Local Grocery Stores are Awesome

As I’ve said before I tend to be traveling on a somewhat limited budget. A huge expense while you’re away from home is the cost of eating out all the time. While I understand wanting to experience the local food there is an alternative, the grocery store.  A lot of hotels offers at least a fridge and some even a little kitchenette. Perhaps you're more the type that says in an airbnb rental and gets to enjoy a full out real kitchen. Either way one of my favourite things to do while traveling is to visit a local grocery store. Not only are you able to get some inexpensive food to have around the place you’re staying but you might get to find some really interesting food too. I often go for the breakfast type items. Cereal and milk or muffins that kind of thing. We also try and get some snack food and fruit for when we get hungry in the evening hanging out relaxing. I also quite enjoy trying to find some what odd things that I couldn't get back in Toronto or even Canada for that matter. Also don’t forget a bottle of wine, especially if you’re in an area where it’s made.

Photo by Laurie Stein

Photo by Laurie Stein

The only trouble is sometimes you go into a local store where you don’t speak the language and it can be a bit confusing to figure out what you’re really buying. In Israel for example we picked up what we thought was cream cheese. It turned out to be more of a cheese dip which to be fair was still great but not quite what I had expected. There have been some others interesting things we’ve found. There was chocolate milk in a bag in Israel that was amazing. Microwave brownie in Chicago that was kind of easy bake ovenish. San Francisco had some great local cheese and wine.

Over all going to a local grocery store is fun, interesting and reasonably priced. It’s also a great way to take in some local culture, give it a try next time you’re on a trip.



5 Accessible Things to do in Chicago

1. Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

This was probably one of my favorite things to do while I was in Chicago. The boat was fairly easy to access as they put out a ramp to wheel right on. You have a clear view of the city as you go along the river and there is a tour guide which is easy to hear. If you're an architecture nerd or just want some interesting views of the city, it's really worth the time to make this trip.  Just make sure to do this on a nice day as the boat I was on didn't have any cover.

2. Art Institute of Chicago

Ranked #1 on Tripadvisor for a reason. The Art Institute is not only a really interesting building in its own right but houses some amazing, famous works of art. If you ever wanted to see Grant Wood's American Gothic in person then this is the place to go. The Art Institute is within easy walking distance of Millennium park so its great to do both in the same day. My suggestion is to have your lunch in the park to break up your day. 

3. Millennium Park and the Crown Fountains

This is a huge park that goes on for blocks near the Chicago waterfront. You could spend a long time just wandering through it and enjoying the day if you're not in a rush to be any place else. The Crown Fountains are a feature in Millennium Park that I personally really enjoyed. Opened in 2004, the fountain is composed of a black granite reflecting pool and two 50 foot tall video screen towers. The video screens show people's faces and water shoots out of their mouths from time to time.  It's a great place to just hang out and people watch on a nice day. 

The other big feature of Millennium park is Cloud Gate aka The Bean. The huge polished metal sculpture reflects and distorts the Chicago skyline. You can walk right under it and look up to see yourself reflected, which is pretty cool. 


4. Shedd Aquarium

One of the largest and most popular aquariums in the US. The Oceanarium exhibit has one of the largest indoor tanks at 2 million gallons. This tank hosts large marine mammals like sea otters, sea lions and beluga whales. There are also multiple tropical and coral reef tanks each with their own theme. Tickets aren't super cheap but you can get in as part of the Chicago CityPASS. Regardless, I think there is enough to see and do here to make it worth going.

5. Michigan Avenue

The Magnificent Mile section of Michigan Avenue just to the north of the Chicago river is one of Chicago's prime shopping districts. Mostly a tourist area with lots of high end shopping and restaurants. It's still worth the walk, even if just to window shop. Near the north end of the strip is the Historic Water tower, one of the few buildings to survive the great fire. Another interesting building to see near the water tower is the luxury Drake hotel, one of the most famous and oldest hotels in Chicago.  On the south end of the street near the river is the John Hancock Center, which has a great view from the observation deck. South of the river, Michigan Avenue goes past a few of my other picks including Millennium Park and the Chicago Institute of Art.  

5 Wheelchair accessible things to see in San Francisco

1. Alcatraz Island

How can anyone go to San Francisco and not make a trip out to Alcatraz. When I traveled to Alcatraz it was on the evening tour. If at all possible this is definitely the way to go. Not only is it generally less crowded but the fading light really adds to the atmosphere of the place. Be sure to book this one online ahead of time as it fills up many weeks ahead during the busy season.

Accessibility here is great really. Alcatraz is up a really steep hill which gives you a great view of the bay. However if you’re unable to climb there have a small trolley that you can ride to the top and back down again later. From the top of the hill the rest of the site is quite flat. Loading and unloading of the ferry across to the island was already quite easy. If you’re unable to climb to the upper deck you can sit outside at the back of the boat and still have a nice view.

2.San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

In response to an ever increasing number of visitors the SFMOMA is currently under a major expansion and will be closed until 2016. However I have to assume accessibility can only get better with the rest of the upgrades. The museum has works by Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock. All areas of the gallery were wheelchair friendly with the exception of some artwork that was in a landing in-between sets of stairs.

3.California Academy of Sciences

If you’re into aquatic life this is the place to be. Home of one of the worlds largest coral reef exhibits and an indoor rainforest this place is seriously cool.

There is a number of public transit option to get you over to the academy. The Muni bus #44 will take you closest. I personally too the Muni N line for downtown which stops at 9th Ave and Irving Street. It’s a bit of a walk from there but it’s a nice one of you’re able to do so.

4. A walk in the Mission

Here is a nice low cost option. There is a ton to see in the mission however if you just want to spend a morning or afternoon you’ll still enjoy yourself. When I visited I walked down Valencia Street and checked out a lot of a nice little stores. We had lunch at Delfina on 18th which was just great. Then we headed over to Dolores Park, the largest park in the city. The Bi-Rite market is worth a visit as well as Bi-Rite creamery for some ice cream if you’re not too stuffed from lunch still. Throughout the mission walls are painted with murals often inspired by Mexican paintings

The area is a bit flatter than other parts of San Francisco so getting around is pretty easy. However if you get tired there are lots of places to rest and just watch people go by as well.

5. Union Square Shopping

A 2.6-acre public square in the heart of the shopping district of San Francisco. Surrounded by shops, hotel and restaurants. Painted heart sculptures from the Hearts in San Francisco public art installation project are standing on each of the four corners of the square. Each year they are auctioned off and new ones installed. As with the rest of San Francisco the area is on a hill but the plaza is flat. Access to the area is generally good and there are lots of spots to rest.