Category Archives: Chicago

Downton Abbey Fashions at Driehaus Museum

19 MuseumBeing a Downton Abbey lover, I was excited to find the Driehaus Museum in Chicago is presenting Dressing Downton – Changing Fashions for Changing Times February 9 through May 29, 2016. As the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey has concluded, PBS stations WTTW & WMFT have sponsored an exhibit of over 35 period costumes from the award winning show.

This exhibition explores fashions in Britain between 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) and the early 1920’s, the dawn of the Jazz Age. The impact of World War I greatly affected people’s lives and the way that they dressed. These changes are particularly highlighted.

The culturally and historically significant Driehaus Museum is located steps from the Magnificent Mile and the perfect setting for the Fashions of Downton. This grand and palatial mansion was the residence of Samuel M. Nickerson and is one of the few remaining examples of the 19th century Gilded Age-era in both design and architecture.

My first visit to this glorious mansion left me dreaming of years gone by, experienced only in old movies or British television series. After tickets and coatroom, obtaining a colored brochure of each exhibit and an audio presentation, I ascended one of the grand carpeted marble staircases to the first floor. There I joined the crowd of ladies who lunch in watching a short introductory film on the made for television show. The visitors on a Tuesday morning were 99% women with some serious Red Hat Society ladies. Today however, they were wearing white gloves and adorned with straw hats, feathers and such finery as to fit in at a proper tea party.

Promptly at 10am, the ticket taker appeared and we glided into the grand reception room from where the staircase ascended to upper floors and from which all the first floor rooms connected.

17 staircase


Tickets are purchased for every half hour admittance times. Quite well thought out. There never seemed to be people crowding in if you wanted to take a photo or in your way while you examined an exhibit. There is plenty of room to envision yourself a distant Crawley cousin, belonging in the priceless surroundings.

1 Martha Levinson









6 Lady Crawleys spanish dress



15 presentation at court









16 presentation


4 stained glass ceiling

3 library


2 fireplace











The library is furnished around an artistically significant fireplace and statuary which leads the gaze up to a stained glass ceiling. The ceiling is beyond words.









13 Mary's riding habit




Each of the rooms on the three exhibit floors hold multiple costumes, informational directories, and photos from the television show.

The rooms themselves have directories as well that are part of the regular Driehaus Museum exhibition. There are no words I can use to describe the beauty and opulence of the mansion. It just requires a visit to absorb it all.

6 Edith's riding costume






11 Cora & Lord Grantham






14 Dowager Countess

10 Cora & Lord Grantham








8 Cora's gown Edith's wedding

7 Mary's dress


18 tea


Traditional English tea is available by reservation in the Murphy Auditorium, served by properly costumed servants .

There must be a gift shop! Oh yes there is, just next to the tea.  Many treasures abound.




Life after Downton…what will we see next? Luckily the Driehaus Museum is a must see on it’s own, holding many interesting programs and exhibitions. The Museum entrance is located at 40 East Erie Street, Chicago, IL, 60611.

C’est tout!

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Duran Eurobrunch in River West Chicago

We had the opportunity this weekend to meet up with a number of travel, food and wine enthusiasts at Duran European Sandwiches Cafe located in the River West area of Chicago at 539 N. Milwaukee Avenue.  Duran is a family owned chain of cafes and has several shops in Vienna, Budapest and Istanbul, but the River West location is the only licensed outlet in the United States.  They feature wonderfully different small open faced sandwiches called tartines (around 35 on the current menu), omelets, bagels, pastries made in house, soups, and mini quiches.


Our Litereati Meetup hostess worked with Duran staff to create a Eurobrunch with specialty omelets, tartine samplers, and mini quiches, along with coffee and tea.  Litereati provided champagne for the mimosas and a geography trivia contest with travel swag prizes, both of which ensured the enthusiastic participation of the group.  Duran provided a delicious tasting menu including the fresh ingredients, european meats and cheeses that you might expect to find while relaxing at a European cafe.


Chèvre, mushroom, chive & artichoke quiche

All of the brunch items were served with a side salad, and Duran roasted potatoes which were crispy and delicious.

Tartine Sampler

Tartine sampler served warm – Roast beef, ham and veggie sandwiches

Man does not live by food alone although Le Bon Vie Travels does seem to always partake in a memorable meal,  a glass of wine…and probably a fine dessert as well.  I would be extremely remiss if I did not mention the purpose of the meet up was to get together with like minded people interested in travel to share conversation, adventures, advice, and plans for the future.   We had inspiring conversation, shared some of our upcoming plans, and met quite a few interesting travelers and people in the industry – a great little arm-chair travel get-together to keep the wanderlust at bay until our next weekend away with friends.

People travel for different reasons…to experience new cultures, meet new people, explore history, art, architecture, ancestry, adventure,  food and wine…and sometimes just for the elusive sunshine!  Being able to share it all with other enthusiasts increases the gratification and like the vacation photo album, lets you relive it all again.  Wishing you memorable travels….and Le Bon Vie.


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A Day in Chicago: Vivian Maier’s Photography and Eataly

Spring has arrived in Chicago. Not with Facebook posts of daffodils blooming in Missouri or vegetable seedlings sprouting in Texas, but with the bracing midwestern air that greets you at the front door as you scurry out for the Sunday paper. Breathe deep, arms spread wide and face to the sun, sighing deep relief…so good to be alive!

With the end of winter hibernation in sight, we decided to venture downtown to play tourists for a day. After a leisurely breakfast and a decadent stop for a stress relieving massage, we headed  to the Chicago History Museum to take in a new photography exhibit entitled Vivian Maier’s Chicago.  We both love black and white photography, history and Chicago, so this was sure to be a great outing.

We fortified ourselves with skim lattes and a crispy delicious cranberry oatmeal cookie in the museum cafe and then perused the thoughtfully selected offerings in the gift shop. Coffee, cookie and shopping.  Begin with the inevitable necessities and everyone will travel a little happier.

The original boxcar styling music of the Sanctified Grumblers drew us up to the second floor where we soon found the Vivian Maier exhibit:

Vivian Ms. Maier was born in 1926 in New York City and spent her early childhood in France.  Much of her life was spent traveling with her camera to Canada, South America, Europe, Middle East, Asian and and the Caribbean.  She spent decades of her free time capturing street shots of real people, immigrants, children, the wealthy, and noteworthy events of the time such as parades, tornadoes, and riots.  Vivian had an amazing eye to capture and document extraordinary images with her focus seeming to be concentrated on people in struggle.


Vivian settled in Chicago in 1956, supporting her secret photography passion by working as a nanny.  She remained here until her death in 2009 whereupon her photos were discovered.  The massive collection includes more than just the Chicago neighborhoods and faces of the 1960s and 70s which are displayed at the Chicago History Museum.  There are currently Vivian Maier exhibits in France, Belgium and Sweden as well as a documentary: Finding Vivian Maier.

Click here for more information and inspiring photographs.

After satisfying our thirst for Vivian’s Chicago, we checked out a few more interesting Chicago history exhibits before eagerly departing for a late lunch at Eataly.  This is a one-stop European market spread out over two floors at 43 E Ohio Street. Although not the creators of Eataly, Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich are involved in the hospitality areas of the business, which I could have guessed after perusing the Lidia cookbooks, cookware, and foods.  Bastianich brands and Grano Padano cheeses were much in evidence, which reinforced my enthusiasm  for this market. I do love to watch Lidia’s Italy on public television and she occasionally inspires me to cook with more passion.

life is short

We bypassed all of the tempting treats on the first floor: Nutella and gelato counters, sweets, Panini, Lavazzo bar, BAFFO Ristorante Enoteco, and chocolate, and headed up the escalator for a little vino and sustenance.  There are nine restaurants as well as counters for cheese, fresh pasta, butcher, baker, salumi, wine department and a separate birreria.  So difficult to choose, but we found a marble standing table at La Piazza and enjoyed a couple glasses of Guado Al Tasso Vermentino 2011. Fresh and fruity with a little mineral and quite tasty, so we bought a bottle for home. The service was attentive with various wait staff plying us with warm bread and olive oil for dipping while we decided on appetizers. We were soon enjoying a half dozen oysters and a prosciutto sampler plate. oysters It was difficult to not indulge in the fresh mozzarella, but sampling the incredible cheese selections is a great reason to return.  Besides all of the great shopping, eating and drinking, Eataly offers cooking classes and hosts private events.  We will be back playing tourist soon while enjoying Le Bon Vie!

Cheese Eataly

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