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Traveling, Cooking, Reading, and Trains

Chicago Visit Dates: December 27 & 28, 2018

Our Illinois visit was starting to wind down: Santa had come and we had played every card and board game and read every new book. We wanted to spice things up. So, we made a hotel reservation in downtown for the night of December 27. The hotel was on Wacker Drive just across the the Chicago River from the Marina Towers. These pair of cylindrical buildings look like corn cobs with the balcony roofs comprising the corn kernels. Although the buildings were smack dab across the river from us I neglected to take a picture. You can see a number of images on this link.

We had more people than would fit in the car and we wanted to take the grandkids on the train back to Riverside the next day. So Henriët, Carla and the boys drove down to the Shedd Aquarium while Andrew and I would meet them after an errand he had to run. We planned to walk about 1/2 mile to the nearest EL Blue Line from his appointment.

We did not plan well. The temperature was in the mid 30’s with a stiff wind and heavy rain. Add to that Chicago Land is not pedestrian friendly. My umbrella broke and we got plenty wet. The El platform has heated spaces between October and March so that was nice. After arriving downtown we caught an Uber to the Shedd Aquarium. When we arrived we realized – “oh school is out and the weather is terrible; everyone and their kid brother will be at the Aquarium”. After standing in line for over 30 minutes we bought tickets and headed inside.

The little kids were terrific; the crowds didn’t bother them; they loved looking at the exhibits which include sharks and Beluga whales. The cafeteria was crowded but we found a table and replenished our energy. I totally expected a meltdown or two but the kids were busy enjoying the excitement. I started to realize that I had finally caught Cornelius’ cold – I had a scratchy throat and runny nose. I took a lesson from the kids and carried on.

Later in the afternoon we all headed to the hotel. The kids and grandkids drove over while Carla and I took a Lyft. Oh my did the kids love the hotel. They jumped up on the wide window sill and looked down at the buildings, river, boats, cars, and people. Our rooms were adjacent so we could wave to each other from our bay windows. Then the kids heard the magic word “swim” and jumped into their swim suits and headed to the hotel pool.

After their frolic in the pool it was getting close to dinner time so we headed out. The weather had improved – colder but drier – so we walked to Vapiano – a nice Chicago chain of Italian restaurants. Their ordering method is different from any I’d seen before. As you walk in, each diner gets a card that looks like a credit card. You then go to various stations to order and swipe your card. At the end you hand the cashier the card(s) and settle the bill. I had a nice Italian meat sauce. Very good.

Pasta with meat sauce at Vapiano. Chicago

Hungry, tired, and napless the kids continued to be champs throughout dinner and on the walk back to the hotel. Carla and I slept well but apparently the kids are restless sleepers so Andrew and Henriët didn’t fare as well. That was a bummer; I totally thought they’d get a good rest.

After breakfast the next morning we decided to head back to Riverside. Carla and I strolled along the Chicago River Walk in a light breeze and a hint of snow while the others drove to Union Station. We saw some great architecture along the way. With that “V” shaped foundation I have no idea how this building stands up. I’d be nervous if my office was there.

Constructing buildings along the Chicago River is a challenge. We saw a barge-mounted crane at a building site.

Barge mounted crane on the Chicago River

After dropping Andrew and the kids off at Union Station Henriët drove back home.

The train station was still decked out for Christmas. The big Christmas tree was decorated with the emblems of past and current railroads that stopped in Chicago.

Howard in front of the Union Station Christmas Tree in Chicago

See that emblem I’m standing in front of? Yep, the Santa Fe railroad.

Old Santa Fe logo on the Christmas tree at Chcago’s Union Station.

The kids enjoyed the train trip home. Henriët picked them up while Carla and I walked back.

We had a great time but were glad to be going back home. Carla and I packed up and got ready for our early morning flight home. Andrew was sweet enough to take us to O’Hare. It was an early flight. We got home before 10:00. Even with a time change it was early.

I figured I’d catch a cold on this trip but seeing Jurgen and Cornelius take in the wonders of Christmas made it all worth while. It was the most magical Christmas we’ve had since our kids were that age.

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