Thursday, March 25, 2010


Fat Tuesday came and went, and for our family, this holiday season came upon us faster than in prior years. This is such a special time for so many. It is a time of year for reflection, repentance, rebirth, renewal, and celebrations down the road.

So much of what links Frenchtown residents together has to do with their personal spirituality, whether it is through an organized religion, mystical outlooks, “alternative” faiths, expression through the arts, introspective daily reflections, or so many other personal means by which to reach a Higher Power. This is a community filled with caring people, filled with residents who want to make a difference, who look for ways to share their passions with others.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have met many of these wonderful people, and through all of the varied and colorful conversations I’ve had with so many of our guests, I have enjoyed this open exchange of differences in our viewpoints and tolerance of diversity. That's the beauty of Frenchtown. It's inclusive, and at The National Hotel, everyone feels comfortable enough to share their viewpoints, knowing that no one is there to judge, criticize or exclude. I've been privy to hot topics ranging from political views to alternative holistic healing practices.

One person we absolutely love having over, is AmarJyothi (Bonnie Pariser) from Yoga Loka. Not only is she a very talented and highly skilled yoga instructor, she is also an incredibly generous individual. She recently traveled to India and is now raising funds to help a village where she stayed, with a farm project. Her business is also a holistic center where everyone is welcome, regardless of the level at which they practice yoga. AmarJyothi is certified as a Structural Yoga Therapist, and has an incredible following. She has even partnered with us, to offer in-room private yoga sessions for the individual or the couple, exclusively for our hotel guests...what a treat!!!

AmarJyothi will always hold a special place in my heart, for many reasons, but in particular because of the bounty of generosity she showed us when we had barely been open for 5 weeks, and I was having trouble finding a menorah to display in our front window, and we'd already gotten our Christmas tree up and decorated. When she heard me share my woes one night, she literally sprang into action, and offered to bring me a menorah she had made herself. Well, not only did she bring it, she also brought the special candles, and then came every night to light the next candle, and say prayers with children in tow! Now that's community for you.

This is just one of the MANY reasons why Frenchtown is so incredibly rich. It is bursting at the seams with people who come together, as they frequently do at The National Hotel, to share of each other, to converse, to discuss, to express themselves through the spoken word or through other artistic means. There is such openness that there are some nights when we reach an almost philosophical state, discussing the importance of creating a world that is inclusive and not exclusive, the beauty of sharing one’s faith with others while at the same time being open to learn about other faiths, customs, and beliefs.

How fortunate Pete and I are. Truly. We opened The National Hotel, and now we are the proud hosts of a Thursday Open Mic Night series, a Sunday Afternoon Music Series, a weekly poetry reading to kick off in a few weeks…do you see why we’re in awe of the artistic talent in our area?

And if you walk around Frenchtown, you’ll see shop after shop filled with works of art, from paintings, to sculptures, to home accessories, to jewelry, to antiques, to hand-made items. The list is endless.

So during our post-Mardi Gras season, when so many of us abstain from one thing or another, fast, or participate in different expressions of our faiths, Pete and I wish you all many blessings and hope that you’ll continue to frequent The National Hotel, to stop by for a chat, to discuss politics, events, family issues, and even religion. Why not, after all? Why shouldn’t you have a place you can call your own, a place where no matter what is discussed, you’ll find fellow patrons willing to listen, and often, share their own point of view. Come on, drop by, we’ll lend an ear—and given ½ a second, jump right in and join the discussion forum! We love this about being the proprietors of this fine old lady. Don’t you?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I'm rattled by yet another day of multiple aftershocks following Chile's February 27th 8.8 magnitude earthquake. The last one not too long ago was 7.2. I think of my family. I think of my friends. This is after all, my birthplace. It is a small country that seems far away, and yet after the devastating earthquake, temblors, and tremors, the outpouring of concern, of love, of caring, and of compassion displayed by the entire world, and especially by our friends right here in the United States of America, has been incredible.

As we prepare to host another Open Mike Night (a.k.a. Open Mic Night) at The Rathskeller Pub Lounge tonight, I can't help but think about how many of our friends who participate and take the mike week after week, have emailed me, have reached out to me, to make sure my family is OK, but moreover, to just let me know that they care about me--about Chile! I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully reciprocate all the love and attention that they have bestowed upon me. I'm ever so grateful, and ever so much more energized to continue to work hand-in-hand with my husband, Pete, to ensure that The National Hotel provides a place where all our friends and neighbors, can enjoy and share in its rebirth.

And in particular, we take great pride in how much our artistic community contributes to our lives, giving generously and selflessly by sharing the joy that comes from being able to allow one's creative energy to flow. Those who have signed up since the inception of our Thursday night Open Mike Night at The National Hotel, have ranged from technology professionals who have a passion for music and love to share their talent with everyone, to professional writers and artists, who gladly share their talent with all of us. It runs the gamut and that's what makes this so wonderful. Regardless of their "day" job, one thing they have in common is this absolute passion for art, and on Thursday nights, that usually means music.

Check out Skye Van Saun, for instance, who is a regular at our Open Mike Nights, and whose voice and musical choices have brought the place to a standstill--where not even a whisper can be heard. She is just super talented. I recently learned that she will read from her chapbook, Versus Verses, as part of the Carriage House Poetry Series, on Tuesday, March 16th at the Patricia Kuran Arts Center, in Fanwood, NJ. She is so incredibly accomplished, and yet when you meet her, she gladly spends time talking with you; no airs, no "attitude." She's a poet, writer, and editor, who teaches master poetry classes. And she's one of us! She loves Frenchtown, and we're so pleased that she loves spending time at The National Hotel.

You can see a quick webclip of one of her performances at The Rat on youtube thanks to "Banjo Bill":

If I now move from the micro to the macro, I'm happy to share that artists from around the world have contributed to an incredibly successful telethon this past Saturday. Again, artists. They bring out the best in all of us...and for Chile, it means aid that's finally reaching the people most affected. Don Francisco, one of Univision's most famous television personalities, and a Chilean national, hosted the "teleton" and raised over $58 million! That's double what the organizers had hoped to raise. ¡Felicitaciones!


And yet, it's hard to believe that it's been nearly 2 weeks since the earthquake of 8.8 magnitude devastated the poorest and most vulnerable communities in my country of birth, my beautiful, genuine, fertile land of warm and generous people. It took days to locate all my relatives--many were away, because being the end of February in the southern hemisphere, it's summertime--and it's taken even longer to locate friends and friends of friends. It was a relief to know that everyone for whom I searched was safe and sound. But no one walked away unscathed.

As fortunate as they were to have experienced no physical harm, and to have homes that are structurally sound, they all lost personal possessions, many irreplaceable, suffered from loss of electricity, no gas for their cars, and even worse, additional fear from all the looting that took place. The images that came through on our TVs were just impossible to bear. Just look at what CNN reported:

Those who survived without minor losses, are fearful of going out, of being robbed or of having their homes vandalized. The mass looting in the southern central cities affected is just unfathomable; it's still tearing us apart. The feeling of panic, the stress of this trauma, is palpable.
And now there are still more quakes. Some of the roads are impassable still, and even those who want to travel, are finding that difficult. One of my cousins who was stuck almost at the epicenter of this catastrophe, traveling southward to our family compound, described being in the car, fully in park, and yet moving as if on a wild roller-coaster ride. He ended up traveling to Argentina, across the Andes, to be able to get enough gas for a return trip to the capital, Santiago. The images he posted on facebook are just surreal. As are the images that the New York Times has published, and all the other major news networks and papers.
To my beautiful homeland, to my wonderful compatriots, please know that all your North American neighbors are with you in this time of need. The telethon that Don Francisco hosted last Saturday raised double what they expected thanks to the generosity of the global community. And there are more fundraisers coming. If you read this and want to contribute, please make sure that you check the organization's giving history, check the 990s filed with the office of the Attorney General, and make sure they are reputable. Working in the non-profit industry for nearly 20 years, the number of scams that take place during these catastrophes by unscrupulous people, is just incredible. But if you want to give, then please give from your heart, and know that Chile will not forget. A dear friend of mine, Heidy, sent me this link on ways to help Chile, which lists some of the big organizations that are already on the ground providing aid, like the Red Cross and Unicef. For all that our friends and neighbors have already done for this little tiny country of about 16 million people, and for all your good wishes and your prayers, I thank you.

If you know of any other fundraising events to help Chile, please feel free to share them in a comment here. Thank you again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


[photo by Lois Heyman, Courier News]

It's mid-week, and what a great way to spruce up our spirits at The National Hotel, than to pick up the Courier News (and Home News Tribune), to see a most incredible write-up about our establishment! Thank you, thank you, Lois Heyman, for penning such a superbly written article: We also owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Poh, editor of the American Public House Review and Pub Talk, the American Public House Review blog. And thank you Walter O'Brien, fellow journalist at the Courier News for introducing us to Lois when we first took over The National Hotel.

[photo by Lois Heyman, Courier News]

As if that weren't enough, we are also featured in their Photo Gallery, which has some outstanding photos of some of our dishes, our guest suites...even Marlon Aranha, our GM, is there checking his cell phone (always checking on everything...what would we do without him!!), as is Ron Rittenhouse, our executive chef (who is also nicely featured in the article).

Wait...& there's more: I received an email from a fellow member of the Frenchtown Business & Professional Association (FBPA), who shared an article that will appear in approximately 100 community newspapers in western PA and Ohio (CNHI News Service), about Frenchtown itself, where we are mentioned as "the" place to dine if traveling here. I've placed all these articles on our website's In The News page.

So much to write about...I've got to separate some of these into different posts, but I'll squeeze in 2 other items that I wanted to share: Don't forget about tomorrow night's Open Mike Night. It's a tradition now; every Thursday night, with sign-ups starting at 8:30 p.m. and music beginning at 9:00 p.m.

And how could I forget about this past Sunday's star performance of The Jericho Mountain Grass ("The Grass"), who returned to a standing-room only afternoon at The National Hotel. All the tables filled up fast as soon as they started playing their traditional ballads blended with new-grass tunes. We had every generation in the room, from a baby all the way up...and boy did that baby dance in her mother's arms!!! It was just so entertaining, so lively and warm. What a great way to close out the weekend.

We do hope you'll join us for our next musical afternoon...more on that for another post. Let us know if you'd like us to feature anything in particular, or have a comment about anything on this blog. You can also reach us directly at 908.996.3200 or click here to contact us via email. Enjoy the it really going up to 50 degrees by next Monday/Tuesday???