Windy City [Day 2]

Summer Road Trip 2014

June 20, 2014
Chicago, Illinois

Two things come to mind when I hear the word Chicago. Number 1 is deep dish pizza, and number 2 is the image of the Willis Tower. Lucky for me I was able to experience both during my second day in the windy city! Our first stop was the world famous Sky Deck!

The Sky Deck is on the 103rd story of the Willis Tower, and the entire floor had floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing a spectacular 360-degree view of Chicago.

Heights aren’t a big fear of mine, but I must say, I did still feel my stomach drop just a teeny tiny bit the moment I walked out on the ledge.  It was truly a unique experience! The panoramic view of the Chicago skyline combined with the view of Lake Michigan was breathtaking enough, but experiencing it in a glass box 1,353 feet up? Exhilarating!

Contrary to what every one was doing, all I did was look down! It was as if I was trying to convince my brain that my body was indeed, in fact, standing on a glass ledge… 103 stories up… in Chicago’s highest skyscraper. No big deal.

Watch my short video diary below for a glimpse of my Sky Deck experience!

After an unforgettable experience at the Sky Deck, my family and I went around Downtown Chicago to sightsee even more!

There is something about the Windy City that reminded of the Big Apple. Perhaps it was their subway system or the skyscrapers, but being in Chicago was almost like being in New York City. Almost.

Chicago to me is like New York City, but minus the grit, minus the hustle. It’s like a friendlier, cleaner, less crowded version of New York City.

 After a long day playing tourist, what better way to satiate our hunger than devouring the best Chicago-style deep dish pizza at local Chicago establishment, Lou Malnati’s?

Sidenote: An Italian friend of mine does not consider the aforementioned dish “pizza,” but rather “bread and stew.”

I truly wish I had higher-quality photos of the pizza, but clearly, my excitement got the best of me.

At first it felt unnatural to eat pizza with a knife and fork. Personally, I like my pizza’s thin crust and foldable, but hey, I’m Chicago! Eat as the locals do, right? Man, Lou Malnati’s did not disappoint! The crust was substantial, thick enough to support the lake of cheese and tomato sauce and sausage on top, all of which complemented each other harmoniously.

Also, another notable food trip was to Lezza Spumoni, which has the BEST cannoli I’ve ever tasted!

What can I say? This girl’s gotta eat!

Love,
Anicka Nadine


Lou Malnati’s
Multiple locations throughout Chicago area
http://www.loumalnatis.com

Lezza Spumoni
4009 St. Charles Road
Bellwood, IL  60104
T: 708.547.5969
www.lezza.com

 

Chicago, Illinois [Day 1]

Summer Road Trip 2014

Day #7 – 10: June 19 – 21, 2014
Chicago, Illinois

At last, 5 days and 2,000+ miles later, we finally made it to Chicago! With this trip being my first time visiting the windy city, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Given that this is the last leg of of our trip, my family and I reserved 3 days to explore the city.

As usual, sports arenas were first on our itinerary. We visited United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls, and the historic Wrigley Field!

The first half of the day was incredibly gloomy and foggy, but thankfully, the weather cooperated as soon as we reached our next stop: Northerly Island.

Overlooking the great Lake Michigan, Northerly Island is a family-friendly nature area that features beautiful strolling and bicycle paths, casual play areas, and a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline. A 91-acre peninsula, it is also the site of the Burnham Habor, the Shedd Aquarium and the Alder Planetarium.

A picnic under the trees would’ve been ideal to have in Northerly Island, but our tummies were craving dim sum, so Chinatown was the next stop of the day. Sadly, I was so hungry that I didn’t have the time to take pictures of our glorious meal.

Chicago’s tourist spots, much like in San Francisco, are all in close proximity from one another. Their attractions are conveniently concentrated within their downtown or just a  few miles outside of it. Our next stop after Chinatown is none other than the Buckingham Fountain.

Located at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway, the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain is the centerpiece of Grant Park. This stunning Chicago landmark was constructed in 1927,  inspired by the Latona Basin at Versailles. It is one of the largest fountains in the world, and it was made to represent Lake Michigan, boasting four pairs of Art Deco style sea horses to represent the four states that border the lake.

By far, it is one of the most impressive fountains I’ve ever encountered. It was ENORMOUS, yet so elegant! It jets out so much water that you feel the mist hundreds of yards away!

Merely a few blocks away from Grant Park is Millennium Park, one of the newest additions to Chicago’s many wide open urban spaces. It is an absolute must-see when visiting the windy city! Hosting a wide range of outdoor/indoor activities for locals and tourists a like, Millennium Park is a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art.

I could not get enough of this place! Although it was challenging (and expensive) to find parking, the visit was well worth it. The route we took lead us first to the Lurie Garden, an urban oasis located at the southern end of the park. The 5-acre garden is a wonderful palette of texture and color of various bulbs, perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees!

As if the Lurie Garden wasn’t enough to take my breath away, cue the Jay Pritzker Music Pavilion!

A M A Z I N G! The Pritzker Pavilion is a incredible outdoor performing arts venue. I’ve never seen anything like it! It’s so cool and innovative and futuristic! Huge metal beams (where speakers are attached to) criss-cross across a wide field of grass. There wasn’t a performance at the time of our visit, but I made a personal goal to return to Chicago just to attend a concert or music festival here with my friends!

With my jaws still on the ground, we walked over next door to another Chicago must-see: the Cloud Gate, or less formally known as “The Bean.” It is truly an amazing piece of art.

Enormous, metallic, reflective, image-distorting, pictures cannot do it justice.

Chicago is slowly stealing my heart. Stay tuned for Day 2!

Love,
Anicka Nadine

Because I’m Happy!

The Bean, Millennium Park, Chicago | June 2014
The Bean, Millennium Park, Chicago | June 2014

This is my reality. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years, and it didn’t come easy. I worked my ass off to be in this position… to experience this high. Through immense struggle, I won my price. Yet sometimes, I can’t help but believe that the universe is spoiling me.

Emotionally, I’m stable. Merely a few short months after a devastating break-up from my boyfriend of almost 3 years, I feel at ease. Resistance has dissipated, and acceptance has entered my heart. No longer do I spend days and nights agonizing how to make a relationship work when it has clearly ran its course. In the end, I finally stopped swimming against the current, and that has given me peace.

Financially, I’m solid. I’m living on my own, buying my own groceries, paying my own bills, and not a single cent in credit card debt. Although my job can be demanding, I enjoy it. My coworkers are pretty awesome, too.

Socially, I’m surrounded by the best and most supportive group of friends. In regards to my family, my relationship with my parents and sibling are healthy. I’m surrounded by people who love me regardless of the reckless shenanigans I occasionally get myself into. There is not one person in my life who I don’t want in it.

Health-wise, mentally and physically, my self-esteem is solid. I have no major body-image issues. I’m not suffering from eating disorders, like bulimia and anorexia, or anything else a lot of girls my age experience. My wrists are devoid of self-inflicted injuries. Of course, I would have my moments of insecurities every once in a while, but for the most part, I love what I see in the mirror.

Almost [granted, I am not exempted from petty dilemmas] everything is going smoothly. I busted my ass to sow the seeds, and now I’m reaping all the benefits. Sometimes, my heart would swell with so much joy, and I would get this overwhelming urge to just scream at the top of my lungs, “I AM SO HAPPY IT’S RIDICULOUS! I’M SO PROUD OF MYSELF! YAY ME!” That may have come across as slightly obnoxious with the CAPS Lock, but it’s true. I can honestly say that never in my life did I think that this level of happiness actually existed. There are days where I wish I can bottle up my happiness just so I can share it with everyone.

Of course, everyone around me is telling me how happy they are for me. One even mentioned the change in my “aura”, to which my brain’s automatic sarcasm-laden response was, “Was I really that cynical and jaded before ?” Here I go again with my tangents that always deviate away from my actual point. And that point being: if everyone is happy for me, then why do I occasionally feel sudden surges of guilt every time I reach a certain level of happiness?

It’s as if I feel the need to shut up about my accomplishments and excitement because not everyone is presented with the same opportunities as I am. Call me crazy, but I believe in luck. Not everyone can do what I’m doing. Not everyone is/will be presented with the resources that has/will come my way. Yes, we can’t disregard hard work in the picture, but there is such a thing as being at the right place at the right time during the right circumstances. The path that have led me up to this point has been a series of having one door constantly being opened to me after another. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and I feel like broadcasting my happiness to the world is just adding insult to injury. As if I’m dangling a carrot in the faces of those who aren’t as lucky as me and that I’m teasing them with something that they may or may not ever be able to obtain.

Personally, I can’t pinpoint where this feeling is coming from. I seem to be hosting this internal dialogue with myself, to which Confident Adrielle is trying to convince Cynical Adrielle that she does in fact deserve every bit of happiness and needs to stop apologizing for it. I don’t understand why I feel the need to apologize or feel guilty about being happy — which I know is completely ludicrous, because everyone deserves happiness!  The thing is, I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to perpetually water down my happiness simply to accommodate to those who can’t find their own way to be happy. I want to be proud of the successes I’ve achieved.

And this has nothing to do with abandoning humility either. It’s really not. Because you know what? Anyone who is happy needs a good pat in the back or at least an epic high-five. Because really, they did something. They got off their ass and did the work. They didn’t waste another day having their butts fused to the couch. They rode hard, and now they’re earning the downhill. They made shit happen. Achieving what they deserve should be nothing but a cause of celebration.

Love,
Anicka Nadine

My Top 10 Road Trip Tips

Everyone should experience a classic all-American road trip. The open road, the ever-changing scenery, the unexpected stalls at the side of the road, the possibility of having an epic experience right around the corner are just a few things that give road trips their unquestionable and eternal lure. With less than a month left until I embark on another adventure from Los Angeles to Chicago, I would like to share a few helpful tips I’ve learned throughout the years as a road trip enthusiast having traveled to over 23 states.

  1. Create a realistic itinerary

    Planning is definitely the first basic step in preparing for a road trip. Select a destination(s), research attractions, and create an itinerary that outlines how many days you have for travel and where you want to go. Make sure your itinerary is realistic and not overly ambitious. Driving 15 hours straight to cover “x” many states may seem doable on paper, but avoid overestimating your energy level when it’s time to put theory into practice.

  2. Do NOT make hotel reservations in advance

    Unless traveling during the busy peak season, making hotel reservations in advance is something I don’t advice. Although it is essential to have some sort of planning done, I also want to reiterate the importance of being loose and flexible! Delays such road blocks, flat tires, getting lost (yes, even with a GPS!) can happen unexpectedly when it comes to road trips. Last year, I traveled with my family all over the Northeastern Seaboard for two weeks. Not having made lodging accommodations in advance, we eliminated the unnecessary stress of constantly chasing time and worrying about being in a certain place at a certain day. I remember spending half of that trip literally sleeping in a different state from the night before. Pretty darn cool.

  3. Have a hardcopy map along with a GPS

    Even the latest newest GPS devices can malfunction, so bring a hardcopy map as backup.

  4. Have your vehicle thoroughly serviced

    Check the tires, air pressure, fluids, brakes, wiper blades, belts, hoses, horn, headlights… and so on! Having a safe reliable car is the easiest way to ensure a pleasant car ride.

  5. Pack smart

    My rule of thumb is to pack with the mentality as if you’re traveling by air. At best, stick to one carry-on sized luggage. To maximize mixing and matching opportunities, bring neutral clothes with pops of color. Also, make sure to leave extra room in your luggage for travel souvenirs. Watch this Youtube video to learn how to pack like a pro!

  6. Check the weather beforehand

    I learned this the hard way. My most recent road trip was a brief 4-day excursion from Los Angeles to Big Sur to Lake Tahoe this past April. Thinking that it’s Spring, my brain somehow assumed that the weather in ALL of California would be comfortable, where it would be warm during the day while cool at night. Boy, was I mistaken. It was downright snowing at Lake Tahoe (think 12 inches!), and I did not pack a single item of clothing built for snow. Cue emergency shopping for snow shoes! Unplanned spending, even for shoes, is never fun especially when you know that your perfectly good pair of SOREL boots are sitting unused at home.

  7. Pack a cooler with nutritious foods and snacks

    With miles and miles of open road, eateries that offer healthy and nutritious foods are few and far in between. To prevent gaining weight while traveling and resisting the temptations of fast food, pack a cooler with cool water and healthy snacks such as fresh berries, apple slices, baby carrots and celeries with hummus for dipping!

  8. Be prepared

    A lot of things can go wrong when out on the road, especially for long distance driving. Stock your car with basics like water, snacks, medication, flashlights, sharp knives, and a first aid kit. Click here for a list of additional items to bring for roadside emergencies.

  9. Stay amused

    With hours and hours on the road ahead, it’s important to keep oneself entertained. I suggest creating a mixed CD/playlist or loading up your iPod/MP3 player with songs. Don’t forget to bring all the essential power cords and chargers while you’re at it! Another way to stay amused would be to have “road trip games.” During a mini-road trip from North Carolina to Virginia last year, my travel buddy and I invented a game where we would try to come up with as many names as we can about a particular category. The only rule is to name a thing/person/place whose name starts with the same letter as the last of the one before. For example, under the Fictional Characters category, one person can start with “Spongebob,” and it can be followed by “Bon Qui Qui,” which then can be proceeded by “Indiana Jones.”

  10. Relax!

    You’re on vacation! Enjoy every minute!

Feel free to share YOUR road trip travel tips in the comments section!

Xx,
Anicka Nadine