As I mentioned last week, a staycation wasn’t exactly the vacation my friend Lindsey and I had originally planned. As much fun as a long weekend with sun and sand would have been, I think we both agreed that a weekend in the Windy City (maybe we should start calling it the Windy Freezing Wintry Mixing Chilly City?) was a big success.
The staycation weekend kicked off with a delicious lunch at Eataly Chicago. The first description I heard of Eataly was that it was almost like an Italian theme park; and from that moment, I was sold. It looks like the owner of a department store was in the mood to reinvent the store but was also ravenous, so he built this monstrous collection of the finest Italians foods. We enjoyed looking around at the vegetables, desserts, panini (it’s plural already, so no need to write “paninis”), pizzas, pastas, meats, wine, and more.
I enjoyed a delicious neopolitan pizza — my favorite kind! — a thin, mushy center with a soft, chewy crust; Lindsey enjoyed her penne rigata alla norma.
And for dessert — oh, the desserts. I could move in to this place and live on the desserts. Lindsey had soft-serve gelato (I’d never seen that before) and I had a croissant with Nutella from the Nutella station. Can you believe it — a Nutella station? It’s as if someone called ahead and tipped this place off that I’d be coming in.
What weekend in Chicago would be complete without a bit of culture? We decided to spend some time in this beautiful museum — and with our student IDs (thank you, Spertus!) and Illinois IDs, it was only $12 for each of us. We enjoyed the modern wing as well as the older, more famous pieces. And then, we went to my favorite part — the gift shop!
For dinner, we went to one of my favorites — the Bourgeois Pig. It’s a cute restaurant in Lincoln Park that has a side for sandwiches and breakfast items and a side for coffee and cookies (but don’t worry, you can go from side to side). Whenever I go there, I feel sophisticated and straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald book.
The Bourgeois Pig led me to a life philosophy: If a restaurant advertises a “quiche of the day,” don’t ask questions. Just order the quiche of the day. At the Bourgeois Pig, it’s usually some kind of spinach or broccoli cheese (I’m very upset when it’s some kind of ham) and it’s delicious.
It’s not every day that I get first-hand proof that I was born in the wrong decade. But when watching plays like “Million Dollar Quartet,” I realize that the music of the ’90s and today — as great as Taylor Swift and Backstreet Boys are — is just not like it used to be. In Million Dollar Quartet, playing at the Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park, we got to watch a live jam session featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It reminded me a lot of “Jersey Boys” — I knew the songs before, but this really made them come to life. We walked out tapping our toes and I don’t know that I’ll ever get “Great Balls of Fire” out of my head. It was a great end to a fantastic Thursday.
We began our Friday with a walking tour of the pedway system — the underground area that runs through much of downtown Chicago. We learned about the pedway and about Chicago in general. What do the four stars on Chicago’s flag mean? Why were location and transportation so important to Chicago’s history? How many people died in the Chicago Fire? Who were Lafayette and Joliet? Go on this tour for yourself to get the answers to these and many more questions, plus see some great buildings and secret passageways you never knew existed.
Lindsey and I were so engrossed in the tour that we forgot to take a picture while on the tour, but here’s one of us afterward.
After the walking tour, we went to relax in a sensory deprivation tank. No need to bore you with this one again; if you missed it last week, read all about our time in the tanks here.
Our staycation came to a close on Saturday night when we went to the ballet. I had never been to a ballet before, so I was prepared either to love it or to use it as good napping time. It turns out, a bit to my surprise, that I loved it. The dancers performed Aladdin, but not that one. It was the original tale from Arabian Nights, where there’s no Jafar and no Jasmine, but instead a Maghreb and Princess Badroulbadour. The story is a bit different, there’s no talking bird, and there’s no toe-tapping rendition of “Friend Like Me,” but there is a flying carpet, which was pretty cool. With the help of the synopsis in the Playbill, we were able to understand the story and watch the dancers move gracefully in their beautiful costumes. I wonder why my dancing career never really took off.
And with our student IDs, tickets were only $15 each (again, thanks, Spertus!). I could even see myself doing it again sometime.
It was an incredible two and a half days — full of food, art, dance, history, culture, and relaxation. Lindsey, thanks for being a great co-staycationer; can’t wait to do it again!