Around The World In 18 Museums

I’m a bit (a lot) of a history geek, and its International Museum Day tomorrow, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the best museums husband and I have seen on our travels. They’re an easily overlooked activity when you’re travelling because they have a reputation for being boring (probably because a lot of kids were dragged to them against their will at school), but there are soooo many different types of museums out there that are a hell of a lot more fun than what you did back in year 5!

Top left: Banff Park Museum -Top right: Chicago History Museum – Bottom left: Museum at Mondragon Palace in Ronda – Bottom right: Saga Museum in Reykjavík

1. Banff Park Museum, Banff, Canada
91 Banff Ave, Banff
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ab/banff/index
Cost: free
This museum looks at animals of all sorts native to the area (like elk, mountain goats, bears, wolves). It also has some gorgeous geological displays of stones and crystals and random curiosities donated by locals. And on the way out, for bonus points, there’s a beautiful library!

2. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, USA
1601 N Clark Street, Chicago
http://www.chicagohs.org/
Cost: USD$16.00 per person
This was like walking through a history book in the best possible way. I learned more than expected to about Chicago’s history, random things like how the city flag came to be, and about the incredible work of Vivian Maier, which I’m not obsessed with.

3. Museum at Mondragon Palace, Ronda, Spain
Plaza Mondragon, Ronda
http://www.museoderonda.es/
Cost: €3.00 per person
This old Moorish palace has been renovated and restored, and given new life as a natural history museum. A lot of the ceiling and tile details are original, and the garden (while small compared to some of the other palaces) is stunning.

4. Saga Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland
Grandagarður 2, Reykjavík
https://www.sagamuseum.is/
Cost: 2.200kr per person
This is like a history picture book come to life – with an audio guide to talk you through, you walk through the museum’s displays of figures (all crafted based on descriptions found in the Viking sagas and chronicles), demonstrating events from Iceland’s history.

Top left: Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – Top right: Mardi Gras World in New Orleans – Bottom left: DDR Museum in Berlin – Bottom right: Czech Beer Museum in Prague

5. Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin
https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en
Cost: €17.50 per person
I’m not a beer drinker, and I still had a blast here! Yes, you get to go through a proper tasting session, and learn how to pour the perfect pint, and enjoy said pint in the rooftop bar with a killer view over Dublin, but it’s also a multi-level museum looking at everything from the beer creation process to it’s many marketing campaigns.

6. Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, USA
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
http://www.mardigrasworld.com/
Cost: USD$20.00 per person
You can read more about our visit to Mardi Gras World here, but basically it’s a tour through one of the warehouses the Kern family use to create the incredible parades floats. You’ll get to see the props and some floats, as well as getting a peek at some of the artists at work.

7. DDR Museum, Berlin, Germany
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, Berlin
https://www.ddr-museum.de/en
Cost: €5.50 per person
This is an incredibly interactive museum, encouraging visitors to open cupboards, sit in cars, and listen to the sounds coming through the headphones. You’ll get a disconcerting taste of life in war-time East Germany, including being able to walk through a full “apartment” and rifling through the kitchen, bedrooms and lounge room.

8. Czech Beer Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
Husova 241/7, Prague
http://beermuseum.cz/
Cost: 280CZK per person
Again, not a beer drinker, so this was mostly for husband’s benefit, but turned out it was a really cool little museum! It covered the history of beer, had some crazy beer collections (bottles, labels, model trucks), and at the end of the tour, you received 4 beers to sample. Not little 30ml sips, but full glasses of beer. Enjoy!

Top left: MOMA in New York – Top right: Bier & Oktoberfest Museum in Munich – Bottom left: Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – Bottom right: Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan

9. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
11 W 53rd St, New York, USA
https://www.moma.org/
Cost: USD$25.00 per person
It shouldn’t need much of an introduction – this is THE place to go for art in New York. The modern exhibits change regularly, but honestly, my favourite pieces were the classics like Monet’s Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s Starry Night – you see these in magazines and art textbooks at school, but in real life, they’re something else.

10. Bier & Oktoberfest Museum, Munich, Germany
Sterneckerstraße 2, Munich
http://www.bier-und-oktoberfestmuseum.de/en
Cost: €4.00 per person
This little museum lives in an old (when I say old, I mean from the 1300s) townhouse, accessible by a 500-year old wooden staircases, over a few floors. You’ll find an impressive collection of Oktoberfest paraphernalia (mugs, posters, etc), and can sit down to watch a short film about the history of Oktoberfest. Even as a non-beer lover, this was an awesome piece of history to see.

11. Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy
Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome
http://castelsantangelo.beniculturali.it/
Cost: €14.00 per person
It took me three visits to Rome, but I finally got to Castel Sant’Angelo! It’s had a few lives, originally built as a mausoleum, and also serving as a fortress and castle before turning into a museum. The most stunning part of the museum are the paintings, Renaissance era frescoes, which have been preserved almost perfectly. Even if you’re not an art lover, they’re worth seeing. Speaking of worth seeing, make it all the way to the top and you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a view.

12. Totem Heritage Centre, Ketchikan, USA
601 Deermount Street, Ketchikan
https://www.ktn-ak.us/totem-heritage-center
Cost: USD$5.00
It’s not a huge museum, but the history it holds is massive. It holds some of the city’s most previous totem poles, as well as other native artifacts (think intricate hand-beaded purses and ornaments).

 

And, because this wasn’t our first (nor will it be our last!) adventure, here are a few more museums worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

– Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
– The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt
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Graceland Cemetery, Chicago

Graceland Cemetery
4001 N Clark St, Chicago
https://www.gracelandcemetery.org

I could tell you how Chicago’s Lincoln Park used to be the city’s premier burial ground until Chicago’s City Council banned burials there. Or that it was decided to move the city cemetery to what’s now Graceland. I could tell you that the cemetery spans 121 acres, and holds the remains of the city’s most eminent residents, including architects, sportsmen and politicians. I could harp on about how beautiful a garden cemetery it is, how it feels like you’re taking the most magnificent nature walk when you’re in the middle of it, which Chicagoans have been doing since it’s establishment in 1961.

Instead, I’m just going to show you how absolutely stunning Graceland is through some pictures I took when I visited late last year…

Cemeteries get a bad wrap for being creepy places. They generally don’t rank very highly on the traveler’s list of things to see and do. But Graceland felt much more like a museum crossed with a park than a burial ground. Visiting in autumn was magic, with all the leaves turning gold and red. The map you collect when you arrive is also particularly helpful, and adding to the museum vibe is the list of the important citizens buried there and a little biography of them all. And the only remotely creepy thing was the Eternal Silence statue below, and that’s only because Atlas Obscura told me that “looking into its eyes a person could see the nature of their own death…”

Around The World In 15 Tea Shops

When one spends 4 months travelling the world with the majority of that time spent in beautiful (but freezing cold) winter cities, one must drink a hell of a lot of tea to keep warm!

While it might not be hard to find somewhere to get yourself a cup of tea (or coffee, for that matter) – hello, Starbucks – a true tea shop is a thing of beauty. It’s always a lot more calm and pleasant than a chain hurry-up-and-caffeinate-me outlet, the customers are much happier to slow down/stop completely, and in winter especially, there’s no where better to cosy up for a timeout from the cold. For me, personally, the tea shop signifies a retreat and sanctuary; I’m an anxiety-afflicted introvert, and I like nothing more than tucking myself away into a corner with a pot of tea and a book or my journal. So having travelled non-stop for 4 months, the tea shop stops were like a signal for my mind to calm down and decompress.

Needless to say, there were many tea shops visited while we were away, but some stood out more than others; here’s a little compendium of my favourites 🙂 Oh, and not all of them are your traditional sit down and order shops – I’ve listed a few where you can buy the tea without sitting down to drink a pot first.

1. Clement & Pekoe, Dublin, Ireland

50 South William St, Dublin
http://clementandpekoe.com/
Visit: Creaky old wooden floor boards, lovely helpful staff who are more than happy to recommend a brew, delicious scones with jam, and that general warm, cosy, homely feel you want from your Irish tea shops!
Variety: 50+ teas to choose from.
Try: Assam ‘Corramore’ – a 2nd flush Assam that makes for an indulgent morning cuppa.

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2. Twinings, London, UK
216 The Strand, London
https://www.twinings.co.uk/about-twinings/flagship-store-london-216-strand
Visit: London’s oldest tea shop and Twinings flag shop store, the narrow walls are lined with bag and loose leaf teas from the Twinings range. You can purchase boxes of tea, or just single tea bags if you want to sample a few flavours. And as a bonus, there’s a teeny tiny ‘museum’ at the back of the store!
Varieties: just about everything Twinings makes… which is a LOT of variety!
Try: The salted caramel green tea… wow…

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3. Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House, Tokyo, Japan
Inside the Hama-rikyu Gardens, Tokyo
http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/hama-rikyu/outline.html
Visit: This beautiful tea house sits overlooking the water in the middle of the gardens, and they offer a simple tea ceremony; you can have your matcha with or without a typical Japanese sweet, and you can buy some to take home with you.
Varieties: Just matcha.
Try: What you’re given!

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4. Fortnum & Mason, London, UK

181 Piccadilly, London
Visit: When in London… I couldn’t leave without taking high tea, and the Fortnum & Mason Tea Salon was perfect. Their tea salon menu is quite extensive, and most of their teas are available to purchase after you’ve stuffed yourself full of finger sandwiches and scones. Excellent quality tea, and exceptional service.
Variety: 50+ teas.
Try: I loved the Royal Blend for a good, rich black tea – yup, took a bag of that home, too.
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5. Alice’s Tea Cup, New York City, USA
Chapter I: 102 West 73rd Street, NYC | Chapter II: 156 East 64th Street, NYC | Chapter III: 220 East 81st Street, NYC
https://alicesteacup.com/
Visit: An Alice in Wonderland themed cafe, they have the a deliciously extravagant variety of sweets served up by the friendliest staff to go with the brilliant tea collection. And you can buy after you’ve tried, by weight.
Varieties: 50+ to choose from.
Try: Mauritius black tea with a hint of vanilla, and of course their signature Alice’s tea, a blend of Indian black and Japanese green teas with rose petals and berries.

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6. Le Valentin, Paris, France
30 Passage Jouffroy, Paris
http://www.restaurantparis9.fr
Visit: Tucked away in one of the city’s undercover walking streets, this little bakery is one of the best places to do tea in Paris. The selection of cakes kind of necessitates more than one visit, as does the tea list. And if you’re not sure what to pair with your cake, just ask one of the lovely staff for a recommendation.
Varieties: I can’t find a menu online for a definitive number, but there were a few dozen from what I remember.
Try: A classic Earl Grey pairs up pretty well with a lot of the sweets.

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7. Ippodo Tea, Tokyo, Japan 

Kokusai Bldg. 1F 3-1-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
Visit: The Tokyo store has the added bonus of  tea room on site, so you can sample some of the teas before you shop. It’s all quite a hands-on experience, where you’ll be taught the intricacies of brewing the tea youve chosen, so you’ll know exactly what to do at home.
Varieties: 30+ green teas.
Try: Mantoku Gyukuro green tea.

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8. Sir Harly’s Tea Shop, Vienna, Austria
Mariahilfer Str. 45, Vienna
https://www.harly-tea.at/shop/
Visit: We actually didn’t get the chance to visit the tea house itself, because we found them set up at one of the Christmas market we went to! They had a pretty impressive range for a market stall, though, so I imagine there’d have been even more to choose from in store. You can order online, though, which is nifty!
Varieties: Around 200 teas.
Try: I went with the Bourbon Orange Christmas Tea, because it reminded me so much of the mulled wine we drank at the markets!

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9. The Spice & Tea Exchange, New Orleans, USA
521 St. Louis Ave, New Orleans
https://www.spiceandtea.com
Visit: This isn’t unique to New Orleans – there actually heaps of stores scattered around the United States. It just so happens this is where I first found them! Along with tea, they also have a heap of different herbs, salts, spices, salts, seasonings and oils – it’s a gourmand’s heaven. The New Orleans store itself is cosy and welcoming, with very knowledgeable staff for when you just can’t choose.
Varieties: 50+ teas.
Try: Coconut oolong.

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10. McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, New York City, USA

109 Christopher St, New York
Visit: This is one of the most perfect little tea shops you’ll ever find. Hidden in plain sight, it’s like stepping back in time. It’s organised chaos as you navigate through cardboard boxes on the floor and dozens of glass jars on the benches. And the smell is absolutely extraordinary! And if, like me, it all gets too much and too overwhelming, help is on hand to help you pick the perfect leaves.
Varieties: Hundreds!
Try: I love the Golden Assam Khongea Estate for a rich black tea.

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11. Da Rosa, Paris, France
62, Rue de Seine, Paris

Visit: We found this place utterly by chance, when one afternoon in Saint Germain, we were getting tired and needed a rest stop. We turned down a street and saw this place, and it looked too warm and cosy to pass up on a frosty winter’s day! Mr José Da Rosa’s establishment is a gourmet grocer/bar/tea house where he offers teas of his own creation (after being certified as a tea master). And if tea isn’t your thing, there’s always beer and wine!
Varieties: A dozen or so (for now).
Try: No.13 mint & green tea.

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12. Wall & Keogh, Dublin, Ireland
45 Richmond St. South Portobello
Visit: This was the sort of place that would be my regular if I lived in the area – a gorgeous little nook downstairs has space to get comfy and read, write, drink and catch up withy friends. Upstairs hosts a tiny café so you can be fed as well as watered, and the staff were some of the nicest and most knowledgeable I’ve ever come across.
Variety: 150+ blends
Try: I took some coconut milk mate and some milk oolong – both phenomenal!

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And, because this wasn’t the first big trip we’ve taken that involved many litres of tea, here are a few more tea shops worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

City of Chicago: 2017 Year of Public Art

Arriving back into Chicago again was exciting, and a big contributor to that excitement was a small billboard I saw on the train from the airport into the city; it was letting me know that 2017 was the Year of Public Art in Chicago = a whooole lot of street art to be found around the city!

I checked out the City of Chicago website for a little more information…

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) have designated 2017 the “Year of Public Art” with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project, the creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, exhibitions, performances, tours and more — representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects.

There were some incredible pieces scattered around, and I’ve added a few of my favourites below, but they’re helpfully created a few hashtags for you to follow if you’d like to see some more – follow #2017isYOPA or #ChiPublicArt for all of the art work!

 

Read this: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City
by Erik Larson

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
– Daniel H. Burnham

“I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.”
– H. H. Holmes

So begins Erik Larson’s account of two extraordinary men and the event of the century that tied their stories together. Husband and I were channel flicking a few weeks ago and came across a documentary on America’s first serial killer. We’re both a little macabre and enjoy a good doco, so we started watching; an hour later, we were glued to the screen, intermittently Googling details mentioned to check their legitimacy. My online hunt led me to this book, which I was mighty excited to start reading.

In a nutshell, Larson’s book covers the Chicago’s World’s Fair (or World’s Columbian Exposition) held in 1893 held officially to mark the 400th anniversary of the landing of Christopher Columbus, and unofficially to one-up Paris on their stunning World’s Fair held in 1889 (which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille) and stick it to New York who didn’t think a city like Chicago had the ability to do it justice. The Fair is one of three “characters” in my mind; the other two were architect Daniel Burnham, the man who was behind the design and construction of the Fair (no small feat considering it covered an area of almost 700 acres with almost 200 buildings custom built for it), and H. H. Holmes, the man who used the excitement and lure of the Fair to help him kill at least nine people, but the actual number is suspected to be quite a bit higher.

In Larson’s own words:
“Beneath the gore and smoke and loam, this book is about the evanescence of life, and why some men choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, others in the manufacture of sorrow. In the end it is a story of the ineluctable conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black.”

The book follows the city of Chicago, Burnham and Holmes through the years preceding, during and after the World’s Fair. We see the White City of the Fair come together under the watchful eye of Daniel Burnham, and we see how Holmes uses it to his advantage. While Burnham is employing talented artists and craftsmen, Holmes is luring vulnerable young women to Chicago and killing them in his “castle,” a structure he had built for use as a hotel for the guests that would flock to Chicago for the fair, but which was also equipped with special features like gas pipes that only he could control, sound-proof chambers, and custom built oven that was not used to bake bread in.

“The Chicago Times-Herald took the broad view and said of Holmes: ‘He is a prodigy of wickedness, a human demon, a being so unthinkable that no novelist would dare to invent such a character. The story, too, tends to illustrate the end of the century.’ “

 

And the legacies these three legends left behind?

Holmes was hanged in 1896 after being found guilty of the murders of Benjamin Pitezel and his daughters Alice and Nellie. While some claim he was America’s first real serial killer with over 200 kills, the exact number will never be known for certain. Larson writes that “At the very least he killed nine.”

Burnham‘s Fair was a raving success, the buildings swept visitors off their feet, and went on to design many more buildings, including the Flatiron in New York City. He passes away in Heidelberg, Germany in 1912 and was laid to rest in Chicago’s Graceland cemetery.

And the World’s Fair set the standard for every other fair to come; Walt Disney was most likely inspired by the Fair, given his father helped build it. L. Frank Baum’s Oz was another dreamland likely informed by the White City. Every carnival since has had a Ferris Wheel, which was invented just for the Fair. Juicy Fruit and Pabst Blue Ribbon came into existence, and the Dewey Decimal System was introduced to the world, and Helen Keller was introduced to the man who invented her beloved Braille typewriter.

 

One of the best reads I’ve had this year, combining history with story telling in the most captivating possible way. I also love reading books that describe great cities as they used to be, and this painted the most vivid picture of “old” Chicago – I’m so much more excited to get back to this amazing city for a second visit now! And apparently in line for the Hollywood treatment, so pick up a copy and read the book first – it’s always better, anyway!

My favourite Chicago eats

I had fun mentally re-eating all the good stuff I had in New York… let’s do it again!

This week, I’m going back to Chicago. Initially, I only agreed to add it to the itinerary because husband wanted to go; I really didn’t know much anything about the city, other than it’s home to the Chicago Bulls, and as children of the 90s/the Jordan era who both grew up playing basketball, that’s obviously our NBA team of choice. Other than that, it was a bit of a blank city for me.

After spending almost a week there over Christmas, though, my opinion changed completely; I loved that city. I can’t tell you why, either – it was just one of those places that felt good to be in. Beautiful buildings, the gorgeous river than runs through it, friendly people, and amazing food. The food scene reminded me a lot of Melbourne, actually, which may be one of the big reasons I loved it so much! We ate a lot in that week, and it was hard to narrow it down to the favourites, but here they are….

 

1. Do-Rite Donuts (donuts)
The food: A traditional buttermilk glaze
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The memory: Ohh I loved this place! Our first day in Chicago, it was cold like I couldn’t believe, and it was Christmas Eve! We were on our way to the Christkindl Christmas Market, and noticed a giant donut pointing the way to a cute little store. We grabbed a donut and some hot tea, pulled up our hoods and sat out the front in the cold to take it all in… a kindly old man sitting on the table next to us struck up a friendly conversation, and it was the most wonderful welcome to any city we’ve ever had!
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2. Au Cheval (diner, burgers)
The food: The Au Cheval cheeseburger with a fried egg; same thing everyone else was ordering!
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The memory: The wind was like little frosty daggers this day, and after a morning of sight-seeing, we couldn’t have been happier to get into Au Cheval and escape the cold! After much pre-trip Googling, Au Cheval’s fried egg cheeseburger seemed to be the must-try burger for Chicago, and it didn’t disappoint. We were lucky enough to get a seat at the counter where we watched the most well-oiled machine out together the most spectacular looking (and smelling) food for the Saturday lunch crowd; it was mesmerising, and really made us think of Chicago as a proper food city.
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3. Portillo’s (hot dogs)
The food: A Chicago dog. Obviously.
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The memory: Another day of walking and walking and more walking, we finally found ourselves in the neighourhood of a Portillo’s, and it was finally Chicago Dog time. I remember sitting on the second level of the restaurant watching over all of the happy people and families with their tables of dogs and fries, and thinking how lucky we were to have made it all the way across the world to enjoy something as simple as a hot dog, which so many people would completely take for granted!
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4. Billy Goat Tavern (burgers)
The food: Double cheezborger. No fries, CHEEPS! No Pepsi, COKE!
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The memory: This was another exciting one – we love watching travel shows, especially the ones that are food heavy. And on all of the travel shows about Chicago and food, the Billy Goat Tavern shows itself. We sat there in the crowded sub-street level diner with our burgers re-hashing the Bulls game we’d been to the night before, and talking about how long ago it felt that we were sitting on the couch watching this place on TV wondering if we’d ever actually get there…
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5. Lou Malnati’s (deep dish pizza)
The food: The Malnati Chicago Classic – sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce. Simple.
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The memory: I know that “real” Chicagoans don’t do deep dish pizza, but to enjoy it, you just need to not think of it as pizza. It’s a quiche pizza hybrid. A quizza, if you will. This was one of the deep thoughts that was discussed over dinner, sitting at a high bench table, finally out of the -15°C cold. Sometimes we just act like kids…
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6. Rubi’s Tacos (street food – tacos)
The food: Pork tacos – amazing!!!
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The memory: Market and street food are two of my favourite things, and when we came across Rubi’s with a massive line, we figured we should probably join it – I remembered reading somewhere they did the best tacos. When we realised no one in the line was speaking English and there was no real menu, we figured a) we were definitely in the right place for breakfast and b) it was lucky I knew how to order pork tacos in Spanish. Sitting among the crowd, we stood out like green elephants, and really enjoyed feeling so out of place – that’s what travel is all about!
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7. Doughnut Vault (donuts)
The food: A vanilla glazed raised and a buttermilk old fashioned
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The memory: A tiny little place with the delicious smell of fried dough in the air and nowhere to sit – it felt just like being back in Melbourne! Another freezing day, we got there nice and early, grabbed our donuts and enjoyed them outside – I remember my butt being freezing against the cold concrete sidewalk we were sitting on, my fingers being sticky as all hell, and the two of us giggling like we were two kids who’d stolen a piece of birthday cake. Good times in Chicago! 🙂
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From my travel journal: Chicago 2014

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“Went for a little walk around the city in the afternoon, got something to eat and walked a little more. The city is surprisingly beautiful, unexpectedly so. I’d heard that it was an impressive city architecturally, but it is just really aesthetically pleasing to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it; the mix of beautifully old brick buildings and the super modern, the lake that the city centres around, the trees scattered about… I don’t know, it’s not traditionally beautiful like a Paris, but it has my attention and I’m a little bit in love with this city.”