The Windy City & Week 11 in Philadelphia

So on Monday at 6am, Nicole and I had a flight to Chicago O’Hare from Philadelphia – being awake at 3am wasn’t the best situation, but we had a lot of fun with it (I personally drank a lot of coffee and Gatorade) and we were incredibly excited. I actually fell asleep in the Uber to our hotel when we arrived haha. The hotel we stayed at (Inn of Chicago) was incredible – it was pretty cheap and what we got for our money was amazing. THE most comfortable double beds and the warmest/squiggliest bedrooms ever! A solid 4/5 stars – would highly recommend – especially for the traveller who just wants to come back to their room to relax after a long day. The location was also really good – incredibly central and most the things we wanted to do/see were within walking distance so this was really ideal. There were also a tonne of food stores nearby so this was perfect for a foodie like myself. On this first day, Monday, we walked along the Magnificent Mile (essentially a street/area of famous stores) – I think Chicago is an incredibly beautiful city – I expected it to feel a lot colder than it was, based on its location and what people have told me, but maybe I’m used to it, being British. I also wore 5 layers every day. I often felt pretty warm whilst walking about so as long as you dress appropriately, it’s definitely do-able. This is one of my favourite parts of exploring – just walking around the city and being on the streets, seeing what it’s all really like to live there. We walked along to the John Hancock Centre (specifically, the observatory) and this was amazing – I’m not sure how high it was but the views of Chicago were immense. Chicago is the 3rd biggest city in the US so this was breathtaking. We saw Lake Michigan and genuinely questioned whether it was the lake or an ocean – you actually cannot see the end of the lake, I was so shocked. Lake Michigan is the 3rd biggest lake in the US and I’m surprised it isn’t the first. We saw this numerous times throughout the trip because of how large it is – it looked beautiful from every different position/angle/place we saw it at. The observatory drew our attention to a beach nearby (Oak something) so after this, we went and checked that out – never have I ever before seen a beach with snow on the sand – this was beautiful – the pictures we took couldn’t quite capture the beauty of what we were seeing, unfortunately. We walked along the beach to Navy Pier (a similar concept to Brighton Pier, for those of you who’ve been to East Sussex in England) – a lot of entertainment, restaurants, shops, rides, etc – I had a veggie Chicago hot dog (they were highly recommended) and I must say, it did not disappoint. I’m not sure I could fully appreciate it though as I’d previously stocked up on Munchkins from Dunkin beforehand and was still feeling rather sick :’) After exploring Navy Pier, we walked along Michigan Avenue (this was our go-to street) and then went along the Chicago Riverwalk – the Chicago River actually runs backwards. This was a mesmerising view too – Chicago is incredibly scenic. Then, because Nicole and I are obsessed with food, went to the Corner Bakery Cafe – I got chocolate chip m&m Christmas cookies (there were like 30, I ate them all) and Nicole got pancakes – it was nice to warm up. We then got an Uber (we didn’t know where we were at this point) to Lincoln Park and found out it had a free zoo and conservatory, which we checked out. The conservatory is now one of my favourite places in the world – it was incredible – I want to bring my boyfriend back here some day and my parents. The zoo was pretty nice too – I liked that it was free as it suggests that the staff really care about the animals and aren’t doing it for profit. Having said that, however, I’m pretty against holding animals in captivity but I’m also for the idea of the protection of endangered or at risk species – I know that many animals live a much longer life in zoo’s but it’s questionable as to whether the quality of these animal’s lives are acceptable. So essentially, my stance on zoo’s are undecided. I got a little sad with the lack of space some of the animal’s had to move around, while I was there. But moving on, the park itself was wonderful. We had a good time exploring! There were copious amounts of Christmas decorations already up in Chicago too – which was odd as Thanksgiving hadn’t happened yet. It definitely made the city more magical though. Walking around at night was my favourite thing – it felt like I was in a movie. For dinner we went to Gino’s Pizzeria and obviously HAD to have deep dish Chicago pizza! It’s not an exaggeration when I say that this was the best pizza I’ve ever had – I actually couldn’t finish it – and that is very unlike me :L It was so thick and dense – I felt so sick about 3/4 of the way through! It was insane. The pizzeria was a really cool joint too – there were graffiti all over the walls, a bar, really loud music and tv everywhere – very cool vibes.

On Tuesday we went to the Field Museum of Natural History – this was HUGE. I’m super interested in dinosaurs so this was amazing – I actually love museums, I wish I could spend the whole day going through and reading everything that’s available but I’m usually on a time schedule, meaning I don’t get to see and learn as much as I’d like :(. We covered a lot of the museum though, really interesting – we also had lunch there (meaning chips and chocolate cheesecake – nutritional as always). We then headed over to the Shedd Aquarium (it was nearby) and I had similar issues to the ones I had with the zoo – there were dolphins, sharks, turtles, numerous species of fish and other incredible animals – all of whom didn’t have enough space and actually looked almost bored and sad? I’m aware that you can’t tell how an animal is feeling by looking at him/her but I really do not think that a huge dolphin swimming around in the same tank backwards and forwards continuously is having his/her needs satisfied – this must be incredibly frustrating. Things like this just get me so upset – I feel like as humans, we have a responsibility to almost ‘speak up’ for animals who can’t speak for themselves – this just wasn’t OK, animals should be free. For animals like this, the ocean is their home – not a tank that is too small for them so people can come by and take pictures. Ugh. I really hope that this aquarium is treating these animals kindly – you can never be too sure. It seemed like a well constructed place – lots of workers providing good quality care – but I can’t help but feel bad for animals in environments like this. OK anyway, we spent a long period of time in the museum and aquarium – afterwards, we went to the Willis Tower Skydeck (aka Sears Tower – 2nd tallest tower in the US) and this was jaw-dropping. This was 103 floors high and at night time with all the lights on, easily one of my favourite places in the world. You could actually see bits of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan from this skydeck (I also got a big chunk of peanut butter chocolate fudge and m&m fudge which made the whole experience way better). There was a glass floor which you could stand on too meaning when you look down, you just have 103 floors worth of space looking down on Chicago – scary and amazing at the same time. We stayed here for hours just looking at the city – magnificent. We then walked along and saw people ice-skating on the route home – this was truly lovely, especially with all of the Christmas decorations. This was when I saw James Maslow from Big Time Rush (those of you who have me on Facebook will know of my sheer excitement and disappointment that he was so close to me yet I didn’t get to see him). After this, we went to an Italian restaurant called Tre Soldi (it was way too expensive)but the food was exquisite – I had THE BEST Tortellini Pasta and then Biscotti for dessert – both of which were delicious. The waiter was actually Italian and Nicole is Brazilian and as an English person in America, we all chatted for a while and bonded over our international status and the peculiarities of the US :’) The Italian waiter tried to give me his phone number haha, but having a boyfriend, I politely declined :L This was actually such an interesting conversation/such a good time. After this, we walked around the city some more, trying to rid ourselves of food babies but instead, ended up getting some booze from a 7/11 and having some drinks back at the hotel – we were very tired and wanted to relax. I wish we had Raspberitas and Strawberitas in England, they’re so damn good. Nicole and I just stayed up for hours talking, watching TV and getting drunk – it was actually lovely.

The final day, Wednesday, we did breakfast correctly at Waffles Cafe – I had Red Velvet with cream cheese waffles – beautiful (and of course, Iced Coffee from Dunkin – extra sugar and cream!). We then dedicated this day to exploring Millennium and Grant Park. Millennium Park is where the famous Cloud Gate (or better known, The Bean) resides, as well as Wrigley Square/Field – I really liked the structure of this park as well as the art sculptures inside. The park is near the Art Institute of Chicago, which explains why all of these pieces of art work are here. Grant Park was just next to it and we got to see Buckingham Fountain and some other lovely grass areas – I really adore walking in parks, especially when they’re covered in snow. We then sat for a while by the Chicago Lakefront Trial, overlooking Lake Michigan – considering the weather was quite nice for Chicago, this was just a wonderful time to relax and reflect and talk. We then went and looked for the train station (Nicole was headed to Madison, Wisconsin) in a few hours so we wanted to know how to get there and I needed to find the L-line to get to the airport (it only costs 3 bucks on the L and it cost us 50 with an uber – lesson learned!). We then went and explored some more and of course, ate some more – cookies and bagels predominantly, was fab. When I got to the airport after, what seemed like the longest subway trip (there was a scary guy on there, seemingly very drunk, who wouldn’t leave me alone), I was alone and very bored – so of course, I got Cheeseitz, Gummy Worms and Reese’s pieces to keep me occupied – as well as talking to the random guy next to me about his Thanksgiving plans (meeting random people who are nice restores me). I got back to my apartment in Philly around 1am – not too bad. I still haven’t unpacked though :’)

On Thursday, I went to Camden and Cinnaminson in New Jersey for Thanskgiving with Catherine’s family – they’re truly the loveliest people! The food was ridiculous – tofurkey (yes this is really what this is called), turkey obviously, mashed potatoes, carrots, mac and cheese, stuffing and vegetarian stuffing, bread rolls, vegetarian lasagne, apple pie, pumpkin pie (my FAVE – especially with whipped cream and icecream) and a bunch more that I’ve probably repressed as the thought of that much food again HURTS ME. A lot of the food was homemade and it was truly delicious, so props to the fam for the cooking skills. We played Catchphrase after dinner and drank lots of Moscato (amazing) – lot of good banter flying about haha, I really had such a good time. My first Thanksgiving was definitely a success – I’m so thankful that Catherine’s family invited me around -truly had such a good time.

I came back to Drexel on Friday morning and the campus was so dead – everyone was still visiting their families for Thanksgiving or doing some Black Friday shopping – it was actually nice to see Drexel not crowded with people though, relaxing almost! I just had a really chill weekend – I got really ill at this point meaning it was nice to just have time in bed watching movies and eating copious amounts of junk, with not many people there. It was a very peaceful time at Drexel and was very enjoyable haha.

Monday was the start of finals week – this really lasts for 2 weeks though. This when all of our final projects are due and every student has WAY TOO MUCH work to be doing. While I’m stressed AF, I’m remembering that I’m not really here for the academic aspect that much but more so for the experience aspect, so I’m still having a fab time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still learning lots and enjoying my classes at Drexel…. haha. However, I haven’t done nearly as much studying or working as I should have been doing :’)

On Tuesday, Chloe, Erica, Mae and I went to a basketball game at Wells Fargo. It was the 76ers vs the LAKERS! It was incredible, I seriously had the best time. I’ve always wanted to see The Lakers and this so happened to be Kobe’s last game before he retired, so it got really emotional at the end when he waved goodbye – there was a tinge of sadness and beautifulness in the arena, was amazing. I was cheering for the sixers though, gotta support Philly seeing as though I live here now 😉 And we freaking won (feel bad for Kobe though)! Think it was like 103-92 so it was crazy. We had a bit of an interesting time trying to get to the stadium haha (THANKS MAE) but it was so fun, it was really incredible – I always love games in Philly cos they’re so intense and the fans are wild. I also get pretty into the games haha.

On Wednesday, Catherine and I (and also Chloe – a different one than previously mentioned) went to PUPPY PAWLOOZA! This was like a room with dogs at different stations and you could just go play with them, cuddle them and spend time with them to de-stress during finals week! We spent way too long here, it was incredible! I. love. dogs. I fell in love with a dog called Bear and just had the most wonderful time. Seriously, it was amazing. They were all therapy dogs so they knew to be relaxing and calming around people and they were seriously just the cutest things in the world. So happy I went – I definitely felt a lot less stressed after going! Haha. In the evening, I took Catherine to go see The Book of Mormon at Forrest Theatre – now folks, these tickets were expensive AF and we weren’t even very close to the stage so if you wanna go see this show, just be wary – it will not be cheap haha. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen (but I feel like I say that about all the shows I go to, I absolutely adore em).  It was pretty hilarious – very energetic and captivating performances from the cast; absolutely great story too. As an agnostic, it was great to see a story which almost mocked the literal interpretation that followers will take of their religious readings. I think the general take-away message from the play was to essentially not take religion so seriously and if anything, to take it metaphorically when it’s applicable to your every-day life. I personally respect if someone wants to follow a certain religion and adhere to those beliefs and lifestyle but I don’t believe or disbelieve the idea that there is a God or any other non-physical/non-material existences past what we currently know, so I’m still open to what other people have to say on the matter as I’m fairly undecided myself. The play was very funny though and talked of how people who claim to follow religion so strongly will then go on to have their doubts too, even though they continue on preaching and attempting to convert others.

On Thursday, Linda, Emily, Rovi and I went to a Drag Queen show – it was incredible. So so so fun  – drag queen acts always are. Very sassy and fierce – love it! It was free too cos it was hosted by CAB I think? Really great entertainment, I’m glad I went! It was an incredibly odd show, very unlike anything else I’ve seen, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Haha. Then on Thursday evening, Catherine, Janelle and I unexpectedly went to Cavs – we were all monging out at 11pm being fat when my friend invited us, so we got ready super quick and went. It was a super fun night – I spent way too much money though, I just brought everyone shots cos I kept seeing a bunch of people I knew! Was an awesome evening though – super late night (I certainly felt this the next day). I always love Cavs though cos it’s just so lit but chill at the same time – music is always pretty on point and the people are always great. I always meet a bunch of international students there, never fails to be an interesting night.

On Friday evening, Chloe asked if I wanted to go to a Penn party and Penn parties are supposed to be substantially better than Drexel parties so I was like, hell yeah!? It definitely had a different vibe to Drexel parties – we pregamed a little at Chloe’s, then beforehand at a random apartment near Penn (it was actually a birthday party – THEY HAD CAKE) and then we headed to the actual party where myself and Chloe personally drank the entire keg to ourselves cos we bonded with the British guy giving out the drinks haha. Penn is definitely a bit more grimey than Drexel – very sweaty, couldn’t move much, everyone was dancing and grinding – very much like a club scene. It was really fun though – all of Chloe’s friends were super nice so I’m glad I met them. Me and Chloe just drunkenly wondered off from the party near the end, back to Drexel, checking out the frat scene and stealing some of their drinks – was a good way to end the evening haha. Ended up being a pretty late night (all of my nights are these days – I should probably remember that it’s finals week and I need to do some studying?!). I’m really gonna miss Chloe when she goes to Chicago after Christmas break – she’s leaving Drexel 🙁 my favourite Brit.

On Saturday morning, way too early, some friends and I decided to go to a shooting range near Allentown (we decided at 4am the night before that it would be a good idea to fire some dangerous weaponry with a killer hangover) so I essentially had 4 hours sleep and then we were on the road. I love long car rides and it was nice to be back in a car and not on public transport for once – we got lunch on the way (from the BEST. SANDWICH. SHOP. EVER), picked up some guns and required accessories and hit the range. It was actually really fun – I really enjoyed shooting the guns, definitely wanna do it again and improve. Felt VERY American (it’s crazy that owning a gun is legal here). I especially liked the AK47 and the P200 (I think?). We also got some dinner on the way back and had some chill drinks back in Philly (it’s almost concerning that drinking 3 times a week is so normal now!) and it was just a nice chill evening, compared to the 2 previous nights of craziness haha.

On Sunday morning (more so, Sunday afternoon), a bunch of friends and I got some breakfast at Oregon Diner in South Philly and I had the BEST chocolate chip pancakes – I 100% need this for breakfast on the daily. I’m super happy with the friends I’ve made here at Drexel – like there’s copious amounts of them and they’re all incredible individuals. I’m truly gonna miss this place – been feeling emotional about it somewhat lately :’) I can’t wait to get back home and see my boyfriend but I also really love my life here – I wish he could be here with me! As you can probably tell, I’m not really doing much work or non-enjoyable things – everything’s pretty fun right now, which I love!

Just a random side note, I’ve become obsessed with F’Real milkshakes – every. single. goddamn. flavour. is. amazing. The only problem is they’re all at least 700 calories and I’ve started having at least one a day :/  I genuinely have not eaten anything healthy since I got to the US and that’s a solid 3 months+! I’m very concerned about my health right now – I don’t exercise and I literally only eat food that is bad for me. Without even considering the waistline, just my general health is worrying. I need to start taking care of myself and my body but I’m living pretty recklessly and spontaneously every single day – I mean, I love it, I’m totally about that, but I don’t wanna suffer any adverse consequences as a RESULT of the way I’m living. I honestly cannot remember the last time I ate something that provided me with genuine nutrition and THAT, my friends, is an issue :’).