Sep 28, 2014

Scenes from the Clayville Fall Festival

If you’re not from central Illinois or the Springfield area, you've likely never heard of the Clayville Historical Site.  Even if you are from the area, you may not be familiar with Clayville. 

What exactly is Clayville?  It was a settlement on a stagecoach trail between Springfield and the Illinois River town of Beardstown, Ill., where travelers of the era such as Honest Abe could catch the next flatboat to New Orleans, for instance.  The Broadwell Tavern and Inn served as the village’s stagecoach stop where travelers could get a meal spend the night.  And apparently, the Inn is the oldest original brick building remaining in Sangamon County, dating back to 1824.  But by the mid-1800s, Clayville’s importance was quickly diminishing with the rise of rail travel, and most people in the township had moved on to Pleasant Plains, a community just a couple of miles up the trail.    

Sep 22, 2014

A commoner reviews Molly’s at the Market, New Orleans

If you were to ask me for the single most important reason to stop by Molly’s at the Market, yet another one of my favorite New Orleans bars on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, I’d have to say it’s the frozen Irish coffee. 

Isn't that a thing of beauty?  And if you look at the many travel sites famous for their user-generated reviews, you’ll see I’m not alone in praising the signature drink at Molly’s (although they make a fine “regular” Irish coffee as well for those rare cold and damp New Orleans nights).

There are, of course, many more reasons why Molly’s should be on any traveler’s short list of local dive bars to visit.  For instance …

Sep 15, 2014

So long, summer: Scenes from 2014’s summer festival season

It was a busy summer for this commoner personally, which limited my time for enjoying many of my favorite local fairs and festivals in central Illinois.  Still, looking back at all of the food, live music and camaraderie, I had my share of fun.    

So, as the weather and calendar turn toward fall (and another festival season all its own), I decided to look back at some lasting impressions from a few festivals I always try to attend – the Chatham Sweetcorn Festival, Decatur Celebration and, marking the unofficial end of summer in Springfield, Ill., the Illinois State Fair. 

Sep 8, 2014

Pub crawling into Turtle Bay, New Orleans

As difficult as it may seem for many who know me to believe, every once in a while I discover someplace interesting in New Orleans I have never been to before.  And, thanks to my travelling companions, I enjoyed several previously undiscovered drinking establishments during my trip last spring.  One of these – Turtle Bay on Decatur Street – we discovered quite accidentally after a morning stroll through the French Market. 

Frankly, I blame Sue Hupp, who I believe uttered the phrase as we almost walked past turtle Bay’s entrance, “This place looks as good a place as any to get a cocktail.”  As usual, she was right.  Sue has always had a reputation for knowing a good bar when she sees one.

Like many New Orleans bars, window-side service ... or at least a window-side view.

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...