I have mentioned on numerous occasions of my need to get fresh air; a cardio massage of sorts. As many of you know Chicago’s air can at times be less than desirable. So, this past weekend I packed up and headed out of the city towards Galena, IL; a small historic town that has this strange affinity with Irish culture...perhaps a later post to further explore this relationship.
The day started with an interesting breakfast at Orange, on W Harrison in the South Loop. Orange prides itself on creative combinations for its brunch, as well as unique fruit elixirs that quench the thirstiest of patrons. While the service could have been better, I would have to say that Orange is a great spot for those bored with their typical brunch choice.
Belly’s full, off to the ‘burbs (Galena is a 3-hour trek from Chicago). Along the way to Galena there is a discount shopping area (Prime Outlets) in Huntley. This is a key stop, as I was able to walk away with some nice digs for an even nicer price. This is a must-stop on your westward treks.
During my drives outside of the city, it is always interesting to create a broader view of the landscape. Not so far outside of Chicago corn fields encompass either side of the highway. I used to think that Indiana and Iowa were the corn capitals of the world, but I would wager to say that Illinois is right up there. Being a country boy, I can appreciate the farm land, and soaked in the grassy mural.
We’re getting close to our B&B and suddenly we discover that we are way, way out in the boonies. Neither of us had been to Galena before; our quest came from the suggestion of others; so like the great the discoverers’ of the past we decided to examine this land for ourselves, and land there was, lots of it.
Following the simple directions, we soon found ourselves on a dirt road, looked at each other, and laughed out loud as we realized this was going to be an interesting weekend. As dust flew on either side of the Rebecca (E’s car) and pebbles bounced against her undercarriage, we soon realized just how country the weekend was going to be. With farm animals and cornstalks abound, we soon found our destination, The Inn at Irish Hollow, a historic B&B 15 minutes outside of downtown.
The Inn was quite unique, but the inn keeper was even more rare. I have always been curious about the lives of inn keepers. They are consistently at the beck-and-call of strangers, and they never crack, always smiling. Matthew Carroll of Irish Hollow was no different. His hospitable nature kept us captivated during check-in, as he delivered his spiel. God love him, he continued and continued, and my anxiousness started to plume…all I wanted was to move onto the next thing, which for me was to chill out in the room, shower, and then head to town for a bite. But, Matthew provided us with some great insider info and some history about the inn as well; ghosts and all, so I concede to his disertation.
Finally pulling away from the diatribe, we headed up to the room, very quaint, old English-like. We soon discovered we were absent of television and Internet. At first this was an intimidating fact, but we soon relinquished ourselves to the reality of the situation and accepted that this would be a great opportunity to unplug from the constant media transfusion.
Unpacked, showered and ready to hit the town, we started Rebecca and ventured off to see what all the Galena-hubbub was all about.
The downtown area reminded me of New England, lots of brick, narrow streets, and boutique shops left and right. Let’s not forget the plethora of restaurants scattered throughout; our intention was to hit Fried Green Tomatoes, but when our request for an earlier reservation was failed, we resigned to hit a Durty Gurt’s, a local favorite know for its delicious burgers. Durty Gurt’s stood by its reputation and delivered a satisfying meal. Tired from the journey to, we decided to call it a night and venture home.
One thing about the country is that there are few street lights, so the blackness of night covers everything like a heavy blanket, and meandering our way back home proved to be quite the task, as we soon realized that we were driving in a circle. Seems Galena likes to get the most out of its roads; not only are they windy, they actually take 90 degrees turns, leaving us to decide whether left or right is the correct choice. Just when our return to the inn seemed bleak, we found a street that would get us back on track and headed towards our cozy inn. Funny enough, the name of the street was Cemetery and was not the most pleasant of streets to roll through, but alas, it got us to our desired road and on our way back at the inn and soon fast asleep…DAY TWO