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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Windy City Weekend

It was a whirlwind of a trip, and that's not only because the city really is windy. Did you know that Chicago wasn't nicknamed the "Windy City" because of it's gusty weather conditions? It was bestowed the name by its rival, Cincinnati, as they referred to Chicago's politicians as "blowing a lot of wind." That's just one of the things I learned two weekends ago (yes, I've been rather delinquent in my re-cap. I have a real job now. Sue me.)

Amanda and I skipped town Thursday evening and arrived at Jeff and Aly's posh apartment in Bucktown late into the night. After a blissful rest on a slowly deflating air mattress to a soundtrack of fire engine sirens and trash trucks (Chicago's a really noisy city), we emerged fresh, nervous and excited about exploring the city.

Our first feat of the morning was the El-Train. It was packed like a can of sardines for the morning rush hour, and Amanda and I wedged and smashed ourselves inside the car before the doors slid shut. I found myself floating along in a sea of people, with no bar or pole to hold onto. Amanda, who was standing next to the bar, is hanging on me instead. As the car lurches forward, I'm jostled back and forth as if I'm experiencing A Night at the Roxbury. Amanda and I finally figure out stability logistics, and then the train comes to a screeching halt. We're underground and after a minute, the conductor tells us there's a malfunction. The car becomes incredibly quiet, even more quiet than it was when we initially boarded. It was eerie. No one looked at each other, no one spoke, despite the fact that we were all sharing the same few inches of breathing room. Amanda and I thought this was hilarious. If something like that in Nashville, people would've been cracking jokes and connecting the dots of the social South. Weird.

The delayed ride caused us to miss our 9 a.m. architectural boat tour, so we started down Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. the "Magnificent Mile," to kill some time before the next scheduled tour. We found ourselves in an urban mall, and indulged in some gourmet chocolate at Ethel's Chocolate Lounge. Sufficiently sugared, the two of us boarded our boat and were greeted by a ornery, yet cheeky old woman to be our tour guide. The boat tour was very pleasant, and Chicago's architecture is beautiful---I even saw the Marina City Towers, featured on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album---but by the time the tour ended, we were ready to retire our sea legs for dry land.

The afternoon continued as we shopped all over downtown Chicago. By one o'clock, we were starving, and we spotted Giordano's for some deep dish delight. Not wanting to wait 45-minutes, we foraged on, vowing to come back in a little while. A little while slipped succumbed to retail therapy, and we had assuredly lost our table. Instead, we called Siebe and Aubrey, who were randomly in Chicago the same weekend, and chit chatted on the streets in amusement. After we made plans for later in the evening, Amanda and I decided to stop in the lounge of the Signature Room, on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower, to take in the beautiful Chicago views. After a not-so-quick stop at H&M, we finally made it back over to Giordano's three hours later for lunch. Needless to say, we were both hungry and cranky.
Giordano's takes about 45 minutes to cook a pizza. No problem, as I enjoyed my caprese to stave off my growling belly. The time came and went, and we sat there longer and longer. After an hour and fifteen minutes, our pizza arrived, and we began to devour the pie. But one bit into it, we realized that it was cold. We sent the pizza back with the waiter, and it came back out 15 minutes later, with a little steam. It still wasn't hot, but at that point, it didn't matter. So much for our first attempt at world-famous Chicago pizza...

Amanda and I closed out the afternoon with some shopping in Chicago's Gold Coast area, and then met up with Siebe and Aubrey at the Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park for a free symphony performanece of Broadway hits. Dusk arrived and after a photo-op at Chicago's Bean, we boarded the EL for Bucktown.
The featured dinner venue was Feast, a delightful restaurant where I had goat-cheese stuffed chicken and potato gnocchi. We ended our evening at Danny's Tavern, and let me just say that there are some HOT-TIES in Chi-town.

Saturday morning was the big day, and we began with a gourmet breakfast at Toast. It was a tough decision, but I finally settled on an apple, pear and brie crepe with drizzled honey, charred chicken sausage, and true-poached eggs. It was a fabulous meal.

A short ride over to Wrigley Field was in order, as we had tickets to see the Cubbies play the Diamondbacks. I was in heaven. I have a theory that if I lived in Chicago, I'd spend everyday at Wrigley. I was rather obsessed with the experience. Amanda and I capped off our day of Chicago baseball with some so-called "Chicago Dogs," another city-specific food disappointment. The Cubbies lost, the dog was soggy, and we froze on the unseasonably cold Chicago day, but it was still glorious.

Siebe and Aubrey joined Amanda, Jeff, Aly and I after the game for a pub-crawl through Wrigleyville. Although we got started rather early, the six of us found ourselves piled on top of each other in a cab, nearing the end of the day. It was a really funny cab ride, with Amanda up front talking Harry Potter to the turbaned cabbie and the five of us smashed in the back with some mystery ointment. Don't ask---although we do have photographic evidence if you must know.

Sunday came too soon, and Amanda and I were starving by the time we arrived at Tempo Cafe, our Sarah-Scott-recommended breakfast destination. We were seated al fresco, and enjoyed the skillet plates, stacked with potatoes, ham, bell peppers, tomatoes, four different kinds of cheese, and eggs.

The day slipped away quickly, and after some drama with a free shuttle to the Navy Pier, we paid our respects to the token tourist destination and its crazy mirrors. Late afternoon led us to the Art Institute of Chicago, but we were horrified to learn that we'd arrived only an hour before close. Long story-short, the two of us did the drive-by tour and managed to see our artwork of choice. I was thrilled to see my first-ever live Marc Chagall. The Art Institute alone is reason enough to re-visit the Windy City.

Later, Amanda and I met up with Jeff and Aly at Lou Malnalti's for one more attempt at Chicago pizza. Success! After dinner, we got a tour of a few Chicago 'boro's, and drove past the Hershey factory, where you could smell the warm chocolate scent for miles. If I moved to Chicago, you better believe it would be near this plant.

Amanda and I ended our Chicago weekend back at the Signature Room's lounge for some $15 mojitos and breathtaking nighttime views. It was a jam-packed weekend, and while our Monday-morning flight came all-too-soon, I had a wonderful time in Chi-town.

Our Chicago Family: Jeff, Aly & Lou


Blogger thesciencegirl said...

Once again, sorry we never met up, but it sounds like you had a great weekend. You went to many of my favorite Chicago places. I've been meaning to go to Toast... glad to hear another ringing endorsement. I also have yet to head up to the Signature room lounge, though one of my friends swears it's his favorite place in the city. Also, wasn't the Grant Park Orchestra concert at the Pritzker Pavilion awesome? I go to those almost every week. Glad you had a good trip!

10:45 AM

Blogger lauren said...

Hey, I was in Chicago around the time you were there. Funny!

2:21 PM


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