Category Archives: Travel

Glen Arbor, Mi. – Yes

greetings from our own little temporary slice of paradise.  Our two-room cottage just south of Glen Arbor at grey, aqua and dark blue bands of Big Glen Lake framed by birch trees. It’s breezy and sunny with white caps and I want to stay here forever. The rental agency has lived up to my expectations. Everything is as it should be and more at Brookhaven #4 – the place is clean, clearful, nicely decorated. The staff of visit up north were bright and cheerful on a sunday morning no less.

we ate dinner at a great place last night, trattoria funistrada, which served delicious pasta dishes in a cozy old house just south of where we are on big glen lake (maple city and burdickville are technically the town names). On the drive up we stopped in a little hamlet of Fennville for late breakfast at the blue Goose Cafe, which appeared to be the local hangout. Nothing fancy but good homemade food served by a plucky waitress. we’d been sent there by a guidebook to go to another restaurant down the street but it turned out to be more upscale and expensive, especially for five of us.

Woke up this morning to detroit bagels (the best) brought by my dad and his wife Barbara – and superb smoked whitefish from Carlson’s in Leeland and fresh blueberries and peaches bought at one of the many fruit stands near South Haven. Life is good.

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Dining in: Wichita

During our recent trip to western Kansas, we did manage to hit two of our favorite restaurants in Wichita – a town that has long had good ethnic restaurants, especially several run by Lebanese families.  Outbound, our timing wasn’t right to eat a meal at N&J Cafe (5600 E. Lincoln), a Middle Eastern restaurant in the south part of town but we did pick up some great humus, tabbouleh, homemade pita chips and homemade baklava (the pistachio kind) that made a very good lunch the next day when we were virtual shut-ins in Western Kansas (due to rotten weather). I’ve been trying to convince the new middle eastern deli that FINALLY opened here in Des Moines to offer this kind of thing – rather than mostly boxed and canned goods – because judging from the N&J (and the middle eastern markets of my youth in suburban Detroit), this is what brings in customers. At 4 p.m. the day before Christmas eve, N&J had several customers waiting in line for this stuff – and had already sold out of its homemade pita.

On our return trip to Iowa, our timing was perfect for lunch at Saigon Restaurant (1103 N. Broadway) in the north part of Wichita, which was hopping with an Anglo and Asian crowd (which, for some reason, has always been seated by the host in segregated areas – sort of awkward but not our choice). I had my usual – the Bun (with bbq pork, egg roll and vegetables) – which didn’t disappoint. My daughter, the vegetarian, was happy because she had lots of options. D had the bbq pork with cracked rice (served with a fried egg atop the pile). A good meal was had by all.

And, yes, we did stop three hours later in a very snowy Kansas City for BBQ – ordering a slab of ribs “packed for travel” at Gates (the most convenient location) which we happily unpacked and devoured hours later when we finally got home to Iowa.

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Filed under Dining, Kansas City, kansas state, On the road, Travel, wichita

Christmas in Dodge City

We made it with no problem from Des Moines to Dodge City (technically the small town of Wright, outside Dodge) and it’s a good thing we’re not traveling today. It is bitter cold, with fierce winds, making an already harsh landscape look even harsher, the trees even more battered and windswept, the land flat, frozen,empty, the sky a dull, slightly menacing shade of blue-gray (is there snow in them there clouds.)

Emma, my trusty computer tech, is here with me at the wonderful new Cup of Jo-nes on Wyatt Earp Blvd. (the kids here “drag Earp” for fun) which has great chai and much-welcomed WiFi. Thank you, thank you. Our drive yesterday featured various forms of precip – starting with the worst, frozen drizzle (is there such a thing a “freezing fog”?) outside Des Moines, then rain in southern Iowa and northern Missouri, brief sunshine in K.C. then dense fog, which ruined my favorite part of the trip – the scenic Flint Hills of Kansas, which were shrouded beyond recognition. By Wichita, we just had wind, a lot of fierce wind (which just blew open the heavy wooden door to this coffee house) . The wind also knocked out the heat at D’s mother’s house so we had a very cold night and morning until some neighbors came and started fiddling with the boiler.

Who knows what weather comes next? Doesn’t look like much snow but we may get more ice – and the wind is likely to remain fierce. We will probably try to get to a movie in the mall and maybe our favorite mexican restaurant in Dodge, otherwise we’re not likely to check out the  tourist hotspots which include A reproduction of Boot Hill (my husband had a friend who had a summer job playing the part of the “Drunken Indian” there in in the 1970’s. I’m thinking that part has been eliminated these days), the “Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame & Gunfighters Wax Museum” (no joke), and the Bridle Bit Museum.” We’re rather much-welcome spend time with family!

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Change of plans

The truly lousy weather forecast has convinced us to leave much earlier tomorrow for western Kansas and to drive straight through, rather than stopping overnight with relatives in Topeka.  Still bracing for some bad weather (ice, freezing rain, snow, blizzard, we’ve heard it all could be a possibility between Des Moines and Dodge City) but we’ve also made a pact that we will STOP if the driving gets too treacherous. D has alerted relatives in Kansas City (three hours into the trip) and Wichita (six hours into the trip) that we may be showing up on their doorstep. (With an Iowa ham and home-made ginger cookies.) Not to worry if I don’t blog for the next few days. My in-laws live in a rural town of 100 people on the Plains – and I’m thinking no wi-fi. They have dial-up internet so that’s a possible option. Merry Xmas to all.

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Filed under Des Moines, kansas, Kansas City, kansas state, On the road, Travel, wichita

Glasgow: takemewithyou

This one’s for Des Moines friends who asked today for advice for an upcoming trip to Glasgow. I was there last May with friends from London and we stayed at the very Scottish, well-located, reasonably priced Kirklee Hotel (www.kirkleehotel.co.uk.; 11 Kensington Gate Glasgow G12 9LG; tel: 00 44 (0)141 334 5555) – an Edwardian house on a pretty residential street with giant orange, pink and purple rhododendron in the city’s West End.  A double was $112 (then 75 pounds) per night plus breakfast that included the option of smoked salmon with your eggs. We ate dinner nearby at The Ubiquitous Chip (www.ubiquitouschip.co.uk/index.html; 12 Ashton Lane; (44-141) 334 5007)  which specializes in gourmet versions of Scottish delicacies including haggis (which I declined to order but I did taste my friend Francine’s).  My Orkney salmon was lovely. The oatmeal ice cream was surprisingly good. This is the place to have ten-year-old Macallan Single Highland Malt Scotch Whiskey. Among nearby sights, you might enjoy the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, 730 Great Western Road; (44-141) 334 2422, http://www.seeglasgow.com.

We were on a Charles Rennie Mackintosh kick so we tried to see as much of his architecture as possible but unfortunately our visit coincided with a bank holiday so a lot of his buildings were closed. I most wanted to see Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art but most of the interior was closed for the holiday. We did go on a hop on/hop off bus that stopped at various Mackintosh buildings, some we’d never have found on our own,  including a grade school he designed that was pretty cool. Don’t know if the bus is still operating but you can check on: http://www.crmsociety.com. There also was a one-day Mackintosh Trail Ticket. We  had lunch at the somewhat touristy Willow Tea Rooms, which is a reproduction of Mackintosh’s original. Scottish food isn’t my favorite but when in Rome…and this cozy upstairs tea room is a good atmosphere to eat it in. I think I had a baked potato loaded with shredded cheddar cheese.

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More road trip prep: Kansas City bbq

Tired and my hands are greasy after hours of latke-making for our Hanukkah party tonight. Alas, confirmed today with a quick phone call that our favorite middle eastern restaurant in Wichita will be closed when we pass through on the Sunday after Christmas so hoping our Vietnamese spot will be open. Our other option is to hold out until we get to Kansas City, where we can have our obligatory debate over which rib joint to go to – Gates or Arthur Bryant’s. Gates is our usual for several reasons – convenient location, fast-food type service (“HI MAY I HELP YOU???” the cashier shouts when we arrive, never failing to jolt us to attention), not to mention well-smoked meat and great sauce. Bryant’s is less convenient but it’s got much better character – in it’s longtime neighborhood location – and the meat and fries are better, although we’re not as crazy about Bryant’s sauce. We’ve got about 15 hours of time in the car to decide….

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Filed under Dining, Kansas City, kansas state, Missouri, Travel, wichita

Dreaming of: (gorgeous) Ithaca

Okay, the photo location contest is over.  And yes,  the location is… Ithaca, N.Y., more specifically Upper Treman Park – and my sentimental favorite of the area’s several beautiful state parks showcasing deep gorges and mesmerizing waterfalls.  From Upper (Robert H.) Treman, you can take a spectacular hike along the gorge (known as Enfield Glen) past 12 waterfalls (including 115-foot Lucifer Falls) down to Lower Treman where the gorge disgorges (hmm, never connected the word “gorge” and “disgorge” before) into a wide stream-fed pool that’s perfect for swimming, albeit very cold, with diving boards (popular with daredevils, young and not-so-young) and a waterfall rock face you can try to claw your way across while getting bombarded by gushing water.

The hike is easy and lovely – a wooded narrow passageway with cut stone steps that winds along the gorge, with bridges crossing over the rushing water.  One time, we found a lone bagpiper playing at the bottom of one waterfall – an image and sound I’ll never forget. Last summer when we took our 7th  every-other-year  Ithaca family vacation  (or was it our 8th? My friend Myra can set me straight –  we’ve shared a cottage on Cayuga Lake with her family during all these wonderful upstate New York get-aways from the real world), the gorge was full of water – making it particularly dramatic but unfortunately upping the bacteria count, or some such, which ruled out swimming.  Another favorite is Buttermilk State Park, just down the road from Treman – it too has a gorge that bottoms out into an icy cool pool for swimming.

My other favorite gorges run right through the Cornell campus – including Cascadilla Gorge, which was technically closed last summer because of damage caused to the path by the intense water but we hiked it, carefully, anyway.  And the hidden area known locally as flatrock in the sweet little enclave of Forest Home on Fall Creek near the Cornell Plantations is a quiet beauty – not high-dropping falls but water rushing past and atop flat rocks you can wander around. With its elegant Greek Revival houses, two one-lane steel-truss bridges built in the early 1900’s, and remnants of old stone mills, Forest Home is where I dream of living in Ithaca.

Taughannock Falls State Park is the highest of the area’s falls (at 215 feet, it’s reportedly 33 feet taller than Niagara and  the northeast U.S.’ s highest  free-falling waterfall, whatever that means) but the hike to it has  never grabbed me quite as much as the other parks’ hikes – it’s flatter,more open, without the stairs of the other gorge hikes, less rugged, winding, and mysterious.

Any wonder why I drive around Iowa with a bumper sticker that reads “Ithaca is gorges”?

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