Tag Archives: Urbana

Foto Friday: A running tour of my ‘hood

Inspired by this post and armed with my iPhone, I went for a run* and tried to document the sights of my “usual” route.   It’s a 3 mile loop from my house and only contains 4 turns, but there are plenty of sights** to see:

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don't quite have the hang of taking pictures while running yet

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I live near campus, so I run by a couple fraternity/sorority houses

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and the old Presidents house or something (seriously, i run by this 3x a week and I'm not sure what it is....)

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Lots of UI pride... even now!

This one makes it look like I'm moving FAST.... or the cars are!

This one makes it look like I'm moving FAST... or the cars are!

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obligatory U of I marker!

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Gorgeous fall colors

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There are 2 schools on my route. This is one of them.

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picture perfect

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on the home stretch!

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Urbana has a reputation for being "crunchy." This canoe for sale embodies that mentality. Love it!

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I'm obsessed with these red bushes!

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home sweet home

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but I usually try to round the corner and finish at the back door (this street is also a bit more colorful)

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* full disclosure:   I didn’t actually plan to take pictures that day.  I planned on a 3 mi run, but I noticed how pretty the scenery was and thought about the blog post I’d read.   Stopping to take photos didn’t help my run any so I changed my 3 mi into 2 mi and didn’t worry about time.  It was quite enjoyable.***

** I also run by Robert Ebert’s childhood home *every* time I run–there’s a plaque and everything.  But, of course, I didn’t think about taking the photos until after I passed his house.

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*** full disclosure, part 2: If I had realized that it would be my last run for two weeks,  I might have pushed a little harder!

My best of C-U list

Inspired by this post from Whitney Matheson (of PopCandy fame), I was thinking about all the things I’d miss about C-U if I should ever leave this town.    

So here, in no particular order, are my personal picks for the Best of C-U.  For most of these, I’ve linked to the official site. Where none were available I linked to the listing on yelp.  I love yelp, btw. You should check it out.

Best happy hour bar:  Esquire
Peanuts, beer, and homeade pineapple margaritas–what more could you ask for?  (Plus, they put me and my friends on their web site!)

Best last call bar:  Tumble Inn
The only bar on the list I’ve been going to consistently since I was 19.  (Okay, 17–but don’t tell anyone).  It’s a bit of a hole-in-the wall, but it has improved in recent years due to the smoking ban (and the smoking-ban inspired “beer” garden).   Tumble Inn… Stumble Out, always open late. (yet, curiously, they don’t have Red Bull… for that you’ll have to go to The Phoenix, nearby)

Best beer deal:  Bunny’s
You can get a bucket of 5 beers for $10.  Can’t beat it with a stick.  Speaking of sticks, Bunny’s also gets a shut out for their Bosco sticks.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Bosco stick, it’s a breadstick stuffed with cheese and then deep fried.  Horribly unhealthy, but delicious!

Best beer selection:  The Blind Pig
Hands down.  There might be isn’t a larger beer selection anywhere in C-U, and the Pig wins for atmosphere. 

Best nachos:  Guidos
I’m kinda picky about my nachos and Guidos never disappoints.

Best lunch spot:   It’s a toss up between The Courier Cafe and Farrens.

Courier– Skinny dippers, milkshakes and salad bar.  Great atmosphere.  Courier gets the award for Best Breakfast, too.
Farren’s-- Home of Farren’s Fridays, I adore their Kobe Burger, tacos, and daily specials. 

Best pizza: Jupiter’s
Thin, crispy and great sauce, Jupiter’s (downtown) is the best.  Jupiter II creeps me out.  
Honorable mention: Papa Del’s.  Jupiters wins because I prefer thin crust, but if you’re in the mood for a deep dish pizza, the Del is the best.  (Note: this is my Best of  C-U list… if you’re willing to go a few miles South, I highly recommend the original Monical’s in Tolono.)

Best ice cream– Custard Cup
 Duh.  Okay, so it’s custard, but why would you go anywhere else?  Unless, of course, it’s closed.  Then you can go to Cold Stone or whatever.  But only until Custard Cup opens back up.  Seriously. 

Best cockails:  Boltini
I highly recommend the Bellini-tini from Boltini  (say that  ten times fast!)

Best sandwich– Chicken pesto at Crane Alley

Best wine selection: Friar Tuck
I especially like how they list the wine ratings and “best value” wines.  I’ve never been disappointed.

Best wine tastings:  Sun Singer
I enjoy their little cafe and bar area.  You don’t really feel like you’re tasting in a store .

Friendliest wine staff: The Corkscrew
Although I buy most of my wine at Friar Tuck and I go to more tastings at The Sun Singer, I’ve always found the staff at The Corkscrew to be incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.  Plus, I needed to show a little Urbana love. 

Best place to see a show:  The Highdive
I know, I know, the Canopy Club is bigger, but I like the openness and set up of the High Dive better.

Most anticipated bar re-opening:  Fat City 
I spent a great deal of time at this bar in the old days.  I hear they’re re-opening on Friday.  I cannot wait!

Best place to take a date: Radio Maria

I recently had this discussion with a bunch of guy friends.  Although we couldn’t come to a consensus, Radio Maria was mentioned most often.  Other top selections include:  Cafe Luna (now apparently called just ‘Luna’), Milo’s, and Bacaro.  Kamakura is also fun for group dates.

Best chicken strips:  The Boomerang  
Honestly, I haven’t been there in years, but their chicken strips are phenomenal.  Honorable mention:  Rocks

Best sushi:  KoFusion
Is there any other choice?  It’s also fun for a swanky after-work cocktail. Or three.

Best way to spend a Saturday in the Fall:  Tailgating before an Illini football game

And so you don’t think I spend ALL my time eating and drinking:

Best place to buy gifts:  Art Mart
Go there.  There’s lots of cool stuff from stationary to jewelry to lotion to household products.

Best bookstore:  Pages for All Ages
If I’m needed something cheap, I’ll buy from Amazon.  Otherwise, it’s Pages all the way.  Support local bookstores! 

Best way to spend a Saturday morning in the summer:   The Market at the Square
Call me crunchy, but I love strolling through the various vendors, buying locally grown produce and bread.  Its close enough that I can walk… and right by my gym so I can fit in a workout afterwards

So, those are my picks.  Do you agree?  What have I missed?

My Summer Staycation

Since I have a ridiculous amount of vacation time built up, and I’m going to New Orleans in a couple of weeks, I decided that I’d take a summer staycation this year.

A staycation is just like a regular vacation, but you stay at home instead of going away. The purpose of a staycation is to not only save money on travel, but to learn a little more about your own neck of the woods. 

Although there are plenty of things I didn’t do, I learned quite a few things this week:

I’m a better cyclist than I thought.

I’ve probably logged at least 50 miles on my bike this week, between long rides and quick jaunts. And I’m really enjoying it. Yeah, I knew I could do the 3.5 mile trek to work in about 25 minutes. But it wasn’t until I took a day-long bike ride just for fun that I realized how much I like cycling. You see so many things on a bike that you would never notice in a car. And I feel so strong after I’m done.

I’m a worse swimmer than I thought.

One of my favorite staycation discoveries is the pool at Crystal Lake Park. Usually, I just hit up my friend Kim’s pool in the summer. But because she’s working, (and I’m not—ha!) I decided to go the public pool route. I like Crystal Lake. It’s close. It’s cheap. It wasn’t too crowded. I easily found a chair. And there are nice lanes for lap swimming. But, somehow in the 25 (?) years since I learned to swim, I’ve lost my ability to, well, SWIM. I was tired after the first lap and had the most awkward stroke possible. I wonder if they have adult swim lessons, ‘cuz I clearly need them.

I’m not made of sugar after all.

As we were getting ready for our day-long bike trek, it looked like rain. Now, I’m no weather-watcher, so I hadn’t actually checked a forecast, but the sky was a little dark and gloomy. We started off anyway and, you know what…The rain was really refreshing. And I didn’t melt. When it got a little too hard, we stopped under a pavilion, but it never got so bad we had to stop completely. In fact, when the weather cleared up in the afternoon, we were kinda hoping the rain would come back.

No plans? No problem!

On normal vacations, I usually like to have a plan. Not necessarily a minute-by-minute itinerary, but a general idea of what I’m going to do and when. For my staycation, however, I decided to just play it by ear. This strategy didn’t work so well the first couple of days because I literally couldn’t decide what to do. But being schedule-less paid off this week. Because I’d made precious few commitments, I was able to have a last-minute lunch with a friend or an impromptu Friday afternoon pool party.

Lightning bugs and fireflies are one and the same.

Or so I was told by a 4-year-old. Now, maybe you don’t automatically think “babysitting” when you think “vacation,” but I had the opportunity to spend part of mine playing with a smart, precocious and amazingly observant little boy. It’s amazing how interested they can be in everyday things and it’s fun to see their eyes light up when they learn something new.

I can’t unplug or sleep in.

Neither of these things are especially shocking. I told myself I wasn’t going to sleep in and that I’d avoid being online as much as possible. I wasn’t going to check work email until at least Wednesday. No dice. I haven’t slept past 7:00 all week and I was checking and—gasp—responding to work email Monday morning. I’ve gotten better as the week wore on, but in order to completely unplug I need to go somewhere I’m literally unreachable.

I like this town.

I often think I need to get away to appreciate natural beauty; the beach, the mountains, whatever. But it’s really pretty here. From the wildflowers at Meadowbrook Park to the three deer I saw on the way home from the pool yesterday, there’s a lot of natural beauty in C-U. Even the view from my newly-weeded backyard has somehow become more scenic, more peaceful.

One of my favorite things about traveling is getting the chance to just stroll the streets, trying to blend in and feel like a “local.” In a strange way, I think my staycation has made me more of a local here than I’ve ever been before.

So, that’s it. One day left of my staycation and-for once in my life-I’m not happy it’s Friday. I think I need at least one more week to finish all the things I wanted to do and still leave time for some more exploring.