Friday, December 5, 2014

Chicago Part 1

I had shared with you all that a little over a month ago, three of my besties and I took a trip to Chicago together. This is a trip that had been a LONG time in the works, so it is awesome that it finally happened! 

The four of us met and became besties in college. We all graduated at different times, but I was the first to graduate 11 years ago. After having been friends for a couple of years and taking a few trips together through our college church group during spring break, we started talking about going to Chicago together for fun. This was probably in 2004 or 2005. Kendall and Amy lived in house together with a couple of other girls, and Angie and I would stay over frequently. I remember talking about Chicago when we were in this house, so it's definitely been a while ago! However, careers and marriage and babies and LIFE happened, and Chicago was put on the back burner and not even mentioned for years. We have taken a few smaller trips together since our college days, but it's even been some years since those happened.

Back at the very beginning of 2014, we were all group texting like we often do, and I jokingly mentioned in passing that we should go to Chicago. I was totally not expecting anything to come of it, but the idea resonated with everyone and we all agreed that we should do it. For real. Not just talk about it or joke about it, but actually GO. One thing that life and age has for sure taught us is that life is unpredictable and moments need to be seized. So, we all jumped at the idea and committed to a tentative date of mid-October during Fall Break (two of us are stay-at-home Moms, while the other two are teachers). 

We are planners and knew we wanted a plan sooner rather than later so that we could get good deals and have plenty of time to save for the trip. At the end of March, we met one evening for dinner and our first Chicago planning session! We set our dates in stone, talked a few details of what we wanted to do, and spent the rest of the evening just hanging out!

Photo from our first planning sesh at the end of March:

Many, many group texts and a few planning sessions later, we were finally ready to leave for our trip! Kendall was really the main planner (and we are SO thankful to her for that), but we all contributed some. We flew out early on the morning of Thursday, October 16th from Tulsa, and spent Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday in Chicago. We flew home late Saturday evening. As you can see, that's not a lot of time in the city, but we packed it full of exploring, bonding, laughter, and fun!

Angie and Kendall at the airport . . . so ready to say good-bye to Oklahoma for a few days!

Amy and me . . . I picked Amy up at her house at 5:45am and we rode to the airport together. It was definitely an early morning, but we were ready to go! I was 22 1/2 weeks pregnant with the twinbies at this time.

Amy and I sat together on the plane.

Angie and Kendall sat directly in front of us.

We arrived in Chicago at about 10:00am. None of us had checked any baggage, so we were able to get off the plane and head straight to the "L". After getting 3 day public transportation passes, we rode the "L" for about 45 minutes, switched to a bus, then walked a few blocks to our hotel. Our hotel was in a great location downtown, but it did take us well over an hour to get there from the airport. We wanted to ride public transportation as part of our big city experience, and we definitely fulfilled that goal!

Our hotel had told us that we could leave our luggage with them until our room was ready for check-in, so that was the plan. We weren't supposed to be able to check-in until 3:00pm, but when we got to the hotel at about 11:30am, they had our room ready for us. We were glad to be able to take our luggage to our room, take a potty break, and freshen up a bit before heading out to lunch. Our room had two double beds and a tiny bathroom with a sink outside of the toilet area. It was nothing to write home about, but it was clean and served its purpose.

Kendall had spent a lot of time researching "must do" places to eat, see, and visit. One place that was on the list was just a few blocks from our hotel - called Gino's - and famous for its deep dish pizza. By this time, we were all ready for some food, so we made Gino's our first stop!

After being seated, we were told that it would take about an hour to cook our pizza! No problem, that just meant that an appetizer was in order :-).

Some of us liked the pizza better than others, but I was a fan!!! Of course, after one piece I was full, but that one piece was YUMMY!

Thumbs up for Gino's!

Lunch took almost two hours, so we were ready to see some Chicago sites by the time we finished eating. We took the "L" and walked a few blocks to the famous "Chicago" sign as our first site-seeing adventure. There were always nice strangers to take a group photo for us! The weather was perfect this day. It was overcast but not too cold or windy.

Loving the beautiful fall foliage in the city!

After seeing the Chicago sign, we headed into a 12 story Macy's on State Street. We had heard that it had a great view, but we weren't able to find it. We were impressed with the structure, though!

Looking down from the 9th floor to the lobby:

YAY for being in Chicago!!!

Following Macy's, we trekked over to the Cultural Center of Chicago. We were really just getting a feel for the city and loving every minute!

Gorgeous stained glass ceiling:

Another view:

I got on the ground to take this photo and immediately regretted it! Not the easiest task when you're 22 weeks pregnant with twins!

We also walked through an art display while in this building. It was interesting to say the least. 

Kendall and I enjoying the city sites:

We had read that the Cultural Center was formerly a public library. I thought the building looked very similar to the Boston Public Library, so this information made perfect sense to me.

Our next stop was Millennium Park, but I was starting to feel like I really needed a bit of a rest. I realized later that I had become dehydrated this day, but we had also been doing a lot of walking and a lot of going up and down stairs. Angie had gone into a corner Walgreens to buy some water, Amy and Kendall were getting coffee, and I took this opportunity to put my feet up for a bit. 

Enjoying a little rest before hitting the pavement again:

After about 20 minutes, we headed over to Millennium Park. We were all excited to see what the hype was all about!

The park has many beautiful and unique structures. 

The greenspace right in the middle of all the high-rises was an interesting feeling!

We loved exploring the architecture of the city.

Honestly though? I think the fall foliage was the most impressive to us. We determined that we had come at the perfect time!

After arriving in Millennium Park, we pretty much headed straight for "The Bean". This was such a fascinating structure! We loved how it reflected the skyline perfectly. 

Amy and Kendall enjoying the view in the reflection:

You can't really tell from many of these photos, but this was a BUSY place. There was quite the international crowd there.

We saw another group of friends doing this and thought it was funny! Once again, thanks to the strangers who were willing to take group pics for us (and no worries . . . we always tried to return the favor).

One thing about Chicago that surprised me was the number of high-rise buildings. I know it's a big city and all, but they seemed so concentrated compared to many big cities that I've been to. I had the girls snap a few pics like this of me to send to my kiddos (who were at home with Daddy while I was away).

Love this pic of the four of us!

We spent some more time walking around Millennium Park (which is huge), just enjoying the sites.

SO MANY unique structures!

Another pic I sent my kiddos:

As we were exiting the park, we went across this bridge that had absolutely AMAZING foliage. We actually had to wait in a line to take photos! I did put a filter on this pic, but it was still beautiful in person!

Another shot of me (this is a more accurate color of the leaves).

We even set Kendall's phone on a timer and took this group photo. I think it's one of my favorites from the trip.

Our plan was to have some downtime each afternoon. None of us were interested in a get-away that would leave us feeling completely drained when we got home, and all of the girls were very concerned about how I was handling all the walking and being on my feet. In fact, they constantly asked me how I was doing, carried my stuff for me, made sure I had plenty to drink, etc. I never once even pulled my own luggage or lifted it up in any way during our trip! I was SO thankful for this, as I did end up overdoing it our first day there and got dehydrated. As we were making our way back to the "L" from Millennium Park to head back to our hotel, I started to feel some cramping and pressure. We stopped at a Starbucks and sat for a while so I could down some water. I immediately felt better and was able to make it back to the hotel with no problem. 

After resting for about an hour back at our room, we headed out once again to visit Navy Pier. We rode a city bus over to Navy Pier from our hotel, and it was dark by the time we got there. 

We didn't ride the carousel, but it was pretty to look at.

We did, however, buy tickets to ride the ferris wheel. We actually purchased the tickets at our hotel as they were cheaper there than at Navy Pier. We did this with several attractions, and it worked out well! 

The ferris wheel was rather slow moving. In fact, it didn't even stop for us to load and unload! We just hopped on while it was moving.

I am not a fan of heights, so this wasn't my favorite activity for sure (even slow moving). However, we were able to see some AMAZING sights of the city!

Amy took a photo of me feeling nervous, ha!

After the ferris wheel, we headed inside Navy Pier to shop a bit. On our way in, we were four of just a handful of people outside (and it was dark), and a man dressed and acting like a zombie came up to us and got right in our faces. It really freaked us out! We didn't know what was going on . . . but we certainly felt threatened! We high-tailed it inside, and immediately found a security guard. Kendall told him that we were being followed by a zombie outside, and he just cracked up laughing at us! Apparently, there is a haunted house nearby and they advertise by having zombies walk around. Of course, we didn't know that and we were not impressed with this news! Kendall told the security guard that if the zombie came near her again, she would hit him! Ha! The security guard said, "M'am, please don't hit the zombie." Then, he looked at me and said, "She's serious, isn't she?" to which I replied, "Oh yeah, she's serious." The whole thing was pretty entertaining, and we still joke about that zombie!

Once inside Navy Pier (and after talking to the security guard), we did do a bit of shopping, but quickly found our way to Garrett's Popcorn. We had heard that it was a must-try, and it did not disappoint! It was seriously THE BEST popcorn I think I've ever had. Just thinking about it now makes me want some!

I'm not a fan of the salty and sweet combo, so I just got the cheddar cheese popcorn, but everyone else got the cheddar and caramel combo. This would not be our last time to visit Garrett's during our trip!

By this time, it was about 8pm and I was DONE for the day. Plus, we still hadn't eaten dinner, even though we'd had the popcorn as a snack. There was a Rainforest Cafe just about a block from our hotel, so we hopped on a bus and rode there. I had taken this photo earlier in the day as I thought my kiddos would enjoy it. 

Even though we got to RC at about 8:15pm, we still had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. Well, I was just beyond exhausted, so Angie and I ended up going back to the hotel. I HAD to put my feet up! Kendall and Amy ordered and waited for the food and brought it back to us. It was nearly 9pm by the time we started eating and I scarfed that mess UP! It was soooo good. However, I did tell the girls that I couldn't do that again. I knew that if I was going to be able to make it through the rest of the trip, I had to do better about eating meals more "on time". They completely understood and agreed. It wasn't long after eating that I took a shower and we all went to bed. In fact, I'm pretty sure we were all asleep by 10:30 that night! I know I was, as I had been up since 4:30 that morning. Plus, we planned to hit it early the next morning, so we knew rest was important. 

Stay tuned for Day Two of our Chicago adventure :-).

1 comment:

JoJo said...

Looks like you had a fabulous time. Those pictures are amazing. I love city pictures especially at night.