Alpacas & Log Cabins in Galena, IL
I have basically been in the (bad) habit of resisting mini-vacations, not realizing how much I have needed to recharge and regroup and that it would actually be good for me to do.
I had some ideas about how long I actually wanted to spend in the car and what I wanted to see in a new place- I was basically just making it harder for myself to relax until I realized the place should just be quiet, peaceful and the journey be a beautiful part of my getaway.
Yet, I had no idea where that was.
That’s where the amazing world of Google comes in- type “getaways from Chicago” and you get a few interesting leads, which can actually sound a bit boring in the dead of winter. I wanted to have fun, have some excitement, warm weather (not happening in January).
Get a grip and actually plan a trip to Florida, right? Umm, yeah- that wasn’t happening, either.
This is how I actually knew I just needed to pause and be grateful for the opportunity to get away for a bit and embrace the change of environment and pace. I needed to come back and be better at living in the day to day that was becoming a tad bit too stressful.
So the search results came up revealing that a small town three-hours drive from Chicago called Galena was a popular getaway spot I’d never been to. Quite popular in the summer for hiking and shopping in the farmlands of Western Illinois (and close to the borders of Iowa and Wisconsin, too), this spot was a place known for Chicagoans flocking to get just far enough away from the city for a totally different atmosphere.
I chose a log cabin getaway based on the pictures and the fact that it was a few miles away from the downtown area of Galena. The man who answered the phone inquiry, Frank Netzel, was also incredibly nice about letting me see the place upon arrival later that evening, which was close to 11 pm.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to see much on the drive up to the cabin but could tell by all the hills and curves along the way that it must be an interesting and scenic drive compared to the flat areas I’m used to driving around in the city and suburbs.
As I drove up to the cabin, it was incredibly dark- I would say close to pitch black except for the gorgeous clear and starry night above us. I drove up and saw no one except a couple of cabins with lights that looked like they were candles in the windows, in true pioneer fashion. I called Frank who then met me outside to lead me what would be my cabin for a couple of nights.
Galena Log Cabins & The Alpacas
I was amazed at how warm it was inside, considering the single digit temperatures at that time. The cabin was fresh, clean and very rustic with modern conveniences- just as Frank had described. He showed me around and let me explore it, too. It was exactly what I were looking for in a getaway- quiet, rural, peaceful.
Just before taking off, Frank told me to be sure to look above and soak in the beauty of the constellations I would not get to see in Chicago, but also that the planet Jupiter was in plain sight, too. He is proud of the fact that it’s an understood rule in the area to keep bright lights at bay so that everyone who visits gets a chance to stop, look up and awe at the glimmer in the sky. It was my most memorable part of the night.
I actually didn’t sleep too well the first night. Part of me was all wound up from the baggage I brought from Chicago; the other part of me found the quiet to be a bit eerie. Was I that far removed from my childhood days of living in a small quiet town in Ohio where sleeping like this was the norm? Yes, I was–and so I needed to get some sleep and look forward to waking up to this: Actually, on the first full day there, there wasn’t any snow on the ground, but it was extremely cold.
And the sun was shining.
By the second day, it looked like a different place with all the clean, flaky snow falling around me. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
The log cabins before and after the snow
And yes, there were alpacas on the ground in our plain view from the cabin window. It was a sight I could wake up to over and over again.
On the first day there, I decided to head to town to see what there was to explore in the area. I loved the architecture of the buildings- very vintage in style with brick or stone exteriors and hardwood floors throughout the interiors. Many of them were built into the area’s hillside, making them some of the most scenic parts of the trip.
The town actually reminded me a lot of where I grew up (Amherst, Ohio), where I went to school (Athens, Ohio) and a little bit of Ithaca, NY (Cornell University) for some reason. Could be the small town atmosphere and quaint shops but I also think it was the super-friendly people we met while perusing the stores and shops.
The first coffee shop I went to was called Rendezvous. I wanted to go in not because of the coffee, but because of the interior architecture of the place.
Have you ever seen a more elegant place to sip a coffee? I thought I was somewhere in Europe- the stone wall behind the French-inspired couch was something I never expected to see.
This view below gives you an overall picture of how the back of the cafe looks.
I stayed long enough to sip coffee and warm up before scoping out other shops, only to find that most of them were closed. It was the Monday after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and so they apparently didn’t find the need to open up too many other places during this off-season time. I guess summer is when everyone flocks here the most, but I particularly love the winter scene.
Nevertheless, I got to do some window shopping and took note of the places I would try the next day since I was told they would be open.
I eventually did go into The Great Galena Peddlery shop (above), which had an assortment of all natural body care products, an interesting assortment of teas and some really great eco-friendly housewares. If you’re in Galena and you like that kind of thing, do check it out.
Eating Out in Galena
Not only were most of the shops closed on Monday but so were most of the restaurants. It was a bit disappointing, but I’m used to making do, that I just decided I could buy food at the local grocery store and take it back to the cabin. That’s when I happened to stumble upon the one place open for lunch: Ramona Sunny bakery. The street sign said they served Turkish coffee, so I wondered if they might just sell anything Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and/or halal to eat?
I popped in without any real expectations, but soon found the owners to be a delightful, helpful and very patient duo as I asked several questions about the menu and the sausages I noticed in the cheese and meat case. After some inspection and talk with the Romanian-born owner, he explained where he got the sausage from and the care the company behind it took to make sure it was halal, even going as far as explaining the halal process to us, which was interesting how much he understood it.
I ordered an omelet and asked to have the Albanian sausage, or sudzuk (sejouk), and they gave me the whole package to cut up and have with my meal.
It was a bit spicy, which I like very much and went superbly with the well-made omelet platter that came with Mediterranean olives, roasted & pickled peppers as well as Ramona’s crusty homemade bread. For those who might feel like they’re missing out on chorizo and eggs- this was an amazing halal substitute.
A real food menu at Ramona Sunny bakery- European Style Omelette with Feta Cheese and made using real butter
After brunch, I actually had a very long conversation with the owners about food quality, the future of food in our world and about what is actually in most of the food we buy. They’re incredibly enlightened about the food industry as it relates to our health, having come from Romania and now living here where they spend most of their time running this bakery with a mission to serve top-quality dishes. They say it’s not easy because not everyone has the mindset that better food is sometimes slower to prepare and because it costs more, the business can be challenging. If you’re ever in the area, please be sure to pay them a visit and see what’s on their menu, espeically if you are keen on supporting this type of business.
Skiing in Galena
I spent most of the day walking and talking in Galena’s downtown but still wanted to drive around to see the farmlands surrounding the log cabin village, so I decided to take a drive just before sunset.
All signs pointed to Chestnut Mountain, the small but quaint ski resort in the hills of Galena.
Driving up, I was instantly reminded of Vail, Co. The Swiss style of architecture on the hotel is the first thing you see when you drive up and the sight of snow instantly becomes thrilling. Although I had no plans or equipment to ski, I simply wanted to take a look at the grounds and then go into the restaurant and have coffee with a view of the slopes.
I love seeing the ski lifts and wondered where it led, but without ski equipment, I wasn’t allowed to buy a lift ticket.
The sun was beginning to set and it made for such a beautiful sight.
Look at these small slopes- perhaps for the Bunny Hill, but this is probably where I would start…
And finally… maghrib (sunset) time approaches.
Snowy Roads in the Countryside and the Galena Flea Market
The next day I did a little more touring of the area and went back downtown for one final drive through the picturesque town before heading back to Chicago.
I felt serene, nostalgic for my hometown in Ohio but grateful for the experience and for coming down from such an unpleasant restlessness that was cured by gratitude and embracing change, a slower pace, good food, great conversation, new friends and a little piece of America that will always have my heart.
Galena Flea Market (Indoor)
Resources & Information About Galena, IL
9401 W Hart John Road
Galena, IL 61036
*highly recommended for atmosphere, cleanliness and attention to details by the owners*
Ramona Sunny Bakery & Delicatessen
*all natural, real food menu with super friendly customer service
215 Diagonal Street
Galena, IL 61036
Although not mentioned in this post, I did eat here and the food was good- the atmosphere delightful. I’m sure in the summer it’s even better since the views from here are great.
201 South Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
Some of my favorite stops were the following places:
*gourmet rubs, blends, sea salts, olive oils, balsamic vinegars
311 South Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
*interesting mix of vintage, eco-friendly and all natural products, cookware and teas
116 N. Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
Red’s Antiques & Wholesale Barn
*unique mix of iron made home decor for a fabulous price- believe me, I’ve seen some of this stuff in other places and it’s much more expensive.
308 South Main
Galena, IL 61036
*yarns, patterns, books, needles, kits. Small collection of local sheep wool fiber, too.
304 S. Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
*very unique collection of recycled, up-cycled and refurbished furniture for those who want a uniquely decorated home.
201 South Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
Chestnut Mountain (Skiing, Snowboarding & Lodging)
Sunset Grille (eat with a view of the slopes)
8700 West Chestnut Mountain Road
Galena, IL 61037
MashAllah. Lovely pictures. I would love to stay in a log cabin. My family is from Northwestern Illinois and those pictures brought back memories of summer vacations in Illinois. We were there just last year. Thanks for sharing. MashAllah.
Thanks Yvonne for the “virtual vacation!” I had my husband peruse this too, just so he could “experience” it too. MashaAllah, your writing is beautifully descriptive and reflects your spirit. We would love to check this out; thank you for all the “go to” resources!
Wow! I live an hour away from Galena an have been wanting to go there. Seing his makes me want to go even more!! In shaa Allah, I will be saving up for a weekend or longer stay there. Would be so nice to get away from city life and just relax. Well, I have a 3 year old so I don’t know how much relaxing I would do. I would love to stay in a log cabin away from the hustle and bustle where it gets so dark. I’m thinking more of a warmer season trip since I don’t do well in the cold. Think I may end up wanting to live there!
Thanks for the great “eye candy” Yvonne! Even though I’m originally from Maine, photographs are my prefered method of experiencing cold & snow. The California coast is my idea of the best of all worlds. Of course, if one must absolutely have snow, we also have mountains nearby.
Wow, you grew up in Ohio? I graduated from Oakwood High School just outside of Dayton. Small world.
Not sure how much R&R you actually got as you ultimately were taking photos & tucking away thoughts to share w/ your readers.
Shukran Sis for a very interesting and pleasant description of your holiday in Galena. I felt as if I was there…….Alhamdullilah you made my day. With all my Rheumatoid Arthritis pains even in the warm Caribbean , yet still looking at your photos made me want to go and visit in the winter. May Allah Azza Wa Jall reward you immensely with Khair in this world and in the Hereafter……..Aameen.
Thank you for all of your heartfelt comments- I wanted everyone to feel as if they had traveled with me and am so happy that you did!
@ Rev. Cynthia- yes, I did! Dayton isn’t too far from where I grew up, or at least I’m pretty familiar with the area.
Yvonne- “Go BUCKEYES!” (right?) 😉
No, it’s Bobcats (Ohio University, not Ohio State) 😉