Marvellous Madison

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Wisconsin
Friday, August 3, 2012

Howdy folks,

Steffie and I didn't have so far to drive from La Crosse to Madison so we decided to spend a bit of time in downtown La Crosse and checkout a few of the local sights. At the town's entrance is the lacrosse monument which is apparently derived from an ancient native american sport spanning the better part of a millenium. We didn't see any games in La Crosse so we walked down Main Street in La Crosse and checked out some of the bars and shops on offer. It wasn't hard that it was more interesting or lively than Sioux Falls! There was a very nice park along the river with some more sculptures and even a surprise rock concert at midday at the bandstand ampitheatre. The band was pretty even if the lyrics were a bit stupid. Our last stop was at the local brewery at which is located the world's largest six pack along with a statue to the father of modern beer William IV of Bavaria who issued the famous purity law in 1516.

We hit the road and stopped for lunch shortly thereafter at one of the rest stops alongside the highway. The Interstate 90 was joined by the 94 from Minneapolis and turned south east towards the Wisconsin River from which the state is named. We had one stop before we hit Madison at Wisconsin Dells which I thought was popular because of the river and the canyon surrounding it. What we experienced was something completely different because the town is a giant waterpark themed town with many different associated attractions such as minigolf, amphibian vehicle river tours, crappy souvenir shirt stores and amusement arcades. We had a short walk around the main street and along the river, but weren't really keen to hang around such a tacky tourist town.

The drive onto Madison wasn't much further and we drove down E Washington Avenue right to the state capitol building in the middle of the ithsmus which divided Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Diverting around the capitol building and through the university we hooked up with our next couchsurfing host Amir who was an international student from Iran studying computer sciences. We hung out with him in the apartment for a while before we walked downtown into the university. He took us to the Rathskeller which is a basement food court on the shores of Lake Mendota with a German theme. We had a few drinks and watched the Olympics on the big screen before. After we had our satisfaction, we headed for home.

The next day Amir had to head off to university to work so we left the apartment at 9am and had breakfast at McDonalds which is never satisfying or nutritious. Our first stop of the day was the National Mustard Museum in neighbouring Middleton at the end of Lake Mendota. The museum is basically a mustard shop and a small museum below it designed to create awareness and appreciation for the condiment plus making a few bucks in the process. There were so many different types from every continent with the opportunity to taste them as well. We bought a small unassuming whole grain mustard rather any of the fruit or horseradish varieties. The shop owner seemed like a bit of a kook and there were plenty of displays promoting the use of mustard as a proper condiment over ketchup (tomato sauce).

We drove into town and parked at the university. Madison is a pretty cool city with many modern features like big bike lanes, big impressive buildings, tidy streets and young students everywhere. It also means that the city centre isn't very car friendly as most people ride bikes. Everywhere is metered parking and we dumped our quarters into the meter to ensure 2 hours without a ticket. We walked down state street towards the capitol building which is the main eateries street with a couple of museums thrown in for good measure. We briefly stopped at the Museum of Contemporary Art to look at an exhibit describing the relationship humans have with animals, but it wasn't so focused.

The state capitol building in Madison is the second biggest outside Washington DC and stands like an X marking the middle of the ithsmus. The inside dome is reportedly the biggest in the country depending on how you measure it. It certainly stood out as the biggest building in downtown and was very detailed in its architecture and decorations. We took the 2pm tour and joined a quite large group and toured through 4 areas: the senate, the governor's office, a hearing room and a court chamber. Each area was different and styled differently as well with the senate having a mural depicting the opening of the Panama Canal, the governor's office modelled after an Italian palace and the hearing room had paintings of different eras of transportation because it was used for railway hearings. It wasn't all peaceful though as around the rotunda were some artwork depicting atrocities by the Communist Chinese Government and also a few people with signs rallying against some supposedly corrupt senator.

Leaving the capitol building, we headed south to Madison's other lake; Lake Monona. The lake is smaller than the northern lake, but there were still a few people out on the water. It was pretty warm walking around in the sun, so we headed back to the car to feed the meter and stop for a drink in the Rathskeller. We had an hour to kill before Amir got home so we tried sneaking into the local hotel pool without success. Some of the hotels have locked door on the pools, but others don't so it is always worth a try!

Amir had another couch surfer coming over and she was originally from Massachussets, but had been living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was quite talkative, but too tired to come out for a few drinks because she had been driving all day. We had a small meal together and drove out to Amir's friend's house where a girl called Hannah was having a birthday. There is a birthday party bar in Madison called the Nitty Gritty which I've never been to before. Basically if you come there for your birthday and bring your friends then you get free drinks! It was pretty packed and there must have been 30 names on the board just for that day of birthday people. It was a bit of a walk to get back to the car, but we crashed when we got back into the apartment.

Fun times Madison! Do you know why it is called the Badger state?
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