Open House Chicago | The Plant and Palmisano Park

For the past three years, the Chicago Architecture Foundation has opened more than a hundred of the city’s most beautiful spaces to the public for the 48-hour Open House Chicago festival. It’s an invitation to discover something new about a city you may think you know all about, to gape at stunning architecture, or just to visit a new-to-you neighborhood.

We hadn’t spent much time in Bridgeport, so we chose two sites there on the Open House list: The Plant, a meatpacking facility turned closed-loop urban farm, and Palmisano Park, which began life as a prairie before being converted into a limestone quarry, and was transformed back into prairie after years as a landfill. I was thoroughly impressed by the thought and care that had gone into reimagining both spaces, and left inspired to attend Open House 2014 the following October.

If you make the trip to Bridgeport yourself, don’t miss savory pies and homemade sodas at Pleasant House Bakery, and either a beer at Maria’s or a caffeine jolt from Bridgeport Coffee. I can’t wait to get back and enjoy the rest of what Bridgeport has to offer!

Camera: Canonet QL17 GIII
Film: Kodak Portra 400

Portraits | Claire and Richard

Last fall, when the leaves were still on fire, my wonderful, stylish friends Claire and Richard asked me to snap a portrait for their Christmas card. Winnemac Park couldn’t have been a more gorgeous setting, and we capped off the day with some crazy-amazing antiques shopping at Brimfield, where plaid is the new black.

You can’t tell, but they were about to become a family of three, so I was especially honored to capture this pre-baby afternoon on film. If you can believe it, they’re as kind and funny as they are easy on the eyes; I’d bet you anything that their son will inherit that delightful mix of qualities, too.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400

Pure Michigan | Fennville, Saugatuck, and Grand Rapids

Pictured below:

Apple picking at Crane Orchards. The Saugatuck waterfront on an Indian summer afternoon.

Not pictured:

Blazing fall colors bordering the highway as we drove to Fennville. The heartbreaking decision not to stop at Pleasant House in Three Oaks along the way. Our first stop, lunch at Crane’s Pie Pantry—the orchard’s kitschy companion pie restaurant, filled with vintage ephemera on every surface (we ate our pie and cider doughnuts at an old school desk). Then, at the orchard, the apple-tasting stations where a grandmotherly woman insisted on feeding us slices of every kind of apple, so as to better guide our decision-making on which apples to fill our arms with, at which point we developed a mutual obsession with the Northern Spy. The incredible oversight of not stopping at Virtue Cider for a tour. The walk around downtown Saugatuck, with a notable stop at my childhood favorite Kilwin’s to drool over the ice cream flavors and the display devoted to fudge. The drive to Grand Rapids, where the late afternoon was spent sampling the entire slate of beers at Founders’ Harvest Festival, where the just-released, wet-hopped Harvest Ale stole our hearts. The dinner at Brewery Vivant, a brewpub whose stunning setting is a former funeral home with stained glass windows—please, please try the chicken and waffles if you’re in town. And the stroll around hushed, rainy downtown Grand Rapids afterwards, marveling at how cool the little city was, where we wondered aloud if it’d make a good home for us someday down the road.

Now that we’re emerging from the big freeze that was this winter, we’re already starting to plot our next day trip.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400

We Own This Mountain | Montserrat, Catalunya

On a rainy evening last May, my friend Carolyn and I stood at a candlelit highboy in Maude’s Liquor Bar in the West Loop, slurping gin and vodka smashes and discussing our shared need for some sort of summer escape. I mentioned that I’d booked a trip to Spain; she revealed that she’d been considering the same thing. I expressed a significant amount of interest in the ridiculous but magical prospect of meeting up halfway around the world; she didn’t disagree. I promised to share my itinerary; the next day, when I did, she responded one hour and twenty-three minutes later with news of her freshly-booked airline ticket. A few months later, there we were: improbably together in Barcelona, jetlaggedly toasting to the craziness of it all with early-afternoon glasses of wine.

Even crazier, though, was our hike in Montserrat. We decided on the most difficult route up the nearest mountain, and ten minutes in considered quitting until a three-year-old kid passed us going the opposite direction, clambering down happily with his parents in tow. Our motto for the next few hours became, “If a baby can do it, we can do it.” We did it, though by the descent, we were chanting “Cerveza, helado, cerveza, helado,” hell-bent on procuring either a frosty glass of beer, a towering ice-cream cone, or both.

On the train ride back, sweat-encrusted and in need of ibuprofen, Carolyn insisted we do the right thing and give up our seats to the elderly Spanish women who had just boarded. Much to our chagrin, the women decided to stand, but an overly-affectionate teenage couple took our proffered seats and proceeded to maul each other’s faces with their tongues for the ensuing forty minutes. I have forgiven Carolyn for this episode, but I have not yet forgotten it. The forgiveness happened, I think, over the kielbasa, French fries, and cheap beer we fed our aching bodies afterwards. At that moment, it was the most delicious food I had ever tasted, authenticity be damned.

We spent all of two days together, replete with sixty-some unflattering selfies taken at various landmarks across Barcelona, and one marvelously celebratory meal of expensive tapas. But the crowning achievement of those two days was certainly our hike at Montserrat. When I think about us standing on the summit there, I remember the badass-ness I’m capable of. And if I’m ever handed another chance to meet up with a fantastic friend halfway across the world? Especially if it’s Carolyn? You can be sure I’ll say yes.

Camera: Canonet QL17 GIII
Film: Kodak Portra 400

La Sagrada Família | Barcelona, Catalunya

It is my firm belief that everyone should have the opportunity to take at least one solo adventure during their travels, and I was lucky enough to find myself alone in the Sagrada Família, in all its unfinished glory, for mine.

The cavernous basilica is architecturally similar to a stained-glass and granite forest, with its soaring support structures suggesting a tree canopy. At all times, it was filled with the soft strains of choral music. Whatever one’s beliefs, to step inside is to remove yourself from all earthly anxieties and concerns, and—especially if you ascend one of the towers—to find some sort of momentary transcendence.

You can take someone along if you’d like, and hold their hand and experience it quietly together. Or, like me, you can go alone, take your sweet, sweet time, and just drink it all in.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400 and 160