Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Windy City - Day 4

Sunday was our last full day in Chicago.  We, as usual, had a lazy morning, but surprisingly we were out of the apartment and on the bus before noon!  Austin had gone into work again that morning, so Julie, Colin, and I took the bus down to the Mexican place Julie and I had discovered the night before to show Colin our green chile find and the best guacamole ever!  The original plan was to just get chips and guacamole, then head downtown for some Chicago style hot dogs, but we were all starving so we ended up just chowing down there.

It was actually the coldest day (in my opinion), but the calmest wind-wise.  It wasn't too much fun waiting for the bus, but it had to be done.  We took it down to the train and had to wait there for quite sometime.  There was a couple headed out to the Bears game that was also waiting for the train and indirectly showed us that you can stand under heat lamps to not be so chilly!  We ended up striking up a conversation with them based on their Bears attire and Colin talked to the guy for forever about fantasy football.  We got on the same car, but didn't sit next to each other.  I remember seeing them get off the train a few stops ahead of them, but then when we made the transfer, we ended up sitting right behind them in the next train!  Crazy!

We walked downtown and since it was the last day of the buy one get one deal at Starbucks, we decided to take advantage of it and hang out for a bit.  Plus Colin needed to charge his phone.  Julie was basically getting stir crazy about the lack of shopping we did in the city, so she took off down State Street to shop around.  I'm seriously not a big shopper, especially when I'm not looking for something in particular and I'm not in a standing and wandering kind of mood!  Colin and I hung out for a while so he could charge his phone, then Austin met us after he got off work.  We could have done something else, but none of us really felt like it and Starbucks was so warm, so we ended up just hanging out there for probably three hours.

We had plans to meet up with Liz and Krista again for dinner, so when Julie came back from shopping we hopped on the train to meet them at Giordano's for some world famous pizza.  Julie and I had been craving it the whole trip due to our bad experience when we were in Chicago last summer.  She had been talking it up the whole drive into Illinois, but when we finally went to one of the locations, it ended up being a major disappointment.  If I remember correctly, they could only make us personal pizzas for some reason and I think only cheese.  And they weren't that great.  But they did let us watch The Bachelorette (Ali) finale.  YAY for that.

We met the girls there and waited about 45 minutes before being seated.  Luckily, they let you put your pizza order in before you sit down so it doesn't take as long, but we still had to wait close to 20 minutes after we sat down.  Krista, Liz, and I split a pizza with pepperoni, black olives, and mushrooms.  Colin, Austin, and Julie split a pizza with just pepperoni.  It was so good.  To die for, actually.

Best pizza in Chicago


Pepperoni, Black Olives, Mushrooms

Me & Krista

After dinner, Austin went to meet up with Devin, and then Liz and Krista took the opposite train at the station.  Julie, Colin, and I just headed back to the apartment to clean up a little bit and so we could all get ready to leave Monday morning.  By that point, we were all beat and a little Chicagoed out.

It was so much fun though, and so incredible that Austin let us crash at his place for the long weekend.  It's always fun to travel with friends and Julie and I are definitely slowly conquering the country.  Next time it's either the West Coast or the Northeast, right Julie?

I had to catch a cab at 3:15 in the morning to get to Midway in time for my 6:00 flight.  That's definitely not a fun departure time, but it had to be done to a conflict that of course was rescheduled.  Unfortunately Midway only had two flights to Denver that day and they were at complete opposite times of the day.  It was strange.

It didn't take as long as expected to get to the airport, so I actually arrived thirty minutes before the front desk (and security) even opened.  Since everyone was just arriving at 4:00, I breezed through security and just hung out for about an hour and a half before my flight.  For once, I actually slept a good portion of it!  It was good to be back in Colorado and smell that mountain air, but I missed Chicago already.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Windy City - Day 3

Austin had to head downtown Saturday morning for work, so Julie, Colin, and I took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in.  After some pancakes and orange juice, we hopped on the CTA to go downtown ourselves.  We had a little mix up with transportation, so we ended up walking down State Street which was quite alright.  We were able to stop for our daily Starbucks.

While walking down the main part of the street, two guys stopped us (we don't think they saw Colin with us) to ask where we got our "cups".  "Starbucks," we replied.  They then asked us where the nearest one was, but we ended up talking to them for about ten minutes.  We were supposed to meet Liz and Krista at the State Street Library, but since we got held up by the walking and then the strangers, we missed them at the library.  However, we were able to meet up with Austin there.

The plan was to head over to Millennium Park to see the famous bean.  Julie and I had been there when we first arrived in Chicago last time we were there, but everything is just so different from summer to fall/winter, so we had to go again.

Austin, Colin, Julie, & Me

Me & Julie

Me, Julie, Austin, & Colin

Julie & Me
(Another Chicago tradition.)

 Julie & Me

 Austin & Colin

The original plan was to go back to the apartment and cook some stuff for dinner, but while we were heading to the train, Austin said "Chinatown is just two stops that way, should we go?"  So we did!  And I'm so glad.  He took us to a restaurant he had been to before, Lao Beijing, and it was amazing.  Best Chinese food ever.  We each picked an entree and just shared the four.  And we got potstickers.

Julie & Me

We were all pretty tired after that, so we went back to the apartment.  Julie and I had told Krista we would head over to her house that evening for a get together she was having with friends from college and Devin was going to hang out with Colin and Austin for the night.

Julie and I braved the CTA by ourselves (for the second time ever!) and took the bus to Krista's.  We had to take two, and there was a 17 minute wait between the two and it was very cold and very windy, so we headed inside this little Mexican place that the bus stop was in front of called Tony's Burrito Mex.  We decided to get some chips & guacamole while we were waiting and it was probably the best decision either of us have ever made.  It was hands down the best guacamole I've ever tasted!


Krista's house was a lot of fun.  Liz, Julie, and I were all in the same boat, only knowing each other.  But Krista's friends were very nice and really easy to talk to.  We had a lot of fun.  Towards the end of the night, Julie and I cabbed it back to Austin's apartment.  Our cab driver was so friendly!  He told us his whole life story, which was very interesting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Windy City - Day 2

As usual, we didn't get the earliest start on Friday morning.  (I say as usual because that day actually set the precedent for lazy mornings.)  Austin's friend Devin had spent the night at that apartment, so he joined us when we set out for breakfast at Cozy Corner Diner & Pancake House.

Julie & Austin

Me & Colin

Devin, Me, & Colin

Breakfast was so delicious.  I had French toast (which I never have), eggs, bacon, hash browns, and cranberry juice.  It was a fairly small place and extremely busy, so we were basically kicked out when we finished eating because there were so many people waiting.  Devin had to part ways with us after breakfast, so the four of us headed downtown to conquer Navy Pier.

Me & Austin

Colin & Julie

It was just a hop and skip away (okay, a train and a bus), but we made it to the huge tourist hit quite easily.  Friday was easily the windiest day while we were there, and it wasn't helped by the fact that our plans took us to the shores of Lake Michigan.  We walked around inside for quite sometime, looking at the different shops and just messing around.

There was a cool toy convention being set up for Saturday that we got take a sneak peek at.  That probably would have been fun to go to.  Anyway, we may or may not have broken a few rules and gone up onto a balcony that we probably weren't supposed to be on.  It got even windier up there, but it was a great view of Chicago!

Austin & Julie

Me & Julie

Austin & Me

Colin & Austin
(See how windy it was!)

Colin & Me

Before getting caught, we went back down to areas we were allowed to be in.  We walked out to the end of the pier.  However, we didn't spend much time there due to the wind.

Me, Julie, Austin, & Colin

Me & Julie
(A Navy Pier Tradition, see here.)

My friend Krista had recently moved to Chicago and our friend Liz from high school was out visiting her the same weekend, so we decided to meet up with them at one of Austin's favorite Mexican joints for dinner.  This place was a little more complicated to get to, but it was worth it.  It's called Allende and is basically just a hole in the wall.  Julie and I split a cheese quesadilla and a steak burrito and it was so good!  (Too bad the quesadillas were so small.)

After dinner, Austin invited the girls back to his apartment to hang out.  Surprise, surprise, we ended up playing cards.  We played some Phase 10, but those games always last forever so we decided to do the first four phases, then the last.  I won!  After that, we played Perpetual Commotion again.  I'm pretty sure Colin won, but he was also the only one that had played before.  I then taught Julie, Krista, and Liz one of my favorite games, Sixes, in which Krista dominated.  And we finally ended up playing a game that everyone had a different name for and I can't remember a single one!  Interestingly enough, Liz was on a streak of bad luck or something because she didn't do well at any of the games.  And they're all just luck!  But that's okay, it was fun.  (And later she admitted that was one of the highlights of the weekend.)

Liz, Krista, & Me

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Windy City - Day 1

I landed at Midway Airport on Thursday afternoon and was immediately greeted by my friend Austin.  We hopped on the orange line to go to the loop, then transferred to the train that goes to Austin's neighborhood.  Back at his apartment, we met up with Julie and Colin who had pancakes waiting for us.  Yum!

We hung out for a while and I got settled in.  Julie and Colin both flew in on Wednesday night, so they had already been there a while.  Austin's friend from school, Devin, met us at the apartment before we all headed out to go downtown.

We went to the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College.  It's free and we were able to wander around and look at some really cool photographs.  The most interesting on featured photographs of scenes of the 78 homicides that took place in Chicago between October 28, 2010 and January 15, 2011.  The photos were arranged in chronological order to reflect the Chicago skyline.  It was interesting, but it was also very depressing.

Mini Chicago

Julie, Devin, Colin, Austin

After that, we headed over to Starbucks and met up with one of Julie's friends from high school that actually studies photography at Columbia College.  Small world!  Starbucks was having a buy one, get one deal between 2:00 and 5:00 everyday for their three holiday drinks.  (Bummer for me because I don't drink coffee.)

Julie & Austin

We hung out there for quite a while, just chatting.  Devin had to go meet some people across town and then Spencer (Julie's friend) left to do school work.  The four of us took the train to a famous restaurant in Chicago, but stopped at a seven-floor Sports Authority so Julie and Colin could look at jackets and gloves.

Portillo's was just down the street from Sports Authority, so it was perfect.  They have great hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta, and salads.  Plus they have the world famous cake shake.  It's literally a vanilla milkshake with a piece of chocolate cake shoved into it.  Heaven!  The food was so good too.  Julie got this dish that was like Noodle's pesto cavatappi on steroids.  Delicious!

Me & Julie

Austin & Colin

We were all basically in a food coma after that.  A cake shake will do that to someone, even if you split it with someone.  So we stopped at Walgreen's to pick up Phase 10 and then went back to Austin's apartment.  Tensions rose during our friendly card game, and eventually Devin showed up with a new game, Perpetual Commotion.  That was a crazy good time!

And it took us all the way to 2:00 in the morning.  After that, we just hung out and got ready for bed.  It was definitely a long day for me, about 21 hours long!  But it was so much fun.  I was so glad to be hanging out with friends in Chicago, one of my favorite cities!