An August 2005 trip
to Bucks County by SFPhotocraft
Quote: Bucks County lies between New York and Philadelphia. It's so near, yet seems so far away. It's laid-back country living with horse farms, antiques shops, and world-class restaurants. A weekend here feels like no place else.
Besides the crossing, many battles took place in this area. Many of the old inns date back to the time of Washington, and most claim that at some time Washington slept here. Some of it's legend, and some of it's true, but whatever the case, every place here seems to have a story.
Even after the war, Bucks County was a colorful place. It seems early in our history that it was a place artists sought for the soft light and pristine landscapes. The American Impressionist movement was centered in this area. The area grew and prospered as an art colony, and in the 1950s, summer stock theater was centered in New Hope. There are some wild stories that live in the area about actors coming down to New Hope for the summer and the wild parties that were held. Like most artist communities, it was a place where the free spirit lived, and early on, it was a center for America's blossoming gay community.
Today Bucks County fights between keeping its artist and rural roots, though urban sprawl seems to be creeping in from nearby Philadelphia. Yes, New Hope now even has a Starbucks!
New Hope may have lost the battle and seems to be a quaint town now overrun with ice cream and T-shirt shops. However, there is plenty to be seen up-river, and you will still find pockets of the rural landscape.
Bucks County, of course, is a county in Pennsylvania that hugs the Delaware River and borders New Jersey. So when one talks about visiting Bucks County, visitors really mean the towns that lie on the river in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania (although the New Jersey area is really Hunterdon County).
Some of the most popular towns are Lambertville, Stockton, and Frenchtown in New Jersey and New Hope, Lumbertown, and Washington's Crossing in Pennsylvania.
A weekend in summer or fall can be a nightmare. However, in the winter, the crowds are gone, and you can find a parking place and not feel crowded out.
Also, don't miss the Shad Festival held each spring in Lambertville!
If you don't arrive by car, you can fly into nearby Trenton Airport or Philadelphia. Amtrak and New Jersey Transit both run trains from Philadelphia and New York into Trenton. There is also bus transportation from New York City to New Hope.
Once in the area, you will need a car. Traffic during weekends in the summer and fall is very heavy. Parking in New Hope can be hard to find during peak weekends.
Restaurant | "Meil's"
Meil's is small, and it's not fancy. As a matter of fact, the building they are in was once a gas station. However, from their small kitchen they produce some of the best meals in the area. It's home cooking at its best. They understand the importance of using fresh, local, and in-season ingredients. Their menu changes with the season.
Meil's sticks close to an American menu from this part of the country. You can expect cold gazpacho in the summer, squash soups in the fall, and hearty potato soups in the winter.
On this trip, our son got the chicken potpie. It was served the traditional way, not in a cute pie shell, but with the crust, the chicken, and the vegetables looking more like a thick stew. Homemade biscuits were served on the side. I had the potato pancakes and a cold cucumber soup. Both were excellent. The portions at Meils are huge. The promise that you won't leave hungry.
But please save room for dessert. The pies, cakes, and cookies are all homemade, and it's hard to choose only one. On this day, we all jumped for the fresh peach shortcake. If you have not tried a Jersey peach cake, you don't know what you are missing. This was the height of peach season, and we knew we were in for a treat!
Meils just gets it right all the way around. They never cut corners. Even the marshmallows on top of the hot chocolate are homemade and not store-bought! They are delicious.
If you love good food and like to try the best of regional cuisine when you travel, then please don't miss a meal at Meils.
Meils does not have a liquor license, but they will allow you to bring wine. There is one of the best wine shops in the area just across the street, so stop at the Stockton Wine Shop before heading over to Meils and pick out a nice wine to have at dinner. Buying your wine at a shop will save you money, and you have a largest selection to choose from!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 22, 2005
Bridge and Main Street
Bucks County, Pennsylvania 08559
When we lived in New Hope you could often catch me having lunch at Waterlilies. It was a small, local hang-out between Lahaska and New Hope right on busy Route 202. It wasn't much to look, even sparse, but the food was always good and tasted home-cooked. I like their sandwiches and soups best of all.
Several us planned to meet somewhere in the area for lunch, and I wanted to relive those lunch memories and chose Waterlilies.
I was surprised to walk into this once-sparse cafe and find they tried to upgrade it with lots of fluff. They had lacy curtains, burgandy walls, and lots of frills. I missed the old, sparser Waterlilies. They seemed to have missed with all the details, and it actually made it look cheap.
I also remembered the service always being friendly, local and casual. The service level was not the same. We had a hard time flagging our waitress down and the staff all seemed so caught in side-work, that they were forgetting their main job was to serve the customers.
I did find the sandwiches were just as good. I had my old turkey club, and it tasted just as good as it always did. I was pleased the mainstay did not change, even if all the trimmings had.
They also appeared to have tried to upgrade the evening menu and now called themselves--Italian-American. We did not have dinner here, but the menu seemed to be a little more complex than it had in years gone by.
Another sad thing that did change that the restaurant has no control over was the development around it. It was always on busy Route 202, but the back faced a pristine farm field. You could eat and look across to hay bails and a green field. It reminded you of where you were. It was a little view I loved. That view is now gone. Peddler's Village has expanded their parking lot to the field, and beyond that, there is yet one more new housing development. Sadly, this is a symbol of what is happening all over Bucks County. Those wonderful fields and farms that once gave the area it's charcter are now housing developments and parking lots. Maybe sometimes it's best not to go back and hold onto the old memories.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 27, 2005
5738 Route 202
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
At first Manon looks like it could be cute, a colorful little cottage in Lambertville. However, inside it's very cramped and feels claustrophobic. They do not serve liquor, nor do they accept credit cards. I also always felt they charged way too much for what they served. The prices here are way out of line. I never liked it, but we did have friends who enjoyed it.
So, one Sunday, we were invited to brunch here. We had eight guys, and once again we were stuffed into a table that could barely seat six.
I ordered a chicken in some type of sauce. When it came, it smelled funny, like spoiled meat. I was very foolish and thought that maybe it was the sauce, like a stinky cheese, that it smelled bad but tasted great. I tried a bite. In a second, I was spitting out the meat; yes, it indeed was spoiled.
I discreetly told the waitress, who seemed nervous to take it back to the kitchen. She finally took it back, and in a minute the chef/owner came flying out of the kitchen, plate in hand. He threw the plate back down in front of me and was yelling and screaming at me. I can take care of myself, but I was so stunned I was simply speechless.
He would not remove the plate, and I had to sit and look (and smell) it. I tasted someone else’s at the table, and his was fine, but mine was a spoiled breast.
When it came time to pay the bill, he refused to take anything off. I only had a salad, yet I was charged the full price.
My only recourse is not to go back. I haven't been back since, but I have told the story without exaggeration and as truthfully as possible to as many folks as I can!
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on October 3, 2005
19 N. Union St.
Bucks County, Pennsylvania 08530
When I found out we were meeting friends at Hamilton's for dinner that night, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas all day. It's all I could think about.
Hamilton's Grill Room is the brain child of Jim Hamilton. Jim is a local boy, who graduated from Yale and The Rhose Island School of Design. Jim is a true Renissance Man. He can cook, paint, build or write, and each with perfection. His fingerprints are all over the Grill Room. It's wonderful localy fresh menu, it's sophisticated atmosphere with a country casual feel. It all comes together beautifully here like a fine orchestra.
The Grill Room is located in the old Porkyard in Lambertville. It's a wonderful little courtyard with a few design shops and a wonderful bar called The Boathouse. It all sits on one of the quaint canals that follow the Delaware River. The location is picture perfect.
Inside the feel and look is urban sophistication. It almost seems more like a restaurant in Soho and not in a little country town in New Jersey.
The menu seasonal and always changes are the produce from the area changes or fresh fish from the Atlantic becomes available. Both Jim Hamilton and the Executive Chef, Mark Miller, understand the gift they have of being in a place with such wonderful produce. Each time you go back, it's a new expierence as things change with the season.
Tonight I had a wonderful starter, it was a mixture of Mediterranean treats. However the real winner this evening was the wonderful fresh mussels served over a homemade noodle. It was outrageously excellent. I had steak for my main course, and the rest of the table chose fish. All was cooked perfectly and the use of fresh herbs gave everything a garden fresh taste. We had fresh sorbet for dessert with expresso. It was a perfect end to a perfect evening.
Hamilton's Grill Room does not sell wine. You are allowed to bring wine with you. They do not charge a corkage fee. There is a great wine store in downtown Lambertville and it's always a fun stop to stop here and have them suggest something before heading over to the Porkyard. You can also get a pre-dinner drink at The Boathouse next door prior to dinner. It's just a short walk across the courtyard for dinner.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 4, 2005
Hamilton's Grill Room
8 Coryell Street
Lambertville, New Jersey
Attraction | "New Hope & Ivyland Railroad"
The train runs daily and departs from the New Hope station all day at 20 minutes past the hour. The station is a picturesque small town train station that was opened in 1891 and has been lovingly restored to include a small museum, gift shop and ticket window. The cost for the regular round-trip excursion is $11 for adults and $7.75 for kids. If you reserve early you can ride in the locomotive for $50 (you must be over 18 to ride in the locomotive).
The day we picked was hot, sticky and extremely humid. For an exta $10 per person, we could buy tickets to sit in the only air conditioned car on the train. We jumped at the chance to stay cool. The upgraded price also included a soft drink and a pretzel. This was rather expensive as it made the hour train ride for our family of four $76.
The extra ten dollars was not worth the air conditioning. The two window units barely spat out any air, and the kids sat up against the unit in hopes they would get a little satisfaction. It barely spat out any air. I think the dining car we were in was even hotter than the open cars, where at least you could open the windows.
The ride does not go far. It's scenic in a rural way. You don't see much but dense trees. From time to time during the ride, you get to peek into a backyard of one of the huge manor homes in the area. However, other than the trees and a few backyards the scenery does not change much. The train then stops and the engine is moved from one end to the other for the ride home. You sit at a stand-still for quiete a long time.
The train is fun and it is loving restored. The folks working on the train seem to have a love and a passion for the era and railroad.
They do theme trains during the year, like an Easter Bunny Train, Fall Foliage Train, Sing Along Train and a Santa Claus and a Polar Express train with Santa and hot cocoa. Every Saturday night they do a fancy dinner train. These special trains seem like they would be more fun than the regular hour long excursion. However, if you are a train buff or you want to expose your kids to a bygone era of travel, then a ride on The New Hope and Ivyland is worth it.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 18, 2005
New Hope & Ivyland Railroad
32 West Bridge Street
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
There are so many good art galleries in the area, it's impossible to write all of them. You can easily drop $25,000 on a piece of art at many galleries. However, there is one gallery that stands out in the crowd. It's more a local co-op for local artists, run by the artists themsevles. You may not find the big names here, but you will find work by local artists who may be just as good or up and coming.
The small gallery is located on Bridge Street (which is the main street in Stockton). It's in the basement of one of the commercial buildings in town. The space is small and artwork is piled up everywhere. There are paintings stacked on top of paintings. There is a lot to see here. The place is full.
The prices vary. This year I bought some wonderful handmade clay tiles for $10 a piece. You can also find pieces here that sell for several thousand dollars. The $10 piece stands proudly next to the $2,000 piece, each just as important.
The day we stopped by this summer, an artist friend (Susan) was manning the show. She is a wonderful wood-cut artist, and we have a lot of her work in our home. She gave us a big hug, and her smile is big and warm. She eagerly showed us some new work and some favorite pieces. Even if you don't know Susan when you walk in, you will feel like an old friend when you walk out. She loves to talk about art, and it's easy to get into a conversation about here.
Sadly, Stockton was flooded this spring (2005), and so the small gallery was flooded. The good news is that artists rushed in and saved every piece of artwork. When you see the amount of art here, you will understand what a feat that must have been! Susan (or whoever is working) will show you where the waterline was in the gallery. Riverbank is an appropriate name.
You can spend a day in the area just gallery-hopping. If you are spending the day or just want to pop into one art gallery, Riverbank should be your stop. This is a place where all styles and local art is celebrated. No matter what your budget is, I am sure you will be walking out of here with some piece of art to adorn your home and remind of your weekend in this magical area.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 26, 2005
19 Bridge Street
Soglio, Switzerland 08559
The village is a group of shops, restaurants and a hotel that were built on a piece of prime Bucks County farmland in 1962. Today there are 70 speciality shops in a faux country fair type setting.
Most of the shops sell small collectables and curios. Things like hummels, Snow Villages and lladros abound here. I have to admit it's not my style and does not turn my crank, however if this is your style, this may be nirvana for you. Besides those kind of shops they have clothing, homefurnishing, toys, candy and gorumet items. The one store I use to come to a lot when I lived here ws the kitchen shop. It's one of the best kitchen shops in the Northeast.
The biggest draw here are the special events. They have a wonderful sand building contest in the summer, with tons of beach sand shipped in. They have hot cider and ginger snaps with carollers around Christmas. The most popular is always the scarecrow contest in October, when the paths are lined with scary, funny and very creative scarecrows for a big contest. The weekend we went was a county fair weekend. It had games, sidewalk sales, crafts, bands and food stands. I have to admit it was not well attended. It was so hot and the humidy index was so high, most tourists and locals preffered to stay indoors!
Peddler's Village is unique. It has changed the country-style of this area and even though it's tries to keep a country profile, it's a bit of an eye-sore in this rural area. However folks still flock here. Don't let this be all you see of beautiful Bucks County!
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 6, 2005
Bucks County, Pennsylvania