An Amtrak Adventure: Chicago to Austin by train

Since my visit to Union Station in Kansas City, I’ve had a hankering for a long train ride, and when I found out that Amtrak could get me to Austin for the Dance/USA conference for less than the cost of a plane ticket I decided to go for it.

You’re probably either really jealous or think I’m really ridiculous.

At one point in history, the train was THE way to get there, wherever there is, and aside from the extra leg room, for me, it’s a blast to get a taste of what life was like before planes became an accessible way to travel. Our country is littered with magnificent buildings posing as train stations, and despite my home city’s inability to use Union Station efficiently, departing for a long ride from there transports you to a classier time before neck pillows and body scanners. Continue reading

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Dear Lincoln Park Conservatory: I’m sorry I ignored you for 15 years…

Most days I feel comfortable saying that I’ve seen pretty much everything my home city has to offer. I’ve been to the tourist traps and the holes-in-the-walls. I’ve ventured to all corners of the city, and after 15 years in Chicago I thought I’d pretty much nailed down what to do and what not to do here.

But then I went to Lincoln Park Conservatory.

I have no idea why I’ve never been there.

It was a stupid cold and sleeting winter day in spring (read: late March in Chicago) and the weather threw a monkey-wrench in a scheduled pre-wedding “Meeting of the Moms.” In searching for indoor, get to know you activities, the conservatory seemed like a great alternative to window shopping in Andersonville, because moms like flowers, right?

Right. Continue reading

Paris, Unplugged.

On the heels of my epic experiences in Ireland, I took a side trip to Paris, because, Paris.

I’ve been to Paris once before, on a tour with my French teacher, a few of my high-school classmates, and my Mom. Don’t get me wrong, that was a great trip, but I was pretty excited about the possibility of conquering this city on my own. After five weeks in close quarters, I was able to spend two and half days stretching my legs in what is arguably the most beautiful city in the world, dusting off a language I haven’t used in 15 years, and spending some quality time with… well… me. Continue reading

A stroll through County Wicklow

A pretty amazing thing about Ireland is how close everything is to everything else. In the amount of time it takes me to get to my Mom’s house in the suburbs, our group traversed into the countryside oasis of Glendalough in County Wicklow. Having spent most of my time in Dublin, I giggled a little when our tour guide told us to bring water, snacks, and appropriate hiking gear. So of course I completely ignored her and wore jeans, running shoes, and brought an umbrella (because, you know, Ireland). Continue reading

Two places in Dublin you have to go.

There is a lot to see in Dublin, despite it being a relatively small city. Everything is pretty much walking distance from everything, which sometimes makes the city maps really confusing.

I digress.

If you find yourself in Dublin, there are typical touristy places like Dublin Castle and the Book of Kells. You should probably go there, but if you know anything about me then you know that I’m not a traveller who typically likes to visit tourist traps. What I enjoy when traveling is really good food and drink, and I have two recommendations that you must not miss. Continue reading

Then there was that time I lived in Dublin for 5 weeks…

I’ve been distant, I know. It’s not you, it’s me.

The seaside market at Dun Laoghaire has been a favorite spot.
The seaside market at Dun Laoghaire has been a favorite spot.

You see, I’ve been hanging out with another blog whilst in Dublin for a five week study abroad program. I’m now four weeks in, and if I’m being honest here, I don’t have really have time for this. I just really needed a study break.

But I feel it’s important to communicate something: even though I’m up to my ass in school work, I’ve been trying to do a good amount of “experiencin,'” too, and I have to say, Dublin is kind of amazing. It’s got all the beauty and charm of other European cities I’ve visited, with the added bonuses of a language I can understand and really unpretentious citizens. In fact, I can easily say that Dublin is one of the most pleasant cities I’ve visited, at least, once I got my bearings. Continue reading

… and then there was that time that Best Western won

Merry Christmas from Cave City, KY!

photo 2

Christmas has brought us joy and cheer, beautiful scenery, and now free wifi and a non-smoking room before the final leg of the late 2013 great Florida adventure. Aside from the disappointment of landing in a dry county on Christmas night, the Best Western in Cave City is surprisingly choice when compared to the layover lodgings on the way down. I warned you there was a story about the Ramada in Nashville… here are the cliff notes, based on the qualities I look for in a one-night hotel stay:

Passing through traffic-free Hotlanta
Passing through traffic-free Hotlanta

Wifi:

BW – Yes.

Ramada – Yes.

Clean linens and no visible sign of bed bugs:

BW – Yes.

Ramada – Yes.

Fitness Center:

BW – No.

Ramada – One treadmill and one recumbent bike count as a fitness center, right?

A clean bathtub:

BW – Yes.

Ramada – We were booked in the only handicapable room despite having a reservation, so no soak in the tub for me.

Parking:

BW – In front of the room; included.

Ramada – Parking lot in front of the hotel; the staff attempted to charge us $40 for overnight parking due to a football game across the street at the stadium at 3pm. Check out was at 11am. After copious threatening tweets we arose in the morning and asked to speak with the manager. Parking was ultimately $10 + a headache.

Presence of a famous indoor guitar-shaped swimming pool:

BW – No.

Ramada – Yes. But there’s no water in it and it smells like feet.

Cost:

BW – $65 + tax.

Ramada – $89 + tax + the $40 parking debacle.

Sunset behind Tennessee hills.
Sunset behind Tennessee hills.

Ok, so it might be slightly unfair to compare price between Cave City and Nashville, but Hotwire called this a downtown hotel, which was neither accurate nor fair.

Lessoned learned are the following:

1) Don’t book hotels on Hotwire.

2) I should lower my expectations of Ramada.

3) Guitar-shaped pools are overrated.