Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chicago (part 3 and done)

Monday we headed out for our day of exploring by mid-morning again.  This time we cut through the city rather than winding around along the lake shore, so we saw more of the downtown sculptures and sights with the bonus of less walking and less wind.  

The streets were bustling but the majority of the city is laid out in a consistent grid which makes it very easy to get around as long as you remember a handful of streets in any one direction.  The kids were pretty good at keeping track of street names.  I'm pretty sure Jorge could have found his way back if he had to--and man did he seem to be trying.  Every time we walked a block he'd drift until he was 1/2 a block behind us.  Many threats of leashing him to us were made and ignored until we actually did see a kid on a leash.  One significant look (and Jorge announcing in horror that "that kid is on a leash!!!") and he stuck close the rest of the time.

We headed mostly south until, like the birds we are, we veered east at the sight of something shiny a few blocks away.  We landed at Millenium Park and enjoyed the various sculptures, gardens, green spaces, and of course, the famous Bean.

While at the bean, Katie wandered over and sat at a picnic table for a short rest.  When we looked over a moment later she was surrounded by about 10 Korean-speaking teenage girls all asking her if they could take her picture.  Bizzare.

The weather was fantastic--especially considering we heard it was snowing back home!--and so the two mile or so walk was really enjoyable.  Along the way we passed Buckingham Fountain for the fifth time and, as before, it was off.  Each big kid wanted a bathroom break and as we passed it to leave, it sprang into action.  Much  excitement ensued.

We finally got to the Field Museum around lunch time.  We had packed a lunch of some PB&J sandwiches and other snacks from the breakfast buffet and drinks from the drugstore, and we immediately grabbed seats in a dining area by the front door.  An employee attempted to shoo us out since we hadn't purchased from the cafeteria there, so Rob bought a big salad for us to share instead.  (I'd like to note that the place was EMPTY and we didn't even take seats in view of anything but instead were practically under the stairs; so it's not like we were costing them valuable customer space but whatever.)  August and the big kids were squirrelly and whiney and Jorge immediately dropped his bagel on the floor where it rolled 15 feet away across the entrance area.  Trash.  Whining.  August kept attempting to climb out of his seat, ending in an explosion of salad as his foot caught the lid of the take-out box and catapulted greens, cheese, craisins, and walnuts everywhere in a five foot radius.  As we scrambled to clean up the (very expensive-and-now-trash) salad, he knocked over my just-opened-and-not-yet-even-sipped 20 oz soda bottle and created a bubbling lake to go with the mess.  Thanks again, August.

After the water-playzone soaking at the aquarium the day before, we had planned ahead and brought a spare outfit this time, so August changed clothes, we mopped everything up, tossed most of our food into the trash and headed into the museum.

First things first, a picture with Sue, the T Rex.

We wandered through the Africa exhibit and then the Egyptian pyramid complete with at least twenty real mummies.  Dead nearly-taxidermied real people, laying in glass cabinets.  Squicky.

Rob and Katie have a serious problem passing by anything with words on it without reading, analyzing, debating, and repeating it.  By the time we got through those two exhibits we were nearly out of time.  Katie had her heart set on the kid space downstairs and both kids were anxious to see the dinosaurs.  The kid exhibit closed first, so we headed downstairs.  The kids studied fossils, unearthed some dinosaur bones and documented them, explored animal habitats, played with some drums, and generally ran around touching everything.  (Absolutely related; we're all sick this week.)
August forehead-kissing a baby T Rex

Finally we went upstairs to the dinosaur area.  Again with the exhibit details.  We started together but Rob and Katie were quickly a room behind us as they read each sign in detail.  Jorge and I pointed at the main details, read things we were curious about, and moved on.  By the time we got to the dinosaur room, we were 30 minutes ahead of Rob and Katie.  No problems, though.  I think Jorge and August could have stayed there for a week.

Jorge made his way around each creature, reading signs and watching videos.  He was especially impressed with the apatasaurus which was really incredibly cool. (Mommy was pretty impressed, too).  Once Katie and Rob showed up we hit the highlights again and headed out through the remaining skeletons of early mammals and humans, human tools, and back into the museum.

 The museum was closed by the time we got out which means we had no gift shop to fight over.  We headed back toward the hotel, stopping at the Art Institute of Chicago to pull a lion tail.  We grabbed dinner at a diner along the way and got back to our hotel around 6:30.

We picked up all of our luggage and took a cab to the train station.  It was "only" a mile or so to walk it, but we were all ready to throw our shoes at anyone that suggested walking anywhere.

Using the fold-down sink in our train car
Our train didn't leave until 9:30 and we were anxious about what we would do with three tired kids for nearly two hours in a busy train station after bedtime.  No worries.  As sleeping-car passengers we had admission to the first-class lounge with clean couches, bathrooms, unlimited free soda and coffee and chips, a fireplace, and generally a quiet little haven.  We played and rested for an hour and then were escorted to our train cars around 8:30.  We were invited to the dining car for a wine-and-cheese reception and Rob and I toasted to never taking a plane again if we can help it.  Seriously, the service is amazing.  Our attendant saw us getting ready for bed and stopped to confirm if we needed any more bedding, asked if we wanted a wake up knock, and if I'd like a cup of hot coffee or tea in the morning and, if so, at what time.  Also, did we want to have our breakfast delivered as room service or eat in the dining car?  Spoiled for life.

The kids crashed into bed without much fuss by 9:30 and slept straight through until 8 or so.  We dressed, ate another delicious breakfast, puttered around in our rooms for about 3 hours (naps for both boys and mommy included), ate a bunch of the free train chocolates, and then rolled into our station around noon.  Our car was just across the way in the (free) parking lot and we were home within about 15 minutes.

The trip was great and, other than the head cold we're now all sharing, it was pretty much perfect.  Trains are not a great option for most of our travels since they don't have very many direct routes that work for us, but it's our go-to option when available now.

Now back to reality.


  1. Train is the way to go.. like you said, IF it has a direct run .. and you can handle the sleeping arrangements.
    I am done flying .. drive or train.. period.. airports are toooo much of a hassle.

  2. And now I'm dreaming of a vacation in the East via train...

  3. Jill - is it a coincidence that just yesterday I looked up the train travel options from there to here? No, it is not. It can (and should) be done.