The past week, my family and I found ourselves fortunate enough to visit Chicago for the first time in our lives. My husband has a relative up there who invited us out, and so myself, my husband, our two kids, and my in-laws flew up. Now, I have a LOT more to say about our trip, but I want to write down a brief overview before I forget.
After a short delay due to bad weather at O’Hare, we landed and were met by my husband’s cousin, Lois. She’s an older woman, originally from Kansas, who moved to Chicago 34 years ago to continue her work at Sears in the Sears Tower. After retiring she began to work at the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio, giving tours to visitors. She is a vibrant woman, overflowing with knowledge about the history and architecture of the city.
That first afternoon, after settling in at her condo in River Park, she took us on a drive downtown. We went up and down Lake Shore Drive and then downtown through the Magnificent Mile and across the Chicago River. I was completely enamored with the skyscrapers and city lights and the view across the lake.
It was a bit rainy the next day, so we drove to the Field Museum, located on the lake next to Soldier Field, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. The museum building itself took my breath away. The architecture of that building, and so many others in Chicago, is so grandiose!
The weather for the rest of the trip was fantastic. Cool and crisp with bright blue skies. The next morning we took a short stroll around the area of River Forest we were staying. It’s a gorgeous area, with beautiful houses, walkable streets, and everything you could need within a few blocks.
We took the L Train from Oak Park to Washington/Wabash, hopped off, and walked to Millennium Park. An orchestra was holding a rehearsal for a free concert. We posed next to the Bean, wandered through the Lurie Garden, and then walked to Giordano’s to get our first taste of deep dish pizza. I thought I would hate deep dish, that the crust would be thick and doughy, but I was pleasantly surprised. Instead it was more like a British savory pie, with a thin, flaky crust.
After lunch we headed down to the Chicago Riverwalk just below Wacker and Michigan. From there we boarded a boat to take an architectural tour through downtown. Since the day was so clear and sunny, the buildings sparkled brightly and the river shone with a gorgeous shade of blue-green. We learned so much about all of the skyscrapers, the river itself, and the Chicago Fire. I’ll have to delve into it more in another post soon.
The following day we took the Metra, Chicago’s train system that stretches to the far suburbs, from Oak Park to the Ogilvie Transportation Center. Ogilvie is a station reminiscent of the larger train stations in London, like King’s Cross or Paddington. From there we walked to Willis (Sears) Tower and stepped out onto the Skydeck that overlooks the city. Well, a few of us did at least.
Funny enough, my youngest son had been struggling with a loose tooth the past week. And while we waited in line for our turn, he wiggled it enough that it came out and he showed it to us. He was extremely proud of the fact that he lost his tooth at the top of Willis Tower!
After that we headed to the south side to the University of Chicago campus. The university is home to The Oriental Institute, founded in 1919, which is a research center and museum dedicated to the study of the ancient Near East. The public galleries include artifacts and statuary from Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and the Levant. It also houses thousands of clay cuneiform tablets for scholars to study. As someone who is a huge ancient history nerd, this was a dream come true for me!
The next morning we had a fabulous lunch at the Lathrop House Cafe. Then Lois drove us around Oak Park for a tour of all of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the neighborhood. After that we went to the Navy Pier and rode the Centennial Wheel. The view from the top was stunning. The water in Lake Michigan was bright and blue as a turquoise. And the skyline was as dazzling as ever.
We drove to the United Center where my husband, a huge basketball fan, got a picture with the statue of Michael Jordan. After that we headed to a restaurant called The Greek Islands, located in, you guessed it, Greektown. That dinner was not just a simple meal. It was an experience! The interior design of the place made it feel as though you were at a fine dining restaurant on a Greek island, and the food was brought out with a flourish. Appetizers, entrees, desserts, and coffee. It was spectacular.
The next morning we headed back to the hot, mucky mess that is Houston in the summer.
I truly wasn’t expecting to enjoy Chicago as much as I did. I had a lot of preconceived notions about it. And, since we were coming from Houston, another large city, I figured there wouldn’t be much difference.
How wrong I was!
Ever since coming back, when I close my eyes I can picture with such clarity the river and the skyscrapers and the lake. I can visualize our strolls through River Park, the streets lined with great shady elms, the parks full of children at play, the neighborhoods safe and well-kept and permeated with an ambience of traditional Americana mingled with the vibrancy of the present.
I miss it. I miss Lois, vibrant and independent and kind. I miss the weather. My husband and I have found ourselves perusing Zillow and looking at houses and condos around Chicago. It was a wonderful trip, and the city won over our hearts.
We can’t wait to go back!