I am still feeling a little despondent after the sudden death  of my hubby. Some friends of Pickle Lily fame, also on their own who are featured in “Why Me? -a memoir “planned a four day trip to Chicago. They insisted that I go. I refused at first but at the insistence of family and friends I consented. I am glad that I did. Pickled Lilies-Helena, Candy and myself  { Ellen } were joined by a friend Eden whose husband urged her to  join us. We took a taxi to the airport Friday morning October 17 after being bid farewell by the Lily with the broken bone and Eden’s husband.

After getting through the muddle of printing boarding passes, we lined up for customs. Our purses passed through without incidence except for Candy’s. Her nail clippers that she wasn’t even aware were in her purse were confiscated. We passed through the scanner without incidence except for Candy. She beeped and beeped and beeped some more. Our friend has guts. When she was asked to remove her bracelet she politely declined explaining that she wouldn’t be able to get it on again. They acquiesced to her wishes and waved her on. We had a mediocre breakfast at the airport. I accidentally drank Helena’s tea. I thought it was a bad cup of coffee.

After a very short flight we landed in Chicago. We checked into our well chosen accommodation, the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Waker street, an extremely majestic centrally located hotel with a magnificent view of the Chicago River and some of the buildings of architectural fame that Chicago is known for. Candy and Eden shared a room and Helena and I bunked in together. Two rooms were not available on the same floor. Perhaps because we are seniors or perhaps because we are cute and personable {and modest} they upgraded our two rooms so at least we would be in the same tower.

The day started out sunny. We didn’t want to waste time or the nice weather so we headed out before unpacking. We walked towards the pier and descended down three steep metal flights of stairs to the Chicago River. We purchased tickets for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise due to depart at 3:30. We had time for lunch so we trudged up the stairs and walked a few  blocks–actually it was a few more than a few blocks to Lou Mainatis Pizzeria that boasts it serves the best Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Those of us not Gluten intolerant ordered deep dish pizza and I had a salad.

We walked back to the boat. It was getting cold and the clouds were getting darker. Once again we descended the three flights of stairs. Rain was in the air and it eventually started to sprinkle and it was windy. The inclement damp weather didn’t dampen our spirits and we loved the narrative and cruise run by volunteers from the Architectural Foundation. We learned a lot about Chicago that was founded in 1837 and soon became the transportation hub for the nation.. The Chicago fire of 1871 started on a farm and caused massive devastation. In the years following this disaster many of the  worlds skyscrapers were designed and built in Chicago. The new and historic buildings blend and complement each other to form a unique Chicago collage.       Originally the river flowed into Lake Michigan, polluting the lake from sewage from the river. This was a problem because the lake was the source of drinking water for Chicago. In 1900 the flow of the river was reversed. This was accomplished by creating a canal deeper than the river. Gravity pulled the water into it and ultimately into  the Mississippi River thus reversing the natural flow and keeping the lake water pure.

A historic event took place on  the day of our tour. A barge had sunk, partially obstructing traffic on the river. a solution was being sought on how to remove the barge. Constant renovations and new  construction takes place daily along the shores. However any industrial or fishy smells is masked by the delicious aroma of chocolate emanating from a chocolate facility on the river manufacturing chocolate to sell to chocolate factories.

At the conclusion of the boat tour four bundled up and wet bedraggled ladies trudged up once again the three flights of stairs to street level. We were huffing and puffing and had to lean against the wall to catch our breath. We watched the others climb up. Nobody was breathless. They were much younger than us. This was a sobering moment. We were not as agile as we once were. We were getting old. To console ourselves and still savouring the the chocolate aroma coming from the river, we went back to the hotel, had a hot chocolate and played a few hands of bridge.

Dinner that evening was in the Harvest room of the hotel. It was Friday night . We ordered Chicken soup that the restaurant is known for and every bit as good as Grandma used to make. We slept so well that night and subsequent nights that nobody knew if anybody snored.

Saturday we decided to have breakfast at a Corner Bakery, a highly recommended restaurant chain specializing in breakfast and lunch. On our way we were surprised that our way was blocked because of  a street closure between 9:30 and 10:00 due to a helicopter lift. It was an interesting sight to see the helicopter  hover in the air, and descend  to pick up heavy concrete blocks to be lifted to the rooftop of a building undergoing renovations. Chicago police were present to help direct traffic. Breakfast was definitely worth the wait. Candy and Helena saved the table while Eden and I went to the counter to order. I guess they didn’t trust me to order because they told Eden what they wanted. She ordered the wrong thing for them. They didn’t tell her until much later. I think they thought they would seek revenge by messing up her order the next day.

We walked after breakfast and marvelled at the sight of the buildings, from a different perspective than we had seen from the boat. The landscaping outside the buildings and boulevards were magnificent to behold. The vibrant coloured  fall flowers and foliage were meticulously maintained. Then there was the street art–sculptures and paintings by famous artisans; Caulder, Picasso, Chagall. Outside the Board of Trade building were two sculptures. One represented  the harvest and agricultural side of Chicago and the other the industrial and business side. Eden noticed that the industrial sculpture was situated right next to a MacDonalds. Coincidence?

We became aware that this weekend  was OPEN HOUSE CHICAGO sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. This was the weekend to get free behind the scenes access to 150 buildings across the city. What to Do ? Where to Go? We noticed we were outside the visitor centre and decided to go in. The guide was most helpful . She directed us to two Tiffany glass ceilings housed in the building on higher floors. Some people were lying on the floor taking pictures with their cameras and phones. We knew we couldn’t do this because we would never get up. A young woman accompanied by her mother offered to take a picture of the four of us. We handed her four cell phones. Later in the day, while we were sitting and eating dinner , two ladies came up to our table and said “Would you like your Picture taken? “ it was our photographer and her mother. We had a chuckle.

We left  the visitor centre and we continued on our self directed tour. We meandered into the Willis Tower, formally the Sears tower. It was a two hour wait in line to visit the sky deck and sky deck ledges –Glass balconies with glass floors 103 stories up . We  didn’t wait. I was kind of glad. I don’t think I would have gone out to the glass ledge. Glass can break. Instead we we took an elevator to the 66th floor and walked up a flight of stairs to the 67th floor. Our ears popped. We were afforded a beautiful view of the new shore line. The Metropolitan club is housed here. We would have had a drink but the bar was closed. Instead we sat at the bar and toasted each other and took touristy pictures. The interiors of the buildings are just as impressive as their exteriors. We visited the Federal Reseve Bank and Union Station which looked like Toronto Union station. Candy beeped her way through security at most of the stops.

That night we dined at Eataly, a fun place to shop and dine.We walked back to the hotel over the bridge and admired the Trump tower at night and other lit up buildings.

The next day after breakfast we parted ways. Candy and Eden hopped on a train and took a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and the exterior of other houses that he had designed. Even though it is rumoured that he wasn’t a very nice person , his work was remarkable. They loved their day, both the tours and the roundtrip train ride. Next time I am in Chicago that will be one of the first things that I do.

Helena and I chose a less structured day.Toronto has Moose. Chicago has Horses .Each beautifully decorated and painted life size horse is in memory of a Chicago policeman who was murdered in the line of duty. Eventually each  horse is  auctioned off. We walked to Navy Pier. It is in the process of renovation and promises to be quite magnificent when complete. Next stop was Miracle Mile. I purchased a pair of boots and Helena bought a magnificent sweater. We used Macy discount cards that we had conveniently received in the mail just prior to coming to this great city. We were enthralled with Macy’s ceiling – the largest Tiffany mosaic glass dome ceiling of its kind in the world. All the stores we were in had magnificent interiors,  even Walmart.

We left miracle Mile late afternoon to return to the Hyatt Regency to meet the other half of our group and  to ready ourselves for that evenings activity. Eden had arranged a dinner and Second City package recommended by her son. We dinned at Perennial Virant -a gourmet restaurant in the  truest sense of the word. We walked over to the Second City theatre and laughed like a Chicagoan.

The day of departure arrived all too soon We checked out and left our luggage with the bellboy. We ate a quick breakfast, visited Millennium park, admired the outdoor theatre, saw the Bean and took photos of ourselves reflected in the Bean. Next stop was the Chicago Institute of Art. We participated in a guided tour featuring five pieces of modern art that related in some way  to the sense of touch. The remaining time we spent there was viewing impressionist art.

Our last stop before picking up our luggage and taking a taxi to the airport was to the Ralph Lauren restaurant situated in the Ralph Lauren store. It was a worthwhile stop. The food was well prepared and plentiful and they sure didn’t skimp on the alcohol in their alcoholic beverages.The dining room resembled an elegant English library. The highlight of our meal was a creme brûlée which we shared.

At the airport before our flight we spent the time searching in pockets and purses for missing things like keys, boarding passes ,gloves etc. These items were all eventually found only to be lost again in a different pocket or hiding at the bottom of one’s  purse.

In Toronto we went through customs and had to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions was “Have you originally visited an Ebola stricken centre?” Eden mistakenly checked yes instead of no. Luckily she caught and corrupted her mistake and wasn’t thrown into quarantine.

It was a wonderful trip . We all fell in love with Chicago.


About epsnider

EP Snider’s dream came to fruition when she published a book at age 69. She continues to share her thoughts and stories with a humorous twist on Wordpress and Facebook.
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