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Going solo in America

So that’s me back home for over a week now after forgetting to keep you all in the loop of my travels in Boston and Chicago. Well, I did that on purpose as writing a blog post everyday would’ve taken away from the amazing time I had.

Now where shall I start? How about Beantown, the City on a Hill and the Cradle of Liberty. Or Boston to those of us who haven’t mastered the numerous nicknames of American cities.

Boston, Harvard and the Freedom Trail.

Sitting on the Atlantic coastline with a population of over 650,000 people in the city proper, Boston felt like a home away from home. So much so, even the neighbouring city of Cambridge, home to the famous Harvard University, felt like the West End of Glasgow. Boston is a beautiful compact city with a penchant for having some of the best sports teams in the whole of the US and major players in Higher Education. And during the Fall Season, the city becomes a bloom or autumnal reds and oranges.

Unfortunately, I was a bit early for watching anything sports related or to witness the change of season. I was there for 3 days but, boy oh boy, I didn’t have enough time to do everything I really wanted to do.

On day 1 when I arrived, it was straight to the Park Plaza Hotel to literally dump my bags so I could explore. The hotel was so close to Boston Common and the Public Gardens, I decided to take a walk through them into the historic Beacon Hill district. I didn’t really do much, just wandering aimlessly and peering in some of the delightful little shops on Charles Street until dinner time. Luckily for me, I had booked somewhere near the hotel for the first night, Maggiano’s which you can read more of in FoodEye by TESG.

The second day was more about Harvard, and exploring the world famous institution. I will admit you couldn’t get moving at some areas around Cambridge because of students or tourists but I only saw what most people go and see. Harvard Yard just off of Harvard Square. After spending the morning loitering around campus, it was then off exploring again but this time it was to the Back Bay, and home to many high end fashion shops and the Prudential Center. The Prudential Center one of the tallest buildings in Boston and home to the Skywalk Observatory where you can get awesome 360 degree views of Boston. Even though I didn’t get to go to a Red Sox game, I was able to see Fenway Park. Same with MIT. However for me, the highlight of the day came in the form of the three screen master exhibit theatre being immersed in the history and culture of Boston. That and playing ‘So you want to be an American’ and getting the bare minimum to pass become a citizen.

Day 3 however was different. More walking and more learning. This time on the 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail from Downtown Boston to Charleston. Although I didn’t walk all of it, courtesy of the Boston Trolley Tour, the trail consists of 16 historical sites across the city. Boston Common, Massachusetts State House and Park Street Church were practically on my door step so I was three up already. I also had walked passed the Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel & Burying Ground, Benjamin Franklin’s statue, the Old Corner Bookstore, the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House on my way to the first stop of the Boston Trolley Bus.

That meant I spent most of my time around the North End where the Old North Church and Paul Revere House are. So much so I forgot to cross the river to the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument or go to Fanueil Hall. After that it was some retail therapy, dinner and a quick walk to Boston Harbour to take some night time pictures.

Chicago and the Rosé Festival

Day 4 was different and it was an early jump to travel to the Windy City on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago. After I arrived and checked in at the hotel just at the south west end of the Loop, it was exploring time.

The first stop was Millennium Park where the famous Cloud Gate sits. Whilst impressive, the ‘mirror bean’ as the hot dog vendor put it paled in comparison when I took a trip up the Magnificent Mile to scale the heights of the John Hancock Center to experience 360 Chicago. I know most people will ask “Why did you go up Sears Tower?” and “Did you do the Skydeck?” Well 360 Chicago was less crowded, had a quiz night on and you can pop yourself hangover the building. Okay the last one isn’t as daredevil as you think as there is a section of glass that is extendable so you can ‘lean over’.

Unlike Boston though, where everything is compact, Chicago is big. So big that before I even got to 360 Chicago I decided to take a water journey through the Chicago River as part of an architectural cruise. Don’t get me wrong learning about the Buildings of Chicago was interesting but maybe just a bit, a tad, a smudgen of boring. You definitely need to drink a Spiced Mulled Cider on the tour, like I did.

Then came the biggie. Day 5 and the day of fine wine and what turned out to be fine food and fine company as well as it was time for the Chicago Rosé Fest. After a quick and very brisk walk up to Lincoln Park followed by a quick Subway lunch, it was off to the IO Lounge at the Godfrey Hotel for some wine. And by wine, I mean lot’s of wine plus some gin, vodka and maybe a beer.

I signed up to the event via MeetUp, an app that allows people with similar interests to get together. I was surprised as I thought it might have been a lot of people in their 20s and 30s but you can find everyone and their granny there.

The rosé wine that you could have as many samples of ranged from Californian to New Zealand. So much so it wasn’t just wine. Craft gin, beer and vodka were on offer. The event was a chance to also network and meet new people. Or as someone asked me … “You look lost. Are you waiting on anyone?” To be fair she was right in that I was lost. Lost in the fermented heaven of wine.

The person that asked me this wasn’t from Chicago but from San Diego who moved for work. Although I did also find someone from Scotland at the event. From there two of the three of us went AWOL to find a Tiki Bar. Even just thinking about the bar, my liver is thinking about the Cobra’s Fang cocktail as a welcome to Chicago treat. Then it was off to try Peruvian food at Tanta.

Even writing this isn’t helping me. I’m just thinking about the food and drink that I had that night.

The rest of the holiday was then more exploring. Visiting Lincoln Park Zoo, taking the Big Bus Tour, taking the obligatory Sports Stadium selfie outside Wrigley Field, and of course more shopping. The last night of the holiday was also something. It was recommended by the girl I met at the Rosé that I should try Cindy’s Rooftop Bar. The food was amazing but so was the view as you can see below.

It was the perfect ending to the holiday …… or was it?

The Home Stretch

Given that no flights run directly between Chicago and Glasgow, it was a quick flight to London.

Using the free lounge pass available via one of my apps, I managed to bag a free breakfast and a comfy seat in the Aspire Lounge in Terminal 5. Although you’ve probably guessed by now I like my food so I had a second breakfast where the real highlight came. I know the trip was over but the holiday wasn’t as I watched Scotland thrash Russia in the Rugby World Cup. Then it was sadly the last flight of my trip back to Glasgow and my own bed.

So until next time, I’ll fondly remember the fun I had in Boston and Chicago.


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