A blog about me and my adventure as an ex-pat.
Because someone told me to... Thank you Gaby.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chicago with a rock star...

Although my friend Ruth hasn't released an album or toured with a band, she is a rock star in my eyes!

The crazy girl flew into Chicago from England on Friday evening and flew home on Sunday evening, just to spend 48 hours with me! Bearing in mind the 8 hour flights (not to mention the 4 hour delay), the 6 hour time difference, and that she had to leave her two gorgeous girls at home for 3 days (in the capable hands of their Daddy!). And she managed to stay up until 6am her time! She definitely rocks!

So I thought I would give you a guided tour of our weekend. Chicago is a wonderful city, full of sky scrapers and great architecture (though some of it appeared older than it could possibly be!), sidewalks decorated with hundreds of flowers and a sparkling blue river! With breathtaking views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan, plus lots of fab places to shop, eat and drink!

Jeremy booked us a room at The Allerton Hotel which is on Michigan Ave - also known as the "Magnificent Mile'. We walked out of our hotel and right onto the busy street, full of shops and restaurants.

The city was especially busy as they were celebrating with the local Hockey team - the Blackhawks - who won the famous Stanley cup and paraded it down Michigan Ave on Friday evening. There was also a Gay Pride parade and of course it's summer, so the perfect time of year for a girls' weekend away in the big city.

I arrived before Ruth so popped out to get a few snacks and, of course, couldn't resist a quick visit to the Disney Store to get the kids something. My plan was to focus solely on clothes and jewellery shopping the next day!

Ruth arrived at dinner time, and after a quick change, we headed out to The Little Goat restaurant. Situated west of the river, it is a posh 70s style diner. With classic items on the menu but done gastro-style we had plenty to choose from! We went for a pulled pork sandwich and fish tostadas, both of which were delicious! And of course washed down with a cocktail... I had a Fool's Russian (Vodka, cucumber and lemon juice) and Ruth chose a French Intervention (Mezcal, Lime Juice, Grenadine and Grapefruit), both of which were delicious and refreshing!
I loved the atmosphere in there - busy enough to be bustling with conversation but no wait for a table. We sat at the bar near the kitchen which was fun to watch the chefs, but got a little warm after a while! Quite a young, hip crowd I think... It was a bit dark and I was so hungry that I mainly focussed on the menu!

We topped off the evening with drinks in the bar at Sixteen which is located in the Trump Hotel at the Trump Tower. It used to be one of the tallest buildings in the world but has slipped down the rankings  in recent years. We got some wonderful views of the city as we managed to get a seat by the window. Unfortunately the terrace was closed due to thunderstorms but that didn't spoil the fun and the cocktails were delicious! We ordered a Manhattan and a Sidecar. The Manhattan was a little strong for me so I'm glad I ordered it 'over ice'. I don't know what they did to the cherries in the garnish but man they packed a punch! In a good way!

The next morning we went next door to the Water Tower Place shopping centre for breakfast. They have a fab food hall with delicious home made / organic / upmarket deli foods. Ruth went to Foodease for a cinnamon roll dripping in frosting and almost went back for a second as it was that good! The Sacred Grounds bakery and cafe provided me with a wonderful cappuccino and blueberry muffin.

Full of sweet baked goods, we headed to Nordstrom to start our shopping. I wanted some jewellery and Ruth was shopping for an outfit for a Wedding in August. We did not do too well for the first hour. I had done loads of research on Nordstrom's website but it turns out we should have gone to Nordstrom Rack (their outlet store) as there wasn't much to choose from in the main store and most of it was way out of our price bracket! After a quick refuel in their food court, we headed back up Michigan Ave and that's where the fun began! We found lots of clothes and accessories in The Limited, Banana Republic, The Loft, Ann Taylor and Express. We actually ran out of time, which is probably good as there were plenty more stores to use our credit cards in but I am not sure how happy our husbands would be when they got the bill!

We must have timed it right because almost every store we went in had a 25 or 40% off sale. On everything. Even the items already on sale! I found a $130 dress which I bought for $50 (or £30!) and Ruth found a navy dress for the Wedding for about the same price! Win! I also got lots of bright jewellery and a jacket which at $100 was worth putting back on the rail for a second thought, but when I discovered it was only $60, was quickly retrieved and purchased! And I love it! I now had a black jacket and bright red jewellery to wear with my white top and skinny jeans.

We decided on smart casual for our nights out and it was perfect. Smart tops, dressed up with bright jewellery, skinny/slim dark wash jeans and heels. I found a great pair of stretch jeans in The Limited, which I admit were not exactly perfect skinny jeans but I felt great in them and I am working on slimming down my thighs to fit in proper skinny jeans one day! The heels scared me a little as I am so out of practice and I swear my feet grew during my pregnancies but I managed and it felt great to be walking tall in a pair of heels. Ruth made me laugh as we were walking back the first night and she telling me off, saying that I needed to lean back.... I must of looked like I was staggering a bit, which I blame entirely on the heels and not on the two cocktails I had consumed!

Saturday night we headed to a wonderful asian restaurant called Sunda which was just a few blocks from our hotel. Jeremy asked a couple of the ladies he works with at the Chicago ad agency for recommendations on restaurants and cocktail bars and they did a great job! 

We loved Sunda... Mouth-watering sashimi, surprisingly tasty brussel sprout salad, stunning sushi rolls and tasty puddings with a couple of pear sake cocktails made for a fabulous dining experience. We literally wanted to eat everything on the menu but had to restrain ourselves! The staff were helpful in helping us choose and we also ordered the things that people around us were eating that looked delicious! 

After dinner we got a cab over to The Navy Pier to watch the fireworks. The Margariteville bar served us the funniest cocktails so far. A frozen Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri served in plastic cups, which were quite strong actually! Unfortunately it started to rain just before the fireworks but we enjoyed them anyway and I was glad I'd brought my umbrella. We were worried about how long the line would be for cabs as it's quite out of the way but we lucked out and got in one straight away!

We finished the night off at The Peninsula Hotel for more cocktails. A very swanky hotel with an elegant, more traditional bar. We were seated in comfy chairs but it was so dark we could barely read the menu (or take a photo of our drinks!). Two more delicious cocktails and it was time to call it a night. Ruth almost fell asleep but a short walk delivered us back to our hotel room.

Sunday was spent sightseeing (after a delicious waffle breakfast courtesy of the Water Tower food court) with a walk down to see Cloud gate or the Bean as it's sometimes known, the fountains at Millenium park and a trip back to Navy Pier for lunch at Bubba Gump and a ride on the ferris wheel.

Jeremy and the kids joined us for the afternoon. The children had been so sad not to be able to get on the train with me on Friday, so they took the 9am train out of Kalamazoo, arrived just after 11am and we had the rest of the day until we had to get the return train at 6pm. It's not quicker than driving but it's easy and fun for the kids and more comfortable than squeezing into a car for 2 or 3 hours.

(We looked so tired in this photo!) 

Ruth is Charlotte's Godmother so it was nice for them to have some time together. Any time we can get with friends and family is so precious. There is the phone, emails, facebook and skypes, but nothing beats a cuddle with your loved ones.

What a wonderful, amazing, fun, surreal, exhausting trip to the big smoke! I am so lucky to have a wonderful friend who will fly across an ocean for 48 hours with me! And lucky to have a very generous and loving husband who surprised us with this fun trip. I enjoyed a fun few weeks had a planning where to eat and go out and more importantly... what to wear!
I miss my shopping and drinking buddy, but I have some special memories to keep me going until next time I see her!

Cheers Ruth! x

P.S. I almost forgot a Chicago tradition.... Garret's chicago mix popcorn. The shops constantly have lines out of the door full of people waiting to get their fix of caramel popcorn mixed with cheese flavour! ... Try it, you might like it!

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