Knightsbridge, Oxford Street, Camden Market, Oh my – It’s London for the holidays.
Going to London for the holidays is like venturing to Oz. It’s full of magic. Of course, you have to visit old favorites if you have been there before such as the Tate or Tate Modern, Portrait Gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Tower of London (to visit the jewels) and the British Museum. Or put them on your do list.
However, if London is your December destination, travel your personal “yellow brick road” through the city’s shopping districts for their spectacularly decorated windows and sparkling holiday lights crisscrossing the streets above.
The adventure continues at vintage shop after antiques stall, inside department and specialty stores and down the aisles of food, chocolate and toy emporiums.
The question is where to begin? Tip: Forget taxis. Traffic is so bad above ground that the meter runs while you wait through three lights to proceed through an intersection. So, bring comfortable walking shoes, scarves and earmuffs. Pick up a map of the Underground (Tube) stations. Check what is within walking distance of your accommodations and Tube stops. OK, have at it.
Some stores such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason are likely to already be in your go-to notes but you probably won’t want to miss a fabulous toy shop or a terrific boutique so here are some shopping districts and their famed places and features.
Knightsbridge area: You said Harrods, right? Go to the Knightsbridgbe-Brompton Road-Sloane Street District where you can wander Harrods Food Hall, snap Egyptian motifs on the staircases, then, go into Harvey Nichols and Sloan’s high-end designers. Be sure to take pictures of the beautifully decorated holiday windows outside the shops. They often tell a story like Cinderella. Tip: You’ll see fun “crackers” which are good stocking stuffers if not flying back home but airports started disallowing them after 9-11. If taking the Tube, get off at Knightsbridge.
King’s Road: The high-end Chelsea neighborhood at the Sloan Square Tube stop is filled with designer and trendy shops. Include the Duke of York Square to browse.
Even though it has some shops found in the United States it also has fun boutiques, cafes and the Chelsea Antiques Market.
Oxford Street: You’ll love the lights overhead if shopping at night and the windows anytime of day. They all definitely set the holiday mood for stopping at Selfridges and Marks & Spencer’s flagship store. If you didn’t get chocolates at Harrods, look for a Thorton’s across from the department stores. It’s a chain with really good candy. You can also find the Debenhams Department Store and several good clothing shops on the street. Which Tube stop that accesses Oxford Street depends on what stores you want to visit. The Bond Street station is closest to Selfridges.
Regent Street: Time to eat and play. If you don’t mind walking, you can use the Piccadilly Circus Tube stop to pop into Fortnum & Mason and go over to Hamleys and Liberty on Regent Street. Or use Oxford Circus to hit Liberty and Hamley on Regent and then Fortnum & Mason at Piccadilly. Opened in 1707 Fortnum & Mason has served the Royals since Queen Charlotte. You have to go here to admire its atmosphere and pick up something as a gift or to take home. You have to go to Hamleys to find gifts for youngsters or the child in you. Just a few years younger, dating to 1760, Hamleys is among the world’s largest toy stores. Liberty, the “newbe” of the three must go to stores, dates to 1875. It’s in an elegant Tudor building that perfectly matches its elegant home accessories. But instead of stuffy, the offerings are clever and cutting-edge.
While in the area of the Piccadilly Circus or Bond Street Tubes, walk down Savile Row. Among the places to visit are the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store, Or go over to the boutique filled Carnaby Street area. There are other shopping areas but don’t ignore London’s great Market.
Covent Garden Piazza: You’ll find three unique markets here. Look for arts and crafts in the North Hall’s Apple Market. TheEast Colonnade Market has jewelry and handmade soap. Products in the Jubilee Market in the South Piazza vary by day from antiques on Monday to general items other weekdays and crafts on the weekend.
Camden Markets: Save time to explore the markets in Camden Town at the Camden Town or Chalk Farm Tube Stations. There’s the Camden Lock Market at the canal which was the original craft-stall place in the mid 1970s. The Camden Stables Market has fashions. Other markets including Inverness Street and Buck Street spread out across the area with clothes and other items. It’s a fun place to browse.
Insider Tip: If you want lunch someplace unique that is known to locals, go over to the Café in the Crypt at St. Martin in the Fields Church at Trafalgar Square.
While many of us are wondering what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers or are heading back home after visiting relatives, beavers are busy constructing their dams for winter. Thus, the late November full moon is popularly known as the Beaver Moon.
Yes, many full moons get their names from seasonal animal behaviors. As an example, the Dakota and Lakota tribes call the November moon the Deer Rutting Moon and the Algonquin tribe name it the Whitefish Moon for the spawning time. Other Native American names are Frost and Freezing.
The November full moon will start to rise at 4:16 a.m. EST next Monday but it will seem full on Sunday as it rises after sunset and will still look full on Tuesday. So look east.
Other names are seasonal. The Cree and Assiniboine peoples call it the Freezing Moon and Frost Moon. For more Beaver info visit Time and Date which notes that beavers are nocturnal, so like the full moon’s light.
Other Native American names for the November Full Moon are Frost Moon and the Freezing Moon.
Partial Solar Eclipse Tomorrow; Adler Pivots Plans to Adjust for Inclement Weather
WHAT: Due to inclement weather, the Adler has canceled the outdoor viewing event for tomorrow’s partial solar eclipse.*
Don’t worry! Guests can still come get their free solar viewers and meet WGN’s very own legendary meteorologist Tom Skilling in our Cosmic Cafe. No tickets required! Guests can enter the cafe through the glass doors just north of the main entrance.
Meet and Greet with Tom Skilling 9:15 am–10:00 am, and 12:00 pm–1:00 pm
*The museum will operate on a regular schedule from 9:00 am–4:00pm. Tickets are required for all exhibitions and experiences, and must be purchased online, in advance.
WHAT ELSE: Tom Skilling will also join us fora special edition of the Adler’s popular live YouTube show Sky Observers Hangout that will take place from 10:15 am–11:00 am. Learn about solar eclipses from our public observing team, and get those questions ready to ask Tom during a special YouTube Q&A!
ABOUT THE PARTIAL ECLIPSE:
The eclipse will begin at 10:37 am CDT, and will last until 1:22 pm CDT. The peak of the eclipse is at 11:58 am CDT, when about 43 percent of the Sun will be covered by the Moon as seen from Chicago. *All times listed are specific to Chicago, where cloud cover will make it difficult to see this eclipse.
Open House Chicago, a free glimpse inside historically, architecturally and culturally significant buildings, churches, homes theaters and museums not normally open free to the public, will have open doors this weekend, Oct. 14 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., thanks to the Chicago Architecture Center.
What to expect: Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. The sites open this weekend are in neighborhoods ranging from Andersonville/ Edgewater and Beverly/Morgan Park through Bronzeville/Downtown and Hyde Park to Logan Square, Pullman and Uptown.
This festival is an extraordinary opportunity to explore some of the city’s great places in more that 20 neighborhoods.
Among the sites is the Pullman National Historical Park and the historic Fine Arts Building 410 S. Michigan Ave. that has been featured this week in the Sun Times and Chicago Tribune
Tip: many places will have lines but Chicago Architecture Center Members will receive a priority access pass so of living in the area or have plans to return and take its fame boat or an architecture tour, membership is a good deal.
For a downloadable Open House guide visit Site guide.
Some sky sites say September’s full moon appears on the 28th of the month. Others say look for it on the 29th. They are both right. The crest of the full moon is 4:57 a.m. CDT on Sept. 29. But you will see the full moon which is another of this year’s supermoons, at sunset on Sept. 28. I like EarthSky for this information.
Followers of Travel Smart know that full moons have different names. Some relate to the season’s weather or crops while others connect to Native American, Celtic and other cultures.
Not surprisingly, September 2023 is the Harvest Moon because it is the full moon closest to the fall equinox, Sept. 23. It is also called the corn moon.
Unless the weather interfers, it will be easy to see. Its larger than usual size and brightness has to do with its closeness to earth and not anything extra.
If you like finding planets in relations to the moon, look for Saturn an hour earlier. It will be moving through the sky ahead of the full moon. Jupiter will be tagging along after the moon.
If you have clear skies and can watch after midnight, chances are good that you can catch way more than one “falling ” star this weekend.
The bright, prolific Perseids, will be shooting debris from the 109P/ Swift- Tuttle comet at 90 or more meteors per hour late at night, Aug. 11-13 and peaking Aug. the 13th. The moon is a waning crescent so shouldn’t be a light factor.
They already started in mid-July and continue until Sept 1 but this weekend is expected to be their biggest display.
They are fun to watch as they are fast (37 miles per second) and are streaks of light with long trains or “wakes.” Plus, they are usually colorful.
Best time to look is very, very early in the morning before the sun rises. They shoot all over the sky but the radiant (where they seem to come from) is the northern section of constellation Perseus which is higher in the sky shortly before dawn.
Instead of stopping merely to stretch, think of the stop as a way to make a driving trip extra special. Sometimes we get so caught up in getting there we don’t take advantage of the unusual museums actually located along our way or in towns we’ll stop at anyway.
Because many towns have multiple sights it’s easier to fit in a place that makes it into popular guides. However, doing so may mean losing out on a place you will be excitedly recommending to others.
The following places are just a few of the unusual stops that a lucky travel writer might have uncovered. (Feel free to add your own recommendations.)
The Archway: If taking I80 across Nebraska, do more then stop to take a photo and go under the picturesque arch crossing above the highway at Kearney.
Opened in 2000, it celebrates the early and modern travelers who went west along the Great Platte River. See and hear life-like figures tell their stories against stagecoach and wagon backdrops. There’s even a more modern vista of autos and diners.
City Museum: If taking I70 or any of the other roads that lead to St. Louis, MO, make time to go downtown to explore this weirdly crazy museum. It opened about 25 years ago in an abandoned shoe factory. You will definitely feel like an explorer as you listen to menacing organ sounds while finding unexpected objects and pathways inside, outside on the roof and along different levels including underground.
Traveling North South
If driving the 101 to LA, go downtown to its latest museum, the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum that opened in 2021. it often updates exhibitions so you might catch old movies and costumes one time and might see Star Wars figures the next time.
4. If taking I 55 down to New Orleans, LA go to the warehouse district for the spectacular National WWII Museum. It has planes and artifacts but it is not about planes. It is a multimedia experience with immersive exhibits and first- person histories. Its “Expressions of America” reveals reflections of the men and women who served. It’s new Liberation Pavilion opens early Nov. 2023.
You likely heard the phrase, ‘once in a blue moon.’ It’s about rarity, not color. It’s when one month boasts two full moons. And August 2023 is a prime example.
First, watch for the first full moon, called the Sturgeon Moon, on Aug.1, Peak illumination is 2:32 p.m. Eastern Time, but you should be watching for it after sunset when it’s more visible as it rises in the east.
It is also a Supermoon. Because its orbit brings it close to earth it will appear larger and brighter.
As for its name, it refers to when the Great Lakes’ huge sturgeon are often caught. Menacing looking, it is the North America’s largest fish and is considered prehistoric (136 million years ago) in origin.
For a great Sturgeon exhibit, check out Grand Rapics, MI’s Public Musuem.
The August moon is also called the “Corn” moon by some Native American tribes and many farmers.
Then, look skyward at the end of the month for the second full moon. What we call a “Blue Moon” appears August 30 with peak illumination at 9:36 p.m. ET.
Its appearance late in the month begins the later cycle of monthly full moon dates.
One other full moon note is that the moon will appear full the day before peak illumination and the day after so expect more night lite and picture taking ops.
*Ed note: The following article is a slightly condensed version of writer/ theater critic/ videographer Reno Lovison’s Podcast on becoming more familiar with Asians in Chicago. After hearing all the misunderstandings that occurred during and after COVID I believe more people should try to get to know their local Asian communities. Consider exploring their areas abroad. But also think local for a travel treat. Reno has included some of his favorite Asian eating spots in Chicago.
Asian is a rather broad term whose nations encompass all of the Asian continent including Eastern Asia with China, Mongolia, Japan, North and South Korea. South-East Asia includes the area of the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, and others.
South Asia is the southern subregion of Asia, defined in both geographical and ethnic-cultural terms that commonly includes Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, with Afghanistan also often included.
Central Asia includes what are sometimes remembered as the “stan” countries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan, while Western Asia generally includes the countries referred to as the Middle-East with Turkey, Israel, Armenia and all of the Arabian Peninsula.
The Pacific Islands refer to all of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia including our own Hawaiian Islands.
Forgive me for any omissions, this is not intended to be a comprehensive list rather I encourage you to do some research of your own as you consider your exploration of how the Asian culture has manifested itself within the Chicago experience.
The first Chinese who were mainly Cantonese speakers arrived in Chicago around the time the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. This was because a majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. Now, 43,228 individuals in Chicago identified as Chinese according to the 2010 census, represent 1.6% of the city’s population. About 10,000 ethnic Chinese reside within the historic Chinatown area.
I encourage you to look into the Asian American historical record by visiting the Chinese American Museum of Chicago at 238 West 23rd St. The museum can be a great jumping off point to explore the Chinatown area.
If you really feel adventurous, consider taking the Chicago Water Taxi from Michigan Avenue downtown to Ping Tom Park. There are spectacular views of the riverwalk and historic buildings along the way including the Willis Tower and the Opera House.
Now, I am no expert on Chicago’s Asian Community but I would like to share some of my own experiences from the point-of-view of a lifelong Chicago resident who has a relationship with the South-East Asia Center in Uptown.
This relationship has been an opportunity to appreciate the struggles of immigrants in general as well as the various cultures the organization serves.
Established about 40 years ago with a mission to help resettle individuals from South-East Asia after the Vietnamese conflict, the center has grown to serve not only South-East Asians but also other newly arrived immigrants including those from Russia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Latin America and more.
The Center currently has more than 40 languages spoken among staff and clients. Its ESL classes are an essential service that helps newly arrived immigrants learn, practice and improve their English language skills.
Becoming a volunteer ESL tutor only requires about two weekends of training and is an excellent way to get beyond the tourist approach and become more personally involved with people from other cultures. I have done it myself and have really enjoyed the interactions with my students and what I learned from them.
For those over 60, the South-East Asia Center hosts a Golden Diners Lunch Program Monday through Friday from about 11:30 to 1:30. This is one of a number of dining locations around the city that provide a pay-as-you-please lunch option for seniors.
The spirit of the program is not to provide low-cost meals but rather to encourage seniors to get out into their communities and interact with one another.
By the way, the building that houses the South-East Asia Center’s Golden Diners Program at 5120 North Broadway is a local landmark that was originally built as a German Beer Garden and stands as a testament to the ethnic changes that have taken place around the city. At this location you’ll typically be treated to a very traditional Vietnamese style meal.
There are also Asian meals offered in Chinatown at the Chinese Community Center, Korean faire on north Kedzie, and Indian and Pakistani options on Devon and on North California. The city’s Golden Diners website provides addresses and details.
While we are talking about this part of the city, I must mention the Argyle Street commercial area just east of Broadway that is easily accessible by the Redline.
Known as “Little Saigon,” this street is inviting to anyone who wants to experience South-East Asian culture with local stores and (no-kidding) about 20 restaurants that either feature Pho or have Pho in their name
For the uninitiated Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a kind of broth with vegetables and meat typically served in a surprisingly large bowl. On a cold day you will manage to eat it all.
Other things to try might be Banh mi , a delicious baguette sandwich that reflects the country’s French colonial influence or steamed Bao, a pillowy soft steamed dumpling folded and filled with meat and veggies.
One of my favorites is the Vietnamese crispy savory crepe which is a cross between an omelet and French crepe folded and garnished with ample quantities of fresh herbs and greens accompanied by a sweet and pungent sauce.
Argyle Night Market, held every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. through August is a perfect time to experience the neighborhood and rub shoulders with the locals. Check out Explore Uptown.
Heading north and a bit west to Devon and Western will take you into the heart of “Little India,” the South Asian or Indo Pakistan area of the city where you can enjoy the sights and smells of this rich culture.
The street is festooned with nearly a mile of colorful sari shops and local markets where you can pick up fresh spices like saffron, turmeric and more.
This area is purported to have some of the best Indian restaurants in the country. Ask virtually any person throughout the South Indian diaspora and they will likely tell you they have a brother or cousin who lives here.
Food is of course the gateway to experiencing any culture so I’ll just give you a few of my favorite spots. I am not saying they are necessarily the best in category but they will provide a place for you to begin your personal exploration and encourage you to get out into some of Chicago’s northside ethnic neighborhoods. I have often said you can explore the world by exploring Chicago.
For Thai cuisine we typically default to Tiparo’s just south of North Avenue on Clark Street. We usually split one Tofu Pad Thai and one Crazy Noodles with Chicken. The portions are big enough for us to get two meals apiece out of an order of each to go.
Reza’s in Andersonville, a popular spot for Persian dining, features various skewers of grilled meat served on a bed of dill rice. Next door, Andie’s Mediterranean, has a large menu with a number of delicious vegetarian options.
At Foster and Clark is the Middle East Market where you can pick up an assortment of foods ideal for tasty lunches or light suppers. My stop there recently included a few spinach and cheese pies, a few parsley and cheese pies with kalamata olives, some veggie topped flat bread, a half-dozen falafel, hummus with roasted garlic, and some pita, feta cheese and kalamata olives to supplement other home cooked meals.
Staying within the western Asian cuisine, a little to the west on the other side of Rosehill Cemetery at a point known as the bend at the corner of Maplewood and Lincoln, is the Shawarma Inn purported to have the best (and in this case I agree) shawarma in the area.
If you are not familiar, shawarma is sirloin beef cooked rotisserie tyle and thinly shaved, served over rice or as a pita sandwich. Their hummus is also exceptional.
For the record this area is home to a large Assyrian population. The Assyrian civilization at one time incorporated the entire Near East, most notably the area of the Fertile Crescent or Northern Mesopotamia.
The heartland of Assyria lies in present-day northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, and northwestern Iran. The remains of the ancient capital of Assyria, Nineveh, lies within Mosul in northern Iraq.
It is not far from the Museum of Science and Industry where you will find Japanese Gardens along the lagoon. This stunning spot with its iconic bridge and cheery trees was originally created by the government of Japan for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Reconstructed and renamed officially as the Garden of the Phoenix. A prominent feature as of 2016 is a sculpture entitled “Sky Landing” by acclaimed artist Yoko Ono.
Back up north, Bryn Mawr between Kedzie and Kimball, is traditionally the Korean neighborhood, but I have enjoyed Midori for Japanese food in this neighborhood at 3310 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
When it comes to Korean food, I have to give the nod to Soon at Noon Hour Grill at 6930 N. Glenwood in Rogers Park. Soon introduced me to bi bim bop about 30 years ago and I have judged every experience with that dish against hers ever since. This restaurant also has easy access via the red line Morse stop.
For some quick casual Filipino food, I like Merla’s Kitchen at Foster and Kimball. Her chicken adobo is well respected and her handmade empanadas made to order are large fresh, fried on the spot and delicious. It may take a little time but it will be worth the wait.
I believe a little-known gem is Jibek Jolu, a casual, family-run Kyrgyzstan eatery at 5047 N. Lincoln Ave. which serves hearty Central Asian fare. In my opinion this is literally where East meets West and those of us with Eastern European traditions will find some familiar looking and tasting options with a distinct Asian twist.
This Chicago Asian community overview is hardly comprehensive but I hope it will whet your appetite and encourage you to experience some new or different cultures.
Please go beyond the simple tourist approach of eating and gawking. Find some way to get involved in the important process of connecting with other people. Invite a friend or neighbor from a different ethnic group to join you on your expedition or be your guide. Do the same for them. Enjoy your differences but pay attention to your similarities and make note of the many things we all have in common.
Reno Lovison is the executive producer of Chicago Broadcasting Network.