Long Time No Blog: Madison/Milwaukee

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. While I was gone I took a few vacations (Lake Anna, Wisconsin, New York) and got my own place. I’ll write more about that later, but for now, a few pictures of my trip to Wisconsin, starting with a brilliant Microsoft Paint portrait of my friend Nora, PhD film studies student at the University of Wisconsin, who hosted me during my time in Madison:

Dear friend Nora.

Dear friend Nora.

I spent three days exploring Madison with Nora and one day in Milwaukee on my own. I liked Madison; it’s a small city, an overgrown college town really, complete with a gargantuan state school and those old, sometimes barely inhabitable once grandiose Victorian homes you find in certain college towns, a huge farmer’s market, quirky shops, used bookstores,  bikers galore and independent coffee shops. In other words, my cup of tea. As a lifelong East Coaster, it was interesting to experience a city where people are intellectual, progressive and driven, but in a less militantly type A kind of way.

Madison has a really great farmer's market. The market follows the perimeter of the Wisconsin State Capitol (which looks very similar to the U.S Capitol) and you can find all kinds of fruits, vegetables, breads, pastries, deserts and, of course, cheeses.

Madison has a really great farmer’s market. The market follows the perimeter of the Wisconsin State Capitol (which looks very similar to the U.S Capitol) and you can find all kinds of fruits, vegetables, breads, pastries, deserts and, of course, cheeses, and is of course, significantly cheaper than what you’d find in a D.C area farmer’s market.

This guy was playing traditional French accordion songs by the market.

This guy was playing traditional French accordion songs by the market. I like that sort of thing

Madison feels somewhere between a city and a suburb. There are lots of single family houses and the city is more spread out with plenty of green spaces and lakes. It feels like a very “livable” place. Of course, I was here in summer and I imagine it’s pretty inhospitable in winter!

This is State Street, a fun pedestrian street near downtown. It seemed like a big college kid hangout.

This is State Street, a fun pedestrian street near downtown. It seemed like a big college kid hangout. I bought a couple of books from a pricey used bookstore here.

It seems like there are endless lakes in Wisconsin and this is a large one right in Madison. Lots of trails, biking, parks and boating on the lakes.

It seems like there are endless lakes in Wisconsin and this is a large one right in Madison. Lots of trails, biking, parks and boating on the lakes.

I saw this cool little window display and thought it deserved a picture.

I saw this cool little window display and thought it deserved a picture.

There are a lot of German/Scandinavian/Polish descendants in Wisconsin, so you see all kinds of cool houses. I've only lived in the suburbs in the U.S, so I found it very interesting to see so many unique and funky houses.  These look like barn houses to me.

There are a lot of German/Scandinavian/Polish descendants in Wisconsin, so you see all kinds of cool houses. I’ve only lived in the suburbs in the U.S, so I found it very interesting to see so many unique and funky houses. These look like barn houses to me and I found them adorable.

German House

Another cool looking house.

Despite the fact that I I don't have any particular fondness for gardening (I have three houseplants to my name) I really enjoy visiting gardens. This is the Thai temple at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Despite the fact that I I don’t have any particular fondness for gardening (I have three houseplants to my name) I really enjoy visiting gardens. This is the Thai temple at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Nora and I had a nice stroll through the botanical gardens.

In D.C, the city ends and the suburbs start. You have to go pretty far out, 25, 30 miles, to hit the countryside. But in Madison, the city ends and bam, you're in the middle of cornfields and barns!

In D.C, the city ends and the suburbs start. High density slowly turns in to lower and lower density suburbs, but it takes a while to really get out to the middle of nowhere. You probably You have to drive 20 or 30 miles to hit the countryside. But in Madison, the city ends and bam, you’re in the middle of cornfields and barns! I loved it. So many red barns everywhere! I loved it!

This is Baraboo, birthplace of the Ringling Brother's Circus and all around adorable town. Except it was so completely empty that it was spooky. Granted it was Sunday, but the utter lack of people was disconcerting.

This is Baraboo, birthplace of the Ringling Brother’s Circus and all around adorable town. Except it was so completely empty that it was spooky. Granted it was Sunday, but the utter lack of people was disconcerting. I have a coworker from Wisconsin who told me Wisconsin small town businesses tend to close on Sundays, so maybe the town feels more vibrant on other days. In Virginia, a town this adorable would be bursting with people to the point where you’d encounter traffic jams on the sidewalks.

We spent the afternoon at Devil's Lake outside of Madison.

We spent the afternoon at Devil’s Lake outside of Madison. Nothing like a sandy beach and a body of water so celebrate and relish the last days of summer.

A small sandy island in Devil's Lake.

A small sandy island in Devil’s Lake. Nora and I took a short hike up the cliffs/trails from Devil’s lake and had some great lake views.

And then I went to Milwaukee, which was kind of a strange place. There’s something a little gritty/edgy about it and the downtown area has some really fantastic buildings. There are some neat, attractive neighborhoods and tons of churches. Except there are no people. Madison has the University of Wisconsin so you constantly see people — mostly students — but the streets of downtown Milwaukee were strangely and eerily empty, even during rush hour. Mid-Atlantic and northeastern cities are, in many ways, walking cities, so it felt a bit strange to be in a city of (modest) skyscrapers…and minimal pedestrian life.

Mil Pabst Mansion

Pabst Mansion, Once home to the Pabst family. No one else showed up for the 1pm tour so I got a mansion tour all to myself! According to the tour guide, at one point there were 35 mansions on this street but now the neighborhood has a slightly dodgy feel. It’s home to Marquette University, gas stations and, of course, Pabst Mansions. Not even excess and grandeur last forever. Oh well.

Mil Bay View 1

I read good things about the Bay View neighborhood and decided to check it out. Kind of has that grungy/edgy feels some Midwestern cities have. It’s a nice neighborhood, but again, so people-less!

Mil Bay View

Cool building in Bay View neighborhood.

Mil Downtwon 5

There are some really impressive buildings in downtown Milwaukee. I loved this one. So old-world. I enjoyed walking through downtown and the Historic Third Ward. I see a lot of potential in this area of the city…now the city just needs to somehow establish a sense of vibrancy/vitality/community. Maybe there are usually more people, but I was here on a Tuesday afternoon around rush hour, so I have my doubts.

Mil Downtown 2

These buildings may be beux-artish, but the feel was more gothic.

Mil Downtown 1

The Milwaukee Riverfront. A nice development, but again, it lacks people and that sense of city-excitement that you get in more pedestrian cities.

Another building I liked.

Another building I liked.

Mil Downtown 4

The Milwaukee Riverfront in all its architectural glory.

It’s been a summer of Midwestern adventures. Next up? Phoenix, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and of course, plenty of small-town Mid-Atlantic adventures.

 



Categories: American Cities, U.S Travels

Tags: , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. What? So many trips!

    Nice pictures.

  2. This was great! I haven’t been to Madison since I left in 1984. It. Looks. The Same. 🙂

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