Friday, May 30, 2008

My Kind of Town, Chicago Is

Did we have a time! The kids were completely jazzed as we hunkered down in the airport for a quick dinner before our 8pm flight last Thursday.

Yes, they were just that excited. But because I'm losing what pass for my brain cells, I only had the camera with me half of the time. The other half of the time, the camera was locked in the rented apartment. (D'oh!) So I'm afraid you're going to just have to Make Do.

(A digression regarding the apartment. We stayed in a very interesting concrete building in the South Loop area called River City Lofts, and on the interwebz, it looked like a slam dunk. However! When we stumbled in at 11pm on Thursday night, the first thing I noticed was that the (humongous) lobby was scabrous and in need of paint and new flooring. The second thing I noticed was that the common area hallways had not been recarpeted since the Reagan era. The third thing I noticed was that our rental unit was severely underfurnished and under-refurbished. Cosmetic coats of paint had been [sloppily] applied in the living room and bedroom, but inexplicably, not in the bathroom, which was flaking and rusting and just gross. And the ventilation ducts were be-furred with an accumulation of dust and grime that was truly revolting.

The only furniture in the whole farking place consisted of two small, rickety stools at the kitchen bar, a black "leather" queen-sized Jennifer Convertibles sofa that was older than I am, a TV table mit TV, a queen-sized bed (no headboard, of course), one small, open two-shelf.... ummm..... unit? and ONE night stand (duh?). That's it. No dresser. No chairs (easy or otherwise). No coffee- or end-tables. And no area rugs to soften the unrelieved banality of a poorly-installed Pergo floor that was starting to peel up at the seams.)

But was I going to let a crummy apartment ruin our family vacation? No, siree! We did so much in four days that I can't fathom writing actual paragraphs. On with the bullet points.

DAY ONE (no camera)
  • Millennium Park: We had a fine time bouncing around the Park and admiring this incredible sculpture.
  • Sears Tower: Incredible view and fun exhibits of the history of Chicago.
  • Pizzeria Due: Because the line at Pizzeria Uno was huge. Loved the texture of the deep-dish pizza crust for a novelty, but won't be giving up my Manhattan-style thin-crust any time soon.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Fun, but not as good as #1 or #3. Great action scenes; a little sloppy in the plot department. The kids loved it.
DAY TWO (camera, but no good pictures)
  • The Science and Industry Museum: Despite the completely incomprehensible floor plan, we spent several incredible hours exploring a miniature circus, an interactive exhibit on the internet, a farming exhibit, and more. This is a not-to-miss if you're travelling to Chicago with kids.
  • India House: Wonderful Indian food, and plenty of it. We could watch the kitchen from our table, and the kids were very impressed with the size of the shish-kebab skewers. (Aside -- for a cuisine that is so vegetarian-friendly, you'd think there would be more actual VEGETABLES in the food, wouldn't you? Bueller? I ate lots of rice and samosa dough.)
  • Chicago Shakespeare Company: The boys' first Shakespeare! We saw a schizophrenic production of "Comedy of Errors" which included a misbegotten framing devise written with great self-consciousness for the production. But the scenes from Shakespeare (all 6 or 7 of them) were brilliant. Magnificent acting.
DAY THREE (with camera!)
  • Chinatown: We walked about an hour from our apartment to the Phoenix restaurant for dum sim and chrysanthemum tea (name that Sondheim show). While waiting, we explored the plaza and found our Chinese zodiac animals.

After eating our weight in dumplings, we saw some Buddhist monks. That they were walking just behind a group of sailors (in whites) created a fun image, but I couldn't draw my camera quite fast enough. You'll have to take my word for it.

  • The Navy Pier: Holy moly. The first thing you encounter -- before the entrance to the actual Pier -- is a fountain.

And it was windy, which blew the water from the top jets over onto passers-by in a most appealing way (if you're a boy between the ages of 10 and 12). And, oh look! There are water jets coming out of the floor at random intervals!

If you think that's not irresistible, you've never had a 10 or 12 year old boy in your care.

At some point, you just have to embrace the experience.

Michael and I spent about an hour blessedly resting our tootsies on a bench while the boys got soaked -- and I mean, soaked. Then, onto the Pier itself, with a speed boat ride, ride on the Ferris wheel, and ride on the swing-wave thingy. (I know it has a name, I just can't remember it). It was all fun, but boy, that Ferris wheel is HIGH.

  • John Hancock Tower: A late dinner at the lounge atop the Tower. Fabulous view, but the menu has gone seriously downhill since my trip here last fall. The bar food was all pre-made Sysco crap (heat and serve) and the mojito didn't even give me a teeny buzz -- one well-made cocktail is enough to make me right tipsy. And when did it get to hard to order a vegetable that isn't breaded and deep fried?!
DAY FOUR (without camera, which was inexcusable)
  • The Shedd Aquarium: Dolphins and otters and whales, oh my! I had woken up with another UTI (grrrrrrrr), so we took it slow but still managed to see everything. I think. There were baby Beluga whales that were criminally cute. I could have lived without the tarantulas.
  • Evanston: Michael has a frat sister who lives in Evanston with her hubby and two delicious bookworm children, and they insisted on having us out for a home-cooked meal, which was really delightful of them. We had a lovely, restful evening chatting and drinking wine while Garrick and their 10-year-old tried to kill one another with plastic light sabers. And we ate a wonderful meal WITH VEGETABLES! Bless them.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip with maybe a little too much walking and too many late bedtimes (and too many UTIs and not enough vegetables or area rugs), but we somehow seemed to get muddle through anyway. The kids swung wildly between having the best time of their lives and being too overwhelmed and crabby to enjoy any of it. (Note to self -- NEVER let Garrick miss a feeding meal when on vacation!) But now that we're home, all would agree that we had a most fabulous trip and we can't wait to back and see everything that we missed.

The extra snuggle-time while waiting for buses and the like was just a bonus.


Kelly said...

Aww, Ruth, it looks and sounds like your family had a wonderful time. The boys look like they're in heaven! I look forward to when my girls are old enough to travel and thoroughly enjoy their surroundings.

Anonymous said...

But, but I thought the trip was going to be relaxing. Then again, maybe it was -- different, anyway.

The boys are precious and look to be in heaven.


nutmeg said...

I'm really jealous. Travel is still so - well - crappy hellish for us!

O said...

Thanks for the pictoral--you had the camera the right day! We're heading midwest next summer (college reunion in Indiana! 11 hours in a car with the boys! save me!) and were wondering about adding Chicago to it. That trip puts a checkmark in the "pro" column!
Welcome back!

Domestic Goddess said...

What an awesome (albeit short) trip! You look like you were having a great time. Good memories, for sure!

Now, someone please hold me while I come to the realization that driving across the country with my kids is STOOPID!

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Looks like the kids had a blast. Their smiles melt my heart.

katydidnot said...

awesome photos. i love the sailors and indians.

Anonymous said...

sounds like a great trip!

Wolvie (for some reason my google sign in isn't working - le sigh)