Monday, December 21, 2009

The Interview

We caught up to this traveler at breakfast, the last one in the dining room.

HI: Hey, Whats your name?
Huw Ambrosio

HI: Whoa, that’s a pretty interesting name, where are you from?


HI: Yeah, the accent gave you away. What brings you to Chicago?

I dunno, just traveling, I have some family here that I’m visiting for the holidays.

HI: Not staying with your family then?

I’ve actually never met them before, We’ve only spoken on the phone.

HI: Are you nervous about meeting them?
Yeah, a bit. laughs

HI: How long have you been in Chicago, have you had a chance to explore?
I’ve been here 2 nights, got lost in the way to Lincoln Park Zoo Did make It to the Chirstkindlesmart and some pub though.

HI: And your plans for tonight?
Some chick said she was having a birthday party and I think I’m tagging along-

HI: Well that sounds fun. Anything stand out to you about Chicago?

Yeah, the buildings have a lot of character, beautiful facades and all. In Australia
All the buildings are rather dull. The cold is pretty intense here too.

HI: Yes, you’re right, Chicago does have great architecture and a bitter winter. What do you do in Australia?
I’m studying to become a primary school teacher.

HI: That’s awesome man! Good Luck and thanks for the interview!
No problem.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December: A Month of Powerful Programming

Hostelling International Chicago's powerful cultural awareness programs were in full swing this month. Between the hostel's Cultural Kitchen program, which exposes Chicago high school students to the world and its people, Exchange Neighborhoods program, which brings together high school students of different ethnicities to promote understanding and peace, and Culture Quest program, which introduces younger students to the concepts of hostelling and the value of diversity, over 150 students graced the halls of our beautiful hostel. The hostel will reach over 1,000 students with our educational programs this school year.

Travelers are invited to join students for free meals associated with these programs, and volunteers are always needed for our Cultural Kitchen program to help students cook ethnic meals.

For more information about the hostel's educational programs, please visit:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Megabus is an discount intercity bus service that began in 2006. Fares start at a mere 1.00 dollar and a 50 cent booking fee although these are primarily promotions. A more typical fare like from Chicago to Minneapolis, MN is still only 20 bucks. Megabus manages to have such incredibly low fares by having very little infrastructure. For example, there is no Megabus station, with Chicago departures leaving from Union Station at a designated bus stop. Also, all purchases are done over the internet and riders must print out their reservation. Despite the low fares, Megabus manages to provide free wi-fi for its riders and its fleet of buses is soon to have electric outlets as well. It's also considered to be a more comfortable ride than Greyhound. Megabus looks like it is laying the ground work for country wide bus service but it is still only servicing three regions: Midwest, Northeast and Southwest. Below are the maps and routes:

To take advantage of the cheapest deals you have to make a reservation in advance although there usually are seats available in the last minute at highly affordable rates. Consider Megabus for your travels!

Special Offer:
100,000 seats are available for free for travel between the dates of Jan. 6, 2010 and March 20, 2010.
Use the promo code GETAWAY today to access sale seats that are available.
FREE seats are subject to availability and the $0.50 booking fee applies to all purchases. Promotion ends when all free seats are reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cold Cold Chicago

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago is -27°F (-33°C) on January 20, 1985, with a wind chill of -83°F (-64°C). Although this was certainly an extraordinary occasion, freezing temperatures and snow are common during the winter months of December, January and February. Being unprepared for the weather can be very unpleasant and even painful when exploring the city. Make sure you have adequate clothing for the frigid conditions. A hat, scarf and gloves are a necessity. If you were caught off guard and need some mittens you can check out the nearby H&M for some relatively cheap fashions.

Yet don't let the temperature keep you inside for the winter has its own charming beauty. A layer of fresh snow makes the city look incredibly pristine and pure. Unfortunately, that unspoiled and faultless image will soon turn into street gutters full of slush so don't forget your boots!

When your toes and fingertips get too numb to continue stop by Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea for the best hot drinks in downtown Chicago.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Neighborhood Spotlight: Pilsen

The history of Pilsen is like the history of Chicago. A neighborhood marked by history and transformation.

Although originally settled by Germans and Irish by the 1800's, the area had attracted a large Czech community who came to work in the nearby factories and stockyards. They named their neighborhood after Plzen, a city in the Czech Republic. Their presence in Pilsen is still embodied in Thalia Hall (1892), which served as a community center and dance hall. Today, the building has been restored and hosts a new resturant streetside.

In the early 1900's, Pilsen experienced an influx of Polish residents, the most recent immigrants to Chicago. The community erected a Church St. Adalbert (1914), which continues to stand and dominate the Pilsen Skyline.

Since the 1960's, Pilsen became home to a large Mexican-American Community and today the Latino character remains vibrant in the neighborhood. The district is livened with large murals, authenitic little resturants and boasts the National Museum of Mexican Art (free daily except Mondays).

The most recent change in Pilsen has been the influx of artists and professionals, creating fears of displacement among the Mexican community. Galleries, boutiques and trendy bars are increasingly common in Pilsen serving this new community. On the 2nd friday of the month (Dec 11th) artist studios and galleries hold openings and receptions for the public. For more information click here.

Pilsen is highly accesible with the Pink Line's 18th street station taking you to the heart of the neighborhood. For more ideas on things to do in Pilsen click here or here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Millenium Park

Opened in 2004, Millennium Park is certainly a necessary stop on any Chicago visit. As public space full of sculpture, architecture, gardens and people, a stroll along the promenades through this urban oasis will not disappoint. The park features the Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor concert hall design by famous architect Frank Gerhy, Cloud Gate, a lustrous modern steel sculpture (highly popular for reflection photos) and the Lurie Garden which will take you through a landscape of plants and trees. During the winter, the park also features a free ice rink.

Built over an old railroad yard, the park symbolizes Chicago's ongoing physical and cultural transformation as it enters the new century.

To get there: make a left as you leave the hostel, followed by another left on Michigan Ave.
The park will be on your right after the Art Institute.

For information on concerts and events at the park visit: