Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chicago, the Miami of Canada*

Chicago.  I hate the band.  Love the city.  My first trip to Chicago was in October of 2006.  The thing I remember most was that the weather was beautiful.  Simply beautiful.  Blue skies, temperatures that hovered around the high 60's.  Just perfect.  My next trip was in February of 2008.  What I remember most about this trip is the freezing cold.  So, so cold.  Apparently I didn't learn my lesson about Chicago winters, and I went back in December of 2008, right after Christmas.  It was beautiful and snowy, and though my teeth chattered everywhere we went, I got to experience the magic that is downtown Chicago at Christmas.

Fairy tale Christmas displays in department store windows.

Giant wreaths on storefronts.

Christmas lights glowing on the naked trees that line Michigan Avenue.

Creepy stuff elves dangling from the ceiling at Water Tower Place.

Twenty minutes of waiting in line outside Gino's East for a table for two.

Watching the ice skating in Millenium Park.

Rigatoni Ala Vodka from Barnelli's Pasta Bowl.

Wreath necklaces hung on the bronze lions that guard the doors of the Art Institute.

Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo.

It didn't take long for Chicago to become one of my favorite cities.

Then came the summer of 2010.  I had reconnected via Facebook with a couple of girlfriends from college, one of whom lived in the Chicagoland area.  And so the WWF** Reunion Tour was planned.  I had no idea what our five days in Chicago would be like.  Caryn lived in the DFW area and we had met up a few times before the trip.  But we hadn't seen Dotti (aka Christina, Christi, Dooti, Dooters) in twelve years.  You know those people that stay the same?  The kind that you can skip more than a decade and pick up right back where you left off?  Turns out that Caryn and Dotti are those kind of people.  It proved out to be one of the funnest trips ever.  

Three trips into the city.  

Shopping at H&M.  Several times.  

Deep dish pizza from Giordano's.  

Chicago Mix popcorn from Garrett's.  

Playing in the water at the Faces display at the Crown Fountain.  

Train rides in and out of the city.  

Lunch at the Signature Room (with a view from the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center)

And more than this, we had five days to catch up on the last twelve years of living.  And catch up we did.  We had dinners in the backyard in the cool weather, complete with flowers and our official WWF salad (spinach with feta cheese, craisins, and walnuts).  And we talked about kids and husbands and ex-husbands and how they came to be ex-husbands.  We talked time and change and struggles and mistakes.  We painted a bedroom, even though we were too weak to move the furniture completely out of the way (sorry, Dotti, for the weird painting mess you will have to remedy if ever you move out).  We bonded over Nutella and pretzel sticks and stories.  We laughed, we cried, and when it was time to go home, we agreed that the WWF Reunion Tour was going to need to be an annual event.  

This year, because of Caryn's being in the motherly way and my wedding, we settled on skipping the Chicago trip, and hanging out a day or two together before the wedding.  That would have to count for 2011.  It was a short reunion, and it was filled with busyness, but it worked.  And it was officially recognized as the the WWF Reunion II.  And while we had planned on making another trip to Chicago next year (and are still planning it, come hell or high water... or more babies), the goodness of God and allowed me to return just a few short weeks ago.  $50 tickets each way.  I paid less for me and Jake to fly to Chicago this summer than I did for a single ticket last summer.  We were so excited when we found the bargain flights.  I quickly messaged Dotti who said that we should definitely come.  So we bought our tickets.  And honestly, the main thing getting us through this miserable, dreadful, awful, triple digit heat Texas summer (where we hated everything and almost everyone because of the heat) was the thought of Chicago, the city and the weather.  We knew it wouldn't be a WWF Reunion because Caryn was missing, but it would be fun.

When we stepped out of the Chicago airport, we were greeted by sunny skies and a lovely breeze.  We had a little wait for our ride, but we were so happy to be escaping 107 degrees, we were delighted to have to wait.  And then came more train rides, more Giordano's pizza, more Garrett's popcorn, more shopping at H&M, and more stories.  A couple of days of hanging out with Dotti and her sweet kids, Maddie and James.  The day before our departing flight, Jake and I said our goodbyes to them, and we headed by train into the city for one last night on the town before heading back home.  Our hotel was right on the Chicago River, and we were given a beautiful room with a riverfront view.  We had our dinner riverside at Bridge House Tavern, spent too much and probably ate too much.  Two yachts pulled up beside us while we were eating, and the passengers casually climbed over the wall and sat at tables near us.  I wanted to ask for a ride, but for safety's sake (and for the sake of my worrying mother), I decided against it.  

The next morning we got a little exercise down on Lake Shore Drive, admiring the sailboats and the people who were out running when we only had the energy to walk.  We followed it up with breakfast at Intelligentsia, makers of the the best coffee that I have had outside of Ethiopia.  Then a day of walking and shopping and photographs and more walking.  We lunched at Rosebud on Rush ("lunch" is a verb when you are on vacation... or if you are rich, which we are not), where we shared a sandwich and fries.  We later completely spent our remaining week's worth of Weight Watchers' points on a Cookie Bottom Sundae from Ghirardelli, which was delicious and well worth the splurge.  In our final hours in the city, we took a taxi down to Navy Pier and were sad to find that the windiness of the Windy City had closed down the ferris wheel for the day.  Still we walked around and saw stained glass exhibits and watched the city from the pier.  But our time in Chicago was coming to a close.  We took another taxi to our hotel to pick up our luggage, and we were dropped off at a train stop.  After a confusing walk through the underground maze that is the Chicago Transit System, we finally made it onto the correct train and to the airport.  And then home to Dallas.  

For two days we experienced a temporary but very real depression.  The swing from the highs of our trip to the lows of regular, everyday life was just too much, too quick.  But after a few days and a significant change in Texas weather, we are all better.  So now we can think about the trip and not want to break down and drive back to the airport and get on the next plane back to Chicago (partly because we are over it, but mainly because it's expensive).  

I am excited for next summer.  We have plans for the third installment of our WWF Reunion.  Maybe we will plan the first part of the trip without husbands and let them come fly out for the last few days.  Or maybe we will keep this a girls only trip.  Either way, I am looking forward to it.  We will have more stories to tell.  We will eat more popcorn and pizza.  We will shop at H&M (even though Dallas has finally opened their own), and we will hopefully get to ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier.  So until then, Chicago, just know that you are on my list of favorites.  We miss you, but don't worry, we will be back.  Please have favorable weather waiting for us, and please let the Cubs be in town when we visit.  

*This nickname is brought to you courtesy of The Simpsons.  And it made me laugh.

** WWF is the nickname give to the girls of my fourth floor dormitory in college, Woodworth Fourth.  Technically, it should be WFF (Woodworth Fourth Floor), but we thought WWF was way funnier.  And it is.


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