Sunday, July 22, 2012

Windblown in the Windy City: Chicago 2012

I love to travel.  I think it is so important to be reminded that there is a big world out there, and I enjoy exploring new places and seeing how people live in these different places. And yet, I find that after a trip, I am always thankful to come home.  In my opinion, travel is one of the best things for the soul!

One of my closest friends and "little sister" from my college sorority, Ashley, is in grad school in Kansas now, so we don't get to see each other often.  We've made trips between Kansas and Texas to visit, but we decided to pick a new locale and meet up for our very first "Big and Little" trip! We wanted somewhere with  a lot of art and history that we could explore, and preferably somewhere that would allow us to escape the Texas and Kansas summer heat. So, Chicago was our chosen destination.

We certainly got our fix of art and culture, but the first two days were record-hot! So much for a cool weather escape-- guess I take Texas with me wherever I go!  I also understand why they call Chicago "The Windy City" (although I recently learned that expression might relate more to politics than the weather!), because Ashley and I found it to be very windy whenever we tried to take pictures!

I had been to Chicago in high school for a family reunion, but it was very different exploring it as an adult.  We stayed downtown and walked or rode the train everywhere, and I have realized that one of my favorite things to do is just walk around a major metropolitan area.  I also love city lights at night... guess this means I am a city girl at heart! 

We were able to see several friends and even a family member during our visit.  My second cousin Linda took us to dinner at a cute little spot in what was the "happening area" when she was growing up in Chicago... and the area still seemed pretty popular to me!  

Here's a little taste of Chicago:

Day 1:
Took the train to our hotel (a long ride that involved carrying my large suitcase up and down many flights of stairs- not the best planning on my part!), met Lindsey for sushi (it was SO great to see her!!), then explored downtown Chicago by night.

Day 2:
Started the day with a birds-eye view of Chicago from the Sears/Willis Tower.  Stepping out onto the glass overlooking the city went against your instinct, but it was really cool to be so high up!
Since the record heat was in full force on Day 2, we spent the entire afternoon in the air conditioned Art Institute.  While I don't know much about art, I definitely enjoy looking at it, and I was fortunate enough to be with an art history pro who could educate me on everything! Until this trip, I never knew that there were different types of columns!

My favorite painting!

Day 2 concluded with deep-dish pizza  with Danny, a TCU friend who is in seminary in Chicago, and Alex, another TCU friend who happened to be on tour in Chicago while we were there! 

Day 3:
Probably my favorite day... and we finally had cooler weather! We started the day touring the Driehaus Museum, a collection of Gilded Age art and furniture housed in a gorgeous 25,000 square foot mansion from that same era.  I felt like we stumbled upon a little treasure by finding it!

We then explored Michigan Avenue and visited the American Girl Place, where I purchased a miniature version of the doll I always wanted, and Ash got glasses for her doll at home.  

Of course we checked out the Chicago River before wandering over to Cloud Gate/The Bean and Buckingham Fountain.  

Day 3 concluded with authentic Chicago hot dogs, shopping, and strolling around downtown.  Did I mention how much I love just walking around big cities where things don't even slow down at night?

Day 4:
Another beautiful day.  We had lunch on Navy Pier and walked all around it-- absolutely beautiful views.  And, of course, we had to ride the Ferris wheel! I realized this was my first time to ride a real one!

That evening we went out with Cousin Linda, and then ended up seeing Danny & Alex again to go to Wrigleyville (where we of course saw Wrigley Field) to watch the Red Sox and Yankees game at a bar.  Nice way to wrap up the weekend!

Day 5:
Ashley had to wake up super early to catch her flight, so I spent most of the day exploring on my own.  The weather was perfect, and I was most content to sit by the river and check out this view before I headed for the airport.
I am pretty sure Ash and I have started a new yearly tradition.  It was so much fun to go on a vacation with her...who knows where will wind up next summer!