Love Note to Chicago

Chicago is a special place and most will seem to agree, that the people here are world class and no better place there will ever be.

We’ve got it all here, anything you could want, and we laugh at those who don’t know it. We relish in the fact that it is all ours but for our guests we are most proud to show it.

You want baseball? We’ve got it. Football too. And hockey and hoops just the same. As a sports fan you’ll be in absolute Heaven as not a day goes by without a game.

Restaurants, bars, cuisines and music for any type and people of all styles and kind, the diversity makes whatever scene you’re looking for never hard to find.

More green spaces than Greenville and more parks than Parkville this is the ultimate picnic place, lay out a blanket, throw a Frisbee, sip wine and eat cheese and adapt to our Summertime pace.

Our city is the home of comedy and the greats of the past started here, Second City is mecca for improv comedy and we’re sure you’ll enjoy what you hear.

It may as well be an ocean that Lake we live on because as far as we can tell it is, we’ve got boats, beaches, and lakefront galore so grab your speedos and head for the shore.

Sure the Winters are arctic and the Summers like fire and the wind cuts your skin like a knife, but those us from here know what treasures it holds and wouldn’t give them up to save our life.

September is our month of hot days and warm nights, twinkling lights and the warm glow of Fall, it is our farewell to Summer, our hello to Autumn, and our very best month of them all.

So come settle in, relax, enjoy, explore this fine urban place. We know you’ll think there’s nowhere better so come and get used to our midwestern pace.

Le Plaisir de Nothingness

I realised sometime after my 7th visit to ole’ Paris that I don’t keep returning for the obvious: the architecture, the museums, the delightful neighborhoods, the world famous cuisine, or even the wine that so surprisingly fails at making the head fuzzy despite drinking abundant amounts of the stuff.

What is it really that makes me long to return to the City of Lights almost as immediately as I board the Eurostar for home at Gare du Nord?

It is a funny thing I suspect. I’m a wanderer at my core. Always seeking new places and experiences. The bug bit me long ago and I’ve yet to free myself from it’s firm, juicy and ever so tantalizing bite. I rarely return to a place once traveled to as the world is wide time ticks on and I’ve not yet gazed upon the 80% of it that I’m realistically shooting for. Maybe 70. 60? There’s Latin America, Mongolia, and that funny little place next to Greenland, the Himalayas, Antarctica, Mt. Fuji, Bhutan. They’re all places I’d like to explore and time is of the essence. I’m a notorious non-returner. Yet I can’t seem to restrain myself from this neighbouring city of comically overpriced coffees and territorial locals, that calls out my name and pleads that I visit her again and again! “One more boeuf bourguignon” she says. “Just one more beaujolais!”

What is it that I find so annoyingly metaphysical about Paris? Why is it that when any morsel of money and time happen to simultaneously end up in my possession do I venture back to a place that’s been walked through, shopped through, ate, drank, and tipsily sang through almost a dozen times over?

The answer, I’ve found, is in the unique pleasure of nothingness.

The cafés and bars here are not places to eat and drink, they are places to REVIVE. The swirling smoke, the light chatter, the slow sipping of café au laits, the contrast of people hurrying by, the welcome uncertainty of time and of circumstance, the contentness that takes over the mind and body as soon as the act of sitting takes place. The café is a temple and I am its monk. Opening hours are from sit down to stand up. It is ok to seat oneself, to stare directionless, to enjoy the sweet nothings, to shut off the outside world. In the safety of a café you are one of the many taking a quiet timeout from life, from the memories of your yesterday and the plans of tomorrow. If life’s stresses are a poison then the Parisian café is my antidote. An outpatient therapy. My over-the-counter remedy.

I never knew I could contemplate the delicate flavour intricacies of a cup of coffee as painstakingly as I have in a Parisian café.

I never knew how long I could successfully stare off into an unspecified point in space before I sat in a Parisian café.

I never thought about nothing at all as much and for as long as I did in a Parisian café.

I suppose the frenzied movement that engulfs you on the streets of Paris is what makes reprieve so much sweeter, so much more gratifying to escape.

Either way it’s a gift and I accept it brazenly each time that I go. For there are few places more charming in the world to revel in the art of absolutely nothing.


My plane touched down in the darkness and I knew that my first night’s encounter with Beijing would either be a thrilling blend of romantic sights and the scents of exoticism, or just plain terrifying. 

I was alone. Which in itself was not the issue, but I’d had virtually no sleep in the past forty-eight hours, the bags under my eyes had grown large enough in size to carry a week’s shopping from Marks and Spencer’s, and due to exhaustion and a moderate yet unpleasant bout of stomach flu I had begun to question my body’s ability to stand upright without assistance. I somehow made it into the back of a taxi and no sooner were we on the road and headed in the direction of ancient history, of Tiananmen Square and the mystical Forbidden City, or so I guessed.

The vast expanses of highway soon turned into a maze of small alleyways and the emptiness of the airport was a distant scene as the frenzy of late night pedestrians pulsed through the streets by bicycle, rickshaw, and foot. The glimmering lights of the lanterns hanging from each dwelling space guided us through the narrow roads and all at once my exhaustion evaporated and my senses were alight with the intensity of a thousand blazing torches.

I had arrived in one of Beijing’s ancient Hutongs, the old neighborhoods where the locals have lived for many centuries. I had imagined what one might be like, and then right there before me it all was, laid out beautifully like an extravagantly designed film scene…

Everyone was on their mark, choreographed to ride past on their rickshaws at precisely the right intervals, to sit pensively smoking their pipe in the frame of the doorway, their wafts of smoke perfectly illuminated under the scarlet-colored lanterns, the impeccable juxtaposition of light and shadow in the alleyway and the steady flow of extras directed to walk ever so naturally over the floodlit cobblestones as they chattered away in their native tongue and exited into the darkness of stage right.

Twenty yards up on our left, we spotted my guesthouse. As I unsuccessfully attempted Mandarin pleasantries and paid the driver, the star of the next scene entered the doorway, the aroma of savory meats and tobacco following her.

“Nihao!” she said on cue. “Welcome to Beijing.”

Using Format