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An English Rose in Georgia: Winter in Minnesota
Lesley Francis, left, and her friend Sarah Slingo in Minnesota in winter
Lesley Francis, left, and her friend Sarah Slingo in Minnesota in winter. Photo provided.

I love exploring new places in the USA. After living through Covid, like many Americans I have the “travel bug” again. I have been to perhaps half the US states, but I am now developing a desire to visit all the states and to seize travel opportunities whenever I can. I have been lucky enough to visit both Hawaii and Alaska but here in the “lower 48” contiguous states there are many gaps in my travel history. My closest friend from university days, a fellow Brit who by great good fortune has ended up living in Atlanta, is often my ‘partner in travel’. Since my husband is a bit burnt out after decades and millions of miles of business trips, my friend and I enjoy planning our “girls-only” mini vacations and long weekends.

But when we told people that we were going to visit Minneapolis, the common response was “You are going WHERE? You do realize it is in MINNESOTA in NOVEMBER, don’t you?” I think we got those reactions due to two reasons. The first is obviously the climate up there. Okay, I don’t want to live in a cold and wet climate again after 40 years in the UK, but I don’t mind visiting cooler climes and I am determined to be more adventurous. We not only visited Minnesota in early November, but we were lucky that the weather resembled gray winter weather of England rather than the stereotypical huge frozen snowdrifts of the north. In fact, the locals were practically euphoric to have highs in the low 50s and nights with temperatures just around freezing and kept talking about how balmy it was as they strolled outside in their shirt sleeves. I had dug out my seldom-used sweaters, gloves and coat which rarely find their way out of our Southern-Georgia closet, but we knew that we had got off lightly for this time of year.

The second reason for the reactions we got was that, apart for summer outdoor activities and hunting outside the cities, Minnesota is simply not a very popular tourist destination, especially in the winter. Minneapolis does have some high crime rates, and of course the riots of last year are forefront in many people’s minds. Maybe that’s why we got some great deals on the hotel, flights and the amazing production of ‘SIX’, the traveling Broadway musical that was the centerpiece of our trip. It turned out to be a great trip, and we learned a lot.

Minnesota is the most northern state in the Midwest, the 22nd most populous and the 14th largest by geography – about the size of Georgia and West Virginia combined. Minnesota attained statehood in 1858, becoming the 32nd state to join the union. It is known as both “The North Star State” and “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, and we enjoyed delicious walleye fish dinners from those lakes while we were there. For more than a century, Minnesota has also been known as the Gopher State, a nickname that led the University of Minnesota to adopt a smiling, bucktooth rodent dubbed Goldy Gopher as its school mascot back in 1940.

We were primarily in the metropolitan area called the Twin Cities, comprised of Minneapolis (the largest) and St. Paul (the capital), which border each other but are separated by the Mississippi River – which is pretty narrow that far north. Minneapolis was first famous for the lumber business in the 1840s, and then became known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World” in the 1880s and into the first part of the 20th century. The Twin Cities are home to The Mall of America, a 78 acre, 330 store, 10,000 employee shopping and entertainment mall that boasts over 400 events and 40 million visitors each year. Minneapolis is also where Scotch tape, the Bundt pan, Bisquick, and pop-up oasters were invented.

Minnesotans seemed to us to be hearty, good-natured people, and we English-turned-Georgia girls were enamored with the Minnesotan accent.

They emphasize long vowel sounds like “O” and “A” to create a distinctive sing-songy way of speaking. They often say “dontcha know” (pronounced due-cha-nooo” and “you betcha” (yo-betch-ahhh).

They call soft drinks “pop” (not soda pop, just “pop”) and have a dish that is sort of like a casserole but seems to be made up of random ingredients which is simply called “hotdish”.

Since we only mastered Southern USA speech later in life, this added a whole new layer to the English language for us!

There is more information at the www.thefactfile. org. I say goodbye this week with a poem about Minnesota by an unknown author:

It’s winter in Minnesota, And the gentle breezes blow, Seventy miles an hour, At thirty-five below.

Oh how I love Minnesota, When the snow’s up to your butt.

You take a breath of winter air And your nose gets frozen shut.

The weather here is wonderful, So, I guess I’ll stick around, I could never leave Minnesota, ‘Cause I’m frozen to the ground.

God Bless America and Happy Thanksgiving!

Lesley grew up in London, England and made Georgia her home in 2009.

She can be contacted at lesley@ or via her PR and marketing agency at www.lesleyfrancispr. com

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