arts & ideas

From one pizza capital to another...
The day after returning home from Chicago I met up with another Semester at Sea friend, Disha, for some closer-to-home cultural fun in New Haven.

I met Dish at the train and we drove into downtown. As soon as we hop out of the car, what do we see but a street performer (awesome) singing right next to a guy giving away free Ashley's Ice Cream (event better!). Ashley's is a New Haven institution, not to mention the producers of very tasty ice cream.

We collected our slightly melty but very free cones and slurped our way towards the New Haven green to check out the International Festival of Arts & Ideas http://www.artidea.org/. The A&I festival is a really cool, three week happening in new haven celebrating music, dance, performance, food, drinks, literature, philosophy, politics and so much more. On any given day you can experience a modern dance performances, a 13-year old frontman's garage band or a farm to table bike tour of the city. By far one of the coolest things going on in Connecticut and a great showcase for local, national and international artists, thinkers and chefs.

The Saturday that Disha and I stopped by we passed by the Thai and Soul food trucks and made our way over to a tent for the American Mural Project, which is working to create the largest collaborative piece of artwork in the world http://www.wallofamerica.org. There were a bunch of kids already working on a piece of art and our new 8-year old guide directed us towards the paint and brushes. Disha and I made our mark on the mural which will be installed in Winstead, CT.

After painting we moved over to see a local rapper and break dancers from Middletown, CT. The rapper was pretty good and even dropped a song about his hometown. The break dancers were incredible and a very zealous Michael Jackson fan even made an appearance in the circle for some moon-walking.

Once the rapper's set was over Disha and I walked down Chapel St. looking at the boutiques and shops and working up an apatite for one of our favorite New Haven restaurants, Claire's Corner Copia, http://www.clairescornercopia.com/. Claire's is an all-vegetarian restaurant, cooking with only organic and locally sourced ingredients. Not to mention, they donate 10% of the proceed to charity. But most importantly, the food is absolutely delicious. Everything from the mexican menu to the homemade soups and salads tastes amazing and is good for you. Plus their selection of baked goods, which includes their famous Lithuanian coffee cake. Disha and I split a quesadilla with the works (beans, peppers, onion, tomato & spinach, topped with hommade guac and a mango cilantro crema). And once that had been thoroughly inhaled, we had to split a piece of coffee cake for the road.

It was great to catch up with Disha, spend a beautiful day in New Haven and eat some amazing vegetarian food. But, it was also a nice reminder that there are great things going on with food and art and music, right here in Connecticut, if you can spare a Saturday to enjoy them.

beans, beans, they're good for your art.

The next day, Mark and I met Hussain near the UIC Chicago med school campus (where he'll be a dental student this fall) and we drove into the heart of the city to meet Steve at the Shedd Aquarium. It just so happened to be free admission day and so we went to enjoy some aquatic adventures. There was a pretty long wait so I had time to snack on a chicago-style hot dog with mustard, onion, tomato, sport peppers, celery salt and a pickle spear. Pretty tasty, as most thing are when they contain a pickle spear.

Once we got in we were able to mill around the droves of strollers and check out some pretty neat fish. They had a particularly exciting exhibit about the amazon and we also spotted a fish bearing an uncanny resemblance to james earl jones. Clearly, Steve and Hussain had fun:

After the aqarium we walked along to river and across the way to Millennium Park. We passed the Art Institute (Steve's favorite), and made our way into the park towards "the bean". It was a pretty hot day so we decided to take a quick break along the boardwalks in the park that run along a little man-made river. There were lots of couples and families with their shoes off and their feet in the water, enjoying picnics or making wishes with coins and we decided to take off our shoes and join them. The water felt cold and amazing and the view through the park looking toward the institute and out further towards the loop and soldier field was pretty perfect.

Once our feet were sufficiently cooled we made our way towards the infamous bean. I had seen other people's photos of Anish Kapoor's sculpture, which is actually called Cloud Gate, but I didn't anticipate it being so big! It really is a beautiful sculpture and the views that you can get of the city and the river and of all the people around you by looking at the reflections and curves of the sculpture are amazing. We spent some time looking at all the angles, including the underside, before snapping a few pictures and heading on our way.

After a tasty stir fry dinner with the boys and some of their friends, Mark and I headed back to the hotel, braving the chicago traffic one last time before flying out in the morning.

In summary - Chicago is a beautiful, open, city with some tasty food traditions and awesome public spaces. I only got to see a handful of them and I hope to make a return visit sometime soon to catch up with Steve, Hussy and Gino's East pizza (pie).

chicago-go-go there.

So it turns out that Chicago is a really cool, beautiful, clean, fun city. After going there for three quick days i definitely could plan a return trip.

After landing at midway and enduring a wild-goose chase cab ride I met my dad and brother and we decided to venture into the city. My dad was leaving later that night so we decided that we should hit the biggest monument first - the sears tower (now called the willis tower).

While waiting in line to go to the top we learned some fun facts! Did you know that the tower is 262 michael jordans tall? You do now. But as fun as the facts were, the clear highlight was the view from the top of the tower. The midwest is so flat that you can literally see four different states when you look out each direction of the window. I got a pretty great glimpse of Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. Annnnnd they recently installed these four viewing boxes that are clear all the way around so you can step out over the city and see in all directions, including below you.

After the sears we brought dad to the airport and mark and I went to go meet some of my favorite semester at sea friends, and chicago natives, Hussain and Steve! And on top of seeing good friends we met them at Gino's East for my first encounter with chicago-style deep dish pizza.

This was my first introduction to deep dish and, being a lover of NY-style pizza and die hard Pepe's fan, I was highly skeptical. We ordered a large spinach pie and spent the 40-minute cooking time catching up with Steve and Hussain. Upon arrival our waitress cut us up some pieces and it was go time. I have to say; it was good. I love cheese and the amount of cheese in this pie was incredible. As you can see from the photo, each piece eschewed ribbons of delicious cheese, plus tasty sauce and spinach on the bottom. But, I am an east coast girl. And while this was delicious, it was not pizza. It was pie. An awesomely cheesy, saucy, spinachy pie. But pie and not pizza and not better than the pepe's clam. Sorry chicago and deep dish lovers. That's all there is to it.

After stuffing ourselves with deep dish, we retired to rest for a big day ahead.


on the road...again

So it's been over a year since I made the permanent transition to life on land after Semester at Sea and I've decided it's time to start blogging again. While I'm not doing as much traveling, I have a few trips coming up and I'm ready to document. This should be pretty exciting as travel lark 2.0 will hopefully be less wordy, with more pictures, and not hurriedly emailed between global studies classes on the MV.

To give you a quick update about me, I just graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in Communications and a minor in International Studies. I've been doing a lot of cooking, eating and twittering over the past 9 months since my last post, but I'm ready for some travel and some blogging as well.

First stop: Chicago on Wednesday!