YOUR NEXT VACATION

Plan Early

You may not have been able to travel in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it is never too early to look forward to your next adventure. Like many others, I missed out on my vacation. It was particularly disappointing because I had made a visit to France each of the previous 10 years and was looking forward to going again. There is so much to see in the Grand Est region where my friends live that I always look forward to this vacation. Sometimes I get to make other trips, but I always make sure I get to Alsace.

Petite France, Strasbourg

Sophie Voyages

One of the advantages I have in my travels is a friend who lives in the region and knows the best stops, not just the typical tourist stops. Of course, you must see Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg and Petite France but where else should you visit?  May I suggest a tour guide? I would have missed so much if I did not have friends to show me around. In fact, there is so much to see that we always discover new places each time I go.

Cathédrale de Strasbourg

Sophie Voyages is a new concept in the Tour Industry created by 2 Alsacians in 2020.” They are ready to welcome tourists, and 2021 should be a good year as people start to travel again. Knowledgeable in the history of the region and experienced in the tourist industry means they can provide you with an exciting adventure when you visit Strasbourg, the home of the European Parliament.

Place Kleber

The central square of Strasbourg is Place Kleber. As you can see, I am giving a thumbs up to the restaurants, shops, and beautiful sites of the region.

You can visit their website in English HERE.  Find them on Facebook HERE.

By the way, this is not affiliate marketing. I get nothing for mentioning this to you. I know them and discovered many great places because of their friendship.

See also: SophieVoyages.com
Alsace in Pictures, rjptalk.worpress.com, January 6, 2019.
Alsace Adventure, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, January 6, 2019.

THE RIGHT FOOD AT THE RIGHT PRICE – Rich Paschall

The Worth It series has been very popular from the start. This was a review from last year and you can still find all episodes at BuzzFeed, YouTube, and now on Hulu as well. Be sure to click “View original post” to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the article as well as some delicious videos.

GOING TO THE DOGS – Rich Paschall

When we need some minor league baseball, we are going to the dogs…Chicago Dogs that is. Bruce Hobson is back to manage. Former Cub Carlos Zambrano is here to attempt a comeback. There are still pleny of promotions, plus hot dogs, Coke and cold beer. What’s not to like? Here was our review of the inaugural season.

Chicago Dogs, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have seen a baseball movie that depicts the hard life of the minor league player.  Bull Durham (1988) may be the most entertaining.  It shows the fictional life of players for the North Carolina team, the Durham Bulls.  One Player (Kevin Costner) stays around the minors for many years, while one rookie (Tim Robbins) makes it to “the show.”  Aside from the love story and the humorous moments, the movie shows that minor league baseball is not exactly glamorous for most.

Nevertheless, there are currently 256 minor league teams associated with major league teams, and a long list of independent teams in eight leagues that have no Major League Baseball (MLB) affiliation.  This means there are a lot of players who will never make it to an MLB team (aka “the big leagues” or “the bigs.”)  All these minor league teams represent a lot of major dreams, but why would someone play independent baseball hoping to make it to “the bigs.”  Major league teams already have 5 or 6 minor league teams they follow.  Better yet, why would someone start a new independent team in the face of so many independent team failures.  How many area teams do we need?

Impact Field pregame

With two major league teams in our hometown, (White Sox and Cubs), another major league team just 90 minutes north, the Milwaukee Brewers, and at least five area minor league teams nearby, you would think that building a new stadium and starting a new minor league team would be a crazy dream.  But there are baseball lovers willing to try it.

The Village of Rosemont, located alongside Chicago and next to a part of O’Hare airport, has added to their list of ambitious projects by building a brand new 6300 seat stadium, Impact Field.  The cost was 60 million US Dollars.  They sold the naming rights for a dozen years and immediately have a team to play there, the Chicago Dogs, as in hot dogs.

Last winter when we were Christmas shopping at the nearby Fashion Outlet, we saw the location of a soon to open hot dog stand that was also promoting baseball and Chicago Dogs merchandise.  We did not realize then that baseball was coming on the other side of Interstate 294.    I took little notice as they were not yet open for hot dogs.

This year the Dogs joined a string of Midwest, Texas and Manitoba teams in the American Association.  After 3 games in Sioux Falls and 3 in St. Paul, the Dogs opened Impact Field on May 25, 2018 with a game against the Kansas City T-Bones.

Out view of the opposition

We saw the Dogs face off against the Texas AirHogs in June.  Texas has entered a partnership with the Chinese National Team (Beijing Shougang Eagles) and much of their team is from China.  In fact so much of the roster is from China, we heard the Chinese national anthem before the game as well as our own.

Before the game, I started in the right field corner and walked the entire concourse. Unlike most parks, you can circle this field and end up where you started.  I found there was an adequate number of places to purchase your Chicago style dogs.  These come from Vienna Beef, the popular home town hot dog maker.  They have been here since 1893 and no hot dog stand is worth its celery salt if they don’t have Vienna dogs, but I digress.

Along my route I stopped to chat with one Chicago Dogs employee who noted that some of the players have spent time in “the bigs,” while others still hope to get there.  Some want experience to become coaches or managers some day at the major league level.  This employee mentioned a few famous examples, including Hall of Famer and former Cub, Ryne Sandberg.

Game time

One Chicago connection on the team is outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., son of the former Chicago Cubs shortstop.  Another is Kyle Gaedale who is related to baseball Hall of Famer, Bill Veeck. The colorful Veeck worked for the Cubs and planted the ivy in the outfield in 1937.  Years later he was the owner of the Chicago White Sox.

The mascot is a giant Mustard bottle, seriously.  Maybe you wish to have your picture taken with mustard.  There was also a ketchup bottle roaming around but we do not put ketchup on our hot dogs…ever.  In addition to luxury boxes, a must at any new stadium, the stadium has party areas, a Kids Zone, a restaurant and of course, a merchandise store.

There are promotions every day for the inaugural season.  Fireworks on Thursdays and Saturdays.  There’s a giveaway every Friday and kids can run the bases after the game.  You might want to go on Mondays however and be early.  The first 1500 fans get free mustard.  What could be better?

The main drawback is actually the location.  The busy district of Rosemont can barely accommodate more traffic.  Without much land to use, the park has a three-level parking lot alongside.  On a day with a small crowd, it was slow getting in the lot.  I can not imagine how they do it when the park is full.

The story needs a Boston angle for Marilyn and Garry and we have one.  The manager of the team is former Boston Red Sox player Butch Hobson.  Butch was drafted by Boston in 1973 and made it to “the show” by 1975. He spent six years with the Red Sox, a year with the Angels and a year with the Yankees.  Hobson made it back to Boston to manage the Red Sox from 1992-1994. He is still colorful and still likes to argue with umpires.  We’ll see if he gets tossed out of more games than the Dogs win.

CELEBRATING DIVERSITY

Market Days, Chicago

Each August Chicago has a celebration we call Market Days, also known as North Halsted Market Days for its location.  It runs for a half mile stretch of Halsted Street through the area known as Boystown.  It has been given this designation due to the number of gay bars, shops and restaurants in the area.

Both sides of the street are lined with food booths, beverage booths, arts and crafts.  Some community organizations have booths to promote their cause.  Along the way you will find 4 stages of entertainment.

On Sunday night I started at the south end and walked toward the northernmost stage to see MAX.  On the way I could see people of all backgrounds and colors.  It is refreshing to see such a varied group of people (many thousands front to back) all enjoying a night of entertainment together.  It is not just an LGBTQ crowd, but rather all orientations are on hand.  It is easy to tell that as you walk through the crowd.

Unfortunately the Bud Light Stage was a lighting disaster.  Almost everything was backlit in such a way that you could not see the artists’ faces.  Maybe they will learn to do better next year.

Click on any picture to go through the larger version of each photo.

Christkindlmarket Chicago

A Holiday Photo Gallery

The Christkindlmarket in Chicago is a relatively new tradition. Many Chicagoans might actually claim it has been here for a long time because it is such a big part of our holiday festivities.  Based on the market in Nuremberg, Germany which began in 1545, and in partnership with that city, the first Christkindlmarket in Chicago was held on Pioneer court in 1996.  It was an immediate success and the following year the city invited the event to move to the somewhat larger Daley Plaza.

Today the event not only fills the downtown plaza, home of many civic events, it also makes its way down Dearborn alongside the building.  Vendors come from all over Germany to participate along with a few select vendors from Chicago, France and other locales.

Click on a picture and go through the gallery to see larger versions of above.  These pictures are from the recent past.  This year the event was a little whiter and a lot colder.