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.
Well… here we are in the Second City. We started the morning by dropping off Mary’s car at Charlie and Jennie’s place and then getting a ride from Jennie in to the train station. She was wonderful. Took us to the train station, went inside with us as we checked in and got our boarding passes, then took us over to Cafe Kopi for some coffee and really nice conversation until it was time to take us back to the train station. Jennie is great and it will be good to sit down with her for tea and coffee again.
Our train was a bit late, an hour or so, which wasn’t really an issue. We had no time schedule. Once on and rolling it was smooth sailing to Chicago. Both of us with our individual head phones on playing our own music. Kev working on his laptop, me mostly just staring out the window. A nice mellow ride… and we didn’t have to drive. Yay!
We got in to Chicago, oriented ourselves (with the help of the iPhone GPS) and walked the 20 minutes from the station to our hotel. We checked in, dropped our bags, and immediately went in search of food. Not just any food, but Chicago food. Pizza. That’s right… Lou Maltani’s pizza. So good. I mean… really good. We loved it big time.
Then it was walk time… had to walk off some of that pizza. We walked over to Michigan Avenue and took a stroll up to Millennium Park. All kinds of stuff going on near the Art Institute, at the Jay Prytzker Pavilion, and the Crown Fountain. We saw tango dancing, heard Dennis DeYoung (lead singer of Styx) singing with his band live and for free, took our photos at the bean, and marveled at the beauty that is Chicago architecture. That’s just day one.
We are now comfortably ensconced in our room, hooked into the internet, TV on, loads of water here for the drinking to combat the humidity. It’s supposed to be rainy today here, but wasn’t and isn’t. It was humid, but beautiful. A few clouds, but loads of blue sky to go with. They say thunderstorms tomorrow, but who knows… hopefully we’ll get more of what we had today. And if not… s’ok. We will still be out exploring more of this gorgeous city.
We got into Urbana last night after a LONG day of driving with enough time to find a branch of our Illinois bank and make a deposit, give Kev a mini driving tour of the cities, and have a cup of custard at the Custard Cup. No time left to upload photos and blog about yesterday’s journey. I promise to do it tonight from our room in Chicago… Including a post about events today.
We said goodbye to the bean this morning… Leaving it and it’s contents in the good hands of Charlie and Jennie. Jennie was kind enough to give us a ride back into town to the train station so we could check in, and then to the Kopi cafe for a nice sit down cup of coffee. That place is a keeper and we had a really nice chat with Jennie. She then went the extra mile and brought us back to the train station where she was finally rid of us. What a great lady. Really like her.
So here we are… Waiting for the train and the next part of our adventure!
At the end of the day, when the vows are taken, the rings exchanged, the cake cut, the dinner eaten, and the dances danced the most important thing is really this… these two people found each other, fell in love, and decided to marry not just each other, but their lives together. It was a beautiful day. Unbelievably beautiful actually. A perfect day. I felt that way, Karen felt that way, I think the guests felt it, and I know Mary and Martin did as well… which is really what was most important. The kids had a fantastically happy day.
The first dance. They did very very well. They’d been practicing for days. The kids sent their song, More Than This by Roxy Music, to Mary’s aunt and uncle. Don and Carolyn, Karen’s brother and his wife, had then worked with their dance instructor to come up with the moves for the song. After they worked out the routine they filmed it and sent it in pieces to Mary and Martin who then practiced after watching the videos. It paid off. They rocked it out.
Charles worked the room like a pro with that camera of his. He had it down, moving around the ceremony and the reception without making a spectacle of himself. Stealthy and unobtrusive. It’s an art form he’s obviously mastered. Until, that was, he put the camera down and started shakin’ his grove thing. Then he was a dancing machine!
Mary, Martin, and I had a bit of fun while we were wandering around outside near the Glessner House taking photos after the wedding as evidenced by the photo here. We had a little laugh about this and of course had to take a picture. I love hanging out with these two. One of the amazing things about marrying someone is joining another family. If you’re lucky you end up loving the family you join, and they end up loving you. I’m lucky.
There were some great speeches. Karen gave an amazing one that included a poem she wrote for Mary. I think everyone got teary during that one. Way to go honey! Martin’s speech was also good. You could tell, as he got going, he went into professor mode. Very engaging and a great speech. And then the girls and boys, in turn, gave speeches. This would be Martin and Mary reacting to something Mike, Martin’s brother, said.
This is what wedded bliss looks like. Martin and Mary and I ventured outside, just the three of us, after the wedding was over to get some shots. It was cold, hence the coats, etc., which I was sort of glad for. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to dress in these great outfits. Awesome!
The wedding venue was magically transformed into a reception hall in under two hours. Not bad. The Glessner House Coach House ended up being the perfect place for both wedding and reception. Simple, elegant, and a really nice atmosphere. Yay Glessner House.