A business trip to Illinois allowed for a day in Chicago today with my mother and a family friend.  A girl’s play date, if you will.  No agenda, no schedule (other than our train up and back)…just a day to enjoy each other’s company and see what fun we could have. The train was scheduled to leave at 6:35AM, so we were up bright and early before the sun.  Rarely does Amtrak leave on time, but at least we had the text alert for the delayed departure at 7:30. It was about 7:45 or so when we actually boarded and pulled out. The sun was shining, and the “heat dome” was evident – hot and muggy start to the day.

I love riding on trains, not nearly as much as my mother does, but it’s a comfortable, easy way to travel. You get to see another part of towns that you don’t get by driving, and you don’t have to worry about who’s driving home at the end of a long day. If you’ve never ridden the train from east central Illinois to Chicago, I will admit there are parts that can become a bit boring or tedious – seemingly endless stretches of corn and soybeans. But keep your eyes open and you may just spot some interesting things…town water towers, and the reed/twig hut we spotted as we approached Chicago.

We disembarked in Union Station, found our way outside, and requested an Uber for a ride to State Street…completely walkable from where we were, but I haven’t been in downtown Chicago for over 10 years and jumped the gun.  Oops! As our driver headed the most direct route to our destination, we found several streets barricaded and only foot traffic being allowed through.  Turns out there was a parade down Dearborn Ave. Not a big one, but still interesting to watch for a brief bit.  

We set a leisurely pace which allowed me to do one of my favorite things when in a large city…look up. We go through so many of our days focused on the destination and end result that we forget to slow down and look around. I love looking up when I’m in a city. Have you ever really noticed the carvings, scupltures and art work on the high rises above eye level? The reflections of one building in another?  It brings a whole new perspective – literally!

My travel companions today both have birthdays in August, so today was an early birthday present for them.  After a bit of walking and shopping, we headed to Eataly on Ohio St. Having just returned from a week in Italy, it was quite an experience. I would best describe it as every food shop and restaurant in a small Italian town placed in one building – wine, olive oil, pastas, cheese, meat, fish, gelato, pizza, cappucinos, housewares and bookstore all rolled into one cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. We managed to find a small table (near the wine bar, go figure!) where we parked Mom to hold our spot and watch our shopping bags while we grabbed a light snack and beverages. Proseco, rosé, parmesan cheese and salami. A perfect midday break.  

After a nice rest, we headed out to Michigan Avenue for more sightseeing. We sat in the park near the Water Tower and enjoyed some very interesting people watching.  Small children playing in the fountain, “free intelligent conversation” sign holders (we never did test how intelligent the conversation was), religious hawkers, tourists, wedding attendees, locals, the young man who used the horse watering trough to cool his head, and everything in between.  Always great people watching in Chicago!

We headed back toward Union Station hoping for a last minute bite to eat before boarding the train. As luck would have it just about every place closed just as we arrived. We found some hummus, pretzel chips and bottled water at the “grab and go” and an empty table, and sat to replenish our energy stores.  Soon it was time to head to the waiting lounge to board our train.

We had purchased a bottle of proseco at Eataly to enjoy on the way home, and happened to find small wine glasses in one store.  A perfect end to a perfect day! Until the conductor advised we couldn’t drink alcoholic beverages not purchased onboard unless we had a sleeper compartment. We put away our beverages in the most appropriate way – through our mouths and into our stomachs.  When he next came through the observation car we had only our snacks and a bottle of water in view.  Our bon voyage party may have been short lived, but it was incredibly fun, and worth being scolded for! (Apologies for the blurry picture – it’s hard to take a good photo on a moving train.)

It was a great way to spend the day, and fun to be back in one of my favorite cities.