by April Gilbert
We really do not have the money to be going anywhere, but, nonetheless, we have these plane tickets we have to use and we love adventures. They have an expiration date and we are going somewhere, so let’s look at the best deal …the best ticket …the best city… pick a weekend and randomly just find something that fits the bill. The next thing we know we are in Chicago in October! Considering that the girls have never been out of the Southeast, it was going to be an eye-opening experience, to say the least. I sort of had an idea that taking three little country girls into the big city would be an adventure in itself, but I had no idea how much their eyes would be opened. Oh, and I forgot to mention, IT WAS THE FREAKING WORLD SERIES!!!! The Cubs made the World Series and we just happen to be visiting Chicago. This trip was already going better than expected. On top of everything, this is the first vacation that it will literally be just the four of us!
The first Chicago staple we ate at was Portillo’s. All of my Chicago friends said it was the best Italian beef and that the chocolate cake milkshake would change my life. It did. I am a fan. It was a fun energy and it smelled like the South. The workers were friendly and welcomed us loudly! Heading back to the room we got to see the beautiful view of the coast and all it had to offer for families. Honestly, I did fall in love with the skyline at sunset from that view. Chicago was being kind so far. Our mom and Pop hotel in the South Loop was spacious and friendly and well worth the $175 a night. The neighborhood looked a little sketchy at night but during the day it was kid friendly with parks and activities.
I found an awesome coffee shop and market a block away on East 26th and it won my heart. De Michaels Market, A gourmet grocery. The minute I walked in I knew I would like it because the first thing I smelled was roasting coffee beans and fresh bread toasting. Honey, I’m home. It just felt like a place that I grew up with and I had never been there. And the art on the wall will take your breath and your attention. I struck up a conversation with the owner as he made our breakfast sandwiches and coffees. He had an assistant, all of 3 1/2 feet tall, adorable and full of questions. His daughter. She was coloring art for the wall. He entertained all my questions with real heartfelt answers and was very genuine in his humor about me not knowing what a bean pie was. So I purchased the one with cream cheese icing because, well, it is cream cheese icing, hello! It was tasty and I shared that with him the next morning when I took the girls back for coffee and treats for the airport. When he asked me how I liked the bean pie, I replied, different but tasty. He replied that I was Muslim now and gave me a big belly laugh. It is great to know that no matter where in the world you go, there are good people and we all share the happiness of why we smile at strangers. He was good people and it shined from his smile and great energy. Thank you for bringing a little home town to the big city.
Tall buildings and lost GPS signals are always fun and a Lyft driver who barely speaks English, much less broken redneck English, just adds to the adventure. We finally arrive downtown to see The Willis Tower. A very special friend told me that all the cool kids have a selfie from the glass ledge and that I had to go conquer my fear of heights and try it. Well, I did it. Not on my own and through much embarrassment to my daughters, I sort of did it. By the time we were third in line, I was a complete nervous wreck and trembling in fear. I was swimming in my own head. I could feel my face turning green and I began to sweat. My youngest talked me through closing my eyes and her guiding me out on to the ledge and then looking up to the camera without looking down. Smile! And get the hell off that death trap. It was nauseating when I glanced down coming off the ledge. But I did it. It was over and I didn’t die. It was an eye opening moment. And seeing my three girls look out over that giant city made me realize it was one very symbolic view of them looking at life. The view of The Windy City from that high is not only an eye opener but a mind opener.
Millennium Park was buzzing with Cub’s fans and families galore. It was a beautiful day and the people were out enjoying it. All the selfies in front of the Cloud Gate were pretty entertaining and watching people touch it to leave their finger print was another eye opener and I am glad we took the time to visit it. The trees in the park were turning and full of color and beauty. It was not cold in Chicago in October. My mind was blown. This was not the Chicago I thought the girls would be experiencing but it was still a fun time.
We hit the Magnificent Mile and every Starbucks in between. We trucked it all over the shops and through boutiques and in and out of places until we were exhausted and had to rest. We plopped down at a main intersection where there were benches and fountains and watched people for about half an hour. We then decided to go get matching tattoos to mark the memory of this trip and the bonding experience. When I say “we” I really mean them. We found a place that could take us about ten minutes away and we were off. We get there and as we are talking to the guy something rubbed me the wrong way and it made me not want to give him my money. And he was trying to overcharge so we decided to wait on the tattoos and just go eat sushi instead. I mean, you knew we would be hungry. It was a fun idea.
Time to go back to the room and chill. We ended up watching the first part of the World Series Game in the room and then made our way a block down the street to a tiny Italian place named Ricobenes. Famous for their Steak Sandwich I thought I would try it out. Did I mention the 26th Precinct Police Station is right around the corner and this place has a giant screen TV and every Chicago PD that just got off work was there? We had dinner and watched the Cubs play in the World Series with 30 of Chicago’s Finest. Another eye opener. Believe me honey my eyes were REAL open. What game? Umm, I like your tattoo Mr. Officer, Sir. However, with the loss by the Cubs the city seemed to all cry to sleep together.
Good Night Chicago.
Sunday morning, our last day in Chicago and we had a few hours before we had to be at the airport. So we packed up and made our way to Chicago Midway Airport. We did Uber and Lyft the majority of the trip. In three days of Chicago we only spent $124.00 on transportation. At the airport we decided to eat at the famous Chicago Dog Establishment. While standing in line the girls thought it was hilarious that there was a sign that said DO NOT ask for ketchup because we will be offended and we will not be happy. Ketchup does not belong on a Chicago Dog. And even though you get fries, you still don’t ask for ketchup. The dogs were great. The fries were good.
While we were waiting on the flight home we sat in the floor to utilize wall plugs and to charge devices and made even more fun memories. Minus the boyfriend breakup that was going on, we were enjoying each other’s company and tons of fresh Chicago Popcorn and bonding as friends and it was priceless. The laughter always outweighs the tears and even though we don’t get to travel together very often, this trip was one for the books. I love watching my daughters grow into young ladies. The way they view the world is amazing to me and I learned from their hearts on this trip. I am grateful for every penny spent and even though we didn’t get to actually see the World Series game played in person, this awesome city was made history in more ways than baseball.
Thank you Chicago.