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Our Weekend in Chicago

July 14, 2016

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First off, I’m a big believer in managing expectations. If you’re expecting too much out of city, event, vacation, or anything else, odds are you’ll end up disappointed if it doesn’t live up to the hype. On the flip side, if you go into something with an open mind you have a greater chance of being pleasantly surprised. This was exactly the case with us and Chicago.  We had no expectations.  We just wanted to hang out and eat some pizza.

We stopped in Chicago this May on our way home from our 15 day Euro-Trip. The weather was absolutely beautiful at 65 degrees and sunny. We visited a few touristy locations such as the Skydeck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) as well as “The Bean” (Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park. Once again, we felt safe on public transportation and found everyone we were surrounded by on the streets and in restaurants to be welcoming and friendly.

We were lucky enough to stay at the historic Palmer House hotel during our weekend in Chicago. We had some Hilton Honors rewards to burn so we decided to use them in style. A funny thing I’ve noticed when we stay at fancy hotels for free is that the employees of the hotel react to us being there the same way Clark Griswold reacts when Cousin Eddy shows up for Christmas. All that aside, we enjoyed our stay and got back at the hotel a bit by “accidentally” sneaking into an executive lounge continental breakfast. Thanks for the free waffles Palmer House!

After breakfast, we walked over to Millennium Park to check out “the Bean“. While this has become a must see for travelers and instagrammers, we had actually never been there before. As with most pieces of art we’ve been lucky enough to visit recently, Cloud Gate (the bean) was much cooler in person than we expected it to be. We ended up hanging around it for about an hour. I snapped some funny pics of Lace rockin’ cheerleader moves in front of it that you can see below.

We left Millennium Park and hopped on a metro over to the Willis Tower where we had pre-purchased “Fast Pass” tickets to go up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor. While pre-purchasing these tickets cost us about $20 more, it saved us at least 2 hrs of standing in lines. Totally worth it. The views of Chicago and Lake Michigan from the SkyDeck Lounge are crazy beautiful. While up there, we stepped out onto the “Skydeck Ledge” which is basically a glass cube that extends out from the building and over the city. It’s a pretty overwhelming experience.  As an added bonus, the 30th anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is this year, so there is a roped off area where you can stand next to Sloane Peterson and Cameron Frye mannequins and put your head on the glass in the exact spot Matthew Broderick (Ferris) did.  Getting to do this was super cool for me as I grew up with that movie.

After our nervous stomachs calmed down from being in the Skydeck, we decided it was pizza time. Eating at Gino’s East has become a “must-do” each time we visit this city. Their super deep dish, sauce on top of the cheese, traditional Chicago style pizza is amazing. Gino’s has been around for 50 years and has multiple locations but we always go back to the original restaurant on Superior Ave. This graffiti tagged, celebrity memorabilia filled pizza joint makes for a fun and authentic experience while waiting the standard 1 hour of required baking time for the deep dish crust. If you haven’t been, you need to stop by on your next visit to Chicago. If you’re with a group of 2-3 people, believe us, a medium pizza will be plenty.

Our weekend in Chicago was once again awesome. The only thing missing was a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately they were out of town 🙁 Next time Cubbies!

We’re becoming so fond of this city that we’ve already booked our next trip!

See you in January Chicago!

 

Let us know if you have any questions!

Click here to see our video edit from this trip.

Click here to see how we used rewards points to book this trip for free!

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend In Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

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Travel

Rome and the Italian Open

June 16, 2016

After a few fun filled days in Florence, Mat and I took the TrenItalia south to Rome, the Eternal City. Mat and I visited Rome on our last trip to Europe two years ago, but this time we were back for a specific reason: the Italian Open! Neither one of us had ever been to an international sporting event, and we both really wanted to experience that.

Since we saved money booking our trip, this allowed us to splurge on an experience we might never have otherwise been able to have. When we bought our tickets we didn’t know who would be playing in the semi-finals, but we lucked out and got to see the number one player in the world, Novak Djokovic play the number six in the world, Kei Nishikori. The cherry on top was that the match went into a tie breaker!

The entire day leading up to the game was pouring rain. That’s didn’t deter us much, we still walked around this gorgeous city and saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Piazza Venezia. We were so worried that the match would be rained out, especially because it was held outdoors on an uncovered clay court!

We took the (super, extremely) crowded bus to Foro Italico and literally one hour before the semi-finals match, the clouds parted and beautiful blue sky peeked out. It was unbelievable!

The day before the match we checked into our favorite B&B, Gli Scipioni. If you are ever going to visit Rome, we highly suggest staying here! The location is amazing, just steps away from the metro and Vatican City. Plus, they always keep the kitchen stocked, and the freezer full of delicious ice cream! Antonella is such a wonderful human and treats everyone like family.

After we dropped our bags off, we spent the afternoon eating pizza, hanging out by the Trevi Fountain, and visiting St. Peter’s Basilica. I wasn’t able to see St. Peter’s the last time we were in Rome because the line was too long and we didn’t have time. We figured it would be the same situation this time, so we were prepared.

The weirdest thing happened as we were walking toward St. Peter’s; we were in St. Peter’s Square and saw a giant line, as suspected, so we went through security preparing for a lot of standing and waiting once we made it through. However that didn’t happen. Somehow miraculously, or perhaps accidentally, we got in a different line and literally walked directly in without waiting. We are still scratching our heads trying to figure out how it happened. Absolutely zero wait time, even though we could see the line of people wrap around the courtyard.

I wasn’t complaining because I was so excited to see this world renowned church! If the outside seems impressive, the inside is breathtaking. I love thinking about all of the amazing things that have happened in these type of places, and the famous people from history who have walked on the same floors that I was lucky enough to stand on. When we were there the choir came out from some seemingly secret door and serenaded us. They also had a section closed off for church-goers to be able to take Communion. I mean, come on! Take Communion in St. Peter’s Basilica? If I was Catholic I would have to add that to the bucket list for sure.

That evening we had an amazing dinner and easily polished off a bottle of wine. We then walked down the streets of Rome eating gelato, listening to street musicians and then out of nowhere we turned a corner and there was a giant, centuries old building with huge pillars. I’m still not entirely sure what that building was, but that is the just an example of why Rome is so incredible; the mixing of modern buildings with ancient.

We finished the night back at the Trevi Fountain. It doesn’t get much more romantic than the Trevi Fountain at night. As a bonus, it was some of the best people watching of the trip!

There is still so much of Rome we would like to explore, but ever since Mat got me this for our anniversary, it makes it more difficult to not want to put a new pin in for each vacation, so I think we will be visiting the southern portion of the country when we head back to Italy!

What are your favorite sites to see in Rome?

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

ponte sant'angelo Roman, Italy

piazza venezia Rome, Italy

piazza venezia Rome, Italy

piazza venezia Rome, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

Roman Forum Rome, Italy

Roman Forum Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Rome and the Italian Open

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

ponte sant'angelo Roman, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

castel sant'angelo Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy

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