Chicago Day 1: Getting Familiar with my Surroundings

I had a nice deep sleep last night and intended on sleeping in, however my internal alarm clock had other ideas. Thanks to the complimentary Keurig, I had my morning coffee and drank it as I people watched from my window sill. I was ready to go back to bed, but I was encouraged to venture out and get familiar with my surroundings. I’m glad I did because downtown Chicago is a beautiful place.

I walked around, bought some breakfast food and gatorade from the Walgreens on the corner, very nice and helpful people there. I proceeded down the street with people and life whizzing passed me. I stared up at the beautiful buildings and got a sense of history. I couldn’t help but smile as I walked among the crowds, under scaffolds and caught glimpses of old fire escapes that trailed up the old buildings. I wanted to do more walking around, but I hadn’t eaten since before I left Canada, so I stopped and got a sub at a Subway.

I went into the Hard Rock Hotel store to check out the merchandise. (sigh) I wanted to buy one of everything! They had a guitar signed by all the Bon Jovi members and I decided to ask the store clerk a couple questions. She’s a young girl but she was so down-to-earth and since she is born and raised in Chicago she had lots of information regarding what great things there are to see. She recommended the Field Museum, which I’m totally down for, and named a couple local Irish pubs and fun bars. She was adorable and knew so many things that brochures can’t possibly mention.

I will go and chat with her again while I’m here. I just love meeting new people and laughing about how much you have in common with them. I’m still debating on whether I want to go for a drink in the hotel bar later, but I’m chalking this day up as an absolute success!

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Some stealth pics :)
Some stealth pics 🙂

On American soil…

Yes…I have finally made it to my Chicago destination and I couldn’t be more happy! How was my trip…well…let’s just get into it, shall we?

When I booked the flight and found out I’d have to wait for 3 hours, I was kind of annoyed. I went through all the hoops that TSA and Customs put me through. One, they took me into a back room and went through my things, EVEN my journal and two, they were asking me questions like: “Why are you traveling alone? Why do you want to go to Chicago? If you were still a financial advisor would you advise your clients to take vacations like this?” Like really?! THEN, he told me that since I haven’t been to the U.S. lately that I only have 10 days here, then I’d have to leave or I’d be in big trouble. Did I miss something, why can’t I stay longer? Is it because I’m Canadian?!

Well, after the search, and them making a shambles of my packing job, I was ready to get the big scan done. The agent scanned my ticket and the airline had me on the wrong flight. I had to go all the way back to stage 1, then come all the way back, by this time there were hordes of people. I got a line exemption and because of all the commotion they didn’t scan my laptop and iPad correctly. So rescan it went…

I made it to my gate and found out that my flight was delayed for an hour. During my wait, I made friends with the pilot and the premenopausal flight attendants. I kept asking the Captain about his closet and if it was as big as they portray it in the movies. He showed me his closet…it wasn’t that big at all. Actually, the whole plane seemed miniature. Most of us had to check our bags right at the plane doors because there wasn’t enough room in the overhead compartments. There was a lot of turbulence, but the only thing that freaked me the hell out is that one person would cough…then another person coughed…then a woman threw up…then the guy beside me started sniffling… I thought I was in the worst kind of death trap! All I could do was close my eyes and practice my calm breathing.

I was picked up in a beautiful Cadillac Escalade and the driver has 20 years of history of living in Chicago and he told me all these amazing restaurants I should visit while I’m here. I got myself checked in and the room is beautiful, high ceilings and perfect view of the city.

Now, despite all my hassles I must say everyone from the officers to agents to the flight attendants were amazingly professional and they dealt with every situation quickly and efficiently. All in all, I learned a lot about traveling into the U.S. Mostly… to visit more often!

24 hours until lift off!

I ended up buying a new bag for my travels, I just couldn’t fit some things into my carry-on. Now, with less than 24 hours before my feet leave Canadian soil, I am left with getting my boarding pass on my phone and confirming my pick up with the concierge. I’m currently charging my phone, laptop and iPad. I’ve backed everything up so I’m feeling very prepared.

Since I have some extras, this trip could make for an excellent test for me and for who I meet along my way. I’m going through my bags over and over feeling like I’m missing something.

I feel both sadness and happiness right now. I hug my children and cuddle them. I can see and hear their excitement for me, especially from my 15 year old. He surprised me today, apparently he’s been talking to his friends about me and one of his friends has offered some spa services from his work at a salon. He smiled at me as I read the message from his phone, with his little dimple, he said, “See Ma, I got you!”

It’s true, I will be leaving a part of me that I’ve known for so many years. The adjustments are going to be difficult and challenging, but it is inevitable. I don’t feel anxious, I don’t feel rushed… I just feel…ready.

Final checks…printer ink, pens and notebooks…aaaahhh!

In doing my final checks for my flight in 3 days; I decided to use the little containers that came with my TSA approved clear plastic bag. I managed to fit all these liquids into the tiny bag:

So many liquids...not a lot of options...
So many liquids…not a lot of options…

The tiny containers, that came with my clear travel bag, also came with clear sticker labels. I filled these up and labelled them while listening to my music.

Sharpie and clear stickers

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Of course this meant changing a few things around, but I managed fit a pair of tall boots, stiletto dress shoes and a pair of flip-flops. I rolled my eyeshadow palette into my jeans for extra protection and added my other toiletry bag for my hair brush and big toothed comb.

Since airport security wants the liquids accessible I put that bag on the large front panel pocket of my carry-on suitcase.

TSA Approved bag of liquids.

For a freshening up bag I just added some face powder, chapstick, eye makeup remover and wipes. I put this on the smaller front panel pocket where I would be able to reach it easier.

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On to my gadget bag… I added my notebook to the same pocket with my laptop for extra bit of cushion protection. The other side of my laptop bag holds my iPad and my headphones, camera, external hard drive; as well as my cords, chargers and backup battery.

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My last stop, errand wise is to pick up my favourite pens (I seriously can’t write without them) and printer ink to print out my itinerary and receipts.

Looks like I’m ready to fly! 🙂

Untitled?…

There’s something about the feel of you that eases me when I grip you in my hand.  You ease my mind, you are my voice, you know my most intimate thoughts.  I hate to admit, but I feel I am lost without you.  I have strayed from you, with so many yet to you is where I always turn to.

There’s just something about the way you shine in any kind of light.  You light up my world when I see you in another one’s hand.  Yet I feel protective of you, I feel nervous for you as I see another enjoy your smoothness.  I can’t wait to have you in my grasp.  My fingers are meant to be around you.

I know our fate is only temporary before we must inevitably say goodbye, forever.  But know this…  I will enjoy you to the bittersweet end.  My secrets will die with you and I am at peace with that.

An Ode To My Pen

“Sardine” packing, flight confirmations and last minute errands…

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Above, I have decided on trying the “roll technique” for this travel.  I still have to pack up my makeup, but there’s plenty of room for my makeup and another pair of shoes, plus some extra space for souvenirs as my boys are HUGE Chicago fans.  Now, I don’t care what anyone says, minimalist travel is hard as hell to pack.  I’m a woman who loves the freedom of options within my own dressing room…so, challenge accepted and after switching out a few outfits, my suitcase now looks like clothing sardines!

Since I won’t be in Chicago until after 9:30pm, I can already predict that I will be sleeping for like 2 days.  The hotel concierge team has been so amazing I can’t rave enough about them!  I hope they will let me take pics of them, like the true tourist I intend to be. 🙂

Next, on the list for tomorrow is have my camera checked.

I was so excited packing and unpacking last night I lost track of time, the evening coffee didn’t help, didn’t get to bed until around 3am and I have a meeting in the early afternoon!  Whew!

Will keep my updates rolling…  🙂

Look out Chicago…here I come!

Today, I ended up being extra productive and accomplished all my major travel plans.  So..here we go…

I booked my roundtrip flight and my transportation to and from the airport.  Now, originally I thought I’d make it easy on myself and fly directly out of my city, however for interest purposes, I decided to fly out of the major city airport which is 2 hours away from where I live.  Well, here’s the kicker, the shuttle bus will pick me up right in front of my house (awesome), however they recommend that I pick the time on their schedule which I would arrive at the airport a minimum of 3 hours before my flight…3 hours (not so awesome)… What the heck am I gonna do for 3 hours in the airport?!  Besides hand sanitizing incessantly, the only thing I can think of is to find a place to nap!

I’ve downloaded the airline apps for my boarding passes, I love technology for that, but I also have to print out my itinerary (yay!) …printer reads “out of ink” (boo)

Sigh, well add buy ink and get my camera checked out to the list…

Gadget problems…

Sigh… I’m exhausted…  

I accomplished a major conquest which is getting my passport pictures and renewal done AND having it expressed delivered for an extra $50.  The line up was endless, but it did move well.  I overheard one of the passport agents say the worst time to come to get your passports done was at noon and on a Monday.  So…typical of me, I did both.  I arrived at noon on a Monday and spent 2 hours there.  I was unprepared as I didn’t have my passport renewal application filled out, so I was sent right back to the end of the line where I had to fill out the form.  To add to my adventure, I also needed 2 of my friends’ correct addresses for verification that someone other than family knew me (or is it to verify I had any friends at all….hmmm) and I was on 2% battery on my cellphone.  With a bit of perspiration, I managed to get the information I needed; I waited for another 45 minutes and made it out of the people packed office in 2 hours.  Luckily, I practiced enhancing my calm and smiled that at least things were moving forward.  I will have to pick my passport up 2 days before my flight which, again makes for an interesting journey.

With my receipt and reassurance that my passport was on its way, I proceeded to book my ticket online.  I did use Kayak and got an amazing deal and was expecting my tickets to be emailed to me “within 3 hours” as it had stated, however nothing but a reservation of the tickets was confirmed.  I guess that will be tomorrow’s priority one task.

As I write this, I am shaking my head at myself and laughing.

I wrote of a list of things to pack and checked off my accomplishments on my “To Do” list.  As I was going down my list, I decided, to make a video about my little mishaps of the day.  WELL, the video was great, I had a great angle and such…BUT upon playback I noticed a really annoying clicking noise.  I took it to google, of course, and found some trouble shooting tips…did they work?  Nope.  I took out my extended warranty plan and noticed there was a 90-Day no question exchange option.  With a glimmer of hope I reached into the folder to read my receipt date and I am currently 7 days passed the 90-Day option.  To have it checked out and possibly prepared is still covered, however with 10 days before my trip this makes for a very interesting twist to my plans.  My last option before sending it out for repairs is to reset my settings to its default.  I went to do that and my camera battery died and I cannot access it until it is charged.  Double sigh.

Well, I guess things have to balance out somehow…I can’t help but smile and think this vacation is SOOO gonna be worth it because damn…this gal needs a break!  WHEW!

If you are having a rough day, just think, at least you aren’t me at this moment and that should put a smile on your face.  I know I am still wearing my smile with pride, because things could be much worse…

Until my next time… PEACE!