Tuesday, October 28, 2008


We just returned from 5 wonderful days in beautiful Chicago. What a great place! It's kind of like New York, but more beautiful. As you probably know, the whole city burned down in the great fire of 1871, and when it was rebuilt it was much more intelligently designed than before. New York, on the other hand, has much older buildings, and the way the city is set up is much different. Chicago is called the "windy city" and there has been much speculation about how it received that nickname. While a lovely breeze does blow from Lake Michigan, the term "windy" most likely refers to long winded (boastful) Chicago politicians!

Me looking very serious by Lake Michigan...
I did not know Rich was including me in the picture but it is the only one we got of the lake!

Well, speaking of Lake Michigan, it was my delight to see my first Great Lake. Did you know that Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake completely contained in the United States? (the rest spread into Canada). Also, the Chicago River flows from the Lake right through the middle of the city - so interesting. We happened to be there at the time people are dry docking their boats for the winter from the lake, and they raise all the bridges in town to let the boats come through. It's a neat sight!

Boats coming through on the Chicago River

We flew in on Wednesday afternoon, and what is our tradition when landing in a big city (such as New York)? Going to get pizza, of course! In this case, Chicago style deep-dish pizza, something neither of us had ever tasted. So we checked into our hotel on the the Magnificent Mile and set out on foot to indulge!

We went to the oldest and original deep dish location-
Pizzeria Uno. It's an old pub type place, and it's good thing that we hit it at before the dinner hour. We got right in around 4:30 - other times that we passed by there was always a line out the door. And deep dish pizza takes time - 45 minutes. I can't imagine waiting two hours in line, then another 45 minutes for my food. I'm a foodie, but no food is worth that long of a wait! We ordered the sausage and pepperoni - it was so good! The crust is very unique - almost like a pie crust as it goes up the side of the deep pan it is baked in. The next layer is cheese, then the toppings, then the sauce goes on top. It is absolutely delicious! It was so big and rich, we could each only eat one piece (bummer!) With happy bellies, we went out to Michigan Avenue and browsed a few shops. Our big purchase was a warm hat for me - temperatures were in the low 50's and I had left mine at home!

The next day (Thursday) Rich had a meeting all day, so I walked a couple of blocks for breakfast at the Corner Bakery. I had the BEST oatmeal ever, and a lovely cup of coffee, and leisurely read the morning paper. Boy, did that make me feel urban (or as Rich would say, "culturally relevant"). I wasn't sure how I would like venturing out on my own in a big unknown city, so I booked a ticket on the double decker tour bus. For one reasonable fare, you can hop on and off the bus all day long, or just ride the 2 hour loop, and they give you a narrated tour as you ride. Rich gave me written directions on where to pick up my bus (and the address of our hotel in case I couldn't find my way back). I actually caught a cab (by myself) and got myself to the bus stop. I think this surprised Rich- and me as well! Rich is always the leader and I am the follower, so it was different for me for sure to be on my own! Rich will tell you I am not the best with maps and orientation...and I have NO idea which way is north, south, east or west in a new place...

I enjoyed the tour of the city - the architecture in Chicago is magnificent! It was really great to hear of all the wonderful history of the city. Did you know the brownie was invented in Chicago? Or that is where they filmed the Batman movies? Or that the largest U.S. post office is located in Chicago? You do now! I got off a couple of times to see some sights, do some shopping, have a nice cup of tea, and I even took myself to an IMAX movie. I think that was the first time I've ever been to a movie all by myself! I got only a little lost getting back to the hotel...but I made it. That night we had dinner with the other meeting attendees and some of their wives, at a good place called Rock Bottom. Below are some of the photos I took on my day alone...

Hershey's store...it smelled heavenly inside

Wrigley building...yes, as in the gum

Navy Pier...


First multi level mall in America, anchored by Macy's and American Girl

Fall flowers...

Water Tower Station - one of two buildings that survived the great Chicago fire

The next morning I returned to Corner Bakery for more of that oatmeal - and read a good book there for awhile. I was starting to really like my routine- sleep in, go out to breakfast and leisurely read for awhile. Works for me! I then came back and packed up our things to move hotels. We were now on our own dime, and we preferred to go to the Marriott Courtyard for the rest of our stay. Funny thing was, it was right next door to the hotel we were staying at! Easy. Rich finished up his business by noon, and we were free to roam the city. We grabbed lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern - a below street level (scary) place that has been slinging burgers for 70+ years. It's the place that Bill Murray made fun of on Saturday Night Live many years ago- do you remember "Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger? No fries...cheeps...coke no pepsi!" Well, that's the place. Probably one of the lamest burgers I've ever had. I guess it's all about atmosphere! We then took a long, enjoyable walk down to the lake and decided to visit the Shedd Aquarium. It is the nation's 2nd largest aquarium (the largest is in Atlanta). We had a good time looking at all the beautiful sea creatures, though I must say that I like the Monterey Bay Aquarium better. They are adding on - maybe they'll bring in some neat things like penguins!

Shedd Aquarium on Lake Michigan

Some shots near the lake looking back at downtown

Beautiful red fall foliage...

Millenium Park- Cloud Gate Sculpture

Do you see us in the sculpture reflection?

Millenium Park from above (taken from their their website)

Panoramic view of downtown

One of the nice places Rich took me...(not!)

Total dive...


Saturday Night Live fame

Wishing this tasted good...

Earlier in the day, I had mentioned to Rich that it might be fun to play the Wicked lottery. We had no plans to see any show while in town, so why not? He was game, so we went and entered our names for the 6:00 drawing for the 8:00 pm show. There were at least 100 people competing - would you believe we won tickets? And, on the very last draw. We were shocked! So, after a quick bowl of soup (at, you guessed it, the Corner bakery again) we found ourselves in front row seats. Wow! It was a great show, a superb cast, and how cool is it to say you've seen Wicked in L.A., New York, and Chicago! Pretty cool indeed. I didn't know people spit so much when they sang- you find out when you sit in the front row!

We won!

Front Row seats...

Me posing by one of the many Wicked "balls"

On Saturday, we had a full day planned. First, Rich shlepped me to one of his faraway "dives" for breakfast. After a couple of lengthy subway rides, and several blocks of walking in the wind and rain (through a not so nice neighborhood), we arrived at the Cozy Corner. And it was cozy indeed. And there was a line. The clientele was interesting indeed. The restaurant is on the border of a run down, impoverished part of town and an area where Yuppies live, so it was a mix of both. After a few minutes, we got a cushy booth and the coffee started flowing.

Another nice place...hee hee

Rich recommended the "skillet breakfast" (because he did his homework about this place) and he did not steer us wrong. Your breakfast arrives in a small heavy skillet. On the bottom are delicious hash browns, then layered are your choice of toppings (I chose ham, mushrooms and onions, Rich went for bacon, ham and sausage), melted cheese, and eggs any style. It was mighty tasty indeed - and cheap!

I cannot tell you how tasty this was! Supersize it to see the grease!

Waiting for the train to come..brrh

We quickly hopped the train back into town and boarded ship for a cruise on the Chicago River. It was a tour that highlighted the city's history and architecture and was extremely interesting. I might mention that it was also extremely cold - 45 degrees outside to be exact. We were bundled up to the max, but it was still a bit cold for us Californians. After awhile, it didn't feel so cold anymore...that's of course because we were numb! After the 1 1/2 hour cruise ended, it was hard to move but we made a beeline for the nearest Starbucks! It literally took 15 minutes to warm up inside sipping my latte. After the cruise we headed to the Sears tower, the tallest building in North America and the 3rd tallest in the world! What an amazing view of Chicago we got. It was totally worth the $18.50 each - and it sure makes you feel like a tourist. Better than the Empire State Building!

Amazing view from the Sears tower

We then quickly booked out of there and caught a train to a little town called Oak Park to visit and tour the home of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Running late, we walked very briskly through town, hoping that we could make the 3:20 tour (they were gracious enough to let us join the group late). We just love touring places like that - and I just went with my friend Jocelyn last summer to one of Wright's works, the Hollyhock House in Hollywood. We then wandered through town, admiring the neat homes and grabbing a homemade cookie and hot apple cider at a cute little bakery. Tired, we took the train back to our hotel to rest a bit and freshen up for dinner. We had a special dinner planned at Morton's of Chicago, and it didn't disappoint. Bacon wrapped scallops, iceberg wedge salad with house made blue cheese dressing, rib eye steak, baked potato and creamed spinach...not to mention Hot Chocolate lava cake with vanilla Haagen Dazs ice cream for dessert! Morton's is very elegant, very clubby, and very delicious. And a total Chicago landmark. It's a don't miss.

Walking near the Frank Lloyd Wright home

Typical midwest home...but you didn't see too many McCain stickers in this blue state!

Typical apartment building

The next morning we went to breakfast (can you guess where? Yep, the Corner Bakery), then headed to the Gold Coast, which is Chicago's wealthiest neighborhood and the 2nd wealthiest neighborhood in the nation (after Manhattan). There we met up with a Culinary walking tour. Fifteen of us were lead by a cute perky tour guide through 3 different neighborhoods, stopping along the way to learn more about certain food and to taste it! Is that not right up our alley? It was great fun eating a latke at a Jewish deli, tasting tea at a loose tea leaf/teasane store, learning about different cinnamons and browsing at a spice store (and buying dried lavender- so hard to find!), tasting olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars at an oil & vinegar store, eating delicious butter toffee at a chocolatier, tasting cheese at a cheese store, and lastly ending up at a landmark pizza parlor and having some more of that delectable deep dish pizza! At each stop, our tour guide, Emily gave us an informative talk as well. It was very enjoyable. The tour covered about 2 1/2 miles and took around 3 hours.

Gold Coast neighborhood where we began our tour

Our tour guide, Emily, talking to us about cocoa beans at our chocolate store

Emily serving up the deep dish pizza!

L. Frank Baum, wrote the Wizard of Oz in this Chicago town - a park is dedicated to him

Well, sadly, it was now time to make the journey back to O'Hare airport, and leave the city we had come to love the past five days. That's OK - 43 degrees and snow flurries were predicted for that afternoon! On the airplane, we watched Batman Begins on Rich's laptop, which was filmed right in Chicago. What fun it was to see all the places we had just visited! It was great to get home and see the kids, who had five fun filled days at the Dempsey's house. Thank you, God, for the wonderful time and safety for everyone in our family!

1 comment:

Nancy said...

How fun! Sounds like you had a fantastic time!! I ADORE Pizzaria Uno pizza. Mmmmmm...