Pack-Free Zone

Pack-Free Zone

I love traveling and seeing the sights. I love going to new places where I can explore new horizons, or just getting on a plane to head back east to visit family. But, in order to do all these things, there’s one thing you’ve got to do that, frankly, I don’t like. Not one bit. And that’s packing. Continue reading

Thanksgiving in Chicago

This sculpture seems to be holding court at the Art Institute of Chicago

Just got back from Chicago and all I can say is:

Brrr!!!

Talk about windy.  Sure, I know Chicago is known as the windy city. But I figured that was just a figure of speech. Much in the way New York City is known as the Big Apple.

I mean, everyone knows that NYC really isn’t an apple, right? There’s nothing about it that tastes like a Granny Smith or a Red Delicious, is there? So, I just assumed Chicago really wasn’t windy. At least, no more than any other city.

But, no. Turns out Chicago is 100 percent, honest-to-goodness windy. Wizard of Oz tornado-in-Kansas windy, though I didn’t see Miss Gulch flying by on a bike.

In fact, those Chicago gusts nearly knocked the wind right out of my sails, and any determination I had to face the crowds on Black Friday were immediately dashed.

Ready for the holidays at the Art Institute of Chicago

So, maybe skipping Black Friday was for the best. After all, I find that for every gift I purchase, I usually end up buying a second for myself.

Besides, there’s Cyber Monday!

So what did we do instead? For starters, we stayed in and puttered. We ate leftover turkey and all the fixings, caught up on our magazine reading, and chatted and laughed to our hearts’ content.

We watched TV and lamented that one of our favorite new series, 666 Park Avenue, has been cancelled. We had a moment of silence for Larry Hagman, an actor who could channel evil like few others, and who was pure perfection in his role of J.R. Ewing on the Dallas TV series.

We did venture out on occasion. Once to see the film, Lincoln, which was then followed by a lively debate on the complexities of the man and what it took to get the U.S. Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment–the one outlawing slavery–passed.

We also spent an afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago, saw the Chicago Symphony concert perform music from the Disney film, Fantasia, and dined at a very nice restaurant.

And, did I tell you it was freezing?

Of course, when the temps warmed a little, I got to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes, taking walks around a nearby lake.  Herewith, some photos from my trip:

A walk along the lake.

Signs of Christmas

And one more…

At the airport, a chance encounter with the The Blues Brothers.

So, what did you do last week?

Four Cities, Three Gals, Two Weeks

Four cities, 14 days. Three gals on a journey of a lifetime.

Did I have what it takes to make the most of it all? Was I ready for the time of my life? And, when all was said and done, did any of the cities we visited become my favorite?

If you ask me, Henry was on to me and my imminent departure. I think he had an allergy flareup as a way to get me to stay. The fiend!

Yes, yes. and heck, yes!

Being an honorary Girl Scout, I was ready. My ducks were all in a row. Indeed, having started planning this trip months in advance, I prepared and trained for this European vacation with the utmost precision, one befitting well, um, Captain Von Trapp, whistle and all. I kept countless lists of all I would need to do prior to departure. Passport? Copy of passport? Check and check!

I was determined that nothing would go wrong. I paid all my bills in advance. I arranged for a friend to water the plants in my patio. I even made a trip to my local Target store to purchase the necessary toiletries, making sure all were under three ounces.

Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I asked a number of friends for advice on traveling abroad. (Thanks, Ashley, Trisha, Christine, Bella, Susan and Clare!)

I left a copy of my itinerary with my son (who never even looked at it!), along with thorough instructions on the care and keeping of Henry. I also contacted Henry’s vet to let his office know, that in the event of any unforeseen mishap, my son would have the authority to make all decisions on Henry’s behalf. I then gave them my credit card number, in case of emergency expenses.

My daughter (seen here at Park Güell) was climbing the walls, having already spent six weeks in Barcelona by the time I arrived. Just kidding. She loved it there!

I also made sure my trust was in order, and then proceeded to get all weepy as I told my son where I keep all the important documents, in the event of, well, anything. Of course, I reminded him of my desire to be cremated, in the event that my plane didn’t make it across the pond. After all, I found it unfathomable that a plane could make a ten-hour journey without stopping for gasoline! My son, the compassionate soul that he is, just stared blankly at me and shrugged.

Then, I did what every traveler does prior to departure. I packed, keeping in mind what my daughter, who was already in a Barcelona study abroad program, advised. Pack lightly! A daunting task, if you ask me, given I am fond of having all the comforts of home wherever I go.

To save space in my suitcase, my friend, Susan, said she’d heard that some people pack just two pairs of underwear and alternate. At first, I wondered, exactly how much space does underwear take, that I should only pack two? I assumed what she’d heard, but didn’t mention, was to pack two pairs and wear the other 12 on the plane. Not the most comfortable way to travel, mind you, but I was up for the challenge.

When the day came to board the plane, I was ready. Which is when Henry had an unexpected bout with allergies (clearly, he was allergic to my impending departure), and I had to make the decision whether to take him to the vet and hope they’d see him without an appointment (he’s Henry, after all!), which could have the potential of leaving me with barely enough time to go through security and board the plane. Or, I could leave it to my son to handle once he dropped me off at the airport. I chose the latter.

Six days later (well, actually, 24 hours later but it sure felt like six days!), I arrived at my first destination: the London Heathrow Airport, which was all abuzz with Olympic fever, and where I spent every minute of a two-hour layover maneuvering my way through the maze, the crowds, the security, etc, in order to get from one gate to the next.

The view from atop Park Güell, one of Gaudi’s finest achievements.

And, before you could say, “Bob’s your uncle,” I was headed to Barcelona–exhausted and damp with perspiration–to meet my daughter and a friend she had met through her study abroad program, who would be traveling with us.

Together, the three of us would leave Barcelona and traipse across Europe. And, by Europe, I mean Vienna, Salzburg and Prague, all cities rich with history and chocolate. Yes, the world was our oyster–and we had lots of ground to cover!

But first, there was the matter of ice.

Turns out, I love ice. Have a thing for it, really. But, ice could be the very thing that separates Americans from the Europeans. The line in the sand, if you will. And, the lack of it had the potential to cause an international incident.

For, like Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. And, by Kansas I mean, the USA. But, I’ll tell you about it in my next post.

Did all my planning guarantee nothing would go wrong? And, what was my favorite city?

Well, all will soon be revealed.
In the meantime, tell me. How do you prepare for a long trip?