A Travellerspoint blog

The Mall of friggin' 'MURICA

So it would be nice to say that we actually visited Minneapolis but we had priorities and I hope to actually visit the Twin Cities again someday.

We finished our time in Madison by eating at the Wisconsin staple, The Old Fashioned. THIS BURGER was so delicious and peppery. It seemed like the party itself really was a superior ground beef and whatever other blend they added besides pepper was really good.And to top it off it gets to come with CHEESE CURDS. Mouth watering all over again. We split the burger and a walleye fry sandwich as well as beer and cheese soup. Given the "Jake" night we had, we weren't that hungry and since the walleye and soup weren't anything to write home about we didn't finish it.

Feeling so fat, we walked around and inside the state capitol which I have never done in Sacramento. Sorry, Sactown. The capitol building was very ornate and I was lucky enough to hear the acoustics of a school orchestra playing in the cupola. Just winning me over in so many ways, Madison.

We left and headed to Minnesota which we added to the road trip because we both wanted to see the Mall of America. Everyone said it was awful and that Minneapolis is awesome, but we had to go anyways. Luckily, our hotel in Richdale had a shuttle to and from the MOA. And when we got there, we had a blast! Granted we got these twilight wristbands with unlimited rides in the Nickelodeon Universe at MOA and I'm basically a child at heart. The rides were super fun and thrilling, way more terrifying than it looks and the best part, BARELY ANY lines!!! I've never been to a theme park with basically no wait for any ride. We rode Spongebob's Rock Bottom Plunge three times because there was no line and because it was the BEST ride there. It takes you straight up at a 90 degree angle and drops you into a bunch of turns and loops. It was fun being a kid again....The mall itself is massive with multi floors decked out in all stores you could imagine. Your typical mall stores though. And the food court is pretty crazy. Tons of selections. I didn't really feel like it was super crowded at all either and it was a Friday night, so go figure. At the end of the night, we were tuckered out, especially because we went on spinny and upside down rides after having dinner at Crave (not worth it). I'm pretty sure my sister almost died of laughter on Brain Surge, where all you do is spin in a circle and spin yourself in a loop.....roller coaster ride induced delirium. All in all a great time at a place we had low expectations for....

Posted by E.M.N 21:13 Archived in USA Tagged minnesota mall_of_america nickelodeon Comments (0)

Madison, Wisconsin: Land of Beer and Cheese

I hate to admit it, but I absolutely loved Madison. Granted we had perfect weather and not tons of snowfall....

We left Chicago today but not without eating the delicious Portillo's Italian beef and Italian beef combo, both dipped of course. I NEED someone to start an Italian beef shop in the Bay Area. It was the perfect mix of salty and meaty. If you go to Chicago, you definitely have to eat the combo.

After chowing down, we made our way slowly over to Madison, WI. We noticed the people and atmosphere were instantly more laid back and nicer. Jake was also in town so we decided to meet him at Memorial Union which is part of the University of Wisconsin. We took an uber there and it was cheap as hell compared to the cities I am used to. Anyways, the terrace at the union is amazing. I highly recommend considering University of WI solely for this reason. Haha. You can drink pitchers of beer right on the shores of Lake Mendota. Easily could have spent a whole day there, kayaking or sailing or paddleboarding and then kicking back with beers and food. The pictures don't really do it nearly enough justice. After enjoying a couple of pitchers and randomly running in to Patrick, we decided to follow Jake, which is never a good idea. We went to State Street Brats, hoping for a beer stock exchange but instead got $5 for 5 well drinks (rails) and a boot of Spotted Cow. We had some brats which were okay but the cheese curds...delicious. (Evie said, "a much better version of mozzarella sticks") It was nice to enjoy the patio but it felt every bit the college bar that it is supposed to be. We then walked towards the state capitol which was stunning in the nighttime and met up jake's friends at Merchant Madison. Beer is soooo incredibly cheap here. It really makes a lot of sense to me how people from Wisconsin can drink so much.

My post was delayed and no pictures because I passed out when we got home and now I'm camping without real interwebs....so you'll see pictures later!

Posted by E.M.N 20:56 Archived in USA Tagged beer cheese madison wisconsin memorial_union Comments (0)

Chitown!

Chicago is more beautiful than I remember...

We spent today exploring Chicago. I've been before but I did not get to enjoy it from the river. We took the Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour. It was an awesome way to spend the morning. Chicago is huge on architecture and each building is so unique and fancier than most other cities. The riverwalk is also very gorgeous and the effort is clearly there to really remodel it. The cruise made me feel like Chicago would be awesome to live in minus the winter.

After educating ourselves about buildings, we went to the Purple Pig. 5 dishes for lunch is WAY TOO MANY, but it was SO delicious. We ordered foie gras with bacon bits, fried pig ears with kale, the bone marrow, duck neck with apricot jam, and milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes. Our favorites were actually the foie gras and mashed potatoes, but the bone marrow was also really delicious. The pig ears were not that great though. After, we were so full that we ended up taking a food coma nap....

We headed to Millennium Park and enjoyed the BEAN and the Crown Fountain. The day was perfect for the park and for people watching. It is such a fun time to watch children enjoy splashing in the fountain but the real fun is watching the adults having just as much pure and udder joy.

We left the park for Girl & Goat, which was super amazing, We ironically liked the halibut dish the best. We ordered raw oysters, roasted beets with anchovy, halibut with white asparagus, grilled baby octopus, and the roasted pig face. The pig face is what people recommend but I think we realized that we are not a huge fan of fried egg and yolk mixed with our food. Everything else was ON POINT. Meals today were such GREAT CHOICES. I'm still full.....

With the sun starting to set, we headed to the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building. I've been before and know that the views are amazing especially from the women's bathroom. We enjoyed at cocktails leisurely as the sun set by the window we were watching from. As the sun vanished, we had priorities and headed to Timothy O'Toole's Pub to watch the WARRIORS advance to the NBA Finals!!!!!! We got the full experience at the pub because we watched the Chicago Blackhawks tie up the Stanley Cup Playoffs (so awesome to celebrate with Chicagoans) and met fellow Warrior fans!!!

All in all a very successful day eating, sightseeing, and celebrating.

The Purple Pig
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Views from the Chicago First Lady
Willis (Sears?) Tower
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Navy Pier
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Go Blackhawks!
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The BEAN! (aka cloudgate)
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PURE JOY in the Crown Fountain
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Mustache spitting
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The Girl & Goat
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The sunset view from the Signature Lounge at the Hancock Center
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Posted by E.M.N 21:30 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip chicago hancock millennium_park architecture_tour signature_lounge the_purple_pig the_girl_&_goat Comments (0)

Road Trip from NY to CA

First stop is CHICAGO!

So I decided to drive my car all the way across the country. We are taking the northern route. Our planned stops are Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Seattle, and Portland. Kind of regret it after one day....but that is just the driving fatigue talking. The sights will be well worth it.

We left NY at about 9am this morning, staring a 12 hour drive down the throat. If I could plan again, I would not plan any 12 hour days of driving. I was getting severe car fever. Granted the scenery was pretty awesome through NY to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Indiana and into Illinois. We took I90W which really does not offer much in terms of those tourist traps you want to see on a road trip, but we were also all business, knowing that we wanted to get to Chicago. 12 hours down and 3 gas station visits later.

We really did not do much today, but when we got to Chicago, my mission was to get a SUPERDAWG, delicious and overwhelming in classic Chicago dog fashion. Downtown Chicago was also awesome driving towards at night. We got to the hotel and considering how packed and filled my car is, I apologize to whoever has to valet my car.

Tomorrow we get to explore Chicago before adding some more miles to my car....

Plains of Ohio
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Enjoying the sunset within the confines of my car
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Elkhart, Indiana
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Superdawg at Superdawgs!!! There's a delicious hot dog under that pickle.
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Posted by E.M.N 21:54 Archived in USA Tagged new chicago york country road cross trip Comments (0)

Lost in Translation and Lost in Tokyo

Daily Obs: I'm going to miss Tokyo but I'm ready to be able to speak the language of the country. Also, the Japanese people have this traveling thing down to an exact science.

Last day in Tokyo! Michelle left this morning at 7a and I basically stayed awake catching up with things on the computer. Starting to regret not sleeping in longer right about now.

I did not have any real plans for today except that Janelle figured out that we were both in Tokyo at the same time and we were going to meet up for dinner. I did have quite a bit of anxiety worrying about what I was going to do with my luggage for a whole day, but I decided I would roll the dice and head to Shinjuku Station which is where the airport limo bus takes off from and which is a huge area with lots to do and eat. At Shinjuku Station, I was praying for a medium size (500Y) coin locker to be open somewhere. The ones that you see immediately were obviously all full but I somehow found this huge section of lockers under the West underground plaza exit near the basement of Odakyu. I had no problem fitting my luggage and my extra bag I've acquired from purchasing goods. I grabbed my pin and I was in my way, making sure I took pictures to help me identify my way back to my luggage.

About 40 lbs lighter, I decided I should probably try some actual ramen in Japan. I headed to Menya Musashi. It wasn't difficult to find knowing that there was a samurai on the curtain. I am extremely grateful that the udon shop we went to was a vending machine order and that Michelle had already taught me how to operate it because that was the ordering method here. The menu wasn't in English at all so I chose #1 which by the picture looked good. I really wish I had known which number was for the dipping ramen because it looked even more delicious. After getting my ticket, a worker asked me regular or large size noodles. I opted for the regular. I waited in line until a previous stool opened up for me and sat down. Almost immediately, I was served a steaming hot bowl of delicious ramen with a perfectly soft boiled egg and 2 huge pieces of pork belly. I quickly dug in (which seems to be the only way you are supposed to enjoy ramen). Because of the atmosphere and size of the place, I felt pressured to keep eating faster and faster. But wow that ramen was delicious. The broth was a lot lighter than normal and helped with the nausea sensation I usually get after eating ramen. The pork belly was super tender. After scarfing the ramen down, I left and headed for Hanazono Shrine.

This shrine is in the middle of Kabukicho, known for Yakuza and being the red light district. I think if I hadn't read about kabukicho being dangerous, I don't think I would have felt unsafe, but seeing as how I did, I walked a little faster especially because I got really lost. All things considered, the neighborhood just felt dirtier and lined with more "random" women. When I got to the shrine, I was surprised to see blossomed Sakura trees! The shrine itself was fairly small but impressively in the middle of all these buildings.

I left the shrine and decided to wander about Shinjuku. I went to department stores especially Bic Qlo, the famous mash up of BIC Camera (like fry's) and Uniqlo. It was an interesting store to say the least. I also made a stop at Sanrio Gate to pick up a specific souvenir while I was face timing and showing my nieces how crazy Tokyo. I love portable wifi. My mission after that was to try to find places to sit but most of the coffee shops were packed and overflowing with people. So I continued to wander and sat whenever I found random places until dinner time.

We decided on curry so we went to CoCo Ichibayan West Shinjuku Exit. It was delicious but I think Golden Curry is still a good substitute and the place in Honolulu is still the best hands down. The nice thing about CoCo is that they give you unlimited pickles for your curry. Mmmmmm. It was nice catching up with janelle and her hubby. They were off to an onsen and to Hong Kong tomorrow. And I headed off to the limo bus to go to Haneda knowing it would be filled with open seats.

Since writing this in Haneda, the shops here are very nice. This terminal was upgraded in 2010 and it has a very modern feel. The coolest part is the Edo Marketplace where a band happened to be playing live. There is also an observatory and souvenir shops to keep everyone entertained. I really wish I wasn't leaving and that this charging station was next to some real seats....until next time, Japan!

Posted by E.M.N 06:47 Archived in Japan Tagged shinjuku haneda ramen menya musashi Comments (0)

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