Tuesday, July 20, 2004

More Minneapolis Musings

Life was a bit less hectic the last week or so it seems. Last wednesday we went out to a fondue restaurant which was really nice but expensive for what is really a cook your own. But they even had lobster and prawns to "boil up". There was a huge wine list but it took five goes to find something they had in stock. After dipping out on chianti's and rioja's we had to settle for an Oregon Pinot Noir. It was suggested that they might be trying to up sell us but i managed to keep within the wine "budget". I asked if I got to 10 would the 11th be free? They didn't seem amused or they didn't understand what I said which is always a possibility. On the weekend we headed again for Sioux Falls. It was an early start at 4 am and there was no traffic on the road but we had fog most of the way.Visibility got down to 50-100 m in some parts.
Once there we prepared for the engagement party. This involved a pig roast (pork loin bar b q) with the traditional home made baked beans and salad followed up by cherry or lemon cake.
Thirty five turned up for a fun evening. The more energetic played volley ball until the light failed around 10 pm. The more sensible sat and drank wine. South Dakota has the slowest flying mosquitos in the world. It must be the easy going country lifestyle or they may have been designed by Boeing. They are easy prey for an Aussie swatter used to South Coast midget dive bombers.
We stayed in Aurora that night which is a little bigger than Trent but is still out in the sticks and surrounded by bean and corn fields. The town has the largest ethanol plant in the state which uses corn as its raw material. The town's other claim to fame is a strip joint, The Pound, which is very risque for this part of the midwest. We went passed the establishment at
midnight. There didn't seem to be too many customers. Maybe the management provides discrete parking.
Sunday was uneventful apart from a visit to Culvers, the home of the butter burger and more importantly, frozen custard, on the way home. A supersize chocolate would be the way to go....but I resisted! I had the smaller olympic swimming pool size.
We discovered another restaurant/bar in our block. The Town Hall Brewery makes their own beer and has a koelsch on the list. It is a copy of the well known Cologne beer. It wasn't too bad, being just a little sweeter than the original. They also have a copy of a wheat beer (wiess) which I also used to drink in Germany, so will try that next time.
Now its time for some humble pie. I may have been a bit tough on Minneapolis a few reports ago calling it dull and grim.
But further investigations have proven me wrong.
It seems that the eventual arrival of summer has brought out the street cafes and the outdoor entertainment. The city has a traffic free mall running through it which is a hive of activity. The main thing which I didn't realise at first is that all the city blocks are connected by skyways. This allows the population to move around the city "inside" avoiding the winter cold and, it seems, the summer heat. So all the eating and drinking places are incorporated into the retail and office buildings. There are some really nice shops and all the brand name boutiques are there too. A lot of the buildings have huge atriums that let the sun stream while you eat and shop in air conditioned comfort.
Now here are some comparisons with home.
The USA must have the cleanest and highest tech rest rooms in the world. From the swishest store to the lowly
interstate highway rest area, they never rate lower than 8/10.
The service level is very high in most places. No Myer indifference here in the stores. The sales staff is always
visible and they actually know something about what they are selling.
The restaurant service level may be a bit over the top for Australians but you get used to it. The "how is your meal" thing has been supplemented with the "how were the first few bites" thing which can be annoying as is the "hi, my name is brad and i will be your server for the evening. the specials today are (add 1000 items here)". The latter is about as eye glazing as the list of salad dressings. but when things need fixing they get fixed fast. You hardly ever have to wait for your bill.
I guess this is a result of the huge competition for restaurant business as well as tips being the main source of income for staff. Tipping here is a given with 15 % minimum expected. Some places even calculate it for you on your bill. One even had 20 and 25% (you're dreamin') calculations as well. It's something you really have to budget for if planning a holiday here.
As far as prices are concerned, what we pay in ausdol you usually pay here in usdol. So that makes it around 40% dearer. But some things are cheaper, petrol for instance. I am paying around the equivalent of $A0.65L. and the locals are complaining about the recent price hikes!!!!! But seeing the size of the cars, 4wd's and SUV's that are driven I guess the mpg or L/100km factor evens things up a bit.
Other cheap items are books, cd's, dvd's, going to the movies, fast food, public transport ($A2 anywhere in Minneapolis with unlimited transfers in a 3 hour period), car parking are a few I have noticed.

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