Saturday, August 06, 2011

From the U.P. to Chicago

This certainly has been a fun year for short trips and last weekend was no exception.  In five days we drove 9 hours to the Upper Peninsula for a wedding. We spent two nights in Menominee, after which we spent one night in Milwaukee and one night in Chicago.  I wasn't relishing the long drive, but we were blessed with beautiful weather and the good company made the hours fly by quickly.  Once in the UP, my preconceived notions of the backwoods were quickly dispelled.  I was charmed by the lakeshore bike path that led to the marina and the lighthouse.  There were sturdy yellow bikes all over town, available free for use throughout the area.  What a great idea!  I rode through town, across the drawbridge and into Wisconsin.  The downtown area of Menominee was charming, with colorful historic buildings pristinely restored.  The people were so friendly.  Every person I passed on my bike extended a smiling hello. 

The wedding was filled with love and warmth.  At the ceremony the deacon performing the marriage had known the bride since her childhood and demonstrated the chicken dance on the altar.  He used the various parts of the dance to illustrate the facets of a good marriage, i.e. the hands talking to each other connotating communication.  He had the ushers and bridesmaids come up on the altar and do the chicken dance for the young couple, which was later repeated at the reception. The bride's father dutifully wore his suit to the wedding, but at the reception he added his baseball cap.  As we were being shuttled to the wedding in the limousine we were informed that a flash storm had downed a tree which took out a power line to the reception hall.  Kudos to the kitchen and hall staff who quickly made lemonade out of lemons by finishing the food on makeshift barbeque grills and filling the hall with candles.  The bride, instead of being upset at the unexpected turn of events, was gracious - commenting on what a great job everyone was doing under the circumstances.  It was obvious she and her handsome groom were deeply in love and nothing could have spoiled the occasion for them.

The day after the wedding we set off for Milwaukee, driving leisurely along the Wisconsin countryside.  It was our first visit to the city and we were impressed by the lively downtown scene.  Every time I visit a new city, I find myself wishing our downtown was more like that.  Luckily we are close enough to Chicago to do weekend trips. 

In Milwaukee we stayed in County Clare Inn, a real Irish pub, as evidenced by the GREEN everywhere!  But it was a really cute place with a living/bedroom and large bathroom with a jacuzzi tub.  We were amazed at the deal we got - $103 including taxes (which can be formidable) - that included a bottle of champagne and free made to order breakfast.  It was within walking distance of downtown.  We had dinner there that night (Shepherd's Pie, anyone?) and for the second time that day had a bottle of locally made Spotted Cow beer. The next morning we explored the waterfront area and the architecturally amazing Art Institute, which looks like a ship.

The drive to Chicago took another four hours and we were grateful to arrive at our hotel for the evening wine reception at the Palomar, a Kimpton Hotel in the River North section of downtown.  It was fun to experience the differences between our stay at the County Clare Inn and the ultra-modern and chic Palomar.  Both were enjoyable in their own way.  But the Palomar had one of the most awesome restaurants for dinner I have been to.  Sable serves a tapas style menu, meant to share with your table.  It was fun tasting everyone's choices.  Several things stood out to me:  sweet corn creme brulee, pork belly B.L.T.'s and for dessert butterscotch pots de creme with whipped cream and cumquat relish.  I would dearly love to return to sample the rest of the menu.  Afterward we walked to the Redhead Piano Bar, which was just around the corner and enjoyed a little music, followed by some time admiring the city lights from our rooftop terrace at the hotel.

The next morning I got up extra early and was in the rooftop pool by 7am.  I had the whole pool and terrace to myself and I reveled in the water and the balmy temps outside as the city awoke.  We went our separate ways to explore the city and met back at the hotel to check out and head home.  It was great to be facing only a 5 hour drive, half of what it might have taken us if we had come straight home from Menomine.  Looking back now,  it feels as if we had had three vacations in one.  What a blessing!  Looking forward now to our two future trips, one to a wedding in south New Jersey, quickly followed by a trip to California.