This adventure started with yet another early morning flight (via Chicago), and a final leg in a tiny plane to Milwaukee. After we visited the scariest Walmart yet, we went to our hotel, which may have been the most beautiful hotel we have stayed in during our entire time in America. It was a gorgeous old building that had been beautifully restored/maintained in a Victorian style, with grand staircases, stunning chandeliers and ironwork that left me flabbergasted.
We rugged ourselves up in jumpers, coats, gloves, hats (and buried the baby under jackets and blankets in his travel pram) and set out on a food hunt. I don't know why, but I had always wanted to go to Wisconsin. Possibly because it is well known for beer, brats and cheese - who doesn't like that list! After a brisk walk in the freezing cold we explored the local farmers market and ate some cheese and red wine, and then had dinner at a brewery where Tristan had a burger that had two toasted cheese sandwiches as buns! And he ate the lot!
After a sleep in and pancakes for breakfast we went for a drive along the beach at Lake Michigan, which was partially frozen and covered in snow. It was so strange to see a "beach house" carpeted in snow; what should have been manicured lake sand, blanketed in so much snow it was actually difficult to tell where the "sand" would have ended and the "beach" would have started. I actually think it was one of the most foreign things we have seen on our American adventure. Next we went to the Harley Davison Museum (Milwaukee is where the original bikes were made) which was really interesting, and Zac did his very first drawing there - which was exciting. That evening we went to a lovely pub/cheese shop (BEST IDEA EVER!!) for afternoon tea and met some lovely locals. Cider, cheese and good company was a definite trip highlight.
The next day we drove to Chicago. It's a big city! And it has a gorgeous skyline! BUT IT WAS THE COLDEST PLACE IN THE WORLD EVER!!! It is well named the windy city. We stayed in an awesome hotel in the heart of downtown (where parking cost us $49 a night!) that was close to everything that you could imagine. That afternoon we
The next day we brought tickets for the hop on/off bus to get around the city and explored the Magnificent Mile shopping district, climbed the John Hancock building, and the theatre district (rugged up in five layers of clothes). That night we went to restaurant that was famous for deep dish pizza. I can't say either Tristan or I particularly liked the iconic meal, but I guess we are glad we tried it. Another day, and another day on and off the bus. We went up Sears Tower, went to the planetarium and tried to take photos of the city - which was difficult because, as in Jack and the Beanstalk, the clouds swallowed buildings so you had no idea what was in the sky. Tristan tried a Chicago style hot dog (blurh) and I poked my folk at Italian beef.... (Note: I thought all "Chicago style" food was gross) and for dinner we had some amazing Indian. Overall, I'm sure Chicago is an amazing city, but its not a place for tourists in winter. It was freezey cold!
After leaving Chicago we drove to Indianapolis, with a quick side trip into Michigan to say we had been there, and stopped at an adorable coastal town that was closed for the season. We learnt a lot of the northern parts of the country are often "closed" for tourists between Labor Day (September) and Memorial Day (May) - I'm guessing due to inhospitable weather. In Indianapolis we stayed at an awesome hotel that was once central station, so there were old carriages that had been converted into hotel rooms, and statues of people who would have frequented the station back in the day. I really liked it.
Indianapolis was a really interesting city. On the face of it, the city seemed dead - but actually they had built a system of air bridges to contact all the buildings, so basically you didn't need to go outside which was great, because the weather didn't get much above freezing while we were there - though the sun did come out which was great! We explored the local markets, went to a Man Vs Food recommended diner for fantastic pork snitty sandwiches for lunch, and went to the best museum EVER in the afternoon. The Indianapolis Children's museum is the biggest in the country and it's AMAZING! As you drive up, there are dinosaurs trying to escape the building, in the lobby there a life-size Bumblebee transformer from the actual movie, a HUGE toy shop, there was a matchbox toy car interactive exhibit, insects - all around awesome!! The three of us had so much fun together. While in Indianapolis we also visited the Indi Speedway which was cool as we got to walk on the actual track.
Back on the road, we went to the US Air Force Museum in Columbus, OH, which was enormous! Tristan was in heaven! There were planes from every era (I think there was every military plane!), every war, new spy planes, experimental aircraft, Presidential planes, and a special area on space where there was a mock up of the type of satellite that Tristan works with here in America. I honestly think that Tristan could have spent an entire day exploring!
We spent St Patricks day in Cleveland OH. We attempted to go to town and explore, but it seems there had been parade earlier that was getting a little wild, so the police strongly suggested we head back to our hotel for the night. Close to the hotel we found this great little bar and bistro that had more beer and bourbon on tap than we had ever seen. It was pretty cool. The next day we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and listened to heaps of great music. The museum was on the waterfront, so we got to see more frozen lake and snow covered boats.
The final leg of our adventure took us to Niagara Falls. I think everyone has a picture in their heads of what this world wonder looks like, but nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of this place in winter. We started on the American side and walked to the viewing platform - I need to point out that it was snowing at this point, with a wicked wind that stole your warmth with every breathe - but it was awe inspiring, gob-smackingly amazing, made your eyes pop, WOW! Due to the weather conditions we didn't have any people to elbow out of the way, so all we had to do was stop and stare. Snow and ice frosted every rock and plant, the water spray froze in place creating the illusion that the entire falls was glittering, and the water gushed and pulsed over the edge into an abyss, that was frozen at the bottom, creating an almost complete ice bridge, with small gaps where you could see the waters force pushing everything down stream.
Crossing on to the Canadian side of the falls, and seeing the iconic horseshoe falls made the American side seem lame - it was that impressive. It was similar in that everything was snow capped, frosted and glittering but more spectacular in the sense it was so much bigger and you could see the beauty of nature cascading over the edge creating a wall of water spray that looked like a necklace of the finest lace. And this was just by day light: of a night, beams of light in patriotic colours are shone onto these spectacular feats of nature. There are no words that can describe that marvel - AMAZING and WOW seem to be both too many and too few words to describe it.
Away from the falls themselves, there is a carnival feel to the town of Niagara. There are game shacks, wax museums, lego displays, kitchy stores, casinos every time you turn around - it's very family fun orientated. We spent a cold afternoon having a look around, but really our attention had been stolen by the falls.
After 13 (freezy cold, snowy, windy, icy, miserable weather) days away from home, it was more than time to get back to sunny Denver. It had been an eye opening adventure, with nothing being as we expected. We saw some really cool things, marvels of man and nature, imagination and wonder. We got to experience life in some real American cities that had both grown and contracted, prospered with the economy and become destitute in the recession. We saw the Great Lakes - while frozen and snowy, they had a uniqueness to them that we had never experienced before. It was a truly a wide and wondrous adventure.
Baby spent the entire trip rugged up in winter woollies, under jackets and blankets, beanies and gloves - so toasty warm that we frequently had to take layers off him. Meanwhile, I'm shocked that Tristan didn't lose a finger in the cold, due to his insistence on not wearing gloves for the majority of the trip. And me - I am over my love affair with Winter. My once favourite season has been booted to the bottom after making me spend a miserable two weeks away from home, being nothing but hard work for my wonderful husband.
But one thing is for sure - this Apperley family learnt why the birds fly south for the Winter!