Wisconsin – Days 1-3: An Impromptu Tour, A Night Out, and A Night In

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A few days before I arrived in Wisconsin Alex had invited me on a virtual date. I decided my first afternoon in Madison would be a perfect time for said date. Alex found this vegetarian place called the Green Owl Cafe and we FaceTimed while we had lunch together. I was at Green Owl Cafe in Madison, WI and he was at home in Houston, TX. I’m not going to lie, it was adorable. I had a lot of fun. He’s the best. He even called ahead to make sure he could pay for my meal over the phone, and he did. What a gentleman.

In Madison I was staying with Kate, a friend from high school. As it happens, the night I arrived Kate was planning on attending a Masters cello recital by this other girl we went to high school with, Stephanie. Kate asked if I’d like to come. I said, of course I would!

So, together, Kate and I went to Stephanie’s cello recital. It was great. It’d been a long time since I’d been to a classical music concert. I really enjoyed myself. Afterward there was a reception and I had not one, but TWO pieces of cake and it was delicious. Kate and I said hi to Stephanie and her sister Sarah, who I was also friends with in high school. It was like a mini Blaine High School reunion.

When we got back to Kate’s place after the recital Kate made an awesome brussel sprout, onion, and mozzarella cheese pizza on a naan crust. So. Freaking. Good!

The next morning we got up and went to the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Capitol Square. There were so many free samples. So. Much. Cheese. We stopped at the Chris and Lori’s Bakehouse stand and got scones for breakfast. Mine was dark chocolate coconut. Whoa. Best. Scone. Ever.

This particular Saturday happened to be the day of the Crazy Legs race in Madison. I later learned Crazy Legs is named after a person, Elroy Hirsch – the former Athletic Director of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. The race is a fundraiser for UW athletics. There were so many people. Some were running the 8k, others were walking 2 miles. Kate and I walked with the walkers for part of their trek as we explored Madison. Then, when I noticed there was a sizable gap coming up I captured this gem:

Crazy Legs walkers in front of the Capitol, Madison, WI.

Crazy Legs walkers in front of the Capitol, Madison, WI.

We were on our way to the Wisconsin State Capitol when we passed the Overture Center for the Arts which had a sign out front saying a free tour would be starting at 11:00 a.m.. It was 10:56 a.m.. I took this as a sign and we went in for the tour. Kate and I were the only ones in our tour group and our tour guide, Kristi, was really excited about showing us what we wanted to see. Since I’m a geek I, of course, wanted to see as much of the theatres as possible. Kristi delivered spectacularly.

Before showing us the unique architectural features of the space, or the theatres themselves though, Kristi informed us that the Overture Center for the Arts was funded by one person. As such, it is the largest donation to the arts by a single person ever. Wait , what?! Crazy. How crazy? TWO-HUNDRED and FIVE MILLION dollars crazy… Yeah, two hundred and five million dollars donated by one person. It’s a magnificent space though. Seriously, if it wasn’t so cold in the Midwest for like half the year I’d totally try to get a job there. It’s gorgeous.

I'd be so happy if I got to work in this space, Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, WI.

I’d be so happy if I got to work in this space, Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, WI.

My favorite space was the Capitol Theater. Like what is this place? It’s so pretty I almost want to cry. Ridiculous. Another fun fact about the Overture Center? It’s home to the largest moveable organ in the world. Yep, true story. Random, but awesome.

After our super awesome tour of the Overture Center for the Arts we headed over and took a tour of the State Capitol. Also a pretty cool place. I loved the skylights in all the main government halls.

One of the skylights in the Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, WI.

The skylight in the Supreme Court room at the Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, WI.

I also enjoyed, albeit with disbelief, the story about how the second Wisconsin State Capitol building burned to the ground. So, first their fire insurance ran out and they didn’t renew it. Then, of course, a few weeks later there was a fire. The emergency fire sprinkler system had been shut off earlier that day for some reason. The ice on the lakes was too thick to get any water, so they sent word to Milwaukee. Milwaukee came to the rescue and sent water by train, which arrived a few hours later. Unfortunately, the water had frozen the taps shut. Apparently no one thought to light a fire and melt the taps…or the ice on the lake, and there was no other water in the entire city of Madison, because the whole building burned to the ground over the course of a day and half. Also, it seems people back in the day were terrible at problem solving because no one thought to flip the switch to use the city’s water… Oy. Great story though. Super epic.

We went back to Kate’s place and had lunch and watched tv and I got some work done, then we went over to her friend’s house and played the card game President and Asshole (P&A). I’d explain it, but it’s complicated, and I don’t really feel like it. Google it if you’re really interested. Kate and I used to play P&A with our group of friends in high school. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I played P&A was at our friend Darbi’s cabin the summer after my freshman year of college.

Later we went to Alchemy to watch a band called Beat Chefs cover pop songs. They were supposed to start at 10 p.m.. We got to Alchemy a little after 10:30 p.m.. Music finally started at around 11:30 p.m.. Woof. I was still exhausted from the other day in Marquette, MI. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at least twice toward the end. To be fair, we stayed until the bar closed at 2 a.m., and like I said, I was exhausted and sleep deprived. On the plus side, the food at Alchemy was delicious. Kate and I split the stuffed grilled cheese, though she was offended they didn’t have cheese curds and is convinced they are the only place in Madison where you can’t get them. I found this incredibly funny.

Needless to say I was beyond thrilled to go to bed that night and thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in the next morning. When I eventually got up, Kate made pancakes for breakfast and then I headed to Milwaukee. It was a gloomy and chilly day so I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to start. I was quite impressed with the range of their collection and really enjoyed myself. When I left it was even colder and I really wasn’t in the mood for chilly wanderings so I just headed to my host’s house instead.

We had a laid back night, I worked on some things on my computer and we watched a documentary called Autism in Love. I really liked the documentary. I laughed; I cried. It was great.

The following morning I wandered down to the lakeshore and went to Lakeshore State Park. It was such a beautiful day. Quite the contrast from the day before. I wandered around the Historic Third Ward, but either I wasn’t in the right place, or I’d just been expecting something totally different. Either way I wasn’t digging it so I left and ran some errands before driving to Chicago.

Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee, WI.

Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee, WI.