Country Inn “Lunch Out” Day

 

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If you’re like me you enjoy good food, and if you’re like me, you also enjoy going out to lunch  for that good food every now and then –  and not going out just anywhere, but going out to exceptional establishments that create scrumptious food and present that food with flair.

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If you’re like me you enjoy ambiance, a setting that’s beautiful in some way, a setting that lifts you up. So when I’m choosing a  restaurant I always look for a place that offers its diners some form of beauty. The restaurant might be situated in a lovely natural setting or it might be in the middle of an exciting city aglow with bright lights and activity. I might choose a restaurant with European flair or historic significance, but whatever sort of place it is I expect it to ooze beauty in some way. Beauty is important to me and yes, I’m particular, but I think we all should be particular.  Going out for food is not just about the food.

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And if you’re like me, though you’re perfectly capable of dining out all on your own or taking a “dead friend” along via a book,  you may also know the pleasure of  dining out with a good friend or two or three.

So, because I love good food, lovely friends and places of beauty, I have designed certain Country Inn Days to combine these three elements creating a “triple treat day”.  I call  these days of delight Country Inn Lunch Out Days.  Variety is the spice of life you know, so each of my Country Inn Days has its own special focus and today that focus is “lunch out”.  Yum!

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I hop into my car and drive 45 minutes northwest, venturing into the city of Cleveland.  There,  just west of downtown, in a neighborhood called Ohio City, exists one of my very favorite restaurants, The Crop Bistro.

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This restaurant is in a building which was constructed in 1924 and opened in 1925 as the United Bank Building. It was designed by Cleveland’s foremost architectural firm, Walker and Weeks, men who attended The Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying a form of academic neoclassical architecture called Beaux-Arts.  Their work progressed from neoclassical styles, through Italian Renaissance, and ultimately ended in Art Deco/Moderne.

This was the bank of industrialists John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.  It is no wonder the building  has a feeling of  prosperity and splendor.

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Every detail in this building is beautiful, a work of art, from its opulent coffered ceiling

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to its massive marble pillars

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to its generous windows and wall fresco.

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It’s no wonder Chef Steve Schimoler admired this building and decided to restore it, converting it into his own very special restaurant.  He designed the Crop Bistro in a minimalist fashion in order to maintain its integrity and beauty.  The restaurant’s dramatic setting takes diners back to an era of pure grandeur and there’s nothing like a little (or a lot) of grandeur on my Country Inn Days.

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I arrive at the Crop and take my place.  It’s a taste treat just to imagine all the entrees that are offered.

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A few minutes later Sarah comes on the scene to serve me.  She is just the nicest  gal with a warm, sincere smile and a lovely manner.  A nice restaurant can be spoiled if the employees aren’t nice too.  Sarah earns a gold star from me.

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A few minutes later my luncheon companion arrives and here we are. Meet my friend Connie.  We’ve known each other since high school days and aren’t old friends just the best?  We order a bottle of wine today because this “Country Inn Lunch Out Day” is a day to celebrate life.  Of course every day is a day to celebrate life, but perhaps not always with a bottle of wine.

We talk, Sarah serves us our delicious lunch and then she suggests we take a little tour of what’s down below the dining room.  Connie and I are surprised there’s anything down below which we are encouraged to see, but Sarah being an excellent employee, promotes all that the Crop Bistro offers its clientele.

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Sarah point us to Chris Romero who is the restaurant manager and he takes us down below to what was the basement of the United Bank Building, but is now a kitchen and area for private parties.  Steve is very nice too, which again speaks so well for The Crop Bistro.

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And here we are in the kitchen.  Such fun!  It’s like going behind stage at a Broadway play.

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We meet Chris.  Guess what he’s making in his big jumbo pot?  He’s making soup, and he tells us the soup here is extra delicious because there’s a water purifying system in the building (Kinetico) which chef Schimoler installed so that all his food would be the very purest and the best!  Chris is a very nice guy too.  I think The Crop Bistro must insist all their employees are nice and friendly people and I like this policy very much.

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We see the vaults where all the money was kept in the old days,

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yes, actually vaults (plural)

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because Rockefeller and Carnegie obviously had a great deal of money to store in this bank.

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We were also taken to the private closet-like rooms where bank customers of days gone by would study the contents of their safety deposit boxes.

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And we saw the board room of this historic bank.  It was fun and easy to imagine that we were standing in this room way back in the 1920’s.

I expected Country Inn Lunch Out Day to be a delicious treat with a nice friend in a lovely place, but I didn’t expect it to also be An ADVENTURE DAY, but AN ADVENTURE DAY it truly was.  Now I’m thinking I need to go to a library and  pick up a book about the Industrial revolution so I can read all about Rockefeller and Carnegie because these two men are now on my mind.

But that’s a Country Inn Days for you.  Country Inn Days take me out of my usual daily routines.  They help me discover new places and new things. They inspire new thoughts.  They refresh my mind, body and spirit.   Every Country Inn Day is a little different.  And another one is coming up soon.

What will it be?  An “In” Day, an “Outing Day”, a “Dinner Party Day”?  You’ll just have to wait and see.  But whatever kind of day it will be I know it will be a day of delight.  I hope you are having your own delightful days because life is short and we must all seize the magic!

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So till next time then… Take Joy, and remember,

Sharing doubles the joy!

It’s a Country Inn Day – An Adventure Day

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Parlor of The Jeremiah Brown House 1853
My personal Country Inn

Here I am at my Country Inn.  I’m scheduled for a little adventure today, but before I take off I need to explain a few things about how Country Inn Days work.

Inn Days are days of imagination.  I can enjoy sharing breakfast, lunch, tea, cocktails and/or dinner with other inn guests and not who you might think.  Inn guests are usually interesting spirits of the past, but sometimes they are spirits of the present too.  The critical word here is spirits. These spirits arrive at my Inn for a few days at a time, usually from the library or the local book shop. They are the spirits of people contained in biographies. Many of these spirits become what I like to call my “dead friends”, but others are still alive and well.

You see, with imagination  a biography  can bring a spirit to life. With imagination I can enjoy the company of all sorts of great and famous spirits who become guests at the Inn  just as surely as I can enjoy visits with living, breathing friends.  Imagination does it all.

I invite some of these spirits to be guests, but others sort of come on their own.  This is how it works: I go to the library or book shop each week and select  biographies. For chance to work I close my eyes, pick a few more books, and voila!  The Inn has an interesting and varied guest list!  After all, we’d have no control over the guests who might be staying at a real Inn so why should the Inn of Country Inn Days be any different?   Fun, huh?

Well, guess who’s one of the interesting people who checked into the inn this week.  He was my companion for breakfast today.

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Yes, it was Stonewall Jackson.  He joined me  with the help of a wonderful book written by Donald A. Davis.  I knew very little about Thomas Jackson before breakfast, but after I spent just a little time with the man I can say I really like and admire him. Did you know he made it  into West Point even though he was just a roughhewn frontiersman, not an educated gentleman from a prosperous family like the other newcomers to the school?  He said, “I knew I was very ignorant, but I had the energy and the intellect to succeed.”  I love that sort of confidence in a person, don’t you?

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Over a breakfast of poached egg, orange juice and coffee  I sat spellbound as Tom told me details of his life – how he swung 28,000 soldiers out of the front line, moved them across the front of the enemy, and outflanked the Union army in one of the most important battles of the Civil War.  I learned the South always thought they had a chance as long as Thomas was around, but sadly hecame to his end when his own men fired upon him as he was returning from a scouting mission.  They mistook him for the enemy.   He had been hit three times and lay mortally wounded. Several days later, with his left arm amputated, he died of pneumonia brought on by his wounds.

I hate sad endings, but Jackson’s life was one to be proud of and I look forward to getting to know the man better.  Hearing the stories of such dynamic people is nothing but inspiring.  I’m so glad Stonewall Jackson is here at the Inn.  I shall look forward to hearing more of his adventures, but it was time for a little adventure of my own.

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Today’s Adventure Day took me to a town called Ravenna. Ravenna is very much “Main Street USA”.  It was founded in 1799 and developed throughout the 1800’s.  The downtown area is full of nostalgia, reminiscent of a time when Main Street was a place where people would congregate, converse and do business.  I happen to love historic towns.

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I love the architectural detail found in the old buildings of old towns.  Maybe it’s my years living in Boston, but I’m always looking for old places to explore and I found one today.

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Here in Ravenna I found a big, old antique shop full of treasures. The building is a treasure in itself.  Just look at the detail at its ceiling.  They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

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I love all things old so I was in my glory here.  What an adventure to look at household items that were used by people of the past, people like Stonewall Jackson. It’s a little like going back in time, isn’t it? Of course I was hoping to find some treasure I could take home with me too, a souvenir of my Adventure Day.  What would it be?

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This china was absolutely beautiful, but my cupboards are bursting with china already.  I dare not add more, at least not until I add more cupboards.  I’ll keep you in suspense as to what treasure I found  today, but let me now introduce you to a nice lady I met here.

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This is Pam.  She is one of the antique dealers responsible for this shop and she is a very nice and engaging lady.  On Adventure Days I not only discover places and things, but I’m happy to say I also discover very interesting people, people who sometimes become great friends.  I hope Pam will be a future guest at one of my Sharing Teas on another Country Inn Day so she can tell me all about her passion for antiques and how she got into the business. We had a very fun chat at the shop and I know she’d be an entertaining companion at tea. But it’s time for refreshment and speaking of tea Pam told me about a tea shop a few doors down.  I must investigate.

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And here it was.   It’s Susie K’s Cafe and Tea Room.  I love a privately owned and operated tea room.  I guess I have a little bit of English in my blood, or at least in my spirit.

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I stepped inside.  It’s quiet.  I missed the busy lunch crowd.  Good!  I found a table against the wall where I could sit, relax, and enjoy the company of another “dead friend” who happened to come along with me on this Adventure Day.  As I enjoyed lunch I could be entertained with her stories.  Who is this person?  I’ll tell you in a moment, but first let me introduce you to Susie, the owner of this tea house.

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Doesn’t Susie K look happy?  She must love her work.  She was very sweet and friendly full of good old Midwestern warmth.  We chatted and she told me how she rents her place out for parties and meetings, how she bakes her own pies from scratch,  and how she’s always there to mingle with her guests.  I liked that! She offers the personal touch.

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But how ’bout some tea.?  It was time.  And what a pretty cup!  I ordered my favorite, Earl Grey.

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JoDel was my server.  She’s another happy person.  You know it’s good to surround yourself with happy people.  JoDel told me about all the specials on the day’s menu and it’s always quite the decision –  what to choose.  Everything always sounds so good to me. I love food, don’t you?

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I finally selected the chicken salad with strawberries, blackberries and a  raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  There was a little bonus sweet bread on the side.  Yum!  So there I sat with my food and my tea and my “dead friend” having a yummy break on this Adventure Day.

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Who was my “dead friend”?  It was Audrey Hepburn.  Don’t you love her?  She shared her very own words with me through the book, “How to be lovely” written by Melissa Hellstern.  Here’s a few of the things Audrey told me at lunch:

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy –  that’s all that matters”.

“I heard a definition once:  Happiness is health and a short memory!  I wish I’d invented it, because it is very true.”

“I could always hear my mother’s voice saying, ‘Be on time,’ and ‘Remember to think of others first,’ and  ‘Don’t talk a lot about yourself.  You are not interesting.  It’s the others that matter.'”

But my favorite thing that Audrey told me at lunch was this:

“All my life I’ve been in situations where I’ve had no technique, but if you feel enough, you can get away with murder.”

Yes, Audrey was a very entertaining companion for lunch and she always  inspire me. You just don’t meet many true ladies these days, ladies who have her looks, but also her lovely spirit.  Audrey could eat anything without gaining a pound.  I’m not so lucky, but when I heard that Susan makes her own pies from scratch I had to try the coconut creme pie.  How could I refuse it?  It is a Country Inn Day after all, a day to celebrate life.

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YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But time was marching on.  I needed to get back to the Inn for evening activities.  Before I left Ravenna though I drove around a little to view some of its old houses.  I love old houses.  If you aren’t familiar with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Haunted Houses” you must look it up for it says it all.  Here’s just a bit of Henry’s poem:

“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses … there are more guests at table then the host invited …the stranger at my fireside cannot see the forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear; he but perceives what is; while unto me all that has been is visible and clear.” 

Let me show you a few of Ravenna’s haunted houses.

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Aren’t they great? But it’s time to return to my own haunted house, The Jeremiah Brown House, and here I am at its side door.

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But before you go let me show you what I brought back from my Adventure Day.  I brought home these lovely cordial glasses.

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There’s eleven of these delicate, old gems in assorted colors.  I look forward to using them for an after-dinner indulgence with or without coffee on Country Inn Days or whenever I’m entertaining.

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I also picked up a bottle of Chambord on the way back to the Inn because fancy new glasses deserve a fancy new liqueur with which to christen them.  I’m told Chambord is a cordial made from  the world’s finest raspberries, blackberries and the exotic flavors of black raspberries,black currant, Madagascar vanilla and cognac. According to legend Chambord was inspired by a luxurious raspberry liqueur produced for King LouisXIV during his visit to Chambord in the 17th century and if it was good enough for King Louis it’s good enough for me.

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And there’s one more goodie I brought back to the Inn from my Adventure Day.  It’s a stack of very old Woman’s Day magazines. They were printed back in 1952.

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Can you imagine a magazine that costs only 7 cents?  I will enjoy future Country Inn Days curled up by the fire reading the pages of these  great old periodicals.

So another fun Country Inn Day has come and gone.  I’ve only told you about a small part of it,  but next week I’ll be back at the Inn and I’ll share more highlights of these wonderful days of imagination and fun.

Now let me wish you happy days and leave you with some words from my lovely “dead friend’ Audrey Hepburn.

“Not to live for the day, that would be materialistic- but to treasure the day.  I realize that most of us live on the skin – on the surface without appreciating just how wonderful it is simply to be alive at all.  Pick the day and enjoy it to the hilt.  The day as it comes. People as they come…”

Great Advice

Not just any Country Inn Day – ADVENTURE DAY!


It was just another Country Inn Day —  a day where I give myself permission to escape from normal routines and exercise my imagination, exercise it even more than usual.  Have you used your imagination lately?  I hope so.   Imagination is a terrible thing to waste.  Imagination exists for good reason you know,  and that reason is to offer us delight.

Well, this particular Country Inn Day was certainly full of delight for me.  I enjoy all sorts of  Inn Days, each offering its own unique pleasures, but  this particular Country Inn Day was slated for adventure, you know, trying something new, going somewhere  you’ve never gone before,  reaching into the unknown.  A  little adventure now and then adds spice to life.

You’ll be happy to know a satisfying  Adventure Day does not require long distance travel, taking great risks, or spending  lots of money, but it is necessary to step out of  familiar surroundings and do a little exploring.   We all do this sort of thing when we’re out of town on vacation, but we can have great adventures close to home too.  It’s easy and it’s fun!

So I bet you’re wondering  just what kind of adventure  I came up with this time.  Well, I decided to revisit a wonderful old house where I enjoyed tea a few years ago.  I had been there with the Hudson Garden Club.  Though I didn’t have the exact address I knew what street the house  was on  and felt sure  I could find it so… Here I am driving down West Exchange Street in Akron, Ohio on a damp Winter’s morning looking for adventure.

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Now I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking this outing couldn’t be much of an adventure if I’ve been to this great house before, oh, but you’re wrong.

This time I had no reservation.  I just planned to ring the door bell  hoping to be invited inside, where I would introduce myself, explain how I had visited once before, loved the  house,  and hoped to interest the owner in friendship.  I was anxious to get to know  this owner,  a retired English teacher.  Why her, you ask?  It’s  because I knew she must have an adventurous spirit herself  for why else would she buy  a great old  1920’s house, saving it  from demolition  and  turning it into a bed and breakfast among other things – like a beautiful location for  tea parties and wedding receptions.

So where exactly was this house?  Aha!  I think I found it.  I remember those pillars!  So I pulled in and parked by the door.IMG_2261[1]

Here I was.  Oh boy!  This is exciting.  Now to walk up to the entrance and ring the bell .  What an adventure!

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I never really expected anyone would answer  the door not yet invite me inside. I figured I’d just ring the bell, then write a note and leave it in the door, but SOMEONE DID COME TO THE DOOR … and what’s more, THEY INVITED ME INSIDE!

This was going very well indeed.  The nice lady of the house, Gail Johnson,  was very friendly, amazingly friendly, and  quite trusting, for no sooner I was inside she excused herself to take a phone call and disappeared for 10 long minutes!  Only her sleepy black dog kept me company.

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I mustn’t have looked very dangerous, but still,  I was surprised she left me alone for so long.  I could’ve  been a crook, or started exploring the house on my own, for  believe me, I wanted to do just that.

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Here I stood admiring the furniture and peering just beyond into the  living room,  dying to freely wander around this great place.  I love old houses as you know, especially big ones and this is a big one! (Those of you who know me and know my blog know that my Dad always used to say “That’s a big one”, so I felt Dad was along on this adventure.)

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Anyway,  eventually Gail returned and we had a very nice long chat after which she asked if I’d like a tour of the house.  Would I?  YES INDEEDY! …so off we went, and now I’d like to share a little of that tour with you.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy.  Besides, you might like to come here yourself some day, book a room at this bed and breakfast and enjoy a Country Inn Day of your own… So let’s start by entering the dining room.  It’s not large, but very cozy and I loved the crystal chandelier.

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The dining room windows look out to a very pretty patio, and don’t you love the window seat?

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The patio was furnished  with  a neat canopy frame that sat ready for warm weather.  The canopy  is even equipped with  a chandelier which hangs from its center, but now in Winter it rests on the outdoor table.  Can you imagine this setting for tea or cocktails on a Summers day?

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Crossing back through the foyer I headed to another window in order  to get a good view of another garden area,  and here it is.  WOW!

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Isn’t this marvelous?  Can you imagine it with all the trees and flowers in bloom?  I was told there are roses and honeysuckle among all the other plants.  My favorites.  Just beautiful!  I could stay here forever.  But let’s move along.

How about a look at the kitchen?  Good windows, a wood floor, great big restaurant stove and oven (sorry I didn’t get a better picture of the oven, but I was amazed I got as many pictures as I did.  So much to see.)   The island is a gem, an old chest Gail found  in a nearby antique shop.  Isn’t it marvelous?

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Gail told me  the  entire kitchen ceiling fell down one day with no warning, (that’s an old house for you), but she took the opportunity to add recessed  lights in the new ceiling.  She’s the kind of girl who makes lemonade out of lemons.

There was a butler’s pantry too.  I love a butler’s pantry, don’t you?  This one was so small, but so cute and efficient.  I couldn’t really get a good picture, but believe me, it was nifty.  Here’s one small corner of it.

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Let’s move on to the library.  Ah, a library!  …every house should have one.  A library is the perfect place to write a letter, cuddle up with a good book,  or create a post for your blog.

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Are you enjoying the tour?  I sure was, and I’m so happy to have these pictures so I can revisit this great house  with you.   But now let’s go upstairs.

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I was so impressed with all the wood paneling on both sides of the stairs… you just don’t see this sort of thing very often in modern houses.

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The views  from the upstairs balcony and the leaded front windows were terrific.  Looking down into the foyer or out into the front yard… well, I was impressed.IMG_2247[1]

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But there’s one more thing I want to show you, well really three more things — two bedrooms and a bath.
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The bedrooms and baths were comfy, but unpretentious.  Gail wanted them to look their age and they do.

Sorry I didn’t take pictures of the nanny’s room, the maid’s quarters, or the room where the chauffeur stayed in days gone by.  The chauffeur had a small door in his room that led to a private staircase taking him directly to the garage.  How neat is that?  He also had an old fashioned water closet.  (That’s a tiny closet with just enough room for a toilet).  So many nooks and crannies in this house.  So many back stairways and halls.  Everything was wonderful!

Well, there you have it.  The O’Neil House.  You probably didn’t expect to tour a great  historic house today, but then,  neither did I when I set out on my last Country Inn Day Adventure.  I simply reached out in friendship but I got a whole lot  more in the bargain.  I’ll be writing Gail soon and you can write her too.  (Gail Johnson, The O’Neil House, 1290 West Exchange Street, Akron, Ohio,44313)  You might also want to schedule a tea at her place or book a room.  If you do any of those things be sure to  tell Gail that  CarolAnn sent you, and give her a big  hello from me.  She really made my day with her friendly hospitality and the generous sharing of her beautiful home.  Gail obviously subscribes to my theory – sharing doubles the joy!

I hope you enjoyed coming along with me on my adventure.   I can’t wait for the next one, but I do like to mix things up.  My next Country Inn Day may be more quiet — maybe a spa day.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  But maybe it’s time for you to have a little adventure of your own.   You really should.

Adventure Days are Great!