Posts tagged Chicago
My wife and I wanted to get out of town for a few days, and thought my birthday weekend would be a good opportunity. Now that we knew the when, we had to decide the where.
Last year my wife came along with me when I went to Chicago for a frequent flyers seminar put on by some of the experts from FlyerTalk. We were staying at an O’Hare hotel, but took the train to downtown Chicago one afternoon, saw some of the sites and ate some great pizza. We had such a good time that we decided the Windy City would be a perfect destination for us.
I began the planning process and found one problem with our choice of dates: the NATO summit was taking place in Chicago at the same time we’d be there. That might not only make it difficult for us to find a room at a downtown hotel, but there would also be thousands of protestors,, street marches, etc. We had enough of that in Rome last year and did not want to deal with it again. so we moved the trip back a week, arriving in Chicago the day after the end of the Summit.
We had an easy trip from Austin to Chicago, taking a non-stop flight that departed at 11:30 a.m. This was my first trip after earning Executive Platinum Status, my wife and I were both upgraded to first class. We had an uneventful flight (uneventful = good!) to O’Hare where we took a van to our hotel, the Chicago Wyndham, located downtown, just a block from Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile.
Although I had no elite status with Wyndham they treated us well, giving us a room on the 16th floor looking out on downtown.
I’ve seen some reviews of the property on TripAdvisor where people complain about the hospital next door and the noise from the ambulances. All I can say to these people is that if they want a room with no noise, don’t stay in downtown Chicago. The noise of cars, trucks, and sometimes ambulances is constant — that’s what happens when you stay downtown in the middle of one of the world’s great cities. After the first night, we did not even notice the noise any more.
A Corner Bakery Café was located across the street from the hotel, and provided a n easy source to affordable food.
The location of our hotel could not have been better. We were one block from Michigan Avenue, just a few blocks from the John Hancock Tower, and walking distance to the Navy Pier.
We visited the Hancock Tower on our first day. The views are stunning.
We were fortunate to visit the Hancock Tower on a day with clear skies and breathtaking views. My goal, on our next visit, is to be in the tower at sunset and then see all the lights of the city come on.
We soon left the tower and took advantage of the wonderful weather to walk along Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile.
That evening we went to dinner at Gioradano’s Pizza. Chicago is justifiably famous for its pizza, and Giordano’s is an excellent practitioner of the art. Chicago has two major styles of pizza: deep dish and stuffed crust. While the former is good, we much prefer the latter.
The pizza at Giordano’s is delicious but very filling. We ordered their smallest pie, it came with six slices. Between the two of us we were able to eat three. The rest came back to the room and into the refrigerator. They were great leftovers the following day.
The next day we took an Architecture History Cruise of Chicago. This 90 minute cruise along the Chicago River highlighted the many architectural styles of the buildings along the river. That may be interesting to some, but not to us. We simply enjoyed a nice cruise around town on a beautiful day.
After the cruise we visited the Navy Pier for dinner then returned to the hotel.
Our final day in Chicago was a quiet one. We visited Millennium Park to see the Bean.
We also had the chance to visit the Crown Fountain, which consist of two 50 foot towers, each covered with LEDs, which make is possible for them to display images of people’s faces.
We waled back to our hotel along Michigan Avenue. The NATO Summit Conference had taken place in Chicago a week earlier, but there we still saw reminders of the conference.
We got back to the hotel and started to pack for our departure the next day.
We got up early the next morning, ate breakfast at the Corner Café, then checked out. We took the advice of the concierge — he told us it would cost less to take a cab to O’Hare than to pay for two tickets on the Shuttle and he was right. The cab was $5 less than the two Shuttle tickets had been, and were were not crowded into a van that had to make stops at several hotels along the way.
We arrived at O’Hare, checked in, and then spent a few hours at the Admirals Club before boarding our 4:00 flight to Austin.
We were both upgraded to first for the flight on an MD-80. We would not arrive in Austin until after 6 p.m., so I assumed we would get a meal in first class, but I was wrong. We were served beverages, heated nuts, and a cookie. It was not the meal I hoed for, but was certainly better than anything we woudl have gotten in Coach.
We landed in Austin on time and as we got off the plane I left one of my bags in the overhead bin and did not realize this until after I had left the terminal. Fortunately, great service from the AA staff in Austin helped me to get my bag back promptly.
All in all, our trip to Chicago was a lot of fun. We agreed that our time in Chicago was much more pleasant and less hectic than our trip to Rome the year before. We’d be very happy to visit Chicago again, as long as it is not in the middle of winter. If you are looking for a city that is fun, easy to get to, lots of public transportation, and many fabulous sites, take a look at Chicago. You’ll be glad you did!
The two-day conference in Chicago went very well. I learned a lot and made many great contacts.
On my last night in town I walked the short distance to Millennium Park, site of President Obama’s victory speech last November. I wanted to see one of the most intriguing sights in the park, the Cloud Gate on the AT&T Plaza. Thanks to its kidney-bean shape, many simply refer to it as “The Bean.”
By the way, I used my new Palm Pre cell phone to take all of the photos in this story; I am amazed at how sharp they are!
The structure is 66-feet long by 33-feet high and weighs 110 tons. According to the website, “The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city’s famous skyline and the clouds above. A 12-foot-high arch provides a “gate” to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives.”
The Bean is, as you can see, highly reflective. Given Millenium Park’s proximity to Lake Michigan, seagulls can be seen everywhere, sometimes landing on top of the Bean. It is such an unusual structure that I laughed at the thought of the first seagull telling the other birds “You know, I think we can land on that thing!”
I walked across the street to The Tavern at The Park. The weather was so mild that I chose a table outside. I was not very hungry so I settled for an appetizer.
The food was great, the weather was wonderful: I even met a young man at the table next to mine who had graduated from the University of Texas and was anxious to return to Austin. He seemed to prefer our 68 days of triple digit temperatures and ongoing drought this summer to doing another Chicago winter; I can’t say that I would disagree with that choice.I walked back to the hotel, enjoying the mild weather, and looking forward to a good night’s sleep before my flight home the next day.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that I rarely, if ever, have the chance to travel for business. Virtually all of my airline miles have come from my own trips and mileage runs. Given that, it’s a pleasure to say I just returned from a rare business trip, four days in Chicago to attend a conference.
Making the travel arrangements was easy; the corporate travel agent agreed to let me fly American Airlines to Chicago (ORD) due to their good fare. but, for some reason, limited me to non-stop travel, AUS-ORD. When I asked about flying through DFW, the answer was a very blunt “no.” So, I didn’t even bother to ask for the routing that a Twitter friend suggested, Austin to Chicago via Tokyo. Oh well.
My flight departed Austin at 1:10 p.m., quite a pleasant change from all the 6 a.m. departures I’ve had on my mileage runs. My first-class upgrade came through; while I ended up with the bulkhead seat it still beat sitting in coach. Since I was in first I even got a hot lunch. We landed in Chicago at 3, and by 4:30 I was at my hotel.
The conference management recommended the Club Quarters at Michigan and East Wacker and got us a good rate, so I booked that. I had looked at staying at a Starwood property, but the closest Sheraton was a bit too far a walk for me to the conference location, so the Club Quarters won. The location just off of Michigan Avenue helped a lot too. It’s an unusual hotel: from the outside it looks like it was originally constructed as an office building that was later converted to a hotel. The rooms were not very large, but featured a microwave, refrigerator, and free Wi-Fi, so I was pretty pleased with it. The best part of the room was the spectacular view.
I took all of these photos with my new Palm Pre cell phone. I am very impressed by its excellent camera; I even left my digital camera at home.
Once I unpacked, I headed for my favorite Chicago restaurant — Giordano’s Pizza, home of the famous stuffed pizza. There are two schools of thought on Chicago pizza: some prefer the deep dish served at Pizzeria Uno and Due, and I have to admit it is very tasty. But when all is said, and done Giordano’s stuffed pizza is my favorite.
Not surprisingly the Chicago weather was mild, much cooler than the triple digit temperatures we had been experiencing in Texas, so grabbed my jacket as I set out for dinner. I knew there was a Giordano’s on Rush Street, just across the river from where I was staying, but that was not even a consideration that evening. Michigan Avenue was closed for several blocks for Oprah Winfrey’s 24th anniversary show, an event that brought more than 20,000 people to the giant stage built in the middle of Michigan Avenue. I did not want to battle that crowd, so I went in the other direction to Giordano’s location at the Prudential Center. Thankfully, I didn’t even have to wait for a table!
I should have eaten only half of the mushrooms, but they were sooooo goooood! And then they brought my pizza. I had ordered the Tropic Delight featuring cheese, Candian Bacon, and Pineapple.
I had not eaten at Giordano’s for a few years, and had forgotten what a daunting task it can be. I can easily eat a 10-inch pizza here in Texas. But the 10-inch at Giordano’s had so much food that it was much more than I could handle.
I didn’t eat it all, but I certainly enjoyed what I ate. While there are many pizza places in Texas, I have not yet found one to compare to authentic Chicago-style pizza. I walked out of Giordano’s completely stuffed with a big smile on my face, and returned to my hotel.
The two-day Social Media conference, organized by Ragan Communications, began the next morning.There were several valuable presentations, and I am now following several new friends on Twitter.
More to follow…