Monday, May 25, 2009


Sometimes opportunities just drop into your lap. For instance, I was having dinner with a group of friends when one of them, my friend Sharon, mentioned she was attending a workshop in Chicago. She was excited about the weekend workshop, but had never been to Chicago and was wishing she had someone to go with her. Though the workshop ran all day, she would be able to see a bit of the city in the evening, but only if someone came with her. Otherwise, she would likely spend the evening in the hotel or close to it. Her workshop was in Rosemont, about 16 miles from the city, and though she could easily take a taxi into town, it just wouldn't be that much fun for her alone. I thought about it for a moment, then told her that depending on the date, I would be happy to join her. I had a book signing coming up, but other than that, my weekends were pretty much free.

(On a side note, my husband just called out for me to come outside. Some World War II planes were flying overhead in formation. Today is Memorial Day, so my guess is they were headed to an air show. So cool... )

Anyway, back to my topic. We had a great time. Sharon booked the Doubletree Hotel in Rosemont and got a low rate. Her event was at another hotel, a block and a half away, which she could easily walk to. We drove to Chicago, about a five and a half hour trip, early on a Thursday morning. Since we forgot about the one hour time change from Michigan, we also gained an additional hour. The event didn't start until one o'clock, so we asked the hotel connoisseur if he might suggest a good restaurant for lunch that wasn't too pricey. We went to Maria's, a Mexican restaurant about three blocks away, and they were featuring an all you can eat buffet, really really good ... all types of delicious Mexican dishes, plus fruit: watermelon and grapes, along with a sweet apple tart of some sort. We also each ordered a margarita, very tasty. The buffet was really inexpensive, $7.50, and even including the $7.00 margarita, was a great deal.

The Doubletree Hotel was beautiful, and the rooms large, with a big picture window in our sixth floor room for viewing the surrounding area. We had a flat screen television, large bathroom with a huge walk-in shower and a separate bathtub, two comfortable queen size beds with "Sweet Dreams" sheets to curl up into, and even a desk for your computer plus two more comfortable chairs to sit in if you felt like reading or just relaxing. The hotel had everything you could need, restaurant, business center with computers, a bar lounge connecting to another restaurant, banquet rooms. It was quite the hotel. I was happy to find out about the indoor heated pool and hot tub, plus a small, but adequate exercise room. I especially liked the ice filled water coolers, in both the lobby and exercise room, in which they added fresh lemon and orange slices. Totally refreshing.

Instead of taking a taxi into Chicago, we used the elevated train located only two blocks from the hotel. It was an adventure for us for sure. We had to ask a few questions about obtaining tickets and which stops would take us downtown, but everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. I had not been to Chicago for many many years, and had never used the 'L.' The trip took about twenty minutes, then we followed people out and eventually ended up on the street. After a few more questions and lots more walking we found Michigan Avenue. It was a beautiful night, the tall buildings lit up and thousands of people strolling. The boulevards were lined with tulips, and about every third street corner we would be entertained by musicians with saxophones and violins, or just singing their favorite songs. We stopped by Millennium Park and walked under "The Bean," way cool, then continued down Michigan Avenue as we were getting hungry. My daughter had suggested several restaurants for us to try, and since it wasn't too far and we were getting tired of walking, we decided to try The Cheesecake Factory. People were eating outdoors under tall heat lamps, but we chose the interior of the restaurant instead so we could do some people watching. It was a great restaurant. Sharon chose a delicious salad and I chose a shrimp and angel hair pasta dish. I don't know how they prepared the shrimp, but Sharon and I agreed it was the best we'd ever tasted. The pasta was incredible too. The restaurant was really crowded considering it was a Thursday night, but not hard to believe considering the quality of the food. By the time we returned to the hotel it was almost eleven-thirty, so it was lights out for us. Sharon's workshop resumed at eight-thirty the next morning.

Unfortunately, the next day was cool and rainy and a bit windy, not a good day to walk Chicago again. Instead we visited Navy Pier, and that was active and very crowded on a Friday night. Many were attending the IMAX Theater located there; others like us, were just hanging out. The big Ferris wheel was closed, but Sharon had indicated to me she didn't want to ride it anyway. Rides like that upset her stomach. I might have taken a ride had it been great weather, but it definitely wasn't. We enjoyed walking through all the stores and checking out the restaurants. It's a lot bigger than you might guess considering it is actually built on a pier. I was impressed. We toured the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, with huge intricate stained glass pieces donated for the public to view. I've never seen anything like it. You could spend many hours there. After all our sightseeing we decided to have dinner at Riva Chicago, and wow, what a meal. I chose the salmon and Sharon the scallops. The view from the restaurant is awe inspiring, two story windows look out at the boats with the city of Chicago as a backdrop.

I could go on and on about my trip to Chicago, and possibly I'll add some more highlights next time I write. For now, I intend to spend some time out on the deck in this near eighty degree weather...

Enjoy your Memorial Day!

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