooms.


Oxymorons Entertain

Way back in 2011 I posted a blog named” Travel Laughs”. In it, I spoke of my love for oxymorons. They are figures of speech that put contradictory terms put together amusingly, like plastic glasses. Other and often funnier examples are given in “Travel Laughs” but not the following oxymorons: pretty bad, Old Boy, preliminary conclusion, modern history, open secret, and the term made popular by TV shows and movies about zombies. the living dead.

Did you ever hear someone comment on a movie by calling it awfully good? This is an oxymoron when you think about it. Remember when we used to describe a non-threatening growth in the human body with the oxymoron “a benign tumor”? Then there’s bittersweet, Civil War, and a phrase teenagers love, “I’m doing nothing”. Did you ever ride a “Down escalator”?

Another and more difficult figure of speech to understand is the spoonerism. A minister by the name of William Archibald Spooner used to get his terms twisted, creating a new word game. Spoonerisms are humorous errors in speech is which words in common phrases are switched. Spooner might call Jesus Christ a shoving leopard instead of a loving shepherd. Someone experiencing a setback might be said to be having a blushing crow. The author Shel Silverstein once wrote a book called Runny Babbitt that is little more than a series of non-stop spoonerisms. “Hats off to our queer old dean.” WHOOPS!