I recently spent a weekend with my husband at the Outing Lodge, a few miles outside of Stillwater, Minnesota. The Outing started in the 19th century as a poor house, then was transformed into a nursing home, and is now a bed and breakfast lodge. The location feels secluded because it is set in the middle of a large park. It is a popular location for weddings, especially in the summer when the gardens are in bloom. Once a month or so, the lodge hosts special, themed dinners. We were there for the Valentine’s dinner followed by tango lessons (!). One of the owners is an artist, and she hosts paint classes occasionally as well. The rooms vary and each is based on an different person. Ours was the Picasso Room and was pleasant and roomy.
I highly recommend the Outing Lodge as a good weekend retreat, especially if you include one of their themed dinners.
Paula at Lost in Translation suggested a challenge: post 12 photos from 2016 that represent your year. I am joining her challenge. My photos represent places I visited in 2016. (None were international and most were within a few hours of driving distance from my home.) It’s a nice way to close out the year.
The places depicted include Minneapolis, MN; the North Shore of Lake Superior (MN); Holcombe, WI; Plymouth, MA; Boston, MA; Louisville, KY; Washington, DC; Cable, WI; Baxter, MN; New Ulm, MN; Chicago, IL.
I love old houses, especially mansions. I also love that many of them have been turned into Bed and Breakfasts so that I can occasionally spend the night in one of them and pretend I am a grand dame. Last night, my husband I spent the evening in a historic Minneapolis home: 300 Clifton.
This house was originally built in 1887 in the Queen Anne style, festooned with turrets, porches, and other architectural “eye candy.” In 1905, the house was purchased by Eugene and Merrette Carpenter, who renovated the home dramatically, transforming the Victorian house to a Georgian Revival.
After 1948, the house was no longer a single-family dwelling. For a while, it served as a boarding house, and later, it was turned into offices. Eventually, it fell into disrepair and was on the verge of being condemned.
The present owners, John and Norman, bought the house a few years ago and lovingly transformed it back to its original beauty and opened it as a Bed and Breakfast in the heart of historical Minneapolis. (The gallery of photos below were taken there during our stay.)
For me, one of the best parts of staying at the house was listening to John tell his guests the history of the house and its original owner, Eugene Carpenter, who was instrumental in transforming Minneapolis from a dusty industrial town to a flourishing center for the arts. John is both knowledgeable and passionate about his subject and can regale his guests for hours with tales from the past.
For more information about the history of the house, click here. For information about staying at the house, click here.
I have stayed there twice now, and would love to go back again. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in old homes, history, and the arts.
I spent this weekend at Garmisch Resort in Cable, Wisconsin. This resort area in northern Wisconsin, near the famous Birkebeiner cross-country ski course , is a mecca for cross-country skiiers in the winter and mountain bikers in this summer. Garmisch is a beautiful resort that I would definitely recommend to others. Here are some photos of it.
(This is my “Asia” entry for my Around the World Reading Challenge. https://debrabooks.wordpress.com/around-the-world-reading-challenge-2015/)
It seems that the only news we in the U.S. hear about Syria (or the Middle East more generally) is of war, terror, chaos, refugees, and other forms of suffering. For that reason, I am always happy to find published works that portray everyday life in the Middle East, especially everyday life during less chaotic times.
I discovered the memoir Road To Damascus by Elaine Rippey Imady recently in a new, local bookstore focusing on women’s works, international works, and works about human rights. The store, located in St. Paul, is called Daybreak Press http://daybreak.rabata.org/. (A fun fact about Road to Damascus is that, as I discovered when I bought the book, it was written by the mother-in-law of the owner of the bookstore.)
Road to Damascus is written by an American woman who moved to Damascus, Syria in the early 1960s to be with her Syrian husband, Mohammed. She lived there happily the rest of her life (or at least until the book was published in 2008). Imady’s memoir provides an intriguing glimpse into Damascus as experienced by one American woman, a point-of-view I haven’t seen much before.
Elaine Rippey Imady
One of the pleasures of the book for me was that many of Imady’s descriptions of Syrian culture reminded me fondly of my experiences in Bethlehem (in the West Bank) when I was there in 2012. More than 50 years had elapsed between my stay and Imady’s, and Bethelem was in a different country, but the culture struck me as very similar. This shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose, since the country boundaries are artificial, and Palestinians and Syrians are both Levantine Arabs.
I have reproduced below some excerpts from Imady’s memoir, followed up with my own more recent memories in Palestine.
Our friends “had a terrible time finding us because we had no phone, and although they had our address with the name of our street and the number of our building, Syrians are accustomed to a different way of locating places, what I called ‘the landmark method.’ A Damascene would give direction to our home by saying, ‘The Imady building is one street up from the tram street in Mohajareen. Walk up one block from Abu Saoud’s drugstore at Shutta Street, and then turn left. It’s the tallest building on the block.’ (37-38)
This anecdote made me laugh because I had the same experience with the rental apartment where I stayed for six weeks. Before I arrived in Bethlehem, I asked my landlord (via e-mail) for the address of the place I’d be staying. He said it was just a few houses up the street from Abdul’s Bakery. I was confused and repeated my question, saying it was for mailing purposes. He repeated the same thing about Abdul’s Bakery. I gave up. He may have had a street address with the number of the home and the name of the street, but nobody ever used it. I used taxis all the time to get around, and I always told him it was near Abdul’s Bakery or gave the name of the local grocery store, and that always worked.
“I found the main thoroughfare lined cheek to jowl with small shops. Most had some of their merchandise on display outside, either piled up on the sidewalk or hanging above the shops on “clothes lines.” But the merchants didn’t stop there. They sent young boys out into the crowds to entice you into their dens with insistent cries of “Tafuddily.” (Come in.) . . . In ten minutes of walking in the souk, we saw for sale wooden clogs, slippers, children’s clothes, underwear, perfume, head coverings for men and women, brass rays, gold and silver jewelry, chess boards, lutes, rugs, prayer carpets and rolls of fabric of all kinds—but no pots and pans. Beguiling and exotic smells wafted through the air. There were fragrant scents from the perfume and attar shops, pungent odors coming from the spice market and the distinctive smell of tanned skins from the leather souk.” (46)
To me the souks and small “hole-in-the-wall” shops are a major pleasure of travelling in the Middle East. They still exist in Bethlehem, but in some major cities, they are being replaced by Western-style shopping malls. I suppose the malls are more comfortable, but I do think something important is being lost with their triumph over traditional souks.
Small shops in Bethelehm
Small shops in Hebron
“Characteristically for desert weather, the temperature could drop twenty-five degrees Fahreneheit or more from noon to midnight, and the tile floors, high ceilings and drafty windows meant bone-chilling rooms at night. I had never been so cold indoors before: no central heating, and only one room of my in-law’s five-room apartment had a heater.” (42)
I live in Minnesota, which is known (rightly so) for its cold winter weather. Yet, I have NEVER been cold for any length of time while inside a house. Our homes are all well-heated, and we take this heat for granted. Therefore, I was surprised to find out how cold my Bethlehem apartment was. When I first arrived, they were having a cold, rainy spell. I spent several days shivering under the blankets. The home did have central heating, but the cost of heating was high, and my landlord only turned on central heating for about an hour a day. He let me use a space heater in my bedroom, but even then, I was supposed to ration it to a few hours a day. Fortunately, the weather warmed up after a week or so; otherwise, I don’t know how long I could have lasted in that ice-box!
‘Referring to some visitors to their home, Imady writes, “Sometimes the voices of two or three guests would rise, their faces would look agitated, and they would gesture excitably. I would be sure they would be furious with each other or that something was wrong and would worriedly ask Mohammed what was the matter. He would laugh and explain that it was nothing, that Syrians were simply more vehement, fiery and emotional than Americans.” (37)
My landlord was a mild-mannered man when he spoke English (at least to me). He spoke it fluently, by the way. I noticed, though, that when he spoke Arabic, he often sounded angry to me. Perhaps he was angry, but I did notice that Arab speakers were more likely to be loud and emotional than we reserved Minnesotans are/
“Fat-tailed sheep crowded the narrow road, and sometimes our car had to stop while young boys or girls shepherded their flocks across the road.” (35)
Bethlehem is in most ways a modern 21st century town. The streets are full of cars; everyone has cell phones and computers, and so forth. And yet, it was not at all uncommon to see flocks of goats and sheep crossing the street—in the middle of the city. I never quite got used to that sight.
a young shepherd with his flock
“I could hardly believe that Lamat went on this picnic wearing a good suit, stockings, and high heeled shoes. Her heels sunk in the plowed furrows between the trees, but she didn’t seem to mind.” (35)
One of my favorite pastimes while in Bethlehem was hiking. One day I joined a public hike that focused on Sufi shrines. Both Western tourists and local Palestinian women were on this hike. The Westerners wore casual pants and hiking boots. The Palestinian women wore street clothing and shoes—the type of clothing one might wear at an office job. None of them wore athletic shoes or hiking books. I have to confess I found their lack of proper clothing irritating, because they slowed down our pace considerably.
Perhaps the most significant commonality between Imady’s Syria and my experience of Palestine, though, is the warm hospitality she and I encountered everywhere.
I have never been to Syria, and I would like to go there. Now is obviously not a good time. Watching the devastation their country is going through now is heartbreaking. I hope they can resolve their conflicts soon.
Alas, I have not traveled anywhere since November, and I do not have any travel plans for the foreseeable future. This makes me restless. I have decided I will have to focus on “travelling” in my local community; I will visit and highlight places, events, etc that have a multicultural/international theme.
Last night I visited the Midtown Global Marketplace in Minneapolis with some friends. I love this place! It is an indoor shopping center devoted to the businesses of local merchants from around the world. For more information, click here.
After having margaritas at a Mexican restaurant and buying spices at the Holy Land, a Middle Eastern shop, my friends and I had an amazing dinner at the Rabbit Hole, a Korean restaurant. The last time I was at this place, I had a camel burger at a Somali restaurant. All of this was under one roof, so we did not have to brave the arctic winds.
Did I mention that I love this place?! Below are a few snapshots I took while walking around the marketplace. Minnesotans: I definitely recommend checking this place out if you have not already been there.
I recently spent a couple of days in Hayward, Wisconsin. Hayward is a small resort town in northern Wisconsin which is ringed by lakes. It is located somewhere south of the North Pole.
Cross-country enthusiasts might know the town as the end-point of the famous 54 kilometer Birkebeiner ski race.
Hayward is also the place, however, where somebody thought it would be a good idea to build a fish that is 143 feet long and 45 feet tall and call it the World’s Largest Muskie.
Inside this muskie is the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. The purpose of this muskie and the Hall of Fame is to honor the sport of fresh-water fishing. I think I was supposed to leave the park filled with renewed desire to stick my pole in a pool of water and wait for something to happen.
However, the World’s Largest Muskie had a different effect on me: I found the whole scene rather disturbing, like a surrealist painting.
It did not help that Muskie Monster was in the process of eating Santa and his reindeer.
I was half-convinced that Mr. Muskie was going to turn on us next and devour us, in retaliation for all the fishermen who had eaten his friends.
So I came up with what I think is a brilliant idea for a movie, one that I will produce, direct and star in. This movie will take place during the Birkebeiner ski race, so there will be thousands of cross-country skiers passing through Hayward. Something will happen in the movie that will be the last straw for Muskie Monster. He will decide that it is time for fish to turn the tables on humans and start to eat US. He and his dozens of Muskie Monster Minions (who will suddenly appear out of nowhere) start chasing the skiers, devouring hundreds of them. (I’m not sure how Muskie Monster will get around. I guess he’ll have to have skis as well. We’ll work out the details later.)
All is gloom and doom, and it seems that northern Wisconsin will be destroyed by the rapidly reproducing Monster Muskies. But then, our heroine, Minnesota Madame, (played by me, of course) enters the scene and has a plan to save the day.
I’m not going to tell you how it ends. You’ll have to wait to see the movie!
What do you think of my idea? Any ideas for a title of my movie?