Friday, November 23, 2012

Chicago Greets the Holidays

And we greeted Chicago with open arms.

Last month I arrived home from a roadtrip out east (which I blogged about here and here) and immediately wanted to go somewhere else. I was on a travel high. That happens when I finish a trip that I either wasn't totally satisfied with or it was shorter than expected. In this case, it was both. So within a couple days of my return to Wisconsin, mom and I booked a couple nights at the Hotel Sofitel Chicago Water Tower.

Before getting to the hotel, as we arrived in the city earlier in the day, we made a beeline for the Art Institute of Chicago, where I was on somewhat of a mission to find early 20th century European paintings, and mom wanted to see it for the first time since the Modern Wing was added. And what a place it is now -- I was impressed as a high school student when I visited that museum, and it simply never gets old. At $18 admission/person, it's a place you want to be able to invest some time. (I remember when Tuesdays were free and regular admission was something astoundingly affordable like $6... those were the days.) Sunday was busy, but not crazy, and there's a lot to see. We spent a couple of hours and felt as though we had done a solid for the arts.

It's worth it right now just the see the vast amount of van Gogh on display. I could look at those all day.

The Bedroom, Vincent van Gogh, 1889
We had lunch at a cafeteria-style place across the street from the museum and then went to find our hotel.

We were in love at first sight, let me just put it that way.

Sofitel Chicago Water Tower in the late afternoon from the corner of Wabash and E. Chestnut
When we arrived, we took advantage of valet parking because in-and-out privileges are always nice, but we didn't even end up taking the car out again. With only one full day in the city, it's no surprise. The French hotel brand lived up to its origins -- everything was French or themed as such, all of the information bilingual and the employees greeted you in French as well. The architecture of the building is really something, and its interior decoration is just modern enough to feel edgy and young, but just traditional enough to keep it from being uncomfortable or cold. The service there was top notch and the room was just fantastic, not to mention the feathertop beds. Tres magnifique!

Chicago is a very common destination for us Wisconsinites because it is so deliciously close, yet far enough away that at about a four hour drive, you feel as though you've gone somewhere. I used to go to Chicago in the summers quite often with my dad, who is and was a full-time artist and would exhibit his work in Old Town and Gold Coast shows. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time wandering down the streets and checking out the shops -- before I even had a job. I have a very nostalgic connection to certain parts of Chicago -- namely Old Town, Lincoln Park, and the Gold Coast neighborhoods -- and of course the Magnificent Mile. I remember when Virgin Records had a store on the corner -- I always had to hit that up. But it is no more.

Anyway. The first night we decided to grab dinner at Francesca's, of which there are many, but the closest one was on Chestnut, very close to the hotel, so we walked there. The holiday lights had just been strung on the trees, so the atmosphere downtown was really lovely.

We took an evening stroll down Michigan Avenue to check out all the lights and window shop. Burberry was looking quite nice (the aubergine velvet coat, particularly!) and since it was so warm for mid-November, it was quite comfortable in our light jackets.

Next time I'll remember to bring a regular camera instead of my phone, but you get the idea!

The following day, we did a bunch of shopping along the Magnificent Mile, and I ogled all sorts of garments at Zara, Topshop, and Allsaints Spitalfields (which is a place that anyone can feel free to buy me things from, as much as you want!). Mom found some great deals at some of her favorite stores, and we enjoyed an amaaaaaaazing lunch at The Purple Pig on Michigan Avenue. It's absolutely the best place I've eaten in the last several months -- family style Mediterranean and the service is wonderful. Just the best. It was one of the goals/highlights of the stay!

For dinner we stopped at Sofitel's Le Bar for cocktails, where I had an absinthe-dashed beverage enticingly named The Monkey Gland, and then it was across the street to McCormick & Schmick's for dinner.

We took a stroll down Rush Street and passed out in food comas not long after.

The next and last day we spent the morning having coffee on Rush, window-shopped a little more and then picked up a friend and headed out to the suburbs. My mom was meeting a long-time friend for lunch, so I tagged along with my friend and we also had lunch before jumping back on the interstate and heading north for home.

It was a truly amazing little mother-daughter mini-vacation. I couldn't have asked for anything better. And it was the perfect recipe to inspire and at the same time sate (for the moment) my wanderlust, so that I can now focus on my next big trip: EUROPE.

Cheers, lovelies!


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