I met Sarah Bell within hours of moving into my dorm my very first night at IU. She is definitely a character — her southern accent is hard to ignore and she talks a thousand miles a minute, but she’s also sweet and caring and has grown to be one of my very best friends here at school.
I also met some other absolutely wonderful best friends here at school, two of which are Amanda and Annie. Amanda is from Minnesota, and Annie is from New York. Since the three of our hometowns are a bit of a hassle to get to from Bloomington, IN, we were blessed enough to be invited to spend Easter weekend in Cincinnati with Sarah Bell and her family.
Now, I am incredibly awful at geography. Like, AWFUL. The entire middle of a United States map is a blur to me, and I’m still not completely sure which states border Illinois. After finding out that Sarah Bell was from Cincinnati, I first had to figure out what state that was in, then I automatically assumed it was a small country town because of her accent and mannerisms (I’m bad at jumping to conclusions…I know). With that said, all three of were SO excited to take a trip to Cincy and experience “country life” for a weekend.
Boyyyyy, were we wrong! Definitely not “country”, but beautiful and enjoyable indeed. Coming from Illinois, hilly drives with beautiful views are unheard of and when I do get to experience them, they are an absolute gift. Ohio is filled with winding roads, ginormous hills, beautiful scenery, and fresh air. Sarah Bell’s neighborhood was picture-esque; tall trees towered over the houses and created a canopy effect to drive and walk under, each house proved to be different than the last, but beautiful and fitting none-the-less, and the hills and curves were breathtaking. I loved it already!
Day One. Friday, April 14: Our first night in town, Sarah Bell’s sweet parents took us out for an amazing dinner in the downtown part of Cincinnati. Being college girls who quite possibly live for pictures, we took it as an excuse to get all dressed up and soak in all of the scenery at the Smale Riverfront Park, right off of the river in the middle of downtown. Within the park, there were giant metal swings, a floor piano, a huge city sign, an abundance of tulips, a flying pig ride for kids (yes, I went on it), so much fun to be found, and so many pictures to take. We had such an amazing night exploring this new city and spending time with each other outside of Bloomington.
Day Two. Saturday, April 15: Upon waking up, we could smell eggs and bacon being made. SCORE! Homemade breakfasts are literally non-existent at college. All of us girls pigged out on a delicious meal then began to go over our plan for the day. Sarah Bell is a Type A planner to the tee, so we had our day jam packed with activities planned down to the second. I’m a day late writing this post because she literally wore me out so much that I had to take Monday to rest. Plus side: I can officially say I’ve seen all of Cincy!
First on the list, Jungle Jim’s. Okay, first of all, what is this place? It’s this crazy Ohio grocery store that seems like it was created by a man that couldn’t decide what he wanted to do, so he literally did it all. There are no words to describe this. If there could be a tourist trap for grocery stores, this would be it. Upon pulling up, you think it’s a Rainforest Cafe, but then you realize it’s a grocery store, but also so much more. The most accurate way to describe it is the fact that it was so crazy that it was on our agenda of touristy things to do during our stay.
Next up was Findlay Market. Findlay Market is a Farmer’s Market that lays within the borders of Over the Rhine. Over the Rhine is a part of Cincinnati that was first inhabited by immigrants, then slowly but surely gained a bad and dangerous reputation over the recent years. Most recently, they’ve began to revamp this area with boutique-like shops and trendy restaurants and the place is beginning to look super hip and nice! We walked around and admired the colorful awnings, the homemade jewelry, the fresh produce, and all of the little pop-up shops.
While walking to our next destination, we realized how beautifully so many of the walls were painted around town. If you know me, you know how much I appreciate the cute little things that make each town its own. We took quite a while walking around that day because we kept stopping to pose in front of each wall; it seemed like each was even better than the last!
Our next destination was a Macaroon Bar on Main Street. It was in a pretty interesting area. Since the revamping of the neighborhood is a relatively new project, some of the new, trendy boutiques seemed harshly juxtaposed with the poverty that still existed on the same streets. It was evident which buildings have been refaced, and it was obvious how much work the city has put into this project and how much work they are continuing to do. It made for an interesting and humbling walk, it was definitely a type of environment I’ve never witnessed before. Once we got to the macaroon bar, we splurged and got some delicious macaroons. Definitely a picture worthy food.
After the macaroon bar, we started to head over to Vine Street, the most renovated area of Over the Rhine. Vine Street is mostly all brand new: filled with trendy shops, famous restaurants, up-and-coming apartment buildings, and fun boutiques. On our way over, we stopped into the most precious succulent shop I’ve seen. It smelled so amazing and it relaxed us immediately upon walking in — I made a mental note to style my future home off of that.
We eventually left and made it to our final destination, Holtman’s Donut Shop. If you couldn’t tell, food was the main driver of our entire agenda. The donuts looked amazing, and tasted even better. My favorites were their red velvet, maple pecan, Cinnamon Toast Crunch (pictured below), and Oreo. You can never have too many donuts, right?
We ended the night coloring Easter eggs and having a bonfire, where I can proudly say I made myself two of the best s’mores I’ve eaten in my life. We started to watch Bride Wars, but ended up falling asleep three minutes in because Sarah Bell’s jam-packed schedule wore us out.
Day Three. Sunday, April 16: Easter Sunday! Woohoo! We started our morning early and right, with donuts from the previous day, bacon, and fresh fruit (something hard to come by in Bloomington). We then attended Easter Service at Sarah Bell’s church with her parents. The entire time I kept noticing so many differences from my traditional church growing up. Her church was absolutely beautiful, although there was no classic stained glass, it was bright and open and had tons of windows. It truly reminded me of a quaint southern church! Another huge difference I realized was the length of the mass, and the lack of Communion. I was raised Catholic (loooooooong masses and Communion being central to the service), but I attended a Methodist church on Sunday. I couldn’t believe how fast we were in and out of there!
After church, Sarah Bell’s parents were kind enough to hide eggs so we could have an Easter egg hunt, and make us Easter baskets! We all got pretty competitive, but it was so much fun running around the yard as a 19 year old searching for eggs. They really made it feel like Easter at home despite not being home. As our last meal with them, we enjoyed delicious steak, potatoes, and salad, then took a post-meal nap and were on our way.
All in all, the weekend was an absolute blast. Us girls had so much fun taking a mini-road trip together, getting out of Bloomington, and exploring a new city. It completely opened my eyes to the beauty of Ohio (no…it’s not just filled with small country towns!), and now I wouldn’t steer clear from a future job in Cincinnati if one fell in my lap. I couldn’t be more thankful for the kindness of the Bell family to welcome me into their house for the weekend and spoil me with delicious food and kindness, I couldn’t be more thankful for best friends that stand-in as family when family is too far away, and I couldn’t be more thankful that He is Risen!
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, whether you celebrated the holiday or not. It’s a beautiful day to count your blessings and thank those that you’re thankful for, so go ahead and do it! I did a lot of thanking this weekend myself!
All photographs were taken by my wonderful friend, Amanda Young
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