Saturday, November 15, 1:30 p.m. “Inkslingers” writers series at Shakopee Public Library 235 Lewis St. S. Shakopee, MN. 55379 952-233-9590
I’ll talk about my book, Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways and a few of the “how-tos” of literary travel (especially with groups) and a bit about writing and blogging.
This week’s challenge: show a minimalist photo. This is the steeple at the chapel of Bishop’s Lodge, just outside Santa Fe. The chapel was built for the priest, Bishop Lamy, who was the inspiration for Willa Cather’s novel Death Comes for the Archbishop. The light in New Mexico makes just about any photograph interesting.
Since the beginning, Minnesota’s lakes and rivers have been the engine of the region’s development and the focus of recreation, not to mention the source of a whole lot of fish. The Twin Cities, for example, have their roots on the Mississippi River, which has transported timber and grain from the Midwest to markets in the east and powered the four mills of the Pillsbury family, among others, since the early 1800s. That made the riverfront in Minneapolis primarily an industrial area. Interesting, but not particularly scenic.
All of that is changing as the city rediscovers and redevelops its waterfront. The mills and warehouses have been converted to trendy apartments and condominiums now and that section of the riverfront is part of an expanding Mill Ruins Park. It’s the sight of the Mill City Farmers Market in summer, where you can eat and buy great organic produce under the watchful gaze of some of the world’s great playwrights who look down from the Guthrie Theater next door.
Though the new version of the riverfront is more vibrant, it’s the unusual history here that makes it so intriguing. You can revisit the city’s early days in several ways. First, pick up a copy of Mary Relindes Ellis’s novel Bohemian Flats, which is named after the area slightly downriver from the mills which was home to the city’s poorest immigrants, mainly from Germany and eastern Europe (or Bohemia) who are the subject of the story. Set after World War I, the book traces the progress of a German immigrant family who settled in the ramshackle village that grew up along a low point along the river, many of whom worked in the flour mills.
Next, start a riverfront tour at the Mill City Museum, which offers an in-depth look at the flour industry and the early days of Minneapolis. It’s built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. Wander the across the Stone Arch bridge for a terrific view of the river and St. Anthony Falls, which powered the mills and check out the paths and ruins along the water. Grab some grub at the Farmer’s Market and watch the river roll by as you eat.
Book lovers will want to wander down Washington Avenue to explore the Minnesota Center for Book Arts at Open Book. You can view the artistic assembly of the pages, covers, and spines, then peruse the shop at MCBA, which is a reader’s delight of books, gifts, handmade paper, and journals.
Rent one of the green bikes from one of the Nice Ride Minnesota stations near the museum and head downriver for a scenic tour. Make a stop at Izzy’s gourmet ice cream to fuel your trip. You’ll arrive at Bohemian Flats, which is no longer a wild collection of shacks, but rather a lovely park inhabited mainly by University of Minnesota students throwing frisbees. It’s a great pastoral place to enjoy the view of the river, the university campus and, in particular, the futuristic Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum. It makes quite a contrast to the image of the old Bohemian Flats on the cover of Ellis’s novel.
It’s October and just about anywhere you live in the U.S. people are carving, eating, and decorating with pumpkins. They’re in our desserts, at our front doors and even in our spiced lattes, but until I visited Half Moon Bay, California, I had never experienced the full awesomeness of pumpkins.
In Half Moon Bay, the great orange squash are piled everywhere. They sit on sidewalks, decorate store windows, and you’re sure to find them perched somewhere in your hotel room, but during the town’s Art and Pumpkin Festival, they take pumpkins to new heights—and weights. Earlier this month, at their annual pumpkin-weighing contest, a gourd weighing 2,058 pounds took first prize and set a new tournament record. A spokesman for the weigh-off said that the winner, John Hawkley from Napa Valley, “squashed” his competition, beating the runner-up by more than 300 pounds. (Pumpkin contest photo at top, courtesy of Miramar Events.)
Yet, Half Moon Bay is also a fishing town, an agricultural community, and a mecca for surfers and foodies. Consequently, when the pumpkin mania ends for the season, this charming seaside community about 40 minutes from San Francisco offers all sorts of other things to see and do. Visitors should think of the area as “Coastside,” encompassing the oceanside between two lighthouses, from Point Montara on the north to Pigeon Point Lighthouse to the south on Highway One.
Econo-minded travelers can stay at hostels at both of these lighthouses. Or, at the complete opposite end of the lodging spectrum, the Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay offers unbelievable scenery and top-of-the-line pampering. Each of the state beaches along the highway offers something different in terms of scenery, terrain, and marine and bird life, so pack a lunch, drive along Highway One, and take time to stop to experience the rugged California Coast at its best.
To stoke up for the day, you can join the locals for breakfast at the The Ketch Joanne Restaurant on Pillar Point Harbor, then stroll the harbor that is the hub for the local fishing industry. During our visit, a San Francisco friend joined us for lunch on the oceanside patio at the Miramar Beach Restaurant, a former roadhouse, drop off point for illegal liquor during Prohibition, and house of ill repute early in the last century. Things have calmed down a bit since then unless you count the show that a breaching whale and a pod of dolphins put on for us, a surprise because it wasn’t really the time of year for whale watching.
Raise a pint (at least) at Half Moon Bay Brewing. For dinner, stop at the fabulous Pasta Moon in the funky downtown area of Half Moon Bay. Unassuming on the outside, Pasta Moon offers beautiful decor inside, along with hand-made pasta dishes and other fantastic farm-to-table cuisine, artisan bread and desserts. Don’t let the name confuse you; this isn’t your average Italian pasta joint.
Further down Main Street, shoppers can find clothing, handmade furniture and one of the most colorful hardware stores ever. I was particularly interested in the wine and gourmet fare at Half Moon Bay Wine and Cheese company. I always like to give a shout out to independent booksellers that I find on my travels. Surprising for such a small town, HMB has three interesting booksellers, Bay Book Company, Ink Spell Books, and Coastside Books. Spend a bit of time in local books stores and you always learn a little extra about the region and its literature.
Whenever I travel, I always come home with a list of things I missed that I’d love to go back and see. On my Half Moon Bay Wish List: seeing the really big waves at the famous “Mavericks” off Pillar Point Harbor, an area that draws really famous surfers from across the world. It’s, as they say, epic—like surfing over Niagara Falls. The
other is a much gentler event: dining at one of the Farm Dinners at Harley Farms Goat Dairy, down the coast near Pescadero. They serve their gourmet meals in the restored hayloft. Instead I had to content myself with bringing home a load of lavender goat cheese in my suitcase. The giant pumpkin wouldn’t fit.
Whether you’re a died-in-the-wool Wolverine or not, fall is a fantastic time to visit Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even without football tickets, you can tour the “Big House,” the University of Michigan’s football stadium which is the largest stadium in the United States, the third largest stadium in the world and the 36th largest sports venue. Its official capacity is 109,901, but it seems like whenever I’m there they have at least 110,000. No matter how well the team plays, there’s nothing like walking into this stadium on game day and I always enjoy walking to the stadium behind the marching band.
As long as you’re on the campus of my alma mater, be sure to stroll
the “Diag,” the heart of the central campus for some great people watching, pop into the law school’s Hogwarts-like reading room, and spend some time in the terrific art museum on campus. The museum’s new modern wing, with its Tisch Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, offers a look at some very important works by Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Alberto Giacometti and Max Beckman, to name a few.
Hungry? Head to an Ann Arbor classic, Angelo’s, for a breakfast that will fill you up for the rest of the day. Calorie counts don’t usually slow me down, so despite my gigantic breakfast, I like to stop by Dominick’s for beer, sangria, pizza or subs. Need something to wash all the down? I’ve always been partial to the milkshakes at Pizza Bob’s. Finally, you’ll want to round out your Ann Arbor pig-out weekend with a stop at Zingerman’s Deli or Zingerman’s Roadhouse, or both.
Wait! Don’t pick up another pastrami sandwich or you’ll burst. Instead, pick up a feast that will be easier on your arteries, Charles Baxter’s novel, The Feast of Love. It’s set set in Ann Arbor where Baxter was an English professor (he’s now at the University of Minnesota). This terrific book as nominated for the National Book Award.