Romancing the Minneapple

The Como Conservatory

Russ and I meandered south to Minneapolis the other day, in search of a little romance, and to visit relatives. For the uninitiated, Minneapolis’ nickname is the Minneapple as opposed to New York City’s Big Apple nickname.

We took my 100-year-old Aunt Marguerite to the Como Conservatory for its poinsettia show. All that red color and dewy warmth sounded like just the thing to offset the winter blahs and a good way to spend time with Marguerite.

But did you know that poinsettias come in colors other than red? During the show, we saw yellow ones, pink, and even orange. While we were enjoying the sights and the smells of soil and water in the sunken garden, a commotion caught our attention. A family that had been strolling along stopped. Gasps of surprise could be heard as a young man got down on one knee and held up a ring to his very tall and willowy girlfriend. Hyperventilating, she finally got enough air to say, “Yes!” and the family and audience clapped.

The proposal amid the poinsettias

Doesn’t get much more romantic than that! But wait, more romance was to be had. After shuttling my aunt back to her place and visiting for a short time, we headed to the Nicollet Island Inn, touted as “Minneapolis’ most romantic hotel.” Situated on an island in the Mississippi River, the inn is in an historic building that was once a window sash and door company. It has survived fire, several other business ventures, and even time as a men’s shelter to become the charming venue it is today.

We booked the bed and brunch package, which provides for a Saturday night stay and a $60 voucher for brunch at the inn’s restaurant the next morning. There’s also an “Ultimate Romance Package,” but we didn’t do that one because it involves dinner at the inn’s restaurant, and we had other plans for that meal. These involved taking a snowy evening stroll under a full moon to Owamni Restaurant (by the Sioux Chef), which is on the riverbank not far away. (More on that experience in a post to come.)

I must say that one decidedly unromantic thing about the inn is that they seem not to be able to process or communicate about things that go against the grain, like the bed and brunch package and gift certificates. The people checking in before us had a gift certificate, which caused no end of issues. The manager had to be called to the front desk to give his blessing. Not romantic.

Our package was not noted on our reservation for some reason, even though I had called beforehand and talked to the person in charge of such things and she assured me it would be noted in their system. This necessitated a call by the clerk to this person for verification. Not romantic.

And then, when we checked out the next day, the same gift certificate people were in front of us and the same issues came up for them. We quickly left our keys on the front desk and got out of there before we had to wait around for a manager to reappear.

The Nicollet Island Inn restaurant

BUT all else at the inn was romantic. The Christmas decorations were classy and glowing, our room was high-ceilinged with a view of the river and city skyline. Our brunch in the chandeliered restaurant was filling and delicious. I had the American breakfast with sausage and eggs over-easy plus a mimosa. Russ had the breakfast Reuben, which featured eggs and hollandaise sauce. It’s hard to believe the restaurant used to be a factory loading dock.

The breakfast Reuben

After brunch, we strolled around the small island, marveling at the parkland and quaint Victorian clapboard homes. I found myself thinking that if, for some reason, I was forced to live in Minneapolis, Nicollet Island wouldn’t be such a bad location. But the wilds of the north are my true home. We were glad for a short visit to the big city, but just as glad to return home.

One of the homes on Nicollet Island.