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Chautauqua, New York. This was such a wonderful experience for us. We stayed in one place for two weeks. Chautauqua is just hard to describe. It is on the shores of a very large natural lake, and was founded in 1874 as an summer training program for Methodist Sunday School teachers. It has now become a renowned center for the performing arts and a resource for the discussion of the important issues of our time.

A quote from their material says it best “Approximately 8,000 persons are in residence on any day during the nine-week session , and a total of over 150,000 attend scheduled public events. Over 300 students are accepted annually into the Chautauqua School of Fine Arts and Performing Arts and more than 400 open-enrollment special studies courses are offered each session. There is a very grand Anthenum Hotel also. There are many very grand private homes, and many B & B’s have developed from the lovely old Victorian homes. Many families, of several generations, have made this their summer home. It is now an Historical District, so nothing came be altered without permission. The National Geographic Traveler magazine featured Chautauqua NY in the 50 “places of a lifetime” to visit in America, describing it as “an idyllic retreat to enrich body, soul and mind”. We recommend it!

We stayed at a large RV park right on the lake very near the Institute. The first week I took a cooking seminar (Jewish Kosher cook) and a Yoga class, and Lawrence took an exercise class. The second week, I took a Word computer course, and we both attended the 10:45 morning lectures in the Amphitheater on the Civil War. I could write an essay on the content of these five lectures, but will just briefly outline them. These were not on the conduct of the war, nor the battles, but on the ramifications of this war at the time throughout the world and the ripples still today. All of the speakers were Ph. Ds, authors of many books, and college professors. There was also a Question and Answer session after the lectures, and I wished they could have gone on for hours. The subject of “reparations” came up each lecture, and none of the lecturers gave them any credence. I enjoyed the answer of the one black lecturer, who said that one ancestor was a slave, and the other was a freeman, so how could that be “analyzed”………….Incidentally, he thought the time for the “black only college” had passed. The lecture by the sole female Ph. D. who spoke on the role of women during the period was so interesting. She is a visiting professor at the Citadel. I bought her book on “The Plantation Mistress”….The role of the southern plantation mistress was very hard and very confined..not nearly as grand as “Mrs. O’Hara’s in Gone With the Wind.

Each morning there was a lecture with a religious theme, and this summer theme emphasized the exploring of the Islam, Jewish and Christian religions. Each week there was a different theme for the 10:45 lecture. If you can think of a subject, there is a short course offered (over 400 .. even saw one for decorating Ukrainian Easter eggs!) The second week, we took a two part cooking seminar on the foods of the North and the South. The two young chefs were from the Seattle area, and the food was delicious. He made a roux that took an hour to stir, and he and two of our class took turns stirring it. The Northern Menu was New England Clam Chowder and Sweet Potato Chowder with Ship Biscuits; Pan-Seared Cod with Summer Succotash and Northern White Bean Cakes, Blueberry Bread Pudding with Cranberry Chutney and Maple Cream (to die for!) and Old-‘Fashioned Lemonade. The Southern Menu was Louisiana Style Shrimp and Crawfish Gumbo (way too much trouble) with skillet cornbread, Virginia-raised Pork Loin with Hoppin’ John, braised Kale and Raspberry Barbecue Sauce (very good). and skillet peaches with butter pecan dumplings and vanilla bean ice cream (to die for), and minted iced tea.

WE did not begin to scratch the surface of the educational, cultural and fine arts offerings at Chautauqua, but did what we could easily do and enjoyed our stay there

“The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle is the oldest continuous book club in the country. Each week during the summer season a CLSC author is featured at a roundtable lecture.” My quotations are from their brochure. You can also call or write for the special studies catalog. These are a potpourri of courses which vary by the week. The staff person recommended pre-enrollment, so you will just have to see what is available during the time you are there.

The RV park where we stayed is Camp Chautauqua RV Resort. For their web site Click Here and phone: 716-789-3435. This is a very large park which contains privately owned homes and park models, and also the RV area. Parts of the
RV area are heavily wooded with narrow roads. We were assigned to the Choctaw area which is open and fairly level, and we will request that area again. It is very close to the Chautauqua Institute.

Even if you cannot attend this season, I think you might enjoy reading about the history and the cultural offerings during a Chautauqua Institute season. There are many young people there on scholarships for the symphony, dance and arts. I think the opera and theater participants are professional. Chautauqua was originally a summer training program for Methodist Sunday School teachers, and there are still religious programs and weekly sermons in the amphi- theater.

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William Howard Taft (1878), Gerald Ford (1941 Law), William Jefferson Clinton (1973 Law), George Herbert Walker Bush (1948) and George Walker Bush (1968), Presidents all and Yale University graduates. Founded in 1701, Yale is the third oldest college in the US, with 5,100 undergraduates plus 11 graduate & professional schools with 5,200 students. I had not been back to Yale and New Haven for 10 years. All I remember was a dirty, grimy city where I assumed I was going to be mugged (much like New York was ten years ago). I did convey my feelings to Renny Loisel, the public relations director of the Greater New Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau (15 towns and cities in Southern Connecticut, including the 125,000 that live in New Haven) at a recent travel writer’s conference. She sent me a copy of a new book- “How to Survive Your First Year of Marriage by Traveling” by Dominick A. Miserandino (these travel stories are available in hard copy or on-line at www. thecelebritycafe.com) Since Renny is mentioned, what I read made me want to try another visit. “New Haven? Oh, you mean Yale. There is nothing to do and it’s not safe. New Haven is America’s first city planned (1638) according to a grid model, and in the center of the grid is a big city green with three separate churches and examples of Gothic, Federal and Georgian design. It’s where Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote the lyrics for Oklahoma. It’s where they made the first hamburger over 100 years ago. It’s where the Knights of Columbus has its world headquarters.” By the end of his weekend with Renny he said; “New Haven is one of those cities I will be back to. It has high-quality restaurants, museums and nightlife. I’ve fallen in love with New Haven”.

I arrived at the New Haven Hotel downtown-(800) NH-Hotel after a 1 ½ hour drive from New York City. I parked my car and for the next day and a half I placed myself in Renny’s hands. We walked all the first day or took the free downtown electric trolley that operates Monday thru Saturday from 11AM to 6PM. Since I had recently lost 30 pounds we skipped Frank Pepe’s where the “tomato pie” was born and also its friendly rival Sally’s, a few doors down. Also not on my diet list was Louis’ Lunch where the American Hamburger sandwich was conceived.. Renny told me that New Haven also produced the first cotton gin, the first lollipop, and the first Frisbee. Plus the first public library (1656), planetarium (1743) pay phone (1880), intercollegiate basketball game (1897) and American collegiate football ( 1872 against Columbia).
Even I had heard of the Long Wharf Theatre, a not-for-profit regional theatre offering eclectic productions of classics and new works. Founded 30 years ago, it really sits on a long wharf next to the Interstate and the Long Island Sound. www.longwharf.org .The Amistad Schooner is docked nearby during the summer months. Not far away is Lighthouse Point Park that has swimming, nature trails and picnic groves on its 82 acres. The Yale Repertory Theatre is downtown and is known for its fresh interpretation of the classics and its premieres of new works. It is a recipient of a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. The Yale School of Drama has trained Paul Newman, Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver among many others. www.yalerep.org . Continuing with the performing arts, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra is the fourth oldest in the country. www.newhavensymphony.com .The Schubert Theatre, opened in 1914, has earned the title “Birthplace of the Nation’s Greatest Hits”. More than 600 pre-Broadway tryouts have been held here. It is now a non-profit performing arts institution presenting Broadway, dance, cabaret, music and family entertainment. www.shubert.com .
Right across the street from each other are the Yale Center for British Art, with the largest collection of British art outside the UK, which opened in 1977, and the Yale University Art Gallery, founded in 1832. It has 80,000 objects including masterpieces by Van Gogh, Manet, Monet and Picasso. After finishing our 75 minute free student led Yale Tour (10; 30AM & 2PM weekdays & 1:30PM on weekends) highlighting the history, architecture, culture & tradition of Yale we visited the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. It features one of the few original Gutenberg Bibles, and more than 600,000 volumes and several million manuscripts. All three museums have free admission.

While we walked through the downtown are we stopped at INFO New Haven Center where we found tickets, guides and information about the area surrounding the Green. The Amisted Memorial, a 14 foot relief sculpture, is located in front of City Hall. This is the former site of the New Haven jail where the illegally kidnapped Africans were imprisoned in 1839 while awaiting trial. We took a self-guided walking tour of the Ansonia Historic District with homes from the early 1700’s through the 1970’s, all but one are privately owned. The Broadway shopping district, around the university, contains the Yale Bookstore, run by Barnes & Noble, and everything young men and women on campus night need. Chapel Street is lined with Tony shops, restaurants and coffee houses.
We ate at the Union League Café, serious French food with a comprehensive wine list. Drinks were had at the Playwright Authentic Irish Pub & Restaurant with its majestic hand-carved bars brought over piece by piece from Ireland. Scozzi Trattoria & Wine Bar was perfect for lunch; breakfast the second day was at Atticus Bookstore & Café. I even took home some of their home made Chabaso bread. A must is Roomba with its Central, South American & Caribbean fusion cuisine. We came by later that night to sample their tropical elixirs. Reservations are a must as fans come to eat here from as far away as New York & Boston. My final meal was at Bentara and its Malaysian cuisine and 1,500 reasonable priced wines.

During my 1 ½ days in New Haven we walked everywhere and never once did I feel nervous or threatened. I guess 10 years really did change New Haven for the better. Click here or (800) 332-STAY.