Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chicago Part 2: Day 4: People, Places, Food

Day  four started out similar to day two. Danny went to a different Crossfit gym and I slept in, after all we were on vacation. We decided to cash in on our upgrades and order room service for breakfast. I have never ordered room service before. Who wants to eat inside their hotel, when there is caramel apple pecan French toast to be had? Yet, it was free. I felt very fancy when the man brought up our food and opened up all the shiny silver lids to make sure I was satisfied with our order. I was satisfied. I gave the man a larger tip than normal. The hotel was paying for it, so it was my attempt at sticking it to the man.

Staying true to my Jewish heritage, I ordered a bagel and lox. Danny ordered a Spanish omelet. No, he is not Spanish.  I enjoyed my bagel and lox quite a bit. Bagels are one of my favorite foods, but thanks (or no thanks) to the Paleo diet, I hadn’t had one in probably a year’s time. Danny enjoyed his omelet, but felt like there could be a little more kick to it. He likes things to taste like fire. We also split a fruit tray, which was scrumptious.

After a few cups of coffee, we headed out east to Navy Pier. The walk was fairly long and it was hot, but it was nice to see a different part of Chicago. Navy Pier was built in 1916. It was originally used for cargo ships and warehouse storage. At the very end of the pier is the ballroom. The ballroom was used for public gatherings. The ballroom's wall that faces the lake is made up primarily of windows, which makes the events that are held there, that much more grand.

Navy Pier has now been turned into a tourist attraction. The Navy Pier’s website claims it is the most visited attraction in the Mid West. I think this has something to do with people wanting an ocean experience in the Mid West. The building further away from the lake has touristy shops and a children’s museum in it. There are also an IMAX theater, various restaurants, a theater for plays, various boat excursions, some carnival rides, and a stained glass museum.

We hopped on board the ferris wheel, because who doesn’t like a ferris wheel? The ferris wheel is 15 stories high and gives you a great view of the cityscape and the lake. I was a little disappointed that a six dollar ticket only got us one trip around the wheel. The other rides didn’t seem too exciting so we did not test any out. We walked to the end of the pier and looked at the big lake. Danny complained that I wouldn’t let us go on the Sea Dog, which is a touring speed boat that goes out on the lake. I would have rather wasted my money on the pirate ship excursion. I did not know that the pirates pillaged and plundered the Great Lakes, but now I know.

Danny and I agreed that we weren’t all too thrilled with Navy Pier. It seems ultra touristy and if you live anywhere near an ocean or have been on a pier, you have basically experienced Navy Pier. However, if you are traveling with children, this may be worth your while because of the many child friendly activities. I would like to travel back in time and be invited to a party in the grand ballroom. I imagine it would be sort of like the formal dancing scene from Titanic. I also would have enjoyed going to the pier at night. During the summer months on certain days, there is a firework show. I wonder if they let you go on the ferris wheel during the fireworks display?! That would my ultimate Navy Pier experience.

We headed back to the hotel so I could throw my hair up. 85 degrees in Chicago feels like 100 degrees here. On the way there, a band was playing in a little courtyard area singing Barbie Girl. Remember the song Barbie Girl? It’s horrible. Of course Danny sang along.

Next stop was what else but food. We went to Portillo's to try the Italian Beef and cheese fries. I seriously don’t know how every Chicagoan isn’t at least 50 lbs overweight. Portillo's is a big restaurant, but it used to be just a little shack. The restaurant was packed, but the line moved quickly because of the proficient staff. Reviewers on Yelp recommended the Italian beef and cheese fries so of course we obliged. The Italian beef is pretty much just what it sounds like. It is a bunch of beef on French bread and giardiniera on top. This time I played it cool Chicagoan style and skipped the mayo. It was simple, but delicious. No wonder this little shack turned into a must have for Chicagoans and visitors alike. The fries were good, like most fries are. The cheese was just a mild nacho cheese sauce on the side. I think cheese should always be served with fries. Hopefully the French fry gods will read my blog and start making cheese a mandatory condiment. For an ultra piggy move, Danny and I dipped our sandwiches into the cheese sauce. Yummmmm.

By the time we left we definitely needed to walk off our lunch. Good thing the Sears Tower (now known as Willis Tower) was a long walk away. So up to the top of the Willis Tower we went. Willis Tower is the tallest building in the US. It is the second tallest building in the world. I don’t find it to be the prettiest building, but there is something special about its ultra sturdy structure in contrast to the soft billowing Chicago clouds.

If you are going to Sears Tower I suggest you get there early. Everyone wants to be on top of the world. Also if you are claustrophobic, the ride up might not be for you. They pack people in the elevators like sardines. Seriously, I don’t know how the fire marshal hasn’t been notified yet. As you go up to the top, you smell some interesting odors. I just tried to look at the television, because it shows pictures of other famous buildings when you reach their height. Once you reach the top there are multiple views for miles, after all the Willis Tower is the tallest point in Illinois. Which is why Danny and I could never live there. We could see our hotel, many of the places we had visited, and we even saw a living roof below us.

The newest addition to the Sears Tower is the Skydeck. The Skydecks are three clear glass cubes that pop out of the windows. So literally the only thing that separates you and the ground is glass and 1,450 feet. Now I am not a big thrill seeker. I don’t enjoy crazy roller coasters, but being that high above the world with such little between you really makes you realize your insignificance. This is actually a nice feeling. Plus every time the wind would blow, the box would shake a little. After a few photo ops with Danny, we got in line to head down.

I forgot to mention that on the way up, we saw a bride all decked out in her beautiful wedding gown. She got to go on a different elevator. I overheard that the wedding ceremony was going to be at the very very top of the building. I thought that was pretty romantic, being on top of the world figuratively and the tip top of Illinois literally.

After Sears Tower, we attempted to take the bus back the Art Institute to pick up some gifts, but we small town folk failed miserably at finding the right bus. So we walked and my inflamed toe soon became super inflamed. I’m always having issues.

We did a little shopping, stopped by my favorite fancy store Anthropologie, and of course took a nap.

Next on the to do list was Wrigley Field for a Cubs vs. A’s baseball game. We took a stab at public transportation again and rode the Metra. The Metra is basically like BART, but has more routes, runs more often, and is way more crowded. Again, if you are claustrophobic do not take the Metra to a Cub’s game.

We had originally planned to go to Chicago the week before, but when Danny found out the Cubs were playing the A’s he kindly asked if we could push it back. Of course I said okay…I mean we went to an A’s game the day after our wedding. Wrigley Field was built in 1914. It is famous for being old, small, and having an ivy wall. The scoreboard is not your typical electric light up scoreboard, it is still hand turned. If you look closely you can see a guy peeking his head out of the spaces to catch a view of the game. The buildings around Wrigley Field are famous for having parties on top of their roofs during the games. There are now bleachers on many of them and most rooftops charge for a seat even though it is not technically in Wrigley field.

We both ordered some hot dogs and some Old Style brewskies: the perfect baseball game meal. Unfortunately the A’s ended up losing. We still had a wonderful time. Looking around, eating my amazing hot dog, it felt very nostalgic. Our Americana experience was just that: totally red, white, and blue.

We took the Metra back to the hotel without incident and fell asleep.


  1. Sounds like a fantastic day and I definitely would opt for a ferris wheel ride!

  2. Sounds fun! I want to visit chicago so bad!

    I gave you a bloggy award! Be sure to stop by and check it out! =)

  3. That is why we are friends Sharon!

    Oooh, Katrina thank you! I will stop by!