- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

KINDERHOOK, Ill. (AP) - There’s not much about the United States that Judi Mendelssohn does not like or appreciate.

But there is no question what is No. 1 atop her list of American dislikes.

“The tea,” she says, unequivocally.

And with a chuckle.

Mendelssohn, who hails from Worcester, England, believes it is next to impossible to find a quality cup of tea in the colonies.

Other than that, the land of the free and the home of the brave is just dandy — especially anything connected with quilting.

“Once or twice a year” Mendelssohn leads a group of more than 20 women from the United Kingdom on a combination tour of a region of the United States, combining the sojourn with stops at major quilting meccas. She has led the expeditions for her P&Q; (Patchwork and Quilt) tour business for about 15 years.

This particular group is in the midst of a 17-day Midwest junket, spending three days at Sprague’s Kinderhook Lodge in Pike County.

“It’s important, I think, for them to get a feel (of America),” Mendelssohn said.

Mendelssohn has toured America from New Mexico to New England, and without hesitation she says West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri is one of her favorite quilting-related regions.

Mendelssohn praises the quilting businesses in this area and loves shopping in Hannibal, Missouri. The Hickory Stick Quilt Shop is one of her favorites.

Surprisingly, Kinderhook Lodge owner Andy Sprague, who has helped operate the lodge since 2001, says these kind of events are not that rare these days.

“Quilting tours are big for us,” he said. “Quilters love to shop at the (quilting) stores in the area.”

Not all of the foreign quilters’ time is spent tied to their passion. They make room for other things, too.

“Wherever we go, people make us feel welcome,” Mendelssohn said.

This particular group will be attending a Cardinals baseball game in St. Louis and have already visited an Amish community in Iowa. The group will hop on its charter bus later this week and head toward a major quilting confab in Paducah, Kentucky.

“I’ve never been to a baseball game, but I think it is probably similar to ‘rounders,’ ” Mendelssohn said of an old English game that ranks well behind such sports as soccer and cricket in popularity in her homeland.

Besides their English tea, the women say they also miss the Currier and Ives-like countrysides of their native lands in England, Scotland and Wales. The flatlands of West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri do not hold the same kind of appeal.

“There is such a vastness here,” Janet Raine said.

Raine, a first-time visitor to the states, and friend Mary Horton are from the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France. The largest of the group of islands is roughly 45 square miles but has a population of 100,000. The Channel Islands also are the home of Jersey cows.

“They are known more for their milk, not meat,” Raine said.

Horton was soaking in as much of the visit as humanly possible.

“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” she said with a huge smile.

Horton and Raine both felt the universal quilting language makes developing new friendships easy on these kinds of junkets. So does the commonality of the English language, the women said.

“Even though (Americans) speak a different (form of the language),” Raine kidded.

The visitors’ love affair with the area was born three years ago when a tour Mendelssohn was heading stopped to have lunch at the Kinderhook Lodge while passing through the region. While there, Mendelssohn struck a friendship with Sprague and began building the foundation for a full-fledged tour stop down the road.

That tour stop became a reality this week.

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/1D1LIPt

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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