Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels "Home" to Chicago

So many interesting buildings in Chicago!
You tell me what we have here. I don't know.
My last two short trips before I left Utah were to big cities, Chicago and Denver. I went to both for kind of business reasons, but did my best to enjoy each. I didn't succeed in doing everything that I had in mind, but both trips had real highlights.

Chicago was first, in order to attend the annual meeting of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, my professional tribe for my lifetime. I became a lifetime member this year even because they put in a special category for us retired folks. Several people have asked why do I want to keep going to work related things now that I'm retired? Well, midwifery is, for me anyway, am identity or a calling, not just work that I did. I'll probably never practice midwifery again, but I am a midwife until the day I die.

We lived comfortable in the downtown Hilton this time.

Because the meeting is expensive (mostly the hotel) and no one else pays my way now, I can't go to this meeting every year (well probably not. I could if this were the only travel I did for a year). So I pick the year to go based mostly on location.

Chicago is kind of my  hometown. It's only 90 miles from Rockford, and I grew up going into Chicago for special things my whole childhood. O'Hare is the airport of choice for going home. However, I don't know the city well as an adult. I have seldom been a driver there. I don't have the geography in my mind vey well. I feel like a need guides when I go there.

So I got me one, a guide I mean. One of my very best friends from early childhood, my dear friend Ann. I attended her parent's wedding, actually, because my mom was the matron of honor and I was inside her uterus at the time. You can kind of see me sticking out a bit in the wedding photo.

Like many of my peers, Ann went to U of I for university, headed for Chicago for her first job, and she's still there. She had all the life events there ...marriage, motherhood, divorce, working, retirement.

She has a lovely small, renovated house in an older suburb which still has a sense of itself as a town. Her town has a nice downtown with shops and restaurants and plenty of things to do to help you create community. But it's right on one of the commuter rail lines, and getting down to the Loop is really simple. Ann did that her whole working life. She worked for the same really large corporation , one you will have heard of, most of her career, in one downtown skyscraper or another.

She knows the geography, is not intimidated by the number of cars, and most importantly, she has this spiffy parking app that finds her spaces and pays for them too.

I had an afternoon and evening to spend with Ann before going to the meeting. I asked her if maybe we could take one of these boat tours specifically designed to look at and learn about the architecture. There are several different companies that offer these tours, but I think Ann selected the best one, done by a non-profit organization, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). This organization's purpose is "to inspire people to discover why design matters" which I think is a very good purpose. They work to save certain old buildings and places, but most of their work involves education .... about architecture, Chicago itself and design of course. If you go to Chicago, and want to take one of the boat tours, head right to this one. It's the best.
Near the end of the tour when we were real close to going out
in Lake Michigan - but we stayed on the river and turned around.

Why? Well, the docent of course. She had to undergo extensive training by the CAF, and as a result she was able to talk non stop for 90  minutes with all kinds of facts, and stories in her head, and she was able to be charming and entertaining at the same time. (She would answer questions of course, but most of the trip she just kept talking and talking.) She knew all kinds of numbers (like exactly how tall in both feet and meters every building was, how many tons of whatever it took in the construction, when it was started and finished, what it cost at the time, etc. etc) and names (complete names of firms even if they had a rather large number). We just floated in the information as we floated up and down the river and kept looking up.

You can see all my photos here. As you see, it was a cloudy day. No rain really on the trip, but I was glad that I had some nice fleece and a hat and gloves, even though it was May.
The rooftop bar at the London House.
This is a great place to hang out on a cold rainy day.

The docent highly recommended that we go to a building called now London House, and take in the view from the rooftop bar. When we got off the boat, it was around 1630, and we needed a place to sit for awhile to see what we wanted to do for the rest of the evening. And also to catch up on our lives. So, going to a bar where we could get a great view of the city that was very close to where we disembarked sounded like a real good idea.

It was a superb idea. Do that too, when you find yourself in Chicago the next time. We visited the terrace, but it was cold and windy and even more dreary than earlier, so we spent most of the time indoors in a cozy nook in the bar. We started with wine only and talk. Then the server suggested that they had a really great menu of small plates. Would we like to try something? After a bit of debate (not much!) we said yes and decided this would be our supper.

OMG, the server was more than correct. The chef there is positively inspired. We had three small plates which proved to be more than enough for two of us for supper. the very best one was, of all things, the deviled eggs.
The crostini and the deviled eggs.
We also had some roasted asparagus with "lemon jam"

As you see, they are all different colors. they were supposed to be "eggs of the world" or something similar. Each had the white dyed with a colored food representative of a different part of the world, like green tea from Asia. Each was more delicious than the last. So, if you eat there, be sure to order that immediately.

We parted after that (well, we sat at the bar for over two hours talking. No one seemed to care.) And the next day I descended into the world of midwifery.

The problem that come up for me was that the next morning it began rain and essentially it kept raining the whole time I was there. I did not travel with good rain gear especially not shoes, and as a result I did not go out walking to any of the many great Chicago places that were right close to the hotel. No museums, no walk along the lakeside, no selfies with the big mirrored bean. I investigated the possibility of going to the newish national monument, Pullman, but the weather just put me off, and also I knew I would have to give up an afternoon to go there. Another time.

Chicago Botanic Garden is huge.
There are many formal spaces here
and a beautiful Japanese garden on an island.
And I have been before to the Chicago Botanic Garden. That too would have been at least a whole afternoon, maybe even longer, trip. Pullman and the botanic gardens are in opposite directions from where I was. And walking through gardens in the pouring rain? Not a great idea.

I ate all my meals inside the hotel. A lot of that had to do with the meetings schedule. Little time to go out and get a decent meal after or before events. And a fair number of meals were provided as part of the meeting.

BUT I did go out and find my yarn shop. It turned out that one was just a few blocks from the hotel, called Yarnify!. It's  a sweet little neighborhood shop with a good selection of basics and some special stuff too. Great helpful staff. Of course, a big table for sitting and knitting. I think there are bigger shops in the greater Chicagoland area, but this one is so close to the loop and well worth a stop.

Next year's annual meting will be in Savanah Georgia. I would actually like to go because that is a city I have been fascinated with for a long time. When I was in grade school we had an assignment for writing lessons or something where we had to write a letter to an Chamber Of Commerce in some city and ask for visitor information to be sent back. I wrote to Savanah Georgia. They were very gracious and sent me some real nice pamphlets which I treasured of years. I drove through Savanah once on my way from North Carolina to Orlando Florida, but I can't say I ever really got to go there. So I'm thinking about it. Maybe I could actually get out and about this time. They have a botanic garden, a national park, close access to the seashore, and at least two yarn shops. I might rethink this.

At Yarnify! in Chicago you can get this lovely
alpaca yarn made by a local artisan /farmer.
each skein has the name of the animal on the label.

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