Monday, 29 July 2013

Just Got Back From The Windy City

I know it was a work trip but it's amazing how much you can cram in to the bits of free time you do get when you put your mind to it! The last comment I had from the big boss before I left was 'to network' I'd say going out to drink cocktails, and beer, and eat deep dish pizza and world famous hot dogs with some of your conference companions all count as networking right?

So we arrived in Chicago late Saturday afternoon and frankly it was hotter than Hades. Paull and I decided to check in the hotel and then go out for a walk in Millenium Park. The idea being to tire ourselves out in the hopes of combating the inevitable jetlag. 
Now the thing with the heat in Chicago is the humidity, boy, oh boy is it humid. I have only every sweated like that once before in my life and that was when I was fighting a fever!!!
 It's not ladylike and it's certainly not pretty.

The views and the delicious salted caramel ice cream did go some way to helping me feel a little less self conscious.  
The Bean in Millenium park. It's a bit mental really how shiny and reflective it is. You can walk right underneath it too, there was a wedding party having their picture taken whilst we were there, I bet they were some amazing shots.

My first view of the famous skyline.
The Wrigley (as in chewing gum) building.

We trudged back to the hotel made plans to meet for breakfast. I have never been so grateful for a super powerful American shower, cranked up the air con and hit the sack.
I didn't sleep so good, my room was at the front of the hotel and I kept hearing this loud whistling which drove me nuts, it turned out to be the doorman calling up taxis!
Also we were next door to a hospital so there were on and off ambulance sirens all night too.

I was up at 5.30am (damn you bodyclock still on U.K time) and after another shower this time to wake me up a bit, I went down bleary eyed to breakfast. I had decided to stroll to Lincoln Park via the lake shore and visit the zoo which opens at 9am. Paull was going to go to the Art Institute but on discovering it didn't open until 11am opted to join me at the zoo first.
I think it's important to get the balance right of time together and time alone when you travel with a colleague, thankfully Paull and I get on like a house on fire so it works out well.

Another hot, hot, hot day. I slathered on the sunblock and wore a hat (get me being all sensible and mature!) before heading out into the furnace.
The manmade beach was super busy with joggers and cyclists and we watched a little bit of the volleyball before cutting through the park.
The Zoo is WONDERFUL! not only is it free there is so much to see. Well I say that, when we first arrived at about 9.05am we were greeted by empty enclosure after empty enclosure.....
We were joking it was a bit like the KitKat Panda advert (British reference there!) but were disappointed never the less.
As we were debating what to do next we caught a polo shirted, wellington booted movement. Turns out we were just too early and they hadn't even let the animals out yet!
So we got to stroll round watching bears, tigers, rhinos and monkeys tucking into breakfast, some of it far less appetizing than others.

We both spotted the carousel and dashed up to it with undisguised excitement. It was only $2.75 a ride so there was no hesitating, tickets were  purchased and animals chosen, it is made up of wild jungle animals not horses. I sat with two baby gorillas on a log and Paull chose a blue arsed baboon.Bloody brilliant fun.

The primate enclosure was the best. We were in there ages and got chatting to a lady who told us all about their important work with breeding Gorillas for hopefully releasing back into the wild one day, it was fascinating stuff.

The best bit by far was a chimp after my own heart who clearly was so sick of all the idiot visitors pounding on the glass and shouting, that he picked up a large pile of poo smeared it all over the glass in front of them, then turned his back with a look of utter disdain. Hilarious.

We wandered back through the park and decided that some manner of refreshment was in order. The Cheesecake Factory it was! After a long cold drink and a dish from their lighter choices menu we felt we were justified in having a pudding.

                                               Baked banana cheesecake anyone?
After lunch we decided to go our separate ways. Paull to the museum and myself on my quest to find the only Bath and Bodyworks store listed for Chicago and stock up on their wonderous products.

What a trek, I walked for what felt like forever through some not so savoury parts and finally got there at 3.05pm, yes you've guessed it the store closed at 3pm....ARSE. I gestured through the glass and the guy mouthed back at me 'we're closed' I finally got across that I only wanted to ask a question. Basically if they had what I wanted in stock I would zip back the next morning before the conference started. As it turns out they didn't stock it so double arse.

I then decided to head sideways across town to a vintage store I had found online. It wasn't my day because it was also shut when I got there even though it wasn't yet 4pm the listed closing time. Somewhat disheartened I headed back towards the Magnificent Mile across the bridges which turned out to be a pretty interesting walk. By this time I was starting to feel weird, couldn't put my finger on it but not well. I had spotted an organic tea cafe the day before and hunted it down and ordered a 'medium black tea with milk' on clocking my accent the girl said' I'm guessing you want that hot right?' Absolutely.
Turns out the medium was about the size of a bucket, undeterred I drank the lot in 10 minutes flat and felt 'me' again.
We met up for a steak dinner, the best I have ever eaten, then headed to the hotel for another early night.

Next day the bodyclock was still on U.K time so I headed out for a bit of retail therapy before the conference started. Other than gifts for others this is what I bought...

The last two were in the sale = result.

After a quick freshen up it was time to work and work we did. A whole afternoon of presentations followed by an 'ice breaker' hour and dinner. We soon broke off into a small group who decided to go to a bar famous for it's cityscape views and cocktails.

Now that is what I call networking.

Next day was 7 full hours of workshops broken up by lunch. I was on my knees by the end of it. hellish lot of concentration and work. This was our 'free' evening with the organizers strongly advising joint activities rather than solo trips out. As I have never had the famous deep dish pizza that was the group we joined.
11 of us went to Gino's and it was GOOOOOOOOD. After we split into two groups. Some went shopping and the rest of us walked to Navy Pier to have a look round and drink surprisingly good beer. I spent the whole time talking British TV shows with one of the guys who was a big fan of them. Networking right?

Wednesday was another full day though this time we finished at 4.30 before going on a firework cruise at 6pm.
What a fantastic night that was.
The gorgeous views from the lake,
the stunning firework display that seemed to go on forever, 
and the fabulous food.
Plus the bonus of an unlimited free bar, now that certainly broke the ice! Our coach sang loudly all the way back to the hotel and plans were made for drinking/clubbing.
 I decided to bow out of that as I had pulled the short straw and was attending the morning sessions the next day (when did I get so sensible??) I hear a damn good and messy time was had by all.

One final morning of presentations, pack and check out (with a minor heart attack over the bill which was thankfully in error), then off to the airport for a long wait before our flight home.

All in all a great time. I could have done without the work bit but as we were encouraged to move tables all the time I did meet a lot of different people and made a couple of what I hope will be life long friends.

So Hurrah for networking.


  1. That's a fab Chococat top.

    Didn't the carousel have an elephant for you? Shocking!

  2. Now that sounds like an epic work trip! You really made the most of your time, you must have been knackered when you got home. The sight seeing and the food (and the drinks) all sound brilliant. The heat... not so appealing. Thank goodness for air-con, right?! xxxx

  3. wow! what a trip, you packed so much in - Chicago looks hot but gorgeous. I love that city scape, a city scape with cocktails, it's so 80s I might explode with joy! You lucky thing, hope you're recovered

  4. Busy, busy, busy! I always wanted to go to Chicago, then decided I really didn't and now seeing the architecture, am interested again! I do love the Wrigley building, it's beautiful! I have an on-line friend who lives in one of those apartment blocks you can see on the skyline picture.
    Isn't it annoying when the animals are nowhere to be seen? At London Zoo we passed enclosure after enclosure and saw nothing for a little while, very frustrating seeing as we had paid to see the animals xxx

  5. Oh my word, that cheesecake looks sublime!!! I baked a strawberry cheesecake with a strawberry and raspberry topping for my birthday this year and have been craving it again ever since!

    So true about how much you can accomplish with your free time if you really focus on what you want to do with it. It's good to be reminded of that every now and then in today's world where we tend to fritter away so much time online.

    ♥ Jessica