Thursday, July 11, 2002

After a workout and breakfast this morning, we decided to walk along the Magnificent Mile. We literally shopped till we dropped. Didn't buy much, but window shopping is just as much fun!

We ate lunch at a nice bistro and then went to the Observatory at the Hancock Building. Gorgeous views from there! I like it better than from the Sears Tower. We'll be back there tonight for dinner, hopefully I'll be able to take some great pictures of Chicago by dark.

Now we're just resting, as our dinner reservations are fairly late and Saskia needs a little rest (though maybe Rick does, as he is napping ;)).

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

As I'm sitting here in the hotel room, listening to fireworks in the distance, but missing them, as a supertired 6 year old is asleep right behind me, I thought I'd update some more.

This is an *exciting* city! Much to both Rick and my surprise to be honest. When we arrived last night, all buildings were shrouded in clouds and we had no idea just how many skyscrapers this city holds. Thankfully, the fog soon lifted and today was quite sunny for most of the time (it clouded over and sprinkled some later in the afternoon).

We arrived around 7pm last night (we didn't realize it is 1 hour earlier here until this morning, when we got the times for the trolley tours). First we checked in to the hotel, which was an adventure in itself. We are staying at the Intercontinental, they're having a promotion of half off room prices including breakfast for 2. Now, this is a 4 star hotel (and our room rate is the same as the one we'll have to pay in Muskegon at the Holiday Inn this weekend!!!!), so you'd expect everything to go tip-top. So we get our room key, go to the room and, errr, the bed has been used, the trash bins are full, it's clearly not a clean room.

After a call to the front desk, it's quickly corrected and we're getting a new room, so, down for the new keys we go. Long line at the front desk, tired and hungry little girl, hm, trying not to be annoyed. But this can happen anywhere, right? Ok, so up to new room. Open door. Hey, there is a toilet bag in the bathroom. And a plate of half eaten fruit on the desk. Clearly lived in.

The bellcaptain arrives with the bags and we tell him of our new find. He's already aware of the first mishap and mutters this is not right. Down we go again. Well, three's a charm and now we have a nice room. But not much of an apology and frankly, despite the low room rate, for a hotel this class, I would expect something more. I know, I know, having been a travel agent does not help, I know what a manager (who was present) can do to make it up to a client.

Anyway, we have a king size bed and Saskia sleeps royally on the red velvet cushions of the built in couch. And there is a robe (the sign of a luxury hotel for me) and a wonderful fitness center. So we're most definitely not complaining.

After a nice workout this morning, we went down to the very nice buffet at the restaurant. Saskia had cereal and Rick and I an omelet.

Then we placated Saskia by taking her to the huge Disney store on Michigan Avenue. We walked some of the "Magnificent Mile", saw the Water Tower and the Hancock building and bought a tour ticket on the Chicago Trolley. We took the trolley to the Sears Tower.

An imposing building, the accounts differ on whether it is or is not the tallest building in the world. I guess it depends on how you measure. It is definitely the tallest "structure" in the world. We decided to go up to the skydeck, which took about an hour to get to, including a movie about Chicago from the air. I was a bit nervous about going, as Rick kept talking about the height and how it stuck out above and wasn't I nervous? I finally told him he sure was getting there making me nervous with his talk!

The view from the Skydeck was magnificent. We were very lucky as we still had clear skies, it clouded over soon after. Once down again, we ate pizza at Giordano's, according to many the most authentic deep dish Chicago style pizzeria. Delicious!

Then we had to wait a bit for the Chicago Trolley double decker bus and laid in the grass next to the Sears Tower. Got some interesting pictures lying down! Those buildings are so high!!

We took the double decker to the Navy Pier, where we walked around and went through the maze (Saskia was scared the whole time and there was no way out, once in. She was the one wanting to do it, but changed her mind too late :() and took a ride on the Carousel.

Then back to the hotel for an hour of relaxing and finally we had a wonderful dinner at Russian Tea Time. Especially Rick, as he remembers his days in Russia with fondness and found many foods he liked there. And now I'm off to bed, I'm beat!
At the very early time of 6:15am, my alarm went off. I always have it set on a radio station and I have no idea which one it was, but the first word I heard was: “Hallelujah”.
One can’t start the day better, though I did immediately hit the snooze button.

At 6:30, we had to get up and packed up the rest of the car. It still took longer than expected and Rick forgot something so we had to go back, but finally at 7:30, we left our street behind.

Traffic wasn’t too bad and in Frederick, Maryland, we stopped for a quick breakfast at Burger King. I was happy to see they have a similar muffin with egg, Canadian bacon and cheese like McDonald’s, as everything else on their menu is terribly artery clogging!

I’ll be updating this blog every so often during the trip, it will be a long entry. As I’m writing this, it’s 9:14 and we driving on I-70, just north of Frederick, on our way to the most heinous crossroads I’ve seen in the United States: Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

I’m going to take pictures there, it’s such a sea of signs, neon and ugliness, that it’s special. Every conceivable drive-thru, cheap hotel chain and gas station is represented in just about a one mile stretch of road.

There, we’ll take the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a terribly boring road!

Here in Northern Maryland, the landscape is beautiful, lush green hills and farm fields in between. It always amazes how persistent the ivy and vines are, that grow around the trees and make the woods look like jungles. Looking at it, I can’t imagine how people traveled through it before there were roads! People who live out here (an occasional house stands in the hills) live super far removed from anything.

After passing through Breezewood, we entered the Pennsylvania Turnpike and, as is so often the case in Pennsylvania, it started pouring down rain. A serious deluge!

We ate a (not) delicious lunch at McDonald’s around 12:30 and then Rick had to go on a conference call, so I drove for 2 hours through the pouring rain.

Meanwhile, we entered Ohio and as I’m writing this (4:15pm), we are about 30 miles from the Indiana border. The rain has been off and on, but when on, it’s been really hard.

There are few things more boring than the turnpikes. There are plazas along them, every 30 or 40 miles or so, with boring restaurants like Pizza Hut and Burger King and McDonald’s.

Ohio’s landscape here is flat. Large cornfields and other crops and very nice looking dairy farms, with big shiny blue silo’s. I always love the red “Grandma Duck” barns, that dot the landscape. It’s such an American sight.
If not driving, I’ve been killing time playing the Sims Hot Date. I finally got the chance, after the kids have been “borrowing” it from me for months. Saskia is being a little angel. She gets to choose all the videos to watch, no brother or sister nixing her choices!

My guess is, we’re about 3.5 hours out of Chicago, meaning we’ll arrive there around 7:30, just in time for dinner!

At 6:30, we’re driving through northern Indiana, through a downright ugly area! It doesn’t help, that the weather is overcast and the factories smell. There are more electricity, phone and other kinds of towers than I can count here.

Just 25 miles to Chicago!

Monday, July 08, 2002

Yesterday, Saskia and I went swimming. I swam 60 laps (1500 meters), pretty much nonstop, so not bad. The weather was strange, as the flow was northerly, which pushed the smoke of fires in Quebec this way. Amazing! It was hazy from something happens 1000+ miles up north!

After swimming, we rushed home to get ready to go to the movies with Christine, Mallory and Chuck. Chuck and Rick went to Men in Black II and Christine, the girls and I saw Lilo and Stitch for the second time. It was even more fun the second time around. I truly love that movie! The premise, the colors, the songs (with the exception of some of the Elvis songs, as I'm no Elvis fan at all!).

Lauren came to babysit the girls and Chuck, Christine, Rick and I went out to dinner at the same restaurant we went to for the 4th of July. We were received like old friends. I've seldom frequented a restaurant that's more hospitable! We ordered liquors after dinner and got a complimentary plate with different desserts to accompany it. We had a wonderful dinner!!!

Then today, Saskia and I had a downright lazy day. She could barely wake up this morning and didn't want to go to camp, so I took her to the gym with me. Afterwards, we went home and lazed on the couch, watching tv and reading email (for me). It was something we both needed after the constant going of the past weeks.

Around 4, we went out to Blockbuster's to get the necessary videos for the road trip to Chicago we're going on tomorrow. And some crafts for her to do in the car.

I am mostly packed and she's doing Blopens in the basement with her little friend Parker. I do not want to go and see what damage they're inflicting ;). But they're having fun.

Happy moments:
1. It sounds strange, but the colors and music of Lilo and Stitch made me feel happy, especially since we were watching it with such great friends.
2. Just spending a quiet afternoon with Saskia, it was really enjoyable
3. Feeling much better after my workout, than before, exercise still helps a lot
4. Eating dinner together with friends and having such a great time, last night
5. The beautiful sunflowers in the backyard