A Short Trip to Chicago

The kids arrived from Atlanta Saturday afternoon, June 10th, and the next day we headed to Chicago for a short (two-night) visit, their second trip to the city their maternal grandparents grew up in.

We stayed at Loew's House of Blues Hotel in the Marina Center. The outside of the hotel very much matches the rest of the complex in that it's high international style, i.e., a rectangular box with no ornamentation other than the structural concrete. Inside, though, WOW! How totally funkadelic! Nothing like leopard-print carpet and some busy wallpaper in the hallway to get your heart racing! We had adjoining rooms and they were quite pleasant and comfortable, albeit Naoyuki and I would have preferred a single queen-sized bed instead of two doubles.

After checking in we hiked over to Navy Pier (about a 20-25 minute walk from HOB) to grab a bite to eat (restaurant choices were uninspired but we weren't expecting much to be there), THEN took the half-hour speedboat tour of the Chicago skyline on one of the Seadog boats, GRRRReat! I *really* loathe rollercoasters and I was afraid it was going to be ultra bumpy but on a calm Chicago night a giant speedboat (holds about 70 passengers!) on Lake Michigan is less bouncy than any given weekday commute down M-14/I-96 in a Mustang convertible.

Monday a.m. we took a cab to the Shedd Aquarium and that in itself (the cabride) was memorable for having a YOUNG, CUTE, hunky cabdriver. How often does that happen? I take cabs about 4 times a year (usually when I'm at a conference somewhere) and I *swear* that in nearly 20 years of going to ALA I've never had a cab driver as yummalicious as this one!

The Aquarium was cool. I especially enjoyed the penguins, the otters, and the white whales (porpoises? dolphins? as a native of Florida and former Flipper fanatic I should know these things but I don't.) I did wonder if the Flipperians changed the direction in which the circumnavigated the pool, y'know, M-W-F = clockwise, T-Th-Sat = counterclockwise, Sunday = free for all?

After three hours at Shedd we hiked back to the Loop (it was just warm enough and humid enough for us to work up a good sweat...) for lunch at the Berghoff, a Chicago institution since 1898, one of my favorites.

From the Berghoff we headed the Marshall Field's flagship store in the Loop. "Guys," I pointed out, "the thing you need to remember is that this is the department store your grandmother grew up with. It explains why she's never really satisfied anywhere else!"

We liked the furniture section the best, I think, but shoes were a bit disappointing. "They're too expensive," Emily pointed out, and I replied that "of course, they are. We're just looking for ideas here, we'll buy the knockoffs elsewhere."

The Juniors Dress department, on the other hand, had plenty to keep us occupied with (Emily and I sent David and Naoyuki off to men's active wear.) She really wanted a sundress but there was a particular dearth of 7's (no end of 3's, 5's, 11's, 13's but forget about 7's.) We did, however, find a totally adorable stretchy, pink, off the shoulder number with a fitted waist, a full skirt, and a flouncy hot pink ruffle thingie (a built in slip?)

"But where will I wear it?"

"That's not the point. We'll find an occasion for the dress, not the other way around. RJ (her boyfriend) can take you to his dad's country club for dinner. Or you can wear it at formal night on the cruise next spring."

It looks fabulous on her, of course!

After MF's we staggered back to HOB long enough for me to take a half-hour nap before heading to Navy Pier again, this time to watch a 3D movie on fishies at the IMAX theatre there. Somehow in 46 years I've never managed to see a 3D movie before -- how'd that happen? I was really quite impressed, all things considered. Of course, the routine knock about 3D movies tending to overplay the "leap out at you" factor was immediate obvious (even BEFORE the Great White Shark started baring its teeth at me...) but I still thought it was pretty cool!

After the movie we had a bit of time to kill before our dinner reservation, so all four of us went on the world's slowest Ferris Wheel (it was slow even from my point of view and I hate rides) and then they did the whirlygig thing.

Then it was off to The Italian Village for dinner in The Village dining room. Sigh. One of the first places I ever visited in Chicago (nearly 20 years ago now) and still just as delightful as ever. Aftewards we stopped by Kaz, HOB's martini bar, for a Sidecar, a Liquid Sky, a virgin Margarita, and a Shirley Temple. [After I e-mailed this to her, Emily pointed out that we went to Kaz before Navy Pier, not that evening as I'd remembered. -- rpj]

Tuesday we did the Art Institute and the Seurat exhibit. I'm not sure exactly what Jed Perl is complaining about in Salon. I thought it was perfectly fine. I liked comparing his take of Chatou and Pourville and La Grande Jatte with those of Monet and Renoir, thingooveddymudge. Ah, well...

Final destination was the 94th floor observatory of the John Hancock Tower. By that time we were pooped. In combination with the fact that it was a hazy day it was rather a ho hum experience, despite the fact it's far and away the tallest building D or E have ever been in. ESB is more fun, perhaps because the observation platform is out in the open?

In contrast to our frenetic running around in Chicago the rest of their visit (back in Ann Arbor) was pretty laidback. I spent a lot of time with David figuring out which schools to apply to (it's probably overboard to do six public and six private but I didn't apply to enough so maybe it will balance out) and driving lessons with Emily.

Plus "Anchorman," plus "I, Robot," plus an early dinner at the Common Grill in Chelsea, plus two pair of cute sandals for Emily at DSW Shoe Warehouse.

We'll see 'em again for Labor Day in Atlanta.

So how did you spend YOUR summer vacation?


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