This Valentine’s Day week Alex and I decided to tackle a city neither one of us had ever been to–Chicago! After many warnings about flying bullets and frigid temperatures (both false), we planned our trip and got ready for a week of awesome.
Having packed the adult way (the night before), we woke up at the asscrack of dawn to get ourselves to the airport. We caught the D train, and transferred to the E, which seems to have become (or maybe always was?) homeless people central. After, we caught the Q70, to LaGuardia Airport. Alex was worried we wouldn’t get there on time, but I was too tired to care, so I helped by being deceivingly calm throughout our trip (see below).
We decided to go with Spirit Airlines, which is famous for their super crazy cheap tickets, and their ability to nickel and dime you into oblivion. We forgot to print our boarding passes at home (oops), and spent most of the morning mourning for our lost ten dollars (how much they charge you to print at the airport), but somehow was able to print them at a kiosk for free! Thanks, universe!
We made it through security with minimal touching, and then happily walked through the terminals in search of food. Spirit Airlines also doesn’t believe in snacks or sodas. We had to stock up for our crazy short trip.
We settled on a sit-down brunch place and paid a thousand dollars each for sandwiches. Granted, they were expertly panini’d, but still.
After noms, we joined the blob of people boarding our plane, and realized we were just in time to catch the end of our section (which had already been called before we got there). After complimenting ourselves in regards to our perfect timing, we boarded the plane and settled in for a delightful two hour and six minute flight.
The coolest part of the whole flight was when the pilot told us our wings were frozen and then we got to watch these guys spray the wings down with orange stuff and then green goopy stuff. Does anyone know what that stuff is? It was so cool.
During the flight, Alex and I worked on crosswords that were too hard, and I finished a scarf I had been working on for Alex (I’m sure I’ll point it out to you later).
And then we were in Chicago! We got to take the CTA–which, mind you, is the most polite subway I have ever been on. I mean, check out its ads!
It was really easy to navigate, and their metro-type cards are really fancypants. We made it to the hotel safe and sound and with no trouble at all, and then took another selfie, because that’s the kind of trip this is.
Because we also booked the hotel equivalent of Spirit Airlines, our wireless costs extra, hence the delay in this post. Thanks, hotel. We were mostly starving by this point, so we asked the concierge for food recommendations, but he was mostly crap at that, so we (Alex) found a really great spot nearby called The Market. We got delicious sandwiches, and ate them while planning where to walk for the rest of the day. By the way, did you know that ice just falls out of the sky here? It does. Constantly. Just ice and snow blobs on everyone’s face all day. They even have signs everywhere warning you to beware of the falling ice blocks.
We tackled Millennium Park, which was so so pretty, even if it was covered in seven feet of rock salt and seemingly unaffected slush. We got to see the Bean, which is not really called the Bean but should be because we all just call it the Bean.
After that, we found a sign that told us all about the really awesome places throughout the park we could go see. We walked for a while and checked out the sights–everything was closed, but I can only imagine how amazing the park is in the spring and summer when you can walk everywhere and it’s all warm and in bloom.
We saw a giant fountain from the distance, and stopped by the lake’s shore. Alex got really close to it because he has no self-preservation, but I do, so I stayed about 450 feet away because like hell I’m walking on ice to go stand near the death-trap-waiting-for-victims that is frozen Lake Michigan.
My hardcore sleep ended with me waking up a thousand times during the night, and eventually waking up for good at a healthy 7 am, much to Alex’s disappointment. I woke him up like a child on Christmas, and eventually he gave in to me constantly asking if he was awake and if he was going to go back to bed and agreed to be awake for good.
We had breakfast at The Market, which has become a definite favorite of ours. I had quinoa and fruit, mmmm. We stayed at The Market for a really long time, which let me have time to blog yesterday’s activities, and for us to sit and enjoy the day’s passing. Sometimes I forget how important it is to just relax when it’s a vacation.
From The Market we hopped on a bus headed towards the Field Museum. I was a total doofus and accidentally tried to use my hotel key as my transit card, so that was embarrassing, but at least the driver got a good chuckle out of my oops.
The Field Museum is quite beautiful on the outside. It was dusted with snow, which made it even more lovely to gaze upon.
We got to see most of the museum’s exhibits because we didn’t leave the museum until we had seen everything (it took almost all day). I learned a lot of new things, the most important being: THIS MUSEUM IS FILLED WITH BUTTS.
I mean seriously:
Before we left, we got to see a 3-D movie about the wilds of Africa–WHICH WAS AWESOME. And we also got to make a 3-D plastic Triceratops–WHICH WAS AWESOME TOO. Alex almost got a video of the process, but he never started the recording.
We even got to end our awesome visit with some stuffed manatees.
We hurried to the store, where I bought these awesome elephant earrings and a notebook which has paper that’s made from elephant poop. If you’d like a letter written to you on an elephant crap card, let me know. I’m ready to make a mega dump’s worth of letters. Hahaha, so many poop joke possibilities.
I also bought some dark chocolate, but I was too hungry to remember to take a photo of it before eating it all on the bus. Here’s a photo where I tried to dramatically reenact the scene where I held the (full) package of chocolates while noming on them.
From there, we walked to the Berkshire Room, which is a great cocktail bar that offers the option to tell your bartender what you enjoy in a drink, and they go and make you a custom cocktail based on these options. I was completely useless when it came to describing what I enjoy drinking, and received a whiskey with lime, topped with champagne.
It was okay. I was expecting something that would knock my socks off, and this was mostly limey and whiskey-y. I appreciate the effort though. By the middle of our sips, Alex and I were beginning to feel the effects of our disaster dessert. We ended up having to leave early so we could go back to the hotel room and recollect ourselves. And by recollect I mean go straight to sleep after much groaning and stomach holding.
We woke up to our lazy morning ritual—I took an online quiz to find out which candidate thought like me and it turns out my gut was right. Bernie Sanders is the front-runner with Jill Stein following closely behind him. Jill Stein, for those who don’t know me, has been a favorite for quite some time.
After I satisfied myself with how little the match percent was for Trump, Alex and I headed out for our usual breakfast at The Market, a place I will definitely miss when we leave. We ate and gossiped, and then we were off to the Willis Tower, which is the tower formerly known as the Sears Tower. It used to be the tallest building in the world until some others beat it and it changed its name to hide its shame. I think that’s the story, but I could be making it up. Not sure.
Thanks to our handy-dandy CityPass, we hopped up onto the Sky Deck, which is about 8 trillion feet above the city (accurate measurement), and took some beautiful pictures. There’s this cute little museum part you go through before getting into the super sonic rocket elevator that let you see how far up you would be on top of the tower from over random places. I just wanted to push the buttons a lot, so most of my time here was spent trying to beat Alex to the button. Sorry Alex.
Anyway, the city is completely gorgeous from on top of the tower. We were really lucky to have gone on a day when the skies were clear.
Alex did it with ease because he again, lacks self-preservation, and they were several kids who did handstands in the clear box of terror. I, on the other hand, took about twelve hours to inch my way into the box, and then I stood there perfectly still lest the box decide at that moment to pop free of the building and cast me down to my certainly bloody and sad death. The one highlight of my time in the box is realizing I was wearing a dress and essentially flashing the city of Chicago. Sorry Alex?
After Alex was satisfied with the amount of selfies he could take in the death-box, we hit up the store, where I bought some sweet swag, and noticed that there was fudge being sold by the ton. Is Chicago known for its fudge? I didn’t realize Chicagoians loved fudge. Anyway, we didn’t get any fudge—sorry Alex.
We hopped down from the Willis Tower and settled into a Starbucks long enough for me to blog yesterday’s activities. It was nice there. No clear boxes in sight.
We caught another bus to the Hancock Tower, which I just found out was recently renamed to 360 Chicago, but I don’t like that name, so I’m going to keep calling it the Hancock Tower. We took tons of new photos in this building, and while Alex ran around snapping photos, I watched a documentary that explained how horrible and painful it was to construct the building.
Kudos to them for finishing though, because it is a way cooler building than the Not-Sears Tower. I mean, look at these sights!
And then I spent about three hours trying to take a photo of Alex and the sights from outside the window, but the sun was making him look terrible (sorry Alex). We gave up and instead took a picture on the wall. I’m pretty proud of this photo, because he looks really happy (the result of me asking him why he looked like he was pooping in most of his photos).
We eventually hit up the bar, which is completely stocked with the boozes, and got some chips and hot chocolate (because adults). I wrote some postcards I bought at the store, and enjoyed the vibe of a nearly-empty observation deck.
Pre-Chicago I got us a Groupon to a “night of romantic fondue” because I am very romantic (haha), and nothing says “Hey, I love you,” like poking things with sticks and dipping them into boiling sticky stuff.
While we sat on the bus on our way to the fondue place—a tiny Morrocan place called Geja’a Café—I had no idea that I had made the mother of all decisions. This place was fraking AMAZING. Like, give me the girlfriend of the year award because that was romantic as balls! Red-lighted insides, sexy solo booth, awesome waiter with a fantastic Spanish accent, FOUR FONDUE COURSES.
My mind was blown when the main course came, which was a dish of—wait for it—raw lobster, shrimp, scallops, chicken, beef, and veggies. WITH DIPPING SAUCES MADE WITH THE SWEET, SWEET NECTAR OF THE GODS.
After we were filled to the brim with cheese, fruit, seafood, sauces, and chocolate, we hopped back on a bus to the movie theater to….
…SEE DEADPOOL. Oh my God, it was so good. I walked in pretty afraid because Deadpool is my favorite not-hero and they already messed up my favorite mostly-hero (Gambit), so I was expecting the worst.
The movie was perfectly made—funny, crude, and just violent enough to make a point. Ryan Reynalds as Deadpool is perfect. And not only was the movie exactly what I hoped it would be, but the seats were mind-blowing. They were cushioned recliners that had feet-support. I basically watched the best movie of the year from a reclined, cushioned position while in the second row (sorry Alex). It was a dream come true.
Honest moment, guys: Today was perfect. I don’t mean that in a comparative way, like today was perfect compared to being evaluated at work. I mean that today was just perfect. Perfect timing, perfect activities, perfect company, perfect happiness all day. Thanks, Alex.
Guess where we ate breakfast today! That’s right. The Market. I finally tried this Dulce de Leche thing I had been eyeballing all week. Holy mother of cookies, it was fantastic. Totally worth the 90 pounds I’ll surely be gaining after this stupid week of noms.
Today’s bus ride took us to the Legacy Walk, which is a looong street walking tour of LGBTQ events and people who should be remembered and honored for their devotion to the cause, to love, and to being amazing people.
It was pretty humbling. Most of these people died young—either cancer or AIDS, and most of these individuals aren’t household names, even though they should be. The one that made my heart feel the heaviest was the plaque devoted to Father Mychal Judge. He was a gay friar that had strong ties to the FDNY, and was one of the first responders to show up at the towers during 9/11. He was killed by debris and was officially marked victim 0001.
Even writing this, tears come to my eyes because this man was clearly amazing, and clearly a spiritual leader and moral example to other great heroes, but he’s no longer spreading that love around to people who need it. I never met the man—I didn’t even know he existed until today and I am so sad to hear he’s already left us. It makes me think about a lot of things, like: How do we honor people that were better at being compassionate and loving after they’re gone? Or more importantly: How do we honor people who are better at being compassionate and loving while they’re still with us? And now I am crying on an airplane, which is a little awkward, so I am going to move on with the understanding that I still don’t have a lot of useful words to describe what learning about this man did to my heart.
The walk definitely gave me a lot to think about, and a lot of new heroes to look to when I need help being stronger, and kinder, and more loving. There’s definitely a lot of room for these role models in our current social and political climate.
After, and with a heavy heart, I move on to the rest of the day, which involved slightly happier things: animals. After the Legacy Walk, we boarded our trusty bus and made our way to the zoo, which was mostly closed for construction but still fun nonetheless.
Which also somehow managed to follow our museum = butts theme of this trip. There were so many great animals we were able to get close and see. Though I would always support them living in their natural habitat, safe and happy over finding them in a zoo, I was really grateful for the time I got to spend in a place that was shared by these beautiful and lovely creatures. Here are a few of the highlights:
At one point, we got to see a Silverback Gorilla and I thought about the book I’m currently reading (The One and Only Ivan) and I just wanted to see all day and watch him watch over his family. They’re just completely magnificent.
In the middle of our zoo-venture, we stopped by the “farm” where they keep all the domestic animals, and I nearly lost my mind. For those who don’t know, cows are my second favorite animals in the entire universe. I love cows. I love cows more than I love books. When we first got there, the cows were inside the barn and I got to get super close to them while they nommed some hay.
Some of the exhibits (like the birds and the spiders) didn’t even have walls separating them from visitors. While I found this completely cool, I also found the idea that I might be mauled to death by a duck terrifying.
After hot dogs, we decided to try cocktails sans tummy ache, and guess what. We accidentally found a speakeasy. We couldn’t find the place we had yelped called The Library, and so we walked into a nearby restaurant to ask for directions and it turns out The Library is in their basement. It’s hidden behind a fake door that looks like a wall. So cool.
We ordered some food here, which was as delicious as their drinks, and by the time we finished our cocktails, we were happier than can be. Another fantastic day over–we walked to the hotel, enjoyed the warm night and the great sights, and then plopped into bed and welcomed rest.
Phew. What a week. Day five arrived and I have to admit, I was really sad. We ate our breakfast at The Market, and said goodbye to the delicious, reliable, money pit that was our breakfast spot.
After noms, we went back to the hotel and packed up our stuff, checked our bag with the doorman, and headed over to the aquarium, another place I was dying to go all week. You know how it is. Animals.
The Shedd Aquarium has this giant man holding a huge fish in front of it, welcoming you into the arms of the oceans and rivers around us.
Before leaving the museum, we got to see a 4-D presentation of prehistoric monsters of the ocean, which was really great until the big fish ate the smaller fish and our seats moved like we were being bitten. Scared me to pieces.
The Planetarium is right next to the Aquarium, so we quickly wrapped up with the fish and ran over to the star-house, which has one of the coolest entrances I’ve ever seen.
Alex and I took bets on who the statue was. I won.
Around our good friend Copernicus are heads of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. So cool! Pre-entry, Alex found another wall to climb on, and I waited several dozen feet away while he took photos.
We did a brief tour of the inside of the Planetarium, and unfortunately had to leave before we could really explore anything. We took our last bus ride back towards the hotel and stopped for some delicious Mexican food. Alex freaked out about getting to the airport in time because our flight kept being delayed and then not delayed and then delayed and then not delayed.
We enjoyed our last meal in Chicago nonetheless, and walked to the hotel, only to find that our flight had completely been canceled. Awesome.
I called an Uber, and as we raced to the airport, I dialed up Spirit to ask them to rebook us on another flight. They honestly have the longest and most obnoxious automated menu ever. It took me about 30 minutes and 5 tries to finally talk to a customer service rep.
After explaining that I NEEDED to be in NYC before Saturday morning, the rep offered to book me on the next flight to NYC for free. Great. The next flight is Sunday night.
After arriving at the airport, we managed to talk to an American Airlines rep and secure two seats on a heavily delayed flight to NYC. This plane was originally supposed to leave at 1 pm, but wasn’t leaving until 9 pm. While it worked out great for us, I felt really horrible for the people on the original flight. They must have been so annoyed.
While I waited, I colored and relaxed with Alex. The real blessing was being able to see Chicago all lit-up from the airplane. All in all, everything worked out just fine, and we made it back safe and sound.
I’ve been home now for about twenty-four hours, and I’ve had some time to reflect back on my week in Chicago, especially while working on this blog. I’ve got to say, that I definitely have a lot to be grateful for. I mean, I got to spend a whole week in a really beautiful and historical city. I got to spend it stress-free and happy. I got to spend it with someone that I love deeply and who loves me in return.
Those are a great number of gifts and I’m thankful to have enjoyed them this week. I look forward to many more adventures!