Scotland & Dublin

It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating and the whisky is delicious. But don’t eat the macaroni pies.

J.K. Rowling


This was also not the most cost friendly visit … and I had planned to spend more here because it was actually a vacation. Stuff is just more expensive in the UK.

($144 / day)


July 20 2019 – August 3 2019
14 Days


Varied between airbnbs and hotels since I covered quite a bit of ground here. Majority of it were bnbs.


Quite a bit of seafood, starch, and potatoes 🙂

DateNameTypeGoogle Maps
7/20Happy Bean Cafe
The Last Word
Bells Diner
7/22Lobster Shack
Safari Lounge
7/24Transit Junk Food
7/25Glenfiddich Cafe
7/27Cafe Harris
An Tigh Sense
7/29Kilchoman CafeCafe
7/30Kimchi CultKorean Fusion
8/1The Ramen Bar
Kebab House
8/2Mr. FoxGastropub



Leaving London for Edinburgh was a great decision. It was less hectic with significantly lesser crowds. People also in general were much nicer, and the cars would occasionally even give the right of way to pedestrians … unlike London where cars rule the roads. Food was also fantastic. Great historically preserved and dense city. The view from atop a short hike to Arthur’s seat was excellent.

North Berwick

This little town by the waterfront was recommend by a tour guide and it was well worth the day trip. Less people, nice little beach, great seafood … what else could you want 😉

Train from Edinburgh to North Berwick

Inverness / Highlands / Islay

Speyside and Highland whiskeys are some of the best in the world imo. Tbh, it was why I chose Scotland to begin with. We visited: Glen Moray, Glenfiddich, Dalwhinnie, Oban, Laguvalin, ‘Laddie’, Kilchoman, Ardenhoe, and Bunnahabain. Every single one was excellent and well worth a visit to check out their distilling process and history.

The ferries to Islay were also fantastic, probably the best boat I’ve ever been on :).

Ferry to Islay

Random Castles

We stopped at a bunch of castles all over our drive. Highly recommended!


Overall, I didn’t like Dublin that much … reminded me a bit of London. Crowded, expensive, and quite touristy. Food however was fantastic. Also learned quite a bit about North Ireland, EU, and the opinions around Brexit.


Best way to get around is just renting a car if you want to see Scotland properly. Some trains and buses, but having a car gives you much more flexibility that makes it totally worth it. (Driving on the left side with stick was alot of fun ;))

Also screw European airlines … most of them are low budget with random charges!! I thought US based airlines sucked, Europeans take it to a whole other level.


Get away from the big cities! That’s the real UK 😉

Distilleries, small cafes, walk and drive around to see all types of different architecture styles.

Go towards cliffs and nature.


Nothing is certain in London but expense.

William Shenstone

So its been about a month since we started our little break and we’re back … out and about. First stop is London! For all my travels, I’ve never actually visited any part of the UK which was a large motivator to come visit. I just didn’t see it being all that different from cities like NYC, Chicago, Paris, or Berlin … and guess what … imo it wasn’t … however what made it worth it was Wimbledon and the Cricket World Cup, both occurring at the same time around the same place!


($153 / day)

Ok … so this was by far the most expensive city we have traveled to thus far (But was expected).


July 6 2019 – July 20 2019
14 Days


We stayed at an ApartHotel:

Would NOT recommend staying this far from the city, but since we came during the busy season, couldn’t really find anything affordable closer to the city. Also crazy loud next to a train station … yea try to avoid that. (Try to avoid coming in peak season like we did)


DateNameTypeGoogle Maps
7/7Bang Bang Food Hall
Liberty Bounds
English Pub
7/8Wimbledon Junk Food
7/9Shroyu RamenJapanese
7/10Master’s SuperfishFish n Chips
7/111Mudmee ThaiThai
7/12Salt and PepperEnglish
7/13Bang Bang Food HallChinese
7/14The MinoriesEnglish Pub
7/15Tapas BrindisasSpanish Tapas
7/16Pieburry CornerEnglish Pies
7/17Bang Bang Food HallChinese
7/18The Tea Terrace
Busaba Thai
Afternoon Tea
7/19Cooked at bnb



Ok, this was pretty much the highlight of the visit … if this was the only thing I did my entire time here, it would’ve been worth it. Although I had have to queue up for tickets, it was totally worth it in the end … spending the day at such a historic tennis tournament … nothing like it.

Old London Walking Tour

Walking tour is something I usually will do in any European city that’s never been visited. Good way to take in the common sites and learn a bit about the history.

Museum Galore

British Museum

In total, I believe we visited 7 museums. One of London’s best offers, its FREE! And there are a shit ton! I’m not exactly a museum person but even I have to admit, they have MANY of cool artifacts, art pieces, and exhibits.

Lord’s Cricket Ground Tour

I grew up with cricket and have played quite a bit of it in my life, and Lord’s being the home of cricket to the world and also possibly the nicest cricket ground I have ever seen … this was long ago added to my itinerary for visiting London. It was totally worth it!

Cambridge Day Trip

Train to Cambridge
King’s College Chapel

It was cool to check out such a prestigious school, but it was quite touristy imo. Avi visited Oxford and said it was more crowded with tour groups than this one. Cool things but literally everything cost money to checkout unlike London.


Oyster card & National Rails Service! Public transportation at its finest … but again like most things here, very pricey.


London was nice to visit but as I noted at the beginning of this post, its like most other cities with older architecturally ‘significant’ buildings at a higher cost. Europe in general has more to offer outside of London ;).

Come for the Museums, Sporting Venues, and Pubs. Good place to visit but not stay long term 😉

Also avoid the peak season like we did.


Texas of the North … with the rockies next door.


Overall, Calgary is a lovely ‘midwestern’ city on the doorstep of the Canadian Rockies. Main motivation to visit were the National Parks ;).

5/18/19 – Flying over the Canadian rockies en route to Calgary


($66 / day)


May 18 2019 – June 1 2019
14 Days


We stayed at an Airbnb:


I was really bad about taking photos of food, but honestly the food scene in Calgary, although good, is on a significantly lower level than other cities visited thus far. Hence, quite a few of my meals were cooked at the bnb.

DateNameTypeGoogle Maps
5/19Van SonVietnamese
5/20Jerusalem ShawaramaMediterranean
5/21Calan Beef Noodle
Mango Mania
5/22Cluck N’ CleaverFried Chicken
5/23Cooked at bnb
5/24Ramen ArashiRamen
5/25Junk food (Banff)
5/26Junk food (Banff)
5/27Rau Bistro
Szechuan Restaurant
5/28Cooked at bnb
5/29Cooked at bnb
5/30AnjuKorean Fusion
5/31Velvet CafeSandwich / Coffee


Downtown / City

Although more populated (metro) than Vancouver, the city is much more spread out and doesn’t feel crowded at all (surbubia). The downtown while wandering around was mostly empty.

5/22/19 – Downtown Calgary

The surrounding parts of the city have ample space and parks to wander around with little to no folks.

5/29 – View from Rose Hill Park

Banff – Day 1

If you don’t like the outdoors, then Calgary probably isn’t for you. This was the main reason for us to come to Calgary and the National Parks did not disappoint. Very glad we came right at the beginning of the summer season as it was just starting to get crowded however once you get away from Banff town, crowds died down quite a bit.

  • Driving in
  • Johnston Canyon Hike

Banff / Jasper – Day 2

  • Drive to Jasper and back with many many stops

Banff – Day 3

  • Sulfer Mountain Hike

Slightly challenging but this was probably the highlight of the trip for me. This hike was amazing the entire way with views that only get better the more I climbed. Summit, although crowded because of the Banff gondola with cafe as well, is well worth a visit for 360 views. (Free if you hike :))


Public transportation is not all that great. We mostly used Car2G0 with car rentals for trips to Banff/Jasper. Also Uber/Lyft is available but a little pricey.


As I mentioned before, the national parks are what made the trip worth it. Otherwise, city and some UNESCO heritage sites could be knocked out in a few days. We didn’t get a chance to go to the Dinosaur Park, however read good things about that.


Without question it may be said of Vancouver that her position, geographically, is Imperial to a degree, that her possibilities are enormous, and that with but a feeble stretch of the imagination those possibilities might wisely be deemed certainties.

A. N. Homer


Dwelling $729
($76 / day)


April 27 2019 – May 18 2019
21 Days


We stayed at an Airbnb:

What’s interesting here about housing is that rent is significantly cheaper (from some quick craigslist searches and the locals we spoke to) than owning. Also its very evident that foreign investors and money has taken over the real estate in this city :).


As usual we ate out quite a bit. Vancouver is a haven for asian cuisine, particularly Chinese Dim Sum. Its also safe to say you really can’t go wrong with seafood, especially oysters which were surprising cheap if you go during happy hours. Although Vancouver to locals is considered a more expensive city, to us it seemed cheap for two reasons: (1) After living in SF, everything seems cheaper and (2) USD when writing this post was quite strong 1:1.34 (USD:CAD).

DateNameTypeGoogle Maps
4/28Spring Garden Chinese
Triplo Os
Dim Sum
4/29Cooked at bnb
4/30Cooked at bnb
Charisma Dessert House
5/2Celina Fish and ChipsSeafood
5/3Biejiang RestaurantChinese
5/4Sun Sui Wah Seafood
Bangkok City Cafe
Dim Sum
5/5Kirin Dim SumDim Sum
5/6Cooked at bnb
5/7Go Fish
Brassneck Brewery
Fish n Chips
5/8Cooked at bnb
5/9Harbor Oyster + Bar
East Van Brewery
5/10Sushi AjiSushi
5/11Mr. Sushi
Brassneck Brewery
5/13Paramount Fine Foodsmediterranean
5/14Cooked at bnb
5/16Teppan KitchenChinese Fast Fod
5/18Spring ChineseDim Sum


Drive around burbs to north Vancouver

4/28/19 – Driving around Vancouver

The first thing we did since we had a rental for a few days was pretty much drive around most of the city and suburbs. We were quite lucky with the weather … of the three weeks we were there, only had two cloudy / rainy days. Rest were absolutely beautiful.

Bloedel Conservatory

Bloedel is touristy but worth visiting since its free (except the birds conservatory) and also had an amazing view of thew city. Although some spots are touristy, in general all of them really weren’t crowded or required much wait at all … love that about this city.

University of British Columbia

5/4/19 – Garden at UBC

Its becoming a trend as well to visit some local campuses (mostly cuz Avi wants to :)). Wish my campus was this nice…

Cypress Mountain Hike

5/5/19 – On the way to St. Marks Summit

Had to get at least one hike in, and this was definitely worth it. Views were the best so far in the stay and also quiet a good work out since the snow wasn’t all melted.

Stanley Park

5/18/19 – Beach at Stanley Park

This park is very well known and an amazing place to spend a few hours walking, biking, hiking, or chilling. Probably the most crowded place we visited in Vancouver, the views are completely worth it.


Majority of time we used public transportation (Buses and SkyTrain) and it was extremely easy. Two weekends we rented a car for convenience and for hikes / area we wanted to get to. Still extremely affordable. No Uber or Lyft here so you’re stuck with whats available, however the city has quite good coverage so it wasn’t that big of an issue. Oh also, sometimes with mixed and matched Car2Go as well.


Vancouver thus far has been one our favorite cities. It really has something for everyone and the best part is it doesn’t feel congested or overcrowded. Asian food was the main highlight along with the outdoor activities. Also couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Would have loved to do more challenging hikes but ran out of time to get to those. Also, heard great things about Vancouver island, however the high cost of taking a car and ferry there, we decided to pass.


I miss everything about Chicago, except January and February

Gary Cole

Just so you know, I (Shy) grew up in the burbs of Chicago, so this city is somewhat familiar…but actually staying in the city just has such a different vibe.


Dwelling $726.50
($100 / day)

Fyi, high cost of food might be a trend. Food is a large part of traveling for us (like it is for majority of folks).


April 13 2019 – April 27 2019
14 Days


We stayed at an Airbnb:


DateNameTypeGoogle Maps
4/13 Portillo’s
Elephant and Castle
Italian beef and hotdogs
Pub / Bar
4/14Andy’s Thai Kitchen
Legend Tasty House
Joy Yee
4/15JJ Thai Street Food
4/16Cooked at bnb
4/17Taqueria Traspasada 2
Fat Rice
Scooters Frozen Custard
Asian / Portuguese
4/18Yuzu SushiJapanese
4/19Black Dogs
Jarlings Custard
Lai Lai Wok
Frozen Custard
4/20Cooked at bnb
4/21Cafe CentralPuerto Rican
4/22Silli Kori
Dona Natys Taco
4/23Cho Sun OkKorean BBQ
4/24Au ChevalBurgers
4/25Cooked at bnb
4/26PortillosItalian beef and hotdogs


Walk around downtown

This city is very walkable and if the whether is nice, holy smokes it has a nice view. Chicago isn’t just the loop but rather about the neighborhoods that surround it, each with its unique characteristics.

More SNOW!

4/14/19 – Snowing outside the bnb

Wouldn’t be the midwest without some snow in April 😉

Day-trip to alma mater (UIUC)

4/19/19 – Train departing Chicago Union Station
4/19/19 – Main Quad at UIUC

Nostalgic seems to be the appropriate word to describe being back here. (Avi has a separate post for Urbana-Champaign with more details). Its funny how your perspective and thoughts change as you grow older and visit a place that had such an immense impact on your life. Obviously both of us had very different experiences here. Avi was, as Elsa from Indiana Jones would say say … “giddy as a school [girl]”. My most memorable times here aren’t about the education or classes, or even the walking around campus, but rather the time I spent with my friends and the relationships built here that contributed to the person I am today. I was going to write more about this journey, but I think Avi has more to say about it than me 😉 … food was still amazing and exactly how i remember, except much more expensive =(.

Walk the Lakeshore trail

4/21/19 – Lakeshore trail in Chicago

Damn … I wish I did this more often. If the weather cooperates, there are several amazing parks and trails around the city but this one tops them all. Walking along this route with the lake on one side and the spectacular Chicago skyline on the other is quite a privilege.


CTA and Uber were our primary modes of transportation. Along with a few friends we knew in town who were kind enough to drive us around occasionally. This city has amazing public transportation.


Chicago is definitely a foodie city! There really is food from all around the world here just like NYC and at a fairly reasonable price. Its very easy to get around with excellent public transportation, food is much cheaper than SF or NYC, and the lakefront is definitely worth a visit. For what you pay, I wished when i lived in Illinois, it was in the city and not the burbs.

We decided to skip the museums, aquariums, etc since we’ve already visited those before, but they are well worth a visit if you’ve never been.


The Quad at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Always great to be back in Urbana Champaign, a college town in the middle of rural Illinois where I spent four amazing years as an undergrad. The metropolitan area has been marketed as a “micro-urban” community formed a result of the college student population here.


Black Dog Smoke and Ale House

No trip to Champaign is complete without a trip to Black Dog Smoke and Ale House. Make sure to get their burnt ends because they do run out!


Well this was mostly a nostalgia trip but the blog is titled IlliniAbroad and we can’t have a post without UIUC (they’ve since rebranded to “Illinois”, but for those of us who were around during the controversial “Chief” era it’ll always be UIUC) in there.

The Alma Mater and Altgeld Hall

This post took way too long to do. I acknowledge this.


Have you visited an art museum recently? Did they happen to have a Monet? Did it look anything like these:

Water Lily Pond 1900 – Art Institute of Chicago
Nymphéas 1905 – Art Institute of Chicago

I’ve got nothing against Monet but too often I see his water lily collection. I am at the point where I am really tired of seeing the same type of painting everywhere. In this situation I was happy to report that there was a bit of variety in this exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.