America · Food · Illinois · Living Abroad · Travelling

The First Weekend in Chicago – Part 1

(I’ve split it into two parts because otherwise it may get a little long…)

So… first job was food and household appliance shopping – first stop was Target! I can never get over the scale of these places – it’s got everything! However the locations of items can be odd – we spent about 15 minutes hunting for freezer bags. 

Then we headed to Little Italy through Greektown in order to find our favorite cafe so far, Scafuri’s. I was sad to find initially that they seemed to have stopped selling their amazing cannoli – they have been an abiding memory since last time! Instead I drowned my sorrows with this delicious chocolate yeasted donuts (with echoes of ‘funny drops’ chocolate – can’t get used to calling it funfetti!)


I also had a coconut-chai latte which whilst delicious was probably quite expensive… not a treat for every week!

After that we investigated Jewel-Osco, a supermarket. Very nice but it was expensive and we had to walk about a mile and a half with heavy bags! However it did have a wing bar…


Afterwards we went on a walk to the centre. We headed through the downtown area and then walked to Buckingham Fountain which was actually running this time – last time there was no water. It’s a lot more impressive now!




The Buckingham Fountain

This building worries me…

The Loop


We also sampled the first of our Chicago delicacies – the hot dog, specifically the Polish. This is from Max’s Take-Out (we had to go there…) and were well worth it! I even went for all the toppings – mustard and all! 


Max ate half the pickle after his fell off – they still aren’t my favorite things!

After this we then wandered along the waterfront to the Shedd Aquarium and on to the Adler Observatory. We didn’t go in at this point – we are saving that for winter! 

The Shedd Aquarium’s big statue of a man with a fish.

The Adler Observatory – there were two weddings and associated photographs going in about 10 metres apart!

Lots of views of the skyline.

Here ends Saturday…

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America · Illinois · Living Abroad · Travelling

Chicago – Four days in!

So, we moved to Chicago! It’s all very exciting, slightly overwhelming at times – so much stuff is different – and the city life is a HUGE change! However, so far it’s all good – long may it continue!

Our flight was pretty uneventful apart from a mix-up with our seats at the check-in desk. However we ended up still able to sit together, just in a different part of the plane to everyone else. United is rather ‘old-school’ in terms of facilities – technically they had entertainment but it just started and then played through all the programmed – rather like a TV channel – I think BA for all their faults have spoiled us in this regard… However the flight was smooth, the ice-cream delicious so overall no complaints!

When we landed we got on a bus to go to the accommodation and drove straight into what I assumed was rush hour but was confidently informed was just ‘Chicago’! Don’t drive here seems to be the main suggestion… I did however knock about 18 states off my new number plate list – small things!

At the accommodation we we given our keys, shown the layout and then got into our room at which point we spent a long time marveling at the views! Chicago is so flat that you can see for miles and particularly at night the streetlights create a view I will not get tired of soon.



And then there is the view from our window… 



Yep, it’s a pretty good start!

America · Arizona · California · Food · Travelling

Post-Flight Jet Lag

I’m back in England now and suffering from the curse of flying west to east – Jet lag! I tried to avoid the worst of it – I slept about four hours on the plane (discovering that eye masks are actually a massive help in sleeping was a game changer!), stayed up until the evening and tried to keep to as normal a routine as possible, but it’s not completely worked, so I’m going to be productive and use this time to write about a few of the final thing we have done, places we saw and food we ate in our final days in Phoenix and San Francisco.

On the final Sunday we all went out for brunch at the Biltmore hotel, which was undergoing HUGE renovations at the time – it looked unrecognisable inside from our previous visits! All the interiors were halfway through being repaired, the main entrance in particular was being redone at the time! However, brunch at Frank and Albert’s was still delicious. I decided on the huevos rancheros, which featured a lot of guacamole, cheese and the most delicious chorizo, all with added black bean purée which is always a bonus!


The Biltmore is also the only place where meat and cheese is a necessary addition to a Bloody Mary. This wasn’t my drink so I can’t vouch for if it added to the flavour, but it definitely added interest!


After brunch we took a wander around some of the grounds of the hotel, Nathaniel did some painting and we enjoyed the sunshine for a short while. The hotel has some beautiful features to it and I can only imagine it must be a lovely place to stay! 





In the afternoon, Chloe and I tried to replicate the Arizona baking-cookies-outside challenge, however we chose the wrong week in which to visit for that! Despite earlier in the year having been unbearable for Phoenix, we hit right in the middle of monsoon season. Thunderstorms, yes. Humidity – oh yes! But temperatures hot enough to bake cookies on the hood of your car? Not so much. We nearly made it with one set on the hood of the car inside the garage, but the heat just wasn’t there (and the batter was disposed of before the experiment could be finished…)


Test site one – by the swimming pool. (The shadow is me – they weren’t in the shade). These were not a success – they were disposed of after being eaten by ants and stood on… 


On the car bonnet in the garage – the one closest to working!


On the car bonnet outside – much cooler than in the garage so not a real success either…

The final evening in Phoenix was completed by night swimming (after a steak barbecue and many cakes!) and water balloons- the perfect way to cool down.


If only this was appropriate in England!

The next day (Monday) we flew back to San Francisco, just for one night. Landing in the late afternoon we arrived at our hotel, checked in for our flight the next day and also realised we had got there just in time for cookies – you know it’s a good hotel when they give you tea and cookies/brownies at 4pm! We then headed out to Chinatown and enjoyed a massive Chinese Szechuan banquet for our final meal (we hadn’t eaten yet!)


Chicken and lemongrass potstickers and fried wontons


Spicy beef and vegetables

Apparently I failed to take pictures of the rest but it also included hot and sour soup, cashew chicken and mixed fried rice – alongside the fortune cookies and tea! Absolutely delicious, particularly the beef, but I definitely don’t feel the need to eat Chinese food again for a while!


San Francisco in the evening

The next morning we walked around through the districts of Mission in order to prepare for the long flight ahead, particularly with regard to food – I do not have faith in airline meals! We started with breakfast at Hayes Valley Bakeworks with this wonder:


Maple-bacon-cinnamon rolls – whoever invented this is a genius. I’m a sucker for that flavour combination anyway and this was simply divine!

After walking through from our hotel to Mission and around the surrounding areas for a few hours, we broke for lunch/brunch at about 11 at El Taqueria Farolito, a recommendation which proved to be an amazing find. Absolutely huge burritos – I had the regular and I dread to think what the large would have been like! We made the rookie mistake of ordering chips as well – not a plan! The proteins were also hugely varied – we went for the safer options of carne asada (steak) and chorizo but we could have had beef tongue, beef head or beef brains! Maybe next time!


Finally to complete I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit Bi-Rite Creamery (also in Mission) – another recommendation which I was happy to receive! After vacillating between flavours such as peach cobbler, basil and watermelon-coconut I finally decided to go with the black sesame and strawberry balsamic combination. Definitely a good final dessert in San Francisco.

America · Travelling

Pima Air and Space Museum

Otherwise known as the Aeroplane Graveyard. This is right next to Tucson International Airport and an active military base which led to a problem as 4 weeks ago the military instituted a new rule that stated that any foreign national had to show a passport to gain entrance – three of us had bought our passports but as the other two members of our party had not we couldn’t see the boneyard without splitting up. As it turns out we didn’t need passports to see the main body of restored planes, which was what we wanted to do anyway!

Below then are a lot of pictures of planes, taken from the tour bus (75 minutes on an Arizonan morning!)



The best name for a plane – the Petulant Porpoise!


I swear this plane is a cartoon (or at least inspired a smiley cartoon plane!


The Blackbird


The ‘Warthog’


When you’re cute but trying to look tough – the bumblebee


The ultimate airfix kit – build-it-yourself plane


The Dreamliner 787 vs Boeing 737


The Guppy (behind the others)


A random radar plane






Air Force One


This plane is called a fairy… one of the ugliest planes ever made apparently!


America · Travelling

Tombstone – The O.K. Corral

Day one of the Tucson road trip – we headed 3 hours down the I-10 to Tombstone. This city gained fame/notoriety as the location of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which was acted out for us later that afternoon! Today it is mostly a tourist location and has several exhibitions relating to its earlier history as a bullion boom town (and a very impressive diorama!)





Because what town doesn’t need a ‘mustachery’!


Big Nose Kate’s Saloon


The Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday prepare for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral


The ‘scene of the crime…’


Mining – what Tombstone was originally known for.


Supper had to be steak at CattleTown, Tucson followed by Strawberry Shortcake – both delicious though everyone was confused to find that there was no ‘shortcake’ anywhere near it, but was rather a vanilla sponge cake!



Tomorrow, the Pima Air and Space Museum, followed by Saguaro National Park!

America · Brunch · Travelling

Good Food, Arizona Weather and Wave Pools

So, all quiet on the West Coast here – the last few days have been full of the above. Yesterday we went to a wave pool in Tempe featuring a huge mechanical wave every five minutes – great fun yet eerily reminiscent of the arena in ‘Catching Fire’ (Hunger Games II) when it begins!


Max and Chloe both claim the red water slide was amazing – I did not try it…




What has been particularly remarkable this trip has been the weather – for the first time we have landed in Moonsoon season! This means that unlike the usual weather of this…


There has been unusually large amounts of this:


Also there have been huge rain and thunderstorms every evening and this morning I awoke to many flood warnings – my phone sent me at least three warnings of flash flooding in my local area! The storms have been very exciting (when inside obviously!), full of both sheet and fork lightening. However I can tell you that the iPhone camera is not cut out for storm videography as this is the best I got…


The food as usual has been good but enormous – today we went to Eggstacy for lunch and for $11 Max and I split the following:


Greek-style gyro hash with a poached egg – half a portion pictured


Pecan Pie Pancakes – the full portion!

Other examples of an entire day’s calories in one plate include Chloe’s banana Nutella pancakes:


Or Nathaniel’s mango pancakes accompanied by asparagus hash (Hash not pictured)


Finally I leave you with what I originally thought might be the worst cereal ever (thank goodness it’s not real!)