05 November 2017

10/14/2017 - Last Day in Petoskey "Stone" Town

On the last day of our Petoskey meet-up, we opted to stay a little closer to town. We had not surveyed the stores yet. Nancy had a few things in mind to shop for--her "memory magnet" of the location, a piece of art and, in this case, a Petoskey stone.

This is Michigan's state stone. It is actually a rock and a fossil. Each is a fragment of a coral colony or reef originally created in the Devonian period (which means a REALLY loooong time ago). These stones are found in other areas of the world, but are most prevalent in Petoskey and nearby Charlevoix. Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petoskey_stone and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devonian.

As it is the state stone, each person is limited to taking 25 pounds of it home. Just before our trip I read in the paper that someone had found a 93-pound single stone. The article said as this was against state law, it was "recovered by the authorities." Here's the article: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2015/12/state_confiscates_giant_petosk.html

One of the stores had an entry floor made of good examples of Petoskey stone.


Here is a polished stone, but they come in many variations.
We traveled up and down all the business streets hunting for our needed items The guys were going to wait for us in the city center park, but ended up in the Noggin Room Pub at the Perry Hotel. After a successful shopping spree, we met them there for a pre-lunch cocktail. We also discovered the "Wall of Foam," where MANY mugs were hung, all designating owner names. The bartenderess kindly to our photo.
While shopping, we spotted side-by-side restaurant possibilities for lunch--the Twisted Olive and the Palette Bistro. We entered to check their menus before deciding. Out both their back windows was a picture perfect view of the lake. For today we chose the Olive, but will try the other one next time.
Brunch was being served on the weekend, rather than lunch. If I remember, Tim and Mike ordered breakfasts options, Nancy had a grilled chicken sandwich, and I had soup and salad with candied pecans and goat cheese. No complaints here. We definitely recommend this place.

Next stop was a stroll to the lake. We walked through a tunnel under the highway to get to the beach and pier. Once on the other side, there is a lovely promenade to the end of the pier. Not much happening this time of year. Most of the boats are already hauled out and taken to their winter homes.

A couple asked us to take their photo, so we swapped pix.

T&N wanted to take a half bushel of apples home to share with their neighbors. We spotted Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery on the map and started that way. It was a short distance our of town. We hoped we could catch a tasting and a farm stand at one spot.

Alas we got just a tasting, a good one though. We sat on the patio under heat lamps and enjoyed a view of the vineyard.  I had a divine apricot fruit wine.

The trees look a little red in this photo, but truly were just brown.


We asked the server if she knew of a fruit farm where we could buy apples. She directed us to a nearby place that I think was called Bill's. In any case, it was one of the best we've been to in a while. There was a huge variety of pumpkins and squash and apples, as well as tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, crisp greens, etc. A nice selection for this time of year.

Our next stop was a jerky shop we had passed on our way to the Bill's. This was our only disappointment. Mike and Tim each bought over $15 worth of jerky and both agreed later it was the worst they ever had. Too tough to chew or even to take a bite off. Back home we tossed the whole batch!! Next time he will ask for a taste before buying. And P.S., their mascot was bit too phallic for me.
Our last stop of the day was an area called Bay Harbor. We had passed it numerous times in our Journeys up north in the past as well as this weekend, but we had not stopped. So today our curiosity got the best of us. Turns out it was a big condo complex with a few stores and a restaurant called the Knot Just a Bar. We had a quick cocktail, a cup of soup (clam chowder that was way too peppery for Deb ... what a wuss!), and finally a birthday cheesecake delight for Mike. Yum! We hit a lot of places today and most Mike and I had never been to in the past.  

Back at the hotel, we gathered in our modest non-presidential-but-quite-adequate room for a last chat and good-byes. We had had a long day and T&N were rising early to head back to Chicago (at least an 8 hour drive).

We so enjoy every minute we can squeeze in with these dear friends and can't wait til next year to visit again. We're talking European river cruise.

04 November 2017

10/13/2017 - Petoskey is the Place to Party

A casual get-up and a brief breakfast at the hotel. Free, so we went for it. Typical breakfast bar with scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, pancakes from the do-it-yourself machine, etc. The coffee was real good though.

Mike's birthday lunch was to be at Legs Inn in Cross Village via Harbor Springs. We took US-31 along the Lake Michigan shore to Harbor Springs. There we wandered around town by foot to see the harbor, tiny downtown area, and gorgeous homes.

We stopped at a coffee house for a warmer-upper. It was quite tiny, but cute. I loved the intricate burned wood carving in the table. I think it depicted a downtown Harbor Springs street fair. I ordered a cappuccino. It hit the spot for warmth, but did not bring back memories of Italy.
We also saw a Little Free Library here and another in Good Hart, our next stop. Love these LFL's, especially now that I have one (#54899).
In Harbor Springs we turned north onto MI-119. This route runs 20 miles along Lake Michigan bluffs through an area called "Tunnel of the Trees." It is barely a two-lane paved road weaving right and left to avoid the age old tree trunks lining the way. The trees on each side grow their branches over the road to criss-cross in the middle fabricating a canopy or "tunnel" of sorts. Thus the name.

It is usually bumper to bumper this time of year because of the gorgeous tree colors in fall. Motorcyclists especially like it for its windiness. But alas we sailed on by with little back-up through the mostly green trees. We made a pit stop in tiny Good Hart to browse the shops and check out their LFL.
There is not much to this village. A couple of shops for the tourists, a wee post office located inside one of them, and fruit stands with apples, pumpkins, and squash. Nancy and I bought a few trinkets.



We arrived at Legs Inn in Cross Village at 12:10p. Doors open at noon and we still waited in line for about 10 minutes for a table. Read the historical marker below to learn the long history of this place.
And see the stove legs along the roof top. I often wondered where in this remote corner of the world did Mr. Smolak get all those legs, and there are plenty.
The food here is mainly traditional Polish. I got the veggie mushroom-saukraut pirogies. The other three got the Taste of Poland combo plate with a little bit of everything from stuffed cabbage to meat pirogies, Kielbasa sausage, and sides.

In summer, the staff is mostly university students from Krakow, Poland, trying to learn English and a little of the U.S. culture. They even dress in traditional Polish attire. But today we were served by locals.

The restaurant was closing for the winter on October 22, so we were lucky to have the full menu still available. In the past we found when menu items run out, they just run out, and you get what is available at that point. 

The wood carvings inside and out are magical. Most are made from driftwood gathered on the Lake Michigan shore just down the bluff from the restaurant. Many are huge in size. Here is one. Not sure if it is a fish or a serpent or what. 
After a casual lunch we surveyed the back area. There is a fabulous view of Lake Michigan (and usually colorful trees). A few light houses can be seen as well, if the weather is right.

After wandering the grounds and gift shops we headed back south on a less circuitous route. We stopped at the Kilwin's factory for dessert, or should I say desserts. Mike was almost running to their door!! We got caramel-peanut apples, salted caramels, fudge, and chocolates in various forms. Mike didn't have a BD cake, but he sure got a fabulous helping of sugar treats.
Back at the hotel, we continued our chit-chat near the Presidential Suite fireplace. Gorging on our Kilwin's haul, we peaked over the top of our sugar high capacity and were heading "back down into the valley." Dragged ourselves back to our room for a restless night of un-sleep.

10/12/2017 - Petoskey, Usually Land of Fabulous Fall Colors

We missed our annual meet-up with friends Tim and Nancy from Chicago this summer due to a family emergency. So we re-set a date to meet them in Petoskey, Michigan, on Mike's birthday.

A big plus this time of year is that fall colors on the trees are usually peaking up north. At least that is what was predicted in early September. But we had too much rain and not enough cold temperature days this year, so the "peak" wasn't happening.

We saw some color, but not the usual spectacular reds, oranges, and golds. Mostly still green with some yellow and a small splash of red.








T&N were coming from Chicago via Grand Rapids and we were coming from Kalamazoo. Mike and I stopped at our fave rest stop that decorates for all the holidays and seasons. This time they had fall arrangements.

In Traverse City, we had a little business to do before connecting with T&N.  The four of us finally met at the Park Place Hotel bar. We imbibed in a welcome cocktail, then off to lunch.

We tried a new place called Franklin's, located downtown. They are apparently known for steak, but I got a shrimp po' boy and Nanc got the griddled cheese sandwich--both wonderful. Don't remember what the guys had, but something meaty, I'm sure. We all agreed the French fries here are fabulous. Prices on the high side, but great atmosphere. We would go back.
A cool piece of art here was this chef's knives arrangement. Amazingly they were about 6x6 feet each in size and made completely with various colors of push pins.

From T.C. to Petoskey was about 90 minutes. We were glad to get to our hotel to totally relax and catch up. After a splash of water to the face, we met in their room/s--The Presidential Suite. (It turns out there were at least six "presidential suites" on the top floor of this Holiday Inn!!)

This suite was impressive! It included a kitchenette including dishwasher, two full bedrooms, two full bathrooms (the master was HUGE and had a 6x6 foot walk-in shower with multiple shower heads), and TWO fireplaces (one in the living room and one in the bigger bedroom).
We brought along a bottle of Moscato and some crackers and cheese to snack on while we caught up on a year's worth of news. Everyone is happy and healthy at this time. Always a good report to hear this.
After that we decided to explore downtown Petoskey. It was over a mile away, so we drove. The two of us had been here many times, but always fun to see what is new in the shops. It didn't take long to find ourselves wandering into a bar, the City Park Grill.

We weren't very hungry after a big lunch and snacks, but we were ready for happy hour cocktails. Later we added an appetizer to share and soup to "hold us over" for the rest of the evening.

The bar was decorated for Halloween and Mike sat under this spooky cobweb, but no spider attacks or other creatures to worry about. Always happy times with these folks.

03 November 2017

Italy 2016, Day 4.5 - Lunch at Sibilla

Back in the van and back on the road, we continued a short distance to our lunch spot. Still in Tivoli, we were dropped off a bit away from Ristorante Sibilla. The name is an offshoot of the word sybil. Sybils were women that ancient Greeks believed to be oracles or wise, insightful counselors.

This is the view from the parking lot. Before us was a deep canyon sloping down into the Aniene River. The hillsides were terraced with green gardens and numerous waterfalls. Ancient buildings rimmed the edge. 
Lovely and refreshing! 

We ambled along narrow street paths to the other side of the canyon where the restaurant was located. 


Even though it sits at the foot of the Acropolis of Tiber (more later), its location is inconspicuous. It is not a place you would just happen across. You have to seek it out. Thank goodness Chef John found it through research or word of mouth.

Sibilla opened in 1720, if you can believe it! It serves classic country food, is vegetarian friendly, and although not a Michelin star restaurant, it gets a mention in their listings.



Throughout its long history many "celebrities" have dined here. Per their website, they include Pope Leo XII (in office 1823-1829), Frederick William III King of Prussia (reigned 1797-1840), Prince Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte (youngest brother of Napoleon Bonaparte I), Gabriele D'Annunzio (Italian author / playwright), and Pietro Mascagni (Italian composer). 

More "recent" visitors include "vice-presidents of the USA," Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Princess Margaret of England, singer Yoko Ono, and first man on the moon Neil Armstrong


The walls here are covered, inside and out, with plaques that document dates and names of famous people who dined here throughout the restaurant's long history. 
We would eat in good company, although I doubt our names will be honored on the wall !!






Before eating, we had time to wander and view the Acropolis of Tiber ruins on the neighboring property. This area includes the Temples of Vesta (round) and Sybil (rectangular), which date back to the early first century BC.

There are at least four guesses as to whom the temples honor--Hercules (protector god of Tiber), Albunea (the Tiburtine sybil), Tiburnus (hero of the city), or Vesta herself (the virgin goddess).


We also saw the canyon from the restaurant side. We drooled over the villas across the way.

We were seated al fresco (outside), under the shade of wisteria vines. Luscious and cool on this warm day. An outdoor grill sizzled in the background.


The food presented to us was simply fabulous in presentation and taste!




A kitty said goodbye as we ambled our way back to the van.