By the time this is published it will have been almost a year since our week in Minnesota–St. Paul, to be exact–where we stayed with our friends Renee and Erik and their daughter, Mikaela.
Some background: Renee and I were roommates all four years in college. Randomly placed together, we became the best of friends. John was in her first French class so she’s known him longer than I have. Renee started dating Erik the summer after John and I became a couple, so this is a friendship of very long standing. Yet things being the way they are, the last time we saw Renee was when she and Mikaela flew into Knoxville to help me get my house in order before Lorelei arrived (that’s the kind of friends they are) and we hadn’t seen Erik since our last visit to Minnesota which was about 17 years ago! So this was a much-anticipated reunion.
We could not have asked for better hosts. They gave us a whole basement to stay in and took us shopping and bought food for the week, taking account of very picky William. William had a hard time being away from home and routines for a week and they could not have been kinder or more understanding of his needs. Some days they had to work–in fact, Renee had to go out of town on business for a couple of days–but they made sure we had places to go, things to see, and a home to return to. We had so much fun! And I’m going to share some of the highlights with you.
First on our agenda was Como Park, which was just down the road a piece. First we went to the Conservatory.
Next we went to the zoo. Now we’d been to the zoo on our last visit and had joked over the years about how . . . shall we say . . . behind the times it was. I am happy to say that conditions were vastly improved. I didn’t take a lot of pictures but I can tell you that we especially enjoyed watching the gorillas and their baby.
There’s a story behind that polar bear picture. Last time we visited, the polar bear exhibit was much smaller, and the bear was obviously disturbed–swimming in a particular unvarying pattern over and over again. We’ve never forgotten about this sad sight, so we were very excited to see that the polar bear exhibit was revamped and the bear was playing with toys and splashing and just having a marvelous time.
But then we learned the rest of the story . . . when we happened to move to the other side of the exhibit and saw that inside the enclosure the original bear was pacing, clearly as sad and disturbed as ever. I guess the change came too late for him.
You’ve probably heard about all the lakes in Minnesota and we enjoyed several, going swimming in two that were nearby and walking around the one at Como Park. I don’t know why I didn’t take more pictures.
The following day we visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We couldn’t see everything, and William has an interest in Asia, so that was the section where we started. We never made it to the European exhibits. Again, I wish I had taken more pictures. It’s an incredible museum.
Teddy joined us midweek–he’d been working in Connecticut–and he came with us to tour the absolutely beautiful St. Paul Cathedral. It was the perfect place to explore on a rainy afternoon.
There’s never enough time to really experience a cathedral. What with all the statues and side chapels and iconography and inscriptions I cold have spent hours there.
It wasn’t the best day for it but the windows were still pretty.
The main altar was stunning, and then behind it were wooden carvings, every one with meaning, that also cast these cool shadows.
There was a mini-museum downstairs with some of the history of the cathedral, and after we took a look at that we headed out to drive around downtown St. Paul and look for some dinner.
We ended up in a neat neighborhood with an Ethiopian restaurant and a cool used bookstore right down the street. William had never had Ethiopian food, and he pronounced it “grand.”
Our hosts thought we might like a trip to Duluth, which was a bit of a drive, so on one of the days they could accompany us we went on a road trip! Duluth has lots of cool shops and restaurants so we started off by exploring the town.
Then we went swimming in Lake Superior–wading, really, because it was chilly and the waves were rough. The kids had never seen a Great Lake before and I think they were pretty impressed. We had fun chatting and watching them play.
On our last day in Minnesota we did something I bet you’ve never done–we went to the Corgi races! Yes, you read that right. We went to a nearby racetrack which was hosting a special event and it was just as cute as you might imagine. The corgi races were interspersed with horse races, which is something I had never experienced in person so that was also pretty cool.
That was our last day and the racetrack was actually along the road (the VERY LONG VERY FLAT ROAD) toward home, so we left straight from there. I’ve left out tons of details from our trip–the non-photogenic ones like going to see the newest Star Trek film together, and shopping at the largest liquor store we’d ever seen, and watching movies together every night, and playing with their sweet elderly cat, and assisting Mikaela as she made homemade pasta–but I think you can tell that it was a wonderful trip with wonderful old friends who we probably shouldn’t wait 15 years to visit again!