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Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Part 1

Source: Celebrity Cafe
by Janet Pope
August 4, 2006

“Schlemiel, Schlimazel....Move over Laverne and Shirley, Milwaukee has grown up and moved on without you.”

Mention Laverne and Shirley, or God forbid, Lenny and Squiggy and most Milwaukee natives will cringe. For those who have never had the pleasure of discovering this city recently, it has become so much more than cheese, beer and your memory of the Shotz Brewery.

I headed off from New York City to Milwaukee for a two-day jaunt, to primarily experience Summerfest. Billed as the world's largest music festival, the title alone intrigued me. My trip, though a short one, was a pleasant surprise from beginning to end. To start, I need to put in a mention of Midwest Airlines. I had never flown Midwest before, and I was immediately struck by the width and comfort of the seats, which to me was the closest seating I have had to first class. The flight was thankfully uneventful and pleasant enough, but as I was nodding off, the delectable smell of warm chocolate cookies roused me from what I thought was a dream. This was not a dream- coffee, tea and cookies were being served. Personally, I'd travel Midwest again, just for the cookies. Traveling tends to be draining, so what could better brighten up your flight, than a cookie break? There's an inner child in all of us, yearning to be comforted.

Milwaukee

The hotel was The Comfort Inn Suites, formerly The Park East Hotel. My room was a spacious suite, with a living room I never even got a chance to sit in. The amenities I did avail myself of, were the complimentary buffet breakfast, free shuttle service to museums and Summerfest and a business center. It is also within walking distance to many attractions and the magnificent lake. I ventured out into Milwaukee with the hotel shuttle to the Pabst Mansion. This town was built by beer barons and has a rich history revolving around the beer industry. The Flemish Renaissance Revival mansion, built in 1890, was owned by Captain Frederick and Marie Pabst. After the death of the Captain, the house was bought by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and a succession of five archbishops lived in the house, with luckily most of the original furniture and interiors remaining.

This home was a definite indicator of the wealth of its original owners. There is an abundance of woods throughout the house, with each room having a distinct mahogany or oak, wooden floor and door. Pocket doors were actually made with different solid woods on each side to match the room in both wood and details. The stained glass windows duplicated the carvings on the wood in each room. The attention to detail is evidenced throughout the mansion, making this a beautiful house to visit.

Milwaukee

I have seen so many houses on my travels and after awhile one old house begins to blur into the next, but this one is a rare treasure. With a distinct German flavor, there are German sayings within the stained glass in the kitchen and painted on the ceiling in the "men's" parlor. One of the sayings is "To learn, to strive, to honor, to wait with patience." Captain Pabst and his wife had 14 servants and I think the little proverbs and quotes scattered throughout, were subtle, everyday reminders to his staff to develop the high work and family ethic he himself maintained. Pabst was, at one time, the world's largest lager beer brewery. It closed down about 10 years ago and through the years other breweries like- Schlitz, Pabst and Blatz also closed up shop. Miller is now the only brewery left in a town known for its beer.

That evening I dined with a group at a restaurant opened in 2000, by Chef Michael Feker, called Il Mito. Eating here was more than having a dinner out, it was truly a dining experience. From the music, by the Lynne Barber Trio, to the wines coordinating with each course of the meal. From the low-lit ambiance to the eclectic menu, Il Mito was a delicious treat. I began the meal with a tossed salad with chopped mushrooms and beets, followed by excellent pasta with shrimps and scallops in a creamy sauce. My main dish was veal chops with potatoes and mushrooms, sweetened with tangy mango. The finale was fresh strawberries over a lemon sorbet. I felt like applauding when the meal was done.

Over dinner my fellow diners and I spoke about our misconceptions about Milwaukee and all the city currently has to offer, especially Summerfest, which we all look forward to tomorrow.

Today was my day to discover Milwaukee and Summerfest. A bus tour was scheduled to give my fellow travelers and myself an overview of the city. It ended up being a playful tease, as we passed by many attractions we didn't have enough to explore. Well, there's always a return visit.

A definite must see the next time around is the Milwaukee Art Museum, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 2001, it underwent a $121 million dollar expansion- yes I said $121 million and was voted the Best Design of 2001. With its 90-foot high windows and wing-like roof structure, which actually opens and shuts like the wings of a bird, the building itself is a stunning work of art. In addition, the collection is world class and houses a collection of over 20,000 works from antiquity to present, including many Georgia O'Keeffe paintings- a famed Milwaukee native.

Our bus passed the tallest building in Wisconsin at 42 stories- The U.S. Bank, as well as many art deco buildings that have been refurbished, including the Old Wisconsin Gas Company, topped by an ever-changing 21' tall weather "flame."

Veteran's Park, along the lake's edge, was filled with paddle-boaters, kiters, joggers and strollers. The lake was a vibrant blue and the white sailboats gliding peacefully by, formed a picture worth taking. There are also five free swimming beaches in Milwaukee to enjoy, all of which looked so clean, pristine and inviting. Speaking of clean, the entire city is immaculate and a pleasure to walk or ride through. There’s a shiny freshness everywhere.

Part 2 >>

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