My 50th birthday was slowly creeping up on me. I was not depressed or afraid but I needed to celebrate this milestone in a big way. Not one to wait around for other people, I starting looking into some cities I’ve long wanted to visit: Vancouver, Portland, Athens. Suddenly, I remembered that it had been 25 years since I’d been to Spain. It had been my very first trip to Europe but I never made it to Barcelona. That was it! I decided I would ring in my 50th birthday travelling through Barcelona solo.
Here’s how my trip went down.
Travelling alone is nothing new for me. I’ve enjoyed several fabulous vacations on my own over the last 20+ years. I began traveling solo, around the time when Continue reading →
Recently, I’ve been thinking about all of the solo water vacations I have enjoyed over the years. Water, more than any other thing in life, calms me down. Staring at hit. Walking beside it. Swimming in it. Cruising on it. Bathing in it. Hell, even washing dishes by hand slows my pulse and allows me to breathe easier. Do you feel the same way? What type of water activities do you prefer?
If there is one thing I have learned after 20+ years of solo travel, it’s how to pack more efficiently and take precautions when it comes to my travel documents, valuables and personal identity. My “Pre-Travel Packing/Safety Tips” are listed below. Of course, solo travelers are not the only ones who can benefit from these practices. Therefore, I recommend you share them with any family or friends with whom you may be travelling.
Share your flight, hotel and travel itinerary with one or 2 family members or close friends. Include hotel(s) phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Chicago Athletic Association was restored last year into a wonderful hotel, dining destination and playground for the city’s visitors and residents alike. This turn-of-the-century building from the 1890’s is an architectural treasure with a vast and wild history.
The facade and interior are finished in a Venetian Gothic style. The halls and walls echo the rich history of the many movers, shakers, musicians and other colorful characters who put Chicago on the map. The bold, the bawdy and the bad-asses.
The woodwork in this historic Stagg Court is stunning!
The elevator walls are made from the re-purposed wood of the tennis courts here.
The historic swimming pool lies underneath this party room.
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday season and are excited about all the good things 2016 has to offer. I know I am! Before I wander too far down the new year’s path, I wonder…How did you get your groove on during 2015? Personally, I experienced several musical highlights last year at Buddy Guy’s Legends, The Chicago Theatre, City Winery and beyond. What’s more? I attended all of those shows solo!
Live concerts are part of my “holy trinity.” (Travel and food make up the other two-thirds). I love many genres of music but blues and rock are what really get my blood pumping.
I started off 2015 with a live show by my absolute favorite musical artist of all time, Beth Hart. Beth and her kick-ass band performed at Park West in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. I have seen her perfom several times including in Dublin, Ireland and New York. It was a treat to sit right up front, near the stage again, during this performance. Definitely, the highlight of 2015 for me.
Beth Hart, my favorite voice of all time!
As expected, I met several avid Beth Hart fans while standing in line in the snow , waiting for the doors at Park West to open. We exchanged personal stories of other Beth Hart shows we attended in the U.S. and abroad, as well as our experiences meeting Beth, her husband, Scott and the other members of her band. Of course, we discussed our favorite songs, too!
Pj Barth is one of Beth Hart’s stellar guitarists
In April, I headed over to The Chicago Theatre to catch Joe Bonamassa. Joe is a stellar blues artist who has recorded albums with Beth Hart such as “Don’t Explain,” “See Saw” and “Live in Amsterdam.” Joe has been building an impressive blues career, since he was a young boy.
Joe Bonamassa, blues artist
I chatted with some other Joe Bonamassa fans in the historic and gorgeous lobby of the Chicago Theatre over cocktails.
In May, I returned to Tthe Chicago Theatre to see the legendary Jeff Beck on blues guitar. He came onto a nearly bare-bones stage, without any flashy merchandising. Just his bandmates. He absolutely killed it that night. In addition to his own stellar songs, Jeff treated the audience to incredibly touching renditions of “Danny Boy” and “The Thrill is Gone.”
When you have an opportunity to see a living guitar legend (age 70), you take it. Even if you have to go solo.
I am a huge fan of Buddy Guy. Lucky for me, I live just 5 blocks from his Chicago club, Buddy Guy’s Legends. I have been honored to see Buddy perform live and to meet him several times. He is in residence every January for the entire month. During that time, he plays with different musicians every weekend. This year, I also attended Buddy’s 79th Birthday Bash.
Buddy, his family and friends were there mingling with the rest of us. He got up on stage later in the evening to sing. Then, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Buddy before we shared slices of his birthday cake and imbibed on some Buddy Brew beer:) I had fun chatting with Buddy and his many other fans. Top night!
Buddy accepts some birthday gifts!
The lucky raffle winner of Buddy Guy’s guitar….was not me :(
Birthday cake and “Buddy Brew” beer
James Bay, an up and coming British musician, was at Buddy’s party. He performed a song that night as well.
James Bay, British guitaritst/singer
Here are some other musical highlights which helped my get my groove on in 2015, despite the fact that I attended these shows solo:
Chicago Blues Fest in Grant Park:
Shemekia Copeland and her band came in from NYC.
Willie Dixon’s family celebrates his 100th birthday at Chicago Blues Festival
Dana Fuchs, Doyle Bramhall II and Jimmy Vaughan gave great perfomances at City Winery Chicago:
Some of you may remember Dana Fuchs from the movie, “Across the Universe”
My other favorite contemporary goddess of blues, Dana Fuchs!
Doyle Bramhall II
Walter Trout made an appearance at Buddy Guy’s Legends:
Grace Potter kept us all on our feet at The Chicago Theatre:
Devon Allman brought some rock ‘n soul to Cubby Bear in Wrigleyville:
Last but not least, I rang in the new year with Robert Randolph & The Family Band at City Winery in Chicago. I was invited to dance on stage with some other fun women. Of course, I accepted! After the show, I was able to hang with Robert and the band for a bit. Groovy cool way to say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016!
I rang in the New Year with Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Great hang backstage with Robert Randolph & The Family Band
So, there you have it. As much as I love to attend live shows with friends, they are not always available or interested in the bands I want to see. The thought of missing my favorite musical acts simply because I would have to go solo is unacceptable.
For those of you who feel self-conscious about attending a concert solo, I urge you to get over it. Remember, you already have something in common with the other folks who are in attendance. You both love the same singer/band and are excited for the show.