Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Nature in the City

If you've been with me since my Paris days, you've probably seen a few posts about escaping the city without actually leaving the city. There was one about tucked-away Parisian courtyards, the oh-so-French habit of picnicking in the park, and Paris' summertime spectacle, Paris Plages. After all, even hardcore city folk sometimes needs a restful respite from the noise and chaos they love so much. I loved finding quiet spots in the middle of Paris; places where the city seemed to disappear if only for a moment. I live in Minneapolis now, but that desire for a little less hustle and bustle hasn't gone away. While this city and its surrounding areas are chock-full of peaceful getaways, one site stands out from the bunch: Minnehaha Falls Park. Its isolated location and sheer beauty arguably make it the best quiet hideout that Minneapolis has to offer.

As the name suggests, Minnehaha Falls Park boasts a waterfall as its main attraction. In fact, the name "Minnehaha" means "falling water" in the Dakota Indian language, a tribe for which the falls are an historically important site (side note: you might notice that a lot of things in Minnesota start with "Minne," which means "water" in the Dakota language. We have a lot of water here. "Minnesota" is generally translated as "sky-tinted water"). The area above the falls is a well-manicured park filled with paths, benches, picnic tables, and a snack bar. But my favorite part is below the falls. Climb down the narrow, steep steps and you literally enter another world. Other than a few walking paths and a stone bridge for crossing the creek, this area is left in its natural state. The roar of the falls is impressive, particularly in the spring when the snow melts and the rains become heavy. In the winter the falls will freeze, creating a beautiful cascading ice sculpture. Follow the creek away from the falls and you're surrounded by bluffs, trees, and a babbling flow of water. There is no way to tell that you are still in Minnesota's largest city. The city has disappeared.

Minnehaha Falls Parks is a great place for a quiet stroll, a family outing, or a first date. I've been there multiple times and the falls never cease to amaze me. Because of our abundance of lakes, rivers, trees, and open spaces, there are a lot of outdoor sights to see right here in the city. That's the difference between getting away from it all in Paris and in Minneapolis: Paris' hidden away spots are generally somewhat man-made. The well-maintained Luxembourg Gardens, the courtyards between buildings, and the little cafes down narrow streets. Sure, they have the Bois de Boulogne, but half of that place is off-limits to decent society. In Minneapolis, you can more easily get away from it all in a natural setting. I love cities, but I love escaping them as well. Whether it's a waterfall, a royal park, a river bank or a courtyard, I'm just glad it exists.

3 comments:

Julie said...

I learned something new from you! I had no idea that "minne" means water! Thanks for teaching me!

Christine Gilbert said...

I want to go there! It's great what you can find in your own backyard. When are you heading to DC?

Tanya said...

Julie: Yay! Learning new things is so much fun, glad I could be a part of it :-)

Christine: Hopefully later this fall...