America · Living Abroad · Michigan · Travelling

Five Impressions from Ann Arbor, Michigan

1.) It should really be renamed UMICHville.

The University of Michigan has basically taken over the whole town- from the sprawling university buildings to the prevalence of student housing. Often you pass a large house only to notice the Greek letters labeling it to be a sorority or fraternity house. This is before we even get to sports!

Pretty sculptures on campus

Mirrored buildings- maybe it makes the city look bigger…

Guess the animal…

2.) Sports are a BIG thing here. Ann Arbor has one of the biggest stadiums in the world, and it’s simply a university! The sports complex is massive and the billboards rival those at most professional arenas.

3.) If you want to fit in, make sure you wear some Michigan stash. It’s basically a local uniform!

They even have it in different languages…

They even do ‘Wolverine’ coats for children…

4.) There are a lot of breweries and bars, but they are mostly full or table service – finding a drink is harder than you think.

5.) They like coloured houses. All colours, any colours – ranting from tasteful to terrifying. College colors spread to house decoration as well.

Overall, a highly enjoyable weekend.

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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 · Travelling

San Francisco- Day Two

So this was meant to be one post about San Francisco, but it took far to long to write the first one – we clearly do a lot! This is now day two – our only full day.

The hotel we stayed in provided us with muffins and coffee for breakfast- I discovered that ‘half and half’ does not make nice coffee… 

Next we started walking through some of the districts including Mission, Castro and Japantown before heading towards the Golden Gate Park. 



(No guesses as to what Castro is known for!)


This is called ‘Alpine Street’ – well named!

Starting at the conservatory we then walked through the Memorial Gardens and towards the lily pond (weirdly foul-smelling) and the Japanese Tea Garden (expensive – $8 dollars if you wanted to go in!)


The conservatory at Golden Gate Park


The less-than-fragrant lily (never saw any…) pond

We then wandered down by the lake where I was surprised to find turtles! I didn’t even think about seeing them in the wild but was struck by how still they were – sat on sticks in the middle of the lake!




Afterwards we caught a bus back to the centre and walked back to Little Saigon to get a Bahn Mi from Saigon Sandwich – definitely the best roast pork sandwich I’ve had for a long time!


Then we walked back to the Piers, heading for Pier 43 and a half, and our boat tour! This took us out to the Golden Gate Bridge, around past Alcatraz and back to the mainland, but was very interesting. After a dodgy start the audio guide was fascinating – very well ordered and gave a good balance of information throughout. The weather was sunny but hugely windy – I was trying to take pictures and several times nearly fell over whilst balancing against the rail with the camera in my hand. I was struck with two things about the bridge – firstly it’s sheer size, and secondly the colour. It’s orange apparently. My whole understanding of San Francisco architecture is a lie.



I was excited to go around Alcatraz- I had wanted to go on a tour but they were all booked up. The boat trip though was great in this respect – it gave a lot of information, slowed down as you went past and circled the island almost completely. The stories of the children who lived in Alcatraz, going to school on the same ferry as the criminals coming to the island and the interviews with people on it were very interesting and I do want to find out more. They also talked about Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West) and again, being something I knew nothing about did make me want to learn more about it. 


After the cruise we walked back through Chinatown, before aiming to find some supper! One of the most famous Chinatowns in the world, this clearly gave off the impression of being a living district, rather than one created for tourists. We went to a bakery where Max had a Chinese custard tart and I tried an unusual delicacy of a puff pastry filled with a mixture of ginger, yellow soy bean paste and preserved egg – unlike anything I’ve had before but very tasty!


Fisherman’s Wharf – reminds me s bit of Brighton



We then tried to find tea, which turned out to feature a LOT of walking – we had bookmarked several places, most of which were either closed, expensive or not what we wanted at the time. However, our last choice struck gold and we ended up at the Capital Restaurant which served huge portions or delicious food for good prices. If we were hungrier, they had a deal for $15 of spring rolls, egg fried rice, beef and broccoli, sweet and sour chicken, tea and fortune cookies. If the portion sizes were anything to go by, that was probably a week’s worth of food in one meal! Maybe next time!


Thick noodles with cabbage and pork – not the most attractive looking plate of food but very tasty!

America · Baking Research · National Foods · Travelling

The Great American Food Trip

So, I’m in the USA at the moment, visiting family in Arizona. However tomorrow I’m setting off to drive from Phoenix to Vancouver, and experience some great food and views on the way. As a result the next three weeks are going to be dedicated to more than just cake – sure it’ll be in there, but more than that. It’ll be a food diary of us taking in some of the best that America has to offer (on a reasonable budget)

I’m also going to attempt to sample the best in American baking – last year I was focused purely in cupcakes – this year its time to develop!

Any suggestions as you read? Please let me know and I’ll check it out!