Jill’s bag arrived at about 11.30 pm on our first night in Minneapolis but by then we were well and truly in dreamland, only to be wide awake and bushy-tailed again at 2.00 am with jet lag. She was very glad to see her things again when we picked the bag from reception first thing on Saturday morning.
We are staying downtown, or the CBD, as we would know it. This is a business area and the streets are very quiet over the weekend. No doubt they will be much more alive during the working days of the week. There are a lot of tall buildings here – some old and some new,.
Minneapolis lies on both banks of the Mississippi River, just north of the river’s confluence with the Minnesota River, and adjoins Saint Paul, the state’s capital. The city is abundantly rich in water, with 13 lakes, wetlands, the Mississippi River, creeks and waterfalls, so apart from maintaining a good conscience, there is no need to worry about long showers and water usage.
Saturday was very wet. Over an inch rain (25 mm) fell in the city over 24 hours. Perhaps it could turn right and go south down to where we need it at home. We had a very easy day on that day – slept in and took it easy.
We were very happy to see my old friends, Jim and Janet Morris at lunch. They drove up from their home about 1/2 an hour away and we had a wonderful time together reminiscing about Control Data Corporation where we both worked and memories of times spent. I had four or five trips here during my time working with the company and Jim had invited me home for a meal more than once. He was a senior executive in the company, I think as President for Personnel Internationally. That made him something like my bosses, bosses, boss! He his a gracious gentleman and a person that I am very grateful to have known. Jim and Janet have six boys and two girls and they now spend most of their time keeping up with more than thirty grandchildren. Our time together went so quickly that I couldn’t believe that we had spent over three hours talking when it was time for them to head back home.
In fact, we were so busy talking that I didn’t remember until the last minute that I didn’t have a photograph of them. I managed to grab one through their car window as they were about to drive off.
Late in the afternoon the weather became more fine and I walked a few blocks down to the main shopping street (Nicollet Mall) in the city to buy a few necessities. One of things that I wanted to get was a new sports coat. I understand that it, or some other form of jacket, is required for dinner on the cruise that we are about two start. I remembered as soon as we were checking in at Melbourne airport that I had left mine at home. Anyway, I found a large menswear store that was having a sale and managed to find one that fitted me well.
This morning (Sunday) the weather had changed back to being sunny and warm. After breakfast, we headed off in an Uber to the Mississippi River and its old industrial district about a kilometre and a half from our hotel. When I used to visit this city for work in the 1970’s and early 80’s there were a lot of quaint old buildings and warehouses along the stretch of river here but now they have been replaced by modern condominiums.
We walked across the historic ‘Stone Arch Bridge’ which was originally built for for the Burlington Railway. Now it is a popular walking and cycling route.
Nearby are the Saint Anthony Falls and just by looking at the flow of water over them we can understand why the river is too high for our riverboat to navigate to these upper reaches of the Mississippi. These are the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River. They were replaced by a concrete overflow spillway after the falls partially collapsed in 1869. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, a series of locks and dams was constructed to extend navigation to points upstream. The falls are named after the Catholic Saint Anthony of Padua.
In the early days the city, these falls powered a number of flour and timber mills. From 1880 to about 1930, Minneapolis was the “Flour Milling Capital of the World”.
We finished our look at the falls by about 11.00 am and called another Uber to take us to Minnehaha Park. Minnehaha is a fictional Native American woman documented in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’. She is the lover of the titular protagonist Hiawatha and comes to a tragic end. The name, is often said to mean “laughing water”, and literally translates to “waterfall” or “rapid water” in the Dakota Language.
Minnehaha Park preserves a number of historic sites that illustrate transportation, pioneering, and architectural activities. We passed the Minnehaha Princess Station, a Victorian train depot built in the 1870s; the John H. Stevens House, built in 1849 and moved to the park from its original location in 1896, utilizing horses and 10,000 school children; and the Longfellow House, a house built to resemble the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The central feature of the park, Minnehaha Falls, was a favourite subject of pioneer photographers, beginning with Alexander Hesler’s daguerreotype in 1852. Although he never visited the park, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow helped to spread the waterfall’s fame when he wrote his celebrated poem, The Song of Hiawatha.
We enjoyed lunch and a beer at the cafe and then hired anther Uber to take us past the airport to Bloomington where the The Mall of America is located.Ths is the area of Minneapolis that I knew best. The mall is built on the site of an old baseball field and on the area of two adjoining motels – The Thunderbird and the Howard Johnston Motel. I stayed at HoJo’s on my first business trip to Minneapolis in 1978 as it was just a few kilometres from Control Data’s headquarters. I think that I could still see the office building just a little way from the Mall. HoJo’s was an old 1960’s motel that looked as if it should have been bulldozed in 1978 when I first stayed there. I can remember having a few drinks in the bar of the Thunderbird which had a totem pole and was so dark that you needed night vision goggles to see anything.
The new Mall was opened in 1992. It is the largest mall in the United States in terms of total floor area, the fifth largest mall in North America in terms of leaseable space and the twelfth largest in the world. In the centre there is a full blown amusement park with all sorts of rides and attractions.
We wandered around some of the three levels of stores and made a few purchases at shops that we knew, but hadn’t expected to find.
At the end of the day, we walked around to the terminus of the Blue Line of the Minneapolis Transit Light Rail system and caught the train / train back to the CBD. It was only a short walk from the nearby city station back to our hotel.