I’m taking two days to visit my friends Laura and Chris in the great state of Wisconsin. I haven’t spent much time in the Midwest — there was a summer in Ohio thirteen years ago, a summer in Ann Arbor, MI nine years ago — and exactly no time in Wisconsin before. Generally you hear good things about Madison though, my destination for the weekend, so while I didn’t know exactly what to expect I knew my friends lived across the street from a food co-op and that people bike a lot in this town.

But before getting to Madison there was an important pit stop: Milwaukee (pronounced Ma-wau-kee by locals). Setting for the movie Bridesmaids. Home to beer and brats (as in the sausage, not spoiled kids). And let’s not forget, the Milwaukee Art Museum, which, since 2002, has housed Santiago Calatrava’s $100 million extension, including a brise soleil, pedestrian bridge, main entrance hall, and a wing overlooking Lake Michigan.

Laura picked me up from the airport and we headed straight for Calatrava, before then stopping at my friends’ David and Maggi Gordon’s house, ten minutes from the museum, for English tea. I edited David’s book last year, Architect for Art: Max Gordon, and David used to be Director of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The flapping wings of the brise soleil were closed while we were at the museum. A few times of day they open — a great expanse of retractable steel wings — a seagull about to take flight over Lake Michigan. With the wings retracted, the museum looks more ship than bird; there’s a large prow overlooking the water and  you could recreate a real Kate and Leo Titanic moment up there.

We ate lunch in the museum’s bustling cafe. I had flatbread with pieces of roast duck and roast tomatoes, Laura had a spinach salad with strawberries, pecans, and blue cheese. Definitely a decent lunch, especially for a museum, and well-priced, but nothing to blog about.

We saw an exhibition of China’s Forbidden City, specifically objects from its garden. We also went to the older, Eero Saarinen part of the museum to see the collection of Georgia O’Keeffe’s. I had no idea she was from Wisconsin, I just associate her so much with the Southwest.

We left the museum around 4 pm to head to the Gordon’s lovely house, a short drive away. They invited us for English tea, complete with beautifully embroidered linens, china, crumpets, lemon tarts, and of course, English tea. As David said, the crumpets are just vehicles for butter, lots and lots of butter. I love Ma-wau-kee! And I didn’t even try frozen custard or sausage. Next post: Taliesin and Madison adventures.

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