Time to vote for best of state’s small towns

“Well I was born in a small town “And I can breathe in a small town “Gonna die in this small town “That’s prob’ly where they’ll bury me.” John Mellencamp is a Hoosier, but his “Small Town” lyrics resonate with a lot of us in Wisconsin who have lived in places that don’t routinely make(…)

Architectural artifacts fill eclectic Cliffbreakers

Part of the tour brochure reads like a tribute to elegant, bygone hotels: Tufted parlor benches were moved from the Astor in Manhattan. Five matching crystal chandeliers hung at the Claridge in Paris. In the dining room is the Baldachino, a carved walnut ticket booth from New York City’s Grand Central Station. Within eyesight is(…)

BOW weekends connect women to outdoors

We have spa manicures, and we get dirt under our nails. Our cheeks are ruddy from wind, and eyeliner enlarges our eyes. We wear jackets in camouflage colors and delicate pinks when we head outdoors. We want a thick red fox hat in our closet, with mittens to match, and the knowledge of how to(…)

African Hut cooks up continental specialties

Peanut stew. Sweet yam fries. Slow-cooked collard greens. Rice steamed in a seasoned tomato sauce, then served with chunks of chicken or stewed spinach. We never got to the Mindinmindin – ice cream layered with molasses-baked apples, tropical liqueurs, bananas, cream and secret spices – because there was no room or time left. So we(…)

From the heart: chocolate, sweet memories

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s time to adjust your notion of how fine chocolates should look, and how heartfelt sentiments should be expressed. Eliminate the heart-shaped box, the crinkly brown paper candy cups and the business of squishing the bottom of a confection, to identify the filling before taking the first bite. The exquisite choices(…)

‘Body Worlds’ exhibit had practical beginning

The physician says she and her husband were not looking for public attention when they set up their exhibit for an anatomical society gathering in Japan in 1995. What they wanted was to show how their method of preservation, called plastination, could halt decomposition and keep intact everything from muscle tissue to delicate nerve circuits.(…)

What makes the map? Travelers can decide

You are unlikely to seek Hulls Crossing at all, but especially as a vacation destination. It is the farming community in northwest Sheboygan County where I was raised, and little more than a road sign exists today. Things were a slightly different when Hulls Crossing had a railroad stop long ago, but now the tracks(…)

2007: the year in review, regarding lodging

We didn’t pack snow gear when visiting Oregon’s Mt. Hood in early October because the ski season doesn’t kick in until mid November. So we were astounded to watch, on the morning of our drive to the mountain, befuddled TV newscasters reporting on an untimely 16-inch snowfall there. Driving on I-84 and following the Columbia(…)

Red Circle, Nashotah: state’s oldest in dining

Out with the old, as a new year begins? That’s fine for grudges and bad habits, but don’t disregard old friends as life resumes its all-consuming pace. My Guy and I headed to Nashotah, population 1,266, on New Year’s Eve, and we were with three couples I’ve known since the 1970s. Our fine dining destination(…)

Bavaria: Tour it through Sightsleeping

It’s good to be queen, even if just for a day. I got the key to room 107 without fanfare and trudged off for an hour of R&R. Home for the night turned out to be the honeymoon suite at Hotel Burg Wernberg, a 12th century castle, on a hilltop overlooking a town of 5,000.(…)

Bavaria: Signs of faith are everywhere

It is long past sunset as we climb a narrow and steep cobblestone path to the top of Cathedral Hill. We arrive on the night before Advent, so it’s mere hours before the march toward Christmas officially begins. The courtyard is quiet and we have a clear view of Munich lights, about 20 miles south.(…)

Bavaria: Plenty abrew seems familiar

This is what it is like to go home for the first time. The patches of woods amid gentle slopes of farmland seem familiar, but the primary crop grows on vines that can extend more than 20 feet skyward. No one in the world produces more hops than Bavaria. Every town seems to brew at(…)

For the good of one: A flight takes a detour

Lunch in Munich. Dinner in Glasgow. Breakfast in Chicago. This is how the trip ended, but it was not as thrilling as it sounds. There are many reasons for delays and deviations in flight plans. One of the rarest occurs when a passenger’s medical condition becomes life-threatening. That was the case less than two hours(…)

Need a chocolate fix? Head to the Craverie

“Everything in moderation, including immoderation” is our mantra as we enter Wisconsin’s newest outlet for little luxuries, the Craverie Chocolatier Café, in Kohler’s fashionable Shops at Woodlake. It has been open less than one month. We have come for lunch, but our eyes remain fixated on dessert – the golden Danish that is filled with(…)

Watts Tea Room: preserving a genteel era

I am in downtown Milwaukee, “taking tea,” and doing a miserable job of it. An attractive, two-piece, antique tea strainer reveals my ignorance about how to keep the teapot’s tea leaves out of the teacup. A woeful confession that I am a dope doesn’t faze my server, who demurely had ignored my stubborn struggle until(…)

Sylvania Wilderness: virgin timbers, pure air

We all have our own ideas about where the Northwoods begins, but how do you define true wilderness? Is it simply the lack of condo developments? A disappearance of road signs? The suspicion that more critters inhabit an area than people? Many trees, no cows? Follow U.S. 45 north, during a deer hunting or downhill(…)

Silver Fox Resort had global attention in ’30s

“Once in a while, even in the twentieth century, this country still sees enacted the kind of drama that made America what it is – the story of men tapping an unsuspected natural resource and adding another great industry to the national economy.” Writer Kathrene Pinkerton, in her 1947 book “Bright with Silver,” was referring(…)

Christine Center: a simple, stunning retreat

My reward, at the end of a 200-mile drive, is hearing the rhythmic click of hoofs and watching the sinking sun brighten a clump of clouds with splashes of orange, sherbet-like in color. I am following County G, between Marshfield and Eau Claire, where an enclave of Amish families seems to reside without fanfare or(…)

Halloween hauntings: It’s time to howl

For you, it’s simply time to stock up on candy, as a treat for all the little monsters roaming the neighborhood. For Larry Kirchner, it’s showtime. He relishes the reactions to own his horrific creations, and he boosts the posterity of all attractions that scare the bejesus out of us. For Jennifer Lauer, it’s pretty(…)

The value of parades: Everybody has a role

Autumn means homecoming, and it’s easy to go home when you feel welcome. Watching thousands of Penn State fans whoop and applaud during their homecoming parade this month helped explain why the university, despite its mountain valley location, has no problem filling its stadium, whose capacity of 107,282 is second largest in the nation. The(…)

America’s Classics: lifetime kudos for chefs

More travelers are hitting the road because of their love for food, concludes the Travel Industry Association, a nonprofit that represents all aspects of U.S. tourism. Our country has no shortage of exceptional restaurants, but few earn the rank of “classic” from the James Beard Foundation, which for 10 years has acknowledged the culinary excellence(…)

Wisconsin leads earth-friendly tourism efforts

When Kelli Trumble exuberantly addressed visitors about “my bee-YOO-ti-ful state” recently, her words were an ode to an elite quartet of Wisconsin natives. She spoke proudly of conservationists Aldo Leopold and John Muir, Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson and Frank Lloyd Wright, the father of organic architecture (structure design that blends respectfully with nature). “We(…)

Dairy farm turns into pampering, rural retreat

Sixty years on Earth, 40 years of marriage, 20 years in business. This is how Donna Justin explains her reasons for celebrating this autumn. She and husband Don own and operate Justin Trails Resort, about 225 acres near Sparta, a third-generation dairy farm that has been transformed to cater to romantics, nature lovers and silent(…)