It’s time for me to finish up my Chicago stories I think – the garden is demanding some screen time too and my next trip is almost here! So here are the last of the Chicago highlights.
The Shedd Aquarium. Beautiful exhibits in a gorgeous building (I love the design of the lights!) including snakes, starfish, sea urchins, frogs, otters and penguins. The 30 minute animal show, fun and educational, starred dolphins, beluga whales and a sea lion.
The Field Museum. With its massive center hall, everything here feels grand and impressive. I have to admit, I was pretty tired by the time I arrived late in the afternoon so I definitely short-changed this museum, but what I did see was wonderful. Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex holds court here and the African fighting elephants, long the centerpiece of the Field, continue their epic conflict.
Shopping. I didn’t venture north to the Magnificent Mile, but there is plenty of shopping in the Loop, especially on State Street. I stopped at Marshall Field’s – oops, I mean Macy’s (it will always be Marshall Field’s to me!) for Frango mints and to gawk at their (stunning) Tiffany ceiling. There are also some fun chain stores that we don’t have at home (H&M, Nordstrom, Anthropologie) and I stopped at Chicago favorite Garrett Popcorn for some of their Garrett Mix (a combination of cheese corn and carmel corn which sounds suspicious but was surprisingly delicious – and addictive!) And of course, the museum shops are always worth visiting with lots of beautiful and unique items.
Eating. Even with such a short stay where I didn’t eat out much, there are a few places I’d go to again. Pizano’s has a friendly, welcoming vibe and serves great deep dish pizza (another Chicago specialty). Cosi, which was new to me but apparently is in several large cities, had tasty sandwiches and great service. The museums all have lovely, relaxing cafes, often overlooking something interesting and are excellent for a pick-me-up when you’re flagging. My favorite stop was Wildberry Pancake and Cafe where I had an amazing skillet breakfast with buttermilk pancakes. These were probably the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten – and I have eaten some wonderful pancakes! A lively, busy place with great service and wow, those pancakes….
Hotel. I stayed at the Silversmith Hotel in Wabash, about a block and a half from the Art Institute. This is considered a “boutique” hotel and is a bit fancier than your average motel. It was a lovely hotel with classy decor and a friendly and welcoming staff and the location can’t be beat. I used booking.com and I feel I got a good deal.
Transportation. I took Amtrak into Chicago’s Union Station. Easy, relaxing and cheap (my fare was $28 – round-trip!), it was a great choice. In Chicago I used Uber (an app based car service that connects you with private drivers) with fair success and taxis, but I also walked a lot; Chicago is a very walkable, easy to navigate city with Lake Michigan acting as an easy-to-identify landmark.
Travel misadventures. In addition to a few minor missteps, I had two major issues come up on this trip. The first was, on arriving at Union Station my suitcase broke. Not the dramatic, all-your-unmentionables-scatter-across-the-tracks broken but the very frustrating the-handle-will-not-extend-so-I-have-to-carry-the-bag-rather-than-roll-it broken. I entertained myself while lugging it to the taxi stand of how exactly I was going to destroy it when I got it home (and it’s already been replaced!) The other issue was that the toilet overflowed in my hotel room at 1am the second night of my stay. Yeah, that really happened. I’ll spare you the details but it wasn’t really that bad. Well, it could have been much worse. As it was, the hotel moved me to a suite (walking through the halls at 2am in my pjs – awkward!) and were very apologetic. (And yes, I’d still recommend this hotel!) And now it’s a pretty funny story. The fact is, things happen, especially when you travel and learning to roll with the unexpected is one of the most valuable things you’ll learn. Don’t let it ruin your experience.