Moravian College, Steel Stacks – Bethlehem, PA

BB137E36-B209-4F4D-AC59-CC6541753671Bethlehem has two interesting and very different attractions – the lovely old campus of Moravian College, with fieldstone and red brick buildings and gravestones dating back to the mid 1700’s and Steel Stacks, the former Bethlehem Steel factory — a massive hulking pile of rusted steel stacks and crumbling brick buildings that has been transformed into a destination with a hotel/casino, movie theaters, event space, tours, a local PBS station headquarters. I’d love to return and take the steel tour.

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Manheim, Mt. Gretna, Lititz – road trip to Lancaster County PA (and a little of Lebanon County.

The skies gradually cleared and we had a glorious drive through the Pennsylvania countryside, past PA Dutch  stone houses and barns, small towns with row houses lining the street, Amish buggies pulled by trotting shiny horses, rolling fields of corn,and soybeans.

First stop was Grim’s Apple Orchard just south of Allentown in Breinigsville, PA where I just missed the Mutsu/crispin harvest (oct. 14) but got some excellent honeycrisps. On to Manheim , a small Lancaster County town where we visited my aunt’s college friend Mary, who lives in an old farm house where she grew up, now surrounded, oddly, by a used car dealership.

She and her daughter Beth took us to see the family cottage in nearby Mt. Gretna (Lebanon county) which turned out to be in the Pennsylvania Chautauqua, a summer colony of charming old cottages with wrap around porches tucked into the woods near a small lake, with a few educational/cultural buildings including a theater and a “hall of philosophy.”

It reminded me a bit of the Chautauqua we stayed at in Boulder. Mary’s cottage was lovely, very rustic and old-fashioned, sort of stuck in time. It has been in her family for 75 years and someone else’s before that. The whole community is 126 years old. My aunt used to hang out with Mary and other friends there in the 1950s and she was delighted to be back. We sat in old rocking chairs on the porch in the shade and enjoyed the peace, quiet and each other’s company. Isn’t that what porches are for?

Onto the small charming Lancaster County town of Lititz, where we sat in a small shady park by a river and watched the ducks and young Amish couples (some in surprisingly contemporary duds) strolling by. We had a delicious late lunch at the Tomato  Pie Cafe. (We ate spinach and artichoke tomato pie – sort of akin to quiche, minus the egg custard but with baked cheese.) We didn’t get to see much of the town, but it looked lovely. I’d like to return. We also picked up some locally made Wilbur chocolates to give as gifts.

MAT and I took backroads all the way to Emmaus, where we had another lovely dinner with my cousin Ed, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Sarah plus two friends driving through in their enormous motorhome. We drove through towns with names including Brickerville, Reamstown, kutztown and East Texas. I’d love to come back and check out Lancaster, which has been likened to Brooklyn of late, and old PA Amish towns like Intercourse, Paradise and Blue Ball.

Last night I had the best hamburger at Bolete, in a lovely old stone house that used to be a stagecoach stop, outside Bethlehem. This has been such a great trip, in so many ways.

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Off to Scranton — Gorge, Coal Mining

We drove through grey skies and drizzle north thru the Poconos to Scranton so my aunt could visit an old friend from college. The drive was pretty, weather notwithstanding, and the leaves are starting to change. (I am told they are late this year.)

I did a little exploring on my own, driving through downtown Scranton which I know little about except that it was the fictional location of the classic TV comedy, The Office. There are some great old hulking stone and brick buildings but didn’t see much reason to stop so I went to nearby Nay Aug (that’s not a typo) park, which has a waterfall and gorge. I met a nice young woman who was hiking around and she led me along the muddy trail to the falls, which were impressive, especially since there has been so much rain in the area. It wasn’t quite Ithaca quality but not bad. Ithaca was only 2 hours north (so near and yet so far….)

I also stopped at the lackawanna coal mine museum which has a rustic tour down into a mine that one website described as a good way to learn about how terrible coal miners lives were. No thank you. Too claustrophobia- inducing but did look like a cool attraction and is a biggie here.

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Easton PA – sentimental journey and some new stuff

Easton is looking pretty good. Always a little ragged around the edges even though I love it dearly, (this is, after all, my mother’s hometown and where I spent summers with my grandma at her red brick row house), Easton seems to be remaking itself as a funky arts and culinary destination. So much so that we won’t be going to the farmers market around the circle downtown tomorrow because the annual garlic fest is on tap and draws some 20,000 people. Too many for us.

Aunt MAT and I dropped by the family touchstones – 101 N. 8th Street (Grama Betty’s house which still isn’t looking so good), my Great-Grandfather Louis’s house (and later my Great Aunt Sylvia’s house) on 2nd Street, which still looks lovely.

We finally found my grandparents’ gravestones, along with many great aunts and uncles (Sylvia, Nathan, Jeanette, Libby…) in a remote corner of the Easton cemetery. We could see cars whizzing by on RT. 22). We spotted the new Easton Public Market on Northampton Street, which looks pretty cool, and some vintage clothing shops and boutiques. The Caramel Corn Shop is still on the circle.

We drove along the river road, RT 611, that curves along the Delaware, past the occasional lovely stone house and barn. Also drove along an interior country road trying to find remnants of the summer camp I went to as a kids — Camptown. I love the countryside here. Very rolling, winding and green, with the leaves starting to change.

Great grandpa Louis’s house/later great aunt Sylvia’s

We had a delicious lunch at an Italian import store run by one of my aunt’s former 3rd grade students, now age 68, called Pastaceria, which has a chef recently arrived from Rome who made delicious fresh pasta — Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, with a butter sage sauce.

Reunion of my aunts third graders at The Pomfret Club

Tonight we went to an old club, The Pomfret in downtown Easton with 5 of my aunts former students and some spouses. They came from Kansas , Oregon, Florida. Alabama and made a big fuss over my aunt, which was really sweet. My aunt was really touched. Special night for us all.

I walked along Main Street in Bethlehem, which has some interesting shops including The Steel Beam, with industrial chic artwork. The city is wisely marketing its faded industrial era, with lots of odes to Bethlehem Steel. Then there are the charming 18th. Century stone buildings, many part of Moravian College.

Historic Hotel Bethlehem

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Hotel Bethlehem, Emmaus, Allentown- travels with my aunt

Amazing to be back in this corner of the world where my mom, my Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Tom grew up and where I spent many summers as a child visiting my beloved Grama Betty in Easton. Aunt Mary Ann and I haven’t been to Easton yet. We landed at ABE ((Allentown, Bethlehem Easton) airport in eastern Pennsylvania after a quick trip from Chicago (an hour 20 min.) and drove pretty winding backroads lined with tall trees and the occasional beautiful old Carmel-colored stone house to My cousin Ed’s House in Emmaus. We had a lovely dinner with his great family (wife Elizabeth, daughter Sarah, brothers Joseph and James) and then drove a very roundabout way to Bethlehem and this historic hotel Bethlehem which oozes character. I rarely stay at hotels anymore (no more business trips) so this a treat, with valet parking and bellhops and a friendly woman at the desk and chocolates on the pillow of the enormous bed, next to the waffle cotton robe. I think I am going to like it here. Can’t wait to explore Bethlehem and to visit Easton again, especially with my aunt who is full of old family stories that I am trying to jot down soon after she tells them.

At O’Hare, I should mention that we had excellent (if overpriced) poke at seafood sushi place in the terminal. I could get used to aunt MAT’s style of travel (if I had the budget…)

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Volstead’s speakeasy, Sculpture garden, LynnLake Brewery – Minneapolis

90329B12-EBEC-4EC7-9743-77F9ACCD89CFBusy weekend visiting Noah in the Twin Cities. This trip we spent more time than we have in ages in St. Paul because Noah has moved there from Minneapolis. But we still made it back to our old stomping ground in Uptown, in part because we stayed again at a great Airbnb in south Minneapolis, in a 1917 stucco house a block from the bike trail along Minehaha parkway.

CC52C40B-D86A-405A-A32F-7519E188F07A.jpegWe checked out the revamped Sculpture Garden next to the Walker which looks a little shaggier and less manicured, thanks to the prairie plantings. I’m still a fan although I did notice that the spoon of the Oldenburg Spoonbridge and Cherry has a yellow water stain. I particularly liked the giant blue rooster sculpture. Noah did note, accurately, that several sculpture parks around the country seem to have work by the same sculptors and sometimes almost the same work. The McDonaldization of sculpture parks?

15BB400B-5BEC-4AF0-86AD-01FF6177B954.jpegIt took two tries (I botched the first one by failing to have my ID, believe it or not) we finally were admitted into Volstead’s Emporium, my first visit to a retro speakeasy, which I gather is a thing. To enter, we walked down a nondescript alley and stood in a short line in front of an unmarked industrial looking metal door where a guy occasionally looked out at us through a peep window he slid open and closed. After a suitable wait to make sure we felt we were entering some exclusive club (shades of Studio 54) he let various parties trickle in after others trickled out.

The atmosphere was very atmospheric – cozy little quasi-private booths, dim lighting, low ceiling, lots of old wood, vintage brass light fixtures and art nouveau wallpaper. We sat at a high top table by the bar and had pricey cocktails and shared some good desserts (key lime pie, a chocolate brownie with banana chip ice cream.) There were clever touches, like gilt-framed mirrors in the booths that opened, with an arm extending to serve people their drinks and food. This being Minnesota most people were wearing denim, plaid and/or flannel (including us) and the wait staff were friendly rather than haughty. We also noticed a few empty tables as we left, even though a few people were kept waiting out in the cold.

The previous night, when this 59-year-old did not have an ID to prove she is over 21 (why thank you)  we ended up at a much louder bar nearby, the LynLake Brewery.

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Dramatic drive west to remote gaularfjellet, Mundal book village, Balestrand – fjords

We drove our new friends Christine and Alain to Sogndal this morning, where we visited the local pharmacy to pick up some pain pills for my arm from a kind pharmacist and had a last coffee togegether. We really enjoyed hanging out with them and hearing about their interesting lives in faraway places. They invited us to their old stone house in Provence and I have a feeling we will visit.

One of the many great things about Eplet bed and Apple, our hostel/guesthouse in Solvorn, is that the young owners go out of their way to suggest things to do (bike, hike, kayak, glacier walk) and places to see. We followed one of their recommended drives – through remote Gaularfjellet, a national tourist road along a bubbling river up through the mountains, with a dramatic view of Sognefjord. It was spectacular. We walked around the quiet village of Fjaerland/Mundal, known as the book town for its many antiquarian book shops, and the larger tourist town of Balestrand, which was quieter than Flam and Aurland, thankfully. The loop took us way back in the mountains and was even more  dramatic than the Snow road, with thin waterfalls streaming from high peaks, old red isolated farm houses, and yet again an unexpected dash of modern design – in this case a series of viewing platforms made of poured concrete and wood jutting upward like ships prows.

Back at Eplet, we met some new guests, a mother and daughter from Brooklyn. Turns out the mom grew up in Des Moines and we had a friend in common. We took a photo together and emailed it to her. Fun!

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