A Wonderful Few Days at a Wedding in Chicago

Blogging on the bus again!!  This was written on August 18th and 19th but it's taken a few weeks to get around to editing the photos...  No computer stuff in this blog, just personal fun!

So, on Wednesday, August 13th, Lisa and I flew to Chicago to attend a wedding of a friend from our building in Seattle.  We met John at the building in which we live.  He recently fell in love with a wonderful lady named Helen and when we were invited, we had to say yes!   Neither of us had been to Chicago (I am NOT counting two work trips where I didn't get out of the conference rooms).   We were very excited to go and simply had the BEST time.

The wedding was at the downtown Ritz-Carlton right next door to the John Hancock Tower.   As we were leaving home and walking out the front of the building to get to the Seattle airport, we saw John and Helen loading up to go!   After some hugs, we determined that they we on an Alaska airlines flight landing 30 minutes before our United flight and we would see them at the hotel later in the evening since they were having dinner with Helen's parents who live in Chicago.   We landed, got to the hotel, unpacked, and had dinner in the hotel.  We stayed up late Wednesday night drinking at chatting with the almost newlyweds since we were the first to arrive into town.

Helen is a beautiful Chinese lady originally from Beijing and an only child.  Her father came over to become a university professor (I think in material sciences) and started a successful company... the real American dream!   John is from Philadelphia and is the 11th of 12 children from an Irish family.   He has worked his butt off for years in the financial industry and has held amazing positions at very influential companies having climbed up solely with his wits, hard work, and honor.  It is a joy to have them both as friends.  They waited to later in life to marry since neither of them found their true love until recently.  Just watching them together (and knowing they are our neighbors) is so cool!

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Thursday, August 14th -- Walking, checking out the Chicago Spire, an amazing dinner, and partying with new friends!

We were going to be attending the wedding on Saturday but had Thursday and Friday as a mini-vacation to acquaint ourselves with downtown Chicago.   The weather was perfect!  The town was alive and pumping.  We were in the middle of the Magnificent Mile of shopping on Michigan Avenue and we just had a blast.   After sleeping in on Thursday, we had to try Chicago Pizza!   We headed to Gino's East and were one of the first there for lunch (since this was our breakfast after sleeping in).  I wanted to try deep dish pizza.   Lisa wanted a thin crust... So, not wanting either of us to be disappointed, we ordered both!   It takes a LONG time for deep dish pizza...  When they both came, we were astonished that it is DEEP dish pizza!   It seemed like a lasagna more than like a pizza.  I actually liked Lisa's pizza better!   The locals told us later that it is always better the next day after sitting in the refrigerator all night.   I'm not convinced!

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Next, since Lisa and I are fascinated by cool buildings, we went to the presentation center for the Chicago Spire (also see).   This condo building will be 2000 feet tall hand hold about 1100 homes in it!  It is a really novel architecture right where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan.   It will punch up on the Chicago Skyline about 500 feet taller than the Sears' Tower and be the tallest building in North America when it opens in 2012.  The construction is just about at ground level now.   Each of the 1100 (or so) homes has a different floor plan since the tower gets gradually smaller as it rises and the window (and structural) placement gradually rotates (about 2.5 degrees per floor).  It was a BLAST to see the project even though we are currently quite content with our condo home in Seattle that we are planning to move into next year (and the commute to Redmond from downtown Chicago would be harder than from downtown Redmond).  Still, it was fascinating checking it out and we will certainly remember on subsequent visits when it is a world famous landmark!

After leaving the Chicago Spire offices, we walked to Navy Pier which is wonderful public pier extending into Lake Michigan with amusement rides and boat tours and much more.  There were lots of people just having fun in the sun on a beautiful day.  Soon, the roar of the jet engines told us that the Blue Angels were in town!  Now, we had just spent an afternoon watching the Blue Angels less than two weeks ago!  Also, Lisa had bumped into the pilots at the Washington Athletic Club where we exercise.  The WAC is where they stay when in Seattle and Lisa had a wonderful conversation with these fine servicemen.  So, when we saw them flying over us again, it was just a LOT of fun to watch them practice on Thursday.  

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By 3:30PM, we needed to start our walk back to the hotel as we had 6:00PM dinner reservations at Charlie Trotter's Restaurant and needed to get all dressed up!

So, Lisa had heard about Charlie Trotter's and we were told it was one of the finest restaurants in the world.  Now, you never know how that should be interpreted but we have to say, it was phenomenal!  There was a seven course menu with wine pairing.  A coat and tie is required and it was my first opportunity to try out my new suit (since the old one from 18 months ago was too loose). 

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We had the most amazing food and had a wonderful time!   They have two seatings (6PM and 9PM) and by 8:30, we were heading back to the hotel.  Unfortunately, Lisa was getting a headache so she crashed for the night.  I shot a text message to the groom but the recently arrived gang was still at dinner so I walked and explored the beautiful city in the Magnificent Mile area on an absolutely lovely evening.  The place was abuzz with action and it felt SO good to walk and burn some calories.

Soon, I was meeting some of John and Helen's friends and family and we were out partying!  Helen's friend Eva is currently living in Shanghai.  Most of John's friends are from Washington DC but his family (six brothers and five sisters) are from Philadelphia.  I met Mike and Karen (from Austin), Reza (from DC), TJ and Emily (from DC), and John's brother, Tony!   John, Tony, and I closed the place down and had a blast!

Friday, August 15th -- Sushi Lunch, The Bus Tour, the Boat Tour, and Meeting more friends!

So, I slept in until 10AM (Lisa had popped to life at around 8AM but let me sleep).  We started by tracking down sushi for my lovely (sushi-loving) wife.  We had a lovely lunch and the set out to figure out what to do.  We decided to hop onto one of those double-decker busses where you can sit on top, see a LOT, and get a sunburn.  We did all these!

We rode around on the tour bus for two hours in the sun and saw SO many fascinating buildings, parks, the Chicago River, and more.  

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We decided to bail out near the Chicago River and walk down to Grant Park.   This would only lose us the last mile of the tour loop and that was the Magnificent Mile of shopping and we had already walked that.   As we crossed the river, we saw a tour boat on the river and decided that would be more fun and hiked over to Navy Pier (where we already knew they originated).  So, off we were on an "Architecture Tour" from a boat up the Chicago River.   This time, it was an hour in the sun and again, snapping photos like crazy!   Here's some of the best!

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We had promised to get back to the hotel by 5:30 to rendezvous with some of the folks flying in from other places.  That evening was the rehearsal dinner and, while we weren't in the wedding party, we were hanging out with some of them, their spouses, etc, while the rehearsal itself happened.  It was a BLAST.  Soon, we were running off with our new friend, Reza, to grab a steak a couple of blocks away while the wedding party did the dinner together.  We came back to the hotel later and had drinks with everyone until we bagged it at around 1AM.   Again, an absolutely LOVELY day of adventures, partying, and nice people.

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Saturday, August 16th -- A lovely lunch and an AMAZING Wedding!

So, again we slept in and rested.  We got ourselves going at around 10:30 and knew we couldn't be too adventurous because we needed to be in formal clothing and ready for the wedding by 3:30.  We decided that the Chicago River was just TOO cool and so we hiked the mile down Michigan to the River and started exploring for a restaurant along the river to sit for lunch.  It took a little while but we found a wonderful place called Flatwater and had a GREAT lunch.  Walking back, we explored the hotel lobby for the new Trump Tower along the river.  Having an OPEN hotel while major construction is going on 90 stories above is really cool!  But there they are open while the building is being built!   We walked back and checked out the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago which was only a block away from our hotel.  It is a beautiful 140 year old church!

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Here's the building with our hotel, the Ritz-Carlton.

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And, right next door is the John Hancock Center.

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Soon, it was back to a shower and getting the fancy clothes on.

We showed up at around 3:30 for the 4:00PM wedding and it was gorgeous!  Our new friends were arriving and soon we saw the groom (our neighbor, John) and his six brothers.  There was a string quintet playing while everyone was seated and a trumpet player just waiting for the "Here Comes the Bride" procession... that's ALL the trumpet player did!

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The wedding itself was short and beautiful!   Soon, we were outside the room for appetizers and cocktails while the wedding party had jillions of photos taken and the room was reset for dinner.  It was wonderful!

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We sat at dinner with some of John's family (a sister, nephew, niece, and nephew's girlfriend).   Let me clarify... the nephew was 30, built like a mountain, and back from his second tour in Iraq.  They were fun!  There were also some of John's good friends from some of his jobs in the financial industry.  During the (lovely) meal, there were four musicians playing traditional Chinese music while we ate.  It was amazingly cool.

Then, out came the THIRD group of musicians, a 9 piece orchestra to do the dance music.  Helen has spent years doing ballet and John and Helen did the most impressive "first dance" I have ever seen.  It was elegant, graceful, and charming.  The singer from the musicians said she had seen a LOT of first dances and that was the classiest.  Then dancing began, the wedding cake was served, and more and more dancing!   Lisa had to (temporarily) abandon her beautiful (but painful) high-heels in order to dance!

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Our new friend, Reza, caught the garter belt!

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We managed to dance on and off until about 1AM.  My new suit DEFINITELY needed dry cleaning and we had a wonderful time.   It was just one of the classiest and most fun weddings I've ever been to.

So, back to the room by 1AM... Packing... Too little sleep... Catching a ride to the airport by 9AM... Change planes in Denver and glad to be home!   Happy (and tired) to be at the gym by 6AM Monday morning... Between the cruise and Chicago, I need more time at the gym!

A trip we won't forget!  Chicago is a great city!

-- Pat