Well, we just completed what may have been the worst "vacation" ever. We chose to go to Milwaukee for a getaway weekend before the baby gets here, and at the recommendation of my midwife, who said I needed a break from work and life and needed to get away with my husband. Everyone that we talked to said that Milwaukee was a great place to go and that there is so much to do and see.
Now I know that I probably needed to go on a break all by myself, and just take that $500 that we've spent and drop it all on myself at a spa for a long massage, pedicure, the whole deal. Which I have never done and which if I was smart I would have just done. The guilt would have been less than it is for dropping $500 to visit Milwaukee. On the way home my husband said just that, echoing what I was thinking, and telling me that it would be worth the money if I would feel more relaxed and be better. He's probably right. But of course I just kept thinking of how we will need a stroller and a car seat and a crib and not a "spa day."
My husband and I were not impressed with Milwaukee. I personally think that I have been forever spoiled after Vancouver. I have yet to find a city that compares in it's beauty and natural habitat, and also is so clean and pleasant. People of all races and cultures mix seamlessly there and embrace and talk to each other. It's like a utopia. As soon as we got to milwaukee we noticed a type of self-segregation. For the first day I felt very very white, very very unwelcome, and very very pregnant. No one made eye contact. No one smiled. No one tried to say hello. No one held open a door. Nothing. When we went to the little shops/mall Evan held doors open for people and they were ASTONISHED and profusely thanked him. Apparently that doesn't happen here. Ever. When trying to get in and out of an elevator or go through a doorway or walk down a sidewalk, people stepped in front of me, blocked my path, and it was really starting to irritate Evan. I have never been treated this way in any other City, be it in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma, or even St. Louis and Chicago. It was as though there was no common courtesy.
The streets were full of groups of people, always one race or another. You never saw black people walking with white people. Only one interracial couple our ENTIRE weekend. Communities were very much mexican, black, or asian. There wasn't intermixing. And it wasn't like in a city like Vancouver where Chinatown is a celebration of a heritage and is teeming with people of all races, celebrating and learning about Chinese customs.... it was like segregation. It was very uncomfortable. Growing up in my generation, I have met many people of different races and cultures and we have enjoyed differences and had lively discussions or some laughs about how we are different. But here... none of that. Frustrating. It made us both uneasy and nervous. I think me more than usual because I am pregnant.
The weather was very pleasant. The city is probably the hardest to get around than most, lots of streets run on angles to each other, and not parallel. Bizarre. The street we were staying on was full of construction just a few blocks from our hotel. We stayed at the Ambassador, which is a 1927 Art Deco Hotel that has been completely remodeled. It was a WONDERFUL place to stay, huge king bed, down comforter, 7 pillows in the room when we arrived, a pull out sofa, desk with FREE high speed internet, can lights on dimmers in the ceilings, a sink seperate from the bathroom as well as a sink IN the bathroom and a giant deep tub. It was a great place to stay, but it was very formal and stuffy. People staying there were all wearing suits and heels and it was just very formal feeling. Their restraunt was nice looking, although a bit too formal for us. They had a nice bar (very formal and swanky) and a neat little cafe. But the people there were all dressed up to the nines even to grab a drink at the bar or eat a bagel in the cafe. It was bizarre. Yet right outside the hotel was the Marquette University and some seedy businesses.... where I was afraid to walk across parking lots and hurried to get in the cars and lock the doors. Across from the hotel on Saturday night was a NAS concert (the rapper) and hoardes of kids walking to the concert and hanging outside.... and there were police and ambulances there because of fighting and violence. I was not thrilled and it really had me on edge, and I think that Evan could feel that and felt the same way. I felt so out of place.
Friday night we went to the Shops of Grand Avenue, and we weren't really impressed. We wandered through a few stores but it was just not somewhere that we really wanted to shop. Unless we wanted to buy a wig or some hats and clothes by brands like South Pole, it wasn't the best place to be. We did find a Borders where we relaxed for a while after lots of walking, and bought some Baby Einstein books (Buy 1 get one 50% off sale) Then we went to Potbellies Sandwiches (corner of Plankinton and Wisconsin) and had a great supper, sandwiches and cookies. Yum. We did walk down to the river, which was only a block away from the restraunt and right alongside Borders.
We stayed in that night, or at least I did, because I was tired.
Saturday we drove over to Lake Michigan and took a walk by Discovery Center and the Milwaukee Museum of Art. Then we drove to the Historic Third Ward. Some of which was nice and had neat little shops, but the other part of which was true to it's history as an abandoned factory and warehouse district, with boarded up doors and grimy windows (or busted out windows altogether.) Evan was worried and not too thrilled because the sidewalks were uneven or chipped and covered with concrete debris, rock, brick, and broken glass. It was difficult walking and he was worried that I would trip or fall and there was glass stuck in my tennis shoe soles. I was disappointed because I think if you are going to advertise this as the hidden jewel of Milwaukee and full of shops and art galleries, you should at least make sure the sidewalks are safe and clear. It was silly. We did eat lunch at a Milwaukee Brewery, and the food was excellent, although we waited FOREVER for a burger and a club sandwich, while 6 tables around us, who arrived after us, got their food and ate (and some even finished) before we got our orders. Most of them had Burgers too... so it was unnerving. We found a VERY cool shop called Broadway paper, and went through a couple of very overpriced art galleries, and then we went to the Milwaukee Public Market, which was very nice and clean. We bought some spices there and then headed back to the hotel for a rest (more walking!) That night we made reservations at Buco di Beppo, an Italian Family Style Restraunt that we really loved. Of course everything is served Family Style, and Evan made me feel terrible because he wanted all kinds of things that I am either not supposed to have while pregnant. So he ended up making me choose and making me feel very bad for it, and it brought tears to my eyes. Pregnancy. Ugh.
Our food was very good, and the people were super nice. It was like FINALLY we had found somewhere that we felt welcome and at home. After that we went to a Walgreens near our hotel and I was convinced that I was going to get shot. I have never clung to my husband so closely in my life. We stood in line for almost 25 minutes in Walgreens, the only white people there, and no one looked at us, smiled at us, said hello to us, nothing. There were metal detectors and a security guard at the door. That is not relaxing.
Then as we tried to get back to our hotel, there were so many patrons at the bar and restraunt of the Ambassador that there was NO PARKING. Literally. No spaces. So we drove around the block and came back and found a spot. It was so frustrating. There were people without parking passes taking up all the spaces, and here we were, peopple paying $360 for a room and not with a space to park in. Those are the kinds of things that make your vacation NOT relaxing. Milwaukee was NOT a relaxing place. The entire stay, besides the restraunt we ate at on Saturday, no one made any conversation with us except the Concierge and the Doorman at the hotel. People in Chicago are not this rude, quite the contrary. They love to strike up a conversation, have a drink with you, and open doors and excuse themselves when they bump into you. We should have just gone to Chicago.
We had bought a game set at Walgreens and stayed in our room in our Pajamas playing games of Chess until about 2am. When we woke up Sunday I was SO relieved to be on our way home. I couldn't wait to get out of Milwaukee. But first we had planned on going to the Milwaukee Zoo, I had read on their website that it happened to be free admission. Well, turns out the entire CITY showed up and Traffic was backed up for about 10 blocks in every direction from the Zoo. All roads had cars parked alongside the road and parents were walking to the zoo with kids, strollers, wagons, and coolers. It was all too much. We just needed to get the hell out of Milwaukee. On the way home we stopped in several nice little towns and made the laughing admission that we would have been happier in any of these places than we had been in Milwaukee. It has never been better to be home. I was so glad to be home that I started vacuuming, cleaning, unpacking, and organizing as soon as we got here.