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Hi My Name is Windy: My Chicago Whirlwind

By November 20, 2012 Travel
Goodbye Chicago


Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.

~ Frank Lloyd Wright

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I’ve heard a lot about Chicago; some great, some not so great. It’s the home of the Blues, the Cubs, Kanye West, high crime rates, R.Kelly and Obama! When I found out I would be visiting the City of Wind for a work conference, I had lots of interest in getting to know the it firsthand. Was it really as cold as people say? Would I run into Lupe Fiasco? What was all the fuss about that silver bean?

I got into Chicago late Wednesday evening, checked into The James Hotel, which is a very nice hotel in the Magnificent Mile neighborhood and near the Razorfish Chicago office. I grabbed late-night sushi and sake with coworkers and got ready for the next day’s activities.

~ Obligatory Mirror Pic ~ 

Before the sightseeing adventures could begin work had to be attended to. The reason for the visit was a Social Media Summit to discuss the latest and greatest in the practice.

Razorfish Chicago is a pretty outstanding office, my favorite one so far (sorry New York & Philly). Neon walls, bright lights, lots of glass conference rooms. And did I mention… beer on tap. I’m not the biggest beer drinker but you have to admit that’s pretty awesome.

~ Whoop, there it is!  ~ 

Over the next two days there was a ton of exchange, idea sharing and thought leadership. Did I mention I love my job? Well I do. After long days in meetings, it was time for a little Chicago style food sharing. Deep dish pizza, anyone? I now fully understand why Chicagoans are wild about their pie!

~ Delizioso! ~ 

After more meetings, Friday finally winded down and the weekend was set to start. We transferred hotels to the sex-ay W Hotel Lakeshore!  How sparkly is this sign? Very posh!

We headed out on the town and hit up Wicker Park area for scrumptious tacos at Big Star and evening cocktails at Violet Hour, which is a clandestine undercover spot that doesn’t allow cell phone use and has hilarious house rules like: “No O-Bombs. No Jager-Bombs. No bombs of any kind.” and “Please do not bring anyone to The Violet Hour that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner.”  I love it!

With three cold Chicago nights under our belts, Saturday was officially dubbed the CHICAGO CRAM!

With one full day to sightsee, we decided to see as much of Chicago as we possibly could. I think we accomplished that and more. There must be some sort of award for the most frenzied, yet controlled tourism ever! We’d certainly win.

Dressing for city walking and cold temps is no easy feat. I think I managed well with dark skinnies, black & white striped shirt, leopard blazer (unpictured), bright green scarf, my Shelli Segal coat and comfortable suede boots.

First stop was brunch at the absolutely delectable Yolk, a top rated brunch in the city. It was jumping good!

~ Jaimie loves Yolk! ~ 

Next stop, the TOP of the WORLD! Well the top of Chicago at least! We hit up the John Hancock building and got a view of Chicago from the 96th floor. Insider tip, hit up the ladies’ restroom in lieu of going to the observatory. Backdoor tricks FTW! (Thanks Deanna) 

It was so surreal to see all of the immaculate buildings from so high up. Chicago truly has beautiful architecture and many throwbacks to a classier, jazzier age.

We came down from our high and decided to take an old school horse & carriage ride to get a quicker view of the Chi. Chicago has lots of luxury shopping, traditional hotels, cathedrals and amazing signage. Every storefront has its own unique flair. There was even a cow on the front of a building!

~ Say Cheese ~ 

Next we shot across town to Millennium Park. I didn’t know what to expect of the giant Cloud Gate sculpture except that it seemed pretty cool. Cool is an understatement! Millennium Park is beautiful, has so many different sections, great sculptures and lots of energy. There were about 3 different wedding parties taking pictures!

You’d think we’d be exhausted at this point but we kept the party going and headed to do an Architecture Boat Tour on Lake Michigan. As we rushed through throngs of people (the annual Lighting Parade coincided with our trip – what fate!) we prayed we wouldn’t miss our boat.

And guess what…. WE DID!  Bye Bye Boat.

All was not lost. With the lighting parade came a fireworks display and a later boat ride that ended with seeing the fireworks. On. The. Water. SCORE!

For me, the boat tour was the highlight of the trip. Coasting on Lake Michigan, learning all about the buildings, the companies that inhabit them and the history of the city. Chicago is truly lovely at night.

We parked on the lake and watched the fireworks. It was the cherry on the Chicago sundae. Dinner at the famous Ditka’s (the food was superb) for Jaimie’s birthday dinner and eventually the night ended at the legendary Wiener Circle. I couldn’t get good video because I was laughing entirely too much at the crazy characters behind the counter! But this clip from Conan will show you what WC is all about.

I played a hilarious game and won a T-shirt. Wiener Circle is truly hilarious place and a must visit when you’re in Chicago.

Exhausted from a long day, I conked out ready to head home.

Sunday with only a few hours to spare, we trekked to the Navy Pier, the top tourist attraction in Chicago. The Navy Pier has a giant Ferris Wheel and lots of arcade games.

~ We’re Mad for Chicago ~ 

All in all, Chicago is a pretty spectacular city. It’s like a modern day Pleasantville: clean streets, beautiful buildings and lots to do. Seeing the glorious facade of Chicago makes me want to delve deeper into the parts unseen. 

~ It’s safe to say I’m smitten with the Windy City ~

x Until next time, Summertime Chi!

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Taking Off: Feeding Your Wanderlust

By December 1, 2011 Play, Travel
vintage-air-stewardess

The idea of traveling has been swirling in my mind, making my palms itch with wanderlust and basically harassing me to get out and do something about it.  I don’t know where my need to travel comes from. Maybe it’s my complacency with routine or a need to realize my minute status in this large world, but there are few feelings that rival taking a flight and landing in a place I’ve never been. And my recent trip to the Bahamas only intensified my desire.

I recently made the resolution to pay more attention to this calling and honor it by making it a priority in my life.  So often we ignore the things in our hearts and rationalize them away with excuses. “I’ll travel when my debt is paid off” or “I can’t afford to travel.” Where there are excuses there is inaction and no one ever got to California standing on a dirt road in Kansas.

I totally understand that sometimes life prevents us from being able to get up and go and it is a lot easier said than done. But with anything, if you want it bad enough you (and the Universe) will find a way to make it happen.

Here are a few tips on feeding your wanderlust and giving it the precedence it deserves.

First Layover: Accept your Wanderlust

First you must decide that exploration is for you. If you daydream about distant lands, exotic meals, authentic people and experiences then you’ve been bitten with the wanderlust bug. Take it seriously and don’t allow yourself or others to downplay it. The world is a large, diverse and enriching place and we must see it.

Second Layover: Get a Map and Imagine

One of my great girlfriends Beza is an avid traveler and true inspiration. One day on her table I spotted a book 1,000 Places to See Before you Die. In it she had tabs and pages marked off; where she had been and where she wanted to go. I purchased the book and have been scouting out the locations I am dying to see. I won’t see any or all of the destinations any time soon but it is a great motivator.

{Source}

Third Layover: Get a Crew or Go it Alone

If I could count the number of times I didn’t go on a trip because none of friends could (or wanted) to go I would have thousands of frequent flyer miles. Traveling with friends is an amazing bonding experience and I’m a huge proponent of girl getaways but when the crew can’t come you need to strap on your backpack and hit the road solo. I’m in the works of planning a solo vacation simply for the hell of it.

Final Destination: Plan for It and Hit the Road

Dreams of travel are nothing without fulfillment. Actually buying that plane ticket, booking that hotel or making those arrangements are what seals the deal and gets you one step closer to traipsing the globe. If planning a trip in its entirety seems overwhelming, book your hotel first. Then a week or two later book your plane ticket. Before you know it your travel date will be here and you’ll forget all the things that held you back.

And lastly for all of the wanderlust lasses, daring divas, adventure-hungry chicas who know that there’s more beyond our front door, I leave you with this quote:

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  ~ St. Augustine

Are you experiencing wanderlust? What travel plans do you have in the works?

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Airport Purgatory: What I Learned from my Buddy Pass Debacle

By February 19, 2011 Travel
Airport-Rage

{The Four Stages of Airport Rage: Irritation, Contempt, Delusion, Violence}

So this wasn’t quite the debauchery I expected when I set out bright and early, 6am to be exact, on an unseasonably warm February day to travel to Florida to see my good friend Angelica. Like the procrastinator that I am (what can I say, I’m creative) I waited until the very last minute to get my ticket, when airline prices are akin to the price of a Ferrari.

In the clutch, Angelica pulled through with an airport connection and a buddy pass for less than a pair of Sam Edelman’s was delivered. It all seemed so easy and being my first time using a buddy pass, I was seduced by the allure of inexpensive travel. Well when they say “you get what you pay for” they never lied. During a busy holiday season, all the flights were overbooked and a having a buddy pass is a good as used toilet paper in trying to secure a flight.

Needless to say I never made it to Florida and after spending several hours with strangers and florescent lighting, I began to wonder what the lesson in all of this was (aside from never listening to Angelica again).

{Impromptu Photoshoot… Why Not?}

Ain’t No-Half Steppin’

There is something to be said for being a spendthrift and pinching pennies, but in the end you get what you pay for and cutting corners is a surefire way to get burned.

Can’t put a Price Tag on Peace of Mind

When if comes down to shelling out a few bucks for convenience, I’m normally all about it. If trying to save money will cause you unnecessary stress and strife it’s not worth it.

Airports really are the Gateway to Heaven

Being in an airport always reminds me of Love Actually. People watching, I got to see all of the families happy to see their loved ones or sad to see them go. Airports are full of people rushing off to some destination and it felt like being in a different world.

Read the Fine Print

Sure a buddy pass is inexpensive and is technically a plane ticket, however you spend all day waiting for an opening. I’m normally a patient person, but this was an ultimate test. Had I fully understood the circumstances I was entering in to I would have thought twice.

Your Attitude Dictates your Circumstances

In the end, not making it to Florida wasn’t the end of the world. I got to carve out much needed time to work and save money. Clearly there is a silver lining to this debacle.

What experiences do you have where you had a life epiphany?

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Oh the Places You’ll Go

By July 10, 2010 Travel
passport

I love to travel, walking through airports, the feeling of taking off and floating into the sky, landing somewhere I’ve never been and experiencing all the destination has to offer. My recent 4th of July trip to Miami has left me bitten by the wanderlust bug and I’m plotting the places on my “to go” list. While my international list is a mile long, there are a few stateside locations that I’d love to see as well.

Palm Springs, CA

As an East Coast resident, the appeal of California is high but I’ve never really seen the draw of LA (The Hills hasn’t helped). But Palm Springs, the middle of the desert and mountains seems less beachy and has a more casual, artistic and retro feel. Parker Palm Springs by Johnathan Adler is a must on my list.

London, England

I’ve been obsessed with London and English culture since I can remember. The Beatles, Queen Elizabeth 1, Alexander McQueen, Amy Winehouse. It’s my dream to live in London for a spell and while I was fairly close, it wasn’t so. I will make it there one day and when I do I will breath the exhibits, the unique attractions, the nightlife.

Greek Isles

The pristine Aegean Sea, the sorbet colors., the hills, the history. Greece with it’s rich traditions and numerous islands is like a paradise unto itself and if pictures look this amazing I can only imagine what it looks like in person. The food, the beaches and visually arresting imagery makes Greece a must-see.

Mecca

A religious rite, visiting Mecca and going on Hajj is a big priority on my life and spiritual list. To see the Kabbah, visit Mount Arafat and back to Mecca, to take the same path of Prophet Muhammad, it seems so out of my reach but an experience that I know I will cherish for my life. While a woman can not perform Hajj without a husband or  male companion, I still feel it will be a singular experience.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as I’d honestly go to East Bumblef*ck if it meant doing something new. But these are a few places that are on my bucket list.

What world destinations would you love to visit? What places are on your travel list?

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Stylish Thought’s Guide to All Girl Getaways

By June 23, 2010 Travel
girls_getaway

Crazy women setting out for adventure. I’m a firm believer that if you really want to get to know someone, go away with them. Whether for a special occasion or just to get the hell out of dodge, there’s something about being out of your typical element with amazing friends that really opens the lines of friendship and creates lasting bonds that you and your girls will cherish when your all married and saddled with kids. (Remember one creed: What happens on Girl’s trips stays on Girl’s trips)

That said, every girl’s getaway doesn’t need to be table-top danceathon complete with wild, drunken nights (though I’ve had my fair share). Girl’s Getaways can be as varied as the personalities in your group. The idea is to travel to a place that will not only breath new life into your friendships but allow everyone to be comfortable. Going away with friends is about crafting a dynamic that will make for a memorable experience (so if you’re planning a relaxing spa weekend leave the friend who can’t handle her liquor at home.)

When planning a trip with old and new friends alike  here are a few tips to ensure that all ladies involved have the time of their lives and it’s worth everyone’s time (and moola)

1. Set expectations

Make sure that everyone is aware of the circumstances of the trip and expectations are set around it. Some will want to party while others will want to lounge by the pool. Knowing this ahead of time will allow for everyone to do their preferred activities and still be apart of the group. (But don’t be so rigid that people don’t feel they can be themselves on the trip)

2. Set a Date and Budget

Plan in advance and be reasonable. Everyone’s isn’t balling on the same budget. And by having the timing and money discussion early you can target appropriate venues and activities so that everyone is comfortable and not breaking the bank to be included. Additionally, be flexible with dates. Shoot for vacations across Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate everyone’s work schedules.

3. Decide on the Planner

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians? Sounds familiar. In my experience it’s best to let one or two friends (preferably one with a knack for party planning- there’s one in every group) take the reigns as the designated planner. She will gather everyone’s input and get consensus on venues and payments. On the flip side: Don’t take this responsibility if you’d rather just show up with your bikini. Nothing worse than a friend who mismanages the trip; you’ll never live it down.

4. Scout out the Unknown

Who goes on vacation to stay in the resort all day? Old married couples, that’s who. Get out and explore. Research local and off the beaten path events and activities where your traveling. Do things that will have you talking (and laughing) for months to come. Check out the nudist beach, go deep sea diving, check out a shoe museum, meet some men (if for nothing more than flirting). Be safe, travel in groups and try new things (just don’t get busted for smuggling drugs, this isn’t Brokedown Palace)

5. Save the Drama for your Mama

Real Housewives of NY showed us all what a girls trip should not be (Scary Island anyone?). Leave your baggage at home and the cattiness at the door. A trip full of women doesn’t have to cater to the snippy stereotypes. Let your stress melt away, enjoy amazing food, great friends and a beautiful GETAWAY.

Here are some cool trip ideas for your next All Girls Getaway. Send me a postcard!

Quickie, anyone?

For out of town quickies, grab one or two girlfriends (the fewer the better). Festivals, wine tasting or vintage hunting are great incentives to travel for a weekend.
Northern Virginia Wineries
Chicago Weekend Getaways
Essence Music Festival

Beach, Bikini and Booze

Cyndi Lauper had it right all along. Girls do just want to have fun (well at least I do) and what is more fun that hot beaches, hot guys and hot dancing? (I’ll wait)
Ibiza Nightlife
Guide to Cancun

Serenity Please

Let’s face it sometimes you just want to retreat. Get away from all the stress and rejuvenate.
Yes to Yoga
Be a Surf Goddess

Summer’s here, so start planning your next girls getaway! And remember I’m your friend so don’t forget to include me on the invite.

What are some amazing all girl getaways you’ve had?

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