Ohio

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We just returned from our annual Springtime trip down to Columbus Ohio, taking a scenic route, winding our way through the countryside. We visit the city often, so it is very familiar to us.  There are many favorites, but it’s fun to discover something new each time we return.     

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Our first morning we awoke to sunshine and warm temperatures, what a treat! Destination: North Market. Columbus’ only public market, it is housed in a former turn of the century farm implement warehouse. It has been at this location since 1995 and hosts dozens of independent merchants and farmers.  Come Hungry! Besides the usual market fare of produce, meats, cheeses etc. this one offers many varieties of prepared food to eat there or take home. Eat there, there’s a lot going on, and people watching is great entertainment. Speaking of entertainment, there were two women singers performing on the second floor. One sang Broadway tunes, the other Opera, while both were talented, the opera singer totally blew us away. We sat just feet from her, mesmerized by her ability, the sound of her voice carrying through the building.          

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After our fill of samples, we drove downtown for a little architectural stroll near the riverfront. Located on the convergence of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, Columbus is Ohio’s Capital City and the buildings reflect it’s importance. From historic skyscrapers to Art Deco masterpieces, in our opinion some of the most beautiful buildings are located in the area of Marconi Blvd and Front Street.  Battelle Riverfront Park is home to an authentic museum-quality replica of the Santa Maria, it is open for tours seasonably.

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German Village, located south of downtown, this is our absolute favorite part of Columbus. Lunch time had arrived and we wanted to try something new. Sticking with the German theme we chose Juergen’s on South 4th Street. The menu offers a wide variety of choices, wanting to sample as many different items as possible, we ordered the Jaeger Schnitzel and the Frankfurter plate.  Both were absolutely delicious, the schnitzel was tender, the sauce a perfect compliment, the spaetzle, potato salad and sauerkraut were also excellent. After all that food it was time for more walking.

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  The streets of this restored 19th century community are paved in brick, the homes, charming red brick workers cottages, lovingly renovated.  Residences and businesses peacefully coexist in this former German enclave. You could walk for days on end and never tire of this quaint neighborhood.  It was a perfect spring day, the daffodils and tulips were in full bloom, magnolias and pink dogwoods were showing off too. Schiller park was buzzing with activity as all took advantage of this fine day.  We walked for hours taking it all in; a handsome wooden door here, an incredible leaded glass window there, fountains and  dancing flames of  gaslights, it is truly a unique place.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     View Slideshow                          

                                       

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Dinner would be eaten at Katzinger’s  deli, also located in the village.  Samples are everywhere, and it’s a good thing, the menu is so huge it’s hard to decide. Case after case of cheeses, salads and desserts, everything looks appealing. We placed our order and sat outside as the evening temperature was  still mild.  We had a #70, which I highly recommend, along with the macaroni salad, and pickles, I’m addicted to the pickles. If you like Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, you’ll like Katzinger’s.

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House lights were starting to come on as night set in, and the neighborhood took on a cozy look.  Restaurants with outdoor seating adorn the patios with tiny white lights, elevating the charm level up another notch. We stumbled upon a tiny take out window on Mowhawk serving Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, and splendid it is!  It was only it’s second day open and the neighborhood had already embraced it. Tiny round tables sat on the sidewalk, topped with candles in glass containers, inviting you to sit and enjoy a dish of Olive Oil w/ Sea Salt Pepitas, Kris’s new favorite Brambleberry Crisp, or one of the many other unusual, but tasty flavors.

 

SUNDAY 

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The following morning the sky was back to grey and the sun had retreated into the clouds. There are many indoor activities to be found in Columbus, choosing is the hard part. Our first stop was Franklin Park Conservatory, sitting on an 88 acre park with formal gardens, it is quite spectacular. The Tulips at the entrance were stunning, beautiful bright pink and peach blended flowers sitting atop long stems. The conservatory houses more than 4oo plant species in four climatic zones. They also have a wonderful collection of Chihuly glass, he had exhibitions here in 2003 and 2009. The pieces are exquisite and fit perfectly in this botanical setting. Visitors with cameras were everywhere; there is an endless supply of breathtaking photos just waiting to be captured.

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We hadn’t been to COSI in years, the building is huge, it has six exhibition areas on three floors, if you like science, you’ll love this place. Kids seem to be having a blast, parents too, if learning in school was this much fun, kids would enjoy doing homework. One of the coolest activities is the Highwire Unicycle. Ride a unicycle across a 1.5 inch cable for 84 feet while 17 feet above the ground, forwards and backwards ! It’s interesting to watch the expressions, while some have a look of deep concentration, others are all smiles, or in some cases a look of terror. The line was long, so we passed this visit, maybe next time. The exhibits are top-notch and there are plenty of live demonstrations going on, they also have an Extreme Screen large format theater.

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Lunch was next on the agenda, we had built up quite an appetite with the comings and goings of the morning, ZenCha Tea Salon was our restaurant of choice. When you enter the salon you sense calmness in the modern Zen-style interior. Art gallery type lighting and blonde wood give it a light and airy feeling. The selection of tea is vast, the food menu concise, many items are infused with tea ingredients. If you don’t like tea, don’t let that scare you, everything is delicious.  

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 On our way out of town we stopped at some of our favorite mid-century antique stores. When continuing north on High St we happened across an open house in Rush Creek Village. This neighborhood is a lesson in modernism. The gracious owners were more than happy to show off their ultra-cool example of modern architecture, stunning. Rush Creek does host a home tour, we’ll be back….. 

COLUMBUS: Deco, Dirt Bikes and Dining

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Every Spring, just before Easter,Kris and I make a trip down toColumbus Ohio.   This trip we had a specific destination in mind: the Ohio Judicial Center. We have been driving by this extraordinary building each time we come to the city, this time we wanted to tour the inside. That meant we had to hop on the freeway instead of taking our usual leisurely route, that’s ok, this place is worth it! The official name of the building is The Thomas J Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, it is home to the Supreme Court of Ohio and it’s affiliated offices, along with the Ohio Court of Claims, the Ohio Judicial Conference and the Law Library. It is SPECTACULAR!! Really….The building opened in 1933, it was referred to as “Ohio’s Pride”,  with good reason. Once inside we were greeted at the front desk, we inquired about looking around the place and were told we could. We handed over our driver’s license, copies were made and badges created, ah yes, the post 911 world. Next up security; we placed our metal objects on the conveyor belt as we ourselves walked through the metal detector, no beeps, we were free to roam!

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The interior is an Art Deco wonderland; floor to ceiling it is a masterpiece. The Grand Concourse is an architectural gem and a tribute to the craftsmen of the time. Marble lined walls run the length of the building. Bronze images of Ohio governmental leaders line the east and west walls. Meeting Room 102 is stunning; 11 murals swathe the walls. Scenes painted in bright colors tell us the story of Ohio’s growth and development. The courtroom is next; the room is ornate and complex, a mix of Rococo, Art Deco and Renaissance styles, it is best to look at it one feature at a time. The ceiling is the most ornate; divided into five sections it represents Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Gold leaf sparkles on the coffered ceiling details, elegant light fixtures hang from above. 15 murals and walnut panels encase the walls, public seats are refurbished originals. Hearing room 106 is adorned with 11 murals titled The Progress of Industry, they have a bit of a Diego Rivera feel to them and again they are wonderful. To the elevator lobby; both ends of the stairwell feature lavish mosaics, elevator door panels are bas-relief bronze carvings, vestibule ceilings are embellished with murals, even the cornices are garnished! The ground floor decor is dedicated to Ohio’s American Indian history; again we have mosaic ceilings, carved elevator doors, and these fantastic bow-and-arrow light fixtures, a visitor education center tells the story of Ohio courts. The 11th floor is the home of the Law Library; oil paintings represent the evolution of law in western civilization. The Law Library reading room is another knock-out; here the murals represent the history of the printed word, Dale Chihuly blown-glass sculptures grace the east and west ends of the room. The light fixtures are fabulous, the wooden door frame is exquisite. There is a wonderful atrium on the 13th floor; from here you can gaze up to the 14th and 15th floors. In this particular area the decor leans more toward the moderne style; the light fixtures and decorative railings are superb. While we were up here we took advantage of the wonderful view of the city and the river.

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Click HERE for Deco slideshow

We had built up a hearty appetite, we decided to have lunch the iconic restaurant in German Village called Schmidts. The Schmidt family has been in the food business since 1886, the restaurant is located in a historic brick livery stable. When you step inside you are face to face with the desserts, most famous are the jumbo cream puffs; 1/2 lb of whipped filling stuffed inside a delicate pastry shell, save room for this one. The interior is much of what you’d expect from a traditional German restaurant; wood furnishings, German flags, traditional costumes, beer and of course German fare. For an appetizer we had the sauerkraut bratwurst balls, coated in a crispy batter and served with a mustard dipping sauce, they were delicious. For the entrée we chose the saurbraten; tender braised beef sliced and served with spatzel and the unique gingersnap gravy, there’s nothing like it.

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There was enough time in the day to make the short drive to Pickerington and check out the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. The main floor hosts the Hall of Fame inductees; legends of the track, road and trails in the motorcycling world. Rotating exhibits fill the remainder of the floor space, it makes the experience new each time you visit. The new display was all about dirt-track racing in America; the photos are amazing. I was open-mouthed as I read the details of the riders feats and accomplishments. Kris is always excited to check out anything mechanical so this place is right up his alley. He fondly remembered the  uncommon dirt bikes of his youth; Hodaka, Yankee, Bultaco and Husquvarna, names he had long forgotten. Vintage Harley Davidson’s seemed to be everywhere; from dirt to street in every decade. The museum is laid out in an easy to follow manner, lots of bikes on display to ooh and ahh over, they do a wonderful job telling the story of the motorcycle community.

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After a little relaxation in our room we were ready for dinner. We headed to Haiku in the Short North District on High Street. They have a lovely setting for outdoor dining, but it was too chilly so we settled for the indoors.The vibe at Haiku is mellow, the decor modern Asian, the menu is large with a nice variety of items. There were a few special rolls for the evening, not knowing which to choose we asked the couple at the next table for their recommendation. With their suggestions and a couple of our own choosing we placed our order.  Service can be hit or miss here, this visit it was on the slow side. At last, our food arrived and everything was quite good. It had been a long day so we stopped for a nightcap before going back to our room for the evening. As much as we like the different districts in Columbus, we are always drawn back to German Village. This time we stopped in at Club 185 on Livingston Ave. The place is gorgeous inside; vintage everything from the spectacular and unusual tin ceiling to the red brick walls, hardwood floors and furnishings. Though it has served many purposes through the decades, it has been a bar since 1954. It has a great laid back and welcoming feeling, making it a popular destination; the photo booth is a fun addition. We sat at the bar and enjoyed our drinks as we talked with the bartender about the building and the city, it was the perfect ending to a great day.

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More Columbus: Victorian Village & Short North

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Our second day in Columbus was sunny and warm, the sky was almost turquoise in color, provided a beautiful background for our exploration of a neighborhood known as Victorian Village. Located in northwest Columbus, Neil Ave is the main street through the district. Because of the close proximity to Ohio State University and the fact that a street car line ran through the area, Victorian Village was a very desirable place to live. Most homes were built between the late 1800′s and early 1900′s and as the name implies they were Victorian in design. I have to say, these are not the typical homes one envisions when you hear the word “Victorian”; for one thing they are almost all brick. The homes are grand, elegant, and ornate; porches are large and welcoming, windows are beveled or stained glass. The shapes are unique to each home as are the colors of brick and trim. Features such as gingerbread, tile roofs and turrets grace the neighborhood. The distance between porches and the sidewalk are short, many opt for gardens instead of lawn, the landscape is designs are wonderful. This is one of my favorite historic urban neighborhoods; it’s the kind of place I can walk all day and my feet never get tired. We couldn’t have picked a better time to visit, all was in bloom; Tulips, Dogwood, Azalea and Lilac, it smelled as pretty as it looked!

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The next neighborhood on our list was Short North. Just a short walk from Victorian Village, this district is home to some of Columbus’s most eclectic shops and restaurants. Nestled along High Street the area is known for its signature arches. Yes, arches! Back in 1888 Columbus was chosen to host the centennial celebration of the Northwest Territory, thus installing a series of 17 lighted arches running about a mile down High Street. Somewhere along the line they disappeared, in 2002 a new set of arches were put up, high-tech and LED technology allow a range of colors and programmable light shows on the hour after dark giving Short North a distinct personality. If you like to browse, this is the place; galleries, fashion and home decor are well represented. We parked on High and walked the length of the district stopping in a variety of shops along the way. We hit a chocolate store first, you have keep your energy up….from here we traversed High and  the little off-shoot streets running perpendicular to it; quirky boutiques, candles, funky art, a flower shop and cooking store. We saw jewelry, wine and baked goods.Flower Child is two levels of vintage finds; if you miss the days avocado green, bell bottoms, kidney-shaped tables, lava lamps and shag carpeting you can get your fix here. The window ofKaravan Treasures lures you in with its stunning collection of mosaic lanterns. The Grandview Mercantile Co features fine antiques and vintage items, this place is huge! The outside of buildings can be as interesting as the inside; a whimsical take on the classic “American Gothic” painting can be found on the corner of High and Lincoln, check out the Mona Lisa mural at Lincoln and Pearl. 

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Being a weekday we headed out-of-town a bit early and decided to look for an interesting place to have a late lunch along the way. It didn’t take long; just outside of the city on 5th Ave we found theCambridge Tea House. Housed in an enchanting old brick building known as Marble Cliff Station, the place just oozed charm. We were seated at a table window-side, sunlight streamed in from three sides of the room. Brick and stone walls, white tablecloths and Victorian accents give the room personality. The menu is a lovely selection of teas, scones, sandwiches, salads and soups, our waitress was outgoing and friendly. We selected the spinach salad topped with thinly sliced pears, spiced pecans and goat cheese crumbles, delicious. The fresh veggie sandwich sounded appealing, at the waitress’ suggestion we added bacon to it, yeah, I know….but I’ll tell you, it was the perfect combination! The house iced green tea was wonderful. We were nourished, hydrated and ready to take the scenic route home.

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Kris knows a great route; from 5th Ave we take 33/257 north, which follows the scenic Scioto River. It’s gorgeous in springtime; Redbuds are in full bloom. We stopped in at Griggs Dam; at 500 feet long and 35 ft high it’s impressive. Watching the water tumble over the drop and into the river is mesmerizing. Back in the car, we follow the river into the tiny village of Prospect. We continue our route north through the countryside, dotted with pretty houses and farms, horses and cows it’s serene and relaxing. From Upper Sandusky we take 199 into the Toledo area, and finally I-75 back to Detroit.  Columbus is a short drive from the D and has so much to offer; one-of-a-kind districts, cool shops and great food. Perfect for a weekend getaway! 

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Give Columbus a try, just over three hours from the D, great for a quick getaway.    

DETROIT TO CINCINNATI

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Our weekend destination was Cincinnati Ohio with a few stops along the way. We took I- 75 into Toledo, then followed the Scenic Maumee River to 235 South. Kris has a knack for taking the route less traveled from place to place, to him the ride should be as enjoyable as the destination. 235 is easy traveling, not a lot of traffic, plenty of curves, and pretty scenery, no cities to pass through here, only tiny hamlets and an abundance of farmland. At Bellefontaine we got on 68 and took it into Springfield Ohio.

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href=”http://www.visitspringfieldohio.com/”>Springfield Ohio

 is located about mid-state and shares a similar history with Detroit. Route 40, a Historic National Road that began in Maryland near the Capitol, ended in Sprinfield for about 10 years before continuing westward. This made it very attractive to industrialists; from 1916 to 1926 10 automobile companies operated here. International Harvester was the leading employer building farm machinery and later trucks. The list of items produced here is staggering. Like many cities it has suffered as manufacturing continued to go overseas. Springfield is definitely a place worth visiting, remnants of the grandeur of days gone buy still remain in magnificent public buildings and grand homes. Wittenberg University, one of the most highly rated liberal arts universities in the nation can be found here. Frank Lloyd Wright’s only Prarie style home in the state of Ohio, the Westcott house, resides here as well and is open for tours. Be sure and visit the Heritage Center of Clark County, the architecture alone is worth the stop! Built in 1890 in the Romanesque style it was the original City Hall and Marketplace, oh what it must have been like to buy carrots and tomatoes in such surroundings! Exhibits were impressive; a 1920 Westcott Motor Car,  an old iron cannon, a horse drawn Champion Reaper, and several vintage International vehicles including a lumber truck and a Fire Truck. Signs from many of the local manufacturers hang from the ceiling emphasizing the prestige of this once industrial giant.The museum was much larger and even more interesting that we anticipated. Time to hit the road and find some lunch.

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Continuing south along 68 ,Yellow Springs, a tiny town of only 1.9 sq miles was our next stop. Founded in 1825 by a group of families  looking to create a Utopian community, part of that feeling still lingers, you might even say it has a hippie vibe.This is a haven for the Arts, galleries line the main thoroughfare along with cafes, modest sized shops and a cinema. Color coded trash cans dot the sidewalk urging you to sort and recycle your trash, words like local and organic are found on signs throughout town. Many restaurants offer outdoor seating overlooking Xenia Ave. Current Cuisine is a gourmet Deli we have eaten at many times, and did so again. There is a large selection of ready made food to choose from, everything looks appealing, so it’s hard to choose. A deli sandwich, salad, and an empanada did the trick for us. We took a stroll through town wandering in and out of shops enjoying the colorful mix of people you are bound to encounter while visiting. The Little Miami Bike Trail comes through Yellow Springs making it a welcomed stop for bicyclists.

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We veered off of 68 and went a short distance east on 343 to Clifton Gorge a state nature preserve. Also a regular stop for us when in this neck of the woods, it is a great way to stretch our legs and get some fresh air and exercise after being in the car for a prolonged time. Clifton Gorge is a spectacular example of post-glacial canyon cutting, sounds impressive doesn’t it? It is! The mile long scenic Gorge  trail takes you alongside the Little Miami Scenic River, showing off waterfalls and rapids along the way. Completely surrounded by multiple hues of green of the local flora everywhere you look is a photograph in waiting. Be sure and wear proper footwear as the trail can be slick, you will also traverse some rocky terrain and multiple steps cut into the stone. If you have the time and are feeling adventurous cross the footbridge and continue through John Bryan State Park, at the second footbridge cut back over and follow the original Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stage Coach Route back. This is a 269 acre preserve that protects one of the most remarkable dolomite and limestone gorges in Ohio.

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Time had slipped away too quickly as usual, we got into Cincinnati, checked into our room located in the Northside district, then to Covington Ky for a (really) late dinner. We can always depend on Chez Nora for late night food and live music. The evening was warm with a slight breeze that beckoned us to dine on the rooftop. A view of the Cincinnati skyline, city lights shining against the night sky accompanied by good food, good music and good company. Goodnight.

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CINCINNATI OHIO

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Ohio’s oldest market,Findlay Market was first on our agenda for the day. Located in the Over-The-Rhine historic district it is buzzing with activity.The indoor market has about two dozen merchants, narrow aisle-ways guide you past the usual market fare; meats, cheeses, fish and produce along with specialty stalls like gelato, fudge and spices. I saw a few people walking around drinking something that was a clear green with lots of ice so I had to ask, Grass Lemonade! I found the sushi place that makes it and bought one to try, not bad, and really quite refreshing. Try the Belgian Waffles….I will say no more…….. The outdoor vendors are along the street and under a pavilion, it seemed like most of Cincinnati was at the market that day; crowds of people  carrying environmentally friendly bags filled to the top with good stuff. Artists display their wares, businesses fill the colorful historic buildings lining the market and music is in the air. Samples are abundant; jalapeno bread, sunflower sprouts, cheese, and the BEST cookies I have ever eaten in my life, seriously. She calls herself the Cookie Fairy, she must be because I have never tasted a cookie so moist, so tender, so, well, delicious anywhere. I tried samples of every flavor she had there, it was really impossible to choose, so I made Kris decide! We picked up a bag of the Birthday Cake Cookies, it was the right choice.

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The Cincinnati Museum Center is just a short drive from the market and was next our list. Originally built as the Union Terminal passenger railroad station, it was completed in 1933 at a total cost of $41.5 million…Wow! The building is spectacular, it is designed in signature Art Deco style. Step inside to view the rotunda, painted bright yellow, gold and orange it features the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere measuring 180 ft wide and 106 ft high. Brightly colored mosaics tell Cincinatti’s history, Rookwood Pottery tiles decorate the cafe, there isn’t a nook or cranny that isn’t beautiful in this structure. The building houses the Cincinnati History Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science, an Omni Max Theater, the Cincy Historical Society Library and the Duke Energy Children’s Museum. Recently named one of the top 50 architecturally significant buildings in America this is one place in the city that you must visit. It is so visually stimulating you don’t know where to look first, after all the times we’ve been here I am still in awe. The museums are top notch, but to be honest with you I’d come here just to see the place. To our delight the outdoor fountain was working, it really completes the picture of what it must have been like in its heyday to pull up to the station to take a train to some far away place like Chicago or New York. Free Rotunda Tours are available, and I highly recommend taking one.

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Cincinnati is built on hills, plateaus and bluffs which provide gorgeous vistas. Our lunch plan was to go over to Hyde Park get a carry-out from Carl’s Deli and take it to Ault Park for a picnic. The weather had other plans, we ate inside instead. The only sandwich we have ever had there is the #6, a crab artichoke salad served on  a Croissant which is then grilled and served warm. The croissant is crispy on the outside, flaky inside and that crab salad is so flavorful! With that and a few sides we were all set.  The rain had let up, so we made it up to Ault Park after all  for some post lunch viewing pleasure .

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After some R&R back at the Bed and Breakfast we headed out to Cincinnati Gardens to watch our hometown Detroit Derby Girls take on the Cincinnati Black Sheep. It was an extremely exciting bout, much to the dismay of the Cincy fans, Detroit prevailed with a score of 155 to 110. Cincinnati is a great place to catch a Derby; great teams, a knowledgeable enthusiastic crowd and an awesome vintage venue!  Now for some dinner….

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We zipped back over the Ohio River into Newport Ky for a good Italian meal atPompilio’s.  We seem to have a hard time finding restaurants that serve dinner after 10pm in Cincy, that’s not a problem here. The Italian Sampler Plate will satisfy your taste-buds with it’s variety of Italian classics. This is the good stuff; homemade meatballs, Italian sausage, and ravioli blanketed in a delectable red sauce. They make an awesome Antipasto salad too. The decor is charming and traditional, the bar area looks as if it hasn’t changed a bit since opening in 1933. Besides the mouth-watering food, the restaurant is also famous from the movie Rainman. The infamous  ”toothpick” scene was filmed here in 1988.

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Across the Licking River back into CovingtonKY we stopped in for a nightcap and a little music at Dee Felice. Dee Felice was opened in 1984 by longtime Jazz drummer and band leader Dee Felice. Decorated in New Orleans style with it’s marble floor, decorative tin ceiling, and dark wood, it is the place to go for the best live Jazz in the greater Cincinnati area.  The house band here is outstanding, located on a long narrow platform behind the bar the musicians play side by side across the length, the baby grand piano the endcap.  Jazz lovers sit at the bar tapping their feet in rhythm making eye contact with the other patrons as if to say “isn’t this incredible?” And it is!

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If you visit Cincy make sure to take a ride up to Mt Adams. The ride can be complex but it’s well worth the effort. On the west side of Mt Adams is where you’ll find restaurants, shops, bars, wonderful homes and great views of downtown. We chose the east side, Eden Park. Home to the Cincinnati Art MuseumCincinnati Playhouse In The Park, and the Krohn Conservatory, Eden Park is one of several hilltop parks that offers spectacular views of the city, and the mighty Ohio River. There are plenty of places to sit and relax here; what do you like, gardens, fountains, a gazebo, scenic vistas? Feeling energetic, take a walk on one of the trails. Driving through the park with it’s elevation changes is a welcome variation from the flat lands of Detroit.

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Krohn Conservatory is one of my favorite conservatories, it was built in 1933 at the height of the Art Deco movement. This glass and aluminum structure harbors over 3,500 different plant species in four different houses; Palm, Tropical, Desert, and Orchid.With it’s aluminum railings and terazzo floors it has that wonderful ‘old’ feeling to it that you just don’t get from modern conservatories. I am partial to the Rainforest waterfall, it’s just gorgeous! It was Father’s Day and the place was jammed, it seemed every family had the same idea; to take pictures with dad in this exotic environment.

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Located at the top of the hill is the Art museum, built in 1886 and undergoing several additions through the decades it houses an impressive collection.The interior of the building is a work of art in of itself; Sweeping staircases with wood and iron railings, columns, and even a touch of Art Deco. Take your time and wander both floors; the layout makes for easy transition from room to room, European to American and century to century. The Chihuly glass sculpture strung from the ceiling to the lobby is outstanding. They have an extensive collection of Rookwood Pottery, my two favorite pieces of the entire collection are the Rookwood Fireplace & Fountain. With the special exhibits there is always something new to see here. Admission is Free, parking $4.00

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We drove around Eden Park for a bit, up and down the hills. We stopped and took a walk around Mirror Lake, so pretty, and to a couple of the scenic overlooks. Cincinnati has a series of bridges crossing the rivers and you can see most of them from this vantage point. Eden Park is a part of Cincy that is not to be missed!

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Time for lunch before heading back north. Hyde Park is one area that has a lot of activity on a Sunday. We found a little cafe to have lunch on the patio, but to our dismay the rain started up again. Just as well, the food was equally as good indoors as it would have been out. When in Cincy you have got to try their signature brand of ice cream; Graeter’s. There is a location in Hyde Park Squareand it conveniently sits adjacent to a park with benches and a beautiful fountain. The Buckeye Blitz is truly an Ohio thing, chocolate and peanut-butter, one of those perfect combinations of flavors.  After we finished up our ice cream we took to the road once again, this time towards home.

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Cincinnati is one of the great All-American cities that graces the Midwest and makes for a great get-away from The D. Like most of our rust-belt relatives, we share a history of hard times and perseverance. We love spending our tourist dollars where they are most appreciated; hard working industrial towns like our own that have far more to offer than most realize.

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Toledo

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If you live in Michigan and have traveled south, chances are you have been through Toledo. Most folks simply pass through on I-75, on their way to somewhere else. Today I’d like to give you just a few reasons why Toledo is a great destination itself.  We had driven past the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library on Michigan many times, the large Art Deco structure always catching our attention, we promised to come back one day with the specific purpose of visiting the building. Today was that day, what an incredible jewel it is!

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Toledo is nicknamed the “Glass City” and for good reason; many of the largest manufacturers of glass either began here or moved here from somewhere else. The city is the site of large supplies of natural gas and high silica content sandstone, two items necessary for glass manufacturing.  Toledo was home to innovation in all aspects of the glass industry, here are a few companies you may recognize: Owens-Corning, Libbey Glass, Libbey-Owens-Ford, Therma Tru. I tell you this because  glass is the highlight and major material used in the decor of the library and is simply amazing; plate glass, glass blocks, Thermolux and Vitrolite.  There are inlays and murals, pillars and columns, glass in vibrant colors and varying textures. It is something to be seen!  We entered the Central Court from the Michigan Street entrance, one look and I stopped in my tracks. The interior is a fantastic example of Art Deco design, in this case Vitrolite (an opaque, structural, flat glass wainscoting) covers the lower section of the walls in a beautiful suntan color with black accents. A continuous  mural six feet high surrounds the room below the second floor windows. The designs are inlaid into 3/8 ” thick slabs of gray Vitrolite made by the Libbey-Owens-Ford glass company. The murals represent fields of knowledge such as literature, languages, religion, arts and sciences. The floor is terrazzo, a wonderful mix of tans, browns and rust colors. Everything here is done in the Art Deco theme, light fixtures, desks, tables and windows. As Kris took pictures I stood there with my mouth hanging open trying to take it all in. A very nice librarian came over and talked with us a bit and handed me a brochure on the Vitrolite Murals (which came in very handy for writing this piece). With a look of satisfaction and a smile on her face, she directed us up to the Children’s library, now I know what the smile was for.

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We climbed the stairs to the Children’s library, as we came through the door we had entered a child’s literary paradise.  A spaceship complete with two green aliens hovers from ceiling among planets in varied size and color, the front end of a vintage car sticks out of a wall, books are arranged by theme in in various exhibits. We walked further, through an arrangement of desks with computers, here a  front end of a jeep provides seating for two, while sheep ride in the back, a large Cat In The Hat figure stands nearby as oversized toadstools invite you to have a seat. We passed through the final set of doorways in the room and found ourselves in the land of legendary fairy tales. Here the Vitrolite is jade green, the mosaics are brightly colored depicting the tales of Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Pinocchio, Pied Piper, Rip Van Winkle and the like. Knotty Pine walls and shelves make the room warm and endearing, large stainless steel light fixtures remind you this place was built long ago. The subjects used in this room came from books selected by the librarians of the department.  The Toddler room connects through a small opening, here you will find nursery rhymes and fables; Three Little Kittens, Sing A Song Of Sixpence, Little Miss Muffet……you get the idea. The detail is astonishing, all sorts of glass in more than 80 different colors and types were used in these pictures. The library has undergone expansions and changes through the years, thankfully someone had the foresight to preserve these rare and unique treasures. As I mentioned, the library underwent a huge expansion, as you walk back down the stairway you are able to view the original backside of the building. Again architects were thoughtful and preserved the original building while seamlessly blending the new addition with the old structure. Take the time to study the details, wonderful deco accents are found everywhere. Original light fixtures had been removed and stored through the years and have now been reused as tables in a lounge area. The rare book room is actually new, but you’d never know it, it has the same classic Art Deco details as the rest of the library.

Click Here for a slideshow of this incredible building.

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Lunch time had arrived; when you are in Toledo, Tony Packo’s Cafe is the place to eat. If you are of an age to have watched the TV series M*A*S*H, you have probably heard of Tony Packo’s. In the show, as in real life, Jamie Farr who played Maxwell Klinger hails from Toledo, he often mentioned Tony Packo’s, sending curious viewers to the now famed restaurant. Sticking with our classic Toledo theme, we drove to the original location on Front and Consaul. This was a Hungarian neighborhood back in the day and Tony himself was a Hungarian American, he created the Hungarian hot dog back in 1932 and it was an instant hit. At lunchtime food is served cafeteria style, head to the counter, give your order, then pay at the register.  We each had one of the infamous chili dogs; a homemade Hungarian hot dog (think sausage here), smothered in Tony’s own homemade chili, finely diced onions and a squirt of mustard, I know, it sounds like an ordinary coney island, but it’s NOT. There are all kinds of combinations available, ours came with sides and a cup of chili, the hot German potato salad is my favorite; warm and vinegar based, the potatoes are tender, not mushy, with bits of bacon mixed in. Kris’s favorite are the paprikas dumplings with gravy. We sat at a table in a small section up a few stairs, we couldn’t wait to dig in. The food was delicious as always, the hot dogs have a taste all their own. As you sit in the restaurant you will notice the walls are covered in autographed hot dog buns, yes I did say autographed hot dog buns! Back in 1972 Burt Reynolds was in town, he was the first “big name” to eat at Packo’s, when he finished his meal he signed a bun and the tradition was born. Today hundreds of buns line the walls, from movies stars and politicians to musician,s the collection of celebrities is impressive. Packo’s serves up great food with a side of  kitsch.

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The Toledo Museum of Art resides on Monroe Street in Toledo’s  historic Old West End.  The museum was founded by glass maker Edward Drummond Libbey in 1901 and moved to its current location in 1912. The building is done in the Greek Revival style and is quite lovely, the front is surrounded by gardens that include numerous sculptures. The museum boasts an impressive collection; over 30,000 works of art in 45 galleries and is internationally recognized. Me, I just like coming here and wandering around. My very favorite piece is in the west wing; Monet’s Water Lilies, I could stare at this painting all day. There are so many things I like about the TMA,  in addition to paintings they have a wonderful array of other types of art;  elegant vases, a fantastic Art Noveau fireplace surround, gorgeous crystal chandeliers and outstanding sculptures. They have furniture and entire rooms brought over from Europe, contemporary art and a charming cafe. Galleries flow from one to the next, each eye-pleasing with a mix of  art forms  creating a distinct harmony. In the 1933 museum expansion the Peristyle concert hall was added; the 1710-seat theatre is the winter home to the Toledo Symphony and Opera.  As you would expect from the Glass City the TMA has an extensive collection of glass art, the collection is now housed in the Glass Pavilion across the street……. but we’ll save that and plenty more for another day.  Toledo is just an hour drive from Detroit and makes a great day trip.

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Roadtrip; Ohio’s Amish Country

6JUL

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Our destination for the Fourth of July was Cleveland, but you know what they say; getting there is half the fun! We packed up our  SRT4 and headed south on I-75, it is truly the most boring stretch of road but it’s the quickest way out. We rarely take freeways and if we do, it’s only for a short time. Once outside of Toledo we exit the freeway and make our way to the small town of Galion.

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Kris loves a good country road, through the years he has refined routes to our favorite get-aways, he has perfected the trip to and from Cleveland. Anyone who likes to drive back roads will surely enjoy the ride, Amish Country is by no means “on the way” , but if you’re not in a hurry it makes for a great detour ! Take 97 out of Galion and continue east through Lexington, Bellville, and Butler.This stretch of road takes you through numerous tiny towns and past beautiful farmsteads. Cows of all sizes and colors graze, goats stand on top of their houses as knee-high corn waves in the warm summer breeze, it is all very relaxing.  The roads start to get curvier here and hills are more frequent,  You will come upon the Mohican Memorial State Forest, and it’s a beauty; more than 4,500 acres of white and red pine, gum, aspen, ash, cherry and walnut trees inhabit the land. If you have the time stop and go for a hike, hiking trails wind through the primitive and scenic areas of the forest and park, ending up in places like Pine Run Creek, The Fire Tower and Clearfork Gorge, maps are available. We made a stop at the fire tower and the gorge overlook, time was short, so no hiking today.

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Once in Loudonville follow 39/60 into Amish country. Notice how peaceful it is, the farms are stunning, as you climb the hilly roads fields look more like paintings than the real thing, the lush green of crops in contrast to amber waves of grain. Horses and buggies rule the roads here, bicycles are also a favorite mode of transportation so you must be watchful. Berlin is Amish country’s most popular town, furniture stores dominate the area, there is a nice variety of shops and restaurants too. Speaking of restaurants, we had lunch at a little place called Boyd & Wurthmann, a local favorite since 1938 it is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Berlin. We ordered a BLT on homemade wheat bread and a chef salad when suddenly our eyes were drawn to the most incredible strawberry shortcake ever seen. A chunk of the most amazing shortcake is first placed in a large bowl, followed by generous scoops of sweetened, fresh sliced Amish strawberries, next it’s your choice of ice cream or homemade whipped cream, yes, we definitely were ordering one. The thought of it still brings a smile to my face, the shortcake was like no other, it had the texture of a tres leches cake with maybe a touch of cornmeal in it, not like a biscuit or sponge cake at all. It had air pockets in it that gratefully soaked up the juice from the strawberries, with a generous serving of whipped cream it was summer in a bowl. 

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We walked up and down the main street of Berlin, going in and out of lovely little shops, this is a girlfriends weekend shopping paradise! After sampling cheese, and chocolate we were ready to drive some more. Going south on 557 you will come across Hershberger’s Farm & Bakery; Stop In! If you like animals and or food, this is paradise. There’s a pavilion filled with farm animals and it seemed all just had babies; fenced in areas contain goats of all sizes and colors, baby cows and sheep relax in their pens. Looking for a pet? Puppies and bunnies are waiting to be adopted too. The animals are gentle and eager for attention, they sell ice cream cones filled with food you can feed them. Visit the giant horse, I’ve never seen one so big. The bakery has much to choose from and also sells produce, you can even get a bite to eat here.  There are several Amish towns in this particular area, next we were headed towards Charm, with a name like that what more can I say? Again, lots of agriculture here, Kris could drive for hours on these scenic roads, the view never grows tiresome. Walnut Creek, Winesburg and Wilmot are also nice stops, don’t hesitate to just drive around, each turn in the road brings another picture postcard view. 

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SLIDESHOW  

The time passed too quickly, as always, and we still had to make our way to Cleveland. We took 93 north till dusk fell around us then got on 77 to the city. After checking into our Bed and Breakfast, we had dinner at Momocho Mod Mex in Ohio City, just a few blocks from where we were staying. Their specialty is guacamole, and they offer many varieties, the menu is packed with delicious selections, we chose three small plates, empanadas with goat cheese and butternut squash, chilles rellenos that were out of this world, and a queso fundido with chorizo, yum! It was a day filled with breath-taking scenery and delectable food, now it was time to wind down and get some sleep.

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Roadtrip: Cleveland Ohio, West Side Market,

University Circle, Little Italy & Tremont

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It had been too long since our last visit to Cleveland; Saturday morning I could hardly wait to head over to West Side Market. While Detroit’s Eastern Market is spectacular, Cleveland’s  is the best indoor market in the Midwest, hands down . The extraordinary yellow brick market-house  was dedicated in 1912 and is a feast for the eyes and the appetite. With 180 indoor and outdoor stands there is something for everybody. Traverse the aisles of artisan breads, cheeses, applewood smoked meat and spices; grab yourself a crepe and a cup of French roast coffee. How about a piece of Guiness Stout Chocolate cake? Enough cookies, cannoli, cheesecake and brownies to satisfy any sweet tooth. From tamales to hummus to perogi and fresh fish, they’ve got it all. Rows of brightly colored fruits and vegetables line the adjacent corridors, samples of cantaloupe, mango, and watermelon are plentiful. The market was jammed with people picking up things for their weekend Bbq’s, others seemed to be there to just take it all in with their camera, we came just for the pleasure  of it.

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 Off we go to the East side of the city.

Most of you have heard  of Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but you may not know of an area called University Circle. This is Cleveland’s Cultural district, the Art, Natural History and Auto Avaition Museums are all within it’s boundaries; So too is Wade Oval, the Botanical Gardens and Severance Hall. Even the symphony plays here !

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Today we’ll take you to  the Cleveland Botanical GardensBy now you’re starting to wonder if we ever do anything but go to markets and gardens, the answer of course is yes! This time of year a Michigander has to soak up as much of the bounty of summertime as possible. Come January we’ll all be wishing for days like this!

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A world of beauty awaits you in the 18,000 sq ft conservatory; you can trek across continents from the desert to the lush rain forest with 50 varieties of butterflies. Climb the stairs to the lookout and get a birds eye view of the canopy. Tiny brightly colored birds stand out among plants as they eat, drawing attention from visitors. Journey outdoors to one of the many themed gardens, the Rose Garden shows off 50 varieties of Roses or take time for a little respite in the Japanese Garden. Fountains and waterfalls add a sense of serenity, find a secluded spot to sit and take it all in. The Hydrangeas were in full bloom, branches sagging with the weight of large pink and periwinkle flowers, tall Astilbe with their fluffy plumes reach toward the blue sky. Kids will love playing in the Children’s Garden; there’s a playhouse with a garden on the roof, brightly colored flowers in beds have name tags that teach you what they are, and garden tools invite youngsters to dig in. Of all the conservatories we visit, I think Cleveland has the best outdoor gardens, they are absolutely breath taking.

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The Crawford Auto Aviation Museum is just a short walk from CBG and was our next stop. The museum is home to a great many cars, both elegant and cool, old and really old. Large spoke wheels and tons of chrome remind you of days gone by. Nothing quite defines an era like an automobile; the earliest of cars resembled carriages, fins and chrome of the 50′s, bright colors and stripes of the 70′s, there’s a little of everything here, and Kris likes it all. There are planes and a personal helicopter to see, the lower floor features and old fashioned street scene from Cleveland’s past; Large historic photos of the city hang on the wall with autos from the appropriate year parked alongside.Carousel horses are scattered here and there and add a touch of whimsy. Just inside the main entry doors is a giant neon Cleveland Indian mounted on the wall; it seems to be a favorite spot to take photos, well, unless you are a Tiger fan! The historic Bingham-Hanna house is also part of the museum complex and can be reached through the CAAM. Now serving as part of the History Museum you can tour the main level and check out the elaborate decor and architecture, it is included in the admission price. There are changing exhibits; currently a display of vintage flags is available for your viewing pleasure.The Crawford Museum is about to undergo a major renovation, several areas were closed when we were there, so please check the progress before visiting.

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Little Italy is just a hop from University Circle, and is where we wanted to have lunch. Outdoor eating is a priority here and is offered at most establishments, but the heat drove us inside for lunch. We have eaten at several different cafes, we return most often toTratorria on the Hill on Mayfield. Big menu, big portions, everything is delicious here! We ordered the Antipasto Platter, Oh My……mounds of roasted eggplant, strips of red peppers, calamari salad, olives and Italian cheese. Then there was the Gnocchi Al Burro, delicate potato dumplings smothered in a creamy red sauce, a house specialty, all so tasty. 

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 This charming enclave is the center of Italian culture in northeast Ohio, and one of our favorite areas, this is a must visit when in Cleveland. Mayfield and Murray Hill Roads are the main hubs of activity; Restaurants, shops, galleries and merchants line the two lane streets; Parking can be a chore, but it’s well worth the effort. Now we needed to walk off at least some of the bread we ate, Little Italy is the perfect place for a stroll. We wandered in and out of shops and galleries, grateful for the air conditioning each time we entered. The selection of goods in this area is fantastic, whether it’s handmade art, wine or imported ceramics from Italy, I always bring something home.

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Back to the Bed & Breakfast to relax for bit before heading toTremont for dinner and a nightcap. Tremont is a bit of a hidden hot spot south of downtown. Located in a somewhat elevated area of the city, there are some great views of the metropolitan area. This neighborhood is home to many incredible restaurants, bars, and galleries; usually a little more on the high end side. The warm evening put us in the mood for something cold to eat; Parallax is known for their seafood and fish dishes, and exceptional Sushi. We were  happy  to be seated right away as we were hungry. The interior is modern decor with high ceilings and exposed brick walls, very nice. Candles flicker on wooden tables, you may need the assistance of candlelight to read the menu as the lighting is dim; our server was friendly and helpful. After perusing the menu we made our Sushi selections and waited for the food to arrive. Everything was delicious, great flavor combinations, the Sushi was fresh and had that soft texture. We had heard a lot of good things about this restaurant and it lived up to its reputation. 

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The last stop for the evening was Dante, also in Tremont. The outside of the building is intriguing, originally a bank it has been restored and converted to Chef Dante Boccuzzi’s signature restaurant. The interior features designs and art by local artists, bright orange walls contrast nicely with the dark wood, fabulous lighting extends down from the recessed decorative ceiling. There are tables and bar seating, but we got the best seats in the house; the safe! Yep, the safe door is permanently open and a single table sits in the middle, it’s a great space! They had $10 martini’s that night, so we each ordered a different one ; Kris had a White Chocolate and I had a Cosmopolitan, both were very good, so good in fact Kris had another one, this time a Chocolate Martini. It was really nice to just kick back and relax, and enjoy our drinks in such an unusual setting. Our waiter was great too, in fact he gets to Detroit frequently so we had a nice conversation with him. It seems there is always something new in Tremont and we continually enjoy our visits.

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Cleveland; Stone Gables B&B, Lake View

Cemetery, Vintage, Quarry Hill Winery, Lakeside

12JUL

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Sunday was our last day in Cleveland and we awoke to a decadent breakfast of Bananas Foster French Toast at our B & B . We shared our table with another couple, when Richard, the owner, set down our plates we all kind of looked at them in awe, once we tasted them there were small sighs and a series of mmmmmmm’s. First he makes a special banana bread and prepares it as french toast, it is then sprinkled  with warm banana slices that are just right, not too mushy, then the entire dish is topped off with a warm syrup and a dollop of whipped cream, this is seriously delicious! I was the last to finish as I took my time savoring every bite. Guests at Stone Gables Bed & Breakfast are spoiled with lovely rooms, great beds with super-soft linens, private bathrooms, homemade cookies to snack on, comfortable sitting areas, and of course incredible breakfasts. The historic home is located in Ohio City which is across the Cuyahoga River and west of downtown. This is a great little area with Victorian era homes, a community garden, and lots of great restaurants within walking distance of the B&B, you can also walk to West Side Market. We have been staying here for years and have always been delighted.

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Lake View Cemetery was our our first destination of the day, founded in 1869, it is known as Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum and Arboretum. The landscape itself is beautiful, it sits on a hilltop and provides a wonderful panorama of the surrounding area. One thing you have to see is The Garfield Monument, dedicated in 1890 to honor assassinated President James A Garfield, 20th President of the United States. This 180 ft tall building is amazing, you are free to come in and wander around; Start by ascending 64 steps all the way to the outdoor balcony for an uninterrupted view of  downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie, you’ll want to take some photos. As you descend the stairs stop on the balcony level for the best perspective of the outstanding mosaic tilework; The dome ceiling is a work of art, Angels representing North, South, East, and West are surrounded by glistening gold tiles, extravagant archways surround the circular space. A single chandelier lights the space above the statue of  President Garfield himself located on the main floor. The lower level displays the caskets of President Garfield and his wife, this is the only presidential casket on full display.

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 Many famous people are buried at Lake View; John D Rockefeller and his wife; check out their monument, Elliot Ness, inventor Garrett Morgan, and other well known Clevelanders. The monuments are magnificent, it’s a very peaceful place to walk around, you can also visit Wade Chapel and the Lake View Cemetery Dam. Bus and walking tours are offered, check the website for details.  CEMETERY SLIDESHOW

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Cleveland has a great Antiques district over on Lorain Ave; our favorite is Sweet Lorain, this place is groovy! 8,000 sq ft of Deco thru Modern that will have you oohing and aahhing. Everything from furniture and clothing to glass and lighting, very kitsch. Even if you are not a collector you are sure to have fun looking around. Further west in Lakewood there are a couple more vintage shops on Clifton; Flower Child is two floors of  furniture, barware, jewelry and clothing representing the 50′s thru the 70′s, again, very entertaining to see. Next door is a place called Big Fun Toy Store, and that’s exactly what it is; Jam packed with items from the 30′s to present day it is nostalgia nirvana. Plan on spending some time here, everywhere you look are reminders of childhhood days; Lite Brite, Star Wars, GI Joe, wax soda bottles with fruity liquid inside, candy buttons, and board games. On the website it says “Come Shopping, Leave Smiling”. I think that says it all.

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Heading out of town we stopped in at a little market and deli and grabbed some lunch. Afterwards it was to Mitchell’s Ice CreamShop for a double chocolate malt, they make it perfectly. Properly fed it was time to officially leave Cleveland.

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Kris has worked out a great scenic route home; jumping on Route 6 Lake Erie is nearly always in view. Beautiful parks with scenic overlooks and stately homes enhance the roadway. Just outside of Lorain we drop south and make our way to Ridge/Mason rd and start heading west. We wind through scenic countryside passing inviting  vegetable stands, historic Ohio barns with quilts painted on the side, and tiny villages. Just as you are becoming used to the view,what appears? A winery and orchard! Yep, just sitting out there in the middle of the country is Quarry Hill Winery & Orchards. Located in the town of Berlin Hts, the winery sits on the highest point of the farm, the vineyards peak is 834 ft above sea level, 100 feet higher than the surrounding land. With a distance of three miles from Lake Erie, on a clear day they say you can count the sailboats on the lake. In addition to tastings they also offer a light food menu with indoor and outdoor seating. You can purchase a bottle of wine to take home, or sit there and enjoy the view as you savor your selection. We tasted about six different wines and brought home a bottle of Apple Wine. We also picked up a quart of just picked cherries at the orchard.

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When Mason ends we make our way north crossing the Sandusky Bay then head east on the Marblehead Peninsula to Lakeside. Established in 1873 Lakeside was among the first Chautauqua institutions founded in the United States. Perfectly situated on Lake Erie it is picturesque from one end to the other. Come for the day or make reservations at one of the multiple charming B&B’s or hotels and and stay longer. We love just stopping in for a few hours; Take a walk over to the lake, have a seat in one of the chairs on the deck overlooking the shoreline. Wander along the shoreline path taking in gorgeous gardens studded with lillies and hollyhocks, the largest homes reside waterside. Tiny streets are lined with charming cottages, you could walk for hours here. The compact downtown has everything you need; restaurants, shops, and of course ice cream!  From miniature golf and shuffleboard to kayaks and historic tram tours, you won’t run out of things to do.

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LAKESIDE SLIDESHOW  

 

Roadtrip Ohio: Maumee River

8MAY

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Today I will finish up our spring tour of Ohio with a trip along the Maumee River. We begin our journey by hopping on I-75 south to Toledo. On the west side of the city  is the Toledo Botanical Garden. This is a lovely place to walk around; free to the public year round it consists of 60 acres of display gardens, sculpture and Crosby Lake. We come in through the Elmer Drive entrance; the Tulips were Stunning! Tall yellow and purple Tulips create a border the length of the garden wall. Once inside we got ourselves parked and were drawn to another Tulip bed; these were a magnificent orange. We began exploring the grounds in the shade garden; Azaleas were in full bloom showing off blossoms of hot pink in contrast to the white Dogwoods. Daffodils had come and gone but replacing them were Anemone, hostas and Forget-me-nots. This area is lush, you can have a seat at the nearby gazebos and relax while watching the fish swim in the pond beside it.  Traversing the grass we joined up with the paved path passing several large pieces of sculpture provided by Toledo’s Art In Public Places program. We crossed over the water on the wooden bridge to gently rolling grassy hills dotted with fragrant Crabapple trees. The informal gardens are divided by a stone wall; the flowers here were just beginning to come up, the pergola already covered in Wisteria vine in bloom…. much to the delight of the local bees. We meandered around the grounds encountering a herb garden that smelled fantastic, and several other Tulip displays. Each time we come it looks completely different, but it is always a place of beauty and tranquility.

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Back in the car we make our way to River Rd, as we pass the zoo we have to remember to veer left at the Harvard Circle Cloud Fountain to continue on thescenic byway. The river flows from the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie through northwest Ohio into northeast Indiana. This section of the drive, through the city of Maumee is picturesque; stately homes sit back from the road, large front yards lend themselves to exceptionally well-tended landscapes. It has a very Grosse Pointe feel to it and all the while the river is in view. The unique thing about taking this trip in the spring is that Walleye come here to spawn  from the west end of Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St Clair. As a matter of fact this is one of the largest migrations of river bound Walleye east of the Mississippi. It starts in early March and continues through the end of April. You are probably saying “so”. What that means is, fishermen come from all around to catch themselves some Walleye, it is quite a spectacle. Instead of using boats men wade out into the river and cast their lines, when I say men, I mean lots and lots of men, on a weekend there may be 1000 fishermen out in the water. It’s a whole to-do complete with waders, fishing caps, coolers and hibachi’s. Not getting any bites? No problem, just stroll on over to the nearest truck selling fishing lures and try something new.

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 In the town of Waterville we cross over to the south side of the river. Here the terrain becomes a little more country in feel; houses are farther apart, and we start to see farms. Our next stop was the charming hamlet of Grand Rapids; main street looks like a picture on a postcard. Victorian style brick buildings, tiny shops, restaurants, an ice cream stand, and a wonderful view of the river. We meandered in and out of storefronts; the general store has a fun variety of vintage style candy in large glass jars, along with chocolate and other treats. New stores seem to be opening all the time; if you like those girlie home decor shops grab your girlfriends and make a trip down. Antiques from furniture to jewelry are in abundance, they even have an old fashioned book store. It was a pretty day so we picked up a few slices of pizza from Pisanello’s and ate at a picnic table overlooking the Maumee. Grand Rapids has done a marvelous job making the town a wonderful place to visit; they even have an original lock from the Miami Erie Canal, it’s fascinating to see. As a matter of fact throughout much of the drive there is evidence remaining from the old canal.

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We continued to follow the river westward and now there are even fewer homes; farmland is abundant, fields have been turned over and look ready to plant. The scenery was stunning; Redbuds are planted every few feet and were loaded with purple flowers, the scent of lilacs and honeysuckle drifted in through the car windows. It’s a beautiful drive on winding, hilly roads. In Napoleon we see the landmark that reminds us to cross back over the river; a giant can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup! Campbell’s has a plant here and the icon stands on the grounds. Before we know it we have arrived in the city ofDefiance; with a population of over 16,000 this is a good size town. In 1845 a canal system linked Defiance with Toledo to the north and Cincinnati to the south, the town exploded with growth. Homes and buildings are built in Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Ann and Colonial Revival styles. Downtown is still in tact and rich with historic buildings. We stopped in the local coffee shop for refreshments and wouldn’t you know it, we stumbled right into the annual Chocolate Walk, yay! The coffee shop was giving out tasty samples of Ohio’s own Buckeye candies, a combination of chocolate and peanut butter. We walked through town a little, both to stretch our legs and find more chocolate……

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Back in the car again, this time heading toward home. Ohio is known for its wonderful park systems; the Maumee river valley is loaded with wonderful metro parks. Each one we explored had free admission and great views of the river. Independence Dam State Park offers a hiking trail that was once the towpath for the Miami/Wabash/Erie Canal, it is three miles long and winds  between the old canal and the river.  We journeyed back the same way we had come; the fishermen were gone now and towns were coming to life on this mild Friday evening. When we arrived back in Grand Rapids we stopped for an ice cream. For the remainder of the way we followed 65 on the south side of the river through Perrysburg and back into Toledo. We said farewell to the Maumee while enjoying a picturesque downtown view. We took it all in, glad to have had an amazing day and a wonderful ride.

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