Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A North-South fly/drive

Hello! Due to schedule conflicts, we can never do a spring break trip without taking our daughter out of school for a whole week, so we try to do a short trip instead. My husband had a voucher for a free airfare due to a very delayed flight last year and as it was about to expire, we used it to fly to Atlanta last Friday. Then on Sunday we rented a car to drive back up to Michigan. Yes, a long way to go for a rather short stay, but it was still a lot of fun. And a huge bonus for us was that it was sunny and in the 80's while we were there. Flowering trees! Flowers in bloom! Green grass! It looked like how it will look around here in May (except for the things that can't grow up here due to lack of winter hardiness). It was wonderful!

Being car-less in Atlanta was doable due to the Marta commuter train system. We bought a pass good for several days, so we could hop on and off the train at will. Small town girl that I am, I get a kick out of commuter trains, and Marta was very efficient during our stay. Even the trains were sleek; I'm used to rather rickety trains in Chicago and Philadelphia. 

One such train ride took us to an old Atlanta restaurant, Mary Mac's Tea Room, for lunch on Saturday. I'd heard of this restaurant years ago and looked forward to sampling Southern cooking. I ordered the vegetable plate, which meant that I could pick four sides from a selection of a few dozen:

I selected turnip greens, sweet potato souffle, tomato pie and macaroni and cheese. I didn't think the greens and and mac and cheese were anything special - I can make just as good if not better at home - but the sweet potato souffle and tomato pie were delish! Again, I could make them at home if I found similar recipes, but probably would feel guilty about doing so - I'm sure both are high in calories. Worth it though! I also ordered sweet tea and the waitress suggested I get it half sweet tea, half unsweetened, seeing how I'm a Northerner. I did as she suggested and thought it was plenty sweet! Full-strength sweet tea would have been too sweet for me. Would have loved to have tried the strawberry shortcake - they make it with cream cheese poundcake! - but was too full to do so. Very nice, friendly staff and pleasant decor as well. 

Our next visit was to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It's not a huge place but has some very nice outdoor plantings and the best collection of orchids I've seen. The following several photos give you an idea of what we enjoyed seeing in bloom:

 Flowering tree.

Lovely pots with pansies and other plantings.

Orchids in the Orchid House.
Flowering tree and tulips.

Another train stop took us to an upscale mall, where I drooled in the well-stocked Sur La Table store (cooking and baking supply, tableware, etc) and bath/beauty stores (Lush and Crabtree and Evelyn). Didn't buy anything at the mall, though. It was fun just to look! We also ate out at a cute plaza near our hotel in Dunwoody and another time ate out in the Buckhead neighborhood. Lots we didn't have time to see and do - hope to return some day!

We rented a car Sunday morning to make the drive back up north. We're quite used to long car trips so this wasn't a big deal for us - we've driven from Seattle and Denver other years, and often to/from the East Coast as well. Enjoyed warm temps on our way up to Louisville, KY, which is where we stayed Sunday night. We've been there before and so knew to save room after dinner for a stop at Graeter's, a ice cream parlour chain headquartered in Cincinnati. It's great stuff! 

Jeffersonville, IN, across the Ohio River from Louisville, is home to Schimpff's Confectionery, a genuine old-timey candy store. They've been around since 1891 and make many of the candies that they sell. A young woman was dipping chocolates while we were there Monday morning, and they are also known for their red-hot hard candies among other sweets. They've been featured on the History Channel's Modern Marvels  candy show. The old-fashioned charm is apparent in one of their storefront windows:

Busy time of year with Easter treats being made!  The employees behind the counter told us they were glad Easter is late this year - gave them a bit of a breather after Valentine's Day!

We'd been to Schimpff's years ago, but not since they'd put in a candy museum. Below is a display case of old candy molds and tins:

 I could have spent a long time looking at everything in the candy museum, but alas, didn't have a long time - we had to return the rental car to its destination in the Chicago area. But all told, it was a great trip! We've come back to overcast skies and colder weather here, but at least we got an early taste of spring flowers and summer temperatures!