Some of our customers have some interesting travel stories, so we share them here!
Mark and I thoroughly enjoyed our short Chicago getaway from Tuesday morning through Thursday evening. We call it our urban backpacking adventure.
Before we left, we stopped at Peninsula Trading in East Hills and got an inflatable travel pillow and Mark got two travel-capable shirts; the kind you can wad up in a backpack and just shake the wrinkles out when you want to wear it.
Once we got there, the weather was sunny and in the 50s....although the breeze coming off Lake Michigan was a little nippy. The breeze and shade between the tall buildings downtown was a little brisk sometimes. So to start out adventure we took the city bus near our Eastown homes at 6:50 a.m. on Tuesday to the central station downtown GR (ten minute ride). From the bus station, it was a short five minute walk to the train station carrying our backpacks. We had a double-decker train and sat upstairs in reclining chairs that had two foot/leg rests and big windows. The ride was incredibly smooth without delay. It takes four hours to ride between Chicago and GR. From Chicago Union Station, it was a ten minute (maybe) walk to Club Quarters, Central Loop (our hotel). The hotel personnel let us check in right when we arrived at 11ish a.m. No extra charges because they had a room available. The room was functional. Queen size bed, desk, ample storage, bathroom with shower stall, free wifi (next time Mark would bring a laptop). It had modern decor and was set up for a business traveler. All staff were so friendly and willing to assist us. They let us store (free of charge) our backpacks there on Thursday all day as our train left at 5:20 p.m. When I called for an additional pillow, one was sent to the room within ten minutes. We would definitely stay there again because it is so close to the train station.
Adler Planetarium was free on Tuesday and the Museum of Science and Industry was free on Thursday. Free has a price because the Museum of S&I was extremely busy but manageable. I highly recommend the M of S&I but not the planetarium. The planetarium is very small but has great views of the city and water front. You could make a day trip doing Shedd, Field Museum and planetarium because they are next to each other. The M of S&I is a twenty minute express bus ride from downtown to the south shore where it is located. It is an amazing place with all kinds of things to see and do. On Thursday, fifteen minutes before we got there, the curtain opened and revealed the latest permanent exhibit....Science Storms. An amazing place to interact with various displays about tornadoes, tsunamis, lightening, etc. We spent lots of time in that area as we both love weather related factoids. Although it was a busy exhibit, the layout allowed for everyone to interact without lines, etc.
We bought a 3 day bus pass ($14 per person) and used buses to get around. You can buy them right where you get of the train. Next time we want to add the subway and the EL train. You can only do so much over three days. Mark's Google phone helped us find restaurants, street maps as well as bus routes. Incredible! We located several Thai food restaurants, read reviews and then mapped out how to get there by bus all on the phone. It would tell us what bus to take and what corner to wait at and how long before the next bus was due. We found The Star of Siam on Illinois/near State which is very close to the magnificent mile. You have to know about this place because it is out of the way on a small, quiet corner/street. It offered elegant atmosphere at very reasonable prices. We even had a Lychee martini. Lychee is a pear like fruit that tastes like my favorite wine: Gewurztraminer. Yummy yum...clean and refreshing with a hint of spice especially delicious with Thai food. Our meals were $7 - $8 and good portion sizes of tasty food. We would return for sure.
Although St. Paddy Day parades and green water display were held the Saturday before we arrived, we still enjoyed festivities on the day. Fado's offered bagpipe music with an Irish breakfast. Mark had a Guinness and we had green beads around our necks.....all by 10:30 a.m. The All Day Irish breakfast consisted of two eggs, two Irish sausages (bangers), two rashers (Irish bacon), two black puddings (blood sausage), two white puddings (pork, fat without blood sausage), two tomatoes, mushrooms and pan friend potato bread for $13.95 (we shared). It was great! We returned around 2 p.m. to listen to more live music but the noise, crowds and expensive beer prices (two beers for $17) drew us back out into the afternoon sun within an hour or so. We walked back to our hotel, napped and went to Poag Mahone for another expensive mug of beer and more live music by the Shannon Rovers.
We are not big shoppers so a quick walk down the magnificent mile is all we needed to be part of that subculture. We did see a wine bar that sounded interesting but it was not open. We will keep that for our next trip. For being off-season, we wondered why so many people were out shopping....with families. Wow! Navy Pier was a good walk in the sun with great views of the city and lake. We could feel we had been in the sun so much on St. Paddy's day. Or noses were a little pink by the end of the day and we slept well. There was a stained glass/mosaic exhibit/show in one of the buildings on Navy Pier. That was interesting to view.
We would like to go to the Windy City again when it is a little warmer not but high season. We would like to explore taking our bikes (as you can do that on the train) or renting bikes. We saw commuter bike people and marveled how they were dressed for work downtown. We saw bike path signs on various downtown roads and of course, along the lake shore. We want to explore the subway/L train and wine bars. We want to see the Art museum again. So much to do, so little time.
Too soon it was Thursday afternoon. We went to the Berghof for an early dinner as the train leaves at 5:30pm. We had some great dishes and great service because we were there before the dinner hour. If you want authentic German dishes in the Loop, this would be the place. It has a nice bar and they brew their own beer. A sampler was only $8.00 and he told us they were 1oz pours, but no way. We told the bartender we were in there so early because we were taking the train. He reminded us that you can take beer on the train and hooked us up with a six-pack sampler and he threw in a free Berghof mug. Yeah, he got a nice tip.
We got on the train and stretched out with our beer and some cheese and crackers which we had around St. Joseph. The ride home was very quiet and we even arrived about 10 minutes early, around 10:15pm.
We highly recommend a visit to Chicago, preferably with a Google phone.