Lisa Meyers McClintick, travel writer & photographer

Friday, January 20, 2012

Duluth B&B ranks among best in the nation

A.G. Thomson House blends history & comfort
Trip Advisor listed Duluth's A.G. Thomson House Bed & Breakfast at the top of its 25 Best B&Bs and Inns in the United States this week. It was among two Midwest winners for the 2012 Travelers' Choice award. Fleur-De-Lys Mansion in St. Louis, Mo., another great choice, also made the cut.

Angie and Tim Allen
It's a huge honor for A.G. Thomson's owners, Tim and Angie Allen, who make restoring and maintaining a historic mansion look easy. It helps that they have that perfect blend of optimal B&B talent: do-it-yourself remodeling expertise, interior decorating, graciously welcoming personalities and the culinary creativity for special-occasion breakfasts and afternoon treats.

A.G. Thomson House's living room where guests gather.
The living room along, with its beautiful shelving, warm reds and a lovely attached porch, could easily grace the cover of a home magazine. The spacious guest rooms also are expertly put together with high-end beds, beautiful linens, cozy nooks, gas fireplaces and a few extras like a sun porch or upper deck access. If you want a little extra privacy and to burrow in for a weekend, they also have suites in the mansion's carriage house.

The Superior Suite in particular ranks among the nicest rooms I've seen while exploring the region's B&Bs. It's more like a private apartment. If you do stay here, be sure to do a walking tour of the historic neighborhoods. Duluth, like Stillwater, Red Wing and Winona, boomed in Victorian times, with millionaires trying to outdo each other with grand, beautiful homes.

Lake Superior Suite
A sweet start to breakfast.
You'll likely need to walk off the multi-course breakfast anyway. Guests can eat in the formal dining room or dine privately in their room on entrees such as wild rice quiche, French toast with a wild-rice sausage patty, an egg puff with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes or lemon-blueberry French toast. Extra courses might include a chilled peach and cantaloupe soup with Mascarpone, mango lassi parfait, pistachio and chocolate chunk muffins or white-chocolate and craisin scones.

An example of how gracious and sharing they are: Angie has posted many of the guests' favorite recipes on their website. It's a nice way to bring a little of the B&B experience home and to relive with each tasty bite.

Check out Duluth's other elegant B&Bs

Fireplace at Firelight Inn.
The downside to yet another national award for A.G. Thomson House is it might get harder to make a reservation, especially during peak months for weddings and anniversaries. If that's the case, take a look at www.duluthbandb.com. There are six other B&Bs in the city. Like the homes they're in and the owners who run them, each has its own appeal. 

Artsy fruit at Solglimt.
Old-home lovers can appreciate the exquisite woodwork and vibrant colors of the Mathew Burrows B&B. Musicians must sing or play a few high notes in Olcott House's music room with perfect acoustics. Firelight Inn on Oregon Creek boasts a grand three-season front porch and beautiful fireplace alcove. The Cotton Mansion and Ellery House round out the elegant, historic choices.  

If you prefer modern to historic or need to be on the beach that stretches along Park Point, Solglimt B&B offers another stellar experience with hands-down the best views of Lake Superior.
 --Feature & Photos by Lisa Meyers McClintick

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meeting Muhammed Ali & the serendipity of travel

Picking up a scrawny 7-year-old (that would be me) was no effort for legendary boxer Muhammed Ali in 1976.

"Muhammed Ali's on the plane!"

News like that spreads fast--especially in 1976 near the prime of his career. Muhammed Ali, one of America's greatest sports legends, turns 70 today.

I was only 7 when our paths crossed. He picked me up while greeting passengers on the way to Hawaii. We were moving to Oahu for a year, a rather magical one that meant being the only white kid in the entire third grade and included posing with Jack Lord, star of the original "Hawaii 5-0," on the way to school one morning.

Never knowing who you will meet ranks among the greatest joys of travel. It can be a sports legend such as Muhammed Ali or serendipitous small-world reunions of old friends in unexpected places. I also love the joy getting to know strangers, who open your eyes to lives you'd never imagine, whether it's a bonsai salesperson from Japan or archaeology professor from Africa.

It was pure luck that Muhammed Ali was one of the first people I ever met while traveling. I hope to someday soon make it to Ali's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to learn more about his remarkable career as well as his extensive humanitarian work at the Muhammed Ali Center. 

Here's wishing you the joy of good connections as you travel--not just making your plane on time--but celebrating the human experience along the way.

 --Lisa Meyers McClintick

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Watch trumpeter swans in Park Rapids, Minnesota

No snow needed for winter birdwatching
It may be winter, but Minnesota claims excellent bird-watching with the comeback of trumpeter swans. The biggest flock of trumpeters gathers in Monticello along the Mississippi River, but you also can get close to this flock in Park Rapids which is closer to summer nesting areas. 

Take a look at this YouTube video to hear the brassy honks for which they are known and to admire the synchronized swimming of pairs that mate for life.

Check our last year's swan feature for more photos and information on these elegant swans.

Winter also is the best time to spot bald eagles soaring through the air.