Tag: Booking.com

Travel Swellness: The James Hotel in Chicago

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Chicago is one of my favourite cities. It probably holds a special place in my heart because one of the first (if not the very first!)  press trips I went on when I was at Flare was to Chicago, but of course, there’s more to it. I find the people friendly, there’s so many fantastic restaurants, they host a helluva good marathon, which I’ve run twice (last weekend in the Chicago Marathon 2017, and my marathon PB in 2014), and, of course, the beautiful architecture. And now that list of what I love in Chicago is growing, as I’ve just discovered the James Hotel.

(And if you’re booking a trip to Chicago or elsewhere, don’t forget about the $40 you can save if you use this little link of mine, right HERE).

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Through Booking.com, I stayed at the James just a little over a week ago for my marathon weekend, and it had a lot going for it as a place to stay for the race, however it’s a great boutique hotel to stay no matter what brings you to Chicago.

Major selling points: it’s pretty much a few minutes walk away from both Eataly and Shake Shack, plus Trader Joe’s is right across the street. I adore Shake Shack and even though it’s not from Chicago, I will make time to have a Shack Burger whenever I have access to one. Same goes for Eataly; it also hails from New York but the pizza, pasta, burrata and more is just too hard to resist that I’ll stop in for a bite whenever I can. And Trader Joe’s is great for snacks, and especially helpful when you’re fueling for a marathon and need access to the ingredients you’d normally have before a race. If you’re on a budget, you can also save loads of money if you opt to pick up something there for your breakfast, or even if you grab a bottle of wine to enjoy in your room rather than one out at dinner (both ways I cut back on spending when I”m watching my pennies when traveling).

James Hotel Chicago lobby level

The James Chicago is located in River North just steps from the Magnificent Mile. So shopaholics, this convenient location means you can drop off your shopping bags, or even pop in for a quick power nap before you shop some more. Although I don’t know if a quick nap is possible; the beds at the James were so comfortable and luxurious, I found myself spending more time lounging around in my suite than I typically do when I travel.

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Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago are about a 25-minute walk from the hotel; 360 Chicago is about 15 minutes away (call me a tourist, but I love seeing cities from up high!). So you’re very close to some of the top attractions. The closest subway is the Grand station on the red line, and I easily navigated my way on the transit system to neighbourhoods I wanted to explore such as Logan Square and Bucktown.

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(By the way, if you are visiting Chicago and planning to go to many of the top attractions, it’s worth considering getting the Citypass Chicago. I’ve used it on two trips to Chitown and besides being able to save some money on your entry fees if you were to pay at each sight separately, you also score quick entry; I’ve seen long lines snake out of Shedd Aquarium, for example, and I can tell you I was very grateful to not waste precious time in Chicago waiting in line.)

I didn’t have a chance to try out the restaurant in the hotel, but I did spend time in the hotel lobby, which is a beautiful space where there’s lots of seating if you’re waiting to meet someone or are waiting for your car (this is something I appreciate as I once waited during a snowstorm for about two hours in an NYC hotel lobby that had not a single chair). The lobby at the James is a sleek and modern space but not in a cold, modern way (there are warm touches and textures that make it comfortable). They host a wine hour here (which I refrained from since I was preparing for my race, le sigh).

James Hotel Chicago lobby level

The room I had was spacious and filled with light. The only downside to the room is the pocket door to the washroom, which is very heavy, making it a chore to slide open and closed. I’m a pretty fit person and I found it cumbersome but I can see it being a problem for some people. Word to the wise: I’m not sensitive to noise and city noises don’t bother me, but if you’re especially easy to wake up from slumber, you may want to request a room on a higher floor. In my room on the 7th floor, I was aware of the sirens and traffic noises from the street, however, it didn’t bother me as I’m used to din of the city.

James Chicago bathroom

Want to book the James Chicago? Well, if you use my exclusive Booking.com link to book your stay, you’ll get a refund of $40 once you complete your stay. That’s $40 you can use at Eataly, or at a Grant Achatz restaurant, or use towards your architectural cruise ticket. Man, I’m already missing this hotel and fantastic city…

Happy travels!

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Leave a Comment October 18, 2017

Travel Swellness: 5 musts for the first-time Toronto visitor (and a discount for your next BOOKING.COM trip!)

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Traveling is a passion of mine but after a whirlwind couple of years in and out of town, I definitely need to balance it with quality time at home in Toronto. And even though I spend a lot of time escaping the city, there is definitely a lot to love about TO. If a friend who had never visited Toronto, what would I take them to go see in Toronto? Here’s my personal guide to some of my favourites in the 6 for those who’ve never been to T.O. (and if you’re planning on booking a trip, be sure to use this booking.com link to get a discount on your travel booking!).

Visit the CN Tower. Yes, it’s touristy (possibly the most touristy thing), but these attractions are popular for a reason. I’ve done the CN Tower Edgewalk, and it’s thrilling and fun if you’re not scared of heights, but even just going to get the view of the city on a clear day, it’s fantastic. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, though; have been up the Empire State Building as a kid, and to Vancouver Lookout. the SkyDeck in Chicago, and Sky100 in Hong Kong. Nothing like the breathtaking views of the city below you to remind you that you are just a small speck in this big beautiful world of ours.

Tour Casa Loma. I think I became enamoured with Casa Loma as a teen reading a YA book and the characters went to Casa Loma on a date. And then I finally got the chance to visit it when I moved to Toronto. I have been back once or twice for events, and I just love that there’s this magical little castle in the middle of the city. I bet you’ll fantasize about being of royal descent and living there, just like I maybe (totally) have.

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Run along the Lake Shore. Or walk or bike. Not all of it the route pretty, but how can you not love the pretty pink beach umbrellas at Sugar Beach or the phenomenal view of the downtown skyline from the new Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail (which is just off of the Lake Shore trail)?

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Eat. Eat. Eat. One of the things I feel so fortunate about living here is the wealth of good food we have here. I don’t go to very many places regularly because there are so many options, but some spots off the top of my head that you should try: go for a burger and fries at the beautiful Café Cancan (it’s the pretty pastel nistro pictured above); go with an empty stomach to Bar Raval and eat as many tapas as you can (even better if you’re a bigger group so you can try as much as the menu as possible); have dim sum at Rol San in Chinatown; carb load at Buca downtown (their pizzas — especially the burrata pizza, oh my gosh, so good — and pastas are simply beyond; that’s their carbonara pictured below); do a little taco tour and hit up Grand Electric, La Carnita and Campechano; stop into Momofuku Noodle (it’s in the Shangri-La Hotel, which is one of my favourite hotels to stay in when I travel, their service is always top notch) for some pork belly bao and to slurp up a bowl of ramen.

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Hike in Rouge Valley National Park. The Rouge Valley Park is a new discovery for me. It’s outside of the core, but there’s now Parkbus that’ll get you there. I know when I travel to cities, it’s busy and noisy and sometimes I just need a half-day to decompress. Getting out into some nature and solitude is what works best for me, and the park is green and pretty.

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Not motivated to drive an hour to Rouge Valley? Stay central and pop over to Trinity Bellwoods Park or to High Park for a summer picnic.

Now, ready to book your next trip? Here’s how you can save some money:

Inspired to go travel, whether it’s to come here to Toronto, or anywhere in the world? Well, here’s a little gift for you: book through www.booking.com using this exclusive link (it’s my exclusive refer-a-friend link), and you’ll get a $40 discount from your reservation. That money you save could go towards a great meal, or tickets to a show, or whatever you choose to do on your adventures!

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And I’d love to hear about your travels! I’m always looking for wanderlust inspiration!

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4 Comments July 24, 2017


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