Portland and Chicago in between cruising the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda.
Finally! After nearly 2.5 years due to them living in different locations and then COVID restrictions, we managed to get back together as a family. It was such a good feeling to see the kids together again and enjoy their company. Of course we chat with them regularly on video conference and text often, but being together in the same place was a rare treat!
The big reason for our US trip was to see Ella’s graduation from Reed College in Portland. We’re very proud of her and how she’s navigated the world during COVID, spending time in Edinburgh and Portland. We’re not the only ones who are nomadic and feel like a citizen of the globe rather than any specific location. We’re very excited that she’s going to be back in Scotland now, where she’s found a job. It will be nice to have her close to our time zone and to be able to see her a little more frequently. Jasper also made it out here and it’s great to see him happy and thriving. He’s excited about his upcoming US road trip with friends and then planning to move to Japan.
After being in Greece and then San Francisco and the Bay Area, we were overwhelmed by just how green Portland is! It felt really strange and it’s so vibrant it’s almost like it hurts your eyes, but it’s not bright enough for sunglasses!
While there’s a lot to see and do there, our focus was on family time and we rented a wonderful old house that we could all stay in together, along with Inge, Ella’s boyfriend who made the trip from Edinburgh to watch her graduate too. It was the perfect choice! We relaxed together, watched TV, played games, cooked and caught up after all the time apart.
One thing that’s been fun is exploring “Australian Cafes” — we visited one in San Francisco last week, and then this week in Portland, Ella took us out to “Proud Mary”, a cafe from Collingwood, Melbourne that opened up in Portland as well and is now expanding to Austin, Texas too. The coffee was great and the food enjoyable, they also had mini-pavlovas with passionfruit for dessert which we all enjoyed.
After a wonderful few days, it was time to head off! We flew to Chicago, Ella & Inge flew back to Edinburgh and Jasper is spending a few days in Portland with a friend before driving down to San Francisco to meet the rest of the gang and starting his road trip (which ends up back in Portland I think!).
Chicago has been amazing. It’s a city that Karina has visited for work before and said we really needed to visit. As a city, it’s very tourist oriented, but it also seems to be primarily tourists from the US that visit it. On one of our tours — the very popular River Cruise Architecture Tour, there was easily 100+ tourists aboard and only us and one other couple from outside the USA.
We’ve both really fallen in love with it though, it’s an iconic city with iconic buildings, amazing parks and a rich history that makes it a lot of fun to hang out and explore over a few days.
We caught the train in from the airport and stayed downtown on the edge of the loop, opposite Grant Park with a view over Lake Michigan. They talk about Chicago being the Windy City and on the first two nights the wind really howled down between the tall buildings and whistled past the window.
In the few days we’ve been here so far we’ve really done a lot. The night we arrived we visited a blues club for live music with dinner.
On Friday we booked an Airbnb experience for a “Pedway” tour of Chicago. The Pedway is a fascinating little piece of Chicago’s history where private and public buildings have connected their underground areas through a network of tunnels allowing pedestrians to move protected from the extreme weather. It’s somewhat mysterious, not well sign posted and yet it’s quite a fascinating look into the underbelly of the city. Definitely one of my favourite tours so far, not least because we saw things that we otherwise would have missed.
As with San Francisco we were also drawn to the water and enjoyed walking past the marina and then along to River Walk. There’s something called the “Grand Loop” here in the US which is basically doing the inland waterways of the US and then looping up the East Coast and connecting up again in the lakes and we got excited about the idea of cruising this area by water at some point in the future.
Not the most unique thing, but we loved going to the movies on Friday night and watching “Everything Everywhere All at Once” which I highly recommend is worth seeing. It was nice to be in a cinema with comfy seats and watching in English without Greek sub-titles (although ironically a lot of the movie was in Chinese so had English sub-titles for a change!).
On Saturday we wandered the streets and then headed to “Greek Town” to the Greek Islands restaurant for a meetup with some fellow travellers. It was a lot of fun meeting other people living a nomadic life, but mostly based here from Chicago. It was also fun experiencing Greek food from an American Greek perspective. Generally it was pretty good and a few of the waiters even spoke Greek too.
Saturday night we had the quintessential US sports experience — we stayed in, watched the basketball and ordered in Pizza. Deep dish pizza, a Chicago speciality. If you ever wonder why the call Pizza “pie” here in the US, you only have to see a Deep Dish to appreciate why, it’s 5cm deep, a little soggy and full of sausage, cheese, tomato sauce etc. To be honest, we didn’t love it, but it’s one of those things you have to try once!
Sunday morning (today) delayed me being able to write on the blog as we had to move hotels and then we were booked on the River Architecture Cruise of Chicago. This is one of the top rated things to do in the US and it really was worthwhile. As well as getting a great tour of the city by river, you have a lot explained to you about the iconic sky scrapers everywhere within Chicago. It was also the one thing everyone recommended to us and we’re really glad we did it.
Not that we plan to come back to the US, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if we did, downtown Chicago is a place that we could settle. Although to be fair that’s tainted by the great weather — I’m not sure we’d love it when it’s snowing (actually most of the nomads we met leave here for winter, so maybe it’s a terrible idea!).
Prices continue to surprise us everywhere — we just paid $13 for two lattes but it’s been offset by the generosity of friends and cheap accommodation. Andy helped us book into places his company runs, so we got those for free (plus cleaning fee) and we only had to find our own hotel for one night (something that was also cheap as I was able to use some vouchers from a booking app I’ve used in the past for a great discount).
We’ve got two more full days here — Comedy Club (The Second City) tonight, then tomorrow TBD and on Tuesday touring the Lincoln Park area with friends we met on Saturday. Then Wednesday off home to Greece! Relaunch Matilda on Friday and probably collapse and relax on Saturday!
Until next time,
Tim & Karina