Traveling through New Orleans

My decision to go to New Orleans, like all my decisions in life, was a sporadic one. I had recently gone back to school, and I was in a desperate need of a holiday. So when the first semester was over, I headed to New Orleans for a change of scenery and a little bit of soul searching. It would be my first trip being solo for the entire duration of the holiday. While the trip would not end up being what I expected, I think it was an important journey to take. It was an important journey to take because it made me realize I was capable of travelling completely alone.

One fantastic thing about New Orleans is their public transit system. The streetcar lines that run through the city will get you to all the main spots of where you want to go. Simply download the CTA transit app on your phone and you can buy unlimited ride passes for 1,3 or 7 day passes to be used on the streetcars. It should be noted that these passes are only valid for the CTA transit routes, so make sure when planning your transit travels to check which transit operators you will need to use before purchasing passes.

Cityscape and Streetcar in Background

Another good thing about New Orleans is the abundance of seafood that can be found. A great place for local cuisine is a place called Neyow’s Creole Cafe. The wait to be seated in this place is painfully long but it is so worth it. Looking for great breakfast food? Check out The Bean Gallery located near City Park for delicious paninis and sandwiches.

Sydney and Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Speaking of City Park, this lovely park is a must see before you leave New Orleans. This park is full of beautiful greenery and has an amusement park for children called Storyland. For the adults visiting, The New Orleans Museum of Art is located within the park and attached has the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. In other words, City Park is your one stop shop for art, nature, and amusement.

Now, if you are into partying hard then Bourbon Street is where you want to head on down to. If you’ve been to Phuket, Thailand, consider this the equivalent of Bangla Road. It is full of people with over-sized drinks in their hands, partying in the streets, and music blaring from various establishments. While I avoided this street like the plague due to travelling alone, my brief walk through it to get to my destination said it all. Want to party? Bourbon Street will be your best friend.

French Quarter- Entryway into Bourbon Street

If you’re looking to enjoy New Orleans fantastic music scene without the havoc and mayhem, check out Frenchmen Street instead. I made it a point to visit Balcony Music Club while in this area and I am glad I did. The place was fairly large and offered great live music that soothed the soul.

Aside from music, don’t forget to check out their incredible art scene in New Orleans and consider supporting their economy by investing in some pieces. Before heading to Balcony Music Club, I checked out Secondline Arts And Antiques. Like everyone else in New Orleans, the staff were incredibly pleasant and made my experience shopping there an absolutely great one.

Secondline Arts and Antiques

Other things to do in New Orleans include taking a swamp tour (avoid in the winter, as alligators hibernate during this time), going on ghost tours to acquaint yourself with New Orleans haunted history, and checking out some of the plantations in Louisiana to acquaint yourself with America’s dark history. Maybe it’s because I majored in history but the history provided on the plantation tours were very simplistic and didn’t truly convey what truly went on during the period of time when slavery operated. That being said, to those not familiar with America’s history it is a decent introduction to what occurred.

Swamp Tours

New Orleans is still a city very much struggling from the events from Hurricane Katrina which left over 1,800 dead and caused $125 billion in damage. As a result, there are many parts of the city that remain rundown and impoverished. The best way to help, is to invest in their economy and support their local businesses when you go down to visit. New Orleans has so much potential and one only has to look at their French Quarter with its beautifully coloured buildings to see its beauty. So head on over to New Orleans and help make it become the city it is capable of being.

Miami Travels: Part Three

The final day in Miami was upon us and man had it been an amazing ride so far. Our plan for the day consisted of going to Vizcaya Museums & Gardens, followed by the Venetian Pool and lastly a stop at Calle Ocho. Our first stop, Vizcaya Museums & Gardens was the former villa and estate of the businessman James Deering. The villa was interesting but  it was the surrounding gardens which won my heart. The gardens were beautiful manicured and included several fountains and beautiful sculptures. While I did not care for the actual history, I admired the property for its greenery and the work in keeping it so beautiful maintained.  So do yourself a favour, and make sure to check out Vizcaya the next time you head to Miami.

After wandering through the grounds of Vizcaya, it was time to soak in the sun and so we headed to the Venetian Pool in the Coral Gables District. This pool is a public pool which has a lovely man-made waterfall and places to lounge around while you get your tan on. After spending the last two days at the beach but not being brave enough to venture into the water, the pool was the perfect way to perfect my swimming skills. After lounging around here for some time, we headed out our final stop of the day: Calle Ocho.

Now I’m going to be real with you in that Calle Ocho didn’t do much for me, but what they did have going for them was honestly the best food I had during my trip. Calle Ocho is Miami’s Cuban district and it was here I had some delicious Cuban cuisine.  We went to Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina  where I ordered the Lechon Asado with beans and rice and fried plantain. It was absolutely delicious. To top it all off, the staff serving us were an absolute delight.  Unfortunately, I did not get any photos at the Venetian Pool because water and phones don’t mix and at the restaurant I was too hungry to pause and take a photo of the food. But, enjoy all the images of Vizcaya and just believe me when I say Old’s Havana is absolutely worth every single dollar. This concluded our trip to Miami and it was perfect way to unwind after a stressful few weeks. Thank you Miami for your hospitality and while you broke my bank account you were worth every penny.

Miami Travels: Part Two

Waking up with absolutely no responsibilities or obligations has got to be one of the best feelings in the world. As your eyes begin to open, the time on your phone reads 11:00 am. Now, usually this would be a cause for alarm but not today. Today, it’s all about relaxation mija. The only preoccupation is deciding if you should go to the beach first or later. We decided on heading to the Wynwood Art District first. The Wynwood Art District is an area of Miami where everywhere you turn there are murals on the walls. The art, however, is not limited to the walls, but covers every available space imaginable including the sidewalk itself. This district is a place for freedom of expression and it is here you get a sense of the emotions and feelings that run through Miami. You see joy, elation, and celebration but you’ll also see sadness and pain. It is the human experience conveyed through this artistic expression. It was here we spent some time appreciating the artwork and seeing how the swampland and vibrancy of Miami were blended together within art. The soul of Miami was found here and I recommend that anyone who comes to Miami needs to visit Wynwood before leaving.

After immersing ourselves with beauty, we concluded our visit by heading to Coyo Taco. As someone with a love for tacos, these were absolutely delicious! Another plus, the awesome Frida Kahlo painting in the women’s washroom. Following this, we headed to South Beach for the second day in a row and got our tan on. With the sun shining bright and Spotify playing in the background we were all set to relax for the rest of the day.

As the day drew on, we began our hunt once again for food and stumbled upon Il Bolognese on Ocean Drive. I don’t know if its just because I was hungry from all the sunshine and walking, but man the food was delicious. Afterwards, we headed back home to prepare for our night out at El Patio Wynwood. El Patio proved to be just what we needed. Its offered Latin tunes in a cute rustic setting. Our promoter of the night, Chally was an added blessing and as a result it was the best night we had in Miami. So, if you like Spanish music, make sure to check out El Patio and become the dancing superstar you were destined to be.

Miami Travels: Part One

After a brutal few weeks with assignments back to back, it was time to treat myself to another vacation. And so, when reading week came around it was time to pack my bags and head to Miami, Florida. With the temperatures in Canada being incredibly frigid, the warm weather was very much welcomed.

Upon arrival, our first order of business was to get some food in our bellies. First stop: The Sugar Factory. The sugar factory is more than just a candy store. It is a restaurant with a huge menu and even bigger drinks. It seems that in America the mentality is go big or go home, and man oh man did these drinks deliver! My friend and I shared the Watermelon Patch drink which was a fruity, fizzy delight. After our delightful drink and filling our bellies with quesadillas, it was time to head over to South Beach.

img_20190326_180302_959634714527889731011.jpg
The Sugar Factory

The purpose of this trip, unlike many of my other trips was to simply go with the flow. And so, that is exactly what we did. My best friend and I lounged on South Beach and began working on our tan. While we were there various promoters reached out to us regarding different club events that were being hosted, which meant the night was about to be all expenses paid. Woohoo!

After the beach, we went to get some dinner and eventually headed back to our place to squeeze in a power nap before letting the night commence. The itinerary for the night: Rockwell Nightclub followed by 11even Nightclub.

img_20190326_180821_4022087957581234178759.jpg
Me at 11EVEN

I’m going to be completely honest in that I have never really been big into party scenes. However, being in Miami I had to suck it up and head out to see what the hype was about. First stop: Rockwell.Now Rockwell personally wasn’t my thing, it was a lot of private booths with very little room to dance. And while I was privy to being in these private booths, I honestly just wanted room to dance. In addition, the music during that night was almost exclusively hip hop. So after awhile, it was time to head to 11even. What I liked about 11even was the enormity of it. The place was massive and included performers dancing upon a stage which was super cool. After our night out, it was time to get a post-club meal at The Tavern. I’m telling you that this 24/7 eatery had some of the best damn fries and coconut shrimp ever! They were the perfect ending to our first day in Miami. Stay tuned to hear the rest!

Chicago Adventures: Part Two

Chi-Town:The Rest of the Journey

On our third day in Chi-Town, we decided to start our day off at Corner Bakery Cafe, an American chain of cafes. After indulging in a sandwich to fill our hungry bellies and a warm tea to brace up for the chilly Chicago air, we headed onto our next adventure of the day: Revisiting the Chicago Cultural Center. The first time around we were on a time crunch due to our boat tour, and so this time we were able to truly take in the different exhibits. After this, we made our way over to The Magnificent Mile. The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s upscale commercial district . Although, I am by no means in a position to purchase expensive brands it was great to just window shop as we walked along the mile.

As we walked along the mile, we headed on over to the Cub’s Clubhouse; a gear shop full of Chicago Cubs apparel. After this, we simply walked through the streets and eventually stopped by the AT&T store on Michigan Avenue. Now, you may be wondering why is it that I stopped by a phone store while in Chicago? The reason is simple. During the time I was there, the AT&T shop was promoting the Justice League movie and as a result had costumes on display that were worn by the actors of the movie. In addition, they also had props and other interactive displays relating to the movie. It was an unexpected surprise and after spending far too long in here, we headed over to The Shops At North Bridge. The Shops at North Bridge is a mall located on Michigan Avenue with a plethora of different stores for all your shopping needs. After entering the mall, we ended up coming across Charming Charlie. At the time, this store did not exist in Canada and I’m telling you it’s the cutest store in the entire world! If you are a girly person and love all things cute, this store is a must for you. Even as someone like myself who spends more time in gym clothing than real clothing, it was hard to resist the allure of this little shop. As a result, I ended up walking out with two scarves and the cutest fox shaped bag. Adorable!

We then headed on over to Goddess & The Baker to enjoy some delicious dessert. If you are headed to Chicago, this bakery is a must and their rainbow cake is absolutely delicious! Furthermore, this place is incredibly homey and it was here we began to draw our day to an end. The rest of the night was spent indoors, making use of the pool table in our AirBnB. Although I did not win the game, it was a great time nonetheless! Thank you Chicago for your hospitality, you truly were amazing!

Afterthoughts

There are a few things I didn’t get the chance to see in Chicago that I recommend people try and see during their visit. For starters, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Museum of Contemporary Art and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting. Another great museum to check out, The National Museum of Mexican Art. If you’re a baseball fan, check out the Wrigley Field to watch a Chicago Cubs game. And last but not least, the Chicago 360, an observation deck with a tilting glass lookout.

Two things that really stuck out to me during my visit in Chicago was how amazing their transit system is (and how underutilized it is) and the sheer hospitality of the people in Chicago. Maybe it was because it was the Christmas holidays, but what I observed in one instance was a cook offering food to a homeless man, someone on the bus offering clothing to another individual during the frigid temperatures, and just the general kindness of everyone I interacted with in all the shops and outings while I was there. Another great thing that Chicago had implemented was heated bus shelters in some areas. While it may not seem like much it made waiting for the train a little less painful. So thank you Chicago for showing me the kindness that exists in the world and for being an absolutely beautiful city.

Chicago Adventures: Part One

I remember it like it was yesterday… the day I decided Chicago would be my next destination. I was sitting at a job I loathed, wondering if getting a root canal without anesthesia was less painful then being there. As I complained about the circumstances to a friend of mine at the time, it was decided that a holiday was in order.

After weighing our options, we finally decided on the beautiful city of Chicago in the beginning of December of that year.

For those looking to visit Chicago, one thing you should keep in mind is that its reputation as “The Windy City” is no joke. As a result, bundle up darlings because you’re about to get frosty. If you can toughen up and handle the cold during December, I assure you that it is definitely worth your while. While we were there, everyone was incredibly kind and helpful. The city was in full Christmas cheer mode, lit up with Christmas lights everywhere, and the spirit of giving was definitely in the air.

First Day In Chi-Town

On our first day in Chicago, we arrived in the late afternoon and so our first order of business was dinner. We eventually decided on Epic Burger: a fast food chain in America. I don’t know if it’s just because I was hungry, but I swear to you that burger tasted like freaking heaven. It was everything you would want in a burger: crisp lettuce, juicy beef, succulent tomatoes, greasy bacon, and warm melted cheese all on a delicious warm bun. After devouring the burger, it was time to see what Chi-Town had to offer. As we walked downtown, I was struck by the beauty of Chicago’s architecture and how beautifully decorated it was for the holiday season. Christmas lights adorned every lamp post and tree imaginable, restaurant signs seemed to glow brighter than ever, and more than that it truly seemed people were just so damn happy. As someone who has never been a huge Christmas person, it was hard to resist being infected by the happiness that pulsated through the city.

As trotted along, we noticed that Chicago during the holiday season offers a variety of free events and these notices were posted on boards across the city. Events like these only further contributing to the spirit of happiness that was so evident around us. As many of you will probably do once you get to Chicago ,we then decided to visit Millenium Park and get a glimpse of “Cloud Gate.” In the darkness of the night, this metallic structure in Millenium Park so perfectly reflected Chicago’s skyline and beauty. As we continued to explore the area, there was an area where people could skate and just before it a grand Christmas tree adorned in colourful lights. Christmas was in full swing in Chicago, and I for once was all for it! This concluded our first day in Chicago, and it was already winning major points.

Day Two

On our second day in Chicago, we decided on doing the bravest thing yet: Take a boat tour down the Chicago River. Now, you must be thinking… why is that brave? And darlings, if you knew how freaking cold it is to be on a boat tour… on the river… in the middle of winter in Chicago, you would understand the bravery it took. But sometimes you just got to put on your Big Girl Pants and get to it, and so we did. Our tour company: Wendella Boat Tours. Now, just before we headed on our tour we decided to pop into the Chicago Cultural Center. The Chicago Cultural Center is an architectural beauty. It a beautiful landmark building which showcases various art exhibitions, as well as hosts both public and private events. One of the main beauties of this building: the beautiful stained glass dome ceiling in one room. The beauty so magnificent, that there was even a few individuals laying down on the carpeted floor admiring the domed ceiling. If you’re an architecture junkie or just like beautiful things, a visit to Chicago is not complete without visiting here. After this, we briefly checked out Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, a Christmas market modeled after a Christmas market held in Nuremberg, Germany. There was beautiful wooden crafts, and one stall which was of particular interest titled “Dragons and Fairytales” which sold wooden figurines of of dragons and other mystical creatures. After this it was time to head on over the docks to board our boat.

Besides freezing our butts off, the tour was fantastic and our guide was a saint for being as enthusiastic as he was in such cold weather. For anyone really wanting to appreciate Chicago’s architecture, the boat tour is a must! Although, maybe do it in the summertime? As the boat trudged along, the guide explained the different river locks and gave us the history of various buildings we passed by. One of the great things about the tour time we chose is we got to see how beautifully the glass paned buildings reflected the river. As someone who constantly refers to myself as a nature girl, Chicago is one of those cities which has made me realize the city ain’t so bad after all.

After the tour, we headed to a small cafe before making our way to Dylan’s Candy Bar. This candy store was absolutely massive and I imagine is what heaven looks like to a child. There were so many different treats and the decor was absolutely adorable. After this, we grabbed some food at Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse, where the food was delicious and the portions were absolutely massive! Our second day in Chicago was a massive success, and the Windy City was winning over my heart.

*** Stay Tuned for the Rest of the Story***