Wednesday, 29 June 2011
As soon as you arrive, the amazing architecture and clinically perfect streets will take you away. Evoking elements of Philadelphia and even Boston this city is distinctly American, with a New England charm. Still, this city is a place in itself, from some of the worlds wonders, to the most down to earth, lovely locals you'd ever like to meet, it's time to lay down your hat and call this place home for a few days, because it'll certainly feel like that. Now where to stay?
How about them sites? Some of the most sensational you'll see. Obviously the wonderful White House is the top drawer and Mr. Obama's home truly is something to marvel at, from it's rich history to it's grand look, just don't expect to be invited in for a game of basketball...not that he's not nice like that, but he's pretty busy. The biggest, most eye-catching building however is the place where all the Presidents take their oath on inauguration day. The Capitol building really defines D.C. to the letter (or should we say letters). It's one of the first-things you see, even streets away and it is bold and beautiful. The grandest of all buildings no wonder newsmen stand next to it when giving reports. It looks like the White House with a face-lift.
Still for something even more epic you have to take a walk down The Mall. From it's tranquil, calm lake to the perfect pinnacle of the Washington Monument it's vast and breathtaking. As you make your ascension up The Mall and up the marble steps you meet a good ol'friend Abe at the Lincoln Memorial, this statue of the former president that freed the slaves as as awe-inspiring as the man himself. So detailed and moving too looking at his speeches you won't be able to take your eyes off of him. The same can also now be said for the beautiful and touching Marin Luther King Jnr, memorial and tribute. It's finally here.
Still turn around, walk a few paces and take a seat on the marble steps and you'll be greeted with one of the best views you can sit, see and take in for free. Many more incredible speeches have been made around here, so take a minute and pay respect to Martin Luther King Jnr. They have also used this perfect location for many introspective scenes in movies, just ask Clint Eastwood, Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughan. Count on some company, unlike the movies however, but this heavily visited tourist location still has sedate calm (like the city) and is also a great place to shoot the breeze and share some history with other tourists (again like the city).
Plus from memorable memorials to the perfect precision of the Pentagon building there are many more must see places here to pay your respects to. There is also an alumni of must see attractions like the grand Georgetown University or the historically compulsory 'Frederick Douglass National Historic Site'. This city is rich with history from museums and galleries (check out the 'National Museum of the American Indian' and the ' National Gallery of Art') the to the marvellous Mural of jazz legend Duke Ellington on U Street.
Beyond all the world-famous sites there's much more to see in this cool city, from the sublime streets to the character of every vestibule and alley. Just check out the Row houses on Logan Circle or the Eastern Market for more delights. One of the best things about Washington is that everything blends in and nothing overpowers the skyline or streets, even the epic architecture blends in to a suitable, subtlety in this cool and calm community. Everything just feels nice and welcoming here, with a laid-back feel despite the very stressful and important decisions that go on amongst some of the inhabitants of those aforementioned architecture.
At the unique, and classically fashioned Union Station you can catch more then a train (which in itself is a great experience with the grand, stone-cold stations). With a small wood and marble laid, appealing shopping arcade and a feel-good food hall, this station has a great network of shops and eateries for a quick stop off. A visit at the Union, really is a rewarding one. Outside of this there are plenty of other restaurants and coffee shops to dine in, from the classic Chinatown, to even more places that blend into the cities overall feel. From the gorgeous 'Georgia Brown's' to the French favourite 'Cafe Du Parc'.
Still if you'd rather say bonjour to a good drink over a good meal then why not frequent one of the cities batch of brilliant bars. From tabbing the 'Rocket Bar' or the 'Lucky Bar' to searching for 'The Big Hunt' D.C. has the streets paved for your crawl. Then again if you prefer dancing to staggering (all depending on how many left feet you have) why not hit up 'Ultrabar', or clock into the '9:30 Club' or even grant yourself 'Asylum' at many of the towns night-spots and clubs? When it comes to a night-life Washington really hits the heights.
Still if that's not for you why not head further downtown and catch some basketball and the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Centre? Hey, if it's good enough for Obama. Still if that or other ball-games aren't your field why not catch a concert at the Verizon Centre? Or a show at the nice National Theatre? 'The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' also makes for a perfect site and view of presidential talent in performing. Art really is brought to life here.
After all this from the historic 'Willard InterContinenta' hotel to the classy 'Capitol City Hostel' there are plenty of comforting places to get your head down and when you rise and shine the next morning you'll really have to open your eyes as there's much more to see in the city of D.C. Plus the beautiful Baltimore isn't far down the wire from this linking city. Still between Maryland and Virgina what really stands out is the real America and nations capital. Next time you make a point of taking a trip put D.C. first. TIM DAVID HARVEY
Sunday, 12 June 2011
Now then, straight out of O'Hare Airport where's the place to be when everywhere is what you need to see? Well, how about just taking your own, individual walking tour of the city of wind, breathing it in at your own pace? Standing above everything the 'Willis Tower' (formerly known-and still by most people-as the 'Sears Tower') really shows you everything this city has to offer and from the awe-reaching aerials to the Matt-black finish there really aren't many structures as sensational as this. Going inside and up to the 'Skydeck' of this towering landmark really gives you the best view of outside. The literally 'outstanding' clear floors gives the seriously scariest and highest, aerially amazing perspective of the city literally below you...if you dare to sit.
You can also catch a great side-on view of the skyline from a seated position on the grand, lasting legacy that is the Navy Pier and it's favourite Ferris Wheel. Navy Pier not only offers a great view of the city, it also offers a sensational perspective on Lake Michigan's shoreline. Also there are plenty of cute little shops and eateries inside the pier, decked out in a wood, boat feeling style. You can even go up-top to the high-reaching beauty of the Navy Pier Greenhouse, (for you film fans it's where Chi-town based actor Vince Vaughan spied on Winona Ryder in 'The Dilemma') or outside to many of the classic carousels and amusements that make for a pleasant afternoon for all the family, no matter their age.
Now if you head back down to the heart of the city, that itself is a sight to see inside itself. Every street-corner and alley is paved with character and detail. From the rich, red iron supports and bridges to the legendary, everlasting Lake Michigan that runs through them. Along with this are the signature subway trains that pass outside and over the city, offering every passenger an incredible view and those below something to marvel at. Plus with old but outstanding architecture and buildings enveloping the city (and some new foundations too) there are plenty of picture opportunities to take and send home. Day and night the heart of this city beats with life and the grand buildings have a great Gothic feel.
It's no wonder this city was used for the latest, greatest 'Batman' films. Speaking of which this city is also the place of many famous movie landmarks like the aforementioned 'Batman' series', including the street featuring the 'Chicago Board Of Trade Building' (another must see), where Christian Bale's Batman and Heath Leger's (rest in peace) Joker had their famous fight. The Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery and Andy Garcia classic movie 'The Untouchables' about Al Capone and Elliott Ness was filmed here also. With so many locations made infamous like the unique 'Union Station' (worth a visit in all it's vintage, bold, beauty itself) where the iconic, stairway action, set-piece scene was filmed. No city could have captured both the fictions Gotham City or the early 1930's so perfectly then this one. Now that's the Chicago way.
Speaking of art, designed in the canvas of this city is some amazing, astounding architecture. Millennium Park and it's new generation 'AT&T Plaza' opens up a world beyond the city in an atmosphere of astonishing art. The 'Cloud Gate' (or that big silver bean as it's more commonly thought as) makes for some great photo, or 'how's my hair' opportunities. With it's great perspectives and strange allure it really does stand out in this already outstanding city. Also from many new developing sculptures and structures to fountains featuring changing faces, (the 'Crown Fountains' profile changes every 5 minutes) this plaza always pleases those looking for something fresh and new. With an ice-rink in Winter to boot, this plaza skates through the seasons with ease and all-year-round appeal.
Still if you'd rather site the latest bargains, Chicago's shopping district is among the best any city has to offer. All-round the city is a network of incredible shops from the new to the niche. Still the 'Macy's' mall may be the most memorable place that offers it all under one roof. From eating delicious deli to receiving one of the closest and best shaves you'll ever get you can really get it all here. Still even out-of-town there are so many private owned business' that offer some perfect, more personal service, whether your after some new music, or new clothes. Chi-town also boasts some of the best places to eat and drink. Even the mad-looking, 'Rock-N-Roll McDonald's' (on the North Side of town) stands next to the Hard Rock Cafe in more ways then one. From it's designs to it's escalators (really? In a McDonalds) that take you up to a cafe bar. Oh and with it being open all night, it's a great place to hang out and catch a bite with some friends, 24/7. Speaking of the fast food chain, there's also a great one on 'Martin Luther King Dr' where the walls are adorned with all the great civil-rights leader accomplishments. Something you really have to take in, so don't take out.
There are so many great places to eat in Chicago that you really will want to seek out your own unique place to eat, but if Chicago is known for anything it's their perfect, prominent Pizza Places. The Windy City is renowned for it's rich, traditional, Deep-Dish Pizza and trying one is a much-delicious-eat. With so many places to choose from however, these dishes really do deep, but for great ambiance and atmosphere why not check out 'Lou Malnati's' (on the North Side)? That's as long as you don't mind Shaquille O'Neal's sweaty, gym shorts staring at you while you eat? That's a great piece of memorabilia, but enough to turn even the biggest of men off his food. Still if you really want to see memorable memorabilia and have a great choice to chomp down on, nothing beats the almost cattle-market excitement of Portillo's. Also from the clear-cut, classy 'Proof' and 'Vision', there are plenty of great Nightclubs in the area to take your night away. Still if your prefer a quieter evening why not check out a bar? There's plenty of brilliant ones in and around the city, vibrant with character and charming locals. Still in the soul of downtown nothings more soothing or calm then 'The Cove'. It's bottled up with tradition and style and hey it was good enough for Sandra Bullock in 'The Lake House'.
For eating out and nightlife Chicago has plenty more delightful districts to quiet things down, if you want to take a break from downtown. From Lakeview to Lincoln Park (you won't find Mike and his band there however) Chicago's lovely atmosphere lasts. If your in to sports and burgers you have to check the game out and the taste and variety of 'Duke's Bar & Grill'. From fond and friendly staff, to a classic, cool, cabin-wood look this daddy of burger joints really is the duke. Still if you actually want to catch a real game for yourself then Chicago really is the place for that too. Take a trip to the United Centre and you'll see one of the NBA's most legendary and best basketball teams today in the Chicago Bulls. From a legendary legacy charged by Michael Jordan (you have to check out the incredible statue) to the latest run of great players (including 2011 League MVP, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah) your in for a great night of good team sport. Beyond the Basketball too, the centre stands to attention with incredible live music and displays from the championship trophies to the banners and legendary jersey's retired to the rafters. Or if you bounce at the sight of a basketball then how about we pitch you some baseball? Where seeing the Chicago Cubs play at the classic Wrigley Field is among one of the best experiences you could have on this trip in this town. Regardless if your a fan or not. Don't sleep on the other sports and teams either as the Bears, Blackhawks and White Sox will all show you why this town of the Chi is proud of it's sporting traditions.
Or if you like your evenings a bit more theatrical why not check out the legendary 'Chicago Theatre', that really illuminates at night from the outside to what's going on inside? This lavish landmark also serves as a great snap shot or meeting place for a date...hey it's easy to find. Still if that isn't the ticket (watch out things aren't sold-out), the 'Oriental' makes for another outstanding evening. or you could just simply marvel at this city as you walk around and take in the sites. Or why not take it even easier and take a boat trip right through the Michigan Lake and the ever pumping heart of the city, checking out every beautiful beat, day or night?
After all that surely you'll need some rest and there are plenty of great places to do that from the relatively cheap to the real rich. Whether your into towering the heights of the 'Trump Hotel', or keeping it homely and welcoming in the great 'Getaway Hostel' (a truly warm and friendly place to meet locals and fellow travellers), or even finding some middle ground in the real nice, recently renovated 'Red Roof In'' your guaranteed a great nights stay and sleep if you look the right way. As you head for some shut eye, you better keep it brief as if you miss any more of this city you really will miss out. So wake up and realise that Chicago is one of the classiest and coolest places to visit and set a date. Even if you've already had your first-look it may just be time to open up your eyes again and take a second look at the sublime second-city. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Sunday, 5 June 2011
The first thing you notice about Boston is the classic streets that are full of calm character. Looking somewhere between old British pubs and homes in the suburbs everything here blends in with a welcome, 'make yourself at home' vibe. From the shops to the restaurants everything is unique, holding it's own, but still nothing imposes or stands out more then the general feel of the city itself that remains distinctively traditional, individual and real.
This Irish green city is blue collar in it's hard-working nature. You can tell this from the status of their colleges to the characteristics of their sports teams and locals and the iron on the Charlestown bridge, but still the aforementioned calm of this place makes it a great place to relax. This work-hard, play-hard city makes the most of everything. Bars are your best bet for an enjoyable evening and from the hometown favourites to the traditional Irish joints every place has it's own character and distinction from the way their made up to the regulars that inhabit it. The 'Beantown' and 'Bull & Finch' pubs are must drinks. A pub crawl is perfect in this city because it's best to see as much of it as you can.
Or you could go 'where everybody knows your name' and visit some classic television history with the legendary 'Cheers' bar. A popular tourist destination for photo's of the sign and door outside, the interior is different to the show (a typical Hollywood hallmark of having the set inconveniently located miles away elsewhere (what happens when somebody storms out the bar?)) but still a great place to go inside. From nice memorabilia to a great atmosphere, coupled with show like decor, this decorated show is channelled in all the favourite ambiance of this place. Plus with great food and drink, 'Cheers' doubles up as a nice sports bar. So why not catch a Celtics and Sox game while chowing down on a 'Frasier Panini'? Just don't expect to see Norm...you'll feel just as welcome though.
Speaking of sports, with legendary, vintage and still great Baseball and Basketball teams, nothing beats Boston...except the Lakers (sometimes). If your up to bat make sure you pick up a cap with a red 'B' on it and watch the legendary Red Sox show why they really are a powerhouse. At the coliseum of Boston, Fenway Park you'll visit one of the greatest, epic arenas for sports, from the fans to the stands...and you thought Yankee Stadium was impressive.
Still if you'd rather hit the court you have to visit the Garden (OK, the legendary Boston Garden is now rubble but the TD Bank Garden still stands up. There is no basketball team more synonymous with the NBA then the storied sensation that is the Boston Celtics. With legends going from the floor to the rafters like Bill Russell and Larry Bird this Garden blooms with lasting sport legacy. Even today with great players and future Hall of Famers like last years Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and sole survivor Rajon Rondo your still in for a classic night. When it comes to the spirit of sport you have to believe in Boston.
Now if you haven't filled your boots enough on the foot-longed, super sizes of the concessions at the sporting stomping grounds then why not get a little more romantic in some of the best restaurants in the city? From the Moo cow 'Mooo Restaurant' for serious steak to the vegetarian, vegan, Vietnamese 'Grass Hopper' restaurant for people who like their cows alive. Or if your looking for love, or just a great night out why don't you hit the town and it's many clubs and night-spots for a real, alive nightlife from the 'Mojitos Latin Lounge' to the self-dubbed 'Greatest Bar' (go see and judge for yourself).
Then you better hit up some of the best, home-like, welcoming hotel and hostels (from 'The Charles Street Inn' to the hostel on 'Friend Street') for a great nights sleep because your going to need it for the full day of stuff to do ahead of you. So the following day you better get a good breakfast down you and a hearty recommendation is the delightful 'Dempsey's' (just outside the city limits on 438 Broadway, Everett, MA). A traditional greasy spoon full of flavour. Get ready to make the most important meal of the day the best one from the griddle plate to the fond, friendly staff and locals.
Now it's time to go see about those sites. Beantown has it all from the front of the incredibly grandiose Christian Science Church to the beautiful Back Bay with it's sublime serenity and beautiful ships off the classic Charles River. Plus the popular Boston Common and Copley Square areas to the magnificent Massachusetts State House and the sublime Symphony Hall will have you singing their praises. Boston is a traditionally bold, historical town, so why not take a walk through history...literally.
The red brick lined 'Freedom Trail' (with the popular Faneuil Hall stop) is an incredible walk to take and will take you on the road of Boston and American culture and history. Just make sure you take it all in and don't get lost. One of the cities most heartfelt and meaningful bits of history is the memorial to colonel Robert Shaw and the first all black infantry in Civil War. A must for any historians or younger people who would have been educated about this in history lessons and the classic Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington picture 'Glory'.
Or one of the most prestigious pieces of New England history is the legendary Harvard University, so why not take a tour round the college campus? Or if your more of a shopper then a sightseer Boston has it all from the malls to the old favourite Newbury Street district (both featuring an impressive Macy's and Niketown). Newbury Street is also another great road for bars, restaurants and the perfect evening. Before and past this street-even if you don't take the freedom trail-this city has a lot of great walks. From taking in the natural beauty, to the impressive architecture (you must see the Public Library or the John F. Kennedy Library and the John Hancock Tower) and from film locations for fantastic films set in this city (from 'The Town' to 'The Departed'), you have to see these places of this city before you leave. With green parks and great, traditional streets (originally meant for Horse & Carriage, and you can still catch one or two of them if your lucky) to boot, your shoes better be made for strolling.
With all these great sights to see, if you don't have the time to view them all you do get the chance to catch a glorious glimpse of them at the top of the Prudential Tower. For a few bills you can go up and see an incredible, inspiring view of beautiful Boston and for a few dollars more you could go up another level for a drink or meal while you take in the sensational city. Or you could even go further ashore and take in the view from the Boston Harbour as the river runs to another real view of the city.
Even Boston's South Station makes for a great snap-site and Logan Airport makes for a great place to shop and eat but by the time you get there you won't want to leave this town as you won't be done with Boston. Not only is this city one of the most dynamic and different destinations in America (if not the world) it's also one of the most welcoming and easy going. Proud but not imposing everything and everyone fits in here...and you will too. So much that this home, familiar feeling city may make you want to lay a foundation. Still for now a holiday will do for one of the greatest vacations you'll ever take. So make sure you take a trip and if your first or not pay a visit again and again.TIM DAVID HARVEY.