Sunday, July 16, 2006

Chicago getaway

Just spent a fabulous girls getaway weekend at the swank W Hotel Lakeshore in Chicago. (Unfortunately, this will be a photo-free entry because we all forgot our cameras!)

I started the weekend negotiating the Blue Line from work into the Loop. Having always lived too far out in the suburbs to take the CTA, this was only the second time I've negotiated the system by myself. Sad, I know, but true. (Ironically - and annoyingly - for a good chunk of the ride into the city, I had to listen to some guy flirt with a girl and tell her all about how annoyed he gets with suburban people.)

Anyway, my plan was to catch a cab from the Loop up to the hotel, but since I love walking in the city, I wheeled my travel case the mile and a half from State Street to the hotel. I had to laugh when a couple - their travel guide in hand - asked me for directions to the Magnificent Mile. Sure, ask the woman wheeling a suitcase through the Loop! Fortunately, I, like any good Chicago-area native, could handle that question and pointed the couple toward Michigan Avenue, north of the river.

A good 20 or so minutes later, I was at the hotel, but dripping sweat. (It was the start of an extremely hot weekend.)

The W Hotel is not only swank, but the clientele is young and attractive. And here I was dripping on the reception desk. "Are those cool wet towels over there on the counter, by chance?" I asked the clerk. At her friendly affirmative, I quickly grabbed one of the nicely rolled towels and wiped myself down, then slunk off toward the elevators.

Our hallway had little zen rock-gardens along the walls, and the room numbers printed on the carpet. Inside the room, the beds were already turned down and the television was tuned to the hotel's welcome station. The bathroom had a shuttered pass-through that was open to the room, adding to the posh feel of the place. This was going to be a fun weekend.

I met up with Jules and JC at the Bliss Spa downstairs, where we treated ourselves to milk and almond pedicures and little samplings from the brownie bar. No healthfood here!

Nice and relaxed, we cleaned up and headed for the Wave restaurant for a glass of wine and a tapas-style dinner.

At 10:30 we retired to the room. Yes - 10:30! Three girls alone in the city, we hadn't even left the hotel yet, and we were retiring for the night.

Not really.

Now it was time to snuggle into the hotel's luxurious robes and work. We're writers, working on a project together - see Our erotic project - so we had scenes to share and critique, a bottle of champagne to open, and talking/scheming/planning to commence. The lights didn't go out until at least 2:30 a.m. (I know, it sort of sounds like a girls' slumber party cliche. What can I say? Truthfully, an outsider would have found it incredibly dull.)

We slept in, then after leaving our bags with the concierge and finding a Starbucks for Jules, we had brunch at the West Egg, which was incredibly busy, but incredibly good too.

We walked back to Michigan Avenue, contemplated doing a little shopping, but instead found ourselves at the Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum. The museum opened just over a month ago and is one of those little treasures in the city that can be so easily overlooked. The only reason we found it was because I'd read about it in the Chicago Tribune, then stumbled on it when I was taking a river cruise in June - see Weather unfit for barbecuing and boating. One of the four bridgehouses on the Michigan Avenue bridge has been converted to a museum devoted to the history of the river and its bridges. Starting at river level, you climb the tower, getting to see the gears and machinery inside the bridge and learn the history of the river as you go up. There were some really interesting views through the windows in the tower (especially the port-hole shaped window) that I need to return for some day with my camera.

From there, we headed to Russian Tea Time on Adams for afternoon tea. We agreed that the Highland Tay was the best of those we tried, but the Russian Caravan tasted a little too much like liquid smoke for our tastes. I'd love to go back there sometime and try their Vodka flights, to sample different varieties, but we didn't have time.

Next we were on to the ArchiCenter to pick up the Historic Skyscrapers two-hour walking tour. Again, I wish I'd had my camera. We, being the Chicago history geeks that we are, had a wonderful time learning to differentiate between a Chicago School skyscraper and an Art Deco skyscraper. I can now describe Chicago-style windows, I know the Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University has perfect acoustics, and that I should repent because Jesus is coming. (OK, that wasn't an official part of the tour. Since the Gay Games were in town, there were a large number or protestors walking around wearing placards and heralding the end of the world.)

From there, it was back to the hotel to collect our bags and Jules' car. On the way home we daydreamed about future getaways and vowed to do this at least once a year. I think we're addicted to walking tours...

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