Tag Archives: Travel

Windy City – Wildcats – Wine – Beach

Happy Sunday everyone!

Did everyone have a good weekend? I most definitely did. We had our friends come over on Friday night and we had a fun night of drinking wine, board games and sitting outside eating delicious foods.

I had promised to share the photos from the weekend REB and I were in Chicago for my sister’s graduation, so here it is! A week late, but the idea is still there ;) Hey, it’s been a busy week!

We started our journey last Thursday June 14 and it actually went quite smoothly. Gryff actually did really good in the car ride. I don’t think we’ve taken the dog on a long car ride before, but he slept pretty much the entire time. We made a pit stop at the Indiana border (at their welcome center) so the dog could TCB and REB and I could eat the light dinner I had packed for us :)

We got into Chicago kind of late and checked into our hotel (allowed dogs!) and went to sleep. We were exhausted! The next day, we had to get ready for my sister’s graduation. She got her bachelors 10 years ago, but decided to go back and get her masters in Engineering Product Development and Design. REB and I got dressed and headed over to Northwestern’s campus, parked the car, then met my sister, brother-in-law and my sister’s team mates (who she was graduating with!) for brunch and a pre-celebratory drink!

Words can’t express how proud I am of my sister. She has worked so hard and she’s so incredibly smart! She had a hard three years studying while working full time and tackling everything else going on in her life, and she managed graduating from school with flying colors! I’m so proud of her. She just continues to do things that make her an even bigger inspiration to me!

My sister and her teammates!

 

The proud hubby :)

After her graduation, there was a reception with open bar and appetizers, but we ate light because we were going out later in the night. REB and I stopped back at the hotel in Skokie to check on the pups and hang out for a bit before we drove to my sister’s house. From there, we went to this bar called Lush where one of her teammates had reserved an event for all of us! It was an unlimited wine bar w/ heavy appetizers! Holy crap was it so much fun!

Progression of sloppiness

There were so many great wines we got to try, a board full of cheese, fig, jelly; bowls of bread and tall breadsticks; boards of meat (we steered clear of that one ;)); they also served us a yummy shaved brussel sprout coleslaw. It was unbelievable and even though it was just heavy appetizers, we were stuffed! In all honesty though, I could eat tapas any day.

From Lush we walked to this weird little bar called Beauty Bar. It looked like an old salon-turned-bar. You walk in and if you paid enough in drinks, you got your nails done for free. They also had those old hairdryers set up every where. By the time we got to this bar, I was feeling miiiiighty good so I opted to dance around like a weirdo before we made our very fun, drunkard cab ride back to my sisters.

Thank goodness REB was not as hammered as me so he could drive us back to our hotel. I don’t remember the end of that evening, but apparently I was pretty amusing trying to put on shoes on the way out. I deny everything :) haha.

Saturday was super fun! We spent the day at the beach! My sister’s friends birthday was that day, so we went North Shore Beach near their apartment, and spent an evening on the beach barbecuing and hanging out. It was such a beautiful afternoon!

We couldn’t stay long though, since Gryff’s eyes were getting really irritated with the sand blowing :( We didn’t have any of his drops either, so we had to leave, but it was still a lot of fun! And we did have fun at my sister’s with her friends who also came out for her graduation, so it was all in all, a really good day :)

It’s always sad to leave Chicago but it was one of the most fun weekends. I know I say that every time when I leave the city, but it’s true. I’ve never had an awful time in Chicago and I don’t think I ever will. I’m so glad I was able to be there for my sister’s graduation, too! :)

Until next time, Chicago!! <3 <3

What’s your favorite city you’ve visited?

Paris in Pictures

Since my last Paris post was mostly about the food, I thought it might be nice to show you some of the pictures of our actual time in Paris. I’ve said it a million times since returning, but I really want to go back. I can’t wait 10 years again fore I make that happen ;) Enjoy! <3

 

Pretty pretty :)

Climbed up the Tower!

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We couldn't go all the way to the top, but this was just as cool :)

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Pyramid at the Louvre

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Art clockwise from left: Mona Lisa (as close as I could get to it :P), Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss (one of my favorite scupltures of all time <3)

 

Photography wasn’t allowed in the Orsay. This wasn’t the case 10 years ago, but it is now :\ They also took out the huge clock. And you can’t get to it :( Glad I got pics the last time I was there with my sister <3

 

My favorite monument in Paris <3

Goooorgeous!

<3

 

One Day in Venice

After we left the delightful city of Paris (and I promise I’ll include photos of the actual city, soon!) we jetted off to Venice. Literally.

We landed into Marco Polo around 9 p.m., and had to take a bus to the island of Venice. Then from there, we had to take a water bus to the stop by our hotel.

We were pretty loopy since it wasn’t the longest flight, but it felt like a long day. The airport is actually located on the main land and if you’re going to the island of Venice, you need to take water buses around once there. You can take a water taxi but we found out those are €90! Much too much money if you ask me. It would be a private ride, but that’s just too much. So, we took a water bus…which was an adventure figuring out where they line up and which one we needed to take. Since we got there so late, a lot of the buses we thought we had to take weren’t running anymore and no one seemed polite enough to help us out :\

We were staying in Canareggio area aka the Jewish Ghetto. It’s one of the older parts of the city and it’s also in the eye of the city. In case you never noticed, the island of Venice is shaped like a fish (now that I know this, this is all I see LOL) and we were staying near the eye. It’s also the area closest to the terminal that takes you to the main land.

After we got to the San Marcuola stop, we had to figure out how to get to the hotel. When nightfall comes, there are no lights in Venice. What we learned the next day from our guide, is that it’s up to the owners of the building if they want to have a lamp post or light outside their building. Apparently a lot of people opt out of this, making it very hard to read street signs and/or maps ;) We finally made it to our hotel and realized we were starving! Once again we hadn’t eaten for a few hours and needed some sustenance, no matter the hour. So we walked down our little street and found the first restaurant that was still open and decided to sit in. Lucky for us, we found a restaurant with two hilarious waiters who kept things fun and telling jokes.

REB and I were really excited to eat, too. We knew we were going to have pizza, which is a big deal. Neither one of us is Catholic, but we always give up something during Lent just to see if we can give up something we love to eat or drink or whatever. And one of our favorite things to eat is pizza. So, we gave up pizza. And then we were in full-fledged health mode before the wedding, so we made a deal that until we got to Italy, we wouldn’t eat any pizza.

So in case you missed that, we hadn’t had pizza for 6 months before we got to Italy.

We. Were. STOKED.

Vegetarian pizza

So yes, I got the vegetarian pizza. REB got the cheese pizza. And they were both so freaking delicious. Now that we’ve been to Rome as well, I can honestly say that I prefer Venetian pizza over Roman or Napoli. Roman pizza is far too thin and all the toppings just sort of slide off, which is unfortunate. Napoli pizza is slightly thicker, but again, the sauce is so watery that the toppings are kind of swimming in it and they just fall off. But Venetian-style pizza was a thin crust, that was firm, topped well, seasoned well and baked to perfection.

The next day, REB had gotten me a real treat. As an early birthday present to me, he arranged for us to have a private walking photography tour with a professional, around the city of Venice! It was unbelievable! The tour was super early that day; from 8-10:30 a.m. Normally I hate getting up early on vacation, but I was actually very excited. Most people know that the best times to take photos is really early in the morning or around sunset when the light is best.

Venetian sunrise <3

We were almost late meeting her at San Marco’s Square, but we made it just in time. We also realized that no one else had signed up for the tour so it was just us and her. So perfect.

I will say this here and now: Venice in the early hours is so beautiful. It’s so quiet, peaceful and not crowded. I’ll be honest, we weren’t the biggest fans of the city once everyone came to the island. It seemed like an amusement park to us. No one lives on the island and at 10:30 or so, it just becomes this ridiculous, crowded mess of people. Every two feet is a souvenir shop, people trying to sell you something, waiting in lines to get into stores, see the bridge, whatever. It just wasn’t our cup of tea. And then promptly at 8 p.m., everyone leaves the island and it becomes totally dead. But in those early hours when the city is starting to wake up, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Eve, our photographer tour guide, was an amazing guide. She showed us these cute little streets, alleys, waterways, and houses that we wouldn’t have found on our own.

She also taught both of us how to take pictures at different angles, which I realized I don’t do nearly enough! She also showed us her favorite spots in the city where she likes to take photographs.

Like this bridge solely to look at the water for the reflection:

Or this water street for the bridge, colors and perspective:

REB held onto my shirt so I wouldn't fall into the water. Luckily there was a wall to help lean my camera

There’s no denying the entire city is filled with charm, beauty and old-world style.

So quiet in the morning

We learned some neat little facts about the city from Eve as well. Like how an area we were in was the red light district called “Casi no” or as you and I know it…casino. It literally translates to “bad house” or whatever. It basically meant that gambling, prostitution and other saucy things were taking place in certain buildings. And the way you knew if a house was bad was if there were wooden shutters on it. That was usually a good indication that prostitutes might be hanging out up there calling down to the boatmen.

casi no

Other things she taught was about the wells that were situated in areas around the city. The wells were the way people got water back to their house.

Or if you were rich enough, you had a courtyard in your home and a well of your own. Only a few of these houses still exist in the city today.

I love the light in this photo. So warm :)

So the tour lasted 2 1/2 hours but it felt like it flew on by! She showed us some fantastic parts of the city and even suggested some things for us to do on our own for the rest of the day. Anyway, we couldn’t navigate the narrow streets of Venice the way she did, but we did finally find the Rialto bridge and then….we saw this….:

I’ve never seen such a beautiful view! I had heard stories of the Grand Canal being pretty cool, but when you seen it in person it’s just as busy as the photo shows. But again, it’s only like this once the city wakes up. I kind of wish I could have seen it in the wee hours of the morning. But either way, it was just magnificent!

Walking around the city really worked up our hunger. We didn’t eat breakfast since we had to get to the Square so early for the tour. The best solution? Pasta!

I got the pomodoro and basil, and REB got the pesto. Both were pretty delicious

I don’t know how it happened but this place was actually a little past our hotel. We somehow got from the Rialto Bridge back to Canareggio. Lucky for us, we were in an area that Eve actually suggested for us to see that isn’t a big attraction. She told us that one of the oldest bridges in Venice was in this district. And we found it!

So searching around the city of Venice works up an appetite for an afternoon snack. What better snack in Italy than gelato!

I got the pistachio on the left there and REB got the mint chocolate chip.

Our journey continued and we decided to visit the three islands by Venice: Murano (where they do the hand blown glass), Burano (Italian lace!) and Torcello (…I’m actually not sure what it’s known for, but it’s old and pretty haha).

En route to Burano

So while we were in Burano, we actually didn’t stand around to see the lace demo. We wanted to take advantage of the 30 minutes we had on the island, so we walked around.

We may or may not have had gelato within a 3 hour span.

Coffee flavored nomz!

….but we did ;)

Torcello was a beautiful island. Really old, small and had this beautiful church on it. I think that might be what the island is known for, but I honestly can’t remember…

I looove those beams!

 

Pretty shadows <3

We also saw something I had never seen before in person: a pomegranate tree!

Hard not to pick one but I think the homeowners would have been mad...

So when we got back to Venice, it was about 6 or 7 p.m. and we were hungry again. Walking can do that to a person, I guess ;) Being a vegetarian in Italy isn’t so bad. You get to eat a lot of pasta, pizza, cheese and ice cream. However, I’m sure that can get pretty old and unhealthy. We totally indulged while we were there though! We walked along the Grand Canal to find some good restaurants and just decided to sit at one of them. REB got pizza and I had pasta (again).

Not as good as the one we had the night we got there :"

 

Arrabiata

When we were done with dinner, we had remembered something Eve had told us in the morning. The area where we were staying was apparently the Venetian nightlife hotspot. So that was exciting for us. We were ready to have a drink and just wind down before we had to get up early for our train ride to Rome. So we walked past our hotel and into the street she told us about.

The nightlife of Venice? It’s really just four bars lined up next to each other and they’re open until 10 p.m. while the rest of the city closes down at 8 p.m. as mentioned earlier. So anyway, we found this cute little bar and had a drink.

Bellini and white wine

So yeah…nightlife? Here’s the nightlife.

There it is. So the city might not be open super late and no one might live on the actual island itself, but we did have a nice time. I’m glad we were only there a day. I don’t know what we would have done if we were there for more than 2 days. Maybe go to Florence for a day (next time!) or something.

We did have a lovely time in Venice, but we were ready to keep heading south and spend the last part of our honeymoon in historic Rome. But the beauty we saw in Venice will remain with us forever. That’s for certain <3

Rural South

Traveling for work is something I never thought I would do as frequently as I do. The down side is obviously being away from home, away from REB, the dog, the bird, my bed (oh how I love my bed) and enjoying weekends there. But a real perk to our job is being able to explore surrounding areas or cities where ever we are. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some amazing places because of this job (The Yukon Territory, Grand Canyon, Eastern Seaboard, etc.). Exploring is a ton of fun and yesterday was incredibly tiring, but we saw some cool places here in the rural south.

We started our day with some breakfast at the local IHOP. Coffee, egg-beaters veggie omelet, and fresh fruit. The perfect start to our busy day!

Then we headed 10 minutes north into Illinois to visit Metropolis. Now, if you haven’t been to Metropolis, it’s a trip! If you haven’t already figured it out, it’s where they have this huge statue of Superman – ha! It’s pretty hilarious. They also have a museum, but we didn’t go through that. We took a bunch of pictures in front of Superman and then visited the statue commemorating Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane. Definitely make a stop in Metropolis if you’re ever in southern Illionis. It’s weird, and kitchy, but that’s what you’ll find in the rural south!

Both my coworker and I love railroads and trains, and we found a track nearby so we decided to go explore that area too….

After we explored Metropolis, we decided to drive an hour west to Cairo, IL. The interesting thing about Cairo, from what my coworker told me, is that it used to be this up and coming town back in the day where very wealthy people lived. However, when African Americans came to the town, they wanted nothing to do with them, so they all packed up and left. The town just sort of deteriorated and literally has become a phantom town.

By the time we were done being super emo hipsters taking pictures of rural decay, we worked up an appetite. As it turns out, we were near some town in Missouri called Sikeston. Another 30 minutes west and we were in Missouri at the famed Lambert’s Cafe – home of the throwed rolls. Down-home, southern comfort food doens’t get much better than this. We waited about 1 1/2 hours (expect to wait that long or longer!) but it was so worth it. To have rolls thrown at you (literally!), all the sides you want (fried okra, black eyed peas, macaroni and tomatoes, pulled pork [none for me though!]…goes on and on!), the most GIANT cups of sweet tea (or unsweetened if you’re my coworker), this place is so much fun. We left completely stuffed. My coworker literally got a skillet of ribs. Unbelievable.

At the end of this excursion, we were so tired. It was well worth it though. The one tip I can give people when traveling: check out all the little treasures nearby! You never know what you’ll find!

I'm no Dum Dum

I’m coming to you live from Bryan, OH. Please, stop cheering. It’s not that exciting.

The rural city of Bryan, OH may not have a lot to offer in terms of rest and relaxation. To be honest, the local hang out for the high school kids is to cause a ruckus at the local Wal-Mart. But when you’re 45 minutes west of Toledo, and 45 minutes east of Fort Wayne, and you’re here for two weeks and don’t own a dairy farm, you have to find something to do so you won’t go insane.

Unfortunately, it took me 11 days to realize that Bryan, OH, as boring as it may be, is home to a Spangler Candy Company, the factory that makes Dum Dum lollipops and other sweet treats!

In 1906, Arthur Spangler bought the Gold Leaf Baking Powder Company for only $450. Doesn’t seem like much, but back then, you had to be a pretty wealthy person to have that kind of loot. Especially to buy a company of your own. After his brothers joined the venture, the name was changed to Spangler Candy Company in 1920 after the decision was made to make candies and sweet treats.

Now, after more than 100 years, this business is the second largest employer in Bryan, OH (the first being the hospital) and still produces over two billion pieces of candy each year. Although now it’s run by non-family management professionals, it still has long-time employees, one of which who has been there for 61 years working on the factory line.

If you’re ever in the area, or taking a cheesy cross-country road trip, make a pit stop in Bryan and take a tour of the factory. It costs just $5 and you get to ride in a little trolley around the factory to learn about the history of Dum Dums, Spangler candy canes and other candies produced by the company.

Unfortunately due to FDA regulations, visitors aren’t allowed in the kitchen area where the the Dums Dums are born, but you do get to ride through the packing area and watch them fall off the conveyor belts into the packages to be boxed up and shipped.

The summer time is their busiest season, which means you should call ahead to make sure they can have a spot for you to take the tour. The tours only last about a half hour and run on the hour. Since it’s winter now when I went to the factory, I didn’t have to call head or anything. It’s a lot slower for them so I was able to walk in and have a private tour…because I was the only person there.

Cutest little trolley ever! Along the tour, as you ride through the various parts of the factory, you’ll take stops to watch videos that show how the candies are made.

I know how jealous you are of my sexy hair net (-_-; Everyone’s required to wear one when on the tour, though. The little old guy who gave me my tour, insisted on a photo so I could “show my family”. Gotta respect those elders, right?

Another downside is that aside from this trolley area and the gift shop, photography is not allowed, which can kind of suck when you’re a photog like myself. But that’s OK. The trolley is cute and more than makes up for it.

Make sure you stop into the gift shop to take a look at the glass cases, which highlight some of the fun candies they’ve discontinued and have other memorabilia. And of course, you can buy lots and lots of Dum Dums and other candies!

Enjoy a free Dum Dum while you walk around the gift shop.

I almost bought this. Cream Soda is my favorite Dum Dum flavor and they make candles in various smells (Butterscotch, Chocolate, Cream Soda and Watermelon). However, they cost $12 a pop (no pun intended)

Fun Facts:
•The Mystery flavor? It’s created during the flavoring process. When they run out of one flavor and start with a new one, the part of the two flavors that blend together..? That’s the mystery flavor. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

•Dum Dums currently have 25-30 flavors. I thought they had more! Their Quality/Assurance department is always developing new flavors, but a lot of them never make it past the first round of tasting. Can you imagine if your job was to test candy?

•First introduced in 1966, the Dum Dum Drum Man became the mascot and friendly face of Spangler Candy Company. The actual costume didn’t come until 20 years later. I was told that the Spangler men have dressed up as the Drum Man for parades and other public appearances. He’s pretty cute, isn’t it?

It might be silly and lame, but I actually had an OK time. The tour was cheap, interesting and really cute. It sure beats just spending another night watching TV int he hotel room!

So don’t be a Dum Dum! Go check it out for yourself!