My Granddaughter Gracie and I took a quick overnight trip to Chicago. I thought it would be fun to take a train. Two first experiences for her.
Friday morning was spent on Amtrak. A bit less than five hours. Our surrounding travel companions happened to be a group of college boys and two older gentlemen, maybe coaches or Dad’s. They were on their way to Chicago to see the Cubs play ball. I think the bar car sold out of Bud Light before ten am. Thankfully, the boys were respectful of their language and were in jolly spirits which produced much laughter from everyone around.
Gracie and I played a few games, told each other silly riddles, did word searches, and read. Did I mention snacks? I thought I had packed enough for the trip home too.
I found some earphones in my backpack. Now Gracie could hear the Harry Potter movie/game she was trying to watch instead of hearing all about baseball stats and college type conversations from the boys around us.
At Union Station, my sweet cousin Debbie who lives near the city said she would be our taxi. She drove us to Shedd Aquarium where we spent the next several hours enthralled with the magical, mystical, magnificent creatures of our planet. There were sharks, eels, seahorses, stingrays, Beluga whales, penguins, and a rescued blind walrus that was full of tricks. We saw clownfish like Nemo and a regal tang fish like Dory in the movie. The living breathing coral and anemones were amazing and gorgeous, and of course, there were dolphins. Grace enjoyed the six-inch yellow and gold seahorses, whales and the dolphin show the most. It’s also nice to know how many rescue missions Shedd Aquarium is responsible for.
From the aquarium, Deb drove us to our hotel. Once we settled into our room (with an excellent unexpected view of the river and Lake Michigan) we prepared for a short walk to an authentic Italian restaurant called, Labriola Café and Ristorante. It came highly recommended for their famous Chicago deep dish and thin crust pizzas. Gracie decided to order meatballs smothered in marinara sauce with a dish of homemade buttered pasta on the side. All delicioso!
After dinner, we returned to our hotel to check out the swimming area. Gracie was so inspired by the whale and dolphin show, I think she went through her own metamorphosis. She dipped and somersaulted underwater, waving her feet in the air like a whale tail for over an hour while Deb and I cheered, applauded, and chatted. The day and evening couldn’t have been more perfect.
Our night view from the eighth floor was filled with the reflection of twinkling lights from the skyscrapers and street lights that were reflected on the ripples of the river. We were equally impressed with a peek of the underground streets that spread beneath the city. Sadly, due to having to work the next day, Debbie had to leave us.
First, on our morning agenda was breakfast at The Grand Lux Café a few blocks away. My friend Peggy introduced me to this memorable restaurant about ten years ago while on a writing retreat. The Lux has a serene atmosphere with high-back plush window seats over-looking the cityscape and are known for their homemade-on-the-spot-desserts, along with top quality chef-created meals. Guests are encouraged to order their desserts at the same time you request your entrée. They produce and bake each individual one to order. The taste buds know this to be absolute truth. Beignets (benˈyā) are my all time favorite. I love them so much; I haven’t tried any other dessert. I’ve glimpsed other delicacies pass by on waiter’s trays and I’m sure they are as appealing to the eye as they are decadent to the palate. Maybe next time.
After we finished our breakfast of pancakes and whipped cream for Grace, an omelet for me, they arrive . . . The beignets make their appearance in a basket, cloaked in a white linen cloth, piping hot, wearing a sprinkle of powdered sugar and served with a variety of dipping sauces, which include; Raspberry, chocolate, cinnamon, and a cream brulee.
Now it’s time to walk the extra calories off on the Magnificent Mile. Familiar store names of many famous brands, designers, and businesses fill these towering buildings, almost all with twirling doors, to my granddaughters delight.
Grace stopped abruptly in front of me and stared skyward. Her jaw hung open, her eyes wide. Misty clouds wrapped around the upper part of a tall building like a shawl. “Look, Grandma, that one is above the clouds and that one and look over there.” She did a jumping jack twirl dance as we moved on and said, “Whew, I’m dizzy from looking up.”
We peeked in storefronts and browsed in a variety of shops. Grace was thrilled, most had twirling doors, along with her other favorite rides, the escalators, and elevators. I think she would have been happy riding up and down all day.
We had tons of fun shopping at the Gap Inc., H&M, T. J. Maxx and Marshall’s along with the Ghirardelli Ice-cream and Chocolate Shop. We toured the different levels of the American Girl Doll store and finally found the doll with her name.
We started towards Navy Pier when thunder reverberated from all the monstrous buildings. We chose to turn back and catch a bus to Union Station even though it was a tad early for our 4:00pm train departure. We were a bit sad we didn’t get to shop Navy Pier and a whole-lot-happy we didn’t have to walk to the train station in the thunderstorm. Taxi’s and busses were everywhere.
“Well,” I said, “Since we didn’t get to see everything, we’ll just have to come again sometime.”
“Really Grandma, we can come back, next weekend?”
I laughed, “No, not next weekend. But we will definitely visit again.”
We started a plan list on the train for our return trip to Chicago – First stop, Navy Pier, then the museum with the T-Rex, and possibly the Planetarium, if we have time. I can’t wait!
We decided we love the Windy City, the train rides and best of all, sharing fun times with each other.
All photo credits to PRF