The ups and downs of 3 days in Chicago

e did not receive the warmest welcome to Chicago.

We got to our airport motel, which looked like something Coen brothers movie. There was a Police car with flashing lights in the parking lot, which didn't seem like a great sign.

Not the greatest of first impressions, but it turned out to be adequate. Despite the family reunion being over, we were excited to reunite with our friend James (who is from the UK, lived in NZ, but now lives in Sweden). He was due to arrive the following afternoon and we were going to explore Chicago together for a couple days.

Outside the Chicago Art Institue

Anxiously awaiting the foreigner's arriva

That morning we did some much needed laundry and caught up on some life admin before driving to pick up James from the airport. Unfortunately, he was arriving in the other airport of Chicago, about an hour across town, but no matter. Once we had collected our buddy, we made our way back to the aptly-named Regal Inn and put together a plan for dinner. We found a place close by that advertised itself as a “tap room”. The Red Arrow Pub was fantastic! It had a wall of 32 beer/cider/wine taps, where you could pour your own drinks and pay by the ounce. Once we had set up a tab and received our access card, we could order food, get our own beer and manage our order via a tablet mounted to our dining table. In addition, they had a collection of family-style board games that we could play. We spent a good few hours here, sampling local beers, eating until we felt unwell, and playing games such aB boggle, some Trivial Pursuit-esque off brand card game, and a Would You Rather, which posed bizarre hypotheticals. Sated and content, we rolled ourselves back home where we crashed in anticipation of our upcoming big day.

Inside the Chicago Art Institue

Exploring Chicago centre cit

The following morning we made our way into the Windy City of Chicago around mid morning. We settled for a Potbelly Sandwich for brunch (a chain store), where James and I both made the future ring burning decision to have hot peppers on our subs! After our spicy breakfast, we went to the world renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Here we saw collections of decorative paperweights, photography, cleverly created miniature rooms, modern art and sculptures, a fantastic display of Impressionism and of course, some good old religious iconography. This museum was absolutely enormous. In fact, we spent close to three hours rushing through and we still didn’t see everything! This is a must if you are interested at all in art and find yourself in Chicago.

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After a healthy does of culture, we walked next door to Millennium Park. The park was bustling with people. The sun was shining and there were hoards of children playing in the water fountains. The park is full f interesting architecture, including a huge stage where there was a neat folk band running a sound check for an upcoming concert. After an hour or so of exploring the park, we opted to head back to our accommodation in order to give ourselves plenty of time to get ready before going to see the Foo Fighters, live in concert at Wrigley Field that night!

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The no-good-very-bad nigh

It was on drive home that things started to turn sour. In the 50 minute, traffic-riddled drive home, Sam had developed a serious migraine headache. She was so unwell that she had to resign herself to hiding from the noise and light under the sheets of the bed. It got so bad that she was feeling sick and threw up the anti-migraine pharmaceutical cocktail she had taken in response to her symptoms. Unfortunately it just got worse from here. By the time we had to leave to get to the concert, she was still incapacitated and told us to “go on without me”! Reluctantly, James and I left her to her meet her maker while we ordered an Uber to Wrigley Field, still holding out hope that she would rally and be able to meet us at the field for some of the concert later.

Our Uber ride was highly entertaining, where we discussed philosophy, politics and history with our eloquent driver. As we approached the neighbourhood hat surrounds Wrigley Field we were validated in our decision to not attempt driving and parking on our own. It was approaching chaos. Roads were closed, parking garages had their NO VACANCY signs illuminated and as in all cities in the US, there were plenty of road works. In fact, our driver told us that in Chicago, the locals say there are two seasons: winter and road works!

Conscious of the time, James and I ducked into a nearby pub to get some food before heading into the concert venue. We had a cheeky beer and some barely passable food before rushing into the stadium and on to the field, where our General Admission tickets permitted us to watch the concert. Not 30 seconds after stepping onto the baseball diamond, the concert began! For this next section of the blog it will function as a choose your own adventure depending on your name:

Section 2A - Read THIS if your name is Sam Fishma:

The concert was super lame and boring. They played for way too long and the it was just too damn loud. The crowd was boisterous and constantly yelling and cheering. The screens were so big they just distracted you from the concert the whole time. Boy, was it the pits!

Section 2B - Read this is your name is anything OTHER than Sam Fishman:

WOW! The concert was amazing! First of all, they played so many songs from their back catelogue as well as a few off their latest record. The sound was really well mixed and they had these enormous high definition screens on wither side of the stage where they displayed seemingly choreographed isuals and live footage of the performers. They played for nearly 3 hours and the approximately 40 thousand person crowd made for an electric atmosphere!

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We got home just after midnight and crashed. However, about an hour later I was awoken by the need to evacuate the contents of my gastrointestinal system. For the next 6 and half hours clung to and sat on the toilet bowl (sometimes I had to choose... always choose to sit btw) all the while, the potbelly chilies were exacting their revenge on my oesophagu. Needless to say, a miserable night for Sam and me, but at least I got to go to the concert. We do however fear that James will never agree to travel with us again.

Waving goodbye to friends, and saying hello to family

The next morning was certainly a bit tender, but we said our goodbyes to James, this time dropping him at the nearby airport for his flight back to Sweden. Later that morning we did a few errands and sat down in a cafe in Elmswood, Chicago to do some serious life planning. We decided that we definitely wanted to continue to travel and perhaps Mexico and Cuba would be next on the list!

In the afternoon we made our way to my Aunt Roberta and Uncle Herb’s apartment in downtown Chicago. We had arranged to come and stay with them when we saw them at the reunion in Lakeside and they graciously offered us their spare bed! We explained how we were both a little worse for wear from the night before, so they took us out to a institution of a restaurant called The Bagel. I remember going to this Jewish deli-style restaurant as a little boy every time we would visit Chicago - usually in the freezing cold winter! Sam and I each enjoyed a hot, life-giving bowl of Matzo-Ball Soup then we returned to the apartment to rest up.

Roberta was preparing us a delicious home cooked dinner and encouraged us to go for a walk along the lake front, just across the street from their apartment building. We walked along, eventually being treated to a beautiful view of the recognisable Chicago skyline. It started to drizzle so we made our way back to the apartment, arriving just in time to avoid the torrential downpour. We ate a fantastic dinner and reminisced about memories and the family reunion just been.

Touring Chicago with local guides

The next day Roberta and Herb took us on a huge driving tour of Chicago, where they showed us the neighbourhood in which they (Roberta and my Dad) grew up, the University of Chicago college campus, the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Robie house, their old apartment and surrounding area - where we stopped for lunch a famous hole-in-wall restaurant called The Weiner’s Circle.

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After a scrummy hot dog and French fries lunch, we had a little mishap with car and a service ramp that rapidly turned into an unseen step... But, thanks to Chuck the expert tow truck operator, we were rescued. This left us a short amount of time before we needed to be at dinner so we briefly went back to the apartment to freshen up. Robert and Herb took us to a favourite restaurant of theirs, called L Woods, to get Chicago style BBQ ribs! Needless to say, toasted our new friend and saviour, Chuck!

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Onward!

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast and prepared to drive deeper into the Midwest to visit some friends in Wisconsin. We said our goodbyes to Roberta, Herb and the beautiful city of Chicago and hit the road to Milwaukee.

Lots of love,
Z & S
xxx