Trains, Trains, Everywhere

So, I picked up my grandson Miles this morning after an appointment, and we got into what he dubbed (for reasons unknown to me) my "super car," and set off to the train display at the Cincinnati Museum Center, in the Cinti. Historical Center and the Children's Museum. We took the pic above on our walk from the parking lot to the museum, the historical and beautiful Cincinnati Union Terminal train station.

The first train display we stopped and marveled at was a recreation of Cincinnati's downtown, circa 1940, complete with trains, riverboats, and of course beautifully authentic models of many buildings that still stand (and others I remember from my childhood). Surrounding this display were others of Union Terminal itself, Ivorydale (the sprawling Procter & Gamble plant on the north side), the Mount Adams and Clifton inclines, and more.

Another long stop was a flatboat re-creation which had removable wall planks, which Miles just loved...mostly the demolition stage of the process. He made Crappaw do most of the building part.

And then we finally got to the holiday train display, deep in the bowels of the children's museum (probably not a great metaphor, but I was surprised at how big the place was!).

There were many different train displays, featuring trains of varying scales, and all done well enough to send Miles and me into rapturous ecstasy and ecstatic rapture!

And lo and behold, there was also a nice big train table to play on, which occupied Miles for a good hour or so.

And there were other interactive train displays. In one, there were 6 or 8 buttons to push to control different functions in the plexiglas-encased village, like a switch or a rotating light. And another small display had a button that could be held down to make the train go or released to make it stop. Miles's favorite technique could best be described as stopgostopgostopgostopgo stopgostopgostopgostopgo stopgostopgostopgostopgo.

And that still wasn't all. There was a train for Miles to ride ON! Crappaw was too big to join him, but Miles was undeterred. He even got to sit in the engine of the three-car train and ring the bell! It was hard to tear ourselves away from it all, but we managed somehow, and on the way back home, Miles took a well-deserved nap before an also-well-deserved (and very late) lunch at McDonald's in Oxford.

A Bibliophile's Library Wish List

To follow up my post of Tuesday, listing eight favorite libraries I've visited or patronized, I thought I'd mention eight libraries I would love to visit, starting with the Abbey Library, St. Gallen, Switzerland, above.

Another would be the Real Gabinete Portugues De Leitura, in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

And Trinity College LIbrary ("The Long Room"), Dublin, Ireland.

Melk Monastery Library in Melk, Austria.

The Rijkmuseum Library, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

And the second Austrian nominee, the Library of the Benedictine Monastery of Admont, Austria.

And, since I've already seen (but would nonetheless love to revisit) both the Library of Congress and the main branch of the New York Public Library, let's include the George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland.

And last, but definitely not least, the Old British Reading Room at the British Museum, London, England.

A Bibliophile's Eight Favorite Libraries

I love books. Therefore, I love libraries. And everywhere I've lived, I've owned a library card...and used it well. So I thought I'd take a few moments to reflect and share on my favorite libraries, of all those I've visited (though I have not belonged to or borrowed from them all). I came up with eight. They are:

The Cincinnati Public Library, downtown branch, on Eighth Street (above). I grew up with this library. I knew it back when it was just a kid, back when I was just a kid, and my mom worked a mere block away. Now it's a whole city block, and it's wonderful.

The public library of Bloomfield, New Jersey (above). These were some of the best library years of my life, from 1987-1991, when my kids and I would visit this library almost every week. Oh, the fun we would have. We felt like robber barons leaving the library with a weekly treasure trove.

Lane Public Library, of Hamilton, Ohio. I have used the heck out of this fine library, with a fine website and convenient branches in Hamilton (the main branch, pictured above) and Oxford.

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. I've only been there once or twice, and was too overwhelmed to do much more than gawk.

A few years ago, I visited Nashville to attend the National Pastors' Convention, and enjoyed several lengthy visits to this fine downtown library, just a block away from the convention center.

The lovely Robin and I took a walking tour of Nassau, Bahamas, a few years ago, and I was delighted that this stop was included: the public library of Nassau. While the library's collection is very old and very humble, the fact that it is housed in a barely converted ancient jailhouse added to its interest and charm.

The New York Public Library. I think I've only been here once, but the experience has stuck with me for more than twenty years now. It's awe-inspiring.

This is the only private library on my list, the library at Chatsworth, a grand English house that is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. I was here with my wife and kids in 1995, and it made me break the tenth commandment. But it was still fun.

A Baker's Dozen: The Favorite Places I've Eaten

I love to eat. Just look at me. It shows.

And over the years, I've eaten at some fine restaurants. So I thought I'd take just a few minutes to reflect and share my favorites out of all those great places and great meals.

1. Paesano's Pasta House, Oxford, Ohio. Not because it's run by friends, but because it's great eating. I've never been disappointed in a meal at Paesano's. I especially love their butternut squash ravioli, when it's available.

2. Lambert's, Springfield, Missouri. Home of the throwed rolls. There are only two of these restaurants in the world (the other is also in Missouri). The rolls and the free sides they bring to the table are unbelievably good.

3. The Glendale Gaslight Cafe, Cincinnati, Ohio. This tiny restaurant is located in historic Glendale, just a couple blocks north of the more famous Grand Finale. We like it as much as or more than that other fine restaurant.

4. The Parson's Table, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Actually, it's in Little River, but it's a memorable place to eat, and one I hope to return to.

5. Champagne brunch on The Queen Mary, Los Angeles, California. The lovely Robin and I were hosted here ten or so years ago by our friends Dave and Becky.

6. Inka Grill, Cusco, Peru. Our friends Don and Christie recommended this place, and they were right. It was excellent. The lovely Robin and I both tasted alpaca for the first time at this decidedly upscale Peruvian restaurant.

7. The Chart House, Cardiff, California. Back in the nineties, I made frequent trips to the area on business, and enjoyed several fine meals at the Chart House.

8. The Armenian Tavern, Jerusalem, Israel. I've had just one meal here, in 2005, but I hope to return. Armenian cuisine, they explain, is similar to Turkish. What do I know? It was good.

9. Sol de Mayo, Arequipa, Peru. We ate here in May 2009 with our friends Don and Christie, and loved the company, the food, the beautiful setting, and the traditional dancers.

10. Amor de Brazil, Cincinnati, Ohio. It closed abruptly last March, I hear, but we ate here with our friends Wayne and Cheryl a few months prior, and loved it. Lotsa meat. Mmmm.

11. The Golden Lamb, Lebanon, Ohio. The lovely Robin and I ate one of our first meals as a married couple at this historic inn and restaurant, and have returned many times since.

12. The Grand Finale, Cincinnati, Ohio. We last ate here with Aubrey and Kevin and our friends Jim and Diane. The lovely Robin always gets their puff pastry, one of their specialties.

13. The Precinct, Cincinnati, Ohio. I've only eaten there a couple times, and it's not cheap, but boy, is it good. Great steaks.

Of course, there are many others I could add. And will. Unfortunately, for my waistline (what waistline?). What about you? What are your favorites?

10 Places I Would Love to See Before I Die But Probably Won't

These last few days I posted 20 Places I Plan to See Before I Die. I thought I'd add ten more places that are probably pipe dreams. But you never know. In no particular order:

Lhasa, Tibet.The seat of the Dalai Lama, the capital of Tibet, and one of the highest capitals in the world. The Norbulingka summer palace and gardens to the southwest of the city were constructed in the 18th century under the 7th Dalai Lama.

Venice, The city that stretches across 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. Called by some the most beautiful city built by man.

The Forbidden City. Situated at the center of the ancient city of Beijing and built between 1406 and 1420 during the Ming Dynasty. It consist of 90 courtyards and palaces, 8,704 rooms and 980 buildings.

Tahiti. An island in French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean. I would wanna stay in a place like this!

The Great Wall of China. It was built, rebuilt, and maintained between the fifth century BC and the sixteenth century to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from Xiongnu attacks during various successive dynasties. The majority of the existing wall were built during the Ming Dynasty. It's the only manmade object on earth that is visible from space.

Mont Saint-Michel, the small rocky island on the north coast of France at the mouth of the Couesnon River in Normandy. A medieval Benedictine Abbey and steepled church occupies most of the 1 km-diameter clump of rocks jutting out of the waters of the English Channel.

Key West. Not just because it's the southernmost point in the Continental U.S. Also because it's the last of the Florida Keys. And because of the Hemingway associations.

St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai. Perhaps the oldest working Christian monastery in the world, this Greek Orthodox monastery sits at the feet of the traditional Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

New Orleans. Definitely NOT during Mardi Gras, but I would like to experience the architecture, cuisine, and music of this unique city.

New Zealand. Like many, I was a sucker for the New Zealand I saw depicted in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. It strikes me as one of many positive and persuasive answers to the question, "Can pleasure travel be a form of worship?"

20 Places I Plan to See Before I Die (Pt. 4)

Here's the final five places I plan to see before I die (if God wills), the list I started four days ago:

16. Alaska. Maybe it was Michener's book, Alaska, but I have long wanted to see the wild splendor of our forty-ninth state.

17. The Aurora Borealis. Okay, so it's not a "place." But if we time it just right, maybe we can see the Northern Lights on our trip to Alaska. Two for the price of one.

18. Paris. For our fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2027, if God grants, I would love to take the lovely Robin to see these last three sites on my list. In Paris, I would hope to see the Louvre, which has long been a desire, as well as Notre Dame Cathedral. And Versailles, if possible. And I want to sit in a sidewalk cafe eating cheese and bread.

19. Rome. The Eternal City. Coliseum. Catacombs. Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica. The Pantheon. And more.

20. The Alsace. My ancestors emigrated from this area on the border of France and Switzerland; my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather's last European home was in a town called Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (and near a tiny village named Hostett, interestingly enough).

There's a chance, by the way, that I could see the Alsace as early as next year (in our October 2010 speaking trip to Germany), which would certainly ease some of the pressure on that fiftieth anniversary trip!

And left off the list are a few places I plan to see as part of some of those trips above, like Pergamum and Philippi (on our "Journeys of Paul Cruise") and Jerash, one of the best preserved Roman cities in the world (in our 2010 trip to Jordan and Israel).

And who knows if I'll get to see all these places, by the time it's all said and done. But it's fun to anticipate. And it will be fun to try.