America for the Holidays: St. Louis

img_5165I love St. Louis. It is my hometown and even though no one has ever heard of it, it is a city worth visiting. It was Colin’s first time in my hometown and seeing where I grew up. I’ve been to his childhood home a lot and I just wanted him to like it.

For a city with just under 3 million people it’s a small town where you see people you know where ever you go. Mostly that means avoiding eye contact and walking past people you’ve known for years. But this trip I arranged to see people I really wanted to plus some ridiculously touristy stuff and it was one of the best times I’d had.

So the touristy stuff. Well we did the Arch, Wash U, the Budweiser Tour and the Art Museum. Sort of. The Arch was closed for repairs, well you can go into the museum but not up in the Arch. And being that I’ve visited the Arch loads… what is the point of that?! So we just went to see it. Then Wash U the tour was on me and my friend Amy. She took us around the Kemper Art Museum on campus and showed us a few of her favourite things. While I just walked Colin around the main campus. I love Wash U and it felt great walking around campus again. The Budweiser Tour is a classic for people visiting St. Louis. I know what you’re thinking Budweiser, yuck. But in the Brewery it tastes better, crisper and more expensive. Plus the tour is free and you get a free beer out of it. My favourite part of it is the Clydesdales and the Dalmatians. Yes the horses and dogs are the best. I mean the one Clydesdale’s was at least a foot or two taller than I was. They are impressive and gorgeous creatures. Last tourist stop was the St. Louis Art Museum. Like lots of other stuff in St. Louis, the museum is free. Much like the Art Insitutute of Chicago SLAM recently added a modern art extension. The museum is great and getting to go with Colin and my mom is just what I needed.

Like I said previously a great deal of the trip to St. Louis was for friends and family. Plus it was Christmas. I love Christmas with my family and this was lots of family and puppy time. Ok Riley isn’t a puppy, he’s like 5-6 or so. We played board games, ate lots of food and laughed a lot! Meeting with my friends was no different. There was a Christmas pop up bar and my friend Kelly was determined to get us in there. With wrapping paper every where, fairy light all around and Christmas themed cocktails, it was definitely worth the wait.

Being that Colin had never been to America before, he wanted to go through as many American cliches as possible. Those ranged from eating at a diner late at night, going to dive and regular bars to various foods. I think we covered Corn dogs, hot wings, dinner food, breakfast food all while in St. Louis. I even made gooey butter cake from scratch. As far as going places I think my favourite was the bowling alley. We dragged my mom along with us and although she said she had never been bowling, she beat us. It was embarrassing, but so much fun. The trip to St. Louis was a great time and I think Colin really enjoyed it as well. He even said St. Louis was his favourite of the 3 cities we visited! 😀

 

America for the Holidays: Chicago

Every Christmas means the same thing for me: heading to St. Louis to go home. This year it was different, because I asked Colin if he wanted to come with me. Since he had never actually been to the States, well ever, I thought it was right for us to make this trip a bigger one then just a quick trip to St. Louis. That meant first stop was Chicago.

After a ridiculous day of traveling which consisted of 3 flights, 2 buses and a taxi (all of which were delayed), we made it. We got to the hotel really late or is it early if it’s 2 am. Either way we were exhausted and hopped right into bed. The hotel was called Freehand and it was half hostel half private room hotel. It has a cute little bar downstairs and everything fits in an eclectic style with an almost native American feel. But really it was a hipster hotel located in a great part of town and I would definitely recommend it!

The weather in Chicago this time of year is always cold, but this trip it was something different. The second day we were in Chicago the weather report said the HIGH was -18C (-0.4F) and the low was -26C (-14.8F). That meant that we planned our trip around the cold.

Our first day was meant to be the warmest day so that was the day of walking outside. Being that we were in Chicago, we ran to the Bean first thing. The Bean is one of those tourist attractions that doesn’t really get old. The high shine reflects the skyline and the people and it just photographs amazingly. Right next to the Bean is the Art Institute of Chicago and that was our first stop from the city pass that we bought. 5 tourist destinations for $98. I love the Art Institute and I haven’t really been since the modern wing was complete. I realise that was ages ago, but I don’t go to Chicago that often.  Next we went up to the Skydeck which is located in the Willis Tower (former Sears Tower). This is the view deck with the little glass boxes that hang off the side of the building. We were determined to get a photo from inside the box. The professional photo ended up being so cute that we paid $30 for those crazy 3 photo packages. But oh well it was cute.

Did I mention it was cold? Yeah it was freezing or below freezing actually, like way below. But that wasn’t going to stop us. We decided that the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum was the best place to stay warm. I’ve loved the Shedd since I was little, mostly because I have a love for Beluga Whales. The two are so close to each other that the little time we spend outside didn’t seem all that cold, which is great because Chicago is beautiful in the snow.

The last stop on our tourist tours was 360 Chicago. It’s the 94th floor of the John Hancock building. The views from here were spectacular. The views may be better because from here you can see the Willis tower.

In between the times of tourist attractions were some shopping (of course) and meeting with some friends. I love Chicago and I tried to convince Colin that it’s an amazing city as well. The time there was great and I’m glad I got to experience it with him.