Best of 2019 – Part One

This is the time of year when I take a look back at some of the best things I’ve experienced this year. It may be spy book related or it may not, but it’s things I recommend checking out yourself if you have the time and inclination.

Hamilton –

I’m a bit behind the curve for most theater lovers but this was the year I finally saw Hamilton and I was lucky enough to see the show three times this year. The first time was via some cheap tickets in the last row of the orchestra someone unloaded on the day of the performance. The second time I won the lottery, paid $10, and was able to watch from the second row. The third time my wife won the lottery and we were able to see it from the 10th row, just off center. Of the three opportunities, all were great but sitting in the second row was amazing. I’ve got bad eyes, so being up close is always preferred and getting to truly see every expression on the actors faces was an opportunity I won’t soon forget. Miguel Cervantes has been playing Hamilton since the show came to Chicago and after three years isn’t coming even close to phoning it in. Akron Watson has played Burr each time I saw the production and his rendition of “Wait for it” was moving each time I saw it.

I also had the chance to see Hamilton: The Exhibition while it was running in Chicago. It was a museum like experience exploring the true events combined with a little theatrical pizazz to elevate the experience. It closed at the end of the summer and is unlikely to be recreated so I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it.

Niche bars –

My days as a regular bar-goer are pretty far behind me, but I did get a couple fun outings in.  The Safehouse bar in Milwaukee is a spy themed bar and always fun to visit. Barcade’s, bars with vintage arcade cabinets continue to be a thing and are a fun trip down memory lane. Finally, it’s hard not to enjoy visiting a bar when it’s a pub in London, especially when it’s right after you tracked down a signed copy of le Carré’s latest book.

Paris and London –

I was extremely lucky to be able to visit Paris and London in 2019. Being just a block from the Seine let us enjoy walking through the streets of historic Paris. Visiting the Lourve, Musée de l’Orangerie, and taking various VoiceMap walking tours was likely a once in a lifetime experience I won’t soon forget.

After a quick trip on the last Eurostar out of Paris surrounded by the most chatty fellow passengers I have ever encountered on a train, we were in London.

This was my third trip to London and there’s always something new to discover. Spent some time off the beaten path in some of the less touristy neighborhoods. My guess is there is a very small number of tourist’s venturing out to New Cross on their visit but it very much reminded me of the neighborhood I grew up in.

If you do travel to London, I recommend using London Connection for your stay. Their prices for staying in a flat of your own are extremely affordable, in prime locations and they offer a more trustworthy option than a random Airbnb. They meet you at your arrival, make sure you are settled in and are available 24/7 to assist with any problems you might run into.

Easy outings –

Sometimes, it’s the easiest things that can be the most pleasurable. This year, that meant a membership to the Shedd Aquarium, multiple visits to different local mini golf locations, continuing our disc golf excursions, sparking a love of bowling in my two sons, and visiting vintage toy stores. Add in last minute cheap tickets to see Hugh Jackman in concert and you have a pretty good year of local excursions.

That covers some of my personal bests. Next week I’ll look at some of my favorite spy related things of the year.


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