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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Solo Trip to Chicago

Monday night at dinner, a friend prayed, "God, your mercies are new each morning." and for me that was true.  I had a good night of sleep in spite of my stress about this little trip and felt ready for an adventure Tuesday morning.

My Edward Hopper scene
I was the only passenger getting on at the Niles Amtrak station.  The station manager was very helpful and eager to share information.  As a rookie, I took an unfortunate backwards seat which upset me when travelling 70 mph--or more.  The manager said the train sometimes reached 110 mph! So I got a cup of coffee in the cafe and settled down to a table facing the right way.  It was fun to see familiar landmarks enroute to Chicago from the back side.  The steel mills in Gary looked like a vision of hell with fire and steam.

Peacock Door at Palmer House
with beer truck passing by!
It was a rather long, wet walk to the Palmer House Hilton Hotel.  I was checking in almost three hours early, but was welcomed and once again, upgraded from my very small but Hip and Historic double room to a Hip and Historic king room with a fireplace!  Plus I was offered a complimentary continental breakfast.  Hilton Hotels and I are a good pair.

After eating my bit of lunch in the room, I headed to the Chicago Institute of Art.  Having forgotten my umbrella, it was a very wet walk.  I wandered through the galleries heading in the general direction of the 20th century art which I like best.  The museum was probably the first big museum I had ever been to fifty years ago and it still is great, but I have been to so many others that I felt a bit disappointed.  The Warhols were good, but not as fun as the exhibit I saw in Tampa last fall.  The Pollocks and Manets were interessting but not like the overwhelming ones that filled entire walls that I saw at MOMA last February.
Easter Mystery by Maurice Denis

Now I'm waiting for Annette, my friend and former colleague at Family Literacy, to join me for dinner.  She just texted that the rain is too much to walk to the Metra station so her husband Dan will drive her downtown.  I have not been overwhelmiingly sure that this is all going to work out which has been part of my stress!

Wednesday morning

Annette was about an hour late but we were texting back and forth and I had a book to read while sitting near the Monroe Street entrance of the hotel.   We walked to La Cantina where I had a reservation that was now an hour past due--but I had called and they were not full.  We had ten years of catching up to do--plus plenty of reminiscing and it was a great meal.  Dan picked her up again afterwards at the hotel.  Ironic that one of Annette's jobs when she returned to Chicago was as a maid at the Palmer House.  I remember the call from HR asking me if I could give her a reference.  Of course, I could.  That job was not a good match for her skills however and she is doing child care again.

We left each other with hugs and "I love yous." I walked back into the hotel with tears in my eyes.

I am about to enjoy my continental breakfast and then will walk to Trader Joes to get my favorite candy bars.  There will be time for another hour at the Art Institute this morning--and then the 12:50 train back to Niles.

A foot in front of St. Luke's Episcopal Church-Why? 

Street Art

A postscript  upon returning home: Amtrak is great.  The senior rate was a bargain, parking at Niles was free, and I even was asked to board ahead of the regular passengers at Union Station.  The trip was fast and comfortable.

Brand loyalty is great.  I learned that my upgrades and free breakfast and wifi are offered because I am a Hilton Gold member.  It's all those Martin's grocery bills--plus we usually stay at Hilton Hotels if it's convenient.

And...sometimes it's so much easier to stay home but I feel as if I have had a very full 30 hours on my Chicago adventure and I will enjoy the memories--as recorded in this blog!

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