Chicago Adventures

At the beginning of April, I went on a work trip to Minneapolis. The best part about that work trip was that I got to tack on personal travel to Chicago for a girls weekend with my gym friends, Jen (the one who lives in Canada) and Ashley.

Here’s my weekend recap, which you may have already read about weeks ago in Jen’s recap posts here and here. Also, a lot of picture credit for the photos in this post go to both Jen and Ashley. My phone was uncooperative at many points during the weekend, so I made them send me pictures I could steal and use for F&F. Thanks ladies!

Chicago Adventures

I landed around 3pm on Friday and found Jen at the Starbucks at the “base of the Y” at my terminal. Get it? We decided to meet at the base of the Y in the airport because in real life we met in the basement of the Y. Yup, we’re cool. I was so excited to see Jen after not seeing her since her wedding that we had several elevator and train and even walking mishaps on the way to the hotel, but it didn’t even matter because the street smelled like brownie sundaes and we were all yayy and chatty and reunited. Don’t ask.

Once we found Ashley (who had already taken care of check in and the most important job of buying SNACKS), we walked down Michigan Ave to the Signature Room in the John Hancock building to start our weekend off right. By that I mean ordering pink cocktails with a view.

Chicago: Signature Room

Chicago Signature Room

Chicago: Signature Room Ashley and Me

For dinner we went to a Mexican restaurant called Mercadito, where I had one of the most delicious margaritas I’ve ever had in my life.

Chicago: Mercadito Margaritas

We were psyched to snag patio seating, even if limited to only 90 minutes. We ordered chips and guac (duh) and three different kinds of tacos to share. They didn’t disappoint.

Chicago: Mercadito TacosI think the best part of the weekend was just hanging out, relaxing, and talking over good food!

Chicago Margaritas at Mercadito

After dinner, we continued on to a piano bar called The Redhead. This place made me think of my friend Bridget because she’s a ginger.

Chicago: The Readhead

We were hoping for a slightly different scene (aka more dancing, less old people), but we hung out for a bit while sipping really strong (too strong) martinis. Then we laughed about being old women drinking martinis at a piano bar. Shoot. Finally, our last stop was back at our hotel bar. This place had every possible chair, sofa, loveseat, and ottoman combination you can think of, all set up in different places, so naturally we had a little fun with that.

On Saturday we woke up and grabbed bagels before going on our bike tour! Since we were doing the Bikes, Bites, and Brews tour, we probably didn’t need to carb up before carb loading all day, but what fun is vacation without extra carbs?

Chicago: Bobby's Bike Hike
Backing up for a minute: when Jen and Ashley said they wanted to do a bike tour, I was REALLY nervous. Like really, really nervous. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was fifteen years old, and I was honestly having a bit of anxiety about navigating through the streets of Chicago. I gave myself a pep talk though, and made myself follow my own advice about getting out of my comfort zone. This is silly to admit, but to prepare I went over to Slesh’s apartment and had her watch me ride her bike in the parking lot down the street. Yup. It was like I was a six-year-old child learning to ride a two-wheeler for the first time. I guess you can only ask your best friend for help with something like that.

Text

But just for the record, the saying really is true. It’s like… riding a bike. You don’t forget how. Our lesson lasted about five minutes, and I was fine, but I’m glad I did that to ease my nerves before gracefully cycling through city streets.

Here are some scenes from our bike adventures:

Chicago: Bike Tour

Jen got to wear the reflective vest because she volunteered to be safety patrol and bring up the rear of our tour! She’s so responsible.

Chicago Bike Tour

Our tour had three scheduled food stops along the way. The first was at Gino’s East for deep dish pizza. Deep dish pizza with corn bread crust, might I add.

Chicago Bike Tour: Ginos East

The second was for dessert at an awesome cupcakery called Swirlz. The cupcakes were to die for.

Chicago Swirlz Cupcakes

And the third food stop was for a Chicago style hot dog at a place called Murphy’s Red Hots. No ketchup, lots of toppings.

Chicago: Hot Dogs at Murphys

Aside from the food, we stopped a couple of times along the way for some photo ops. I do wish the tour guide gave us a little more background on Chicago history or fun facts about the neighborhoods as we biked through, but I think the other tours are better suited for that!

Chicago Bike Tour2

The end of the tour included two stops for beers. The first was in the Wrigley Field area. I was so excited for this part because my Yiayia grew up in Chicago and was always a fan of the Cubs!

Chicago: Wrigley Field

Chicago Wrigley Field

The first bar stop was at Murphy’s Bleachers, where I tried the Three Floyd’s Gumballhead. Wheat beer + citrus = yes.

Chicago: Murphys Bleachers

The second beer stop was at a restaurant called RJ Grunts. This place apparently invented the salad bar? I wish we could have stayed longer there, and I also wish we got more than just an itty bitty pour of beer.

Chicago: RJ Grunts
Finally, our last stop of the bike tour was along the water. Pretty views!

Chicago along the water

After our bike tour, we headed back to our hotel to drink prosecco, eat snacks, and jam out relax, clean up, and get changed for the night.

Chicago: Snacking

For dinner we ate at Gene and Georgetti, a really old school steakhouse that Ashley’s family has connections with. We continued our day of eating with big salads, (huge) steaks, asparagus, and a bottle of red wine.

Chicago: Gene and Georgetti

Chicago: Gene and Georgetti's

After dinner, we continued on for more wine at a more modern steakhouse and bar, Chicago Cut. Loved the vibe here, and we could browse the menu on an iPad. Fancy shmancy.

Chicago DrinksFinally, we finished our night at a Second City comedy show (no pictures!). Since all three of us are trying to save money, we opted to go to the hour long post show for free at 1am after the main showtime, but I really really wish we had just splurged on tickets to the real thing because we were laughing so hard.

The next morning we woke up and headed to a place called Rockit for brunch. Mimosas were a must, and I ordered a California omelette (WHY are omelettes with guacamole the best?) and one of the best side fruit salads I’ve ordered. A side fruit salad is solid in my book when it has more than just honeydew melon in it. Amiright?

Chicago: Rockit

We only had a couple of hours left to walk around the city before we had to catch our flights, so we did a little tourist action at Millenium Park and at the bean.

Chicago: Millenium Park

Chicago: The BeanChicago: The Bean

Chicago: Touring

We did a little more walking around and finished our day at Ghirardelli’s for some chocolate in beverage form.

Chicago: Ghirardellis

It was such an awesome weekend, but as expected, it FLEW by. I felt like the second we got there it was time to leave! I was really sad to have to part ways with the girls on Sunday (especially my sad hug goodbye with Jen in the airport), but after being away from Tim and home for a whole week, I was happy to be home. I love traveling and getting away, but there’s just nothing like that feeling of landing back in Beantown.

–Let’s chat–
Have you ever been to Chicago? What’s your favorite part of the city, restaurant, or thing to do? When’s the last time you rode a bike? Also, when can I go back to Chicago?!

I think I could live there!

A Weekend Getaway With Perfect Vermont

A couple of weekends ago, Tim and I headed north for a little unplugged weekend getaway.

Perfect Vermont: Car Ride

We were invited for a complimentary overnight with some other healthy living and travel bloggers through a new company called Perfect Vermont. Perfect Vermont is located in Pittsfield, VT (near Killington) and owned by a young couple, Tom and Erlin. Tom and Erlin are seriously two of the most down to earth, nicest people I’ve ever met, and they run pretty much the coolest business ever: hosting wellness retreats on local farm property.

Perfect Vermont: Welcome

Tom and Erlin had a warm welcome ready and waiting for us upon arrival. There was a basket of local Vermont goodies, a sign welcoming all the bloggers with a hashtag to use throughout the weekend (#PerfectVT if you want to check out some of the other bloggers’ pictures), and healthy snacks to enjoy during the welcome social.

Perfect Vermont: Warm Welcome

When staying with Perfect Vermont, you can choose to stay at any of the Riverside Farm accommodations. All of the bloggers and guests stayed at theĀ Amee Farm Lodge together. Amee Farm is a quaint, restored farmhouse with 15 guest bedrooms and plenty of common areas.

Perfect Vermont: The Amee Farm Lodge

Perfect Vermont: Amee Farm Lodge

Tim and I weren’t sure what to expect since neither of us have stayed at a bed and breakfast before, but our room was spotless upon arrival. We liked the wood furnishings, brightness, and the comfy mattress.

Perfect Vermont: Bedroom

 

We were room #1 (Hannah), and we were pleased with how spacious yet cozy our room felt.

Perfect Vermont: Bedroom

Even our bathroom was really cool. Check out this shower!

Perfect Vermont: Bathroom

One of my favorite features of the lodge was the large, wrap-around porch with Adirondack chairs. Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend too much time out there because the weather wasn’t so cooperative, but I bet it’s so fun to hang out on during the nicer seasons.

Perfect Vermont: Porch at Amee Lodge

After settling in and chatting with all of our new friends during the welcome social, the group headed out for a tour of the Riverside Farm properties. Riverside Farm is actually a wedding venue spread out among a ton of land and three different barns (brown, white, and red). The owners, Joe and Courtney, wanted to expand their property to be used for more than just wedding events, which is kind of how Perfect Vermont came to be. Here are some pretty pictures from our tour and the different venues/accommodations that are used for not only weddings now, but wellness programming during the retreats, corporate events, and more.

Riverside Farm: Red Barn

Perfect Vermon: Riverside Farm

Perfect Vermont: Riverside Farm

Perfect Vermont: Riverside FarmPerfect Vermont Riverside FarmPerfect Vermont: Riverside Farm

Perfect Vermont: White Barn

Perfect Vermont Red Brown White Barns

Perfect Vermont: Riverside Farm Tour

Perfect Vermont: Riverside Inn

I even snapped some pictures of the horse paraphernalia for Julia:

Riverside Farm Horses

After the tour, everyone headed back to Amee Lodge to freshen up before dinner. When we got downstairs, we saw that Tom and Erlin set up two big tables and decorated with pretty lights for the night.

Perfect Vermont: Dinner at Amee Farm Lodge

A local musician named Dave Clark was playing live music throughout dinner, and one of the bloggers joined him on his trumpet. Pretty cool.

Perfect Vermont: Live Music

Dinner was provided by Vermont Farms Catering, and everything was absolutely wonderful. The menu was right up my alley, except for dessert (not because it tasted bad, but because I’m just not a grapefruit fan. I ate around it.). The risotto was to die for!

Perfect Vermont: Dinner Menu with Vermont Farms Catering

Perfect Vermont Dinner

Tim and I spent some time chatting with Kevin, the chef, and his event director and partner, Katie. They told us they work with local farmers for fresh ingredients, which was obvious when eating. They also told us that they are working on starting up some local culinary classes to offer as part of the wellness retreat itinerary, which I think would be an excellent addition to the weekend activities.

Perfect Vermont: Dinner

The rest of the night was great, and other local folks from the town stopped in to join us. That’s the kind of place Pittsfield is – everyone knows each other, and it’s like a small family. There are really only a couple of streets in the town, with the General Store being one of the main attractions, you know? It’s just a completely different way of life, and I loved every second of it that weekend. We chatted the most with two guys named Dennis and Miguel, who are sponsored athletes living in Pittsfield while training for the elite Spartan races. I learned that Pittsfield is actually the home of the Spartan races, which I didn’t realize before. I’m sure you guys can imagine how much I enjoyed hearing their stories of their grueling workouts (climbing buckets of rocks up the mountains, running through the ice rivers, you get the idea). It was just so wonderful getting to meet and mingle with so many different and interesting people, and it didn’t hurt that the wine was flowing the entire time.

Tim and I headed up to our room around 10:30 since we had an early wake up call. We were one of the first guests to get up, and when we headed into the main rooms around 8am, we were greeted with a spread of breakfast and coffee. I made myself a bowl of yogurt and fresh fruit and enjoyed a delicious blueberry muffin too. Tim and I hung out in the cozy living room and watched the rain fall outside until everyone woke up. We were laughing about how our vanilla yogurt tasted like such a splurge compared to our usual non-fat plain. Too funny.

Perfect Vermont Breakfast

The morning’s activity was either a yoga class taught by Erlin or a guided snowshoe hike led by Tom. I originally was going to shoot for the snowshoe because I have never tried snowshoeing before, but I really didn’t have appropriate footwear for the slushy conditions outside. And let’s be honest, yoga in the dry comfort of the lodge sounded a lot more appealing first thing in the morning. The class was an Ashtanga style flow, which I enjoyed. I could definitely tell I haven’t taken a yoga class in a while, as I was tight in places I used to not be so tight in. However, I could feel a visible difference in my upper body strength during poses like crow and plank holds. Heavier lifting for the win. Yoga was the perfect way to start the day.

Perfect Vermont Yoga

Tim decided to venture out on the snowshoe though. He and Tom trekked about a mile and a half through the slushy trails. He said it was awesome, and Tom said Tim was a good sport. In the nicer weather, I’m sure these trails are beautiful for hiking and snowshoeing in better snow conditions.

Perfect Vermont Snowshoe

After yoga and snowshoeing, we headed across the street to Sweet Georgia P’s, a local organic farm.

Perfect Vermont: Sweet Georgia P's

Perfect Vermont: Sweet Georgia P's

We met the owners, Rebecca and Joe, who used to be from the Boston area and then moved north to start their farm business. I learned that they have a community supported agriculture program and actually ship to both New York and Boston too for any F&F readers that might be interested. Rebecca and Joe showed us all around their farm and explained a lot of their farming process to us.

Perfect Vermont: Sweet Georgia P's

I wish the weather had been nicer so we could have seen more! At the end of the tour, we trekked through a lot of mud to see their goats.

 

Perfect Vermont: Goats

Finally, we wrapped up our weekend with lunch at the General Store. After hearing so many great things about the hub of Pittsfield, we just had to go. I ordered a turkey wrap and a smoothie to enjoy on the ride home.

Perfect Vermont: General Store

Perfect Vermont: General Store Smoothie

After the stress of my taking my wellness coaching exam that week, this weekend getaway was exactly what I needed. I left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated from being in the fresh mountain air. I felt content and in my element after being surrounded with like-minded people all weekend. Everyone had such an interesting background, and I loved hearing everyone’s stories. Tim and I got to spend some quality time together not worrying about anything. I am really grateful that I was selected to be a part of this beautiful weekend and retreat space. I would absolutely love to organize a retreat for folks at my company or interested F&F readers someday.

Thank you to everyone in Pittsfield, VT for this experience!

Let’s chat–
Have you ever heard of Perfect Vermont? Would you want to go on a wellness retreat? What part of my weekend looks like the most fun to you? When’s the last time you had a weekend away to relax and unplug from the daily grind?

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post, but I was provided a complimentary overnight stay with Perfect Vermont, including two meals and activities, in exchange for writing this review. As always, all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links within this post.

Our Portsmouth Overnight (2013)

Last weekend Tim and I drove north for our third annual fall overnight in Portsmouth, NH. We started this tradition after I joined the Marriott rewards program and received a free night just for signing up. Now every year I get a free night around this time as a thank you for my loyalty, but it always expires in January. That means we get to do a fun fall getaway, and every year we’ve chosen to go to Portsmouth. We love it there almost as much as we love Portland, Maine. There are a ton of cute shops, restaurants, bars, and more.

We got a late start to our morning, which might have had something to do with those cucumber drinks the night before. By the time we arrived and checked into our hotel, we were STARVING. We headed straight for the Portsmouth Brewery where clearly the first thing that would make me feel better was a pumpkin ale.

Portsmouth 2013: Brewery

We then housed a flatbread of eggplant, basil, and cheesy deliciousness.

Portsmouth 2013: Brewery Pizza

And THEN ordered more food. Vegetarian chili and salad for me, a burger for tim.

Portsmouth 2013: Brewery Lunch

Seriously it was so much food that I was in a food coma for the rest of the afternoon. It’s okay though. We walked off our ginormous lunch while browsing all the shops and strolling through the little park area by the water.

Portsmouth 2013

Portsmouth 2013

Portsmouth 2013

Portsmouth 2013

By the time dinner rolled around, neither one of us felt hungry because we were still so full from lunch. We decided to go to Radici to get a drink and cash in the free appetizer coupon we scored while in Portsmouth last year (the plus side to Tim schmoozing with everyone he meets).

This white wine apple cider sangria was amazing…

Portsmouth 2013: Apple Sangria

…and we split mussels for our app/meal. It hit the spot and wasn’t too heavy.

Portsmouth 2013: Mussels

We bar hopped after that for the rest of the night. On Sunday after we slept in and got breakfast, we decided to do a little hike/nature walk through some nearby trails. It was a little cloudy, but still a pretty day.

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

Portsmouth 2013: Hike

I hate to admit it, but fall won’t be around for much longer! I’m glad we got to spend some time outside enjoying the foliage. And as always, it was great to get away from our daily grind.

Have you ever been to Portsmouth, NH? Do you have any kind of getaway tradition like ours?

For past Portsmouth posts, check out my recaps from 2011 and 2012!