Ah Chicago…

I love this city. The people are friendly. The architecture, amazing. The food, delicious. It’s one of the few places I can actually see myself living. Well, at least 9 months out of the year, I’d likely make a hasty retreat during the winter.

I’ve visited almost every year for the past five, and try to see different neighbourhoods on each trip. This time I was there for a conference and so I spent most of my time in The Loop.

The city is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan from which the Chicago River flows. Bridges crisscross the city along the path of the river and walking along them allows some of the best views.

Miles and miles of man-made beaches run along the shores of the lake. How great to have them right in the city. And not that crowded at all. I can imagine if we had anything like this in NYC they would be packed full at the first sign of sun.

Chicago has a large amount of green space, which, along with all the water flowing around and through it makes it feel bright and open.

Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean”, has been in Millennium Park for a few years now and is pretty popular. It reflects the surrounding buildings really beautifully. Along with the Crown Fountain (below) it’s one of the interactive art installations in the park, you’ll see people walking around and under it taking photos of their reflections.

Kids have a great time splashing about in the water that runs down from the towers of the fountain.

View of the skyline from Lake Michigan. It’s not difficult to see why Chicago is one of my favourite places in the country – there is always something new to discover and I could never tire of this view.

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On to Santa Fe

We picked up Zippy here and saw a few more things in Albuquerque before heading on to Santa Fe.

Petroglyph National Monument is not too far out of the way and makes a nice stop before getting on the highway.

The monument is actually made up of a series of dormant volcanoes. There are four trails you can take, with one of the shortest have the largest number of view-able petroglyphs. We managed to see quite a lot in the couple of hours before we hit the road.

Although it wasn’t our original plan, renting a car was one of the best decisions we made. So much of what we loved of New Mexico we were only able to see on the drives. Curving, steep mountain roads with gorgeous views and plenty of lookout points so you can stop and take it all in.

We arrived in downtown Santa Fe in the early evening and saw a notice for a walking tour leaving from our hotel, we decided on that to get our bearings and learn a bit about the city.

Santa Fe as it is today was planned mostly in the early 20th century when New Mexico became a state, but its history stretches back hundreds of years to the Spanish and the Pueblo Indians before them. By city ordinance all new buildings must be built in the Pueblo (adobe) style, and for the most part that’s what you’ll see, the main exception being the St. Francis Cathedral.

Downtown Santa Fe isn’t all that large and you can see a lot of it in a couple of days. There is a lot of history so having a guided tour can be helpful. The majority of places are a short distance from the plaza – galleries, art studios, restaurants, market stalls, and shops – so I recommend staying close by if you can.

On Holiday

Another accidental hiatus. This is where I’m supposed to say I’m not going to let this happen again, that I’ll be on here all the time posting at least once a week and all the rest of it. But that would just be a lie and I usually confess immediately after telling a lie (what?). Usually the reason I don’t write is because I haven’t been doing much of anything and have nothing to write about; no pretty pictures to post. But recently I’ve just been lazy.

Now that’s out of the way…

A few friends and I decided we needed time away from the city and chose to make a quick escape out to New Mexico for some of its famously fresh air and beautiful scenery.

Most of our plans went out the window on the first day. Flight delays, a layover in Dallas that resulted in our having to take separate flights to Albuquerque, and arriving at the hotel close to midnight meant that we lost an entire day.

The next morning we planned our walking route to cover Old Town, Downtown, Nob Hill and a few other places nearby. We started out on the old Route 66. And we walked. And walked. And then walked a bit more. Thought we might be lost, when finally, we saw this:

It appears somewhat out of nowhere, surrounded by major roads and strip malls, so it’s understandable that we thought we might be lost. Old town is the historic district of Albuquerque and dates back to the original Spanish settlement of the area in the early 1700s. It’s a few blocks of traditional adobe buildings surrounding a central plaza.

Today it’s comprised of lots of shops, galleries, restaurants and a few museums. Depending on what your interests are you should be able to explore all of it in an afternoon.

After seeing that it would be almost impossible to explore this city on foot we decided to book a rental car. We walked back to the hotel through downtown Albuquerque which is supposed to have lots of great restaurants and is considered an entertainment district. If all that was there, we missed it. The only place that stood out to us was the old Kimo Theatre.

It’s a pretty interesting building, built in a style that combines art deco with traditional adobe pueblo designs, unfortunately there were rehearsals going on that day and we weren’t able to look around inside.

Thankfully, getting a car gave us a lot more to explore. Eventually I’ll get round to writing about it…

Travel: Toronto

My job has me travelling to Toronto fairly often these days, though I don’t get to see very much of the city as I spend most of my time in conference rooms. Considering I was practically living there about a year ago, I should know a lot more about the place than I do.  I was just there last week and was able to take a few pictures that I thought I would share with you.

That complex with the round dome between the two buildings is City Hall. The older stone building with the grey roof on the right is Old City Hall, which is now used at a courthouse. People protest outside here almost everyday, you’ll see some interesting characters here.

The one thing I always marvel at when I visit Toronto is how clean it is. Just look at that picture above, that’s what all of the streets look like. I swear it’s as though the place has been vacuumed clean.

The Royal Ontario Museum. That thing sticking out of it is called “Cristal”. I think it looks like the ugly condo building next door fell on top of it. Who approves these things?

Lake Ontario. Those are the Toronto Islands. I always fly in to the Island Airport since it’s the closest to the office. We fly over the lake and these islands, it’s a beautiful view on a clear day.

Toronto is a really well-planned city. Designed on a grid system with wide avenues making up the major streets, it’s very easy to navigate.

Any Torontonians reading? What are your favourite places in the city?

Film: The Grand Old Theatre

I was recently lamenting the loss of the enjoyable movie theatre experience. I remember when I was younger how much fun it was to go and see a movie on the big screen. The theatre was clean, there were no mobile phones ringing every few minutes, the tickets weren’t too expensive, and the concessions were good.

Then I remembered a great trip to the movies last year when I was in Michigan. We went to see Jane Eyre at the Michigan Theatre on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor and it was like a trip back in time. You can’t pre-order tickets for this place, you have to wait on line for the ticket window to open 30 minutes before the start of the film.

You enter in to a beautiful lobby with gorgeous architectural details including a grand staircase. The Michigan Theatre was opened in 1928 and has been restored over the past 20 years or so. Since then it has hosted live entertainment and screened films. Today the theatre is home to Ann Arbor’s symphony orchestra and we were able to hear them practicing on the day we were there.

A new screening room was added to the theatre fairly recently and it was given its own organ, just like the main auditorium. A fact I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for the organist coming in and playing while we were waiting for the previews. Listen:

The movie was fine, another version of Jane Eyre, no worse and no better than most of the others that have come before. But the experience of the theatre was great. And the popcorn? Made with real butter!

Maybe it’s just in the big cities that the movie theatre experience isn’t what it used to be? Although I know a lot of the smaller independent theatres are going out of business everywhere. Tell me, do you still have local, cosy theatres that you enjoy going to?

Travel: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Last weekend, I took a trip to visit Ann Arbor. The campus is gorgeous and there is just so much energy there, I now realise that it’s just the kind of school that I always hoped I had gone to. Every time I go I wonder about all the things I missed out on by going to a much smaller school.

The campus has really grown over the years and it has essentially taken over the majority of the city, as evidenced by the old houses and churches that are now university buildings.

You know all those amazing, fun, exciting campuses that you see in movies and on television? That’s the Ann Arbor campus! If you know someone that’s studying there, I highly recommend going to visit. The weather can get be bitter cold for a lot of the year so it’s best to go in the Spring, but if you want the full experience you need to go during football season. Trust me when I tell you there is nothing else like it.