22.11.2011 - 28.11.2011 2 °C
Ok - I'm going to cheat and do a big blog entry for the past week and not lots of tiny little ones - I haven't done enough to warrant a lot of chit chat.......
After the glorious sunny days of the South, the weather in Chicago well and truly reminded me that we are heading into winter over here. Tuesday headed into downtown Chicago with Ana leaving at 7.30am to catch a 45 minute express train. The weather was everthing Chicago is famous for - wet, windy and cold - actually it was about 8 degrees max but felt like zero. It rained all day and my walk around Chicago was limited to a 4 block radius where I could duck in and out of department stores and large stores - managed to find the last vestiges of summer clothing in the mega sale racks. After lunch with Ana, I headed over to Armitage about 7 stops on the metro to visit a store that has an eclectic variety of gifts and clothing that I regularly receive via email. As I was waiting for the train on the loop (in case you don't know, the loop is an above ground railway and circles the city and then goes out to the inner suburbs in about 5 directions). Was spectacularly misterable curled up in a corner trying to stay out of the wind. An old woman strolls by looks at me, shakes her and then presses the heat lamp which radiates a sun-like heat over 2 metre radius - aaaah, heaven!!!!
The shop was everythihg I had hoped and I had a good rummage around before stopping for a hot chocolate in a cute tea place. Then back home on the train - aaah, Brisbane's overcrowding is nothing like a suburban Chicago train at peak time - it's about 15 huge double storey carriages filled till every seat is taken - not a lot of people stand as it's 40 minutes trip to the first stop but the streams of human traffic of the platform is a sight to be seen and Union Station is not a place to stand still and think where you going - you're swept up in the movement and carry you off in the completely the wrong direction. That night we ate at home and I caught up on some TV that I'd missed.
Wednesday was a nice winter's day - at least no rain and a bit of sunshine - I'm trying to think what we did and I'm drawing a blank!!! (Five minutes later.....) Aaah yes, the day before Thanksgiving - usually work finishes at 2pm so everyone can get a head start on their Thanksgiving destination. So we had a quick grocery stop before the hoardes decended. Then we headed over to a more posh suburb (Glen Ellyn) to check out the shops - it was quite quaint and pretty and we managed to find a few unique christmas decorations (if you've seen my house at Christmas you'll probably know that this is the last thing I need - more decorations!!!!).
Thursday was Thanksgiving - so it was a pretty relaxed day since a lot of people now order all the food in advance including the humungus turkey. So in the morning after Mickey Mouse pancakes, we made chocolate chip cookies for Ryan, sangria for us and then a bread and butter pudding for dessert. Then we pick up said humungus turkey and vegetables and waited for Ana's mother and "aunt" to arrive. Then it was turkey, sangria, red wine and good thanksgiving cheer. It was a prety lazy day after that just sitting around and chatting.............
The Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday in the States - it's a crazy shopping day where stores open between midnight and 5am and people line up for the 2 $60 massive TV sets on offer and various other items that are heavily discounted. This is not for the faint hearted and shopping stampedes are a regular occurrence - every shop has at least 30% off and usually up to 70%. So that's the place to avoid - any shopping mall in a heavily populated area. Instead we headed over to Naperville (which is where my friend lives - it's like a small town outside Chicago about the size of Ipswich) to see the Christmas parade. It's a reasonably large city centre over about 4 or 5 large blocks but like anything in the States if you don't get there early you don't get a park - so we headed out about 1pm - stopped for lunch, wasted time at the local bookstore where I mulled over getting a nook e-reader (I didn't get it) and then headed over the parade - it was a bit of dinky parade with lots of local business vans decked out in coloured lights but there was lots of festive cheer and santa was at the back ready to turn on the lights which signalled the start of the Christmas period. October through to December is a really nice time to visit the States - there's a rolling set of major holidays starting off with Halloween so everything is decorated and lots of fun.
Saturday the weather was really awful so we did absolutely nothing except watch TV, put up the Christmas tree and loll around in a blob-like state.
Sunday the weather improved markedly but Ryan was quite bored so I gritted my teeth as we headed over to Chuck e Cheeses - if you don't know what this establishment entails and you hate the sight of 50 kids running around in hysteria - avoid the place like the plague - it's an indoor amusement restaurant (though restaurant probably overstates the matter) with video games and fast food - between the din of the games, the wild laughter bordering on hysteria, the pretty ordinary food it's a match made in hell for me..............after all that, Ana felt like she owed me (though she didn't) we headed over to a French chocolatier for hot chocolates in a refined atmosphere - it was lovely - soft soothing music, ornate french chairs and proper china. Though the waitress did have a heart attack at one point - Ryan was playing with his play doh and blobbing it all under the glass table - the waitress thought it was one giant wad of chewing gum and exclaimed - what the hell is that - it was kinda off in such a refined establishment............then we wandered the streets decorated in lights doing some window shopping in the biting cold.............
So here I am on my second last day - this will be probably be my last blog unless I get stuck at the airport..........see you soon!!!