Never have been to the windy city before.
I was invited by the Chicago Auto Show to attend their Media Preview Days. I was honored for the invitation and readily accepted. There was much I could learn about the auto show, the auto industry, and of course, Chicago. Leaving Southern California, not knowing a soul there, and not ever having been there before didn't intimidate me in the least. (Until I said those facts out loud). I figured I would just take my friendly little self on this little adventure and see what happened.
I had a window seat on the airplane so that I could spot Chicago as soon as it came in to view. There was a lot of snow on the ground. It was February after all. But from what everyone told me, the snow wasn't really all that much because Chicago had been experiencing a relatively mild winter. Could have fooled this California girl!!
My first impressions of the city as I was driven in? It definitely felt like I was in the mid-west. Nicely kept streets, tall buildings, lots of brownstones and lots of churches--mostly Catholic. But no wind!!! Oh--and those "L-trains" up in the air? It totally had me remembering the Sandra Bullock movie, While You Were Sleeping."
I stayed at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers which I heard is Bill Clinton's favorite hotel when he comes to town. My room was on the 27th floor which gave me a grand view of some great buildings and Lake Michigan. I didn't realize it at the time, but the hotel sat along a river as well. The snow got in the way of my view.
The first evening, I attended a welcome party hosted by Nissan of North America held at a new, "Asian-infused" restaurant, Embeya. It was loud and crowded with all the auto folk. They served some unusual dishes that included grilled quail, Brussels sprouts, and exotic fruits. My motto: give everything a try and I did. Very tasty. I sat at a table of six, filled with auto industry experts. Two gentlemen wrote for Mustang Magazine, another gentleman was from the area, and there was a couple from Wisconsin. The wife, Anna, and I talked most of the evening. I really enjoyed getting to know her. She grew up in the Chicago area and so when I told her this was my first visit, she had lots of advice to share. She even drew me a map on a cocktail napkin of where I should visit. How kind was that?
Armed with my napkin, when I got back to the hotel, I met with the concierge to figure out a walking path to check out Anna's suggestions. The best way to see any city is to see it on foot. I was told that it was probably going to snow the next day so the hotel supplied me with an umbrella for my walking tour. That was nice.
The next day, most of my time was spent at the auto show. However, later in the afternoon, I had some free time to go out exploring. Of course, the snow picked up when I started out but I wasn't worried. I had my trusty Sheraton umbrella.
I headed to the famous Michigan Avenue where there was interesting architecture and lots of shops. I have to admit It was a little tricky trying to manage a camera and an umbrella and not fall flat on my rear in the snow. The umbrella kind of hampered my ability to look upward and see some of the cool architecture. But I made the best of it. I tried to blend in with the other pedestrians hurrying along the sidewalks. I was amazed at how they navigated the icy puddles without slipping. Most only wore hats--no umbrellas. There were a lot of those crocheted hats with the floppy ears. I even saw one guy with a top hat!!! Of course, everyone had boots with rubber soles. I looked a little conspicuous with my double socks and tennis shoes (I didn't want to ruin my suede ankle boots).
Here are some of the things I saw along my walking tour:
Chicago's media hub: WGN (think Oprah) and the Chicago Tribune
A war monument
All along Michigan Avenue, there were these cute lights on poles that blinked on and off to love songs, in honor of Valentine's Day.
The famous Chicago Theater.
The "Bean" modern art statue. (I was told it is called that because it resembles a Jelly Belly jellybean. Do you see it?)
When it was time for dinner, of course I had to experience famous Chicago pizza. Giordano's was recommended as the best of the best.
You order your pizza and have to wait 45 minutes because they are cooked fresh to order. This was a small. It could easily feed a family of four. I had two pieces of delicious thick crust, gooey cheese pizza. Yum. Yum.I came across a familiar dessert place on Michigan Avenue. Well, familiar to me in New York. Imagine my delight when I just happened upon Magnolia Bakery. I had no idea there was one in Chicago. Their cupcakes and other desserts are the best!!!
My walk took about three hours, including stopping for dinner. By this time, I was pretty frozen, the snow was pretty thick, and the streets were pretty icy. I was delighted to get back to my hotel and thaw out, feeling so happy and accomplished at conducting my own personal tour of downtown Chicago--snow and all.
If the weather had been better, I would have included in my walking tour a visit to the John Hancock Tower, a great high rise view that wasn't too far away. The zero visibility made it ridiculous for me to spend the money to go to the top and see nothing. And if I had more time, I would have liked to have included a visit to one of the many great museums along the lake. Oh well. Next time.
My trip ended with another half day at the auto show and then I was whisked away to O'Hare Airport for the flight home. It was quick. It was exciting. It was certainly an adventure. I can't wait to go back!!!
Have you been to Chicago? What is your favorite thing to see or do there? (I'm filing away suggestions for my next trip!!)
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New York in 24 hours http://www.themidlifeguru.com/2012/10/going-to-new-york-for-24-hours.html
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