Hometown Adventure-Milwaukee-July 2019

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There is nothing like being a tourist in the city that you grew up in! My parents still live in Milwaukee and actually embraced our Milwaukee adventures during my short visit with my husband.

DAY ONE:

Summer is my favorite time to visit Milwaukee, and it is not just because I am soooo overMilwaukee_Summerfest_logo snow, but I love all the outdoor festivals, especially Summerfest – the largest outdoor music festival in the world. While I did not have an opportunity to attend Summerfest on the lakefront this year, I did manage to head to the lakefront for Milwaukee’s 3rd of July Fireworks. This has been a tradition in my family for years. Some families even camp out on the lake for days prior to the fireworks. We always head down in the afternoon with our cooler full of food/drinks, blankets/chairs, and games/books, where we will have a few hours to enjoy some fresh air and family time. We had an interesting experience this year, where we had perfect weather until about an hour before the fireworks when a wall of fog moved in. After a few test fireworks, we all realized we couldn’t see anything, so we packed up and started to walk to the car. We were actually on higher ground when the fireworks started, and we managed to see them afterall.

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DAY TWO:

My dad took my husband and I to the Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward. This is a great place to meet friends for food or drinks. There is free Wi-Fi and plenty of seating options. Sticking with my objective to be a tourist, we spent a majority of our market time at the cheese stand, but we also visited the spice stand and had to buy a 4th of July decorated treat.

From the Public Market, my husband and I walked along the Milwaukee River. We were blessed with perfect weather – see the picture at the top of this post. As we got near the theater district, we had to stop and say “Aaayy” to Henry Winkler’s Happy Days statue. At this point we opted to take a mini lunch break on the riverside patio of the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery.

20190801_091013Then we met my parents at the Lakefront Brewery for a brewery tour. Definitely, try their appetizers. We enjoyed their pretzels and fried cheese curds so much. The tour and beer were outstanding. This is a must visit!

We decided to keep with the brewery theme and had dinner at the Water Street Brewery. This is a great place for a social dinner.

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DAY THREE:

20190801_090439We traveled around a lot more. I didn’t get to experience the new public transit called The Hop, but I saw it. We walked around the20190801_091301 Historic Third Ward again, where you will see a lot of boutique stores, art galleries, and even a speakeasy or two. I love the fact that Milwaukee now has bike rental stands, but I especially enjoyed that the rental bikes are called Bublr. You will understand why that is humorous if you are from Wisconsin. After learning a bit more about the history of the Third Ward district in Milwaukee, we saw another 20190704_194521historic landmark – Trinity Lutheran Church.

Trinity Lutheran Church has been around since 1878. My grandmother actually got married there. Unfortunately, less than one year before the horrific fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Trinity Lutheran Church also caught fire and had extensive damage, but at least it still stands, and I hope that they can repair the damage.

My parents then indulged my love of books and took me to an independent bookstore in Milwaukee called Boswell Books. It is large with perfect spaces to lounge with a good book. Actually it would be a great place to host a book club too.

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Down the street from the bookstore, we had a nice dinner. One beer I always like to have when I visit Wisconsin is Spotted Cow from New Glarius. It is one of my favorites. Even my mom ordered that, so that is a good recommendation right there.

No dinner is complete without the best Wisconsin dessert – frozen custard. While Kopps is a favorite custard stand in Milwaukee, and I enjoy them as well, my family has been going to Gillies Frozen Custard stand for years. I can’t visit Milwaukee without going there at least once. They have added a lot more outdoor seating too.

SIDE EXCURSION:

While there is still so many things to do in Milwaukee, my parents and I decided to take a20190731_151550 trip up north to visit some family. Some times it is nice to explore rural Wisconsin for a bit. We visited a small town just outside of Oshkosh, which is not just known for its kids clothing brand – OshKosh B’Gosh – but is also home to the EAA Aviation Center. The yearly airshow, which brings people from all over the country, was just this last weekend. Just outside of Oshkosh is the dairy farm my dad grew up on. It still has its beautiful red barn.

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There is something to be said for going back to the city you grew up in and just being a tourist. When you live in a place, you often don’t experience all it has to offer. For example, I love books and have for years, and yet I don’t think I ever stopped by one of Milwaukee’s largest independent bookstores. It’s nice to be able to go back and truly appreciate where you grew up. I hope to go back soon and experience a whole new list of what Milwaukee has to offer, and, of course, try some more beer…

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Weekend in Columbus, OH – October 2018

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I have not had a lot of adventures this year, but I was fortunate to visit some family for a weekend getaway in Columbus, OH this Fall. We were blessed with some sun and warmish temperatures. Also, the trees were turning colors, which added to the beauty.

As a booklover, I had to visit a local independent bookstore called The Book Loft in the German Village. The charm of the outside is matched by the extensive collection in the inside. If you are looking for something specific, I would highly recommend picking up a map at the front register – yep…that is how big it is!

If you have amazing weather like we did, I would recommend a nice walk along the Scioto River (see picture at the top of the page). The Scioto Mile was developed just a few years ago with beautiful walking paths lined with trees and flowers. If you want to take a break from your walk along the river, you can stop in the COSI – Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry museum.


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Ohio is rich with Native American history. If you find yourself in Dublin, Ohio, make a stop at the Leatherlips Monument (pictured on the right). Leatherlips was a Wyandot Native American leader that was executed in the early 1800s.

There are so many great places to eat and have a few drinks in the Columbus area. A great place to get a drink and have some fun with friends is the Pins Mechanical Co. There are three locations in the Columbus area. Here you have a lot of drink choices, including a20181018_102740 large selection of draft beers, while you play a round of duck pin bowling or some pinball or other fun bar games. Some of the places we ate include Valter’s at the Maennerchor (German restaurant in the German village), which serves a nice weekend brunch, and Cap City Fine Diner, which is a wonderful diner with fantastic food and service. If you are from the Midwest or have a love of frozen custard like I do, you must stop and have some frozen custard at Whit’s Frozen Custard (see picture on the right). So amazing!

I am very fortunate to have family in Columbus now. It is a fun town with lots to do and lots of places to eat. If you are there and confused by the sea of red and white, Columbus is most well known as the home of the Buckeyes of THE Ohio State University. Don’t forget that Columbus is also the capital of Ohio (see picture of the capital building below). If you have any suggestions of things to do or places to eat in or around Columbus, feel free to let me know via the comment section below, as we hope to go back for another visit there soon.

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20 Years of Travel #18: Paris

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The 20 Years of Travel series continues by featuring the City of Love: Paris, France. I grew up watching old movies that were set in Paris: An American in Paris, Funny Face, Gigi, and many more. I dreamed of seeing this amazing city. I went for the first time in 2006. I was a bit disappointed with Paris at that time. I can now say that my disappointment was almost completely due to lack of planning on my part. I was traveling to Paris with a classmate of mine after we finished a graduate course in Geneva, Switzerland. As students, we had a tight travel budget. I was able to get a discount on a hotel in Paris through my job at home, but that unfortunately was located on the outskirts of the city. It ended up costing a lot of money and time to travel into the city center. We also were visiting in the middle of the summer tourist season and 100 degree heat. We waited in the heat for hours to get into Notre Dame (pictured above), which was worth it, but unpleasant. My most amateur mistake was waiting until our final day in Paris to go to the Louvre, which was a Tuesday, the day that the Louvre is closed. We decided to go visit Versailles instead, which was impressive but was under renovation and none of the fountains were turned on.

Luckily, almost ten years later, I decided to give Paris another try. I had a much better experience. We stayed in the city center, smallest hotel room ever, but worth it for the location. We also went in the middle of December which in my opinion is the best time to see Paris. There are minimal tourists and beautiful Christmas markets everywhere. I believe there is also a lot to be said about experiencing the same city at different points in one’s life as well.

Things to do and see:

Champs Elysees

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The Champs Elysees is one of the most famous avenues in the world, leading to the Arc de Triomphe.

Roue de Paris

This is a large ferris wheel off of the Champs Elysees, where you can experience amazing views of Paris.

The Seine

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There are walkways along the Seine, where you can take romantic strolls with views of the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower

Of course you have to explore the Eiffel Tower. My friends and I went up to the top at sunset for the amazing views and then decided to walk down, which wasn’t as strenuous as I thought it would be. I only had a problem with my little fear of heights and the fact that you could feel the tower sway a bit.

Notre Dame Cathedral

This is the famous gothic-style cathedral in Paris. If you have an opportunity, do the gargoyle tour as well as exploring the inside of the cathedral.

Favorite Bookstore

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If you are a booklover like me, Shakespeare and Company Bookstore is a must!

The Louvre

This amazing art museum did not allude me on my second visit to Paris. December is a much better time to visit this museum anyway. I was there at opening time and got to stand alone in front of the Mona Lisa for twenty minutes.

Musee d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay Collection

This is my favorite art museum in Paris as I love all things Degas, Renoir and Monet. The above picture shows just a few of my favorites.

Christmas Markets

If you find yourself in Paris around Christmastime, you can experience a plethora of amazing Christmas markets that are set up all over the city.

Sights I Still Want to See

Two trips to Paris were not enough to see everything I wanted to. I still have not gone to Sacre Couer and the catacombs. Hence, why they are not featured here. Those will just have to wait until my next visit.

Day Excursions:

Versailles

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Less than a hour train ride from Paris is the Palace of Versailles. Not only is Versailles featured prominently in history, but it contains beautiful art and expansive gardens. Many of my husband’s pictures are featured above as he recently got to see Versailles with minimal renovations and working fountains, unlike my original visit to Versailles.

Rouen

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Less than a two-hour train ride from Paris, Rouen is an idyllic French town. We visited because of our interest in Joan of Arc, but there was so much more to this town. Definitely one of my favorite places.

Excursion I Still Want to Make

As mentioned before, I really love Monet paintings. Monet’s home and where he found some of his inspiration is located less than an hour from Paris in the town of Giverny.

If you are looking for more excursions into Normandy from Paris, see my Normandy link below.

Related Posts:

PARIS, FRANCE (December 2013)

Normandy, France – October 2014

I am sure Paris and I will meet again soon!

Happy Travels!!!

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20 Years of Travel #2: Austin, Texas in 12 Hours

29790786_10155580257592986_4937089739783844434_nI am continuing with my 20 Years of Travel series with one of my most recent travel adventures.

Do I recommend spending only 12 hours in Austin, Texas? NOOOOOO! However, when you just started a new job and only have a weekend for a mini-vacation, you take whatever time you have to enjoy yourself. Since moving to Texas a year and a half ago, Austin has been on my list of places I could not wait to see, and yet it has taken me this long to get there. Thanks to my bestie’s visit, I got to finally go.

We hit the road on Friday morning. As we headed outside of Houston, I had to stop and show my friend (who has never really been to Texas) what a Buckees is. If you have never been to a Buckees either, it is a gas station as well as a great place to buy Texas souvenirs, fudge, brisket and basically anything you might need. It is a must do when you are hitting the long empty roads of Texas.

A couple hours later, we came to the town of Lockhart, Texas, which was our stopping point for lunch. If you are a fan of barbecue, you will find the best Texas 29684155_10155580256852986_6996878003957027781_nbarbecue in Lockhart (at least that is what I’ve been told and have not personally had any BBQ in Texas that has contradicted this statement). Lockhart is the home of Black’s BBQ, a cafeteria style restaurant with the best brisket I’ve ever had (see picture on the right). If the line to Black’s is too long, I was told by a gentleman at another table to also try Smitty’s Market just down the main street (on my bucket list for the next time I road trip to Austin). We were so stuffed on barbecue that when we got to Austin, we decided to just relax by the pool. Most of the country was still under feet of snow, so I felt that if we could get some sun by the hotel pool, why not?! On a side note, anyone that knows what real Culver’s frozen custard tastes like, do NOT go to the Culver’s on William Cannon Drive. You will be sad and disappointed. I don’t know what that was, but it was not frozen custard.

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The next morning, we got a Lyft into Austin and spent the entire day (at least 12 hours) in the city. This is what we managed to do in our one day in Austin:

  1. Breakfast @ Voodoo Donuts. (I was so excited to find out that I don’t have to go all the way to Portland anymore to enjoy these delicious donuts–not that I would mind going back to Portland).
  2. Local Farmer’s Market.
  3. Short walk to the State Capitol (see picture above), where we took a free tour inside the Capitol. I’m going to be honest. We went through two or three tour guides before finding one that could speak audibly enough to a large group so we could all hear. However, that guide was fantastic. I learned a lot more about Texas history and what makes this capital building unique.
  4. Lunch @ Scholz Garten – which claims to be the oldest German restaurant in America. I have not been able to confirm that information, but the restaurant has been open since 1866. I could drink beer and eat spätzle all day every day. Plus, there was some live music in the biergarten.
  5. Book People – A trip with me has to include a bookstore. I had been dying to visit this independent bookstore for a while. It was even more amazing than I imagined. It is large with two floors of books and gifts, a coffee shop, and plenty of space for events, which they have all the time (including book signings, readings, etc.).
  6. 29790108_10155580257852986_3592580044067433490_nA walk along Town Lake — it was a beautiful day with lots of people soaking up some sun and listening to the Urban Music Festival that was being held at the Auditorium.
  7. A stop @ Stevie Ray Vaughn’s statue (see picture on right).
  8. Riverboat cruise (see picture below) – A must see in Austin is surprisingly….bats. Lots and lots of bats. Around dusk thousands (@ certain times of the year…millions) of bats that are hanging out underneath Congress Avenue Bridge, take flight together in search of food. You can view this scene from a riverboat like we did or by standing on the Congress Avenue Bridge. While I am not a fan of bats (I do not think they are cute!), I dislike mosquitoes even more, so eat up bats!
  9. Perfect end of the day dinner @ Home Slice Pizza with dessert @ Amy’s Ice Creams.

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Did we see everything? NO! However, we did see a lot and walked more than 35,000 steps. Austin City Limits and brewery tours will be the focus of my next trip to Austin.

No road trip in spring is complete without stopping on the side of a interstate to smell the flowers (see picture below).

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Completed My First BoB Readathon

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As part of my attempt to continue my reading life while working a full-time demanding position, I decided to try to participate in as many readathons, readalongs and book club meetups as I could. I am happy I found the Bout of Books readathon. This was a week-long readathon.

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My main goal for this readathon (stated in this previous post) was to read 700 pages (an average of 100 a day). On a normal day, I tend to read an average of about 50 pages a day, so I thought this was going to be a real challenge, but I surprisingly accomplished this goal without a problem. I actually read a total of 962 pages and completed 2 books (see picture above). I also have started and made progress in The Dry by Jane Harper, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (see picture below).

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I had the privilege of attending a book talk and signing event for one of the books that I read during this readathon. Paula McLain, well-known author of The Paris Wife, came to my local independent bookstore to discuss her new book Love and Ruin, another historical fiction about one of Hemingway’s wives and their love affair. Here are some pictures from the event:

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Overall, I had a fantastic week of reading. It was just what I needed to help me catch up with my reading backlog, prepare for upcoming book clubs and relax before a very stressful work period. Bout of Books will be hosting another readathon in August, so maybe I’ll see y’all then.

Until the next readathon….

Christmas Holiday in Porto, Portugal – December 2015

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Unable to spend the holidays with our family, my husband and I decided to take a little relaxing getaway to Portugal. We decided to spend Christmas in the town of Porto. We just pre-booked our accommodations and that was it. Everything else we were just going to figure it out as we went. We spent five full days in Porto and loved every minute of it. Just going with the flow was not a problem. There were plenty of things to do and see. Porto was far from boring during Christmas. Here are the highlights:

Food

francesinhaTry the Portuguese dish called the francesinha (pictured on the right), which is a sandwich with layers upon layers of different meats, covered in melted cheese and topped with a cooked egg. I do not want to think about how much cholesterol there was in that meal.

Not surprisingly, many restaurants are closed Christmas Eve night and Christmas night. Plan accordingly. We found that kabob stands around the city and hotel restaurants are open.

Drink

The Cafe Majestic is the perfect place for a great cup of coffee (though slightly more expensive than other cafes in the area). It is a stunning cafe but is very popular and well-known so do not be surprised if there is a line out the door.

port tastingAn absolute must in Porto is to take a port wine tour. There are many vineyards and cellars to choose from across the Douro River from Porto’s city center. We chose to visit Taylor’s Port Wine Cellar. For 7 Euros a person, we were given a lesson in the origins and creation of port wine, a fantastic tour of the cellars, and three tastings that we were able to enjoy from a scenic veranda that overlooked the city of Porto. Such an amazing deal for this wonderful experience!

The Christmas Scene

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treeI loved the Christmas decorations found all over Porto, from the Christmas tree in front of City Hall (pictured above and on the right) to the ice skating rink in the park to the markets and finally the street lights (pictured below). On Christmas Day we sat inside Clerigos Church and listened to popular Christmas songs being played on the organ. We were surprised to find after the organ concert that the Clerigos museum and tower were open on Christmas, so we climbed the 240 steps for some breathtaking views of Porto’s city center and the Douro River.

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Sights

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As a book lover, I really enjoyed visiting the Lello & Irmao Bookstore (pictured above). It is said that the ornately decorated inside of the bookstore inspired parts of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. It is simply stunning!

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Porto has unique architecture. Its buildings are coated with tiles (pictured above). You will find grand tile murals located inside the Sao Bento train station.

If the weather is nice, like it was for us, then take a nice relaxing boat cruise down the Douro River. It is a great opportunity to get a different visual perspective of Porto and take lots of pictures.

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Seaside Excursion from Porto

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Since we were so blessed with sunny and warm weather, we decided to take the 500 bus from Porto’s city center (across from the Sao Bento train station) to Matosinhos, which is a nice beach town on the Atlantic Ocean. We got to Matosinhos in time to have a wonderful seafood lunch at Restaurante Lage do Senhor do Padrao. The seabass is fantastic (pictured on the right). foodMatosinhos has a wonderful walking path along the coast where you can people watch and enjoy the waves crashing on the shore (picture above). It is a great place to view an amazing sunset (picture at bottom).

We loved Porto! If it isn’t on your travel bucket list, it should be!

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