1. Someone needs to invent a transporter.
2. Chicago is expensive. (Unless you live in Chicago and, thus, get paid more to live there).
3. Dave and I are super cool together.
We left Green Bay at about 6:00pm on Friday, and for the next three and a half hours, we were driving.
Past beautiful trees.
And more trees.
As usual, Dave took the wheel. In addition to his car being more road-worthy than mine, he also likes driving much more than I do. I stopped caring to drive long distances after my car’s cd changer, tape deck, and lighter all broke, forcing me to listen to the radio on all trips.
While Dave played the endless highway lane-changing game, I sat in the passenger seat and tried to distract myself from getting carsick by taking photographs. I usually bring gum along to prevent this, but I had forgotten.
When we hit Milwaukee, I was more than ready for the trip to be over.
Unfortunately, we still had another hour and a half after that.
But, at long last, we hit Northbrook and our beautiful hotel room.
I highly recommend the Crowne Plaza as well as king size beds. The room was clean, the bed comfortable, and the amenities ample.
After checking in, we decided to hit up the hotel bar for a few ridiculously overpriced drinks. I was expecting a price markup, but I was astonished at the $10.25 sticker on my martini.
Good thing we were prepared.
Smuggled-in sake from Woodman’s in Green Bay. Dave found this gem a while ago, and it is one of the best sakes I have ever tasted. Unlike most, it tastes good both warm and cold (usually I prefer my sake warm).
I set my alarm for 9:00am but woke up much earlier. I used our tiny in-room coffee pot to make us each a starter cup of coffee.
Then we threw open the curtains to reveal a bright and beautiful fall day. Compared to Wisconsin, Illinois doesn’t really have much in the way of color-changing leaves yet.
We hit the buffet downstairs for more coffee and a bit of breakfast: yogurt, fresh fruit, some scrambled eggs, and a mini chocolate chip muffin for me.
And then we were on the road again!
Dave once again navigated the traffic while I took charge of the toll booth money.
I’m glad Wisconsin highways don’t have tollbooths–we must have spent nearly $7 or $8 dollars throughout the duration of our trip just getting from one side to the other. Dave said it’s his hometown state’s way of saying: “Welcome to Illinois….f#*k you!”
Chicago skyline in sight….
Then the city itself!
A lot of the roads were closed in preparation for the Chicago marathon the next day, and a lot of the parking garages were prepping for a college football game that night. Guess what that means? $49 dollar parking. 😦
Good thing I saved up for this trip.
However, I’ve waited in much longer lines for opening nights of movies, so I knew we could handle it.
And after nearly an hour and a half, we were in.
I felt kind of silly taking tons of pictures just like every other Tom, Dick, and Harry at the aquarium, but how else would you know I was telling the truth? I have blog-readers to impress here!
I asked Dave if he would remember all the names of fish for me to correctly describe later.
The people inside the Shedd were packed together nearly as close as these fish were. Those who live in Chicago know not to go to the Shedd on a weekend, but we didn’t have that luxury.
So was this guy.
We paid extra for the special exhibit on jellyfish, and I was glad we did. $32 dollars to see fish; why not make it $35?
There are such strange and beautiful creatures in the world, aren’t there?
I overhead a few kids telling their parents the jellyfish were ‘gross,’ but I prefer the term ‘interesting.’
Besides the jellyfish exhibit, my favorite part was the aquatic show.
As a rule, I don’t like zoos or aquariums. I think they are a product of human egotism, and it pains me to see animals taken out of their natural habitat for our own entertainment. Especially when they are taught to do tricks.
That being said, I love animals.
And as I am no marine biologist and doubt I’ll ever go on a safari (I would love to, though!), this may be the closest I get to some of these exotic fish and mammals. And seeing the animals match their trainers command was just…well…cool.
Luckily, I can get close to this guy whenever I want. 🙂
I wanted a souvenir of our visit to the Shedd, so I bought a hand blown glass Jellyfish ornament for our tree.
Security just wouldn’t let me take the real deal.
After we left the Shedd, Dave knew just where to take me for dinner.
He is forever talking about some of his old Illinois haunts that Wisconsin just doesn’t offer: Steak & Shake, Sweet Tomatoes, and Gino’s East have all been topics of conversation before, and Saturday night was perfect for deep dish pizza.
During the day, we had only shared a bag of dried strawberries and a Blueberry Muffin Larabar, so we headed to dinner relatively early, about 5:30pm.
I absolutely loved the atmosphere of this place. The wood and checkered tablecloths gave the place a lot of character and a continuing trend is to write on any surface available in the restaurant.
I noticed on the way out that every pizza looked exactly the same. Unlike a regular pizza which sports sauce on the bottom, the tomato sauce covers the top of their deep dish pizzas. I can only imagine what a nightmare that must be in the kitchen. “Which one’s the sausage and which one’s the vegetarian? I can’t tell!”
I had a Blue Moon to start.
And we split an appetizer plate with Bruschetta, Spinach Sticks, and Fried Mushrooms.
I told Dave this weekend I was a ‘flexitarian,’ because I wanted to enjoy our weekend thoroughly without worrying about finding suitable foods. I figure I’m still doing my part to help since my meat intake is so limited.
This thrilled Dave, because it meant we got to order the supreme pizza with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and…sausage!
I was expecting a puffy, buttery crust similar to Old Chicago’s, but the crust at Gino’s was more like a biscuit dough crust with a hint of cornmeal.
I still haven’t met a deep dish pizza that I didn’t like. Kudos, Gino’s! I can die a happy woman.
After I go to Sweet Tomatoes, that is.
While driving to Gino’s, Dave got a hint of something blue out of the corner of his eye. It was a color that couldn’t be mistaken, but we checked our GPS anyway…
Dave hadn’t realized it was so close to where we were staying. With our plan in mind for the next day, we headed back to the hotel after a quick stop for some bubbly.
We drank our champagne and ordered the movie Despicable Me after finding nothing to watch on television. This movie was relatively cheap at $4.99 compared to the $14.99 cost of the other pay-per-view movies. I had seen the movie once before, but it was Dave’s first time watching it, and we both loved it. Pixar knows how to make good movies.
For dessert, we each had a few chunks from this Chocolove bar included in the anniversary basket from our parents. I love dark chocolate, and this was particularly sweet because it included a Shakespeare love poem inside.
We headed to bed earlier on Saturday night and woke up ready to take on the day. First we checked out of the hotel and stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to fuel up.
Sorry Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee beats you every time. I just couldn’t bring myself to start my day with a doughnut, so I had a wheat bagel with light veggie cream cheese for breakfast.
I need energy for IKEA!
Three wonderful stories of furniture, kitchen appliances, lighting, and home decor…I was practically drooling for a house walking through the place.
Not to mention the Swedish meatballs that were advertised on huge signs every couple hundred feet.
Instead we bought candles (we go through them like crazy from now until February…they’re pretty much the only light source at night) and two more sets of spice jars to match the ones we have. When we left IKEA, we decided to head north and surprise Dave’s family with a visit.
Since my mother-in-law’s Kathy’s birthday is October 9th, they just happened to be celebrating her birthday on Sunday which meant Dave’s sister Ali and her wife Jaimee were there, too! Dave’s dad Barry was working on a special birthday dinner when we arrived: pork chops stuffed with a spinach, goat cheese, sundried tomato, and cream cheese mixture, potatoes au gratin, and banana birthday cake.
We visited for several hours before sitting down to a delicious meal.
Boy, last weekend was a great time to be a flexitarian. The stuffed pork chops were just amazing, and the potatoes au gratin were cheesy, creamy, and delicious.
I realized after I finished my cake there was no way I should have eaten that much food…I was Thanksgiving-full. Too late; the damage was done, and my belly was full of delicious.
It was a bummer to say goodbye to Dave’s family; we only see them a few times a year, and they are so much fun. However, we are looking forward to Dave’s parents visiting us in just two weeks for his birthday.
We got back in the car and after another two hours and forty five minutes of driving, we were welcomed home by our cats Athena and Artemis. It was such a lovely weekend break with Dave that I didn’t want it to end, but there’s always next year!
What is the best vacation you have ever taken?