Pisa, Italy

Everyone knows the Italian city of Pisa for it’s famous Romanesque style building – the Leaning Tower. The reason that the tower leans is actually pretty interesting. War and financial difficulties interrupted its construction on several occasions, preventing the lean from being corrected. This allowed time for the soil underneath it to compress, thus stopping it from falling over. Construction began in 1173 and finally concluded in the mid-1300’s. Today, the tower leans at an angle of about 4 degrees. You learn something new everyday…you can thank me later 😀

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Piazza dei Miracoli – The Pisa Baptistery.

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Leaning tower of Pisa.

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Cathedral of Pisa.

You can check out my favourite pictures from Stresa here.

Vatican City

For most of the time we were in Italy, we were on a tour with Trafalgar Tours. This was a really great way to see Italy for our first time as it allowed us entry into places we may not have found on our own or would have had to wait in line for. One of these places was the Sistine Chapel – the residence of the Pope and home to the famous ceiling painted by the talented Italian artist, Michelangelo. We arrived at 7 am and were ushered straight in – this was incredibly special because our bus was the only group inside this usually very busy tourist spot. Photography is not allowed inside the Sistine Chapel which was fine by me – the memory of this exquisite masterpiece is all I need.

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St. Peter’s Square.

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St. Peter’s Basilica.

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St. Peter’s Square.

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St. Peter’s Square Campanone (big bell).

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Tour of the Sistine Chapel.

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Tour of the Sistine Chapel.

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Inside the Sistine Chapel.

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Stunning ornate gold ceiling.

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The exterior of the Sistine Chapel.

Florence is up next.

There’s no place like Rome!

This is the trip that sparked my love for all things travel. In 2007, my parents decided to take my brother and I on a trip to Italy. Seeing the Colosseum up close, eating mouth-watering traditional Italian pizza, taking a peaceful gondola ride through the canals of Venice – all of these wonderful experiences are burned in my mind forever. I’ve gathered some of my favourite photos from this trip so you can see where my passion began (don’t be too harsh, remember this was 9 years ago…big hoop earrings & soul patches were all the rage). Also, some cities may not have as many photos as others, as I was not as snap happy and my camera skills were not as on point back then. Enjoy!

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Fontana di Trevi.

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The Colosseum.

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What did I tell ya? (Luckily my hoops are covered by my giant hair in this photo)

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One of Rome’s many street performers.

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Close-up of the Colosseum.

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I’ll just leave this here.

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The Pantheon.

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The Spanish steps.

You can check out some of my photos of Vatican City here.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is such a great city – there’s so much to see and do. The architecture is fantastic, there’s great shopping, fabulous restaurants and a myriad of activities that will keep you occupied during your stay. Here are some of my favourite things about Chicago…

  1. The unique architecture – I’m a big fan of cities with interesting architecture (Gothic being my favourite style) and Chicago certainly does not disappoint in this area. There are so many beautiful buildings here and you can see many of them by taking an Architectural Boat Tour (there are a few companies offering this tour; we chose Wendella Boats and they were fantastic). As we passed by the buildings along the river, the tour guide explained each buildings history and architectural details. This really is a must if you find yourself in the windy city, even if only for a few days. Strolling through the city, you will also come across some pretty interesting buildings. I really liked neo-Gothic structure The Tribune Tower as its exterior is quite unique – stones from sites such as the Great Wall of China & the Great Pyramid of Giza are embedded on its surface.

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2. The Purple Pig restaurantThe Purple Pig which is located on Michigan Avenue along the Magnificent Mile, is one of my all time favourite restaurants. They have a substantial tapas style menu that is both unique and diverse. Their turkey leg confit and chorizo are to die for, not to mention the loukoumades for dessert. There is almost always a wait but trust me, it’s worth it – have a seat on their patio and enjoy a drink until your table is ready.

3. Shopping on the Magnificent Mile – I’m not a big shopper but I will admit, the shopping along this well known district really is great. It has everything from Anthropologie to Betsey Johnson; average to high-end retailers and everything in between. The Magnificent Mile also has some great bars and restaurants for when you (or your credit card) need a break from all the shopping.

4. Museum of Science & Industry – When I was in Chicago, I stopped by the Museum of Science & Industry because they were featuring the exhibit Animal Inside Out (by Dr. Gunther von Hagens who created the amazing Body Worlds exhibit). This fascinating exhibit allows you to explore the inner workings of over 100 specimens. I really enjoyed this exhibit as well as the rest of the museum – the weather centre and U-505 submarine exhibits were my favourites. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and you will certainly learn something new along the way.

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Animal Inside Out exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry.

5. Millennium ParkMillennium Park is home to the well known sculpture Cloud Gate AKA The Bean (the nickname given to the sculpture because of its shape). This free park is a great place to spend an afternoon soaking up the scenery, checking out a nearby museum or taking in one of Chicago’s many wonderful events that are held here such as the Chicago Jazz Festival.

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6. The deep dish pizza – What can I say, I’m Italian and I love my pizza. I usually prefer thin-crust style pizza but the deep dish at Gino’s East Pizzeria was delicious. Keep in mind that it takes a while to cook, as it’s pretty thick, so if you’re in a rush you might want to try something else or save it for a day when you have time to spare. There is usually a lineup as well because some of these popular establishments do not take reservations for small parties – we asked our hotel which one to try and they were able to get us in rather quickly at Gino’s; it’s always worth asking the concierge.

7. The festivals – I was in Chicago for the 35th annual Jazz Festival. I’m not even a big Jazz fan but I had a great time at Millennium Park, where the festival was held. There always seems to be some sort of concert or festival happening in Chicago – it’s a great atmosphere whether you are enjoying the Pride Parade, the Chicago International Film Festival or Macy’s Flower Show.

Thanks for the great time Chicago – I will certainly be back visit you soon!

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Montréal, Québec

Really love the architecture in Montréal – many of the buildings are quite unique looking and are lit up at night, making them even more beautiful.

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The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is a fantastic art museum located on Rue Sainte-Catherine in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles. I was lucky enough to see Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson combine music and live performance in his first major show in Canada. The most impressive was his collaboration with one of my favourite bands The National – the band played their song Sorrow for six hours straight (or 105 times).

Walking around Old Montréal is a definite must – this is the oldest area in Montréal, reminiscent of a stroll through the streets of Europe. There are some wonderful restaurants, unique shops and the architecture is incredible.

Be sure to go shopping along Rue St. Denis, check out a couple of restaurants or cafés and if you are in the mood to party – this street comes alive at night and is home to many popular bars and pubs.

I am a collector of crystals and gemstones, so when I stumbled upon Born-Neo on Rue St. Paul, I was in heaven. I purchased a beautiful multi-layered crystal Chakra Pyramid that I am completely in love with. They sell wooden Buddha’s, African masks and everything in between…so if you’re looking for a unique gift or something special for yourself, this is the place for you. Also, be sure to check out Pierres D’ailleurs on Rue St. Denis if you are into gemstones, minerals and the like.

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My beautiful Chakra Pyramid from Born-Neo.

One of my favourite restaurants is Dolcetto & Co which is located on Rue Saint Paul Ouest. The decor is modern and stylish (I’m a fan of its nautical theme) and their menu is diverse…they have some great antipasti options, tasty little pizza’s and a variety of cheeses and salami. Can’t forget about dessert; white chocolate and orange tiramisu – delizioso! Montréal is a lovely city – I have been twice and will definitely be back 🙂

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Dolcetto & Co, Rue Saint Paul Ouest.