Way back, when this blog was still entitled Swinging On Sunshine, this was a travel blog. It was a second incarnation of one that I had kept up when I taught English in China for summer 2011, this time meant to chronicle my trek through Europe the summer after I graduated college.
Since then, my adventures have been shorter and farther apart: a symptom of having a job with limited vacation days and having to pay for things like rent and electricity (which are a lot more expensive in NYC and Baltimore than Tallahassee, FL).
But when I had a work conference in Chicago, which I had only been to once for a brief amount of time, I saw the opportunity to stick around for a few days, visit friends, and see the sights. And so of course, I had to resurrect the “travel” portion of my travel blog, because why not?
Wednesday, May 3
The conference ended 7pm on Tuesday night. After four days of running around in heels, I needed the night to cool off, recharge, and get ready to take Chicago. The next day started with my conference roommate, Linxuan, and I having brunch at Yolk – South Loop. It was a cute restaurant, delicious food. And the perfect beginning to my weekend.
Now, my lovely hosts were not able to meet me at their place until after 3pm, but I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of dragging my suitcase around Chicago with me. So, I thought to myself, why not see a show?
Almost one year later, I got to see Hamilton again in a different city. I won’t spend too much time talking about it. But it was special to be able to see this musical. And it still destroyed me emotionally in the best ways.
After the show, I made my way over to the Ukrainian Village neighborhood to see my friend Laura and her partner Aaron who were graciously putting me up for the next few days.
Laura I knew from dancing in the southeast but have never met Aaron before. But we quickly bonded over books and boardgames. Aaron made this amazing kale, sausage, and chickpea soup and we went over to their friends, Ross and Sarah’s place where we spent the night watching youtube videos and playing the board game Concept (a game I’ve been dying to play).
All in all a chill day, but one that I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Thursday, May 4
Thursday was a day for personal exploration. I met my friend Kevin for authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. We went to Lou Malnati’s, one of the three big pizza places in Chicago. I deferred to Kevin’s expertise and got the sausage pizza with the butter crust.
Peeps. The crust is where it is at!
Apparently out of the three pizza chains, Lou‘s claim to fame is their butter crust. But that’s not all.
So the way that they construct this pizza is, obviously, crust first, then a layer of sauce, a layer of cheese, then (instead of sprinkling bits of sausage on top) they take a whole length of sausage and spiral it around to fill up the whole top of the pizza. A literal layer of meat.
Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy one piece before I called it quits. (We also had stuffed spinach bread–delicious!–beforehand.) I am literally the worst person to bring to an all-you-can-eat buffet and this was no exception. Still, it was lovely to catch up with Kevin (who had to go to work after our lunch) and left me with some choice destinations for the rest of my day.
Kevin had mentioned a stained glass gallery on the Navy Pier, where I was supposed to meet my boat for the architecture tour (which I’ll talk about later). I was heading there any ways, so why not?
I got a bit lost. (The Navy Pier is huge!) And a bit distracted. I thought I’d go on the the iconic Ferris Wheel, but that was $15 and seemed a bit steep for just sitting alone or with strangers for a few very slow turns.
I found the stained glass gallery (officially the Richard H. Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass at Navy Pier) which, thankfully for my wallet, was free. It’s a small little room towards the back that could easily be missed if you weren’t looking for it. The rooms are dark so that the stained glass can be lit from behind. Every window is accompanied with a small excerpt about the artist, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and different techniques he employed while making his art.
There was also a brand new Rolling Stones exhibit, but that also cost money so I just took a picture with the band’s iconic logo.
Then it was time for the architecture city tour. This was one of the most recommended activities to me. Now to most people, this might sound boring, but I am always up for any art/architecture tour. So when it was recommended to me again and again, I knew this was a must see. And I was not disappointed.
First off, the tour guide was on point. (As someone who once was a tour guide, this is important to me.) Second off, Chicago’s architecture is fascinating. I wish I had taken notes if only to recount them here. But here are some of my favorite facts I was able to remember:
- The marsh land that would eventually become Chicago really stank. When asked why the land had such a strong smell, Native Americans explained that the chicagua (or this stinky leek/onion/garlic plant) was the cause of the strong smell. And thus: Chicago was named. (And was the inspiration for this blog title.)
- Chicago hosts the tallest building to be designed by a woman architect. That same architect Jeanne Gang is currently designing another building in Chicago to be finished (if I remember correctly) in 2019.
- The Tribune Tower has pieces of major buildings from around the world embedded in its walls including pieces from the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Notre Dame, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, and more.
Overall, would rate the tour 10/10, would definitely take again.
I should note here that one of the reasons it took me so long to write this blog post was because I took actual pictures on my actual grown-up camera (and not my phone) and wanted to post them here. But it seems I have lost my SD card reader, so that will just have to be a separate post. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I then tried to make way down to the Museum of Science and Industry. But once I (finally) found the train that could take me there, I was told it was going to close in 15 minutes and probably wouldn’t arrive before then.
I navigated the Chicago public transportation back to my wonderful hosts and was able to take them out to dinner as a thank you for putting me up. We went to this lovely brunch/dinner place: Whisk, a Ron Swanson-themed restaurant. That Nick Offerman has actually visited.
Honestly, I could talk about this restaurant for a whole blog post, but I won’t do that as we still have one more full day to cover, but I will say this: If you are a Parks & Rec fan or a fan of good food (and there is at least one vegetarian option!), I highly recommend this place. (Plus it’s BYOB. We bought champagne and had mimosas with dinner. Because it’s always time for mimosas.)
I was also happy to spend some more time with my lovely hosts. I hope that one day I get to return the favor.
Friday, May 5
Last day in Chicago and my lovely friend Megan, who I’ve known since I was 12(? 13?) and now resides in the stinky garlic city, took a vacation day to show me around. It started with a lovely brunch at Little Goat, where we indulged in cinnamon rolls and mimosas. Afterwards, we headed to the Art Institute of Chicago. Because I can’t not go to this world famous museum.
(Having been to Chicago only once before, this is one of the few things I remember.)
We had to pick and choose what we wanted to see because, like the Louvre, you can’t do the Institute in one day. It was so great to view art, be snobby art critics, and catch up on each other’s lives.
After a few hours of browsing the museum and its gift shop, we continued our day by grabbing coffee and a small dinner before heading to the last attraction of the day: Improv Shakespeare. This was another suggestion by a friend and other than looking up available shows and ticket prices (only $16), Megan and I went in knowing next to nothing. And it was honestly one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.
It’s a cast of five men that improvise an entire play based on a title shouted at them from the audience. And that’s how Megan and I got to experience: Dolphins in Kilts.
I cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard. Would definitely recommend for anyone in town to catch a show. And it will definitely be a one-of-a-kind experience.
Chicago was wonderful and once again I found my trip too short. I will definitely be coming back. 😉 You can count on it.