I’ve been a little under the weather the last couple of days, so have been laying low. But we’re on our way home! I’m looking forward to my bed, fresh vegetables, and overpaying for everything.
I felt terrible about not being well enough to celebrate Riccardo’s birthday properly, but we’ll make up for that this weekend. (He did, however, appreciate his gift of an iPad disguised as a discount chess set.)
W’d left the lovely town of Lexington, Kentucky, to check out the nearby city of Louisville, but didn’t get to enjoy it much thanks to my stupid cold. Yesterday morning, we sat in the hotel lobby and googled places to stay in our next destination of Detroit. Most people know that Detroit has seen hard times in recent years, but it’s been experiencing a renaissance and we were excited to witness the triumphant return of the Motor City firsthand. Still, preliminary searches yielded mention after mention of poverty, crime and general lawlessness. Glancing around at our precious few worldly possessions, our livelihood… we considered how much it would suck to be relieved of them at gunpoint. I was sad to abandon our plans to see Detroit, but in that moment, it just didn’t seem that exciting. As we contemplated this, a shifty young man sidled up to us asking for spare change and eyeing our expensive electronics – on the third floor of a so-called four-star hotel. (On a side note, in case you’re wondering, we use Hotwire for crazy hotel deals). The ensuing simultaneous feelings of annoyance and sadness led us to abandon the Detroit plan in favour of a blander but safer alternative. A few minutes of quick google-mapping indicated that Cleveland was only five hours away, and we could easily get to Toronto the next day from there. Thus, it was settled.
There was one important task to be carried out before bidding farewell to Louisville. We had learned of the existence of a sandwich called a Hot Brown, invented with late-night dining mind at the city’s elegant Brown Hotel in the 1920s. Apparently, it’s eaten all over Kentucky, but the best one is still served at its point of origin. Riccardo declared the Hot Brown to be the best sandwich he’d ever had. Given his illustrious sandwich-eating career, this was a lofty claim.
The drive to Cleveland was uneventful and sadly silent, as I couldn’t talk much without coughing. We made a stop at a real, live flea market in La Grange, Kentucky (where cool stuff can actually be obtained for a few dollars, as opposed to what passes for a flea market in Montreal). The patches of snow grew steadily in size until the fields along the interstate were blanketed (albeit thinly) in white. We had officially left the South.
In Columbus, we paused for a bite. Our first foray into the town underwhelmed us – it seemed cold and empty – but before long, we started spotting a disproportionate number of bars and other signs of life. Columbus is a student town and nothing demonstrated this more clearly than when we stopped at a pharmacy and witnessed no fewer than three separate young men walking out with a single Delissio frozen pizza.
Our GPS has a function for identifying nearby Zagat-rated restaurants which we now used for the very first time (I’m not sure about elsewhere, but in Montreal, Zagat ratings are essentially meaningless.) The GPS did not disappoint, leading us to Katzinger’s Delicatessen. Half grocery store, half cafeteria, and ardent promoter of all things local, fresh and organic, this delightful spot was the perfect antidote to our recent all-fried, zero-vegetable diet.
By the time we reached Cleveland, it was a little too late for most restaurants, but we found a very cool bar/resto called Bar Cento, whose website bore the following five magic words: “We fry in duck fat”. We sat at the bar and thought about whether anyone in Montreal does this – we could only think of one possible place (Au Pied de Cochon). If there are others, please let me know!
There are endless choices for intereting local food in Cleveland. In the interest of time, we were drawn to a wacky Polish cafeteria called Sokolowski’s University Inn. A hearty breakfast of kielbasa and pierogies by a roaring fire (yes, in the restaurant) left us well-prepared to take on the day.
Earlier this week, after our inspirational visit to Graceland, we had speculated as to the location of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I had guessed Seattle, and Riccardo thought it might be in Detroit. (Neither of us, it seems, had remembered Huey Lewis’ declaration that the “heart of rock n’ roll is in Cleveland”.) Thus, our chief objective in Cleveland became a visit to this mecca of rock history, and particularly, a glimpse of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars. The web site counseled visitors to plan at least five or six hours for a visit to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame – we scoffed at this, and decided we could do it in three, tops. This turned out to be overly ambitious – after meandering through two of the seven floors, we were shocked to find we’d already been there for three and a half hours. Having arranged to crash at my cousins’ in Toronto that night, we dashed out of the Rock Hall and Cleveland and headed north.
After a gas n’ snacks stop in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a shockingly pleasant border crossing, we contemplated a quick detour to see the nighttime lights on Niagara Falls but decided to press on. Riccardo appreciated driving on well-lit roads again!
Stopping in Toronto was the perfect place to be repatriated into Canadian society, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening of hot tea (me), gin (Riccardo), and witty banter with my cousins.
This morning saw my family members off to their various commitments and hit the road for the final leg of our journey home. We’re now at a Chinese restaurant on Montreal Street in Kingston, Ontario, where the weather is dreary and the cars are filthy – but people are still smiling.
I will now leave you with the inimitable Wanda Jackson, who dated Elvis in the 50s, brought glamour to country music, and pioneered the rockabilly sound: