Lighthouses & Sunken Submarines: St. Mary’s County, Maryland

What is it about lighthouses that sparks such fascination? A romanticized notion of the lonely keeper of the flame. Perhaps it has something to do with a mix of quite heroism and tales of the sea. Then again it could just be all about the view.  I’ve set out on a quest to visit the lighthouses of Maryland to try and answer that question. 

Up first is a unique lighthouse with some hidden treasure you won’t find anywhere else. 

Piney Point LighthousePiney Point Lighthouse

Do you imagine a lighthouse as a towering presence standing watch at the water’s edge? Me too. In fact I’d always sort of thought there was a height requirement. Which when I stop to think about it makes no sense. As long as the view is unbroken, the job gets done.

The Piney Point lighthouse isn’t even the largest structure within the historic park in which it resides. It sands only thirty-three feet high.

“…and though she be but little she is fierce.” ~Hermina

Opened in 1836 the lighthouse stands watch over the Potomac River. In the course of its service (it was decommissioned in 1964 by the US Coastguard) the lighthouse and its adjacent quarters were occupied by twenty-one Keepers and their families. Four of those keepers were women.

Some of these women were spouses, trained in their husband’s profession out of necessity. Lighthouses tend to be placed in remote areas where assistance was often hours away. Wives served as backup keepers. Following a ship wreck, Mrs. Goeshy (wife of one of William Goeshy – Keeper in 1939) swam repeatedly out into the water to rescue victims. She may have actually been one of the Coast Guard’s first, famed rescue swimmers.

Who knew lighthouse keeping was a beacon for feminism? I sure didn’t.

I’d also no clue at there was a German U Boat sunk in the waters just off the coast from where the lighthouse sits century. That’s one of the amazing facts that had our entire family’s rapt attention when we toured the Piney Point Lighthouse, Museum and Historic Park with historian and former Park Ranger, April Havens.

One could say that U-1105, or the Black Panther, was one of the first-ever stealth submarines. Commissioned 1944 she was outfitted with a synthetic rubber skin over her hull. One of less than ten in her class U-1105 was turned over to the Allies after the war. The intention was to bring the Black Panther to the United States in order to study the unique radar/sonar blinding technology.  Ah, but the sea had plans of its own.

On day four of U-1105’s journey from England to the States she was caught in a hurricane while surfaced. A section of the submarine was ripped away by the force of the storm causing it to nearly keel over. A portion of the synthetic skin lost to the sea. After what research that could be done was completed the sub was scuttled in the Potomac River in St. Mary’s county Maryland in 1949.

The Black Panther sunk 91 feet in 20 seconds on that day. The boat was quite literally lost, for decades. In June of 1985 divers rediscovered the  wreckage. Today U-1150 stands as Maryland’s first historical shipwreck preserve.

These enthralling tales are just two of the many we learned from during our visit to the Piney Point Lighthouse.

Piney Point Lighthouse

Tips for visiting the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Historical Park

Start at the Museum – There is surprisingly a lot of ground to cover here in the way of things to see and learn about. The main museum is self-guided with lots of vignettes to read through in a small space. They score bonus family travel points for having a small Kiddie Corner with activities for the littlest kiddos.  

Ask Questions – When you head out to the marine portion of the museum you’ll have a guide. These guides are experts with a passion for the history of Piney Point. Asking them questions makes the visit all the more an EDventure. Be sure to ask about the torpedoes! 

Bring a Picnic – The museum sits on a coveted water-front. All that gorgeous beach you pass on the way in with cute decor and colorful beach chairs is private property. Can’t stop for a snack there, but there is a dock, picnic tables and small stretch of sandy beach at the museum.

Great for Kayaks – There is a public peer to launch your kayak from for free. The parking is free as well. The launch closes at sunset but if you let the staff know what your plans are they can make arraignments.

Hit the Gift Shop – Not only are there cute, crafty and even beautiful treasures to be found in the shop, but spending your money here helps support the preservation efforts.

Where to Stay in Dublin – The Fitzwilliam Hotel

Where to stay in Dublin - The Fitzwilliam HotelDublin, Ireland is a unique city where old and new, history and innovation blend in a harmony rarely found in any major metropolitan city I’ve visited. The options for entertaining oneself are endless, as are the places to rest your head. When I’m asked where to stay in Dublin, the answer is easy – The Fitzwilliam Hotel.

I’ve stayed in countless hotels around the globe and learned that all of them can be measured by four things; location, amenities, staff, and value. Here is how The Fitzwilliam Hotel, Dublin measures up…

Location, Location, Location!

The Fitzwilliam sits at head of Grafton Street directly across from the famed St. Stephens’ Green. A large section of Grafton Street is closed to all but pedestrian traffic and features endless options for shopping and dining. Though I will say that I wasn’t so impressed with the stores… what American wants to go to Dublin and shop at the Disney Story? Not this one. 

Far more alluring was the ability to walk – literally across the street– and into St. Stephens’ Green. If you didn’t already know, this public park was the model for New York City’s Central Park, and I’m sure countless other public squares. One of my favorite areas in the park is the gardens around the Caretaker’s Cottage, which is directly in front of the Fitzwilliam.

Saint Stephen's Green Caretakers CottegeThe DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) tram stops within walking distance of the property. There are taxis galore in the area, as well as pedicabs and horse drawn carriages (take one to the Guinness Store House for a fun twist.) Concierge will happily help you with securing a bicycle if you’d like, though the streets are quite busy – I’d fall and need stitches!

Amenities

Sure there is a gym, doesn’t every hotel have one these days? What the Fitzwilliam has that most don’t, is Spirit. Part salon, with a little bit of spa, Spirit ascribes to a wonderfully holistic and natural approach to beauty services. Treat yourself.

Not many hotels can boast three excellent on-site restaurants, let alone one with a Michelin star. The Fitzwilliam can.  Thornton’s is fine dining at its best, thus the star. Citron is a more relaxed, yet still upscale dinning experience that boasts some modern twists on Irish classics. Their Celeriac soup is simply divine! Pop into the Inn on the Green for a great breakfast, or a lovely lunch in this cozy place that makes you feel at ease. Note: the charcuterie plate is HUGE! 

Any good hotel, in my book, must have a fabulous bathtub and plush robes. Not having this can be a deal breaker. The bath at Fitzwilliam was a deal maker!

Where to stay in Dublin - The Fitzwilliam HotelThere is also a wonderful tea available seasonally on the balcony that overlooks the city.  Free (reliable) wi-fi and in-room safes that are large enough for a laptop are both pluses.

Staff

Here is where the Fitzwilliam sets itself apart. From the doormen who take the time to ask you where your day is taking you with sincerity to a concierge staff who call your room to ask how they can help make your stay even better, to the housekeeping staff that leave lovely notes, this place makes you feel so very welcome. Many a hotel will send up a welcome amenity. At the Fitzwilliam we got a delivery of Dairy Milk bars and crisps with a note from the front desk telling my daughter how those where their favorite childhood treats.

Get to know the concierge while you’re here! These folks are gems, working with them is akin to having your own private guide to all things you love that can be found in Dublin. Seriously, this is a service they should charge for – I’d pay. 

Each and every staff member we encountered was warm, helpful and never overbearing, which speaks to the earnestness that takes this from hotel to a fond memory and a place you long to return to. 

“Some places you stay. Other places stay with you.” ~Me

Value

The Fitzwilliam is a luxury property, and the price tag reflects that – our stay in the off-season and was £395 per night. That said, the location, and service were well worth the price. Being so centrally located, you need not spend extra money on getting around. Having the concierge as your guides is a huge service, adding to the value.

Where to stay in Dublin - The Fitzwilliam HotelThe Fitzwilliam is also a member of the Preferred Hotel Group – their iPrefer program is one of only three hotel loyalty programs I personally belong to. Why?  Their points add up fast, you always get free wi-fi, early check-in and/or late checkout, and they take the time to learn your (and your family’s) preferences ensuring that they follow you across all their member properties.

don’t thank me for my service

Grills are firing up, traffic is piling up, and the cost of a mattress is dropping. It must mean that Memorial Day is nearly upon us. As you hang a flag or pack a bag I ask that you also remember what the day is intended to celebrate and… don’t thank me for my service. 

If you’ve read this blog much you may know that I’m a Navy veteran and the mother of a currently serving Marine. Causes that support veterans and service members are near and dear to my heart. You could say that one of the common threads in all of my storytelling is pulled from this experience. I feel it is my duty to raise a voice for my sisters and brothers at arms past, present, and future.

Memorial Day is one of the most misunderstood of the days set aside to honor those who serve. For example, did you know that it was first celebrated in 1868 as Decoration Day? No, it wasn’t the day Lilly Pulitzer’s ancestors created the first pineapple decorated sandal.  It was a day set aside to remember those lost in the civil war.

In 1971, amid war and loss, the day now known as Memorial Day became an official federal holiday intended to be a remembrance of those who had given all in service to this nation. Not all those that served but rather the countless many who had lost their lives for the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of these United States. 

Somewhere in the decades between we have let the solemnity of the day be pushed aside in favor of three-day weekends and the unofficial start of summer. Few of us find our way to places of mourning to pay respect to those whose blood has paved the path of our freedom. Still others of us, well-intentioned though we may be, misunderstand the sentiment of honoring loss and turn to thank the living for their service.   

While I appreciate your gratitude, a part of me rails against it on this day. I have lost those I knew, their loss is fresh again when you share thanks for my service on Memorial Day. I served. I did not die. This day is not for me, nor my son, nor my extended family of veterans and the currently serving Marines I consider family. It is for the families of the fallen, for the widow who sees flags fly on Memorial Day, each one of them an echo of a flag-draped coffin.  It is for the tears shed by loved ones across the decades that built this nation. It is a day of collective mourning and gratitude. 

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not here to tell you that you’re wrong in hosting that BBQ or heading to the beach. I just ask that you take a moment away from your celebrations to send one up in remembrance of those who gave all that you may truly enjoy this time together. 

If you’d like to thank a veteran, do that on Veteran’s Day. If you want to thank a currently serving member of any branch of our military (though we all know the Navy is the best,) Armed Forces Day is the day to do that. Should you be so inclined as to want to do more than just say thank you, support programs that help support our military and their families.  Here are a few of my favorites;

American Widow Project

Operation Delta Dog

Bob Woodruff Foundation

United Services Organization 

Operation Welcome Home (Maryland) 

Fisher House Foundation

Vail Veterans Project

Want to visit a veteran’s cemetery to say thank you? Here is a way to locate one near you. 

 

Free Vail for Veterans

free vail for veterans

If you’ve been around here much you know that I’m both a veteran and the mother of a currently serving Marine. You also likely know that I have some issues with how this country marks Memorial Day. Typically you’ll find me up on my soapbox ranting about how this day isn’t the unofficial start of summer or the perfect time to get a great deal on a mattress. It isn’t even about current service members or veterans like me. It is the day we honor those who gave all in service of our country.  So, why would I be in any way okay with talking about a Free Vail for Veterans hotel promotion? 

The answer is this… veterans honor our fallen differently. We gather. Remembrance is a group activity. We tell worn out stories of the brave, crazy, momentous, and mundane things done by those who served before and beside us but are no longer with us. A drink, a laugh, feats of strength and airings of grievances, that is how we process our losses. 

So, to me, it seems very fitting that I share this promotion. 

library at The Sebastian hotel, Vail, Colorado
Free Vail for Veterans

The Sebastian – Vail is celebrating veterans and active military in style as the hotel is extending up to three complimentary room nights over Memorial Day weekend.  They have put together a package titled, “A Salute to Veterans” that includes;

  • complimentary Luxury Plaza room for up to three nights
  • exclusive reception
  • complimentary cruiser bike rental
  • a welcome amenity
  • nightly turndown service with a sweet treat
Whitewater rafters

This offer is valid May 26-31, 2017 and must be booked by May 25, 2017. Complimentary space is limited and subject to availability at time of reservation. Veterans and active military must show proof of military service at check-in. Additional restrictions apply.

For more information or to book “A Salute to Veterans” package, please call (866) 684-4782.

Review: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited

Sometimes it is best to start by saying the nicest things first. When it comes to the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited my highest praise is that it is built by a car company we love. In fact, we currently own two Hyundai vehicles.  There is more to say, though. 

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited found its way into our driveway for an extended test drive through my continued collaboration with Drive Shop USA. We put it through the paces and found that some of the upgrades and features were rather impressive.   Others, a bit lacking. 

In keeping with the “nice things first,”  motif I will start by saying that the extended seating and panoramic sunroof were both super-cool. In addition to that, there are some other impressive features; 

things to like about the 2017 hyundai santa fe limited
  • safety features: multiview parking camera, lane departure warning*, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive headlights. 
  • seating: the model we drove had 3-row seating for 7. The second row of seats included captain’s chairs. These are a nice change from the typical bench seating in many crossovers. 
  • tech integration: the available Android Auto Phone is fantastic. It allows you to use almost all the features of your android-based phone within safety parameters. Programing road-trip tunes, listening to emails, finding a place to eat, all doable. 
  • touchscreen display: you might not think this is a big deal, but for me it is. I am not a huge fan of cars that are using the turn-dial or mouse-type control mechanisms for the vehicle tech suite. To me, these can be distracting and possibly a tad unsafe. 
  • style: the retooling of the exterior on the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited gives it a sleeker profile that echoes some of the higher-end crossovers out there. Optional woodgrain trip for the interior (which the model I tested, had) is a nice little luxe touch.

things you need to know about the 2017 hyundai santa fe limited
  • handling: this car was equipped with drive-mode select options; Sport, Eco, and Normal.I’d have expected that Sport mode would have meant better handling but I can’t say that I noticed a difference in any of the modes.
  • console: While I appreciated the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment controller the console is clunky and feels like they put too much into a small space. 
  • seating: captain’s chairs are a great edition, but configuring the seating is confusing and not very user-friendly. 
  • cargo: with all seven seats in use the cargo space in negligible. 

Our affinity for the quality and versatility that Hyundai brings to moderately priced, standard-option packed cars that are great for first-time drivers as well as families, has not diminished. That said, the 2017 Sante Fe Limited didn’t earn a permanent spot in our driveway. 

 

Beyond the use of the vehicle, I haven’t been compensated for this post. Like all my reviews of cars (or anything) all opinions are my own. 

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