Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicago Weekend: July 2014 - Part One

We spent three nights in Chicago recently to hang out with friends and take part in the Rock and Roll Chicago Half Marathon/5K races. We'll save the race reports for another post, but we'll cover some of the bars and restaurants we hit over the weekend in this post.

Dave started the morning working at his company's new downtown offices. They recently opened this location to have additional meeting space and give employees some flexibility in where they can work. It's a 34th floor location on Michigan Avenue. The Chicago River is on one side, the Tribune Tower, Trump, and Wrigley Building on other sides. Excellent views and a great space to work.

One other benefit to working at this location: Howells and Hood is right next door. H&H has 114 beers on tap available at all three bars (including the patio bar). As a tap handle collector Dave does a lot of window shopping here. He enjoyed a great pulled pork sandwich and stout while having lunch with a friend whom works in the Tribune Tower. (Surprise: we ended up at Howells and Hood Saturday afternoon too). Once his work day was over he took a water taxi to get closer to the hotel - a new Chicago experience for Dave.

We met up at our hotel for the first two nights, The Palmer House Hilton, before starting our northbound trek. Our first stop was The Roof at The Wit Hotel. At night this place is like a high-end club with all the ropes and cover charges. In daytime it's a crowded bar you can walk right into. The bigger outdoor deck is on the northwest side of the building with some obscured views, but we lucked into seats on the smaller south-side deck. This gave us a unique view of The Loop, Lake Michigan, and Millennium Park. One-and-done and it was time to move on.

We walked to our next destination, or so we thought..... The website listed Three Dots and a Dash being located at 435 N Clark. This was actually the location of Bub City. Confused, we went in and asked the hostess, whom told us we had to go around to the alley. 3 Dots is a tiki style bar in the basement of Bub City and it's one of the hottest new bars in town. Calling it dark would be an understatement. The place had  Tiki design all over, but not over-the-top. Wait staff wore Hawaiin prints and every drink had it's own unique glass. It was packed when we first arrived, mostly couples pre-drinking before dinner, but it seemed to slightly thin out around 7pm.

We moved north towards our next stop.  We had ressies for a party of 11 at Ditka's. The decor fit the formula for a sports-personality restaurant: wood paneling, green walls, sports memorabilia. We sat upstairs within close range of the entertainment. The singer was good,  but LOUD. Everyone found something they liked on the menu which included surprisingly affordable signature cocktails for the neighborhood.

Some of us decided Ghirardelli ice cream was a needed dessert item. After that, we split off from the other 9 folks we dined with and ended up at 52Eighty, a rooftop bar at the Mile North Hotel. The deck itself was small - maybe a dozen seating areas. We had to wait for an outdoor seating area in the indoor portion, which was still nice. Soft club music and an old movie projected on the wall was the entertainment.

We walked back to the hotel - which was far - thinking we'd visit one more location. We popped into the Renaissance Hotel only to find they changed their sedate piano lounge into a modern clubby-thing. We decided this was not our last call drink place. We turned the corner and headed into State and Lake. We were seated right away but no one came over to serve us. We left. After two strikes we said we were out and headed to the Palmer House and to bed.

Saturday was race expo day. Our party was spread all over the city when lunch time came. We picked Dick's Last Resort on the river and had an advance team save two deck tables. They called for backup so we sent Holly and Eddie ahead to help secure the tables. In the end 2 tables for 14 were secured. You don't go to Dick's for the food or go there for fun and the  river-side patio. We had a great time watching the boat traffic go by, including a bikini-clad Christmas in July themed cruiser.....Ya never know what you're gonna get.

Dave made our dinner reservations for a party of 15 several weeks before our event. Imagine our surprise walking up to the podium to find they didn't have our ressie. The manager was far from being helpful or apologetic. We put our local knowledge to use and remembered we were close to the Italian Village restaurant. Their basement area, La Cantina, could accommodate us. We walked the few blocks over and found we had a long table in a semi-private room. Within a half hour it became a private room. Service was excellent and the food was pretty good too. Worked out perfect....

We'll stop here and save Sunday's fun for another post.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July Polar Vortex

The current Chicago weather pattern is just wrong. July in Chicago usually averages temps the mid-80's with nice hot days in the 90's. This July we've been wearing hoodies a lot. It was in the fifties going into the office the other morning. Really can't enjoy our limited amount of summertime to its fullest: too cold to boat, fill up the kiddie pool, etc. Even Tizzel is wearing a hoodie at nights. The vortex is just mean regardless of the time of year it appears.

This is the only good Polar Vortex:

Since there hasn't been much to share about what's going on, here are some random items:

Spotify Playlist
Found the Upbeat + Summer Fun playlist on Spotify while on the treadmill. Lots of great songs on this list at a decent enough tempo to keep the workout interesting. You can sign up for a free Spotify account and link it to your Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can also follow playlists developed by other users, or make your own. On the iPad and Mac versions we are able to listen to full albums.

If this embedded playlist isn't supported by your browser you can look up the Upbeat + Summer Fun playlist directly in the app:

Mush's Blog

Our friend and Team AllEars teammate Chris posted the final installment of his WDW Marathon report. This was Chris' first marathon and it's been fun to follow along.  Check out his latest post through this link.

Upcoming Weekend
This weekend we are heading to Chicago to meet up with friends coming in from across the country to participate in the Rock and Roll Chicago Race Festival Weekend. This is the 6th running of this race and Holly currently has a perfect streak. Some of our group will be doing the half  marathon while others will do the 5K (and stop calling it a mini marathon). R&R has been dealing Chicago some raw deals on the headliner acts for the after party. While Virginia Beach gets Train, we get Cold War Kids. Who?

We know that we are dining with a smaller group at Ditka's on Friday and having a larger group dinner at Pizano's Saturday. We're spending Sunday night in town as well and are thinking about having dinner at RL Restaurant.

On our sidebar you will see some thumbnail pictures of various magnets that represent the spirit of various runDisney race events. Our friend Michael is selling these magnets in support of various charities. Purchases of the WDW Half Marathon magnet will support one of our recent Charities of the Month: Save-a-Pet no-kill shelter.

To purchase this particular magnet, click this link.

For the main magnet page, click this link.

Fall Race Schedule
Unfortunately Holly's first marathon of the fall season is 2 months away. It is unfortunate because that means fall is almost here and we haven't even had a summer yet. Currently scheduled marathons include: Top of Utah, Hartford Marathon, and the Route 66 Marathon. As usual Dave will be race chasing all these events.

Speaking of race chasing.... Our guide Race Chase is still available at Runners can find out how to plan for a destination race while their family and friends can learn the tricks to finding runners multiple times on the course.

That's about it for now. In upcoming weeks we should have some updates from our Chicago weekend and the R&R races.  For now we'll leave you with some pictures from The Chain o' Lakes:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Greece: Santorini Sailing

We mentioned in our last post that the original attempt to take the sailing trip was canceled due to a freak cyclone hitting the island. Winds were over 60mph and the whole island was a mess. While we were witnessing the storm from the far south of the island, our hotel on the north got pummeled as well. Our hotel room door lock broke when the wind blew the door in and the fencing by the pool broke off. One of the heavy wood lounge chairs ended up in the pool.

We were able to re-book and take our trip two days later.

Found on the internet
Prior to our vacation Hotel Ikies in Oia sent us a great email full of information about Santorini that included some tour options. After combing through the choices we decided to book with Santorini Sailing. One of their excursions was a semi-private sunset cruise that included a dinner on the boat. According to the literature we were going on the same tour featured on The Travel Channel, TLC, Food Network, etc. Sounded nice.

The tour price included round-trip transfer from the hotel; or a nearby meeting point. On our second attempt we had Adonis for a driver, a twenty-something Greek that was fluent in English with an Australian accent. We think he was the owners' son (the owners are of Greek decent from America and Australia). He kept us entertained by DJing our trip with current hits. When we arrived at the port we were divided between two boats: Americans on one, all other nationalities on the other. Our catamaran was a mix of pairs: mother/daughter, younger married couples, babymooning couples,  and us. We were offered drinks: a horrid Greek pilsner or white wine. Apparently red wine was not an option since their upholstery was white.

After setting sail we moved to sit on the front of the boat. This gave us the best view and allowed us to have more time in the sun as the air chill was creeping up on us quickly. This also got us wet as the wave action was still pretty strong. Time to put the big SLR camera away and rely on the GoPro.

We departed around 3pm and dinner was served at 5:30. In-between, we sailed by the Red Beach, White Beach, some pretty cliffs, and the Venetian Lighthouse. Then we made it to the volcano and got to swim in the hot springs. This time of year the definition of hot was maybe 3 degrees higher than the typical water temperature. The water was freezing! We didn't hang out in there too long. We left the hot springs area and anchored off an island where a hermit lived.

The dinner portion of the sail was very good. 12 of us worked our way through salads, shrimps, chicken, pork, etc. It was some of the best food we had in Greece. The rest of the sail was concentrated on moving slowly towards port and awaiting sunset from the chosen vantage point. Not to complain, but since this was billed as a "luxury" trip they missed the boat (ha ha) on dessert (they didn't have any) and champagne at sunset. We had a great view of the sunset with the exception of a big ferry cutting across the landscape at an inopportune moment.

It was a long drive back to Oia. Instead of hitting the town we decided to take showers, finish the backlog of wine we had in the room, and enjoy some episodes of Pawn Stars. It was a great day overall and a perfect way to see Santorini from another point-of-view.

Here is some video from the trip.

Friday, July 4, 2014

July's Charity of the Month: Give Kids the World

Charity of the Month is the newest way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

June: In June we chose to honor our recently departed dog Rufus by giving to a local no-kill shelter, Save-A-Pet. Our donation, company match, and added donations from family and friends will amount to around $300 for Save-A-Pet.

July's Charity:

Give Kids The World
Kissimmee, FL

Most avid Disney theme park fans know about the great things going on at Give Kids The World (GKTW). The 70+ acre resort (The Village) gives families of children with life-threatening illnesses a chance to have a magical week long vacation free of financial burdens and worry about the resort's ability to accommodate for their unique needs. Many of the guests are referred to GKTW by organizations like Make-A-Wish and come from all over the world. A week at GKTW typically includes ice cream for breakfast, visits to local theme parks, visits by famous characters, rides, and much more. "No" is a word seldom heard at The Village.

Give Kids The World is proud to be ranked among the nation’s top charities with over 90% of all donations going directly to catering to their guests.

We've been supporting GKTW for years and during our Disney World trips we have witnessed the organization in action greeting families at airports. We are happy that one of our running clubs, The Mickey Milers, has chosen GKTW as their sponsored charity. To get a better idea of the organization and its mission, check out the video below:

To make a donation, click the button below to link to our donation page.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Greece: Oia on Santorini

We flew from Mykonos back to Santorini. We were on a German airline named Condor. The most outstanding thing about Condor is their safety video that is filled with American stereotypes. It was a fun watch! We were lucky enough to arrive about 40 minutes early. But, since we had a prearranged ride, our car was not there to get us until a few minutes after our scheduled arrival.
This portion of the trip we were staying in the town of Oia which on the northern tip of the island. Our car ride was about 30 minutes from the airport. As luck would have it we arrived at the hotel just as sunset was ending. Nuts! We were able to catch just a bit of it, but we were not able to get to the cameras in time.

We stayed at Ikies Tradtional House and had a fantastic time. The staff was so good at helping us out with every need and the room was spacious. Our accommodations here were more traditional Greek style vs. the luxury-resort look of the Mykonos Grand. In a previous post we pointed out that Ikies was not in the exact location Tripadvisor had led us to believe it was - we were the second-to-last building farthest from town.

From a jaw-dropping view standpoint the hotel's location can not be beat. So what if you have to walk 20 minutes to eat or drink or shop........
We quickly settled in and started our trek to town and to dinner. The town of Oia is long and narrow. There's one main walkway the pedestrians use and just a couple of streets for cars. We had to fight the crowds and buses leaving town (now that sunset was over) and push our way upstream through the crowded pedestrian walkway to get to our destination.

Our hotel manager suggested we try Skala. It had a nice terrace looking out to the water and we lucked in to a table at the edge. Holly ordered a pasta dish and Dave another octopus dish: this time pan-sautéed in wine sauce. Tasted fine at the time.........

After dinner we walked the streets some more and found a nice rooftop bar, Pelekanos (Pelican), that would be a perfect place for a future sunset dinner. As an added bonus their homemade house red wine was actually good and reasonably priced!
The next day we ventured back into town to take in the sights in the daytime. We wouldn't do too much since we had a scheduled sunset cruise with a 2pm departure time from the hotel. But before we were to do all that we had a great breakfast that was delivered to our room. Since we were staying on the lowest level by the pool most of our town view was obscured by bushes, but our view to the sea was perfect.

As we started our walk towards town it was apparent Dave wasn't at 100%. Too much coffee (since we finally had actual press pot brewed coffee vs. a concentrate)? Did last night's octopus come back to bite him? If it was food poisoning, this was the hot/fever phase starting. We managed a quicker-than-desired tour of town in favor of letting things settle before our boat trip. We headed back to the room, but still managed to get some decent photos around town.

We're saving the boat trip story for another post, but here's a summary to help the timeline move along: we rode almost an hour to the dock after picking people up along the way, a freak storm hit the island, boat ride cancelled, re-booked for another day.

Dave was holding up ok during the whole 2.5 hours in the car during the boat fiasco. We arrived back at our hotel to find the pool railing (blue fence in the breakfast photo) snapped and went into the pool and that the wind blew open our room door and broke the lock. We ordered a couple of beers, hung out in the room while the man fixed it, and caught several episodes of American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Storage Wars Texas (only English TV available). We prepped for dinner even though Dave was feeling a bit dicey. As we left the room the rain came back and we decided to bag it! The long walk to town would not be fun. Room service and a movie rounded out the evening.

The next morning Dave showed some other symptoms typical of food poisoning. Since our day was unscheduled we decided to hang at the hotel and save his energy for dinner and souvenir shopping. While this sounds like a bummer, we actually enjoyed sitting at the hotel. A few floors up from our room was the shared terrace for the hotel. We sat up there all day and enjoyed the sun and cooling breeze. When a manager found out Dave was sick she went and made him mint tea - her grandma's remedy for stomach illness. We were very happy on that terrace and even chose to spend time there later in the trip when Dave was feeling better vs. going into town.

The trip to town was a success. No incidents or accidents. Dinner at Pelekanos was great - even Dave's specially prepared bland chicken and rice - and the sunset was awesome.

Typical crowding in Oia's walkway

That night was our last trip into town. The next day, Saturday, was our make-up cruise day and Sunday was our departure day. We had the time to go into town, just not enough will. The view from our hotel combined with the perfect blend of sun and breeze kept us captive.

* Dave's doctor said it likely wasn't food poisoning given how long the symptoms lasted. More likely scenario is cross-contamination with Santorini's undrinkable water or other virus.