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Chicago — Part 1

We’ve been talking about it for years but someplace else always came first. Usually someplace European. Last year the arrival of our daughter Arya caused our travel plans to be come a lot more domestic in nature so we finally planned our trip to Chicago.

We rented an apartment through AirBNB that was in the Northcenter area but within walking distance of a Brown Line metro stop to the Loop. The apartment is great: spacious and very child friendly. Lots of toys and books for Arya to use. And the neighborhood is quiet but has lots of good restaurants near by.

Our first night we had a late dinner at a place called Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro which had a great beer selection (Two Brothers for me) and excellent food. Arya was still on Seattle time, but since it’s two hours later in Chicago, it’s actually working out pretty well for us. She doesn’t mind being out until 10 and gets up at a reasonable 7 o’clock.

We started our first full day by taking the el to the Willis (Sears) Tower to take in the spectacular view. Let me just pause a moment here to sing the praises of the City Pass. I debated the necessity of getting them, but since we were planning on seeing at least three of the attractions anyway and could easily be talked into seeing the others it was a no brainer. And it proved it’s worth the first day by allowing us to skip the hour to hour and half wait in line to get to the observation deck.

The view was pretty great and Arya had a fine time running from window to window and even stepped out onto the skybox with no problems.

Arya on The Ledge

That was the high point (pun absolutely intended) of the day. The low point came a few hours later when we were on the Sea Dog Architecture River Boat Tour in an open boat. That’s when the sky opened up and we were drenched through to the bone. Arya was a little trooper and hardly complained at all. Even if we hadn’t got soaked I don’t think the tour would have been as great as we were led to believe. This is probably because we didn’t go on the Architecture Foundation tour, which wanted to charge us $30 for Arya. Sea Dog only charged us a dollar for her.

After our drenching we decided to cut the day short and head home to dry off which was just fine because I’d had about all of the Navy Pier experience I needed (think Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco only bigger).

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Posted in Illinois, Journal Entry, Travel | 7 Comments

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Sadly Neglected Travel Blog

Hey look, I have a travel blog! When did that happen?

No, it only seems like I’ve forgotten this thing existed. The truth is, my wife and I haven’t done a whole lot of traveling in the past two years. Spain was kind of our last hurrah for a while as we tried to, and eventually became new parents last May. Since then, our trips have been few.

In September we took the little one for her first travel adventure. We hopped a train down to Portland to celebrate our 4th anniversary.

Very much enjoyed the relaxing train trip. We stayed at the McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel, which was a short walk from the train station and right on the edges of the Pearl district. So we had plenty to do and were able to leave the car at home.

A large part of the reason we went down (a part from our anniversary) was to eat at Big Ass Sandwiches. You may have seen them featured on Best Sandwich In America, I know I did. And judging by the line, everyone else in a 300 mile radius had as well. We waited in line for about 2 hours for that sandwich. Was it worth it? No, no it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good sandwich, just not two-hour-wait good. I recommend waiting till the hype dies down before going.

Back in October we took Arya down to Dallas for my father’s 70th birthday. It was her first plane ride and she travelled like a champ.

While there we took in the State Fair of Texas where we at much fried food (fried beer, fried biscuits and gravy, fried sauerkraut balls, fried jambalaya). We also got to see Big Tex just days before he burned down. Very sad.

Big Tex

And tomorrow we head off for the East Coast. First D.C. and then New York. I’ll try to post something about this trip before too much time has elapsed.


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Posted in Oregon, Texas, Travel | No Comments

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Distilling Portland

Last weekend Irene and I took a trip down to Portland to see Jethro Tull who were playing a concert on the lawn at our favorite hotel, The Edgefield. We always have a great time in Portland and usually discover something new every time we go.

This time it was all about the booze. There are many fine craft distilleries and five of them are in what is known as Distillery Row. Four of them are within 12 blocks of each other and can be done on foot (recommended). The fifth is a little bit further away (and a bit hard to navigate to). We had a very good time and bought way too much by way of booze. My favorite of which was an experimental concoction from House Spirits which, to me, tasted and smelled like wort. The ginger rum from Deco Distilling was also noteworthy. We also paid a visit to Clear Creek Distillery, which is not part of Distillery Row, but is still well worth a visit.

And no trip to Portland is complete without hitting a brewery or two. This time we had lunch at Hopworks Urban Brewery where we partook of a flight of all their offerings. Big fans of their brews. Also, quite by accident we stumbled across the Cascade Brewing barrel house. They have an impressive collection of sour beers (an acquired taste that I am slowly developing an appreciation for). The taps rotate quite frequently so check it out next time your in town.

Portland is very much a foody town and we managed to have some great meals as well. Of note were The Waffle Window and the Laurelhurst Market. Both highly recommended.

I’ve posted a few more pictures from our trip here (some are from previous trips as well).

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Posted in Journal Entry, Oregon, Travel | No Comments

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Sunset in Negril

Negril, Jamaica05 by Ken Broman
Negril, Jamaica05, a photo by Ken Broman on Flickr.

The sun going down on our first night in Jamaica.

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Posted in Jamaica, Photos, Travel | No Comments

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Madrid with Friends

Last night we were treated to a night out with Jośe (with whom we are aquainted through Ken’s brother Jeff, who met Jośe recently during Jeff’s stint volunteering at a language academy outside of Madrid), Jośe’s lovely wife Marisol (who speaks as much English as I speak Spanish), Marisol’s cousin Laura (who is on her way to speaking English after a recent study program of her own), and Laura’s husband Jośe Louis (whose name I think I’ve ruined).

They showed us Madrid like only locals can, and it was truly awesome! After meeting up, we walked through Retiro Park on the final day of the annual national book fair, which stretched farther than my eye could see. To give our legs a rest, we were then treated to a chaufered personal tour down the main vein of the modern center, Paseo de la Castellana. We passed Spain’s Stock Exchange, the Treasury, Tax Collection headquarters, and major banks.

Even though it was raining, we detoured to have a look at the Temple de Debod, and caught sight of a rainbow near sunset for our troubles.

Next came the Fiesta de San Antonio de la Florida. Afterall, what could be better than a look in at one of Madrid’s annual festivals, and it was great. We started in toward a food spot well known to locals (we were told) and neighboring the Chapel where El Greco rests his painterly bones. On our way there, I got talked into sharing what I was told is a specialty of Madrid, fried pork intestine.

Do you care to know what I thought of breaded & fried poop shoot, as Anthony Bordain puts it? Well I’ll tell you. Having grown up in Arkasas, I think I can testify that anything breaded and fried pretty much shares that breaded-and-fried flavor profile. It was quite rich and salty with crunch, not unlike fried chicken skin, but with added chew. Bread was a good accompaniment, and—as Jośe pointed out—some wine (acidity) would help to cut the richness of it. Did I like it? Sure. I enjoyed it. Though I’m probably not in need of getting it again all too soon, it was fun to give it a try. (I’m still saving blood sausage for another time, however.)

Back to our preordained tapas stop: as I said, it was right next to the Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida—a big wooden tavern of a place that reminded us of a Munich beer hall—where we all enjoyed chiorzo braised in hard cider, washing it down with—what else?—hard cider. Others of us (Ken wasn’t up for trying the pork bowel sandwiches, either) enjoyed tuna-laced ensalada pimentoes and empanadas to share, as well. With the slightest shred of appetite still remaining, we headed out toward the festival.

The festival was much like you might imagine. It featured various food stalls, carnival rides, a rock band performance, and a few folks in traditional costume. At Marisol’s prompting, we got our picture taken with the traditionally clad folks, and they were most obliging. Super fun! O! And I should mention that we tried soaked chuffa nuts (such as are used to make horchata) and pickled eggplant (which was something I would definately eat all the time if I could find them like this at home).

For one last tapas stop, we were back in the car toward our hotel and Puerto del Sol. Jose told us how the place was part of a chain, but that the food is good. It was. It was Las Bravas at the intersection of Calle de Alvarez Gato and Calle de la Cruz, just a few blocks past Puerto del Sol. They ordered for us some croquets, a tortilla, and (damn, I can’t remember what else, but it was good).

Thanks so much to this group for showing is a memoriable and authentic night. It was a blast. We hope for the chance to return the favor sometime


Posted in Spain, Travel | 1 Comment