An American Adventure – Chicago Edition

Last month, I went over to my parents’ house and slept over so we could wake up early the next morning and drive really far west. A friend of the family – someone I have known since I was four or five years old – was getting married1 in Chicago.

I have been to Chicago before, but it was winter and while the snow made everything that much more beautiful, it was far too cold to really enjoy just how beautiful the city is. We arrived at almost 1am on Friday morning, and left at 8am on Sunday morning. There was a rehearsal and dinner held on the Friday, and the wedding itself on the Saturday – it was a busy weekend.

I had insisted on driving through Cleveland for our mid-way stop. I didn’t want to drive through Michigan, so I scoured the routes to try to find something fun to check out. What’s more fun than checking out a craft brewery while you’re on a road trip?! The Great Lakes Brewery was in the heart of “downtown” Cleveland. We walked around a bit to stretch our legs, before going into the brewery for a linner-like snack. The food was okay, but the beer was delicious.
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Rye Oh Rye Can’t We Win

Sausage and Perogies anyone?

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I went with a dark rye IPA called, “Rye oh rye can’t we win,” ’twas delicious. I only got a half-pint as it would be my turn to drive once we got back on the road. I bought a growler to take home to Toronto with me, and a six pack of a few of their other brews.

The Air BnB we stayed in was a little disappointing for a family of clean freaks, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying our stay. Besides, the location was so convenient and lovely that the fact that we had to sweep under the bed a little bit and avoid the window sills really wasn’t all that much of an inconvenience. I do wish we had been able to use the jacuzzi in the bathroom, but we were only really in the apartment to sleep, shower and get ready all three days that we stayed.

There was so much to love about our trip to Chicago; everything we did was a lot of fun: The Chicago Riverwalk, The Lake Michigan Sightseeing Cruise, Walking to and through Millennium Park, Going for coffee and breakfast (Jackalope Coffee & Tea, Ain`t She Sweet Cafe and Robust Coffee Lounge), going shopping , and of course the rehearsal and dinner, the beautiful wedding ceremony and dining and dancing at the wedding reception.

Aren’t they cute walking down the aisle?
These balloons at the rehearsal dinner made their way to the wedding reception too

The beautiful couple’s first dance
The gorgeous Chicago waterfront
Windswept on the boat tour

I thought it would be hard being in Chicago after the changes I’ve made in my life recently, but it was surprisingly easy and carefree. Life, actually, has been wonderfully carefree2 in general. I still feel some pain, but it is so much more manageable than it was. I think I might even have gotten a glimpse of the end of the tunnel – I say might because I am trying to focus on the here and now.

On the way back, we drove through Michigan; specifically, we stopped in on the Great Lakes Crossing Outlet Mall. We scored some pretty sweet deals, but we also had a longer stop-over than we did on the way to Chicago… not a big deal at the time, but it meant that we didn’t get back to Toronto until 1am again. Getting up for work the next day was a little tough, but it was all worth it. I hope this is the first of many road trips I get to take with my parents, and hopefully we’ll be able to take my brother and our beloved dog with us on the next trip.

Enjoy the first half of the photos from our trip. More to come later this week.

Footnotes:
  1. finally – it’s a long story[]
  2. maybe not completely but there has certainly been a vast improvement[]

Elora Gorge-ous

I had never heard of it before, but in late June a group of food-lovers got together to eat a delicious meal of ribs, mashed potatoes and coleslaw. We ate, drank and merrily conversed about all sorts of things. Eventually one person brought up that we should plan some day trips out of the city, and we quickly compared calendars and penciled in a bunch of dates.

And so in early July, I met up with four lads to go tubing at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. I had no idea what to expect, but it involved water, sunshine and nature. How could it be anything but good? I didn’t bring a GoPro, nor did I bring the waterproof case for my phone so I wasn’t able to take pictures and even better? It was like going camping all over again: being disconnected. I was grateful for the opportunity to be offline for the day.

We got there just in time too; just before noon. The line-up was enormous. By the time we were renting our gear, they had to put a call out that there were only 20 tubes left1. We took the big yellow school bus shuttle bus up to the top of the hill, and carried our tubes the rest of the way to the launch pad. The website had warned us not to wear flip-flops, and I didn’t want to wear shoes so I went barefoot – a decision I would not make again. Rocks are sharp, and they get really hot in the sun. The more you know.

I didn’t think about it until it was too late, but I could have strapped my flipflops onto the life vest I was required to wear. We walked along the gravel roads two more times after the first time. Yes, the ride down the river is absolutely worth it.

The first time we went down, once we had gotten through the roughest water, we formed a 9-person-circle; a community whereby we kept each other safe, from bum surprises or drifting into the side and getting stuck. We speculated as to who we would sacrifice should we encounter more rough water. We managed to stay together for quite some time. The second and third times down, there were only five of us and we tried to recreate the community but it just wasn’t the same. So we would alternate between trios. I was also part of a trio… or a couple. I guess I didn’t like going down the river alone2.

We eventually got hungry, so we dried ourselves, changed and drove into town for some pizza and ice cream. The pizza was planned, the ice cream was purely my bad3 influence. After that, we drove over to the Quarry to go swimming and jump off cliffs. I had never jump off cliffs when I was a kid. They didn’t have such things in Dubai. If they did, I didn’t know about it and so I never got to go.

It was exhilarating. I’m not even a strong swimmer, but I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying the adrenaline rush and the satisfaction of knowing you said fuck you to your fears. I actually surprised myself; not only did I manage to jump 3 or 4 times but I swam every single time and only started to feel like I was too tired to swim on the 4th go around4.

As the sun continued to descend, it only began to get colder and colder… and soon there were only two of us playing in the water so we called it. The drive home was a little more mellow than the drive out, but the silences were satisfying.

I am so grateful I got to experience another mini-get-away in nature so soon after coming back from my 5 day camping adventure or I might have gone into withdrawals. There’s talk of doing another day trip with the same group in August and I honestly can’t wait to see what kind of trouble we get ourselves into next.

If you’ve never been to Elora Gorge, you really should consider taking a trip out. Remember though, go with no expectations and you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

Footnotes:
  1. and there were at least 30 people in line behind us[]
  2. I would have happily gone down alone but I often ended up with someone[]
  3. or good[]
  4. trust me, it’s an accomplishment[]

A mini-getaway

Vicky and I got out of the city a little later than I had planned, but I made the decision not to let it bother me. As soon as we were on the road, nothing else mattered; how long the journey took1, and what we encountered along the way were all part of the vacation now. There was quite a bit of traffic heading up, but we remained in good spirits the whole way through. We hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks so had lots to catch up on.

Once we arrived we relaxed with a cocktail2 on the dock; just basking in the fresh air, the sound of the birds, their neighbour’s kids going up and down their water-slide, the warmth of the sun and the ever-so-calm water in front of us. We enjoyed a lovely dinner, then spent some quality time in front of the fire3.

The woods beside the cottage

We are women, we make fire ;)

Geese and goslings swimming along during sunset

When we got up the next morning, it was gloomy and cold; I started out by reading my book. I sketched. I listened to my new audio-book. I grilled my lunch. Her parents joined us later in the afternoon, and we started a crossword together4. Before dinner, we went for a short-hike and got back just before the rain started up again. After dinner, we played card games. They taught me bridge, I taught them how to play asshole.

Salmon cakes made by the ever-talented Victoria Murdoch

I got up fairly early the next morning in an attempt to get back into the city at a decent time5, though I didn’t get to do everything that I had wanted to do before I arrived at my parents’ house to prepare for our camping trip.

I left my cellphone on airplane mode most of the time while I was at the cottage; for a few reasons: I didn’t want to be tempted to continually check all-of-the-things, and I didn’t want our serenity to be interrupted by messages. I would check once before bed for any urgent messages, but thankfully there was no fires that needed dousing.

More wildlife sightings: Bambi!

Thus marks the end of the relaxing part of my vacation. I hope to make the next five days more grueling than the days that I go to the gym. I have some serious making up to do6! I seriously need to let off some steam.

I had some weird dreams at the cottage, and I am generally feeling all sorts of emotional numbness despite being in some very confusing situations lately. I do have a lot of things to think about, and perhaps even a very important decision to make so maybe I really just need some one-on-one time with nature.

I’ve been tempted to document my adventures on social media like everyone else does, but you know what? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

See you on the other side7.

Footnotes:
  1. it took us under 4 hours[]
  2. white wine spritzer please![]
  3. gosh i love smelling like campfire[]
  4. her Mom started it, we joined in[]
  5. I succeeded[]
  6. I haven’t been to the gym in 11 days at this point![]
  7. of this week – hehe[]

If I had a billion dollars…

I was chatting with a friend on gtalk the other day and was, as usual, complaining about work. He mentioned something about wishing he had a billion dollars and my imagination went on overdrive. I was suddenly filled with hopeful spleandor at the thought of not having to worry about money.

I realised too that it was something I had never thought about, mostly because of my roots and the fact that I know I’ll have to work for money for the rest of my life – and I had accepted that. I like working; I just wish I was paid more. But that’s besides the point.

My instinctual fantasy was this:
I’d bartend in a cute little Irish Pub with regulars consisting of all sorts of people1 from all walks of life, in Greece2. I’d want to work Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm3 and have my evenings and weekends off. Notice the four day work week? This is a fantasy after all.

Then I started building on this fantasy:
In the evening and on the weekends, I’d spend time on my yacht sailing around the islands or off in my plane where I can go sky diving. After work in the evenings, I’d walk through the vineyard4 and then down to the cellar and pick out a nice bottle of red for dinner. I’d cook my own meals and probably have seafood every night5… lobster, crab, mussels, fish, scallops6 and of course my absolute favourite shrimp!

Thinking this way put a huge smile on my face… a smile that has been missing from my face for a long time now. This chat with my friend made me realise what it was that I was missing from my life. I had somehow lost the one thing that kep me going through everything that I ever go through. Losing this had caused me to become bitter and even whiny7. Now I just have to try and hold on to my hope. Its the first time in a really8 long time that I had lost it so I wasn’t really sure what I was missing until now.

I have my friend to thank, but he’s going to remain anonymous because I’m not sure he’d want to be advertised… but thank you.

What would you do if you had a billion dollars?

Footnotes:
  1. of all ages[]
  2. I’ve always wanted to go[]
  3. because having to wait until 11 to drink is ridiculous[]
  4. mine[]
  5. I’m living in Greece for crying out loud[]
  6. though maybe not as often[]
  7. ask my twitter followers, they’ll tell you I’ve been whiny lately[]
  8. like at least 11 years[]