Yesterday I flew to Chicago, or Gotham City as the new Batman movie would have us believe. Thank god I showed up to the airport early as the U.S. customs was backed way up (took almost 2 hours to get through) and only one security line was in use. Other than that, the flight was normal. I arrived at around 8pm and was given a lift to my hotel.
Since my meeting was downtown Chicago I did a little pre-flight checking and found a reasonable rate at a hotel 1 block away. The lucky hotel that was graced by the glory that is ME ? The Hard Rock Hotel.
As I said, the rate was reasonable for a downtown Chicago hotel during the holidays (149$). The service from the concierge and front desk clerk was top notch. They went through the usual formalities, and once informed by me that I had forgotten my Blackberry charger, they rushed off to see if they had one I could use. I was given room 1002, which was a simple room with king bed and "modern" decor. Everything was in its place and very clean. While I was getting 'put away' the concierge arrived at my door with Blackberry charger in hand, and to my shock said "please keep it on us".
After I plugged in the thirsty blackberry, I grabbed my jacket and headed out for a bite. I checked in with the front desk to get a suggestion. I didn't feel like a "nice" meal. I was looking for casual. They suggested the Emerald Loop, an Irish pub around the corner and promptly gave me a coupon for a free appetizer. I made my way down the street and noticed very quickly the cleanliness. Downtown Chicago is CLEAN. Even the side streets.
The 'Loop' is fairly non-descript for an Irish Pub. The only real feature is the long oak bar, the Irish bartender from Limerick and the Irish waitress that served me. After a quick review of the menu I went with the fish and chips (of course) and passed on the free appetizer. I washed the average main course down with a Peroni Pint or 2 while watching the soccer highlites on the big screen. It seemed as if it was going to be a quiet non-eventful evening until the air was broken with a "HEY...HELLO?...DOWN HERE" call from bald drunk transportation guy from a pharmaceutical company trying to get the bartenders attention (he didn't have to yell since he was the only one sitting at the bar....he was one of those guys bartenders love...drunk...annoying....wants to chat). I got to hear all about his job and why he was there when he decided to chat up the two girls sitting at the table next to me. After rambling on about how cool his job is and the fact that he was from Indianapolis, he gave the girls money to buy a round and wandered off to the door (strangely walking around the perimeter of the room).
I figured this was my cue and I paid up the tab and headed back to the hotel. The room was nice and quiet...almost too quiet. I finally fell asleep around 12:30am and only woke up once during the night.
The following morning I was up at 8am, showered, shaved and headed out for my long 1 block walk. I hit the corner bakery cafe for an orange juice and muffin and met my contact and off to the 9am meeting we went. The meeting was interesting and productive. Could be a good person to work with in the future.
After the meeting my contact and I wandered down to Millennium Park. We wandered by the Frank Gehry designed theater and park. Walked under the chrome 'bean'. Watched the locals skate on the small piece of ice. The walking and watching built up a bit of an appetite. I was good to go for anything and the suggestion was "Chicago Deep Dish Pizza"...why not.
Off to Giordano's. We arrived before the lunch rush which was good (the place packed up after we ordered). We ordered a 10" deep dish 'special' and bruschetta. The bruschetta was piled high and was very fresh (not too much garlic). A very filling appetizer. The pizza was enormous. How they could say on the menu this would feed 1-2 people is beyond me. The two of us couldn't finish it and left 2 pieces behind. I would highly recommend this place, the food and service was great.
With lunch completed, and my contact had to run to another meeting, I really had nowhere to go but back to the airport. My flight home was scheduled for 5:50pm, but I thought I could find an earlier return. I wandered down the street, again amazed at the cleanliness and made my way to an "L" (elevated train). A quick conversation with the very helpful and pleasant ticket attendant and I was off. The brown line to Clark and the underground blue line to O'Hare. Pretty simple.
The train ride, like any other, was slightly boring. I passed the time texting to some of my friends and checking out some of the condo re-fabs going on next to the line. Made it to the airport by 1:30pm and changed my flight to a 3:35 departure.
Again, this trip to Chicago was way to fast. I will be returning this summer and I plan to spend a few days to get to know the downtown.
I got home to a smilin' big boy and a big bowl of soup.