So That’s Chicago

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

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We loaded up our Toyota Prius and headed for the Windy City. I’ve been to many different cities and locations across the country, from Myrtle Beach to San Francisco, but I’ve never headed up toward the Great Lakes. After living in the South for most of my life, I prepared for the cold weather by acquiring boots and gloves for each of us. With this winter gear packed neatly into suitcases, we headed north.

Our first stop was Columbus, Indiana. I have to pause here and mention that, although the South is known for its hospitality, I think the great state of Indiana is giving us a run for the title. Everyone we encountered was warm and friendly. We checked in to the La Quinta and were invited to have some chili in the lobby by one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met. Soon after our complimentary chili dinner, it began to snow. My younger son, who was traveling with us, was thrilled. Sure, we see snow in Atlanta occasionally, but a snow event here goes like this: A quarter of an inch falls. Schools and businesses close and the roads are shut down. Kids spend the morning trying to build a tiny, muddy snowman with blades of grass sticking out here and there. Then it all melts away as the temperature climbs back up toward the mid 40s, and our apocalyptic snow event is just a distant memory of news crews measuring the snowfall with a ruler.

Snow in Indiana is SNOW. My son and husband were out playing in the snow for several hours and didn’t return to the hotel until 11:30 pm. The lady at the desk (going above and beyond again) offered my son cookies and milk – the perfect ending to his evening of snowball fights and snow angels.

We woke to six inches of snow on the ground. After debating whether or not we were equipped to drive in such conditions, my husband dug our tiny car out of the snow and we were (carefully) off.

Chicago is a beautiful city. If you are considering a move here, it is a friendly, gorgeous city with clean streets and wide sidewalks. The people are fantastic and we felt safe and welcomed. Older brick buildings with utilitarian square windows in stark contrast to curvy cornices and intricate details intermingled with tall, sleek skyscrapers of glass and steel. We checked into our hotel and hit the sidewalks, intent on walking around the city and seeing everything.

After walking a couple of blocks in absolutely frigid cold, I came to the conclusion that those living in this wonderful city must be a very hardy bunch. After mentioning this to a lady in a store we ducked into to thaw out, she waved it off and said, “This is nothing! It doesn’t get really cold until January.”

Life lesson number 827: Don’t visit Chicago in January. Check.

Known for deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs, these two items live up to their reputation as we sampled both (several times). We walked the Magnificent Mile – a sparkling stretch of twinkling white lights and dazzling store windows designed to make grown women swoon. After (my) window shopping and daydreaming, we headed for the Navy Pier. Once again, my son found something we don’t see in Georgia – an icy lake. Absolutely fascinated with this remarkable sight, we had to head out and stand at the edge of the pier and gaze upon the glittering ice floating on Lake Michigan. After five seconds, I insisted we head back indoors. As beautiful as it was with the city in the background and that endless stretch of ice and water, the ice water brought with it a blast of wind unlike any I’ve ever felt before. Since my face was numb and I couldn’t feel my legs, I insisted we head back to the hotel – by taxi.

The reason we ventured to Chicago in December was to see a musical performance that my older son participated in. At the conclusion of that event, we began to pack it up and start the long drive home. Now that I’m home and (somewhat) warm, the cold is little more than a tiny buoy in a sea of great memories – the guy good-naturedly complaining because the train was late while helping us lost tourists find our way. The waiter at Ed Debevic’s who had us laughing through dinner. The obvious pride the residents of Chicago have in their home city. Taking my son on his very first train ride, which was not only late but got stuck, then packed with people, then stuck again before we finally got off. We didn’t get to see and do everything on such a short trip, so I’m already planning my next visit.

This time, in the summer.