Today K and I made our yearly Christmas trip into Chicago. We usually go to several places on our Christmas trip day, but this time we ended up just staying at the Lincoln Park Zoo all day. We looked at the animals, had several different talks with zoo staff about various animals, ate some lunch, then strolled around the place a couple more times after the zoo lights came on. We had meant to park at the zoo, take a bus downtown and check out the Bean, the Macy’s windows, some other sites we usually see at Christmas time, then get back to the zoo in the evening to see the zoo lights, but it didn’t happen that way. At one point we just looked at each other and both kind of said we were having a great time, a very relaxing time, just wandering around, no rush, nice and mellow. It was awesome. While we were there we also decided to put our money where our mouths are and donate a bit to the conservation and research programs the zoo participates in. Kindness through conservation.
Karen and I decided the other day that she would take a day off during the week and we would go somewhere. Our original plan was to head to Indianapolis for a couple of days, spend the night, that sort of thing. The dilemma… the pups. We wanted to take them, and could have, but then what would we do with them when we wanted to go in somewhere or have dinner out or any myriad of other things that don’t allow dogs. We couldn’t leave them in a hotel room and we wouldn’t leave them in the car, so there you go. Dilemma. And subsequent change of plan… day trips. Ah ha!
So Sunday we just sort of drove around locally. Didn’t really go anywhere overly cool, just sort of checking some places out. We did this with the dogs. They like to ride along.
Monday we got up, got a tad bit of coffee, waited for the radon guys to fix our leaky boot, and then headed to the train. Ah the train. I love it. We were lame to wait until the last minute so our tickets were more. Yes, they have so many at different price ranges just like the airline and if you wait too long the cheaper tickets sell out and you are left paying more. Though really, c’mon… $52 for two one way to Chicago wasn’t terrible. We have paid half that, but we weren’t too flummoxed by it. Flummoxed… I love that word.
Drive to the train station, park in the 10 hour parking, hop on the train, get off in two and half hours after reading and listening to music and looking at the passing scenery and there you are… Union Station in the Second City. Chicago. I do love it there.
We have been to Chicago a few times now… before we moved to the midwest once, for two weeks over Christmas and New Years when the kids got married there. That was our first time… we loved it then, and still. We have only ever been downtown. And this time was no exception.
One glitch… we didn’t have a plan. We didn’t really decide until Monday morning that we were going for sure, hence the last minute ticket buying and such. And we didn’t really talk about what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go beforehand or on the train ride there. So there we were, Union Station, smack in the middle of the city, and had no idea what we were doing. Pretty funny… and, kind of fun. No agenda.
So we walked… and walked… and walked some more. We originally headed toward a restaurant some friends recommended, The Artists Cafe, on Michigan Avenue down across from Millennium Park and the Art Museum. We were starving so that seemed like a great place to begin. It would have been, only before we got there we passed another place. There were people sitting in the window who had enormous burgers that happened to catch my honey’s eye. Needless to say all thought of the Artists Cafe was out the window and in we went for burgers. They were good. Aside from the rather vocal and potty mouthed man sitting next to us, it was all good. And to be honest, we didn’t really care about the vocal potty mouthed man either. He wasn’t loud, so we could tune him out as he lit into his lady companion for… who knows what. Just a little extra flavor in the big city.
From there we walked to Macy’s to check out the window displays. They were pretty cool this year. I liked them. A sort of magical fantasy theme thing. Then we ran across the Christkindlmarket and wandered there for a bit. Every ornament you could possible think of, strudel, schnitzel, some strange drink served in a tiny boot… and crowded. Cool. We bought nothing, but we experienced it.
After that we decided we’d wander over toward the river and see if we could find some hot chocolate and chai. We did. A nice way to warm up and charge the phone (another word for map nowadays). We sat in there for awhile, got warm again, purchased our return train tickets from the Amtrak app on my phone, and then wandered along the river back toward the park. Millennium Park at night is gorgeous. Especially this time of year. Skating in the city rink, reflections of christmas lights along with city lights in The Bean, the faces all lit up, trees with lights in them, people everywhere, music playing, the Pritzker all gorgeous. Beautiful. We spent a bit of time down there just hanging out and looking at the sights before walking back toward Union Station.
Most of the day we walked, I took photographs, we talked, we hung out together. Nothing major. We figure we walked somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 or 7 miles. We had some good food. We looked at some cool stuff. We enjoyed both the train ride going and coming home. But mostly, honestly, we just enjoyed spending the day alone together. It’s truly our favorite thing. Being together and having an adventure. There is nothing better than that. Than days like our day in Chicago.
We checked out of our room this morning, walked the four blocks to the L train station, bought a couple of passes at the nearby currency exchange, climbed the steps up to the platform, jumped on our train when it showed a few minutes later, road out to the second to the last stop on the Orange line, got off the train and walked about six minutes to the Carlton Inn Midway, asked for and received an early check in, arranged for our airport shuttle at seven in the morning, dropped our bags in our room, walked to the corner to have some Greek food at a hotel recommended place (which was great), and then came back to the room so Kev could do laundry and we both could just chill for the rest of the day. We’re tired. So busy, in a great way, the last couple of days, and before that it was drive drive drive. Chillaxing today is awesome!
About the restaurant we went to for lunch… the Greek place. I did something I’ve wanted to for a long long time… when the time was right… and it so was today. This restaurant… The New Pindos was just down the street from our hotel and recommended by the staff as a place that’s “family owned and been there for 30 years”. It was great, but then I love places like that. It had this old vibe, but it was clean. The waitresses all looked like they’d worked there all of those 30 years. Ours was awesome… new her stuff, was funny, nice, so very attentive, all the good things you want in a waitress. I liked her. We both did. So when it came time to leave, Kev picked up the bill and I laid a $20 on the table as the tip. We walked up to the counter so Kev could pay and our waitress, who was such a cutie pie older lady, came up to me and quietly said… I think you made a mistake. I smiled and said no, I didn’t. She then said, in a bewildered voice, I’ve never gotten a $20 tip before… are you sure? I said, yes I was absolutely sure and told her to have a great day. She just smiled and said again… I’ve never gotten a $20 tip before. It was awesome, that look on her face. Money is money, not the end all and be all of happiness, but man… the look on her face. She was shocked, and happy. That’s a little extra happiness out there in the world. Maybe she’ll pay it forward somehow, but even if she doesn’t, she’ll be sweeter than she already was, and I bet she’ll be smiling all day. Which, really, if you think about it, is paying it forward. Smiles pay all kinds of joy forward.
We’ve had a great trip… eventful at times, but great. I think Kev has had a great first Chicago experience. I think he loved it. The architecture alone had his head on a swivel the whole time we were downtown. It was sweet. Great views, fantastic things to do and see, yummy food, great vibe. Chicago is, I will say once again with only a little redundancy, my kinda town. LOVE it. Chi-Town, I will be back… and I think, if I’m not mistaken, Kev may just be back as well.
One more post tomorrow as we travel back to the Northwest. Flight is early… 8:40, but it’s a straight shot. Then… back to my Oregon home, my honey (who I’m missing very very much), and my pups, who I’m also missing very much. My little family… here I come!
What a full day we’ve had. Started off lounging around the room for a bit to let the major part of the storm pass, then we were off and running.
First stop… Yolk for breakfast. Wow. I had the stuffed french toast. French toast stuffed with raspberry jam and cream cheese topped with bananas and powdered sugar with raspberry syrup on the side. Oh yeah baby! That with a side of bacon and a few cups of coffee gets a girl going in the morning. So awesome.
From Yolk we walked to the museum complex where the Shedd Aquarium happens to be. An hour wait in the queue, but it was worth it. Fish, more fish, more fish, a show, a 3D movie, and a really enjoyable time.
After Shedd we took a water taxi, traveling on Lake Michigan, from the museum complex to the Navy Pier. We enjoyed Chicago dogs, me with sweet potato fries and Kev with curly. What is a Chicago dog you ask? It’s a dog with relish, mustard, tomatoes, peppers, a dill pickle, and onions. That’s how they do them and they are good. We also enjoyed the Smith Museum of Stain Glass Windows at the Navy Pier. So cool… and free. Also good. I’d heard about this from Karen’s brother and sister in law when we were all in Chicago for the wedding last year. They went then and showed us some photos. I had to see these windows… and am glad we did. They were gorgeous.
From the Navy Pier we took another water taxi, this time on the Chicago River, to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. We took the one minute 1350 foot journey up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor to stand out on the Ledge. Trippy, that’s what it was. It’s a long way down.
We ended with a walk back to our hotel, a bit of a rest, and then some dinner at the restaurant in the lobby… The Thai Spoon. What did I have? Hmmm… maybe some Massaman with chicken and a thai iced tea. Yeah… that’s what was for dinner.
Now here we are, back in our room, both playing around on our computers, TV on, feet sore, and happily tired. What will we do tomorrow? Well that’s the question… we move hotels tomorrow… leaving the good ol’ Travelodge for a hotel out by Midway. Close to the airport for our earlyish flight on Wednesday back to Oregon. I’m sure we will find something to do… there’s so much to do here. I love this city.