Saturday morning, we headed to the airport shortly after 8. We parked at Humphrey (I can’t deal with this “Terminal 2” crap) and took the train to the main terminal. Since Delta had upgraded us to first class, we got to go through the priority security lane and everything. We stopped at Caribou for coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and headed to the gate.
While I was in the bathroom, the agent announced that the flight was overbooked, just like every Delta flight since the beginning of time. They were offering $400 to take a bump to the next flight an hour and a half later. We thought about it for a minute, and decided we should volunteer. I wasn’t sure they’d want to trade first class tickets, but I went to wait in line anyway.
I waited forever, and then the agent finally made the announcement again. I waved our boarding passes, and she called me up. She said first class was fine, and they’d give us $300 and meal vouchers. We weren’t even sure whether it was $300 total or apiece, or why the first announcement was for $400, but I didn’t really care. Even $300 for a 90 minute delay was totally fine with me.
She told me to hang out til the end of boarding, because there was a chance we could still get on the plane. I was hoping not, because I wanted that deal. We had to wait around for at least 20 minutes for them to finish everything, but the plane was indeed full. A different gate agent took us to get the vouchers, and she asked, “Did she offer $400?” I said yes, because I’m not stupid. We walked away with $800 in flight vouchers and first class seats on the next flight. We didn’t really complain about not getting the $6 meal vouchers.
So it was already the best trip ever, and we still hadn’t left the airport. We walked over to our new gate area, and got a celebratory beer at Ike’s. We had an excellent and quick flight to Chicago, and took advantage of our first class benefits along the way.
At O’Hare, we boarded the blue line and rode into town. We hopped off at the Chicago stop, planning to have lunch at the Silver Palm. It was right across the street from the station, but it was closed for a private event. We asked a guy there if he had lunch recommendations, and ended up at the Windy City Cafe instead. There we had a good brunch and a really awesome server.
We got back on the train and rode to the hotel. We arrived at the Palmer House Hilton right as check-in was beginning, and the place was mobbed. From the looks of it, everyone there but us was arriving for weddings. I waited in line while Matt went to the (really pretty) lobby bar for cocktails. (Standing in line with a Manhattan makes everything more pleasant.) We got a corner room on the 19th floor with a good view, and I was surprised to see how many buildings in the Loop have green roofs. That’s pretty awesome.
We headed out to go be tourists for a while. Our first top was Millennium Park, to see the Cloud Gate (aka the Bean).
On the way there, we bet on how many wedding parties we’d see having pictures taken in the park. Matt said 100, and I went the slightly more reasonable route with 7. I worried that he might be correct, since we saw 2 of them before even getting to the Bean.
We walked around for a while, then decided to head over to the rooftop patio at Tavern at the Park for a drink. It was hot out, and the patio was mostly in the shade. They had Goose Island Matilda on tap, too!!
From there, we walked to the red line and rode up to the John Hancock building. I hadn’t been up to the observation deck for a while, and it was a good day for it. Plus it was surprisingly uncrowded. (It seemed that everyone in the building was waiting in line to get into Cheesecake Factory. I’ll never understand that.)
On the west side of the building, I discovered a gigantic spider just waiting to descend and wrap the entire city a huge web. Look at him!
We headed back to the hotel to shower (because it was still ridiculously hot) and change into our fancy evening clothes. We did have cocktails in the shower, since nobody wants to be overly classy on vacation.
We took the red line back up to the same part of town we’d been in, and walked over to Frontera, where we had reservations at 9:15. We started with the guacamole, which was way better than anything we’ve made (even though we use Rick Bayless’ recipe), and fresh corn tamales. Matt ordered pork tinga tacos and venomous beans, and I got the mushroom tacos al carbon and a side of plantains with cheese. The tacos were so ridiculously good I couldn’t believe it, nor could I believe how full I was after finishing one of them. I did my best with another taco, but barely survived. Our server thought I didn’t like them, but I was just sad I couldn’t have more. Everything there was so good.
After dinner, we walked six blocks north to a cocktail bar that ended up being closed when we arrived, possibly permanently. We decided to go to the train and head back to the neighborhood near our hotel instead; I really wanted to go to Miller’s Pub, because it’s so awesomely oldschool. We sat at the bar and had Manhattans, and admired the hobo artwork on the wall. When it was time to go, we just had to walk next door to the Palmer House. Convenient!
The next morning, we got up at 9 because we had a car-date. We had made arrangements to borrow someone’s car on RelayRides.com, which is infinitely more convenient and cheaper than renting from an agency. Our reservation was actually for noon, but the owner contacted us to see if we could go earlier instead. That was fine, because he said he’d drop the car at our hotel instead of us having to walk down to his apartment. He got there and showed Matt how to use the GPS and such, then took his bike off the back and rode off to do his thing while we drove his car to the suburbs.
One of the goals on my 101 Things list was to go take photos of every place I’ve lived. I’d gotten to all of them (i.e. the ones in Minneapolis and Milwaukee) except the Chicago locales; even though I’d visited them before, I wanted to go back and take new pictures. So we headed to Addison first, where it was pouring like crazy when we arrived. We saw my first home there, then the school where I attended kindergarten, and then we stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some coffee.
From there we headed to Wheaton for the other three: two townhomes my parents rented in between houses, and the house they built there, which still looks very much the same, with way bigger trees. We also drove around downtown Wheaton, which is still as cute as it always was.
Then we went to take care of another important piece of business in the suburbs: Portillo’s. My vegetable sandwich wasn’t the greatest, but the fries and nostalgia more than made up for it.
We headed back to downtown, experiencing the best of Chicago traffic along the way. We texted the car’s owner to let him know we were back, and he came to pick it up from us within a few minutes. RelayRides? Good system.
It was still sprinkling a little outside, so we got our umbrellas and headed over to Grant Park. (I don’t think I’ve ever visited Buckingham Fountain in nice weather, come to think of it.) We walked south toward the Field Museum, which was a little over a mile away. There was hardly anyone there, probably because it was getting late in the day. We had to hurry to see things.
Our tickets included passes to one of their special exhibitions, so we went to go learn about Ghengis Khan. That was the right choice, because it was awesome. Did you know that Ghengis Khan is directly responsible for the invention of passports, priority mail, and pants? PANTS! He was awesome.
We walked around seeing as much as we could before they announced that the museum was closing. When we left it was sprinkling again, so we went to go see if we could get on the water taxi. It wasn’t the best day for it, but we figured we probably wouldn’t have time before leaving on Monday. The boat was just leaving as we arrived, but we got tickets for the next one in half an hour. We managed to find the only dry bench under a tree out along the waterfront, which was good since it started raining a lot harder. Our umbrellas kept us mostly dry.
We hopped on the water taxi and rode to Navy Pier. I’d like to do this again sometime when it’s sunny, because the view is great:
Navy Pier was not at all crowded, since it was late in the afternoon on a very damp Sunday. The rain was coming harder, so we went to walk around inside the mall area. It’s basically like a cruise port, all souvenir tshirts with cheeky phrases on them, your name on a grain of rice, caricatures, and fudge. (Why is there always a fudge shop?) We walked up and down past the kiosks and then went into Harry Caray’s for a beer, thus ensuring it would be the most stereotypical Chicago trip ever (see: Dunkin Donuts, Portillo’s, and later Giordano’s as well).
We were hungry but didn’t want dinner yet, so we got pretzels and beer. I could see out the front entrance of Navy Pier from my seat, and it was now POURING. Everyone was huddled in the entryway not going anywhere. It was a good time for a beer and some sports on TV.
After a while, the rain was showing no sign of letting up (even though our phone-weather swore it was nice out). We decided to finish our beer and brave the weather rather than trying to wait it out any longer, since it could possibly go on forever. We stopped to get a picture of Bally with Harry first, though.
Navy Pier is nice enough to have a free shuttle that circles the River North area, so we walked a block to the stop. I was very glad for it, because it’s a long way to an L station from there. We rode to State Street and hopped off right across the street from Sable. (It was one of the cocktail bars on Matt’s list, and is run by one of the chefs we’d seen on Top Chef.) There was no problem getting seats at the bar due to the incredibly crappy weather, thankfully.
The bar was excellent, and we nerded out over the menu. I tried Swedish Punsch for the first time, and got a cocktail with it. We had a couple drinks and hung out there for a while, and FINALLY the rain started to let up a little. We got our tab and walked north the six or so blocks to Giordano’s.
I know how it works with Giordano’s… you order what you think is a very modest pizza, and you end up dying of fullness and regret over not being able to have more. So we decided to get a bruschetta appetizer and a small stuffed pizza. You kind of need an appetizer if you’re hungry at all, since the pizzas take at least 45 minutes. Their bruschetta ended up being more of a loaf of bread, but it was really good. We got a Goose Island pitcher and hung out for a while.
Our small pizza arrived, but it was still gigantic. I ate one piece and couldn’t handle any more. Matt made it through two. We still had more than half the pizza left, and couldn’t even touch it. The server didn’t seem to want to let us leave without it, but it wasn’t going to make a great carry-on. Farewell, delicious pizza! You served us well.
We walked back south a few blocks past Sable, to Andy’s Jazz Club. Matt’s parents had taken him there as a kid, and it seemed like a good late-night Sunday option. We got a table and watched the jam session that was going on. It was all people who knew each other there at the club, and they swapped out every few songs. I learned a lot about jazz, because I never really know how the improv thing works. When a 15-year-old girl got up and played the piano with the band, we couldn’t believe it. Amazing.
Around 1 or so, we decided to head out. It was less than a mile to the hotel, so we crossed the river (past my favorite buildings) and walked back to the Palmer House.
The next morning, we slept in til 10, then checked out of the hotel. We left our backpacks with the bell desk and hopped on the blue line to Logan Square. Our brunch destination was Lula Cafe, conveniently located a block from the station. We both had excellent food and cocktails, so it made the immense hipster pretentiousness of the place more tolerable. Plus the people-watching was hilarious: I’ve never seen so many pairs of high-waisted shorts and fake glasses in one place.
We rode back downtown and walked to Millennium Station to get the Metra to the Museum of Science and Industry. We had to wait about 20 minutes for the train, and we knew our museum-time would be limited, but that was fine. I love that place.
The ride took only about 15 minutes, and the walk to the museum was a couple of blocks long. Which was good, because it was really hot out again.
We did the whirlwind tour, making sure to visit all the old favorites. The U-Boat had moved since last time I was there, and everything looked very updated. I recognized most of the exhibits, but not the areas surrounding them (except for the main hall).
I’m glad the chick hatchery is still there. It’s my favorite!
We had to head out by 4:30 to catch the train back. We didn’t have a ton of time at any one exhibit, but we covered a lot of ground anyway. We rode back to Millennium Station, walked to the hotel to get our bags, and then went to the blue line to ride back to O’Hare.
We had enough time there to get sandwiches and eat quickly before the flight, but we did so extremely dejectedly since we 1) didn’t get upgraded to first class and 2) didn’t get $800 from Delta this time. (Ok, I lied about the dejected part.) We had a good flight back, and were home in time to catch up on Breaking Bad before heading to bed!