killed two birds with one trip to Chicago

I love it when life lines up like this.  When various things intersect and I can knock multiple items off a list in one fell swoop.  I could pretend it makes me happy because of the efficiency factor, but mostly, it's because I'm lazy.

At any rate, the common denominator that allowed for the intersection was the adventure I took to Chicago last weekend.

Sam left for Chicago the day after Memorial Day, and my parents so graciously made the trip from Maryland to help me with the kids (and apparently the housework...thanks guys!) since he would be away for two weeks.  Because they were here and it was possible, I made plans for a long weekend trip to Chicago for myself.  It was the first time I'd been to Chicago in my life.  And also the first time I'd spent 24 hours without a single child in well over a year. 

I caught the hour-long shuttle and discussed Chicago with the driver on the way to the airport.  He, not unlike the majority of people I talked to, informed me that Chicago was his favorite US city.  Being the realist (read: pessimist) that I am, I tried to slough those comments off.  I hated to get my hopes up and end up disappointed.

I am here to report:  Chicago does not disappoint.

I have been lucky enough to go lots of places in the past few years, piggybacking on Sam's work trips, including Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Orlando...I enjoyed them all.

But, quite frankly, none of them holds a candle to the great city of Chicago.

We stayed in Schaumburg (because that was close to where Sam had to be for work).  It's a suburb north west of Chicago, home to the Woodfield Mall and various other shopping venues.  I could easily have killed three whole days doing nothing but browsing there.  It was reminiscent of Towson near Baltimore, completely self-sufficient and bustling, but close enough to "the big city" to keep you happy.  I stayed near the hotel while Sam was at work on Friday.  That night we ate dinner at a Brazilian Grill called Texas de Brazil at the mall.  This would be my tenth "new" restaurant and I wrote in more detail about it and the other 9 of 10 new restaurants here to complete #86 on the list.

On Saturday, despite formidable forecasts (and a fleeting thought of "Hey let's go to Milwaukee instead"), we hopped on the El from the Cumberland station, and thus began the Great Chicago Adventure of 2010.

The first of many firsts:  First time I've ever boarded a train in the center of an interstate.

With flashes of ER constantly popping up in my mind's eye, we rode the roaring wonder into the city.  The train alone is an engineering marvel, and without getting too dorky, I ate up the bridges and transit system.  Double-decker roads and trains?  That's cool, right?

In two days, we did all of the touristy things to do, from the architecture boat tour...

(Shown here, approaching the Centennial Fountain with Trump Tower in the background)

...to a trolley tour...

(And what's cool is that you can see a bit of the skyline from just about everywhere.  Fun little aside:  One of the trolley drivers asked us where we were from.  We said Georgia.  His comment was, "Hmm, Georgia.  That is the longest, hottest state I've ever driven through."  Does that sum it up or what?!)

...eating authentic Deep Dish pizza at Giordano's (the opinions regarding "The Best Chicago Deep Dish" are intense and emotionally-charged, we have discovered)...

...catching the view from the Hancock Observatory...

(Where, fortunately, though it was overcast, the clouds did not impede visibility down the gorgeous coastline of Lake Michigan.)

...braving The Ledge on the Sky Deck of the "Sears" Tower looking straight down at the street from 103 stories high...

...and taking in a show (Cloud 9) at Navy Pier...

...eating some Garrett Popcorn...

...and pausing for a picturesque couple shot with an amazing backdrop.

It might have been the novelty of being in a new place, but everything about Chicago seemed exciting to me.  From the history and the rebuilding after the great fire, to the architecture and culture in general.  From the transportation to the green trees and parks everywhere.  The water was gorgeous.  There was no visible industry cluttering up the coastline.  The skyline was breathtaking.  The weather was breezy (of course).  

Chicago completely rocked my socks off.

I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to go there, and even more excited to report that this means I completed #76 - Travel to a state I've never visited.

P.S. - Just to clarify, I know Chicago is not a state.  That would be Illinois.  *wink wink*


Debbie said...

OK, first... I take it your trolley driver has been been through Texas.

And second... I have to interrupt this post to point out how wonderful you look. I need to start running again.

And third...Since I've never been to Chicago, I loved the photo tour. It looks and sounds like a wonderful adventure for two!

Which leads me to fourth...So, how do you feel about a fourth baby? I can *wink* too.

Jennie said...

1. I believe he mentioned it in regards to a trip he took to St. Augustine, Fl. He is probably not aware of Texas (or at least the driving through it in the summer part).

2. Thanks...but I confess to carefully choosing and only posting the less revealing photos of myself.

3. It was truly an awesome city. And I tried SO hard to find a person carrying a violin case so I could take their picture for you, but no luck. (And especially not one wearing a pinstripe suit.)

4. Four is a big number! I wouldn't say it's out of the question, but I also wouldn't bet on it. How's that for avoidance? *winkety wink*

Sunday said...

Ha! That is so funny because just like Debbie I was going to suggest that the driver had also never driven through Texas! I'm originally from Oklahoma so I know all about both those long, hot states and what a joy (NOT) it is to drive through them.
My older sis took a trip to Chicago last year and just like you said it rocked her socks off!
I wish I could travel more. I know I would love it!

Kristen said...

Sounds like a great trip! (I too would be seeing clips of ER)

0s0-Pa said...

Looks like fun! I love Chicago and I finally got my first chance to visit there last week, although my stay wasn't quite long enough. At least I got to go on that observatory (off Michigan st)and take that fast elevator up to the top - awesome view!
-Jack @ New Bingo Sites

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