America · Illinois · Illinois · Living Abroad · Travelling

The One Where WIFI Spoils (A Bit Of) Our Weekend!

This weekend was annoyingly quite frustrating in some ways – we had to wait around for a lot of things and so missed a lot of the Air and Water Show! However, we have explored some more areas and tried some very good cookies! 

Saturday morning was shopping time, so back to Mariano’s. This time I have a picture of Max’s favorite aisle! 


We then went to try out the Chicago French Market for lunch. Our aim was to find lunch for under $7 however we quickly realized that sadly that was not hugely realistic and we ended up hoping it by a dollar… however we did end up with this rather delicious build-your-own gyros with pork and herbed potatoes – so big that it couldn’t be rolled up! 


$8 – not too far over our budget!

Afterwards we headed downtown to Millenium Park and wandered around there for a little bit – we had been there earlier in the week but it was great to see it without thousands of people filling the grounds! (Though I would have been quite happy to still have the Broadway music blasting out!)





After walking past Buckingham Fountain again we then walked up to the bean for the first time – we say it last time we were here but hadn’t yet been to visit it! It was hideously busy but I still got some interesting angles.





This one looks like a face to me!


One of the main aims we had for this week was to start getting involved in social activities out in our local area, and so to this end we went to a local stand-up comedy web at a local bar, the Haymarket. We got there quite early and we slightly put off by the seeming lack of stand up comedy… However, we headed to the back and were met by a very enthusiastic whirlwind called Amelia, who told us that we were indeed in the right place but they were still finishing their lunch! That suited us fine though as they had a very extensive drinks menu, including floats! 


Five beers (4oz) ranging from Apple to Lime!

The comedy itself was part of a series called VS – where two opposing teams battle it out in 6 rounds. This week – James Brown vs Charlie Brown! Guess who was chosen to be the judge of the contest? 


That’s right – Max again gets pulled out for audience participation! This time, Charlie Brown triumphed, in no small part down to a singing Woodstock sketch!

After the event we hung around and chatted to the cast, specifically Amelia and Aaron from Team Charlie Brown (pictured) and sampled some more of the bars drinks including a purple blackberry beer – a good choice!


The purple colour doesn’t really come through but it was purple!

The next day sadly was characterized by huge issues with the internet – after one night of working perfectly- it died. Completely. I rang AT&T who were great, sent someone out the next day and said that it was probably a quick job… 

Five hours later… 

They said it couldn’t be fixed the day…

So we went out for cookies. Cookies fix everything. Especially when they look like this! 


To make it even better it’s stuffed with Nutella:


The Warm Belly Bakery in West Loop needs everyone to go there. The staff are lovely, the cookies are huge and delicious and the coffee’s pretty good as well! They also do a Tuesday deal where if you take a picture and tweet/instagram etc it, you get a second cookie for free – I think that will happen. A lot.

Also this:


This is an ube cookie – purple yam to the rest of us. I had no idea what it was and questioned the guy, and after a very accurate description (think marshmallow flavor) – he gave me a free one to sample! Not that I needed another reason to go back but it didn’t hurt! 

By this point due to all the palava with the WIFI, our view of the air and water show had been reduced to the few planes seen yesterday and hearing their deafening ‘boom’ overhead throughout the day, just serving to remind us of what we were missing! However we decided that we needed to get some air and see some water, and so headed out along the river walk towards Navy Pier. There aren’t a huge amount of pictures – it was quite grey – but we did see some of the many yachts and a huge ferry boat on route.




Also, a hockey sighting! We have found where pre-season practices and I’m getting so excited to see some matches soon (especially as it seems like full season is expensive…)

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America · Illinois · Living Abroad · Travelling

First weekend in Chicago, Part II

So, on Sunday we decided to continue to walk around the downtown area, but this time to head north along the river and up to Navy Pier. We started by walking through the Financial District and looking at the huge buildings around us, most of which we still cannot name!





We were looking for a Verizon store to sort out phones at the time, but ended up realizing that Sunday was not the best day for it – they were all closed! However in our quest we did find these sculptures made out of cans! 


Avocado


The world


A Chicago hot dog and fries

Afterwards we headed up past the Trump tower and on further where we came upon a statue which from behind looked for all the world like Abraham Lincoln talking to Jed Bartlett – that would have been an amazing statue… 


Alas from the front, whilst we were right with Lincoln, it was not a West Wing tribute! However there were some amazing buildings behind it including the Chicago Tribune building.



We then headed to Navy Pier, further up north from the waterfront we were at yesterday. This is one of the most touristy areas and boy was it busy today! It was also clearly a great place for families – a lot of food, ice cream and games for all ages.


A foam-blower


The Big Wheel at Navy Pier


The view back towards the city

Next we headed to Ohio Beach which was one of the strangest feelings – being on a beach, complete with bar and sand but with the city in the background.



The panorama is a bit small but it gives you an idea of the scale!

Next we needed water – it was so hot! So we headed back towards the centre for lunch tacos and refillable drinks – this plate of tacos, southwestern quinoa and vegetable chili was less than $6!


We then headed back to the apartment but slowly, via some more of the central areas.


The Corn-on-the-Cob car parks and apartments





We ended up having to do an evening target run, but it gave us another chance to walk around – we want to make the most of the nice evenings as I’m sure that soon there will not be any!


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…

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!