Chicago Recap: The Food, The Attractions, The Experience

Chicago Recap: The Food, The Attractions, The Experience

 

Every time I told someone I was taking Derek to Chicago to celebrate his 30th birthday, I was met with the same response:  Why Chicago?

In fact, after the 5th person or so asked, I began to wonder if I had made some sort of Birthday-ruining mistake by planning this trip. Chicago was a place Derek and I had always talked about wanting to visit one day, so I thought his birthday would be the perfect time to cross it off the bucket list. But I think he even began to second guess the trip with all the nay-saying in the background, so we stepped into this little vacation cautiously excited.

Well, to everyone who wondered “why Chicago”, this post is for you. The city blew our socks off. Literally, and figuratively (Chicago definitely lives up to its nickname, The Windy City!). We decided that it was as if Manhattan, New York and Pasadena, California had a baby. It had the hustle and bustle of NY, on a smaller, more manageable scale. And the cleanliness and feel of Pasadena. With fresh tulips growing in planters all throughout the city and some of the kindest people I have ever met.

It’s huuuuge. We could have spent an extra 2-3 days there and probably still have left several things undone. We didn’t do everything we wanted to, but that’s because we chose to walk as much as we could to take in the scenery and fully engulf ourselves rather than rush from place to place. We racked up over 10 miles of walking in one day!

So here’s a rundown of our incredible Chicago trip.

FOOD

Of course, I’m starting with the food because, duh. In all honesty, we ended up eating appetizers and finger food for about 80% of the trip. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to man vs. food it, it’s just that we walked soooo much that by the time we finished, we would find ourselves skipping lunch and heading straight to happy hour because it was usually already pretty late. But here are some of our absolute favorites from the trip.

LOU MALNATI’S PIZZERIA

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria was our first Chicago deep dish, and it did not disappoint. We ordered the Malnati Chicago classic and added pepperoni at our waiter’s suggestion. It was amaaaazing.

KIM AND CARLO’S HOT DOG CART

We stumbled upon Kim and Carlo’s Hot Dog Cart on our 3 mile (one way) walk to Soldier Field one day, and we ended up coming back two days later because it was that good. Classic Chicago dogs are a must, so that’s what we got! They’ve got a sign on their cart that reads “You must dance for ketchup!” because in Chicago, ordering ketchup on your hotdog is almost offensive.

PUBLIC HOUSE

Admittedly, my dessert game was weak on this trip and I only indulged once. But I made it count with this insane cake shake from Public House. I literally could not stop laughing when our waitress brought it out because I couldn’t believe how absolutely absurd it was. Our seasonal shake was strawberry, with a rainbow lemon cake on top. It was deliciously awful for us and I loved every bite.

GIORDANO’S

Giordano’s was another must and our Chicken, Sausage, Deluxe deep dish was on point!

PORTILLO’S

And we stopped in at the famous Portillo’s for more Chicago dogs. We meant to go back and try their italian beef which is supposed to be amazing, but we never made it. However, I just heard that they’ve actually got a location out here near me, so it looks like we will be making a trip to one soon!

P.S. If you’re thinking that all we ate this entire trip is pizza and hot dogs, you’re basically correct. When in Chicago!

ATTRACTIONS

CLOUD GATE AT MILLENNIUM PARK

Cloud Gate, better known as the Bean, is an obvious but necessary, stop. Millennium Park as a whole is really incredible, and this tourist attraction is one I don’t recommend skipping because it really is very cool to see in real life.

360 CHICAGO OBSERVATION DECK

360 Chicago Observation Deck is a thrill that I definitely recommend. The attraction Tilt, allows you to tilt outward over 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile and the view is absolutely breathtaking.

Not into tilting? That’s okay! Grab a cocktail and enjoy the view.

PINSTRIPES

Pinstripes was a bowling alley we stumbled upon and it was fantastic! They had luxury couch seating, table service, and private bowling lanes. Not to mention some delicious calamari and bruschetta which are not pictrued.

SECOND CITY

When I found out that Second City had a comedy show about the website Derek and I met on almost 9 years ago, I knew we had to go. #DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment was vulnerable, hilarious, relatable, and down right perfect. If you’re a comedy fan, I highly suggest you check out this theater and this show!

SAFEHOUSE

We happened upon SafeHouse on accident, which seems to have been a bit of a theme for us this trip. We were hungry and started yelping places nearby, and I saw that the food and atmosphere looked good, so we walked over. When we got there, we thought we had the wrong address, because there was no restaurant in sight.

I ended up opening a door to a room that looked like a real estate office, with one women sitting inside reading a book, and I awkwardly said, “Is there a restaurant here…somewhere?” I felt ridiculous, but to my surprise she replied, “I might be able to help you with that, and had us come inside.” She then asked us if we knew the password (we didn’t) and made us show her our best disco moves before finally letting us through a secret door that led to a downstairs area.

All of a sudden, we were transported into a spy-themed restaurant and we became aware of the fact that security cameras upstairs showed the entire restaurant our embarrassing entrance and disco. It was hilarious and amazing.

The waiters give you name tags to become a spy, along with a mission card—allowing you to walk around the place solving riddles.

And the food was delicious. I had a burger with Brie and bacon jam and ommmmg.

To leave, we had to find a secret doorway, put a dollar in a payphone and wait for it to ring, then enter a secret code. I mean, come on! It was such a happy accident and we had an absolute blast.

THE FIELD MUSUEM

Since The Field Musuem has dinosaurs and mummy tombs and is so gorgeous on the outside, we decided to check it out.

I would say the musuem is a must for anyone who loves science/history. It houses the most complete T-Rex found to date, along with over 30 million other specimens and artifacts.

When I entered the Egyptian tomb, I couldn’t breathe and started to cry, so you know there’s some serious history in the place.

It was remarkable, and definitely worth checking out.

NAVY PIER

Go to the pier, pay the outrageous $15 per person price tag to ride the ferris wheel, and take in the beauty that is Chicago.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

Chicago is rich in history, from its architecture to prohibition and underground crime scene back in the 1920s. We were lucky enough to find ourselves completely engulfed in this culture, often times by total accident. Walking through the city with no destination in mind led us to some gorgeous places.

And walking through the city with Yelp in hand and a vague idea of where to go, also led us to some awesome spots, like these:

THE DRIFTER

You have to walk into a Pub, go downstairs, and find the secret doorway in order to get into The Drifter—but once you do, you’re completely transported into the prohibition back in the 1920’s. Specialty drinks are printed on tarot cards and they have sporadic performers throughout the night. We even saw a burlesque show which was craaaazy!

THREE DOTS AND A DASH

This was another accidental find. We were actually looking for somewhere to eat, and Yelp showed some delicious food here, so we went looking. But once we hit the spot the directions said it was at, there was nothing there and I was sooo confused. Luckily, Derek saw people standing in the alley and decided to walk over, and to our surprise, people were walking into some random back door and we decided to follow.

The door took us to a set of stairs leading down, with skulls hanging overhead. When we got downstairs, we had been completely transported yet again into another world. This time, it was a tiki paradise!

Three Dots and a Dash is definitely worth visiting—that is, if you can find it!

OVERVIEW

Why, Chicago? Because it’s beautiful. It’s full of life. It’s rich in history. It’s welcoming. It’s everything you could possibly want in a city.

And I cannot wait until we return!

 

 

 

A Costa Rican Anniversary

A Costa Rican Anniversary

Hola, Pura Vida!

I’m back from our nine day stay in Costa Rica, but it feels like a giant piece of me is still there. I remember feeling similarly last time we went. There was almost this state of mourning we went through for a few days upon returning, and I find myself going through those same emotions now. We considered having our kids flown out to us and just staying there forever because, well, I’ll show you!

We decided to spend two days in Jaco before heading to the exact home we rented for our honeymoon five years ago, in Manuel Antonio. Derek found this incredible mansion tucked away in a residential that had been turned into a hotel boutique. I was a little apprehensive when he first booked it because the idea of sharing house space with random people was a bit of a turn off, but it was actually really cool. There were only two other families staying there with us and the only time we really saw anyone else was at breakfast when they had fresh fruit and coffee out for the guests.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

See that dome on top of the house? That was part of our master suite, which was on the opposite end of the house from the other rooms. It was amazing. 

Our first day consisted of 9:00 am cocktails, crocodiles, and lots of walking. We ended up falling asleep at 7:30 pm and sleeping for twelve hours— and it was glorious.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

It didn’t take us long to realize that Jaco was not like the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area we had fallen in love with. The people just weren’t as friendly, and everyone— even restaurant/retail employees, seemed bothered by the presence of forgeiners.

Still, we had a nice time. The food was delicious and we went on a day trip to Tortuga island, which was beautiful. The guides totally ripped us off— again, something that just doesn’t happen in Manuel Antonio— but it was still worth it. Derek caught a fish, ate the freshest ceviche I’ve ever seen, and we sipped on “Coco Locos” (rum in fresh coconut water).

A Costa Rican Anniversary

img_8587

Once we got to Tulemar, my heart was in its happy place. It felt like coming home— with everything different, yet still exactly as we had left it.

We walked, and ate, and walked some more. We reminisced and marveled at all of the new sights to see. We laughed, and connected, and played crazy eights during thunderstorms. We drank fruity drinks and espressos and local beer and wine. We did whatever we wanted, even if that was to do nothing at all— and my heart (and belly) were constantly full of joy.

drank-my-way-through-costa-rica

Yes, that is a drink collage.

And here is some dessert porn to go with those draaaanks.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

You’re welcome. Moving on.

When we came for our honeymoon back in 2011, we saw almost every kind of wildlife Costa Rica has to offer on our ride in. They told us it was newlywed luck, and they were right because this time we didn’t see anything other than sloths until our third day. But once the animals finally showed up, it was unreal how up close and personal we were able to get with them.

One morning, we decided to walk to the national park (about 3 miles away). It’s an extremely steep hill but we were going down, so it wasn’t too gruesome. As we were trekking along, Derek noticed a sloth on the ground less than 10 ft away from us.

“Oh no— a dead sloth!” 

I was furious with him for pointing it out to me because it made me so sad.

Then he added, “ohhhhh nooooo. It was a mama sloth. She has a baby on her chest.”

That’s when I basically lost it. I was at the point of tears telling Derek he had just ruined my entire day when he said:

“Well, it could be alive. We didn’t check.”

A Costa Rican Anniversary

I told him to go check and that I would stay there because my mama heart couldn’t take it. But I ended up walking back up to him shortly anyway, and low and behold, her and her baby were alive! She was responsive, but clearly hurt so we knew we needed to do something. We went into hyper hero mode after that and frantically climbed back up that hill to try and find someone who could help. As chance would have it, a police car appeared and we flagged them down, explained the situation, and guided them to the mama and her babe. They picked her up, put her in the back of their car, and took her to the nearby sloth sanctuary to get her the help she needed.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

We felt on top of the world, and were met with our first glorious rain of the trip just minutes after— which stamped in the feeling of winning. Then when we finally got to the national park, we saw a full blown monkey brawl pan out right in front of us. Our guide said he had literally never seen anything like it in all of his years working there.

Speaking of our guide— we almost didn’t get one because Derek has a pretty great eye for wildlife and we had already done the tour before, but we got suckered into it and I’m so glad we did, because our guide was the sweetest.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

It was literally just Derek and I on his tour, and we laughed and joked like old friends would. He even flagged us down when he saw us walking around town a few days later, which just sums up how incredible the people in Manuel Antonio are.

The one tour we didn’t do on our honeymoon was ATVs (because we were way too hungover) so that was something I really wanted to do this time. We went with one other couple and our guide’s mom cooked us lunch afterwards. I’d like to note that Kevin’s mom’s food was our favorite meal of the entire trip. On the drive back, he played SNL clips and Drake on his phone for us— because literally everyone treats you like a long lost friend.

http://www.lendmeyourkite.com/2016/10/a-costa-rican-anniversary/

Another day, we got stuck on an island at 10:00 am in the rain after we had kayaked there, and a local made us drinks, sat down next to us on a log, and told us his life story.

The people, you guys— I cannot say enough good things about the people.

And the animals— those crazy animals!

We had a Capuchin (white faced monkey) one day, who demanded bananas from us and was very distraught when they were all gone.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

A squirrel monkey brought all of his friends for snacks, then came back later by himself to eat more of our fruit that we had sitting out. Watch the video below, guys. It literally came right up to our table and just started hanging out with us.

And on our very last day— literally just an hour before we were being picked up to go to the airport, we had 17 squirrel monkeys on our balcony with us at one time. It was unreal.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

And to top it off, two macaws (which are rare to this specific area) flew right in front of us WHILE the monkeys were there, and one landed in the tree directly next to us.

Seeing macaws so up close in the wild like that, was absolutely mesmerizing and the perfect send off for us. Our house manager Kimberly, who we’ve now known for five years, told us that we felt like family and to call her if we ever needed anything or just wanted to chat. We gave long hugs and promised to come back soon.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

It was the absolute best trip I’ve ever been on, and I got to share the entire experience with my favorite person on the planet.

Five years have been both good and bad to us. They have given us immeasurable amounts of pain and joy. We have lost and gained loved ones. We have laughed, cried, danced— we’ve eaten too much food, drank too much wine. We’ve fallen and we’ve soared. But we’ve done it all together and I could not imagine doing this life with anyone else.

So, cheers to five years!

It’s been a grand adventure, and I know we’re just beginning.

A Costa Rican Anniversary

sig