Weekend getaways are a necessity and mine couldn’t have come at more appropriate time. I had no idea that the weekend I planned months in advance to visit family and enjoy some football that I would be at my mental/physical/psychological/emotional breaking point – but I was. Between personal and professional [and political] obstacles #bloomingtonorbust went from an inside joke hashtag to the actual metaphor that would be the implosion of my life if I couldn’t get a away from it all, and soon. Luckily, quaint little Bloomington was everything I needed, and so much of what I didn’t expect, in one pretty package!
I’ve always had a love for college towns, and I have a special affinity for any town and campus with the true regalia of what one thinks of when higher education comes to mind. The buildings have the old-world charm and detailed architecture that just make you feel smart just walking down the winding paths along the buildings. The university is cradled by forests of trees; those not bare-leafed yet, dazzled in the sun like stained glass of auburn and burgundy and rust and marigold. Every angle of the picturesque University of Indiana, quaintly reflected the beauty of Midwestern America, like a Norman Rockwell painting.
Football is a BIG deal in Texas, as well as in the rest of the southerners sitting right of the Lone Star State, but the Midwest is by no means a stranger to the sport. On a day with the most ideal weather to sit outdoors for a game – not too cold, not too hot, all of the sun, the slightest breeze – #HoosierNation was live and in full effect! Crimson and Cream dominated the stands; every man, woman and child was in IU striped overalls, hoodies, hats, scarves, boots and gloves. In addition to the architecture and structure, the spirit of its residents is another factor of admiration I have for college towns; the sportsmanship and loyalty to the teams are unmatched. The stadium and tailgate: again, picture-perfect. Families and alumni camped out with all of the fixin’s. The fans were passionate and kind – just like football, hospitality isn’t exclusive to the South, either! Although it was not a winning game, I thoroughly enjoyed learning the chants and cheers of the crowd wearing a darker shade of red than I’m used to on college game day.
College towns have the best dive bars: cheap prices, good music, ridiculous chatter and friendly competition among patrons rooting for the hometown team on the screens plastered all over the place. Bloomington’s town center is similar to Texas State’s “The Square.” A few square blocks of bars, boutiques with university paraphernalia and late night eats. Nick’s English Hut was poppin’ – crowded wall to wall with post-gamers with mason jars of drank in hand. I greatly enjoyed the lively atmosphere that can only come from a football dwelling crowd – win or lose. Shouting over music, selfies and snap stories, keeping a watchful eye on the next available booth to sit. You’ve been to Nick’s before because Nick’s is everything like your favorite bar from college, but still true to IU!
Now because it’s a college town, Bloomington obviously had all of the major fast food staples covered. I was interested in where the donors dine when they come to town. FARMbloomington was the recommendations on every blog and Pinterest guide to Bloomington I found, however, although a solid meal, there were better, less hyped options, acclaimed by real people (my cousin) instead of just the internet. Our choices came down to Finch’s Brasserie and our ultimate winner The Uptown. Jokingly denying Indiana could compete with true Southern Cajun cooking, I willingly swallowed my initial apprehension followed by the majority of my bowl of shrimp and grits. I’ve found in traveling that I’m spoiled- everything’s bigger in Texas and that includes portion sizes at restaurants; Uptown had Lone Star State servings with authentic Louisiana spices with just enough sophistication to have the meal worthy of serving at a restaurant known as Uptown. It’s always a bother to me when chefs try to upscale pedestrian, homey dishes to a state of being unrecognizable, but Uptown beautifully straddled the line where the dishes crafted keep original integrity and identity, plated and tastes amplified for a finer crowd. Did I mention the restaurant is known for its bar and cocktail menu? Delicious, full-bodied, potent! A mescal cocktail to rival any of the Mexican spirits I’ve consumed all over Tejas, and the perfect send off for my flight home.
I know we all want to check off the major cities from our travel bucket lists, but I would highly recommend venturing to smaller towns for some rest and relaxation. Big cities have their thrills, but when you’re trying to get away from the fourth largest city in the country (soon to be third) it’s nice to escape to a slower pace in a charming place to recharge your batteries.