A Travellerspoint blog

Chilly Chicago - part 3

The fun never stops!

snow

8Dec - Henry flew to Hawaii today so we joined him on the train to O'Hare airport (a plane arrives / takes off every 2mins at this airport, you can actually see around 10 planes line up in the sky waiting for their turn to land). Thanks again for hosting us Henry :-) PICT0369.jpg

From the airport we had a shuttle pick us up and take us to O'Hare inn and suites. Finally some space on a bed. We will stay in this hotel until 11Dec, it has a super king size bed - so eat away Dan I will have space on the matress no matter what. Due to the deep dish pizza being so famous in Chicago we had it again tonight but at a different, more local restaurant. Because it is local and a bit out of downtown the prices are really good. We had a medium sized pizza with a salad and a deep dish chocolate biscuit pudding. The biscuit was still warm as it just came out of the oven and it had ice cream and cream on top which melted over the biscuit - are your mouths watering yet? PICT0372.jpg PICT0373.jpgAfter dinner we took the train back home but this time we were freezing and just jumped onto the first coloured line we found. It was the wrong one and went the wrong direction - good job us. We got off as soon as we realised but then we had to pay again to take the train in the other direction (our day passes expired so we did not have unlimited access anymore) luckily we both have strong acsent which made them realise we were not from the states and they allowed us to get back on free of charge. Then we got off at the wrong place which meant we had to pay again. We then just told the guy at the gate the same story and at first he said "you guys are a long way from home" then he felt sorry for us as we told him its summer in NZ so he also let us on the correct train free of charge. This was the first and last time it happened which is ironic as every time before and after our "train-mare" we had our unlimited passes with which it would not have made a different how many times we got on and off. We got home at around 11pm as we had spent most of the time on the wrong trains.

9Dec - Today we woke up and it was snowing. So we basically walked in the rain and the snow and we had some places to go and it felt like a part of my toes were dying - sorry that is off that song and I just could not help it ;-) It is absolutely beautiful as the snowflakes are soft and there are millions of them filling the sky. PICT0374.jpg PICT0376.jpg I think it is time to update on my new snow boots experience. They are awesome and they absolutely love the snow filled terrain. They keep my feet dry and relatively warm. I use the word relatively as you need a polar bear around your feet to keep them warm, so the boots are trying their best. We walked to Old town which is a very pretty 'old' part of Chicago and then decided we wanted to go to the zoo, it is free after all. What a silly idea. If it snows outside all the animals will OBVIOUSLY hide inside. So yes you guessed it, there were no animals to see anywhere, expect for the ones that had an indoor viewing station. O yes and there was one monkey outside PICT0377.jpg Our zoo visit then turned into a snowball fight where I had a bullseye shot against Dan's head - it was awesome. PICT0383.jpgPICT0382.jpg The snow fight made us quite hungry so we went for dinner at Big Bowl (a chinese/thai restaurant). PICT0385.jpg After dinner we walked around in the Apple shop where they have all the Apple i phones and shuffels and laptops that you can think off at ridiculously low prices.

10Dec - Welcome to Antartica. Today was absolutely freezing (-13oC but it was said that the wind chill factor is around -24oC) We basically spent the whole day looking for a scarf for Dan as he wanted to hide his cheeks and nose from the cold wind. After a few miles in and out of nearly every shop, with scarf prices ranging from $20-$40 we found one at Old Navy for $5 (sorry $4 it was on sale ;-) We walked around with only our eyes uncovered but I totally felt the freezing eyeball effect again. O yes everything except our eyeballs and a piece of Dan's bum was covered. He has a big whole in his jeans which allows for ventilation of freezingly cold air ;-) (from stonehenge fence 2007 - Dan)

We had some hotdogs from American Hotdog and German pretzels from the German market and a white chocolate and peppermint tea for dinner.PICT0386.jpg

11Dec - Today is our last day in Chicago :-( so we decided to go and ice skate at the ice rink at Millenium park. Once we arrived there and we got into line to purchase tickets, a girl dressed as an elve gave us free tickets as part of a Christmas holiday promition. So we were lucky once again with free tickets. We ice skated in the open air rink for about 1.5hours which was great fun and super duper cold and very romantic (as said by Dan). PICT0388.jpg PICT0390.jpg PICT0391.jpg

We then ran to Union station to catch the Amtrak train to Milwaukee at 10pm.

This is just a random photo taken at some stage in Chicago of the famous painting PICT0311.jpg

-Jane

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Chilly Chicago - part 2

The fun continues

5Dec. We will be testing the train system for this city from today onwards. We bought an unlimited day pass and jumped on the blue line train. Their train system consists of about 6 different coloured lines all going to various places. It took us around 20mins to get to town but it was very convenient and actually quite easy. We also went to the Disney store on the Magnificent Mile where I bought 3 Tinkerbell t-shirts for $20. I tried on the xs adult sizes which were 2 for $20 and decided to take them eventhough they were a bit on the big side. While standing in the long queue to pay Dan came running towards me with children's Tinkerbell t-shirts which were 3 for $20. (this is bullshit -Dan) I tried on the large children size and what a perfect fit. I just have to make a note that Dan found the t-shirts as I think I have totally turned on his Tinkerbell searching senses as he always points her out where ever he sees her. PICT0314.jpg

We wanted to go and experience a Basketball game as Chicago is the city of sports. We took the bus to the stadium and when we arrived there game prices were way out of our league. So we turned around and decided we will go and watch a game in another city as the prices will be more reasonable then. On our way home we went to Walgreen's a great convenience/supermaket store and bought Ben and Jerries ice cream at a great price. 2 500ml tubs for $5. I chose peanut butter cup flavour and Dan chose Chunky Monkey (banana and chocolate fudge flavoured ice cream). PICT0368.jpg They lasted about 3 days but we only ate it indoors as it is way to cold to eat it outside.

6Dec. We walked to the general store this morning to buy more day passes for the train and bus system when more than a thousand motorbikes passed us. It was the toys for tots charity event and the motorbikers were on their way to go and deliver toys to the less fortunate children. Harley Davidson was obviously the most common bike on the parade. It was amazing as they just kept passing and passing all honking to the Jingle bells tune. Cool sight. PICT0333.jpg We kind off got the hang of this whole bus and train system and take it where ever we want to go. We jump on one colour and take it somewhere and then jump on another colour. It is so much better than walking around everywhere as we cover quite a lot of places in this way. For lunch today we tried the famous Chicago hotdogs, which by the way are awesome. They come with a gherkin / pickle, mustard, onion, capsicum, whole chillies and tomato on top and no tomato sauce/ ketchup is allowed. PICT0344.jpgPICT0346.jpgPICT0347.jpg

There are two large towers in Chicago the first is the Sears towers (which is the largest) PICT0338.jpgand then the John Hancock tower (which is second)PICT0324.jpg, the Trump tower is a stainless steel glass building and also closely second or something, it is huge. PICT0334.jpgAnyway we were standing outside the John Hancock tower deciding whether we want to go up this one or the Sears towers when a lady came to us and said she had two free tickets if we were interested to go up the towers. Needless to say which tower we went up in the end. We went to the 94th floor from where we had an audio tour around the floor which overlooks the whole city and the extremely large Lake Michigan. David Schimmer (Ross from friends) gives you the audio tour as this is his home town and also the town where he started his career in show business. PICT0339.jpg After the tower I wanted a coffee and decided to order a medium as Dan always drinks my drink that I order. What a mistake. It was very very big. It only costs $1.80 but it leaves you on a high for approximately 3 hours. Bargain!!!

For dinner we went to Greek town and had a haloumi cheese platter and some Greek meatballs. It was really yummy. Henry comes home from work at around 11:30pm so we all went to some Blues bars as this is where it all started. The first place we walked into was absolutely pumping. The music was so loud that old man Dan rolled pieces of toilet paper into ear plugs and pushed it into his ears. To be honest after about 10mins I had to copy him as my poor eardrums could not take it anymore and they still have to last me a lifetime. We decided to leave as it was getting ridiculous and went to Kingston Mines which is another blues bar just across the street. This was a really nice bar and the music loudness was perfect.

O yes we also saw a Mexican place which advertised that they have Burritos bigger than your head. What a catch line.

7Dec. This morning we woke up and everything was white. It snowed over night and the town looked so different with its white blanket. We went to a mexican cafe for breakfast and when I asked the lady for tomato sauce she had no idea what I was saying. I then realised it is also called ketchup and then she understood what I was trying to say and corrected the way you should say tomato. You know like the tomato tomato add - hope you understand as I cannot write tomato in different accents.

The Field museum has the most complete skeleton of a T-Rex so off course we wanted to go and see it. PICT0355.jpg Now the following is a tip for everyone that would like to see this amazing animal for free. If you go into the museum you have to pay nearly $30 entrance. I know, I mean since when is a museum so expensive! Anyway the T-Rex is close to the entrance BUT there is an entrance on the north and south side of the museum so if you go into the north side entrance you can see the back of the dinosaur and if you go into the south side entrance you can see the front. And if you combine those two sights you saw the complete T-Rex free. Ps. that is a backpacking secret so please keep it sacred ;-) Opposite the museum are structures replicating people crossing the street, this was quite entertaining. PICT0354.jpg PICT0352.jpg

We got onto another bus and went to the Navy pier. The winterfest is currently in the big hall of the pier so there are carnival rides, jumping castles, an ice rink, hundreds of christmas trees and great snack stalls. It is really a beautiful sight and I so wished I was a little girl again as I would be able to entertain myself in there for hours.PICT0325.jpg PICT0320.jpg PICT0316.jpg PICT0318.jpg PICT0360.jpg PICT0361.jpg We also went on the Ferris wheel as the ferris wheel was developed in Chicago. We were the only people on the wheel but this is probably due to the icy cold winds outside. PICT0349.jpg PICT0351.jpg

After the pier we went to the Macy's department store which consists of 7 floors of well, everything. On the 5th floor is the famous Tiffany ceiling, which is made up of over one million pieces of iridescent glass (I just quoted the guidebook on that one, no plagiarism allowed so this is my reference: (the rough guide to the USA, 2009) PICT0367.jpg

For dinner we went to Pizza Uno to have the famous deep dish pizza. Wow it is deep and the crust is like a biscuit. Really an experience.

-Jane

Posted by funkyfairy 20:17 Comments (0)

Chilly Chicago - part 1

Good food and icy cold winds

snow

3Dec. Today we took the train to Chicago. PICT0283.jpg It took us 18.5hours to get there but the train went through the night so we slept on the train and had breakfast in the lounge car the next morning. Its quite a neat experience.

4Dec. PICT0309.jpgWe arrived in Chicago at around 3:30pm which meant we had about an hour of daylight left. I went to the bathroom at the station and saw the most amazing thing. The toilet seat is covered with plastic. You then, before you sit, push a button and the plastic moves from the one side into the other side which leaves you with a fresh piece of plastic over your seat to keep your bottom nice and germ free. PICT0285.jpgPICT0284.jpg

Once we left our luggage in a locker we left the train station. When the doors of Union station (the world's largest train station) opened I thought my eyeballs were going to freeze. It was -4oC outside and so cold and windy. We had two pairs of pants on and about 4layers at the top including gloves and a beanie o and a scarf. The temperatures actually represented a warmer temperature than Denver but Chicago has some seriously icy winds which actually feels like it burns your face slightly.

Chicago is the city of good food, really good food and food is absolutely every where so when you have a Food Technologist that wants to try every new food product and a guy that wants to eat everything, in your team - you have a problem. Our first stop was Dunkin Donuts to try the Boston Creme donut as recommended by Ida.PICT0286.jpg It was mouthwatering and definitely only to be done again as a treat after having a big training session ;-)

We decided to go sightseeing first and went for a walk on Michigan Ave. also known as "the Magnificent Mile". There are hundreds of retail shops, cafes and restaurants on this street. PICT0287.jpg PICT0290.jpg Our first stop was just outside Millennium Park where they have an ice rink and a bean like looking structure called Cloud Gate but known as the silver bean. The whole structure is made of metal which acts like a mirror reflecting the huge skyscrapers in the background.PICT0293.jpgPICT0295.jpg We tried to find some heat so decided to go to the closest mall where we walked around for a bit. We visited the Lego store which was really cool as they had heaps of things made from Lego even Darkvader "I am your father".PICT0298.jpg

O yes today was our 2 year dating anniversary and we decided to go for dinner so Dan can declare his love for me all over again ;-) We went to California pizza kitchen and had a wholewheat pizza base with bacon, cheese, onion and capsicum which came with a lettuce, tomato and avocado salad on top. It may seem strange but it is so nice and you actually do not feel guilty afterwards. PICT0300.jpg We wanted to have a real chocolate hot chocolate for dessert so we walked to the Hershey's chocolate store. PICT0305.jpg They had a great chocolate range but not real hot chocolate BUT just across the road is the Chirardelli chocolate store. PICT0308.jpg Upon entry we received a free chocolate and then ordered a real chocolate hot chocolate. If you should place that hot chocolate in a fridge and allow it to cool down you would be left with a cup of solidified chocolate. So we were basically drinking pure chocolate so naughty!PICT0307.jpg

For the next 4 nights we stayed at Henry's place (a friend of Dan - they met in Egypt). We had to share a single bed inflatable matress. What a challenge. It was perfect for the first night but as Dan kept on eating everyday my space on the matress decreased significantly ;-)

-Jane

Posted by funkyfairy 11:08 Comments (0)

Denver, Colorado

Freaken cold!!!

snow

1Dec. The train ride to Denver was beautiful. We passed desert, canyons and the Colorado river which was frozen at some points. PICT0252.jpgPICT0254.jpgPICT0256.jpg
Even though we were on a train for 24hours the time went by reasonably quick and the leg room was not bad at all. We went through a 6mile tunnel which took about 10mins to complete, that was quite cool. As we got closer and closer to Denver it was obvious that the temperature was rapidly dropping as the snow quantity increased from station to station. The train went right past the chair lifts of a few ski fields. We arrived in Denver at around 7pm and when we got off the train it was frrrreezzing! We got our luggage, called a hostel and took the free bus to the end of 16th street. 16th street is about a mile long and it is the main shopping street. The free buses run from 6am to 1am up and down this street picking up and dropping people, free of charge at every corner along the street. The whole street is decorated with Christmas lights and all the side streets have some decor too. It totally felt like we were entering the holiday season as we traveled along 16th street. PICT0279.jpgPICT0280.jpgWe got off at the end of 16th street and walked for ages to get to our hostel. At one point we thought we were lost so we went inside a 7/11 and asked if we could borrow a map. The only map they had available was a huge extremely detailed map, so Dan opened the map on the floor of 7/11 and laid there trying to find our spot. We weren't lost after all we just had about 10more blocks to walk :-(

We arrived at the hostel to find that we were the only people there. Later that night Rich from Chicago came and talked to us and said he has been the only one staying there since Saturday. So its pretty quite over here. We went to bed and snugged up inside our goose feathered sleeping bags from MacPac New Zealand. They saved us, without them we would have frozen stiff.

2Dec. We woke up this morning to find a white landscape - yip it snowed during the night and everything was covered in about 5cm of snow. It was totally awesome dude! PICT0276.jpgPICT0269.jpgPICT0270.jpgPICT0271.jpgPICT0272.jpgWe walked to downtown were it started snowing very lightly again and eventually snowed quite heavily, I absolutely loved it. My long nose would catch a snowflake every now and then which was funny. We had oats with brown sugar, pecan nuts, currant and raspberries for breakfast from Jamba Juice and then went for a hot drink at Peet's. Dan had a large (please see picture attached to understand the American definition of large) hot chocolate and I had a gingerbread latte. It was really nice.PICT0273.jpgPICT0274.jpg

I bought some snow boots from Ross. Ross is a really really cool shop which sells really good brands for very cheap. My boots are waterproof and made for extreme cold conditions. Just what I needed. I am sure this is just the beginning of their journey in the snow. I will keep you up to date on how they find the extreme cold cities which are yet to come. PICT0275.jpg It is so cold over here that even the statues have icicles hanging from their noses :-) For some reason there is steam coming out of the ground at some places, we think it must be something to do with the heating systems of the hotels. It is quite a treat walking through it as it is one way to get a little bit of warmth quickly.PICT0278.jpg For dinner we had sushi (only a little bit as we didn't realise it would be such small pieces) then we went to Taco Bell for Nachos. It was a huge bowl for $3 and it was nice and warm. The temperature when we walked home was 11oF (or -11.6oC). It is really beautiful over here and the snow totally works with the layout of the town.

It looks like our next stop is Chicago - which apparently is colder than Denver. What the.....

-Jane

Posted by funkyfairy 21:08 Comments (0)

Black Friday and Reno

Crazy shopping maddness in San Fran to Casinoland Reno, Nevada.

27 Nov. The day began with a sunny morning but then it turned black. Black shopping Friday is a shopper's ultimate dream. It is the shopping day after Thanks giving. The reason why it is called black Friday is because something like if companies are in the red after this huge shopping day it is bad news but if they are in the black it means they have had a successful year. Shoppers of all shapes and sizes come together in the malls and in every shop to celebrate. There are awesome bargains and sales to be scored.

I for one scored big time. I bought a Nokia cellphone for $15 dollars which came with $25 dollars loaded on the phone, which means that the cellphone company actually paid me $10 to buy the phone. Now I can keep in contact with my friends and family back in NZ. The streets were seriously crowded with thousands and thousands of people. The sales started 4am and people actually camped outside some stores to get to the bargains first. Dan and I love our sleep-ins way to much so we decided to wait for the crowds to go home before we approach the clothing stores. We got to Old Navy (a cool clothing store) at 11:30pm and the store was still having its crazy sale and people were still wondering the streets. I bought an awesome long sleeve top decorated with glitter ballerinas for $5 and Dan bought a cool jacket, which I chose for him for $24 which was marked down from $60.PICT0227.jpg

Roller bladers filled the streets doing crazy stunts, one guy even rollerbladed backwards down an escalator and some beggers tried to entertain passers by to get some change. One actually stood on his head which was on a wine bottle. I dont know if that makes sense but the bottle was upside down as well as the dude ontop of it.

Our treat for the day was a chocolate kebab which was strawberry and bananas dipped in dark chocolate - mmmmm!PICT0214.jpg

We also visited a cupcake store during our stay on a regular basis which had some awesome flavours.PICT0216.jpg

28Nov. We bused to Reno, Nevada today which took around 5hours. PICT0221.jpg All along the road was snow and it was full moon which resulted in some awesome scenery. We left San Francisco at 6:30pm so we arrived in Reno at night time. The whole town was lid by lights which could be seen from miles. It was such a cool way to enter a town.PICT0245.jpg We stayed in the Sands Regency hotel and Casino for $46 - bargain you may think but wait. PICT0230.jpg When we got there we received a free upgrade (for some reason) so we received a hotel room with an awesome view, a king size bed, ensuite, tv and couch - Super bargain!!! PICT0222.jpg

29Nov. During the day we explored the town of Reno by foot and at night we explored the casinos. What a great experience. We found a supermarket were we bought a few supplies as well as a small bag of corn chips and popcorn. PICT0228.jpg. Holly molly :-) The town is filled with wedding chapels and antique shops. PICT0225.jpgWe went to the Circus Circus casino which have free circus shows and a great children's game area with other carnival games (obviously the place Dan and I spent most of our time).PICT0240.jpg The Circus Circus casino is linked to Silver Legacy which is then linked to El Dorado.PICT0236.jpgPICT0235.jpgPICT0233.jpg Each casino has its own theme which supplied some awesome decor. We also went for a $7.99 all you can eat buffet which totally hit the spot. We decided to stay in the hotel for another night which cost us a crazy $28 per night. The rates mentioned above are not per person but per room. Wow I thought!

30Nov. We went for breakfast at the El Dorado casino and then went back to the hotel we were staying to gamble our free $5 we won when we checked in. It took us around 10mins to work out how the machine works and we even received help - inexperienced gamblers :-) We then got on a train at 4:45pm to go to Denver, Colorado which is a whopping 24.5 hours away.

-Jane

Posted by funkyfairy 20:48 Comments (0)

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