Greater Appleton, 2012
Sept 4, 2012
Back in June 2008, I was invited to go on an August press trip to see some for-sale residential properties in Sandpoint, Idaho, which would have been a fine little excursion. But it was cancelled, because by that summer all the air was already rushing out of the housing market like the popped bubble it was, even for resort-style properties in picturesque settings. I'm surprised the invitations got out at all.
Then came the Panic of 2008, after which I was pretty sure that press trips were things of the past, at least for me. Fast forward to this summer, and to my surprise I was invited on one that took place August 23-26. Also to my surprise, it was to a place I'd never spent much time in before, despite all the many places I've been in Wisconsin: Appleton, a town of 72,000 or so on the northern shores of Lake Winnebago.
Actually not just Appleton, but the cluster of small cities and towns in that area collectively known as the Fox Cities, since they're also near the Fox River, which runs from Lake Winnebago to Lake Michigan. Other Fox Cities include the Wisconsin-sounding Kaukauna, Menasha and Neenah, and the charmingly named Little Chute and the curiously named Combined Locks. Nineteen communities in all, population about 220,000.
We visited shops that sold antiques, cheese, books and more -- and I saw a shop on Appleton's lively main street that seemed to sell Egyptian-theme New Age merch, but it was closed for the day, or maybe for the birthday of Ra-Horakhty. We toured a Victorian mansion electrified in 1882 using equipment bought from Edison. We went to a building that had been a brewery in the 19th century, was something else for part of the 20th, and is now a brewpub with a restaurant in the cellar, where we drank beer and ate cheese. And a Scotch egg.
The tour featured plenty of other food, as these tours do, showcasing a variety of excellent fare. Except for the fired haddock I had on Friday night, which is just about as Wisconsin as you can get, I also ate at a Mexican, Italian and Japanese restaurants. Some of my dinner companions were food bloggers (restaurant critics, really), so many dishes were photographed before they vanished. On the whole, the other members of the tour were well-traveled, well-read people, so our conversations wandered far afield.