Ever since I took my daughter to Chicago for a girl's weekend last fall, leaving one boy behind, I have heard nothing but grief about the unfairness of it all for an entire year. So when an opportunity arose for my husband to speak to a group of newspaper editors in that city, I quickly said "Take it and I'm coming along with BOTH kids!"
You definitely know you are no longer in Portland when arriving in the United Concourse at O'Hare, greeted by the distinctive lights and music display set along the walkway leaving the terminal. I actually feel disappointed when flying into O'Hare, or through it, and don't encounter this passageway.
The first three nights we stayed with my dear "Chicago Mom" Lora, whose family I became a part of while attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago years ago. It's always so good to see her and family, and these are some fabulous views to be enjoyed from her apartment. Navy Pier at night in one direction, and the harbor in another at morning.
First up on the tourist agenda was a visit to Millennium Park and "the Bean," actually entitled 'Cloud Gate' by British artist Anish Kapoor. It's really fun to watch people interact with this sculpture, snapping pictures - and we were no different.
Afterwards we crossed the street to the Chicago Cultural Center to get a look at the refurbished Tiffany Dome and in the process spied this amazing staircase... also design by Tiffany! Incredible detail, right?
And no trip to Chicago is complete without a shopping trip down Michigan Avenue - the Magnificent Mile - though this is where we left the boys behind who caught a game while grabbing lunch. It was exciting to see the completion of the new Burberry building, which had just begun when we visited a year ago. What a fabulously chic facade, very fitting.
And then on Lora's suggestion, we made a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
What we enjoyed most about the visit here were all the interactive "art installations." On the left was a display in which a number of bells were provided to keep balloons afloat, creating a cacophony of sound that rang throughout the Museum. On the right, I just had to laugh, booties to enter an art exhibit? I've certainly had to do this in house tours and open houses, but this was a first and we obliged.
My husband and I love a great game of ping pong, though we've never had the challenge of a mirrored table, lattice "net" and ball with a black painted stripe around it. But nevertheless, I won the game!
And finally, this installation invited a little rest. Until, getting a bit skeptical about the somewhat dingy looking faux fur, I voiced my concern about who else had laid here and please, let's not make contact with anything we might not want to take with us. Are you with me?
With an hour to kill before meeting up with family and friends for dinner, I mentioned we should go take a walk on the beach, which surprised Max. A beach? Yes, it is a bit odd to think there could be a beach close by when in the middle of the city with skyscrapers all around. But just around the corner sits Oak Beach and miles of path to both the north and south of the city along Lake Michigan. This was one of my favorite parts of the city when living here, often walking home a few miles north along these pathways after a enjoying a movie or dinner downtown - in decent weather of course.
Then it was dinner time. This was my plate. And I had seconds. I still feel full recalling it. There is really nothing quite like Chicago's deep dish pizza, and if you spend a day walking around visiting sights you have happily earned the right to enjoy every bite!
The next day we made a beeline down to the Sears Tower, now sadly renamed the Willis Tower due to a recent new tenant's negotiation of their lease which included the right to change the name. But moving on. I never went to the top when I lived here, I strongly dislike heights. But with the addition of the Skydecks, glass boxes extending past the exterior walls of the upper floors, my kids had this on their must visit wish list.
I wasn't so sure I'd make it out...
... but my family had no issues at all, and even enjoyed taunting me to face my fears.
"Mom, don't be such a wimp."
Now those are fighting words.
I stepped out, I sat, I conquered. Then I immediately crawled out on my hands and knees.
With great relief, back on solid ground, these rather bizarre "pant planters" were spotted just outside the building. Oh, pants, Sears... could that be the explanation?
With some time left in our day we walked over to the Art Institute of Chicago, and what fun to find the back entrance into the school from the museum. It was such a complete honor to study here, just steps away from some of the world's most amazing examples of art and artifacts. I don't believe I really appreciated how special that was at the time.
Vincent van Gogh
And then it was time to meet up with more friends and family for dinner. An old time favorite spot is Cafe Ba Ba Reeba for tapas... and sangria. A very happy way to end a wonderful day.
The next morning we moved to a hotel, and what a spectacular view we had of the Chicago River from the room. Though after enjoying the spaciousness of Lora's apartment we were feeling pinched and did make a couple excuses to go visit her again before leaving!
Up on the agenda for this hot day - it reached 97 degrees - the Chicago Architectural Foundation's Chicago River Tour. A must to-do when visiting this town! Unique views of the city unfold before you with many interesting tidbits provided by an outstanding guide; a fresh perspective of the city not to be experienced in any other way.
The new Trump building...
... and the classic Marina City completed in 1964.
What really took my breath away however, was seeing the Skydecks hanging a zillion feet up in the air from the vantage point of the river. Okay, I then felt nervous and quite sick to my stomach that I had just sat in them the day before. It's a very good thing this view came after the visit to the Sears Tower.
This night I was on my own with the kids, the husband attending a business function. We hit Navy Pier, grabbed some food and took a couple rides. The kids that is. Though they tried their best, there was no way I was getting up in the Ferris wheel. Enough is enough, one challenge at a time.
On our final day, Shedd Aquarium was on the agenda and what really got my attention - waiting in line to get tickets - were these amazing "octopus hardware" light fixtures hanging in the entrance.
This really was a great stop, complete with a 4D movie. And just what is a 4D movie, we were asking ourselves while waiting in line to be seated. We soon found out: seats that move, wind, spray and pelting of air. The funny thing about it, however, was how the effects weren't always in sync with the movie. So when we got sprayed and looked at each other wondering why, the answer came four seconds later when a shark splashed in the ocean on the screen. Oh. Okay. Got it.
Afterwards we were very hungry, and not for seafood. We headed up to the Lake View neighborhood where I used to live for lunch at Penny's Noodles, an old favorite my kids had heard of and a stop was a must for them. It got a big thumbs up. Pad Thai, Wide Rice Noodles (not pictured), Veggie Noodles and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Delicious.
Winding our visit down, we wandered through the lush Lincoln Park Zoo on the way back to the hotel...
... and that evening attended the September 11th Peace Concert at Pritzker Pavilion with long time friends.
By the next morning we were all looking forward to getting home, and a swim was the perfect way to burn off some energy before the flight home. Traveling truly is the best, with opportunities to explore places and things not around you in daily life. I can't wait to figure out where we'll go next!