Christmas in Ohio

For our final trip of 2011, we headed to Ohio over the holiday break to visit some of my mom’s side of the family. They live in the Cincinnati area but the nearest airport is actually located in Covington, KY, so this trip was also the first time I’d ever been to Kentucky. It’s not much, but my feet touched the ground in the state. In my book, that counts!

Ohio gets its fair share of winter but this particular Christmas was very moderate. Sunshine, a bit of rain, but no snow. Seeing as I grew up in Montana, having a white Christmas every year was basically a guarantee. It’s always weird to me when Christmas comes and there’s no snow to be seen. I don’t imagine that feeling is ever going to change.

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Rocky Mountains from the air – at least we got to see a little bit of snow on our trip
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The Great Salt Lake
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Sunset over Ohio

Anyway, since it was Christmas, we of course spent most of our time with family doing holiday-ey things. We ate lots of food, played games, and opened presents, mostly.

But we also had some time to explore a bit, so we did. My mom has five siblings, three of whom are at least somewhat outdoorsy. These were not those siblings, thus our explorations did not include nature. But there are plenty of manmade attractions that can be fun to visit as well.

Case in point: Jungle Jim’s International Market. Located in Fairfield, OH, it’s a 200,000-square-foot store with more types of food than I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s enormous and very much international. There were individual sections of the store that were entirely devoted to food from a specific country. I don’t just mean that there was a Mexican food section and a Chinese food section. There were, but there were also sections devoted to many countries that aren’t represented in the average grocery store. Denmark, for example. And Scotland.

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Jungle Jim’s International Market – Fairfield, OH
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Jungle Jim’s International Market – Fairfield, OH

In addition to the international foods, Jungle Jim’s also carried many unique products that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Animal-shaped cheese, for instance. An entire aisle of hot sauce, with so many different types that they were organized alphabetically. And also an $8000 bottle of wine that we most certainly did not purchase.

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Animal-shaped cheese at Jungle Jim’s International Market – Fairfield, OH
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“Emergency chocolate” at Jungle Jim’s International Market – Fairfield, OH
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Aisle of hot sauce at Jungle Jim’s International Market – Fairfield, OH

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention our delicious trip to Skyline Chili. Skyline Chili is a restaurant found only in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. They also sell their chili in cans, but it’s very difficult to find. Their chili is made the original way – beef but no beans – and it’s the best chili I’ve ever had! Any open spaces in our suitcases were filled with cans of Skyline Chili on the flight home. It’s just so delicious.

At the restaurant, you can order the chili in multiple unique ways. In addition to the typical chili dogs and chili, chips, and cheese, they offer chili burritos and their signature Cincinnati-style chili dish. This dish is either three-way chili (spaghetti noodles topped with chili and cheese), four-way (adds onions or beans), or five-way (adds both). I realize the photo below looks more like a salad than chili, but I promise, there was a chili burrito underneath all the veggies!

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Chili burrito from Skyline Chili – Fairfield, OH

On previous trips to Ohio, we’ve also been to Dayton, Columbus, and the Cincinnati Zoo, which does a fantastic job of decorating for the holidays! I didn’t have my own camera during these trips, though, so I don’t have any photos.

I have to be honest…Ohio isn’t my favorite place. Aside from visiting family, I have no desire to go there. My mom grew up in Ohio and feels the same. She moved away when she was 19 and has never had any desire to go back. Ohio is just…flat. The landscape is somewhat nondescript. It’s humid in the summers. And while I’m sure there are nice areas of the state, there are also quite a few not-so-nice areas. I’m sure if I actually did live there, I’d learn to like it. I’d find places to go and things to do, and I’d probably have a better opinion of it. But I’m a western girl. A mountains girl. I always have been and I always will be.

So I’ll settle for visiting every few years, and over time hopefully I’ll have the chance to see more of what Ohio has to offer.

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We made it back home just in time to watch the sun sink down over the mountains of Montana for the final time in 2011
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