Beautiful, Historic Galena, Illinois

Galena, Illinois was at one time the center of attention for not only the state, but The United States.

When General Ulysses S. Grant returned to town after winning The Civil War, the eyes of the nation were upon him… CONTINUE READING >> 

The GypsyNesters are Illinois Mile Markers

We are proud to be Illinois Mile Markers – thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Click here for our full adventure down The Great River Road.

Main Street, Galena Illinois

Galena, Illinois was at one time the center of attention for not only the state, but The United States.

When General Ulysses S. Grant returned to town after winning The Civil War, the eyes of the nation were upon him.

The grateful townsfolk presented the victorious general with a gift of a stately home overlooking the city, and soon the calls for Grant to run for president began.

The home of Ulysses S. Grant in Galena, Illinois
The Ulysses S. Grant Home

The town was not wholly unknown before then. As the nation’s top producer of lead, and a major river port, it was vitally important to the country’s expansion.

Though sitting a few miles from The Mississippi, upstream on The Galena River, by the mid 1800s there was no busier port between St. Louis and St. Paul as steamboats hauled massive loads of galena, the lead ore that gave the town its name.

The trolley in Galena, Illinois

On our visit we found a much different place, no longer a mining community or a center of politics, this is a town rich in history that has renewed itself as a year round destination with great options for dining, shopping, boating, hiking, fishing, and skiing at nearby Chestnut Mountain Resort.

The Belvedere, an 1857 mansion erected by Joseph Russell Jones in Galena, Illinois

By taking a tour on the Galena Trolley we got a complete overview of the history, lore and politics of this architecturally rich city.

We began at The Belvedere, an 1857 mansion erected by Joseph Russell Jones, a cheerleader of sorts for President Grant. Our hilarious, yet informative guide, Johnny, informed us that The Belvedere is now famous for housing some of Liberace’s estate items and the drapes from Gone With the Wind.

The hill Ulysses S. Grant climbed to his home in Galena Illinois
A town of layers: U. S. Grant climbed this hill to his first house in Galena (the stairs were not there at the time)

From there the trolley climbed the hill up to Grant’s home and throughout the neighborhood where many of his colleagues lived.

All in all, nine of the Union’s generals in The Civil War hailed from Galena.

A lead miner's home in Galena Illinois
A typical lead miner’s home in hilly Galena.

Back down along the river we covered the length of the historic Main Street and it’s easy to see why this has been named a National Register Historic District. The buildings have been wonderfully preserved and most serve as shops and restaurants, making Galena not only a delight for history buffs, but foodies and shoppers alike.

Main Street in Galena Illinois, a National Register Historic District

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

What we did in Galena:
Took the Trolley Tour &
strolled historic Main Street
Where we ate:
Vinny Vanucchi’s
Where we stayed:
Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel
For all things Galena:
Galena.org

Thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Our opinions, as always, are our own.

YOUR TURN: Have we inspired you to take an Illinois Road Trip?

Lagomarcino’s, a Moline Tradition Since 1908

Upon entering Lagomarcino’s we were engulfed by nostalgia and the enticing smell of handmade chocolate.

The custom made booths, Tiffany lamps, the terrazzo tile floor and metal ceiling combined to transport us to the Illinois of yore… CONTINUE READING >> 

The GypsyNesters are Illinois Mile Markers

We are proud to be Illinois Mile Markers – thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Click here for our full adventure down The Great River Road.

Lagomarcino's in Moline, Illinois

Lagomarcino’s is a sweet blast from the past.

Since 1908, the lucky folks of Moline have been satisfying their sweet teeth at this fourth-generation, family-owned establishment.

A staple if there ever was one.

Angelo Lagomarcino of Moline Illinois
The candy man: Angelo Lagomarcino

Lagomarcino's in Moline, IllinoisUpon entering Lagomarcino’s we were engulfed by nostalgia and the enticing smell of handmade chocolate.

The custom made booths, Tiffany lamps, the terrazzo tile floor and metal ceiling combined to transport us to the Illinois of yore.

Lagomarcino's in Moline, Illinois

We ordered up a cherry coke and a Green River, a lime phosphate famously named after the tradition of dying the Chicago River green every St. Patrick’s Day.

Settling in at the counter of the soda fountain, we had a front row seat to the making of our beverages.

The GypsyNesters enjoy a phosphate at Lagomarcino's in Moline Illinois

The secret, super delicious hot fudge at Lagomarcino's

A sundae at Lagomarcino’s is an interactive affair. The hot fudge, billed as a “homemade bittersweet elixir” is served on the side, to allow the customer to make his or her perfect blend.

After one taste of the magic elixir, we pushed the ice cream aside and went after the heavenly concoction with a spoon.

Diluting it seemed like a sin.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

What we did in Moline:
The John Deere PavilionButterworth Center &
Deere-Wiman House
Where we ate:
Lagomarcino’s
Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse
Where we stayed:
Stoney Creek Inn
For all things Moline:
VisitQuadCities.com

Thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Our opinions, as always, are our own.

YOUR TURN: Have we inspired you to take an Illinois Road Trip?

A Tale of Two Flights

It was the best of planes, it was the worst of planes, that was our feeling after spending nearly thirty hours on two non-stop flights.

The first one, United flight 895, from Chicago to Hong Kong clocked in at sixteen hours. Back when… CONTINUE READING >> 

Comparing two flights to Asia

It was the best of planes, it was the worst of planes, that was our feeling after spending nearly thirty hours on two non-stop flights.

United Flight #895, from Chicago to Hong Kong one of the last flights of the Boeing 747

The first one, United flight 895, from Chicago to Hong Kong clocked in at sixteen hours. Back when this route started it was the was the longest scheduled flight by any U.S. airline.

To make the 7,788 miles a Boeing 747 had to be specially modified to carry 386,000 pounds of fuel, including several thousand pounds in extra tanks above the passenger cabin.

There are still ashtrays on airplanes?

An aviation marvel back in the 1990s, but two decades later we found ourselves climbing aboard what seemed like an antique.

The coach seats were packed in ten across, with the leg room of an average commuter flight, and we can’t even remember the last time we were on an airplane that just had one big movie screen in the front of the cabin… or stranger yet, ashtrays.

Yup, this baby dates back to the days of smoking or non-smoking tickets. A “don’t call me Shirley” joke sprang to mind. No personal in-flight entertainment options on this marathon journey, everybody’s watching the same flick. Or, actually four flicks, with time to spare.

Oh well, maybe we won’t mind since the food will take our minds off of it.

Food on United Flight #895, from Chicago to Hong Kong

Ah yes, airline food, but isn’t it usually better on international flights?

While that certainly used to be the case, now international flights are pretty much the only ones that serve food. While nothing to write home about, the food on good old flight 895 was edible.

They made a stab at Chinese cuisine by putting the meat on a bed of rice, and it did give us something to occupy a bit of our sixteen hours.

Food on United Flight #895, from Chicago to Hong Kong

We were given dinner, a snack, and then another dinner, because this crazy flight went right over the north pole and across the International Dateline meaning we never saw any darkness, even though we arrived in Hong Kong a day and a half later than when we left Chicago.

Ice floes in the Arctic Ocean seen from an airplane, United Flight from Chicago to Hong Kong

The highlight for most of the passengers came about mid-flight when, while looking down at the ice floes cracking in the Arctic Ocean, we suddenly flew directly over another airliner.

Don’t get to see the top of a jumbo jet from 39,000 feet everyday.

American Airlines plane seen from above over the ice floes of the Arctic Ocean

All in all the flight turned out to be not quite as bad as we were dreading. Perhaps we shouldn’t have read the article Mommy, Make It Stop; Sorry, but United 895, the Nation’s Longest Scheduled Flight, Won’t Land for 16 Hours before the trip.

But nothing about this flight had us looking forward to repeating the experience any time soon, so we were hopeful that the return would be better.

All Nippon Airlines flight #12 in a Boeing 777, Toyko to Chicago

On our flight back to Chicago, we left out of Tokyo on All Nippon Airlines flight 12 in a Boeing 777.

This was a slightly shorter trip, only twelve hours, but it gave us a perfect opportunity to contrast and compare, not just the difference between one of the oldest and one of the newest airplanes in service, but also between a U.S. carrier and a Japanese one.

Hot towel service on All Nippon Airlines flight #12 in a Boeing 777, Toyko to Chicago

As anyone who has flown in The States the past few years already knows, customer service is fast becoming a thing of the past on our airlines.

Greyhound bus with wings springs to mind. Not so much on most foreign carriers.

Leg room on All Nippon Airlines flight #12 in a Boeing 777, Toyko to Chicago

We were greeted with hot towels at our spacious seats, which had one less in each row and what felt like a foot more leg room.

It is amazing what a few inches can do to improve comfort.

Each seat had its own video screen with dozens of choices for on-demand entertainment, featuring popular movies, television shows, games, news, music, and, our personal favorite, the map with a giant airplane showing our current location.

We were apparently covering about half of Japan just before takeoff.

Dinner on All Nippon Airlines flight #12 in a Boeing 777, Toyko to Chicago

Dinner on All Nippon had some flair too. It came with a cold plate containing noodles with sauce, lotus root, and a mystery salad that we had no idea of its content, but was quite good.

We were then offered miso soup, and a hot dish of meat, rice and egg. Not quite on a par with the food we found in Osaka, but still one of the better airline meals we’ve had.

Breakfast on All Nippon Airlines flight #12 in a Boeing 777, Toyko to Chicago

Before we landed we were served a Japanese breakfast, which consisted mostly of rice that didn’t go snap, crackle, or pop, and beautifully prepared morsels of goodness.

Breakfast was served because on this flight it actually got dark for a few hours, giving us at least the illusion of getting a night’s sleep. But an illusion was certainly all it was.

We left Tokyo at 10:45 AM and arrived in Chicago at 8:20 AM… on the same morning! Yes, we landed an hour and a half BEFORE we took off. That wacky International Dateline is a tough thing to wrap a mind around, and made for the worst case of jet lag in the history of the world.

Even in our time warped fog, we much preferred the return trip on All Nippon airlines. But both were executed professionally, and safely, which is after all the most important thing.

We should also point out that a few days after our flight on April 2, 2013, United Airlines retired the aging 747 that we flew aboard and began using the same model Boeing 777 aircraft as All Nippon.

Perhaps that will help to retire the mantra “mommy make it stop” as well.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See our adventures in China!

Learn about how we pack and our always-adhered-to “One Trip Rule”!

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Rocky Waters Vineyard and Winery

True passion brings forth great fruit, and the next thing we knew we were all in Phyllis’ Range Rover bouncing through the fields for an up close look at the vines… CONTINUE READING >> 

The GypsyNesters are Illinois Mile Markers

We are proud to be Illinois Mile Markers – thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Click here for our full adventure down The Great River Road.

Rocky Waters Vineyard and Winery, Hanover, Illinois

About twenty years ago, Jared & Phyllis Spahn purchased a lovely fruit tree laced piece of land just outside of Hanover, Illinois that inspired the planting of a vineyard.

While the grapes grew, Jared designed the fantastic building that houses the winery and tasting rooms, and Phyllis tended the fledgling adventure.

Rocky Waters Vineyard and Winery, Hanover, Illinois

Rocky Waters was busy with our fellow wine tourists when we arrived, but we were greeted personally by the vivacious Phyllis and her dog, Coco Chanel, and given the grand tour.

True passion brings forth great fruit, and the next thing we knew we were all in Phyllis’ Range Rover bouncing through the fields for an up close look at the vines.

New grapes at Rocky Waters Winery in Hanover Illinois

The vineyard was painstakingly laid out so that none of the fruit trees were disturbed. Pear, cherry, and apple trees remain interspersed among the vines and add a hint of flavor to the wines.

Our tour also included a stop at the lakeside cabin that the Spahn’s lived in while constructing the main building. Now it is known as The Fisherman’s Cabin and available as a vacation rental.

Rocky Waters Winery in Hanover IllinoisBack up at the main house we sampled the fruit of the vines while gazing over the rolling hills and pond below.

It’s hard to imagine a more serene spot to sit on a deck and sip a glass of wine.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Our opinions, as always, are our own.

YOUR TURN: Have we inspired you to take an Illinois Road Trip?

Quincy Illinois, 3665 Strong

In fact, every street is packed with jaw dropping examples of nineteenth century homes, especially the tree lined boulevard Park Place. We’re pretty sure Monopoly should be jealous… CONTINUE READING >> 

The GypsyNesters are Illinois Mile Markers

We are proud to be Illinois Mile Markers – thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Click here for our full adventure down The Great River Road.

Villa Katherine, a Moorish styled castle perched above the Mississippi River in Quincy Illinois

Our exploration of Quincy began at Villa Katherine, a Moorish styled castle perched above the Mississippi River.

Built in 1900 by eccentric world traveler George Metz and inspired by Villa ben Ahben in Morocco, it now houses the Tourist Information Center. Inside we talked to Holly, who was kind enough to show us around and even take us up onto the roof for a fantastic view and a peek into the harem room.

Villa Katherine, a Moorish styled castle perched above the Mississippi River in Quincy Illinois

A place to hide the harem is just one of the castle’s quirks. The interior features ornate carved wood trim, oddly stacked columns, and a central reflecting pool below a set of windows designed to act as a sort of air conditioner.

Strangely, after building his masterpiece Metz abandoned it in just a few years. It fell into disrepair and was nearly torn down before Quincy saved it.

The Villa has plenty of good company, the city has 3,665 buildings listed on The National Register. Since the day was nearly perfect, we decided to mount up, head east, and ride our trusty bikes to take a look at some of them.

John Wood Mansion in Quincy Illinois

One of the finest is the John Wood Mansion, which was home to the city’s founder and 12th governor of Illinois.

This remarkable example of Greek Revival architecture has a secret that we found hard to believe.

In 1864 Wood decided to move the entire house to its current location from just across the street. The herculean undertaking, performed to make way for a new house, was accomplished by cutting the structure in half and rolling the pieces on logs.

A Park Place mansion in Quincy Illinois

Wood’s reconnected home is just one of the dozens of incredible houses in Quincy’s East End Historic District.

In fact, every street is packed with jaw dropping examples of nineteenth century homes, especially the tree lined boulevard Park Place. We’re pretty sure Monopoly should be jealous.

Markers the signify flood levels along the Mississippi River in Quincy
David looks up at markers showing the water levels of several floods.

From The East End we headed back to the river. Several parks line the riverfront in Quincy, all connected by a bike path, so we rode through Edgewater Park and Bicentennial Park to an old swing bridge that crosses over to Quinsippi Island.

A log cabin church on Quinsippi Island, Quincy Illinois

The island is home to Log Cabin Village, where an old church, smokehouse, and corncrib from the early 1800s are on display.

The village was not originally on the island, the structures were moved from different parts of the area into place about fifty years ago.

The ride back into town gave us a fantastic view of the Bayview Bridge over The Mississippi. We stopped for a photo, and one last look at the legendary river that inspired our incredible journey along The Great River Road.

Biking along the Mississippi River in Quincy

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

What we did in Quincy:
Visited the “Nutroll Nazi” at Underbrinks BakeryRode our bikes along the Mississippi River and through historic districts
Where we ate:
The Abbey
Where we stayed:
Town & Country Inn
For all things Quincy:
SeeQuincy.com

Thanks to Enjoy Illinois for making this adventure possible! Our opinions, as always, are our own.

YOUR TURN: Have we inspired you to take an Illinois Road Trip?