Monday, September 3, 2007

Day 13 - Soho

After the very late night which was Sunday, we rose a little late today. We had breakfast in a diner on 8th avenue and 50th. It was grand and set us up for the day.

We jumped on an A train to Soho. WOW! Where has Soho come from and why have we only discovered it now?! The shopping is incredible, so many stores all located in the one neighbourhood. We started on Prince St and ended up exploring the stores on Broadway. Amazing. Ending up in Chinatown, we took the train back uptown where we snacked in KFC before finishing our shopping.

Before heading back to the hotel, we hunted down the local beard papas, yes that Japanese chain is now in NYC. When we found it, it was closed for the night. Grr.

Back to the hotel where we spend a good two hours packing our cases and booked a supershuttle to pick us up tomorrow from our hotel and bring us to the Airport.

We finished the night with a drink in Therapy Bar on 52th Street,

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Day 12 - Brooklyn

Another fab day in the big city. We dined on Pizza for breakfast and then hit the streets to enjoy the 23rd annual Brazil Day Festival. Three streets, including a very large portion of 6th avenue was closed off, making way for the festivities, which included many stalls selling traditional food and drink. Thousands turned out. Every time we visit New York, we always seem to time it with this festival, fun!

Afterwards, I popped up to Columbus Circle to purchase my new Nike runners, which were not available in my size in the Nike Town.

We headed downtown to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge! What great fun, the views where amazing, but nothing prepared us for the culture shock which was Brooklyn's main shopping mall/street. We felt so out of place, definitely non-locals. We left as soon as we found the subway! An experience none the less. Manhattan island for us please!

After some shopping, we headed to the AMC on 42th street to watch the film "I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry". After a visit to M&M world and Virgin, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and hit the nite life. We started in Vlada and ended up in Posh til closing 4am! We're wrecked!

Day 11 - Lazy day in the big city

Quick update on today. We rose a little after 10am and headed out for a breakfast/lunch in Ellens, a diner on broadway. This is a fab place where the servers all sing as your meals are being served. It's like a little broadway musical in a restaurant, great fun. The remainder of the day included:
  • Shopping in Bloomingdales
  • Shopping on 34th Street
  • Dinner in the Olive Garden on broadway
  • Drinks up at Suite
  • A Drink in the pig and whistle Irish Bar!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Day 10 - Shopping

We spent today shopping, the main thing to do in this city. Kicking it off we went to moonstruck cafe, our new annual visit, for a very large breakfast/lunch which really set us up for the day.

Century 21 was our next destination, it's the fab discount apartment store alongside the site of the world trade centers. Macy's and the stores along 32nd street followed and we rounded it off with a visit to Ambercrombie on 5th Avenue. I popped into the Apple Store, it was packed.

For dinner, we headed down into Soho and ate in an asian fusion restaurant, peep, which was very funky indeed. The toilets are situated half way into the venue, and consist of 1 way mirrors. You can see everyone outside whilst you sit on the loo! Crazy!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 9 - Welcome NYC

As usual, we're doing so much, there is too little time to fully write up the blog entry for today. I'll fill in the pieces afterwards, much like yesterday, which I completed on the flight over to New York. But highlights of today included:
  • Getting up at 7 to leave for the airport.
  • Getting to the airport and almost missing our flight!
  • Arriving in NYC, our hotel is on Times Square (handy for us).
  • Getting tickets to see Legally blond the musical that evening, and meeting the cast afterwards. The theater is beside our hotel.
  • Getting tickets to the midnight showing of the new Halloween film! Was cool!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 8 - Last day in Chicago

Being our last day, we had a list a mile long of outstanding things to do. Prioritisation was key! We rose nice and early and actually managed to leave the apartment around 11am, not bad for us really! We started the day with a visit to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center, which conveniently is located right beside our hotel.

The Hancock, whilst not the tallest sky scraper in the city, is much loved due to it location north of the loop, giving it amazing views south of the downtown area, east to the lake and north to the gold coast and it’s beaches. We had vouchers for the audio tour, which gave us a great commentary of the city beneath us. A nice feature is the skydeck, an exposed area with the windows removed; allowing you to feel the breeze, smells the scents and hear the sounds of the city beneath. The windows here, unlike the sears tower, ran from roof to floor, approaching the edge for a clearer view is certainly not for the faint hearted!

Leaving the Hancock we headed just south to the Ohio Street beach. Yes most of the streets up this end of the city have beaches alongside the lake front. Whilst artificial, it did seem like the real deal. An 18 mile stretch of cycle/walk ways, called lake shore drive, runs along the lake front bordering the city itself. There are numerous beaches scattered along it. I can only imagine that during the middle of the summer months, this area must get really packed. When we arrived, only the odd roller bladder and cyclist were about. The beach itself was very clean. The sand was nice and hot. It really is a great treat being on a beach during the summer. The water was warm, and as its fresh water, wasn’t salty! We would have loved to have time to take a swim, but with too much to get done today it would have to wait until the evening, but when we did get time to return the weather had changed. Ah well.

We headed downtown for some food, dining in Panda Express for a change. The orange chicken really is great. Next on our list was a visit to the Shedd Aquarium, located in the museum campus area of the city. The Shedd is a massive indoor aquarium, costing around $24 each for a day pass, we only had time for around 2 hours, but you could easily spend your whole day looking and learning about all the amazing fish inside. It had areas devoted to the oceans of the world, the coral reef, the artic with whales and penguins, but the star of the day had to be the dolphins. We were treated to a really cool dolphin show, were the trainers demonstrated some of the dolphins “natural” behaviours – like jumping and swimming backwards! Natural indeed! Nonetheless great to see.

Leaving the Shedd, we headed back downtown for some final shopping along the magnificent mile which is Michigan Avenue before returning back to apartment to pack and prepare dinner. We had hopped to head out for a drink but we only managed to make it as far as the subway station. After waiting some 20 mins for a train, we decided to cut our losses and head back to the apartment for an early night.

Tomorrow we’re off to New York City on an 11am flight. We should touch down around 2:30pm local time, which is an hour ahead of Chicago, we’ll be on Eastern Standard Time. This has really been an amazing city. The skyline is awesome, comparable with New York. Its cleanliness is on par with Toronto and it’s friendless is not a match on any European counterpart. It really has everything, apart from the crowds. It’s been a very pleasurable 8 days and would highly recommend a visit to anyone back home. With AerLingus flying direct to O’Hare daily, there is no excuse. (Oh and it’s only $2 to get into the city via train, which is around 1 hour away from the city).

Until we hit New York and its bright lights!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 7 - We clean up with Oprah

We kicked off the day with a visit to the Post office. Lucky for us there is one located in the basement of the John Hancock center, which is right beside our hotel.

We then made the track to the local laundry. It was some way away, in fact it was some way out of town. But we found it, and if your ever in this area, the location can be found below.

View Larger Map

Yo Yo's was very cheap. Soap power only cost 50cents, with a full wash $1.50. With every good and clean, we headed back to the hotel to shower and freshen up, why? It was 100F/37C outside! Amazing or what.

All refreshed, we took the bus down to the Harpo Studio, where the Oprah Show is taped. We'd just missed a taping, Oprah had left the building, but all the production crew where still present. After taking our photos we head back to the apartment for dinner.

We spending the evening in Boystown, was a bit of a mess getting up there as the read line was out of service. Tomorrow is our last full day in Chicago. There is still so much to do, this really is a great city!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 6 - Manic Monday Videos!

Below are some Videos from the Bangles Concert in The House Of Blues!

Day 6 - Manic Monday

Today we got to see The Bangles in the world famous House Of Blue but before that did some more sight seeing. Taking it easy, we didn't leave the apartment until after 2pm. I know very late, but it was a late night before.

We took the train north, and visited OZ park, which is dedicated to Frank Baum, writer of the Wizard of Oz, himself a Chicago native. The park is located in a very sleepy neighborhood with very fashionable boutiques!

Taking the brown elevated train back into the city, we rode the loop around downtown. The loop is basically that, an elevated track, which loops around downtown. Trains enter at one end, loop once and head back to the suburbs. It's great seeing the city from the an elevation.

After some shopping, we headed back to the apartment, ate, changed and headed over to the House of Blues, where the Bangles were to take the stage. I forgot my passport, and as everywhere is very ID strict, I'd to run back to the apartment and taxi it back. The Bangles were good, they sang their major songs towards the end of their set, but up until then, it was all new numbers for us. They played from 10 - 11:30pm. We didn't drink too much as drink was almost double standard bar prices. Crazy!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day 5 - Movie Sets

The sun is back. Wow, it was great weather again today. We're both bright red, typical! Today we hit the park, Millennium Park to be exact. It was a gift to the city to celebrate the turning of the twentieth century. It features wonderful gardens, an outdoor stage and amazing water monument consisting of two glass pillars, which have local citizens projected onto it from within, every 10mins they "spit" water. It's very hard to describe, but its great fun. The entire area is covered with water! Some of the photos below best help to describe it!

Close by we visited, Buckingham Fountain, made famous as the fountain in the opening sequence of "Married with Children". Again close by we visited the Latin culture festival, sampling some great food.

Heading back into two, in the loop area, we stumbled across the film set for the latest batman movie! Gotham city is in fact Chicago City! An entire city block was closed down. Extras where dressed up in Gotham Police Department uniforms, Gotham City Police and Ambulance cars where everywhere! It was great fun. Photos where a no-no, but we managed to take some until the camera died! So we headed back to the apartment for some lunch, giving us enough time to get it recharged.

So we headed back downtown to, hoping to catch some of the filming of the new batman movie. We did see some car chase scenes. As we were in the area of the Sears Tower, now the third largest building in the world at 110 floors, we decided to head over and up. For some 20 odd years, it was the world’s tallest building. Another first for this city of firsts! Naturally the views from the top are awesome. It’s very safe and enclosed.

Walking back to the apartment, we managed the catching the filming of Wanted, the new Angelina Jolie film. We ate in the apartment before heading out to McCools Pub for one and then onto Boystown.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Day 4 - The Guided Tours

Today we boarded the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Tours to experience the City from the comfort of a bus! Costing $25 (€18), our tickets where good for two tours of the city. The first, lasted two hours, covered all the main city sights, whilst the second, lasting one hour, brought us into the suburbs, entitled the ethnic tour covering Chinatown and even Oprah's Harpo Studio lott.

We learned so much on these tours, too much in fact! It would be impossible to put it all down here, but some interesting facts about Chicago we learn where:
  1. The worlds first Big Wheel was build here in Chicago.
  2. The city skyline was voted the second best after Hong Kong.
  3. The zip and windowed-envelop where both invented here!
After the tours, we headed back to the apartment to freshen up. We had planned to visit The Baton Lounge for a drag show, but we arrived 20mins late. Each show last 90mins and costs $14 (€10) per show, min of 2 drinks and 16% tip. WHAT?! Thats unbelievable. We avoided and headed for a beer in the adjacent Irish Bar before heading down to the pier to watch the Fireworks at 10:15pm.

We walked back to the apartment and headed bed ward. Yet another early night. We'll see Chicago night life one of these nights! :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Day 3 - Navy Pier

We hit the shops today, mind you only window shopping. We’re going to save our credit cards for New York as all clothing items will be at least 9% cheaper as zero sales tax, not bad.

We’d been looking for the Abercrombie store, only to find it was in the Water Tower Place shopping mall, which is literally in front of our hotel. This mall is quite impressive, covering 8 floors; it has well over 100 shops. The 6th floor was our heaven as it housed Aercrombie, American Eagle and Hollister Co. (Note over here in America the floors are all wrong, ground is 1st, 1st is 2nd and so on!). Hollister Co. is basically a copy of Abercrombie, around 25% cheaper. American Eagle is similar to both, but cheaper still. Why have copies when you can have the real deal. We love our Abercrombie. Could have bought the entire store, but we’ve to hold back to New York next week.

We stopped for lunch in the very cheap, panda express, where a massive plate of food costs a little over €4. Very good value and really fills you up.

Doing the tourist thing, we bee lined to navy pier, taking in the scenic river side route. Actually we got a little lost on route, but did manage to stumble upon both Lowes and AMC cinemas; more on that in a bit! Navy Pier is tourist heaven; all the pleasure cruises depart from it. It’s also home to several amusements, including the McDonalds sponsored Big Wheel, video below and an IMAX, currently showing Harry Potter in 3D.

On the way back we decided to see a film and choose "The Invasion" starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig - was ok but not worth the $20 admin and $10 on popcorn and drink.

We made our way on the Red Line to Boys Town, its very similar to San Francisco’s Castro Area. Picking up listings guides we headed back to the apartment to prepare dinner and enjoy another miller lime beer. Feeling wrecked at 11:30pm we decided to head to bed instead of heading out. We’ll try to hit the bars tomorrow night.

Day 2 - Video Updates!

Added bonus! Some videos of the Storms which hit Chicago. The first shows the sudden arrival around 4pm, the second is later that evening. Try to spot the lightening!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Day 2 - The storms won't dampen us...

The temperature today were very similar to yesterday. You only have to walk outside for 10 minutes and you’re tired. It's very muggy. Looking back it really was the "calm before the storm".

Still on Irish time, we got up around 7am, taking our time to get ready; we finally left the apartment soon after 10am. We headed uptown in the direction of Jewel Supermarket to stock up on essentials. En route we popped into Barnes and Nobel bookstore just off "Elm Street" :).

Supermarkets are massive over here, why wouldn't they be anything else. Everything, apart from pizza is very cheap. An average €4 frozen pizza retails for doubles that here. Strange, considering this is the city famous for pizzas. I think it took us well over an hour to get around the store. Everything comes in vanilla or cinnamon favours. Can't get better than that.

We headed back towards to the apartment and prepared a very tasty lunch from all the food we'd stocked up with.

The 80's super-girl-group, the Bangles, are playing the world famous "House of Blues" on Monday, so we picked up tickets this afternoon. We should be in for a treat hearing them sing all of their classics from "Eternal Flame" to "Manic Monday".

We where somewhere downtown, in the "Loop" taking pictures of beautiful buildings, when a sudden change occurred. Blue clear sky's where replaced by very low gray clouds. Out of no-where 80mile strong winds blew down through the streets. People screamed and ran for the lives as massive umbrellas, designed to shelter customers from the sun, lifted up and were throw down the streets. We managed to avoid two of them. Street dust arose, blowing everywhere. Then the rains fell. OMG, was it crazy. Its been raining non-stop ever since, and boy we're not in Dublin any more - it's severe flooding rains combined with on-stop thunder and lightening storms. We took shelter in any and every store we found.

Extreme weather can't stop our shopping bug, we did managed to fit in most of the downtown loop stores before returning back to the apartment around 8pm. Watching the evening news, whilst eating back in the apartment, we learned 500 flights had been cancelled in the Airport, which itself has suffered power outages. This freak weather is hitting the city bad. Almost 1 tenth of the city is without power with tornado warnings on the cards for tomorrow.

This is all great fun. We've never experienced weather like it. Even though it's raining hard, we are being treated to a fantastic light and sound show above our heads. It's all very exciting for now. I'm sure if these conditions continue for the rest of the week, it will be another story.

We stayed in tonight as it's too bad to get outside. Dinned on mash potatoes, burgers on onion paps with fried red peppers. We drank the miller chill bear, it's lime flavour! Nice! Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 1 - We've arrived in Chicago

We arrived in Newark Airport, New Jersey, at 11:30am (local time), after a 7 and half hour flight from Dublin. Making a very quick connection and another 2 hour flight we touched town in Chicago around 3pm local time, which is American Central Time, 6 hours behind Ireland.

Getting off the flight, the heat hit us. WOW, this place is warm. As our flight was an internal domestic flight, we waltzed through into baggage reclaim. No security or passport control. What was strange - the baggage reclaim point is open to the general public!

Heading to the Airport CTA station (the local version of our CIE), we picked up a seven day unlimited bus and rail pass for $20. Not bad, works out less than €15 for the whole week. Taking the Blue Train to Jackson, we transferred to Red to Chicago and walked the remaining three blocks to the hotel.

Our Hotel is right beside the famous John Hancock Centre. We've a fab apartment hotel. It's massive. We've a very large bed, separate sitting room with three sofas and large cable (70+channel) TV. Our kitchen is very well equipped with oven, stove top, microwave, electric can opener, toaster, coffee maker, LARGE fridge and our sink is equipped with a garbage disposal unit. AMAZING! The hotel has a small gym and roof terrace.

After settling in, we headed out to Michigan Avenue and the magnificent mile. It's the main shopping street. It's beautiful, but warm, almost 28Degrees at 7pm! We snacked at Panda Express (We loved there last year in San Francisco), and Patrick even got to play with the Apple iPhone in the apple store.

Heading to Wallgreens, we picked up some food for breakfast. We'll do a full shop tomorrow. We even got a voucher entitling us to a free Vanilla Coke Zero (Pats in Heaven!).

A storm is on the way tonight, it's already thunder and lightening outside. It's nothing like the storms back home, the skies are alight. We're heading to bed early to recover from a very long day travelling. We're very excited about discovering this new city.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let the adventure begin

And so another annual holiday begins. It's been all go. Yesterday was my (Pats) birthday, nothing celebrated, hopefully holding that back till we arrive State Side. We're both packed and about to retire for the night. Up around 5am and leaving for Dublin Airport at 6am. Our flight is at 9am, getting in Newark to connect with an internal flight to Chicago O'Hare. Talk with you from the USA. Twitter will be updated throughout the day.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Chicago! An Intro.

Chicago is the largest city in the state of Illinois, the largest in the Midwest, and, with a population of nearly 3 million people, is the third-most populous city in the United States. The Chicago metropolitan area (commonly referred to as Chicagoland) has a population of over 9.5 million people in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, making it also the third largest metropolitan area in the U.S.[1] Chicago is primarily located in Cook County, Illinois.