America · Illinois · Illinois

Week 1: Concerts and Donuts.

I can’t get used to spelling donuts like that – it just doesn’t look right!

So this week we have done some great things in the evening. On Monday we went to the free Broadway in Chicago concert in Millennium Park, where actors on both Broadway and the Chicago stage come and perform a concert. We were lucky to get in but we realized soon that we should have brought a blanket, chairs something! We got there an hour before the concert started and we were not far from being the last people admitted! 

We saw performances from Wicked, Les Miserables, Motown the Musical, School of Rock and many others! We also had a preview of Escape to Margaritaville – the pre-Broadway run starting later this year! Betsy Wolfe also performed ‘She used to be mine’ from Waitress which was pretty amazing! 


On Tuesday we went for a walk through Greektown in search of the Mars Gallery (more on that later!) but when we got to it it was closed! However we finally visited Mariano’s and the world food aisle is Max’s new happy place, especially as it sells Bosnian coffee!

On Wednesday we went on a boat cruise along the river to watch the Navy Pier fireworks, which happen every Wednesday and Saturday in the summer months. The display was about 10 minutes long and was really impressive, and racing along the river was so much fun – though the bridges are scarily low at times!




This is the best picture we could get… sillouettes it is!






Thursday’s evening activity was getting cleaning products from Mariano’s – not the most exciting activity but it had to be done! On Friday we went back to the West Loop – I wanted to try Glazed and Infused (Donut Shop) but we got there to find it was closed! However,  we did walk on further and went to the Mars Gallery which was open this time! It stocks mostly pop art and seems to specialize images of pop culture icons over silk screen-printing.


However the highlight of the gallery was this…


This is Sammy – he’s the assistant manager.

As we couldn’t find the (open) donut shop instead we went to the supermarket where we got pastries which were very big and ridiculously cheap – $1.41 for a huge donut and a chocolate bearclaw. My donut even came with two rashers of bacon attached!


We then walked back to the centre and spent a bit of time admiring the huge red sculptures.



The Flamingo, by Alexander Calder

Advertisements
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!