Frozen Fingers, Frozen Toes -The Windy City-Day 1

 January 2013
Frozen Fingers & Frozen Toes in the Windy City- Day 1
Chicago, IL





Chicago, IL

Day 1
A quick getaway was in the cards and Chicago was on my bucket list for the longest time. So the bags are packed- thankfully with my down coat and warm boots! Anytime is beautiful in Chicago but winter adds another layer of clothes and challenges. Although I may have been a bit whiny about the sub zero temps, the Chicago folks are not! They seem to hardly notice but, of course, they are so bundled up you can hardly see their faces. North Face must make a bundle here!

OK- no more whining-


My friend Gisela who is brave enough to drive to JFK airport NYC, picks me up at my door at 4AM and we are off. There is no traffic so its a breeze to speed over the Outerbridge Crossing in Staten Island. No problems on the Verrazano Bridge in NY either. We reach the parking garage within an hour and they shuttle us off to the airport for out flight on Jet Blue. Which by the way was quite a deal. $69 bucks each way! We are in the air at 7:15 AM reading our travel books and before you know it we are in the Windy City!

( BTW- Do you know why it’s called the Windy City? It’s not because of the wind-
“If you had always assumed that Chicago earned its nickname as the Windy City from the chilly gusts coming off Lake Michigan, you would be wrong. The city is windy, according to most local legends, because of the hot air bellowing from politicians.” )

So- we land and the pilot announces that the temp in the Windy City is ONE degree!

I nearly have heart failure but good thing I did not- needed the energy for the six block icy walk to the hotel.



If you want to save time and money, take the subway Blue Line to Jackson Station and then the Red line to Chicago Station from the airport. It’s about 45 minutes or so. And will take only $2.25 from your wallet as opposed to over $50 for a cab. But, if you are with rich famous people, a cab would be fine.

Our hotel, the Residence Inn on Magnificent Mile rocks! It especially rocks since I used my Marriott points and so it cost me nothing to stay for 3 nights! And to top it off, our room is ready at 10:30 AM! (normally a wait is in order till 4pm) I needed to thaw out since my fingers nearly fell off on way to the hotel. And yes, I had gloves on.

Since we bought a Metro Card at the airport- $20 for 3 days- Gisela and I are set and ready to head downtown. We take the #147 bus and decide on lunch and a much needed adult beverage at the famous Millers Tavern. A 1925 establishment that has great food and of course famous T-shirts.

Welcome to Miller’s Pub


After much nourishment, we are ready to ride the famous LOOP elevated rail around the downtown area. It’s a good way to get a feel for Chicago. We see Grant Park where the Skating rink is. I am amazed that folks are actually flying around on skates in below zero temps!

grant park chicago

Next stop- we depart the subway and visit the famous Billy Goat Tavern:


Remember the Saturday Night Live Skit? Cheezburger, Cheezburger, Cheezburger? nl/

Lights out early tonight! (after a Cheezburger, of course)




Old Town, Chicago- Day 2


Old Town
Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

Not easy to wander the streets of Chicago when you fingers are falling off but we did manage to get to the Old Town Ale House, which of course, was on my to-do list. No question about it. A subway trip gets us there in no time. I would have loved to see more of Old Town (northern area) which is a great area to walk around, but that will have to wait till next time- in the summer!


However, the Ale House was not only famous – the La Premiere Dive Bar since 1958- but filled with walls and walls of paintings of political porn by local artist- Bruce Elliott . We lucked out too because he was sitting at the bar throwing down a cold beer!




As a lover of the Blues, there was no way I was leaving Chicago without filling my soul with my favorite music. Before leaving NJ, I stumbled across the Green Mill Jazz club. On Saturdays they had free shows at 3PM. No brainer. We arrive plenty early and it was a good thing since the place was nearly packed! I was assuming it would be a hole-in-the-wall with three guys in flannel shirts drinking Bud lights, but I was so wrong!


Gisela and I order a glass of wine and surprise- the show starts and it’s a comedy show of the finest kind. Very political, very funny and mostly devoid of Republicans, I believe. Learned a few new curse words too. Highly recommend for a good time. Funny ****.

After all this, we are in need of food to fill our bellies. Of course we have no desire to eat normal food that we can get anywhere so upon a recommendation from the nice girl at the subway stop who looked up directions for us on her IPhone, we go to her favorite place, which happens to be right across the street!
Demera- an Ethiopian restaurant. What a treat! we order Messob and it so tasty. Spicy veggies and meats that you pick up with some type of bread to eat and your fingers. No forks necessary.


As I am quite stuffed, a walk back to the subway is in the plan and we are off again for the finale of the night. Awesome LIVE Blues at the “Blue Chicago”on Clark Street in River North. Real Blues, real people who connect with the audience. Yup, this is what I came to Chicago for and this club did not disappoint!
Check out the website and listen to the blues!



Crash into bed at 12:30 AM..It’s still cold outside!

Time for Art in Chicago- Day 3

Time for Art!
Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

After another hearty, delicious , free breakfast at the Marriott, we are off and out in the cold once again. We take the bus to the Art Institute of Chicago. A nice ride down Magnificent Mile. It is open at 10 am and we are there shortly afterwards. (One small hiccup, however, nearly ruins the day. Gisela discovers that her wallet is missing from her bag- a quick taxi ride back to the hotel saves the day. It had fallen out of her bag while we used the lobby computer! Thankfully, it was still on the chair and the day was saved!)


The museum was outstanding! Lots of great lighted space, amazing artwork and sculptures. Great gift shop too, of course- Must always check out the gift shops! We were even allowed to take photographs which surprised me. Be sure to put this museum on your bucket list. Well worth it.



Once again, in need of food and drink, and since we are close, we decide to walk back to the Billy Goat Tavern. Geez- something about old historic funky places, I guess that we can’t ignore. Or was it those famous hot dogs? I also cannot resist the famous Billy Goat T-Shirts, so I get three so a few special guys I know.

On the way we are finally able to take a few photos since the temp has climbed to about 20 degrees and I can actually now push the button on my camera without too much discomfort. We pass Grant Park, the skating rink, some cool sculpture’s the fabulous architecture and of course the famous Bean! A photo opp is absolutely a must! Incase you don’t know the Bean is a metallic sculpture that reflects the Chicago skyline. Awesome.

the bean chicago



Another short bus trip and we are walking in the side entrance of the John Hancock Observatory. We are told by a wise woman on the bus to go up to the 96th floor and have a drink at the restaurant/bar instead of going in the front door and paying an entrance fee. Of course, you must buy a drink there. No brainer. The view is beyond spectacular! Since we arrived at 500 pm, we got the best of both worlds- daylight and nightfall. A perfect combo. We have a 360 degree view of the windy city while we sip a cabernet. The distant views are breathtaking. We can see for miles and miles. (don’t seem to be able to spot New Jersey though!) Even the ladies room had floor length windows -( another wise tip from the bus lady)


It’s very hard to leave our little perfect table near huge glass windows, but alas, we must. The night is young and there is more Chicago to explore.
Last stop of the evening- a subway ride to, of course, another blues club! How could we not?
This time it’s the Kingston Mines. Found it in the guide book. Very cool, Very blue.
We hit the sack at 11:30 dreaming of the sights and sounds of our last night in Chicago.

Tomorrow is another day.




Is it day 4 already?

Is it day 4 already?
Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

Boo- Hoo….We will be on a plane back to reality late tonight. But, in the meantime, there is still time to wander and see some more of Chicago!.
Today after another great breakfast (gotta love the Marriott), Gisela and I are off to check out the art galleries in the River North section. This time we walk since its not that far from out hotel. It is, however, still friggin frezzing! (but who is complaining? lol)


So, now there is good news and bad news. The bad news (should always get that out of the way first IMOP) most of the art galleries are CLOSED on Mondays! Who knew? None of the guide books nor the front desk at the Marriott mention anything about this. This was a huge bummer, since I was really looking forward to it, and being the girl scout that I am, I always do my homework. Somehow, this got lost somewhere. But, the good news was that we did get to see a few and also checked out a very cool Paper Store in the area. Lots of creative ideas to float about in my head!

Next stop the Chicago Cultural Center. Never thought it would be so amazing! This should have been the first stop on Day One. It’s not only a place to view great art but also there are tons of information on what to do and see in Chicago. Even the ceiling here was a piece of art! A must see if you go to the Windy City.


Finally, I must bid farewell to Chicago (until my next visit in the summer!) but before we take the train to the plane, we stop once again for a great brew and lunch at Miller’s Pub. It seems only fitting and full circle. I have all my brochures ready for next time and I can’t wait.