Based in Houston, Texas, GEV is a blog by The GreenEyed Venuist. Her posts explore travel and photography through her green eyes.

Weekend Adventures: The Windy City and other Chicago Fun

Back when I had a best friend that lived in Chicago, I visited her about 2 times a year. As a result, I've made friends and had some great times there. But when my friend moved...I didn't have a reason to return, until last weekend. 

Rewind for a sec: Sometimes...I just feel the need to get the heck out of town. The feeling usually creeps in monthly. So, I was perusing flight deals like I normally do and Southwest Airlines was having one of their infamous sales (like they're having right now until 5/7/15). Long story short, my flight to Chicago was about $11 and some change (with the help of my accumulated miles). *insert praise break here*

Little did I know, the weekend we selected to visit the Windy City was also NFL Draft weekend, the weekend of the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight and a host of other events in Chicago. 

So on Friday morning....I haphazardly tossed clothing into a suitcase, went to the office and then spent the entire day staring at the clock....wishing that the time would fast forward to 9pm, departure time.

We landed and got to the Hyatt Regency Chicago, blocks away from Lake Shore Drive. Literally right in the heart of of downtown Chicago, this hotel was stunning and huge and just an overall really nice experience. My friend managed to find us a relatively inexpensive rate for the weekend, given that there were so many things happening that could have driven the prices up. 

Danielle checked us in, gave us a nice room with a view of the lake and offered us some suggestions of where to go for the evening. It was a little after midnight so she suggested Hubbard Street for the night life experience. We were too tired (read: too old) to put on a whole lot of rouge and stilettos....so we freshened up and headed out to feel out the city. The views were impressive, as you can see, and you know me...I love a street scene. 

But first...a selfie...lol

So, once we got over taking pics of the river, we crossed at Michigan Avenue and came across this statute. A bust of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a black pioneer trader and the founder of the settlement that later became Chicago. To read more about him, click the link but there's a history lesson for you all.  

Oh yeah, remember I mentioned it was NFL Draft weekend? Well, in the square in front of the Chicago Tribune and across from the Wrigley Building, there were rows of huge helmets, each one representing the 32 teams in the NFL. OF COURSE, we went right to the Texans helmet! Unfortunately, then and the next morning, we seemed to be the only Texans fans for miles....but that's alright. Go Texans!

So, we made our way down to Hubbard Street, where we were surrounded by bars and clubs and the street was teeming with what appeared to be the residents of every frat and sorority house in town. Not really our scene but whatever. We walked and observed....saw a few people who had not quite learned their limits...a few other get carted away in ambulances....an overall rowdy, partially clothed, Sixth Street-esque, drunken good time for my college aged self...but not my current aged self who would have likely rushed home, wrapped my hair and swan dived into my bed on a regular Friday evening in Houston. So we just walked and judged and walked some more. 

We stopped for pizza and headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately, on our journey back we encountered a few sketchy characters....one who appeared to be a pimp trying to recruit me for his squad, one whose attempt to sell us a mix tape quickly became an effort to ask my friend for her number and another gentleman who decided to risk his entire life by reaching his hand out to grab a hand full of my nether region....if you catch my drift. I guess its a good thing he didn't actually make contact.....a swift swat at the hand salvaged my dignity (silver lining)....but as I replay the scenario in my head...I know that there's a strong possibility that I would have reverted back to my old, don't give an eff self and delivered an butt whooping that would make him afraid to use that hand ever again in his life. Glad that didn't happen folks....real glad. Makes for a good, hilarious memory though....and that's what it's all about right? Viva la story!

Anyway, on the way back, the moon struck a pose for me so I had to oblige it. 

The next day we rose way earlier than we should have to get out of the room and see the sites. In all the times I've been to Chicago, I've never seen any of the major tourist attractions. It literally could not have been a more beautiful day for it. Sun shining, cool breeze off the lake and probably every Chicagoan was out on the street, just thrilled to have some sunshine in their lives. So first, we walked to Navy Pier. On the way, we kinda had to pass by the helmets again so here they are in the day time.

Wait! Lemme show you all the tulips! I am a sucker for a tulip. Of course I didn't really gain an appreciation for them until I was taking a train from Amsterdam to a city whose name I can't remember to meet my friend while I was crashing one of her work trips (<----that was a long sentence). There were tulip farms all along the train's route through The Netherlands...tulips in every color imaginable as far as the eye could see with tall, impressive windmills scattered between...just like the scenes you see in pictures. So now....i'm totally in love with tulips. We were so enamored by Chicago's tulips...I stopped so many times to take pics. I couldn't help myself...I had to capture the vibrant colors. It's interesting, the Chicagoans have differing opinions about the decision to garnish the city with these magnificent flowers...but I enjoyed it. 

I really like this man playing the piano on the wall.....random, I know.

By the time we got to Navy Pier...we were starving. We stopped for lunch under a blue umbrella and afterwards....a churro and an adult snow cone (which contained a shot of Smirnoff's watermelon vodka - the whole time I was thinking....the person that invited this delicious concoction is a genius). I really like this blue umbrella photo. I had put my phone on the table for a second with the camera app opened to reach into my purse. I looked up and saw this and snapped it!

And here are some shots of an under construction Navy Pier:

Idk what those flowers were...but I love them.

Lemme tell ya'll something.....about 6 years ago, I passed the Texas Bar Exam. My friend passed at the same time I did. This weekend happened to memorialize that day almost exactly. So as I sat on a bench in Navy Pier, with a red snow cone in my hand (filled with vodka), the sun shining on my pale face, and the beautiful water in front of me,  thebreeze blowing through my hair...I had a moment and I had to stop and just Thank God for bringing me through. For making all this a possibility. For allowing me the means to travel and tell ya'll about it, for my life, for my family and friends....short praise break on the pier....that's right. You have to be grateful for your blessings....b/c they aren't owed to you, feel me?

I gathered my life and we walked over to Millennium Park from Navy Pier. We walked everywhere! According to my iPhone app, we walked nearly 30,000 steps...no wonder my feet feel like I've been hiking on gravel barefoot for 10 days.

Also, idk what these trees are....maybe they're cherry blossoms....and secretly I'm hoping they are b/c one of my many dreams in life is to get to DC and then Tokyo to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Whatever they are, they took my breath away. My fav is the second one...I caught a lady carrying her baby under the trees while their branches stretched out from either side of the path barely touching at the top.......I love that silhouette. 

Then we saw Cloud Gate, fondly referred to as the bean, the tourist magnet. We fought through the crowds to get our obligatory pics and to marvel at the weird effects of the mirrors on the inside of the structure. 

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the reflection of the skyline in the bean.....so I'm leaving both of those pics right there....

By now, we had walked so far that we just decided to keep walking. We went into the Chicago Art Institute....and realized that just beyond that, in Grant Park, was the NFL Draft Town.

Again....I love the Texans...win or lose, although I reaaaally wish they'd win more. We found the Texans tent (shrine to JJ Watt) was disrespectfully placed at the way back of the line of other teams tents...only to find that again, the Texans were being poorly represented in Chicago (shocker). Some ballsy Saints fans were in there sucking up the air and taking up space....hmph (jk I eff with the Saints too):

 We wandered around a little more and headed out:

But not before we saw the fountain from the Married with Children.

And this lady....idk who she is but I like that she's got everyone's attention. 

We get back to the hotel and I had a chance to catch up with a friend I grew up with here in Houston. We hadn't seen each other since our high school days but it was great cathing up with him and hearing about his life and his work...he's doing amazing things and I think that's noteworthy. 

I went back up to the room to find my friend buried in covers, head wrapped with pajamas on....some real old lady ish. But...no shade b/c I quickly joined her and we laid down for an epic nap. 3 hours later we were up and at 'em for some delicious Chicago style deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's . The wait was long but the pizza was worth it. 

Then we frolicked over to a Mayweather/Pacquiao Watch party at NYCH Gallery. My friend happened upon this event on the Instagrams and we decided to try it out. It was a cute gallery in the South Loop area of Chicago. We also met the guy who owned the gallery...I can't remember his name but very cool dude. Check the link for more information and make sure you visit whenever you're in town. 

We met a cool group of guys that bore a striking resemblance to the St. Lunatics....and went over to Greektown for some food and laughs. We poured ourselves into bed shortly after 3am.....and like my man Ice Cube would say, today was a good day. 

The next morning we had brunch at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. When you go here...be prepared for a 1.5 hour long wait....or more. I got a chance to see my beautiful friend Sola....who I had not seen in over 4 years....and one of Fallon's friends and her daughter joined us as well. The food was on point...but, to my dismay, they did not serve alcohol so no mimosas for me...a travesty lol. And yes...those are banana cream pie pancakes with chocolate syrup.....lawd. 

I meandered around stores while my friend shopped....b/c I hate shopping but didn't want to deprive her of the Magnificent Mile experience lol. 

Then it was time to take it on to the airport and return to our normal lives. Chicago, you don't owe me a darn thing....well played. 

A great, random weekend getaway can really refresh your entire spirit. I know a change of venue renews my outlook on things...and recharges me for the days ahead. We do it for the story, the memories,the laughs and good times....those are the things that we cherish forever. It had been a while since me and my friend had traveled alone together and it we were overdue......long overdue. 

Here's to future random weekend excursions....and my next adventure in Australia! 

~GEV

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