Friday, September 30, 2011

Washington - the "THIS IS NOT A MUSEUM" edition

On 11th September, I left Colorado for Washington. Well, more correctly, I left for Baltimore because that was the only direct option from Denver. But I digress. When I first booked my flights, my mum claimed that I would die a horrible flamey death if I flew anywhere on September 11th (*I* claimed that it would probably be the safest day of EVER to fly anywhere. HI MUM!!). Obviously, I didn't. 

Megan dropped me at the airport at about 7.30am. I walked through the doors and right into (almost literally) a bunch of military guys carrying flags and a minute of silence. Thankfully, I looked up from searching my handbag for my flight information in time, or I actually WOULD have literally walked into them, and the morning would have been CRAZY AWKWARD... Anyway. After a substandard delicious bagel eaten sitting at a table in a civilised fashion on the floor next to a travelator, I spent a large chunk of the four-ish hour flight to Baltimore watching Pirates of the Caribbean 4. About an hour outside Baltimore, we hit turbulence. Turbulence to the point where the plane was dropping a millionty several feet every few minutes. The seatbelt sign was turned on, and a stewardess came on the PA.

Stewardess: The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign, and has advised the flight crew to remain seated until landing. This means we will be unable to perform our final safety checks. Could you please make sure the people around you have their seat backs upright and their tray tables secured. And in the event of an emergency, please leave all cabin baggage on board the aircraft.
Me: Crap. My mother was right. Horrible flamey death is clearly imminent...

And then absolutely nothing happened. Having now had subsequent flights with the same airline, it appears that such comments are part of their normal pre-take off and landing spiel. But it's pretty much the opposite of reassuring when the plane is periodically dropping out of the sky into a thunderstorm...

Despite the weather's plans to the contrary, I made it to Baltimore in one piece. I then proceeded to spend a millionty years an hour and a bit getting from Baltimore Airport to the hotel in Washington. The first leg was on a bus, which drove through a hail storm so severe that every other car on the road stopped because they couldn't see. The second leg was on the subway from Greenbelt, which took FOREVER, despite only being eight or nine stops. The third leg was on foot, and involved me walking a block in the wrong direction because while I can read maps, I really suck at translating what's on the map onto what I can see around me...

After what seemed like the longest time ever, I finally made it to the hotel and met up with the lovely Kat.  After watching some truly terrible spectacular television for an hour or so, we headed out for dinner. We had quite possibly the vaguest waiter of all time. It wasn't quite Nikki's waitress who forgot to bring the food, but he was pretty "Ohhhhh, so you want to know the specials? Huh." 

The following day, we headed down to the National Air and Space Museum. While the capsules from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo were pretty awesome, they were also almost impossible to take photos of, courtesy of being encased in very reflective perspex. Sad face. I think my favourite thing in the whole place was this delightful collection of stewardess uniforms:
Check out the leggings/tights on the left!

Well, those and this rather special trophy:

There's only so long you can spend staring at planes and rockets before you get bored, so we went to the most expensive McDonalds in the world (it's actually IN the museum) for lunch, and then headed further down the Mall. There we came across the National Museum of the American Indian. Pretty sure it shouldn't be allowed to have the name 'museum'. I understand the fact that the Indigenous community has had a say in what's displayed and what's been written about. To some extent, this is an excellent thing. But displaying objects completely out of context and with no explanation of what they're for makes the whole experience pointless to the visitor. (#museumnerd)
Kat: [points at object] What is it?
Me: [searches for explanatory text label, without success] A mysterious thingy...
Kat: I DON'T UNDERSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND!!!!!!
Me: I don't understand either. This place makes my head hurt.
[Repeat 500 times]
Me: We need to leave now. I can't take it any more.
Kat: YES PLEASE.

Needless to say, we didn't stay there for very long. Instead, we walked up to the Capitol Building (but not inside it because apparently we needed to write to our non-existent members of Congress six months in advance of our visit to do that), and across to the Natural History Museum. The walk over there was more than a little warm and I was dripping in sweat glowing by the time we got there. 
Security guard: Hi, how are you today?
Me: Quite hot, actually. 
Security guard: Yeah, you are. HIGH FIVE!! 
Me: Well, if you insist...

The Natural History Museum was filled with shiny shiny jewellery...

and the obligatory dinosaurs...

and entertaining taxidermied specimens:
Craziest fennec fox EVER

Once we'd exhausted ourselves there, we walked back to the subway and headed out to U Street in search of dinner. We wound up at a Mexican restaurant where we ordered much needed drinks.
Me: Could I get a strawberry daiquiri, please?
Waitress: And would you like alcohol in that?
Me: Um. YES.

Seriously, what is a daiquiri without the rum? "Ooooh, strawberry flavoured ice. Where do I sign up?!" Lame. Luckily, the food was good, which redeemed the place somewhat! Oh, and a nearby table was occupied by police officers on Segways, which made for much amusement. 

Up next, America changes history for its own purposes, and the most disturbingly excited man EVER.

K xx

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Los Angeles - the "I'm not supposed to be here" edition

So I'm currently sitting in a hotel in Culver City, California. According to my itinerary, I should be almost to Auckland by now. Unfortunately, that's not quite how things worked out... 

Yesterday, Lyndsy drove me to the airport at about 4pm. The traffic was completely terrible, courtesy of President Obama arriving in Denver about an hour earlier, which forced the closure of all the highways in the city. Anyway, despite the terrible traffic, I made my flight with time to spare. The flight to LA was pretty unexciting. I'd had high hopes for taking photos while flying over the mountains, but it was hazy. Boo...

I arrived at Terminal 7 of LAX about 20 minutes early. My booking confirmation thingy said my flight would be leaving from the International Terminal, so I hiked walked up there through the delightful carbon monoxide. (Speaking of which, can someone explain to me how LAX still doesn't have a monorail or whatever between the terminals, like a normal airport?!?!?!) Upon arriving at the International Terminal, I discovered that Air New Zealand doesn't fly out of the International Terminal. They fly out of Terminal 2. 

OF COURSE. The terminal that was basically directly opposite where I started. Awesome. Thank you so much, LAX... So I started walking to Terminal 2. And of course, Air New Zealand is located at the far end of Terminal 2. Dear LAX: I despise you with every fibre of my being. That is all. I eventually made it to the check in counter, did all of that nonsense, and headed up to security, which was loosely organised chaos. #funtimes While standing there for a millionty years, I noticed a tall guy in the next queue over. 
Me: Huh. That tall guy kind of looks like Jason Segel.
[Tall guy turns around]
Me: HOLY SHIT. THAT *IS* JASON SEGEL!!!!!!!! 

SO much more exciting than the time I saw Michael Richards in the immigration queue in Mexico City. I kind of wanted to point him out to the whiny Londoners behind me who kept going on and on about how "Victoria [Beckham] wouldn't be subjected to this treatment. There MUST be a line for upper class!". Um, I'm pretty sure Jason Segel wouldn't be standing in the line of loosely organised chaos if he didn't have to...

After several hours of sitting around the airport, I noticed that my flight status had been updated to 'Delayed'. Shortly thereafter, an announcement was made saying that the wing of our plane had been damaged leaving the hangar. And that they needed to fly a part down from Boeing in Seattle before they could fix it. And that therefore our flight was delayed at least overnight. 

Thankfully, Air New Zealand put us all up in hotels. By the time we were transferred from the airport to hotels and had checked in, it was nearly midnight LA time and I was completely exhausted. For some reason I will never understand, American hotels have something against overhead lighting. So I was fumbling with the bedside lamps in the dark. And of course they put the switches somewhere completely bizarre, meaning that I spent a good ten minutes trying to turn the fucking things on. The exhaustion combined with the frustration led to me bursting into tears and sobbing "WHY CAN'T THEY HAVE OVERHEAD LIGHTS?????" over and over again. #socoolunderpressure

Thankfully, the hotel provided me with a delicious warm chocolate chip cookie when I checked in. #chocolatemakeseverythingbetter #nom

While waiting to check in, the old woman in front of me was hoping that they would at least provide toothbrushes and pondering how bad the plane would smell when we do eventually take off. (I just saw her in the lobby. She's now wearing her dress inside out...) Which brings me to a list.

Things you should always have with you when flying internationally:
1. Toothbrush and toothpaste
2. Deodorant
3. Concealer
4. Phone chargers
5. Spare undies
6. Hair brush
7. A singlet top (as well as a t-shirt)

Anyway, it looks like we're going to be delayed by a full 24 hours. God knows what time I'll finally make it to Melbourne. Which reminds me - 
New Zealand passengers in queue for hotel transfer: Crap, I hope we get home by [insert day here]. I have tickets to the Rugby World Cup...
Australian passengers in queue for hotel transfer: We'd better be home in time for the Grand Final on Saturday...
Everyone else in queue for hotel transfer: I just want to get there soon...

#awesomepriorities

K xx


UPDATE: I forgot to mention that our suitcases spent the night at the airport, so all we had was hand luggage. Hence the essential things to carry and the old lady's inside out dress. #forgetfulmoron

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Colorado - the "I'm a forgetful moron" edition

So in all the fugly Ugg boot and Bodybuilder Jesus/Bigfoot excitement of my last post, I forgot something.

When Megan and I were at Seven Falls, we took the lift to a viewing platform where you can see the full length of the falls. This sign was in the lift:

I'm kind of curious how many people had to do that for them to put up the sign. I mean, I don't know about you guys, but I'm not in the habit of jumping up and down when I'm in a lift... But apparently there are people out there in the world who really enjoy jumping or hopping (what?!) in lifts. #peopleareweirdyo

(Despite all of this, I had to resist the urge to do exactly what the sign told me not to. Ya know, just to see exactly *how* much jumping you could do before you got stuck and had to sit there for an hour waiting to be rescued...)

Incidentally, I'm flying home tonight, so the promised post about DC will probably be delayed until the jetlag subsides!!

K xx

Monday, September 26, 2011

Colorado - the "apparently Bigfoot lives in the Springs" edition

The day after Lyndsy and I went to the baseball, I headed down to Colorado Springs to stay with Megan and David, and do all manner of touristy stuff for a few days. We started out with a wee jaunt to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It was a pretty miserable day, but that just meant that there was hardly anyone else there! I started off with feeding a giraffe. And it didn't occur to me until the last piece of lettuce that it would be sensible to take a photo of me feeding a giraffe. Oh well. I have this photo that Megan took of me teasing a giraffe with a piece of lettuce. Close enough! 

The bears were hilarious - one was having a health check, and the other was attempting to coerce bits of food out of the keeper by slapping his paws on the surface of the water. Occasionally, the bits of food would go a little too far, and the bear would have to swim a little to find them. That totally freaked out the salmon that were in the water. Understandably... (Apparently the bears aren't particularly good at the fishing thing, and have caught a record FIVE salmon this year!) I think my favourite was when we got to the wallabies. 
Me: Awwww! Aren't you guys cute? And you made delicious food for the early colonists in Tasmania too!
Wallaby: [looks at me] O.O

Don't believe me? Check out this face:

Yeah. He was seriously traumatised by that idea. The weather decreased as the afternoon wore on, and by the time we headed up to the Will Rogers Memorial thingamibob, it was drizzling quite substantially. Which meant that this was our view of the mountains towards Pikes Peak:

Thrilling, no? But it was okay because on our way home, we came across these grazing in someone's front garden, and that totally made up for it:

The next day, we figured we'd take our chances with the weather and head up Pikes Peak. Part of the way up, we came across this sculpture:

I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty sure that's Jesus trying to win the Hairiest Body Builder award... #goingtoHell But according to a nearby sign, it was Bigfoot. By the time we got to the top of the Peak (which is a 19 mile drive), it was completely foggy. But I didn't really care that we couldn't see a thing because SNOW!!!! 

Here's me in the snow:

I think Megan found my level of excitement rather amusing... 

I also ate a cinnamon doughnut that had fudge icing on it. It was amazeballs to the point where I neglected to take a photo of it. And I don't even want to contemplate how many calories were in it, but if I had to guess I'd have to go with A MILLIONTY. And they were totally worth it. 

The view at the top of Pikes Peak prompted the writing of 'America the Beautiful'. Thanks to the fog, this is what we saw from the top. SERIOUSLY. 
When I reviewed my photos, I thought something had gone horribly wrong.
Then I remembered what I'd been taking photos of...
It totally inspires me to write songs! Not. #bringingthatback #channellingChandlerBing

The drive back down featured some awesome views, including this one from the Bottomless Pit:

The next day, we headed up to Seven Falls. As the name might suggest, it's a series of seven waterfalls of all different kinds. The downside? This:

Two hundred and twenty four stairs. I was more than a little glad I'd gone to the pharmacy to get an emergency Ventolin inhaler before I left home! Still, the falls were pretty, and I got to play around with shutter speed. Wheeeeeeeee!!! 


Ahem. We also went to Cave of the Winds. I successfully managed to not brain myself or get stuck in any narrow passageways - yay me! I was rather relieved to not be visiting back in the day when it took six hours to tour the caves, along with commando crawling through a 50cm high passageway... Afterwards, we overheard one of the guides saying in the shop that they'd had a guy on their tour try and take a photo of total cave darkness. With the flash on... #EPICFAIL 

That night, we went out to a steakhouse for dinner. This happened:
Hostess: Have you guys been here before?
David: We have. But she hasn't. She's from out of town. 
Hostess: [disinterested] Oh really? Where are you from?
Me: Australia.
Hostess: OH MY GOSH! I've never met anyone from Australia before!! If you fill in this card, we'll get you a little something on the house!
Me: Um. Okay?
David: Huh. Maybe we should tell her it's your birthday and see if we can get MORE free food!

Bless her, she was so excited about meeting someone from Australia. (And no, it wasn't an Outback Steakhouse.) I was kind of hoping for dessert or mozzerella sticks (they may be terrifyingly bad for you, but my GOD they're delicious). Instead, I got free ribs. Eh #freefoodisfreefood 

Oh, and I nearly forgot! I came across these in Colorado Springs:
Source

Worst. Ugg boots. EVER... I apologise on behalf of my country for introducing these monstrosities to the world...

Next up: the least reassuring flight attendant announcement ever, and museums and monuments aplenty in Washington DC!

K xx

Friday, September 23, 2011

Colorado - the "apparently banana is a confusing word" edition

I'm currently sitting in a Starbucks in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I had grand plans for doing SOMETHING of interest (even if it was just checking out the TJ Maxx next door to my hotel) with my last day on the east coast, but it's pissing with rain and I don't wanna. Plus, the Starbucks is *attached* to my hotel, so I didn't even have to go outside to get here #lazinessFTW Anyway, due to the rather inclement weather and my epic laziness, I figured I'd kill the two hours until I have to leave for the airport with some kind of blogging activity!

When I last left you, I was embarrassing myself at the baseball in Denver. My trip to Colorado Springs involved me getting free food for being foreign, snow, feeding a giraffe, and Bigfoot. (Let us all pause for a moment to think about just how different that sentence could appear without the use of the Oxford comma. Thank you. #grammarnerd) 

My adventures in the Springs started with a day trip about a week after I arrived in Colorado. We got down there just in time to pick up Megan and head out for lunch to a new restaurant/cafe/thing that sold pretty much nothing but peanut butter and jam sandwiches. #onlyinAmerica I honestly don't think I'd had a peanut butter and jam sandwich since I was at primary school (HI LOR!) in Toronto a millionty years ago. So I was slightly apprehensive about the whole thing, because if I put anything with peanut butter in a sandwich? It's going to be honey. Needless to say, I was kind of thrilled when I found a sandwich that consisted of crunchy peanut butter, honey and fresh strawberries. Technically, it also contained banana. But it's gross, so I asked for it without. Which led to this:

Me: Can I get the [insert name of sandwich here] with no banana?
Serving guy: With no what?
Me: Banana
Serving guy: Ba-what?
Me: BANANA.
Serving guy: Ohhhhh, no BANANA. Sure!

(Okay, that doesn't really work when you type it. Let's just say that I pronounce it 'ba-nah-nah' and Americans pronounce it kind of nasal-y and with a shorter A sound and just generally WRONG...) 

Anyrandomsegue, the sandwich was pretty good, if a little oozy. Once we'd finished our sandwiches, we headed out to some Anasazi cliff dwellings just outside of town. Okay, technically, they're RECREATED cliff dwellings that were moved from somewhere else for some reason that totally escapes me and which I can't look up because the internet keeps crapping out on me #Starbucksfail. But given the choice between seeing cliff dwellings that were 10 minutes from where I was, and driving all the way across Colorado to Mesa Verde, I took the former. 

And hey, it wasn't a total waste because Lyndsy and I wound up buying some fudge. And when I say "some", I mean ONE AND A HALF POUNDS (700g. It doesn't sound nearly as impressive that way). Um. Whoops? (It was delicious) 

After our fudge buying extravaganza trip to the cliff dwellings, we headed over to Garden of the Gods. Holy gorgeous scenery, Batman! (by which I mean the superhero, and not the founder of Melbourne who died of syphilis at the age of 38 and had no nose. Although I'm sure he would have appreciated the scenery too... I'll stop now.) And now is about the point where I mention that if Garden of the Gods was in Australia, you'd probably have to park a 20 minute walk from any of the sites. In America, you have to try and frame your photos in such a way as to cut out the car park because you can pretty much drive up to the base of any attraction...

Ahem. How about I stop talking and show you some moody looking photos of Garden of the Gods to finish?



You're welcome. 

Next up, I find the most hideous special ugg boots of all time. Nice export, Australia... *rolls eyes*
K xx

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Colorado, the "doing touristy things in Denver" edition

Contrary to popular belief, I am still alive. I'm currently on a train from Washington to New York. Sadly, there's no Wifi on the train, and Wifi at our hotel in New York is $13.95 A DAY (WTF?!), but I have high hopes that I'll be able to steal make use of some poor unsuspecting person's unsecured internet to at least post this, because I've been an epic slacker of late. [It didn't. I'm now in Boston...]

I don't really know where to start with Denver. Perhaps with the fact that it was about 10 degrees C hotter than Chicago when I arrived. And I was wearing jeans. #terribleidea Or perhaps the fact that Hello Kitty takes on an ENTIRELY different meaning when you're talking to a three year old who pronounces her Ks as Ts. That, incidentally, was a couple of days after I arrived, when Lyndsy and I took her little cousin to the zoo. Small children and their amusing speech impediments aside, the zoo was fun. Insanely hot, but fun. The tigers had just been fed when we got there, so we got to see them chewing on enormous chunks of bone. And the hornbill was going crazy, flying all over the place. 

The Sunday after I arrived, Lyndsy had a Pampered Chef party, and I inadvertently bough $60 worth of cookware #whoops (It's okay, it's all small stuff that'll TOTALLY fit in my suitcase!!) 

Obviously, with me being me, a trip to the museum was on the agenda. I was crazy excited mildly entertained to find that the palaeontology curators in Denver are just as smutty as the ones in Chicago. Sure, they may not have had a rape-tosaurus or skulls with knobs on them, but you could "Fondle a foot", and there was a "Bone Bar" that asked you to please touch gently. *snigger* (Lor/Sweeney, does making smutty jokes equal a #hosuspension??)

The museum also featured the largest gold nugget ever found in Colorado. 
Lyndsy: Wow, look how big that is!
Me: Awwwwww... It's so little and cute! 

Largest gold nugget ever found in Colorado:

(Replica of the) Largest gold nugget ever found in Australia:
Source

Yeah. Ours wins.

About a week after I arrived, Lyndsy and I went to the Taste of Colorado Festival downtown. It was kind of like the Multicultural Festival in Canberra, only with Denver based restaurants. I'm kind of sad that I missed out on seeing ASIA play on the Friday night, solely because Heat of the Moment reminds me of a very entertaining episode of Supernatural. I also missed out on seeing Boyz II Men play on the Monday night. I'm not particularly sad about missing that though. Anywhendredidtheyfindthosebands, the Festival was fun. And being a total failure of a blogger, I neglected to take photos of anything. Which is probably for the best, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I mostly just ate cupcakes. They were mini cupcakes, so it was okay that I ate like four different kinds. Oh, and I ate beignets. I passed on the alligator, the pickle on a stick, the rattlesnake bratwurst, and the deep fried turkey drumsticks. I *did* get some food from the first Indian restaurant in Denver - established in 1989 #really??

Eventually, the Festival became exhausting, so we headed over to the Art Gallery, because it was the first Saturday of the month and therefore entry was free. #epiccheapskate They had some pretty fun pieces, including this salt cellar:

New aspiration for when I'm an actual adult (rather than the fake kind that I am at the moment): to own a salt cellar shaped like a sailing ship. Because it's AWESOME.

The following Monday was a public holiday in the US (Labor Day, which should totally contain a U, for those of you playing at home). The Rockies happened to be playing at home, so it was time for America's favourite pastime: baseball. 

Baseball = cricket, only BORING. I'm pretty sure more time was spent changing sides than was spent actually playing baseball... Oh, and this happened:
Announcer: Please be upstanding and remove your hats for the national anthem!
Me: Australians all let us rejoice for we...oh CRAP, wrong country... *stands around awkwardly*

Despite all of that, and the fact that I managed to get a one inch strip of my right leg sunburnt, it was pretty fun. I have no idea what the score was in the end. I *DO* know that the Rockies scored at least seven home runs because there was a big fireworks display on the big screen about how that meant we could now get free tacos at Taco Bell. I also know that they didn't win. But I sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" like a champion, and did my best to avoid sniggering during the line about rooting for the home team. #thingsthatmeandifferentthingsindifferentcountriesdespitebothbeinginEnglish #longesthashtagever

Next up, Colorado Springs!

K xx

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Colorado, the "I'm a dirty slacker" edition

So, um, WHOOPS. I've been in Colorado for two weeks and have yet to say anything about it. This is not to say that I haven't been doing anything worth reporting. Just that I've been an epic slacker in writing about it! Personally, I'm just impressed at how long I've spent sitting on what my brain thinks is the driver's side of the car, on the wrong side of the road, without freaking out.

So what have I done so far? Been to two zoos, one museum, one art gallery, one food festival, two trivia nights, one tea factory, one baseball game, one reconstructed Anasazi cliff dwelling, and the Garden of the Gods.

But let's go back to the beginning. Arriving in Colorado was something of a shock, as the temperature was about 10 degrees C hotter than it had been in Chicago - mid 30s rather than mid 20s. The day after I arrived, my ankles swelled up to fairly spectacular cankles of doom dimensions. Uncertain whether it was a side effect of the heat, the altitude, or the flight the previous day, I consulted my mum via email. Her response [paraphrased, of course]? "Booze is a diuretic. Have a drink and you'll be fine. Or, you know, there's tea. But go with the booze!" So I did - Lyndsy and I went to trivia and I ordered some Woodchuck Granny Smith Cider. Which the waitress referred to as beer. Which, WHAT?!
Me: I'll have the Woodchuck hard cider, thanks.
Her: We have another Woodchuck on tap if you'd prefer a draught beer?
Me: Um. But I want cider.
Her: It is cider.
Me: *confused dog head tilt*

Dear America, CIDER IS NOT BEER. That is all. Love, me.

To continue my faith in America's public education system, one of the rounds at trivia was geography based. They had a slightly weird system where you took up your answer for each question on a tiny sheet of paper rather than turning in one big sheet at the end of the round. For the geography round, each question had two parts. If you knew the answer from the first part, you got two points. If you needed the second, you only got one point.
Quiz dude: Name the second longest river in Europe, starting in Germany and ending in the Black Sea
Me: *scribbles down 'Danube' by the time he gets to the word Europe, and hands it in just after he says 'Sea'*
Quiz dude: If you guys know this that quickly, you're my heroes... *looks at answer sheet* HOLY CRAP!! How do you know that?!?!

The second part of the question was "This river has a colourful dance tune named after it." Then it came time for the answer.
Quiz dude: It's the... Da... Da... Da...NOOB? The DaNOOB. Is that right? Do you guys know?
Me and Lyndsy: *face palm*

Needless to say, we won the geography round, and got free dessert as a result #score

And on that note, it's late and I'm going to bed. I'll endeavour to try and catch up on the Colorado related stories soon. With photos. You're welcome... ;)

K xx

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chicago, the "this is the last one, I promise" edition

So after I left Sweeney, Lor and Penny at Navy Pier on Monday afternoon, I realised that I had about 36 hours left in Chicago, and way too much still on my list of things to do. I had high hopes for going up to the zoo seeing as how it's free and all, but sadly there was insufficient time :(

On Monday night, I headed up to the John Hancock Observatory to watch the sun set over the city. That was pretty awesome. The audio tour was narrated by David Schwimmer, which was a little disconcerting because I kept expecting the information about Chicago's landmarks to include the line "We were on a BREAK!!" at regular intervals...

Anyway, the view from the top is incredible. And being up there for sunset was pretty cool. I think I may have elbowed a small child out of the way to get a decent spot at the window to take photos. #whoops
The something-or-other building. I have no idea. Anyone know?

Sunset over the Chicago River. And, you know, Chicago...

I then went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory at the base of the John Hancock Building, and ordered a weight management salad (cos I'm ALL about the dieting. What?) and a side of macaroni and cheese in an attempt to get over the trauma of the mac and bonfire that we'd had at lunchtime. The waiter may have laughed at me when I ordered. Clearly, he's never needed to get the taste of mac and bonfire out of his mouth... *jealous*

The next day, I got up to find it tipping with rain. After unsuccessfully trying to wait it out at my hotel, I was forced to make a mad dash across the street to 7-11 to buy an umbrella. By the time I'd done that, it was thundering. It made walking a mile down Michigan Avenue rather interesting, that's for sure!

I finally made it to the Art Institute in one (slightly squelchy) piece. And I had an awesome time there. Do you guys ever play a game at museums and art galleries where you pretend that you're insanely rich and can take home one thing from each room?

I have no idea when I started playing it. I have half a suspicion that it's something my mum the teacher would have invented to make sure that we were paying attention to the objects and reading the text labels and generally learning stuff rather than aimlessly wandering around. If it *was* my mum (HI MUM!!!), at least it paid off - she got a museum curator out of it!

Anyway, I played said game at the Art Institute the other week. And thank God I'm *not* filthy rich, or my house would need to be much bigger than it is, because i would now be the proud owner of the following:

  • a Mayan stelae,
  • several Monet paintings,
  • a couple of grandfather clocks,
  • Grant Wood's American Gothic,
  • a medieval necklace in the shape of a dragon,
  • a half suit of armour from sixteenth century Italy,
  • a Van Gogh self portrait, 
  • a frieze of donkeys from the wall of an ancient Egyptian tomb,
  • some Chinese bronze water vessels,
  • a painting of an orange grove in Spain,
  • a truly awesome library ladder (though sadly not of the slide-y variety), and
  • this painting, solely because of the completely ridiculous hat that (male) baby is wearing:

Awesome... I hope he gave his parents hell for this painting when he grew up. 

Of course, it stopped raining during the four hours I spent in the Art Institute, and started again the minute I left... And the rain was even harder than it had been on the way down there. When the rain started coming THROUGH my umbrella, I decided it was time to take shelter under the portico of a nearby office building. Still, by the time I got back to the hotel, my shoes made squelchy noises and my socks were so wet that I had to wring them out in the bath #funtimes #ew

But despite the thunderstorms, my last few days in Chicago were awesome. Well...except for the part where I dragged my suitcase three blocks in the wrong direction on my way to the airport because I threw out my map of Chicago at the hotel. And the part where I asked someone where the train station was and he gave me a weird look and then pointed about two metres to his left #FAIL But, ya know, other than that, it was great!! ;)

Seriously though, does anyone else play that game? Or am I a crazy person?? :S

K xx

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chicago, the "catching up with old friends" edition

So while I was in Chicago, I got to catch up with a friend of mine from uni in Canberra. It was awesome, because I hadn't seen her since she moved back to the US at the end of 2008, and in the time since I last saw her, she's gotten married, had a baby and is almost due to have her second one! Let's call her Hello Wisconsin, because that's where she's from and because I'm a huge That 70s Show fan, so that's all that comes to mind when I hear anything about Wisconsin (and because I don't know how she'd feel about me using her real name on the interwebs).

I met up with Hello Wisconsin and her husband, G-Man, on Saturday night after the Summit. We went out to dinner at Russian Tea Time in downtown Chicago, and it was OMG SO GOOD. I hadn't had Russian food before, so I was a little hesitant that it would be all pumpernickel and vodka and beetroot. But while there was pumpernickel, it was delicious, and there were plenty of options that allowed me to avoid the other two!

We started out with the latkes, which come with sour cream and apple sauce. They were amazing. Sadly, I was so busy catching up with Hello Wisconsin (aka "We were so busy bagging the crap out of Canberra") that I neglected to take photos of anything. #bloggerfail We also shared the Russian dumplings, which were wonderful. The carrot salad that comes along with them was another highlight.

I followed up the entrees with beef stroganoff, which was insanely delicious. Sadly, the latkes and the dumplings proved much more filling than I'd anticipated, meaning I couldn't even get half way through my stroganoff before I was completely defeated. I can't remember what Hello Wisconsin and G-Man had for their main courses, but I do remember that they didn't leave much on their plates!

Hello Wisconsin and I declared ourselves too stuffed to even contemplate the dessert menu, but G-Man ordered the farmer's cheese blintzes. Despite our claims, once the blintzes arrived and the waiter thoughtfully turned up with three plates, Hello Wisconsin and I miraculously found room to try them. They were the perfect end to the meal - the cheese (which was kind of ricotta-y) wasn't too sweet, and the berry sauce gave them a nice zing. Basically? Dinner was awesome, and if you're ever in Chicago you should definitely stop by Russian Tea Time!

During dinner, Hello Wisconsin had mentioned that their hotel room overlooked the Chicago River, and that there were going to be fireworks going on later in the evening. So we headed back to their hotel (which was all kinds of fancy - gotta love a good deal plus a free upgrade!!) to wait for the fireworks. They eventually started, and we had a pretty great view of them. Well, we DID, up until the point where they became completely obscured by smoke. Apparently, despite being the Windy City (although I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that the nickname comes from politicians who liked to talk rather than windy weather!), Chicago couldn't muster up a breath of wind that night.

Me: Well. So much for the spectacular view.
G-Man: This looks like Baghdad or something...

It really did. I tried to find you a picture of fireworks hidden by smoke, but Google failed me. So I tried searching for a picture of missile smoke. Google gave me pictures of Kim Jong-Il, and Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi #wtf Basically? I gave up. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. Just watch Black Hawk Down if you don't.

The evening concluded with a stop off at the enormous Marilyn Monroe statue that's currently gracing central Chicago. Hello Wisconsin and I MAY have had our photo taken fondling her leg. Because we're mature like that.

So basically? It was a great evening, and I'm eternally grateful to the 20SB Summit for being in Chicago and allowing me to catch up with a friend I hadn't seen in forever!! Here's hoping it's not another three years before I get a chance to catch up with Hello Wisconsin and G-Man again.

K xx

Disclaimer: Russian Tea Time have no idea I exist. I just really liked their food.
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