Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Weekend Review {11/04} - Pack Up and Go Anniversary Trip!


As we do, we pregamed our anniversary by giving out Halloween candy.  I actually had a massage before coming home to start the anniversary weekend off right.  #NoShame.

By 8, the trick-or-treaters had stopped coming.  We had went inside and turned off the porch lights by 7:30 since it was such a trickle, but I noticed a family at our neighbor's house across the street, knocking on the door, since they have a solar light in the their front yard that is always on.  There were 2 small kids and a stroller and that neighbor doesn't do Halloween, so I turned our lights back on and went out with a handful of candy to split amongst the kids after telling the mom that their light is a fake-out.  You could tell she was frustrated and tired, acceptable since it was 8pm and she was walking around a neighborhood in the dark with her small kids, but I felt like my good deed of the day was complete.

I still hadn't packed for our trip, so I headed upstairs to take care of that task.  It was difficult to pack since I didn't know where we were going.  I knew it was a high of 45°F while we were there, but I didn't know if it was a dry cold or wet cold.. so I ended up packing 3 shirts for each day and bringing my ski coat and hat and scarf.  I was definitely overpacked, but it was better than being underpacked, in this situation.

Eventually, Teh German came upstairs and did his packing and it was bedtime.


We were instructed to be at the airport at 0445 on Friday morning for our flight at 0615.  Teh German was in a weird mood, but we powered through it.  I finally told him that I wanted to be more excited, but I felt like that would irritate him, which would only make him more grouchy, so I couldn't even be as excited as I felt.  Happy anniversary! loool

We finally opened the envelope when we got downstairs.  I had brought the envelope upstairs to open, just in case, but with Teh German's mood, I didn't bother.  I also knew that I had packed for every possible situation, so nothing needed to be added/could be added to my suitcase, so come what may.

After Teh German took half my life opening the envelope, I finally had to be like, "JUST OPEN THE FOLDER!" when he couldn't get the papers unstuck from each other to see the destination.  Just thinking about it 5 days later gives me anxiety all over again.

These are fake smiles.
We were excited, but we were tired and I had just been impatient..

We headed to the airport, walked right through security (yay TSA pre-check), and headed to our gate to wait.  When we arrived in Chicago, we requested a Lyft to get us to our hotel (Ace Hotel) to drop off our luggage.

After over 45 minutes of awkward silence since it was a shared ride and no one seemed interested in chatting, we finally made it to our hotel.  We put on warm socks, dropped off our bags, used the bathroom, sat in a super shitty, overpriced photobooth, and then requested another Lyft to bring us downtown for breakfast and touristy things.

So with Pack Up + Go, your transportation is arranged and your hotel is reserved.  These items are covered in your budget.  If there is money leftover, entertainment tickets may be purchased.  In your packet you also receive suggestions of places to eat/things to do and we/I tried to take advantage of these suggestions as much as possible, even though I still googled "things to do in Chicago" and scoured through the lists multiple times.

For breakfast, we went to Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe (or something like that).  We ordered coffee while we waited the 5 minutes to be seated.  Theeeennn, when we sat down, Teh German spilled his coffee all over everything.  Oops.  He was, understandably, frustrated, but it was no problem to get it cleaned up and I asked for a refill for him and there was no charge.  Despite how busy it was, our food arrived quick and it was deeeelicious.  I had a mushroom omlette and an Oreo smores pancakes and there were ZERO regrets.

After breakfast, we headed to Millennium Park to check out The Bean (or Sky Cloud or whatever) and the face fountains (although the fountains were turned off).  I almost lost my mind in the airplane as we landed when I noticed that Chicago was covered in snow!  I relished in the white stuff and the cold.

After the park, we weren't really sure what to do so we opted to do a city architecture tour by boat.  Thankfully, Groupon had a deal, so we went with that.  On our way there, we hit up a bathroom because I'm the Queen of Sensitive Stomachs.

The tour was pretty cool.  Least favorite part was the drops of melting stuff falling from the bridges that we passed under.  I can't say I remember much, but it was nice getting to see a different perspective of the city and hearing some history things.  Also, the smell of chocolate from the facotyr on the one side of the city did not disappoint.

run DEEP run WILD

The corncobs are my fave Chi buildings.

After our boat tour, we looked for a brewery that Teh German had seen from the boat.  Turns out, it wasn't open, which was pretty disappointing.  So we decided to walk back to the area of our hotel, so that when it was ready we could go take a nap.


I found a brewery over by our hotel, Ballast Point, so we stopped in to pass some time.  The bartender actually tried to find a beer for me that I like, giving me many tastes.  I ended up with the one that tasted the most like a yeast roll, which apparently means it's really malty?  IDK.  That's what he said.

Finally, our room was ready and we walked over to get checked in and moved in.  Ace Hotel was pretty cool, but different from an average hotel, kinda.  It was very hipster.  Lots of reclaimed materials.  Although, Teh German was most pumped about a record player being in our room.  There was also a bluetooth radio/speaker that we connected to and played our own music through a few times.  Things we did not touch: anything that was provided in the room since everything cost half a millionty dollars.

Even some old records for the record player.
Teh German didn't like any of them, so there were no records played.

After getting settled, we took a nap.  The only disappoinment for the entire trip was that we had to be up SUPER early to get to the airport and there were tickets for a 10:30PM show that same day.. Uhhh wut?  No thanks.  But, they were already paid for, so we made it work.  Pack Up + Go had also made dinner reservations for us at a place called Little Goat Diner, also very hipster....  I think it was that part of town.

Kinda looks like Meri.. and it spun, which brought me great joy.

The food was absolutely delicious.  Unfortunately for me, I ordered the special and when it arrived, the burger slid off the bun and I discovered jalapenos.  The menu hadn't said anything about jalapenos, which is why I ordered what I did (I can't eat spicy food), so I had to send it back and ask for it to be made with no jalapenos/like what the menu stated.  When it arrived, I ended up eating half of it, then stripped off the bun to prioritize noms.  We also ordered some homefries with pork belly and cilantro and that shizzz was deeeeeeeelicious.


burger with mushrooms and cheese...
and jalapenos, which was returned.

After dinner, we requested a Lyft and headed to the comedy club where our show tickets were for.  Conveniently, there was a brewery across the street, so we stopped in to pass the time.  I tried another beer, but wasn't overly pleased.  There was some interesting people watching going on.

I'm not really sure how our driver could see out her nasty ass windshield.
It was giving me anxiety just riding with it like that.

Shitty = Chicago breweries charging $1 for stickers.  In Charleston, stickers are free.  Teh German refuses to pay for stickers, so nothing new for the beer fridge from the breweries.  Oh well.

No photos from the show, but it was excellent.  The show was called Riff and it was musical improv.. and as someone who likes to make up their own lyrics to songs, I was curious and excited about this masterpiece.  Because our tickets were for the 10:30 show, we were 2 of 5 people in the audience.  This actually was great because it was an audience participation/suggestion show and it meant that almost all of my ridiculous suggestions were used.  No photos were taken, but I highly recommend musical improv for forever. 

After the show, we considered hanging around the bar to hang out with the performers, butttt Teh German was at that point of intoxication that more beer would not improve his performance (that was not an innuendo), so I said I was tired and we went back to the hotel.

When we got back, it was bedtime.


Saturday morning was a slow start.  I planned our weekend activities while Teh German scrolled, which kinda annoyed me that I still had to plan things to do... despite paying someone else to do such things.  Yes, we had suggestions, but they weren't really enough for 2 days considering that it was cold outside.  The suggestions seemed like they were more for a summer trip to Chicago since there were a lot of outside activities, not a trip where it was in the 30s/40s for the majority of the day.

Ultimately, it was decided that we'd get breakfast near the Museum of Science and Industry, then we'd grab dinner, then we'd go on a Gangsters and Ghosts walking tour in the evening.

No breakfast/lunch pics because I was starving and it was delicious.  We went to a place called Salonia (sp?) that seemed to be mostly Greek themed.  The tzatziki sauce was definitely homemade and delicious.  After lunch, we walked to the Museum of Science and Industry.  We spent 4 hours there and we explored almost everything.  It was AWESOME.  I even got to practice my German since there was a captured German U-boat in the museum.  Yes, an entire submarine, inside the museum.



After the U-Boat, we headed to the flight simulator area.  Teh German has always wanted to do a flight simulator and every time we're in Pax River, we never get to do it for various reasons.  So this time, I made it a mission.

Final results: Teh German was the pilot and I was the gunner.  Teh German said it was WAY harder than he expected.  Also, we only got to "practice" for 3 minutes before going in the simulator, so really it was more about being turned upside down, which Teh German ensured we were upside down for no less than 40% of the flight time, which was 3-ish minutes?  IDK, but it felt like a REALLY long time to be upside down for. We managed to kill 1 target.  I just wanted to hit one thing.. because ya know, realistic expectations and all.

After the flight sim, we checked out the other exhibits (weather, human anatomy and behavior, a model of Chicago with running trains, etc).

We "visited" the Sears Tower! HA!

Finally, the museum closed and we headed out.  We were near the lake-front, so we walked over to collect some shells for our travel jar.  After, we walked back to the museum and took a taxi back to downtown.  There were some issues trying to get a Groupon for the tour we wanted in the evening, so that had to be handled by yours truly (me, duh) and we headed to Lou Malnati's for dinner. 

We had to wait for a bit, but after being seated for a while and getting some water (we were both super dehydrated), things started to improve.  We shared the "Lou" pizza and a small chocolate chip cookie pizza desert thing, and both items were delicious.  When I came to Chicago in July 2018 for the Rock n Roll race with Matilda and Teh Running Bestie, we tried Lou's and I wasn't overly impressed.. I think it was because we ordered it to go and it wasn't hot by the time we got back to our hotel.  Hotness matters.

After dinner, we lingered at our table for a bit, waiting for some time to pass before heading to the meeting place of the tour.  Mostly, it was the history of Al Capone with some other morbid stuff thrown in about haunted places (i.e. the Chicago river, anywhere in the vicinity of where Al Capone did business, the Congress hotel).  We walked some, but it wasn't too much walking, which was good since we were walked out from the museum.

We made a stop at Palmer House, the birthplace of the brownie, to check out the ballroom where Al Capone helped make many jazz singers famous and to get a brownie.  Teh German also ordered a gin and tonic, because he's fannnncy.

It was more like fudge with nuts on top.
Not bad, but mine are better.

Other photos along the way:

The starting point of Route 66.

After the tour, we walked a short way back to the park for leaves for the trip jar, then we requested a Lyft back to our hotel.  Teh German had suggested checking out the rooftop bar, but once we got back to the room, he was content with just going to bed.  *Insert all the praise hand emojis* lol.


Saturday night before bed, we placed our room service order so we could have breakfast in bed on Sunday morning.  I was worried that the food would be sub-par, but it was fabulous... it was also messy, so there were no photos taken.  Oh well. 

I had to motivated Teh German to start getting ready, since I didn't want to have a SUPER late start to the day.  He didn't like it, but he didn't sigh too heavily.  The plan of the day was to go to an open air market that was held every Sunday, then go to the Navy Pier, then maybe check out the Museum of Broadcast Communications, then grab dinner, then head back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, then to the airport.

The day ended up going like this:
We got a Lyft to the market and it was a bust.  Since we'd already eaten, there wasn't really anything to do there, since it was mostly a flea market type of market.  IDK why, but I expected something more like what Germany and Amsterdam had.  Silly European expectations, Megan.

Our Lyft driver offered all the charging cables, tissues, and water!
5 stars.

Since the market was a bust, we requested another Lyft to the Navy Pier and explored there for a bit.  We checked out the shops and bought our Christmas ornament and some stickers for the beer fridge/my laptop.  The most tourist-tastic thing we did was ride the overpriced ferris wheel, but it was still kinda cool because the views were awesome and there was no line, which meant no wait.

After walking to the end of the pier, we headed back and stopped at one of the tavern places for a snack (cheese turds and then milkshakes from Ben & Jerry).  We passed some time and determined our next activity.  I checked out the broadcast museum and it looked less interesting after I saw all the clowns and puppets on the website.  I was thinking of something like the Newseum in DC, so I told Teh German it was ok if we passed on that. 

We ultimately decided to check out the planetarium, which meant another Lyft there.  Our other option was the aquarium, but since we have one of those in Charleston, we opted for the planetarium. 

It was cool enough, but we were through all the exhibits in about 45 minutes, which was kinda disappointing to both of us, I think.  If I would have known it wouldn't take long to get through, I would have voted for going to the aquarium instead.  Live and learn.

After the planetarium, we requested a Lyft take us to a brewery near our hotel.  We passed almost 2 hours there, scrolling and having beverages.  We did eventually split a burger for dinner since neither of us were overly hungry, but I didn't want to have to endure shitty overpriced airport food.

Since it was on the way to our hotel, we stopped by "the best" donut place in Chicago, Do-Rite Donuts.  I remembered walking by this place at one point and later, I saw it on a "best of" list, so I told Teh German we should stop in.  I got a peanut butter and jelly donut after explaining that we weren't from Chicago and saw that they were the best donut place in town.  Then, the guy at the counter said they were about to close and if we wanted more he'd toss them in for free since they were going to have to throw the donuts away.  I said ok and took whatever they tossed in the bag and Teh German and I agreed that we'd give the bag to the hotel staff when we picked up our luggage.

From the hotel, we passed off the donuts and picked up our luggage and requested a Lyft to the airport.  Again, thank God for TSA pre-check, where we only had to wait a few minutes before breezing through security.  It probably would have taken at least 30-45 minutes in the main security line.

Those exhausted airport faces.

We landed back in Charleston at 11:45pm and headed home to the beasts.  They were excited to see us and vice versa.  It was immediately bedtime after getting teeth brushed since Monday was normal operations.


So would I recommend Pack Up + Go?  Yes, but only once.

It was fun to have a surprise destination.  It built up the excitement, but the thing I was most looking forward to was not having to plan anything and I still ended up having to plan things.  If I wanted to do another surprise trip, I'd find someone who knows us and enjoys trip planning and give them my budget and let them plan the trip from start to finish.  The "knows us" part is important because someone that knows us would never plan a 10:30pm comedy show for us to attend, EVER.  Especially if we had to wake up at 0330 that morning.  That comedy club had shows every night at various time, so it's not like tickets for other shows, or even that same show weren't available at earlier times or on a different day.

There were suggestions for things to do, but there's only so much time you can spend at The Bean when it's 32°F and the wind is blowing off the lake.  We spent more than $150 in Lyft rides over the weekend because Chicago is not a close city and our hotel was a 30 minute walk from mid-downtown... at least 45 minutes from the Navy Pier/Millennium Park.  Thankfully, there were some places around our hotel to pass time, but still, nothing was really convenient.  Having a rental car wouldn't have been better since we would have had to navigate to places, plus pay to park everywhere.  We could have taken the L, but I'm horrible with public transportation so the cost savings isn't worth the frustration.  Also, Chicago is well known for not being the safest city, so I wasn't walking anywhere after dark.  In fact, Saturday night's Lyft driver said, I knew you weren't from here when I saw where you were waiting for me.  🤷 #IgnoranceIsBliss

Even though it was a rough start, it was a good anniversary celebration.  We got to enjoy the cold for 3 days before coming back to Charleston, where the temperature was double what we had enjoyed all weekend.  I texted with Matilda and Teh Bestie frequently throughout the weekend, reliving our 2018 Chicago journey. 

If you're interested in more details of our Pack Up + Go trip, email me with questions.  I'm happy to answer inquiries.  But now.. it's back to the real world/grind.  Thanksgiving break is coming, but not soon enough for this semester's roller coaster ride, which I am over.  AAAnnnddd Teh Bestie will be here on Friyay! 

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