29 August 2013

27 hours in Chi-town


Oh, Chicago, city of cities... I just couldn't leave the States without one last jaunt down to one of my very favorite cities.

Chicago, for me, is a mix of nostalgia and newness. I grew up about four hours north, so although it wasn't super common to make the hike down there, it happened often enough that from a young age I had a pretty good grasp of the layout of the city, and the feel of different neighborhoods. Many of these trips were during my teen years when I helped my dad out with art fairs. A semi-regular one for a few years was the Old Town Art Fair (my favorite, because Old Town is great), and on a couple of occasions, the Gold Coast Art Fair, which has since moved to Grant Park, but was in the River North area then. Others were in the suburbs, like Evanston and Highland Park... over a span of a few years, with weekends to spend wandering around as I pleased, I got to know a big chunk of the city on my own terms, and I think it's that early exploring and familiarity that keeps me connected to it now.

My mom and sister Ali popped down for one night, primarily because I wanted to catch the Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity exhibition at the Art Institute, but also to get in some good mom-and-sister time before the big departure. But, of course, we also wanted to get a little shopping in, and that we did -- along with some good eats and treats!

First stop:


(Photo via The Purple Pig on Facebook)

The Purple Pig has become a destination and a must every time I go to Chicago. Because it's so central to all of that shopping and strolling one does on Michigan Avenue, it's perfection at lunch time. And because it's a family-style place, serving what amounts to something like tapas, one can have as little or as much as one likes. We usually settle on two to three dishes, and between three people that's almost always enough. The brilliant thing about family-style or tapas is that you generally have more time to really savor what you're eating, and you don't need as much to be satisfied. What you end up getting is simply amazing from-scratch goodness.


First, we tried Salt-cured Greek Yogurt with Raspberry Jam and Pistachios (a smear, served with toasts, pictured above), then our all-time favorite Chicken Thigh Kebabs, Fried Smashed Potatoes and Tzatziki, and finally Fried Smashed Potatoes with Feta.

Super-yum. And just the right way to start off our visit!


After lunch, we promptly split up. My mother and (rather pregnant) sister went north to scope out some baby shops while I hiked down to the Art Institute to check out the Impressionism show. I had a couple of hours to kill, so I meandered around a bunch of other parts of the museum as well. I felt I had to get the most of the whopping $23 it costs for admittance these days. I remember when it was $6 and free on Tuesdays (for everybody). What happened to that?

Oh, the Modern Wing. That's right. ;)

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After the museum, I trekked back north to the Hyatt Magnificent Mile we had booked, and thoroughly enjoyed the hotel. It wasn't huge, and though our view was terrible (not much one can do about that), our room was suuuper comfy. Apparently it had just been renovated, and everything seemed awfully shiny and new. I'd definitely stay there again, in no small part because the location is great, there's a Starbucks on the first floor (yup, I said it), and there were a number of other good restaurants within a couple of blocks.

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We did a fair amount of shopping, filling up just about every spare hour with it. We stopped into the Magnificent Mile favorites like Zara, AllSaints, Topshop and H&M, and also headed over to Nordstrom Rack and Anthropologie.

In the morning, we woke up especially early just so that we could walk about ten blocks to a little hole in the wall (kind of literally, actually) called The Doughnut Vault.


Doughnut Vault is one of those make-a-special trip kind of places. It opens at the 8am, the doughnuts are there until they're not and then they close for the day. They have a small menu of everyday doughnuts, and every day they feature one or two specialty kinds, and $1 coffee. One has to be willing to put up with a line, which of course winds down the sidewalk because the Vault itself can only hold about five people in a single-file line at one time. It's a fun, gorgeous example of a creative business with excellent, second-to-none doughnuts. I just had to get one two before I left.

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On our way out of town, we stopped by a cutsie natural baby boutique called Bellybum, where I managed to find my first purchases as a to-be auntie! I realized that it doesn't take much to get me excited about an itty-bitty niece or nephew on the way: infant-sized socks and footie outfits just about do the trick! We had so much fun there -- they specialize in mommy and baby goods and gadgets, and they were immensely helpful with any questions we had. I think my mom and sister are already planning another trip. ;)


As for what's happening next... I worked my second-to-last day at the bookstore today, my last day being Saturday. Already I've had to start saying my goodbyes, but most people will be there on the weekend, so it will be nice to say farewell to everyone all at once.

I don't think it's really hit me that I'll only work one more day at the job that I've held for the last 4.5 years. That's a long time! Two times as long as any other job I'd held before that, not to mention in one place with the same people. I really found my footing there and I think it's taught me a lot of very valuable lessons about myself and the world at large, as well as forged a couple of priceless friendships.

Looking forward to the day off tomorrow to work on tidying the apartment, perhaps doing a little interior painting to make it look nice before I leave. It feels like there's a lot to do before I go, but I've got time, and really, when I think about it, I've got it pretty well together.

Big adventures ahead!

Cheers :)

Days to Edinburgh move-in: 9

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