I know it's a little late, but I have a bunch of pictures to share from my recent trip to Chicago to meet up with Antoine (a week and a half ago). Let me just say, I adore Chicago. It's a big city, without feeling overwhelming. And there's so much to see and do. Plus, a certain someone I adore happens to work there during the week. Well, actually, Antoine works about 20 minutes north of Chicago in Deerfield. So, the trip was a combination of suburban activities and downtown sightseeing.
I drove up on Friday, and about half way there ran into a major accident that had shut down the entire northbound part of the highway. This tacked an extra half hour onto my drive, following a detour down backroads, behind semis. Not fun. But then I was was on the road again, full speed. And I made it all the way to Chicago city limits before I hit a massive traffic jam. Apparently, EVERYONE was leaving the city as I was arriving. So, what should have been a 15-20 minute drive to Deerfield ended up being almost an hour and a half. Needless to say, when I finally got there I was both excited to see Antoine and relieved to be out of the car. Oh, did I mention I only made two VERY brief pit stops on the way up (and NONE on the way back home!!!), yeah! Luckily, the schedule for Friday night was super relaxed. Per my request, we made a run to Jamba Juice (yum!) and took a little walk around the fancy-schmancy square where it was located. Then we headed to Lou Malnattis for some Chicago-style pizza, which was, as always, delicious. It totally hit the stop. The rest of the evening we watched tv and relaxed in Antoine's mammoth sized hotel room. Seriously, that dude is SPOILED while he's on-site consulting!
The next morning we leisurely got ready and checked out, so we could head over to Paradise Pup at 11am, just as they were opening up. Antoine had told me that this place was supposed to have the best burger in Chicago and he'd been several times and thought it was pretty rad. The burger was pretty good (no Terry's Turf Club), but what really got me was the Merkts cheddar sauce and their peanut butter, banana and honey milkshake (a special that day). Wowza! So good. After a delicious lunch, we made out way to the Lincoln Park area, just north of downtown. We had plans to check out the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory, both of which neither of us had ever been to...even though both are completely FREE!
Now, I'm not usually a "zoo person". I don't like the idea of animals in cages their entire life. Plus, I have a tendency to be cheap and zoos cost too much money, considering I don't like the concept. But when I was looking up things for us to do while I was in town, I came across the LP Zoo. All the reviews I read were really positive, plus it was free! So, why not!?
I was actually surprised by how great the zoo was. Considering it was free and all, I wasn't expecting much. But the grounds were lush and beautifully landscaped, there were a wide variety of animals (the only one area that was really lacking was the penguin exhibit), and there were tons of people, mostly families, out enjoying the beautiful weather. One of the best parts though, is that you just walk in like it's just part of the park. And you can bring in outside food with you! I saw several people throughout the park/zoo having picnics on benches and green spaces.
As we were walking I noticed a big gated entrance/exit (by the rhinoceroses) and just outside it was the LP Conservatory. The Conservatory was fairly small, but had a nice selection...including some gorgeous water lilies and oversized lily pads (just as you walked in) and, my personal favorite, orchids.
Unfortunately, about a half hour after we left the Conservatory and headed back to the zoo the skies opened up and it started pouring down rain. It came out of nowhere, and we, like everyone else, were completely unprepared. Of course, we had an umbrella in the car, but that was more than a half mile away. We attempted to hide under some trees for a bit, but then we said "screw it" and walked back to our car. By the time we got there, we were soaked through and beyond ready to check into our hotel downtown.
Stay tuned tomorrow for another Chicago recap.