Chicago: A Great American City

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By Mrs. SSO

While I normally write about Hotels, that was just a functional aspect of a recent trip to Chicago with Mr. SSO.  Chicago is right up there with other great International Cities.   It is so much more than being home to the Chicago Bears Football Team or the Chicago Cubs Baseball Team (although when you are in town when there is a game, you may think differently).  There is actually lots of really interesting things to do that are unique to Chicago; there are some fabulous restaurants (beyond Chicago’s famous Deep Dish Pizza & Garrett’s Popcorn) and a welcoming community.

Chicago has a rich history that is best seen through its architecture. There is no better way than to learn about it than the Architecture Boat Cruise (buy tickets in front of the Apple Store by the River (not the competition’s tour across the Street).  In fact, Trip Advisor voted it as the #2 Tourist Experience in the World, with the Vatican being #1!  It is a 75 minutes tour of the architecture of Chicago’s buildings along the river and explains quite memorably Chicago’s history through the evolution of its architecture.  Mr. SSO, being a History Major in College, really appreciated and enjoyed the Tour. Only 1 piece of advice:  wear Tropic Sport sunscreen as the sun on the river is pretty intense.

River Walks, while not unique to Chicago, are special to Chicago and draw people from dawn, for sunrise yoga, through lunch on the steps, through Happy Hour to Sunset dinners. The walks extend out to the Navy Pier – also worth a visit, especially if you enjoy Ferris Wheels. If you prefer not to walk, there are bikes to rent everywhere across Chicago and designated bike paths too.

The Chicago Zoo and Botanical Garden are amazingly close to the city center and just north towards Lincoln Park.  The kids love it and the adults feel like kids again wondering around the animals and snapping selfies.  The Orchid Garden is spectacular – but then again, I love orchids so I could have spent the whole day in the zen-like Garden. All free of charge.

Chicago as a great selection of top Michelin Restaurants, while not quite London or Paris, we definitely have some new favorites.  I stumbled upon Le Bouchon by complete accident. While Mr SSO was working, I ventured off to find the Arteryc shop looking for end of season deals on Ski Jackets and was walking around the area when I found Le Bouchon. It is a small French Bistro that is incredibly authentic throughout its décor, food, and the wine collection.  The Moules & Frites are the best I have ever had in my life (quite the compliment given I had lived in Belgium for 3 years – the home of Moules & Frites). I’d go back in a heart-beat.  Tip: it’s very small, so make sure you make a reservation.

Mr SSO & I discovered Le Colonial, a French-Vietnamese restaurant  while in Houston recently.  We so loved it, when we learned there was also one in Chicago, we made that a must do on the list.  It is a 25 year old institution in Chicago – they recently moved their location to rather posh Oak Street. Their palm tree studded décor is stunning and only second to their food.  The chicken stir-fry is no ordinary stir-fry, think terminac, lemongrass and ground chili marinated chicken breast. The Red Snapper was unbelievable. We do not normally order desert, but we could not resist the grilled pineapple with homemade coconut ice cream flambeed with rum.  Can’t wait for Mr SSO’s next business trip to Chicago to go back.

One of our favorite restaurants in London is Roka.  Their Chicago location did not disappoint. We ‘shrimped out’ ordering everything shrimp on the menu: the shrimp maki roll was incredible, the shrimp tempura was light & crisp and the Madagascar shrimp was so big it could have been a lobster tail.  Perfect – just perfect!

Hampton Social originated in Chicago and now has multiple locations.  It’s the perfect spot for Sunday Brunch (or a casual dinner).  Their Lobster Roll sandwich was full of fresh lobster chunks and the crisps (potato chips) that accompanied it were home-made.  Their shrimp tacos were also delightfully light and fresh.

I feel it would be remiss of me not to at least mention something about the Hotel. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel on Magnificent Mile, while not a destination unto itself as many of the hotels in Europe, what sets it apart from other hotels in Chicago is its fabulous art deco indoor swimming pool on the 12 floor (and I suppose I would also add Michael Jordan’s Restaurant complete with copious basketball memorabilia).  They did upgrade us to a room with a fabulous view of the River and the Wrigley Clock Tower.  

If you have the chance for a few days in Chicago, I highly recommend it. Its well worth the trip.

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July 2019

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