Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hello, Columbus !

Randy surprised me by taking me to Columbus, our state capitol, for an overnight "back to school" trip.  We had planned to go a few days earlier, but life got in the way, so we postponed the trip for Sunday, August 21.  We got on the road by about 10:30 and only made one stop on the way south:  The Outlets of Lodi.

Wilson's Leather is one of my favorite outlets, actually of only 2 near-favorites. I was not disappointed, and purchased yet another marvelous purse/bag/sack................We also ate some very greasy and delicious fried chicken en route at Popeye's, and this was the confession.

Then, we arrived at the Columbus Zoo, with Thelma's help, at about 12:30. It was very HOT, and we walked all over the zoo.  We did skip animals that we had just seen at the Akron Zoo, but focused on the manatees and the polar bear, which is a new exhibit, and Akron doesn't have a polar bear or a manatee, alas.

The manatees are so huge that when I first  saw them it took a second or two to realize that I was actually seeing real animals. I had been to this zoo years ago with my children, but had long ago forgotten the manatees.  I had forgotten that they are vegetarians, and watched a diver feeding them whole heads of romaine lettuce from a sack that she was dragging as she was swimming.  The sack was as large as a human being!  The manatees just gobbled the romaine right down.

The gorilla cage has undergone a change since my years-ago visit. Back then it was a huge circular cage with many gorillas inside, and I remember standing there watching them for nearly an hour, it seemed.  The vegetation has grown up around the gorilla compound over the years, and viewing windows have been added. I think the gorillas have more privacy now, but the viewer doesn't get quite as good of a look.  It always amazes me how near-human these marvelous animals are.  I looked deep into one gorilla's eyes as I photographed him, and read "get me outa here" in his eyes.

The polar bear was asleep when we got to his new area.  In the pen next to him, though, was a brown bear. We thought it was a grizzly, it was so enormous.  Randy got a lot of information from a zoo worker that grizzlies are brown bears who just got really big, like 1500 pounds.  This brown bear was pacing back and forth and showing us his claws and teeth.  Having had my acrylic fingernails removed earlier this summer, I was jealous of this guy's nails.  Long and sharp, and very effectively scary. 

The heat was really getting to me, and my pedometer was telling me that we had walked over 13,000 steps, so it was time to hit the road at about 4:30.

Randy selected a Hampton Inn in Dublin for our housing, and it was beautiful. Our car was parked within steps of our room on the first floor.  We drank some wine as we sat by the pool, and Randy took a dip, then we were off for dinner at the Columbus Fish Market in Worthington.

I had a crusted white fish which was gone all too quickly.  The Fish Market was quite upscale, and there were not a lot of people there on a Sunday night.  We were back at our motel by 7:00, and so tired from all the walking and the heat, not to mention the full tummies.  When Randy said, "Let's just get take a nap," I did not  argue a bit, and we fell into the plush bedding of the Hampton Inn and promptly fell asleep.  (If you have never stayed at a Hampton Inn, it is a must...........the bed swallows you up, and it is as if you are floating in total comfort........the best!)

The next thing we knew, it was 7:00 A.M. and we had slept for nearly 12 full hours!!!  Now if this is not what "vacation" is for, I don't know what is...............I must have commented on that 12 hours of sleep all day, amazed that I was that tired. 

We had a really fine breakfast at the motel lobby, then took off for German Village, south of central Columbus.  This area was settled by Germans and other foreigners long ago, and some years back underwent a restoration process that makes it one of the places that visitors to Columbus enjoy. 

Armed with torn-out pages from our Midwest Living Magazine, we walked the uneven brick sidewalks, taking some photos of one particularly lovely garden, noticing that most of this area is residential.  Our magazine mentioned a few shops and eateries, which we did visit, but the $12 price tag on a sandwich at the deli that started with the letter K was prohibitive, we felt.

The Book Loft was the main event of German Village.  THIRTY-TWO ROOMS OF BOOKS.  I was in Reader Heaven!  All the rooms join onto one or another so you can just keep on walking from room to room, shopping.  Each room has a different CD player adding background music to your shopping pleasure (with notes about where to buy that particular CD), and I confess to doing an Irish jig behind one large shelving unit.

Randy bought 2 very large books about woodworking and home repair, I bought a copy of the Tao Te Ching and some hysterical greeting cards, and off we went!

Our next stop, in the near middle of Columbus, was the park at the Deaf School.  Actually, I think the park is called Deaf School Park.  There are topiary trees all over this park, and they are sculpted to look like people in old-timey clothing, enjoying the park.  The women bushes carry umbrellas, and there are some dog-walkers, one monkey on a leash,  men bushes with pipes, and people bushes lounging on the ground.  A small pond has a bush sailboat and some bush people rowing a skiff across the pond.

The gist of this park scene with all of these bush people is that it captures the Impressionist painting called  A Sunday on the Island of la Grande Jatte by George Seurat, in greenery.  There is one spot where you can stand and supposedly see the entire picture.  It is a fairly amazing undertaking to keep all of those trees trimmed and formed! (google "Deaf School Park, Columbus"  for a visual)

North of central Columbus is an area called "Short North."  This has been designated as the "arts district" for this city.  Huge archways with light bulbs cross the streets, and I could only imagine how beautiful this would look had we been there at nighttime. (We have to go back, now!)  Short North goes on for many blocks, and I envisioned crowds of people enjoying the restaurants and galleries on an evening.  Unfortunately, many of the galleries and shops were closed because it was Monday.  So if you go, don't go on a Monday!

We had been told by Sandi Lederman about her favorite eatery, The Happy Greek, which we promptly located.  We had spanokofetta  (and I am sure I misspelled that.....)  for an appetizer, then Chicken Shwarma and Beef Shwarma platters.............wonderful food!!!  We waddled out of The Happy Greek, and entered Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Shop, a block or so away.

Jeni's had not only been mentioned by Sandi, but also by our Midwest Living Magazine, so it was a definite "must."  I only eat about one purchased ice cream treat a year, and Jeni's was this year's supplier.  First we tasted.  The cute little girl behind the counter was only too willing to let us sample everything. (Who needed any more????)  We ended up buying a "small" dish each ($4 apiece) in which you get 2 different kinds of ice cream. 

Randy had some kind of ice cream with beer and coffee beans in it, believe it or not. The beer had been supplied by a brewery right there in Short North, and the coffee beans came from a local coffee shop, also.  One hand washes the other, apparently, and I bet those coffee cookers and brew masters stop by to have ice cream on their way home, too!

My ice cream was a work of art. It was "Pear Riesling."  No kidding.  Apparently it was just Riesling wine, pears, and sugar..............and my little ice cream maker may just have to make a stab at this, sooner or later.

My second flavor was a cherry thing that was so tart my taste buds curled up.  The combo of these two flavors in my little dish was delightful and filling.  I really could have been very happy with half of it.

We visited some galleries and clothing stores. One, whose name I do not recall, bought damaged items that never made it to the mall or major shops. Rejects.  A sewing machine was prominently placed in the front of this store, and the workers (who must know how to sew) use their time to turn these less than perfect clothing items into one-of-a-kind pieces!  Pretty cool recycling, huh?

It was late afternoon when we rolled out of Columbus.  The Final Fling was over.

On the way home, however, we made our first stop at Grandpa's Cheese Factory, somewhere near the Ashland exit on Rt 71.  I cannot begin to imagine how many times we have driven by Grandpa's without stopping, but always reading the sign aloud.  We finally pulled off the road and looked it over.  There is a large building full of candy, 3 or 4 little barns that you can actually sleep in if you want to stay at "Grandpa's B + B,"  and a huge building that houses the food. The lower level is full of (excuse me for saying this) what I call "tacky" gift shop items.  No one seemed to be buying them, or even looking at them. I think Grandpa needs to rethink the lower level, frankly.  The upper level, however, was packed with customers, and all of us were eating.  Lots and lots of free samples. Grandpa has the right idea. If you taste it you will buy it.

We came away with some bacon/horseradish/sharp cheddar  cheese and some smoked blue cheese /smoked cheddar cheese spread to serve at a dinner that we were hosting on Tuesday evening for our neighbors.  We haven't decided if we will pull off at Grandpa's again, but the cheese was a hit, so it's a definite possibility.

We've roamed a little bit more, even though it was only for two days.  Incidentally, you can google Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, The Book Loft, also.

We've heard people say they love Columbus, and here it is a couple of hours from our home, and yet we'd never really LOOKED at it.  We found that it's fun, and we're going back.............on an evening when everything in Short North is OPEN!!!