Striking Gold in the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast Historic District, where our B&B was located, is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country.  So, rather than take the most direct route to visit the Saturday organic farmers market, we opted for the more scenic route along Deerborn Ave.  Wow; what a gorgeous leafy residential street of mansions, row houses, and pricey apartment buildings.

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Green City Market’s  ( www.greencitymarket.org ) mission is one that Laura and I could really get behind, “Green City Market’s mission is to improve the availability of a diverse range of high quality foods by providing a marketplace for purchasing sustainably grown food and to educate, promote, and connect farmers and local producers directly to chefs, restaurateurs and the greater Chicago community. We also support small family farms and promote a healthier society through education and appreciation for local, fresh, sustainably-raised products.”

This market was perfect; outstanding organic produce, wonderful cheese, beautifully baked breads, tempting freshly prepared crepes and dishes, gorgeous flowers- everything; even plenty of cute dogs to pet! 

 

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The quality was outstanding, so it was unfortunate our travels prevented us from buying a bag of produce to take home.  Instead, I opted for a pretzel roll, just like the ones I bought at bakeries in Germany, during my river cruise.  It was perfect match for the Goose Island Matilda Belgian Pale Ale that I sipped at Old Town Social (www.OldTownSocial.com), while cooling off with Laura.

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Before we continued on to Old Town Social, though, I couldn’t resist a quick stop at my coffee shop (But, I don’t even drink coffee!):

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Saturday in Chicago was another burner, so the crowds were large down at the shore; our final stop before throwing in the towel and heading back to the B&B to cool off.

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For our final dinner in Chicago, we landed at the India House ( http://www.indiahousechicago.com/ ), where we enjoyed outstanding Indian cuisine, before heading to the Navy Pier for a spectacular firework (and lightening!) show.  We had noticed (very) dark clouds off in the distance, while we were at the beach; the same clouds, I would assume, that erupted during the fireworks display.  It was quite a sight!  And, wouldn’t you know it?  As soon as the fireworks ended, the clouds burst open above us.  Thankfully, I had decided to bring my umbrella at the last minute…

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So, that is where the Chicago leg of our Illinois journey ends.  The following day, we were off to Crystal Lake aboard the Metra train.  Standby; the train will be departing soon!

Winding Our Way Through the Windy City By Boat

Before I travel, I do a lot of research on my destination; because it is something I really enjoy doing as part of the entire travel experience.  But, this time, I chose a different approach, because I was traveling with Laura.  She had been to Chicago before and had ideas in mind about what she wanted to see, this time around.  I was excited about going along for the ride!  And, we were meeting up in Chicago more to celebrate her upcoming 50th birthday, rather than mine, which had already been celebrated in California.  So, aside from finding our accommodations on Trip Advisor, I had only glanced a time or two at Chicago’s tourism website and quickly checked out “Things To Do” in Chicago, on Trip Advisor.

There were only a few things I knew I really wanted to do in Chicago; my must-see, must-do list.  Otherwise, I figured I would enjoy anything Laura would want to see and do; after all, she has been my best friend for 42 years!  So, what topped my list?  First of all, “Cloud Gate”, the huge sculpture in Millennium Park affectionately known as “The Bean”, because of its bean-like shape.  I knew it would be a hoot to photograph, so I had my heart set on it.  Meanwhile, I had my stomach set on sinking my teeth into a Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  In my mind, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  In Chicago, it’s deep dish pizza!  And, speaking of food, which Laura and I do frequently, I wanted to treat Laura to dinner at Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, for her birthday ( http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/grill.html ).  Finally, I was sure Laura and I would agree on this one:  An architectural boat tour to learn about downtown Chicago’s varied architecture.  (And, if we made it to the Art Institute, it would be a bonus!)

Thanks to Laura scoring a Groupon, we got a great deal on that architectural boat tour that we were both really looking forward to doing.  So, we set out on foot after enjoying our first night and breakfast at our B&B, heading down Michigan Ave. (“Magnificent Mile”) towards the river.

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Wow!  What a gorgeous avenue; the most beautiful I have ever seen in a large U.S. city.  Gorgeously planted and maintained mini gardens surrounded each tree, along each side of the street, and there was no litter or graffiti to be found.  Chicagoans sure take pride in their city; at least in that part! (We never ventured out to the south side…)  But, the Magnificent Mile is also one of the wealthiest miles anywhere.  Sak’s, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s; the list goes on.  It it’s not there, it doesn’t exist.  Needless to say, my wallet stayed firmly in waist pack as we soldiered on (with blinders).

We arrived at the Wrigley Building early for our boat tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to take a stroll along the river and take in the sites of downtown.  What a fabulous surprise!  There was a point to me explaining my lack of research preparation for this trip, detailed previously; I had no idea Chicago had a river located right in between the skyscrapers of downtown!  Having skipped over any of the photos posted on the tourism website or Trip Advisor, I had no idea what to expect.  And, honestly, what I thought I might expect was something more like Manhattan, in New York City.  I figured downtown to be located on Lake Michigan and our boat tour cruising along the shore, to take in the sites of the skyscrapers.  After all, that is what our N.Y. boat tour was like.  Reasonable, right?  Noooo; it wasn’t like that at all!  A river runs right through downtown Chicago with skyscrapers and cafes lining each side of it.  And, beautiful bridges (all unique) cross the river at each block.  WoooHoooo!  It was love at first site.  And, at the very moment I laid eyes on this scene, I declared Chicago my favorite large city in the U.S.A ; other than San Diego, that is!)

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 The twin towers above are “Marina City” (aka “Corn Cobs”); a mixed-use residential/ commercial building.  It was designed in 1959 by Bertrand Goldberg; an architect who seemed to have an aversion to right angles.  When it was completed in 1964, they were the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world.

039-Trump Internationals Hotel and Tower

Trump International Hotel and Tower, named after The Donald, is a condo-hotel designed by Adrian Smith.  At 92 stories (1,389 feet), it is one of the tallest buildings in Chicago.

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The tallest building in Chicago, at 108 stories, is the Willis Tower, formerly known as the “Sears Tower”.  At completion, in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world.  Today, it is ranked 7th.

This is why I enjoy modern downtown skylines:

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See you next at “The Bean”!

May in Washington, D.C. & June in Chicago

It has been a busy spring:  4 crafts shows; swim meets at Georgia Tech, Geezer (Senior) Games, Greensboro (Nationals), and Athens; Griffin Choral Arts’ season finale concert; train trip to Washington, D.C.; and, a trip to Chicago.  Mix in some contract work, a handful (or two) of community events, and a 100+ miles of swim training, and, it made for a delicious spring that went by in the blink of an eye.  Happy summer, everybody!

Turning 50 in January kicked off what has turned out to be a fantastic year, so far.  So, my best friend, Laura, and I kept things rolling by meeting in Chicago to celebrate her upcoming 50th birthday.  In 42 years of friendship, this was the first time we had met up for a girls-only trip out of town.

Since we both enjoy staying at B&B’s, we decided to rely on our favorite travel website, www.TripAdvisor.com, to recommend one for us in Chicago.  Research led us to Gold Coast Guest House Bed & Breakfast (http://www.bbchicago.com/index.html ), centrally located in downtown Chicago.

So, Laura flew from California and I flew out from Atlanta, meeting up in the airport, to begin our adventure to a city she had visited before, but was new to me and on my bucket list.

Sally greeted us upon arrival at the B&B, a charming row house located on the edge of the Gold Coast, one of the priciest neighborhoods in the country.  It is quite charming and comfortable; just perfect for what we wanted.  And, the location could not be beat!

After settling in and being shown around, Laura and I headed out to enjoy drinks on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building; a short walk away through the lovely streets of downtown.  As we strolled down a small section of the Miracle Mile (Michigan Avenue), we passed by sports commentator, Peter Gammons,; probably in town for the Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox, game taking place that evening.

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Upon arrival, an ear-popping elevator ride took us up to the 96th floor bar, where we gawked at the view, as soon as we stepped out.  But, check this out…  When was the last time you used the restroom facilities anywhere with a view like this?  It brought hand-washing to a whole new level!

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More scenes of downtown, as we made our way to Big Bowl for a tasty dinner of Asian stir-fry.

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Next up:  Winding our way through windy Chicago by boat.  Check back soon!