Friday, August 21, 2009


I spent many Christmas holidays as a kid wandering the halls of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which seemed (and still seems) like such a magical place. But our visits there were generally an in and out trip as we were there with about 15 family members of various levels of age and mobility and patience. After our visit and a trip to Ed Debevic's, it was back to Grandma's in Indiana. So I grew up feeling like I'd been to Chicago many times, but this last trip (for a work conference) proved that I really had never seen Chicago at all.

However, having been a fan of the show ER during its early years, you get this eerie false familiarity as you wait for the "El" train, knowing you've never done this before but you've heard and seen it so many times on TV.

I had a great time with many adventures, some of my favorite being a long train ride pilgramage to Oak Park, the home of one of my childhood heroes (once you've been to Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright becomes very heroic no matter how old you are). It was such an amazing sight to see an entire town transformed by the architectural visions of this one artist. Beautiful. I'll try and post some photos of the town later.

I decided one evening to head over to the Art Institute by foot and accidentally discovered something beautiful I'd never heard about: Millennium Park. When you read about it, you think, ho hum, city park. When you go there, you say, Frank Ghery outside auditorium with a free world music concert blasting with people dancing and picnicking in the grass out front? Huge public art everywhere? A huge garden composed of wild plants and wildflowers of the region? Right next to the Art Institute? Wha?? It was gorgeous. (skyline photo above taken from the garden). And the new wing of the AI was incredible. I went on the free Thursday night and it was intoxicating to be surrounded by a museum full of happy summertime art fans wandering through its halls.

I also did Chicago's food traditions justice. I had a steak sandwich submerged in juice (disgusting but so good), a visit to Frontera and their new fast food joint, Frontera Fresco, and had to make sure I got some chicago style pizza from Ginos East, for which I've been craving now for about, oh, 15 years. I even stumbled across a city farmer's market, so I was in farmer's market bliss seeing what it is they have out here on the farm in the midwest (in July: lots of Michigan cherries and peaches).

I was really, really impressed with Chicago. I just had no idea it had so much to offer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

4 trips, 1.5 months; I am tired

I am slowly approaching recovery from travel burnout. But the blog must go on! I've got photos to post! It's now early August, the cicadas are whirring along with the air conditioners. After dinner tonight, I sat on the side porch and enjoyed a bowl of melty raspberry sherbet while listening to the summer noises of basketballs and crickets and sprinklers and dogs. I leafed through a Gourmet magazine and thought, ahhh, I don't have to pack anything for this weekend!

I do have some lovely memories to share, however. So let's begin.
After the wonderful trip to Nantucket back in June, we had a quick weekend up in New Hampshire. This doesn't count as a trip because it is where we visit Mr. Right's family pretty regularly. We did, however, enjoy the sandcastle competition at Hampton Beach, which made the visit more vacationlike.

Then we were off to Virginia and Washington DC where Mr. Right's brother lives. I lived in DC for a year so I'm always happy to return to the area, as well as being that much closer to my homestate of PA. We drove the scenic route through the Cheasapeake bay peninsula, stopping in New Castle, DE for a rest break and learning about motor oil ice cream, and reading sign after sign promising us fireworks, peanuts and Virginia ham. We finally gave in to the hype and stopped for crabcakes here, at The Great Machipongo Clam Shack, where the crabcakes were every bit worth the small delay on arriving to see the much beloved cousins.

We pressed on for the remainder of the 11 hour drive, and arrived in beautiful Chesapeake just in time for Independence Day and much joyful reunion. The morning of the holiday, we got up early to wish bon voyage to a friend of the family who was headed off to the Middle East for military duty. Mr. Right's sister in law made a sign with her grade schoolers for us to hold which was a big hit while the bus drove away.

We toured an outdoor airplane museum afterward and the kids enjoyed having their photos taken next to all of these crazy planes.

Virginia Beach was a first for all of us. It was really pretty and hey, who knew the ocean could be warm after years of New England ice water? We briefly visited The Dismal Swamp but were chased away by the dismal mosquitoes; we stopped by the Norfolk Harbor Festival where we hung out with shanty singing pirates and human grapevines (see photo).
We visited Colonial Williamsburg (where we had a group photo in front of the governor's mansion and then tried on silly hats) and in the same day went to Busch Gardens, where Mr. Right and I, both hardened roller coaster veterans, were humbled by Apollo's Chariot, a ride that left us quaking in our boots and bewilderedly wondering if we were just getting too old for such things.

Then we were off to DC where, frankly, it was too hot to take many pictures. But we introduced the kids to the standards (in order: Air & Space, National Museum of the American Indian (where, strange as it sounds, the food court is amazing. Next time we're getting the turtle soup!), the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, National Archives (ugh, longest wait ever), and finally, Arlington National Cemetary. All in 95 degree heat that was NOT a dry heat, and mostly on foot except when we just couldn't manage another step and flagged down a bike carriage and let him do the sweating for us. Fortunately, somebody was wise enough to book a hotel with a pool right in the middle of the city, so we made good use of it.
And so, we completed the return leg of the Great American Road Trip in our little red wagon, accompanied by a great book on tape, The Last Dragon, which was a big hit and may have saved our sanity as we crawled through NYC traffic.
Next stop on our frantic US tour: Chicago!