Friday, January 6, 2012

Chicago 2011

Brian and I went to Chicago last week for our annual holiday get-away.  The hotel deals are always insanely fantastic during the week between Christmas and New Year's so we started the tradition a few years ago and have stayed at a different hotel each time.  This year we stayed at Hotel Monaco.  It's one of the older hotels in Chicago but it's completely updated and is really nice.  It's pet-friendly, eco-friendly, and has a complimentary wine reception every evening from 5-6 p.m.  (Of which I made sure to take full advantage of both nights!)  It's located just south of the river so it's a close walk to shopping on Michigan Avenue and State Street, as well as to Millennium Park.  There's a pretty nice fitness center that I used both mornings because it was a little too chilly to run along the river.  (I'm a wimp about the cold.)

The weather was actually pretty nice, especially compared to previous years.  There was no snow and not too much wind.  The temps were in the 30's-40's.  We didn't see the sun much but again, it could have been much, much worse.  We were only in town from Monday afternoon until Wednesday morning so it was a quick trip.  Here's a recap:


The hotel is pet-friendly.  If you don't have a pet, you may request a goldfish for your room.  I didn't want a fish but was curious about something.  Upon arrival, I asked the woman working at the front desk if they flush the fish down the toilet when guests check out or if they return them to the tank.  She looked slightly horrified that I would even as such a question and said, "Only if he reaches his expiration date naturally do we flush him down the toilet!"  She passed the test.  Still, I didn't take a fish.

We had just enough time to get to our room, check and spray for bed bugs, and get back to the lobby for prime seating on the chaise lounge for the wine reception.  I had three glasses.  I wouldn't normally drink three glasses of wine in an hour but I told Brian  I was saving him money at the bar later on. 

For dinner we took the El to Revolution Brewing.  We ate there last time we were in Chicago and I ordered the same things - the polenta fries and the Italian seitan pizza.  Both were as delicious as I remembered.  (Note to future self - next time, however, do not eat the entire pizza.  Must have been the three glasses of free wine talking.)

Brian highly recommends the beer at Revolution Brewing!  (Even if I blinded him and he couldn't see it.)
Polenta Fries w/ smoked tomato aioli - $7
Italian Seitan Pizza w/ cremini mushrooms, oregano, and smoked tomato sauce - $13 (It tasted way better than this picture would lead you to believe.)


I got up bright and early to use the elliptical and some free weights.  Then Brian and I had breakfast at Corner Bakery.  He absolutely loves their baked French toast.  They don't have a whole lot there for a vegan so I had what I always get - coffee, fruit, and a bagel.

Next we went shopping.  We spent the WHOLE day shopping on Michigan Avenue.  We went to Gap, Nike Town, the Disney Store, Aveda, Crate and Barrel, Marshall's, Apple, The North Face, Columbia, Express, H&M . . . and a few other places.  

I would be remiss if I didn't mention our stop at Lush.  To me it felt like a mere 20 minutes but if you ask Brian it was an hour.  Who really knows?  Anyway, they were having their big after-Christmas sale where some of their soaps and all their holiday items are "buy one get one free."  I came out of there with over 4 lbs. of soap and 2 holiday sets!  Here are all my soaps:

Northern Lights, Noubar, Alkmaar, Angel's Delight, Snowcake, and Candy Cane Soap (all vegan, of course)

Workin' on my biceps - thanks Lush!

After shopping we dropping off our bags at the hotel and then went to Millennium Park to walk around, watch some ice skating, and see the holiday decorations.  It was really beautiful in and around the park.

Somewhere in Millennium Park
"The Bean" (it's vegan)
This photo taken in "the bean" gave Brian a Muppet mouth, leading us to break into a song and dance number asking, "Is he a Muppet or a man?"

Then we high-tailed it back to the hotel for the wine reception.  This time I was on a schedule.  I was going to make sure I had FOUR glasses of free wine tonight!  (And I did.)

The Emerald Loop Irish Pub (a rather unassuming place)

For dinner we walked across the street to the Emerald Loop, where I had the portabella sandwich and fries.  Let me tell you that I NEVER order fries.  Ever.  And certainly not at an Irish pub that also deep fries fish and other decidedly non-vegan items in their fryers.  However, need I remind you that I just came from the hotel wine reception where I had FOUR glasses of Cabernet in an hour?  I didn't think so.  So yeah, I ordered the fries.  And I they were good.  And I ate them all.  (Hangs head in shame.)  

Portabella sandwich - $8.95 (It normally comes with sun-dried tomato pesto and mozzarella but I requested lettuce and tomato instead.)

The Emerald Loop is a really cute place, the server was friendly (she kept calling us "dears"), and the music was good.  I'd definitely eat there again but would sub fruit for the fries.  Unless we stay at the Hotel Monaco and go there after the free wine reception...

After dinner we walked around a bit, checked out some stores on State Street, and Brian found a dessert at Magnolia Bakery.

The Chicago Theater at night


I worked out at the fitness center again on Wednesday morning (I chose the Kilimanjaro setting to help work off those fries!) and we had breakfast at Starbucks.  I had what was probably the best multigrain bagel I've ever eaten, a banana, and coffee.  Brian had Perfect Oatmeal and said it was really good.  Not perfect, mind you, but good.  It's vegan but because I'm quite particular about my oatmeal, I've been hesitant to try it myself.  It looks like it would be a good grab-and-go meal on the way to work.

On the way out of town we stopped at Bridgeport Coffee to pick up some beans for Brian's parents and then we were on our way.  Not home, though.  Hardly.  Next up was a visit to Lansing to meet our friend Kate and her daughter Juniper.  Kate and her husband Chris adopted Juniper from China a year ago and we hadn't gotten out to meet her yet.  (Hangs head in shame.)  We had a wonderful visit with them - Juniper is such a delight!

Next was a quick stop at Elderly Instruments.  It's Brian's Lush, only it doesn't smell quite as nice. 

Then we drove to Albion to pick up our new kitten from what will forever be known as The House of 100 Cats.  And that, my friends, is a story for my next post.


Have you been to Chicago lately?  Did you go anywhere special during the holidays?


  1. Best: "Next was a quick stop at Elderly Instruments. It's Brian's Lush, only it doesn't smell quite as nice."

  2. BlueHost is ultimately one of the best web-hosting company with plans for all of your hosting needs.