Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mad(ison) Love in the Midwest

There's a chance I almost never met Rachel. Yes, it's true. I almost spent my college years in the Midwest, pursuing film studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Although I was film buff as a kid, the thought of attending Madison came as a surprise. As a high school senior I felt it was my destiny to go to a small liberal arts school on the east coast. However, no curve ball comes as fast or as unexpectedly as the ones we throw ourselves.

During that complicated and stressful time, I got it in my head that I might want to go to a big school, a Big Ten school to be exact (Go, Badgers!). Wisconsin had a good film program and in those days, since I wanted to be a movie director (my, how times have changed), it seemed like the best option. Enter the college tour and a capitol city in mind:

After interviewing, applying and getting in, suddenly a California girl was spending her Spring Break in Wisconsin. It was a challenging decision. East coast or Midwest?

In the end, my heart yearned for Maine and I ended up at Bates College, spending four blissful years in an old mill town called Lewiston. That's where I met Rachel, who lived in the room next to mine in Hedge Hall.

A series of fortuitous events led us to living with no more than a ceiling between us for the next four years. We started off next door to each other, then across the hall, then in the same get the picture. You can imagine the withdrawals after graduation day.

I often talk about friends scattered around the country. Since college, Rachel and I haven't lived in the same city for longer than a few months but we keep in touch so well it's as if we're still across the hall from one another. It's amazing how a long-distance friendship can bring two people closer!

Anyway, I hadn't really thought much about my college brush with the Midwest until this past weekend when I was back in Madison. Only this time, instead of wandering around campus with my parents, I was visiting Rachel. She lives there now while getting her PhD and has QUITE the cozy life.

Returning to this gorgeous city, my adult experience differed quite a bit from when I was a nervous young perspective student. First of all, I got to stay in Rachel's cozy apartment and spend time with her all weekend. I loved experiencing her day-to-day routine. I loved getting a glimpse into her life in a new city. She lives in an adorable neighborhood right near a lake. It's kind of my dream to live by a lake, so our daily walks down to (and on) the water, I mean ice, were just what I needed.

Oh, and did I mention she has a puppy named Calli (whose 7th month birthday we celebrated together)?

Between playing in the park...

...and slip, slidin' away on the ice, we were pretty much in winter wonderland heaven.

Surprisingly, it was quite warm for the dead of winter. Our days were spent in 40 degree weather—hot for this time of year. It was warm, but we still had our fair share of wintry moments...

If we weren't going on epic walks on or around the lake...

...over bridges to catch the scenery...

...or lounging dreamily in Rachel's apartment, we were eating and we were doing more eating. Did I mention that Madison has insanely good food?

We drank New Glarus beer.

We had a pizza pie for dinner one night at the Roman Candle Pizzeria.

Of course, a trip to Madison isn't complete without a cheese board. Featured in front is Little Boy Blue, the highlight of the cheese-fest.

While walking off all the food and more food, we passed a lot of cute houses. Standing alone...

...or in rows.

Mostly, though, we just played in the Madison sun. Calli got exercise, and so did we!

We didn't just do pull-ups and lunges on the monkey bars. We went to a Sunday night yoga class while the rest of the world watched the Super Bowl. It was the perfect place to be, to relax, to melt into the (heated) floor—which was lined with white holiday lights.

While in Madison, I had a crazy thought: we could have never met (had I gone to Madison for college or somewhere else entirely). I talked it out with Rachel and we decided on this: if I had gone to Madison for school, I probably would have fallen in love with the city, stayed after graduation, got a job, bought a dog and settled on down. The vision continues:

While playing in the dog park, I would have met another dog owner, Rachel, and learned that she was at the University, studying to get her PhD. There you have it. We decided we would have met no matter what.

After such a magical weekend and after all these years, I'm continually reminded of how happy I am that it was meant to be :)


  1. Ahhhh, this is a beautiful love story of a sur and an urb.

  2. this is the sweetest, cutest, coziest friend post ever! i can't wait to see you next month - can we please be sweet, cute, and cozy?! DUH, of course.

  3. This is amazing! What a great time you had with Rachel. And everything looks so good: the food, the houses, the park, the snow, and of course the two of you! I love the last picture with the sun setting. Such a great diary of your trip.

  4. complete dreamscape! madison has never looked so good. the only missing element is larry. (and hot chocolate, chocolate milk, and a chocolate milkshake). xoxoxo

  5. love, love all this coziness - life would not be as sweet without what my mother calls our sisters of choice

  6. This makes me want to visit all of my best buds in all of their different places in the world. what a perfect trip!!

  7. i'm surprised no one has commented yet about Calli's svelte physique...or level of physical fitness! i mean, randoms on the street don't hold back!

  8. I'm not a "random," per se, but I will say that Calli's got quite the adorable figure and I love her energy level. I'd like to see more of her in the not-too-distant future...surprise visit from her ladyship???