Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chicago

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter to Chicago to celebrate the young one’s 16th birthday.  Oh, what a wonderful time we had in just two short days!
 
Chicago has everything anyone could ever want in a big city.  Do you seek both high-end and bargain shopping?  The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue covers both ends of the spectrum.  Are you interested in excellent restaurants?  There are plenty of those within walking distance of the Mile.  Is art your thing?  Great art is everywhere, including in the city parks.  Do you want to take your family to an educational museum?  Chicago has those, too.  Are waterfront views and beaches what you crave?  Good old Lake Michigan borders the entire east side of the city.
 
We started our day by dropping our car and our luggage at our hotel, Mile North on Superior Street.  Mile North Hotel could not be more conveniently located.  It’s just one block east of the famous Magnificent Mile.  When you step out of the hotel and turn to your right, you see Neiman Marcus and Saks.  The location cannot be beat.  Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived but we were able to leave our bags with the bell captain.
 
We started our Mag Mile trek with lunch at the Neiman Marcus restaurant, Zodiac.  It’s a nice white tablecloth restaurant that somehow manages to maintain old-fashioned grace and dignity with a modern, upbeat style.  Neiman’s starts each meal right by providing all diners with popovers, strawberry butter and chicken consomm√© just moments after everyone is seated. The servings were generous and the food was of a very high quality.  Lunch for four people at a cost of just over $80 was a bit pricey for a quick lunch but the food and the atmosphere were worth every penny.
 
While we were eating lunch, my girls spotted Topshop from the large dining room windows and wanted to go there as soon as possible.  After exploring all three floors of that store, we visited H&M.  Both of those stores were packed to the walls with young girls lining up to try on clothes and later to pay for those treasures.
 
Once we finished round one of our shopping, we returned to Mile North to check in.  We were thrilled with our room.  I was pleased to see that it looked exactly like the promotional pictures on their website.  It was beautiful, clean and quiet.  I’ve read some reviews about this hotel wherein people complained about noise from the street but we heard nothing from outside of our room.  We stayed on the seventh floor, right above the main entrance.  The bedroom was about the size of a standard American hotel room but the bathroom was quite large.  Everything appeared to be new and spotlessly clean.  The beds were wonderfully comfortable.  There was a refrigerator in the room, as well as a safe.

After a brief rest, we returned to our shopping.  There’s a Disney store on the same corner where Saks and Neiman’s sit, so we did a quick tour through that.  We went on to Forever 21, Chico’s, Nordstrom’s, Nike and several other stores.  My favorite store on the Mile is the multi-story Crate & Barrel.  It’s huge!  I’m a sucker for the C&B bargains and walked out carrying boxes of fun household goods.
 
By the time we finished, the sun was starting to set and we were burdened with packages.  We returned to the hotel to unload our purchases and to freshen up for dinner.  It was great to have our hotel just right around the corner when we needed to rest and refresh.  We were surprised to find that our room had been serviced and our beds turned down while we were out.

Our plan was to go to Giordano’s Pizza (two blocks from our hotel) for dinner.  However, by the time we got there it was nearly 9:00 on and the place was packed.  Even the line to put your name on the wait list was painfully long.  We were told that the wait for a table was 90 minutes.  I know from my previous visits to Giordano’s that it can take as long as 45 minutes to get a pizza after you order because it takes that long to bake from scratch.
 
While Giordano’s pizza is excellent and I highly recommend the place, we didn’t want to wait over two hours for dinner, so we implemented Plan B, which was to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, Ferris & Jack.  We were not disappointed.  I had a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich layered with apples and bacon.  It was not crowded so we were able to enjoy a lovely, quiet dinner.  Dinner for four, plus cocktails for three, came to $95 but that’s pretty reasonable for a dinner in Chicago.
 
We checked out on Sunday morning, once again leaving our luggage secured with the bell captain and our car with the valet.
 
We walked down to Millennium Park, which was a bit of hike but it was a balmy morning and the sidewalks were nearly deserted, so it was a pleasant walk.  We wandered around enjoying the art and taking pictures for most of the morning.  “The Bean”, officially known as “Cloud Gate” drew the most tourists.  You can see the world reflected from multiple angles in its shiny surface.
 
From Millennium Park, we walked toward Navy Pier.  The regular pedestrian walkway to the pier was closed for construction but the detour took us through a high-end residential neighborhood centered around a small park that was just as charming as could be.  We found a nice little coffee shop across the street from the park and stopped in for drinks.  We strolled along the River Walk and crossed the bridge that put us out right at Navy Pier.
 
Navy Pier is a hub of activity on a nice summer day.  It is a family-oriented place and the weather was perfect.  I think every family in Chicago decided to visit the pier that day.  There are plenty of amusements on the pier and several activities going on there all of the time.  This particular weekend marked the end of the Tall Ships show.  On Saturday night, there had been a Taylor Swift concert and countless little girls were walking around sporting Taylor Swift tee shirts and backpacks.
 
You will find no shortage of places on the pier to pop into for a quick bite.  We chose Harry Carry’s.  The food was good enough but not particularly noteworthy.  The service, however, was excellent.
 
The Cirque Shanghai 2:00 show was a great way to end our weekend.  At $132 for four tickets (bought on-line in advance) it was a bargain.  Although it was a great way to end our trip, it would have been better to see the show at night.  Some of the magic of the lighting was lost in the daylight of the pier’s open-air theatre.  Still, the show was incredible and it is a good, inexpensive way to see a Cirque show.  The bad news is that the show only runs during the summer months.
 
When we returned to Mile North to retrieve our bags and our car, a bellman walked by and heard me mention to my girls that we would get the car as soon as I dug the claim ticket out from the bottom of my purse.  Without being asked, he jumped right to service, volunteering to retrieve both our luggage and our car.  Everything about our stay at was flawless.  I will definitely return to Mile North. 

 

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