Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vacation Days 1 & 2

Dear Husband and I recently celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary much in the way we’ve celebrated the others: with a road trip to a city in the Midwest. We honeymooned in Denver with a botanical garden, an art museum, hiking (in Estes Park), good eats, and a baseball game. We’ve pretty much kept to that itinerary in the years since, as we’ve visited Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and now Madison. 

I am my grandmother’s granddaughter and my father’s daughter, and I love planning our trips. I always try to include something unique for the places we travel to. In Chicago we went to the Navy Pier. In Indy we visited a private super hero museum and the race track. In Kansas City we saw the Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. In Milwaukee, we rollerbladed along Lake Michigan. On our Cincy trip, DH played the pianos that had been decorated and placed around the city.

In Madison, we rented a tandem kayak on Lake Wingra. I had hoped they might let us use a small sailboat, but the lake has had such large growths of seaweed recently that you have to take a special class before they’ll let you sail. As we paddled back and forth across the lake, I suddenly didn’t feel so guilty for missing PiYo class while our car was in the shop earlier in the week: it was quite the upper-arm workout! We saw gulls, ducks, a heron, and a very large fish that jumped near the boat. It was a hot day, so we even braved the seaweed and got out of the kayak to “swim” in the middle. I don’t like it when I can’t see my feet in the water, so actually I worked out my abs by holding a pike position so my toes stuck up out of the water while we rested in/on our life jackets and let the underwater current carry us.

I don't think a marriage is legal in Madison unless
the bride takes photographs at this gazebo.
After rinsing off under a hose, we drove into the center of town. We were too late for an official tour of the capitol building, but we ogled the marble and the cupola for ourselves. This was the site of the famous anti-Walker sit-in in 2011. On the mezzanine level was an exhibition of beautiful oil paintings by and about Falun Gong (Dafa) practitioners in China and the discrimination and torture many have suffered at the hands of the Communist regime. Unfortunately, my camera battery had died when we got to the lake, so I don’t have any pictures of this first day.

We were also there to meet a friend for the last Concert on the Square of the summer. From humble beginnings a few years ago, this free event has become a Madison staple. At 3pm you are allowed to leave a blanket on the grass around the capitol building to mark your spot. People start arriving at 5:30 or 6 o’clock with coolers, camp chairs, and folding tables, and food vendors line closed-off stretches of street. We bought some really yummy mint chocolate chip ice cream cones, DH had a hot meal that reminded him of Tafelspitz, and I ate cheese, crackers, and fruit. DH listened to the music/napped while the ladies chatted—apparently too loudly for the music snob behind us, who was shushing everyone around him. Then it was back to the hotel to watch some Olympics before bed.

The weather on the second day was supposed to be a doozy, so I had planned for the botanical garden in the morning and the art museum in the afternoon. The Olbrich Botanical Garden (free) is smaller than some of the others we have visited, but it is well maintained, and there was still plenty to see. The Thai temple and garden were particularly interesting. They've incorporated various cultural and artistic symbols, like water, topiary, lotus blossoms, and the Naga serpent. The temple (sala) was built in Thailand, taken apart, shipped here, and then reconstructed without nails or screws. The artisans happen to have been flying on September 11, 2001, and were on one of the last flights to land at O'Hare. You can't touch the gold leaf or else the oils on your skin can damage it. Then we paid for tickets to enter the conservatory to see the butterfly exhibit. Once a year they order hundreds of cocoons and hatch the butterflies in the tropical environment. You can see them up close, as well as enjoy orchids, banana trees, bamboo, canaries, and adorable little quail running around.

We ate lunch at the famous vegetarian/vegan restaurant, The Green Owl. Dear Husband had fake chicken with real parmesan cheese, while I ordered a filling BBQ jackfruit sandwich and kale chips. An...interesting culinary creation, kale chips: I tasted mostly oil, while DH tasted mostly kale. Go figure.

Kale chips!
Rather than continue our itinerary around Lake Monona, we repaired to the hotel for reading/naps due to tired legs. The Chazen Art Museum (also free) is open until 9pm on Thursdays, so I knew we weren’t trying to get everything in by 5pm and had plenty of time to see the exhibits.

The big draw was the current temporary exhibition of studio art glass. Apparently a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin Madison is single-handedly responsible for establishing the discipline, in that he made a workshop of all the different kilns and tools available to local artists, as well as training students. I love glass because of its versatility: it can be transparent, translucent, or opaque. It can be rough or smooth. It can be drawn out into delicate threads or cast in impressive hunks. It can be colored, have bubbles, and be made into a seemingly infinite variety of shapes. The display was impressive in its scope, and there was also a series of demonstration videos on various technique and on making tumblers, wine glasses, and other things.

No green owls, but I did find a green frog.
We spent so much time there that we were ready for dinner, so we headed down University Avenue toward the restaurant quarter. I had looked up a few places beforehand, and we quickly decided on Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, which is only the best burger joint in Madison and no small irony, considering where we went to lunch! We shared a strawberry milkshake, a burger, fries, and a spinach salad. We thought the burger wasn’t done enough, but the salad came with bleu cheese, which made me think of my maternal grandfather, who could eat an inordinate amount of the stuff.

We returned to the Chazen for the second temporary exhibit, on the fan in Japanese prints. I would have liked more thorough descriptions of the historical or literary backgrounds for the images, but then maybe that’s just me. We finished off our visit with the room dedicated to twentieth-century African artwork. Then it was back to the hotel for—you guessed it—more Olympics. (Hey, people, don’t judge: it was gymnastics!)

Next time: a cultured day trip and a wacky museum.

DH: "Look where her hand is. I know why he's giving her a high five!"


  1. Steve Sanderson here, Jenny Bloom's husband. AKA "Mr. Bloom" :) I really enjoy your blog postings and reading about your travel adventures. Thanks so much for "taking us along" on your trip. Best of luck as you return to your dissertation and the daily grind of a Medical Scholar. Steve Sanderson

  2. Aw, thanks, Steve. I remember you: Mr. Airplane! We had good travels this summer. It's good to take a break from that grind so you can enjoy it again. You can check out the second post about this trip, which I'm going to write right now. :-)

    p.s.--Bridget, you tell those old people that they may have the most adorable grandbaby in these here parts, but they need to make him keep it down 'cuz I'm trying to listen to the music, dontcha know!


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