Growing up I would pass by this picture every day, the photograph stood out against the others we had pasted onto our refrigerator. It was situated in the center of our fridge, set in place by a magnet that we had picked up at Target.
Like clockwork, I would find myself stuck in front of the fridge mesmerized by the photograph of my aunt. My Auntie Kareen always felt like a mythical creature to me.
She was my glamorous single aunt who lived in Chicago, her visits to see her grandnieces was a cherished rarity. She would strut through my grandparent’s farm-house door in her high fashion Burberry scarf and Donna Karan silk dress as if she had just hopped off the runway instead of trudging through dirt that was possibly mixed with cow manure.
But it was never about the brands or the money. For her, it was the elegance of the outfit, she valued clothes that could span decades. They were unique and classic, not just trendy.
Her captivating appearance wasn’t the only reason why we were giddy when she visited. She always had stories to tell, whether it was her adventures in Jordan where she strolled near Petra on a camel and spent the night camping in the desert or her most recent trip to her favorite place in the world: Italy, where she attended the famous da Vinci exhibit in Florence.
It would have been easy for her to unintentionally make her relatives jealous of her unfading good looks matched with sophisticated taste in clothes and frequent excursions to places where the rest of us couldn’t imagine traveling to. But it never once felt like she was bragging, she was and still is the most selfless and giving person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She hands out her treasured jewelry and expensive clothes to each and every one of her nieces and grandnieces, refusing to take NO as an answer.
Yet, I think the main reason I always seemed to find myself stuck in my tracks, staring at the picture of my aunt on the camel was what the photo itself represented to me. She was the black sheep of her family, she didn’t follow the norms of what society demanded of her, she knew what she wanted, and she made it happen with determination I can only hope to replicate. Seeing her sitting on that camel – a single female traveler at 70 years old – was what fed my desire to travel and, in turn, become a travel journalist one day.
Her first step to becoming the woman she is today was moving to Chicago from rural Wisconsin. In this city, she found herself. So I followed her advice and traveled to Chicago, in hopes that some of her ageless glamour, witty sense of humor and fearlessness to be who you truly are rubs off on me.
Without further ado, here is the ideal travel guide from my Aunt Kareen, the woman who truly puts the “chic” in Chicago.
RH Chicago, The Gallery at the Historic Three Arts Club
1300 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610
Back in 2013, the former historic “Three Arts Club of Chicago” building was renovated and transformed into Restoration Hardware. The building was once the residence of young women studying painting, art and drama in the 20th century, it was known as a Chicago landmark in 1981. Initially designed to be a social center that was both a safe and congenial home for women to study the arts. the building and its name have changed the atmosphere and energy that was left in this building by those artistic women remains.
The colossal 70,000 square feet edifice has a total of six floors, each with its own unique twist. From the relaxing rooftop park which provides a panoramic view of the city as well as the peaceful sound of trickling water from famous fountains to the brick layered and shimmering wine vault; it all provides an amazing back drop for wine tasting.
Restoration Hardware in Chicago! #chicago #ChiliDogYumPlz #travel
Their main attraction, however, is the Arts Club Café. The restaurant is housed in an atrium surrounded by windows and plants with a stunning water fountain in the middle and an iridescent chandelier just above it. This gallery is an incredible experience and during the time I spent there I couldn’t help but pretend that I was one of those incredibly artistic women sitting in this astonishing pantheon studying painting and drama with my best girlfriends.
Chicago Music Exchange
3316 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
Walking through the doors to the show room is like what I would imagine the band Guns N’ Roses was picturing when they wrote the song, Paradise City. This store caters to every and all music fans with each area dedicated either to a specific instrument or a brand. The Acoustic Room is a climate-controlled section of the store – home to all types of acoustics, from ukuleles to banjos. Down the stairs from the entrance is the BASSment that contains all things bass as well as amps, effects, and guitar accessories. Just like icing on the cake, through a concealed door is the Drum Exchange with a selection of drums that would make just about every percussion player weep with joy.