When I was visiting San Francisco last year, I caught a streetcar from Market Street to Pier 33 where the boat was leaving for the Alcatraz tour. While I was waiting at the stop, a Google Streetview car went past. I bookmarked my location, in the hopes of one day finding myself on Streetview. Well, today is that day!
Day two in LA and I decided to get the Hop On Hop Off bus and tour up around Hollywood. I’d been considering a tour of one of the movie studios, but really needed to decide that the day before and get up earlier to make my way up to Hollywood. Going by public bus it’s about an hour and a half from Santa Monica up to Hollywood. Using the Hop On Hop Off bus it’s over 2 hours with all the stops. Given the limited time I had there, I just decided to stick with Hollywood and make the most of the places I could get to.
I had a nice sleep in, and when I woke up there was no-one in the apartment. The night before when I came home the lights in the living room were on, and no-one was around. I couldn’t tell if they were asleep or not home. I left the lights on at the time in case they were still out. This morning, all the same lights were on and nothing in the kitchen seemed to have moved. They could have still been in bed, but I’m not sure.
Anyway, I got ready for the day and walked down to the Main Street in search of breakfast. I found a nice looking cafe, ordered an omelette and sat down to read through my Lonely Planet and brochures about the tourist bus. I wasn’t sure where to buy a ticket, so found a tourist info place in Main Street and went there after breakfast. When I got there it was closed! There was a sign on the door saying the nearest was at the Pier so I walked there only to find they were out on a break for 30 minutes.
It was about 11am at this point and I was keen to get on the bus and start moving, so I just went to the bus stop and waited. About 10 minutes later the bus came, and I jumped on. Fortunately I was able to buy a ticket from the driver, and he could take credit card. I bought a two day pass, figuring it was a lot cheaper that way if I did end up using it the next day as well.
Today was a travel day. My flight was at 1.30pm, so I had booked a shuttle bus for 11am. I’d packed most of my stuff the night before, so once I’d finished packing in the morning I went downstairs and joined the queue at the cafe for breakfast. Since my breaky was covered by a credit back to my room, I thought I should probably eat before checking out.
I think a lot of other people must have had the breakfast credit as well because the queue for the cafe was about 15 minutes long. It was tricky manoeuvring my suitcase with all the people, but I couldn’t be bothered dropping it off with the hotel staff then going back to collect it after breaky. I had an egg, bacon and cheese croissant today (they had two breakfast specialties – egg, bacon and cheese bagel or croissant).
After breaky, I went to the express checkout to avoid the crazy queues at the counter, then walked to the shuttle bus pick up. As with the Grand Canyon tour, for some reason the shuttle bus wasn’t able to get me from the front of the hotel. Instead I had to walk out the back past the pool, and around the corner where there was a small shelter and shuttle bus pickup / drop off area. There was a sign there saying that they were about to start a project to improve the area, so maybe the hotel just doesn’t have the facilities for that much traffic.
When I got there, I was the only person waiting at the shelter. I wasn’t sure if I had the right place, but the restaurant across the road was the one they had told me to wait near so I thought I must at least be close and would see the bus if it parked across the road or somewhere else nearby. After about 10 minutes another guy came sat next to me. He was waiting for a different shuttle company. Over the next 30 minutes, about 8 different vans arrived, three of which were my company. Unfortunatley, none of them were taking passengers, they were just doing drop offs. Continue reading
Arrived in Chicago at about 6pm last night. We were able to get picked up from Q Center at 4pm instead of 5pm which was good, but the traffic was pretty heavy so it took almost 2 hours to get here. We went via Union Centre where two other girls were heading to watch a basketball game, and dropped another guy at his hotel before ours so that added to the trip time as well.
After checking into our hotel we went downstairs to take advantage of free drinks and snacks while we worked out our plans for the night. Our hotel is located in the River North area which has a lot of restaurants and bars. During our adventures today we also found that were only about a 15 minute walk from downtown Chicago which is very convenient!
So last night we went to Lui Malnetti’s for deep dish pizza. The restaurant was packed and we had to wait 45 minutes for a table. Alison, the Chicago local at our training, had recommended this particular pizza chain so we were quite happy to wait. The chain originated from back in the 1940s when Lui was helping out in his dad’s restaurant. In 1971 Lui opened his own restaurant and the chain has grown from there. They took our order at the same time as our reservation, so the food came not long after we were seated.
When the pizza arrived it was well worth the wait. We ordered a medium which was plenty for the three of us. The pizza base was a similar thickness to what we get back in Melbourne, but the toppings were about an inch thick! The actual pizza is made in a pan of similar height to a pie dish. There was a layer of spinach covered in a thick layer of cheese, topped with sausage, mushrooms, tomato and some dried parmesan cheese. It was delicious! We were eyeing off the dessert menu while we waited, but after having two slices of pizza there was no way we could fit it in. We’ll have to find somewhere else for massive choc chip cookie sundaes (something I don’t think will be too hard to find).
After dinner we went for a walk to explore Michigan Avenue. Being mostly shops and department stores, a lot of it was closed. Didn’t matter too much though because it was nice to go for a walk and get a feel for the area. (We’re going back this afternoon to visit the Hancock Center and have a look at some of the shops.) From there we found a place called Red Head’s Piano Bar just around the corner from our hotel. We stopped in for half an hour before making our way back to the hotel. It was a really cool place. It was mostly filled with office workers who were enjoying Friday night drinks, with the main attraction being a guy playing a piano and taking requests for songs. It was a lot of fun, with everyone singing along to songs like American Pie and Piano Man. I’m glad we went to check it out.
So far today has been very busy. We had a bit of a sleep in which was needed after a week of early starts for training. Our room includes a buffet breakfast, so went went downstairs for that at 9.30 and started making plans for the rest of the day.
First stop was an architecture boat cruise tour. A couple of friends had recommended this so we were pretty keen. Jess was meeting up with a friend for the day, so Julie and I walked to the river planning to buy tickets for the 12pm tour with the Chicago Architectural Foundation. Unfortunately for the Foundation their Google map link led us to the wrong side of the river and we ended up getting tickets with another group called Shoreline. There are actually several groups that operate tours there and since they all go along the same stretch of river it didn’t really make a difference to us.
The tour went for about an hour and was really interesting. Our guide, Heather, started off telling us some history of Chicago then told us facts about most of the buildings we went past. It’s really good to have a guide for something like this because there a lot of things you wouldn’t notice otherwise, and interesting little stories behind each of the buildings.
As we were pulling out of the dock, one of the bridges opened up to allow some sailing boats through. Boom gates closed to stop the cars and pedestrians, and one half of the bridge was raised. Heather told us it only happens twice a week, so we were quite lucky to see it. Not only did we see it, but our boat went under the bridge while it was being raised! A bit of water drained off and almost showered on us, and it was really exciting.
The rest of the cruise was interesting though, and we saw a mixture of old and new buildings in all sorts of styles.
At the end of the tour we were quite cold. It was pretty windy on the boat, and we’re only heading for a top of about 15 degrees today. We found a Starbucks and stopped there for a coffee. The small size here is called “tall” and skinny is “low fat” so ordering led to some confusion. I got a breakfast bun as well, which was some type of cinnamon scroll – very yum! We made use of the free Wifi there and checked out some details for the rest of the afternoon.
From there we walked further south down Michigan Avenue, heading for Millennium Park. The walk was only about 5 minutes. We checked out the Cloud Gate (“The Bean”) and amphitheatre, and also the Crown Fountain. The Bean was pretty cool, making some weird reflections. I think we’re going to head back that way tonight to check it out with the city lights. There’s also a fountain there that lights up at night and I’m pretty keen to see that.
After exploring the park we made our way into the main CBD, known as The Loop. We stopped at a T-Mobile store and bought local SIM cards ($70 for a month of unlimited local calls, text and data!) then headed to Macy’s looking for a Mexican restaurant we discovered online with our new SIMs. We wandered through the shopping centre up to the seventh floor where we found the food court. I had a really yummy pulled pork taco. Super tender and delicious, and great value at $8 for two.
After lunch we were heading back up Michigan Avenue to visit the Hancock Center where there are free views from the 96th floor if you buy a drink, but it started raining lightly so we’ve stopped off at the hotel and are going to head out again at 5pm (about another 20 minutes from now).
I’m sitting here enjoying a hot chocolate while I wait for a load of washing to finish. It’s the end of Day 3 of training. So far the week’s going pretty well. I’m getting over my jet lag, with today being the first day I didn’t feel like I was going to fall asleep at lunch. We had networking drinks after training yesterday where I met some people from France and Germany. There’s an interesting mix of people in the training – about half are from Australia, but there are others from France, Germany, Bratislava, Czech Republic, Italy, Montreal and a couple from the US!
Not a lot has been happening outside of training. Yesterday before dinner I went for a walk around the grounds, and there are some photos below. It’s really beautiful, with a pond, lots of trees and a river running along out the back. I think the Center has been built on an old golf course, and the club house is still there as well, now converted into a restaurant and bar.
Tonight after dinner a few of us went into St Charles to see what was there. We missed the free shuttle by a minute (it was early!) so shared a cab. Between the four of us it was only $5 each so that wasn’t too bad. We visited Walmart to see what it’s like, but I think we found one of the smaller ones. Still interesting to see groceries, clothes, kitchen appliances, hardware, gardening equipment and plants all under one roof! We went from there to a shopping centre looking for a phone shop to buy a SIM card. No luck with the SIM because the shopping centre was deserted! There was actually a sign on the wall saying it was a walking mall!
We asked someone where we could find a phone shop and they said we should head another 5 minutes down the road. We walked for about 15 but had no luck. Instead we visited Super Target. It looked a lot like our Target but had a similar range to Walmart, including groceries, liquor and a pharmacy! It was huge, way bigger than the Walmart. After wandering around for a little while we called the cab and made our way back to Q Center.
We played Wii for a little while, then went to the games room for Foosball and pool where we met a guy from Russia. After that it was down to the laundry to put on a load of clothes so I have a full set again when we head off on Friday. Only two more days of training to go before I start my holiday – getting very excited! I’ve been getting some good ideas from other people as well – there’s going to be a lot to see.
Anyway, I should head off to bed now because it’s getting late. Good night!
Only two sleeps to go until I head off on my trip to America. I’ll be gone for about 4 weeks and will be writing about my adventures and posting photos here.
To kick off my posts here’s a map of the places I’ll be visiting, starting in Chicago and finishing up in Los Angeles.
Stay tuned for an update once I arrive!