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Published: September 19th 2018
My mom is the youngest of five children. All but two of them live within a half-mile radius of my childhood home. I have one uncle who lives in Durham, NC and another who lives in Chicago, IL. When my husband and I were able to travel to Illinois a few weeks ago for a work conference, we extended the trip by a few days so we could spend time with my uncle in his neck of the woods.
He is an author of religious studies and travels quite frequently for his work. As such, he manages to come visit us every now and again, though it had been years since we had visited him up north. In the interim since we had taken that trek, he moved from his home in the suburbs to an apartment near the top of a high-rise in the middle of the city! He claims he was ready to give up the yard work and the long commute and was ready to spend his retirement years within walking distance of entertainment, fine dining and shopping.
We knew we were going to be gone for about a week total, so we were sure to
pack smartly and carefully. Though it was still the end of August, we knew that even summers in Chicago can be quite breezy and cool, so we had to pack for both seasons. In fact, the last time we were up there over spring break in college, a light drizzle turned into a blizzard and we stayed indoors much of the trip! So, we followed several tips to maximize our luggage space
and somehow managed to pack our big winter coats into our carry-ons, which we considered a major feat!
When we arrived in Chicago, my uncle was waiting for us at our lunch spot, a local burger joint we have frequented on past occasions. Then, we made our way to his condo, stopping by the old home in the suburbs of Berwyn, IL to get one last glimpse of the place we last stayed. The home looked much the same, though nearby Pruska Park had grown deserted and overgrown since our last visit. After enjoying a dinner of homemade spaghetti, we hit the bed, ready to hit the pavement in the morning. My uncle, though he has lived in this city a majority of his life, still enjoys taking
us around downtown, letting us pop into the shops and take in the big city. As two kids from a rural community, this is as grandiose and exciting of an environment as we’ve ever been in!
That first day, we visited Macy’s where we indulged in a box of Frango mints. For the uninitiated, the Macy’s in Chicago is in the location of the former Marshall Field’s department store, which was known for selling decadent, creamy Frango mints that you can’t find anywhere else. When Macy’s took over, my family was worried they would cease to make the mints, but to our delight, they still look and taste the same and even feature the same familiar packaging!
As we strolled, we also visited a downtown chapel, then headed toward the John Hancock Building. Though every tourist usually wants to see the Sears Tower, which was renamed to the Willis Tower a few years back, because it is the highest and arguably the most iconic and interesting building in the city, we always opt to visit the John Hancock Building instead. It stands only a few stories shorter than the Willis Tower and has a fancy cocktail lounge on
the top floor. Though we weren’t interested in the drinks (and couldn’t afford them even if we were!), we did order two creme brulees that were divine! Even the bathrooms have views for days at the top of this building, making it a must-see on our list. We didn’t even miss the Willis Tower, though we have been up there once and it is equally stunning.
During that day, we also saw the Oriental Theater and the Chicago Theater, though we did not see any shows at either. That evening, we made our way to the infamous Bean structure and took plenty of pictures in front of it, ending the day Millennial Park, where there was an orchestra playing a show. From the gorgeous skyline view to the awesome picnic that my uncle packed of fresh baguettes, olives, mozzarella and red wine, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The next day was our last, and we spent it exploring the city by ourselves. We rode the Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA, to Soldier Field where the Chicago Bears play football. At the entrance was a touching memorial wall that honored the men and women of the armed forces. We took
a brief tour of Soldier Field and learned about its history, current roster and future plans. We ended that day by walking to a local eatery we had heard about on The Food Network that sold delicious Italian beef sandwiches. We enjoyed delicious cheesesteaks here and took our picture with the owner!
Other memorable stops during that second and final day in Chicago included the Art Institute of Chicago as well as Navy Pier, where we enjoyed a delicious grilled chicken dinner from one of the vendors inside. We capped off the day with a sunset cruise around the harbor, learning about the fascinating history of this beautiful, immaculate city. The air was perfect with just a slight breeze, our tour guide was informative and entertaining and it was a wonderful way to learn more about this fun place that my uncle calls home. Navy Pier at night is also such a wonderland of lights!
The next morning, we took a flight home, armed with plenty of souvenirs to bring back to our family, including a few boxes of those delicious Frango mints! It was a fun way to see my uncle, spend time with him at his
home and get out a little and explore along the way.
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