Adventures in Iowa as I Prepare for ‘Blogging Academy’

Yesterday morning, I left Chicago bound for Iowa, where I’m speaking on a “Blogging Academy” panel put on by the Eastern Iowa Tourism Association. Along the way, I made a number of stops and got a tasty niblet of this corn-filled state.

First, I stopped in Clinton, Iowa and got a fun tour by Carrie Donaire, director of the Clinton Convention & Visitors Bureau. We fell into some kind of time warp at Smith Brothers General Store, king of the knickknack/gimcrack/gewgaw category, where you can find everything you never knew you needed: John Deere cookie jars, wagon wheels, Dracula mugs, toilet plungers and the list goes on. (I left with a cast iron pan shaped like six corn cobs).

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Then, we did a quick stop at The Painted Rooster, an artsy, local version of a store like Anthropologie, with cute clothes, quirky jewelry, kids’ stuff, hand made soaps (I was so tempted by a chicken with eggs soap) and art. I bought a compass ring, which, Carrie joked, will always point to Clinton, Iowa.

Clinton MS lunch view

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, as we grabbed salads at Candlelight Inn, overlooking the Mississippi River. Then, we hopped in our respective vehicles and headed to Cedar Rapids, meeting up with a group of bloggers and tourism officials. We set out for a night on the town, stopping at Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, the first distillery in Iowa since Prohibition, where I bought a bottle of their corn bourbon (it’s Iowa, after all!) to take home.

CR booze CR Cedar Ridge corn

Next stop: Popoli, which opened in the Louis Sullivan-designed The People’s Savings Bank. The restaurant, lined with murals illustrating rural life, was elegance incarnate, but the kicker: our party of eight got to eat in the vault, a private dining room with a super artsy flair. (If you go, get the lemon thyme chicken–I could eat it every day).

CR popoli CR vault closeCR vault

Then it was back to the The Hotel at Kirkwood Center–a swanky four-diamond “teaching hotel,” located on the campus of Kirkwood Community College, which specializes in hospitality arts–to rest up for the big event, Blogging Academy.

And now, it’s time to get our blog on!

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