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Category Archives: Northern America

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Kauai Hawaii, USA

Hawaii, oh Hawaii. Who has not dreamt of a paradise getaway?  Oahu, Kauai, Com’on you wanna lei me?

We have been fortunate enough to visit this remote part of the North Pacific previously, namely the Island of Oahu, but this time needed to be different. Whilst planning this trip, high on the list was a less developed Island where we could hike, relax and enjoy the scenery. Kauai covered all points for us and so without hesitation we booked our flights.

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Our plan included only 4 nights in Kauai and 3 nights in Honolulu (Oahu). Unfortunately, we were time-poor (and we knew this) but 1 week in paradise was better than nothing at all! We wanted to do our best to maximise the time we had. Kauai for exploring. Honolulu for shopping, beach and pool time! Hawaii is known for being one of the most beautiful spots in the world and with that comes the high price, it can be done on a budget you just need to prepare and research before going.

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Kauai’s weather is generally always moderate and warm. Known as the Garden Island, Kauai is beautifully lush and green, an enviable tropical paradise. Both Jurassic Park and King Kong were filmed here and once you visit you will know why. Therefore, if you are a hiker, beach goer or a foodie you can cover all bases here. The North Shore has some beautiful hikes, you can kayak the Waimea River or surf the world-renowned break at Hanalei, there is no better escape than Kauai.

Coming into Kauai the view was stunning, the water so vibrantly blue and the mountainous backdrop provided just that something extra special. We were in for a real treat – had we planned enough though? We opted to stay in Poipu, in the south of Kauai after reading great reviews. Off the plane, in the hire car and away we went, our road trip had begun in yet another beautiful place (oh so fortunate us!). It had been a very lengthy trip thus far, with the transit through Honolulu, so we headed straight to Koloa Landing Resort to check-in and refresh. We chose this hotel as it had been recently refurbished and the pool area looked amazing (including a waterslide for kids). On a side note, unfortunately for us the bed was excessively soft (albeit a brand new mattress) and we ended up pulling out the sofa bed mattress and placing it on the floor! So there we slept, like camping in a glamorous room, for the next 4 nights. The hotel did allow us to sample three other rooms’ beds, but they were just the same. We had our little rest and jumped back in the car to check out some of the sights and sounds of Kauai.

Spouting Horn is located on the South Shore and is one of the most photographed spots on the Island. There is a powerful energy that captivates you, as the spout of water has been known to reach as high as 50 feet into the air! A Hawaiian Legend stems from the hiss and roar that is released with each burst. The sea was somewhat calm when we were there, giving us an ample 15-20 feet and more of a gentle growl than a roar. From December to May, you may be able to see some Humpback Whales from the lookout if you are lucky (not us this time around). There is ample parking but watch out for the free roaming Kauai chickens and roosters! They are scattered all over the Island and are a tourist draw card also (especially the fluffy youngsters). You will see plenty of souvenirs that glorify the chicken as an unofficial mascot of the island! Although they are wild, they are in fact descendants of the original Moa brought by the first visitors hundreds of years ago. In addition, this is a spectacular spot to stay for the sunset, trust us you will not be disappointed.

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It was nearing sunset time and, as we made our way to Spouting Horn, we spotted the Beach House Restaurant. We decided this could be a great place to have a cocktail and watch the sunset. After we finished with ‘the Horn’ and ‘the Chickens’, we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table. If not, we would simply stand on the grassy banks and admire natures goodnight kisses from there. Surprisingly enough we managed to score a table! Upon viewing the menu, we were nothing short of some mouth-watering choices that made it difficult to decide (hrmmm…whose problem you ask?) Our waiter came past rather quickly and was very helpful in explaining all the dishes, the types of fish, flavours and textures. Maybe this made it even harder to choose? However, it was an easy choice for cocktails we sat back and enjoyed the silhouettes of the palm trees framed by the golden sunset glow. Hawaiian sunsets are absolutely spectacular and easily some our favourites. Our dinner arrived and it looked amazing, from the presentation, taste and the service neither of us could complain. A great find and we would suggest you make a reservation around sunset time and request a table near the windows.

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Waking up to a bright new morning it seemed the refreshing turquoise of the pool was calling us (or was that just in our heads?) Moosh went out for a jog along the beach first and then hit the pool. Needing some man-sleep, FT was a little slow getting up and about. Eventually joining in for some relaxing pool time and even awaking his inner child and getting in a few runs on the water slide! (Of course after checking with the attendant that it was OK for a 6’2” 108kg Dude). We can generally handle around 3 hours of pool time, at which point we feel the need to get out and explore. So that is what we did, we had to explore this beautiful island.

Ordered logistically to suit the few days we had, below is a brief rundown on what we did, what we saw and what we enjoyed. As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. So read below, but definitely take the time on the interwebs to research for yourself an itinerary that suits you best.

 

Day 1 – South > North Coast

Koloa Old Town / Koloa Fish Market – Head down for a leisurely wonder around, and make you way to the Koloa Fish Market for some fresh, delicious (and delightful) takeaway.

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Poipu Beach Park – We sat on the grassed area eating our Koloa Fish Market takeaway whilst soaking in the sun and the picturesque view. This Beach is most famous for the Hawaiian monk seals that cheekily sunbathe on the shore. They are endangered with only about 1,200 remaining and many swim in the waters of Kauai (large Honu or Hawaiian green sea turtles also grace these waters). Please, please, do not be an Instagram muppet and try getting too close to the Monk Seals. Always stay behind barricades and signs or at least 150-feet when in an unmarked area and never feed the seals (in fact never feed any wild animals for that matter, you will be doing them more harm than good!)

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Kilaueu Lighthouse – A trip to Kauai is not complete without seeing the Kilauea lighthouse. Who does not love a lighthouse view? You get a wonderful view of the rugged coastline and the beautiful spectrum of turquoise and deep blue water.

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Hanalei Valley lookout – A breath-taking vista that takes in the Hanalei River, distant mountains and the many a colourful taro field (greens, browns and even blues, when the sky reflects off the watered fields). Although the fields are man-made, it really gives you a feeling of Mother Nature’s patchwork quilt.

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Queens Bath (near Kamamalu Loop) – Note that there is not a lot of parking as it is in a neighbourhood, so be prepared to wait for a park. Although we had seen photos of the Queens Bath, we really did not know what to expect from the trail that leads there (should’ve researched better you say?). Be sure to bring some closed toe shoes! The path down is a little treacherous. There are some steps but mainly a dirt path that can be quite muddy and slippery but the exposed tree roots help you along as ‘Natures steps’. Heed the signs! There have been 28 ‘swept away’ deaths that have occurred there. Take some photos, enjoy the view, but keep away from the edges.

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Hanalei Bay – Hanalei Town and its buildings are quaint throwback to years gone by, boasting many colourful shops and eateries. Of course let’s not forget that some of the best beaches are nearby, including Lumahai Beach and if you are looking to sunbake the day away your choice should definitely be Kee Beach.

 

Day 2 – South > East Coast

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail (starting at Shipwreck Beach, Ainakoa Street) – After the previous day driving around, we needed to get our sneakers on and go for a hike…and a hike we did. The Mahaulepu Coastal Trail is a significant part of the history of Kauai and it is the last stretch of coastline that has not yet been developed. They are trying their best to keep it that way, so let’s keep hoping that it stays undeveloped and pristine for us to all enjoy. This hike takes you from Shipwreck beach to Keonela Bay. Walking along the sand dunes you will see some rocky inlets, inspiring coastline and hear the roar of the ocean. Oh, and if you are lucky enough you will see some sea turtles or the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.

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Wailua Falls – The larger of the two falls, Wailua does not disappoint. The waterfall splits off into two, making for a great selfie shot with the duo of white water ribbons in the background.

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Opaeka’a Falls – Although a distant waterfall, the overall vista and the surrounding greenery really make this a stunning place to stop for a look-see. There are plenty of Kauai chickens running around that add character to this place!

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Keahua Arboretum – The Rainbow Eucalyptus trees are a sight to behold. Standing tall and proud in their colourful ‘jumpsuits’ they really are like nothing you have seen before. Take a hike if you have the time and immerse yourself amongst nature. She is a beauty!

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Hamura Saimin, Lihue – A local cultural institution. Cheap and delicious noodles. Some love it, some don’t. We did.

Dinner that night we went to Tortilla Republic. It seems every time we go to the States we always have a hankering for Mexican. We ordered a feast, shared some Margaritas, enjoyed the sunset and finished off with a stroll and some ice-cream. So far Kauai had been nothing short of amazing!

 

Day 3 – South > West Coast

Makauwahi Cave Reserve – This sinkhole is considered to be one of the richest fossil sites in the Pacific. A lovely man by the name of Dr David Burney, whom is a paleoecologist, manages the site and is incredibly passionate and the story he tells is worth a listen. In this sinkhole and Cave you will find so much history, the pollen of extinct plants and stories of the flightless duck. The tour Dr Burney offers is free (donations appreciated) and he is there 4 days a week and would love to share his knowledge with each and every one of you! Nearby, Dr Burney will tell you to take a turn off on your way back and visit the Tortoise Refugee area. By now if you know us, anything involving animals we are in for! (Well…as long as it doesn’t involve harming them!). There are two ways of getting there, both via dirt roads after the Golf Course. We found the dirt road suitable for standard cars as long as it has not been raining heavily (although the car hire company might say otherwise! Just drive slowly). In saying that, we took the road towards Punahoa Point and turned left at the fork in the road at the CJM Country Stables sign (based on Forum reviews and despite what the website shows). Drove towards the coast as far as the road would let us and took the Makauwahi Cave Trail. If you don’t want the gentle hike, take the road towards the Lida’s Field of Dreams route and that is where the official carpark is.

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The Na Pali Coast – Consisting of a 17-mile stretch of coastline and is lined with cliffs up to 3,000-foot tall, highlighted with waterfalls and green valleys and the sea caves. The Sea Caves are inaccessible by car, so have your hiking shoes and enjoy the natural wonder. This coastline is what Kauai is best known for and once you see it, you will understand why. We did not want to leave and we guarantee you will not want to either!

Waimea Canyon lookout (Alt. 3400ft) / Kalalau lookout (Alt. 4000ft) / Pu’u O Kila lookout (Alt. 4000ft) – Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The drive here is beautiful (albeit winding wet roads), our only wish was that we drove up to the top first and stopped at the lookout points on the way back down. It was so foggy and misty by the time we got up to the top, we did not have any visibility of the awe-inspiring vista. There were a couple spots along the road back down where we managed to stop and get a reverse view of the canyon. So do yourself a favour and check the weather forecasts, perhaps plan the rest of your ‘vacay’ around this outing? Or, time permitting, there could be the possible necessity of two trips to get that clear day, as the weather can be unpredictable at these altitudes. Take a jacket!

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Pu’u Hinahina viewpoint (Alt. 3640ft) – We missed out on this hike also, due to the weather turning on us. WE MUST COME BACK!!

Kauai Coffee Plantation – Take a walk through their coffee orchard and of course sample their exclusive Hawaiian Grown coffees (more than a few dozen on offer!). We did not have time, but you can opt in for a free guided walking tour where you will learn how they grow and harvest their coffee.

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By the time we got back to the hotel it was quite late so we decided to eat in, taking some advice and grabbing a couple Poke bowls from Makai Sushi. It is located inside Kukuiula Market at 2827 Poipu Rd, Koloa (not at #2728 as per their website). Honestly, we could not go past the Gorilla Ahi bowls and they were super delicious, fresh and presented great value for money.

 

On a side note; the only thing that disappointed us about Hawaii is that, due to the volume of seafood that is consumed on the Island, some of the fish is caught by fishing trawlers (as highlighted in a menu we saw) and unfortunately this is not a sustainable way at all. I suppose with the small Island feel, you would like to think that the Old Fella’s down at the docks have caught the fish in their small boats. Perhaps it has been, perhaps not. This in no way reflects the entire way of the Island, just an experience we had.

We look forward to coming back here again (one day, hopefully) and exploring more of what this beautiful Island has to offer!

 

 

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Seattle, USA


A full post on our adventures in Seattle

COMING SOON!


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Vancouver, Canada

COMING SOON!


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NYC Skyline

New York City, USA

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Read our suggested travel itinerary here

(Our First Trip to New York City Together, There have been Several)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to New York City!”

Sweet words that no one will ever get tired of hearing. Even though Moosh and FT had been to New York City before, the excitement was exponential as this time around would be very different. Four Friends different. Heading towards Manhattan we took in the skyscrapers, city lights, yellow cabs, the people – what a sensory overload! The city has an immense buzz, an infectious buzz….and we had not even gotten out of the cab yet!

So there we were, four little ants, immersed in the Big Apple and bursting at the seams with excitement! Most people aspire to have the Manhattan experience, as New York City is one of those places that dreams are made of. We had not considered any areas other than Times Square for our Hotel. At the time, we wanted to be ‘right in the thick of it’. Unfortunately, our hotel was average, but it was affordable to us at the time, so we took it in our stride and were determined to make the most of the situation. After all…..helloooooo…..we were in one of the most loved cities in the world. Picture Times Square, famous for basically everything.

We walked around admiring the giant screens, the bright lights, the never ending crowds – Times Square exemplifies the excitement of the City that never sleeps. Fair to say we were living the dream in NYC and couldn’t believe we were all there, together. Options for dinner were plentiful but we thought, “…when in Rome!” and on that decided TGIF was a good idea….or so we thought. Little did we know it was an appalling idea. Almost half of the menu items were no longer available, the poor waiter was so embarrassed having to continually check with the kitchen what was. Taken aback, Moosh ordered a soup that was (oh dear) equivalent to something from a tin can. How do businesses stay afloat with the mentality that canned soup is OK? With that dismal meal behind us we made our way back to the hotel. Time for rest and to prepare ourselves for a full day of sightseeing.

We woke up to a beautiful morning – first stop, Timmy Horton’s for some much-needed coffee and breakfast that satisfied the mind, body and wallet. Our feet hit the pavement and away we went, the Four Friends making their way through the streets of New York City. It proved quite the challenge for FT to look up at the surrounding skyscrapers whilst watching where he was walking, failing on numerous occasions. “Stupid tourists,” we would mockingly say to each other. Given it was Easter break, the city was somewhat quiet south of Midtown.

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We weren’t really heading anywhere in particular, just cruizin’ and admiring the streets of New York. In the Lower East Side we made an effort to stop in at Katz’s Deli for “The World’s best Pastrami Sandwich”. The sandwiches were big, but the line was bigger! We needed to eat there, it’s an institution. We surveyed the menu whilst keeping an eagle eye for nearly empty plates and ultimately a table, ready to pounce for the next available. As we all sat down and began to eat the next words spoken were, “Oh my God!” and “Oh my God!” and… (you get the idea!) Katz’s had definitely delivered with the Best! We savoured every single mouthful, again and again. Comically, the staff t-shirts read, “Send a salami to your boy in the Army”.

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Venturing onwards there was a zany store, aptly named Obscura Antiques and Oddities, that the Vades had seen on TV and were keen to check out. Before even entering, it was evident that the store would live up to its name. Quirky and fun for a look see. It was obscure, no doubt, and if ever there was a place that Chucky would come to life that would be it!! The best way to see New York City is to walk, walk and then walk some more. Slowly we made our way past some landmark buildings and structures;

 Flatiron building, a quintessential symbol of an extraordinary city

 Grand Central Terminal, one of the most iconic buildings in New York City and one of the busiest train stations in the USA

 Chrysler building, the tallest brick building in the World and one of the most architecturally stunning buildings for it’s time. Ahhhh, when the sun catches the Art Deco top it is a sight to behold.

 Brooklyn Bridge, speaks for itself….a testament to the engineering of the 1880’s.

Foot spa anyone?? By the time we made it back to the hotel we had walked 16.5kms through the concrete jungle. Time to let the hair down, grab a ‘cold one’ and watch some sports! That night – local bar, NBA and NHL playoffs. Unfortunately, the Knicks lost by 1 point and the Canucks lost also. For a moment or three it was a sad night for us all, but then again the Wings were hot and the Beer was cold….so really, we were still winning! As a new day presented itself, we start crossing off; (take a deep breath now…..)

Rockefeller Centre, Fifth Avenue, FAO Schwarz, Central Park (row boats are so much fun….who knew), M&M world, Guggenheim Museum, Broadway, Wall Street (Vades had some photo fun with the Bull statue), Ground Zero, Battery Park, Ghostbusters Fire House, Cosby Steps, Friends Apartment block and some New York City Hot dogs. Time then to visit the NBA store (3 years waiting) but we were devastated….”closed due to relocation,” the sign read! If you’ve ever been you’ll understand the total coolness of the life size LEGO players and bobble heads!

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Carnegie Deli, famous for Cheesecake and The ‘Melo’ sandwich, delightfully flavoursome oversized food! Have fun with the pickle….if you go, you’ll know what I mean.

Brick Lane Curry House, famous for the Phaal, hottest Curry in America. Thanks to Man vs. Food, this was a must for Vades. He is after all just crazy enough to eat something that would put mere mortals in hospital. Verbal Waiver….fair enough….holy crap what was he in for? Refer Food Reviews for the Brick Lane delights. Brick Lane Curry House – Phaal waiver, “An excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavour! For our customers who do this on a dare, we will require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage…….” When this curry is made the chef uses an industrial gas mask as the aromas while cooking this are stupidly potent. As Vade stopped half way through for a breather, he continued to battle the Phaal Curry and he conquered it. Although to this day he states that he is not the same man he was before that night.  We are not sure if that is a good thing or bad, but it certainly means the experience was memorable.

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We realised there was still so much more to see. There was not enough time and we faced up to the simple realisation….we need to go back. For the final leg we were heading our separate ways and as we got ready to say, “See ya later,” to one another, we knew this was not the end. It was simply the beginning of Four Friends One World adventures. Well, New York City, we made a dent in you but we were left wanting more. So more we will have….next time. For now, the memories will last a life time and until we meet again…..

TIPS for New York City

Statue of Liberty can be seen when you take the Staten Island Ferry – stand on the Northern side to get the best view

Check out the New York City High Line Park

Purchase a sunrise/Sunset ticket for the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and Rockefeller Centre tour at same desk

Travelling North means you are heading “Uptown” and traveling south means you are heading “Downtown”

Is your phone flat from uploading pics to Instagram?  Head to Union Square and go to Best Buy and pop your phone in a demo iPhone dock

Most Bars will have happy hour between 6-7pm

Give the first Shake Shack a try – located Madison Square Park

New York City is a very walkable city

Taxi Cabs: 15% of fare.

Coat Check: At least one dollar per bag.

Bellhop: at least one dollar per bag.

Waiters, Waitresses and Bartenders: 15%- 20% of the bill, based on the service


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Chicago, USA

Read our suggested travel itinerary here

“Cabin Crew prepare the cabin for landing.”  These are exciting words we will never get tired of hearing. Words confirming we have arrived safe and sound, but more importantly announcing that another adventure awaits. Chicago we have arrived!

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Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel.  Check-in complete.  Nothing unusual, until Moosh and FT were given a note from behind the desk.  “Welcome to Chicago, Hope your stay is full of fun and surprises why not start now by joining us for a drink in the bar. Love The Captain and Tennille.”

It didn’t take long to figure out from whom this kind invite came and after a quick freshen up the elevator headed down to an awaiting Captain and Tennille.  There they were, Vade and Sherri with beers in hand, surprising us 2 days early in Chicago (not NYC as planned!!).  It felt like long lost lovers reunited, we gave each other enormous hugs and started “catching up”.

And so the journey of the Four Friends One World Begins.

 

Now surprisingly Moosh and FT did not actually have much planned for Chicago just the usual touristy things, with number one being the Michael Jordan statue that stands majestically outside the United Centre.

Chicago Moosh and Mike

SO THE FIRST FOUR FRIENDS ONE WORLD TOUR BEGINS WITH CHICAGO

We had a quick chat about the non-plans of Moosh and FT, but first things first we needed to decide what to do for dinner.  The Vades had heard about Gino’s East deep dish pizzas from Adam Richman on Man v. Food, a TV show like no other.  Problem solved.  But apparently there is always a massive line up.  New problem.  After a chat to the Concierge about Gino’s he handed us a ‘quick pass’ to get in without lining up, celebrity style.  Problem solved, and solved indeed – because there was a line up, a big one! We had no idea what was in store for us, the delightful smell and atmosphere suggested great things.  Gino’s was already exuding awesomeness and we had literally just been seated, surrounded by the approving scribbles of celebrities and fellow diners all over the walls, tables, in fact on everything…..except the staff (although maybe it’s not out of the question if the Tip is large enough?)  Our waiter was exceptional and helped us Newbies choose the best pizzas.  As we drank beer and chatted about what to do in Chicago (we didn’t have much time) our ‘Pizza Pies’ arrived and they looked and smelt incredible.  As any respectable tourist would do we took photos of us all eating, what is still to this day, the best pizza we have ever had.  Thank you, Adam Richman for guiding us to Gino’s East. Before heading off to the sack we took in “one for the road” at a Jazz club not far from the hotel.

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The excitement of waking up in a strange city will never get old.  With the day somewhat planned we set off to explore the Windy City, visiting all the usual touristy spots.

  • Buckingham Fountain – one of the largest fountains in the world
  • Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) – its reflective surface provided great fun taking pics of an ever changing warped skyline and of our warped selves!
  • Navy Pier – plenty to see and do, has a great view back of the Chicago Skyline
  • Willis Tower – Skydeck 103rd Floor, whilst 3 of us were standing on the glass balcony Vade thought it a funny idea to take a running jump and thump himself onto the balcony! We gasped in sheer horror whilst Vade laughed (as did many of the people watching), knowing it was more than safe to do so!  
  • The ‘L’ (Elevated Train) – as seen in many movie car chase scenes…..Blues Brothers, anyone?

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With a full day of sightseeing done, it was time to spitball ideas on what to do that night. Whilst taking a well-earnt seat in the hotel lobby Vade mentioned that the Stanley Cup Playoffs were in town.  After searching for available tickets it was unanimous – Ice Hockey, Quarterfinals, Chicago Blackhawks v. Vancouver Canucks.  Vade and Sherri – Canucks fans, in for a treat.  Moosh and FT – ice hockey virgins, not sure what to expect.  The atmosphere was intense (….in fact intense is almost an understated word), the Americans sure know how to support their teams with passion!  We loved every second of this experience and the Canucks won that game to our excitement, but admittedly we sat there in quiet obscurity – not wanting to rattle anyone of the 20,000 or so Blackhawks fans (#self-preservation).

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With only half a day left we took in the sights of Lincoln Park and briefly strolled through the city for a little more look-see.  Chicago amazed us and we wished for more time, but we made the most of what time was available – we will definitely be visiting again……one day.

 

Airport, onward – NYC.

Stay tuned for the NYC adventures of Four Friends One World, but first, check our Sample Itinerary for Chicago.

 

TIPS for Chicago

Give this Windy city a good 3-4 days to really enjoy all it has to offer

Bring warm clothes, it is the windy city after all

United Center if you are a fan of NBA

Wrigley Field if you are a fan baseball

If you love Architecture this city has it with one of the world’s best skylines

Lincoln Park – visit the Lincoln Park zoo and see how the Conservation & Science Department is dedicated to improving animal management and wildlife conservation

Best time to visit – between May and October

Get around using the ‘L’ Train


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