Winter Weekend Getaway to Chicago

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Do you ever have one of those moments in your life where things feel so chaotic, you wish you could just get away for a weekend? You have? So did I. I had planned on visiting Chicago this month, but I was unsure if the timing would be alright between myself, my family, and my friend. Luckily, it seemed like this past weekend would be the perfect time to travel there as the prices of gasoline went down, January being the best month to travel with low prices for airline tickets, and overall the weather in Chicago just seemed so perfect (it did not snow or rain once while I was there).

I woke up at around 5:00AM and got to take a quick look at the sunrise - something that I really do not appreciate enough living in the West Coast and proceeded to go through my packed belongings to make sure I did not forget a single thing before heading out to the airport. While my flight was not until 10:00AM, I left my house around 8:00AM with the help of my friend Jason and we discussed about how our 20's have been treating us thus far. Him and I both have established that our 20's was not as glorious as we had dreamed it would have been when we were kids, but I guess a huge part of that is the fact that our economy has changed so drastically since then. After he had dropped me off, I had a sudden feeling of sickness in my stomach. Because I tend to get motion sickness, I ventured off to the Starbucks kiosk at John Wayne Airport to purchase a bottle of water to take my Dramamine with as well as a buttered croissant. One crumby mess later, my small snack helped eased my stomach pains and I proceeded to get in line to board the plane.

My flight was quite a smooth one to Chicago and despite having tried to fall asleep multiple times, I was constantly being awoken by the cries of the handful of infants that were traveling with me. I have nothing against children or crying babies - they are not used to flying so I definitely do not blame them. I did happen to sit next to one of the kindest elderly woman who told me to enjoy my 20's while I still can as it is considered a "golden age" to be exploring and not to be stressing. I took those kind words and advice with me throughout my entire mini vacation. My friend picked me up from the airport and we headed straight to the hotel so that I could check in and drop off my belongings.

As per Raffay's (my friend's friend) recommendation for a place to eat, my friend and I were too hungry to drive the distance to Del Seoul, that we settled for some wings and fries at Buffalo Joe's. I ordered the BBQ flavored wings and fries to share and my friend ordered mild sauce on his wings. Not only were the wings freshly made and fulfilling, but the waffle fries were great as well. The service was not exactly the best and the cheese dip for the fries nearly went solid. All in all, it was still decently good for my first meal and my hunger was satisfied.

After our meal, we decided that we wanted to watch a movie so we planned on renting a DVD from a local Redbox. In order to play the movie, we needed a DVD player so we stopped by my friend's house to pick up his PS4 before heading out for the evening.

Of the many trips I had taken to Chicago, I never had the opportunity to try out Insomnia Cookies, so my friend kindly drove to Lakeview where we also stopped by Halligan Bar for Long Island drinks and to catch a bit of the NBA game between the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. As for the cookies, we purchased a box of 4 (2 chocolate chips, 1 double chocolate, and 1 oatmeal) and to accompany the sweets 2 bottles of milk for the evening. We headed over to Jewel-Osco where we picked up Ted 2 as our movie of choice, some water and Mountain Dew, and proceeded to watch the movie/play Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 on the hotel's WiFi.


The next morning, I was ready to have myself a large breakfast so I requested that my friend and I visited Ann Sather. It is a cute and quaint restaurant that is known for their cinnamon rolls. I ordered the smoked salmon and dill omelet with a side of cinnamon rolls and roasted potato hash (every entree comes with two sides). My friend ordered eggs and sausages with the same sides as well. The food came out quickly and everything was absolutely delectable. Come with an empty stomach though, as I felt bad for not being able to finish my meal to its entirety.

To kill some time before the maids were to clean the hotel room, I had requested that my friend and I stop by Barnes and Noble so that I can finally purchase a planner. One of the things that keeps me organized is to physically write things down in a planner versus using my phone. I already have a bad habit of wanting to photograph every moment that I experience that I worry that I am too dependent of it. There were not many planners to choose from and I was stuck between not getting one and the Peanuts Moleskine planner. Before I decided not to get a planner, my friend quickly grabbed one and bought it for me thus providing me with a 2016 planner for me to organize my thoughts in. I must say, this planner pretty much speaks to me.

In the evening, my friend had to go to work so I busied myself with writing in my planner of the things that had happened as well as events in the future. When he came back from work, we decided to order food ahead of time so that we could pick it up on our way to Raffay's apartment for a game of Monopoly. Our restaurant of choice for the evening were burgers from Kuma's Too (a branch of Kuma's Corner) and I must say - these burgers are quite massive! I ordered the Iron Maiden and it was everything I had hoped the burger to be - juicy and delicious. Located next to Kuma's Too is the infamous Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant, something I have been meaning to try for ages. I think it will be on the list of places to try out next the next time I am in Chicago again. After three hours of Monopoly and calling it an evening with no real winner (my friend's assets outnumbered both Raffay's and mine), my friend and I left Raffay's apartment and headed to a local 7-Eleven to stock up on water and snacks for the hotel.

Friday was my only full day that I had with my friend so we decided to make the most of it. Luckily during my visit it happened to be the week of Chicago's Restaurant Week - a week full of three-hundred or so restaurants participating on prefix menu sets for customers who are not accustomed to posh establishments. My friend and I decided to go ahead and reserve a lunch spot at L. Woods Tap and Pine Lodge where we were met with more food than we could have ever handle. Because we were new to the establishment, we were welcomed with complimentary spicy glazed meatballs as an appetizer and my friend ordered BLT deviled eggs for me to try as I have never had deviled eggs before. Our Restaurant Week menu consisted of three courses: starter (I ordered the Caesar salad and he ordered the New England chowder), the main course (we both ordered the BBQ boneless pork ribs that came with a side of coleslaw, sweet potato fries, and corn pudding), and dessert that we had to pack to-go (he ordered the fudge cake and I ordered the key lime pie). All in all, it was a fantastic prefix meal and worth the price tag of $22/person.

After our filling lunch, we headed off to Downtown Chicago towards our reserved parking lot through the Park Whiz application. Finding parking in Downtown Chicago is tough as is, but finding an affordable one is even tougher. I highly recommend that if you are planning to drive around downtown that you should consider utilizing the Park Whiz app. The parking lot that my friend had reserved was located next to the Palmer House Hotel, where we decided to take a quick break at Starbucks for a hot chocolate and a vanilla latte. We chilled for a bit there and watched the official Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Awakening DLC trailer, where I laughed at the silliness that Treyarch brought to the ad. My friend and I walked over to the Millennium Park where we had planned to go ice skating at the McCormick-Tribune Ice Skating Rink. During my first attempt, I could not seem to get myself straighten up. Fortunately, the zamboni was scheduled to resurface the rink so my friend helped fasten my skates tighter so that my ankles would not wobble. I could have sworn I was not this bad at ice skating as I have been able to skate in the past, but I want to blame the blade of my skates for being bent for my inability to keep my ankles straight.

To save myself from the embarrassment and nearly swollen ankles, my friend and I called it quits early on the ice skating rink and we took a stroll around downtown. We passed up places like Nike's Michael Jordan store, Michael Jordan's Steak House, Uniqlo, Topshop, and Timberland. We crossed the bridge over the Chicago River and listened to the Radio One Chicago studio whilst heading to a surprise location that my friend wanted to take me to.

Eventually I noticed a building up ahead that read Water Tower Place and was welcomed by the warm interior of the mall. My friend had taken me to an indoor mall of stores that already had locations throughout downtown. It was quite slow for a Friday evening, but we both took a nice break before our dinner reservation at Cafe Spiaggia (that we later cancelled on the count of we were still full from lunch). For some reason, we had an urge to snack on something after passing multiple snack stores and my friend had suggested that I try out some frozen yogurt at Red Mango. As soon as we walked there we realized that it was located next to an Auntie Anne's and if you have read my blog in the past, you know that is a favorite of ours for their pretzel nuggets and dip and lemonade. We ordered a cup of mini pretzels with cheese and caramel dip before calling an Uber to head over to Lucky Strike.

A short Uber ride later, we stood outside of the AMC River East 21 theater with not a single movie that fancied our interests. We headed inside Lucky Strike where I lost two rounds of billiards against my friend. What can I say, the guy knows how to play!

Since my friend and I decided against going to our dinner reservations, we said our goodbyes to downtown and headed back towards the hotel to return our Redbox rental for another film as well as more water. With an hour left of room service available, we took it upon ourselves to dine in and watch our newly rented movie for my last night in Chicago. Our dinner was from the Jameson's Charhouse with a burger, fries, coleslaw and pickle and a bowl of chicken alfredo pasta.

On my last day in Chicago, we stayed in a bit as I had called the front desk to push my check out time for an extra hour so that we could get more sleep. We returned the film at Jewel-Osco and headed out to get a late breakfast/early lunch at Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club. It was a cute little restaurant located in North Park. I ordered a turkey club sandwich with a side of fries and my friend ordered the breakfast quiche and a side of roasted potato hash. It was a delicious meal and a perfect one to end off my trip to Chicago. We had a small failed trip to Jamba Juice (it ended up being permanently closed) and said our goodbyes at the O'Hare International Airport where I watched him drive away.

I managed to get to the airport an hour before my flight and got a bottled water and Madelines from Starbucks for the flight back home as well as WiFi to keep myself entertained through GogoAir (always purchase this before your flight so you are not being overcharged by the airline carrier). My flight back to California was a turbulence-filled one given that it was raining, but overall the trip made me miss Chicago. Until next time!

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