Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vacation in Columbus

After reading an article in Midwest Living (link here) which recommended a trip to Columbus, Ohio, and since I believe everything I read, I convinced Clint it would be a perfect vacation spot. To be honest, the things that most intrigued me were this paper store, Jeni's ice cream, and the 32-room Book Loft in German Village.
Well, as I'm sure you know, most events do not unfold as planned (at least not in my mind) (except for reading books on the beach in Jamaica), and this vacation was true to form.
Somehow, our summer has passed by in what feels like 3.6 days, and now August is upon us and school is about to start. On Friday last week, we realized we hadn't yet taken the kids on vacation. So, we decided to leave Sunday and return home on Tuesday, albeit a short trip, but we had an ortho appointment on Wednesday.

Here's what happened:

We arrived at our hotel in the afternoon, checked in and let the kids swim. Then, we followed the recommendation of the front desk clerk and went to a Mexican restaurant down the road. The food was very authentic, although the place was a bit greasy and icky. Especially the bathroom.
To console myself for my slight disappointment at a) dinner, b)our hotel room, and c) the nasty pool (which, surprisingly, the kids didn't mind...), I drove a few blocks to the grocery store and got some Klondike bars and some of those mini-bottles of wine. Things began to look up.


Since Jared is only four, we figured spending two days looking into quaint shops was not going to be fun for anyone, so we went to the zoo on Monday. We'd heard that the Columbus Zoo was pretty good, and Genthners are always game for zoo trips anyway.Unfortunately, it was blasted hot and humid, even at ten in the morning. But nevertheless, we had a good time.

The Columbus Zoo admission cost 59.95 (Jared was 7.99 and everyone else was 12.99). There were lots of sculptures to climb on, and they were under shade, so Jared easily persuaded us to make nearly every one a photo shoot.

Jonah was excited about all the reptiles, especially Fluffy, a 24-foot reticulated python, who is, apparently, the longest snake in a zoo. Period. She looked pretty pleased with her accomplishment.

And of course, Clint was very excited about these enormous bats--okay, actually, they are flying foxes. But when a creature is this big and has wings and sleeps upside down, he isn't about to quibble about scientific classifications. He's just happy to see them, no matter what they're called.
The zoo food was typical zoo food: over-priced and under-delicious. We opted for the most sensible option: dippin dots. Which, really, is a filling and nutritionally balanced meal in comparison with hot dogs and pizza.
After the zoo, we were hot and tired and dirty, but we weren't about to let that conquer us. Jared took a short nap on our 30-minute drive into the city. We stopped first at North Market, which every website I had read recommended.

(photo courtesy of

Unfortunately, most of those market people apparently have to take Mondays off (Sunday is a huge artisan market...WHY didn't we go up on Sunday, you ask? That would have been far too logical. Plus, we didn't know). Anyway, Clint took the opportunity to sample at least 15 flavors at Jeni's ice cream while I bought the kids some pastries. And a hazelnut-almond biscotti for myself.
But when we were done eating our treats, it was still only 3:30, and I wasn't too keen on going back to the hotel for a seven-hour stint at the pool or in front of the TV, so I persuaded The Man to drive us up the road to Short North.
According to the travel article, Short North was once a run-down area which has been revitalized in the last twenty years into a trendy place to hang out, featuring an array of art galleries, great restaurants, and eclectic shops.

We drove down the street until I spotted On Paper and then we found a parking space close by. I leapt from the van and jogged toward the storefront, only to find to my everlasting dismay that it was closed on Mondays! (what the?? Why Mondays?) Wailing ensued.
So we browsed our way down the street until we found this place: Collier West.

(photo courtesy of

This is a beautiful (pricey) shop with artful displays. I could have spent a fortune in time and money here, but instead we found a different sort of treasure: a helpful guide. The girl working there, upon hearing that we were first-time visitors, told us of a fabulous restaurant with great happy hour specials. Since it was 4:02 and happy hour had just started, we trotted right off.

(photo courtesy of

People, this restaurant has 1/2 off drinks and appetizers during happy hour! We had olives, calamari, melted pecorino, some kind of salami-ish meat, risotto-mozzarella balls and all the bread and olive oil we could eat. It was fabulous. Just the right meal for a hot day. Clint and I were so parched, we just ordered water. And here's the best part: before the tip, our bill came to 18.45. Eighteen dollars for dinner for five people! Crazy. Yes, indeed. (For those who are hungrier and may scoff at our small appetites: their pizzas are also half-price. We were too full to order one. And we had a plan for dessert, anyway.)
I wish I could have taken a picture of our food, of the inside, of the bathrooms! (which were lovely...I always judge a place by the quality of its bathroom, don't you? Theirs had mouthwash and lotion and...ahem...ladies' things...all just there for you to use. Nice) But alas, it was a bit dark inside and my flash was acting silly. You'll just have to see for yourself. Go at four, though.

So, Jeni's for dessert. Every--and I mean every--website I read commanded a visit to this place. Jeni has done pretty well for herself, apparently, and opened a couple other branches (like the one in North Market Clint plundered).
This is why:

Look at those flavors! No wonder poor Clint had to try every one! It was hard to choose, no doubt, but as soon as I saw (imagine magical music now, please) salted caramel I didn't need to dither any more.

Here are the flavors we got, starting from the top: Goat Cheese with Roasted Cherries, Riesling Poached Pear, Strawberry Buttermilk (with sprinkles--guess whose?), Wildberry Lavender, and Salted Caramel. Every single one was delicious, but mine was best.

Tuesday morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed to German Village. Here, obviously, I wanted to visit The Book Loft. It didn't open till 10, so we stopped next door and got a coffee, which was essential anyway because I don't think the stuff they had at the hotel breakfast was really coffee...

I didn't take any pictures inside because it wouldn't have done the place justice. Picture a huge, rambling two-story house filled with rooms upon rooms and shelves upon shelves of books. Amazing, right? I got lost quite few times--both literally and within the books as well. Of course, we each had to pick a thing or two to buy, and so we left happy and fortified for the long drive home.
Next stop was lunch (because it had been a pleasantly long browse in the bookstore), and we decided to try Schmidt's Sausage House, home of the half-pound cream puff. We were good, though, and we had some sausage and a Reuben (in Lauren's case) before splitting the beast five ways. It was very, very good. However, the sausage wasn't anything overly amazing, and the place was far too crowded for my taste. Our table was crammed next to three others, making Clint's numerous trips to the buffet quite a gymnastic workout for the poor guy! I stayed put, happily slurping up my cup of potato soup and sharing Jonah's bratwurst, but if we ever went back, I think I'd get my cream puff to go and skip the meal.

After lunch, we wandered through German Village for about an hour. Honestly, the most interesting part (aside from the cream puff) was Third Street. That street boasts The Book Loft, the coffee shop, and Katzinger's Deli, which is like Zingerman's in Ann Arbor--pricey sandwiches and lovely cheese like this one.

We didn't buy anything there, just sampled some cheese and 9.50/pound butter (seriously? 9.50? I know...but it had sea salt crystals in it!)
Then we went to Pistacia Vera down the street, a French bakery for (ahem) some more dessert. That's what people do on vacation, right? That's what we do. (There may have been an earlier stop at a chocolate shop, too. It's hard to remember exact details.)

It was very beautiful inside, and the brightly colored macaroons (only 1.25!) snagged my interest. Clint tried to say (so silly) that we didn't need any more dessert, but I overrode his protests and bought a cookie for myself and each of the kids while he was looking away.

We got a Madagascar Vanilla Bean, a Blueberry Lavender, a Nutella, and a Buttermint macaroon. And, they're gluten free! Yummy. And guess who had to try a bite of each? Mr. Parsimonious himself. Delicious, they were. And so beautiful! How could I not buy some?
There wasn't much more to see in German Village, and Jared was begging to go back to the car so he could read his dinosaur book, so we ended our vacation on that sugary note.
It was a four-ish hour drive back home, and most of it was spent with everyone but Clint (of course) quietly reading or snoozing.

Overall, I would go back in a heartbeat for
1) another trip to The Book Loft
2) lots more trips to Jeni's Ice Cream
3) another go at Marcella's (during happy hour)
4) a trip to On Paper but not on Monday
5) and ditto that for North Market

If you go to the zoo, it's worth a 2-3 day vacation, but if you don't, just doing what we did might not stretch into a mini-break very well. However, there were places we didn't visit--like COSI or the art museum (I know what you're thinking: art museum--zoo. It was a tough choice for me too. Somehow, though, we thought Jared would like the zoo better) (and maybe Clint too).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved hearing about that mini-cation! I've always wanted to go to Jeni's....I fantasize about sampling every ice cream when I'm on their website.....even thought about having some shipped.....I'm right with you there on the salted caramel....could you taste the salt?