Category Archives: DESTINATIONS — in U.S.

The stray Dog – New Buffalo,Mi

Early January (at almost 2 pm) proved an easy time to get a table for lunch at The Stray Dog, which is usually packed during peak summer tourist season here in southwest Michigan. Cute place, decorated with dog pictures and dog commands (SIT, STAY), good service and well cooked burger.

Many restaurants are closed in early-to-mid January in these parts, including froelichs in Three Oaks. Viola’s was open but not at 2 pm. Fair enough.

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Mazet Antiques, Bella Amici, Alapash, Journeyman Distillery, Froelich’s and Acorn Theater – return to Three Oaks, MI – and cheap gas in NW Indiana off I-94, exit 16.

We continue to enjoy visiting southwest Michigan and shopping/dining in the little village of Three Oaks. This time, we went to a concert in the intimate little Acorn Theater, next to the Journeyman whiskey distillery, which has also offers some rentals in town (see journeyman.com/lodging).

In the shopping department, we visited some new places including Bella Amici, which has fun Michigan stuff, and Mazet Antiques, which has gorgeous, one-of-a-kind and very pricey rugs from foreign lands (the kind you hand on your wall, not throw on your floor). We also visited old favorites including Alapash (where we did buy a less-expensive rug to throw on the floor) and had a good brunch at Froelich’s.

For future reference: The gas prices in southwest Michigan are significantly lower than in Chicago but our best bet was in northwest Indiana, off I-94, at exit 16, where we found gas for $2.99 ($1.50 less than in Chicago.)

Mazet Antiques

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Wu’s Wonton King, the new LaGuardia — NYC

When we heard (from our favorite private chef) that Wu’s Wonton King is the place professional chefs eat, we were there! We found it on an unglamorous corner in Chinatown/the Lower East Side on East Broadway and were not disappointed, although we probably should have asked what the house speciality, fried crab, cost ($84) before ordering it. Then again, if we had asked, we wouldn’t have ordered it and it was delicious. This will sound familiar to members of the $317 Club. (Inside joke explanation: years ago we got a surprise dinner bill of $317 after eating with friends at another Chinatown restaurant post-Thanksgiving.)

Our other entrees were in the $18 ballpark (which suddenly seemed like a bargain) and also excellent including the #1 wonton soup, stir fried chicken with veg, and pork dumplings. All very fresh, quality ingredients and well seasoned.

On to LaGuardia where we were delighted (not something I’ve ever written about LaGuardia) by the spanking new terminal C, all white walls, wide white corridors, clean modern design, appealing restaurants. And our delta flights were on what felt like new planes with well-upholstered seats and screens to watch TV and movies.

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Hopper’s NY at the Whitney, Simo Pizzeria, Oyster Bar – New York City at its best

What a fantastic show at The Whitney: Edward Hopper’s decades of work when he lived in New York City during the first half of the 20th century. Among the paintings is an old friend, his famous Automat, which belongs to the Des Moines Art Center. As a docent at the art center, I loved showing and discussing Automat with visitors, especially the many fourth-graders I guided though the museum.

Seeing it in New York was like spotting an old friend at a crowded party. And seeing it surrounded by other evocative, melancholy New York landscapes and portraits by Hopper made me see it in a new way.

The Oyster Bar
An old friend from DSM in NYC

Leaving the museum at 2:30 and very hungry, we found an excellent late lunch of Naples-style thin crust pizza and a salad of fresh greens at Simo, well-positioned across the street from The Whitney. (I gather we weren’t the first famished museum goers to chance upon the place.) Prompt cheerful service, casual dining room, delicious food. Another one is opening soon at Columbus Circle.

Lots of Hoppers

After walking up the High Line to 29th Street and then over to the annual holiday market at Union Square, we returned with our friend Myra to Grand Central Station where she took the train to and fro from Fairfield County. The Oyster Bar, a wonderful old gem in the bowels of the station, turned out to be another perfect dining spot for a light dinner of delicious fried oysters, fries, beer and a Manhattan. I hadn’t been there since about 1986 and hope to visit again …much sooner, next time.

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An unexpected medical visit (we are fine!) — CityMD in NYC

Stuff happens and so it did when D unexpectedly injured his finger while trying to open an apartment window. Fortunately we found quick and excellent care on NYC’s upper east side from CityMD Urgent Care on 3rd Avenue and 67th St.

We arrived when the small storefront office opened at 8 a.m. and were third in line and seen promptly by about 8:07 a.m.

The patient post-medical care, carries on

Rather than an impersonal doc in a box, we found the staff, from the front desk folks to the PA to the MD, caring, professional, even fun to talk to. We talked Ukraine with the PA who, at age 14, left his native Crimea (formerly Ukraine, stolen by Russia in 2014). I talked Broadway musicals with the MD, who offered a mixed review of the latest cast of Funny Girl.

All this while they were examining, cleaning, X-raying, numbing, stitching up (just a few) and bandaging D’s finger. This is our fifth visit to a doctor while on vacation, over the past 30 years or so. Previous visits: In Estes Park, Colorado when our daughter had swimmers ear; Ireland when our other daughter had strep; Norway when I broke my arm and Vietnam, when I had swimmers ear. Not sure what our bill will be this time but the care was good…

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High dollar, high design – Sag Harbor, NY

Sag Harbor used to be the low-key outlier of Hamptons shopping. Or so I recall from the many thanksgivings past out here on the southeastern tip of Long Island.

Not anymore.

On the Saturday after turkey day, the shops on Sag Harbor’s small Main Street were packed with well heeled shoppers browsing in beautiful (and very expensive) home goods stores with suede furniture, exquisite ceramics, delicate linens, clever gizmos and knickknacks. Fun to browse. Not affordable to purchase.

Among the ones we liked: Modern General (where I did buy a $13 mug for my son that reads: Text your mother. This is the third store with that name I’ve been to this year. The first in Albuquerque; the second in Milwaukee.) the 1818 store (inside a lovely old home we are guessing was built circa 1818) and Comerford.

1818 shop

Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Goop” store is also somewhere near, but we didn’t chance upon it.

Modern general

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Chautauqua/NY, Conneaut/Ohio cheap gas & dog park – drive back to Chicago from Ithaca

To my surprise we drove right into the Chautauqua Institution, the famous educational/ cultural retreat in the western NY town of, yes, Chautauqua, on our drive back to Chicago from Ithaca. Years ago we got as far as the firmly shut outer gate, when passing through the area during in the peak 9-week summer season for tourists and visitors. Back then, we had to pay to get through the gate and enter the enclave, so we didn’t. From the confusing information on various Chautauqua websites (the town tourism website (https://www.tourchautauqua.com/trip-ideas/a-visit-to-the-chautauqua-institution was clearer than the institution’s website), a “Gate Pass/fee” ($30) is required to enter the grounds during the summer. Except Sundays when it’s free at least until 2 pm. In spring, fall and winter, all drive-in gates are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, no passes/fees required

Still almost everything was shut down …or felt shut down …on the crisp Fall day when we dropped by for about an hour. The sign on the post office said “Closed until June 2023.” Apparently some events are offered beyond during the summer season, and some residents live there year-round.

It was fun to be able to drive through and gawk at the pretty gingerbready cottages and stately buildings that host lectures, concerts and dance performances. We also found a table in the almost deserted village green that worked well for a picnic. (And yes, sadly, this is the place where author Salman Rushdie was stabbed by a madman last summer.)

Not Chautauqua….this is Lake George (Adirondacks)

Over the Pennsylvania border in Ohio, we found cheaper gas, as promised: $3.49 at the Love’s station in Conneaut, Ohio vs $3.89 in Chautauqua and $3.79 in Erie. Love’s also has a dog park.

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Filed under Cleveland, Ithaca, New York, Uncategorized

apple fest, cultish deli, quilts, $2.98 gas, by the lake – in and around Ithaca

Nut Ridge

Apple fest 2022 filled the Ithaca Commons with strollers eating apple crisp, tasting various apple varieties with assistance from Cornell pomologists and browsing at craft booths. We learned that the snap dragon apples we discovered last year didn’t make it this year…bad weather conditions but I did buy a few Shizuka apples with a Mutsu- like taste. I also found Cornell orchards apples at the P&C Fresh near the ag school but it had nowhere near the selection of varieties that used to be sold at Cornell’s pomology department when I was a student (class of 81.) Greenstar Market downtown had Mutsus, but P & C did not.

We walked into a new place on the commons during apple fest called the Yellow Deli that was (somewhat oddly) offering free samples of their delicious fare (Rueben sandwiches, chili, cheesecake drinks. But I happened to hear a woman who walked past us say “too bad they are an anti-Semitic cult.” We googled and could not find anything about anti-semitism but plenty about the cult. Apparently there are yellow delis across the US and in foreign counties and they’ve been labeled a cult. Bit of a bummer but good to know.

At Cornell’s arboretum (formerly the plantations)
Cascadilla Falls

Onto the next attraction, an exhibit of gorgeous quilts by local talents held at a local community college in nearby Cortland, Tompkins Cortland Community College, aka TC3.

I forgot to mention last night’s excitement.$2.98 a gallon gas in Homer NY. We thought our eyes were deceiving us. We haven’t seen prices like that in years. And in nearby Ithaca, the price is $3.69 to 3.79.

At Taughannock Falls with Myra and Millie

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Greatest hits around Burlington VT – nearby Waterbury, Duxbury, Waitsfield

Gorgeous fall weather here in Burlington where we are visiting my cousin who lives in the “new north end” by the shoreline of Lake Champlain, with spectacular views, a sandy beach you get to though a staircase in the woods, and a shady greenbelt bike path that unfortunately we didn’t have time to ride. Next trip.

Lake Champlain

We visited some fun hipster drinking spots including St. John’s Club, a private drinking spot, with a back lawn overlooking the lake, and dinner at Burlington Brewery (burgers, salads, a Mexican stew). Breakfast was Montreal-style bagels (chewier than US style) at Myer’s, including good breakfast sandwiches (ex: scrambled eggs, cheddar, sausage). It’s in a former warehouse district along the water that’s turned into arty shops and restaurants.

About a half hour east in the hamlet of Duxbury, tucked into the tree-carpeted hills is Moose Meadow Lodge, run by family friends. It’s a sophisticated but cozy contemporary log-made lodge high on a wooded hilltop with amazing views and rooms with handmade, one-of a-kind bent twig furniture, petrified wood sinks, and decorated with weathered snowshoes, ancient sleds and taxidermies mounted on the walls. Even the refrigerator and dishwasher are camouflaged in birchbark and bent twigs. Behind the lodge is the treehouse, a dreamy two stories, electrified with a fabulous outdoor bathroom/shower in the woods overlooking a gentle pond.

At Leunig’s
A Moose Meadow view
Waitsfield, VT
Duxbury

In nearby Waterbury, we had excellent nachos with chunks of barbecued brisket and Vermont cheddar on the dog friendly patio of Prohibiton Pig Brewery, aka Pro Pig. In the sweet smaller town of Wainsfield, we visited the covered bridge, the Vermont Artisans Store (the art and crafts here are good quality but pricey) and a little outdoor cafe, The Sweet Spot, in a pretty rock garden beside a sun-dappled stream flowing under the covered bridge. Classic Vermont. The leaves are starting to change, with a few reds and oranges and purples. In another week or so, they should be a full spectacle. We didn’t have time to visit another small town, Warren. Next trip!

Dinner with old friends who live in Burlington was fun at Leunig’s, an old fashioned “Burlington institution” specializing in steak frites and beef Bourgignon. As we were walking there, along the pedestrian mall I spotted a local celebrity…”Mrs. Bernie” (Bernie Sanders’ wife Jane.)

Moose Meadow lodge treehouse

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Speculator and Lake George NY – Adirondack ps at last

Finally made it to the Adirondacks! They have beckoned from the nearby Finger Lakes of Central NY but we could never detach from Ithaca long enough to visit. They started in earnest about 3 hours northeast of Ithaca, about 2 hours after Syracuse and I’m still trying to pinpoint what makes this region feel so different than the Finger lakes. More rugged, dense woods, dark wood and log cabins, sparkling lakes with the beach at road level. Ithaca is more bucolic farms and pastures high surrounded by wooded hills, above the deep narrow finger lakes, old gingerbread farm houses made of brick or stone, tidy farmsteads.

We stopped briefly in the rugged resort Adirondacks town in Speculator (gotta love that name) where we found a gorgeous little public park beside a small lake, dotted with yes, heavy wood log Adirondacks chairs and benches. (The real deal, not plastic knockoffs.) the park was named after the boxer Gene Tunney who had a trading camp in town.

Lake George

We found a rustic mini mart with a long line for the one bathroom. I asked the bored looking clerk if there was another option and voila, we were at public bathrooms (line-free) a half block away. The leaves were far more colorful, with splashes of red and orange and purple. The roads we drive on to get to vermont were so backwoods that I checked my google maps to make sure it wasn’t set on “no highways.” There simply weren’t any or many.

Adirondacks beach (speculator, NY)
Bolton Landing, Lake George
Gene Tunney Park, Speculator, NY

On the way back to Ithaca, we drove backroads along the western shore of Lake George which was lovely and rustic…until we got to the resort town of Lake George, which was over touristed. Then we drove diagonally south east, stopping briefly in the pretty college town of Cazenovia. We met Myra and Mike at Salt Point Brewery which was having an October fest celebration, with outdoor dining, a band, beer, pizza, brats and an amazing sunset.

Salt point brewery, Lansing NY

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