Travel and Adventure Show 2014!

A few weekends ago I attended the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show, which I have also attended a couple times in the past. For about the price of a movie its a full day of talks, demonstrations, freebies and ideas, and I’ve always found the day well worth it.

This year was no exception. I had the chance to hear travel guru Rick Steves speak on his personal travel philosophy, with perhaps a little more irreverence than his PBS television shows allow him. But Rick Steves has been entering uncharted territory recently. Three years ago he presented on his latest book at the time, “Travel as a Political Act”, and now he is working on new television programs for Israel and Palestine. I can also mention that I got his autograph in my new ‘Croatia and Slovenia’ book – no trip planned yet, just an idea!

Rick Steves presenting to an attentive audience at the Travel show

Rick Steves presenting to an attentive audience

Signing autographs in a “hurry up, I want my lunch” kind of way 😉


My autographed travel guide – ideas for a future trip?

Always another highlight of the Travel and Adventure show is the cultural performances, which I use as a nice breather between the many other activities – just sit, watch and enjoy. Below are two pictures from the “Global Beats Stage”.


A Canadian folk band, with an adorably energetic fiddler.

A lovely Classical Indian dance number.

A lovely Classical Indian dance number.


Five reasons to get outside!

Since about this time last year I have been involved (on and off) in a hiking group in the Chicagoland area. This isn’t my first time hiking either; if you look back at earlier posts of mine, I did a lot of hiking in England as well. So, I think I can fairly tell you that you should get outside and do the same! Here are my reasons, along with a brief review of some recent hikes.

Reason #1: Meet new people

Every time I go on a hike I meet new people. Some of them I may see again on another hike, and some of them I may never meet again. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many friendly people and having quality conversations, whether we discover we have a common interest in history, or travel and photography etc.

What a great group of people on a winter hike!

What a great group of people on a winter hike!

Reason #2: Learn a new skill

Sometimes I get the opportunity to learn a new skill, or practice an old one. I got a nice refresher course this weekend on cross country skiing, which I’m sure I hadn’t done in 10 years. I have yet to go on one of the rock climbing trips, or mountain climbing trips :-s

Friendly faces on a cross country skiing outing.

Friendly faces on a cross country skiing outing.

Reason #3: Find out how interesting your neighborhood is

Hiking around forest preserves or parks with someone who knows it better than you can be an education. A Thanksgiving Day hike was my motivation to visit the local arboretum for the very first time – only a 20 minute drive from my house. And a hike in the near-west suburbs of Chicago revealed the city’s very own ‘Fountain of Youth’ – locals come with their empty jugs to fill up on the good stuff – see the link to the article below!

"The Fountain of Youth", in a neighborhood near you!

A water pump in a forest preserve is locally viewed as a ‘Fountain of Youth’! My photo.

Reason #4: Get in shape

This is an obvious one. Getting outside and hiking, or whatever it is you want to do, is good for your health. My only mistake has been starting with something that was too challenging for me, but I enjoyed the exercise even then. Last year I did a 22 mile hike around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and although I was sore for several days after, I felt so proud of what I’d accomplished!

How about getting in shape in beautiful surroundings?

How about getting in shape in beautiful surroundings? My photo.

Reason #5: Outside is better than the gym

Honestly, there are things you can see and do outside that you will never experience if you just go to the gym. Wildlife is a big one for me, like deer, beavers, or eagles (on occasion). And as you’ll notice from the pictures, winter weather doesn’t have to keep you from going outside. In fact, its a good reason to go out and get your vitamin D…

Something else you may see if you venture outside.

Something else you may see if you venture outside.

Photos are courtesy of the meetup group contributors, unless otherwise noted.

Open House Chicago 2013

October marked a second successful Open House Chicago event by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, where historic sites and businesses opened their doors to the public for one grand weekend. I mentioned it in a post last year, at their inaugural event (

My personal affinity to Tribune Tower led me to visit there again. Instead of the penthouse office they opened up last year, this time they displayed one of the old refurbished press rooms in the basement. The sight was rather underwhelming, but I enjoyed seeing the track lines for carts that at one time carried enormous rolls of newsprint for the paper. If you have 20 minutes to kill, watch this 1937 educational video on the process, entitled “Trees to Tribune”(

The track lines for carts carrying newsprint

The track lines for carts carrying newsprint


Imagining those giant paper rolls running down the underground tracks

This next picture is actually my favorite, because I was so proud of myself to have spotted this significant cornerstone in the Tribune building. I can’t recommend people to go see it, as its in a spot not technically on public property. But the cornerstone is located below street level on Wacker, by the employee parking lot. I’ve juxtaposed it with a historic photo of Robert McCormick at an outdoor ceremony in the same location in 1920. So much history is here.


An unseen corner of this building, when it was first dedicated!

After leaving Tribune Tower with my friends, my zig-zagged our way down and around Michigan Ave, visiting historic interiors like the Monroe Building and Fine Arts Building, and the swanky office of a modern architectural firm. Some Open House Chicago (OHC) locations are always open to the public, but the event gives you the excuse to walk around and explore. Below is a picture of the Empire Room at the Palmer House Hotel, where a set of Bertha Palmer’s extravagant gold-rimmed dinner service was on display.


Inside the publicly accessible Palmer House Hotel

Wanting to also visit something that was not normally accessible, we checked out the Cliff Dwellers private club dedicated to the arts, on the penthouse of the Symphony Center. As far as private clubs go, the interior was rather sparse and reserved, but illustrious members have included Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Carl Sandburg, Lorado Taft and many others. The most impressive part was the view from the terrace, with all of the lakefront laid out before your eyes!


Dining room of the private club, the “Cliff Dwellers”, dedicated to the arts


View from the terrace of the Cliff Dwellers private club

These are just a few highlights, but I hope to be back next year to explore a new neighborhood. Afterall, its so fun to act like a tourist in your own city!

New Challenges and Opportunities

Now that I’ve returned home from my year in the UK, I’m faced with different kinds of challenges. For instance, paying off all those amazing weekend trips around the UK and Europe! Job hunting is never something one looks forward to doing. But I am grateful that I’ve found two temporary part-time positions that will keep me occupied into the new year.

So, my new life back home in Chicago-land is slightly less stimulating than my year abroad, but there are still things to boast about. Like cheering for Chicago’s soccer team (many of you didn’t even know Chicago has a soccer team, right?), attending ‘Open House Chicago‘ at historic sites across the city, and getting my own personal tour through the Sears/Willis Tower (it will always be the Sears Tower to me!). Even in the most familiar of places, there are always new things to discover!

The ‘Firehouse’ cheering section at a Chicago Fire game. Notice the Chicago skyline in the background.

The view from the rarely-open 24th floor office of the Tribune Tower.

View towards Lake Michigan from the Sears Tower.

Klas, reportedly the oldest Czechoslovakian restaurant in the US. Yum!

Happy New Year from Leicester!

Hello All,

After a surprise visit home and a week-long trip to Ireland, I have made it back safe and sound to Leicester, ready to start classes tomorrow. It’s been a fun few weeks, but will get very busy from here on!

Just before the break I had gone on another hike in Leicestershire, but winter weather has finally hit: average January high is in the mid-40s! Fahrenheit of course, I see no snow in our future. I missed the first snow in Leicester anyway as I was lucky enough to fly standby home on the 17th of December. My parents were there waiting for me at O’Hare! While I only stayed 10 days, it was truly refreshing to see friends and family, my home and my dog.

But alas, on the 27th I picked up and headed back to the UK, luckier yet this time to get in on Business class! I’ll avoid bragging here. And 2 days later my friend Erica arrived from Chicago to visit me on vacation! We saw some of Leicester’s sights (contrary to popular belief, there are a few), and spent New Year’s Eve with a few of my friends. Erica was expecting to meet plenty of British people but met only international students instead.

On New Year’s Day we headed for the airport to spend a week in Ireland and Northern Ireland. We spent most of our time in lovely Dublin, with a couple rainy days spent in Belfast, and two tours out into the country and along the Giant’s Causeway (look it up). While I don’t have enough time here to talk about everything we saw in Ireland, it was enjoyable to travel with a friend (and conveniently a good way to get over jet-lag). Since I got back to Leicester on the 7th of January I have been getting ready for my next essay, and my next trip. Don’t sound so surprised!

The complimentary pint at the end of the brewery tour!