Tag Archives: Toledo

TOLEDO: Old West End

30 Jun

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We are in Toledo, Ohio today for the 44th Annual Old West End Festival. Spread out over 25 blocks in the Old West End neighborhood, activities include historic home tours, garage sales, antiques, food trucks, music and an art fair. We pick a centrally located street in the neighborhood to park on, sidewalks are crowded with pedestrians in search of a great find or that ‘can’t live without’ item at one of the many garage sales. Small children have set up lemonade stands on the lawn, homeowners have relocated their grills to the front of the house and are selling hot dogs with all the fixings, I spot an ice cream truck parked up ahead, a band plays on a large front porch.

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  The houses in the neighborhood are an eclectic combination of architectural styles, very Toledo. We stroll by traditional Tudors with stucco, wood beams, leaded glass and large front porches. Queen Ann’s, Victorians, Romanesques, Arts and Crafts and Edwardian’s are well represented. I love the detail in the trim, doors and stone. Elaborate gardens and well maintained landscapes fill front lots, antique urns are spilling over with colorful flowers and vines. Graceful entryways are welcoming, window boxes are packed with annuals, wrought iron surrounds balconies and yards, many homes have sleeping porches. Built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries this is where the wealthy families of Toledo resided.

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Garage sales trail out onto driveways and lawns, tables lined end to end lead us to backyards; bottles of ice water are for sale at every stop. From the really old to the not-so-old, items range from furniture and clothing to antique hardware, sterling silver, souvenir spoons, housewares, glassware, kitsch and seasonal decorations. As we walk from house to house well-behaved dogs rest on shady porches, a pair of cars drive down the street draped in a fish costume, how fun is that? Artists display their wares hoping to sell them to passersby; framed paintings, stained glass, and bold, colorful, hand painted furniture get our attention. One house has gobs of vintage items for sale, the sides of their car have been covered in bamboo, a portable tiki bar follows behind. Down the street another art-car is covered in stones, car parts and toys in every color of the rainbow. The Freeman-Hirt home on Glenwood Ave is on the home tour, the line stretches down the block, I think it’s my favorite house in the neighborhood. Built in 1896 it’s a mix of architectural styles, conical towers, shingle and clapboard siding, concave gables, the witches hat dormers are awesome.

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Block after block we pass beautiful homes, ornate apartment buildings, lush green lawns, food stands and antiques. Did I mention the super cool phone booth for sale? On the side of a lovely old building an acrobat swings on a length of white silk, a young girl gives a hula-hoop a whirl. Music is being played in a neighborhood park, listeners sit at tables drinking cold beer. We make our way through the marketplace, art fair and a quick pass through the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion, the air conditioning feels fantastic. We are done, time for lunch.

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Tony Packo’s is a Toledo tradition, with two locations in town we choose Packo’s At The Park by Fifth Third Field where the Toledo Mud Hens play. The interior displays cool old neon signs, vintage black and white photos and baseball related items. Our server takes our order quickly and returns promptly with icy cold soft drinks; in no time at all lunch arrives. The Fried Pickle Salad is heaped onto the plate, piles of mixed greens and romaine are topped with blue cheese crumbles, bacon, grape tomatoes croutons and, you guessed it, Tony Packo’s fried pickles; served with house Italian dressing, it’s really good–hey, don’t knock it till you try it! The two-dog combination comes with two Hungarian hot dogs slathered in house hot dog sauce ( think chili), mustard and onion. I love that slight crunch when biting into the hot dogs. We choose the paprikas dumplings with gravy for our side and they are delicious as always, yum!

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Kris likes to drive around cities we visit and see what’s new, the Uptown District is beginning to come to life with Handmade Toledo leading the way. The 10,000 sq ft building from the 1930’s was originally a car dealership, through the years businesses came and went, today it is a combination maker shoppe, workshop space, gallery and event space. The Maker Shoppe’s main focus is the work of local and regional artists, makers and designers, all items are for sale. There are lots of Toledo-centric items such as T-shirts, coasters and mugs. The pieces are of high quality, paintings are eye-catching. A nice variety of jewelry is offered along with ceramics, candles and textiles; they even have beans from one of the local coffee roasters. Speaking of coffee……..

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Before we hit the road and head north we stop in at Black Kite Coffee and Pies, a local coffee shop on Collingwood. A gorgeous mural covers an entire side of the building, a tribute to the street, neighborhood and city the shop is located in. Inside, a white tin ceiling adds character, pendant lights hang above the counter, a refrigerated case displays the days offerings; all food is made in house, from scratch. We each order a cold brew, and are immediately distracted by 4 large donuts on exhibit. Holey Toledough(great name!) creates handcrafted doughnuts in flavors like maple bacon, siracha honey sesame, pineapple macadamia and raspberry limoncello and sells them through local businesses and farmers markets. Unable to choose just one, we go for the raspberry and the pineapple, eat half and switch; both are very good. Coffee and doughnuts, not a bad combination…. It’s been a great day in Toledo, just a hop and a skip from Detroit, we’ll be back.

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TOLEDO: Historic Old West End Festival

15 Jul

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In 1909 the city of Toledo threw a grand party; a true Mardi Gras festival complete with King Wamba and Queen Sancha.  These days they call it the Historic Old West End Festival and this year was the 103rd anniversary of the King Wamba Carnival Parade. Taking place the first weekend in June, the parade kicks off the festival and celebrates the beginning of Summer. We were up and out of the house early as the parade began at 10am; having experience on our side we knew exactly where to stand on the parade route for the best view. The weather was perfect, sunshine and blue sky with a gentle breeze. As start time got closer, space on  sidewalks became scarce. We stretched our necks looking for some sign of activity; our ears let us know the procession had begun. It was quite a display; stilt walkers, jugglers, pooch parade, vintage cars, Art Cars and our city’s own Detroit Party Marching Band. There were members of Cirque du Soleil and the Glass City Rollers, all smiling and waving to onlookers. Young people, old people, both participating and observing. A cavalcade of bands towed on flatbeds, dancers, bicycles, even a beautiful vintage Chris Craft wood boat. What a spectacle it was! There’s nothing like the pageantry of a parade. King Wamba and Queen Sancha passed by receiving cheers from the crowd on the way to their coronation.

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When the last of the parade had passed us by we made our way over to the rest of the festival; throughout the entire historic neighborhood you will find yard sales. The district itself is made up of 25 city blocks squared, that’s a lot of yards! The architecture here is eclectic and wonderful; Victorian, Edwardian. Queen Ann and Romanesque are side by side with Arts and Crafts, Neoclassical and Colonial Revival. It is truly an amazing collection of homes that are lovingly maintained. House Tours are also available; there is just so much to see we have never taken the time to actually do the tour.

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Simply walking up and down streets like Collingwood and Scottwood showcase some of the neighborhoods finest homes. Yard sales have a bit of everything, antique to modern, artwork to baby items; you never know what you may find. The Old West End looks different from our historic neighborhoods, the homes are definitely unique to the area. Folks seem to all know each other and who’s doing what to their house; these types of quarters are usually tight-knit. We walked and walked, and Kris took photo after photo trying to capture the beauty. All that walking and we didn’t buy a thing…..Next up, the Art Fair.

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The juried Art Fair is held on the grounds surrounding the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavillion, which is quite lovely. Artists come from surrounding states to display and sell their wares. The art work is always top quality; pottery, jewelry and glass. One booth made “Bots”, these wacky little robot creatures created from spoons, tea strainers and even an old metal Band-Aid box, that was our favorite booth. The Festival is large and also includes children’s activities, food and even beer to go with live music; a very nice setup.

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We were ready to sit and have some lunch; pulling out of the residential area we spotted a fabulous structure on Collingwood, Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral. With a name like that you know it’s going to be pretty awesome! Awesome, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of it. The church is built in the Spanish Platteresque style, I’ve never heard of it before but I can tell you it is stunning. The exterior is granite and exquisitely carved limestone; inside the main altar is carved of marble imported from Spain. We just took a quick peek as some worshipers were seated in the pews. Just from that brief look I couldn’t help but be awed by the bays that line the nave, the stained glass windows, most notably the 28 ft in diameter Rose window, the pulpit carved from white oak. This definitely calls for a return visit.

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At last we reached our lunch destination; Maumee Bay Brew Pub located on Broadway. The building is cool; it opened in 1859 as the Oliver House Hotel. It is said that several presidents have stayed here: Abe Lincoln, Grant and Garfield. The interesting thing is at one time it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Spanish-American war and has been named one of Ohio’s top 10 Most Haunted Buildings. We didn’t see any ghosts on our visit. The restaurant is located on the second floor in the former main ballroom; exposed brick walls, wood plank flooring and tons of memorabilia on the walls. Antique bottles, beer tappers and vintage beer cans are all on display. As we were led to a table I almost stopped in my tracks as a spotted a table of three sharing a 12 inch giant pretzel……for real! Served in what appeared to be a pizza tin it is served with cups of spicy brown mustard, cream cheese and cheddar beer sauce for dipping, if only we had brought a few friends. The menu is typical brew pub fare, 1/2 lb burgers, appetizers and brick-oven pizza. From the seating area you have a great view of MBBC 500 gallon tanks of their own crafted beer. It was pizza and beer for us; I had a porter, Kris a King Prunus, and the signature Oliver House Pizza. All was delicious; toppings of artichoke hearts, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms and carmelized onions created a tasty combination with their 5-cheese blend. It felt good to sit in the air conditioning and quench our thirst and our hunger.  Toledo  has a lot to offer, check it out sometime.

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Roadtrip Ohio: Maumee River

8 May

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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 the scenic 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 of Defiance; 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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