Saturday, April 28, 2007

Roycroft Inn

Buffalo New York is not generally the sort of place people think of as a tourist destination, but if you happen to be in the area there is a very nice hotel in nearby East Aurora. It is called the Roycroft Inn and is just over 100 years old. Built in an American version of the Arts and Crafts style that was popular in England late in the 19th century, the Roycroft continues to be furnished in that style. Even the lamps and silverware are the same type that were used when the hotel opened. Rooms have been modernized with the addition of private baths, but are decorated in vintage style, and every room is different. The Roycroft is a pleasant change from the usual cookie-cutter hotel or motel.

The Roycroft was founded by Elbert Hubbard, a writer, lecturer and entrepreneur who was very popular at the turn of the 20th century. He established a colony of employees and followers who worked in adjacent shops to produce books, copperware, leather goods and mission style furniture. Some of these products can still be purchased today.

Hubbard and his wife died in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, but their son carried on the work of the industries and the inn. Today the Roycroft and its outbuildings are owned by a foundation.

While I have yet to stay overnight at the Roycroft, I have eaten lunch there several times. Food was tasty American style and reasonably priced, and service was pleasant. The surroundings are delightful, especially in summer when it is possible to eat outside on a covered patio near flowering trees. The Roycroft is at 40 South Grove Street, East Aurora NY 14052, telephone 716 652-5552.

East Aurora has other attractions, including the small birthplace of Millard Fillmore, one of the lesser known American Presidents, and a couple of bookstores. Tony Rome's restaurant offers Italian fare and is located in the buidling that used to house Fillmore's law office. The whole town is picturesque, with large stately houses and lots of big trees. For Canadians, there is even a Tim Hortons.

If you drive east on Route 20 from East Aurora you pass through pastoral countryside that seems light years away from the hustle and bustle of big cities or the Dewey Threwey, (Interstate 90.)


Monday, April 09, 2007


Last summer I was walking down Tautienzestrasse near the Kaufhaus des Westens. It was late in the afternoon and very hot, even though the buildings provided shade. I was wearing lime green top with spaghetti straps and a putty coloured lightweight cotton skirt. I had bought the skirt a few days earlier at a shop in the Lehrter Hauptbahnhof. Although it cost only 13 euros, it was a lifesaver, just about the only thing I had that was cool enough for Berlin's blistering heat last July. As I passed two middleaged women I heard the one with dyed blonde hair say to her companion "Als wir junge ware" (the last a should have an umlaut) which means "as if we were young." From her disapproving glance at my bare shoulders I gathered she was talking about me, and I felt angry. True, I had been younger, but did that mean I was supposed to swelter in 33 degree Centigrade heat in long sleeves?

Continuing along the street I entered Hugendubel, (both u's should have unlauts) a bookstore with a good selection of English books. I took the escalator to the second floor, found a book to peruse and took it to the reading pit, a padded almost circular seating area down a couple of steps and near the escalators. After I had read my fill I walked back to my room on Nurembergerstrasse, stopping to pick up cheese, fizzy fruit drink, mineral water and crackers at Aldi, stuffing everything in the black and shite wool bag from Mexico that hung from my shoulder. I passed a restaurant and a shop that sold wedding dresses before reaching the black heavy wooden door to my place. There were a couple of bicycles parked in the courtyard inside, and heavy green foliage nearly obscured the different types of garbage and recycling containers near the big linden tree whose branches stretched far above my fifth floor window.

Entering my dim stairway, I began the long climb up 86 stairs to my shared apartment. My Russian roommate, Maria from Novosibirsk, was not home. I put my food away in the narrow kitchen and walked down the long hallway to the large square room at the back. Even though the window was wide open it was stifling. I could almost touch the leaves of the linden tree outside, and a few minutes later I heard the peal of the bells from the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtnis Church, the bombed out ruin beside a modern church with beautiful blue stained glass soaring windows.

Monday, April 02, 2007

restaurants Rouses Point, Montreal

I dropped by a restaurant in Rouses Point, NY the other day and it proved to be very pleasant. The Anchorage of Lake Champlain has an attractive dining room overlooking the lake, which was the landing place for a number of black and white birds that may have been loons. Lunch of a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and french fries and a beer came to about $12 U.S. The restaurant, which is attached to a large bar and adjoins a motel, offers especially good deals in the late afternoon. Early bird specials start as low as $4.50, and during March they were offering a turkey dinner with all the trimmings between 4 and 6 p.m. for only $6.95 U.S. Easter brunch is available next weekend for only $12.95 U.S. If you happen to be in the far northeastern part of NY, this is a good place to stop for a meal. The phone number is 518 297-4201.

In Montreal, I have recently enjoyed two meals at a Mexican restaurant called Manana on St. Denis, just north of the Sherbrooke Metro station on the east side of the street. The decor is cheerful, especially on a cold early spring day, with colorful Mexican tablecloths and china, and lots of Mexican folk art on the walls, including a small exhibit of copies of works by Frida Kahlo. The food is the usual enchiladas, tortillas and other Mexican specialties, and the price is right. A three course dinner starts at around $13.50. Service is very pleasant but can be slow --I guess the name of the restaurant warns you. They need more serving staff in the evening, but if you aren't in a rush this can be a reasonable choice on a street crowded with restaurants.