Friday, July 31, 2015

A Day in the Park

One of the things that Alejandro likes best about the Cleveland area is our park system.  The Cleveland Metroparks were established in the early 20th century, and have expanded through the years to now encompass more than 21,000 acres of parkland that encircle Greater Cleveland.  It is nicknamed "The Emerald Necklace".

I can drive just a mile from my house and be in woodlands that seem far from the city.  On Monday, we drove through a section of the park known as the Rocky River Reservation.  It stretches for more than 12 miles following the river as it flows toward Lake Erie.

Our first stop was at the Frostville Museum.  The Olmsted Historical Society has moved several 19th century buildings from the suburb of North Olmsted to this location in the park to create a historical village.  Although the buildings are only open on Saturdays, we walked around the site for a look at the old structures.

This church, built in 1847, was originally North Olmsted's Methodist Church.
This house, built in 1836, is an example of the Greek Revival style of architecture that was popular in the early 1800s.  It served as a station along the Underground Railroad... a network established by Abolitionists to help runaway slaves escape to freedom in Canada.
At the end of the Rocky River Reservation is this marina located a short distance from the river's mouth.  From here boaters can sail out to Lake Erie.

The reservation does not extend all the way to the lake.  Although Alejandro has seen Lake Erie on his previous visits, I asked him if he wanted to go to the lakeshore.  So we drove a short distance to Lakewood Park.  It is not a part of the Metroparks system, but is operated by the city of Lakewood, one of Cleveland's suburbs.
It had been some time since I had been to Lakewood Park, but as I remember it, you could look out at the lake from the bluff.  However, they are in the middle of a renovation of the park.  You can now walk down a ramp that leads right to the shoreline.

 In the distance you can see the skyline of downtown Cleveland.

The project is not yet completed.  As you can see from this sign, at the other end of the park they are constructing a series of terraces leading down to the lake.

The next time that Alejandro visits Ohio, we will have to be sure to pay another visit to Lakewood Park.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Christmas in July

On our way home from Mackinac, Alejandro and I stopped in the Michigan city of Frankenmuth.  Frankenmuth was founded in 1845 by Lutheran missionaries from Bavaria.  The town has made itself a tourist destination by playing on its Old World heritage with lots of pseudo-German architecture.

At the edge of town is Bronner's, which advertises itself as the world's largest Christmas store.

Outside of the store is a replica of the Austrian chapel where "Silent Night" was written.

The inside of the store is decorated with all sorts of Christmas displays.

The selection of Christmas merchandise is enormous, with everything imaginable for decking out your home for the holiday season.  The huge section of Christmas tree decorations is divided into categories.  If you want to color coordinate your tree, you will find displays of ornaments all of one color.  If you want to buy an ornament for your teacher or doctor there is a whole section of ornaments related to occupations.  You can buy decorations with the emblems of your favorite sports teams.  (Even though this is Michigan, there was a whole section devoted to rival Ohio State!)  There are ornaments portraying different countries of the world... England, Germany, France, even countries like Egypt.  Of course a lot of the merchandise, sadly, is made in China, but you will also find items that are made in the U.S. and other countries.  There were some exquisite crystal ornaments imported from Poland that caught my eye.
It's hard to leave the store without buying something.  Alejandro bought several ornaments for his family.  I don't decorate my home for Christmas.  (No, I'm not a Scrooge; it's just that I am rarely home at Christmas.)  However, I bought a couple items as gifts, and I couldn't resist this figurine of a Mexican Santa for myself.
 After our little shopping spree we had lunch as Frankenmuth's most famous restaurant, Zehnder's.

For several generations, Zehnder's has been serving chicken dinners.  It's been a long time since I have been there, and I could be mistaken, but it seems as if they have expanded their menu.  There is a lot more than fried chicken.  I had chicken schnitzel, and Alejandro had Bavarian sausages.

We took a short walk around the town after dinner, but it was getting late.  We hit the highway again at 6 P.M., and we made it back home to Olmsted Falls, Ohio, by 10:00 P.M.  We had four fun days, and Alejandro got to see a bit of our neighboring state to the north.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Historic Mackinac Island

(This morning I took my friend Alejandro to the airport for his trip home to Mexico City.  However, I still have a number of posts to write about the places that we visited during his two week stay up here.)

Michigan's Mackinac Island is not only a picturesque summer resort, but it is a place filled with history.  On our second day on the island, Alejandro and I spent much of our time visiting its historic sites.

Archaeological finds have shown that the area was inhabited by Native Americans for at least 700 years before the arrival of the Europeans.  The island was sacred to the early tribes as the home of the Great Spirit.

In the 1600s French explorers, fur traders and missionaries were the first Europeans to arrive on the scene.  In 1670 a Jesuit mission was established on the island, but the following year Father Marquette moved the mission to nearby St. Ignace, on the Upper Peninsula at the northern side of the Strait of Mackinac.  By the early 1700s the French built Fort Michilimackinac on the opposite side of the strait.  The area became a center for the lucrative fur trade.

After the French and Indian War, France lost her North American territories, and the British took control of the region.  In 1780 the British built Fort Mackinac on the bluffs of the island.  It remains the most important historic landmark on Mackinac Island.

The views from the heights are superb and show what an excellent defensive position the fort occupied.

After the American Revolution, control of the fort passed to the United States.  However, at the beginning of the War of 1812, the British immediately invaded the island.  The small American garrison at the fort had no choice but to surrender to the superior British forces.
To consolidate their control over the island, the British also built another fort on the highest point of the island.  It was named Fort George in honor of King George III.  After the war, the Americans renamed it Fort Holmes after an American major who died during the Battle of Mackinac Island in 1814.  The original wooden fort no longer stands, but Mackinac State Park is currently building a replica of it.  It is close to completion but is not yet open to the public.

In 1815 the United States Army took control of the Fort Mackinac once again.  However as relations with British Canada improved, the fort's strategic importance declined.  Finally in 1895, the fort was decommissioned and transferred to the state of Michigan.  The 235 year old site is one of the most complete early forts in the United States, and today it is operated as an historic museum by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.  Displays in the fort buildings portray life at the fort in the late 1800s.  
Soldiers' barracks
Commanding officer's house
Schoolhouse for officers' children

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bicycling Around Mackinac

From our base in St. Ignace on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Alejandro and I spent two days exploring Mackinac Island.  This little island, about 4 square miles in size, is located in Lake Huron near the Strait of Mackinac.  It is probably the most historic place in the Midwestern United States (the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark), and since the late 1800s it has been a popular summer resort.  The island only has around 500 permanent residents, but in summer the population swells when hotels, shops and restaurants open to serve the influx of tourists.  Among the shops are numerous businesses which make the island's famous fudge.  Few tourists, I suspect, leave the island without buying some fudge, and visitors to the island are referred to as "fudgies".

We reached the island via one of the ferry boats that leave frequently from St. Ignace.  (There is also ferry service from Mackinaw City on the Lower Peninsula.)  The boat brings you to the busy harbor of the town.

Main Street in the town.
The island's unique atmosphere is enhanced by the fact that there are no cars allowed.  The only motorized vehicles are emergency and service vehicles.  All transportation is by foot, horse drawn carriage or bicycle.  Shortly after we arrived, Alejandro and I rented bicycles to tour the island.
As we headed out of the town, we passed St. Anne's Catholic Church.  Although the building dates from the 19th century, it traces its history back to the French mission established by the Jesuits in the 1600s.
The island is circled by an 8 mile road... the only state highway in the United States which does not have any automobile traffic.  The beaches of the island are rocky.   In the past few years it has become a custom for tourists to pile the stones on top of each other.  All along the shore you see these stacks of stones... some of them are rather tall and elaborate.

We parked our bikes to climb this flight of over 200 steps...
Looking down from the staircase at the crystalline waters of Lake Huron...
The staircase leads to an observation deck with a view of the island's most interesting geological formation, Arch Rock.
The beach known as British Landing is the spot where British troops invaded the island during the War of 1812.
Upon returning to town, we made a detour to visit one of the island's most famous landmarks, the Grand Hotel.  The hotel was opened in 1887, and Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, and five U.S. Presidents were guests here.  There is a $10 charge for non-guests to visit the grounds and public areas of the hotel.  It's a bit of a rip-off, but better than paying $300 per night to stay there.

The hotel boasts the longest porch in the world.
The 1980 film "Somewhere in Time", a cult classic starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve was filmed at the Grand Hotel.
Just beyond the hotel on the West Bluff of the island is a street lined with Victorian era summer "cottages".  Most of these "cottages" are spectacular mansions... and their flower gardens are just as spectacular.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Road Trip!! - The Mighty Mac

After a busy weekend, on Monday I took Alejandro on a four-day road trip.  We left Olmsted Falls, Ohio, at 7:00 A.M., and by 3:00 P.M. we had reached our destination, the town of St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

St. Ignace is located near the Strait of Mackinac which divides Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas and which connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.  For many years one had to take a ferry boat to travel between the two peninsulas, but in 1957 the Mackinac Bridge was built.  The "Mighty Mac", as it is sometimes called, was the engineering marvel of the era, and it still remains a very impressive sight.  It is about five miles long and is the third longest suspension bridge in the world.

Here are some views of the bridge taken during the course of our visit to northern Michigan...

 (Taken from Bridge View Park in St. Ignace)
 (Taken from Father Marquette National Historic Site, St. Ignace)

 (Two views taken from the ferry boat between Mackinac Island and St. Ignace.  The 7:00 P.M. ferry deviates from the usual course and passes under the bridge.)

 (Night view from Bridge View Park, St. Ignace)