Today started out fairly normally with an early morning ride into the city to partake of a weekend tradition… the market. On the weekends Findlay Market is full of local farmers, gardeners, craftsmen, florists and bakers all selling their goods. Since this wasn’t supposed to be a heavy filming day, we planned to do a little shopping before the heat kicked in ( high of 92! Yuck!). I bought some Goetta and chocolate to bring home to my fam and Heather found a bracelet similar to one she had been given a few years ago by Gail. This is where our day exploded! Our good friend and fellow travel enthusiast, Steve Moss, saw some of the photos we had posted online. He commented that he used to live in Cincinnati and that we should visit Loveland Castle….. Excuse me? Did you say there is a castle in Ohio? So with the loveliness that is modern technology on a smart phone we looked it up in the car. Heather simple says… “No way! This looks like a medieval castle!” Naji from Gold Star Chile had invited us to go to a Mediterranean festival at his church that night in … Loveland. So since we were headed that way anyway, we decided to check out the castle as well. It may be 92 degrees but it is not every day that one sees a castle on the banks of a river in Ohio. This castle was built by Sir Harry Andrews entirely by hand using stones from the Little Miami River, which it overlooks. Then there is the road that Sir Harry also built. This road reminded us of the many twisty one car B roads that we drove along in southern England. The road itself set the tone for what we were about to experience. Sir Harry had 18 college degrees, had been knighted in France after WWI and had survived meningitis. He worked in numerous positions including school teacher and formed his own order of Knights with the boys in his Sunday school class and Boy Scout troupe. He called them the Knights of the Golden Trail. In order to become a Knight of this order one has to swear to follow the 10 Commandments. And… since Harry was a French knight he was able to bestow knighthood on other worthy gentlemen. We met Sir. Dave and he told us all about Sir Harry and Chateau Laroche… the real name of Loveland Castle. This amazing structure took him 50 years of labor. He built everything according to medieval time period. There is a dry moat, a garden, 88 turrets that represent the 88 counties of Ohio, a floating brick staircase, and special defensive doors and windows. Literally, if you blindfolded me and brought me to Chateau Laroche, I would completely think I had been taken to Europe. Sir Dave taught us more about castles than we had ever learned in the UK. He represented the Order of the Knights of the Golden Trail with great honor!
10 minutes from Chateau Laroche we were transported to yet another culture. At St. James Orthodox Christian church, a 3 day Mediterranean food and music festival was underway. Naji Salem from Gold Star Chili had invited us to stop by and meet all his family, and of course enjoy some food and music. He met us at the entrance and proceeded to introduce us to everyone he could – most of whom were his relatives! We immediately felt the warmth and hospitality of these beautiful people. The members of the church are all Eastern Orthodox and from the Middle East, but from varying countries: Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine….all these countries were represented. Naji led us around to show us the various tents, offering a variety of foods and cultural elements. He even took us over to the Hookah tent….and we both agreed to try something new… WAY out of our comfort zones! It was not too bad as the tobacco is mixed with oils and flavors. The one we had was apple. There was not foul taste or smell. Not sure we’ll do that again, but it was an experience! Frank Salem served as our host once Naji went back to grilled the kifta and lamb. Naji referred to Frank as one of the foundational members of the church. Frank eagerly shared elements of his church’s work, of the festival, his family, and his culture with us. He took us to the sharak tent, where about 8 ladies were working with scratch-made dough to produce authentic Jordanian sharak (flatbread) that was about 2 feet in diameter!!! They cook it over a domed surface then stuff it with meat or veggies. He also offered us anything we wanted to try for dinner. The middle eastern people are so passionate about their food and culture… and Frank was eager to have us sample some food! Between us, we had kifta (seasoned grille beef patty), roasted lamb, rice, fatoush salad, kibbe, tabbouleh, and the best hummus we have ever had! Franck and his wife Mary dined with us and told us the wonderful story of how they met – next-door neighbors as small kids in Jordan! After a bit, their daughter Gaida joined us and we enjoyed asking her about her culture as well. Lovely family. After dinner, the live music began and the party got started! The band had come from Chicago with authentic instruments like drums and bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes! Gaida had told us that bagpipes originated in the Middle East. You just wanted to move to the music and singing – and they sure did! They ladies formed chains and danced in circles, and even the ladies cooking the food danced as they cooked. Naji’s mom appears to know how to belly dance, as she did behind he fryer! We left the festival with full bellies, but even fuller hearts – so thankful for the new friends we have made, and the cultures we have experienced today.
Enjoying the unexpected journeys –
Courtney and Heather