Thursday, December 29, 2016


When you travel with a college age dependent and a girl at that (in this new era I've been told it's alright to be politically incorrect so back off all you feminists) getting started and out the door is never going to happen on time. The Thursday before Christmas, the day our holiday trip started was no different. Getting an early start for a girl who doesn't rise before noon stretched hours beyond our designated and agreed to departure time. But Emmy, Rick, our pups Joey and Phoebe and I made it on the road at a reasonable enough time to still make some stops at a few of our favorite small towns along the snow encrusted trail to Galena.
Just outside Madison is a secret few know about, the hamlet of Paoli. The town consists of a small central park, a church and a strip of perhaps a dozen restaurants, galleries and shops.
Our go to (and I've written about this on several occasions) is the Cottage Goddess. I hate letting this secret out but since I've done it before and it doesn't seem to have made a big difference this store is a gold mine for anyone interested in vintage or antique. Lori, the goddess herself, holds court both in front of and behind the counter and entertains with stories that seem to dim her retail prowess as she ends up almost giving the store away.
For example, take this incredible vintage bathrobe in perfect condition, I'd try to make you guess at the price but the price tag said forty-two dollars. Try to match that in New York.
Or look at this woman's jacket for the hefty price of twenty-four dollars. Everything is in mint condition. We walked off with more than we should have since with just this one stop the back of the car was so full I would have to use the side mirrors to drive the rest of the way. Our purchases had made it so I could no longer see out of the back window.
Precariously packed we continued on to Mineral Point, another favorite that we'd have to drive through to get to Galena. Mineral Point is a tiny village originally established as a Welsh mining town. It's another artist's haven filled with galleries and specialty shops and always decked out for the holidays.
It's towns like Mineral Point that attract shopkeepers and artists with an eye to the unique and well styled. We should all be willing to support these entrepreneurs. This new addition to the Mineral Point shopscape was worth the extended time we ended up spending there along with a few dollars.
The five of us, dogs included, lifted our imaginary glasses and toasted the quality and joy of spending just enough time to catch the last bit of light as dusk closed in on our first day on the road to Galena.
Galena is an amazing time capsule lost to the world when the continental United States travel moved from barges and covered wagons to trains. Galena's economy was wrapped in its shipping capabilities along the Mississippi. When it was time for the railroads to map out their new routes the shipping magnets in Galena feared the railroads would destroy their business. They decided not to let the railroad come through Galena that at that time was the largest city in Illinois, even larger than Chicago. It was a decision that eventually made Galena into a ghost town abandoning the city to decades of cobwebs and vacant buildings.
Lucky for us. This preserved the town with the beauty of another time and revitalized it into an amazing tourist town with all the charm of its past intact.
Before we left we had searched around for a place to stay and decided an authentic log cabin in the snow with a big stone fireplace was the right place to hang our Christmas stockings.
We had brought a little tree with us that we decorated with snowflakes, acorns and a string of lights we tacked to the wall. The larger outline drawn by the string of lights only made the smallness of our little artificial tree seem like a grander gesture in an Appalachian country kind of way.
Day two was devoted to our little luxury. We had originally planned on staying at the Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa but ultimately decided against it, our dogs weren't exactly welcomed or they were but at a cost of $75 a day - each. We decided we'd each put that money into a day of massages and facials.
We put a final cap on the day by driving to Galena's Main Street to do some last minute shopping as the snow really started to fall, a gentle snow the kind with flakes the size of silver dollars.
Even the shop windows were dressed as if by an Oscar worthy set designer with gingerbread houses more magical than Disney or Pixar could have done.
879Of course, it wouldn't have been Christmas if we hadn't been able to find Santa perfectly attired in his red velvet robes.
It was a lite dinner before we were back at the cabin
About fifteen miles outside of Galena is the village of Elizabeth, a small Midwest main street town filled with antique shops. On Christmas Eve day morning we headed out to satisfy our fix for anything antique or vintage
The afternoon took us back into Galena for one more snowy trip around the center of town
and a drive through the residential streets filled with incredible architecture and an abundance of Bed & Breakfasts.
We had planned out our culminating Christmas Eve evening well in advance. It started with dinner back at the Eagle Ridge Resort
where we dined on crab cakes, French onion soup, Caesar salad, and ten ounce filet mignons.
then finished it off with a Christmasy peppermint cheesecake before we headed back to our log cabin.
That night we lit the fire one last time with logs we appropriated from a gas station halfway between the resort and our log cabin (we tucked a ten dollar bill with a note between the crack in the front door - we didn't want to ruin our karma), took the dogs for a little walk in the field outside our cabin and settled in to open a few presents but the biggest present of all was having such sweet family time, something we need to incorporate more of in the coming year.
White Stoops, NYC, 1952
Ruth Orkin, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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