What can I say?! Awesome architecture - and who doesn't like a good skyline? - a beautiful river that snakes its way through the city (and turns very green once a year) and deep-dish pizza... of course I'm talking about you, Chicago! I have been to Chi Town twice - once in summer -oh my it was beautiful!- and once in November. Both times I absolutely loved this city! There's just something wonderful about listening to the rattling L train coming in overhead or staring up the tall glowing buildings at night. It was also here that I discovered my love for hockey (yeah, Blackhawks!). And even though I haven't had the chance to watch a baseball game at Wrigley Field yet I just love the Cubs and their story - and finally them winning last year! :)
And the food! Besides pizza there are also tons of vegan friendly restaurants around - my favorite one was Karyn's where I had the most delicious pumpkin pie in my life!
My favorite place in the city? The Michigan Avenue Bridge, aka Du Sable Bridge - it's the pretty one with the Illinois & US flags.
Favorite place for shopping? The Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave) which is a slightly smaller 5th Avenue and has tons of amazing high street shops & upscale department stores. Also the Water Tower for indoor shopping when the weather isn't all that nice (winter in Chicago,
My personal theme song for when I'm in Chicago? Sufjan Stevens - "Chicago".
Listen to it and if you've been to the city or are lucky enough to live there, you'll understand!
On my last trip I also got to go onto one of the architectural boat tours - if you like cool buildings you'll love this place! Scroll down for some impressions of the Windy City!
Welcome to Illinois!
The Cloud Gate aka The Bean - Millennium Park
Michigan Avenue Bridge aka Du Sable Bridge (yeah and that tower...)
View from Sears Tower Observation Deck - if you dare, step out into the glass cubicle and look straight down! Yes, even the floor is see-through - not for the faint hearted ;)
The Blackhawks @ United Center
Chicago @ night
Harvard in the leafy suburb of Cambridge, the historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill and Quincy Market - that's Boston in a nutshell! It's a big enough city to spend a couple of days here but not quite as overwhelming as New York or Chicago can be. Come on, I'll show you around! :)
The Cheers Bar!
A day in the park...
...and some downtown treasures!
Welcome to Harvard!
Hey guys, last October I traveled to some more cool cities along the East Coast and spent a couple of days in Providence, Rhode Island. Apart from pretty fall colors that time of the year I got to check out some incredible 18th & 19th century architecture, see Brown University and learn about The First Baptist Church of America. There is just so much colonial history in this place... Here we go!
The Rhode Island State House - built in the late 19th and early 20th century this is basically the Capitol building of the State of Rhode Island.
Incredible colonial homes built in 18th and 19th centuries - Benefit Street/East Side
The First Baptist Church of America - The congregation was founded by Roger Williams in the 17th century, the church itself built in the 1770's
Roger Williams Memorial Park
Hey guys, today I have some impressions of Houston, TX for you! I had the weird luck of having to fly via Houston on my way to El Salvador so I decided to extend the stop-over to fit in some sightseeing & an NBA game (Houston Rockets, YEAH!). Since it was just before Christmas the down town area was pretty quiet with hardly any tourists around, only locals.
Anyway, here’s what we saw... :)
As some of you may already know, I follow a mainly plant-based diet - that means no animal products (meat, chicken, fish, dairy or eggs) are on my menu. What I do still occasionally consume is honey though. I'm going to share more about my almost-vegan lifestyle, how I got there (no, I wasn't veggie all my life) and what it means to be a fussy eater on the road. But that's for another blog post, for now I want to show you the joys of eating plant-based in America!
The US is infamous for its plethora of unhealthy, cheap fast-food chains, supermarket aisles full of sugary, genetically modified products and not to mention HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) which seems to find its way into everything edible here. Yuck!
But if you only look hard enough you'll find just as many yummie healthy options in most bigger cities!
Let this be said, there are certain things I ALWAYS eat in America like dairy-free ice cream (yaaay Ben & Jerry's!) or take back home with me (Justin's Nut Butters - every. single. time.).
Granted, some of the foods I enjoyed on my trip to NOLA wouldn't exactly qualify as part of a "whole-foods plant-based diet" (I'm talking about you, accidentally-veggie-friendly Cracker Jacks!) but hey I was on holidays, right? ;)
So keep scrolling to see my food hauls and all the veggie-friendly meals I enjoyed in New Orleans two months ago!
One of the most beautiful neighborhoods of New Orleans is the Garden District - any self-respecting travel guide will advertise it as a must-see!
Think shiny white Southern mansions with traditional front porches, surrounded by well-cared for lawns. There used to be plantations in this area but throughout the 19th century the land was sold off to wealthy Americans who then built and settled here.
And how do you get there? By means of another tourist attraction: the New Orleans street cars. From Canal Street catch any of the iconic dark green "St Charles" trams. Buy your ticket on board, take a seat and enjoy the ride past the famous WWII museum and into the leafy suburbs.
Hop off at Charles and Washington and you're right in the middle of the Garden District. Grab a coffee at Still Perkin' and start wandering.
Also down here is the Lafayette Cemetery #1 which is famous for its elaborate tombs. Considering that the city is built on swamp land anything buried in the ground will sooner or later float back up again. To prevent that they simply built the cemeteries here above ground.
Catch another tram back downtown to get a feeling for a completely different part of the city.
The Garden District is one of the more affluent, higher built neighborhoods which escaped Katrina's force almost unscathed. But if you walk anywhere north of the French Quarter you can still see cracked roads and some abandoned houses that may have been left behind after the hurricane destroyed major parts of New Orleans. It's been almost 12 years but some of the scars Katrina left behind are still visible.
The state of Louisiana changed hands several times, had people from many different cultural backgrounds settle here and especially New Orleans played an important role in slave rights back in the day. If you are interested in local history then consider visiting one of the plantations-turned-museum outside the city to learn more about that period.
For a quick history fix head back down to Decatur and check out Jackson Square.
From the slightly elevated look-out spot at the Washington Artillery Park you overlook Jackson Square and you get a great view of the St Louis Cathedral. To its left is the Cabildo, which used to be the seat of the colonial government and is now (together with the Presbytere on the right) home to the Louisiana State Museum.
And of course it wouldn't be a proper visit to New Orleans without a walk through Armstrong Park!
So that was the last part of my New Orleans city adventure... I hope you enjoyed the pictures!
There will be another post in the near future about where we stayed, what yummie plant-based foods we found & some other useful bits of information about the Big Easy! :)
...let me explain: Every year when the Mardi Gras season is about to begin those huge cakes called King Cake pop up in the stores. They bear the traditional Mardi Gras colors – purple, green & gold – and apparently taste like a funky mix of vanilla and cinnamon. Traditionally, a miniature baby figurine symbolizing luck & prosperity is baked into each Cake. So far so good...
Fast forward to day 3 in N’awlins and we were off to watch an NBA game – The New Orleans Pelicans vs The Washington Wizards. We arrived at the Smoothie King Center, had our tickets checked and were given a little gift at the entrance: a box that contained the creepiest looking bobble head doll I have ever seen! I’m still not sure what this was all about but we took him back to the hotel and left him there when we checked out. I hope someone adopted him & gave him a loving home – sorry Chucky!
Back to the cake: traditional King Cakes aren’t quite vegan-friendly but since I wanted to get an idea of what it tastes like I tried it in the form of coffee! At PJ's they serve King Cake flavored lattes with vanilla, cinnamon & almond syrup. If the actual cake tastes anything like that then I can imagine why people love it so much – it’s really yummy!
Oh and the NBA game? Well, New Orleans didn’t win this one but it was great fun being there! From listening to the American Anthem being sung by a children’s choir to watching several local dance schools and cheer-leading squads perform during the breaks - it was awesome entertainment! It makes me wonder, is anybody actually going there to watch the match? Anyway, I had the time of my life – American sports games are a real experience!
When leaving the arena we caught a glimpse of the huge Mercedes Benz Superdome NFL stadium, the home ground of the New Orleans Saints.
When you’re in New Orleans there’s no way you’re not going to a Jazz Bar. So you might as well go to a really cool one: The Spotted Cat. Locals and tourists alike recommended this little gem and so we had to check it out. From what I heard, it can get really packed in the evenings – the place is already pretty small & intimate – and especially on weekends it’s super popular. A good thing then (this being a party town after all) that many bars open in the early afternoon! The music in The Spotted Cat started just past 2pm and with only a handful of other visitors we enjoyed an incredible live performance!
I hope you enjoyed the pictures so far.
Stay tuned for part 3! :)
I was convinced the captain on my flight from Boston to New Orleans was trying to be funny, but no – people really do say N’awlins! At least down here in Louisiana. And any way, it does sound much more exotic than “New Orleeens” ;)
And speaking of which, I’m convinced New Orleans must be the most exotic city in the USA. With Spanish, African, Creole & Caribbean and French influences all blended together this place could be anywhere in the world! It’s a big colorful mix that is as American as it is not. And it somehow just feels right.
I visited The Big Easy in late January, just before Mardi Gras kicked off, when accommodation was still affordable and the tourist crowds were more or less manageable. But even then there were so many things to see and do – marching bands were practicing, the houses were beautifully decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors - gold, green & purple – and I even saw some floats on the streets already!
Then there is Bourbon Street – the party street in America. Popular with bachelor & bachelorette parties, tourists and the spring break crowds, this is a street lined by bars, restaurants and night clubs (and certain other establishments). Pedestrianized by night the whole place turns into one big party zone. It’s much quieter by day but certainly worth a visit as the beautiful architecture is barely visible at night. This is after all right in the middle of the French Quarter – the heart & soul of the city.
New Orleans was indeed founded by the French in the very early 18th century. Later it was ceded to the Spanish and then returned to the French. In 1803 Napoleon sold it to the United States in what was to become known as the Louisiana Purchase. The state was even known as The Republic of Louisiana for a brief period, before joining the Confederate States and then once more becoming part of the United States of America in 1862.
Random fact: Ironically, most of the architecture you see today in the French Quarter is actually of Spanish heritage built during the decades when Spain governed the city. One of the oldest, best-conserved French-period buildings, however, is the early 18th century Old Ursuline Convent.
Canal Street is often called the widest street in the US - which may or may not be true but in all fairness it’s incredibly wide for an inner-city shopping street! The plan was to build a huge canal through the city. That never happened and instead they built what is now Canal Street. It’s here were you shop, stay at fancy hotels or take one of the famous red or green street cars. Bourbon Street is just off Canal Street and if you walk all the way down to the end of Canal you’re at the shore of the majestic Mississippi river – with its famous bridge and old-school steamboats! And once you’re down there turn into Decatur – my favorite part of the city! It’s a long street that runs parallel to the Mississippi and it’s full of buskers, crazy costume shops, several tourist offices and souvenir stores.
Decatur is also home to the famous Cafe du Monde (I’ve never queued up so long for a cup of coffee!) and the beautiful French Market.
So much for now, next week I’ll show you the coolest little Jazz bar, take you to a Basketball game & introduce you to a creepy little friend we made in NOLA... So long!