This mama got away to Chicago on Saturday & I’m just NOW posting about it! **sorry** This week on Oh, Hey Friday! here are 5 highlights of the trip!
Why did I go to Chicago last week…for a plethora of reasons really…
- Mainly, I was picking up my friend, Tricia, from a flight back to Illinois from visiting her brother; arrival time was 10:30 pm.
- I have visited the CRAZY cities of Dakar, Senegal & bartered with shop owners in Fatik Senegal and in Guatemala City, explored the ancient ruins in Athens, Greece, dealt with airport fun in Punta Cana & Istanbul, but I had yet to go into the city of Chicago just to explore…and I live in the same state. I think I was slightly fearful to do it by myself…where the likelihood of harm is significantly smaller than the fore-mentioned destinations.
- I was sending my girls back to school after 2 weeks of Christmas Vacation, and unlike others, I am a mother that DESPERATELY needs “Mommy Time” by myself in order to be a more calm and productive mom.
- I wanted to prove to myself that I can MASTER the Chicago Transit system & enjoy the city for LESS than $100!
ONE | Parking
In Chicago, this can be disastrous. Well, driving in general, but I knew that I wanted to park and take the “L” in (Elevated Train), then walk or ride wherever I wanted to go. Since Tricia was coming in at O’Hare, and they had a starting station for a “L” line that goes straight into the city, I decided to park there. I snagged a spot in the Economy Lot G, then took the ATS (Airport Transit System) Bus to the mini Tram station that would take us to the Airport terminals. Then, I took the tram to Terminal 3 where I followed the signs down to the basement to catch the Blue Line “L” into the City. Estimated time: 54 minutes.
My goal was to make it back to the car by dark. Then, find dinner and make it back to the pick up lot by 10 pm to get Tricia. I did my fair amount of research before I left, but the signs were SO helpful and the airport employees where ALWAYS around to help. No snags. CRAZY Easy & I think smarter than driving into downtown.
TWO | The Bean & Other Sites
I wanted to make it to Millennium Park first just for tourist sake. I’d attempt a picture at the Bean, then decide where to go from there. The stop where I exited the Blue Line actually went right into a mall, so I knew that’s where I wanted to end up when it was dark.
The Bean was the coolest. Such a strange and wonderful collection of people. You saw the couples taking pictures, the foreigners, the groups of friends jumping. “Excuse me…would you mind taking our picture?” was heard from everywhere. Although weird, my most favorite thing was the refection of the city in the Bean. Slightly magical.
Then, although VERY cold, I walked to lunch, then down the road a ways. I was considering going to the John Hancock building & the Contemporary Art Museum, but both costed over $20 and for the less-than hour that I would be there, I didn’t feel it was worth it. I walked down Michigan Ave. and right past the Chicago Tribune building, you cross a bridge. I took my phone out & took some pictures.
And then….my phone died. And then…I slightly panicked. My phone was my total source of direction and time and I specifically put in on “Conserve Battery” mode. I was headed towards the Shops at North Bridge, so I figured I would look for a place there with a portable charger. I also realized that my phone was VERY cold. So, I thought, just maybe it could be that. I thought quickly about the warmest part of my body, then tucked my phone into my bra (shivering shock to the system) and headed to the Shops.
And that did the trick! (It stayed there the rest of the day.) I walked around a little more…in & out of shops. Then headed back to the mall where “L” left from to go to Athropologie, the Disney Store, Target, the Gap & a few other mom & pop spots. Then at about 5:50pm, I caught the “L” back to O’Hare.
THREE | The Food
Lunch was across from Millennium Park after I took a picture at the Bean. It was this sweet little Belgium Bakery/Cafe called Le Pain Quotidien. I was searching in the “L” on the way there for “Clean Eating” for lunch and this place immediately popped up. (Can I also mention that it was not difficult AT ALL to find a place to eat that served processed sugar-free food. They were a stone’s throw in every direction!) This was my view…
…and I started with this AMAZING Spiced Apple Cider…
Then, Corn Chowder. The Corn Chowder was advertised as gluten free and after tasting I could tell that the creamy part of the soup was milk & potato with some good cheese.
Like any city cafe, I was literally 10 inches from someone on either side of me (which was 2 Italian people who spoke very bad English or 2 best friends waiting for their kids from Milwaukee working hard to one-up each other the whole time), but it added to atmosphere.
Afternoon snack was Garrett’s Popcorn. Simple. Easy.
Then, when I got back to O’Hare the struggle began. I was planning on just heading into the airport and eating while I waited, but in order to get to any restaurants, you had you go through security which meant you had to be flying somewhere. Since I got to my car around 6:50pm and I had 3.5 hours, I booked it to downtown Naperville. I attempted a few key places…the Rosebud, but no reservations until 9pm. Then, Noodles & Co. but then I talked myself out of it because it was a chain. I ended up at Kuma’s Asian Bistro. I ate at the bar because the restaurant was full, but had a GREAT dinner. I immediately knew it was going to be good because they brought me REAL chop sticks!
I had the Drunken Honey Chicken. It was delicious, but I KNOW that I failed in the processed sugar category as soon as I bit into it. And there was noodles. Big delicious noodles.
AND since I was slightly cheating already, I just went ahead and got dessert…Green Tea Cheesecake. A bizarre taste, but soooo good. All in all, GREAT dinner!
FOUR | The Feelings
I love getting all ready for trips like these….from the routes of travel down to what I’m going to wear. You saw my amazing hat in the picture. I got a complement a few times. 🙂 I also noticed, that I was quiet all day. I only talked to my waitress at lunch and I said, “Hello.” or “No thank you, just looking around,” when I was approached in a store. As soon as I got back into my van at the end of the day, I IMMEDIATELY started talking to myself. Then I stopped because I was caught off guard. Apparently, I talk to myself a lot and I had no idea.
But it was great to be quiet in my head for a day. Calming & relaxing.
FIVE | The $$
- Parking- $9.00 for the day & $4.00 for the hour parking when waiting for Tricia
- The “L”- $10.00 I bought a day pass, but I totally should have bought a $1.50 pass for a single ride there and back.
- Lunch- $15.00 including tip
- Garrett’s Popcorn- $8.00 I got plain & Chicago Combo (Cheddar & Caramel)
- Dinner- $26.00 Dinner w/ a glass of wine & Dessert
- Starbucks- $3.00 while I waited for Tricia.
Mary, Tricia’s mom, gave me money for gas as a “Thank You” to go get her. So, all in all, I spent $75!
THEN I spent 2.5 hours driving and chatting with Tricia and I got all my CHATS out! ALL IN ALL A GREAT DAY!
Need help planning your trip to Chicago?? Check out this website to save yourself some time & $! Regional Transport Authority for Chicago
Other than that, I just GOOGLED everything & used iPhone Maps to get me where I needed to go. Not to mention, I saw UBER cars EVERYWHERE! (Be careful with that though, b/c Taxi drivers hate UBER drivers and they drive like CRAZY around them or swerve in front of them to make them more angry.)