ChiTown


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Chicago has always intrigued me. Ever since I was younger and my dad came back from business trips with stories about the clean, modern city in the midwest. So some twenty years later I finally got to travel to this city of skyscrapers.

I honestly had no idea it was such a tall city but after an architectural boat tour it was made clear that this city claims some of the tallest buildings in the world (one of which I went to the top of and literally hung off the edge*). To me the best part about Chicago is that it doesn’t feel big. This must be in part because of the wide streets where light passes through the buildings (almost the opposite to Manhattan’s streets). This city, to me, felt cozy and inviting.


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We were able to explore several neighborhoods during the extended weekend. As one would expect, each had a different flare, architecture and people. You could definitely notice the differences, which is something I love about NYC’s various neighborhoods as well.

Although my concrete jungle has water surrounding it, Chicago’s lake felt so much better than the rivers around Manhattan. First of all, it is clean water and you can literally jump in off the Gold Coast walkway. Second, it transcends into the city center making for lovely boat tours and bridge walks through center city.

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Selfishly, this trip was also a chance to check out another city’s “booze scene.”** With the help of colleagues living in the area and social media suggestions, I was able to curate a nice list of bars and restaurants, most of which we ventured to. The highlights included the swanky high-profile Aviary, the amaro selection at Billy Sundays, tacos at Mercadito and the surprising dive-bar we ended up singing karaoke in on the last night.

Chicago, I will return. There is more on my list to explore…

*formerly the Sears Tower

**I did mention I sell alcohol in NYC..right?

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…always a good idea.

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Oh Paris. You’ve captured my heart one too many times but always at different capacities.

This time, activities included…Wandering the streets without a destination. Checking out some trending coffee shops* (courtesy of Ms. Lost in Cheeseland). Sitting at cafés for hours to people watch with an espresso and a rosé. Eating macaroons. Falling in love with Le Marais. Seeing old friends. Meeting new friends. Not going to any museums. Gazing at my favorite Sacre Coeur from the window of a friend’s apartment (evidence above). Capturing the many images of graffiti on my Instagram. Discovering Le Canal Saint-Martin.

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*Foundation Café and Telescope are two trendy, english-speaking coffee shops brewing up delicious jo.

Wintery Beach Weekend

Just the other weekend my girlfriends and I went to the beach for a winter weekend. We simply sat around with some wine (of course) and food (we all love cooking and eating) and some board games (a beach tradition). We spent the weekend laughing, crying (it happens sometimes), and just enjoying being together. We all went to college together, that bizarre world where everyone is on relatively the same schedule and living in such close proximity. When you finally graduate and move away to begin new lives, careers, and relationships, it takes so much more of an effort to hang onto those special people. Our group of friends all live scattered around the Northeast so it’s close, but not close enough sometimes. Lucky for us, we enjoy mass emails, FaceTime videos, and weekend trips.

For me it was not only refreshing to be with my friends, it was also amazingly relaxing to breath fresh air (hard to come by in the city) and not have the need to commute anywhere at all. The farthest I physically moved was a walk to the beach–and it’s a straight shot 🙂 It’s insane how tiring the daily grind can get.

The beach is one of my favorite places in the entire world so hearing the waves, smelling the salt air and standing in front of the immense ocean, even in chilly weather, was perfection. Here are some photos of our weekend.

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For a moment, I thought I would never make it to Budapest.

It is safe to say that my flight from France to Budapest was less than ideal.  I used Easy Jet Airlines because of the convenience and price, but I think that is the last time I will be using their services (or lack there of).  I arrived at Charles de Gaulle, checked in and was told that I had an overweight bag.  Making a rushed decision, I just paid the fee.  That was a mistake.  It was only after my expensive bag was take to a far away place on  the conveyor belt that I was told my flight was delayed XX hours.  It was only after I was told this that I realized I had a bag in my suitcase that I could have rearranged to make the overweight suitcase weight less.  Hindsight is always 20/20, right?  At this point I was throwing a little pity party and even called home (to the US that is).  I was overly exhausted after pulling an all-nighter to write my wine school application and now I was pissed to be in an airport dropping money on stupid expenses and waiting for an underterminely (that’s a word right?) delayed flight.  To top it off, when we finally did board the plane, we sat and waited for 30 minutes on the tarmac.  We then deboarded the plane because the initial problem was not yet resolved.  It had begun to rain during that 30 minutes, and we were all forced to walk through the pouring rain onto a little bus and then back into the rain and onto a new plane.  Needless to say, we were all a bit ticked off.  Luck for us, (FYI, sarcasm is kicking in) we were given a complmentary 4 euro ticket to use on food/beverage in the airport.  What a blessing! Thanks Easy Jet…not!

On arrival to Budapest I was greeted by my friends Orsi and Bogi.  We had planned to sightsee the afternoon I arrived, but my delay meant we hit the bars instead.  It was great to be with my friends and meet their friends.  We went to some really unique spots that night.  One bar was a completely outdoor area (I failed to mention that it was EXTREMELY hot in Budapest.  The heatwave that hit the east coast at the beginning of July also happened across the Atlantic).  The outdoor bar was filled with old boats and plastic lawn chairs.  A simple wooden bar lined the back and lights were strung from poles throughout.  Very simple and yet very effective.  The place was packed with people.

The next day was my only free full day so Bogi and I went walking around the city in the hot hot sun.  We saw the main sites and then checked into a hostel for the next day’s wedding festivities.  That evening we had an apéro (drinks and snacks) at Tibo’s friends’ apartment.  They stayed in Budapest for a week, making the wedding a vacation.  The windows were open to a wonderful sunset and unique scene.  We made sure not to stay out too late however because the following day’s wedding was sure to be a doozy.

The day of the wedding was hot but by this time we were used to the sweaty mess.  Bogi and I got prepared in stages, taking a few moments between each garment to sit and cool off as best one can with no A/C.  After this slow process, we found shelter in a cool taxi and made our way to the city center.  Orsi was beautiful, the wedding was concise and the reception lasted until 7am.  A little drunk and very sweaty and tired, I made my way to the hostel at 8am for an hour nap and then rushed to the airport for a flight to Ukraine and then NYC.  A whirl wind finish but so many great memories were had.

Nothing could stop me from going to France…not even stairs.

I left NYC and decided to take a new form of public transportation to Newark airport.  I always seem to do this: hurdle a task at the worst moment.  Taking the PATH to the NJ Transit train to the airport shuttle was the cheapest way but also the most exhausting.  Two words: stairs and suitcase.  I got to the subway with little to no issue.  When I got to the PATH stop things began getting complicated.  I walked in the wrong direction five times, each time included a batch of stairs and a new bruise on my leg.  Only once did someone ask me for help and I clearly needed it (The day I left was the day that began the heat wave…I was a sweaty mess.)  I couldn’t seem to find the PATH so I exited the station completely (again with the stairs) and found it across the street.  Once I made it to the train I realized that I could have skipped the last batch of stairs if I had walked under a passage in the metro area…Lesson learned.   So I rode the PATH train to the end of one line, got off and crossed the platform to board another PATH line which took me to Newark Penn Station.  Here the train took me to the airport where I got off, went up the stairs escalator and took the airport tram to my terminal.  The second part was all easy and clearly marked.  A long trip but if you have the time and money is a factor (total was around $9), I recommend it (maybe with less luggage).

When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle I felt like I was in a crazy dream (I had moments of déja vu for much of my visit).  As I walked to the baggage claim I could remember doing the same thing a year before.  I had been so nervous! This time, I was not nervous at all; I felt at home!  After a short appel to “my family” in Dijon telling them I had arrived, I took the RER into Paris’ city center.  After I found a bathroom (I had forgotten about paying for public toilets in France), I lugged my suitcase through Les Halles only to realize that I had arrived in France for Les Soldes!! To avoid buying anything I parked myself by the Seine and read my book until I heard from my friend Orsi who was getting off work early.  When she called, I left my little spot under the bridge and again lugged my bag around the cobblestone streets in sweltering heat.  We caught up quickly at a café and then headed back to her apartment in the 18th district of Paris.  On arrival at her beautiful apartment, I was greeted by a spiral staircase. (OH MON DIEU!)  Orsi lived on the last floor…eight or nine twisting flights up.  If you have ever been to France, you may realize the kind of stairs I’m talking about. (By the way this was not my only encounter with these stairs and my large suitcase on this trip)  Despite all of this, it felt great to be with Orsi, speak French and be back in such an amazing city.  Once Tibo (her husband) got off work, we took bikes down from the 18th to meet up with friends and watch the UEFA soccer games. (You all know how much I love those Vélibs and soccer).

The next morning I was supposed to take the train to Dijon, my real home away from home.  I decided to buy my ticket online so that I wouldn’t rush around in la gare.  Of course, my luck, as I typed in my credit card number into the system, the computer went bonkers and I was told the transaction hadn’t gone through.  So I grabbed my things and quickly left the apartment stumbled down the spiral staircase.  I got to the station, bought a ticket and got on my way.  Only later did I finally connect my phone to wifi and realized the mistake I had made.  There in my inbox was the confirmation e-mail for my SNCF ticket. MERDE!  The transaction did in fact go through back at the apartment, which meant that I had bought two tickets for no reason.  I tried pleading for a refund but was told that the only thing I was able to do was write a letter to SNCF.  So very French and so very ineffective!  I still haven’t heard from them…

one is silver and the other gold

Being our normal selves

So last night was my 5 year high school reunion.  It was actually a great time and I enjoyed getting to see everyone in one large setting.  It was interesting how people knew a little bit about most everyone’s recent happenings because of our friend Facebook.  I can only imagine that reunions like mine are so much better attended nowadays because of social media’s networking benefits. What a world we live in.

Before I headed to the actual reunion my close friends and I had a nice dinner.  Since high school, life has taken all of us to different schools, travels, jobs and cities.  Although the email threads continue between us it had been a long time since we were all together in one place.  That’s what I love about Thanksgiving–everyone together again.

I also love when all the madness ends too and I am able to put my feet up with some tea and my laptop.  Between sisters returning for a long weekend (I was getting used to a bathroom all to myself) and extended family coming for Thanksgiving dinner I feel like a tornado has ripped through the house.  It will be nice to clean up a bit and regain a little schedule this week.  Of course my schedule these days is always a little unset.

Hope everyone enjoyed a great weekend with family and old friends.  I sure did!!

Newest adventure as a “reborn American”

Since I have been home my friends have been inviting me to play softball with them.  They all joined a league and have games every Thursday night. I had been busy and unmotivated until last night when finally I gave in.  I had played softball in my younger years but hated the slow-moving speed of the game (or my lack of skill?).  I ended up giving it up to play a faster spring sport–lacrosse.  So I wasn’t too sure what I could bring to the team last night but I quickly found out that that wasn’t the point. It was just a nice time to get out and spend time together!  We had a nice run for a double-header night, winning both games! Go us! I was able to hit the ball a few times–and strike out just as much–but my one run did make me feel like a part of the team 🙂

It’s funny that my friends and I are at the age where we (or “they” at the moment) work 9-5 in an office and look forward to a community sports league for weeknight fun.  I just feel so old sometimes.