Subscribe RSS

Archive for November, 2009

Something else to do in Chicago Nov 30

Chicago’s a good place to do a lot of touristy stuff. (How’s that for a generalization?)  The loop is built near enough to the shore of Lake Michigan that the lake shore has pretty much always been a nice area, and it is lined with museums, parks, expensive high rises, and public beaches. One of those museums is the Art Institute of Chicago. If you don’t like art, this huge building will be really boring, because it has a lot of art in it, ranging from an area where children are encouraged to touch things, to original paintings you see in all the art textbooks, with electronic barriers to keep you from touching them. (They look just like what you see in a good art book, except a lot of them are a larger.) A room full of fancy paperweights. Another room of miniatures—think extremely detailed and accurate doll-house rooms. Art from many cultures and periods of history. Art in all sizes. Sensible, realistic items (chairs); weird, nonsensical items (other chairs). Pictures of architecture. Architectural models. Illustration and ornamentation. Folk art.  Statues. Musical instruments. And in the whole place I saw only one Pre-Raphaelite painting, which tiny Delaware has a magnificent collection of in its art museum. It felt like The Music Man’s one and only bass.

If you like art, you’ll love it. How can I possibly show a representative picture of a place like this? Here’s a link to the place: Art Institute of Chicago.

What kind of art do you like? Where do you go to look at it? Comment and share.

Something to do in Chicago Nov 29

You can visit relatives for Thanksgiving, of course, but you can’t eat turkey all the time. If you’ve never been to the windy city, you’ll find plenty of things to do. The secret to really visiting a place is to ferret out the out-of-the-way places that the locals know about but the tourists miss.

One such place in Chicago is a grocery store. I suppose every big city has its really interesting grocery store, and Chicago’s is the Fox and Obel food market. They wouldn’t let me take a picture of the interior, but here’s a rendering of the outside on their web site:

One of three entrances

One of three entrances

Proximity to places like this is a good reason to live in a big city. They have a small restaurant/ neighborhood hangout (breakfast, lunch, and supper); they do catering; and their inventory is the most scrumptious selection of cheeses, meats, fresh produce, candy, and exotic goodies you won’t find anywhere else. French foot-long marshmallows, tea in pyramidal tulle (I think it’s tulle) bags, cheeses with unpronounceable names, grass-fed organic beef aged on site, $175 vinegar (no lie—it’s so old that half has evaporated though the wax seal), not to mention ready-made foods fit for a gourmet, and fresh baked goods from the kitchen, said kitchen visible through large glass windows. And the people behind the counters are experts, eager to talk about their products, and generous with the samples. Worth the trip just to shop there.

Do you have a favorite grocer? Tell us about it in the comments.

Try not to get lost Nov 26

One of the rules for going on a road trip is not to get lost. We had the prospect of driving more than 12 hours from the east coast to Chicago, in the rain, on the day before Thanksgiving, during the morning rush at our starting point, and during the evening rush at the destination. Sounds like fun, eh?

Get a GPS! Carry an atlas for backup. Our GPS served us well; we drove straight to the goal without a hiccup. Yes, the weather was miserable, yes we ate mainly junk while we were on the road. Yes the trip consumed three tanks of gas.

But yes, we were relaxed: We had plenty of time for the trip (we didn’t tell them when we would arrive), and we swapped driving chores agreeably. She likes to have me read to her while she drives, and I like to read aloud. Makes the hours and miles go quickly, and we polish off a book in the process. And I remembered to take an anti-car-sickness pill.

They were glad to see us when we arrived. What could be better?

Preparing for a road trip Nov 25

Rule 1: Don’t do too many things the day before you leave. Save the day for packing, clean up the house a bit, and head out a little ahead of schedule in a nice, relaxed frame of mind. And what planet does this happen on? I butchered and cleaned a dozen turkeys and eight pheasants (no lie) at a farm about an hour away. We had to finish the laundry. Relatives came to stay the week—they are going to hold Thanksgiving dinner for the kids and a dozen extended family while we are gone. Oh yes. The turkey is for our neighbors (best neighbors in the world) instead of for ourselves because the relatives cooking the turkey (that’s another set of relatives besides the ones staying the week) live out of town and they didn’t want to cook a turkey in a strange kitchen, so they’re cooking one at their place and bringing it down. (Imagine that! Passing up a farm-grown hand-picked turkey for a familiar kitchen!) Then there’s loading up the truck with the furniture we’re delivering. I measured and it’ll just fit. And we had at least three student-age person-activity deliveries, and a trip to the grocer. Didn’t get to the feed store to pick up feed for the chickens, so I gave detailed instructions to our house guests on what to get. Oh yes—we have been working on some gifts to bring along, so we had to paint, then fire several pieces of porcelain in the kiln early enough so things could cool down before we packed them. We finally crashed about an hour past bedtime.

Rule 2. Get plenty of sleep the night before. Yeah, right.

Rule 3: Don’t worry if you leave later than planned. We had things pretty ready by the time we got to bed the night before, so we left only half an hour behind schedule, and felt pretty good about it. So we have this rule down in spades.

Rule 3: Don’t get lost. Watch the following posts to see how we fared.

One of the staff goes on a trip Nov 23

Think of it. A guy who’s in the travel business who actually went on a trip! (It’s not really that unusual. My dear sweet wife and I leave on a road trip Tomorrow, and you’ll learn all about it here in the next several posts.)

So here’s how his trip went:

The flight there and back was routine. Destination: the El San Juan hotel in Puerto Rico, right on the beach. Weather was perfect, the lobby was fantastic—constant party the whole time. (Or was that a party every night the whole time?) He says he’d go back in a heartbeat.

Not a word about time spent exercising on a treadmill, being bored, or not having enough to eat.

You ever been there? Drop us a note in the comments.