If you're a week into the new travel show Tour Group and already hooked, you know it explores once-in-a lifetime travel experiences with a group of 11 travelers and three tour guides.
One of those travelers is travel expert and Chicago native Jetta Bates Vasilatos, whose sparkling personality adds a dose of fun to escapades like camel riding in Morocco and tantric yoga in Sri Lanka. After taking a whirlwind trip around the globe to seven countries, Jet Set asked Jetta to design a Chicago itinerary that replicates some of her Tour Group adventures.
“It was a trip of a lifetime and each destination had something special to try,” says Jetta. Here are her suggestions for a bit of global gallivanting in the Windy City inspired by...
‘When we went to Morocco, they had hammams on every other street,” Jetta says. To capture this Moroccan bathhouse experience which is such an integral part of the culture, Jetta says to head to Chicago’s luxury J. W. Marriott Hotel where they have a hammam steam room. After working up an appetite in the hammam, grab a taste of Moroccan cuisine at Shokran Restaurant. “They have belly dancing and it's really authentic. The quality and flavor of the food is great,” she says.
“You can’t visit Japan and not have ramen,” Jetta explains. “The Slurping Turtle does a very good job of giving you that experience from an authentic standpoint." After having your fill at the sceney eatery, consider a Japanese beauty upgrade at Gold Coast salon, K Rhodes. “The Japanese love beauty — that’s their jam,” Jetta says. “There was a focus on eyelashes, they were very funky. You can recreate the look at K Rhodes, for lashes to flutter like the Japanese girls.”
“When I think about Kenya, I think about shopping,” says the confirmed style addict. “You have the bush and then you go to the city and its fabulous and cosmopolitan.” To browse through an array of Kenyan accessories, Jetta recommends Unan Imports.“They have all the interesting products: oils, shea butters, beaded clothes. It has the roadside selection that we saw in Kenya.”
She also suggests Hyde Park’s The Silver Room for jewelry. “It has that sexy, city style we saw in Nairobi. Rest up after your shopping excursion and sip Kenyan coffee at Portage Grounds Cafe. “It’s a hip, cute place that sells cups of Kenyan coffee like we had when we were there,” she says.
Chicago isn’t blessed with the sublime year-round weather that’s a main attraction for the blue lagoons and beaches of the Maldives — but summertime is a different story. “ At Castaways on North Avenue Beach, they have cabanas where you can lounge by the water and the waiters come out and serve you like they do in the Maldives,” Jetta says.