In the midst of our busy schedules, the stars aligned when our respective class, work, and school schedules had days off. Piano Man had a couple days off from school for teacher professional development day. Prof had a day off from teaching responsibilities, and I didn’t have class on those days. And Linus? Well, he goes wherever we go.
Although my mind wasn’t on traveling, Prof proposed a spontaneous trip to Chicago in the middle of the week. If we hadn’t galavanted all over the world last year, I would have never agreed to such a spur of the moment overnight trip. But one of the many things I learned about living abroad was to make the most out of every opportunity. It would have been a crazy idea for the old Betty, but the new Betty was ready to let the kids experience life a bit outside of our hometown. So we packed and prepped for our short trip to Chicago less than 24 hours before our departure time. We didn’t have much of an agenda. No set itinerary. Just a hotel room booked, and stomachs ready to enjoy some delicious foods in Chi-town.
But true to big city life, we were stuck in traffic during the late afternoon rush. Although something straight out of a recently cancelled tv show, “The Chicago Code,” we watched at least 30 police cars weave in and out of a traffic. We tried to look up the events that transpired such a need for large scale police support but we found no information.
The kids were truly impressed by the sheer volume of police cars, sirens, and movement in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
We stopped by a long time favorite restaurant, Joy-Yee’s. A favorite little spot a couple of friends introduced to us years ago, and we manage to find time to visit the place when we can.
(Photo Above: Huge glass mug of Joy-Yee’s Peach Mango Fruit Smoothie, enough for this family of four.)
(Photo Above: Pineapple Fried Rice. Sweet and delicious.)
After filling out bellies with warm thai, korean, and chinese dishes, we settled into our 19th floor hotel room close to Magnificent Mile, the long street lined with high-end retailers to make your eyes drool over with excitement. The best part about staying overnight in a different city, according to Piano Man, has to be the late nights (past 8 pm) in comfy white linen sheets on a down comforter bed. The cookie at Double Tree also was a pleasant treat.
LEGO Store on Magnificent Mile
The next morning, we walked to the LEGO store. How could we not? We had grown accustomed to the former tiny store on the other side of Magnificent Mile in years past. It was time to check out the larger space for ourselves. We decided to take a nice stroll in the brisk windy air, known so well by many Chicagoans.
We anticipated our walk to take about 20 minutes, but we arrived too early and waited in the warmth of the Water Tower Place building.
(Photo Above: LEGO sign made of hundreds of LEGO mini figures.)
The boys looked like they were waiting for a Black Friday event to open those doors at the LEGO store. Linus was thinking, “Open, open, open….”)
Piano Man wasn’t convinced that the doors were locked. He had to check for himself.
We viewed the magnificent replica of the Chicago skyline filled with LEGO superhero characters fighting crime in the windy city. If you look carefully below, you’ll see a LEGO Spider-Man swinging on his webbing through Chicago.
Around the corner, we were pleasantly surprised to find a computer interactive game, where the computer reads the movement and sizing image of the user. Once the computer is able to configure your body dimensions to the screen, you can slowly work your way to feed the LEGO dragon apples. As there were no children on a weekday, when most children are in school, we enjoyed the multiple practice rounds to feed the dragon.
Once the doors opened, Piano Man headed straight towards the Nintendo DS LEGO City games, while Linus began building his own pink LEGO car.
The Disney Store on Magnificent Mile
We also visited The Disney Store. I don’t know what it is about going to a toy store in the big city. It reminds me of those moments you see on the big screen, like in the movie Big, when Tom Hanks famously played “Chopsticks” on the giant piano key pad.
I can’t remember the last time we stepped into a Disney Store, and since I haven’t seen the latest Planes movie, the place felt a little foreign to me.
But true to the Disney experience, the store was filled with all sorts of favorite characters. You had your oldies but goodies, Belle and Cinderella dresses with matching shoes and fashion accessories to make any little girl swoon over. They also had several new characters (to me at least), like Sophia the First and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. However, thanks to a little girl in Cyprus, she informed me of these new characters and the lovability of their characters.
Get Your Fresh Seafood at H Mart
But my most favorite part of the trip has to be our visit to H Mart. Who knew a little lunch and shopping visit to a major Korean grocery store would make a girl’s heart palpitate for joy. I guess it only makes sense since we don’t always have access to a wide variety of Korean goods in our hometown.
Each of us order our favorite dishes from ChaChang-Jampong combo to Kalbitang to Orange Mandarin chicken. It’s rare to get good seafood in our part of town, so Prof enjoyed some delicious seafood spices. I prefer a nice warm soup, which is fitting for a chilly day in the Midwest, and Piano Man, true to his love for Chinese food, savored the not so much Chinese food but more of a Korean spicy fried chicken.
(Photo Above: Kalbi Tang.)
(Photo Above: Orange Chicken. Well, sort of.)
We gathered plenty of items to fill our basket, especially some razor thin sliced pork belly slices and ox tail to make some savory soup. I had seen a new Maxim coffee white at another H Mart, hoping that the H Mart in Chicago would carry this delectible item but failed to find it. Next time, H Mart. Next time.
Although Prof’s favorite part about shopping at H Mart is the plethora of fresh seafood available. Crab, large fish, and other amazing sea creatures were available for purchase.
The Shedd Aquarium
Then we moved onto the kind of seafood for viewing pleasure only, The Shedd Aquarium.
Thank goodness we visited the Shedd on a non-holiday weekday. In years past, we went when all the kids (elementary to college) had Spring Break, and we waited for about an hour and forty-five minutes to just buy tickets. We had a tiny Linus at the time, and we braved the long line because Piano Man was determined to see the Shedd.
If you know us, we’re the family that checks out museums whenever we can. The Shedd Aquarium was an easy choice again when it came to visiting a site in Chicago because Linus has been fascinated with fish at Meijer. Every week, Linus makes it a point to stop by the fish tanks to say hello, observe their movements, and give a final wave and say, “Bye, Mool-Go-Gi (Korean word for fish)! See you later!” It’s become a part of our grocery shopping routine.
We watched a diver feed the fish, a sea otter swim at lightning speed in the water, and other fascinating creatures big and small. We were more fascinated with watching our kids in their ooh and a-ha moments.
(Photo Above: Although taken in 2012, the Jellyfish Exhibit is still a fascinating one to watch.)
When it was time to go, we soaked a few warm sun rays while overlooking the city skyline.
While we enjoyed the sites, bites, and sounds of Chicago, we bid the windy city a farewell for now, expecting that we will meet again.
From my hometown to yours,