Pre-Travel Packing/Safety Tips

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.  

 

  1.  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.

   2.  Make a photocopy of your Continue reading

Labeled: Tips, Etc. · Travel
7 Reasons to Visit Chicago Athletic Association

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.

 

Chicago Athletic Association Stagg Court

The woodwork in this historic Stagg Court is stunning!

Chicago Athletic Association elevators

The elevator walls are made from the re-purposed wood of the tennis courts here.

Chicago Athletic Association swimming pool

The historic swimming pool lies underneath this party room.

 

Located directly across the street from Continue reading

How Did You Get Your Groove On During 2015?

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, Continue reading

Labeled: Culture & Community · Miscellaneous
MingHin Cuisine – Dining Solo in Chicago’s Chinatown

 

Are you afraid of visiting Chinatown?  I meet many folks from different cities who say that Chinatown is scary or intimidating.  But, why?  Perhaps it’s that most Chinatown neighborhoods have so many restaurants and shops in very close proximity to each other.  Or, maybe, the fact that there are so many signs in Chinese, Korean or other Asian languages is off-putting.  Some folks fear crime (I think they watch too many bad movies!).   Whatever the reason, one thing I hear all the time from people is that they would never consider going to Chinatown solo.

Me?  I love the fact that I live so close to Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood.  It’s such an interesting and fun place to meander around, while exploring various types Asian cuisine and culture without a passport.  Last Friday, I headed over to MingHin Cuisine for a lovely solo lunch.

 

Minghin in Chicago

Chinatown Square in Chicago

 

MingHin is located just a couple of blocks west of the Cermak-Chinatown ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Red Line and the McCormick Place ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Green Line.  The #62 Archer bus will take you directly there as well.

 

Cermak-Chinatown stop near Minghin

CTA stop near Chinatown

MingHin is easily accessible via the cta trains and buses.

 

The focus here is on Cantonese cuisine and they have a fabulous dim sum service.  Since I was dining alone, I decided to leave the many dim sum options for a return visit with a few friends. That way, I can justify ordering several items at once 🙂  

 

Minghin's dim sum

Here’s how my lunch went down:

I arrived at 1pm and MingHin was packed.  I was greeted immediately with a smile and asked how many people were in my party.  When I mentioned that I was a party of one and that I would like to sit by a window, the host did not balk at all.  He swiftly eyeballed the available table options in this rather large space and escorted me to a large window booth.  

I really appreciate it when a restaurant welcomes solo diners without stuffing us in a dim corner 🙂

In less than a minute, my server appeared and helped me through the large menu and specials. Since I was committed to eating strictly vegetarian that day, I began with this spicy Szechuan eggplant dish with sweet and hot peppers which comes with a side of white rice.  Usually, Minghin makes it with some ground pork.  However, they were more than happy to leave it out for me.

 

Spicy eggplant at Minghin in Chicago

Don’t forget the extra chili sauce!

 

It’s been a while since I’ve had a really good version of this eggplant dish and MingHin’s really satisfied my craving.  It was delicious.  The eggplant was cooked perfectly.  So often when restaurants attempt Szechuan eggplant, they overcook it, until it’s a pile of mush.  MingHin got it right!  It will become a staple for me here.

 

Eggplant in Szechuan sauce at Minghin

Nice and spicy Szechuan eggplant

 

Next, I decided to get my protein on by ordering a simple, pan-seared tofu in soy sauce.  My server explained that I would have to wait 10-15 minutes for this dish because they make it “to-order.”  This was a very good sign.  It informed me that I was not getting some stale tofu dish like so many busy Chinese restaurants prepare in advance.  When it hit the table, I was not disappointed.  The tofu was medium-firm and perfectly crispy on top.  The soy sauce was the perfect seasoning.  This tofu dish was a great follow-up to the super spicy eggplant, as it helped to cool down my palate. 

 

Pan-seared tofu at Minghin

Don’t let the simplicity of this dish fool you!

 

The space at MingHin is huge, bright and decorated very nicely.  A departure from the typical plain digs at many Chinatown joints, regardless of the city. 

 

Minghin Cuisine in Chicago

Minghin in Chinatown Square

Minghin restaurant in Chinatown

Eyeballing other patrons’ dishes while I await my lunch 🙂

 

MingHin was awarded the 2016 Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction which means that it is budget-friendly.  This fact should keep your wallet happy 🙂

Overall, this was a really yummy and comfortable solo dining experience.  MingHin took very good care of me and made me feel most welcome 🙂  I felt perfectly safe all by myself 🙂

MingHin Cuisine is located at 2168 S. Archer Avenue.  It is open 7 days a week from 8am – 2am. There is new location near Grant Park at 333 E. Benton Place.  Click here for more information.

Looking for other great spots to dine solo in Chicago’s Chinatown?  Check out Strings Ramen and Ahjoomah’s Apron Korean Restaurant.

ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.

 

Labeled: Culture & Community · Food & Libations · Travel
Who Goes to a Comedy Club Alone?

 

Would you go to a comedy club alone?  No?  Up until 2 days ago, I never considered it.  But, I desperately needed a good laugh and to get “out of my head.”  It seemed silly to forego such an outing simply because friends were unavailable to join me that day.  After all, how different could it be from going to a movie, the theatre or a concert alone?  I decided to find out.

 

comedy club solo

 

comedy club alone

 

I do not frequent comedy clubs nearly as often as I did years ago.  Of course, it was an activity I enjoyed with a group of friends.  Nevertheless, lately, I’ve been thinking that I need to put this back in my recreational repertoire  So I hopped on-line to see what the local comedy clubs had scheduled for this week.  Chicago has a long and storied history of amazing comedians and an assortment of stand-up sets and improv shows (Zanies, Second City, etc).  It did not take long before I noticed that Laugh Factory in Lakeview was featuring a unique show entitled “The Social Takeover.”  Here’s how it works:

The 4 comedians who took the stage to do individual sets earlier in the evening return to the stage together to “take over” the Facebook pages of willing audience members.  Those Facebook pages are projected onto a large screen, so the audience can watch what ensues. Then, the comedians create hilarious posts and send messages to the participant’s Facebook friends.  

The Social Takeover at Laugh Factory

Nothing good could come from this!

On the night I attended this show, the 2 willing audience members just happened to be recent high school graduates.  You can imagine how much material the comedians had to work with, as kids that age overshare every detail of their lives!  HOLY SHIT!  This was fun.  I spent the next hour wiping away tears of laughter and most of the make-up which ran down my face.  These comedians worked with lightening speed at creating jaw-dropping havoc in real-time.

 

The bit that makes this Social Takeover so funny is the audience participant sits behind the screen which displays their Facebook page.  So, they are unable to see everything happening such as the replies received from their Facebook friends ( or soon-to-be “EX-FRIENDS”) about all of the strange, rude and outlandish things “he/she” has posted.

The comedians and the audience (myself included) had such a great time.  Those shell-shocked participants had fun, too.  Although I could see occasional moments of fear and regret in their young faces.  They were probably wondering how they would explain all of this to the Facebook friends they offended (HA!).  Of course, at the end of each “takeover” the comedians put up a final post to the participants’ pages with the Laugh Factory Logo and a picture of them all together advising that it was all a joke.  I am only sorry that I don’t get to know how much trouble it really caused for them when the sun came up the following morning 😉

Laugh Factory comedy club alone

 

I am so happy that I did not miss out on this HILARIOUS show.  I had a great time.  There was nothing uncomfortable about going alone.  I certainly did not laugh any less than I would have, if I had gone with friends.  I chatted with some friendly people on line while waiting to get into the club.  And, I had a nice talk with a couple of the comedians who performed that night.

The only thing that happened which I find mildly annoying was that the Laugh Factory employee who escorted the patrons to their seats wanted me to sit in a place with an obstructed view of the stage.  This sort of thing happens on occasion in restaurants, too.  Sometimes, venues don’t like the sight of a solo person in clear view of the rest of the restaurant or venue. How rude!  Other times, they presume that since you are “flying solo” that you would prefer to be seated in the shadows.  Ridiculous! Regardless, of the scenario, remember that “No one puts Baby in a corner.”  Do not be afraid to speak up and ask for the best possible table.  I did just that and sat second row center that night 🙂

So, tell me.  Would you go to a comedy club alone?

ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.

 

 

 

Labeled: Culture & Community