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.

Latest Travels: Seattle

I feel like I’m living out of my suitcase this month. Just five days after getting home from Idaho, we were boarding a plane and heading to Seattle to visit a friend that moved there this past summer. We had the trip to Seattle booked before we found out about Tim going to Idaho, so we ended up with back to back weekend trips. Fine by me!

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As a first timer to Seattle, I left with a good impression of the city. We knew that we were risking nice weather by going in March, but it really only rained one full day while we were there. We quickly learned that only tourists use umbrellas in Seattle. So in an effort to blend in more, I left the umbrella in my suitcase and relied on my raincoat instead. Other than the one day of rain, it briefly misted a couple of days and wasn’t a big deal.

The vacation started with myself, my friend Katie (who lives in Seattle) and Melanie (who came on the trip as well) running in Kirkland’s Shamrock 5K. Kirkland (where our friends live), by the way, is a really cute part of town. We could literally walk to almost anything we needed—restaurants, bars, coffee shops, grocery store, boutiques, etc. Katie and Dan’s condo is across the street from Lake Washington, so we were able to enjoy the view throughout the trip. Anyway, the run…it was a fun way to start the vacation. We got to see the surrounding neighborhoods with gorgeous homes, and we also joked that we were pre-working off the drinks we’d be having later in the day.

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That afternoon, we headed into downtown for the Sounders vs Toronto MLS game at the CenturyLink stadium. We stopped in Pioneer Square for a quick bite to eat and a beer before the game. Pioneer Square is also where local fans gather before home games and have a pre-match ritual (pep rally basically) with a band. All the fans gathered in the square then do what’s called March to the Match and walk to the game together and chant.

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Though the game was fun to watch (my first MLS game!), the Sounders ended up losing 2-1. Before and during the game “scarves up!” would be said and everyone wearing a Sounders scarf would raise it in the air.

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After the game we drove over to Kerry Park, which has a fantastic view of the downtown skyline, Puget Sound and the Space Needle. It was clearly on the list of several other tourists because we weren’t the only ones there. I couldn’t blame them for being there—even with the overcast sky, it was still an amazing view.

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We headed back to the Bellevue part of town and had dim sum at Din Tai. I’ve never had dim sum before, but had been wanting to. It was delicious! It is a bit weird when you bite into your first dumpling with all of the juice and the filling, but after that first dumpling you’re good to go. The garlic green beans were probably my favorite, followed by the shrimp and pork shao mai dumplings. I also have to give Tim some praise here for actually trying new food. He’s not very good at that kind of thing ;)

—m.