Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chicago with my mom

Last year when my sister Ruth visited my parents, she & my mom took a couple of days to have fun in downtown Chicago.  I was home with my brand-new baby, and perhaps a bit outspoken in my envy?--but my mom promised that she would take me the next summer when Luke was weaned.
So this past weekend, my parents drove down and my mom took me to Chicago while my awesome dad stayed home with my children (Neil was there intermittently, but he had some unchangeable work commitments, so it was absolutely wonderful to have Dad there.  Actually, I think the kids were all way excited for me to leave so that they could spend two days with my dad.  Popsicles! Sprinkler!  No Mommy and her crazy list of rules!).  We were all quite giddy when we said our goodbyes.

We drove up to Chicago, checked into our hotel (the Essex Inn on Michigan Avenue, right across from Grant Park--it was lovely & my mom upgraded us to a suite!), and proceeded to have the most wonderful couple of days.  Since I've spent so much time in the museums (as a matter of fact, I'm taking the kids up there later this week to hit the museums again) we decided to just do things that are less fun with kiddies, like walking for hours, checking out architecture and shopping (my mom's translation of my request to "just walk around a lot").  Mom had purchased tickets for us on the double-decker bus tours, which I absolutely loved.  We go to Chicago quite a bit, but it's really hard to see much when you're either a) a pedestrian frantically jostling for elbow room or b) in a car cursing traffic.  I totally loved being able to have a 360-degree view and just focusing on what I was seeing, rather than worrying about traffic or my kidlets!  Plus the tour guides were full of super interesting facts, anecdotes, etc.  I learned a TON about Chicago's architecture and history.  And the best part is that the tours are hop-on, hop-off, so you can use them like a cab to get all around the city.  And the second-best part is that we literally did not wait longer than 2 minutes for a bus all weekend (usually they arrived just as we were walking up.  Awesome!)

We rode down to the Magnificent Mile part of Michigan Ave, and hopped off to do some window-shopping (and some not-so-window shopping).  So nice and relaxing to be able to spend all the time I wanted lingering over breakables and intricate gadgetry!  We even ventured into American Girl Place (which I would never have dared to do with my girls), but which was very interesting from both a shopper's and a cultural/anthropological point of view.  I bought a couple of cute shirts at Forever 21, got a hand massage at Lush, and spent far too long wandering around the LEGO store checking out all the awesomeness (like the above & below pictures).  AND we had lunch at Grand Lux cafe (top photo), which was AMAZING (fabulous bread and like the best salad of my life), and then we went to Wow Bao! for an afternoon snack, which was also amazing.

After we wore ourselves out (for the first time) on the Mag Mile, we headed back to the bus and took a tour of the south neighborhoods.  This was totally fascinating for me because I read Devil in the White City last year and found it to be a total page-turner, so I loved learning more about the World's Fair site from the tour guide.  And since President Obama was in town for the weekend, we got to see the extreme security cordoning off his street, which was pretty cool.  (His neighborhood has some of the most beautiful old homes I've ever seen, btw--very close to a cool Frank Lloyd Wright as well.)

Once we were back downtown, we went to the old Chicago Public Library, which is now the Chicago Cultural Center.  There was a gallery opening and we decided to stop in for a minute because I saw a cityscape painting in the window that I really loved.  On a total fluke I decided to check the price and it was $10!!  For an original painting!  Totally amazing, especially for Chicago.  So of course I bought it (and then lugged it around the rest of the night).

Then my mom, my painting, and I walked over through the edge of the theater district and decided to have dinner at XOCO (a Rick Bayless restaurant, if you follow him).  It was really delicious, especially the Mexico City hot chocolate that was basically like drinking melted mousse with a hint of chile.  Mmm.  And I got my avocado fix in again.  :-)

After that we caught the bus again to do the city lights night tour, which was breathtaking.  I love Chicago at night--I always have.  One of my very favorite Chicago memories is running the 10 miles along the beach with Neil at midnight and seeing all the lights sparkle out over the water.  It's indescribably beautiful.

And, of course, we wandered over to the Bean (where my mom's iPhone wasn't sure what to focus on!).

 ...and then we sat by the Buckingham fountain and watched the sound and light show (every hour on the top of the hour, btw.  It's really beautiful and worth waiting for).
 The next morning we got up and walked down a couple of blocks to have breakfast at the Corner Bakery, which is seriously the cutest little place and the food is absolutely delicious.  I don't think it's possible to have a bad meal in Chicago.

And then we walked back over to the Chicago Cultural Center because I wanted to look at the Tiffany dome...

 ...and then we went over to Chinatown and I bought some treatsies for the children.
 And then we went through Little Italy (which sadly was kind of boring), and on to Greektown, where we spent a long time browsing around a candle shop (like the really cool kind that sells incense and candles and herbs to ward off bad luck or invite good fortune or whatnot...we pretended to be looking for things while secretly we listened to the saleswomen advise people on what were the best candles to burn to invite prosperity for a new shop opening and which saints they should pray to as they burned the candles.  Fascinating.  I bought some frankincense and myrrh for Christmas purposes).  And we did a quick whirl through the lobby of the Hellenic museum (family legend has it that we come from Greece, although apparently the census says Italy. Whatever--I'm claiming Greece).
 Then we went to Artopolis, which is one of my favorite places on this earth, because there you can eat this (which I may have to get for Abigail when we hit the museum this weekend, because it represents Her Ideal Meal):
 and this:
 ...and then we hiked back up the Magnificent Mile and I thought about how much my children would love me if I came home wearing this:

(I did buy them some Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.  Poor Jules--the first two that she tried were vomit and snot.  She was almost in tears.)

I kind of lost track of how many times we walked up and down the Mag Mile that day.  It was a lot.  A lot a lot a lot.  Fortunately there were cool street performers and the end of a Puerto Rican parade to watch, AND the best free food giveaway ever--Stacy's Pita Chips and Sabra hummus!  Oh Chicago, I love you.

At one point we paused and watched the tour boats sailing on the river.
 And also at some point in there I bought an extremely heavy set of bowls to replace the ones that Abigail broke last year (the C&B Parker House set; I use them multiple times a day and I was SO glad to see that they are carrying them again!!).  They were seriously insanely heavy but I really wanted them, so we stopped there at the very end.  And then we went to Trader Joe's and I filled up the loose places in my heavy bag.
 And then right before we went home we stopped at Fox & Obel and I ate this, which was honestly the best sandwich I have ever had in my entire life.  If you know me, you know I am a (mostly) vegetarian for health reasons, and not because I don't like meat, because I LOVE MEAT, and I love roast beef the very very most of all.  And so when I saw this on the menu...I ate it.  And I have no regrets.  The rarest, most tender, perfectly juicy roast beef, plus a thick slab of blue Brie, plus a perfectly crusty/chewy baguette, plus caramelized onions.

 It was seriously the most delightful and lovely weekend.  My batteries and wells have been pretty drained lately, and this was the perfect recharge.  I'm so thankful to my darling parents for their thoughtfulness and generosity!  They are absolutely wonderful.  I never worried about my children because I knew they were having the time of their lives with my dad, and I had the time of my life exploring and eating and talking nonstop with my mom.  It was wonderful.

(Oh, and the weekend's only casualty...my sad little fake ficus tree, which I have been hauling around since my freshman year at BYU.  Juliet and Isaac decided to "spin some clothes" out of the leaves and this is how I found it when I got home...)


Jen said...

That sounds like the perfect trip! Glad you had fun and that (nearly) everyone survived. Poor ficus.

Elise said...

haha--vomit and snot....

Julianne said...

Great post. I'm glad you had fun.

Dani said...

Sounds like heaven! Chicago is my favorite city. We took the double-decker bus tour with Grace and Ashby when we lived there and LOVED it! It was so much fun! So glad you had such a great time.

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