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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20 Years of Travel #4: Cuba

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My fourth destination on my 20 Years of Travel series is Cuba! As many of you know, as an American, this destination was not open to US visitors during my lifetime until recently. In 2015, Americans were allowed with some restrictions to travel to Cuba, so my husband, his parents and I jumped at the opportunity to visit. At that time you still had to provide an reason for being there, so we were on a People to People Excursion, which was also a photography tour.

I’ve never been on a photography tour like this before. It wasn’t just walk the streets and 10629491_10153326903992986_2203594805029205430_otake pictures. It was get up before the sun to learn how to take sunrise shots. There were no naps on the bus rides, because that was when you learned about your camera’s features and editing features by professional photographers: Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring. Then you get to have your photos critiqued (nicely…of course) by the other members in the group. It was a very intensive course, but I learned so much. I hope I am still using at least 10% of what I learned about photography during that week..

Trinidad

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I loved this town. It was comprised of vibrant colors and interesting people. We spent a lot of time wandering the streets here, getting a real taste of the Cuban culture. We found a few musicians, who were very talented. That convinced me that I should check out one12370645_10153326900147986_5447113127593441798_o of the Cuban salsa clubs in the evening, which was interesting and definitely not something I had experienced before. While taking a break on one of our daily walks, we found a man who was telling us about his daily routine of walking many miles down a hill outside of town to come and sell a few bananas for not even the equivalent of $2 US dollars. Then he would walk back up the hill every evening. His shoes were worn almost completely through, and it was a bit heartbreaking. Shoes that cost us $50 US dollars would cost Cubans 5 times that, since at the time they were imported from China. I really felt that I was gaining a huge understanding of basic Cuban life during our time in Trinidad.

Cienfuegos

If you have read Hemingway, Cienfuegos might sound familiar. It was featured in The Old Man and the Sea, which I read for the first time while I was in Cienfuegos. I thought it1933246_10153326904842986_8162388911926568875_o was quite appropriate. This town is located on a bay, so you will see a lot of boats – both yachts and fishing boats. While we did have some luxury time to indulge in some of Cuba’s famous liquor (see photo below), we spent a portion of our time at an art school. These young people were so talented. They just blew me away on how they could take any item and turn it into an amazing piece of art (see picture on the right where they were using just clothespins). They were so happy to tell us about their school and what art means to them.

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Viñales

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This part of Cuba was the biggest shock to me. The lush greenery reminded me of something I would see on a South Pacific Island. I wasn’t expecting this. As we headed 12366043_10153326907947986_173294949960655377_ointo the hills, we saw a lot of farm land and stopped at one such farm. This farm grows crops, raises animals like chickens, and produces coffee (see picture below). The owners of this farm were really welcoming. It was interesting to experience farming without the giant machinery, though it has to be such hard labor (see picture on the left). The land in this part of Cuba seems to get enough rain that an advanced irrigation system is not necessary at least. I felt a little bad for invading on this family during their work day, but they were so friendly and even brewed some coffee for us.

After getting a true taste of rural Cuba, we headed into the hills. If you enjoy biking there are some great biking trails in this area. The scenery is just amazing. While our hotel (Hotel Los Jazmines) did not produce the most comfortable night’s sleep, the views were just stunning (see below). I almost didn’t regret getting up before the sun to capture these amazing photographs.

Havana

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We ended our trip with a few days in Havana. It has been a dream of mine to see Havana12377523_10153326893612986_8703232530813394301_o since I was a little kid (thank you Guys and Dolls), so I was really looking forward to this. Havana is not just a great place to learn about Cuba’s history (though we did visit the Revolution Museum, which was great) and view it’s amazing architecture (see picture on the right), but the arts are prevalent in Cuban culture as mentioned in my Trinidad section. We started our exploration into their arts scene by visiting the studio of Compas Dance. They performed for us as well and just blew me away.

We also went to visit a Cuban ballet company, where they were rehearsing for a performance of Giselle.

I enjoyed this trip so much! It wasn’t about being a tourist. It was about exploring a culture that had been so unfamiliar to me. Cubans are such hard workers with so much passion. The people there opened up their homes and their hearts to us, and I just couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to finally have explored Cuba.

Stay tuned for the next feature in the 20 Years of Travel series. Until then….

HAPPY TRAVELING!!!

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