Cantigny Park in Northern Illinois

DaisySometimes we have to enjoy the treasures close to home when we can’t get away.  One of my favorite places to visit is Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois.  The estate was owned by Robert McCormick who is known for establishing the Tribune company which contains the Chicago Tribune and WGN.  The estate is named after a French village that McCormick was in during his time in the First Division during World War I.  Just so you know, it is pronounced can-teeny, not can-tig-nee.  It took me awhile to learn that.

The grounds contain one of the best gardens I’ve ever been to.  The landscaping changes with the seasons, keeping the designs fresh.  Besides the bee-filled fields of color, there are also tanks for viewing,or climbing (if you get the urge), and two museums.

The First Division Museum takes you through America’s history with war.  They offer a great program for teachers that includes history trunks with uniforms and other artifacts.  I’ve used both the civil war trunks and revolutionary war trunk in my classroom.  The uniforms are accurate reproductions, and the other items bring the human perspective of war to life.  Imagine wearing brogans where there was no right or left, or check out the deck of cards soldiers would use to pass the time.  Just don’t eat the hardtack.

The McCormick Museum is situated in the house.  I love the Chinese mural that covers the walls in the dining room and the gold leaf ceiling in the theatre downstairs.  There is even a secret bar in the library.  Unfortunately, pictures are a no-no inside the house.

Perhaps Northern Illinois is not on your bucket list of travel destinations, but if you do happen to make it to this corner of the Midwest, stop by the Cantigny Park for a special treat.

Rodin Gardens and Lessons Learned

HandsI learned a very important lesson on this trip: If you want to see something, make it a priority.  I thought I had time, but for those of you that have been following, you know that the time was cut short.  I am so thankful that I was able to be reunited with my family and help with recovery, but now I wish I would have organized the time I had a little differently.

There are so many lessons learned on this trip.  I plan to share them once I have some real time to reflect.  Until then, check out one place that was high on my list to return to, but I didn’t get back to see.

Hanging in the ‘Burbs of Paris

GardensI wonder if anyone can guess where I went today…  I sure didn’t know it existed until I was there.  It all started with the hopes of a gourmet cheeseburger.  I’m not sure what it is about craving the beef sandwich, because I rarely order one at home.  For some reason, I appreciate the twist on an American favorite here.

Le Camion Gourmand is “the” food truck of Paris.  The name even evokes a sense of pride.  Surprisingly, they mostly serve the suburbs of Paris.  When a girl wants a burger, she gets her burger.  I viewed their site to see where they would be, and what I could do in that area.  My metro is line 1 which ends at La Defense in the west and Chateau de Vincennes to the east.  Who would have thought there is actually a chateau at Chateau de Vincennes?  Not me apparently.  Well, the name is more than an illusion, there actually is a middle-aged chateau there.  And it used to have a moat!

I followed the metro out to Montreuil for my food fix.  It is a very working class/business kind of district.  It is not quite as high-end as La Defense, but not scary either.  My sketchy photographic memory actually remembered the path to the truck, and I successfully found it without a hitch.  This is quite rare, so I usually have an internal celebration at my unsurpassed success.

The options are fairly simple because all that really changes is the cheese.  Being a big goat cheese fan, I ordered Le Seguin.  In between the bun you will find a delicate burger, caramelized onions, red onion, goat cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle, and a sauce.  Who can have a burger without fries?  Not me.  I sat on a small post just a few feet away to savor my wonderful burger that was in a box like a present.  Too bad I didn’t have someone with me to finish what I could not.

Feeling like the biggest pig in Paris with my burger stenched fingers, I felt the need for a walk.  I knew the chateau was southeast, so I followed that direction.  I ran right into it.  I was on a roll today.  You can enter the grounds for free, but the chateau and church cost.  I was feeling a bit stingy today, so I just took in the exterior.  Across the way I saw something that intrigued me.  There was greenery, and lots of it.

Just on the other end of the Chateau was a floral park.  I spent a couple hours wandering the paths, smelling the flowers, and running away from the bees.  If you have not met me, you probably don’t know that I dislike insects and spiders.  Dislike is probably not the right word.  I am a child when a buzz sound gets too close.  I know it is ridiculous, but c’est la vie.

I felt like I was returning to my roots of photography because it all began with flowers.  I have thousands of photos, yet I still enjoy capturing a flower just right.  I wasn’t planning on walking much or taking many photos, so I lightened my load by only bringing my point-and-shoot, and not my DSLR or my video camera.  There was a group of guys with big cojones cameras.  I was a bit sad I didn’t bring my heavy equipment, but I was pretty pleased with what I captured today.  Plus, I know I can compete with their images any day.  Not that I was sizing up or anything…

Favorite moments of the day?  Having a desire and meeting it.  Finding new spaces along the way.  Drinking a wonderful wine of the month from Nicolas.  Sharing my photos and experiences with others.  Life is good.

Paris Light

Paris LightingThe sky and lighting has not been fantastic so far on this trip.  A day filled with rain and clouds has ended in the best Paris light I have seen since I’ve been here.  I’m hoping for more illumination as my eyes open to the Paris sounds in the morning.

Kew Gardens

Curved EleganceIf you’re staying in London and you’d like a little nature getaway, you might want to consider Kew Gardens.  This UNESCO World Heritage site is just a Tube ride away.  In a few minutes you can be in a variety of regions.  Visit the woodlands, or find peace in the Japanese gardens.  The gardens expand over quite a bit of land so be prepared to do some walking.  If you are worried about overdoing it, take advantage of the tram.

Most likely you’ll be in the area long enough for lunch.  The gardens have cafes, but you can also explore the small town for a special treat.  We ate outside at a lovely cafe after working up an appetite.

Admission-Adults £16.00*, Concessions £14.00*, Children FREE

Find out more at the Kew Gardens website.