Fenton & White’s Cross-Country Adventure

It has been close to a year since our last non-work related trip, and we decided the fall would be a perfect time to take off for a short reprieve before diving into our next projects. Our planned itinerary would take us by plane from Toronto to Chicago (with a few days to explore the city), then on an epic 3 day train trip across the U.S. heading for San Francisco (where we spent three glorious days) before flying back home.  As always with our trips, we do a travelogue, so for the next few weeks, you will be receiving the journals of our travels.  Skim them, read them in entirety, or delete them if you wish.  After the travelogue, we will go back to our once per month updates.  Come along with us as we share our adventures in pictures and words.  Perhaps this will inspire you to take your own fall adventure!

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EVERY FENTON & WHITE ADVENTURE STARTS WITH A COFFEE

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Flying from Toronto to Chicago is a snap with the daily service from Porter Airlines, and it seems that they have a sale on airfares almost every week.  We took advantage of one of those sales and on a crisp autumn day, packed our luggage and headed out the door.  We are big transit travelers, and getting to the airport is a simple bus ride 2 stops to the subway, then a quick ride down to Union Station and a shuttle bus to the mainland terminal of Billy Bishop Airport.  Total travel time to the airport is about 30 minutes.  Total cost for two travellers … $6.

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A BANK OF ELEVATORS GREETS YOU ON THE MAINLAND SIDE OF THE AIRPORT

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The tunnel to the Toronto Island Airport was recently finished, which means you can avoid the line-ups for the 2 minute ferry ride across the channel.  When you enter via the mainland terminal, head to this bank of elevators, and take them to the lower level … a tunnel that is 30 feet beneath the waters of Lake Ontario.

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PETE PREPARES TO BRAVE THE TORONTO ISLAND TUNNEL

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While the Toronto Island Airport tunnel is smaller than its famous counterpart that connects France and England by rail, it is still a fun adventure.  Two long moving sidewalks take you through the tunnel.  At the far end there are two long escalators that take you up to ground level and the total time to get from the mainland to the island to depart on your flight is about 5 minutes.  Once you get there, check in is a breeze and because it is a smaller airport, security screenings take only a few minutes.  After you have finished, relax in the comfy lounge with free coffees and lattes and delightful shortbread cookies.  The flight to Chicago take approximately an hour and fourty five minutes and along the way Porter Airlines serves you a snack and a generous glass of wine … all included in your flight.  While you are enjoying that flight, don’t forget to set your watch back an hour, as Chicago is on Central Standard Time.

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CHICAGO TRANSIT IS A LOT LIKE HOME

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We did a quick comparison of prices for cabs, shuttles and other ways to get to our hotel, and decided that since we were arriving mid-afternoon the easiest way to go would be to  take public transit.  This turned out to be a great decision for several reasons.  The transit system links directly into the airport, you avoid traffic, and because much of the subway system is on raised rails 20 feet above the ground, you get a fantastic view of the city and downtown streets as you travel.  Our trip to the hotel cost us only $6 between the two of us, and it was a great way to get a quick overview of the city.

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A COMFY BUSINESS SUITE AT THE DAYS INN AT LINCOLN PARK

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Prices on hotel rooms in Chicago can be pretty steep.  After a lot of research, we decided to take a room at the Days Inn near Lincoln Park.  Although this is 3 miles north of the downtown core, it is cheaper by over $100 than most rooms downtown, has easy access to the lake, great sights and you can access the downtown area with a 20 minute subway ride.  The area is also filled with great restaurants, and is a 20 minute walk from Wrigley Field.

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OUR SUITE HAD A NICE DESK, MICROWAVE AND FRIDGE

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The service was very friendly at the hotel and they offer a free continental breakfast.  We were pleased with the room, but now it was time to go and check out the area.  A certain baseball team had begun to play at Wrigley Field in a series final, but it was too late to get tickets and the area north of us would have been swamped with people, so instead we decided to head towards Lake Michigan and take in some of the sights.

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A VIEW OF DOWNTOWN CHICAGO FROM LINCOLN PARK

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Lincoln Park offers a range of activities from rowing and canoeing on the North Canal to jogging paths,  lots of walking trails and other attractions including our planned destination … the Lincoln Park Zoo.  The parks are also filled with art works and sculpture.

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THIS MONUMENT TO GOETHE  REPRESENTS A GREEK GOD-LIKE FIGURE TO HONOUR  HIS OLYMPIAN ACHIEVEMENTS.  IT IS NOT A LITERAL IMAGE OF HIM, BUT IT IS AN IMPRESSIVE 20 FEET TALL

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A PIECE OF “FOUND ART” LEFT BESIDE A BRIDGE.  WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THESE SHOES?

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The Lincoln Park Zoo is FREE, which makes it a great place to spend an afternoon.  The animal enclosures seem generous in size with lots of indoor and outdoor space, and the animals were active and engaging.

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THE ENTRANCE TO THE ZOO FEATURES A BEAUTIFUL BRASS LION

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We were particularly enamoured with a family of meerkats that kept us entertained for quite some time with their inquisitive stares.  They certainly seemed curious about us Canadians … likely wondering what we were doing south of the border!

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THIS LITTLE FELLOW WAS COY WHEN WE TRIED TO TAKE HIS PICTURE

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The zoo closed at 5 and we made our way back towards the hotel to have a nice dinner, but on the way back, we were treated to a lovely dusk view over a nearby marina.  Further north of us, the crowds roared as the Chicago Cubs advanced to the next series in the playoffs.  Sadly … their streak didn’t last as the Mets cleaned house this past week, but at least we were there when they got further than they had in the past 13 years.

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CHICAGO SETTLES INTO THE DUSK

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SCOTT HANGS OUT AT NANDO’S RESTAURANT

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Close to our hotel was a Nando’s Chicken restaurant which features yummy PERi PERi chicken (a spicy marinated chicken that is flame grilled) along with amazing garlic mashed potatoes.  There are Nando’s all across the world (even one in Toronto) and we enjoyed the food and the reasonable prices.  It was a fun meal (accompanied by Sangria).  In Chicago, they apparently ID everyone, as both Pete and I were asked for ID before our Sangria was served to us.  It was rather flattering!

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DESSERT WAS A LITTLE  … DECADENT

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After our dinner, we wandered up the street and were intrigued by the exhibit of unusual donuts at a place called “Stan’s Donuts”.  We couldn’t resist, and we each got a cream filled Bismark.  They were sugary, gooey, and probably had a thousand calories each, but sometimes, while on vacation … you simply have to try new things!

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Our first day was primarily for travel and settling in. Join us tomorrow as we share our adventures taking in some of Chicago’s amazing architecture.  Chicago has an amazing outlook on how to keep the waterfront vibrant and alive.

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FENTON, (LEO) & WHITE

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