You guessed it! It's time for another "Biggest Fan of the Big East Challenge" post! And challenge number three is: What are your top three Big East road trip towns and why? At first glance, I thought this might be a tough decision. But then after I thought about it for a minute, it was not so difficult after all!
My top three Big East road trip towns feel like home to me because two of them were home to me, and the third town is truly my happy place on earth. Seeing as I spent my last challenge post detailing why I love Notre Dame so much, South Bend, Indiana and Notre Dame are not on today's list!
First things first, it's not a road trip if you don't have your best pals with you. So let me grab my girls, hop into the shiny new Volvo S60, and let's head on out to our first destination ... Marquette University ... Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
As a child, I spent several years living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My Dad was training to be a brew master at Schlitz Brewing Company, and we spent several years living just eight blocks from Lake Michigan. I have very fond memories of Milwaukee as a child ... mostly of snowy activities ... but I'd love to head back as an adult to check the sites of the city itself, as well as the fine Jesuit institution of Marquette University. Here is my bucket list of things that I would want to see while on my road trip at Marquette University, and in Milwaukee.
First, I would like to visit the Joan of Arc chapel. (Thank you, Brian, for pointing this out to me!) What a beautiful gem set in the heart of Midwestern USA. The St. Joan of Arc Chapel is "the only medieval structure in the entire Western Hemisphere dedicated to its original purpose: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam." ("For the greater glory of God")
My next stop would be to check out the Church of the Gesu. I will admit, I am kind of a church nerd, so any time I travel somewhere, I make a point to check out any interesting nearby churches, and this would be no exception! The cornerstone laying ceremony for the Church of Gesu was on May 21, 1893, and the church was completed and dedicated on December 16, 1894. Quite a landmark in Milwaukee.
Of course I'd want to catch a game at the Bradley Center, preferably a Notre Dame-Marquette match up, so that we can see who the better Catholic school really is ... wink.
While in Milwaukee, I'd want to take advantage of the great local German food & beverages, so my next stop would be to take the girls in the Volvo S60, and head on over to Gasthaus for some fantastic German eats. Their extensive bar selections include over 55 different kinds of beer, primarily German and Wisconsin beers, including their House Weissgerber Amber. And the menu had me at Walleye ... Friday nights, the Gasthaus offers a fish fry that is spectacular. Icelandic cod, fries, potato pancakes, cole slaw, rye bread and potato salad. All-you-can-eat. Yup, I'm there!
Our final Milwaukee stop would be the Milwaukee Art Museum. I have always wanted to go to the Milwaukee Art Museum. It looks simply stunning from the outside, and I am a sucker for a good Impressionism art collection. Goodness knows my friends won't let me drag them to sporting events for this entire road trip ... some culture must be woven in there, too!
Okay ... on to our next stop ... DePaul University and CHICAGO, Illinois.
Chicago is, by far, one of my happiest places on earth. I don't know what it is about Chicago, but given the opportunity, I would move there in a heart beat. Not only is it practically spitting distance from Notre Dame, there is just SO much to do there. So, without further ado, let me get on to my DePaul/Chicago bucket list!
With as many times as I have been to Chicago, I do not think I've ever caught a DePaul Basketball game. I have wandered around the beautiful DePaul city campus many times, but I'd love to catch a DePaul game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
My other Chicago bucket list items would include the following:
Cruising through Chicago on the Architectural Boat Ride Tour. Especially on a sunny day, but even on a cloudy, misty Chicago day, there is no better way to spend a few hours in Chicago than floating down the river and watching the beautiful city architecture drift by. I've been on this tour on sunny days, as well as on rainy days, and I swear, each time I go I see something different. Truly inspiring!
My next Chicago stop with the girls would be spending the afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago has to be one of my all time favorite museums. Mostly because it has two of my favorite pieces there ... Georges Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" ... and Georgia O'Keefe's "Cow's Skull with Calico Rose." I just simply adore these two pieces and cannot get enough of them!
When it's time to take a load off our tired feet, I'd take the girls to dinner at Tratoria No. 10. I must say, I have not met a restaurant in Chicago that I have not liked. And there is an endless assortment of restaurant choices in Chicago ... of all ranges of cuisines, atmospheres and price. But I must say that my all time favorite restaurant in Chicago is Tratoria No. 10. They have this Butternut Squash Ravioli that is simply to die for, and like any good authentic Italian Restaurant, you can finish your meal off with a delightful Limoncello. The next time you are in Chicago you MUST. EAT. HERE!
And to round off my Chicago road trip bucket list, a stop at the Hangge-Uppe is definitely a must!! If you, by chance, google the Hangge-Uppe, it will come up as a "dive bar" ... but trust me on this one, you do not want to miss out on this experience. The Hangge-Uppe is located on the near north side of Chicago and has a bar upstairs ... but the fun is in the downstairs bar where there is a dance floor and a DJ playing music from the 70's and 80's. Seriously, this place is full of so much ridiculous fun, it's not even fair!
Okay ... so there is Milwaukee and Chicago. Stop three of my Big East road trip would be my birthplace and hometown, home of the University of Pittsburgh ... Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!
I know, many of you still equate Pittsburgh with a dirty old steel down, but truly that is not the case any more. Pittsburgh is actually quite clean and vibrant, and there is much to see and do there! All of my family, with the exception of my Dad and I, went to the University of Pittsburgh, "Pitt." I have spent many a weekends on Pitt's campus with my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins showing me their favorite hangouts on campus. Since I have attended many football games at Pitt, but not yet a basketball game ... my first bucket list item in Pittsburgh would be to attend a Pitt-Notre Dame basketball game at the Petersen Events Center.
The other things on my Pittsburgh bucket list are as follows.
First, I'd drag the girls to ride The Duquesne Incline. In my mind, this is one of the most unique things that Pittsburgh has to offer, and no Pittsburgh road trip is complete without a ride on the incline. Take a step back in time on a century-old cable car and see the best views of downtown Pittsburgh while riding one of the few remaining inclines in the country. The Duquesne Incine opened on May 20, 1877, and it was later rescued and restored by a group of local residents in 1963 and still delights residents and visitors with its original, elegant, wooden cable cars. Now you can also visit the interior of the incline and watch the machinery while it operates. When you get to The Duquesne Incline's upper station, there is a museum of Pittsburgh history, including photos and information on inclines from around the world.
Next, after teaching my friends how to speak Pittsburghese (yes, there is an entire set of vocabulary words that you must learn to understand the good people of Pittsburgh), I would take them to the S&D Polish Deli and treat them to one of my favorite Pittsburgh foods ... Pierogi! If you don't know what a pierogi is, here is an explanation for you.
Pierogi are dumplings of unleavened dough - first boiled, then they are baked or fried usually in butter with onions - traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. Of central and eastern European provenance, they are usually semicircular, but are rectangular or triangular in some cuisines.
There are some fantastic museums in Pittsburgh, but the next stop that I'd take the girls to is the Andy Warhol Museum. Campbells soup cans anyone? The Andy Warhol Museum is an ultramodern tribute to the founder of pop art. The most comprehensive single artist museum in the world houses more than 4,000 works of art, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, films, and videos, from this native Pittsburgh artist. While dedicated to Andy Warhol, the museum also hosts rotating exhibits by artists who push the boundaries of art, just as Warhol did. Oh, and I just saw that there is a comic book exhibit there right now ... Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross. Okay, now I really am super homesick. Sigh.
My final Pittsburgh road trip destinations would include me taking the girls to see where I am from ... the house where my Dad grew up, the church that I was baptised in, and where our family store was located from 1881 until it finally closed in 2010. It was very sad for me when our family store closed. It was such a big part of every visit that we made to see the family back home, and there will forever be a void there, but times have changed and some things just do not survive.
I hope you have enjoyed my Big East road trip, to my three favorite "feels like home" cities in the Big East! I can't wait to head back to Notre Dame in January for my Alma Mater trip, and take a spin around campus in the fancy Volvo S60. If anywhere truly feels like home to me, it is Notre Dame for sure!
Thank you, once again, for supporting me in Volvo's “Biggest Fan of the Big East” competition. Please don’t forget to vote for me … click here to cast your vote. And ask your friends to vote too ... because let's face it ... I need some serious voting help!
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