This past week I was able to spend four days, Monday through Thursday, with friends in northeast Iowa where the autumn leaves are in the process of turning; in fact, I think they're at the peak. We had heard a forecast of rain and cooler temperatures, so made some plans for inside activities, but on Tuesday we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise over the Mississippi. Later the sky was such a clear blue and provided a perfect contrast for those burgundy, bright orange, burnished gold, yellow and green leaves. We walked along the dike overlooking the river, then drove to scenic and hilly Elkader about 20 miles west. We spent lots of time in The Buttery, one of those shops with the perfect combination of old and new, and Willow Creek Wine and Gifts. Instead of wine, we sampled sparkling apple cider which was yummy. We were somewhat disappointed that the restaurant we'd discovered last year, Shera's, was closed on Tuesdays, but consoled ourselves with a delicious lunch at Fennelly's Irish Pub. After a quick swing through the Turkey River Mall (old and new again), we had coffee at Treats, Etc. before leaving town. It's so much fun to enjoy the lower prices in small towns like Elkader, Guttenberg and McGregor.
Wednesday did bring the cooler temperatures and rainy weather, but we were ready. We planned to drive on the Great River Road to Balltown and Breitbach's Restaurant for lunch. On Christmas Eve 2007 the original 150-year old building was destroyed by fire. As the host explained, the blessings began almost immediately. None of the employees in the building at the time were hurt, and from the day (mid-March 2008) they broke ground for the new building, they had 100-150 volunteers helping them every day until opening day (mid-June 2008), their only payment food prepared by the restaurant staff. The food and service are outstanding. They have added a wine 'shed' where they offer free samplings, with wine, fall flowers and vegetables for sale.
On our way to Balltown, we left the 'beaten path' and drove to a tiny town called North Buena Vista where a grotto has been carved into a hillside. We drove to the top of the hill where the view was breathtaking. Through the trees, we overlooked the surrounding colorful hills and the Mississippi River!
We had decided to go to the movie "The Duchess" in Dubuque, but after some difficulty finding the theater, even with our trusty GPS (nicknamed Britt), we arrived about 35 minutes early, with enough time to do some power shopping at Kohl's.
Thursday as we left Guttenberg, we went to My Favorite Things and found some 'must have' items to take home. It was hard to leave the beauty of northeast Iowa behind, but the memories are great.
We arrived in Anamosa in time for lunch at Daley Creek Bistro and Winery. I found this in the Iowa Winery booklet a year or so ago.