Twas the day before spring
And I had an itch
To travel the road once more
And hoped for no hitch.
Cheesy verse aside, I did once more yield to the call of the road. This time I was heading to Galena, IL which bills itself as the most beautiful city in America.
As I knew this would, more likely than not, be my last B & B outing until the summertime, I wanted to do something special. So I decided to turn my visit into a B & B sojourn. In order to have more exploration time in Galena and to kill two birds with one stone, I drove half of the trip on the first day. I ended up stopping at the town of Grinnell in Iowa so I could visit Marsh House.
Grinnell was actually a surprising little city. I was expecting a traditional small town, but this place was quite vibrant. It had a bustling main street, a nice movie theater, a community theatre, and a wide variety of restaurants. I soaked up the sights of the pleasant little burg and soon found myself at the doorway of Marsh House.
I was greeted by Linda who gave me a brief tour of the place. I was struck by the elegance of Marsh House. From the decanter of sherry by the front door to the period furniture throughout the home, I felt transported to a bygone time. Linda led me to the Prairie Bedroom before leaving me to my own devices.
The Prairie Bedroom.
That sherry sure hit the spot after dinner.
I spent a few hours relaxing before heading out to dinner at the Frontier Café. It was a quaint establishment and I took a seat at the corner where I ordered a Cowboy Burger that came with a cup of chili and French fries. The burger was quite delicious, flavored with tortilla chips, bacon bits, and fresh jalapenos. The chili was tasty enough, but was rather thin and watery.
I returned to Marsh House where I prepared and slowly sipped a sherry. After an afternoon of driving, I was ready for a long, hot bath and a movie. Unfortunately, Linda had forgotten to include any soap and shampoo in the bathroom, so my hopes for a bath went poof. Right before turning my phone off for the evening, I received a call from Dave who was one of the owners of the B & B I would be staying at in Galena. Apparently there had been an emergency and he would not be available for my 1pm check-in the next day, but would be in at 4pm.
With that news, I settled into bed for the night and enjoyed the solitude. You see, I was literally the only person in the inn as even the owners did not live on property.
Day 1 & Night 2
The next morning I went downstairs for breakfast where Linda had prepared a vegetarian meal for my Lenten sensibilities. I enjoyed a delicious fruit parfait, followed by a feta cheese omelet with a side of fried potatoes seasoned with garlic, and a blueberry muffin. Linda apologized for too much garlic on the potatoes, but I assured her there was no such thing.
I read the newspaper as I ate watching my NCAA bracket go down in flames due to the upsets on the first day. I polished off everything except the muffin which I decided to feed to the birds. After breakfast, I asked Linda for some soap and shampoo so I could get cleaned up. I returned Dave’s phone call where he told me that someone would be able to meet me at 1pm so I could have a base of operations while I explored the town.
I performed my ablutions, settled my bill, and got into the Chrismobile to complete my journey to Galena. However, do get a room at Marsh House if you happen to be in Grinnell as it was a jewel in an oasis.
Bernadine’s Stillman Inn
I arrived at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn, owned by Dave and Bernadette at 1pm. I called Dave who said Christian would meet me at the front door. Christian gave me the nickel tour and led me to my room, the Royalty II. After exploring the inn and snapping photos, I began to explore the town.
The Royalty II
Galena is an extremely hilly city, so get ready for a workout as you navigate the terrain. My first stop was the visit the Grant home which happened to be right across the street. Ulysses S Grant had lived in Galena where he worked for his family’s leather goods store. Prior to the Civil War, Grant rented a modest two story home for $100 a year. Due to his service during the Civil War, a group of wealthy citizens got together and gifted him with a permanent home.
Ironically, Grant did not get to spend a lot of time in his home as he had to be away a lot to wind down operations in the aftermath of the Civil War, then spent 8 years in Washington D.C. as President, and toured over 30 countries after his term of office expired. Grant’s children decided to gift the home back to the city. Oddly enough, while it is a nice house, it is fairly modest in its own right.
Grant’s dining room. This is the only room in the house that is exactly the same as it was when Grant and his family lived in the home.
After visiting the home, I began touring the city. Galena calls itself the most beautiful city in America and there may be some argument for that. This city is littered with historic homes and bed and breakfasts. Some of these buildings were shipped into the city just to beautify the place.
Ulysses S Grant
I wandered down to Main Street and discovered they have a rather bustling economy. Numerous restaurants and shops made up the main drag. My eye caught a sign called Root Beer Revelry and I decided to visit the establishment. The sign was quite truthful as the store sold nothing but root beer in all varieties and all shapes and sizes. I indulged in a root beer float.
I returned to the inn for a little bit, but went back downtown to have dinner at the DeSoto House in the Green Street Tavern. I enjoyed a grilled salmon sandwich and then went to the lobby where I continued my forays into the supernatural by taking the All About a Ghost Tour, guided by Steven Rupp.
Steven works at the Galena library and has accumulated quite a bit of knowledge about the city. It ended up being a personally guided tour as I was the only who showed up. Another couple seemed interested, but left to get some cash and never returned. Could they have been. . .spirits???? Nah!
It was a pleasant evening for a walk and Steven shared all sorts of tales about the city. It was more history and less mystery, though there were a few tales about the supernatural peppered throughout the night. The most interesting tale was when a businesswoman contacted Steven and asked him if he had ever heard about a haunting in a new house. He had to confess that he had not.
The businesswoman had rented a newly built house in Galena for a weekend so she could do some shopping in town after a seminar. After the seminar, she was putting her feet up in the rental home when she happened to look towards the bathroom. She saw a little girl staring into the bathroom, her back to the businesswoman. Suddenly the girl’s head turned to face the businesswoman and just the head. The body stayed still. Then she went into the bathroom where she disappeared. Steven was unable to discover any stories about the area, but theorized that old homes may have been demolished to make room for these rental homes which is why a ghost could be in a new home.
After the tour, I walked back to the inn where I had the best night’s sleep I’ve experienced in quite a while. I didn’t wake up during the night and didn’t budge a muscle.
Day 2 & Night 3
In the morning, I was finally able to meet Dave and Bernadette. Dave and I had been exchanging phone calls over most of Friday, but never had the chance to meet until breakfast that morning. The repast began with a cream and peach yogurt sprinkled with pumpkin flaxseed granola. Superb!! After that, I elected to have a ham and cheese omelet with a side of turkey bacon and some cinnamon swirl toast. The omelet and bacon were perfect, but they forgot my toast. But that was okay because I was full from the other items.
Galena Trolley Tour
I spent most of the morning writing before heading downtown for a trolley tour. I was a little taken aback by the $19.50 price tag, but the tour would last for an hour. I had a good time seeing some more of Galena’s beautiful architecture and learning something of Galena’s unique history. In its heyday, Galena was the richest city in the country due to a lead rush. In fact, 90% of the lead used in America is from Galena or the nearby area.
The conductor/tour guide also had a terrific story about how Ulysses S Grant came into the Presidency. There was a powerful political family known as the Washburnes and Elihu Washburne badly wanted to be President, but would not be elected because his family already held powerful political positions which would make people be unwilling to vote for him. Instead he and some friends decided to find a quiet, shy man they could propel into the office as a proxy. They decided to support Grant as he was riding a tidal wave of popularity. Grant was elected into office and he gave Washburne the position of Secretary of State. However, Washburne had underestimated Grant’s backbone and integrity as he refused to govern the way Washburne wanted him and bounced him from the post after 11 days, through he did appoint him as a minister to France.
When the tour ended, the group was given a coupon for a free small popcorn at the American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. I decided to get a little snack and was hoping I could get an old fashioned ice cream soda, too, but the dispenser was broken. I ended up returning to Root Beer Revelry and enjoyed another root beer float.
I returned to the inn to relax for a bit and then headed to St Michael’s for worship services. It was a particularly good sermon from Father Reese who talked removing the “I” or emptying ourselves for Jesus and why the cross offends.
After a nice service, I headed over to Gobbie’s for a bit of dinner. The food at Gobbie’s must be amazing because the wait was unbelievable. If I wanted a table, I would have had to wait for 45 minutes as there were 21 people waiting. I ended up taking a seat at the bar and ordered the gyro platter with a Greek salad. This was probably the tastiest gyro I have ever eaten so I definitely recommend a visit to this eatery.
Once I had finished eating, I went to the P.T. Murphy magic show where I met two new acquaintances, Ken & Cindy of Davenport, IA. This was an intimate performance. The theater can only hold about 24 people, so all of the illusions and tricks are performed up close and personal. P.T. Murphy is an excellent magician and performer with a sharp sense of humor and a well developed sense of improvisation.
Yours truly even got involved in the act. At one point, P.T. Murphy asked the audience if anybody had a $50 bill as he was dedicating the trick to Ulysses S Grant. Nobody had one, though one audience member was reluctant to part with a $100 bill. I offered up $20 which P.T. Murphy had me sign on Jackson’s forehead. Then I folded up the bill a number of times and placed it into an envelope. P.T. Murphy then brought out two other envelopes with similarly folded pieces of paper. Then he mixed up the envelopes and labeled them 1, 2, and 3.
P.T. Murphy asked me to select an audience member to pick an envelope so I picked my new friend, Cindy, who selected 2. P.T. Murphy then proceeded to burn the other 2 envelopes. He opened number 2 and iniside was a white piece of paper. He carefully unfolded it to reveal the message, “Oops”.
Then P.T. Murphy asked me to bring over a box that was sitting in the corner. He gave me the key and I unlocked the box and inside. . .was another box. P.T. Murphy gave me the key to that box which I unlocked and inside. . .was a paper bag. Inside the paper bag was on orange. P.T. Murphy cut the orange in half and in the center was my signed $20 bill.
This was truly one of the most enjoyable events of my project. If you find yourself in the Galena area, get a ticket to this show. Afterwards, I returned to my room for a well deserved rest.
I had awoken at what I believed to be 6:30am according to the clock in my bedroom. Since breakfast wasn’t served until 8:30, I just decided to putter around, relax, watch the news, repack, and take a long shower. After 90 minutes, I decided to go online to check the news and discovered that it was actually nearly 9am!! My clock was an hour slow.
I threw on some clothes, quickly cleaned up, and made a speedy appearance in the dining room. Today’s menus featured lovecakes (heart shaped pancakes) infused with cinnamon, banana, and/or blueberries, cinnamon swirl toast, a spinach quiche (with or without sausage), and linkers (sausages) or turkey bacon. I opted for cinnamon lovecakes with the sausage and spinach quiche, turkey bacon, and cinnamon swirl toast (which I did get this time). Once more it was a tasty meal with some delightful conversation.
With the end of breakfast came the end of my little sojourn. Galena is a fun little town and my only regret was similar to my time in Abilene, KS as I came a little off-season. There is so much to do here, but you need to come during the May-October season. But there was more than enough to keep me occupied, interested, and entertained for the weekend.
And if you’re in the Galena area, get a room at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn. You’ll enjoy some great food and a most entertaining host and you just may have a bit of fun, educational or otherwise.