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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Minneapolis... But Why?

October Break and school is on hiatus for a blessed week! My daughter (the teacher) and I took off for Minneapolis to enjoy the weather and multitude of museums. But every single person we told about our little vacation asked, "Why are you going to Minneapolis?"  I'll tell you why....


The Land of 10,000 Lakes appears to be the land of the Mississippi River and all its glory. Oh sure, there are plenty of lakes too but we crossed that famous river about 15 times in the week we visited.

The Courtyard Marriott Downtown was our home base for the week and could not have been better situated. Just across the street from the University of Minnesota and it's sprawling campus and close to all the downtown fun. This is a city of highways and byways and county routes and the like, but getting around was not a problem at all. Coming from the west coast, I'm used to people driving like fools in their spiffy little cars. Not so in Minnesota! People drive the speed limit, use their indicators, and let you merge with ease. SO surprisingly different on the highways. By the way, the whole place was surprisingly different. I've heard of Midwest Hospitality, and we experienced it ten-fold here. We chatted, we made new friends, we had our questions answered and shared lively conversations. Truly a lovely experience. A great place to visit for sure, but their winter would kill me!

First night in town and we headed to the Town Hall Brewing Company next door. Service was personable and the beer hoppy! Very hoppy in fact and I'm pretty sure Zach would have loved it - high in ABV too. Some of the choices were pretty flavorful and the food not bad either.

Our first full day was met with the same gorgeous weather we experienced all week long. Crisp clear sunshine and bright blue skies with highs in the 40's. Yep, the 40's! A brisk walk took us into the downtown area where we met Stephanie from Fit Tourist for a 3-hour bike ride filled with anecdotes on the history of the Minneapolis environs.

The only falls on the Mississippi River...

The Mary Tyler Moore statue and me!

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

And Target Field where the Minnesota Twins play.


One of our favorite stops was to Kramarczuk's Deli - a Ukranian Sausage fest that smelled like heaven on earth. Half the place is a deli where you can grab your own delicacies and take them home to your family. The other half is a cafeteria-style eatery with home-made sausage, cabbage rolls, pyrogis, kolache, and the like. What a treat ... their lamb sausage put me over the top! Check it out if you find yourself in the downtown area - you won't be disappointed. (

We had no idea that Minneapolis was the heart of the milling industry. Washburn, Pillsbury, General Mills, Gold Medal and about 26 others during their heyday in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The Mill City Museum ( was a wealth of historical information, a ride in the flour tower, and interactive exhibits that intrigue visitors of all ages. It made me hunger for Cream of Wheat and a big stack of pancakes!!

There's a little spot for home-churned ice cream called Izzy's that served up about 20 different flavors of ice cream, 2 different soy concoctions, and a couple of sorbets. Their claim to fame is the "izzy scoop" which is a teeny-tiny little scoop of something extra on top of your regular scoop. You can try something you'd never try on it's own or pick something that flatters your original scoop. Creamy, flavorful, friendly, and oh-so-good. Dessert for dinner! (

One early morning stroll took us over to the University of Minnesota campus to wander about the grounds, shop in the bookstore, and breakfast like a college student. That meant bagels & cream cheese for both of us. Interestingly, the campus has a covered walkway for winter weather - very much in use even in mid-October.

Now, I can't attest to its meaning but the most fascinating piece of urban art on campus was the 'shoe tree' mid-campus. Help me out if you know the history - I don't... but a very cool sight to see.

Tons of culture in The Twin Cities but our need to see the biggest mall around took us to the giant Mall of America. Oh my goodness! Three stories of stylish, contemporary, and outrageous stores; an amusement park; theatre; eateries; and more. Of course we rode a few roller coasters. Why wouldn't we???

The American Swedish Institute is a lovely refurbished mansion on Park Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. This historic sight is the former home of Swan, Christina, and Lillian Turnblad. The French Chateau style home was completed in 1908 along "The Golden Mile" with about 40 other mansions of the same fortune and ilk. The building is impressive as are the tiled furnaces, uniquely decorated rooms, and art exhibits. 


Most impressive was the Swedish dinner served only on Wednesday evenings. So lucky for us! Pan-fried brussel-sprouts, potato dumplings with minted peas, smoked salmon, fried cauliflower, and cardamom bread pudding. More walking required!! This was one of our greatest surprises ( in all of Minnesota.

We love art museums and The Minneapolis Institute of Art beckoned. We wandered through the 8-acre campus of art which houses some spectacular sculptures, paintings, and a variety rotating exhibits. It is a government-funded museum so it's free! Yep, free ... donations accepted. Our only disappointment  - their cafĂ© was closed for refurbishment. No food during the middle of the day and that was sad for us. They had some great cookies, but even for a couple of dessert-o-philes, that wasn't enough. We always plan ahead but never saw that coming and we always look forward to lunch in museum cafes!!





We also stopped into the first Basilica in North America, the Basilica of St. Mary ( This impressive piece of art and architecture has been a cornerstone of the community since 1914 and continues as a working Catholic parish to this day. Absolutely stunning, open to the public, and well worth your time.

Stillwater, Minnesota is situated along the St. Croix River and a stone's throw from the border of Wisconsin. Yep, we crossed the river - two states in one day!

The 30-minute drive was peaceful and easy through the smaller cities outside Minneapolis-St. Paul. Fall is just getting started so there were some yellows, reds, and gold colors to be seen. Stillwater is a sweet little community with shops, restaurants, saloons, candy stores, antiques, and friendly people. A few hours spent wandering here and then we took off for Grand Avenue in St. Paul. This 30-block street is also filled with shops, eateries, and gorgeous old Craftsman-style homes. Porches decorated with scarecrows and pumpkins, delectable delights at Caffe Latte, and a very cool shoe store with loads of Birkenstocks!

If you've read my blog (all three of you!) you know how much I love cemeteries. We found a great one in Minneapolis - the Lakewood Grand Cemetery. An older cemetery with some famous burials, namely Hubert Humphrey and Charles Lindbergh. We drove through ever so slowly to capture a few pics of fall. Enjoy...

No visit to Minneapolis would be complete with seeing Minnehaha Falls located just outside downtown. This park is most definitely the hot-spot for photography. We encountered about a dozen families, high school seniors, and engaged couples all posing for portraits. It really is gorgeous!


The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have a lot to offer and I'm so glad we visited in the fall. As the leaves are changing color and the temperatures chilled us (really chilled us) we wandered, we ate, we laughed and enjoyed ourselves immensely. I'd check it out if I were you!!

One more thing...
The Minneapolis-St.Paul Airport (MSN) is a smallish airport with two distinct terminals and the friendliest TSA people around. But, if you're flying into this airport I have some advice for you. Be sure you check your connections. The two terminals are about 15 minutes apart from each other by shuttle or train.

Sample the richness of our diverse world,
Deb :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cambria... Is it Cam-bree'ya or Came-bree'ya?

We needed a few days out of the heat of Arizona and took off with our Aussie, Wyatt on a drive up the coast of California to Cambria. We settled on a delightful ocean-side spot called The Fireside Inn on Moonlight Beach ( Lovely bedrooms with a few patios facing the ocean and majestic sunsets (grab one of these if you can) and a light continental breakfast served each morning - very clean! Seriously... a very special spot to relax and listen to the crash of the surf day and night. I had forgotten what a treat it is to sleep with the windows open... aaahhh.

There's a lovely boardwalk (walk on boards!) along the coast of Moonlight Beach. You can jog or walk your leashed dog along the coast here for about a 3-mile round trip jaunt. The temps during August were in the low 80's with a drip of seaside humidity in the air. Didn't matter to us - it was so COOL!

The town of Cambria is just a mile or two away from The Fireside Inn and there are darling shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants. A couple of our favorites were Robin's, which had the most darling dog-friendly patio and their food was delish! Check them out at We also had some great Mexican food while visiting - Try La Terraza Mexican Grill and Las Cambritas. Both had dog-friendly patios and some mighty tasty Mexican food. We scored with veggie burritos at La Terraza and a spicy jambalaya at Las Cambritas. Yum.

We also stopped into Moonstone Cellars ( and sampled our way through their wine list, bringing a few delicious bottles of wine home. I'll order from them again when it gets cooler for sure. Couldn't leave without sampling the beer at The Cambria Beer Company ( as well and we loved the friendly service at both locations.

As luck would (always) have it, we stumbled upon the town cemetery and it was lovely. If you know me, you know I love good cemetery pics and here's a few from this quaint old place sitting up on the hillside above the town.

Many of the gravesites had unique benches for guests to sit, relax, and visit their loved ones. Charming!

One of the most interesting spots in Cambria was a "home" that has been built completely with recycled and found items. The place was terrifyingly decrepit, but offered tours to those brave enough to climb through. I was only brave enough to photograph the place lovingly called Nitt Witt Ridge.

We did a little hiking out to Fiscalini Ranch and truly enjoyed the open spaces preserved along the coastline. Your pups must be leashed on the surf side, but can stroll leash-free on the upper edges of the preserve. 

Love This Bench!!

Along the cliffs of Fiscalini Ranch

Wyatt loved his vacation with us! 

Up the coast about 20 minutes you won't believe the wonderful sight to see - great huge Elephant Seals! They are protected here on a large spot of coastline and come to breed, bear their young, and nurse their babies. Above the edge of the ocean there are lovely viewpoints to watch all kind of nature in action.

Aren't they adorable?

Further up the road is the majestic Hearst Castle, built by William Randolph Hearst. My first visit to this magnificent structure was absolutely breath-taking. The care to keep this home and its antiquities a State Park is rare and glorious to behold. If you're in the area, try to grab a visit and take one (or more) of their tours ( The visitors center is also a wonderful pit-stop if you're unable to take a tour.

Another surprising treat along the way was the little town of Harmony, population 18. Yep, population - 18. We had to stop into their little pottery shop and take a look around. How often will you come across a town of that size in your lifetime? I would guess... not too often. 

I truly loved this little peek into the central California coast, an area that I have not visited in all our time living and vacationing in California. I would definitely make a return visit and stay in Cambria again for a cool time-out. I'd bet the prices are even better off-summer. Check it out yourself for a nice getaway.  

Just a little P.S.
We started this trip out in Los Angeles, visiting my husband's grandmother. She celebrated her 100th birthday while we were there and I wanted to share her sweet self here. I only hope that I can make it that far and as gracefully as Grandma Kate. Love you Grandma!!

Until next time - Cheers to wherever your travels may take you...
Deb :)