Tuesday, March 20, 2012

30 is the new... 21?

I'm now 30 years old.  When my 10 year old self thought of who I would be at 30, I never could have imagined where I'd be right now or that I wouldn't feel old at all.  Thirty used to seem ancient.  Even at 18, just after high school graduation, 30 seems decades away.

Well, I'm here now and I'm not sad.  I've had a great 30 years and I'm at a point in my life now where my debt is paid off (student loans don't count... my theory is that they're with you forever, like taxes), I make enough money to actually enjoy life and travel and I know who I am.  I'm okay if I don't do what everyone else is doing or if I'm the only one in the office who even though about going to the Kelly Clarkson concert, I don't need approval anymore.  I need to make myself happy.  When I'm happy, the people around me are happy and it's one happy circle.

To celebrate starting a new decade I boarded a plane to Chicago for what I call the best week of the year. In one week you get my birthday, the start of Spring, the start of March Madness and the best holiday, St. Patrick's Day.  (Fireworks are the only thing that could make St. Pat's better.  I'm sure they have them somewhere.)  I planned a trip to Chicago for my birthday, it's like planning Spring Break for an adult!

Here we go - it's going to be a long post.  Quick summary - it was 75 degrees or warmer each day, no rain.  Crazy for mid-March in Chicago.  It was actually warmer this trip than my one last summer in June. 

Day #1 - checked into the hotel, The Affinia Hotel, on E. Superior next to Northwestern University and Gino's East.  It is only a block away from Michigan Ave (looking right at Tiffany's) and only a few blocks from Lake Michigan.  The hotel was great, a cute boutique in the heart of downtown.  The staff was okay, not the nicest people, but I didn't need them for much.  The rooms were big, the bathrooms clean and the beds clean.  That's really all I need.  The best part of the hotel was the rooftop bar, C-Lounge.  We went up to the top for drinks before heading out to dinner.  

Dinner was at The Publican, a restaurant recommended to me by a friend who lived in the city for a year. The menu is based on farmhouse fare and DELICIOUS.  I heard that the bacon is the best in the city, and they think so, too.  Giant pictures of big, fat pigs are the only wall decor in the restaurant.  The seating is majority communal which looked neat.  Because I told them it was my birthday, they gave us a table by the front window.  We ate tons of food and drank plenty of drinks and we were satisfied.  For dessert they brought out a cupcake for me.  Perfect ending to my birthday.  Yes, I went home and passed out after dinner.  It was already a long day and it was 10:30pm.  We still had 4 days in the city!  

Brunch the next morning was at Yolk, walking distance from the hotel.  Again, another recommendation from my friend.  OMG I want one in Atlanta.  Our server was the nicest young girl in the world, a great touch.  Our food was reasonably priced and delicious.  I wanted something light, yogurt and some fruit and look what they had!!!

That's right people, a pineapple bowl!  I ate the entire thing.  All of it.  Even the orange slices.  I can't wait to make one for the next visitors we have to the house.  After brunch we decided to walk to Lincoln Park along the lake and head to the zoo.

Look how pretty the sky and water are in March!!  In June when I was in town, I fell in love with the Lincoln Park Zoo and wanted to share it with Stephen.  It was a nice 45 min walk and then we spent a few hours at the zoo.  The weather was great so a lot of the animals were up and moving around.

After the zoo we met up with friends at a fun sports bar in the Wicker Park area.  Because it was so nice outside all of the windows were open, which meant all of their walls were open.  I think we need more bars like that in Atlanta.  We watched a bit of Day 1 of March Madness, ate the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich and headed back to our friend's house before dinner.  During this walk the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees.  It was freezing!!  Along this walk I had gelato for the first time ever.  OMG.  Why has it taken so long and why isn't there a good gelato place near Grant Park?  I'm not sure the name of the place we stopped, but I'm pretty sure it was Caffe Gelato Chicago (when I look at the map it makes the most sense.)  Dinner that night was at a fun bar/restaurant where I got a pizza with pureed yellow squash sauce instead of a red sauce.  Ahhh, so yummy.  After dinner, more walking and more drinking.

Friday was our boat tour day.  It was absolutely perfect on the water.  After the boat tour we watched the Gator basketball game and then went to Millennium Park to see the bean and the faces.  I did a little bit of shopping then we headed to Big Star for dinner.  Apparently they have amazing tacos.  They must have because the wait was THREE HOURS.  We waited an hour at the bar and had some drinks and then we walked to Lillie's Q for some delicious BBQ instead.  I'm so glad we made that decision.  The food was amazing (quite a theme for the trip) and they had some great beer on tap.  Isn't everything more fun in a mason jar?  The food was well priced and they fit us in right away.  It was another recommendation from my friend - way to go!

The big day was Saturday, St. Patrick's Day.  It was what the city was waiting for.  They dye the river green on the Saturday closest to St. Pat's at 10:00am.  It's not the whole river, just a 3-block section, so if you're going to make the trip, pay attention!  The shoreline was packed with people and at exactly 10am the boat took off with the dye and man, did it turn green!

That last picture is my favorite one of the entire trip.  We were being yelled at while we were taking it because we couldn't stop on the stairs.  Well worth it!  The rest of the day was spent drinking Guinness and taking shots.  We even had a man with a bag pipe in one of the bars.  After 12 hours of drinking I headed back to the hotel.

Our last day in Chicago we went to lunch at Portillo's for more Italian Beef and then to the Signature Room at the top of the John Hancock building.  It's not as tall as the old Sears Tower, but the view is even better, in my opinion.

You could see everything from up there.  Check out the weather again!  Just perfect.

Thats the Lincoln Park Zoo from the Signature Room.

Chicago is just a beautiful city.  There is so much to do in the city and each neighborhood has it's own personality.  There is a river, a beach and some of the best shopping in the country.  Not to mention housing that isn't ridiculous and great public transportation.  I'm not sure why cities like Atlanta can't get it together and be more like Chicago.  I'd jump at the chance to move to the windy city....

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