Monday, August 21, 2006


So, vacation with Tonya was a blast. Thank God for frequent flier miles, eh? I've never been to Wisconsin and my only stipulation to Tonya was that we had to eat at non-chain restaurants and we had to do Wisconsin-y things. The weather was awesome - mid 70s during the day and a little cooler at night, and it's so fun to do all the tourist stuff that you don't do in your home town or when you're traveling for work. I'm totally the kind of person to pull over for the world's biggest ball of twine.

I flew to Chicago on Tuesday and had to get on a puddle-jumper to Green Bay - American doesn't fly into Appleton at all and only shuttles Eagle flights to Green Bay. That afternoon T and I gorged on some pasta at a local Italian place called Gratzi's. We went back to her house and got me settled in, made some cocktails, looked up Wisconsin attractions on the internet, watched some television, and caught up.

Wednesday morning we hit the ground running. We went to the Outagamie County Museum where there was a great 60's exhibit with a lot of local flavor (when JFK spoke at Kaukauna High, a local's POW story, etc.) - and I have to state for the record that I really think I missed my era with the 60's. The music, the clothes, the protests... I would have been an awesome hippie. Next stop, the Houdini exhibit. Apparently, although Houdini (aka Eric Weiss) was born in Budapest, he grew up in Appleton, WI and always claimed it as his hometown. It was an exhibit geared for kids but we had a great time nonetheless. Last stop was a photo exhibit of Appleton and an exhibit on the "tools of change," or machinery of the Fox River Valley 1850-1950. Apparently Appleton was quite the hotspot for midwest innovation, boasting the first telephone in all Wisconsin, the first Chinese restaurant in Outagamie County, and the first incandescent light in any city beyond the east coast. The first hydroelectric power was generated in Appleton, on the Fox River. The Valley Fair Shopping Mall, recognized as the first enclosed shopping mall in the US, was built in Appleton in 1954. Seriously!

Next we hit the BIG SCREEN movie theater. Six stories high and over 80' wide, the theater broadcasts educational films in 70mm. We wanted to see one on natural disasters but it wasn't showing that day so we opted for "The Living Sea," narrated by Meryl Streep and featuring special music by Sting. We sat two rows from the back and had to get up and move to the very back for comfort in watching.

After the movie we went to the new martini bar in town, The St. James, which was great: dark wood, Frank Sinatra, and over 150 martinis. Tonya actually got a punch card which has to be the funniest thing I've ever seen. (Krys, I sent you a picture of it on my phone; did you get it?) Then we had sushi at the alleged "best restaurant in Appleton"- it was pretty damn good, I must say, and they even had a "Wisconsin roll," which was shrimp and Wisconsin cheddar. Different, but I liked it. Then we made our way over the the aforementioned Valley Fair Shopping Mall, which will (according to Wikapedia) be mostly destroyed in 2006, pending the sale from the previous (now bankrupt) mall owners. It's seriously creepy - a horror movie waiting to happen. The only working entrance is to the movie theater (the $2.75 movie theater) and the rest of it is all empty and chained/gated off, and eerie and dusty. T and I are apparently the only 2 people on the planet yet to see The DaVinci Code, so we saw that and were both somewhat underwhelmed. We then went BACK to the martini bar for another couple of punches in ye olde punch card, and were home by midnight.

We (obviously) slept like rocks and met Thursday with renewed energy. We stopped to judge the validity of an establishment so-called "Big Apple Bagels"- where they weren't, but they were very good- and still in the Wisconsin spirit I ordered a cheddar/bacon bagel with Wisconsin Cheddar cream cheese. I'm pretty sure it elevated my cholesterol about a hundred points, but it was certainly tasty. We took a little road trip north up the coast to Door County. Door County is known for its antiques, its stained glass, its bed & breakfast's, and having more lighthouses than any county in America. We went to Sturgeon Bay and shopped, ate (ham and bean soup, grilled cheese, fresh lemonade at an inn in town), visited a lighthouse, a winery, and a dairy, and then ate dinner at the Old Mill Supper Club: an authentic Wisconsin Fish Boil. You can read all about our fish boil here, but my favorite part of the day was the light house. It's actually an official USCG property so we couldn't go up in it, but we went out on the pier and got some nice photos. My favorite part was the signs we followed to get there.

We then raced the sun back to Appleton (about 70 miles) so we could get to Waverly Beach before the sunset. The tiki bar was closed but we had a drink inside and headed back home to watch When Harry Met Sally. (RIP Bruno Kirby. ) Making solemn vows to "sleep in" the next day, we hit the sack only to be awoken at 6:30 by water pipe construction RIGHT OUTSIDE HER DRIVEWAY. Geez.

Friday we made some breakfast and spent the morning - and I do mean, the entire morning - watching Cinderella Man. We'd both been planning on watching it for a while but man, what a beating. Ron Howard is usually a favorite of mine but he was striking out all last week for me. It's not that the movie wasn't good; it was, very. It was just incredibly long and didn't surprise me at any turn. It was exactly what I expected. However, it was nice to stay in and veg out - I helped T with some computer stuff and we played around on our laptops. We finally dragged ourselves to lunch at her favorite restaurant, Fratello's, which is right on the river in an old power plant. The city of Appleton sold it to them for $1 in exchange for their complete renovation of the integrity of the building. It was gorgeous. We had a couple of appetizers and went back home to get Brent, who was back from his trip.

We all headed downtown for a drink at Cleo's, their favorite bar, which is decked out, 365 days a year, in the most awesome, kitschy, white trashy Christmas decorations. It was so fun! We walked over to the Art Center, where they were showing a marble exhibit. Tons of beautiful, historical marbles from all over the world, and at least 50 marble games, all of which we played, including the "largest marble game in Wisconsin." If that doesn't thrill you, you have a heart of STONE, folks! It was so fun. We did some walking around downtown, went into some shops, had another round of sushi (different restaurant) and then back to the martini bar. Brent hadn't been there yet so we of course had to take him. We pretty much closed the bar down just talking and having a great time.

Saturday we went to their favorite mom & pop bakery, where 3 huge danishes, a doughnut, a cinammon bun, and a cup of coffee cost us $4.50, and I got packed up and ready to go. We watched most of Back to the Future 2, classic, and got some burritos from the shop T affectionately dubbed "the poor man's Chipotle." We loaded up and headed into Green Bay so I could see the wonder that is Lambeau Field. There was a game so I got to see the full effect of the fanatacism of Green Bay supporters. And um, WOW.

Then I flew home!!

Thanks, T, for a wonderful time - can't wait to do it again. Kisses!!


Blogger Shelly said...

While it saddens me to see you wearing that cheese head hat, I am glad you had a great time!

August 22, 2006 9:09 AM  
Blogger Giovanna said...

Have you heard the Weird Al song about the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota? LOL

On the subject of kids music, did you know Bradley Whitford and Jane K. recorded a song called "The Jiggles" for a children's CD called "A World of Happiness"? I heard it the other day and laughed. Just another reason to love that cutie.

August 22, 2006 1:33 PM  
Blogger krysten said...

that sounds like a wonderful trip!! it reminds me that i am the laziest person alive and have done absolutely nothing for my entire life.

how depressing.

i DID get your punch card...i took it to mean that my $10 was used there. ;-)

and i DID get the EW cover one as well, although i didnt hear it come in last night...dont know why. cant wait till sept 5th when we get to see more of him. also, lost is being released that day, and dont think for a MOMENT that i dont already have it on pre-order!!

August 22, 2006 1:53 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Who knew Green Bay could be so much fun? I'll have to add that to my list of cities to visit now... Nice cheese head!

August 22, 2006 3:08 PM  

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