Get outta town!

Girls just want to have fun, and a “Just Us Girls” packaged trip in Richmond, Ind. and Wayne County offered two of my best gal pals and me the perfect opportunity to do just that over the weekend.

In addition to the fabulous food, great shopping venues, and array of discount coupons and freebies we enjoyed as part of the package, the highlight of our trip was an overnight stay at the Historic Lantz House Inn, a beguiling bed and breakfast in Centerville.

the lovely Lantz House Inn

Daniel Lantz, a wagon maker, originally constructed the handsome brick Federal-style home along the Old National Road (now U.S. 40) in the early 1800s. The property takes in three separate buildings connected by a graceful arch, a distinctive architectural detail common to Centerville during that era.

These days, the Lantz House is owned and operated by Marcia Hoyt, a Richmond native who returned to the area in 1992 after a period of time living in Oregon. Marcia spent two years lovingly restoring the historic property before opening its doors to the public as an inn in 1994. Since then, Marcia’s dedicated efforts have garnered plenty of attention and media recognition, including an appearance on the cover of Midwest Living magazine in December 1996.

the cozy Lantz House Inn sitting room

From the moment we stepped through the door, we felt comfortable and comforted. A cozy fire burned in the sitting room, beckoning us to sit down and relax. It couldn’t have been more charming right off the bat, and neither could Marcia. After a little get-to-know-you chat, she showed us to our rooms. Throughout the home, the furnishings are an eclectic but tasteful mix of antique, traditional and contemporary items.

Upstairs are four spacious bedrooms (rates run from $103 to $136 per night plus tax), along with a common area where guests can kick back to read or watch TV. The sleeping spaces are outfitted in simple and elegant Shaker-style beds, and each includes its own en-suite bathroom.

We felt so at home here, we passed on the chance to stay out late drinking so we could come back to the inn and watch Saturday Night Live in our pajamas. Heaven for three busy moms like us!

fresh fruit first course

After a very restful night’s sleep in our peaceful surroundings (I’m embarrassed to say one of my friends actually had to knock on my door and wake me up at 10 a.m.), we feasted on the sumptuous breakfast Marcia prepared – fresh fruit with a tangy orange yogurt sauce, her signature soufflé-like lemon ricotta pancakes with sausage links, and all the coffee we could drink.

Marcia’s signature lemon ricotta pancakes

After our leisurely meal, we had to reluctantly admit it was time to pack up, check out, and get on with the rest of our Just Us Girls getaway, although we all agreed we could easily have spent the entire weekend just relaxing at the Lantz House and been perfectly happy about it.

This time of year, Centerville’s charming holiday decorations make for a lovely stroll up and down Main Street. In the spring and summer, the gardens alone are worth a visit to the Lantz House. Full of native bushes, trees and perennials, the verdant green space is home to hostas, wildflowers and a majestic century-old gingko tree — all provide a beautiful backdrop for weddings, events or just a quiet afternoon in the sun. I guess we’ll just have to plan to make a return trip…

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Blazing the Chocolate Trail

Last week, I had the delicious pleasure of daytripping down the Chocolate Trail of Wayne County. CVB leisure marketing director (and fellow Richmond native) Nancy Sartain proved a great host for this undertaking. Really, who isn’t on the lookout for an excuse to justify eating more chocolate?

I grew up in Richmond, but the trail promotion is a relatively recent addition to the local tourism scene, and one I wasn’t familiar with until just a few months ago. While I have randomly visited a couple of the Chocolate Trail businesses on prior occasions, many of the stops were brand-new experiences for me.

Here’s how the Chocolate Trail works – you swing into the (very nicely organized) visitors center on the east side of town near the intersection of U.S. 40 and I-70. There, you pick up a list of participating Chocolate Trail businesses, a chocolate passport and discount coupons. Then you get your sweet tooth on and set off to hit the trail in any order you choose. Best of all, the promotion is totally free to take part in, no purchase necessary.

At each of the nearly dozen stops on the trail, all you have to do is present your passport to receive free samples and chocolate-related giveways. It’s like Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day all rolled into one!

The businesses that make up the trail are quite a diverse collection, and not strictly just chocolate shops and candy stores. Amid the stops, you’ll encounter J&J Winery, Warm Glow Candle Outlet, Maria Mitrone’s Italian Market, the SOS Craft Shop and a couple of antique dealers in Cambridge City.

On the chocolate side of things, you’ll find yourself stopping in the swanky Ghyslain Chocolatier, hometown favorite Olympian Candies, and Hagerstown’s answer to the best caramels ever, Abbott’s Candy Factory.

This is a lot of territory to cover in a single day, but you can do like I did and ask if it’s ok to take your samples with you. Even for a chocoholic like me, ingesting that much sugar in one day just isn’t a good idea. There are a few freebies you do have to enjoy on site, like the scoop of chocolate ice cream you’ll receive at Maria Mitrione’s and a glass of chocolate wine at J&J. Be aware and plan your visits accordingly.

When my personal chocolate trail trip was all said and done, I had amassed chocolate samples from Ghyslain, Olympian and Abbott’s; a little box of fudge from Pour House Antiques and Sweets; chocolate jelly beans and a single chocolate pearl from Building 125 antiques in Cambridge City; an oversized Grandma’s Brownie-scented votive from Warm Glow; and a chocolate brown potscrubber from SOS Craft Shop. (Did I mention, I got all this stuff for FREE???) You should have seen hubby’s and son’s eyes light up as I unwrapped all my loot to show off. I had to hide the chocolates and treats in the back of the fridge behind a bag of arugula to prevent them from scarfing it all down in one sitting.

A few edible impressions:

Ghyslain’s gorgeous handpainted chocolates

• Ghyslain Chocolatier’s products are beautiful and tasty works of art. Accordingly, they are also the priciest of the bunch. The hand-painted signature items come in adorable shapes like butterflies (my favorite), turtles, fans and horseshoes.

Olympian Candies on the Promenade

• The soft Greek-recipe cream fillings at Olympian Candies are ooey-gooey heaven, try the dark chocolate lemon cream for an interesting and delicious combination.

• The old-fashioned flavor of the Smith Dairy chocolate ice cream you’ll get at the Maria Mitrione’s soda fountain took me right back to my childhood with just one lick. (Can’t wait to come back here for lunch sometime at the Italian market deli.)

Pour House fudge varieties

• It’s nearly impossible to choose just one flavor of fudge to sample at the Pour House counter. Peanut butter, rocky road, amaretto swirl, maple nut, plain old chocolate – whatever you select, rest assured it will be fabulous.

Abbott’s chocolate counter

Abbott’s Candy Factory‘s buttery soft caramels can’t be beat, but their chocolates are darn good, too. The coconut cream I sampled held real bits of chewy coconut encased in dark chocolate. Mmm.

I made a few additional purchases throughout the day to take advantage of my Chocolate Bucks discounts, and was all too happy to do so. This is a great grouping of local businesses that deserve support, and the trail is a fun way to explore some of the best tastes Wayne County has to offer.

It’s fun to learn something new about a place you thought you already knew everything about.

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