For I Need a Little Christmas: Historic Hutchinson House & Faribault, MN

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Historic Hutchinson House

Today the road has brought me to Faribault, MN.

It’s my favorite time of year as the Christmas season is upon us which also means it’s time for the annual Christmas B & B review here at the Corner.

Truthfully, I thought my review would either be greatly delayed or even outright canceled this year.  I had hoped to be performing in a show this holiday season, but the theatre gods had other ideas which opened things up a bit.  This year’s selection was Historic Hutchinson House, owned and operated by Dana and Olena Anderson.

I had a beautiful day for the journey and time just seemed to whiz by as I drove along an unusually empty interstate.  About 1:30pm, I found myself in need of gas and a break in Story City, IA, so I gassed up and then stopped for lunch at Royal Café.

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The Royal Cafe

Royal Café is housed in a former Happy Chef restaurant.  I ended up taking a seat in a booth next to a group of construction workers who provided me with some free entertainment as they were sharing stories of the dumb stunts they had pulled in their lives and the various injuries that had resulted from said stunts.

I ended up scoring a lunchtime special where for $8, I got a turkey club sandwich with a side of fries and a free beverage.  I truly savored this meal as it was the first solid food I had enjoyed that week as I’d been laid out by either a chest cold or flu (I’m not sure which) and been subsisting on a mostly liquid diet due to lack of hunger.  After polishing off the vittles, it was back to the road.

As I continued driving north, I felt the air temperature plummet and noticed snow starting to appear on the ground, evoking images of a white Christmas.

Around 4:30pm, I had arrived in Faribault and easily found Historic Hutchinson House which, as you’ve noticed, stands out pretty readily due to its coloration of periwinkle blue with pink trim.  This look is known as Painted Lady.

This Queen Anne Victorian home was built in 1892 by John Hutchinson, Jr, a local Captain of Industry, who had been a partner in the Faribault Furniture Company and Faribault Roller Mills.  In its 100+ year history, the inn has only had 8 owners and the current ones only took up ownership in July.

I walked up to the guest entrance, rang the bell, and was greeted by Olena who offered me some cookies and hot chocolate and led me to the Malone Suite which is the inn’s biggest room.  It’s a 2 room suite capable of sleeping up to 4 people with two very soft full sized beds.  The room also contains a pair of comfy easy chairs, lush green carpeting, a work desk, and a bathroom with a shower.

I actually didn’t have too much planned for the first night.  I wasn’t exactly bursting with energy after my recent illness and wasn’t very hungry due to my late lunch.  I did go around to look at some Christmas lights in the neighborhood and even saw the Faribault Snowman, a massive construct built (and still being refined) by a local engineer.  Afterwards, I called it a night and just watched a little TV before sinking into my mattress for the night.

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Faribault Snowman

Boy, did I sleep well.  All night and I truly felt refreshed in the morning.  This feeling was further enhanced by a long, hot shower and shave and I was ready for breakfast at 9am.

I actually had company for breakfast as the inn had another guest with Liz from Lincoln, NE.  The inn is actually sold out on Saturday and nearly every single one of us is from Nebraska.  What would be the odds?

But, I digress.  I enjoyed some conversation with Liz as we ate granola and fruit with cream, ham and cheese crepes with spring salad, and German Christmas Cake with marzipan.  A very tasty meal and the crepes were fantastic.

After breakfast, I got the oil in my car changed and decided I needed a fix of Christmas.  I thought that a visit to the Mall of America in nearby Bloomington could help scratch that itch as I figured it may do an impressive job of decorating for the holidays.

The mall was the busiest I’ve ever seen it.  Towards the end of my visit I found out that a young celebrity was doing a meet and greet which explained the unusually high traffic roaming around the mall.

The mall did have some nice decorations.  Most notable was a pair of gigantic Christmas trees in its central rotunda which also had a free concert going on.

The most interesting store I visited was called The Beef Jerky Experience which has homemade jerky which you can sample.  The most unique jerky I tasted was a dill pickle jerky which would have been worth a pickup except for the fact that a single serving of jerky cost a whopping $11. The store also served a sauce called Slap Yo Mama which they were using with samples of jambalaya with sausage and shrimp etouffee.  The sauce was incredible, though it certainly didn’t make me want to slap my dear mother.

I returned to the inn in just enough time to head over to worship services at Divine Mercy. 

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Divine Mercy Catholic Church

The church seems very new and was quite lovely.  The service was just as nice with a sermon focusing on preparing for Jesus’ birth with mortification (genuine repentance) and penance.  It was capped with Father inviting everyone to attend a penance party (reconciliation service) the next day at the church.

When I returned to the inn, I had a little treat set up for myself as I had arranged for a massage in my room.  Janelle of Miracle Massage set up a table in my room as I lowered the light to better relax.

Man, did it feel good.  Especially for my shoulders which were tight due to a combination of my regular use of a keyboard and the weight training regimen I’ve been following in recent months. But I felt and heard those knots pop as she worked through them and I knew I’d be sleeping like a baby that night.

It was time for some dinner so I sought out the Crooked Pint for some grub.

When I walked into the ale house, the joint was jumping and the wait would be 40 minutes and I didn’t want to wait that long.  Sooo, I wandered around the downtown area to see if another eatery was available.  Unable to find another one, I decided to go ahead and wait for a table at Crooked Pint.

My little search seemed to have benefited me because others had apparently not wanted to wait for 40 minutes so there was now no line as I entered and was able to be seated immediately.

Not to say that the joint still wasn’t jumping, for it was.  I decided to try a sandwich called a Lucy which is a stuffed hamburger.  I opted for the sweet heat version which had ghost chili cheese, sweet chili sauce, haystack onions, and bacon.  The heat had a delayed effect after each bite and was just right.  The chicken wild rice soup I had for a side dish was OK, but a bit on the bland side.

The wind was howling when I left the restaurant and I was more than ready to return to the inn to write and sleep after slipping an extra blanket on the bed.

Another full night’s sleep and I was ready for another rousing meal with a full table.  Today Liz and I were joined by a couple from Plymouth, MN celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary and a family from Scott’s Bluff, NE attending a soccer tournament.  Conversation was a flying as we enjoyed granola, fruit, and cream, overnight casserole (cheese, onions, and sausage) with vegetables, and banana nut bread.

The meal took over 90 minutes and then it was time for all of us to go our separate ways.  Another holiday review in the books.

But if you find yourself in the Twin Cities region, take a moment to swing by Faribault and enjoy a little hospitality at Historic Hutchinson House.  Come during the holidays and find a winter surprise or two in the town.

Until the next time. . .happy travels.  . .and happy holidays.

A Quaint & Quiet Retreat: Cannon Falls & the Quill & Quilt Bed and Breakfast

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Well, hi, there.  It’s nice to see you again.

The grip of the road had hold of me once again this Memorial Day weekend and so I found myself traveling to the little town of Cannon Falls in Minnesota to enjoy a little rest and respite at the Quill & Quilt Bed and Breakfast.

Since I had to travel a little farther than normal for this trip, I broke it up over a few days so I wouldn’t cut into valuable exploration time.  My journey began on Friday night where I promised myself I would drive an hour past Des Moines, IA before stopping to rest for the night.  About fifteen minutes before my promised stop time, I passed through Story City, IA where I nearly pulled over for the evening, but reminded myself that I said I would drive a full hour outside of Des Moines.  After all, surely there’d be another place just a bit up the road.

Silly me.

At first, I thought fate was going to push my drive all the way through to Mason City which is just outside MN’s border.  Fortunately, about 30 minutes after my promised stop time, I saw the telltale 3 blue signs which meant that gas, food, and lodging were close at hand.  I pulled off I-35 into the tiny town of Williams, IA and obtained a room at the Best Western Norseman Inn.  The motel wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but I was pleasantly surprised by the clean and comfortable room that met my eyes.  It also came at a very affordable price ($65 before tax).

After settling into the room, I went across the street to Boondocks Cafe for my supper.  I was momentarily stunned when I saw the restaurant because I swear that I had actually eaten at this place as a child with my grandparents.  I had a sourdough club sandwich and some fries for my meal which filled the cavity nicely, but I felt the price didn’t match the quality of the food.  Everything was a la carte, so I ended up paying $12 for diner food.  However, bear in mind that Williams is an isolated town so that makes it a bit of a seller’s market.

I returned to my room for a hot bath and some sleep.  And I must say that this inn has the thickest curtains I have ever seen.  When I turned out the lights, I couldn’t see my hand in front my face.  So I faded into the land of Nod.

The next morning I had a quick continental breakfast and was on the road by 9:30.  About 12:15, I found myself in Cannon Falls.  The best way to describe this town is that it’s a small town with big city energy.  The place was bustling!!  People were walking all over the place and this town must be the bike riding capital of the USA for I saw more bicyclists here than I’ve seen anywhere in the country.

The first thing on my mind was lunch so I found Mick’s Downtown Diner and went inside.  The joint was jumping, but I managed to find a seat for myself.  I ordered a delicious steak pita and settled down to a relaxing meal while I completed the novel I was reading.

After lunch I wandered around the town a little before finding the famed trails of the city.  As I walked along the trail, I found the city’s namesake waterfalls and wished I had packed swimming trunks and an inner tube so I could have tubed down the falls and Cannon River.  Instead, I took an invigorating 8 mile hike along the Cannon Valley Trail.

Upon the conclusion of my hike, I attended services at St Pius V and finally was able to check into the Quill and Quilt.  I was greeted at the door by the innkeeper and enjoyed a glass of natural fruit juice from a container that had strawberries, kiwi, and other assorted fruit soaking in ice.  Very tasty.

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I was led to the third floor of the inn and my room, the Writers Loft.  This was the most spacious room, I have stayed in to date.  Not only was the living area a good size, but the bathroom was a duchy in and of itself.  It contained a whirlpool tub and a double shower nicknamed the Car Wash.

 

The bed was king sized and comfy.

The bed was king sized and comfy.

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The Car Wash

The Car Wash

 

Once I had settled in, I gave the innkeeper my juice order for breakfast the next day, hopped in my car, and drove to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN to have dinner with my brother, Jeff AKA That One Guy Who Travels, and his S.O., Scott.  We ate at Tucci Bennuch, a very wonderful Italian restaurant.  I was in the mood for something healthy so I opted for the Scottish Salmon with lemon risotto and arugula salad while the guys settled for spaghetti dinners.

My dinner was absolutely magnificent and after a pleasant night of food and conversation, we walked across the way to the Nestle Tollhouse store where I bought a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.  Our group said our good-byes and I made the 45 minute drive back to Cannon Falls.  Needless to say, I had funned myself out and collapsed into the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in and slept all the way through to the next morning.

I started my day with a long soak in my whirlpool tub, then headed downstairs to breakfast at 9:30.

The breakfast opened with a small dish of fruit with granola and a honey glaze and a glass of OJ.  The main course was an egg quiche with cilantro, cheese, and other veggies that made me feel healthy just looking at it.  On the side was a butter scone and some spinach and garlic sausage (which was devastatingly tasty).  Most enjoyable was the companionship.  For my regular readers, you know that I have been the sole guest at most of the B&Bs I’ve reviewed.  This time, the place was sold out and I had an great time simply conversing with the other guests.

After breakfast I proceeded to do absolutely nothing.  Now that’s a day.  For once, I planned no itinerary.  I wandered down another trail where I found the city parks and a frisbee golf course which had me wishing my old friends, Mat and Dave, had been with me for a little competition.  Once my walk had concluded, I returned to my room and watched the classic film, Mississippi Burning.

When the film ended, I went down to the spa suite on the first floor and enjoyed a 2 hour massage from Anna Harvey.  Her slow, firm pressure and movements really worked the kinks out of my weary body.  Once the treatment was completed, I returned to my room and enjoyed another long soak in the whirlpool tub to continuing purging the toxins from my body.

The Spa Suite

The Spa Suite

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Once done, I decided to hunt up some dinner and found myself at Chuggers, a little bar and grill on the main drag.  I decided to try the Fireball Burger which was truly exceptional.  After eating, I picked up a Dr. Pepper and returned to my room where I’m preparing to sip soda and watch Insomnia.

Tomorrow it’s back to reality until my next adventure which may be sooner than anyone thinks. . .

But if you find yourself in Cannon Falls, get a room at the Quill and Quilt.  You’ll be glad you did.