31 December 2009 by Amy Sohanpaul
What made Milwaukee famous was brewing beer. And manufacturing. And Happy Days: a giant statue of The Fonz is due to be unveiled sometime soon. Despite all this, the city had never been on my ’must visit’ list. So I’m glad a wedding took me there, for this midwestern town, with its unspoilt lakefront, a historic old quarter brimming with excellent cafes and art shops and charming, extremely friendly citizens was unexpectedly delightful. The hotel I was booked into turned out to be a treat too. The Pfister first opened its doors to guests in 1893,and apparently the lobby then was just as elaborate and ornate as it is now. It’s a vast space, and all the Victorian art and potted palms that line it barely make a dent on the space. A lofty ceiling embellished with a fresco hovers above a cornucopia of gilt, sculpture, oil paintings... it’s all very old fashioned, like a very old-European grand hotel.
That’s not to say the place is lacking in modern touches. A pianist plays classics in the lobby bar, while in the Mason Street Grill it’s all jazz and recent pop. There are some old suites dating back decades, complete with Victorian fixtures and marble bathrooms, and rooms with cool contemporary comfort in a more recently built tower block. There are also elegant ballrooms designed for waltzing and a state-of-the-art spa. The concierge was very old school, with impeccable manners and super advice; the cocktail bar on the 23rd floor is very now - serving up martinis and a super view. Sitting up there, dreamy drink in hand, looking over Lake Michigan as dusk fell and downtown lit up, is filed away in that surprisingly long ’glad I was here’ list of Milwaukee memories.