Sunday, July 8, 2012


At the end of June, Jim and I took a couple days off work and created a four-day weekend. It was lovely!

On Thursday, we drove to Rockford Illinois, to the home of our friends John & Dominque. (We had planned for an early arrival, but there was a rather unexpected problem at work Wednesday night, with the result that I didn't even get to bed until 4 am Thursday morning - that delayed our departure somewhat.)

We visited Thursday evening, and had a relaxing Friday morning while John dealt with his work (read: he saw patients). That, by the way, is when we saw the marvelous clouds I shared in this post.

Friday afternoon, we headed for Galena. We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, the Farmers Guest House.

This is a lovely old inn. Our room was off the main floor - it seemed like an addition of some sort, but apparently an old addition, since we saw versions of it in the old photos on the wall. The breakfast room was large and roomy and pleasant - perfect for a late-night game of Scrabble.

(We'd stayed at Farmers once before, and another time at Annie Wiggins Guest House - the latter was nice, but we preferred Farmers, and were glad to get rooms there this trip.)
Once we were settled, we walked over to the historic downtown area of Galena. We crossed Spring Street, walked a path up a hill, cut through the library parking lot, and landed on Bench Street. The topography is not unlike what we grew up with in Pittsburgh, with the town spreading upward from the river. Commerce and Main Streets run parallel to the river. Bench Street is the next parallel street, but above the river. Higher still is Prospect St.

We walked along Bench towards a restaurant for dinner. We stopped to visit the library, and wandered inside so that Jim could chat with one of the librarians.

Eventually we made our way to Jim's choice for his birthday dinner, Vinny Vanucchi's.

John and Dominique

Robin and Jim

After dinner, we walked back to the Guest House for a game of Scrabble, a movie (The Tourist), and chit-chat.

Jim, John, and Dominique - Jim won the game

There are several long sets of stairs, leading from the upper neighborhoods to the downtown area. This is one leg of one of those sets, that we passed on Bench Street - this set has 149 steps (the other has 215). When Ulysses Grant worked at the leather shop in Galena, he used these steps (or the other set - not sure which...) to walk home for lunch with his sweetheart, and then back to work - true love!

We spent a leisurely day on Saturday. It was another hot day, but we were in no hurry. We wandered in and out of shops on Main St, and managed to avoid most of the junk shops.

One of the stores I'd been looking forward to visiting was FiberWild Yarn Shop. I'd been in their store the last time we went to Galena, but I'd also been a new knitter, and it was all a bit overwhelming.

This time? Not overwhelming at all. They had lots of lovely yarn, but I asked if they had any locally sourced yarn, and ended up buying three skeins of Suzy the Shepherdess Fingering Weight Yarn, along with a pattern for a shawl. (Heavenly only knows when I'll actually knit this; more yarn is not really something I need!)

 Soft and yummy yarn

Love this label on the yarn!

In the ads for this store, their logo is this cat, Scout, in this red sweater. I asked Sean (co-owner) if they really had managed to put the sweater on the cat - I couldn't imagine such a scene - and he assured me that it was the real thing, not photo-shopped. He said "we were working one Friday night, it was slow, there may have been some wine, we looked at the sweater, we looked at Scout..." Apparently Scout consented to wear the sweater, and put up with it long enough for a quick photo shoot.  And this was the result.

Alas, I didn't meet Scout

In the afternoon, we made our way to the Galena and U.S. Grant Museum, and spent several pleasant (and cool) hours going through the exhibits. There were display cases full of artifacts from the Civil War era, and from Galena's glory days, when the lead mines were flourishing and steamers were traveling up the Galena River from the Mississippi - Galena was bigger than Chicago back then, before the river silted up and railroads led to Chicago.

When mine shafts were being filled in, they left one open, and there's an exhibit that lets you look down into it - amazing, and a bit scary (I don't think I'd have the guts to be a miner, down in the bowels of the earth...). There was also a topographical display, showing how hilly that part of Illinois is, around Galena.

The exhibits showed a side of Grant that I'd not seen before - a more personal side. There was memorabilia from his daughter Nellie's White House wedding; the display said that after the ceremony, Grant went to his daughter's room, and was found there, sobbing - not so different from most fathers...

Galena and U.S. Grant Museum
Jim found these splendid doors somewhere along Bench. Lots of homes there, with steps up and steps down, managing to fit on the hillside.

Jim & The Owl

Dominique & Robin
More pictures from our trip are here.

When we got back home on Sunday night, we were happy to see our girl.

Somehow, she'd hurt her back while we were gone, and Sunday night she could barely climb the step from the back yard to the breezeway. We took her to the vet Monday morning, and she's been on Azium and rest this past week; she finally seems to be perking up a bit. Happy for that - I don't like to see our girl unwell.

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