One Day in Sarasota, Florida

One Day in Sarasota, Florida

Today I have a little something different for you. I recently had occasion to be in Sarasota, Florida for a few days. While exploring Main Street in downtown Sarasota, I came upon the Kress Building. I thought, “Why don’t I look that building up?”. When I travel, I compare places to Buffalo. I can’t help it. After reading about Sarasota, and about the building itself, I decided to bring it to you.

Now, if you’re familiar with my blog, you probably know that my husband is a runner. On Super Bowl Sunday, he ran the Sarasota Half Marathon. During our visit, we ended up with a day to explore when we weren’t doing marathon things and watching the Super Bowl with friends. Like we usually do, we rented bikes and took off exploring.

Lido Key

During the marathon Tim had run out onto Lido Key and he wanted to go back and take a closer look. I was game, of course. After picking up the bikes, we rode down Main Street in Sarasota on our way to the two bridges that lead to Lido Key. We commented that we had to come back later on to explore Main Street. We rode straight through St. Armand’s Circle (knowing we’d be back) and out to the gulf coast. We wanted to be on the water for a bit.

We walked out on the beach to take a look around. Just beautiful! Spectacular white sand beaches with gorgeous views of the gulf. It was a perfect morning, even if it was a little cool. We sat down in the sand, I put my backpack behind my head and reclined. Tim did too. There we stayed, soaking up the warmth of the sun. I know how dangerous the sun is supposed to be, but I can’t help feeling like there is something very healing about lying on a beach in the sun. Long as you don’t overdo it. After relaxing, we walked the length of Lido Key, and it is of course, stunning.

St. Armand’s Circle

St. Armand’s Circle is on Lido Key and we stopped there for a late lunch. As we sat outside on a second floor patio eating, we decided that life is good. We were both very relaxed. We decided to walk the circle and see the shops that surround it. That shows how relaxed we were because neither of us likes shopping very much.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon wandering in and out of shops. The restaurants and stores along here are beautiful. And they have everything from ice cream, to eye cream, to incredibly well framed sports prints and more.

We could have spent several days getting to all the restaurants that looked interesting. St. Armand’s Circle would be a great place to explore for a week or so.

Back to Main Street – and the Kress Building

The bikes had to be back by five, so we headed back over the bridges to downtown Sarasota. It was then that we noticed the Kress Building for the first time. We returned the bikes and walked back over to Main Street to take some photos.

The building attracted me with its copper covered wrought iron canopy, curved glass display windows and the “5-10-25 CENT STORE” carved into the facade. It made me think of Seymour Knox and his five-and-dime stores. And then Vidler’s in East Aurora. I wanted to know more.

The building itself is not an elaborate design by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a stately and classic example of art deco design. Built in 1932, it’s concrete with a steel frame structure, and a facade of buff tile and terra cotta. In Sarasota, they have the sun to deal with, but not the harsh freeze/thaw cycle we contend with in Buffalo so the tiles and terra cotta are in remarkable shape.

S. H. Kress & Co.

Samuel Henry Kress established S. H. Kress & Co., a five-and-dime chain of department stores in 1896 that quickly grew to be a nationwide establishment. The fact that the Sarasota store was built in 1932 during the height of the depression speaks volumes to the success of the company. It was the 232nd store in the Kress chain! Wow. Who knew there were chains of five-and-dimes that incredibly large in 1932? Certainly not me. The Kress Company operated until 1981.

A quick google search uncovered these photos of other Kress Stores. They certainly had a specific style didn’t they? From what I read, these stores were put in on Main Streets all over the country. I for one am certainly glad they put one in Sarasota. I love the opportunity to find a gem like this in another city. And with a bit of a story behind it too, makes it even sweeter.

I also came across this photo, which shows a nearly exact match to the floor outside the main entrance of the Sarasota Store. Only this one’s in Berkeley, California.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
My photo at the Sarasota store.

More to See In Sarasota

There are a few other sights I wanted to share with you from Sarasota. Mostly of their Main Street and it’s charm. They have a great mix of new and old architecture here. Their Main Street was very walkable. And we found the people, as well as the place, were very friendly. Although the Floridians were wearing winter coats and boots all weekend! Temps were in the mid to high 50’s. They should come to Buffalo! Wink, wink.

My Impressions of the Kress Building

I know this isn’t the usual Hello Buffalo blog post. But I do travel, and finding the Kress Building made me feel like I was in Buffalo coming upon the, let’s say, the Calumet Building for the first time. I liked it immediately. It elicited that feeling of finding something worth finding.

Even when I travel, or perhaps even more so when I do, I get that urge to see things close up, to learn more, to see more. In Sarasota, I found it on their Main Street, in a building called the Kress, and I wanted to share it with you.

Next week I’ll be back home in Buffalo with a post about a local small business owner who was helped along the way by Tom McDonnell of Dog Ears Bookstore. Stay tuned.

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An Unexpected Surprise in Taughannock Falls

An Unexpected Surprise in Taughannock Falls

We left our house at 6am.  It was a dark, cold, windy, rainy, fall morning.  Sounds like the beginning of a horror story, haha.  Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the kind of day you want to go for a day trip.  More the kind of day you want to snuggle down under the covers and sleep in. But we got up and went anyway.

We were headed to Taughannock Falls, NY (pronounced “tuh-GAN-uck”) for a cross country race.  My husband Tim is a long-time runner, but this was to be his first ever cross country race.  Most of the races he does are road races, mainly 5k’s and half marathons. But he has never gotten involved in cross country for some reason.  

The weather didn’t seem to be cooperating with his hopes for a good first race. But, we like to think we’re adventurous, so off we went on the roughly 2 ½ hour drive from Buffalo.  

Enchanted from the Get-Go

Taughannock Falls State Park was easy enough to find, and the photo below is what greeted us off to the right as we entered the park.  Welcome. Even though it’s cold and rainy.

As we pulled in, I was immediately taken in by the charm of the park.  The fall colors seemed brighter because everything was wet. Even though the weather was almost terrible there was excitement in the air given off by the runners in anticipation of the race.  They greeted each other warmly despite the cold.  

The park is on Cayuga Lake, and knowing my love affair with water, I was of course, drawn to it.  The rain continued as a drizzle but that didn’t affect the view.

One of my favorite views was of the marina.  It was so quaint. I know that sounds trite, but it really was. Old fashioned, no frills, and very picturesque.  It was like stepping back in time. I could picture the many families over the years, launching their boats for a day on the water.  Just lovely.

I Had To Get a Closer Look

My friend Margy and I took a walk over to that waterfall I had seen on the way in to get a closer look.  The charm of the park itself continued to draw me in.

Race time came.  The rain abruptly stopped and the sun came out.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The teams were so enthusiastic, I couldn’t help but feel their excitement.  And they were off! Into the woods they went.

I roamed around taking pictures in the park while they ran.  Check out these giant leaves we found! We think they were from the huge sycamore trees that were scattered throughout the park.  Any dendrology enthusiasts want to confirm this?

Tim and his team finished the race, and earned the most points that week in the race series, and Tim had a good run.  This added to the magic of the day for us.

We had other plans for the day in addition to the race.  We wanted to hike to Taughannock Falls. Neither of us knew beforehand that the hike WAS the race course.  So Tim did it twice. And what a beautiful course it was. I can see this hike being beautiful in all four seasons.  And we may make plans to see it in all four. It’s that gorgeous.

It’s an easy hike too.  The path is wide and well cared for, easy to navigate, it would be tough to get lost, and the payoff (the views) are well worth it.  Depending on where you start, the hike is between one and a half and two miles, round trip, so it’s a pretty quick hike too. Plenty of time for the many pictures you’ll want to take along the trail.  No fancy gear necessary either.

What Else is there at Taughannock Falls?

A little investigating told me the park offers camping as well.  Both tent sites and cabins. Putting it on my list for next summer.  With Cayuga Lake right there, and the hiking trails, I know we’d love exploring this place some more.

The next thing we wanted to do was hit a bar.  Go figure. Years ago, Tim took a road trip with his brothers, sister, and probably a couple of friends too.  They went to Owego to visit some old friends.  

I should explain that Tim’s oldest brother Dan, who has sadly passed, always seemed to know bars in the most obscure places. If you mentioned some small town you drove through in another state, he’d say, “Oh hey, did you happen to see (fill in the blank) bar?  They have the best (fill in the blank) there.”

The Rongovian Embassy 

On that particular trip to Owego Dan had them stop in Trumansburg, NY to go to a bar he knew called The Rongovian Embassy, a dive bar (they are all dive bars, they’re our favorite kind) that had the best lobster bisque he ever had.  I had been hearing about this place for 35 years, so in honor of Dan, we decided to drive the 10 minutes to Trumansburg to check it out.

A quick online search earlier in the week told us what we had suspected, that The Rongovian Embassy was no longer open, having closed only two years ago.  Why did we put off this visit for so long? The good news is that it’s now a brewery and we decided to go anyway. The owners were friendly and the beer was good. I was tempted to try the “Coping with the In-laws IPA, because of the nature of the visit.  But I really love my in-laws, and I prefer lagers, so I went with some of the last of their Octoberfest instead. It was delicious.

Embedded in the ground in front of The Garret Brewery. It’s a good thing it was there, I was teasing Tim that he had made the whole story up.

The real hit of Trumansburg 35 years later was Trumansburg itself.  So lovely. There were friendly people willing to talk to us about what it used to be like.  Great old buildings, yet with a really modern feel. This town knows who it is.  They are small, and they embrace it. They’re local, because they understand it. They support each other and it shows.  Would love to spend a few days here exploring. It could never be considered a tourist destination, but I’m putting this on my list anyway.  I want to get to know Trumansburg.

Even in the rain, Trumansburg seems charming.
Street Art is everywhere. Or would this be considered ‘Creek Art’?
This doorway above the creek made me want to see what was on the inside.

Just a Quick Detour

The last item on our ‘to do’ list today, was to take a leisurely (20 minutes or so) drive into Ithaca for some dinner.

At this point it was drizzling again, but when we saw a sign that said “Overlook” we made the turn.  And this is what we saw. Well worth stopping!

The route into Ithaca itself was scenic even through raindrops.  Not having made plans in advance of where to stop, we relied on google maps to direct us to The Boat Yard Grille, where we had a truly scrumptious dinner. 

Photo credit: The Boat Yard Grill website.

My Impressions of our Day Trip to Taughannock Falls

We headed home, talking all the way about what a great day we had.  How we should have figured out a way to spend the night, but we just couldn’t make it happen, too many other commitments.  And how next time we’d spend a few days.  

This is the way a road trip should feel.  Like you don’t want it to end. A real memory maker.  I’m smiling to myself as I’m writing this because the day started out so bleak and cold, and ended with such a warm feeling for Taughannock Falls, for Trumansburg and even Ithaca where all we did was eat.  Glad we dragged ourselves out of bed when it would have been so easy not to.

Next time you’re thinking of a day trip from Buffalo, consider Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg or Ithaca.  All three will enchant you.

p.s.  We owe it to the Checkers Cross-Country team for putting Taughannock Falls on our radar.  By the way, the team went on to win the cup in the Pete Glavin X-Country Series 2019. Couldn’t be happier for them.  They worked hard recruiting new team members and training for the series. No team is more enthusiastic than Checkers XC! Awesome win!

The Checkers AC Team – Pete Glavin X-Country Series Winners 2019
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What Would You Do if You Had Just One Day to Spend in Montreal?

What Would You Do if You Had Just One Day to Spend in Montreal?

I recently had the opportunity to visit Montreal for a quick trip.   Because of the circumstances, I only had one day to see it.   It was going to be a whilrwind, but sometimes whirlwinds can be fabulous.   Plus, I figured that one day in Montreal is better than staying home and, say, cleaning out the fridge.   So I went.    

I was excited because I worked for a number of years for the Canadian government in Buffalo, and had heard a lot about it from my Canadian co-workers.

I knew I wanted to see Old Montreal.   Mainly because I’m that kind of history nerd.   I love old buildings and old timey places.   I want to see where a city began.   I want to hear the history, get a feel for the old buildings and the people who built them.   Learn how the city grew up, and what its people were like back in the day.   And see how these places are currently being used.        

So, with my one full day in Montreal, I chose to tour around both the east and west sides of Old Montreal.  

EAST SIDE  

I began at Place d’Armes, in front of Notre Dame Basilica.   As soon as I got out of my Uber, I stepped right into tourist mode.   I couldn’t help it.   The place is absolutely stunning.   And right up my alley.    

     

If you read my blogs you know I’m prone to daydreaming about history, and that occasionally my mouth will fall open when I see something that completely catches me off guard.   I actually caught myself doing both of these within minutes of arriving at Place d’Armes.   I’m okay with that.   In my mind that means that I have found that place of wonder that makes all the little inconveniences of travel worth it.

In Montreal, I found it.   Immediately.

I walked around the square and snapped about a hundred pictures because quite frankly I couldn’t help myself.   Everywhere I looked, I saw photos begging to be taken.   So I took them.   Lots and lots of them.

     

These sculptures, named “The English Pug and the French Poodle” caught my eye right away and the accompanying plaques explain them.   I couldn’t do a better job of it, so I’ll quote the plaques:  

“ ‘THE ENGLISH PUG AND THE FRENCH POODLE’  

A dashing looking English man, holding his pug, gives a superior stare at Notre-Dame Basilica, a symbol of the religious influence on French Canadians.

210 feet away to the northern corner of the edifice, a woman in a Chanel style suit, poodle against her, shoots an offended look to the Bank of Montreal’s head office, a symbol of English power.

With their masters oblivious to each other, the two dogs on the alert already sniffed out the opportunity to unite.

The inspiration for this work was from the Commedia dell’arte and Two Solitudes from novelist Hugh MacLennan, these two snobs set up an ironically touching scene of the cultural distance between English and French Canadians.

Marc A. J. Fortier, Artist”

Excellent.  

I’m smiling as I walk to the statue I’ve noticed in the center of the square.   It’s a monument to Paul de Chomedey, a French military officer and who is credited with the founding of Montreal itself, and it’s by artist Louis-Philippe Hébert.   It’s beautiful.  

My only criticism of this square is the lack of green.   No grass, no flowers, some trees around the perimeter but it could use some more color.   To me, in the summer, a city square should have all sorts of colorful plantings.   That being said, the architecture holds my attention well enough.    

Beside the Basilica, there is the Saint Sulpice Seminary.   This building was built in 1687. That’s right, 1687!

The New York Life Insurance Building, built in 1889.  Photo credit to aviewoncities.com

        The art deco Aldred Building, completed in 1931.   It’s reminiscent of the Rand Building in Buffalo.  

500 Place D’Armes, built in 1968 in the international style.   Reminds me of the Main Place Tower in Buffalo.

I went in to Notre Dame Basilica which is right on the square and I’m pretty sure my mouth fell open again upon entering.    

What a treasure!   So gorgeous and so beautifully maintained.    This church opened in 1830.   The towers were added later and completed in 1843.    

Here are three of my favorite shots of the Basilica.   It made me think of all the incredible churches in Buffalo. This one is much more grand, but shares some of the same great design elements of more than one of our Buffalo churches.  

             

Montreal is home to some of the oldest buildings in North America.   As I amble down Rue Saint-Paul,   I get a feeling like I’m in Europe, with its amazing architecture, cobblestone streets, and all these cool little shops, places to relax and get a bite to eat.  

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I walked along Place Jacques-Cartier, one of the many squares in Montreal.   I actually spend a lot of time here.   It’s spectacular, busy, and friendly, all at the same time.   Deliveries are being made, any number of items are being purchased.   There are art exhibits on the street, art is being created, being bought, and being sold.   People are relaxed, laughing, visiting, talking.   Even yelling greetings to each other across the square.  

I like it here so much I sort of don’t want to leave.   It seems like an old world town.   The kind of place I’d like to stay.   Even live.   It helps that the street itself leads down to the Port of Montreal, and we all know I am meant to live near water!

OLD PORT MONTREAL

So I head down to the port.   There are slips for ships intermingled with museums, restaurants, housing, even grain silos.   When I see the silos, I am again reminded of Buffalo.  

Grain Silo at the Port of Montreal.   Photo credit to: Heritage Montreal  

I’ve circled around, back to Place Jacques-Cartier to meet up with my husband for a late lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes.   So delicious and so relaxing!   If you go to Montreal, do this.   Even if you feel like you don’t have time.   Make time.   This is how a vacation is supposed to be.   Relaxing, talking and visiting while enjoying a beautiful meal on a beautiful terrace overlooking a beautiful town square!   It’s just, well, beautiful!

Photo credit to Afar.com

Bonsecours Market

WEST SIDE

We head over to see the west side of Old Montreal.   Here are some of my photos of the west side.

     

       

     

The two photos above were taken in the underground city.   Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.   In Montreal, there is an entire city, underground!   Where people live, work and shop!    

MY IMPRESSIONS & FIVE PLACES I’LL GO NEXT TIME              

I’ve decided this quick trip to Montreal will need another look.   I plan to come back to see more.  

  1. Bonsecours Market – It was closed during the time I was in the neighborhood, and I love checking out markets.    
  2. Mount Royal – I want to hike to the top and get a birds eye view of the city!
  3. Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, because I’m a history nerd like that.
  4. I’d like to take a tour of Montreal City Hall.   Because I love tours of cool buildings. 😉
  5. I would absolutely spend some time in the Underground City.   Very intriguing to think that some people live here, work here, shop here.   Don’t really ever have to go outside.   Even though I love being outside, I’d also love to see more of this.

So this was my quick jaunt to Montreal.   Well worth the trip, short as it was!   I found it to be my kind of town.   I truly didn’t mean this post to include so many Buffalo comparisons, but I found so many similarities between the two cities I couldn’t not mention it.   While Buffalo seems smaller and friendlier, Montreal is much more walkable.   A direction in which Buffalo is surely headed with so many people moving into the downtown area.   At least I hope so.

Ever been to Montreal?   Comment with your impressions or share some ideas for my next visit!

 

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