“Hiiiii… Shane was it? Hi Shane. My name is Vikki Humphrey, and I hold a Visa card with your company. Yah, well, I’m on vacation, and I could reeeeally use a credit limit increase…”
You can always judge a great vacation by how much money you blow. I had a really, really great vacation :P
Jeff, myself, and a couple friends headed down to Chicago this past weekend for Canadian Thanksgiving to visit with a fellow, relocated Canadian. I knew the weekend would be a blast, just based on the company I would be keeping, but I never imagined I would fall so in love with a city that I otherwise would have never explored.
The first endeavour we took on was the river and lake architecture boat tour. Definitely no regrets. With a river running through the city, towering sky scrapers, and a harbour front reminiscent of those in Nova Scotia, I felt like I was in a million places all at once. It was very nostalgic and awe inspiring.
The architecture in Chicago is INSANE! The old world styles mixed with innovative and sometimes sci-fi looking buildings was pure eye-candy, and all the eras seemed to gel together to create a sky line that was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
THE BEAN! I was dying to see the bean (aka: the Cloud Gate Sculpture in Millennium Park), and it did not disappoint. If you only got to glance at Chicago for a split second, the best way to do it would be via the Bean. The reflective surface is designed to capture the whole Chicago skyline in one magnificent image, allowing you to take in a 180 degree view just by standing back and looking forward. It was also cool to get really close up and make silly faces into the convex and concave surfaces, kinda like the mirror house at the circus.
We landed in Chicago at the perfect time of year, in my opinion. Fall is beautiful most anywhere, but Chicago had that specific autumn splendor in spades. Although we were treated to above average temperatures, the streets were still leaf-covered, sun drenched, and decorated for the season.
Our biggest “excuse” for going to Chicago was to bring a proper Canadian Thanksgiving to our newly fake-yankee’d friend. Guess what? Fresh turkeys are HARD to come by a month before the host country is to celebrate their own Thanksgiving, so we had to settle for a couple fresh chickens. However, Jeff tried his hand at brining this year, and now none of us will likely be satisfied by anything less ever again. Moist and salty, and complimented by the fall harvest’s best veg, we were sufficiently suffonsified (Thanks Kyla ;) ). And what is a harvest table without a centerpiece!? Making due with that which can be found in a manly-man’s condo, I think I did pretty good.
OK. The shops (remember that credit limit increase?). I won’t go on about the scads of money I spent at superstores and bargain basements which we just don’t have here in Canada (for shame!), but I do have to share with you a couple of the ADORABLE places that were right within our host’s community.
This is Maude. Maude is ambassador and co-owner of Paper Doll, a stationary and gift store in the heart of Wicker Park. Maude and Stacy (also a co-owner, along with sister Kelly) were kind enough to show me around Paper Doll, revealing to me all the wonderful things that I was then SO tempted to buy. What I wanted to take away with me the most was Maude herself (as many of you know, I’m a pug fanatic), but as she is quite attached to her loving Paper Doll family, I was shown other ways to take the spirit of Maude home with me: Maude Pins (made for the shop’s upcoming 10 year anniversary), Maude tee’s, and even a Port-a-Pug, a paper Maude-like creation that is cute, cardboard, and convenient.
Paper Doll carries a plethora of indie-designed greeting cards and paper goods. The perfect place to pick up a Thank You card for a certain Chicagoan host.
Pins, figurines, candles, teas, and toys were just a few more things that I could have lined my shopping bags with, but I had to have some restraint. It’s one thing to get on hands and knees to photograph a stranger’s shop; it’s another to try to take all the stranger’s goods with you back through customs. However, if you would like to see more of the shop, and all that I had to leave behind, check out Paper Doll’s website here. If you’re in touch with them, tell Maude and Stacy I said hello, and give sweet Maude a puppy kiss for me. Pug breath lasts an hour, but pug love lasts a lifetime.
The next local shop I stumbled upon was Beadniks, the best damn bead shop I have ever been in! Woods, metals, stones, and feathers in every color can be found in this earthy, upbeat shop. But the best find at Beadniks was the staff. Lauren was a creative genius like no other, helping me craft an awesome set of Halloween earrings, and a great felt-bead necklace. I wish I could have stuck around to take in a week’s worth of Beadniks workshops, like “Booze and Beads” (YAY!) and “Fringe Benefits”, a class on making beaded earrings. Check them out here, and if you are a lucky devil who lives in Chicago, be sure to visit the shop up on Division Street.
And last, but NEVER-NO-NEVER-NOT least, Chicago. Deep. Dish. Pizza. Holy crap. Just look at that cheese! This might be the main reason for me not to live in Chicago; I’d weigh a million pounds. Jeff and I were determined to have at least one slice of proper Chi-town Deep Dish before we left, so after coyly asking a valet attendant where to find the best of the best, we found ourselves on the steps of Giordano’s. You know when slang leaves your mouth in the most organic of ways while immersed in a particular culture? Well, I actually said “Mama Mia!” while eating this pizza without realizing it. I could go on ad nauseum about this amazing, decadent creation, but really, words just can not describe. Check out Giordano’s website here, but know that if you do, you’ll just be all the more likely to buy a plane ticket to Chicago just so that you too can have the cheesy, euphoric experience.
And that was Chicago. The most beautiful city I’ve ever been in, and one I intend to return to again and again. It swept me off my feet, tantalized all of my senses, and left me breathless, broke, and begging for more… pizza that is. :)