Chicago Pt. 2

Our second day in Chicago was such a good day. We got up at the crack of dawn to go on a run, but really it was so I could see Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) without gobs of tourists. There ended up being a couple photographers with big cameras set up and some people showed up right before we moved on, but I got the picture I wanted! We ended up doing a 6 mile loop of the lake front area. It was fantastic.

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We grabbed brunch at a place called Beatrix with some friends that live up in Chicago. I had the light and fluffy lemon pancakes and a couple blueberry-basil mimosas. It was so good. The lemon flavor in the pancakes was quite prominent, but I loved that. Tim had his normal eggs over easy with toast and other sides. After breakfast we all headed to The Dawson (right on the edge of the West Loop and West Town) for a couple more drinks before parting ways.

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Since we started drinking at brunch, we decided on and to make an afternoon of it. Why not, right? We hopped on the train and went to Wicker Park since it was an area recommended by a couple of people. It’s more of a night spot, but we still had an okay time for the couple hours we were there. We stopped into High Noon Saloon for a beer before heading to Big Star for a margarita. If we hadn’t still been full from brunch, we probably would have ordered a couple tacos from Big Star. They looked delicious! Their patio was pretty great, but our margaritas from there were actually quite disappointing. Whomp whomp.

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We headed back downtown and stopped in at The Purple Pig. It was like 3 o’clock in the afternoon and there was a wait for a table. We lucked out and found a spot at the bar. We ordered a kale caesar salad and the fried manchego cheese app, which came with an apricot sauce. It was such an unexpected and tasty combination. We also got cocktails because…well, because.

We had dinner at Quartino that night, just two blocks from our hotel. The bacon wrapped dates with gorgonzola and honey were so delicious, but the rest was only okay. It’s not that those other dishes were bad, but I’d probably order other items instead if we were ever to go back.

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We ended our night with an architecture cruise down the Chicago River. It was pretty neat to learn about the buildings lining the river and the architect’s intentions when designing the buildings. At the end of the 90 minute tour, the boat stopped and we watched the fireworks being lit off the Navy Pier.

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—m.

Chicago!

It’s only the second week of August, but it’s already turning out to be a fun month. Back in March or April Tim booked us a trip for my birthday, but didn’t tell me where we were going. All he said was that he booked us flights to somewhere in August and that I needed to take Friday off from work. Well, okay!

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He knows I don’t like surprises and probably just wanted to see if I could go several months without being snoopy to see where we were headed. I had a strong feeling we were heading to Chicago, so I never felt the need to snoop. There’s only a limited number of places you can go for roughly 3 days without spending half of a day in an airport.

So we got up and flew out of St. Louis at 7:30 AM this past Friday morning and headed north. It’s such an easy flight between St. Louis and Chicago—only 47 minutes! Once we arrived, we each paid $20 for a 3-day unlimited transit pass (totally worth it). The train and bus systems were so easy to use and took us to all of the major places we wanted to go. Most hotels charge close to $50/night to park your car so it was nice not having to pay that. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, so we were able to hop on the Orange train line, eventually transfer to the Red line and get off at the Grand stop, which was directly outside our hotel. One thing I quickly learned was that I need to invest in carry-on luggage. All I have is my full sized suitcase, which was a pain to carry up and down flights of stairs while navigating the trains.

After dropping our bags off at the hotel and grabbing breakfast at Yolk, we headed up to Wrigleyville to bar hop and attend the Cubs vs Ray’s game. We stopped into Murphy’s Bleachers, The Cubby Bear and the Wrigleyville Goose Island Brewery location. Murphy’s reminded Tim and myself of the inside of Paddy O’s here in St. Louis and The Cubby Bear reminded us of Mike Shannon’s. Wrigley Field is actually a pretty neat stadium. It’s 100 years old, on the small side, only a couple advertisements in view and the scoreboard has to manually be updated. We sat low along the first base line and had a great view of the field.

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We were finally able to check into the hotel after the Cubs game. I loved that our room had a great view of the Marina City towers. What I didn’t love was the amount of street noise that comes with staying in the downtown area. It kept me up both nights we stayed there. Anyway, we were pretty wiped by this point in the day (that means we’re getting old because it was like 8 PM), so we walked across the street to Rock Bottom Brewery for a beer and appetizer on their roof. Not the most adventurous place to go check out, but by the time we left there was a line to get onto the roof.

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I was totally okay with going to bed early that night. I had gotten up before 5 AM and was getting up before 6 AM the next morning. My goal was to see Cloud Gate (The Bean) without the crowds!

—m.

Wanderlustering

I am having a serious case of wanderlust. All I want to do is design stuff, eat my body weight in sweets (without gaining that amount of course) and travel the world.

QueenstownQueenstown, New Zealand / October 2013

I read an article (that I can’t seem to find) about how people who travel are never content with where they are. That is exactly me.

I think about what it would be like to live in a different city. I’m constantly looking up road trips across the US and what kind of weird and wacky things are along the way. I have a constantly growing wish list of places around the world I want to see/visit. I’m always tempted to take a chunk of my savings, buy plane tickets to some far away land and spring a trip on Tim. I keep track of how long it’s been since my last trip and have a countdown until the next one.

hawaiiTop of the Haleakala Volcano in Maui, Hawaii at sunrise / September 2010

Speaking of next trip, Tim booked a long weekend getaway to Chicago in August for my birthday. I’m also planning on flying out to San Francisco in November to visit a good friend of mine that just moved there. Knowing these two trips are in the foreseeable future is certainly helping my wanderlusting.

NotreDameParisTrying to get a picture in front of the Notre Dame in Paris / May 2009

I’m no where near having a “world traveler” status, but that’s what I want to work towards during my life. I not only want to see these other places, but I want to actually learn about the culture. Eat the local food. Walk down quieter streets that aren’t filled with tourists just to look at the buildings and architecture. To go on hikes and explore the landscape. I could fill an entire post with places and things I want to see and experience.

But until then, I need to learn to be patient.

Traveling requires time and money…two things that a 26 year old trying to pay off student and car loans while establishing her career doesn’t have a lot of.

GardenOfTheGodsSiamese Twins, Garden of the Gods outside Colorado Springs, CO / June 2012

I also need to learn to be more content with where I am in the present.

Stop dwelling on that fact that it’s been five years since I’ve been to Europe, and dream a little less of the day I get to return (cough*2016*cough).

It will happen in due time…at the right time.

I came across another article while I was looking for the one I mentioned above (I may keep looking for future reference), and there was a section that really rang true to me.

We all seem to be victims of ignoring what’s actually happening right at this very moment, which is only natural when we have so many choices and opportunities available to us.

We can all forget the whole point of happiness, and that’s peace of mind, acceptance, and mindfulness. Essentially, it’s being happy no matter where you are in the world, or what you’re doing, or whom you’re with.

Being mindful quiets the mind and brings us a sense of peace that no other quest for a “perfect life” could ever bring.

Mindfulness helps you to appreciate life as it happens. It stops us from agonizing over what might’ve been or what could be. It just brings us back to the present.

Yes—embrace everything that comes along. Yes—go out and see the world and enjoy everything this life has to offer.

But whenever you feel yourself losing focus and wondering about where you’ll be happy next, bring yourself back to the present, look at what you already have, look around you and enjoy the moments that are happening right now.

I’m not necessarily looking for happiness in other places—I have more than enough here in St. Louis—but I know how happy it makes me feel when I do get to explore and experience other places. I’ll never stop having that wanderlust feeling. I can only hope to cross off as many places as I can from my list in my lifetime.

—m.

Seattle Day 3: Poo Poo Point

One of my requests for this trip was that we go hiking or be outside doing something less touristy. I figured with the Cascades right there, that there had to be some decent hiking around. I was sold when Dan and Katie told us about their hike up to Poo Poo Point on Tiger Mountain. So on the last full day of our trip, we drove 15-20 minutes southeast of Kirkland to the Issaquah High School and parked near the Sportsmen’s Club. From there we took the High School Trail (which later turns into the Poo Poo Point Trail) all the way to the lookout point. The hike was gorgeous. And a bit challenging! The further we got on the hike, the steeper some of the inclines got.

It was raining a bit on us on our way up, but the trees blocked the most of it. On the way back down, it actually snow/sleeted for a few minutes. The hike is 8 or 9 miles round trip. It took almost two hours to get to the top, but only took half that time to get back down. There was a paragliding company at the top launching flights. It was so cold and windy at the top that we didn’t stay terribly long. Just long enough to enjoy the view, eat lunch and watch the paragliders for a bit. I would love to do this hike in the summer when even more greenery has appeared. All of the pictures were taken with my iPhone, so some are a bit blurry.

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And the view we were rewarded with…

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—m.

Seattle Day 2: The Tourists

Our second full day in Seattle was our “tourist” day. The boys had been out late the night before and it was rainy, so we figured walking around seeing some sites would be a good thing to do. Katie had to work that day, so she left us with her car. I tell you what, going to visit a friend in a different city that loans you their car for a couple of days is the best way to vacation. I need more friends to move out of state (just kidding).

John, Melanie and I headed to Zoka for some coffee, and then across the street to Aura Bakery for some breakfast pastries. I introduced Mel to macarons at this time…I’m pretty sure it changed her life. Or least it should have ;)

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We finally got Tim off the couch (and the floor haha) and headed into downtown. First stop: Pike Place Market! The open air market is so neat. Touristy, but neat nonetheless. There certainly isn’t anything like it in St. Louis! It has food stalls (fresh fish, bakery items, produce, treats, etc), countless flower stands, and every kind of craft table you could image. The main fish stand was busy—the workers would yell “fresh fish! we catch them, you buy them” and then throw fish at you. Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t want to catch fish like that. Ew. Almost all food stands would have samples for you to try—including the fish stand. The boys bought mini doughnuts…and then decided they wanted to buy a machine so they could do their own doughnut business. Haha, oh boys…

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We couldn’t leave the market without finding the gum wall. I had to text a friend to find out where it was because I couldn’t find it. We had to go down the main ramp/stairs (by the fish stall) and back into an alley. Half of the walls were covered in graffiti art and posters, while the other half  was covered in chewed gum. The gum has actually spread onto the ground and the opposite wall. I didn’t touch anything or add any gum—it’s actually really gross!

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On the way back to our car, Melanie and I got coffee #2 of the day from Biscuit Bitch. I think every menu item had the word “bitch” incorporated in some way. I liked the cafe…it had a punk rock attitude about it. Plus, our goal was to not go to a Starbucks while in Seattle.

We arrived at the Space Needle and got the combo tickets for the Needle and the Chihuly gardens. It only takes about 40 seconds to ride to the top of the Needle. It was rainy and overcast this day, so we didn’t get to see much past the city, but we were told on a clear day you can see Mount Rainier.

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The Chihuly gardens ended up being one of my favorite things about the whole trip. The guy is just so talented! My cellphone pictures don’t do the work any justice.

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Dan and Katie said that one place we HAD to get food from while in town was Paseo. The one in the Fremont is closed on Sundays, so we drove to their Ballard location. It’s a walk-up stand on the side of the road with no signs. We knew to expect a line and the most amazing sandwich ever. The line was shorter than anticipated, and the sandwich was excellent. I opted for a chicken one rather than pork. The Paseo marinade is what makes the sandwich—it’s like a garlic-mayo aioli. I got mine without jalapeños because I’m a wimp with spice. John and Mel raved about their Caribbean Roast sandwich!

We ended the night with low-key dinner and a few drinks at The Lodge back in Kirkland. We had big plans for our final day in Seattle!

—m.