Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Coincidences from other side of the world

Some days I just LOVE the internet!

My Wednesday began with an email from a former Willoughby guy living in Malaysia who read my Monday story online about Carl Roberts who died in the final days of World War I. Roberts was buried in Flanders Field and a Belgian man who pledged to take care of his grave had reached out to find any descendants.

 The Malaysia emailer  wrote to tell me of several amazing coincidences: He lived on Wilson Avenue in Willoughby ('61 to '75) near where Carl Roberts' family lived in the early days of the last century. His dad was business manager of WE Schools & lived there until 1983; he delivered the News-Herald on that same street & played football with sports writer Jim Ingraham; a fraternity brother Lt. Col John McCrae wrote "In Flanders Fields" mentioned in the story. 

Furthermore,  Willoughby Mayor Dave Anderson played lead guitar for Changing Tymes, the band for which the emailer played keyboards in junior high. E-mail writer Howard Fries has lived in Asia since 1995. His email included photos of his neighbors - a herd of elephants. Today he lives in the Terengganu Province of Malaysia - the same place where I visited the Tajong Jara resort in 2001. He says his heart remains in Willoughby.

 How's that for a small world?.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Searching for Commies in wrong Cuban places

The terraced hillsides of Las Terrazas, west of Havana, began as a reforestation effort but  now are an artist colony.
"Searching for Commies in all the wrong places" was my suggested headline for the second story in the Cuba series, which goes to readers on Aug. 10.

Either that was just too edgy or the paper's layout folks figured younger readers might not connect with the word "Commie" since it's not one in much use now. Many of the actions by Communists, who were in Cuba from the early 1960s until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, caused today's restrictions on Cuba for Americans.

So instead the story is headlined "Visit to Cuba has power to shake perception" which is certainly quite accurate.

Click on the contrasted print and you will be able to see the story itself along with pictures  of one of the prettiest places I've ever been  - Las Terrazas in the lovely Sierra de Rosario mountains west of Havana .

Thatch roof cottages on stilts provide rustic overnight lodging to visitors.

Whether by accident or intent this project initiated by the Russians and Fidel Castro has become a model of ecotourism - drawing visitors and Cubans alike to its cool forests, its art colony and to its Banos, a series of waterfalls and deep pools in the San Juan River where people come to play, picnic and stay overnight in thatched cottages on stilts.

Birds, wildlife and exotic  trees and plant species abound. It was begun as a reforestation  project on hillsides denuded of trees by people to make charcoal - the same activity that has made much of Haiti an ecological wasteland prone to erosion.

In the reforestation effort, which also provided wide employment, the slopes were terraced and mahogany, teak and other trees planted to end the erosion.

In the 40 years since then, it's become a lush oasis and a prime destination for a day or more away from the city. Hiking trails thread through the mountainsides, there's good dining, and a 1800s French run  coffee plantation has been restored for interpretation.  There's a small hotel with a huge tree growing through its roof.

Houses originally built for workers now have become a focus for an artist colony, many of whom open their homes and studios to visitors. Those who practice the arts always seem drawn to places of great beauty, which they make more beautiful by their own work.

Cuba still has several species of wild parrots, although the birds are endangered since many have been captured as pets. 

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ontario countryside an extraordinary road trip

My weekend girlfriends getaway with friend Judy from Toronto was a lot of fun. We headed east of her city to Prince Edward County, a drive-to island tucked next to the north shore of Lake Ontario. The point was attending the Great Canadian Cheese Festival  - a food for which we both have a great fondness. But we also had a great time meandering among wineries, a brewery or two,  artisan galleries and stopping for photos of wildflowers and lots more. The story goes to print subscribers of The News-Herald on Sunday but it's up online now.Take a look and consider a visit. There's a great lineup of fall events there and plenty of nice places to stay, including the Waring House Inn, which we both enjoyed. Click on the contrasted words above to read more.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Walleye (pickerel) fishing and feasting in Ontario

Rice Lake is seen from a  guest room window in the Victorian Inn. Just east of Toronto, the lake is a popular vacation destination for  Northeast Ohioans 

It was early on a perfect summer day when my friend Judy and I aimed our rental car toward Rice Lake, a 23-mile long lake on the Trent-Severn waterway. Just an hour or so east of Toronto, it’s the darling of anglers from Ohio and a lot of other places.
“Ohioans have been coming for several generations,” said Donna Cane, innkeeper at the Victorian Inn at Gore’s Landing,
Everything’s from another era here — no Marriotts or Holiday Inns at all.
“People stay here and at some of the cottages around the lake,” she said.
She’d  arranged for me to go out fishing on Rice Lake with Mike McNaught, a local guide who grew up on the lake and has achieved a sought after skill for tracking down its pan fish, walleye, bass and muskies. His passion, however, is fly-fishing for salmon and steelhead on the Ganaraska River and he also leads anglers on those trips.
My dad was an avid fisherman and our family would head north to Ontario’s Thousands Islands for several weeks each summer. Sometimes Dad would allow me to join him and the guide for an early morning trip trolling for muskies and Northerns. Nostalgic for those times, I’d asked if it would be possible for me to see if Canadian fishing had changed.
Donna was planning our lunch around Mike’s catch from earlier that morning  when mists still shrouded the late. It was 10 a.m. and clear as can be when as I stepped into his boat secured to the Victorian Inn dock.
Fishing guide Mike McNaught shows me a lure used to catch certain fish.  

  I watched carefully as Mike selected the lures and rods we would use. He motored slowly toward our first fishing hole, in the lee of one of the rocky islets on the lake. A radar-like fish finder helped him scan the lake bottom to find the schools of fish we sought.
There was nothing like that when I was a girl, but that was a really long time ago.
“They like to hang out in the weeds,” Mike said.
As we cruised slowly out onto Rice Lake, he pointed out cottages on various islands, “That one has a couple of sheep to mow the grass,” he said. “And over there is an ancient First Nations burial ground.”
Our Indians are called First Nation people here, usually followed by a tribe name among the Canadians. Many of them still live along Rice Lake, which was named for the wild rice they cultivated at one time near the shallow shore waters.
“In winter we have a regular village of ice fishermen out here,” Mike said. “We can even call up for pizza on our cellphones and get it delivered. In summer we can usually get pizza delivered to one of the docks when we’re hungry.”
There are several places around Rice Lake  that rent boats and help folks get fishing licenses, he added.
He activated his trolling motor, a small motor that allows the boat to go very slowly as he fished. That’s something my Dad would have loved.
Mike is apparently locally well-known for the flies he ties, and to tie effective ones he not only must study the habits and appetites of fish, but that of the insects and other creatures they feast on. “Walleye, for instance, love worms,” he said.
I could tell he was accustomed to speaking to Americans because most Ontario folks use the word “pickerel” for  walleye.  .
“A good fisherman never stops learning,” he said.
He promised to show us his hand tied lures after lunch at the Victorian Inn.
The  walleye lunch from Mike's catch, cooked and served at the Victorian Inn,  was delicious. 
We feasted on walleye (pickerel) that was, for me the best fish I’d ever tasted. It was just a few hours from the depths of Rice Lake.
Learn more about the area at; 866-401-3278. Meet Mike McNaught at

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