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Opinion

Visits to cultural sights could give you a newfound taste of elegance

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April 1, 2011

A man that visits this te shop is either secure in his masculinity or draws the risk of his sexual orientation coming into question. That’s why I only go to Aprille’s Shower tea shop if I have female company. This Sunday was to be our Epic Sunday, being a most highly classy affair. This place is a clash between English tea time and a five year-old girl’s tea party with all of her stuffed animals and fanciful hats. In fact, the Red Hat societies (women fifty years and older who obviously wear red hats and other gaudy clothing even if it doesn’t suit them) frequently visit this black hole of cuteness, which isn’t black at all, but wrapped exclusively in red, white, and pink lacing and crochets.

We partook of the “light luncheon:” bottomless pots of tea, the soup of the day (a celery concoction with cornbread madelaine), a croissant sandwich with some finger sandwiches, topped off by a scone with Devonshire cream, all served on fine china on a flower-speckled table cloth. I had Smashley wear one of the fancy hats; there is a rack of women’s hats that were no doubt worn by high society around the earlier part of the 20th century, Smashley chose a black boa. Quality over quantity was stressed in the presentation of our English meal leaving us thoroughly satisfied.

We stepped up our culture by going to a wine tasting at the Chateau St. Croix Winery north of St. Croix Falls, but first we stopped to look at a house on Hazel Street in Stillwater that looked like a Piet Mondrian painting. I’m surprised we didn’t have our pinkies cocked during the whole day. I had wanted to go to the Chateau ever since I wrote a paper about viniculture (the science of wine making). Passing through the Wisconsin countryside the winery makes many people do a double take, because of its splendor and many roofs. It doesn’t seem to match with the many trailer parks that are a staple of northern Wisconsin. The winery itself has the look of a large sweeping French Manor with rolling green meadows beside it. The tour of the winery consisted of as many steps to walk to the end of the dorm hall’s bathroom and back. The tour guide, who also doubled as the winery’s salesman, talked as fast as an auctioneer. He told us the origin of the word bunghole, which is the hole at the top of a barrel where the plug is placed. Smashley and I observed the five S’s (sight, smell, swirl, sip, and spit; or swallow in our case) as we tried the Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Ice Wine, a Syrah, a Chardonnay, and the Frontenac Port. My world was mildly blown when I tried this fruity wine that is fortified with brandy. I had always heard of British sea captains having port in their cabins and just always assumed that this was some sort of hard liquor consumed to get over the rough seas for the day.

Now that we were fortified with a little wine we went to Interstate state park in St. Croix Falls. This was during the first melt of the year before we were spoiled with that unwelcomed snow dump. We walked along the bluff watching big swatches of ice smash into the stubborn net of ice not yet broken up yet, like a modern day version of all those logs that were sent down the river in the 19th century into those log jams. We spoke of our respective summers we would be spending in Alaska and how, if fate would have it, we would meet up there.

We wrapped up this incredibly fancy day by dressing up for Denny’s. I wore my Italian hand-knit olive-green suit and she a beautiful brown dress of denim with huge wooden hoop earrings. This time we chose quantity over quality with the food selection (not so classy), but our attire was satisfaction enough for an epic ending to our Sunday.

Christopher Pagels is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.