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Travel Diary | Chicago, Illinois

TravelMaría Elena Rodríguez2 Comments

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of visiting Chicago one day. I always thought of it as a more sophisticated and less cliché version of New York City, which to be really honest, I think it was a pretty accurate prediction on my part. 

So this summer I was browsing around airline fares, trying to find cheap flights to New York and finally watch Matilda (which was my favorite movie as a kid) on Broadway. But the fares were so high! That's when I started to look for alternative places to visit, and found some reeeally cheap flights to Chicago. So I took my mom and sister with me and checked one more thing off my bucket list! 

So let's skip to the fun part, shall we? 


Chicago's Early September Weather = Perfection

First of all, as you will see in the pictures bellow, the weather was perfect, to my surprise. I was scared about the whole "Windy City" scenario, but Chicago welcomed us with a comfortable 70-75 degree weather and bright sunny skies. My hair was also digging it. 

The thing that I loved the most about its streets was how clean everything looked and all the fresh air that came from the Great Lakes. It was also super interesting to see about 5 brides running around the streets. Apparently Labor Day Weekend is a very common date to get married? 

Chicago's Skyscrapers

I not only learned a lot about architecture, I had the privilege of visiting this city with my mom who studied both her bachelors and masters in architecture and sister, who graduates with a BA in architecture next May. They were giving me all the insights on famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright (more on him soon), and Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. Yeah, I got pretty lucky! 

The only part that I really wish to not speak about is The Ledge at Willis Tower (previously The Sears Tower). Let's just say I freaked out and couldn't take the picture. That place was built for maniacs! 

chicago mural chicago street art

The view from the Willis Tower -

The view from the Willis Tower - yikes!

Millenium Park

I absolutely loved this place. This is where Cloud Gate or "The Bean" and a magnificent outside theater is located. It is so beautiful, modern and the skyline view is to die for! Watch me have a little dorky fun in the pictures bellow:

Chicago's Navy Pier

To be completely honest with you guys, this was the most underwhelming part of Chicago for me. I mean it was beautiful, but I think it is more targeted to kids. The view though, makes it completely worth the Uber ride! Plus, you can take the Architectural River Tour from here, which is a MUST if you are visiting Chicago for the first time. 

Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave)

Think of this street as the 5th Avenue of Chicago, but with higher sales taxes. Yeah, Chicago is more expensive than New York, so if you are planning on shopping for a new purse or outfit, I would recommend skipping on Chitown. Their sales taxes are above 10%! 

But besides the high costs of shopping, this avenue is beautiful and has lots of fun places to eat outside and enjoy the nice weather (when you can). 

Frank Lloyd Wright's Robbie House

If you grew up with architects like I did, you most definitely know about Frank Lloyd Wright. His attention to detail is out of this world and I really enjoyed the Robbie House Tour which is right in front of the University of Chicago. 

My only advice here is to arrive before 9am so you can get a tour guide! They go by really fast. 

Insider Tips:

If you enjoyed any of the things I did in Chicago (in a short 5 day trip), I would highly suggest purchasing a Chicago Explorer Pass. I got it on a great Groupon deal so watch out for that. This pass will help you plan and budget yourself beforehand and save a good amount of money on Chicago's basic attractions. It's perfect for a first time tourist like I was! *This post is not sponsored!

Last but not least, Chicago is a place for FOODIES and I ate like a happy mofo. So if you would like a separate post on all the places I ate at, let me know and I'll have it ready as soon as I can. :)

Los Angeles, California Travel Diary

TravelMaría Elena RodríguezComment

Finally! Part 3 of my California Roadtrip and I can't even believe it has been almost three months since I got back from the roadtrip of my life. It is no secret that I loved the west coast, but re-watching all these pictures makes me want to buy a one way ticket to LA! Weirdly enough I loved being surrounded by the spectacular lifestyles of the rich (and wannabes) and famous. It makes me have a little hope that the American Dream still lives, doesn't it? I like to believe we Millenials are re-inventing it, but that's a whole 'nother blog post!

My favorite part of this SoCal part of the trip? Santa Monica! My life goals currently consist of moving to an apartment overlooking the Pier, owning a teal color bike with a basket and eat from the farmers market everyday right after and intensive Pilates Class. #DREAMLIFE 

Everything in southern California was healthy, earthy and colorful, which is my jam right there. I loved how everyone enjoyed themselves outdoors and walked their dogs everywhere. Even inside the fanciest stores! And don't even get me started with the weather... 70 degrees Farenheit of pure bliss and those beautiful rays of sunlight that make everyone and anything look pretty. I'm convinced that is Instagram Celebrities' best kept secret. 

Of course, we had to take the most cliched picture in the world and stop by the Hollywood sign! But honestly, that's the least fun part out of all the sightseeing you get to see in this really small town to my surprise.

I don't even remember what this monument stands for, I just loved how it overlooked the crazy highway. 

Something about the sunlight and that there was no cloud in the sky made me take this picture. It's just a billboard with no ad, but I found it gorgeous.

Oh The Grove! Such a beautiful place to hang out if you love shopping and being outdoors. It's not just an outdoor mall, it's more like a place where people meet and can take a sunbath while eating what they got from the Farmers Market. I'm in LOVE.

Of course we had to stop by Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills! Luckily for us, we were still on Puerto Rican time and we arrived before the stores actually opened so that made window shopping even easier! 

Me, rocking my Asics as if they were Manolo's. 

One of my favorite museums! The Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) I loved how modern, bizarre and tangible it was. I could be playing at that museum all they long. And the stores where just fenomenal for everyone who appreciates fashion, art books and modern art. 

And now for my favorite part of LA... *drum rolls* Santa Monica!

This is the happiest place in LA. Where people are nicier, fitter and just full of joy. Just take a look at these pictures and try to tell me I'm wrong:

Santa Monica Pier, which #funfact is the end of the Route 66!

The bikes, the flowers, the stores, the sky...

This is the entrance to a fabulous Ralph Lauren store! Don't you just want to live there?

Just a lovely salon I spotted walking down the streets near the Pier. 

Sadly this is the last part of my California Travel Diary that I really truly enjoyed sharing with you guys. I really hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and that it motivates you to start saving for your next trip.

If you wish to read part 1 and 2 of my Cali Adventure, click here:

- Part 1: San Francisco

- Part 2: Napa Valley & Big Sur

- Instagram Travel Diary

Until next time!

María Elena

Napa Valley and Big Sur Travel Diary

TravelMaría Elena RodríguezComment

Believe it or not, I am still daydreaming about California. I'm not even going to lie, but I get little butterflies when I see the Fuller House logo on Netflix because I had such a great time in San Francisco! But believe it or not, those two days in between San Francisco and LA were just magical and here's why:

First of all: Napa is a must when you go to California because wine. Duh! Even though the grapes were not in season yet and the weather was AWFUL, my mom and I had a great time exploring the vineyards. We went to Sterling Vineyards which is the only vineyard in Napa with an aerial tram *cough* tourist trap *cough* and to be 100% honest with you guys, these were not my favorite wines ever but hey, I wine tasted in Napa! Bucket list: Check!

But now, let's get to my favorite part: Big Sur! 

I found out about this magical place through a Youtuber. This travel blogger decided she was going to do a solo roadtrip through California and all she could tell her viewers was to not miss Big Sur once they do it. I remember her crossing the Bixby Bridge and I immediately knew I had to do it as well. 

Bixby Bridge - crossing it was scary AF guys!

Nope, this is not a Windows background. This is a picture of Big Sur taken by yours truly! :)

Not only was Big Sur breathtakingly beautiful with so many nature wonders and miles and miles of asphalt, sea and greenery (I'm not kidding here with the miles!), but you can actually see sea lions!! Out there just sun bathing.

Basically, if there's one thing I would love that you take out from this post is that if you don't have "driving through Big Sur" on your bucket list, you should go ahead and add it ASAP. It's one of those experiences that are so sublime, you have to experience it to actually believe it. 

So there you go! Part 2/3 of my California adventure! Now let me know on the comments bellow: have you been to the US West Coast? What was your favorite part?

Until next time!

María Elena