2019

Happy New Years! To all of you who are reading this as it’s been posted, and to all of you reading in the future – I hope 2020 is treating you well?!

After unintentionally taking a break from the blog for a few months – life has honesty just ran away with me – it feels good to be writing again, and what better to get it all out than looking back on pretty great year!

For the past few years now I’ve written up these round up posts, (like here and here), and even if no-one else is reading them, I love having them to look back on. So without further ado, I’ve a little travel round up of 2019 below:

Australia – February 2019

This was *the* trip I had been planning for pretty much all of 2018 (we actually booked the first part of the trip back in Jan 2018) so it had been a long time coming. We travelled around Australia, visiting as many territories as possible. After starting in Melbourne, we flew to Adelaide to visit my family, before travelling to Sydney – including a stay at Bondi Beach. We then ventured on to Byron Bay and Brisbane before finishing the trip at the Whitsundays.

It truly was a taste of everything in the space of three weeks, we stayed in a lot of different spots, and had such a brilliant time. It’s hard to pick a highlight of the trip, but we did really love our time on Bondi Beach, and if we were ever to return to Australia I think that’s where we’d head first!

Norfolk Broads – March 2019

I couldn’t write about this year without mentioning one of my favourite places, the Norfolk Broads. Booked on a whim as I was searching through Secret Escapes and found a night stay at The Norfolk Mead, with dinner, drinks and breakfast all included.

I would definitely recommend a trip there, as it was so cosy and welcoming. The Broads are such a lovely place to explore, whether you have a boat or not!

Chicago – April 2019

I still can’t believe we went to Chicago this year, as this one was definitely booked last minute for my birthday, as we were both so shocked at how cheap the flights were (£240 return, and then we found a bargain in the Freehand Chicago on Secret Escapes)

I went there with low expectations, not for Chicago, but as I had barely any time to plan or prepare for the trip. Safe to say, we had a great time. We experienced some traditional Chicago deep dish pizza, live Blues music, we cycled down the lakeside to the planetarium steps and of course visited ‘The Bean’ several times. We had the best time trying out the batting cages at Wrigley’s bar, and of course sampled plenty of variations of frozen Margaritas. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had!

New York – May 2019

Two trips to America in two months is certainly indulgent, and I can’t believe I got to visit New York – one of my favourite places – again this year. I took my mum and sister (again on another bargain ride, £260 return with BA) and had an incredible time showing them some of my favourite spots.

I was very lucky they both allowed me to plan the itinerary for our trip, so I had planned out a rough idea for each day and they were happy to go along with the ride and enjoy themselves! We ate a lot, we spent time walking everywhere, from the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn to Central Park on a lazy Sunday with no plans but to walk and enjoy the view.

I of course took them to all my favourite rooftop bars, and tried out more (for the research of course) and whilst we were there we ticked a goal off my mum’s list, by bridal shopping at Kleinfeld’s.

Glastonbury – June 2019

Ah, my sixth Glastonbury! I’m so lucky to say this was my sixth time – and sadly it’ll be my last for a while as I won’t be heading there this year (as I have some exciting plans, more on those later…)

I feel like every year I return to Glastonbury it becomes my favourite year, and this time it was no different. I had such  a wonderful time – even in the heatwave, and I have to return one day!

Secondigny – July 2019

I’ve written about the area of Secondigny a few years ago, as my parents have a house there and we’re lucky enough to visit every now and then. This year we chose to fly out for a long weekend over Bastille Day celebrations, which was so fun and a real treat to experience.

I love a lot of things about France, but the food has to be the top of the list – stick my in a French supermarket and I can stay for days. I ate so much incredible food (and drank a lot of wine..) during our weekend there, and it’s one of the reasons I always want to return!

Cornwall – September 2019

And at last but not least, our final trip of the year and it was on home turf! My fiancé and I had toyed with the idea of going on a camping trip, and decided to finally commit at the end of this Summer.

I’ve always wanted to visit Cornwall, and our camping trip meant we got to experience different parts in one holiday – packing up the tent in the car and driving to the other side! There were so many highlights of the trip, but camping on the hill at Polzeath with the view of the surfers was a brilliant place to stay. I also absolutely loved our day trip to Mousehole, as it was so empty and cute it felt like a little area of Cornwall to ourselves.

Ah, WHAT A YEAR! One of my favourite things about 2019 is how half of the travel listed above wasn’t even in my mind this time last year! So glad I got the chance to travel so much this year, and will definitely be trying more spontaneous travel trips this year!

Next up I have a weekend way in Dublin, before my Italy trip honeymoon later in the year. And who knows what else!

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading! xx

Where to Find the New York Movie Spots

I don’t know about you but I absolutely love a rom-com, and more specifically the ridiculous kind set in the Big Apple. There is always, inevitably, a panning shot of New York city, preferably from many angles, to very good and empowering pop music (Trainwreck I’m looking at you).

Anyway, I digress, but isn’t there something really great about visiting New York and spotting all the sights you’ve seen on TV? Or in your favourite movies? And it’s not like they’re hard to come by, the city is a living, breathing film set.

On my most recent trip to NYC, without even looking for them, we’d stumbled across somewhere we’d seen on TV or film every day. They’re so easily everywhere it’s not hard to find, but if you’re on the look here is where you need to go…

Central Park

I mean, Central Park is a pretty standard backdrop to a multitude of movies (ahem, I should say rom-coms) but there are particular spots to look out for.

The central ‘mile’ is a pretty pivotal backdrop to rom-coms that I can drop from the top of my head – Maid in Manhattan, Along Came Polly, the entire catalogue of Gossip Girl episodes… In addition, the The Fountain – is an iconic backdrop to many a scene.

There is also *the* fountain from the Friends credits which can be found near the central lake. It’s small so it’s very easy to miss.

If you’re young/old enough to remember the masterpiece that is Stuart Little then visit The Boat Lake in Central Park. It’s a great spot to sit back and watch the little boats go by, and happens to be next to a spot in the sun you can grab a drink.

Kat’z Delicatessen

You too can sit at the table where the infamous ‘I’ll Have what She’s having’ line was spoken, and there’s a handy sign to point you to it. Not only is it a famous spot for the movie, but it’s a bustling deli with no-nonsense staff who will serve up a mean pastrami sandwich

It’s hard to get in so if you do want to give it a go it’s best to visit when it’s not peak mealtime. We went just before midday and managed to get a prime table with waiter service.

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Mulberry Street

Not only great for it’s infamous Godfather’s scene spotting, but also because you can pick up some pretty tasty food whilst you’re there. Little Italy is an iconic spot in New York, but you can stop by an grab a cannelloni from the bakeries lining this street.

Ghostbusters Fire Station

How these firemen actually get any work done I don’t know… But you can certainly spot this fire station for the Ghostbusters signs spray painted onto the pavement in front.

From the infamous Ghostbusters movies, the firehouse sits in Lower Manhattan so it’s easy to swing by and spot the firehouse on your way to trendy Soho.

Tiffany’s

Of course, it’s in the name, however Tiffany’s features in the infamous Breakfast at Tiffany’s. If classic films aren’t your bag, how about classic rom-coms? The store is also the setting of the proposal in Sweet Home Alabama, you’re welcome.

If you want to venture inside and look at some expensive jewellery and this is your spot. If you’re after more affordable times you could possibly buy then head to the 4th floor.

Empire State Building

I mean, come on, it’s *the* spot in New York you can see from pretty much everywhere. Personally I like to look at it from a rooftop bar rather than go up the actual building, but it’s up to you.

I could name hundreds of films and tv shows it’s pivotal for, but the top one that comes to mind? King Kong! Imagine seeing a giant gorilla on that…

There we are! A slightly different post for me but it’s something I couldn’t stop thinking about whilst we were exploring New York. Guaranteed if you have a favourite TV show it must have some connection to this city.

Anywhere great I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments or on my Instagram @GrundyTravels where more of my holiday snaps can be found!

I hope you enjoyed this post, more New York posts will be coming to the blog every week. Thanks for reading x

 

 

 

4 Rooftop Bars in New York to Add to Your List

Yes, I’m aware I sound like a very broken record right now, but if you haven’t guessed from reading this blog yet, I’m a huge fan of a rooftop bar. On my recent trip to New York the weather was incredible, and so we took the chance to grab some sun from some of the best and most-recommended rooftop bars we could find.

Whereas we did visit some old favourites we also tried out some new spots that I wanted to add to the recommendation list! So, grab yourself a cup of tea or a frozen margarita and take a look at these new rooftop bar picks!

For the Cocktails – Roof at Park South

This was a given as this bar happened to sit right on top of my hotel during my last trip, with the elevator actually being incredibly close to our room – which was a sign to visit if anything.

Not only does it have an extensive cocktail menu (albeit an expensive one, but that’s a running theme in this post…) but it had a pretty great view. You couldn’t see the ‘big’ buildings per se, but at dusk there was a gorgeous view of the surrounding skyline.

This lack of ‘big sight’ drawing point meant it wasn’t as packed as you’d expect, so there was room to sit, chat and not get jostled by busy elbows pushing past. Also, they’re cocktails look pretty jazzy as well, so if you’re in it for the aesthetic, this bar is your spot.

For the Iconic View – 203 Rooftop Bar

Frosé? Tick. Views of the Empire State Building? Tick. Right off 5th Avenue? Tick, tick tick.

203 had been on my list for a few years and I’m glad we had the chance to visit this time round. Despite being hit by a thunderstorm halfway through we still managed to enjoy the sun and sit right at the top in front of the Empire State Building, frosé in hand.

Once again, it’s hardly cheap, but they do have a cracking view of the city, so once you weigh up a visitor ticket to a viewing deck, this place definitely wins. They do have a happy hour as well, so if you plan it perfectly you can still take advantage of two-for-one wine.

For a Party – Mr Purple

This is technically cheating as I have mentioned this rooftop bar before, but I definitely didn’t experience it at it’s fullest last time. This time we were in season, and luckily arrived just before it really got busy, so we got to experience it at it’s best, sunny and with table service!

As we arrived probably around 15 minutes before the rest of Manhattan did, it meant we managed to grab a seat, and then sat back and enjoyed the good weather whilst our waitress served us cocktails. I had two frozen margaritas, and yes, it was expensive again. But considering you have to tip generously in New York anyway, might as well enjoy the service straight to your table.

For The View – Bar Sixty Five

Again, another repeat offender, but it’s worth mentioning this spot again as this year around we experienced it in daylight, and with a really incredible view of the city. Not only would I definitely recommend this place but I would say it’s vital to book to get the best experience out of this bar.

If you can book a spot it’s more than likely you’ll get a better view, as the walk-up line were only allowed in a standing area in the middle of the bar. This meant they weren’t as close to the windows as the rest of us, and so didn’t get to enjoy the view.

Not only that, but as we took our turn to head out to the viewing platform the security guard cleared it for us. As in, he made people leave so we could have it to ourselves, madness. I think if you’re a walk-up patron then your time outside is limited, whereas we were encouraged to stay out there as long as we wanted, and all to ourselves!

Again, the cocktails are expensive, but they’re brilliant and so worth it for the view and the experience of having a drink at the Rockefeller centre alone.

Anywhere great I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments or on my Instagram @GrundyTravels where more of my holiday snaps can be found!

I hope you enjoyed this post, more New York posts will be coming to the blog every week. Thanks for reading x

Updated: Best Rooftop Bars in the World

If I were to go on Mastermind I feel my expert topic would be ‘how to find a rooftop bar in a city’ because frankly, it’s becoming my special skill. Every time I head to a new location its on the top of my to-do list, to find the best rooftop bar. Because what’s better than finding a spot to view your new holiday destination with a cocktail in hand?

Like last year’s post, I have managed to round up some more rooftop bars I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and wanted to share.

New York – Park South Hotel

My favourite part about the Roof at Park South is I genuinely had no idea it was there when I booked us in for our stay. It was super handy for us staying there as there’s a special lift for hotel patrons.

Whereas you don’t get the views from the top of the Empire State Building or other iconic buildings, although you can see the top of a tiny Chrysler building in the distance!

The cocktail menu definitely provides some Instagram-able options, and most times we went to visit there was a spot you could grab so it’s not too overcrowded.

Melbourne – Naked for Satan

Yes, that really is the name. But don’t be put off, as it’s a great spot in Melbourne for a great view, good drinks and also a very appealing tapas menu with great Happy Hour deals. What’s not to love?

A personal favourite was the Tinto de Verano, which is a cold blend of red wine and orange. Might not sound appealing, but it’s a variation of Sangria and I absolutely loved it!

Chicago – Signature Room at 95th

Expect a queue because this isn’t exactly a secret, but believe me when I say it’s worth it. On the 95th floor of 875 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, which coincidently also has a ’tilting’ pay-to-view deck, the Signature Room provides a more stable view.

The drink prices aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it to sit by the window and gaze down at the city. The 360 view extends around the entire bar so no matter where you’re seated you’re bound to get a good look.

Brisbane – Next Hotel

This rooftop bar gets bonus points for having a pool, which is needed on a hot day in Brisbane. The bar also has a great happy hour deal, quite an eclectic poolside playlist where songs are chosen by patrons (not saying I didn’t enjoy Shania Twain, because I did).

Even if you’re not staying at the hotel the bar is a nice little oasis above the city. If you are staying at the hotel there’s a special hotel patron side of the bar meaning you might get served a little quicker. Also easier to run back to your room and dry off after a dip in the pool….

Chicago – Cindy’s

This bar has added bonus points for a fire pit outside for those chilly evenings, an incredible cocktail menu (although it has the prices to match…) and a great view of Millennium Park and the Cloud Gate structure (more commonly known as The Bean).

Stop for food indoors or pop outside to stand on the balcony and watch the world go by down on earth. It sits above the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, so once you’re done there’s plenty of other bars inside the building with varying degrees of party, from sit down dinner spots to party-games galore bars too.

Bar Sixty Five

I did write this up in the previous post so I’ll keep this brief. On my most recent trip I learnt the benefits of booking ahead when it comes to this place.

Whereas you can rock up on the day and see if they have availability, booking a table gets you more advantages. If you book a table you usually get a better table and view. Not only that, but you get dedicated time to the outdoor viewing platform! So you don’t have to jostle people out the way!

Anyway, I had to mention this bar again! Just look at the view…

Anywhere great I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments or on my Instagram @GrundyTravels where more of my holiday snaps can be found!

I hope you enjoyed this post, more New York posts will be coming to the blog every week. Thanks for reading x

 

 

Bridal Shopping in New York

This is certainly a topic I never thought I’d be writing about, but on my recent trip to New York I indulged my mum and booked in a few appointments to try on wedding dresses. I’m not really writing too much #weddingcontent on here, but as it was a completely different experience to what I’ve had before, I wanted to write up how it all went!

So, to begin I booked an appointment at Kleinfelds Bridal, which some readers may know as the wedding dress shop from Say Yes To The Dress. This appointment was mainly to indulge my mum who is a huge fan of the show.

I had to book an appointment pretty much two months in advance to be fit in, and to my surprise it didn’t cost me a penny (as British brides-to-be will know, most Saturday appoints require a deposit).

I hadn’t thought too much about the appointment but for some reason as soon as we entered I was hit with nerves. Perhaps it was the ‘you could be filmed at any point’ sign at the front door, or just the other hoards of nervous brides and their posse’s that had me suddenly having jitters.

Luckily I wasn’t asked to be on the show, or even saw any cameras whilst there, which relaxed me an awful lot. Our appointment lasted an hour and I had the chance to try on a few dresses whilst there, but considering my budget wasn’t really in their ball park (they took me to a room especially for dresses under $2,000 😳)

I think it was all worth it for my mum to get to visit the store and see some of the stars of the show!

In addition to Kleinfelds I booked an appointment at BHLDN, which is a wedding dress shop I’ve wanted to visit for aaages, and was so lucky I had the chance to visit on this trip to NYC. Whereas Kleinfelds was an experiences because it was Kleinfelds I felt like BHLDN was more of a wedding boutique that suited me.

The service was great, the atmosphere in their loft was lovely and the dresses were more me. I love all the style of dresses from BHLDN (their parent company also owns Anthropologie if that gives you a hint as to the vibe of the place).

At BHLDN I found way more dresses that I loved, and frankly if they were in the UK I could’ve walked home with any of them, but – ever the pragmatist – the logistics of trying to get a dress home to the UK in my hand luggage put me off.

Whereas I didn’t fly home with a dress packed in my carry-on it did plant the seed of researching a brand when I got home, which eventually lead to me finding my dress! So overall the wedding dress shopping certainly wasn’t a wasted experience, it led me to the final dress in the end!

This is a bit of a ramble post, but if you’re heading to the states and are looking for a wedding dress I would recommend BHLDN. Kleinfelds is Kleinfelds and if you’re a fan of the show then definitely have a look, the only downside is the dresses are so expensive. But on the plus side I now have a Kleinfelds branded water bottle I won’t be throwing away anytime soon…

The service is certainly different to the UK, and it seems they’re more keen on a hard sell than I’ve experienced here.

Like I said, there won’t be too much wedding info coming up on here, Honeymoon posts there will be plenty of though I’m sure. In the meantime I’m over on Instagram @GrundyTravels where more of my holiday snaps can be found!

I hope you enjoyed this post, more New York posts will be coming to the blog every week. Thanks for reading x

Where To Eat and Drink in NYC Round 2

Hi everyone, apologies if you have deja vu – I may have done a post like this before – but New York is a never ending opportunity to eat, drink and be merry so on my most recent trip I had the best of both worlds and visited old favourites and new spots on the to-do list.

If you’re heading to NYC anytime soon or just fancy looking at some delicious food then look no further. Below is everywhere I’d recommend if you’re visiting the Big Apple.

Kat’s Deli

It’s half worth going to this infamous joint just for the experience alone – it is the spot from When Harry Met Sally after all. The other half is of course to experience the food which is like nothing else.

I’m lucky on our visit that my mum was happy to order and share (one of my fav ways of exploring more of a menu) and so I had the chance to try their smoked salmon (called Lox in this part of the world) bagel and still try half of the pastrami sandwich. They were both delicious but I’m glad I had the chance to have half of each, they were both so rich I’m unsure I could’ve done it all in one go.

When you arrive you’re handed a ticket to either wait in line for table service or head straight to the deli (and if you’re heading for lunch I’d recommend turning up just before midday if you want to avoid a queue). Table service is easier if you don’t want the stress of spotting your own space, but note that the customer service is no nonsense, and its best to know what you want and order fast!

Punch Bar & Grill

Found completely by accident (which sometimes is the best way to be honest) but Punch bar and grill is great for several reasons. The first being that their happy ‘hour’ runs from 1-9pm which is the longest hour I’ve ever seen. Not only that but their prosecco was really tasty and one I would recommend heartily.

Secondly that their aioli is the best aioli I think I’ve ever had. Great with both their calamari and their fries – which were both large enough portions to feed all three of us well. If you’re around the flat iron area and fancy a drink or some cracking calamari then I would definitely recommend this spot for a drink and a snack.

Maman

I had this cafe on my list for several years but was drawn back to it recently by a recent ManRepeller post about ‘Seeking Pleasure in New York‘ that directed me back to Maman. It is a spot I would have previously put into a ‘too healthy for a New York brunch’ spot, but what can I say, it won me over.

I was initially drawn in by their coffee butter waffles, but the salmon on a hash brown waffle with avocado and runny boiled egg absolutely swung me. And I’m glad I did.

It was a larger-than-life American brunch of course, but it was nice to have some fresh produce and vegetables after a few days of fried shrimp and frozen margaritas. And of course the interiors were a beautiful cherry on top of an already delightful cake.

Bubby’s

An oldie but a goody, because I certainly have waxed lyrical about this chain before. but you can’t beat a good portion of Bubby’s brunch when in NYC. I love the friendly service and warming brunch menu to start you off for the day.

Don’t forget to try their ‘biscuits’ which are fresh scones – a perfect addition to a giant brunch that is a habit I want to start here in the UK. I finally had the chance to try their pancakes this time around and they did not disappoint. The greens omelette is also a tasty treat which still packs in quite a lot of veg if you’re in a carb coma. I also left this time with my own Bubby’s mug that I’ve been delightfully sipping tea from since I returned home.

Jack’s Wife Freda

I have to admit I’ve insta-stalked these guys since I last went to visit over 3 years ago, but I can’t help it. Their enthusiasm for their restaurants is palpable from their insta stories, and it draws me back every time I visit New York city.

I hadn’t been for dinner before so I was delighted to find the menu was delicious, and topped off with the special of the day, Watermelon Margaritas with a spicy edge. I chose to have the Madam Freda, which is essentially a croquet madam but with duck bacon – a perfect addition if you ask me.

I’d recommend this spot for brunch and dinner as I’ve had the privilege of trying both. The atmosphere and interiors is delightful, and it’s always a treat to eat there.

Anywhere great I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments or on my Instagram @GrundyTravels where more of my holiday snaps can be found!

I hope you enjoyed this post, more New York posts will be coming to the blog every week. Thanks for reading x

The Freehand Chicago

Looking for where to stay in Chicago we certainly weren’t short of options. Despite usually swaying towards an Airbnb, it seemed that to find a good, central spot in the city it would be best to go with a hotel.

This is where the Freehand Chicago came in, which by a pure plight of luck appeared on Secret Escapes a few weeks before our trip, despite the fact I’d already reserved a spot there on Booking.com. I swiftly swapped the bookings round to take advantage of the deal, which was pretty nifty at £200 for a 4 night stay (half the price of what I had already reserved initially). City and tourism tax was also pre-paid which meant we didn’t have any extra costs to worry about on check out.

So, here are the basics:

The Freehand hotel chain has several spots around the USA, and they appear to cater for several accommodation options. When booking there is the option for a ‘bunk’ in a dorm room, which from their pictures appears like a very high-end hostel setup, all the way up to a penthouse floor which despite all my searching I actually can’t find the prices for…

For our Queen Room we paid £200 via Secret Escapes which was half the original price. The room was nicely decorated, especially the bathroom which was tiled in a deep green. I have to admit by American hotel standards it was quite small for a bedroom, but at least we still had a huge bed within it.

The hotel’s vibe is relaxed and easy going – with a strong sense that they’re really trying to be cool. We stopped by the bar, The Broken Shaker, on the first night to enjoy some cocktails. They also had a coffee shop in the foyer which was always bustling in the morning, despite the fact we couldn’t buy a cup of tea there…

In the elevators there were advertisements for the DJ sets in the bar in the upcoming week, in addition to an advert for ‘yoga and tequila’ which to be honest if we’d have been there I would’ve been up for it…

Not only was there the Broken Shaker and the coffee shop at the front of the building, but also a Photobooth (which we obviously had to use) in the middle, and a large communal area at the back complete with piano and board games. They also had a communal kitchen in the basement which had a kettle and filter coffee, toasters with complimentary bread in addition to fruit and cereal. If you’re in Chicago on a budget then I’d definitely direct you towards the Freehand, as this free breakfast would be hard to come by elsewhere!

The location of the hotel is also a big advantage – right next to the ‘Magnificent Mile’ it’s a great spot – even if you’re not there to do any shopping. We felt like it was a great starting point to start a day of exploring, being able to walk back from the Navy Pier or down to the riverside walk all from our hotel. If you follow South down the Magnificent Mile you can find yourself at Millennium Park with the infamous Cloud Gate structure (The Bean).

It was also right next to Pizzeria Uno which I would heartily recommend if you’re after some Chicago deep dish pizza (and why wouldn’t you be?). It’s also accompanied by Pizzeria Due on the other side of the road if the original place gets too full. The majority of stops we chose to eat at in Chicago were quite central and still close to the hotel, so it was easier to hot-foot it home once the jetlag hit and you wanted to get back.

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Overall, if you’re heading to Chicago for a visit I’d recommend the Freehand Chicago if you need a good, budget option hotel with a nice vibe inside. I think it would be hard to find a cheaper deal for the amount of complimentary features in a hotel. Also, if you’re a solo traveller then the dorm rooms and communal areas would be a benefit to making new friends in the city.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Chicago posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

Where To Eat In Chicago

It’s safe to say that no holiday has ever left me feeling so full and satisfied. The food options around Chicago outnumber any possible opportunity to eat, and looking back at our trip we only scratched the surface of what was there.

During our visit we enjoyed several meals at the 5 venues below, and I would definitely recommend a visit to any of the below if you’re visiting the city. Take a read if you’re looking for some Chicago inspiration, or just an excuse to look at some nice food!

Pizzaria uno/Due

As Chicago is the home of the deep dish pizza it would’ve been sacrilege not to try one for the first time. Both Pizzaria Uno and Due we’re close to our hotel, as they’re practically on the same street. Each night we would spot a queue out the door which tempted us to pay a visit, and we certainly didn’t regret it.

Whereas they don’t take bookings here, they do make use of a great waiting system whereby you leave your number and therefore can leave and come back when your table is ready they pop you a text.

In addition, when you turn up to take your place in line you have to order there and then. We chose a small deep dish pizza and believe me when I say that’s more than enough for two.

When we were seated we were offered ‘cheese sticks’ which we accepted under the impression they’d be a little appetiser, and well, Tesco cheese twists they are not. A large basket of deep fried mozzarella sticks were served up, and they were certainly more than enough for two.

If you’re in the market for some deep dish pizza during your stay in Chicago (and why wouldn’t you?) then definitely give either of these spots a try!

Aster Hall

One of the huge advantages of Aster Hall is that its great for a meal when you’re travelling with someone else and can’t decide on one place you both want. As a long time fan of some deep fried chicken when my partner isn’t, this was a great shout for me to indulge whilst he could have something else.

To give some context, Aster Hall is a self-described ‘culinary oasis’, which means a food court but in a luxurious setting. Marble floors and tables surround several food outlets ranging from ramen to seafood to fried chicken.

Ordered via electronic tablets – and drinks are ordered self-serve – no alcohol options as far as I could tell. Your order is placed with the food outlet and you grab your meal when your order is called.

The fried chicken I had from The Ratisserie was delicious, and I was a huge fan of the waffle fries – not something I’ve tried before. Believe it or not I even indulged in the celery too, because balance…

If I haven’t sold you already they have unlimited condiments at Aster Hall, especially Garlic Mayo. Which should sell it enough for you.

Cochon Vilant

Cochon Vilant came recommended from a local Chicagoan and it was probably one of the fanciest places we ate at during our stay, but still reasonably priced. This French-style cuisine restaurant proved a perfect spot to indulge and enjoy some nice food for my birthday. We both chose Moules Frites with a side of Parmesan dusted charred broccoli.

I’ve never had moules frites were the mussels are served in the same dish as the chips but it certainly cut out the middle man of having to dip your chips in the sauce. It was also drizzled in garlic mayo and if this post – neigh this blog – hasn’t persuaded you otherwise, I am a huge fan of garlic mayo.

Yolk

So good we visited twice. Yolk came recommended from a friend and we enjoyed it so much we returned for our last meal.

I have to admit, visiting America I always to indulge a bit in how large a brunch portion they will provide, and Yolk hit the spot. The menu is unbelievably large and there were plenty of options for brunch or dinner, and despite the name they really didn’t all include eggs.

Both times we visited we were met with great service and a reasonable bill at the end, which considering how much food we ate meant we were pretty chuffed with ourselves.

Labriola Chicago

Our first experience with deep dish pizza proved so large (and we ordered the smallest size) that we ate this for lunch and still didn’t have any room at dinner time.

The service was brilliant – I always appreciate when a waiter is honest about the portions and doesn’t force a large size on you. We were recommended the smallest size for a first experience of deep dish pizza and we still couldn’t finish it between two.

The restaurant had a nice vibe to it and wasn’t too busy. It also boasted a pretty good happy hour deal we didn’t have the chance to take advantage of, but I’d advise trying to visit between 4-7pm if you fancy a bargain.

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Phew, even reading all that back is giving me the meat sweats. I’m lucky enough that I’ll be returning to America later this year, so I can indulge in some more American larger-than-life meals.

If you’re heading to Chicago city anytime soon I hope you find this post helpful. I would 100% recommend any of the five spots above to visit for a meal, as I enjoyed them all immensely – some so good I visited twice.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Chicago posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

10 Ways to Experience Chicago

To my shame I went into Chicago with low expectations, and I’m incredibly happy to report it went above and beyond anything I could’ve expected. My main worry being that there wouldn’t be enough to do, but boy was I wrong. As this post will detail, there is plenty to do in the Windy city.

If you’re planning a trip to Chicago anytime soon, or hadn’t thought of it at all before, please take a look at the below! There’s so much to do on the trip, and we still left wanting to spend more time there – which is a great sign of a good holiday if you ask me.

Millennium park

One of the most iconic images of Chicago has to be of ‘The Bean’. It really was great to see it in person, nothing a picture can quite convey!

The best way to explore Millennium Park is just to walk around and enjoy, preferably with a coffee in hand! In the Spring there are free open air concerts at the park too, so if you’re visiting then it’s a great opportunity to enjoy an evening for free.

Try the Deep Dish Pizza

I mean, can you go to Chicago and not try a deep dish pizza? It’s a serious treat, and I love how the waiters we encountered were very honest with the portion sizes, advising us to stick with small – rather than overselling to us. We could only manage a small pizza to share between two, because they’re just so deep and delicious they’re incredibly filling.

Whilst there we ate at both Pizzaria Uno and Labriola to try their signature pizza pies, and we were not disappointed. And a heads up if you go to Uno, the ‘cheese sticks’ are more than just an appetiser…

Lake front trail

Walk, run, cycle or even roller blade it, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the city’s Lake Front Trail. It’s a 18 mile stretch of pavement that spans along the side of the city and Lincoln Park, which provides incredible views of the city and the Lake.

We started at the park and made our way down, past the Navy Pier and finishing at the Planetarium. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon if you’re lucky enough to have good weather!

The Signature Room

I feel like this should be my catchphrase at this point, but I’m a big believer in finding a rooftop bar that’ll get you a better view than a pay-for viewing platform. Luckily Chicago has just that!

On the 95th floor of the John Hancock Skyscraper you can stop for a drink or a bite to eat at the Signature Lounge. Granted, you may have to queue and make sure to specify if you’re willing to wait for a window-side table. We did – and we only waited for approx 10 mins – and our view was incredible!

On the day we went there was an apocalyptic-looking haze over the city, but it just made the view more spectacular. As with all rooftop bars I’d definitely recommend trying to visit in both the day – when it should be quieter – and at night, because the different views you can get for the different time of day are so worth it.

Wicker park
If you’re in the mood for some vintage shopping or brunch then head over to the Wicker Park earlier. Granted when I was there I wasn’t in the mood to shop, but the vast amounts of vintage and concept stores on offer were a lot. I can’t vouch for them myself but the vintage stores I was recommend were Moon Voyage and P.45.
If you’re not up for a shop like I was then there are plenty of spots for a drink or something to eat, even just so you can sit back and people watch, which is always a great – and cheap – way to experience a new city.

 

Architecture tour/river walk

Chicago is the home of the skyscraper after all, and what better way to take a look than from the river?

The architecture tour was recommended to us a lot in the lead up to our trip and I can definitely join in the party and say it’s worth it. We chose the Shoreline Sightseeing Tour mainly because it was the cheapest on offer, but also the highest rated on TripAdvisor.

If an hour architecture lesson really isn’t your bag then you can still enjoy the river along the River Walk which is dotted with bars, cafes and spots to sit and enjoy the view.

Improv

My time at The iO Theater in Chicago was shamefully my first time at Improv comedy and I can now say I’m a huge fan.

We saw ‘Whirled News Tonight’ which lasted almost 2 hours – a pretty good bargain at $16 a ticket! As with most shows in Chicago they offer table service for food and drink so we never went without.

If you’re in Chicago for the evening then definitely make Improv high on your list to enjoy. Both the iO theatre and Second City offer shows throughout the week and provide a great night of entertainment.

Live jazz

Chicago is known for it’s tradition of live music, and there are countless jazz and blues spots around the city to enjoy. When we were in town we actually saw some live Blues at Blue Chicago and it was an absolute treat.

There’s really nothing as enjoyable as live music, and in such a small and intimate setting it was a great way to enjoy the evening with a few drinks.

Visit the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Stadium

Granted, we didn’t get the chance to do this during our visit as the season hadn’t started yet. However in absence of any baseball to watch (apart from on TV, because trust me, it’s always on TV) visit the Sluggers bar opposite the stadium and have a go yourself!

The sports bar has daily discount deals, a proper, bargain sports bar style menu and the added bonus – batting cages upstairs. We visited on a rainy day and we had such a good time. For $2 for 10 tokens – which provide 10 batting goes each – we started off in the ‘slow’ cage before my graduating to the ‘medium’ – but even a slow ball was hard to hit for me!

I would definitely recommend Sluggers for a an afternoon playing baseball, but if you’re visiting in Summer and the option to see the Cubs play is there I would also definitely give that a go! The atmosphere would be incredible.

Navy Pier

Yes, it may be a tourist spot but if you’re a tourist then why not! It doesn’t take too long to do a lap of the pier, but if you’ve got good weather like we had then there’s no harm in sitting in the sun to watch the tourists walk past and look out at Lake Michigan.

We chose to stop by Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville – seriously don’t judge me – as they offered strong, cheap and large margaritas to take away which meant we could sample several out in the good weather.

And there we have it! A round up of what to do in Chicago as what I’ve only experience – because there’s plenty more to enjoy.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Chicago posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

The Best Rooftop Bars Around the World

If there’s one vital travel lesson I’ve learnt in the past year – it’s to find the best view in any city you need to head to a rooftop bar. Sure, you can splash out on tickets to the nearest tourist trap and head up for your skyscraper view or you can follow the Grundy Travels train of thought – rooftop bar = view + drink.

I’m lucky enough to have travelled to quite a lot of countries throughout the past year, and in the process I’ve tried quite a few rooftop bars – all in the name of research of course. Below is a round-up of my favourite I’ve been to from around the globe, to stop, grab a drink and watch the world go by – from the top.

Mr Purple in NYC

I am so, so happy we came across Mr Purple, especially on such a gorgeous and sunny day in New York so we could have an incredible view of the infamous skyline. Because of it’s location you can see both The One World Trade Center and The Empire State building on either side, and an incredible view of the bustling New York streets below. It was a bit too chilly for a dip when I was visiting last time, but in the Summer heat it would be a great spot to stop and dip your toes in their infinity pool.

Like the majority of bars in New York it does have a pricey drinks menu to match, but I can confirm the drinks are pretty tasty, and the food menu looks divine too. If the weather isn’t great when you’re visiting it still has a great indoors area, which has floor to ceiling high windows – enough to still get a good view. Mr Purple is actually located within a hotel, so it’s not clearly signposted from the street – which means it’s a (perhaps not so well) kept secret…

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Park, Lisbon

Hidden on the fourth floor of a car park – yes really – PARK is a raised terrace bar with a gorgeous view of the Lisbon skyline including it’s infamous bridge and river. It is dotted with bars situated inside, and has an outdoor terrace to sit back and relax with friends and a giant Aperol Spritz.

The menu isn’t too pricey considering what an incredible view you get, and there are plenty of options to go large and get jugs of cocktails… It is a gorgeous spot to stop at when the sun is setting, so you can see all the way out to the bridge, and if you have excellent vision, maybe even spot the tiny Christ The King statue on the other side of the river.

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Neni/Monkey Bar, Berlin

Even though this bar is enclosed, it definitely still counts as a ‘rooftop’ bar, and you can’t dispute that once you’ve seen the incredible view from the top. Not only do you get a view across Berlin, but right next door is the Berlin Zoo so you have a birds eye view directly into the monkey enclosure, which is quite an incredible sight from above.

Monkey Bar is the cocktail bar with plenty of room to kick back with a creative cocktail and admire the view, or you can pop to Neni for something to eat, and I can vouch that the food is absolutely delicious (it’s where I had my birthday meal…). Not only does it have a beautiful view of the Berlin skyline, but the interior decoration is pretty great too.

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La Terrasse at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in Paris

On top of the most extravagant shopping department stores I’ve ever seen is La Terrasse, which has both the option to sit outside in the good weather, or inside their big ice-bubble. You can stop for a coffee, lunch or something to drink, all whilst taking in the view from the top.

You don’t actually even need to stop for something to eat as there is a viewing deck that’s free to access, but it’s always a better experience with a glass of fizz in your hand. You can of course spot the Eiffel Tower in the difference, but it’s fun to watch the Parisian streets bustling by below you.

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Sushi Samba London

I can’t finish this post without a shout-out to my own city, with Sushi Samba in London. You can stop for dinner – although you’ll have to book in advance – but you can rock up on the day for a spot at the bar. The cocktail menu is extensive and creative, and there are still bar snacks on offer if you’re peckish – but it can be quite pricey.

The view you get from the top is incredible – especially at night – as you’re right in the middle of London’s skyline and incredibly close to the infamous Gherkin. Speaking of heights, the journey up in the elevator is not for the faint hearted, as it’s completely surrounded in glass, which offers an incredible view of London on your way up to the bar, but may not be best for those who are not a fan of heights…

I’m not sure about you all but that round up of bars has made me really in the mood to go and find a cocktail… preferably with a rooftop view to match… I hope you enjoyed this round up of rooftop bars, if there are any essential bars I need to try please let me know in the comments! Otherwise, more travel updates and pictures are updated daily on my Instagram @GrundyTravels. Thanks for reading!