Cool, cold and colder in warm Chicago

Diane (saved by Amy's down coat) and Chicago Greeter Larry Ambrose in front of 'The Bean' in Millennium Park

Update: Globe story is here.

My friend Amy, whose downtown Chicago high-rise we were fortunate enough to stay in a couple weeks ago, keeps apologizing for the frigid weekend we encountered. I told her we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We needed bragging rights! It had been unseasonably warm there, until we arrived, when it snowed and the days dipped into the 20s and the nights, oh, who wants to think about it. Two things saved us. Amy and her partner, Deanna, keep their heat higher than we keep ours (yay!) and Amy loaned me her shin-length North Face down coat. Yes, yes, oh yes.

The `Crown Fountain,' a video sculpture and fountain by conceptual artist Jaume Plensa in Millennium Park

So, yes, we had a blast –of arctic air, but of fun too. Amy had given us with a travel-writer-worthy list of things to do, plus I had a few story assignments. Saturday we met our “greeter,” for my Boston Globe story about the very cool Chicago Greeters program. Greeters are locals who give free tours of their city. We picked “public art” from a smorgasbord of options. Our guy Larry took us to the beyond-thrilling Millennium Park, and then through a greatest-hits list of sculptures by Picasso, Dubuffet, Chagall, Miro, and Calder.

Farm manager Dave Snyder grows vegetables on the organic roof-top of Uncommon Ground

That afternoon Lina and I hopped on the Red Line to Edgewater, where we visited Uncommon Ground, “the greenest restaurant in the country” (according to the Green Restaurant Association) for a little Ode piece I was writing. I’m very skeptical of green claims and usually that proves founded, but not so in this case. From the organic roof-top farm to the tables made from local fallen trees, and many things in between, this was the real deal.

We took Amy’s suggestion (and discount) and headed across the street that night to the venerable Gene Siskel Film Center to see “Newlyweds” starring and directed by Edward Burns. Oh, yeah, and it was followed by a Q&A with Ed himself. Total thrill!

Sunday we got lost in the Art Institute of Chicago for hours and hours. In one room we soaked up more masterpieces than many people see in a lifetime. The new (2009) Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano, is a soaring three-story beauty chocked with modern, contemporary, and cutting edge show-stoppers.

Sunset over Chicago as seen from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center

What could top that? Literally, sunset from the 94th floor of the Hancock Tower Observatory. (We went to the Willis Tower/Sears Tower the next day. Much longer lines, but it was worth it to stand on the transparent Skydeck Ledge 103 floors above ground.) On the way to meet Dutch friends of Lina’s living nearby, we stopped at American Girl Place for an overdose of pink before returning to adult fun — outstanding brew and food at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square.

Diane ventures out on the Sky Ledge at 1,353 feet in the air

On our final day, our hosts returned from Florida (oh, did I not mention we had the run of their splashy condo for the weekend?) and Amy and I caught up on some 15 years! Since college, she’s become a city mouse, while I’ve turned into a small-town girl who appreciates the big city from time to time. Thanks for the Midwestern hospitality, Amy and Deanna! We shall return!

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6 Responses to “Cool, cold and colder in warm Chicago”

  1. boldlygosolo Says:

    Whoa, that sky ledge looks spooky. I don’t see a wall around it. What am I missing??
    LOVE Chicago. Art Institute one of my absolute faves.

    • didaniel Says:

      A wall of plexiglass! Some people jump up and down. I could hardly walk on the thing even though of course it’s totally safe. My stomach was flipping. Lina’s too. Very fun!

  2. Fabienne Worth Says:

    Love your site Diane, and your pix and chirpy tone….so much energy….no wonder you can soak up all those masterpieces and stand on a skyledge on top of it!
    I love that they have greeters in Chicago….help me want to go there…

    • didaniel Says:

      Thanks, Fabienne. If I didn’t have Lina pushing me along, I wouldn’t be half as energetic. But I’d probably still be chirpy! Travel does that to me. (Well, when I”m not being cranky!)

  3. Amy Says:

    We’re so glad you had fun, Diane! We’re happy to lend you our condo, our coats and the hospitality of our fair city anytime. We hope you and Lina will come back soon!

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