"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Windy City Birthday Weekend

To celebrate my (gulp) 45th birthday, we planned a long weekend trip to Chicago and invited several friends to come along with us.  While only a couple  of folks were able to actually make it up to the Windy City, we had a grand time nonetheless.  Thanks to our friends, Wayne and Rex, for joining us for the trip.

April 20, 2012:  Happy Birthday to me!
With the need for three bedrooms, we opted out of the hotel option
 for lodging and found this beautiful condo on the north side of
downtown Chicago (The Loop) in a hip, reviving
neighborhood known as Andersonville.  Per bedroom, this was
actually a better deal per person than a decent hotel room.
Highly recommended if you are in town.  Here's a link:
After working most of the day back at home,
Ashlee, Wayne and I got in late tonight and settled in to our new digs.
We wandered up the street to the Hopleaf Bar for some
late-night brews and tasty treats from their kitchen before
turning in for the day.
Saturday, April 21, 2012:  After Rex had arrived from Atlanta this morning, our first order of business was to check out Half Acre Brewing and see if we could snag a place in their limited-number, Saturdays-only brewery tour.  The weather was a bit cool but clear for our mile and a half walk and we were surprised at the large number of people in line waiting when we got there.  Our spaces were clicked by the official counter in the high 50's and we barely got to take the tour since the cut-off is 60 people.  The tour was lead by none other than company president, Gabriel.   The tour was informative and in-depth and was the first one we had done that included a live DJ mixing tunes during the breaks and while the beer was being sampled.  The beer was excellent.  More on that in Rob's beer blog.
One of the main reasons we chose Chicago as the place to celebrate my birthday over a few other nominees, was the fact that one of our favorite bands, Snow Patrol, was in concert tonight here.  We saw them back in 2009 at The Ryman and we were looking to see them again in a general-admission-style venue to get closer to the stage.  The Aragon Ballroom was just the "ticket" (pun definitely intended).   The historic theatre was just around the corner from our condo.  The sight-lines and acoustics were very good despite its gaudily-decorated  interior.
The concert had sold out fast.
Snow Patrol themselves were fantastic once again in concert. 
They performed all their hits and several songs of their new album,
Fallen Empires, including a snippet of the pulsating title track below.
Sunday, April 22, 2012:
Our only scheduled event today was a food tour
in Chicago's Chinatown neighborhood.
The tour was lead by Chicago Food Planet with whom
we have taken two other tours in the past in Chicago.
We rode the red line EL down to the Chinatown stop
south of The Loop and met up with our small group
and two guides.
Our meeting place and first stop on our tour for some delicious Dim Sum plates was Triple Crown Restaurant.  From there we moved on to the Ten Ren Ginseng & Tea Shop where we had a delicious iced black tea with mango flavoring.  We moved next to a different region of China (at least in food taste and style) at the Lao Sze Chaun Restaurant.  Next up was Mandarin-style at Lao Beijing Restaurant that including some delicious Peking duck.  We concluded our eating tour at the Saint Anna Bakery for a tasty dessert.
Of course, it wasn't just eating on the Chinatown food tour.
In between food stops we got to see parts of a vibrant Chicago
neighborhood that many people probably don't even know exist.
We stopped in an actual Buddist temple that looked like a common
storefront from the outside.  We also took a casual stroll over to the
Ping Tom Memorial Park (above).  This hidden gem sits right
on the Chicago River and is a nice oasis among the
hustle and bustle of the city.

After our food tour we wondered around Chinatown a bit more checking out some shops and stumbled upon the Wan Kow Restaurant, or should we say that since we were very full from our food tour,  that we stumbled upon the restaurant's tiny bar for a drink.  What happened next was a heckuva good time with lots of laughs and chatter as we all decided to take the plunge and order our drinks "volcano style."  Basically, that means they mix drinks in large bowls (see above) and set the center on fire for a flaming spectacle to be shared by a group.  Yeah, well, we all got our own individual volcanoes.  In the shortest and simplest terms from there on...hilarity ensued.

The frivolity that started with the late-afternoon volcano drinks continued deep into the night as we headed to Roscoe's Tavern in an area of Chicago simply known as "Boystown."  Figure it out and draw your own conclusions, folks.  But remember, "judge not, lest ye be judged."  We had great night there and met a lot of nice people including Ashlee's new best friend "Sparkles."  (photo above). 

Monday, April 23, 2012:  The big scheduled event for today was attending a Cubs game, but that wasn't until the evening.  We decided to start the day with a Chicago staple-food for lunch, deep-dish pizza!  And the best we know of in Chicago (thanks to a previous Chicago Food Planet food tour) is Bacino's.  We started with and shared their caprese salad and Tuscan-style bruschetta and then split their signature "Spinach Supreme"  large pizza.  Wow! So good!
To walk off some of the fabulous lunch and to take in
the exceptionally lovely weather, we took a long stroll
around downtown including over to Navy Pier which
still had a lot of its seasonal stuff closed, and then up
to Michigan Avenue.  Above is an interesting shot of
the four amigos among the skyscrapers of the Windy City.
At least this distorted view doesn't show how bloated
we really were from our huge lunch!
One of the newest (and strangest) downtown sites is the 26' tall statue of Marilyn /Monroe in her iconic scene from the classic film, "The Seven Year Itch."  What the ????.  As evidenced from the photo above this new landmark is ripe for the taking of goofy photos, bad puns and overall embarrassment to the city of Chicago.  Well, at least it isn't permanent.
While an early-season twilight baseball game between
the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs had no
real rooting interest for any of us, the fact that it was
taking place at lovely Wrigley Field while we were in
town was reason enough for me to want to include it
in my birthday visit.  Everyone else was gracious enough
to go along with it and even plunk down a pretty penny
to experience the game from the rooftop bleachers across
Sheffield Avenue.  Unfortunately, the experience turned
out to be a bit disappointing for several reasons.  First,
we got bumped (unknowingly) from our "VIP status"
when we got moved to a different building due to a
"company function."  Secondly, the unlimited food was
ho-hum at best.  Third, it was very crowded despite it
being a downright cold Monday evening.  And lastly,
it was a downright cold Monday evening.  We toughed
it out until the 7th inning stretch with the Cards leading
2-1.  (We learned the next day that the Cubs came back and
won the game 3-2 in the late innings.)  While we try to
keep this blog as positive as possible it is important to note
our disappointment in this endeavor and to say we don't
recommend it to others based on the price you pay vs.
what you actually get in return.
EDITOR'S NOTE:  We did receive a quick refund for the VIP portion
of our tickets after we complained to them online about our
 poor experience.So that was decent of them.


No comments: