Sunday, July 7, 2013

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Beast and I spent Thursday and Friday nights in the City of the Big Shoulders, the Big Onion, That Toddlin' Town... because Friday was our 27th wedding anniversary. Although we've been inside The Loop dozens of times, there are a lot of touristy things that we haven't ever gotten around to. We did some of them, and there are still a kazillion more. Oh, well, we'll just have to schedule another trip.

To start out our weekend, Sparky came home for the holiday on Wednesday afternoon while I was at work. We had our Fourth of July cookout food that night--cheddar brats and curly chips--and sat around the living room on our individual laptops watching...something...on TV.

Late the next morning, after multiple directives to the boy, Beast and I hit the road. Traffic was startlingly nonexistent considering it was a holiday. We got to our semi-posh just off the Mag Mile hotel in record time and because Beast has frequent usage points with the chain, we were upgraded to a corner suite. Which would have been 100% awesome if it had been east-facing so we could see the lakefront without craning our necks with our cheeks pressed up against the window. As it was, it was a mere 90% awesome: leather sofa, zebra-striped comfy chair, big desk and TV in the 'living room' and another big TV and large changing area in the 'bedroom' with windows everywhere. Posh indeed.

Naturally, I noted the weirdest possible thing first about our view. A friend of mine called it "urban ranching" when she saw the photo to the right. Those are cows, formerly of the Cows on Parade display a few years decade-and-a-half ago.

So, released from our luggage, we headed out to walk Michigan Avenue. The only times we've been along here in the past is in December, usually managing to pick the coldest, windiest days to be outside. So this was a whole lot nicer. We wandered up past the Water Tower, passing several homeless people with hand-lettered signs and paper cups for donations. After passing about four of them in 6-8 blocks, we realized that all the signs had the same handwriting. I'm not sure what's going on with that, but I feel for these (mostly Muslim women) people. Especially as they sat mere yards from articles of clothing or technology costing enough to feed someone for several weeks. This is not part of traveling that is comforting or comfortable.

Michigan Ave. was nuts with people window-shopping and taking pictures and generally being everywhere, so we zig-zagged over to Rush street and ended up at McCormick & Schmick's where we had a mid-afternoon snack and a drink. I had bacon-and-jalapeno-wrapped shrimp on a bed of corn salsa, and holy God it was amazing. While we sat there, a valet from around the corner pulled up in a Lamborghini and parked it on the curb outside our window. It was fun for me to watch people walking toward it and seeing their faces when they spotted the car. Lots of stares, and a few people pulled over in their cars to take pictures including one dad who got his daughter out of her car seat to have her picture taken. The valet arrived back to reclaim the car at that point and let the little girl (and her brother) get inside and be photographed INSIDE the car. That's when Beast got actively jealous, I think.

Post snack, we wandered back towards our hotel, people-watching and window-shopping. I loved this store's window and interior displays. This is just about 2/3 of all the sewing machines on display! I also liked the "Spitalfields" reference, and "Jack's Place." You Ripper-ologists might get the connection. Or maybe I'm just weird. ;-)

At some point I realized that wearing flip-flops for this trip was a really stupid idea, and my feet began to concur (loudly). We straggled back to the hotel and relaxed for a couple of hours while we debated placed to eat dinner. We ended up in the Elephant and Castle, which was NOT the best choice as it turned out. My roast beef was delicious and the green beans were perfectly cooked. Beast's shepherd's pie was only warm when served and immediately upon finishing it, he said he was pretty sure it was a bad idea. Best part overall were the signs on the walls.

The crowd by this point was getting pretty thick outside with all the people headed to the lakefront for fireworks viewing. We were staying about 4 blocks from Navy Pier where they are launched, but neither of us felt particularly comfortable in the crowd for several reasons, so we retreated to our hotel room and listened to the booms while watching the show on TV. Yes, we suck. We also realized at about this point that perhaps a hotel a block from the Northwestern Hospital ER didn't bode well for a quiet night. This is the sort of situation for which earplugs are designed, however, so I slept blissfully till about 9:30 Friday morning.

That long sleep meant one thing: PIZZA FOR BREAKFAST! We were yards from the original Gino's East Pizza, and had noticed immense lines the day before. We got over there at 10:55 and were about the 10th group in line for opening at 11. I could eat Gino's deep-dish pizza's every day. In fact, I could eat their crusts alone for every meal. So incredibly good. The waitress was stellar, the drinks were more booze than mixer, and reading the graffiti was as fun as usual. By the time we left, the place was jammed and the line was 50 feet down the block.

Fortified by Chicago-style pizza, we headed south toward the river and then Millennium Park. We passed more stores, more beggars, more people, more odd smells, crossed the river and headed right for the Bean. Naturally, we took our pictures, which won't be posted here, but here's a sort of vertiginous shot of Several Big Tall Buildings instead. The tall building in the back center is Trump Tower, the latest of the 'scrapers.

After (FINALLY) seeing and being seen by the Bean, we scooted over to the Crown Fountain pillars, where all the kids in the universe were splashing and yelling and generally having a great time. Seriously, it was fun to just sit and watch them and know that we didn't have to worry about keeping track of anyone. Then there was this little guy, who had just had it for the day:

This was about the point when my feet, in their flip-flops, started to get very annoyed. However, we plodded along another 5 blocks to the Harold Washington Library Center, I have to explain how embarrassing it is that I hadn't been here ever?? Naturally, we found the doors leading directly into the teen media area which blew my mind with joy. After asking directions, we found our way to the "regular library" which was ... sigh ... just spectacular.
We found a table to sit at on (I think) the 3rd floor and sat trying to get cooled off. One of the best things about libraries is the free wi-fi: we scoped out the CTA site and discovered a bus that would drop us back 2 blocks from our hotel in air-conditioned comfort for a mere $2.25. Once I knew I didn't have a 40-minute walk ahead of me, I perked right up and we wandered a bit more before heading across the street to the bus stop. We ended up seated across from a couple from Sheffield, England, on holiday here. The wife went to uni in the town where my sister and her family lived, on a campus in the village where my sister is buried, so that was all quite weird. We helped them get sorted out for their next activity and discussed their baseball outing planned for the next day.

Upon arriving back at the hotel, I crawled under the covers for a quick nap (the room was Siberia-temperature) and literally crashed for nearly 90 minutes. Beast woke me up so I could get changed into slightly dressier clothes--and higher heels, also unsuitable for walking long distances--and we headed to the Hancock Center for dinner in the Signature Room. Now, we had on a previous trip already paid to go to the observatory to see the view, but it was very fun this time to tell the doormen -woman and -man that we had reservations and essentially get to cut everyone in line and stand by the elevators without waiting for 45 minutes. :-)

Dinner was astounding. Stellar service, good food--I was still stuffed with pizza though, so I could barely eat--and amazing eavesdropping and people-watching. And the view:
I managed to make our waiter burst out in a loud guffaw at one point toward the end of the meal, something I suspect is unusual. I mean, this is a place where the waiter puts your napkin on your lap for you. Quite hoity-toity (and expensive--we won't be returning for another 27 years, probably). And then in the elevator down we got into a rather hysterical conversation with the elevator operator which apparently caused the rest of the people in the car to giggle. I was too busy laughing at him telling Beast he was robbing the cradle, that I couldn't be more than 19 years old. WTH--I was old enough to be this guy's mother...ROFL.

And then we walked, or rather waddled, back to our room and crashed, feet up on the coffee table, and watched Fast & Loud, which I'm sorry to say I have started to pay attention to. I mean, they are SO Texan it's hard NOT to watch. But I loathe that beard...

Next morning, it was Beast's turn to sleep in till I woke him so we could check out and head home. It was a great couple of days.

Upon returning home, Sparky had already left to get back to campus for some Big Thing Saturday night, so we arrived at an empty-but-for-the-guinea-pigs house. The a/c came on while we were getting the last of the things out of the car ... and sounded like a plane was taking off. Beast took a look and eventually found that the housing (?) that holds the fan on the motor had broken so the fan was crashing into the walls of the unit as it spun. The cooling part and the motor are all fine, so he jury-rigged a fix to get us through till Monday when it won't cost body parts and internal organs to have someone come fix it. Or, actually, I think the plan now is that he'll go to the nearest wholesale warehouse for Lennox parts and buy replacement parts. In any case, he spent his first 5 hours home yesterday doing that and he's been outside all afternoon today doing yardwork. I've been...doing this.... Allergy season sucks.

But now I'm done with this, so perhaps I'll start working on dinner and then clean the pigs' cage. Giddyup.

2 thing(s) to say:

Kwizgiver said...

What a great anniversary getaway!!! It's a city that's on my bucket list!

molly said...

sounds like such a nice break. Congratulations on your happy marriage!

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