Falling in love with Chicago

Let’s preface this by admitting that my rose-tinted experience of Chicago was largely formed by having no expectations of the city, and one crazy night out after a Chicago Cubs game with a very lovely young man.

… and too much Budweiser.

Our US trip was based around New York, leaving everything else completely open. We had a week to play with, which meant visiting 3 cities that weren’t too far away from there.

How did Chicago end up on the list? A picture of The Bean on our company’s social media page was enough for me to suggest it. I assume the boys knew more about how great the city was before it became our first destination.

We arrived in Chicago after a 5am wake up in London. The plane gave was a throwback to the 90’s, with a communal aisle screen and a bizarre (loved it) cardboard snackbox for lunch. Fortunately we were only awake for an hour of the flight, so entertained ourselves by ditching the headphones and improvising the script to Karate Kid out loud.

We must have been so annoying.

I’d been nervous of flying in to Chicago, and admit the landing itself was reminiscent of what Wellington can deliver on a windy day. The view was  good distraction though, and it only lasted all of 30 seconds.

photo-28-05-2016-22-00-08We picked up my brother in the customs line before jumping on the longest train of my life – straight in to the Memorial Day parade. Good timing, right? New camera slung around my neck, I attempted to get photos of the troops and flags everywhere.

However, the only photo of guns I got was courtesy of the guy in front of me. Not pictured.

I managed to grab a few shots of the parade, including that of a stereotypical American school bus, which sums up the parade. Very pro-war. The first and only time I really noticed this.

p1000024The only way around the parade was to duck underground and through the subway system, which is where I had my photo taken by some creep. I was oblivious until the boys mentioned it on our way back out. He was also taking photos of young teenage girls.

Cool guy.

Bags were dropped off at the hotel, and we were straight back out in search of food.P1000027Turns out we have a 6th sense for good eating spots.

First meal in Chicago was my first ever brisket. I was encouraged by the waitstaff to dunk the whole thing in the beer gravy that accompanied it. Later found it was National Brisket Day.

We went back to the same place for brunch the next day. Could have been to do with the all-day mimosas and their version of an iced coffee with coffee stout. Sounds weird, tasted brilliant. We were heartbroken to find it has been a one-off thing the day before.

Bring it back.A quick trip to the bathroom revealed a pretty serious VPL issue with my leggings, so it was back to the hotel to shower and grab fresh clothes. Turns out I was destined to end up in the same pair of denim shorts for the whole trip.

Not bothered.

P1000043

P1000046P1000040We walked around downtown before checking out The Bean and Millennium Park to get some photos. It was ball-sweatingly hot out so we didn’t stick around for long.

p1000071p1000055p1000069Time for me to enjoy myself down Michigan Avenue with some well deserved shopping and a general look around after that. It reminded me of 3rd St in Santa Monica, with all of the same stores in a nice little row down one street. The shopping wasn’t half bad.

As much as I whinged about spending all of 5 minutes as my friend looked for sunglasses, I ended up with my best purchase ever after rifling through the sales section in Nordstrom. The best part was probably that I now had something to wear in the heat that wasn’t my denim shorts.

Inevitably, I ended up with some item of clothing from my time in each state I visited during this trip to the US. Does that count as a souvenir?

photo-28-05-16-11-58-07-pmp1000077After that we all needed a drink. ‘Cos don’t we bloody always need a drink?

The slow shuffle down Navy Pier was exactly what the doctor ordered given the heat. As it finally started to cool down, a breeze picked up and we took an evening stroll down the pier and back to soak it all in.

Pretty bloody lovely evening, really.

p1000108photo-29-05-16-2-24-01-amphoto-29-05-16-2-11-20-amI mean… how could you not enjoy that view?

photo-29-05-16-2-30-36-amPulling ourselves away from the distraction, stomachs were rumbling. There was a particular grumble from our token alcoholic who insisted he was dying of thirst and got us to agree to head to the next bar. From memory, someone googled something and we arrived at after being picked up by an uber driver who talked to us about deep dish the entire car ride.

Chicken wings. Beers. Bed. 28 hours on day one had finally taken its toll.

Back to our favourite spot and a warm reception from the wait staff. After explaining where we were from, we decided to soak up the sun outside. A bit off butt sweat and a hangover doesn’t stop us. Breakfast mimosas and sriracha prawns set me straight, as did a quick catch up with our American friends who we squeezed on to the table.

Time to see the game!

I stayed back once outside the stadium, and almost lost my friends while buying a Cubs baseball cap. Mostly because the sun terrifies me. We had standing seats so we tried to head upstairs to see better and got told off multiple times by multiple security guards. They totally let me take a few photos first though… the perks of being a friendly Kiwi.

We even got peanuts after our American friends realised I’d never had them. A-ma-zing. Not sure I’m OK with littering peanut shells all over the stand though…

p1000131p1000146We snuck out early as the Cubs were so far ahead that the game got a tad boring. This was after running all the way up the front of the stands to watch the game. I managed to run right in to the band playing at some point too.

Deer in headlights moment. A prime spot to watch though.

p1000142Once we left the game, we met up with friends-of-friends who had nabbed a table outside by the pool at a nearby bar. It took me roughly one beer to decide to sit on the edge of the pool, fortunately I never fell in. There are photos of this, Facebook friends.

Buckets of Budweiser are always a great idea. Even the beer snob was chucking them back.

p1000147photo-29-05-16-10-46-21-pmWe moved on to a dive bar afterwards for G&T’s which were all gin. Then, suddenly, I was winning a game of darts and flexing my muscles at the Foosball table. Not a great winner, a pretty obnoxious winner actually.

That’s when I decided to disappear with a bunch of strangers and missed out on deep dish pizza. I’m such a liability after a few drinks. The events of the night go downhill a bit here. Drunk Sam had reared her head and was running wild.

Despite my own friends being just around the corner, and saying I was leaving the bar to rejoin them roughly 16 times, I never actually did. I was having way too much fun.

Then, their very attractive friend turned up. We were outdoors with music playing at some point, and I still had my camera slung around my neck. I was also starving and ended up trying to subtly bite some of the powder-sugar-dough-ball-heaven that one of the new boys had bought… while he had it in his hand. Fortunately, I got away with it.

p1000154p1000156We listened to the music going on, but ended up in yet another bar. This is where I very blatantly targeted Mr America who had shoulders which were at least double the width of mine. He was even in a white tshirt and Levi’s. I mean, c’mon!

.. and then the best thing ever happened. They drove me around in the world’s biggest truck.

From (limited) memory, I chilled out at their house before heading back out with Mr America for even more beers. Fair to say I had a hell of a hangover the next day. He’s still referenced as the love of my life. Fair to say I would do it all again.

The boys weren’t even worried about me going rogue all night.

p1000163We caught up with our friends in the morning as I mourned the loss of my deep dish pizza experience due to general inebriation. I downed about 2 pints of apple juice and attempted to eat my eggs before realising I was too nauseous to eat.

Hugs goodbye, and we went to go pick up the rental car to head to Nashville.

I’ll be back for that deep dish, Chicago.

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