Category Archives: Travel

Pittsburgh – 3/1-3/2/2014

Courtney and I were watching a show on Showtime on Thursday night called “Another Day Another Time – Celebrating the Music of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis'” that was a concert with all different groups playing music from the film and other music of that genre. We saw the film in December and I would give the film a B-, just OK.  The Showtime special however, was REALLY good with many of our favorite artists and some new ones that I have already been checking out on Spotify (love our premium Spotify subscription).  We really were digging the Avett Brothers on the show – real standouts – so while we sitting watching we were checking them out on our tablets and found out that they were playing in Pittsburgh that coming Saturday along with Old Crowe Medicine Show who we saw in Troy this summer and really liked.  So…. then and there we decided to road trip to Pittsburgh – bought our tickets and booked a hotel while sitting on the couch.  A+ for spontaneity Patrick and Courtney.  Saturday was also my Birthday so we were looking for something to do I must say.

We left Euclid around 8:00 AM on Saturday entrusting the girls to Claire for the evening and made our way to Steeler country. The drive to Pittsburgh was nice and easy, only a bit more than two hours.  Our first stop was to the Frick Museum which has been on our list for a long long time since going to the Frick in Manhattan which is one of our favorites. The museum is the preserved estate of Henry Clay Frick, a 19th century Industrialist and one of the founders of US Steel – a real bastard after reading about him, but he did have good taste in houses and art.  We bought tickets for a tour of the house and while waiting for 30 minutes for it to start we checked out the car and carriage museum that is part of the complex.  While I’m not one for car museums, they did have some beautiful old cars and carriages that have been beautifully maintained.  The tour of the house, Clayton, was really amazing though.  We happened to be on a special tour that focused on Frick’s art in the house and his early collecting.  Everything in the house is original and is beautifully maintained.  Beautiful wood, furniture, plaster… everything.  Our tour guide was really knowledgeable and we learned a lot about 19th century American art.  We would like to go again and go on the “regular” tour to hear more of the history of the house and the architecture.  After our hour and a half tour we checked out the greenhouse and the separate art museum that Helen Frick – Henry Clay’s daughter and fellow art collector – built on the property when she moved back to the estate in her later years.

A few pix from the internet:


The Dining room – amazing.

Courtney in the greenhouse. Beautiful swiss chard.

We then made our way to Downtown Pittsburgh, just 10 minutes away, to explore and find somewhere to eat.  After creatively finding somewhere to park downtown we ended up at a nice Italian place on Market Square called Il Pizzaiola that was really great.  We had “Its Vacation So Lets Have Beer For Lunch”, an order of super fresh calamari, and then we split a pizza Margherita and a big salad.  perfecto.  I had some sort of Italian draft porter that was brewed in oyster shells or something like that that was superb.  I asked our waiter to write the name of it down as it was so good but of course I lost the piece of paper.  After lunch we walked around a bit, checking out the old buildings, walk down to the river where an old Fort was and you could see the stadiums across the river and then walked back up.  I don’t think I have ever been in downtown Pittsburgh before.  Reminds me of both Cleveland and Cincinnati… maybe not quite as downtrodden?

We found our car and made our way to our hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh University Place on the University of Pittsburgh campus as that is where the concert was going on.  Nice recently re-done hotel, hopping place full of concert goers.  We relaxed for awhile, walked across the street to the IGA to get some pre-concert beers and snacks, and then walked to the concert around 7:00PM.  The arena was up a long steep hill and then once we got there, will call was up about 4 levels of steps.  We eventually made it in, found our seats and enjoyed the show.  Both groups were great.  It looked to be pretty much sold out.  We had bizarre seats that were one row of seats in some sort of club section.  There was nobody behind use so we were able to stand up, use the tables there and watch the show. It was nice.  The concert lasted until about 11:00 and we walked back, stopped at McDonalds on the way for a quick cheeseburger and made it back to the hotel.  Tired but happy.

View of stage

The next days a blizzard was on it’s way to Pittsburg so we decided to hit the road right away at 7:30AM and not risk it.  It was already snowing a bit but not too bad.  As we made our way north the snow got heavier but was never too bad.  We were going to stop at the IKEA outside of Pittsburgh but we decided not to risk it.  We did stop at the Original Pancake House on Chagrin though on the way home and had a nice breakfast, stopped at the Whole Foods for some stuff and made it home before 11:00.


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Gentleman of the Road, Troy, Ohio

Friday, August 30th 2013

Courtney and I traveled to Troy, Ohio to attend the Gentleman of the Road Music Festival. This is the second year of GOTR that is put on by Mumford and Sons.  They go to small towns around the world and basically take over the town and have a great music festival.  We were lucky that one of their stops this year was in Troy that is a small town 1/2 hour north of Dayton – about a 2 1/2 hour drive for us. We took off Friday morning and arrived in Troy around 1:00.  We were camping with the hordes so parking was about 1/2 mile away and we brought our wagon and walked to the camping spot.  The camping area where we were assigned was already pretty packed but we were able to find a spot and get everything set up with no problems.  It was HOT HOT HOT out.  We were happy we brought our sport umbrella that we just bought so we had some shade.  We walked around the venue and then walked into town whose main square was all blocked off and had two stages playing music.  Troy was totally into it and it was a great place to be.  The concerts started at 5:00.  We hung out in the shade for most of the early acts, people watching, drinking beer and taking in the scene.  They had great beer and great food in the grounds.  The headliner was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros who were great.  Kind of trippy, happy music.  We went on the field for their whole show which was fun to be with the masses.  We were pretty exhausted after the concert and crawled into our tent.

Happy to be settled into our campsite

our campsite was right on the river across from the town. the concert venue was to the right over the levee. great set up.

the buildings in Troy were all decked out

Troy had all these weird life like statues all over the place

the main road before the crowds

Outside the stadium they had vendors, beer tents and performers. We hung out here in the shade a lot listening to the bands inside the stadium.

the lineup for the weekend

the stage. hanging with the happy hipsters

the sunset in between bands

Edward Sharpe and the Magnet Zeros. Awesome.

Saturday, August 31st

Somehow we managed to sleep – a little bit.  People were up all night but we expected that so no worries.  We scoped out the shower trailers right away as we were feeling mighty nasty. Happily they were just opening up, not crowded at all and there is nothing like a hot shower to get you moving.  We walked over to town to find something to eat. We ended up at The Caroline, a nice little place right off the square and they had a really good brunch buffet going on.  It was nice to hang out in the air conditioning.  We walked around some more, walked to the car to get some more water and hung out around the campground until the concert started back up at noon.  We hung out for the first couple of acts and then walked into town again which was getting packed.   Their were hordes of people crossing the bridge the other way and lots of people in town also.  We had some more beer, watched a couple more bands and then headed back.  It rained for about 30 minutes when the Vaccines were playing, but we were lucky in that is all that it rained as the skies were threatening the entire day.  The stadium was getting packed.  We headed onto the field to watch Old Crowed Medicine Show who were great and everybody loved.  We then scopes out are spot for Mumford and Sons.  Their show was really great.  The entire place was jam packed, rocking, on their feet the whole time.  Great stuff.

view of our campground walking over the bridge in the morning.

we hung out in the shade late morning listening to these two from Pittsburgh on the fiddle and guitar. What a great pic.

walking into downtown Troy

one of the stages downtown. love the hula hoopers.

Old Crowe Medicine Show.

The main attraction: Mumford and Sons.

borrowed this shot from the internet to see how packed it was. We were way up by where the lights were so we were right in the action. great show. great fun.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

After a great nights sleep (yeah right) we were up at 8:00, packed up by 9:00 and on the road.  A fun weekend that we would (and hopefully will) do again.

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Middle Bass Island

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

We joined the Monroe’s for our Third Annual Lake Erie Day of Family Fun a few Saturdays ago.

The breeze was blowing and the sun was shining as we took the Jet Express to South Bass Island. The was the first time on the Jet Express – it was nice as it dropped us off right at downtown Put In Bay.

We had lunch on Put in Bay finding a great spot at The Boardwalk. The food was surprisingly very good. Clam chowder, steamed shrimp, crab cakes and other Lake Erie delicacies. 🙂

The Kids table. We were fortunate to have Emily Jane along with Sophia, Grace, Jack, Reilly and Aidan along with us for the day.

Looking out from the Boardwalk patio. It was truly a perfect day to be on the lake.

After lunch we boarded the Sonny-S for the quick trip to Middle Bass Island across the bay.

John was our tour director for the day.

Sister cousins on the Sonny S.

the neglected middle children of the family.

The Lonz winery on Middle Bass has been closed for many years and is now part of the State Park on the Island.

the abandoned Lonz mansion. It must have been quite a sight 100 years ago.

We rented two golf carts and toured the island, stopping at this beach to relax and swim.

everyone make a fish face

We tracked down a co-worker friend of Mary’s who was staying on the Island. Her family has always had cottages in this amazing neighborhood full of these great Victorian cottages – all with huge porches, beautiful lawns, all right on the lake. We also figured out that we were in the same class at Denison. Very small world.

after trying three different places around the port Clinton for dinner that all had two hour waits we ended up at BW3 in Sandusky for wings for dinner. The kids had their own table – thus the panorama shot from someones phone.

the kids only table led to them having about 5 cokes each…and seriously bouncing off the walls as we made are way home after a fun day.

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Wisconsin, August 2013

Courtney and Sophia drove up to Wisconsin on Saturday, August 4th leaving early afternoon after the swim championships.  They drove close to Traverse City, spent the night in a hotel and then drove to Camp Hayowentha the next morning to show Sophie.  Sophie liked it a lot and hopefully will be able to go next summer.  They then made their way through the U.P. getting to Wisconsin early evening.  I stayed behind to work and stay with everyone else as everyone was busy.  I flew out on Wednesday afternoon arriving in Rhinelander around 10:00 PM or so.  We stayed through Monday, leaving early and driving all they way home via Chicago.

playing one of our many hands of Sleeping Queens

We went to Bond Falls on Thursday morning. Beautiful as always.


great spot

The weather was very cool for early August. I don’t think it ever got above 70 degrees. It was wonderful.

Up on top of the falls.

We stopped at Bent’s Camp on the way home for lunch. Perfect chicken wings and the best Creamy Dark. We brought two cases home with us as they don’t sell it in Cleveland.

Jute lake in the morning

In the woods looking up towards the house. Everything was nice and green after having more rain this year. Unfortunately this also brought tons of bugs which was no fun.

Sophia and I drove into Minocqua one day to play putt putt

she beat me by way too much

We drove up the the Porcupine Mountains one day which are about a two hour drive north. This is the amazing Lake of the Clouds. Truly breathtaking.

It was a beautiful day.

It is a very remote state park where backpackers were going all over the place. We hope to go backpacking for a day or two next time and stay in one of their remote cabins.

It borders Lake Superior where we explored the deserted beach

Nice form

Craig and Sophia looking for the big one.

An amazing early evening on Jute Lake.

A nice bass caught by the master.

One more.

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Grayton Beach, June 2013

Friday, June 14th, 2013

  • Courtney and I missed going to Grayton Beach during Spring Break so we decided to splurge and rented a beach house for a week as the cabins at the state park where we usually stay were booked.  We asked my parents to come along as they have never been in this part of FLA before.  Claire, Sean, Jack, Grace and Sophia are all here as well.
  • Need to note: stopped at a Wendy’s for lunch somewhere in Kentucky that was truly bizarre.  There were at least 4 adult managers walking around the Wendy’s cleaning tables, getting refills, making sure the line went quickly.  When we walked in someone opened the outer door and someone else opened the inner giving us hi  y’all.  Yes we’re in the south but it was really weird.
  • We took two cars leaving our house at 5:00.  Had an uneventful 11 hour drive to Birmingham Alabama where we stayed in a nice Embassy Suites south of the city.  Once there we quickly made our way to Embassy Suites Happy Hour offset with Dad manhattans and decompressed.  We went to a BBQ place around the corner from the hotel called Jim n Nicks that I looked up and it looked pretty good.  We waited about 30 minutes for a table and then all had some good southern barbecue, cheddar biscuits and good sides of collard greens, mac and cheese and beans.  Quickly crashed once back at the hotel.

creaper shot of the creapy Wendys. Three managers waiting to pounce on their Wendy’s patrons. Twighlight Zone.

enjoying Embassy Suites Happy Hour

Me and Soph waiting for dinner in our shades

BBQ waiting and Jim n Nicks

Saturday, June 15th 2013

  • Embassy Suites breakfast at 8:00 and was on the road by 9:30.  4 1/2 hour drive to Grayton Beach after stopping at the MOST HORRIBLE McDonalds of all time on Rt 10 in Florida. Everyone on the way and going home from the Beach was there and the staff was inept to say the least.  Terrible experience.  Don’t go there again.
  • Got to our rental house around 2:00 – unfortunately the cleaning lady was still there and needed more time.  We all walked down to the beach to say hello to the ocean.  The beach and water are great as always and it is just a 5 minute walk down the road to our beach.
  • Got into the house around 3:00 after telling the cleaning lady to not worry about washing the windows or sweeping the pool deck.  She was happy.  House very nice.  Four bedrooms, all with own bathrooms open to large great room with kitchen, dining and living spaces. Nice and chilly A.C. as it is H.O.T. outside with capital letters.  The back has a nice small pool, long of lounge chairs and pool toys.
  • Courtney, Mom and I headed off to the Publix and had no trouble dropping lots of $$ buying first round of groceries and beer.  Lots of beer drinkers.  Came home to everybody having fun in the pool, inventing a game knocking over (lots) of empty beer cans.
  • Had dinner of grilled chicken, brothy noodles, zucchini and of course a publix key lime pie.  Courtney and I went to bed early as we were beat…not sure how long the kids stayed up

hanging out on the beach waiting to get in the house

happy to be on vacation

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

  • Had a breakfast casserole for breakfast and celebrated fathers days.  We quickly lubed up with lots of sunscreen and made our way down to the beach.  It was a nice hot and sunny day.  The ocean was nice and blue and not rough at all.  Started our first sand castle and loving the great sand here.
  • Up for lunch around 1:00, pool, beers, siesta and back to the beach.  Same routine.  Life is tough.  I stoked up the Weber again and we grilled hamburgers, and had corn on the cob and baked beans.
  • Everyone watched the NBA finals after dinner but I was in bed by 9:00 as I was pooped.

Monday, June 17th, 2013

  • Beach in late A.M. after a breakfast of pancakes and bacon.  Beach was hot….it clouded up which was good as most of us were sunburn.
  • Went to Red bar for lunch around 1:30.  I had a bowl of gumbo and a salad with a tomato vinaigrette.  Courtney had a shrimp po boy.  All had good lunches.
  • Spent afternoon in the pool and had a late dinner of tuna melts and salad… which were very good.  Brownies and ice cream and then played dominoes for two hours until 11:00.

checking out the selection at the Red Bar

teen poser

instagram selfie

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

  • bike ride in AM with Claire, Grace and Sophia to Sea Side for coffee.  Love their latin coffee little store… best coffee anywhere…even when its 85 out at 8:00 in the morning.  Walked on beach, bought blueberries at farmers market
  • went down to beach but storm chased us back to house.  It didn’t end up raining, went back down the beach an hour later and it was beautiful.  The girls and Sean ended up going to Destin shopping but Jack, Dad and I built a great castle and it was a great morning.
  • Back to chill in pool and sandwiches for lunch.
  • Mom made pasta with shrimp, feta and tomatoes for dinner – very good.

my favorite place in the morning

big yawn

chairs on Seaside beach in the morning

Happy sisters

best beach ever. beautiful colors.

the house had a great screened in porch where we cocktail hour took place

enjoying a great pasta and shrimp dinner

best time of day

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

  • Courtney and I went on an early morning bike ride around Watercolor checking out the nice streets and the humongous houses.  Stopped for coffee in Seaside and relaxed outside.
  • Beach in morning and afternoon – same old same old perfect day.  Nice big sand castle.
  • Got dinner put together and then everyone went down the beach to take pictures.  Although the sunset wasn’t great the light is great to take pictures at that time of the day.
  • Taco dinner with lots of tacos, fixings and spanish rice.  Didn’t eat until 9:00 or so.

enjoying the scenery

green truck on Seaside street

good one

Mom and Dad

requisite Xmas card shot. (good one) (haven’t done xmas cards in prob 5 years)

Jack and Grace

…or is this the Xmas card shot? I like this one too.

l’ensemble du groupe. another good one.

happy jumpers

makes me laugh every time I look at this one!


the #1 sand castle builders on the beach. not even close. we even had groupies come check out our builds every day. beef jerky lady 🙂


tween/teen posers


rapture redux. hee hee.


lovely ladies


best beach EVER

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

  • Courtney, Grace, Mom and I went for a walk down the beach when we woke up around 8:00.  The beach was nice – calm, blue and little wind.  We walked to Grayton Beach and back.  It was hot down there even that early as there was no wind.
  • Courtney, Claire and I went on a drive after breakfast to check out Top Sail State Park – about 10 miles West on 30A. It was mostly a campground – they had some cabins but not as nice as the ones we usually stay in at Grayton Beach.  The Grayton Beach ones are more private.  We stopped at the grocery store to load up on pop and beer and to get a cake for Sean’s birthday which is today.
  • I went down to the beach by myself for about an hour and half and read. (rapture)
  • Everyone was down the beach in the afternoon on a nice bright afternoon.  Sean caught a couple of fish.  We were chased up by rain around 4:00 but we sat in the pool in the pouring rain drinking beer and the rain only lasted about 15 minutes.
  • We somehow got everybody together and out of the house by 5:30 to go to dinner at Stinkys.  We thought if we got there earlier enough we wouldn’t have to wait – but ended up waiting about 1 hour and 15 minutes – not bad at all actually as we sat in the bar in the building next door.  We had a really great dinner, sitting at the long tall table right next to the bar.  I had a dozen raw oysters and a salad and helped Courtney with her great combo of crawfish pot pie, catfish and crabcake – all great.  Sean and Dad each had the Stinky’s stew that was a bouilibaise of great things.
  • Went home and had cake and sang Happy Birthday to Sean.
  • Watched Miami win the NBA finals…..BOOOOOO.

waiting in the bar at Stinkys

table part 1

table part 2 (nice shot Grace)

Friday, June 21st, 2013

  • Grace and I went on a bike ride at 7:00 AM.  Drove through Watercolor again picking out which house I will buy when I win the lottery.  It is quite amazing the houses they are building and they are all beautiful.  Of course stopped for coffee at Seaside, split a chocolate croissant and brought one home for Sophia.  Stripped down when I got back and jumped in the pool.  Yeay vacation.
  • Spent the morning and afternoon on the beach.  It started raining late morning but we just stayed in the pool in the rain drinking beer.  Very nice.
  • Went to Seaside for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.  Kids got three orders of fried pickles and adults got oysters, steamed shrimp and red royal shrimp.  We sat on the beautiful ocean front pavilion and enjoyed our last evening on the beach.  We ordered pizza after that at a place in Grayton that wasn’t very good and put together a salad with all our leftover.  Packed up the cars.

digging into the oysters

beautiful shrimp. love those Royal Reds.

down the beach one last time

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

  • Got up early and on the road at 5:05 CST.  Road all the way home… about 15 1/2 hours.  long drive but didn’t run into any problems – good weather and no bad traffic.  We had a great vacation and so happy that we went.

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Quebec; May 2013

Friday, May 11, 2013
Courtney and I took off at 5:30 am for a six day journey to celebrate the start of our 25th year of marriage. We had a 9 hour drive to Montreal. It was a pretty painless drive with a bit of rain but nothing too bad. Once we got to Montreal we had a bit of trouble figuring out how to get off the highway to where we wanted to go, overshooting it… TWICE. We ended up finding it a different way all together. We are staying three nights at the Hotel Nelligan in old Montreal. They upgraded us to a suite which was a big room with a fireplace, brick walls and a really nice bathroom with a whirlpool tub.  Very nice. After settling in we went for a walk for about an hour, checking out the surrounding area, Notre Dame , just a block a way and then walked toward downtown toward the arts district. We headed back via china town – sketchy, and came back to relax before dinner. After taking a little snooze and a nice bath we headed off towards dinner in the Latin Quarter. It ended up being farther than I thought – about a half hour walk, but we had a great dinner at L’Express and it was fun to walk through the many different neighborhoods. The restaurant was a french bistro we made a reservation for after reading about it and dinner was great.  I had sorrel soup and then salmon over a bed of spinach.  Courtney had a salad with warm goat cheese and then mushroom ravioli.  Mmmmm. After dinner we had a nice stroll back and went to bed pretty quickly as it was a long day.

Happy to be exploring a new city

Interesting buildings everywhere

Le Vieux Montreal

Looking into L’Express from the street

jar of pickles and mustard for appetizers… good stuff

Saturday, May 11, 2013
After sleeping ok – our street is pretty busy and across from a noisy late night club so it was kind of loud, we had a nice continental breakfast chez hotel. Good coffee, nice dining room and nice selection of food. We took off around 10:00 deciding to head out towards the botanical gardens and Olympic village. We took the subway up and first went to Le Chateau Dufrense which was an old mansion built in 1912 and now preserved as a museum. We had the house to ourselves and enjoyed looking at the beautiful woodwork, windows and craftsmanship. It was odd in that two brothers built it together and it one house with two residents that didn’t connect at all internally. After spending about an hour exploring the house we went to the Montreal botanical gardens which were right across the street. The gardens were very nice with lots of different gardens to explore. A huge place. It was drizzling a bit but that didn’t deter us from walking around for over an hour. You could easily spend more as we barely walked through half of it. We then walked through the old Olympic village which was right there also. The Olympic stadium is HUGE with billions of tons of concrete. It was very 70s modernistic and will be interesting to see how it holds up over the next ten years. It looks like they have rehabbed several of the smaller venues into museums and other structures and there was a brand new planetarium that just opened as well. We hopped back on the metro and got off in the Latin quarter and stopped at Les Trois Brasseurs – a bier pub for a late lunch. After lunch we walked back towards downtown checking out the 21 swings exhibit. They were groups of swings that made music when you swing on them. I read about them last year somewhere so it was cool to see them. We then walked back towards le Vieux looping down towards the other side. It is a great city to explore with amazing buildings everywhere. We passed the restaurant where we had dinner reservations and pushed it back as we had lunch so late. After another nice siesta we relaxed and had a bottle of wine in our room and then went to dinner at Venti Osteria at 8:00.  Venti was a contemporary Italian place, nice and small with lots of locals.  We split an order of crostini with eggpland and tomatoes.  Courtney had a risotto with shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower purée and shaved mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts leaves.  I had Porchetta stuffed with cheese, apricots over Gorgonzola polenta.  Mon Dieu!! After a nice long relaxing dinner we strolled around le Vieux and then stopped in the bar at our hotel for a late night beer.

inside le Chateau Dufrense

checking out the ceiling

amazing woodwork, ceilings, tile everywhere

going into the Montreal Botanical Gardens

amazing gardens everywhere

le champion

70’s futuristic architecture

vacation = beer for lunch; bonus points = lunch outside

21 swings

A cool video of this:

contemplating a tatoo

relaxing in our great room

late night bier.

Sunday, May 12, 2013
We slept in a bit this morning, relaxing and reading in bed enjoying having nothing to do. We had breakfast chez l’hotel, I can eat chocolate croissants every morning thank you, and then took off in a rather cloudy, drizzly day. We hopped on the Metro and went up north getting off around McGill University. We were heading towards le Parc du Mont-Royal which is this huge mountain in the middle of the city. We walked around 5 blocks going way up hill and then found the steps leading up to the park. Hundreds of steps. Hundreds and hundreds. Crazy. There were several groups let by trainers running up and down the steps looking like they were all going to die. It was quite impressive what a steep hill it is. At least we were working off some of the beer we have been drinking. We made it up to a park where they had a nice overlook with great views of the city, some nice gardens and an old 1930s era pavilion. It looked like the hill kept going up but we headed back down into the city. Going all downhill we wandered around the cool neighborhood bordering the university and museum and ended up at the art museum which was our goal but was surprised that we ended up right there. Le Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec was actually three different buildings on two sides of a busy street ingeniously connected through tunnels and galleries under the ground. It was a very impressive layout and a very nice museum. We wandered about for an hour or enjoying the large exhibit of Napoleon artifacts, the modern art and the cool displays of furniture. There was also a nice small outdoor sculpture garden. We then wandered back towards downtown walking through the busy shopping district, popping into the Ritz to check it out and then wandering back to Les Halles where we founds a decent pizza place for lunch. We then walked back towards old Montreal, walking through the alleys, going out on the waterfront to enjoy the sun that finally came out and then going back to our hotel to relax. We walked many miles this day. After a nice snooze we headed down to have a drink in the lobby to celebrate mothers day and ending up hanging out for over an hour as the manhattans were tasty. We eavesdropped while having cocktails and heard someone talking about a restaurant close by that was good Mediterranean food and had live jazz. That sounded right up our alley so I went on Opentable and booked us a table at 8:00 which was about 45 minutes away. The restaurant ended up being really nice. We waited about 15 minutes for our table listening to the duo jazz combo that was nice. We had a table right by the window which was nice as we just lingered watching the strollers and enjoying the good food. I had a tasty mushroom risotto and Courtney had a bowl of french onion soup. We strolled around after our dinner… it was cold out, in the 40s and went to bed pretty early.

on top of Mont Royal

the tulips were beautiful everywhere

a wedding party taking pictures outside the musee des beaux arts

bust of Napoleon in front of a window

creepy sculpture

interesting gallery of decorative arts

alley in old montreal

outside our hotel

Mothers Day Manhattan

Un grande bier

Monday, May 13, 2013
We got up around 7, got our stuff together, had another nice petit dejeuner chez hotel and on the road by 8:00. With no troubles we made the 3 hour journey to Quebec City. A nice drive through the country side, lots of farms, everything in French now. We had little trouble finding our way to our hotel: the beautiful le Chateau Frontenac. Very nice. We were able to check in right away and quickly made our way outside exploring. We walked outside for about an hour checking out the village and were happy to stumble upon Chez Temporel for lunch which was hidden in an alley and a tiny place. We each had some good québécois bier, really good sandwiches and salad it really felt like we were somewhere different with everyone speaking French and the whole atmosphere. After lunch we walked around the walls of the city checking out the views. I think Quebec City is one of the few remaining walled cities. It was pretty cool.  We wandered back to our hotel and went swimming in the pool, sitting in the hot tub and reading poolside.  We relaxed in our room having a bottle of wine and felt all fooded out so we decided to just go to the bar in our hotel instead of going out to dinner.  It was a nice, country clubbish bar overlooking the river.  We enjoyed some cocktails and stayed in for the night as the weather was rainy and cold.

our beautiful hotel: le chateau frontenac

town square

typical street in Quebec City

outside the walls of the old city

exploring the alleys

bier with lunch

relaxing at the lounge

Tuesday, May 14th 2013

Woke up to the beautiful sight of sunshine after a previous evening of rain.  We had breakfast in the hotel which was fabulous.  Best breakfast buffet we’ve ever had with everything and anything you could possibly want.  Waiters, good coffee, pastries, bacon, omelets, anything and everything.  After a nice long meal we took off on our adventures.  We walked along the riverfront on the Promenade des Gouverners which had hundreds of steps going up and down high above the river.  This let to the Citadelle which was an old fort that was the central part of the walled city and is now an active military post.  Although you couldn’t walk around much in the middle, just peep in, it was cool to see the old walls and the nice views.  We then continued walking along the river away from the city through a nice park and eventually ending up at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec.  Another beautiful museum with an old traditional wing and a newer addition.  The newer addition was actually a rehabbed 19th century building that was great to wander around in.  After walking around for an hour or so, buying a couple of things in the gift shop we wandered out looking for a place for lunch.  We walked up Le Grand Allee and then went up Avenue Cartier that we read was a nice street with lots of local places.  We ended up going to a pub called Turf-Pub that was kind of a sports bar that was packed.  We had a great lunch of huge sandwiches, salad and of course more bier.  We hung out for quite a while and then walked back towards the old town.  We decided to take our siesta up on the patio area outside of the pool.  Although it was a bit chilly, the sun was out and it was really nice laying out on the chaise lounges.  I fell asleep for awhile and Courtney lounged about reading.  Early evening we walked down to the lower town where we haven’t been yet and wandered around the many quaint streets, shops and along the waterfront.  There wasn’t much going on as it was a chilly Tuesday night.  Again, we weren’t very hungry as we had a huge breakfast and a huge late lunch so we ended up at a local Irish pub, le Pub St-Alexander, where we drank beer, had a plate of cheese and crackers and watched Canadian hockey.  Perfect wrap up for a great trip.

The one side of our hotel was under construction

happy to see the sunshine

sculpture on the art museum steps

new wing of the art museum that was an old factory

looking out over the river

patio outside the art museum… more tulips.

graffiti outside the museum

the little square outside of our hotel

looking up at le Chateau Frontenac

street in the lower town with the funicular in the background


a nice way to spend the evening

one more… it is the most photographed hotel in the world afterall. Bon soir.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

We woke up around 5:00 AM and hit the road right away as we had a long journey home.  We said our au revoirs and had an uneventful 12 hour drive home. Long car rides are so much easier with no children!   We enjoyed our long weekend and are excited for our trip next year hopefully to Germany / Austria / Somewhere around those parts.

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Toronto: April 4-7, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Courtney’s cousin Michael got married in Toronto so we made it into a long weekend trip.  We left at 6:45 and had a really easy 4 1/2 hour drive with no problems. We were able to check into Sheraton Town Centre when we arrived at 11:30. It is a nice large business hotel right in the middle of downtown.  We had a room up on 37th floor with a nice view.

After settling in we walked towards the Ontario art museum and stopped for lunch at a place called Sin and Redemption across the street from the museum. It was a small pub with a nice selection of beers. Courtney had a Leffe Blonde and I had a xxx which was from Canada and never heard of. It was very tasty. I had mussels et frites and Courtney had a grilled veggie wrap.  All were good. We visited the art museum for about an hour and a half. It was recently redone by Frank Ghery and the space was very interesting. The 5 story wooden winding staircase going through the atrium was beautiful. I also liked the gallery of Henri Moore sculpture. We then walked towards Yonge / Dundas where we sat in the sun soaking in the heat (it was cold). We walked through the huge Eaton mall which had every store on the face of the earth. They had a really nice book store that we spent some time in as bookstores don’t seem to exist too much any more. We walked through the Union Bay department store and then back to the hotel for a short siesta. We went up to the top floor club lounge for cocktails where the views were great and they had nice appetizers as well. We were deciding if we should go to the Blue Jays game as they were playing the Indians or if we should go out to dinner. As it just didn’t seem like baseball season we opted to go out to dinner instead. I know… big surprise.  We went to  a place called The Spice Route that I picked after perusing Open Table a few days ago. It was on West King, about a 15 minute walk. We had mojitos and then sushi, dumplings and some other asian goodies.  Good stuff and cool place.  After dinner we stopped at this huge camping store that had great stuff. Courtney ended up buying a bag and we bought a Nalgene bottle top. Such excitement. We made it back to the hotel and quickly crashed after a long day.

Interesting art gallery on the way to art museum

Outside of the Ontario Art Gallery. This is the new wing designed by Frank Gehry – a Toronto native.

The inside of the previous shot. Very beautiful space.

I love Courtney’s hair in this one 🙂

The staircase growing up out of the roof.

Detail going up staircase. Every angle was different. So beautiful.

Henri Moore sculpture.

View from our hotel cocktail lounge

Friday, April 5, 2013

We had a nice continental breakfast on the club floor and were out the door by 9:00 to explore. We walked down toward the old part of Toronto, stopping at a coffee shop on the way to recaffeinate and to use wi-fi to make sure the kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Our mobiles were on roaming the whole time.  We were communicating with the kids and Courtney’s family who were all coming in at different times via wi-fi text which was kind of a pain when we were out and about. We are indeed spoiled.  We walked through the St. Lawrence market which is a huge city market with lots of produce, meat, flowers and everything. We were there kind of early so there wasn’t much action, but it was a cool place with lots of history.  We then kept walking east to the Distillery district which is a recent rehab of old early 19th century liquor distilleries into several blocks of art galleries, bars, restaurants and shops. Again there wasn’t a whole lot going on as we were there kind of early but a cool place. Lots of construction going on in the area which mostly looked like new housing. There was lots of construction in Toronto which is interesting as we have seen hardly anything over the past several years in our U.S.A.   We hiked it back towards downtown along King Street and then hopped on the subway heading up to the Yorkville neighborhood, about 4 stops or so.  When we figured out where the heck we were once we got off the train we made it outside and it was snowing out.  Yikes.  We walked around window shopping at the stores and wandered around looking for somewhere to have lunch.  We found another pub like place called The Bedford Academy with a fireplace going.  Perfect.  Had beer, and split some soup and a sandwich.  We then walked back toward downtown walking through the University of Toronto,  past the impressive Legislative office, the huge U of Toronto Medical campus and then back to our hotel.  An impressive day of walking.  After settling back in we visited with Courtney’s parents who arrived mid afternoon and then later went to the hotel bar and visited with George and Carrie, Pat and Alan and some of Courtney’s cousins.  I drove to the rehearsal dinner which was about a half an hour drive in busy traffic not knowing where we were going.  We managed to get there with no problems though.  The rehearsal dinner was at Michael and Mahima’s house that they have recently redone.  It was interesting to meet everyone and Mahima’s family, especially her sisters, were all very nice.  Courtney’s Uncle Bob gave a very moving speech as well as some other people.  They had a great spread of Mediterranean food.  We took off around 8:30 along with George and Carrie as we were going to meet John and Alissa at a restaurant downtown at 9:00 as the Kanwit’s were arriving late and were unable to come to the rehearsal dinner.  We made it back to the hotel in half the time but then took a couple wrong turns trying to find the place we were going but made it there around 9:15 where John and Alissa were waiting.  We went to a place called BeerBistro that was really good.  The place was packed at 9:30.  We had greet beers and split some outstanding mussells that were “clambake” mussells with potatoes, beer and cheese.  great.  We had a really nice time catching up with everyone and not having any kids around!

Old and new Toronto.

Checking out the St. Lawrence market

The distillery district

The Bedford Academy where we had lunch

Interesting fence in the park across from the hotel

Uncle Bob giving a toast

Saturday, April 6, 2013

After a good night’s sleep we had breakfast again up on the club level.  We then went to breakfast again, why not, with Courtney’s family to a place a few blocks up called Eggspectation.  Even with the cheesy name it was a nice place and I somehow managed to eat a waffle and Courtney ate something as well.  Again, it was nice to sit and talk with everyone.  We didn’t get out of there until around 11:00 and then went for a walk.  The group wanted to go in the same direction we went the previous day so we walked back towards the market and the distillery district with people dropping off as we kept walking.  It was a beautiful sunny day but still very chilly in the 40s.  It ended up being Courtney and I and John and Alissa and once we made it back to downtown we decided to look for somewhere to grab something to eat as the reception was not until later.   After looking on the internet and wandering around quite a bit we ended up at another pub like place called The Queen and Beaver Public House.  It was very British and the food and the beer was great.  I had some kind of English bitter beer and a BLT made with pork belly and roasted tomatoes that was insane.  Courtney had a pie filled with potatoes and mushrooms that was good as well.  Another great place.  We made it back to the hotel and it was time to get dressed up as we were supposed to meet in the lobby to take pictures.  It didn’t take long and we ended up spending most of the time in the bar.  Our large group boarded a bus at the hotel that took us to the wedding just a few miles away.  The ceremony was an Indian / traditional fusion.  Mahima’s family was all beautifully dressed in saris and other traditional ware as were Michael, Peter and Uncle Bob.  The ceremony was interesting and beautiful.  Mahima sang her vows which was very moving.  The ceremony and following reception were in an old church converted into a party space.  An interesting space.  The ceremony lasted an hour or so followed by the reception.  They had a good band and the food was great.  A line of Indian food and English food.  I only ate the Indian food which was fantastic.  Michael and Mahima sang several times and everyone was happy.  It was a great wedding.

Craig, Courtney, George and John

Cousins ready to go to the wedding

Mahima’s family welcoming Michael’s family to the wedding

Michael getting his feet washed when he entered the church

the wedding ceremony

Michael and Mahima singing with the band

George and Carrie


The beautiful bride singing

Sunday, April 7, 2013

We had a quick breakfast with Alissa and John, everyone else had an earlier flight, and then hit the road around 9:00 or so.  We stopped at Ikea on the way out of Toronto for an hour or so and didn’t do too much damage.  (There are four Ikeas in Toronto! )  We stopped at the duty free store and bought some liquor on the way across the border.  We enjoyed an uneventful drive home and definitely will keep Toronto in mind for future outings as it is such an easy drive and a booming, growing, and cultural city.

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Cincinnati, November 2012

We went on a road trip to Cincinnati last weekend to visit Jack. My parents picked me, Sophie and Grace up at home around noon on Friday and we met Claire and Courtney in Strongsville for lunch as they left right from work at noon.  We had a quick Panera lunch and then back on the road arriving at Cincinnati around 5:00.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Kentucky across the river as we stayed there last time and enjoyed it.  We got an extra big room as we knew we had a lot of people.  My parents had a room right next to ours.  Sean, Jack and Jenni met us at the hotel and we had a nice cocktail hour in our room having the kids running down to get the free drinks.  We walked across the Roebling bridge to get to the Moerline Lager house where we had dinner. The Roebling bridge was built in 1866 and is the longest suspension bridge when it was built.  It is beautiful and amazing that it is almost 150 years old.

cocktail hour

we had a bar in the room

everybody after dinner

cable detail

close up

Saturday, 9/10/2012

We had Embassy Suites breakfast and then headed out to Jack’s house as Jack, Jenni, Claire and Sean went to U of C after dinner last night and slept there.  Jack is staying in the house next to where he was last year…not as nice but not awful.  We went on a walk around the campus as my parents have never been there before.  We walked for around an hour checking out the impressive new architecture, the football field, the bookstore and enjoyed walking around on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Jack and Sophie in front of his (crumbling) house.

on the U of C campus

Jack and Grandma


There are lots of interesting buildings on the campus

After walking around we drove downtown to check out the Findlay market and had lunch there.  We went back to the hotel and relaxed in the afternoon – watching football, going for a walk outside and drinking more beer.  We went to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner and the kids stayed at the hotel for the night and playing cards and drinking (more) beer.  I think beer was the common theme of the weekend 🙂

the bridge during the day

one more

Sunday, 9/11/12

After another Embassy Suites breakfast we dropped Jack and Sean off at Jack’s house around 11:00, Sean was catching a bus back to Athens, and then we took off.  We stopped at the nice outlets between Cincinnati and Columbus and made it home around 5:00 or so.

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Trip: Wisconsin, August 2012

Thursday, 8/9/12

Courtney, Jack, Grace, Sophia and I left Cleveland at 0500 on our way to Wisconsin with a stop in the upper U.P. Claire stayed home as she had to work.  We drove to Munising, MI through mostly rain and falling temperatures.  It has been in the 90’s and higher all summer so we were happy to be going into cooler temps.  It was about a 10 1/2 hour drive with stops for breakfast and a quick lunch.  We booked two rooms at the Beach Inn in Munising, Michigan and were pleasantly suprised that it was pretty nice as the details were pretty sketchy.  It was right on the bay with all the rooms looking out over a nice big lawn with lots of chairs and things to do.  Unfortunately, it was raining the whole time so we just sat on the porch and had some beers while the kids watched the Olympics.  We went to dinner at the Brownstone Inn about 10 miles north on the main road.  It was a nice place that reminded me of The Cabin in Euclid before it was remodeled after it burnt down. We had a really nice dinner and was nice to relax.  We stopped at one of the beaches on the way back to the motel as it finally stopped raining to check out Lake Superior.  The beaches are beautiful as well as the scenery.  Crashed quickly once we got back as it had been a long day.

jack and sophie playing game on lawn of motel in the rain

checking out Lake Superior on the way home from dinner

happy to be going on vacation

our cute little motel

Friday, 8/10/12

  • Had a quick breakfast at the motel, checked out around 9:30 and headed to the Pictured Rock National Park for the morning.
  • Went to Munising Falls – nice trail up through woods and big rocks,  then to Sand Point – beautiful beach overlooking city and onto Lake Superior.
  • Then to Miner’s Falls – about 15 minutes away – another big waterfall and then to Miner’s Castle where you can see the beautiful cliffs and ragged Lake Superior.
  • Went to great hot dog place in Munising – Johnny’s Dogs.  Great menu and great food.
  • Drove to Jute lake. About three hours arriving at around 4.
  • Kanwitts there for last day. Went swimming and then had campfire dinner at campsite. Brats, hot dogs and hamburgers.

on the trail to munising falls

beautiful cliffs

munising falls

beautiful place

shipwreck on lake superior beach

rugged beach

our children are so strong

checking out another waterfall

castle rock

helllooooo…fries with pulled pork, ranch, barbeque sauce and cheese

jack showing off his impressive hot dog

relaxing at jute lake

fishing for minnows

nice bonfire

very nice place to have dinner

Saturday, 8/11/12

  • Hung out w Kanwits in morning, swimming, kayaking. They took off around 11:00.
  • We went to Boulder Beer Bar for lunch. Courtney, Jack and I had smoked chicken wings and a pizza and the girls had sandwiches.  After lunch we went on the Trout Lake trail for a mile hike.  Relaxed on dock on in afternoon.

boulder beer bar for lunch

pioneer girl

hiking on trout lake

happy to be in the woods

Sunday, 8/12/12

  • Went into “Musky Days” at Boulder Junction in afternoon.  Mostly crappy crafty stuff.  But nice people watching.

Monday,  8/13/2012

  • Went on hike around Escanaba for lunch.  Packed a picnic and hiked in 1 1/2 mile to the lake and picnicked and swam.  Great spot.  Great afternoon.  Hike back is another 1 mile.
  • Bent’s Camp for dinner

hiking in all packed up


jack and sophia

cookies mmmmmm


…not swimming

what a great spot!

nice shot of sophie

bent’s camp – another one of our favorites

post chicken wing stupor


Tuesday, 8/14/2012

  • Courtney went w Maryjo to Minoqua around 10:00 to visit a friend and have lunch.
  • Courtney and Grace swam across the lake to the other side.  Grace made it one way.  Courtney made it both ways.

jumping off the dock

nice face

nice technique

courtney and grace on their away across the lake

Wednesday, 8/15/2012

  • Lunch at Granery.
  • Walked around Fallison lake.  Beautiful trail with huge sections of red pines and old hemlocks
  • Scenic drive back via land o lakes.  Stopped to buy a few things at the grocery store and stopped at the ice cream stand
  • Campfire dinner of sausage patties and chicken breasts.

fallison lake

nice height

Thursday, 8/16/2012

  • Drizzly, much colder morning.  Stayed in bed and read until pretty late.
  • Attempted walk around jute lake with Courtney and Craig. Prob walked around 5 to 6 miles and only one quarter around.
  • Went horseback riding for an hour at the stables near Boulder Junction. Nice ride through the woods.  Had macaroni and cheese and take out fried chicken for dinner

stop sign in the middle of nowhere

horseback riding through the woods

nice way to travel

Friday, 8/17/2012

  • Carrie and two of her friends arrived around midnight last night as they are going to a nearby Lake for a bachelorette party.
  • Courtney and I canoed around the lake at 7:30 A.M.  Beautiful, bright blue skied day with lots of sunshine and cool.
  • Had a cookout breakfast of bacon, sausage, pancakes and eggs.  Everything very good.
  • Hung out on dock reading, swimming relaxing.  Kids went to Bent’s camp around 1:30 for wings but we stayed home as still full from breakfast.
  • Courtney and MaryJo went to Red Pine Camp function for dinner.

Saturday, 8/18/12

  • Left Jute lake around 5:00 and drove through downtown Chicago and got home in exactly 12 hours.  Almost a record.

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Trip: Saugutuck, Michigan

Sunday, July 15th 2012

We cruised out of Chicago with no problems on a late Sunday morning after dropping Jack off at the bus station.  An easy 2 1/2 hour drive.  We have never been to Saugutuck before, we were looking for somewhere to stay for a few days in south western Michigan after Chicago.  We stayed at the Ship and Shore Motel – right out of the 1960s.  We had a pretty small no frills room to share between the five of us, but we dealt with it especially after having such nice digs in Chicago.  We walked around the town in the afternoon, lots of nice shops, places to eat, galleries and of course ice cream stores.  The motel was right on the river with a balcony looking out over the pool and the river so it was nice to just hang out.  The weather was hot hot hot the whole time we were there, getting close to 100 degrees in the late afternoon.  We went to dinner at a bar called Wally’s that was nice and casual, went to the corner ice cream place for ice cream and fudge after and then strolled back to our motel and hung outside until it go dark…not until 10:00 or even later.

strolling along the boardwalk

sunday in the park

the balcony of our room looking out on to the river

crazy ferry that crossed the river right next to the motel. it operated by a kid cranking a chain to get from one side to the other.

relaxing at dinner

Monday July 16th, 2012

After breakfast chez motel we took off for the beach.  We went to Oval Beach which was just on the other side of the river from our motel, but you had to go a round about way to get there.  Oval Beach is one of the best fresh water beaches according to many.  Beautiful sand, large sand dunes, fresh, clear water and no buildings at all.  Really quite amazing.  It was great to sit and relax after such a busy wedding weekend. Courtney and I went on a long walk to the end where the river went in and then went swimming where we were the only ones.  It was wonderful. We ended up getting lunch at the beach as they had a really nice concession stand with lots of different things.   We stayed all morning and went up around 2:00 or so.  We took a drive to Crain’s Pie’s that we read about that was about a half hour away.  We each got a piece of pie and hung out for awhile.  We stopped at a winery on the way back that we passed and had a tasting and bought a couple of bottles.  Went back to the motel, hung out, went to dinner late at an Italian place across the street, had more ice cream of course and then hung outside in the heat until bed.

beautiful oval beach

mmmmmmm cherry pie

pie tasting….

….followed by wine tasting. not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

fenn valley winery – in the middle of nowhere.

girls at dinner

a competitive game of dots.

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Off to the beach again in the morning.  This time we went to Saugutuck Dunes, which was just a mile or so north.  This beach was interesting in that you had to hike a half mile to get to the beach through the woods and sand dunes.  It was worth the hike.  While not as big as Oval beach it was still very nice.  We stayed at the beach all morning again and then hung out at the pool, went shopping and relaxed.  We went to the Butler for dinner which reminded me of a 1960’s version of the Cabin back here.  We had a nice last vacation dinner.

saugutuck dunes beach – another amazingly nice beach

looking the other direction

a beautiful mermaid washed ashore

sophia enjoying her arizona at the butler

walking back along the river after dinner

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

We headed home around 9:00 or so.  We stopped at Ikea in Ann Arbor on the way home for just a quick stroll through and stocked up on our usual Ikea purchases.  We had lunch there too – the first time we have ate at an Ikea after going to them for so many years.  The lunch was good and cheap.  The swedish meatballs were the best of course.  Made it home with no probs and happy to be home after a nice time away.

hello swedish meatballs

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