Monday, November 8, 2010

Minnesota Road Trip, take two

Our desire to go to Saint Paul and visit our niece Amy was very disappointing last July, We had great plans, but all were dashed by the untimely and very much too soon passing of my brother, Bill. So our trip last July turned into a a detour on our way to Oklahoma for Bill's funeral.
This time we planned the trip again for a long weekend leaving Cincinnati on Thursday, staying at a Bed and Breakfast near Madison, WI and then spending the weekend with Amy in Saint Paul. This time the trip was completed as planned, well almost.
The first day's drive to Stoughton, WI was uneventful and the Bed and Breakfast was just as expected-wonderful!  I just love, love, love to stay at different Bed and Breakfast's when we travel- each so unique- and the food is usually outstanding! The host was a gay old gent who loved to cook and make people feel welcome. We had dinner at the local "best of Stoughton" and then retired for a good nights sleep and then a wonderful breakfast from our host Carl. The drive to Saint Paul was a scenic 4 hour drive north across Wisconsin before finally crossing into Minnesota and Saint Paul. Amy was at home when we arrived making an apple pie in the kitchen. Max and I realized the situation and moved into the kitchen to help. Now Amy didn't need a lot of help.  She'd already done the hard part- the crust.  But we arrived in time for Don to chop the apples- with Amy's supervision of course!  I can follow directions.

A 30th birthday party for a neighbor was planned for the evening and Amy was in charge of the desserts. We ended up making two apple pies and a French Silk Pie. No problem for two great cooks and one peeler, chopper and cleaner upper (me).

And Amy and Don didn't mind at all licking the beaters from the French Silk Pie Filling!

And look how fantastic Amy's Apple Pies are! Notice the "30" on the lattice pie! Not only did they look great- but they tasted even better!

A party with Lucas' friends is always a treat. She has developed a neighborhood that is more like a social club. Her porch is the center of activity and folks seem to gravitate there for libations, talk, laughter, and just plain socializing. Even better, they are all just really nice people who welcomed us just like we lived next door. From that first night last summer just sitting on the porch- talking and laughing until way past our bedtime- we've just felt right at home.  It wasn't long this time until the neighbors had gathered and we were "at home" again.

And we mustn't forget the gorilla in the room- well rather the yard- the neighbor's yard!

Amy and Don getting "in the mood" for the party!

But this trip Lucas had plans to show us more than her neighbohood.

But before we were out and about we started the day with a great breakfast of Lucas' French toast and coffee.

Amy is a wonderful cook!  And we really got to enjoy that this trip!

After breakfast we headed out to explore the Twin Cities. The first stop was the Mill Museum. If you look at a map of St. Paul/Minneapolis, you will see that the Mississippi River flows right through the middle of the Twin Cities, and it is this river that provided the energy to build these cities. Little did I know that there was a natural water fall, the only one on the Mississippi, right in Minneapolis. It is now well contained and stabalized by concrete, but in the early years the St. Anthony Falls and the drop in the River was channeled to drive turbines that fueled the development of flour mills. That, along with the railroad James Hill built to the northwest, resulted in establishing the iconic names of General Mills, Gold Medal Flour, and Pillsbury. The railroads brought in the wheat and the river provided the energy to mill the wheat into flour. The amazing thing is that those mills didn't use electricity to drive the mills, the turbines were connected to a main drive belt that drove other belts that milled the wheat, collected the dust, drove the augars that moved the wheat, and packaged the finished flour. We toured the museum that was built upon the last active mill.  This mill was closed in 1965 and the building abandoned and then in 1991 the building was finally destroyed by an explosion and fire.
The Mill is absolutely fascinating!  I loved it!

We took the tour and really enjoyed hearing the story, seeing the displays, and looking at the views of the river.

And I loved these views DOWN, onto the patio.  It looked like a "50s" Barbie house!

I couldn't help but take the picture below.  We were high above they they seemed to be doing a photo shoot of pictures for Halloween.  Her little brother was in the eye of the camera
And the views of the river and the locks from the top of the Mill were pretty spectacular.

 The sign still stands and the brand still exists, but the Mill is just a shell.

And after the tour, Max worked hard to stimulate the economy by investing heavily in the museum gift shop. It was no doubt a perfect storm of a person who loves to bake in a museum store packed with everything baking. I tried to show restraint- but it was hard- why it was a "gift" shop with me in mind!

But we were not done- oh no!  We were only getting started.  Next it was to the Guthrie Theater and the elevator to the top for the absolutely stunning views!

The windows are tinted yellow so the place has this surreal feeling of being both real- and fantasy.

Then Saturday night we were off first for drinks in the Saint Paul Hotel. As you see, Amy was NOT WEARING sensible shoes... I was of course wearing sensible shoes!

And then we were off to Mancini's for dinner!  Mancini's was all we expected it to be, an old standard Italian restaraunt featuring steaks, red leather booths, a local band playing oldies with a few oldies also dancing, and purely native waitresses.  The menu was simple, the food was ample, and quickly served.

And you'd think we'd be done by now!  But not when we go to St. Paul!  We had one last stop (we were taking cabs this night- must have that designated driver!).  We finished off at Cafe Latte for desert!

And then we were up Sunday ready to start again!  There are just so many places that you really must see in St. Paul/Minneapolis!  And we tried to see as many as we could!
We started with breakfast in Hell's Kitchen!  Now here is a true dining adventure!  And the food was so amazing!  The homemade peanut butter was like a dream come true! I was so busy eating- and also being quite overwhelmed with the ambience- that I really didn't get any good pictures of the restaurant- but it was so much fun eating breakfast at the bar!  We were in the FAR SIDES room- what fun- the wall was covered- absolutely covered with the FAR SIDES cartoons- all with a "hell" theme!

Now I just have to tell you of Mitch Omar- the owner and creative force behind this amazing resaurant (his story is amazing - I bought the cookbook- and then read much of it in one sitting when I arrived back in Cincy- and am totally overwhelmed with the strength- intelligence- creativity of this beautiful man- you can read about his amazing life here!)  I'm a big fan! And can't wait for another visit on my return trip the Twin Cities!

And then we were off....

Check out the "empty suit"- think we've all met this person at some time in our life.  "Knock, Knock- who's there"....

And then finally to the James Hill HouseThe previously mentioned James Hill who built the rail roads to the northwest that brought in all of that wheat.  He was was one of those railroad barons who made millions and then built the biggest and most expensive house in Saint Paul.  We took the tour and it was amazing what they built in the early 1900's.  His house was the first in Saint Paul to have electricity.  And since he was a railroad man, the basement had two large boilers that looked somewhat like steam engines from a train that supplied heat to the house, and of course there was someone shoveling coal into those boilers on those cold Minnesota nights.

Well by now we were feeling just a bit tired...So decided we'd save some things for our next trip to Amy's.  We spent the rest of the day just watching movies and then eating pizza from Pizza Luce of course! I know you can't believe we were still had room to eat yet another meal.  I think I established a new personal best for great meals consumed in one short space of time!

But don't be mislead- what makes our trip north is our beautiful niece Amy- and the joy she brings.  Adventures with her just seem that much brighter- that much more interesting- that much more beautiful!  How very grateful we are! I'll never be sure if the Twin Cities is one of the most amazing places to visit- or rather if the world just somehow is a bit different when viewing from the bright light that shines upon it when you experience it with Amy!  Regardless, as long as Amy is there we will go back.


Brandy said...

Thanks for the tour of the Twin Cities! What great restaurants and museums, I'm glad Amy got to show you so much. Amy looks great!

Lucas said...

You guys will just never know what it means to me that you take the time and trouble to come and visit. I LOVE YOU GUYS! It was a wonderful time, I love that you blend so seamlessly into the neighborhood and all our festivities. You make fantastic house guests and just the best warm fuzzy family! Thanks for coming, for paying ;) and for just being you! Can't wait to have you back again. Next time maybe The Captain will be home even.

Amber said...

love the pictures, i'm so glad you got to make the fall trip!