Sunday, 6 November 2011

Resuming the Chicago Story...

Friday morning I awoke bright and early and snuck out without waking my two roomies. I headed out in the direction of the Mag. Mile once more, but ostensibly not for shopping; this time it was sightseeing. There are fabulous buildings a-plenty in Chicago, apparently due to the fact that the city all but burnt down in the late nineteenth century. One of the most famous is the Chicago Tribune building that has stones embedded in its walls from many monuments around the world - apparently the owner of the Tribune newspaper instructed his reporters to bring/send them back when they were overseas (not sure if this was done legally or whether they snuck up to edificies such as the Great Pyramid at Giza under cover of darkness with a chisel and mallet?!)
There's also an enormous and, dare I say, tacky statue of Marilyn Monroe in that 'infamous' pose which gives lots and lots and lots of people the chance to have their photo taken looking up her skirt. I'm not sure why it's there since she was born and died in LA. Does anyone know the Chicago-Marilyn connection? Am I missing something really obvious?
My sightseeing continued over the other side of the river as I walked through the Loop district, heading for Macy's - a girl has to shop in between all the sightseeing. I was very excited to see the El trains trundling round the overhead tracks, it was just like a scene from ER! My Macy's pitstop lasted longer than I expected due, in most part, to the fact their Christmas Dept had just opened, and I LOVE me some Christmas. Obviously I had to buy a few deccies, including this mega tasteful one. After Macy's I headed for the Chicago Cultural Center to check out the world's largest Tiffany glass dome; it was lovely to see, but actually I thought some of the other parts of the building were just as stunning, if not more so.
After a quick stop to use the free internet in the center, it was over the road and into Millennium Park to see "The Bean" (aka the Cloud Gate sculpture by Anish Kapoor.) Apparently when first suggested, the idea wasn't very popular but since it was unveiled it has been admired and visited by tourists and locals alike. It makes for some great photos, with the city's buildings reflected and distorted in its surface. And you can take self portraits - look, there's me with the Macy's bag!

After all that walking (and shopping) it was time to head back to the hotel for a little bit of R&R, before I headed out to dinner at Pizzeria Uno, one of several pizzerias in the city that claims to have invented the Chicago pizza pie. I had a mushroom and spinach version(please excuse dreadful photo - no flash on my iPhone) which I would probably have enjoyed a whole lot more if I hadn't eaten an entire side order of mozarella sticks before the pizza arrived... So I had them box it for me and I enjoyed the leftovers later! Can you tell I was making the most of that unfill I'd had just a couple of days before?!

And then it was time for the part we'd all be waiting for - the formal get-together! I must admit to being a little overwhelmed with the hugs and tears that were going on around me, but it was great to see so many blog faces in one room and to finally get to meet so many of the ladies about whose weightloss journey I have read/am still reading. Here are our fabulous B00B organisers talking us through the weekend plans and what-not.We were all presented with a fantastic B00Bs-branded tote bag, filled with great gifts from sponsors (apologies for photos being on their sides, I just can't get them to flip round - grr!) I'm still making my way through the protein bars, but finished off the Pirate's Booty and Jenny Craig 'crisps' while in NYC - they were good. I was also lucky enough to win a Hydros bottle and a few extras as part of a raffle.

Afterwards we headed out to a karaoke bar which was VERY popular and busy; some of us left after one drink in order to find somewhere quieter where we could sit and chat over a Baileys and ice. And that was the end of Friday.
Saturday I wasn't up quite so early, but still early enough as I'd arranged to meet Tina in Starbucks at 9.30am so we could enjoy a day of shopping and sightseeing together. We pretty much followed the same route I'd taken on the Friday, with a walk along the Mag. Mile, over the river and into Millennium Park, where this time I got my photo snapped in front of The Bean.

This time I also got to see the Crown Fountain which I'd missed the day before; this installation features two 50-foot high towers which project video images of Chicago citizens with water spouting from their "mouths".After that it was across the road to the Art Institute of Chicago shop (not cultured enough to do the Institue itself!) and then on to the Chicago Artchitecture Foundation shop, is there a theme developing here? Then finally we found the place we had been headed for all along - a knitting shop - Loopy Yarns. I bought a great pattern book for knitting an Afghan blanket, which I might get round to opening one day...
After all that walking and shopping it was time for lunch - pulled pork sandwich with onion rings and fries (I couldn't/didn't eat the bun, nor many of the fries, so I knew my band was still in there somewhere!)Shopping and eating, eating and shopping. Seems about all I did when I was in Chicago...

Oh, and then there was time for just one last shop which combined those twin loves of eating and shopping - the Hershey store; not for the Hershey chocolate which I think is foul, but for the Reeses's peanut butter confections. OMG, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Reese's peanut butter cups, and even more than that I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Reese's peanut butter chocolate bars. I bought three and I've got half of one left, even though I've tried to ration it. I really need to get back to the USA soon!

In the evening it was time to head out for dinner to Texas de Brazil, a Churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse). I'm not a big meat-eater, so I went for the all-you-can-eat salad bar option. (Did anyone else see the irony in a group of bandsters going to an all-you-can-eat restaurant?!) There was sooooo much to choose from (50+ dishes, apparently) and I'm kind of sad that I only visited the salad bar once. Look at my plate: there was chicken salad, bacon, artichoke hearts, potato salad, mozarella balls, asparagus spears, haloumi, sushi, prawns.

Here's Tina and I looking happy about the food (although our mojitos were a bit ropey).

And here's a few shots of some general mingling and chatting that was going on before we sat down to eat.

Check out Draz's shoes!!

After dinner we headed back to the hotel lounge for a pyjama party - there are a lot more flavours of Ben & Jerry's available in the USA! And that was pretty much the end of my trip to Chicago.
And when I checked my bag in at the airport for my flight to NYC, look what got attached to it.
I wonder why??!!