Ahh…silence. We’ve been struggling through naps lately (teething? Wonder Week? All the effects from travel finally rearing their ugly head?) Who knows. In any case, we are still at 3 naps a day and every one of them has been a struggle this past week. I don’t blame her. September was a crazy month for us: Omaha to see Nick’s family, Chicago for the orthopedic conference, and California to see my family. And oh yeah, we just returned from a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip to Southern Utah to visit Arches National Park (more on that in a future post). There were a few days of rest between every trip to recuperate but with all the constant motion and disruption to her routine, I totally get why Miss Ara’s sleeping is all over the place. She’s been a great traveler nonetheless and it’s been so fun to show her all these places and go on these adventures with her. I figure now’s the time to take advantage before she becomes mobile and traveling gets more challenging!
I love Chicago. If it weren’t the ornery wintertime weather, it would be the perfect city. We were there over five days and four nights for Nick to attend an orthopedic foot/ankle conference and we decided to tag along. Poor Nick had to be in conference most of the time, so Ara and I had most of the days to ourselves. Though our time was somewhat limited, we made the most of it by scheduling a playdate with dear friends, visiting old coworkers, and exploring old favorite haunts in the city, such as the Bean, Millenium Park and the Art Institute. This being a city that is always changing, we also made new discoveries such as Oz Park and Eataly. Here were a few highlights!
We zipped downtown after landing at O’Hare and arrived at our hotel. Nick left for the conference and Ara and I set off to explore Eataly Chicago, an AMAZING Italian food emporium that is 63,000 sq ft chock-full of gourmet goodies and food markets. I was overwhelmed from the very beginning, there is so much to see and taste in there. If this were open while we were living in Chicago, we would be in huge trouble! Seriously, go there if you have the chance. Two words: Nutella bar. After ordering a panini and purchasing a few truffles from the pasticerria, we set off for Michigan Avenue to window shop before dinner. Dinner, of course, was deep dish Chicago-style pizza at Giordano’s!
Sidenote: the hotel crib looked like a jail cell so Miss Ara spent the nights in our king-size hotel bed. So there was a lot of this going on. How do people sleep when they cosleep?
Ara and I took a morning walk along the Chicago River and Wacker Drive to look at all the pretty architectural sights. Next on the agenda was Millenium Park, my absolute favorite part of the city! After all, there’s Cloudgate (the Bean) where it’s always fun to see how people interact with it (selfies selfies selfies) and Pritzker Pavilion where I have a lot of fond memories of summer concerts and picnics on the grass. For the 10th anniversary of Crown Fountain in the park, there was a Jaume Plensa exhibition called 1004 Portraits which was pretty neat to see up close. Everyone takes photos of the white portrait, but I found the three earth-toned ones compelling in their arrangement.
Nick was done for the day by then and so we set out on a hunt for giardiniera (a must, we love adding this to our sandwiches and can only find it in Chicago!), and dinner at our favorite wine bar, Quartino. Sitting on the bustling patio while old Italian movies played in the background brought back great memories of so many evenings spent there and it was fun to see Ara take it all in.
I was so excited for Sunday because we were going to have a playdate with Missy and my good girlfriends in Oz Park in the Lincoln Park neighborhood! We all first met each other in our old Chicago office and bonded quickly. We were all in our mid-twenties then and single or dating. Now everyone is married and most of us have young kids. I can’t believe how quickly the time flies. These ladies were and are my rocks, the best support group, and I never laugh so hard than when I’m with them. I really really love these women. Missy, we missed you!
At the end of the day, Ara and I met with Nick for drinks at the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock tower! It was where we got engaged. Ara charmed everyone in the elevators and of course, I had to take a photo from the women’s lounge (the best view in Chicago).
A visit to the old office where nothing has changed and yet everyone there seems new. (SLI people, you know the drill) Next, a visit to P.O.S.H., my favorite home store in Chicago where it seems as if you have just stepped into a Parisian flea market. Among my purchases: a darling nesting doll set for Ara, an engraved vintage silver soup spoon (I pick one up every time we visit), and a brass ring for me.
Later that evening, we had a great dinner at the Little Goat in the newly trendy West Loop area with our friends, Beth and John. It’s an offshoot from the Girl and the Goat but more kid-friendly and still chic if you can call a diner chic! It has only been six years since we’ve left Chicago, but their dining scene is constantly changing and constantly good. I do miss the food here!
Our last day here so we made it count. The Art Institute was the first place I had ever visited in Chicago and there was a Magritte exhibit currently onsite. A world-class museum with a world-class exhibit, I was not going to pass this up! We got up early and set out to get in line.
Of course, that was the perfect time for a diaper blow out. Sniff, sniff. Uh oh. We braved the ticket line with poopy pants (I was NOT going to give up our space), and hiked it to the family bathroom where I discovered to my horror that the spare outfit in the bag was nowhere to be found. It was gone. GONE. Luckily, we had stopped in Zara before the museum opened, and I had bought Ara leggings, one size bigger for fall. Nick’s mom also gave Ara a cute hoodie beforehand which I had in the bag in case it got cold. Boom. Lifesavers. We didn’t look at all coordinated but at least we were clean. After a good fifteen minutes of sweating and silently cursing my diaper bag negligence, we were finally ready to see the exhibit. Only to discover that the museum is not the most handicap friendly so we were racing to find elevators to fit the stroller. We reached the exhibit a half hour later, panting (me) and slightly traumatized from the experience and started to go through the dimly lit and hushed galleries. Ara then decided she had had it by then with the carseat and so I scooped her up, balancing her on one arm while pushing the stroller with the other, and raced through the exhibit before she really started to wail. Ok, I forgot how quiet museums were. Or at least, the special exhibits- probably because people are intent on really experiencing the art that is in their midst so temporarily. Let me just say, I barely remember anything we saw but can confidently say that Magritte was one surreal Surrealist and museum experiences are not quite the same. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: traveling with an infant is a game changer. But we made it and are already looking forward to our next adventure! With spare outfits!