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The unfortunately inevitable has arrived; my air-and-road trip around The Great Lakes – or Lela Takes The Lakes – has come to an end.

And what an end Chicago was.

Though I had been to Chicago a few times in my youth, it was never for more than 24 hours and always for an occasion outside of my control. I couldn’t wait to explore the city properly.

Take a look back with me via blog (and vlog!), below…

A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on


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Let me preface this particular adventure with a bit of a disclaimer…

I kind of hate malls.

Having spent a couple of my fresh-faced years in them caking people’s faces and trying not to gauge my eyes out, they’re simply not an environment I want to spend my free time in.

“But wait..wait…you booked a trip to the Mall of America?”

I did, indeed. During a pre-Lela Takes The Lakes research session, The Mall of America (and its surrounding areas of Bloomington and Minneapolis, Minnesota) seemed to offer everything I love in a new travel destination.

I expected much more than a mall. And boy, did I get it…

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If I had to recommend only one destination in the Great Lakes, Traverse City would be it.

It didn’t take me long to really Traverse City is as Great as The Lakes gets; a wonderful surprise, really, as it was the stop I was least excited for in my Lela Takes The Lakes adventures.

Before my quasi road trip made space for it, Northern Michigan simply couldn’t seduce its way to becoming a bucket list contender.

Isn’t it funny how fast vineyards, beaches, and dirty banh mi fries can change your mind?

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jamie oliver cookery school
Though I’m a very confident cook, Christmas dinner has always proved too intimidating to take charge of solo. Over the years, I’ve done my Thanksgiving turkey, mastered the art of a roastie, and can put meat eater-friendly veggie dishes together in a flash, but haven’t dared to throw them all together at once.

I needed a push. And Jamie Oliver provided one.

Earlier this year, Big J launched his Jamie Oliver Cookery School at Westfield London and secured himself a spot on my must-visit list. When his Christmas: All The Trimmings class fell on the only evening I had free in December, my fate was sealed. It was time to take on the Christmas dinner.

Over three hours our class tackled everything from crispy skins to special stuffings, pausing only for sips of mulled wine between chops, sautés, and mixes. With each team of two set up at their stovetops, our teacher (a lovely Canadian chef) talked us through her Jamie-instilled techniques and tricks before leaving us to tackle our own.

Questions flew like wildfire and, before our group of novice to pro chefs knew it, we had completely homemade Christmas dinners plated up. Edible and all.

I enjoyed myself immensely and cannot wait to tackle a few more classes in the New Year.

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