Friday, October 28, 2011

Living It Up!

I would be lying if I didn't say that Monday morning, our last morning in Chicago, was a bit sad. Oh, I love my kids. And I would have missed them eventually. (And I did miss the dog a bunch) But I wasn't ready to come back to reality quite yet. And honestly, if I had known what I was coming home to (grouchy and naughty children, some school situations, a broken dryer, etc), I might have hopped aboard the subway and just kept riding as far from the airport as possible. And no, I am not joking.

We took our time getting up and around, packed up our things, and headed downstairs to leave our luggage in the hotel luggage room. Then we headed down the street to take advantage of our few remaining hours.

We strolled by the art museum, planning to stop by when it opened. (We had a ticket from our Chicago City Pass) But we did go ahead and stop so Mark could get a snapshot with the almighty lion.

We ventured on down the street a bit further until we came to Millennium Park. I had been hearing about "The Bean" and wondered what all the hype was about. I have to admit, I was really impressed. It was quite large. Grand. Sleek.
This is a picture of the top looking up on the inside of the "Bean".
Here is a picture of ourselves. The funny thing is I didn't notice right away that it reflects the beautiful city behind it. Once I truly understood that, I was more impressed and understood the hype.
Seriously, how cool is that???
I just thought this "diamond" building was fascinating. And I love the red tree peeking through.
Another city scene. I would so not like living in the city. But I sure do like visiting.
Though I would have enjoyed the art museum, I knew a certain husband of mine was really wanting to go to the "skybox" in the Willis Tower which we also had a ticket to. And we only had time to do one. So I threw caution to the wind and we headed several blocks over (via foot) to the famous Willis Tour, a.k.a. the Sears Tower. And then also against my better judgment, we hopped on the elevator and went up to the 103rd floor. Yes, the 103rd...

This was our view. Looks different (and much scarier from a height perspective) during the day.
Yes, I really stood that close to the window. And held my breath a lot.
Can you believe the other skyscrapers look small compared to where I am standing?
Finally, the famous Skybox. He is such a daredevil. He didn't think twice walking out there. (What you can't tell is that there were several people also in it over on the other was a popular place to be!)

Just sitting and hanging out...
Yes, that is my foot. I stepped a foot out there...
And then both feet. What you can't tell is that I had one hand holding onto the wall, like that was going to save me if the skybox suddenly collapsed and plummeted 103 stories???
Then I just stepped in and didn't look down. I tried not to think about what I was doing.
My last Chicago photo as I stepped into the elevator to go back the ground and to reality.

The rest of the day involved airport security, eating Subway (the food) in the airport (when I really wanted more Chicago pizza), hopping on an airplane and heading back home to the lovely bickering children who had saved a weekend's worth of tattles for me.

And that is where I sit today.

And I must admit, I find myself wondering, "Why did I come home again?"


Monday, October 24, 2011

Bright Lights, Big City

Sunday morning we slept in as late as possible. Unfortunately, I have become a creature of habit. I was awake rather early anyway. :)

We did take our time getting up and around. It was nice to move at our own pace, nobody (or no dog) begging to eat or asking for help or arguing with siblings. Peaceful. My favorite kind of morning.

After we did throw ourselves together, we took a stroll down the street on our way to the museums. On our way, we walked through the park (Grant Park, I think?). We were intrigued by these statues. They are headless/armless. Looks like big old giants walking around.

I just loved the fact we were in a big city but could still see signs of fall around us...
a view of Michigan Avenue taken from the steps of the Field Museum
We decided to get the Chicago Pass which let us into five different attractions at one low cost. It also put us at the front of the line everywhere we went. Gotta love that. Our first stop was the Field Museum.

I will admit, this was one of my favorite exhibits. Meet Sue. She is the most complete T-Rex skeleton in the world (I believe).

Another neat area was the Egypt burial grounds. I believe this is the first mummy (true mummy) I have ever seen...

After our whirlwind tour of the Field Museum, we walked on over to Shedd Aquarium. We ate lunch there and then enjoyed observing several sea creatures. Love these sea horses!
Part of our ticket included free admission to the animal show which mainly consisted of beluga whales and dolphins. Of course, I loved every minute of that!
This "sunflower" sea star was just beautiful.
I love these fish. Don't remember their name but they look like they are walking on the ground!
A favorite exhibit here was the Jellies exhibit. They are such beautiful creatures (when they are in a tank, not in the water I am swimming in!).
After the aquarium, we hopped on a bus (still walked out from the night before) and headed back over to the river. We then embarked on an architectural tour via boat. I would have never said I was interested in architecture in any way but I found this tour fascinating. I also took a BUNCH of pictures but I will spare you most of that. :) Oh, and I discovered that I prefer the "old architecture" (as in the '40s) rather than the more modern. I guess I am just an old fashioned girl...

I am pretty sure I saw as many as (if not more) American flags flying as I did in Washington D.C.
Isn't it just breathtaking?
We never did ride this but it was fun to take pictures of. By the way, this is only half the size of the very first Ferris wheel which debuted in Chicago at the World's Fair many years ago!
As we walked along the river after our cruise to dinner, we passed a Vietnam memorial.
Walking down the river at sunset
We arrived at our restaurant early (Chicago Cut Steakhouse) but thankfully they could go ahead and seat us. We splurged on this appetizer. One. One crab claw. Probably a bit overpriced. But it was delicious.
Here is my steak with an Oscar topping. I really did almost cry when it was gone...I could have eaten more.
Several of the buildings in downtown Chicago were displaying pink lights in honor of breast cancer awareness month.
After dinner, we caught another bus and headed over to the John Hancock building. We rode the elevator to the 94th floor and had a bird's eye view of the city at night. That was probably better because I am terrified of heights...I couldn't truly get a grasp of how far up we were!
I cannot imagine being a window washer on this building.
There is Navy Pier and the Ferris Wheel again...
When we emerged, safe and sound, at the bottom of the building, we stopped into Cheesecake Factory and picked up a slice of caramel pecan turtle cheesecake to enjoy later back at the hotel.

It was a busy day full of fun and adventure!

More soon,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

This morning, Mark and I hopped on a plane to Chicago to celebrate our anniversary. (Just want to give a big shout out of thanks to his parents for braving a 9 hour drive to come take care of four kids and a dog...)

We left around 8, and arrived here around 9:15. The plane ride was fairly uneventful. However, some things don't ever change. I do not like in any form or fashion flying. And my ears may just now (12 hours later) be slowing down on the "popping" sound.

From the airport, we hopped on the subway/train which is underground only part of the time. So I am not sure if it is a true subway.

We hoofed it by foot a few blocks and finally arrived at our hotel. Of course, it was way too early to check in. So we dropped off luggage and headed down the street. Michigan Avenue that is.

I have to admit, when Mark told me we were going to Chicago for our anniversary, I didn't jump for joy. It wasn't that I doubted we would have fun. I have fun with him wherever we go. It was just not what I had in mind. Yet, we were walking down Michigan Avenue and I just opened my mouth in awe. Amazing. The skyline, the buildings, the history. Amazing.

At this point, it was almost lunchtime. So we decided some Chicago pizza was in order. Our first stop:

We had heard amazing things about this place. I don't think I have ever had true Chicago (stuffed) pizza until today. Here is a picture of me waiting... (We had to wait outside, order our pizza, then half an hour later, we were called to our table...)
Here is the pizza. I caught Mark taking a bite. We just got plain cheese, but there was nothing plain about it. WHAT an amazing meal! I am sure there are many other adjectives for it but "amazing" works for me. It will take everything I have not to go back the next two days. I. Want. More. (The really bad thing is I just found out they will ship a partially baked pizza to you...and it isn't overly outrageous. Hmmm....) Sidenote: The shipping is outrageous. Drats!
As we walked back to the hotel, we were awestruck by this sight...

I loved our walk over the river. I can't imagine the whole river being green in March. Too fun!
Of course, gotta get an arm straight out kind of pic of the two of us...
Mark joked that I will need to start an album for "birds of Chicago". I wanted to take a pic of this for my students.
When we got back to our hotel, it was finally time to check in. Here is the view from our room. The man who helped us get our luggage out of storage heard our room number and told us we had a great room with a great view. He also told us it was a wonderful place to watch fireworks later in the day...
We thought we would check out the museums. We didn't have a lot of time but thought a few hours would be a nice start. Except the line was REALLY long. And we decided to walk along Lake Michigan instead.
This whole park area was beautiful.
Yes, another one.
A walk by the lake
Here is a picture of the aquarium as we walked away from it. The crane is actually lifting a boat or two out of the water. They were partially sunk. I overheard someone say there had been big storms recently.

Yes, another bird. Aren't their heads beautiful?
Here is a view of our hotel from the Lake.
Isn't it just amazing? And the pictures don't even show it all.
The famous Marilyn statue...
After a WHOLE lot of walking, we decided to take a walking break. We hopped on a river taxi boat for a little bit.
Our water taxi took us to the famous Navy Pier which reminded me a whole lot of Pier 39 in San Francisco. Except there were no sea lions. Or Alcatraz. Or ocean.
There were some beautiful sights though, like this sailboat as it passes by the sunset...
We loved watching these two boats pass each other.
Yes, yet another bird. I can't help myself.
Reminds us of a pirate ship
We took some girls' (as in their early 20's) pics, so they took one of us.
Beautiful sunset sky
We loved this lighthouse. It just looked so...not sure what the word is. Regal.
Our marriage is "anchored" in love. :) (Feel free to groan...)
Here is a view of Chicago from the back of Navy Pier
And another view
After our walk around the pier, we hopped aboard a bus that took us to Union Station. There we hopped aboard another bus that brought us to our hotel.

A few things to remember from our Chicago Getaway (Day 1):
It is so much cheaper to buy a pass for the Metra than to take a taxi. SOOOO glad we did.

I should have brought tennis shoes. My footsies are aching.

We somehow ended up driving through a "demonstration" (against corporations, government, and whatever else...). Since then that demonstration has moved across the street from our hotel. And their chanting is a bit annoying. I just want to go to sleep.

People have been very friendly.

I will never get used to the beggars on the streets. It is hard to not want to help them "all" though I saw the money some were bringing in. Maybe I should consider a career change. :)

I love visiting the city but I don't think I will ever be a city girl.

We do miss our kids and our dog (won't say which more :), but they are frequent topics of conversation so we don't miss them too much.

Oh, and the fireworks? They were a beautiful sight from our hotel window. They were shot off the Navy Pier over Lake Michigan. And I sat in my warm hotel room and watched. A beautiful way to end the day!

I think that is all for now. I better get to sleep so I will be ready for another big day tomorrow. Hoping hubby feels better; he wasn't feeling so great a bit ago.