Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chicago (Part 2)

S A T U R D A Y
  • I awoke early again so I could get to several sessions for the day. There were only two sessions that I really enjoyed: a session on technology where I learned how to use a Wii remote as a SmartBoard and a session on popular music in Spain.
  • While I was completing my sessions, Rachel was working hard to get us checked out of our hotel at the Hyatt and moved over to the aloft hotel, which was located northwest of downtown by the O’Hare airport. At my lunchtime, I helped her get our bags put into our car that she parked at the front doors. She gave them our keys since that’s what you have to do if you’re leaving your car unattended at the front. When we went back down with all our stuff, we thought we were going to have to give these city boys an old-fashioned country a—whoopin’ because our keys were nowhere to be found. Fortunately the man to whom Rachel had given our car keys reappeared with them. She was on her way to the aloft to get our stuff checked in and I was on my way back to afternoon sessions.
  • My last session was the worst one of them all. The description was “100 Ways to Teach Vocabulary.” I was expecting a useful, technique-filled session on teaching vocabulary. All I got was a couple of foreign exchange students with their professor trying to muddle through statistics and facts about learning a language. Fortunately, I had my phone on vibrate and Rachel was calling to see if I was out of my sessions yet; you know I had to get out of there and take that phone call.
  • As I was waiting for Rachel, I tried standing by the road between the Hyatt’s two towers. Unbeknownst to me, I was standing in a taxi zone under a specific sign. A guy working at the hotel saw me and exchanged pleasantries with me, and then he said, “I’ll go call and see if we can get someone here for you.” I was confused by what that meant. I then realized where I was standing (underneath a specific cab company’s sign), and quickly moved back into the lobby hoping to not encounter that guy again. Fortunately Rachel arrived soon after that and we were on our way.

    DRIVING DOWN THE MAGNIFICENT MILE.


    MA AND PA ON DISPLAY NEAR THE CHICAGO RIVER.


    OUR "COUSIN'S" MCGRATH LEXUS IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO


  • I didn’t really want to drive in downtown Chicago, but Rachel asked if I would drive back to the hotel. It was a little crazy, and she soon took over for me. I think I was still tired from all the sessions from the conference. We stopped at a well-known joint (the name escapes me); they’re famous for serving chili dogs and very tasty shakes. Rachel got a couple of chili dogs and a chocolate cake shake (they blended an actual piece chocolate cake into the shake), and I got a chicken sandwich. It was very good.
    AFTER THE CONGESTION ON OUR COMMUTE TO THE ALOFT HOTEL.


  • Our commute back to the aloft hotel was rather congested. We saw the train line, which we were going to take CTA train back into downtown. It was definitely moving a lot faster than traffic out to the O’Hare area.

    OUR BEDS AT THE ALOFT HOTEL.


    OUR BATHROOM AT THE ALOFT.


  • After we got to the aloft on Saturday afternoon, we rested a little bit. The concept of the hotel is really cool. The rooms are uniquely designed and it’s not costly like an expensive hotel downtown.
  • That evening, we didn’t really want to go back downtown, so we ended up driving to Schaumburg (a ‘burb) and going to the Woodfield Mall, which was advertised as a big shopping experience on a pamphlet at the hotel. We had to get on a toll road to get there; it cost us 70 cents both ways.
    RACHEL EATING AT A CHIPOTLE AT THE WOODFIELD MALL.


  • Our Saturday night wasn’t a very pleasant experience at the aloft hotel. In the lobby, I they were having a party and lots of people were showing up. We went down there at 10 p.m. to see what was going on. At that time, not a lot of people were there. I thought about getting a glass of wine, but $9 for a glass of wine shot that idea down in a hurry. We ended up going back to the room not long after we went to check out the party. I guess we left when the party was getting started because the music thumped all night and got louder as the night went on. I couldn’t go to sleep very well with all that noise going on. It wasn’t quite hot and not quite cold so we hadn’t been using the a/c or heating in our room. At 2:30 a.m., I decided to turn the fan on so it would drown out the noise from the party in the lobby. That pretty well did the trick, but I think that’s pretty ridiculous. We told the hotel that, along with some of our other complaints (parking prices that were different than what we had been quoted earlier). They didn’t seem to want to take care of us, so Rachel asked for the corporate number. “Oh, you can look that up online.” We darn sure did, and miss Ashley at the front desk got a complaint about her lack of customer service skills, along with everything else we didn’t enjoy about the hotel. Like I said earlier, we liked the concept of the hotel, but we didn’t like the lack of customer service and consideration to ALL of the guests staying at the hotel; party it up if you want, but don’t make everyone suffer who doesn’t want to party all night long.

    S U N D A Y
    RACHEL WAITING TO BOARD THE L TRAIN AT THE ROSEMONT TRAIN STATION.


  • We ended up getting up Sunday and taking the CTA train (the “L” train) downtown. I, being the uptight, like-to-know-where-I’m-going type, kept confirming our train line numbers and bus numbers. I nearly drove Rachel crazy with that, but hey, it was my first real experience with public transportation of any kind really.
    WAITING FOR A CTA BUS ALONG WACKER DRIVE.


  • After we got downtown, we got on the bus line that took us to Navy Pier. After we left there, we had decided to try to find some fabric stores that Rachel had been dying to find. We found a couple and a neat little Hispanic street market. After we were done looking there, we got on another bus line that took us toward Greek Town. We got out and looked there. We decided we would come back and eat dinner there.
  • Rachel wanted to find a thrift store she’d heard about, so we got on a line that took us there. It was a little more in the ghetto lands, but we actually did find some pretty good deals. I got four pairs of pretty nice pants (Gap and American Eagle), and Rachel found several skirts and tops. We paid about $20 for all of it.
  • It was time to eat, so we headed back on a line that took us to Greek Town. We ate at a place called Pegasus. Of course, we had to try the flaming cheese (Saganaki), which was delish. For the main course I had the Macaronada Ala Greca and Rachel had Domates. I’m pretty sure that Rachel and I aren’t Greek food lovers — at least based on the dishes we had. We both are fans of gyros, but beyond that, we’ll stick with food we enjoy.
    ME IN FRONT OF PEGASUS IN GREEK TOWN.


  • Upon leaving Greek Town, we stopped at a little pastry shop for some dessert. It helped complete our meal for sure.
  • Now it was time to get back on the blue line and head back to the aloft.
  • Sunday night, we decided that we’d had plenty of Chicago. We decided that we could spend some more time there on Monday and then had back toward home — maybe stopping in St. Louis on our way home.

    M O N D A Y
  • After checking out of the aloft, we planned to get back on the train line and go back toward a certain area so we could look at more fabric for Rachel. It was on Devon Ave., which is known for its Indian culture. We stumbled upon the Devon close to where we were going to get on the train line, so we decided to go by car than to get back on the train line. We found a Dunkin’ Donuts, and enjoyed a sweet breakfast. After looking around a little bit, we decided to head back toward St. Louis.
  • After getting through heavy midday traffic, we successfully traversed back to I-55 south to get back to Missouri. We made one stop and enjoyed lunch at Fazoli’s in the Normal/Bloomington area.
  • We finally got back to St. Louis at about 6 p.m. and checked into our favorite inexpensive place, the Pear Tree Inn in Fenton. It’s run by Drury Inn and is actually very clean and has never cost us over $50.
    ONE OF OUR FAVORITES AT PHO GRAND — VIETNAMESE SHRIMP EGG ROLLS.


  • We decided to go find a few of our old favorites. We ended up eating at Pho Grand and then traveled toward the Galleria mall. Most things were closing up by the time we got there, so we decided to get back on I-64 and check out the new highway; nearly the entire time we lived in St. Louis, I-64 had been closed from I-270 to I-170 so we hadn’t checked out the new road since we had left. They actually did a very nice job with it, and it was completed sooner than they had anticipated.

    T U E S D A Y
  • After a night in a very comfortable bed at the Pear Tree, we got up and checked out of our hotel. We were a little disappointed that we hadn’t purchased more clothes than we had, so we decided to find some resale shops/boutiques. We found a few out by the Galleria. We also ended up going back to the Galleria, but after finding such good deals at the thrift store in Chicago, we didn’t want to pay full prices for the clothes.
  • While looking around at the Galleria, I saw a familiar face that I didn’t completely know who it was. I thought it was Theresa Petry, a former KOLR and KPLR reporter, who is also a friend of mine on Facebook. After returning home, I found out it was her, and she thought I was who I was, too, because she had seen my status on Facebook that said that we were going to be in St. Louis. What a small world, eh?
  • After the Galleria, we visited a few more places we enjoyed in St. Louis. We even traveled by our old apartment complex on Baxter in Chesterfield. Rachel also spent a good amount of time looking at the Goodwill in Chesterfield and nearly cleaned ‘em out.

    WAITIN' ON A WOMAN AT THE GOODWILL AND LISTENING TO ST. LOUIS'S NUMBER ONE STATION FOR HIP-HOP AND R&B.


  • Before leaving St. Louis, we had already decided to visit Whole Foods so we could stock up on some organic meats and other things we enjoy from Whole Foods. Our cooler was full when we left.
  • We were hungry after a long day in St. Louis, so our final stop was at an old favorite: Cecil Whittaker’s. And since it was Tuesday, we got their special — a large cheese pizza for $3.99 to which we added pepperoni for about a dollar more.

    We were gone for only a few days, but we definitely enjoyed the getaway. I think overall we determined that Chicago was nice, but not the place for us. We also realized that St. Louis was cool, and we always enjoy visiting.

    Thanks for reading about the trip. I know most of you will be bored to tears by it all, but I’m mostly posting it for us to remember.

  • 3 comments:

    Lisa said...

    Your bad hotel experience reminds me of the time we all stayed in Columbia the same weekend as the state wrestling tournament. That was the same trip where Ian spilled the drink on Rachel at G&D's.

    Aaron said...

    Wasn't that an experience!?

    Mmmmmmm, G&D's...

    Newsy said...

    Glad you are back. Seeing your mention of Theresa Petry reminds me of her work here in the Ozarks. She was one of my favorites.