Downtown Columbus, Ohio
Searching for something different takes effort. We're hardwired to take the path of least resistance. Navigation tools and apps default to routes along the biggest, fastest highways that bypass towns, and rest stops are identical, appearing to have rolled off an assembly line and playing into our quest for the familiar. The vanilla* sameness of it all bums me out. I live in the suburbs of DC and am constantly struggling to find the beauty in my beige surroundings. I harbor fantasies of living someplace where I won't be able to tell you how to get to the 4 Wal-Marts, 3 Targets, 10 Starbucks and 11 McDonalds that all reside within 5 miles of my apartment. Google it. It's real.
Dogs from Dirty Frank's in Columbus, Chicago River as seen from my hotel room
It's why I get a bit obsessive when planning to visit somewhere new. I'm the girl sitting on her couch at 10:30 at night googling "Chicago adaptive reuse hotel" and "Chicago historic hotel". I'll pour through Small Demons for ideas referenced in books and stalk local bloggers (thanks for being an inspiration, Allison!) for recommendations off the beaten path.
Downtown Chicago (top), Saint Paul
It paid off. I had a great time, got some fun snapshots and ate well (mostly). I didn't hit everything on my list because there actually was a lot of work accomplished, but I made the bits in between count. I also passed by SO much I need to go back and explore. Chicago, Madison, Saint Paul and Minneapolis each left me wanting more.
The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, MN. Good food, great atmosphere and cute, friendly guys. No cell phones allowed. ;-)
Places to Sleep
Club Quarters (reasonable!)
*I feel bad for using a lovely word like vanilla in this way. I love vanilla smells, vanilla flavor...all the vanilla!