Welcome to my new travel section “Welcome to…”!
I’m always harping on about the importance of reading when you’re learning English. And since travel is a subject dear to most people’s hearts, I thought it would be nice to have some travel essays on my blog for you to read.
So I’ll be inviting friends to show us around their hometown or local region. And first up is fellow teacher and Wisconsinite, Dan Feist. Happy reading!
“I grew up in America’s northern Midwest, in a small, but bubbling city nestled in the Mississippi River Valley. Because of its location on a narrow plain sandwiched between the mighty Mississippi and limestone bluffs that rise 150 metres above my hometown, La Crosse is chock full of outdoor activities.
Local residents practically live outside in the warm and humid months of summer. We take every chance we can to get out on the river to go boating, sailing, waterskiing, fishing, or to just to sit back and enjoy the view and a cold brew.
And when we’re not on the river, we’re in the woods that cover the bluffs. We go hiking, mountain biking, or camping, or we just sit back and enjoy the view and a cold brew.
Our outdoorsy-ness slows down only a little bit during the brutally long and cold winters. Between early December and late March, we get out our skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, and hockey skates. You can actually find outdoor ice rinks in several public parks and private backyards!
In the fall, our deciduous forests turn both the bluffs and the riverside into an impressionist painting full of golds, oranges, and purples where fox, deer, raccoons and their friends run wild.
Perhaps the most impressive part of our ecosystem is the birds. Not only is the area a regular stop for up to 40% of migratory waterfowl crossing the US, it’s also one of the best places to watch bald eagles in their natural habitat.
The city was founded in 1841 by a fur trader who set up a post on the river’s banks, and the town’s name comes from an instance when Native Americans were seen playing a sport similar to the French sport, la crosse (like field hockey, but the sticks have small baskets which are used to throw, catch and carry the ball).
Among the different tribes in the area, you would’ve found the Sioux and Winnebago (a.k.a. Ho-Chunk) nations. As kids, we often found Native American artifacts, like tools and arrowheads, while we were on our nature hikes.
Despite its French name, the city’s heritage is markedly German and Irish with a splash of Scandinavian and Polish. African Americans, Hispanics, and Hmong (an ethnic group from Laos who was partially forced into exile after the Vietnam War) have also left their fingerprint on the area.
A river city with German and Irish heritage? Yep, it’s time to talk about making beer.
When I was a child, my hometown boasted America’s 3rd largest brewery. While it’s still fermenting the good stuff, its biggest claim to fame now is its holding tanks, shaped like the world’s largest six-pack. Today, the real kings of brew are the microbreweries that supply local supermarkets and regional establishments, like the bars and restaurants in the old-fashioned brick buildings downtown.
Speaking of restaurants, let’s talk food. Wisconsin is the dairy state, famous for its outstanding cheese and beef, and also for its grilling culture. Practically any weather is barbeque weather for us, but we especially love to fire up the grill in the fall. The fresh corn, the bratwursts, the burgers, the wild game…I could go on for hours.
By the way, if you’re ever in a restaurant in the area, you have to try the cheese curds. These little balls of batter-fried “baby” cheese are to die for! With all the beer, beef and cheese, it’s a good thing we have a ton of outdoor stuff to do!
Looking back, I feel lucky as hell to have been raised in such a spectacular spot.”
Dan Feist is a communications coach, content creator, and comedian who has been living in Madrid since 2002. Apart from coaching CEOs from Ikea and Huawei, the Secretary of State of Economy and the Secretary General of R&D, among others, he’s been published by 20minutos and El País in collaboration with Cambridge University Press. Additionally, he’s made appearances in sketches on Late Motiv with Andreu Buenafuente. Go and follow his English learning accounts on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.