Wisconsin/Chicago

Clearly I’m horrible at posting things on time! I’ll be adding photos to this post later!

On Monday, August the 25th 2014, my boyfriend and I left Winnipeg with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his girlfriend for Wisconsin. My cousin had a basketball tournament in Chicago, and Wisconsin Dells was one of our many stops on his basketball tournament, road trip. My aunt rented a van, which my uncle drove the entire time (such a trooper!). The drive time from Winnipeg to Wisconsin is approximately eleven hours. After leaving Winnipeg on the evening of the 25th, we stopped at almost every rest area to use restrooms and take power naps. We Finally made it to Wisconsin the next day, on the 26th. We checked into our hotel later than anticipated because of our excessive stopping on the drive there. we stayed at the Mount Olympus Village in the water park, so we had a cool themed room.  My cousin, his girlfriend, Johnny and I only had a couple of hours to explore the water park so we swam and went on as many slides as we could, and we rode a roller coaster. I had a lot of “firsts” on this road trip, and one of the more exciting ones, was eating at Culver’s for the first time! They’re this fast food chain that sells burgers, fries, other standard fast food type items. Apparently, Wisconsin is pretty famous for their dairy production, so Culver’s had Wisconson Cheese Curds!!! I had cheese curds for supper that night. Mcdonald’s has nothing on Culver’s. The restaurant (can I even call it that?) itself is well known for their frozen custard and their insane flavour variety, and being an avid pumpkin lover (I don’t only “love” pumpkin in the fall) I had a pumpkin custard shake. We only stayed in Wisconsin for one night, so we were up really early the next morning, to make the three hour drive towards Chicago. Our first stop in Chicago was obviously the United Center to see the home of the Chicago Bulls, and to take a thousand photos of the Jordan Statue outside of the stadium. After seeing the statue, my cousins basketball team and everyone else on the road trip had planned to see a couple of other specific touristy spots and stop for lunch/dinner at a deep dish pizza joint, but driving around Chicago in a big group ended with us being separated from the group. Based on sheer luck, the six of us found the Navy Pier, and walked along the boardwalk and had lunch there instead. The boardwalk somewhat reminded me of the boardwalk from the Jersey Shore, which I’ve only ever seen on TV. The Navy Pier was very scenic and beautiful, had a ton of little shops and restaurants and even had a small amusement park. We mostly just had lunch here and took a lot of pictures. After having been up super early and walking around all day, we finally checked into the Comfort Inn & Suites at 530 West North Avenue in the evening and then my uncle drove up and down the main street near our hotel, until we decided to eat at a Chinese buffet a couple minutes away. Because it was 10:00PM, and because we were starving and tired, we ate as much as we could and acted as if this was the best Chinese buffet in the world. The next night, we ordered in from Giordano’s which is Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza place. The pizza was like heaven, and was so deep dish, that it had to be eaten with a fork. The bread that they send with their food, is also amazing. They’re just standard dinner rolls but they tasted like they were baked fresh! The next night I had White Castle for the first time, which I had extremely high expectations for. Everyone on the road trip was surprised that I’d never eaten at White Castle despite the fact that I’ve been to the States so many times. Let me just say that I was soooo disappointed after having White Castle. It wasn’t anything special. The food was sub par and super salty. Thumbs down.

Saturday, August 30th, was the first day of my cousins actual basketball tournament. His team won their first game. Later that night we ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant called Las Islas Marias which was a couple blocks from our hotel. This was place was the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. The restaurant had a very family oriented vibe in terms of the staff and the relationship that the staff had with the large families eating at the restaurant. Their menu had so many things to choose from, as well as an extensive drink menu. Our waitress was the sweetest girl ever. We ended up liking the restaurant so much, that we ate there the next night as well. The food is priced extremely well, the wait staff is amazing and quick and the food was to die for.

Sunday, my cousin played his second game, and lost, which meant they were out of the tournament, so we spent the day at the Brookfield Zoo! The weather was gorgeous so all the animals were out. I made the mistake of not dressing comfortably, so a couple hours in, my feet were hurting and my dress was irritating me. The Brookfield Zoo was so much cooler than the zoo in Winnipeg, but I guess it’s typical to think your hometown zoo is never as neat as others. The general entrance fee for adults at the zoo was roughly $17.00, which was good considering we were in the zoo looking around for more than five hours. That night, we relaxed at the hotel and did facials, which we bought, prepackaged from Walmart.

At some point on this trip, we did visit the Millennium Park, where we took super touristy photos with the giant, silver jelly bean.

The next morning, we got up early, packed, and left Chicago. We stopped in Wisconsin to get gas and have Culver’s AGAIN! YAY! So good. We drove through Minneapolis, stopped at the Eagan Outlets for six hours, spent the last of our money, then drove to Fargo. We spent the night at some chain hotel I can’t remember the name of, where nothing was working. The pool was out of order, none of the vending machines worked, and their ice dispensers were broken, but their continental breakfast had a lot of variety! On the morning of September 2nd, we checked out of the hotel, got McDonalds and Starbucks, stopped at Sam’s Club, where I impulsively purchased a Swarovski bracelet that was over $100.00, then we drove home.

My first time in Chicago was so much fun. It is definitely a neat and lively place to visit! I’m glad Johnny and I got to cross this beautiful city off of our travel list.

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Minnesota & North Dakota

It’s been a long time since I last blogged, and a long time since I was actually on this road trip, so I’m writing this entry purely from memory, ticket stubs and poorly taken photos from my iPhone! I went on this road trip with my mom, boyfriend, mom’s best friend, and mom’s best friends 9 year old son.

Johnny did all the driving… What a trooper. We were initially supposed to rent a van, but it was going to cost us almost $1000.00 so we took my brothers pickup truck instead. We left on the morning of July 26th, 2014 and started our four hour drive towards Fargo, North Dakota. There, we stopped at West Acres Mall, and had lunch. I had Taco John’s for the first time which was like any other Mexican, fast food place. Surprise, surprise. After lunch we drove another three-ish hours to Albertville, Minnesota to shop at the Albertville Premium Outlets. I’m almost positive that I only bought a black tulip skirt, and a white cotton and lace cardigan from a store called Pebble Boutique. We shopped until the outlet was closed and then drove just under an hour to our hotel, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Northwood Inn & Suites. This hotel was cheap to stay in, but everything about the hotel was less than great. We would ask for clean towels or extra toilet paper and a lot of the time, the hotel staff would say that they didn’t have any or that they were “running low” so it always seemed like a huge issue asking for things. Also, the hotel says they provide “complimentary breakfast” but it’s really only pre-packaged, over sugared, danishes, coffee, tea, and juice. Our sheets were only changed once, during our five night stay with them, and they never vacuumed the carpet. One of the only plus sides of staying at this hotel, was that we were less than five minutes from the Mall Of America.

On our first full day in Minneapolis, Johnny and I went to watch our first MLB game! We watched the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox! We got two amazing seats for just over $120.00. Johnny and I wanted the full American, baseball experience so we bought beer, other drinks, and all the kiosk food that we could eat. I also got a “meal in a cup” which is a caesar, plus your choice of either a mini burger or bratwurst! Also, any time I’ve ordered a caesar while in the United States, they always give me a beer! Which I guess is supposed to complement the caesar somehow, which is amazing, because it’s like getting a free drink. In Winnipeg, if you order a caesar, you only get a caesar, and you might get a good stick of celery, if you’re lucky.

The next day, we went to the Minnesota Zoo, which took us a total of five hours to get through. Lots of walking, bathroom breaks, and stops for ice cream and snacks. I also RODE A CAMEL! It was $6.00 for a ride that lasted two minutes tops, but it was so fun! The zoo in general was beautiful and had so many different things to see and do. One of my favourite parts was the butterfly garden. After walking all day at the zoo, we went to the mall and had dinner at the Cadillac Ranch. I ordered a steak, and these fries called “loaded fries” that I can’t stop thinking about. They were perfectly cooked, and had bacon, cheese and green onions on them.

On the day of July 29th, Johnny took me to see the “Barbie –  The Dreamhouse Experience” exhibit that was happening at the mall. It was extremely exciting, and extremely pink. I was the only girl in the exhibit that was over the age twelve, that was not accompanying someone under the age of twelve. And Johnny, being the best boyfriend ever, was the only boy in the exhibit who wasn’t there with his younger sister or daughter. Barbie’s house was everything I expected and more. That girl has it made. We shopped after seeing Barbie’s house and then went to the “Beatles Exhibit“. Unlike the Barbie exhibit, we weren’t allowed to take very many pictures, because of all the rare photos and items that were featured in the exhibit. One of the coolest things they had was the actual jacket worn by Ringo Starr, in the Abbey Road photo. Not like a replica, or the same jacket, it was the one that Ringo Starr wore… it touched his flesh, and they had it in a glass case at this exhibit. There were a lot of authentic audio clips that were of news reporters on scene of The Beatles arriving in a city to do a concert, or of The Beatles doing interviews. The exhibit also had a lot of rare, up close photos of the band, taken by their manager, who was also a professional photographer. After the exhibit, we ate at a restaurant called Crave. Their menu was huge and featured everything from burgers to sushi. It’s a bit pricier, but beyond worth it. The restaurant is dimly lit, and has a really intimate vibe. The food is presented so beautifully, and you can actually taste the quality and time put into their meals.

Our last night in Minneapolis, Johnny and I ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp for the first time. The food and service were amazing. We got a free Bubba Gump Shrimp cocktail mixer because we spent a certain amount, or because we got two alcoholic beverages, I can’t remember. The mixer was a cute touch, and a nice souvenir.

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– E

Montreal

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On April 29th, 2014 to May 7th, 2014, my boyfriend and I went to Montreal! I’m really excited to be writing my first post in the “Travels” section of my blog!

We had sporadically planned this trip because, we had both never been to Montreal, we have a friend, named Kareem, living in Montreal who could show us around, and in the seven years that we’ve been dating, it was our first ‘plane’ trip together! YAY! We also recently decided that we should go on a trip to at least one Canadian province a year, until we’ve been to all thirteen together.

I’m one of those people who takes hardly any pictures on trips because I’m so busy taking it all in and having fun, that I can’t be bothered to pull out my camera every time I see something remotely interesting.

Even though Johnny and I both went to a French Immersion high school, we didn’t even try to speak French. We thought we would, but then we got there, realized how beautifully everyone in Montreal could speak French, and didn’t want to embarrass ourselves by trying. I did come to learn that the people in Montreal aren’t quite as nice to you when they realize you speak English. Nobody was plain out rude to us, but if we sat down in a restaurant, and our server realized we spoke English, they almost became snobby. People seemed annoyed anytime we went about trying to purchase things like a metro pass or ordering food, or even asking questions while shopping because we spoke English. Nonetheless, we still had a tonne of fun seeing the city, and being in a hotel situated in the downtown area where everything was constantly lively.

In Montreal, Johnny and I became pros at taking the metro. We also walked. A lot. Granted, everywhere we went, we constantly saw people walking, no matter what time of day. During our stay it did rain almost every day but that didn’t stop us from doing cool things. We did spend a lot of time in and around Montreal’s shopping mall ‘Centre Eaton’. One of the first touristy things we did was visit ‘Grévin‘ which is a wax museum inside the mall. It features life size wax figures of different celebrities including Barack Obama, Sidney Crosby, The Dalai Lama, Justin Bieber, etc. The tour started off with a neat depiction of the changing of seasons in a large room, this part of the tour was called ‘Le Palais des Saisons’ which translates to ‘The Palace of Seasons’.  The admission was roughly $17.00/person, but it was well worth it to be able to see Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, even if only in wax form.

We also went to see the Saputo Soccer Stadium, home of the Montreal Impact soccer team, but because there were no events happening the day we went, we didn’t get to go inside, but we did make a trip around the stadium and got a peek of the field from the outside. Johnny is a huge soccer fan (typical for someone with European blood) so this was one of the things he really wanted to do, so he was bummed that the stadium gift shop was closed.

We visited ‘Espace Pour La Vie Montréal‘ (Space for Life) which included four different parts; the biodome, the insectarium, the botanical garden, and the planetarium. Johnny and I only visited the biodome which was basically an indoor zoo with birds, raccoons, crocodiles, penguins etc.

Our friend from Montreal took us to ‘Mont Royal‘ park where we made a journey uphill (up a thousand stairs) and eventually, you get to the peak which is a massive concrete landing/balcony that overlooks all of Montreal. The walk up killed me, but the view is amazing and no picture, even if it were to be taken with your Nikon Nine Million, would ever do it justice. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. This same day we also visited ‘Vieux Montréal‘ which makes you feel like you’re in a different era. It’s amazing with all it’s cobble stoned roads, old buildings, small shops and outdoor entertainment. Our friend insisted that we go to a small shop in Old Montreal called ‘Queues de Castor’ (Beaver Tails) which is a small dessert shack that sells pieces of deep fried dough in the shape of a beaver tail, and if that weren’t unhealthy enough, you also get stuff on your beaver tail, like Nutella, bananas, Skor chocolate pieces with icing, M&M’s, Oreo crumbs… The possibilities are endless. I obviously got Nutella on my beaver tail, and then I practically died of happiness.

Le Distillerie‘ may be my favourite place in the world for drinks. Our friend basically took us to this small lounge that serves alcoholic beverages in pickle jars. The drinks are $17.00 before taxes, but have upwards of 5 shots of alcohol in them and they’re delicious and measure a litre. I had just about tapped out after a quarter ways through my first pickle jar, but managed to finish the rest and then took a shot of tequila. Johnny and Kareem had 3 pickle jars and 3 shots, EACH!

One of the last things we did was visit a hookah bar called ‘Café Arabesque‘. It was my first time ever at a shisha lounge so I was completely enamoured by the idea of smoking without smoking. Kareem seemed to be the pro so he ordered us a grape, mint flavoured coal to smoke and some tea, which is supposed to complement the shisha experience. I did get a light head rush from the shisha so I ordered nachos and fries and drank a caesar and a long island iced tea. The café had a relaxed vibe, and they played good music. The food and drinks were amazing and the decor was cool. Not bad for my first time at a hookah bar. We had to say goodbye to Kareem this night, which sad, as always.

The morning after the hookah bar, Johnny and I left our downtown hotel and checked into a hotel closer to the airport. We relaxed our last night and had dinner at the hotel restaurant, and woke up the next morning and flew back to Winnipeg.

We were really sad to leave Montreal. There was so much to see, and the liveliness of the people and of the city is really special. Johnny and I are already thinking about our next visit to Montreal.

Next year is British Columbia!

List of places we visited (that weren’t mentioned above, in chronological order, to the best of my memory):

  • Hotel Visitel: If you want to stay somewhere cheap, clean, and central, this is it. We loved staying here.
  • Presse Cafe: Johnny and I were walking around in the rain aimlessly one night, and decided to stop for tea, coffee and dessert.
  • Saint Cinnamon: Fast food place that I had lunch from our first day in Montreal.
  • St. Hubert: This is the first sit down restaurant we ate at. Super standard chicken and rib joint. The food was decent.
  • Nickels: An old school diner style restaurant with amazing food!
  • Les 3 Brasseurs: Restaurant we had lunch at while we were out shopping. Our waitress wasn’t nice, but the food was amazing.
  • Travelodge Hotel: We checked into this hotel for our last night in Montreal because we had a really early flight the next morning. The guy at the front desk was a snob, and that’s putting it nicely.
  • Venezia: Italian restaurant inside the Travelodge Hotel. We ate here twice in a day. Once before we checked into the hotel, and later that day for supper. Our server was the nicest guy on our entire trip.

– E