Hi everybody…Paul here!  As you may have surmised, Michelle and I have not been doing much traveling and therefore, have neglected our blog. We are grounded for the foreseeable future due to family health issues. So, I decided to put up weekly photos to keep our blog alive. Michelle is busy working, so you will have to deal with my lousy writing for a while…sorry about that! Once we hit the road again, Michelle will be back at the helm here, and I will be back behind the camera.

This image was taken on my ride in to work in Belmar, New Jersey. I retired this past June, and for 28 of my 29 working years, I always took the most direct route to my place of employment. I suppose I was always worried about getting to work early and thinking of only my job during that time.  This past September I decided I would stop and smell the roses (or sea air as it were) and drove in every morning by the beach. I wonder how many great scenes I missed over those 28 years? 

IMG_6924-Edit-Edit-Edit-Edit (1)© Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence, 2007-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I’m totally ashamed to admit that my first taste of Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park was today. In honor of Bourdain Day, I had one request. While I was at work, Paul was to go to Frank’s and get me a #4 sub with hot peppers, the same way Bourdain ordered it when he visited for his New Jersey episode of Parts Unknown. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had! The bread was phenomenal, so incredibly soft and fresh, and the thinly sliced boiled ham, salami, pepperoni, capicola, and provolone was just the right ratio of meat and cheese to lettuce, tomato, and onion. Add in the oil, vinegar, and spices, and you’ve got one of the best subs at the Jersey Shore. Add the hot peppers for that extra zing.

I’m pretty sure I’m hooked. This most-of-the-time vegan/vegetarian who does it for health reasons, but cheats a lot on things she loves, like oysters, chicken wings, pizza, and France, just added Frank’s to her list of indulgences. How could this place have been in Asbury the whole time and it took me this long to take a bite? I mean, our friend who works there has only been telling us how great it is for just over a decade. I’ve been starstruck and mesmerized by all things shiny and new and Porta-like, that I neglected to see one of the biggest shining stars our little city by the sea has to offer. I still love you, Porta and company.

You see all those books above? We’ve read them all. We’ve watched every episode Anthony Bourdain ever produced, and we were absolutely devastated the day we learned of his death. He made his mark on strangers like us, and is still making his impact today. As the world celebrates what would have been his 63rd birthday, we feel honored and privileged to raise a glass and a Frank’s #4 to one of the greats, Anthony Bourdain.

This past weekend, we enjoyed some time away in New York City. We love to stay downtown near the Financial District. Here it is always sleepy on the weekends, with great restaurants and magnificent views. The best part is, we are just steps away from the Governor’s Island Ferry or a subway ride or ferry into Brooklyn. Here are some scenes from our recent venture into downtown Manhattan.

I never got to eat at Dooky Chase’s restaurant, and because of that, I never had the honor of meeting Leah Chase, a culinary icon of New Orleans. Sadly, Leah Chase died on June 1st at the age of 96, leaving behind a legacy bigger and more famous than the delicious gumbo she served up to presidents, civil right’s activists, celebrities, and travelers.

Leah Chase transformed her husband’s small sandwich shop in the Treme into a fine dining establishment which soon became the meeting place for leaders of the civil rights movement. Here, everyone was welcome, no matter their beliefs or their skin color. She opened her doors to the Freedom Riders, Martin Luther King, Sr., Martin Luther King, Jr., and in more recent times, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Anthony Bourdain among many others. The walls of her restaurant could tell stories of hard conversations during difficult times, including the horrific aftermath and devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

When the community saw hard times, she stayed in place, even renovated, refusing to abandon the neighborhood, the corner on which they built their foundation and welcomed the world.

I don’t know the man who works for Cafe Du Monde in the photo above, but I do know that the people of New Orleans are more intriguing than any walk down boisterous Bourbon Street. They are hard-working men and women with a robust culture, proud of their roots, happy to welcome you to their city, and give you a taste of their cuisine.

These are the people who have made and continue to make NOLA. May you rest in peace, Leah Chase. I would have loved to have sat at one of your tables and heard about it all. And I know I would have loved that gumbo.

What do you know about this quote carved into the marble of the southeast wall of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.?

If, like me, you read the words and thought, that’s powerful and pertinent, but what’s the context? Did he say it? Write it? Who was it directed at?

So, I did a little research.

This is from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to Samuel Kercheval, a Virginia lawyer and author. Kercheval wanted to draft a new constitution for the state of Virginia, and he wanted Jefferson’s support in helping to settle the long-debated matter. Jefferson wrote this quote in 1816. Basically, he didn’t believe that one generation should dictate another generation’s laws. He felt that as society advances, constitutions should be revised to reflect the current state of affairs. Apparently, he and his good friend James Madison had a history of never seeing eye-to-eye on this topic. In 1829, the legislators of the state of Virginia finally gave in to the call for a constitutional convention. Jefferson died in 1826, just three years before.

And he left us these words…

Of all of the photos that Paul has taken over the years, this is one of my favorites. The lady in the hat, sitting by the Seine in front of the Louvre.

It is often assumed that I posed for this photo, but I assure you, my arms and legs aren’t nearly that toned, and I do not own a purse or hat that glamorous.

The tourists flock to the museum to see Paris. We see it from a different perspective.

This city exceeded our expectations.

From food to friendly, Cleveland rates 10 + on the cities we love list.

Every local treated us as if we were their friend. Many tried to talk us into moving.

The exploration of a new city can sometimes leave you feeling slightly unsure of how you will be greeted upon arrival. Will you feel safe? Will you feel welcome?

Cleveland will make you feel all of those things and then some. We find ourselves searching for a reason to return.

I am 100% confident that we’ve found our Midwest retreat.

Cleveland, you’re it.

I don’t like to be stuck in a city in the rain; I don’t have good hair for it.

I do prefer to sit in a window and watch other people dash through it, some of them so elegant, others so mysterious.

Paul always seems to capture these breathtaking moments of people walking through the city. He can usually find the one person with the most stylish patterned umbrella as they delicately weave their way down busy Parisian sidewalks.

But what do you do on the streets of Cleveland when you’ve seemed to have left your name-brand umbrella at home? You improvise. Michael Symon would be happy to hear that those bags he so carefully picked out for carry- out at Mabel’s BBQ, also double as a fashionable rain hat. Even when your friend offers you her umbrella, you still refuse to give up your Mabel’s attire. I mean, it absolutely complements those heels, doesn’t it?

There’s nothing that intrigues me more than grand, historic buildings filled with good food and passionate people. Paul may have had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on his list, but my must-do Cleveland adventure started here at West Side Market in Ohio City.

Ohio City is a neighborhood just west of downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River. It is filled with good restaurants, hopping breweries, and happy locals eager to welcome you to their city. The West Side Market has been a bustling business since 1912, and today houses over 100 vendors. From meats to cheese and homemade pierogi, this is a one-stop shop for a feast. It is no question that if I lived here, I would be here, on a weekly basis, to stock my kitchen with all of the fresh necessities and Cleveland delicacies that my reusable grocery bags could handle.

If you visit, it is essential that you set aside some time for the West Side Market Cafe. This popular restaurant sits at the back of the market. It’s tiny and diner-like, with a breakfast menu filled with items that, if you choose to indulge, will definitely require a nap after. If you only go here for a Bloody Mary, it is truly worth it. The waitresses seem to know everyone who walks through the door, and the conversation and laughter will have you feeling like a local within minutes of sitting down at the bar.

After touring the market, walk the nearby streets and pop into some of the restaurants and breweries. Here are a few places we stopped into that we highly recommend:

Townhall– Go here for a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This place promotes food as medicine and offers up a variety of delicious dishes for both the herbivores and carnivores in your crowd. We loved the vegan chili and 25th Street burrito with tofu.

Market Garden Brewery– You’ll need something cold to quench your thirst after walking the market. This place is right next door with a spacious garden with outdoor seating. You can eat here too, if you have room for another snack. We were tempted, but thought it best to take a much-needed break from our never-ending Cleveland food crawl.

The Flying Fig- We didn’t get to eat here, but we did get to peruse the menu and talk to a local who highly recommends the place. It is definitely on our list for the next time we find ourselves in need of a good dinner spot while visiting the city.

Le Petite Triangle Cafe– An irresistible Parisian cafe in a residential area on a triangular block of the city. So cute, so tiny, and incredibly delicious. The Croque Provencal was the ultimate sandwich with fluffy egg dipped challah, spinach, tomato, comte, dijon, béchamel, with a side of perfect roasted potatoes. Adding an egg on top is optional, but I’m of the opinion that adding an egg takes everything up a notch from just so-so to out of this world good. I’m not sure how something so Paris made its way to Cleveland, but they totally do it right.

We were sad to say goodbye to our Westin suite this morning as we boarded a 6:45 AM flight home. We thank you, Westin Cleveland Downtown, for the free upgrade that provided us such a tremendous view of downtown Cleveland. Is it still okay to say we love living the SPG life even if it is Marriott Bonvoy now?

It is a good sign when your ride home from the airport is a continuous conversation about how great the trip was and how much you loved the experience. I’d say this one was a winner, for sure. Until we see you again, Cleveland!

He finally made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We arrived just as they opened at 10 AM and spent a good three hours exploring the museum. He predicted he was going to need six hours here, and lucky for me, he overestimated.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has everything from Bruce Springsteen’s handwritten Out on the Street lyrics to Cyndi Lauper’s red dress from the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” music video. There’s a piano used by the Beatles to write some of their most famous songs and a tribute to Elvis and the Rolling Stones. You could spend the entire day here reading about the influence and impact of rock and roll on American culture.

But all that really mattered was this…

The rest of our day was spent exploring the Flats, an area of Cleveland right on the Cuyahoga River, bustling with life as people stroll and dine along the water. You can even canoe too if you’re feeling outdoorsy.

We enjoyed a dozen delicious Prince Edward Island oysters at Alley Cat Oyster Bar followed by lunch at Lindey’s Lake House. I had the grilled Faroe Island salmon salad while Paul chose the blackened cod sandwich with brussel sprout slaw. Lindey’s Lake House serves up fresh food with a menu that includes a variety of options. From salads and sandwiches to tacos and cracker thin pizza, there’s something for everyone at Lindeys. You can dine inside or outside. No matter what, you’ll feel like you’re visiting the most chic lake house you’ve ever stepped foot in, with all that Pottery Barn-esque nautical decor and all.

We ended our day at Noble Beast Brewing Company. What better way to end a busy day of exploring Cleveland? Here you’ll feel like you’ve entered your cool friend’s garage. You know the one who always wanted to make his own beer and knows how to cook? Come here hungry because everything we had was superb. From chicken wings to Kentucky beer cheese with pickled vegetables and pita, you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu. I eyed up a few of our neighbors’ dishes and it was all drool worthy. The beer is good too.

We feel like we’ve discovered a place we never knew existed by traveling to this city. It has exceeded our expectations.

Stay tuned for more as we explore Cleveland, Ohio.

He’s been to The Grand Ole Opry House, and he hates country music.

He’s seen enough Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert to last a lifetime.

So what do you do for the man who has suffered through numerous musical tragedies and lived to tell the stories?

You take him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He loves rock and roll.

Welcome to Cleveland, Paul (if we can get out of Newark first).

Ah, the famously delayed, recent winner of “worst airport in America” strikes again. The only thing they’ve got going is this view of the New York City skyline. At least you have something to gaze at while you wait…

Our first impression of Cleveland? Everyone is friendly, the city is incredibly clean, and the food is delicious and affordable. We had our first meal at The Butcher and the Brewer-part butcher shop, part brewery. These exhausted and hungry travelers threw down a pierogi flatbread, charred broccoli, patatas bravas and smoky mac and cheese within seconds of it hitting the bar.

And the view? Pretty magnificent so far.

This is Key Tower, apparently the tallest building in all of Ohio. See the key on top?

We will fill you in on all our good finds in Cleveland. Happy Memorial Day weekend to all of our readers!