A few weekends ago, I ran off to Chicago to meet my husband for the weekend. He was already there for business.
I almost didn't go.
It takes so much planning to leave behind two teenagers, two dogs and seven koi. I knew Chicago would be chilly and if I had to work that hard to leave my life for a second, I am begging to be put in some warm weather with a tropical drink topped with dark rum.
I am so thankful I came to my senses. Chicago is magical.
I had been there in my 20's and my 30's, but this was the first time I was there with Michael. And when you strip away the amazing life we have built around ourselves for 25 years just for a minute and the only sounds around us are our own voices, that is truly magical.
Coincidentally, Design Sponge posted a Chicago City Guide the day I booked my flight. Now I had a map for my kind of Chicago. It was a sign. Thank you Design Sponge.
I want to share a whole bunch of things I loved about Chicago.
There seemed to be music everywhere.
And it was so easy to get everywhere. The transit system was amazing.
The city is filled with public art. And art is full of hope.
As an artist who uses all recycled materials, I loved how green the city was.
Here is Chicago's bike sharing program B-cycle. There are seven self service bike rental stations at downtown and lakefront locations. It is so easy to just hop on a bike. Helmets are included.
There were also reminders all over the city in big, green tags on the value of trees in honor of Arbor Day. Thousands of trees were tagged by the Morton Arboretum with a gentle message that trees matter in every breath we take.
The picture above was taken right outside of Gino's East of Chicago, a legendary deep dish pizzeria in the Windy City. We landed here the first day of our trip for breakfast.
Michael dragged me in, insisting beer and pizza was a great breakfast. I did not agree at first but came around to his way of thinking.
We both drank my morning coffee and sipped his beer. And had the best pizza ever.
Confession: I have very little tourist in me.
I spent seven weeks in London in college and never once saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. But I went down lots of little alley ways and met some unique people and saw some off the track places.
I haven't changed much, but now I am married to Michael and he takes me to the touristy places.
And I lead him down the alley ways.
We went on an architectural river boat cruise. It was a magical way to see the city and learn about the history of the amazing buildings in the skyline.
Chicago may have the kindest cab drivers in America.
Each one we met was really special. The one that drove us to Wicker Park (the alley way I led us down next) drew us a little map to make sure we stayed on the right streets.
I loved exploring this neighborhood. It is a bit swanky, very artsy and eclectic.
Wicker Park is full of great shops, like this one, Greenheart, focused on free trade and eco-friendly products.
And how do you not go into a bar call Moonshine? You have to go in.
Especially if it is in the middle of the afternoon and you are on holiday.
There were so many consignment stores in Wicker Park. I found a perfect fitting pair of True Religion jeans in one of them.
Here is a list of second hand stores in Chicago. I wish I had had this list with me. I took Michael in and out of eight stores. I am guessing he is thankful I did not have this list then.
We stayed on The Magnificent Mile. I loved walking out of our hotel and being right across the street from fun. The city shines at night in the contrast of the old buildings next to stores brimming with people.
I took a picture of Michael from behind in the city. There was an orb beside him. I was certain departed family was with us.
He later checked my lens and pointed out that it was quite dirty. The orbs disappeared with a little cleaning.
Here is a better picture of Michael fully engaged in an artful conversation.
I do no prompting; he jumps right into these shots.
We packed a bunch into the weekend, but one of my favorite adventures was jumping on the "L" and heading to Oak Park for a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio.
Pinch me! I am in awe of his vision, resiliency and talent. This little visit needs to a blog post all on its own. And I loved the Oak Park neighborhood full of Frank Lloyd Wright's influences.
Here is a picture of his parlor.
We fit in one more touristy thing, The Untouchables Tour. This was an amusing two-hour tour back to Chicago in the 1920's and 1930's.
I said a little bit about food, but this city is really all about food, so matter what I say, it will not be enough.
We ate at the Purple Pig, voted one of the ten best restaurant's in the country by Bon Appetit Magazine. We waited 2.5 hours to be seated (we had no reservation). We filled the time with wine and a run to Nordstroms. I just peaked at the menu again to remember everything we ordered and I just wish we ordered more.
We also ate at Bar Toma, the restaurant of Chef Tony Mantuano, one of Bravos "Top Chef Masters". We just stumbled upon this little gem. I loved the charred carrots.
The best part about this trip? We did not even venture out any day before noon. We slept as late as we wanted to. We ordered room-service breakfast and watched the football draft.
I think vacations are for doing something out of the ordinary and watching any sports programming is very unusual for me.
And as busy as all this sounds (we did so much more than I mentioned), nothing was planned.
We fell beautifully into this city. And into conversation and adventure.
Thank you Chicago. I will not run away from your windy weather again.
Next time, I will run directly into the wind.