All paths lead to Maastricht

I spent my final week in Europe in the city I love best with the people I love most - Maastricht. Eight exchangers planned to meet back in Maastricht after our individual summers of backpacking. Most of us had intercepted paths once or twice along the way - but everyone came back to Maastricht with stories to share. I came rolling into Maastricht after an overnight stop in Cologne, Germany:   We all meet by the Maas Lake and spent our first afternoon outside in the sun cheering as each new face made it to our meeting spot. Over mint lemonade and stroopwaffles we laughed, cried, and lived through the adventures of each other. Pat rocked up with painted toes: Pat's blue toenails are Read more

Alternative Culture with Berliners

Traveling solo is the least lonely way to travel. With each new city come new faces, new friends, and new adventures. In Budapest I met Cassy and Mitch form Australia. Then, I ran into them in Prague. In both cities, we had a wonderful time and decided to meet up in Berlin. Around 4am we met a group of Berliners and decided to all take our photo in a photoautomat - an outdoor photo booth popular throughout Berlin. Six people in a small photoautomat, especially when one person is approaching 7ft tall, proved impossible. Instead, we opted for a photo with the photoautomat. At 4am, you never expect plans to actually happen (or even be remembered) but partly out of politeness Read more

Returning to Berlin

I've said it before in my Paris v. Berlin post, and I'll say it again. To travel to Berlin is to be inspired - creative minds flock to Berlin. I made sure to again return to Berlin and explore all the history, innovation, and art in every form. Everyone, from every walk of life, can be found on the streets of Berlin. The sidewalks are shared by blue-haired punk-rockers, young German yuppies in suits, dreadlocks, piercings, covered in tattoos, the elderly in grayscale simple clothes, fashionistas, big thick framed glasses. It is an organic city – filled with thinkers and alive with new opportunities. Berlin is a city in transition, a city regaining an identity after its long, turbulent history. Read more

Czech out Prague

The day I arrived to Prague happened to be the same day a major heat wave engulfed the city. With relentless high temperatures and air conditioning but a luxurious dream, shade and cool places became the main tourist attractions. I chose my hostel based solely on its name - Czech Inn. The most clever punny hostel name of all hostels to ever exist! After booking the hostel, I discovered that it is considered one of the finest hostels in all of Europe. Indeed, upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the upscale bar area, luxury showers, and overall trendiness of the accommodation. Though, no air-conditioning. On my first day I planned a big walking trip of the city but could only Read more

Caving in Budapest

Budapest - the city of caves, stalagmites and hotsprings! After a big night out in Budapest I ambitiously started my day early and took a long walk through Heroes Square, the museum area and Central Park as well as to the Opera House and a second hand book store. I was exhausted by the time I arrived back to the hostel mid-afternoon. My intention was to take the rest of the day easy, which was really an unrealistic luxury at my particular hostel. Every hostel has a unique culture, and my hostel in Budapest (Carpe Noctem Vitae - highly recommend!) was all about having a good time. So, instead of relaxing, I found myself on a bus on the way to a cave. Myself, Read more

Budapest Thermal Baths and Ruin Bars

There are bits of travel books that I simply skim over, some parts I skip entirely, and some that I circle, highlight and sometimes even accidentally break the book spine by reading that page so many times.  The section on Budapest Thermal baths had coffee stains and crinkled pages because it was this section that I poured over when reading about Budapest. Budapest is known as the 'City of Spas' and this reputation dates back to the 16th century with the Turks constructed public baths throughout Budapest and other parts of Hungary. These baths are built over hot springs that bring mineral rich waters into the pools. Many Hungarians believe that these waters have medicinal powers to help ailment such Read more

Mizzou Collides with Budapest

Traveling long-term includes a conscious decision to push through exhaustion and continue forward with exploration, socializing and general traveling fun. When on short-term trips, you have the capacity and energy to travel 100% all day every day because you know that you can crash when you get home. Long-term travel is a different case - and I figured that out on my eighth day in Bulgaria. Besides my illness in Spain, I sacrificed no moment to sleep in or to excessively relax. Yes, I maximized my time in each location. But also, yes, I wore myself out. I had to spend a full day sleeping at Dilyana's apartment to recuperate. The next night I caught a night train back to Read more

Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria

Dilyana said that the "spirit of Bulgaria" can be found in the small town of Koprivshtitsa located in the Sredna Mountains. The town was the center of the April Uprising in 1876 in which the Bulgarians carried out an insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. This time period is known as the Bulgarian National Revival, and Koprivshtitsa was the center of it all. The town now represents traditional Bulgarian architecture, way of life, and is the home to many monumental works of art and culture. The boy with us is Dilyana's friend, Gueorg, who is now a member of the European Commission. I had the privilege of helping him edit his English cover letter that he then used to be hired! He Read more

The Black Sea: Nessebar

  The city of Nessebar dates back 3,000 years ago with architecture reflecting the many different masks the city wore over the centuries. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.  Charming, traditional and serene - Nessebar earned a big heart around its dot on my tattered travel map. For my journey around Europe I hardly spent anytime shopping besides looking for one, elusive item: an apron. My mom's birthday was to take place while I was abroad and with her recent gluten-free cooking hobby, she had requested an apron for her birthday. First off, an apron might be one of the most difficult items to explain to shop owners with broken English and I with very limited foreign language skills. Second of all, Read more

On the Road: Bergamo, Milan and Lake Como

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part I, Recommendations, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Spontaneity defined the Milan trip from March 9th to March 12th.

Kate, Annabelle, Casey and I casually were sitting around drinking tea a few days prior. Before any of us really had time to think about it – we all booked a Ryanair flight to Milan for my birthday weekend. We stumbled across cheap tickets, and from there no real discussion happened – we were heading to Milan!

After a miraculous morning of disheaveled hair and chaotic packing following a big birthday night out we managed to make our early flight. Our flight landed about two hours later in the small town of Bergamo outside of Milan. The University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business has a summer program located in Bergamo, so I convinced the group to head into town for lunch and delay departing for Milan.

Be it curiousness about the TCoB Study Abroad Program, or a selfish ploy to remove myself from transportation while my headache pounded – it turned out to be a great excursion.

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The Color Palate of Bergamo – a mixture of fading reds, blues, greens and tans. Italy decays beautifully, and Bergamo is wealthy with rustic Italian charm.

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See more photos of Bergamo

On the plane we met a fellow Maastricht University student from Switzerland. She joined us for a pizza feast outside in Bergamo and city exploring. Highlights of the afternoon included an Italian man asking Kate out and her awkwardly giggling the entire time. Also, I thought I had found the tourist information office but instead had barged into a private office with my maps out. Intense fits of laughter dotted conversation our entire afternoon in Bergamo – it was going to be a great trip!

Arriving in Milan we made our way past the Duomo and eventually (somehow) found the apartment we were renting. The apartment split between four people was cheaper than the hostel and had a better location near Bacconi University and the Navigli District. We had two king size beds, a full kitchen, a television, bathroom and it was charming! The company we rented from is B&B Hotels Milan – highly recommend for groups of 4 or larger!

That night we enjoyed a real Italian Aperitivo.

The concept is to drink to whet your appetite – a testament to the value Italians place of enjoying their meals. We settled on an Aperitivo place near a canal that had a Mayan theme and then poured over the extensive drink menu. We each ordered a fancy cocktail, and shamelessly yelled CHEERS! as we clinked our glasses and started the night.

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Aperitivo works like this – you purchase a drink and then you eat from a buffet for free. The buffet included lots of seafood and pastas – we filled our plates and kept going back. Long after our drinks were empty we continued to snack from the buffet table. Aperitivo is meant to take hours, and our waiter kept encouraging us to get more food and never once rushed our dining experience. The night concluded with a dramatic presentation of a giant tiramisu cake – which of course we all enjoyed.

We set out early on day two determined to get some sightseeing in before lunchtime.

We made it one block before spotting an endearing cafe and reaching the mutual agreement to live La Dolce Vida – we stopped for coffee at Cafe Saint George. After friending the waiter and admiring the well-dressed Italian women pass by, we started throwing around the idea of saving sightseeing for the following day and instead heading to Lake Como to spend our Sunday.

Thirty minutes later, we were sitting on the train en route to Lake Como. The day was beautiful, we could not have made a better decision!

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After all the dreary gray weather that dictates winter in Maastricht – Lake Como was a breathe of fresh air. Here’s a token photo for you, Mom!

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We enjoyed a perfect lunch outside by the Lake. For the first time during the trip we had moments of silence between the four of us. It was the most content of silences, as we all could do nothing but smile and enjoy our surroundings.

After lunch we caught a gondola up the mountains. Hello, Switzerland!

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New friends in Lake Como

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To conclude our perfect day in Lake Como, we bought deserts at a bakery in Milan and headed to Colonne di San Lorenzo to enjoy wine and deserts. My friends from Bacconi University informed us that this is where most Italian students start their night and mingle outside. Sure enough, we made some new friends and enjoyed plenty of laughs over great food and cheap wine!

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Luca, an Italian student, was easily our favorite person we met at El Colonne. Usually, the ability to understand and communicate with humor is a strong indicator of a high language ability. For Luca, he learned all his English from watching Youtube videos. Speaking basic conversational English? Luca struggled. Telling complex jokes and perfectly delivering punchlines? Luca was perfection. It was a hysterical time communicating via solely jokes with Luca. He even rapped for us! Which was actually just a string of English profanities to a bizarre melody.

Camilla, my good friend in Maastricht from Milan, recommended about a million and one things for us to do in Milan. She gave enough restaurant recommendations to last a month – she was so enthusiastic to have friends visit her hometown! Another one of my friends, Gabriele, let his friend Bruno know that my friends and I were in town. I called up Bruno and we made breakfast plans for the following morning. Annabelle also had a friend from Australia doing exchange at Bacconi, so our group grew from 4 people to seven people at breakfast.

Bruno and his friend got right down to business planning out our day for us. They generously offered to show us around Italy – we were ecstatic to have Italian guides! They rushed us from breakfast to the most high-fashion shopping districts in Milan. We strolled through all the major designer stores and took turns gaffing at price tags.

Camilla DEMANDED that we try Luini before leaving Milan – and I now understand her seriousness regarding this recommendation. Deliziosa! Basically it was a pizza filled roll with some magic involved because it was unnatural how much we all enjoyed this lunch.

Sitting outside in the sun while we dined only added to the enjoyment!

 

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Across the street from Luini is Cioccolati Italiani – a must visit for the BEST gelato any of us have ever tried.

Our group headed back to El Colonne and tossed around a frisbee, then did some more sight-seeing including the Duomo.

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That night we cooked spaghetti with fresh Italian ingredients – Bruno and some friends joined us. The following weekend, Bruno visited Gabriele in Maastricht. Annie and I hosted a giant Vientamese cold rolls dinner to thank Bruno for his fantastic tour of Milan, and Gabriele for sharing his friends with us.

Evviva to sunny days, exciting cities and new friends!

Eating Cheap as an Exchange Student

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Recommendations | 3 Comments

Dining out is eating away at my wallet.

Existing in a foreign country as an exchange student is a strange limbo between native and visitor. Everything feels foreign, yet everything around us is home for the next five months. So far I’ve been buying food with the mentality of a visitor – try it all! Now, after a horrified look into an empty wallet, I’m switching to treating food and drink spending as a native – and will hopefully start saving money!

Step 1 

Explore a few grocery stores, ask people who live here, and determine which stores are best for which products. For me, I’ve determined that Albert Heijn is my go-to affordable store for all things besides produce. Aldi’s is a farther walk from my apartment, but has the cheapest produce and is worth the extra effort.

While in line in Albert Heijn yesterday, I noticed all the locals holding identical blue cards. Curious, I ASKED. Most good saving discoveries come from simply asking, and sure enough, I learned all about the AH Reward program by asking a QUESTION to the cashier.

I’m now a proud AH Reward card holder!

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Step 2

Opt to cook over eating out. I’ve met most of my neighbors on my floor while (attempting) to cook in the comunal kitchen. There is a sense of community and connectedness when you prepare food as a group, then sit down and eat together. My soups might be watery and my vegetables burned, but I love cooking here for the people value and quality time spent in the kitchen together. I’m in week two and starting to figure out cheap recipes that I enjoy. Stay tuned for my Students Eat Cheap Recipes and please comment with your own staple meals. I’d love to learn new dishes!

Step 3 

Keep ingredients simple and start buying from the bottom. “Start buying from the bottom” is my way of saying that the more natural (and usually healthier!) the product, the cheaper it is.

I often use basil, but found the packaged basil too expensive. Instead, I opted with purchasing my own basil plant. It was two euros, and has provided both myself and other members of my floor with an endless amount of basil. This was about half the price of purchasing a much smaller quantity of basil, prepackaged.

Look for herb plants; NEVER buy pre-cut fruit. It will take you five minutes to slice up your fruit, and that five minutes will save you from a ridiculously expensive additional charge.

Avoid individually pre-packaged snacks. Again, extra charges. Buy a few ziplock baggies and pack snacks yourself – much more affordable!

Step 4 

Buy store brand and take a few seconds to scan for the cheapest option. There’s no need to spend extra money on a special brand of tomato sauce: we’re in college. One day we can buy Spaghetti Bolognase le Fancy, but for now we are college students eating off plastic plates. Love it, embrace it, and buy generic.

Step 5

Don’t be afraid to go native! I’d much rather make and eat a Dutch Bitterbal snack than a boring ol’ PB&J. Explore new local recipes, and even new food.

Here is where I allow some food splurging. The Dutch have incredible cheeses, so once a week I buy a new kind of cheese to try. Find food that is important to you, or important to the culture you’re in, and be OK spending a little bit of money on it. The cheese is a treat for me, and I’m having a gouda time trying all the different kinds!

Step 6 

Learn how to cook and find fun recipes to try. There are fantastic cooking recipes out there, start building a collection. I’ve been finding recipes through:

  • Dutch home magazines. I found a Dutch cookbook, but for seven euros I’m happy I didn’t buy it. In most cafes here, magazines are on tables, many often in English. Flip through, find a recipe, and cook your own Dutch avondeten!
  • Pinterest. Of course. I have two boards going for travel cooking. One board is dedicated to cold dishes, or dishes that will be easy to prepare while hosteling. The other board is where I store more adventurous recipes, but still all easy to prepare.
  • Whole Foods Recipe iPhone App – free!
  • AllRecipes iPhone App – free!
  • Recipes by Better Homes iPhone App – free!
  • Ask people in your hallway to show you their favorite meals and how to prepare them. I’m learning about new foods and new ways to prepare foods from other students from around the world. It really is a lot of fun! There’s plenty of wait time while cooking, so conversations really get rolling while cooking together. What might start off as an exchange of cooking tips often turns into an enlightening exchange of cultures.

When collecting recipes, be sure to first look at the ingredients list. Don’t cook a meal that includes multiple, pricey ingredients that you’ll never use again. Stick to the basics, and find recipes that cater to the ingredients you already own.

Step 7

Explore local stores and build relationships. I’ve made friends with the local baker, and always have her pick out which bread I should get. Last time I was in she gave me a rye bread that looked bland, until I tore a piece off and found it filled with fruit! At restaurants, see what dish is the server’s favorite. Typically, it won’t be what you were initially eying. Here’s my philosophy on ordering – you have to eat the rest of your life. Treat food you spend money on as an experience, and go for it! You know what a hamburger tastes like…but what is this Hutspot and Snert?! Try it.

Step 8 

Pack snacks. A handfull of nuts. An apple. Cheese, salami and crackers. Avoid little snack spending this way.

Step 9

Make coffee a treat, not a necessity…AAHHH!! I’ve been making myself a lot of tea, and pretending that it is filling the void of my daily coffee. I’ve decided to never order a coffee to go. Cappuccinos and all other coffee drinks here are simply TOO GOOD to not sit down, and savor. Frankly, also too expensive. I enjoy taking my seat at cafes somewhat behind the counter, because I love to watch the baristas at work. It is an art here, and after working as a barista for a year, I understand the training and skill it takes to create the perfect espresso beverage.

Some cafes host free tasting events, I’m looking forward to attending one while I’m here!

Step 10 

It is SO MUCH CHEAPER to cook for multiple people than to cook for one. Make friends with the people you live with, and figure out a schedule to share meals. One idea is to create an “International Dinner” where everyone brings one dish from their home nation. This is a cheaper alternative to eating because you just have to create one dish and then get a full dinner from sampling other people’s foods. Potluck dinners and creating a schedule for cooking for each other allows a stronger community and a cheaper alternative to eating alone.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Recommendations | 2 Comments

Few transportation moments rival walking down the aisle of an international flight, looking around at all the people who you will share oxygen with for the next eight hours, and wondering what their stories are. For me, there is always a sense of excitement that we are a group of strangers traveling in a massive aircraft that flies over seas and land. When the plane touches down, everyone will catch connecting flights and be on their own way. But, for the next eight hours, we are all together, sharing one common goal: to make it through the LONG flight.

My flight from Chicago to Amsterdam on KL612 was (somehow) a very enjoyable eight hours, and KLM will forever be my preferred airline to fly with.

The acronym KLM means Royal Aviation Company in Dutch. In English, the company is generally referred to as KLM “Royal Dutch Airlines.” Founded in 1919, it is the oldest airline in the world operating under its original title. The main airline hub for KLM is Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. (Why, yes! I did read the in flight reading material provided by the airline!)

My great experience with the airline started the night before my flight when my mom and I logged onto the airlines webpage. We had a good time moving my avatar from seat to seat, strategically trying to determine the best row to sit in. We finally decided on an aisle seat with one other person sitting by the window, but no middle passenger. Our strategy worked, and I ended up sitting with an open seat!

We also checked out the in flight food online. When you move your cursor, a spotlight would fall upon the dish. Airline food is typically less than gourmet, I appreciated KLM’s theatric presentation of their airline food. Bravo!

In typical Rich Payne travel fashion, I arrived at my gate 4 hours before my flight. To play it safe!! “Always play it safe with airports, Reagan, you never know about security.”!!

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The shameless parent send-off shot before going through security. Love this big guy!

Boarding the plane was well organized by the airline, and flight attendants greeted all guests and maintained a strong presence helping people to stow luggage. Just a few minutes after the flight took off, I was served a bag of almonds and first beverage. Nearly immediately after my first ginger ale was gone, I was served another one. And then a meal. And then a wet towelette. Then another snack. Another drink. Breakfast. Coffee. I’ve never been so overwhelmingly showered with airline food and service. I opted for the vegetarian pasta – the best airline food I’ve had. The meal was complete with bread, cheese, a salad, desert and crackers. Breakfast was a muffin with yogurt and a fruit cup – all very delicious!

I think the real credit of why this airline is so great is due to their online entertainment options. Flight attendants distributed earphones, and I was patiently waiting for whatever preselected uniform movie to play on my personal screen. It was surprising to see people holding remotes down the aisle, and after a good five minutes of searching for my remote, I finally found it under my armrest.

On the TV I found a menu of a huge variety of entertainment options. The TV category had about 10 genres to chose from, with a huge variety of popular shows under each genre and in multiple languages. Under the movie category, I saw many familiar titles that had won awards a few nights prior at Golden Globes. They had game options, children’s shows, music, a huge selection of movies and televisions, travel television, and even an on-flight Dutch language tutorial!

I ended up watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower (CRIED), Bend it Like Beckham, An Idiot Abroad (British travel documentary series by Ricky Gervais), 30 Rock, New Girl, a travel documentary on Amsterdam and took some Dutch lessons. Ik spreek een heel klein beetje Nederlands!

The on-flight reading material provided fantastic travel tips and included fascinating articles on topics from around the globe. I much preferred this Arts & Culture type magazine to the typical Sky Mall. WHICH BY THE WAY my mom has Sky Mall delivered to our house.

Overall, I had a fantastic time flying with KLM. We even arrived to Amsterdam 20 minutes early! I hope the Dutch are proud of KLM, because as a foreigner traveling to the Netherlands, this experience started my trip off with a very impressive display of quality and a positive impression of the country.

The Trip Planning Stage

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part II, Recommendations | 1 Comment

Trip Planning Collage

Travel books can be large and heavy – two enemies of packing. Cutting up travel books lightens the load, minimizes unnecessary weight (eliminate sections you don’t need) and helps you stay organized. The internet is a great resource if you are looking to save money by not purchasing travel books, but I’d HIGHLY recommend investing in the very affordable travel series by Rick Steves. Check the ‘Recommendations’ section, I’ll (soon) have a post about why Rick Steves is such a great resource!

I plan to focus my backpacking in eastern Europe, hitting some of the “road less traveled” destinations. If you can’t see the cities I have highlighted, I’ll be adding an interactive map of my destinations once the trip route becomes somewhat more finalized.

THE EURAIL PAAASSSSS! You can’t buy this while in Europe, it is for visitors only. For visiting students, it is an absolute STEAL. The pass runs a great student rate, and you can purchase different types of passes to fit your journey. I will be adventuring with a two month unlimited ride pass.

Laura comes to Chicago! What to do with 48 hours

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Recommendations | 2 Comments

Travel storytelling is easily one of the best types of conversation. My best friend Laura recently returned home from a semester long adventure in Germany. From Facebook photos and brief conversations it sounded like she had a study abroad brochure worthy experience, but I wanted details. To hear defining moments, and to laugh at those ridiculous mishaps that every traveler experiences abroad. I wanted to hear her best meals and feel fierce food envy, and to learn the stories of the people she met.

But, instead of sharing all this with Laura, I went with a highly literate and convincing text inviting her to Chicago:

  – .*~.-ViSiT mEh iN cHiCaGo?!?!.~*.- oK sEe YoU oN tHuRzDay?!?.~.*-.*

 Somehow, the excessive punctuation and classic “s to z” substitution worked in convincing Laura because two days later, we met at the intersection of Adams and Clinton outside of Union Station in Chicago (you see – Laura interned in DC this summer, and my name is Reagan, so we have a very presidential friendship. We plan on getting each other an American flag lapel pin for Christmas.)

A true friend is when after 6 months of absence, laughter and conversation falls into the same stride we left off on.

Laura took a 4am train from St. Louis to Chicago, and I wanted to pick a restaurant that made her early trip worthwhile. The best Chicago has to offer and a great environment to sit and catch up for hours was the goal.

 After some serious google searching, I found just the spot, here we are at lunch:

 

 

A la 95th floor of the John Hancock building. This photo was in no way edited and no green screen was used. That is our view. Welcome, to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building.

As an American returning home, Laura saw “hamburger” on the menu and decided on that. Her first hamburger back in the states! I realized I was about to leave and ordered the same. My last hamburger in the states! Cheers to good company, good food, and breaking a new years resolution on day three.

Laura is a gifted traveler and lover of life. The best way I can describe our conversation is “stream of consciousness.” I’d ask the first thing that came to mind, and she’d share travel stories at the forefront of her mind. Laura would take off into the most hilarious, thoughtful, insightful, downright crazy and overall entertaining travel recollections. We’d laugh, casually look over our view of Chicago, then laugh some more.

I’m leaving for Europe in less than two weeks. When I return, I’ll have my own study abroad adventures to share. I can’t wait to again sit down with Laura, share my experiences, and have my first hamburger back in the states with her.

Travel tips for when your best friend spontaneously visits you in Chicago for 48 hours (an oddly specific scenario)

1. Hostel International Chicago

http://www.hichicago.org/
  • Great location near Millennium Park. A cheap overnight payment saves on travel time and cold metra rides to head out to the suburbs to sleep.
  • We had our own double bed room and a community bathroom.
  • Free breakfast in the morning. Laura and I talked to a student from Australia for an hour at breakfast. Great place to meet people and share ideas about what to do in Chicago.
2. Signature Room at the 95th for LUNCH
http://www.signatureroom.com/
  • Very affordable lunch menu, great view. One of the best restaurants Chicago has to offer, especially for out of town guests.
  • Opt to have lunch at the Signature Room instead of visiting the Hancock Observatory- the observatory costs $15 and is often crowded with tourists, long lines, other photo-takers obstructing view ect.
  • The Signature Room on the 95th takes reservations (avoid any traffic and wait time) and meals cost about $14-$22, lunch and the view.
  • Near to the Watertower Place, Topshop,  Michigan Ave. and other great shopping options
  • Within walking distance of Millennium Park
3. Cosi on Michigan Ave. (across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago – very near the Bean)
  • For around $10 you can get a s’more plate (see below)
  • There is a two man table at the front window of Cosi. The BEST people watching in Chicago. Get a s’more plate, snag that table, and enjoy!
4. Second City Improv
  • Second City gives some tickets to hottix.com and those tickets are sold at a discount. The show Laura and I saw on Thursday night was sold out on the Second City website, but hottix had tickets available, and at half the price! SCORE.
  • Some of my other favorite Improv and experimental theater options include IO – Improv Olympics and the Neofuturists. Both very affordable.
Day 2 Shenanigans with Laura
1. Always eat breakfast at the hostel (if available)
  • People are taller in the mornings. We are fresh woken up, ready for days to start. Good morning sunshine! Laura and I met some fun Australians at breakfast who were eager to hang out for the day (we declined because we wanted to continue catching up, but could’ve been very fun under different circumstances!)
  • When traveling alone, I plan on using breakfast as the place to find friends to adventure with.
2. Buy a day pass for the CTA
  • Costs $5.25 with unlimited rides. Worth it.
3. Chinatown for Dim Sum
  • It is a decent journey out to Chinatown. But, I really think one of the greatest aspects of Chicago is the diversity between neighborhoods. What better illustration of this than Chinatown?
  • Dim Sum at The Three Happiness is very authentic and delicious. Great for a light lunch or dinner feast, depending how you order.
4. Belmont – stop on red line
  • Always a favorite. Laura and I had many fun times here on St. Patricks Day and had good laughs walking around familiar streets.
5. Wicker Park / Bucktown
  • We took the blue line to Damen and enjoyed thrift shopping and boutique browsing.
6. Portillos
Comment on this post with any other Chicago destination suggestions!