Disappear to the Windy City of Chicago for a Weekend

My wife is amazing.  She’s overcome more obstacles in her life than most – enough to make your head spin –  but she continues to maintain a positivity that blows me away.  Those hard lessons have taught her that no matter how bleak it is in the moment, keep your head down, keep working, keep dreaming, and it will work out in the end.

Despite the obstacles, or perhaps because of them, she remains thoughtful, loving, generous, adventurous, and kind.  If it weren’t for her, I might never have experienced, well, anything (at least travel related).  We’ve spent romantic weekends in the Texas Hill country.  We had a magical trip to Ireland when I followed her on a business trip.  We zip-lined in Hawaii.  We’ve camped up and down the Australian coast numerous times.  Sometimes we just like to drive until we see somewhere that looks interesting.  Almost always as her suggestion.

She’s a brilliant planner.  She able to find the nicest places for the most economy.  One of my favourite excursions happened a few years ago, but it perfectly demonstrates what a great catch she is.So, there I was early on Friday afternoon, talking to a doe eyed MBA new hire about the upcoming weekend.

“You mean”, he asked, “you have no idea what her plan is?”  He was practically bouncing with excitement.

“That’s right”, I replied.  “All she’s told me is I have to leave early so we can get to the airport.”

I could see in his eyes the expectation that he too, would someday have his wife surprise him with such a luxurious gift afforded by his new gig at a rapidly growing fruit company.

And so I left him, giddy with possibility and the anticipation of future indulgences.As I walked away, I inwardly gloated about the fact that I had such a wonderful woman, a woman with a restless spirit, who loved me enough to take me along on some great adventures.

We got to the airport, I still didn’t know where we were going—my trepidation simmering as we sat on the tarmac waiting to take off.  “Want to know where we’re going”, she asked me coyly.  “Of course I do”, I replied lamely.  She rummaged in her bag.  “Ah, here it is.”  She handed me a black beanie.  “Wow.  So it will be cold where we’re going?”  I looked at her expectantly.  Her face glowing with pleasure, “We’re going to Chicago for the weekend”, she beamed.The chilly air roused us to action, however.  We headed to Millennium Park.  At the time of our visit, the park played host to an Arctic Soundscape Exhibition.  Here, we listened to the exotic calls of the underwater wildlife that makes the Arctic their home.   Bearded seals, walruses, and 5,000-year-old ice popping delighted our senses.  We laid down on the grassy knoll and let the sounds wash over us.

The park offers free activities throughout the year— visit Millennium Park for current details.

The next day we set out to explore the Windy City’s famous architecture, and we weren’t disappointed.  We made our way back the ‘bean’, a sculpture called Cloud Gate shaped like a kidney.  We had a lot fun taking photos reflecting off the silvery surface, the distorted images looked like they were taken in a house of mirrors at a carnival, with the refraction caused by the sleek curves.  Buildings ranged from old world gothic with ornate carvings decorating the facade to space aged glass structures reminiscent of the Jetsons.

We headed indoors to be greeted by ‘Sue’ at The Field Museum.  The Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton highlighted a somewhat overwhelming time exploring the vast collection.  It’s way too easy to fall into the “have to see it all” trap.  The museum boasts over 20 million artefacts, so it’s best to grab a map and plan out your ‘must sees’.

Craving fresh air again, we walked to the Navy Pier, a 2,000-foot boardwalk, Chicago’s most popular attraction.  You can find something for everyone here— shopping, a Ferris wheel (among other rides), and lots of restaurants are dotted along the promenade.  We managed to skip out on the commercialisation, but thoroughly enjoyed the lake side views and people watching.Besides, we were craving Chicago Style Deep Dish pizza. Tara had heard about a place recommended by a friend called Pizzeria Due, sister to a place called Uno, who claims to have invented Chicago style pizza back in the 40’s.  Lines to both places can be out the door so plan accordingly.  Luckily, we got in just before the place was over run…the noise was relentless but the pizza was tasty.  If we had to do it again, we’d visit in spring and grab a Chicago style ‘dog’ from the corner stand in the park. (Truth be told, as we wandered around the city, the obsessive search for the Chicago style hot dog stand never left us.  Regrettably, our search remained elusive…Next time!)On our final day, we took in some more culture at the Art Institute of Chicago.  We spent a lovely two and a half hours pursuing icons like Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.  Works from Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh kept us riveted.  For once in my life, I did not dare say, “What’s the big deal? I can paint that!

We completed our visit to Chicago with lunch a top the John Hancock Centre in the Signature Lounge.   Prepare to pay at least an $8 ransom for a drink so you can enjoy the views.  We had a light lunch at a window table with a stomach-gurgling view of the street straight below us.  We don’t really remember the food, but the views across the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan were unforgettable.

I have a lot to be grateful for in my life.  I have my health.  I have a (now) solid roof over my head.  We’ve taken a lot of great trips.  Most of all, I have a partner who thinks to plan such wonderful adventures for us, and doesn’t seem to mind if I come along, whether I know I want to or not.For more great pictures from Chicago, check out our Chicago:  Through the Lens post.

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Grab a park bench on the shores of Lake Michigan…
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