The following is the first part of the ins and outs of my husband and my week-long westward trip to visit friends and sight see.
Day 1 – Sat. May 14th, 2016
I will start by saying that when I initially booked this trip in Dec. 2015 I had a straight through flight from Harrisburg to Chicago. About a month before the trip I received an email stating the flight had changed and we would be flying to Dulles in DC first, have a 44 min layover, then fly to Chicago. I think that airlines should be required to give people money back when they do this as it is annoying.
In any case we utilized Cramer Airport parking for the first time as a shuttle to and from the airport and a place to keep our car for the week. I can’t say enough compliments about them. As soon as we got there and were told where to park the shuttle bus pulled up behind us and took us to the airport; we did not have to wait for any other people. They only charge $8 per day which is very cheap compared to $20 a day at the airport and because I’m a AAA member it was only $7 a day.
We arrived overly early because I am always paranoid of being late even though Harrisburg’s airport is so small and security is super fast. We had drinks at Phillips to pass the time and chatted with a gentleman who was flying home to South Carolina. The flight was uneventful though when we landed in DC I felt slightly nauseated which I attributed to the descent.
Dulles was gigantic compared to Harrisburg. We arrived in terminal B and had to get to terminal C which I mistakenly assumed we could just walk to. We actually had to take an underground train to the terminal which is the closest I’ve come to riding on a subway. Again our flight to Chicago was uneventful and Alecia and Ryan easily found us to pick us up.
The four of us went out for Chicago style pizza at a local place not far from their house. Ever since I lived in the Scranton area I consider myself a “pizza snob” and York County pizza tends to not be very high quality in my opinion. Chicago pizza cannot be compared to Scranton pizza; it is equally good though entirely different. Pizza Hut “deep dish” is merely thick dough; true deep dish pizza is filled with toppings and requires a fork to eat it. We went out for ice cream after to a quaint ice cream shop that has board games built into some of its tables; Ryan and Jason enjoyed a friendly chess match at one before we headed to Alecia and Ryan’s for the evening.
Day 2 – Sun. May 15, 2016
The weather proved to be true to Chicago in terms of chilliness and windiness. We did not let that stop us from exploring the city though. We first went to a local shopping area and explored IKEA to kill some time before lunch. I had to steer Jason away from the cup section as he loves to add to his collection. Lunch was at BBQ Smoque which is on the outskirts of the city. Their portions are large and easily shared by 2 people. Jason and I shared pulled brisket and I had mac and cheese while he had cornbread and cole slaw. Completing lunch was a stop at Twisted Spoke, a whiskey bar whose entire back of the bar is nothing but various varieties of whiskey.
We then headed deeper into the city to visit the Field Museum. The special exhibit going on featured artifacts and Terracotta warriors from the first emperor of China’s reign. I loved seeing this as history has always been my favorite subject. Other exhibits we visited included displays of animals from various regions, what life is like on remote islands and minerals and gem stones. We could’ve easily spent a full day there but had dinner reservations at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba.
That restaurant turned out to be my favorite of the trip, and it was the first time I had ever eaten at a tapas style place. It was fun picking and choosing from their vast menu and sharing with each other. We did 2 “rounds” where the waiter took our order and the plates were brought out at various times to share, and then he came back and took a second order. One would not think that smaller entrees could fill a person, but having samples from so many different types makes a full meal. My favorite was the chorizo wrapped date and cheese; I ended up ordering 2 of them. I finished off with dessert of butterscotch custard which again was small, about 2-3 bites, and was delectable. I really wish more restaurants would do small desserts like that as normally I do not have room for dessert after eating a large meal. We then spent the evening in playing Munchkin before turning in for the night.
Day 3 – Mon. May 16, 2016
Unfortunately Ryan had to work, so he did not get to join us on our venture back to the city, so Alecia played tour guide. We started out in Millennium Park which is one of my favorite places in Chicago. It is just pretty and relaxing and a great place for locals to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Of course we had to take the traditional picture by “The Bean”. Jason was excited to visit Buckingham Fountain which for those who may not know, is featured in the opening of Married with Children.
The weather was gorgeous and actually became warmer than when I had visited in June 2011. We walked along Lake Michigan to Navy Pier which is probably my favorite location in the city. I think because it reminds me of a boardwalk atmosphere. We had lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. which was great, and my only complaint was that our waitress did not ask us any Forrest Gump trivia like some of them do. They offer some of their mixed drinks as souvenirs by providing the glass, so we ended up with 3 of them to bring home which made Jason happy. I’m not a shrimp person so I enjoyed southern fried chicken that put KFC to shame.
The outside areas of Navy Pier were the same as I had remembered, but much of the inside has changed to welcome new shops and eateries. A stop in one of the shops resulted in Jason adding to his “cup collection” yet again with the purchase of a large mug that has the Chicago skyline on it. We visited the conservatory which was humid but pretty and had fun watching the jumping fountains. On our way back to the car we saw more fountains, this time the “spitting fountains” which fortunately were turned on when we walked by them.
That evening we had dinner at The Girl & The Goat which is a very famous restaurant that requires reservations 2-3 months in advance. Most of the food was more exotic in nature than I tend to usually eat, but I was brave enough to try the goat liver mousse and pig face that Jason ordered. Fortunately the pig face was more of a patty and not the literal side of the pig’s face that I feared viewing. Neither tickled my fancy, but he enjoyed both. I preferred the ham frites which were very thin french fries coated in a ham seasoning of sorts and served with cheddar beer cheese and a smoked tomato aioli. A tip for anyone who may ever venture here – they tend to promote this place as a “tapas-style” restaurant as well and encourage each person to order 2-3 plates but the servings are MUCH larger than the tapas we had at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and one plate per person would be sufficient. We had ordered 5 total, and it was more food than 3 of us could eat.
Day 4 – Tues. May 17, 2016
Having explored all of the key areas in the city we wanted, Jason and I took this as a day to relax. We went with Alecia to a local movie theater and saw The Jungle Book. I am a die-hard animated Disney fan, so I was happy in how true they stayed to the original version. I did gripe that Kaa was made a female snake as in the animated version Kaa is a male. Jason and I had never tried Chipotle, so that is where we ate for lunch. I’m plain-Jane with most food, so I stuck to chicken tacos which were good while he had a steak burrito. After watching a few episodes of The Office on Netflix with Alecia we were ready to head to the airport. We flew Spirit Airlines which has low air fare because they charge for everything, including your carry-on and if you ask for water on the plane. Because they are such a small airline though going through security did not take overly long which was nice given most of the security at Ohare they recommend arriving 2 hours in advance to get through in time for the flight. Jason and I got a quick bite to eat at Goose Island and off to Portland, Oregon we went!