In the Heart of History: Chestnut Charm & Atlantic, IA

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Chestnut Charm Bed & Breakfast

Today the road has brought me to Atlantic, IA.

I thought I had checked out all of the B & Bs close to my neck of the woods, but imagine my surprise when I was looking over my list and saw that I missed one in the nearby town of Atlantic, IA.  Immediately I booked a visit to Chestnut Charm Bed & Breakfast, owned and operated by Barbara.

Truthfully, I badly needed a little getaway.  I’d had an unusually difficult week capped by a Friday the 13th that lived up to its moniker as everything that day went foul and the day ended with a notification that a project I’d hoped to be part of had fallen through.

Saturday the 14th started much better with a bright sunny day making for a pleasant drive to nearby Atlantic, the Coca-Cola capital of Iowa.

I got into town a little bit early as I wanted to do a bit of exploration.  Atlantic is like stepping back in time to a more peaceful era with a quaint downtown area with old-fashioned street lamps and shops that close up early on the weekends.

Coca-Cola is a big part of the town as you will find painted murals of the soft drink all over the downtown area and a bottling plant is in the heart of downtown.  There’s even a Coca-Cola museum and information center that I may visit on a future jaunt to this city.

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Coca-Cola Bottling Companay

I definitely plan to return during the Christmas season because Atlantic prides itself on how it celebrates the Yuletide season with a celebration called Christmas in Atlantic.  This celebration features over six miles of LED lights in the downtown area, a visit from St Nick, fireworks, themed window displays and a lighted parade.

After a brief walkaround, I headed off to Chestnut Charm, a 121 year old Victorian mansion situated on a 2 acre property.  The mansion had been built by a lumber baron named Edward Shaw as a wedding present to his daughter.

I was greeted by Barbara who is a “jane of all trades” as she grows her own fruits and vegetables, built the property’s gazebo, and has done quite a bit of work on the mansion itself, aside from being its resident chef.  She is also a waterfall (fount seems too small a word) of knowledge and an expert on the history of the region.  Barbara told me about all sorts of interesting historical facts about the region and gave me numerous ideas of side/day trips to take on future outings such as St Patrick’s in Imogene, IA and the windmill and Dutch museum of Elk Horn.

Barbara escorted me to the Manson Master Suite which is a very comfortable and spacious area with a fireplace, hardwood floors, a queen sized bed, a private sunroom, and a bathroom with a rather deep tub.  I had just enough time to take in the room before heading over to worship at Sts Peter and Paul.

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Sts Peter and Paul

The service brought a great sense of peace to me and made me more than ready to enjoy dinner at The Redwood Steakhouse in nearby Anita, IA.

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The Redwood

The Redwood prides itself on being an old-fashioned steakhouse.  Back in the day steakhouses would actually bring a relish tray so diners would have something to nosh on before their entrees came and The Redwood continues that practice.  My tray contained pickles, black olives, green olives, carrots, cauliflower, cheese, and pickled herring which was actually quite tasty.  A little French bread and salad and a bit of the items from the relish tray wonderfully tided me over.

For my entrée, I opted for a NY Strip and took Barbara’s suggestion to try the hash browns.  Barbara claimed these were the best hash browns around and she was right on the money.  They were nice and crisp on the outside, but soft and fluffy in the middle and a bit of cheese and onions gave it that extra bit of kick.  My NY Strip was cooked perfectly and I seasoned it with spices at the table and enjoyed a long and pleasant dining experience.

When I returned to Chestnut Charm, Barbara showed me a battalion of Monarch butterflies flying around her neighbor’s yard and introduced me to Concord grapes which I had never tasted before, but found them quite sweet and learned they were the grapes used in Welch’s jelly and probably their soda back when that existed.

From there, Barbara educated me on the history and interesting sights of the area before we called it a night and I went to my room to rest and write.  A nice long soak in the deep bathtub had me ready for a trip to the land of Nod.

I awoke, truly refreshed for the first time in a week and was ready for breakfast.

Barbara greeted me in the kitchen and led me to the sunroom where a glass of water was waiting for me.  Barbara shortly brought me orange juice and an egg frittata with onions, garlic, Italian herbs, and zucchini from her garden along with sweet smoked bacon which was locally produced and magically prepared in her kitchen, and a peach muffin stuffed with raspberry jam with both fruits coming from her garden.

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After picking my plate clean, I finally did a little exploration of the mansion.  At 121 years of age, this home was produced before electricity and plumbing and back when craftsmanship was king.  The woodwork is prepared by hand.  Stained glass windows adorn the property.  Cloth is handpainted.  The lamps on the stairwell are now electric, but were once much bigger Victorian gas lamps.  The property also contains a carriage house where the inn’s two jacuzzi suites reside.  There’s even a 101 year old Victorian piano which can actually be played.

Regrettably reality was calling me back home and I had to pack it in.  But a trip to Chestnut Charm and Atlantic, IA is well worth a visit.  You’ll find a plethora of history in the area, enjoy a fine home cooked meal, meet a hostess with intimate knowledge of the area, and maybe a bit of Christmas cheer if you time it right.

Until the next time, happy travels.

A Journey Beyond Imagination, Day 5: Duel with a Tyrant

On our fifth day in Tokyo, we would be enjoying a free day. Now the one regret I had about the entire trip was that I was unable to climb Mt Fuji with Mat and Dave. We are discussing possibly returning to Japan within the next few years so all three of us can climb it, but I’m getting away from the thread of this tale.

I had planned to spend the day climbing Mt Takao, but when my eyes fluttered open that day, I heard the unmistakable sound of rain pounding at the window. Being an island nation, Japan is a lot like living on the coasts in that it rains often and unexpectedly. In fact, it rains so much that umbrellas are available, cheap, in every local shop. I got a call from Yukie saying that the mountain climb was canceled due to the weather, so he refunded my money for that excursion and I joined Mat and Dave on their explorations for the day.

We made a quick stop at Family Mart to pick up some breakfast and then we were on our way. Mat wanted to take us to a cosplay exhibition called “From Cloth to You”. As we were walking to the exhibit, the rain began to pour buckets on us. I was getting drenched, so I ducked into a local store and picked up an umbrella for 400 yen.

Soon we arrived at our destination. It was an old, seemingly abandoned building. The rooms had a dank, basement feel and left an interesting aura for the event. The paintings were rather good and had a wide variety of flavor. Some were typical anime fare. Others had a horror theme. Still others a surreal feel. We spent nearly two hours admiring the artwork and from there, Mat led us to a place to which he had truly been looking forward.

Shortly before our trip, it was announced that a mall in Tokyo was going to be opening a special theme restaurant for one year. It was called the Biohazard Café and Biohazard is what Resident Evil is known as in Japan. I still remember the message Mat sent me with the link to the article. He said, “If you think this isn’t on the agenda, think again!”

I was very impressed with the detail that went into the eatery. Newspapers articles were hanging on the walls discussing the strange murders and disappearances going on in Raccoon City. There was also a special exhibit of S.T.A.R.S. (the special police force in the game) items. The restaurant was all you could eat in the style of a Brazilian steakhouse. What that means is that servers bring cuts of meat to your table until you tell them to stop. For sides, there was some type of bread that was quite delectable and “Healing Herbs” salad. Mat and Dave each enjoyed a Code: Veronica (mint julep) while I satisfied my thirst with water. It was a very pleasant meal and I was especially impressed with the lamb. What I found most interesting was the fact that it cost more for men to eat at this place than it did for women. This is because men can typically eat more than women.

The centerpiece of the restaurant was a life sized replica of the Tyrant (the main monster from the first Resident Evil game). At 9 feet tall, heavily muscled, and a right hand that had razor sharp claws, this beast was truly a force to be reckoned with in the game. When we were nearly finished with our meal, the servers began putting on a little dance show for the patrons. In the midst of the show, alarms started going off and the servers began protecting the customers. The Tyrant had come to life and was threatening to annihilate everything and everyone in its path. The servers bravely fired on the creature, but to no avail.

Time for the reinforcements.

Bravely, I dove into battle and picked up a fallen gun that had the kickback of a feral mule. Taking careful aim, I aimed for the Tyrant’s external heart and took it out in one, clean shot. Victory!!! I was covered in smooches by the grateful waitresses and lauded by the clientele.

Seriously, one of the servers did pull me into the fray and she handed me a gun so I could deliver the killing shot to the Tyrant. My prize was a badge certifying me as an honorary S.T.A.R.S. member that I still have today.

After lunch, Mat wanted to take us to a place called Namja Town in Sun City so we could try some of their ice milk. Now here’s where things got funny. Mat was using a GPS system to help guide us through Tokyo and it seemed to work very well. The only place his GPS didn’t seem to work was in Ikebukuro. In that region, that device sent us all over the map and always to the wrong destination. So we walked. . .and walked. . .and walked.

As we continued trying to get to Sun City, I managed to finally find a vending machine that had Mountain Dew to Dave’s joyous glee. Vending machines are very prevalent in Japan. They can be found on every street corner and contain everything from soda to sushi. Japan seems to be partial to Coke so Dave had to make do without his beloved beverage of choice. When I pointed out the vending machine, our lovable Dew junkie practically danced in the street and I half expected him to bow in homage to the machine. He immediately bought 3 cans of the stuff and these were tallboy cans, so each was about the equivalent of two normal cans. As the machine wasn’t far from our hotel, Dave raided it a few more times before our trip ended.

After 90+ minutes of walking, we finally found Sun City and enjoyed some of the famed ice milk which wasn’t too bad. From there, we headed back to our hotel, only making a brief stop to pick up some burgers for supper. After all the running around of the past few days, I was ready to take it easy. I took a long, hot bath, watched a movie on my laptop, and went to bed.

The next day our tour group would be heading to Odaiba.