Chicago: The Epic Journey Part 1

For someone who has close friends from Chicago, I'm always surprised that I've not spent more time there. I've always heard great things about the city but have mostly experienced it via O'Hare Airport. I went to a tiny college in Illinois, but it was about six hours from the city, so the only time I went in was to see an incredible Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Art Institute.

So! When Corey booked a role on Chicago PD, it was the perfect opportunity to experience the city as a family, and as likely my last flying adventure until after the bebe is born. Feet on the ground from here on out, I'm told.

Production put Corey up in the Public Hotel, which is located in the Gold Coast neighborhood, and it's just beautiful. For people who love architecture, the city is already a dream, and Corey and I had so much fun exploring the hotel neighborhood and gawking at the huge, beautiful homes.

The lovely interior of the Public Hotel in Chicago / image from publicchicago.com

Our room was spacious, and was especially fun for S jr to crawl around. Although we all spent an inordinate amount of time cuddling and playing on the big bed.

The first night we were all together it was rainy and blustery, so we hunkered down in the hotel room and ordered room service.

I think Corey and S jr were watching news here...

...and since more and more people have come forward to talk about Trump's horrific treatment of women, I'm not surprised this happened:

We can only hope that this kind of behavior shines a bright, bright light on what all women already know – there's still a long way to go.

Thankfully, I know so many wonderful men, and have been lucky to have had close male friends for most of my life. I have my dad to thank, largely, for setting a great example, and then I married a kind, emotional, compassionate man who brings all those qualities to fatherhood.

Corey's work days book ended the trip, so we got a nice several days together in the middle...and we made the most of it! It's fun to play tourist, and I had absolutely no shame – especially when it came to the food.

Corey flew out first, worked, then S jr and I joined him. Here's a rundown of what we did – Chicago-style!

DAY 1

Our first day together was sunny but blissfully crisp, and these three (four!) softies from LA bundled up and headed out on the first of many walkabouts in this incredibly walkable city.

Ah, to experience fall. Season of my birthday, season I don't get in LA. Leaves change color in LA, some say. No, no they do not.

I swear this pigeon was checking itself out in the mirrored kick plate. I'm telling you – it kept moving its head around like it was checking the angels.

The hotel was right around the corner from this beautiful gray home which I'm sure is some kind of historic but I'm a dolt and never found out. So pretty.

I brought all four pieces from the Storq basics collection and wore all of them in constant rotation. At the last minute, I got these boots from Zappos and THANK GOD I did because they were super comfy right out of the box, and were the only shoes I packed and wore every single day. The wool tweed coat with 3/4 sleeves is a years-ago purchase from BCBG. Fits over my belly!

I was almost giddy from getting to pack turtlenecks and a sweater and tights. GIDDY.

Our walk took us south to meet up with one of Corey's classmates from the UCSD MFA program, the beautiful and talented Christine Albright Tufts and her son Henry. Chris and her husband John are acting alums from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, which is the place that inspired me to pursue an MFA. Ah, theatre.

S jr's first swing, which he was cautiously optimistic about.

After hanging out with Chris and Henry, we continued south to the starting point for a Chicago River Architecture Tour, which was fantastic. It got a little cold so I was glad we had hats and coats!

I've been wanting to do this tour for years, and it really is the best way to experience the diversity of Chicago's architecture. Fascinating.

After the tour we walked back to the hotel and got dinner at the nearby Mario's Table. We loved it so much we ate there three times. S jr became quite well known.

DAY 2

Chris had raved about Maggie Daley Park, which is relatively new to the city and is nestled into the north end of Millenium Park. So we buckled S jr into the Doona and walked south again.

This park. This park is the most amazing children's park I have ever experienced. It was so dazzling I forgot to take photos of all the different playgrounds. One of the park's many design goals is to "Choreograph a complex landscape that offers experiential range," and that pretty much sums it up.

From a kid perspective, the design is magic. The paths wind and twist, and there's a new discovery around every bend.

Now a pro, S jr was subjected to another swing. This one elicited straight-up skepticism, however. I really wanted to sit in it, but there were children waiting. Thwarted.

Around one bend we found what we assumed was a water sculpture, but it wasn't running at the time. Or, should I say, at the moment, thank god, because a few minutes after I took this photo, the water came on, and poor S jr would have gotten soaked.

All the playgrounds have that lovely, sponge-y surface, and S jr had fun crawling and lolling around.

Around another bend we found ourselves in a little hall of mirrors, which made for a good family photo op:

And a shot of the belly at 31 weeks.

After exhausting ourselves in the playgrounds, we walked over the curvy BP bridge to the Cloud Gate sculpture – or, as it's generally referred to – The Bean.

If you can find us, you're a special, amazing human being.

We walked back to the hotel again, crashed, woke up, and walked to Old Town for dinner at The Vig.

And this is strange, but so many meals we ate in Chicago were reeeeeeally salty. Like, so salty I couldn't eat it. As a kid I loved salt and grew up eating that horrible table variety with absolutely no nutritional or flavor value. So is it just that I'm older? Been living on LA food for awhile now? May have gotten a bit snobby about the kind of salt I cook and season with? (prefer grey sea salt like this) I even asked our server at The Vig and she agreed that they tended to cook with more salt than usual.

Okay, so not crazy. But it happened other places, too. Any Chicagoans - or otherwise - care to weigh in?

DAY 3

This day was special. Four years ago, I flew to Chicago over Labor Day weekend to see my dear friends get married. This happened.

So, on my third day in the city, four years later, we met. Standing up. And we hugged.

We've kept in touch over the years, checking in on holidays, sharing family photos. It's the kind of connection that can only occur after you've both seen, in a moment, how fast life can be taken away. He's grateful to be here, and so am I.

And at J's suggestion, we met him and his new wife at the famous Lou Malnati's, which became the catalyst for a deep dish pizza comparison that almost ended both me and Corey.

There was a lot to talk about during this lunch, so I didn't get any photos of the pizza. But DANG was it delicious! More on that later...

After our meetup, I was drained, so we went back to the hotel and just lounged around. It was fantastic. We'd been routinely walking an average of four miles a day, and when you're 31 weeks pregnant, that can take a toll on legs/feet/back/vision/reason. So good to have a relatively chill day.

For dinner that night...you guessed it...Mario's Table. Where they don't over-salt. Heh.

I'll post the rest of our adventure in Part 2...in which we try deep dish pizza from two more Chicago institutions. Oh yes.