Is eight hours enough?
There’s never enough time in a city, but here is how to make the most of it.
First things first, are you here on a layover? Do you have bags? Check them in somewhere! They will slow you down. Nannybag is what we used in Barcelona, but there are plenty of services similar.
Cabs aren’t too expensive in Barcelona, so we made sure to check our bags in somewhere we wanted to go anyway, no wasted time! Then first thing we did? Beach. (We stored our bags in this surf shop and headed straight there, it was so perfect).
We had been traveling through Amsterdam and Paris, which was chilly, so beach it was. We looked for sea glass for probably 30 minutes then had lunch at a tiny restaurant. AKA nachos and sangria. After that, we decided to walk to the Gothic Quarter and picked up gelato on the way. If you don’t know, this beach is famous in Barcelona for it’s sea glass. It’s a must sea!
We got to walk around and see some of the best architecture Barcelona has to offer. We did shop in a few little boutiques and I got a really pretty turquoise ring. We decided our number one in Barcelona, was getting lost. We didn’t want to rush this city because there is something beautiful on every corner.
Our game plan was basically walk as far away from our end destination as possible, then make our way back slowly. We did decide to head to our cruise ship early, which was the best decision because we got on quickly. But, we did have time if we wanted to go to La Sagrada Familia. We got an incredible view of it from the ship, but we decided against up close and personal.
Plus, I know I will be back to Barcelona one day, needed something special waiting for me.
The city of love.
And amazing food. I honestly never had any interest in going to Paris, until somehow, the flight was booked. Long story short, the cheapest way for my friends and I to get to Europe for our cruise starting in Barcelona, was flying to Paris. Another long story short, we ended up going to Amsterdam first, then Paris. So after an overnight flight to Amsterdam, spending a full day there, and a *late arriving* overnight bus to Paris, we made it. And then after an amazing Parisian breakfast, we fell asleep in the hotel lobby.
After also getting ready in the hotel lobby, we headed out for a self guided walking tour of the city. We walked around the Louvre buildings and gardens, strolled alone the Seine looking at little boutiques, and obviously looked for the best macaroons and crepes.
We made our way to the train with some mini bottles of wine and spent the rest of the day exploring the Palace of Versailles. Let me tell you, Versailles was unbelievably beautiful. Go there if you have the chance. And make sure to look up, my favorite part was the ceilings.
After our long day of walking through Marie Antoinette’s former place of residence, we ended up at Notre-Dame at night. The detail on this building was also incredible. When you see a new place like this, you almost get lost looking up. The sheer detail and intricacies and the age, it makes you fall in love. You feel that deep aching sensation in your chest because of it’s beauty and you feel just so lucky to be able to see this other side of the world. That’s how I felt in all of Paris. Every corner we turned, every monument we saw, every single second of exploration felt like bliss.
Our second day was filled to the brim with Parisian delicacies, champagne, and gorgeous architecture. In the morning I roamed by myself and toured museums. After a few euphoric hours, I met my friends at the Arc de Triomphe while drinking amazing espresso. We got to eat bread and macaroons under the Eiffel Tour, we drank champagne around the city and on a cheesy tourist bus, and played bubble soccer on Tour Montparnasse. (Tip: Tour Montparnasse is the best view in the city and of the city. I’m sure the top of the Eiffel Tour is beautiful, but nothing beats being able to watch the Eiffel Tour sparkle from afar. And pro tip: go for sunset!)
We did eventually have to go, an early wake up call and a cold uber ride to the airport, and Paris was in our rear view. For a city I had no intention of ever visiting, I’m glad I went. Sometimes the places not on your list turn out to be your favorite. Je t’aime, Paris. I’ll see you soon.
Night of the living dead.
Halloween is the best season, holiday, month, state of mind. When it’s Halloween season, I will seek out the best spooky experiences. I learned about the Zombie Pub Crawl from my cousin who lives in Downtown Minneapolis. This is the largest “zombie” gathering in the world and is a HUGE pub crawl. Previous years have been held in Downtown Minneapolis, this year it was held at Hall’s Island and the historic Grain Belt brewery complex.
Dressing up for this isn’t mandatory but don’t be lame. If you’re going, dress up. I honestly looked like such an amateur compared to 99.9% of people there! I went with m cousin and his girlfriend. Our makeup was slightly last minute but I was pretty proud of our accomplishments! You would absolutely feel left out if you didn’t participate. Plus, they have a costume contest with first place winning free VIP tickets to the crawl for LIFE.
So, because this is titled a Zombie Pub Crawl (ZPC), I assumed like last years it would be a pub crawl. As in, walking to different pubs/bars dressed as a zombie WITH other zombies. When we got to the entrance of the ZPC, it was in an enclosed park with three stages, roughly 15 food trucks, 4 bar tents, some entertainment in the form of costumed wrestlers in a ring, and a small carnival area. I did learn later that the ZPC was partnered with three local bars, staples of the surrounding area – and not inside the actual grounds. We didn’t get to explore these bars but we had an amazing time at the festival! (A more appropriate term for what it was). I was obviously a little bummed that it wasn’t a real “Pub Crawl” but the added bars and entertainment made up for it.
Drinks were fairly priced, entertainment was incredible, Shaq was the DJ so you can assume how that was… And the BEST part is that the iconic Grain Belt Brewery created a beer for the event called the Zombie Pub Crawl from the Brain Belt Brewery. Spoiler alert, it was amazing. I would absolutely recommend this event to anyone in the Minneapolis area or surrounding. It was definitely worth the trip from Michigan to experience this unique party.
Driving through Europe.
I have been out of the US before, let’s be clear on that. Have I ever gone anywhere other than an all inclusive resort in Mexico or right across the border in Canada? No. (FYI I live in MI so getting to the Canadian border takes 30 minutes – not as exciting as other parts of Canada mostly because of how accessible it is.)
Anyway, long story short, I somehow ended up on a trip to Iceland with an old friend. We’ve known each other for 10 years but haven’t talked as much recently. Spoiler alert, felt like 0 time had passed. Basically, I was bit HARD by the travel bug last year. I recently looked at Skyscanner and found a cheap flight to Reykjavik. Not knowing ANYTHING about Iceland, I posted on Facebook and said, “I want to go to Reykjavik!”. (This was after googling Iceland and seeing the gorgeous country). A few people commented on it saying they were going to Iceland, a few said where the hell is that, and others said that’s on my bucket list! My friend, Taylor, messaged me and said “Hey, I’m planning on going in September for photography and northern lights and stuff. Wanna come? It will help me split my costs”. Um, yes. Basically we booked it a week later.
First thing you need to know about Iceland, transportation while in the country isn’t as expensive as you would think IF you’re renting. If you’re not, good luck. A bus, taxi, etc… all pricey. Plus, having a person waiting for us with the rental was so nice. We spent
almost $700 for a car and camper van for a week. We also added on WiFi and a plug extender. So $350 a person for a week of traveling, lodging, and internet, not bad.
Driving Iceland is also a plus because your plans can change at any minute. You have flexibility so you don’t have to be anywhere at any time. This was so helpful! We added things onto our trip that locals recommended and being able to drive a little further at night to a different campground, was so nice and easy. Wake up at Skogafoss and be the first person there. Eat breakfast while looking at Vatnajökull. Go to bed right next to a black sand beach… There’s nothing cooler.
So, cost, experience, and flexibility, makes driving Iceland worth it. I would recommend this over a hotel or AirBnB any day.
The music festival to end all festivals.
While I have been to Illinois and Chicago many times – I have never been to Lollapalooza. In a turn of events, I ended up going alone, and I had an incredible time. Here is my experience plus some tips and tricks.
First things first – screenshot the map and schedule/lineup for all the bands. We bought tickets for Friday only and were able to see where the stages were and when our favorite bands were playing. Because I went alone – I was able to see my favorites and explore a bit more.
Plus, do some research for hotels in advance. I could see the main stage from my room. This photo was right inside the gate across the street from my hotel entrance. Also – I would highly recommend the Congress Plaza Hotel because it’s in Grant Park and there’s a ton of security because of the location meaning you feel super safe. Also, it’s an old hotel that is really ornate and interesting.
Okay, so you’ve got your hotel, you decided which day to buy or what pass works best, you know which bands you want to see. How do you make the most of your time?
Go early and make a plan of action. The two bands I wanted to see the most were at stages that faced each other so they rotated. I got to see James Bay and then The Neighbourhood started playing right as he finished. Once The Neighbourhood was getting close to the end of their last song, I left and beat the crowd out because the next artist on the opposite stage was Post Malone. I got to watch him from afar because I didn’t feel like getting trampled. After I saw the songs I wanted to see I made my way towards the main stage and got caught up at a small stage and watched an incredible band I had never heard of. THIS is why I love festivals. You get to hear so many artists you would have never heard of. Two of my favorite bands I found this way; Bad Rabbits (Warped Tour) and R. LUM. R. (Lollapalooza).
Make sure you have a full battery and possibly an external charger if your hotel is further away. You will need to take a Lyft, Uber, L train, cab, something back. I would recommend whatever ride share company is partnered with the event. For Lolla, Lyft was their main choice meaning they had a Lyft pickup lot that was close to the event and gave out free water, energy drinks, tacos and tamales, and small souvenirs while you waited for your driver. I was able to use the restroom, get some food, water, listen to music, and got free hand sanitizer, beer koozies, and keychains.
Thankfully, my biggest tip is back in style. FANNY PACKS! (or if you’re British Bum Bags). There are thousands of people here and I ended up wearing my small backpack backwards due to some missing items and opened pockets. (Nothing major, just a missing zipper string and oil blotting face papers).
Either bring money or pre-load it onto your wristband and make sure you have the essentials for being out in the sun. I had the best time here and I felt totally safe being alone. I made a ton of new friends because everyone there is super friendly. Lollapalooza is definitely not one to miss.
Exciting and Unique.
I have been to Chicago a few times and I always find something new to fall in love with. These bars however, are some that you have to experience at least once. They’re also bars I continue to return to time after time.
The Green Door Tavern
This is my number one must see bar in Chicago. It’s a staple.
This wooden oasis is full of eclectic and ole timey memorabilia as it was built in 1872. Some of my favorites are the old sports banners and items like bats, balls, and speed bags, the huge Blackhawk’s drum hanging from the ceiling (Go Wings though), and a carousel horse. While it has great food and drinks, there is a wheel above the bar for shots. Do this at your own risk though, because Jeppson’s Malort is written on there several times. While it’s an alcohol you can only get in Chicago, it has been likened to garbage juice. If you look closely you can see a Jackalope above the bar and some interesting wall decorations in the mirror. This past weekend thankfully I got a Wondermint shot instead of Malort. While it didn’t go great with my beer – I was happy.
This bar is in the downstairs of The Green Door Tavern. Look for the hidden door and someone will come to take your name. The drink menu comes as tarot cards, there are burlesque dancers and live music, and all original, genuine speakeasy decorations from the 20’s. This is a must see in Chicago with some seriously cool atmosphere.
Everyone needs a go to Irish bar and this one just happens to have Maple Bourbon Chicken Wings, Irish Nachos, and Tater Tot Poutine. They also have a wide selection of Irish and non-Irish liquor and beer but let’s be real – if it’s not Irish is it still worth it?
Three Dots and a Dash
This is hailed as a speakeasy type bar but let’s just say and easy to find “speakeasy”. You walk down an alley and look for the blue light above the door. (On busy weekends however, there is a bouncer standing outside rather than right inside). The decorations are incredible and you will feel like a pirate on a tropical island. My favorite part is the giant wall of skulls lit in blue light. It makes you feel like you’re truly going to a different world. Cocktails are rated by how strong they are and there are over 150 different kinds of rum to choose from. You can also get a drink served in a treasure chest – so I mean who wouldn’t want to try out a place this cool?
Old Town Pour House
This is not for those who are indecisive. This tavern-esque bar has almost 100 beers on tap and the best crab dip in the area. If beer isn’t your thing – don’t worry, they also have handcrafted cocktails. This is somewhere you won’t want to miss.