One of my major goals with my birthday trip to Chicago was finding the best pizza in the city. I took the hunt seriously and had pizza every single day I was there, to the glee of my taste buds. I based my pizza journey off of my own research, other bloggers’ tips, and recommendations from locals.
I’d only tried deep-dish pizza a few times at one of my favorite pizza places in Portland, called Via Chicago. I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for the feasts I had in store once I arrived in Chicago, however. From having pizza within 30 minutes of arriving to the city, to eating pizza on my way to the airport on my last day, I may have gone a little overboard. It was all in the name of research though! Right?
It has been almost two months since my birthday shenanigans in Chicago, and I haven’t had the time to sit down and talk about it until now. Sadly, my hard drive with all of my data just crashed and I lost all of my photos from my birthday trip, among many other travels (besides my Snapchat and phone pictures), so I guess I’ve been putting off this post in a way.
I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m 26, it’s a new age that’s unfamiliar to me. I’m still at that point where I have to pause before answering, “…um, yeah, I’m 26.”
Summer can be the most expensive time of the year to travel, but it’s also the most likely time of the year that Americans will use their vacation days. A lot of my fellow Americans have this idea that travel has to cost a lot of money and can only be done every once in awhile since it’s so expensive (or you only have two weeks of vacation every year).
Now, I can’t help you with increasing those vacation days, but what people don’t realize is that travel can be incredibly affordable if you know where to look. Travel doesn’t have to mean resorts and constant indulgences either, the best kind of travel is truly when you’re meeting locals and getting an overview of the local culture.
I’m tired you guys. Exhausted might be a better word. I try my best to spread positivity on this blog and to focus on the good, but sometimes, sometimes, I have to be honest and talk about the negativity too.
The America I left 3 years ago, is not the same one I came back to last March. Perhaps I was blinded by my love for my country, never having spent a decent amount of time away from it previously. I know this was not a sudden change, it’s something that has been building throughout the decades, probably, to be honest, since America was born. But the America I came back to last March, the one I’ve been living in for the past year and a half is unrecognizable to me now.
Before this year, I didn’t think much of visiting Detroit. It’s located on the other side of the country, known as one of the most dangerous places in the USA, and abandoned by droves of people not all that long ago. It doesn’t exactly scream postcard fun travels.
One of the aspects that beckoned me to visit, however, is my fondness for all things Motown. I wanted to see the birthplace of an era that had a huge impact on my love for music.
In Detroit, I discovered an enticing vibrancy to the city, even with all of the misconceptions I held previously. My Uber driver dropped me off at Eastern Market from the Greyhound station, and he said it best as I hopped out of the car: “If there’s one way to describe this city, it’s that it has a whole lot of soul.”
An afternoon in Niagara Falls can throw you into the present as soon as you lock eyes on its magnificence.
I decided to make a last minute stop into Canada again, my second in a month. This time it would be to the other side of the country, however, to Ontario where one of my best friends was moving into her new place in Toronto.
One of my other blogger friends, Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, is also a Toronto resident and I wasted no time in asking if she was interested in a little reunion. She said she was and we settled on a day trip to the mighty Niagara Falls.
I took out the map, tracing my finger from Chicago to the possible neighboring states I could visit for my upcoming birthday trip through the Midwest. It easily fell on Michigan, just one skip over from Illinois. I remembered Detroit and how I always wanted to see the birthplace of Motown, one of my favorite music eras of all time.
But I wanted to see more than just one city if I was to travel the many hours by bus to get to a new state. I started looking at the names to see if any others jumped out at me, when I saw Grand Rapids. It wasn’t a city that rang a bell but one that intrigued me, Grand Rapids – it sounded adventurous, didn’t it?
I had spent the last 12 hours in transit. First a red-eye flight from Portland, Oregon, then a Greyhound to Grand Rapids from Chicago. I traveled by light rail, plane, bus, and my own feet by the time I stood in front of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, looking straight up in awe.
The hotel is the epitome of grand, with architecture that dates back to the early 1900s, a singular American flag waving in the wind to beckon visitors into its doors. As soon as I stepped inside, it felt as if I had been transported back to the age of The Great Gatsby.
There were two aspects that surprised me about Michigan – the streets were incredibly clean and they were also incredibly colorful. City planning seemed to be spot on, at least for Grand Rapids, and the street art and architecture I found in both Detroit and Grand Rapids were something to note.
I wanted to share a few photos of the funky art and buildings I found in both cities to give you an idea of the wonderful streets I discovered during my recent trip to the state. I walked almost everywhere in both cities, and my walks were made that much more enjoyable because of the interesting finds that were scattered throughout the cities.
I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for the craft beer scene in Victoria, BC. I’d only heard mediocre reviews of Canadian beer as a whole from American and Canadian friends alike in the past, but I came back to Portland with a much better idea of Canadian styles of brewing. Not to mention, my taste buds were much more refreshed after taking a break from the heavy IPAs you’re apt to find in the Pacific Northwest.
I was impressed enough with the budding craft beer scene in Victoria to write up a guide for you guys on what to expect, both with specific breweries, brewpubs, and the unique liquor laws of British Columbia.