Our first full day in Galena was jam-packed with activities, all leading up to the Night of the Luminaria. We met Rose, of Visit Galena, and the last additions to our group, Max and Natalie, that morning at the Lamberson Guest House before Rose drove us all to Victory Cafe for breakfast. It was a perfectly cozy, small-town diner kind of place, with things like plate-sized pancakes and biscuits and gravy (my favorite) on the menu.
We all sat at a large round table in the window, having at least three different conversations at once at any given time. Though we were still all strangers, it felt comfortable to be sitting at a diner sharing a meal. After breakfast, we piled back into the van and took tours of both the Chestnut Mountain Resort and the Eagle Ridge Resort, which were both bustling due to the snow.
Both properties were gorgeous and catered to their own kind of clientele; Chestnut Mountain being more of a ski resort and Eagle ridge speaking more to the golf/spa/luxury crowd. In the summer, Chestnut Mountain has a unique zip line experience that I would absolutely love to come back and try.
After the resort tours, we moved on to Galena Cellars for a tour and a tasting. Our tour guide was a feisty, knowledgeable woman, who, once we were about to go outside, casually threw on a fur coat the size of a small car. She walked us through the vineyard, despite the snow and empty vines, and gave us some history on the winery and it’s owners.
We also got to see where the wine is fermented and barreled, and the bottling room. Once we were back inside the tasting room/store, she taught us her 5 S’s of wine tasting: see, swirl, sniff, sip and slurp. We were tasting their Seyval Blanc, which I would be happy to take more than one sip of!
From the winery, we moved on to lunch at Fried Green Tomatoes, an Italian Restaurant, which was in a building that used to house Ulysses S. Grant’s family’s leather shop. They sat us at a table in the middle of their main dining room, beneath a beautiful chandelier.
We could see the snow really starting to come down outside, making the street, in all it’s holiday cheer, look like scene from a postcard. They started us out with some wine and bread with olive oil and I knew we were in the right place. Mike and I shared the prime rib wrap and the Tuscan Mac and Cheese, and both options were fantastic.
After lunch, we had a few hours to ourselves before the Night of the Luminaria began. We browsed through the other half of the Helluva Half Mile, stopping into most of the shops and doing some Christmas shopping. On this side of Main Street, the stores we liked the most were Peace of the Past North, Stamp and Ink, and the Galena Garlic Company.
We ran back up to the Lamberson Guest House to drop off our bags, and ended up falling asleep for an hour which caused us to miss wine and cheese hour this time, much to my disappointment. We rushed out to see the living windows displays and all the candles, which lit up the town.
There were candles in their white bags lining every surface in town, and that coupled with the snow made everything look so beautiful. We walked across the pedestrian bridge to Grant Park to admire the statues and canons in the candlelight.
The park was a perfect winter wonderland with a beautiful view of downtown across the river. We walked back to Main Street and met the group at the DeSoto House, first for a drink in their Green Street Tavern and then for dinner downstairs in the General’s Restaurant.
Desoto House was built in 1855 and is the state’s oldest operating hotel. The restaurant was downstairs from the lobby and through an open courtyard with a beautiful Christmas tree in the center. In the restaurant, we sat down to order, starting with a couple bottles of wine for the table. I ordered the scallops for dinner, and they were so good that I forgot to take a picture until I was about half way through (whoops!).
Everything was cooked so perfectly and it was so good. I’m pretty sure everyone in the group was a member of the clean plate club, despite all the other meals we had that day. Everyone was in good spirits and talking animatedly. This was my first trip of this kind, and I am very grateful that I was enjoying it with such a fun group. After dinner, the group dispersed, with most of them heading back to Lamberson, and Mike and I going out to a bar called Gobbie’s for karaoke.
The heavy snow made it a slow night at the bar, but the karaoke was still going, and it was quite the sight to behold. The drinks there were good and decently priced. Rose met us for a drink before heading back home, and it was really nice to get to know her better, especially because we are both apart of the Bey Hive. After our drinks, we headed back to our respective homes (or temporary homes).
The Lamberson Guest House has a good library of DVDs to borrow, so Mike and I headed up to our room for some Captain American and a game of rummy and called it a night. The next morning, we awoke to the sounds of breakfast being made and came downstairs to find that our hosts had made us a three course meal for breakfast. From scratch. The menu included, a homemade gingerbread muffin with whipped cream cheese butter, a fruit salad with lemon poppy seed dressing (atop which sat a kiwi in the shape of a pine tree), and an omelet torte (which I was assured there was only eggs in the bottom and I could eat the top of).
The food was so good, and Brian and Michelle were very attentive while serving it. I was so tempted to stuff a few of those delicious muffins in my purse and run. I need to get the recipe. I don’t know how Michelle had time to prepare such a feast, but I hope she knows that it was the best breakfast we’ve had in a while! After we finished, Chris from Visit Galena showed up and had to roll us out to the van, one by one.
We drove over to the Ulysses S. Grant House for a tour. It was still snowing, and the big brick house looked so pretty. The inside of the house is filled with items that once belonged to the former president, or were replicas of things he had once owned. Our tour guide was sweet and had her presentation down to a science.
My favorite part of the house was the carpet/wallpaper combo, and the statue of Julia Dent Grant out front. Mike and I ran through the deepening snow to take pictures of it, and consequently, got the best view of Galena from where she stands.
After the tour, we decided to head back to Chicago because of the weather. We made the very snowy drive home at a snail’s pace, giving us more time to gush over our time in Galena. Who knew that this little city just three hour’s drive from Chicago would make for such an amazing trip.
Thank you to Visit Galena and the Lamberson Guest House for giving us such a wonderful, relaxing weekend!!