Tag Archives: Columbus Ohio

Columbus Ohio: Wandering…

6 May

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We’ve dipped south about 3 hours into Columbus Ohio; after spending the night in German Village we take a drive around the area before heading downtown. On Kossuth, a quiet neighborhood street, we pass an unassuming cement block building, a Packard Service sign hangs above the open door, a 1957 Nash Ambassador Custom peeks out onto the street, vintage signs dangle from the ceiling. What is this place? We park at the corner and wander into the building, we are greeted by a gentlemen asking us if we’re his appointment–no, do we need one? He smiles and invites us into the garage, he explains he is expecting a local couple to come have a look around and encourages us to do the same–thank you! The building was built in 1930 for 80 years it was an automotive repair and paint shop, today it holds the personal collection of these two business partners. They own about 40 cars between them, then there’s the soap box derby cars hanging on the wall, signs from gas and oil companies, antique gas pumps, banners, flags, Dodge, Buick, Plymouth and Packard memorabilia, and the largest collection of license plates I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

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Cars are parked single file against the right wall, at an angle on the left. The Nash is the first vehicle to greet us, look at that rear vent window. The red 1958 Edsel is gorgeous, see those buttons in the center of the steering wheel? P for park, R, reverse, N, neutral, Hi and Lo, believe it or not, that’s how you shift!  The 1956 Cadillac has the gas cap hidden under the tail light, the 56 Imperial is elegant, there’s another Edsel over there–powder blue, cool door-mounted mirror, look at that E mounted on the front fender, sweet. Lots of chrome, huge bumpers, designs resemble aircraft, torpedoes, rockets. The back section holds older vehicles; a bunch of Packards, an Auburn. There’s so much to look at; display cabinets are filled with hood ornaments, advertising and trinkets. Goodyear, Shell, Mobil, neon signs, city plaques for licence plates, how cool. It was sheer luck we happened by when the door was open, the owner was extremely generous with his time and stories. If you’d like to check out the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum for yourself, call 614-271-0888 and make an appointment to stop by.

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Before you read any further, do me a favor, click on this link: “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte”. Done? Good. We’re in the Town-Franklin neighborhood on East Town Street at a free, public, Topiary Park, we are looking at the topiary interpretation of George Seurat’s said painting, in other words, it’s a landscape of a painting of a landscape–it’s the only known topiary of a painting. The garden was started in 1988, local sculptor James T Mason designed and built the bronze frames and planted the shrubs. His wife, Elaine, was the original topiarist, she trained the city gardeners how to trim the topiaries. The pond was added in 1989 representing the Seine in Paris, hills were also added to the landscape. The gatehouse came along in 1998 and is home to the Visitors Center.

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I have seen reproductions of A Sunday Afternoon multiple times, here the Parisians enjoying a leisurely afternoon are made of Yew but you totally get the picture. Throughout the park there are 54 human figures, 8 boats, 3 dogs, a monkey and a cat. We walk along taking it all in; flower beds are freshly weeded and mulched, daffodils are in bloom, shrubs are just starting to fill in. I recognize the woman with the parasol and large bustle who resides in the forefront of the painting. Characters gaze out across the grounds, a man in a boat is fishing. They sit, they stand, in solitaire, arm and arm or groups; books, top hats, more parasols, it all comes together when you know what you’re looking at. The painting itself hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. We exit the garden wandering past Cristo Rey High School; decorative brick patterns and stonework surrounding the windows are magnificent, then  onto East Town Street to check out the spectacular homes.

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Now we’re on the near east side of Columbus in the Olde Towne East neighborhood; stately homes line the streets, flowering trees are in bloom, let’s take a walk. This is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods; farmhouses once occupied the land, by the 1870’s it transitioned into a subdivision of grand houses built by industrialists, judges, businessmen, lawyers, mayors, governors, you know, the rich and famous of Columbus OH. Back in the day locals nicknamed it the ‘Silk Stocking District’ referring to the residents expensive clothing. By the 1950’s much of the housing was abandoned by the wealthy, palatial homes were divided into apartments, nursing homes or rooming houses; the final blow came with the construction of the highways. Same story, different city. Thanks to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the Neighborhood Association was able to begin preservation efforts of Olde Towne East in the 1970’s.

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Today the area is once again on the rise; gentrification has begun, new businesses are opening, Main Street is a mix of public and private development. They say there are over 50 architectural styles spread out over 1,000 homes. We walk past gorgeous 2 and 3-story homes that have been restored or are in the process of restoration; wrought iron fences, columns, turrets, ornate moldings and trim grace lavish residences. Edwardian, Victorian, Second Empire, Romanesque, Italianate, well, you get the idea. Most are brick some have leaded glass windows, beautiful stonework surrounds windows and doorways. Streetscapes are lovely; lawns are neatly kept, ornamental shrubs and trees fill the landscape, today Tulips are in bloom. Olde Towne East was the subject of a documentary film, Flag Wars, back in 2003; after many hardships it’s wonderful to see the neighborhood return to its former glory.

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COLUMBUS, OHIO: German Village

29 Apr

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We are in the lovely, historic German Village neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus Ohio. Spring has already sprung, the temperature today is supposed to reach the low 80’s, luring us outdoors, on foot, through neighborhood streets. The first order of business is breakfast, there is a wonderful mix of small businesses nestled among charming homes in this area. Walking down 3rd St we approach a superb little bakery called Pistacia Vera, cute cafe tables are drenched in morning sun, customers sip on coffee and tea while eating fresh-baked pastries. Inside, a tantalizing array of baked goods await us, for me it doesn’t get much better than a buttery, flaky croissant, well, unless you add chocolate, pain au chocolat it is! Now we are ready to continue our expedition.

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The Village, settled by German immigrants, was mainly developed between 1840-1914, with a majority of the structures built in the last quarter of the 19th century. The jewel of the neighborhood is Schiller Park; it is the gathering place, the activity center, a place for festivals, picnics, reunions. This is where folks walk their dog, soak up the sun, take respite from a hectic day, sit by a fountain and read a good book. A sizable bronze statue of Friedrich von Schiller, the famous German poet for which the park was named, stands proudly in the park, some of his quotes are chiseled into the granite promenade near the statue. Today the roughly 23 acres are full of action; dogs race after frisbees, joggers are getting in swim-suit shape, Canada geese and ducks paddle around in the compact lake.

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The Huntington Gardens are coming to life, everything is lush and green. Square in shape, the park is bordered by some of the village’s finest homes. After walking the entire perimeter we take a seat on a bench facing the Umbrella Girl fountain; I think this is my favorite spot. The original Umbrella Girl mysteriously disappeared, Columbus sculptor Joan Wobst is responsible for the statue we see today of a young German girl in a dirndle carrying her shoes and holding an umbrella. Village native Phil Kientz designed the octagonal pond that surrounds her, if you look closely you’ll notice the designs in the sandstone resemble those found in doors and cornices throughout the neighborhood. 

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Not far from the park is Barcelona, a Spanish fusion restaurant with one of the best patios in the city. We have timed our arrival perfectly, we have our choice of tables. The space is perfect. Flower pots are brimming with colorful pansies, leafy ferns bask in the sun, water flows gently into the above ground Koi pond, blue umbrellas shield us from the warmth of the afternoon, perennials are making their return. We sip on glasses of ice water as we check out the Siesta Fiesta menu, feeling famished I think we ordered half of the menu! The plate of crusty bread and dip of olive oil and some kind of sun-dried tomato mixture disappears instantly. The parade of small plates begins. Patatas Bravas, delicious chunks of twice fried potatoes, garlic aioli and spicy tomato sauce, next, a perfectly ripe avocado stuffed with goat cheese served with a handful of mixed greens, a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette is drizzled over top of everything, then the chilled spiced peach soup, if you like peaches, you’ll love it. Then there’s the Costillas, braised beef short ribs in a Spanish blue cheese mushroom sauce a little green olive aioli and fried leeks, the meat just falls apart—- had to get more bread to soak up the amazing sauce; did I mention the Sangria…… The meal was outstanding, the atmosphere delightful, the service excellent.

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Time to walk. When we come to German Village we just wander, today tulips and daffodils are in full bloom, giant bumble bees gather by the dozens in weeping cherry blossoms. Homeowners have been busy filling urns and window boxes with pansies, violas and Gerbera Daisies. Each house is unique from the wrought iron gates to the stained glass windows. There’s a strong sense of community in the Village, residents walk down the street stopping to admire a neighbor’s yard, greetings are exchanged, compliments given. Die-hard gardeners work diligently creating manicured lawns and picture perfect landscapes; in one yard there’s a statue of a woman tending her lupines, it’s quite beautiful. Roots of mature trees have had their way with brick-paved sidewalks, it’s a good idea to glance down from time to time. This is a designated historic district, the facades of houses have changed little in the last 100 years, isn’t that wonderful?

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Jeni’s German Village is a walk-up ice cream shop consisting of a blackboard menu, take-out window and a smattering of colorful patio tables and chairs. With the old brick building as a backdrop, a string of white lights, and the tree-lined street, this sidewalk shop exudes a charm. Kris reads the list of today’s flavors, he smiles when his eyes reach Brambleberry Crisp. With cone in hand we continue our stroll. Like so many other cities or neighborhoods German Village has seen it’s share of hard times; two wars of anti-German sentiment forced changes to street names, they even changed the name of the park for a while, eventually reclaiming the name Schiller Park. This area was home to as many as seven breweries, then came prohibition, the district eventually fell into decline. In 1960 the German Village Society was formed, things started to change; homes were renovated, businesses moved in, they say it is the largest privately funded restoration in the US. It is truly the premier place to live in Columbus.

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Our time in the city is running short; we have walked for hours having seen quaint red-brick cottages, grand homes, marvelous displays of tulips. It seems every other person we pass has a four-legged companion; I have enjoyed my encounters with friendly pooches happy to get a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. Walking in the direction of the Jeep I see the words Chocolate and Coffee on a storefront window, our pace picks up a little. Winans Fine Chocolates and Coffees has been making fine chocolates and candy in the German tradition for 5 generations. Approaching the door a cream-colored canine is napping on the concrete, maybe he needs a shot of espresso. The shop is aromatic, a blend of fresh ground coffee and chocolate, kinda like heaven…. We are pleased to find they have cold-brewed coffee, it’s one of the best we’ve had anywhere. Now for something chocolate, the glass case has rows of amazing looking treats, shelves display boxes and bags of milk and dark varieties, but it’s the dark chocolate Oreo that calls my name.

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Contented, we head north via the scenic route. The drive is an integral part of the get-away; Kris has refined the route over the years into a pleasant 2-lane trip through farm country and tiny towns. It has been a great couple of days, though we’ve only traveled a couple of hundred miles, it feels as if we have been somewhere far away. 

Columbus Ohio: A Breath of Spring

22 Apr

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About this time every year Kris and I jump in the car and head about 3 hours south to Columbus Ohio to get a little head start on Spring. You wouldn’t think there would be much of a difference 200 miles south of here, but there is! We head out of town under a perfectly clear blue sky, by the time we reach Columbus the temperature is in the 70’s. Last time we were in town we read about an upcoming exhibit on the 1950’s at the Ohio History Center Museum, this is our first stop.  Of course the first image most people conjure up of the 50’s is poodle skirts, juke boxes and Happy Days-like scenes. The pop culture, music, art, literature and design of that decade defined our country; the influence of that time is still apparent today.

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The exhibit is titled “1950’s Building The American Dream”, to the right a shiny silver Airstream is hooked up to beautiful copper 1957 Chevy Bellaire. Just inside the exhibit a reel mower rests along the fence of a perfectly manicured Astroturf lawn belonging to a  real, full size, completely furnished Lustron home. This is what we came for. After WWII 12 million soldiers returned home, there was a housing shortage, prefab houses were seen as a quick solution to the problem, thus the Lustron home was born, er, manufactured. The steel houses were made like cars in a former aircraft plant in Columbus Ohio. Flatbed trucks would deliver the porcelain enamel-coated steel panels to the concrete foundation the home would sit on. Panels were assembled with nuts and bolts, the whole process took about two weeks. Radiant heating was installed in the ceiling, china cabinets, book cases, cabinets and shelves were built-in. Houses were one-story ranch style, you could choose from three floor plans and four color combos.

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Cardboard cut-outs of the ideal family greet us at the front of the home; dad looks dapper in his overcoat and hat, while mom looks lovely in her matching red coat and hat, holding her baby daughter in one hand and a homemade pie in the other. Just inside the front door we enter the authentically furnished family room; Nat King Cole croons from the nearby record player, period newspapers and magazines rest neatly on an end table, I think my grandmother may have had a jaguar lamp like the one on top of the television set. The house is full of visitors like us, signs encourage us to make ourselves at home; little girls play dress up and walk about wearing hats and dresses from back in the day. A boy about 8 is putting on the old adjustable metal roller skates to give roller skating a whirl. Down the hall we pass a full bathroom complete with tub/shower, every detail has been seen to right down to the Stag after-shave powder.

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The next room belongs to the little boy in the family, the Roy Rodgers inspired curtains and bedspread are awesome. A young boy sits on the floor playing with Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, they don’t even need batteries. At the end of the hall is the Master Bedroom, I feel like I’ve just walked into my grandmothers bedroom; the vanity is built-in, vintage jewelry, hat boxes and a brush and mirror set are laid out for us to see. Closet doors slide open and closed, one is open to reveal what mom and dad would be wearing. This is a hands-on exhibit, we are welcome to try things on, sit on the furniture and play. In the main living area the dining room table is set for dinner, a cart acts as a portable bar complete with liquor bottles, ice bucket and glasses. The kitchen is a world all its own; magnets hold recipes to the metal walls, cabinets are filled with cool vintage dishes, a single-handle white Frigidaire keeps the food cold, the most interesting appliance is the combination dishwasher—-washing machine. Yes, that’s right folks, with the turn of a dial you can go from washing your dirty clothes to cleaning the dinner dishes! We pass through the laundry room complete with a clothes wringer and ironing board on our way to the backyard. 

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This was the ideal of what every backyard was supposed to look like in 1950; a picnic table and bbq are in the back corner, Jarts and Hula-Hoops encourage family fun and then there’s the hatch leading to the bomb shelter…. Lustron built homes from 1948 until 1950 when the company went bankrupt, a total of 2,498 were built, few remain, which is why it is such a treat to be able to see the real thing in person. We walk through the rest of the exhibit with its examples of life in the 50’s; tricycles, rocking horses, a coke machine, cigarette machine and juke box, have I mentioned aprons were a big thing? One vignette shows what a bride and groom would wear to their wedding along with examples of gifts they would receive. It has been fun traveling back in time.

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Kris drives us over to the German Village neighborhood where we have booked a room for the night through airbnb. This is where we will be spending the rest of our time in Columbus and it is absolutely the most quaint part of the city. Our host has arranged everything for our arrival including a parking permit that allows us to park right by our door, hooray. The house is located on Schiller Park, we are mere steps away from the tranquil setting and within walking distance to restaurants, shops and cafes. Our room is lovely, the home was built in 1814 and retains its historic charm, the fresh roses and chocolates make us feel welcome.

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It’s late and we have yet to have dinner. After freshening up we head out on foot in search of food. We meander down uneven brick streets, leaded glass windows glow with light from within, gas lanterns and lampposts illuminate many of the old-fashioned homes, flowering trees perfume the air. When we reach Mohawk Street we head to The Old Mohawk (naturally).  The building has operated as a tavern since 1933, the current owners have been here since 1977. This is definitely a neighborhood joint, patrons all seem to know one another as well as the staff. The interior is cozy with its brick walls, tin ceilings and horseshoe-shaped bar. First out of the kitchen is an order of corn nuggets: dollops of creamed corn deep-fried and served with house made salsa, I love these! The burger arrives soon after, a half-pound patty topped with sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, served with a side of fries. It doesn’t take long for the food to disappear.

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We step outside to a mild night resembling summer more than spring. Walking through German Village the patio of Lindey’s is still lively; patio tables are lit by candles, a fountain trickles in the distance, cocktails anyone? Crossing through the patio gate we take a table fountainside, cocktail menus are delivered along with glasses of ice water. I sip on a chocolate martini, Kris savors his Old Fashioned, it’s 10 pm on a Friday night in April and we’re sitting outdoors having drinks, life is good.

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Roadtrip: Historical Columbus, Ohio

6 Aug

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Morning has arrived, our list of activities is long; we dress, eat a delicious breakfast and head out the door. We drive directly over to The Ohio Statehouse located downtown on High Street, this Greek Revival building was completed in 1861 and has served as Ohio’s Capitol building ever since. State flags of Ohio wave atop flagpoles that line the walkways, large urns are crowded with tall grasses and annuals in bloom, the white limestone building looms ahead, a fountain trickles nearby, the scene is picturesque. The mercury is rising quickly, the air-conditioned interior provides immediate comfort. Our visit begins at the Statehouse Museum, the area is large; constructed of block and mortar the series of arches create a tunnel-like feeling; the arches themselves function to support the weight of the rotunda. Displays are made up of artifacts and images that tell us the history of the building and those responsible for its design and construction, along with those who have served here.

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Up the stairs we enter the Rotunda; the dome rises 120 feet above the marble floor, a single skylight bearing the Great Seal of the State of Ohio is lit up by the sun. There’s so much to take in, my eyes are transfixed by the pastel colored dome for the first few minutes. My gaze travels downward, walls are peach-colored, elaborate brass sconces resemble leaves, light glows from glass shades. Giant oil paintings grace the walls, each representing an important piece of the state’s history. Woodwork is minimal, stained dark and quite lovely. Huge stone archways lead to other sections of the building. The floor itself is a work of art, comprised of 4,957 pieces of marble, the starburst pattern in the center is the real attention-getter; there are 32 points, one for each state in the Union at the time the floor was laid. We amble the hallways, stopping in at rooms and galleries that pay tribute to Ohio’s early legislators; spaces are filled with antique portraits and period furnishings.

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 Voices lead us to the House Chamber. We strain to peek in windows, a fellow tourist points out a tiny elevator to the side gallery, we board without hesitation, the elevator comes to a stop and Kris slides the door open….Wow! From the rear balcony we have an outstanding view of the entire room; colors are muted and light. Architecturally, the room differs from the rest of the building; it is elaborate, ornate, decadent in style. The ceiling is coffered, leaves cast in plaster are three-dimensional, Corinthian columns are rich in detail, lavish chandeliers of brass, wrought iron and frosted glass hang like pendants from the ceiling. Desks date back to 1909 and reside in a semi-circle on rich floral carpet, Abraham Lincoln spoke here in 1861. We move about the room taking it in from all angles. 

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The atrium, built in 1993, connects the original Statehouse to the Senate building, here giant sconces that once weathered the elements  show great patina. We step inside the building and are face to face with the Grand Stair Hall, the double marble staircases are stunning, the ceiling, spectacular. This structure was built in 1901 as the judiciary annex, today all Senate offices are located here. For the next few minutes my feet will not move, the wall ahead a series of stacked arches, my stare finally settles on the muraled ceiling, I tip my head back studying the scenes; art, justice, agriculture and manufacturing are all represented, again a single skylight illuminates the space. Kris is busy snapping photos, I call out to him several times asking if he took a picture of this and that, he assures me he did. We ascend the grand staircase, the area is dimly lit by elegant fixtures, doors are locked but a few windows allow us access. After investigating fully, we leave the building and drive to our next destination.

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North of downtown the Ohio History Center Museum and Ohio Village give visitors a glimpse into Ohio’s past. No matter where we travel I like to visit the local history museum, it provides a wonderful connection to the people and community. The building itself has a 1970’s feel about it, large open spaces, lots of concrete and windows, kind of funky. We take the stairs to the plaza level, here we find the permanent White Castle exhibit, yes folks, White Castle began right here in Columbus Ohio in 1921! Glass cabinets  display photos of employees in uniform, advertisements, and the famous cardboard cartons those irresistible, little steamed burgers are served in. Just looking at all that memorabilia makes us hungry. Back on the main level we roam from room to room, beginning in ancient Ohio, traversing centuries to the recent past. Follow The Flag shares stories of the Ohioans who carried battle flags, with actual Civil War battle flags. Centuries of Change takes us from agriculture to the auto industry, we sit in an old wooden trolley and look back at early household items such as furniture, toasters, tv’s and vacuums.

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Just outside the museum doors Ohio Village awaits us; a recreation of a 19th century Ohio village, docents are dressed in period costume and show us what life was like in the 1800’s. Most buildings are made of wood and are simple in style; the furniture maker is also the undertaker, the owner of the general store welcomes us and tells us about the goings-on in town. The dressmakers shop has a lovely selection of material and hats. Homes and hotels are modest, we smiled at the print shop, letterpress has come full circle and is back in vogue. The gravel pathways take us past the school house, church and bank, leading us back to the museum. Time to catch a quick lunch in town then back to the bed and breakfast to freshen up.

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Summer is travel time for the Detroit Derby Girls, we make it a point to catch one out-of-state bout each season, tonight we are cheering on our home team as they take on the Ohio Roller Girls. The bout is taking place at the Ohio Expo Center at the fairgrounds, the round building is retro-cool, red lantern-type lights are scattered about the ceiling, walls are made of glass. We are relieved to find 2 open front-row seats, decked out in DDG t-shirts we are definitely in the minority. In the first bout Ohio’s Gang Green plays our Motor City Disassembly Line, sadly, our team did not fare well. The second bout started out much better, in the first half it looked as if Detroit’s Fatal Femme, Racer Mc Chaser, Roxanna Hardplace and Ghetto Barbie would be victors over Ohio’s Pearl Rogi, Kill Basa, Burnadeath and Texas Chainsaw Sasskicker. Alas, the second half did not go as well, Ohio pulled away and claimed the victory- ouch!

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We are having dinner at Shoku in Grandview,another charming Columbus district. Just a few short blocks long, it is home to independent shops, a theater and local sidewalk cafes. It is a perfect summer evening, the temperature has dipped slightly, making it ideal for patio dining. This is one of our go-to restaurants when in Columbus, we don’t need a menu to decide, Fire pot chicken and a couple of sushi rolls. Our selections arrive at the same time, the firepot chicken is lightly breaded, vegetables are crisp, smothered in a light spicy sauce it is delicious, the sushi is fresh and tasty. We linger at our table long enough for our food to settle and make room for dessert;  Jeni’s Splendid Ice ream is right across the street…….

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No visit to Columbus is complete without Jeni’s Ice Cream! The sidewalk up and down the street is crowded with folks indulging in tasty flavors such as Whiskey & Pecan, Riesling Poached Pear, Queen City Cayenne or Kris’s favorite, Brambleberry Crisp. The narrow shop is buzzing with activity, servers are busy answering questions and handing out samples, the line moves quickly. A smile appears on Kris’s face as his waffle cone is handed to him over the counter, I wait patiently as my Black & Tan sundae is prepared, Salted Caramel ice cream, dark chocolate hot fudge, hot caramel and a sprinkling of smoked almonds, love it! A sweet ending to a great day.

ROADTRIP: Hocking Hills Ohio

30 Jul

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Today we are making our escape; we are trading in stop lights, strip malls and traffic for the peace and tranquility of nature, our destination, Hocking Hills. Located about an hour southeast of Columbus Ohio, we are taking the most direct route, there will be plenty of scenic roads to travel once we reach Hocking County. Just outside of Columbus we grab a quick lunch, we head south on 33, at the town of Rockbridge we make our right onto SR374, now the fun begins! Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Hocking Hills includes 9000 acres of State Forest land. We will spend the next several hours on roads that twist and turn, rise and fall, we’ll view sandstone cliffs, hiking trails, recess caves, deep gorges and waterfalls, yes, this is Ohio.

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Our first stop is Cantwell Cliffs, this gigantic horseshoe cliff features a 150 ft sheer drop to the valley floor, centuries of erosion have created deep valley’s, steep cliffs and an incredible rock shelter. Here the sandstone varies in color from a pale terracotta to a dark reddish-brown, there are patches of turquoise and white. We hike the trail that leads us into the shelter itself, surfaces are damp and slippery. A system of pathways has been created throughout the area, steps are carved into the rock itself, at times man has had to intervene with concrete or wood. It is Friday, so there are few visitors, we have the area to ourselves, we relish the tranquility. We look around in awe, a photo cannot do justice to all that we see, but Kris will do his best to capture the beauty. We are back on SR374, the road snakes through picturesque countryside, we follow the signs to Rock House. Each feature includes its own parking lot, signs make it easy to travel from one destination to the next.

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 Situated midway up a 150 ft cliff of blackhand sandstone Rock House is the only true cave in the park. We begin our trek by descending a long rock stairway, the surrounding area lush and jungly, we encounter other hikers, this is a popular site. We watch the others and follow their lead to the entrance of the cave; hollowed out by water, the main corridor is 200 ft long, some points are 20 to 30 ft wide. It is a difficult contrast at first, going from bright sunshine to near darkness, I hear a bat fly overhead, doves are roosting nearby. As our eyes adjust we are able to explore the area freely, it is amazing! The floor is worn smooth, probably from centuries of  human feet crossing the surface, walls are multi-hued and rough with cubby hole like spaces. I turn my back against the wall and look out what resembles a Gothic arched window, there are actually 7 of them separated by great sandstone columns. Kris follows the length of the corridor to a rock that juts out from the cave, he stands near the edge taking in the view; the ground below is dense with trees and vegetation, the sky a perfect powder blue.

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We zig and zag on SR374 until we reach Conkle’s Hollow, we follow the trail through this rugged rocky gorge said to be one of the deepest in Ohio. Everything here is so green! The valley floor is rich with Hemlock and Birch, ferns are prolific, I almost feel as if I have stumbled into some prehistoric land. The ravine is a half mile long, vertical cliffs rise skyward, it is tranquil and peaceful. There is a true sense of wilderness throughout the Hocking Hills area, we meander the roads rarely seeing another car, stop signs are few and far between. We arrive at Old Man’s Cave, probably the most popular attraction, a number of cars fill the parking lot. We amble along the trail, rocks play host to patches of moss in a variety of shades, tree roots hug layers of blackhand sandstone. Water cascades gently over worn stone to a swirling pool below, small concrete platforms look as if they are floating and act as steps to a bridge. We follow trails and overpasses straddling the creek, bridges span three levels of falls. Areas of rock appear as if they have been submerged for centuries, holes are worn through; formations remind me of underwater castles. We ascend the stairway to the cave itself, a wall made of individual rocks hugs the right side of the stairs; the site is popular for picture-taking. The trail leads us up, down and all around, when we come to the end we decide to find a place to have dinner.

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Here and there we have passed old-fashioned general stores, camp grounds and tiny villages. We are driving in the direction of the next attraction when we see a quaint little store, folks linger on the front porch drinking cold bottles of water, our thirst beckons us to stop. I wait in the car as Kris runs in for water, we are parked facing what appears to be a tiny log cabin, to the left of the screen door a sign simply reads “restaurant”. Kris returns with 2 bottles of ice-cold water and asks if I’m hungry, a question that rarely needs to be asked; the cashier recommended he check out the adjacent restaurant, so he does. When he returns to the car he says “we’re eating here”, so I grab my purse and follow him inside. This is the restaurant at the Inn at Cedar Falls, housed in two log cabins built in the 1840’s  words like quaint, charming and rustic come to mind, I mean, the place is fantastic! In a million years I never would have expected to find such a place out in the middle of nowhere. We arrive at the perfect time, there is a table available out on the patio, luck is definitely on our side. We have a seat under a large green umbrella, gardens behind us, the cabin to the front, whimsical planters are made from repurposed antiques. Mind you it is a hot June day, we left Detroit this morning and have been roaming through the wilds for the last several hours, we have to be quite a sight! Surrounding patrons are well dressed, their hair is combed, I am doubtful their shoes are caked with mud as ours are, still we greeted warmly by our waitress, nobody seems to mind that we are disheveled. We order quickly, we are famished.

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As we wait for our dinner we take a look inside the restaurant; the walls are the original log and concrete; knotty pine ceilings, hardwood floors make the tiny spaces cozy. Plaid upholstery covers dining room chairs, photos of Hocking Hills in all four seasons adorn the walls, the food smells delicious. We are sharing the house salad of the day and the smoked mozzarella, red pepper ravioli, both are absolutely wonderful. We finish our meal in record time, though we would love to linger, we have more to see before it gets dark. 

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Our next stop is Cedar Falls, this is the greatest volume waterfall in Hocking Hills and is reached by traversing 100 steps to the bottom of the gorge. We reach the bottom, delighting in the sheer rush of water as Queer Creek gushes over the blackhand sandstone, Hemlocks are plentiful. Visitors wade through the shallow water to a sandbar, getting a closer look at the falls. Ash Cave awaits us, up the stairs we go……

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I read that Ash Cave is the largest recess cave in the state of Ohio, measuring 700 ft end to end and 100 ft deep from the rear cave wall to the front edge, that’s pretty impressive. We ramble along the paved path (worth noting, the path to Ash Cave is wheelchair accessible), narrow, steep gorge walls on each side of us. We follow along, rounding a bend the space opens up, a tributary of Queer Creek spills over the rim of the cave to a pool below, the sound soft and soothing. Hemlock and Beech trees are rampant, they are tall and spindly. The cave is horseshoe-shaped, allowing tourists to duck behind the waterfall, there is no shortage of photo ops here. Dusk begins to fall just as we finish exploring, we are exhausted!

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We take the quickest route to Columbus, we are staying at the Short North Bed and Breakfast. When we arrive we are greeted by Trelene, she shows us to our room and asks us what time we’d like breakfast. After we are situated we head back downstairs for a nice glass of wine to unwind from our active day. Time to get some sleep, we have a lot to do tomorrow!

COLUMBUS: Deco, Dirt Bikes and Dining

29 Apr

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Every Spring, just before Easter,Kris and I make a trip down to Columbus 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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