Born in Morocco and raised in Paris, Ikram Barakat may seem an unlikely advocate for the thrills and spills of Chicago. But after visiting the city in 1996, she has remained there ever since, and now helps guests at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel discover this spellbinding metropolis all for themselves. The truth is she was blown away by the Windy City at first sight. She cites “the diversity of cultures, architecture and the vibe of each neighborhood” as inspiring her relocation, and never tires of “biking along Lakeshore Drive and exploring different routes to work”. A former architect, Ikram enjoys the creative side of being a Navigator. She works with guests to build an itinerary matched to their precise needs; one that will help them discover a Chicago all of their own. “No request and discoverer are alike,” she says, “and that keeps the routine away from my daily experiences. But the best part is I get to share my discoveries with my discoverer.”Her finds include a gorgeously located riverside winery and a charming French café situated close to the hotel (and you can trust the Parisian on that one). But in a city as hip-and-happening as Chicago there are always more jewels to be uncovered. She backs up her self-taught knowledge through online research and newspapers. Another ace up Ikram's sleeve is her innate flair for languages - she speaks four currently and plans to learn more - which allows her to figure out exactly what her guests require from their stay. And when it comes to sharing her passion for Chicago, the Navigator is contagiously fluent.