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I’m visiting my family in Wisconsin, and on Friday I drove up to Madison (Go Badgers!) to welcome my friend Amber back to the region – she’s been living in Alaska for nearly two years (her return, incidentally, coincided with the arrival of Alaskan Amber, now available in Wisconsin).  We had a fantastic day: I got there around noon, and then marched her from the East Side past the Capital Building down pedestrian-only State Street where we stopped at Noodles & Co. for lunch.  Yes, its a chain, which I know is lame when you’re in Madison and there are so many great local businesses, but they don’t have it in either Cambridge and I really like their pesto, ok? Next we went to the UW Student Union, where we got UW Creamery ice cream (the cows are milked at the Ag School less than a mile away).  I got Badger something or other flavour, which was basically chocolate on top of chocolate.  We sat on the terrace with our cones because it was a PERFECT late summer/early fall day.

(Fun fact: the colors of the Union Terrace chairs are either derived from the fall colors in Madison, or from famous tractor manufacturers – green for John Deere, orange for Allis Chalmers, and yellow because its pretty.  The terrace chairs are probably the most iconic thing about UW, and a simple google search shows how often they’ve been photographed.  There was a wedding there while we ate our ice cream.  See the bottom of the post for some more scenic terrace chair photos that I didn’t take).

After we ate our ice cream, we wandered around State Street; I got a tee-shirt from Ian’s Pizza on Frances Street (awesome) and wandered into bike shops (Amber wants a new bike).  We ended up at the Frank Lloyd Wright conference center on Lake Mendota, which has beautiful views of the lakefront.  The Ironman triathlon was on Sunday and so the city, which is always cycle- and pedestrian-friendly,  was jammed full of very fit-looking people.  The swimming area was right below the patio where we drank lemonade under shade umbrellas.

After a leisurely afternoon walk along the lake, we headed back to Amber’s place, stopping to get cheese curds (see photo collage above): nuggets of cheesy deliciousness.  My friend Karin once asked me to describe cheese “like I wasn’t from Wisconsin” because I am admittedly enthusiastic about it.  But sensible people will acknowledge, I think, that enthusiasm is warranted.  In other words: cheese is awesome, and cheese curds are the best.  Especially when paired with Riesling and a sunny summer evening.  We ate it as an appetizer while Amber cooked dinner and I watched (I’m good at that).  And then, because I am still a little jetlagged & didn’t want to crash my mother’s car, I drove home early and face-planted into bed.

Thanks, Amber, for an awesome day!

Union Terrace Photos:

From photosbyfeldman.com

from Taylortakesataste.com

From UW Campus Photo Library