Thursday, March 31, 2016


As of 2015, I had never been to Wisconsin. Bob had been there several times for a continuing education seminar that he really liked, but those were the years when we had children at home, and I never got to go along. We decided that our trip to Minnesota in October 2015 was a great time to slip across the stateline so I could check Wisconsin off my list. After a bit of research, I determined that a visit to the Caddie Woodlawn Historical Park would be perfect.

On our way, we stopped for a few photos of the St. Paul Minnesota Temple. (Or was that on the drive to somewhere else? Hmmm.)
This temple was dedicated on January 9, 2000. I'll bet it was freezing that day. When we were there, however, it couldn't have been more beautiful.

We got back on the road and headed east on the 94 Freeway towards Menomonie, where we turned south on Highway 25. I added the green line to the map below to show what I think is the approximate location of the Minnesota-Wisconsin stateline and to prove that I did more than just put my big toe in Wisconsin:

Caddie Woodlawn is a historical fiction children's book written by Carol Ryrie Brink that I read and loved when I was nine or ten years old. Published in 1936, it received the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature that year. (The sign on the property erroneously lists the medal as being awarded in 1935.) Caddie Woodlawn was not actually a real person, but she was based on the author's grandmother, Caddie Woodhouse Watkins, who grew up in Wisconsin and whose home is now the anchor of this historical park.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


In the days of log cabins, horse-drawn wagons, and steamboats, forward-thinking citizens of St. Paul decided they needed a market where farmers could sell their harvest locally. St. Paul's first public market was built in 1853 and has operated continuously since then, although it has moved around to several different locations. Only fresh, locally grown or produced products are allowed to be sold there. 

We enjoyed strolling through the market in early October:

Friday, March 25, 2016


The University of Minnesota was the lucky recipient of a very large legacy from Frederick R. Weisman, a native Minnesotan who moved to California and married the sister of billionaire Norton Simon, made billions of dollars himself in multiple businesses (the man had the Midas touch), amassed a huge modern art collection, and gave most of it away.

The part given to the University of Minnesota is housed in a museum designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry, and with its stainless steel-coated twisting and turning exterior, it reminds me a lot of the Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles:
 The side facing the campus is a brick wall, meant to blend in with other buildings on campus, but the opposing side is an abstraction of a fish and a waterfall. Can you see it?
Neither can I, but I love it anyway.

The museum has a lovely setting alongside the river with a great view of downtown Minneapolis:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


It didn't take long to learn that Minnesota is full of surprises, and one of those surprises (at least for me) was how vibrant the art scene is. Much to my husband's dismay, we visited three art museums (if you count the sculpture garden as an art museum, which I do) in Minneapolis.

The surprise within the surprise was the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA).
I guess all art museums are full of surprises, which is what makes them so intriguing, but the MIA had more than its share of surprises.

Did you notice the art in the picture above? That was the first surprise--a bronze body-less head on the front lawn. Eros Bendato Screpolato (1999) by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj is 12 feet long, 7 feet tall, and 4,000 pounds. Translated, the title is something like "Eros in Cracked Bandages." The general feeling of decay and the empty eyes are haunting.

Just down the sidewalk is an angel standing on the back of what looks like a wolf. The work is entitled The Fighter of the Spirit (1928), and is an anti-war piece by German Expressionist artist Ernst Barlach.

 Isn't this a great face?

Saturday, March 19, 2016


The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden sits on eleven acres of prime real estate in downtown Minneapolis. With forty permanent installations, it is one of the largest sculpture gardens in the country. Unfortunately, when we were there, most of the sculptures were in storage while the park was getting a make-over.

We began our visit at the Cowles Conservatory, the ultimate "house with glass walls." The walk is lined with seasonal plantings, succulents, and ferns. Loud talking seems out of place in this almost church-like place.

Individual rooms are created by walls covered in creeping fig

The pathway opens up into this room filled by an enormous glass and steel fish created by architect Frank Gehry in 1986.
Of this sculpture, Gehry wrote, "In Toronto, when I was very young, my grandmother and I used to go to Kensington, a Jewish market, on Thursday morning. She would buy a carp for gefilte fish. She'd put it in the bathtub and this big black carp--two or three feet long--would swim around and I would play with it. I would watch it turn and twist . . . and then she'd kill it and make gefilte fish and that was always sad and awful and ugly."  This fish is worth a visit all by itself. Gehry's childhood trauma has become pure joy for today's tourists.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Like its fraternal twin in Minneapolis, the Basilica of St. Mary, the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota, was designed by Franco-American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray and built from 1906 to 1915. As was the case with the church in Minneapolis, work continued on the inside for many more years, and it wasn't considered complete until the last two rose windows were installed in 1941.
This stunning Classical Revival cathedral, considered by some to be Masqueray's magnum opus, sits on Summit Hill overlooking St. Paul and dominates the surrounding area. The 120-foot-wide dome is overlaid with copper, and the outside walls are granite from St. Cloud, Minnesota. At 306.5 feet high, this cathedral is the fourth tallest church in the United States
The architecture and engineering of a building like this are mind boggling to me.

I love the windswept angel who prays from the top of a nearby dome:
The window is lined with the Latin phrase "Euntes ergo docete omni gentes," or "Go ye therefore and teach all nations." Above the window, an ornate scene shows Christ sharing those words with ten of his apostles.

Peter and Paul peer down at visitors from their high perch on the cathedral wall. They don't look all that welcoming:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


The "Twin Cities" of Minneapolis and St. Paul are more like fraternal than identical twins. Although they have many things in common, they have distinct borders, and each has its own personality. 

One example of the fraternal-twin split can be illustrated by the Catholic church. Together, Minneapolis and St. Paul make up a Roman Catholic Archdiocese with about 750,000 members who are led by a single archbishop. Each city has a large church that acts as the religious heart of the city, and together the two buildings serve as "co-cathedrals" for the Archdiocese.  Both churches were designed by Franco-American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray (chief architect of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis) and were built at the same time, and they both reflect Masqueray's French training. 

And yet, just as the two cities are distinct, so are the two churches.

This post will focus on the building in Minneapolis, a Basilica dedicated to St. Mary, and my next post will discuss the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, which was actually built almost simultaneously. (Imagine that drain on the church budget.) 

Construction of St. Mary's Basilica took place between 1907 and 1915, although the interior decoration wasn't completed until 1925. There are 83 Roman Catholic churches in the United States that have been designated minor basilicas (the only four major basilicas being in Rome), and this was the very first one, attaining that status in 1926 when it was so designated by Pope Pius XI.
The architectural design is Classical/Baroque or Beaux Arts, depending on who you ask. (I don't know enough about architecture to know whether or not that is essentially the same style.) The two spires are 116 feet tall and the central dome is 138 feet. On top of the dome is a secondary structure and a cross, bringing the total height to 200 feet.

Images of Mary are prominent both outside and in:

Friday, March 4, 2016


The name "Minnesota" comes from the Dakota word for "clear blue water," and Minnesota's nickname is "Land of 10,000 Lakes." It should come as no surprise that two of the first sites we visited on our trip to Minnesota involved water.

Our first destination was Snelling State Park, which sits on the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. The Dakota Indians, who lived here before the Europeans arrived, considered this confluence to be the center of the world.
We were there on a cool, overcast day in October. As we drove through the park, the nearby city seemed far, far away. The breeze tickled the feathery pampas grass, but the water in the lakes sprinkled throughout the park appeared to be a flat, hard mirror.

The park has miles of biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing trails, but we saw no one as we drove around.

Bob was understandably excited when we came upon this flock of wild turkeys:
. . . and I was yet again grateful that digital cameras have replaced film: