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Is It Really a Beach if There is no Sea?

Lots of pictures from our trip to the Indiana Sand Dunes National Park

A great American ice-cream invention

The paths from the campsite

The dogs were really cute!

A wood and beach in one

Trees on the beach are just odd!

Lunchtime burritos – how we know it is not Cornwall!

Pretty sure this is Harlan Bay in disguise 

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The Week Where We Wish Boots Existed in Chicago 

I would never have thought that the shop I would miss most is Boots. It turns out that not only are passport photos almost impossible to take (most places expect you to take your own and that did not go well last time we tried) but they also cost double the price for only two pictures!! I’m definitely taking a lot when we go back to England!

So, this week has been busy and paperwork filled – we have had to make so many copies of visas, passports, I-94’s and so many others, however there have been positives and it seems to be coming together a bit more now. We have done less in the evenings – work is definitely taking a big lead in that for both of us, but we did have a couple of small explores, as well as the weekend which I will come into later. 

On Tuesday we went for an evening walk – I think Max was going a bit stir-crazy so we walked up to River North and explored around there in the beautiful evening light – my photographs do not do it justice after the event! As usual we were struck by quite how shiny the Trump Tower is:

Seriously, look at those reflections. It’s not normal!


This is much more reminiscent of what most of the Chicago skyscrapers are like – tall, white and not reflective!


I couldn’t tell if this was a real art installation or skmeone getting a bit frustrated…


It’s just madness. Who cleans it???

On Wednesday a very nice afternoon was had outside Buckingham Fountain re-enacting the opening to Friends with music, dance, drama and huge umbrellas. We also used the weather as an excuse to try these huge ice creams which are impossible to eat tidily without spilling!



In order to not spill it on myself I had to bend almost double- Michelle has photographic proof and it does not look pretty… delicious ice cream though!

In the evening we went out for tea to celebrate Max handing in his PhD (now just the wait for the viva) by having our first deep-dish pizza (of this trip). We went back to Giordano’s to the same restaurant where we were in November and did a bit of a double take to find we had exactly the same server! We had  to explain this to the poor guy as I think he was confused as to why we were staring at him… 

I will say, the pizza tastes much better than my pictures make it look… 



Garlic Parmesan Fries


Chicken Sausage and Spinach pizza


So much cheese… 

On Thursday we spent some long hours in the bank but it was worth it – both of us had the correct documentation to get accounts which is brilliant! One step closer to credit! Friday was also full of paperwork – we set up our electricity account and also registered for our social security numbers, as well as reading a lot of official documents, talking with Adam and ringing USCIS trying to get correct information. There are so many repeated forms it can be really stressful and some also require passport photos of less than a month old which is annoying when we have loads from three months ago which is normally sufficient! However, I can now confidently say we have looked at all options and all the ridiculous prices for this, and can be really helpful should anyone need passport photos!

To give ourselves a bit of a sugar boost, we shared two cakes at Mariano’s, with another of their $1.25 coffees.


This is a turtle donut – the combination of pecan and chocolate is good, but I do prefer caramel turtles rather than white icing.


Max’s choice – a salted caramel cupcake with a pretzel. Very very nice – the winner I feel.

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…)

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

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!