Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines
nostalgia as “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period” (via Merriam-Webster). For many of us, it manifests as keeping or purchasing some object from our childhood, be it a toy, an old t-shirt, or a favorite baseball glove. Others might look back through scrapbooks of memories from their younger years. Yet for one man from England in the 19th century, a significant part of his fortune would be spent in building a home in America that reminded him of the castles he saw in England as a child. After securing his fortune in the silk industry, Catholina Lambert built his very own castle in New Jersey in 1892. He filled it with paintings and sculptures from European and American artists, and he resided in his mansion for the remainder of his life. Now a museum, Lambert Castle in Paterson, New Jersey, is an interesting, although lesser-known, tourist destination. On a sunny and chilly Saturday in January, my wife and I drove to Paterson to explore one man’s childhood nostalgia.
Before detailing my latest adventure, however, I wanted to catch up on some recent news and travels. A few weeks ago, I had taken my Honda Accord for maintenance before a road trip to the Jersey shore. Instead of a quick service, however, the dealership needed to keep my car for a few days, so I was given a 2018 Honda HR-V as a loaner. My review of the little crossover utility vehicle and a brief exploration of the Cape May area follows below:
With my Accord staying at the dealership overnight, I was given the HR-V to use for two days as my wife and I headed to the shore.
Based on the Honda Fit, this small crossover utility vehicle is classified as a subcompact. Despite its small size, the driving position was comfortable. Gauges are easy to read and the steering wheel controls fall easily to hand. Rather than the gutless motor from the Honda Fit, the HR-V uses the engine from the Honda Civic, making it a surprisingly peppy ride. The car accelerates quickly, and while it lacks the power of the V-6 in my Accord, I was happy with how it drove. Fuel economy was good – 28 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
The car came with Sirius XM satellite radio, which was nice. The sound system quality, while not as good as that of my Accord, was decent. That being said, Honda did make some strange design decisions, such as the lack of a volume knob (you have to slide the volume controls up or down to raise or lower the sound) and the lack of buttons for the climate control (it is a touch panel). In my car, I often reach for buttons without needing to look, finding them by feel. This was difficult with the HR-V’s panel controls. Another curious decision was the placement of the release for the fuel filler door – it is by the driver’s left foot, right above the switch for the hood release. Needless to say, when I stopped for gas, I accidentally opened the hood. Twice.
Honda’s designers made good use of interior space. The back seat, although small, did not feel cramped. Both the front and rear leather seats were surprisingly comfortable for the price point. The rear seats fold flat to increase cargo capacity.
For such a small vehicle, storage space is where the HR-V shines. Put down the rear seats and you get 58.8 cubic feet of room… helpful for those runs to Sams Club or moving to a new apartment.
One of the coolest features in all newer Hondas is the right lane camera. Turn on your right turn signal, and a camera activates in the rearview mirror to alert you of vehicles in your blind spot and to help you judge distances. Far from a gimmick, it actually works very well.
We took the HR-V down to Cape May, stopping by the Cape May Zoo before heading to dinner. Overall, I had a positive experience with the HR-V. I don’t know if I’d ever buy one, but for someone looking for an all-weather around town vehicle, it would make a good purchase.
Featuring free admission all year round, the Cape May Zoo is a fun place to visit. While I’ve been here several times, my wife had not visited since she was a little girl.
There were peacocks all over the zoo grounds. This one had taken up residence on the roof of a snack stand.
One of the more unique animals in the zoo, a Leucistic White-Tailed Deer. The coloring is not a mutation like albinism. Instead, this is a genetic trait that is passed from generation to generation. Their habitat stretches from southern Canada all the way to South America.
As we walked around, we spotted Parrot Twitter. Each parrot in the zoo is introduced to you with these brief bios. I swear, social media is really for the birds!
Here’s a challenge for my dear readers: caption what this llama is saying to me…
Despite the cold temperatures, this lioness didn’t seem to mind being outdoors.
This Great Horned Owl also made eye contact with me. All of the birds of prey in the zoo would not be capable of surviving in the wild without human intervention, due to either injury or imprinting.
One of the reasons why I enjoy the Cape May Zoo far more than many other zoos are the spacious enclosures for the animals. I stood and watched this snow leopard playing for quite a while.
My favorite photo from the visit was of this red fox.
Dinner was at Lucky Bones Backwater Grille, another favorite restaurant in Cape May. You know you’re at the Jersey Shore when every table has a bottle of Hank’s Hot Sauce, a local favorite.
Our appetizer of Cuban Spiced U-Peel-Em Shrimp Cocktail was simply perfect. For our entrees, I ordered the crab and shrimp cake sandwich while my wife got the baked crab imperial. Everything was delicious!
After dinner, we walked around downtown Cape May, which was still decorated for the holidays.
Before heading back to get my car, we stopped for breakfast at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Cape May. Because when you’re at the Jersey Shore, it’s what you do!
Our most recent road trip destination: Lambert Castle Museum in Paterson, NJ.
Back on the New Jersey Turnpike! The Accord ran like a champ to the museum and back. Beside receiving an oil change, tire rotation, and transmission fluid change at the dealer last week, the car also needed new brakes. While the rear brakes had 60,000 miles on them from the last time they were changed, my front brakes were original to the car. After 121,000 miles, they finally needed replacement. Not bad for the traffic-filled Northeast!
When you live in the state that’s been called the diner capital of the world, you might as well stop by a good one during a road trip! I visited Tops Diner in East Newark last year when my wife and I toured the Great Falls of Paterson, NJ.
While I ordered a yummy Cuban sandwich, my wife got the Quinoa Breakfast Bowl, with quinoa, pico de gallo, bacon, brown rice, avocado, a fried egg, and corn tortillas. It was delicious!
A half hour away from the diner, we arrived at Lambert Castle in Paterson.
Made with sandstone and granite, the castle sits on a hill overlooking Paterson and the surrounding area. If you look closely, you can see the skyline of Manhattan in the distance.
Our first stop was the dining room. Although most of the items of the house were sold over the years, the Passaic County Historical Society has gone to great lengths to reassemble as many original pieces of furniture in the house as possible. The sideboard (against the back wall) is original, as are the table and chairs. The Lamberts enjoyed a good party – the fireplace has a carving of Dionysus, the god of wine, and an inscription in Greek says, “We shalt not go homeward before dawn.”
The lions on top of the chairs are similar to the lion statues that sit by the building’s entrance.
The music room. The chandelier is one of three remaining fixtures that was original to the home.
The centerpiece of the castle is definitely the Grand Atrium. This was where Catholina Lambert showcased his artwork collection. The Cornu Clock, in the middle of the floor, was made in France in 1867. It is nearly 11 feet tall and weighs 3,000 pounds.
The breakfast room… I mean, my wife and I definitely have a separate room for eating breakfast and another for lunch and dinner. Don’t you? Although hard to see, the clock on the mantel was made in 1892 by Tiffany and Company. This is a replacement for the original still owned by the Lamberts, which remains in their family.
This little hallway, tucked to the side and otherwise not marked, displays a portion of the World’s Largest Spoon Collection. The museum houses Berta Koempel’s collection of 5,400 spoons. Although she was not part of the Lambert family, she donated her spoon collection to Passaic County, which houses them in the museum (via Fun New Jersey Magazine).
Before the widespread adoption of postcards, commemorative spoons were a way to show where you had traveled. The spoon in the center is from Bremen, Germany, a major port city for the North Sea.
It is truly a collection of spoons from around the world. Besides Europe and the Americas, there were spoons from as far away as Japan, China, and India. The spoons here are from Turkey and the Middle East.
This stained glass window, on the landing between the first and second floors, is of Florence Lambert Suydam, Catholina’s daughter, who died at age 24. Of their eight children, only one outlived Catholina and his wife.
The second floor has galleries devoted to the history of Paterson and its life as the center of American manufacturing for the 18th and 19th centuries. The spinning equipment on display is from the 1800s.
Hardtack is a biscuit made from flour and water, and is typically hardy and non-perishable. To demonstrate how long-lasting it is, this biscuit was sent from Florida to Paterson, NJ through the mail.
I’ll let this exhibit speak for itself.
This Westminster RA-101A is what is referred to as a console television. The cabinet houses a 20″ television, an AM/FM radio, and a 78 RPM record player. The unit cost $2,495 when it went on sale in 1946. Adjusting for inflation, it would cost $31,800 today. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a similar (although far less expensive) unit in their living room. This is found on the third floor, which houses various temporary exhibits. The TV was made by Dumont Laboratories Inc, an electronics manufacturer based in Paterson.
The view of the Grand Atrium from the third floor balcony was impressive. The two large paintings on the far wall are two of only four of Mr. Lambert’s original collection that remain in the house.
Wandering the grounds after leaving the museum, you can feel as if you’re ambling around a castle in Europe.
Look to the distance, however, and you’re quickly brought back to America. The skyline of Manhattan is visible in the distance.
While I enjoyed Lambert Castle and learned a lot, I am not sure how strong of a recommendation I would give the site. The view is spectacular, and the building is neat, but the educational component was a bit underwhelming. The spoon collection, noteworthy on its own, was almost an afterthought. The guides on duty did not seem interested in speaking about the castle with the public. And while the permanent exhibits had good signage, many of the exhibits on the second and third floors lacked sufficient explanation. If you are in Paterson and have already seen the Great Falls and Paterson Museum, then by all means stop by. Lambert Castle is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, and $3 for children ages 5-17 (children under 5 can enter for free). The Cape May Zoo is open year round, features free admission, and is a great place to spend time with animals that are in habitats close to their own natural environments.
Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.