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History can be fun and delicious in Michigan’s capital

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer 2/1/2013

If you haven’t visited our state capital since the fourth grade, you should make plans to spend a day in Lansing. Wish Michigan a belated happy birthday, as Jan. 26 marked the 176th birthday of our state.

The only hitch is that if you want to tour the Capitol building itself, you have to visit between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on a weekday when the legislature is in session! If you can make it during the week, the Capitol is a state treasure. The architect, Elijah E. Myers, would make his reputation in his design of our state Capitol, before going on the to be the architect of two other statehouses.

In 1992, the Capitol finished its most recent facelift with a designation by the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark. Inside you’ll see that every wall is hand-painted as you walk across nine acres of columns, doors, wainscot, cornices and ceilings. If you wonder why people are lying down on the glass floor below the great dome, they are looking for the eight muses who encircle the top of the dome.

If your plans don’t include a weekday visit of the Capitol, you can still make a wonderful weekend excursion to the Michigan Historical Museum located in the State of Michigan Library (approximately two blocks west of the Capitol building). The museum is a great place to get a happy dose of Michigan’s history. They are open both Saturday and Sunday. Interactive exhibits cover our roots as a lumber- and fur-trading state to the present day. Check their website for special events. You can even use your cell phone at the Michigan Historical Center to “scavenge” for clues to Michigan’s past.

If all this history has gotten you hungry for a meal in the 21st century, I suggest Troppo, with its supper club atmosphere of deep red fabric and wood. You can continue your history lesson through the vintage black and white photographs lining their walls. Troppo is Italian for “too much” and the portion sizes reflect the name. With a good selection of sandwiches, along with more elaborate entrees, you have plenty of choices. I liked the rosemary chicken and ravioli, which was a quarter of a chicken and pumpkin ravioli covered in boursin alfredo sauce with gorgonzola and toasted walnuts. For those of us still trying to honor our New Year’s resolution, try one of their salads. They also have an awesome butternut squash soup.

For me, no trip to Lansing is complete without a stop at the Peanut Shop. Nuts of all kinds are fresh-roasted daily on the premises. They’ve been roasting nuts since 1937. You often have to wait at the counter in the small, plain store, but it’s worth it for the variety and freshness of their nut mixes.

If an overnight stay is part of your getaway plan, I love the English Inn, about 10 miles south in Eaton Rapids. The Tudor Revival mansion built in 1927 is a classic bed and breakfast with the added bonus of a terrific restaurant. You can choose between six guest rooms located in the main house or four guest rooms located in two adjacent cottages. Sitting by the fireplace in the main dining room, savoring a nice glass of red wine and their tasty prime rib, makes for a terrific evening. If you don’t have time for a full dinner or an overnight stay with a gourmet breakfast, do stop for a pint at their authentic English pub.

Who said history was boring?

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