Galena, Illinois and territory


Lovely fall getaway, meeting the Chicago branch of our family (15-month-old grandson Linus and parents) in the old river town of Galena in northwest Illinois. Galena proved a perfect near-middle meeting spot between Chicago and us in Des Moines, a three/three and a half hour drive for each. We didn’t realize how hilly and bucolic this corner of Illinois is, but learned it is Illinois’s only county in the Midwest’s 4-state Driftless Area, so named because the land-flattening glacier didn’t pass through during the Ice Age, therefore not leaving behind “drift,” i.e. glacial deposits or smashed down the rolling landscape. The Driftless moniker never sounds right to us.) The area looks like nearby southwest Wisconsin to the north and northeast Iowa to the west, with high ridges overlooking forests, river valleys, waterfalls and streams.

We stayed close to our Airbnb, given the pandemic, cooking and eating in our cozy 2-bedroom townhouse-ish dwelling in “Galena Territory,” a vast resort development fashioned out of rolling hills dotted with farms outside town. It was tastefully done, meaning not over done, with small clusters of earth-colored contemporary housing scattered in woods and valleys, here and there.

On Saturday morning we strolled down Galena’s Main Street, which is lined with well-preserved 19th-century red brick buildings with restaurants and enticing shops. (Not as many antique stores as when we were last there 30 years ago. More upscale home decor and fancy food shops.). Given the pandemic we entered only one store, an excellent kitchen store, The Grateful Gourmet, and got coffee, hot cider and pumpkin donuts at a cute cafe, the Trolley Depot, where we sat outside, on a chilly but sunny day. Everyone wore masks, which we greatly appreciated. When we return I’d like to visit some of the grand old historic homes, including President Grant’s . There’s also a branch of the Chicago Atheneum, a design/architecture museum. Next trip we’d also like to go to the classic looking supper club we passed in East Dubuque, Illinois, which is perched high above the Mississippi,

On the way out of town, we stopped briefly at Terrapin Orchards in Elizabeth, Illinois for apples. Linus loved the sweet little play area fashioned out of an old Cat bulldozer whose scoop was filled with field corn kernels and tonka toy trucks. Paradise for a little boy (or girl). Then we parted ways, with the Chicagoans heading southeast and us Iowans heading southwest.

We drove the scenic route along the Great River Road through the old worn Mississippi River towns of Hanover and Savanna, past Mississippi palisades state park, with its high wooded bluffs. In Savanna, we stopped at Fritz’s Finds, a funky junk/antique shop in an old brick opera house with stained glass windows. To our surprise we had pass through a dark bar to get to the few rooms with junk. We didn’t linger, given the pandemic, but it was odd to be in a bar where people sat shoulder to shoulder mask-less at the bar and at a few tables, listening to a 6-piece band. Wish we could have stayed. The band was good and made me miss live music all the more.

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