Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

For the first time in my 3 years here I actually partook in the celebrations! It continues to amaze me how into it the locals are but I suppose any excuse to party a little... or a lot... certainly the folks in Chicago were making the most of it this weekend. Myself, Karen and Tanya headed down there for the weekend. Karen's email a few days prior to the trip was titled: "Chicago weekend: bring your running gear and drinking shoes!" As it turned out we spent about equal time running and drinking - but don't worry, we didn't mix the two...

I flew into Midway so I met the girls in town and we headed out to Karen's friend's place in Lincoln Park who had kindly given us her fabulous condo for the weekend. Found a local grocery store and did the usual stocking up of food - it's always the same when I travel for weekends these days - I get such a buzz out of food shopping in new places and finding things the local co-op doesn't have - and always seem to buy enough food for a week... still, an hour in a grocery shop generally does a lot less damage to my wallet than an hour in a clothes shop so it's probably not a bad thing! Back home, we relaxed and chatted for the rest of the night.

Up early Saturday morning to run the lakefront, we got in about 14m in pretty good conditions - a little windy here and there but so much nicer than the previous weekend when we ran from Gear West and basically froze! Got to see lots of the sights along the run including an array of wonderful architecture and sculptures - one of which would be better suited to Seattle (a coffee bean) - but it is very cool all the same! After the run, we got cleaned up and headed back into town in the hope of catching the second half of the Ireland vs England Six Nations rugby match at Fado irish bar... should have known better - there was a line into the place since 9:30 that morning! I caught the score anyway at 16-10 to England so I decided I was better off not watching it. Grabbed a much needed coffee and headed over to another bar nearby - Celtic Crossing - where we met Karen's friend Tom. Funny guy. Lots of interesting stories from Karen's sordid past... 15 years in Chicago equals a lot of history! Six beers later I was well ready for food. It was either that or spend the rest of the day in the pub. And I am glad we chose the food. It had gotten cold outside - the beer induced heat not quite enough to insulate against the windy city - so we found the nearest place (Hard Rock Cafe) and sobered up with a good hearty meal and gallons of water!

After that we were ready for the real action - a visit to the shops on Michigan Ave! We made it through quite a few of them, mostly just googling at the jaw-dropping price tags (Burberry etc) until we found our way to the altogether more reasonable North Face. $200 for a technical jacket I don't need - no worries! Tanya still had her $500 voucher from the race in December so I helped her make light work of that... she even managed to go over and had to pay a few dollars towards her large bag of goodies! Despite our great intentions earlier in the day, by the time we left the NF store at 8pm we'd all decided against re-joining the party and instead headed home to eat our picnic dinner and relax with a glass of wine. How sensible indeed.

Sunday morning Karen's friend Fiona picked us up and brought us to the swanky club where Karen used to work out - and which is frequented by Oprah and Obama no less! We didn't spot either but there was no shortage of people watching to be done. The facilities are top notch but at $160 a month I figure you'd want to be guaranteed at least one celebrity-spotting a visit. There was still some sight-seeing to be done so we headed outside for a run along the river and south along the lake to Soldier Field (home of the Bears). Back to the Bean then for a quick photoshoot. Karen's knee was not cooperating so we grabbed a coffee and a taxi back to the gym.

Next up a fabulous brunch at the House of Blues - very neat venue. And such a selection of food. The omelet was very tasty but I think top honours must go to the waffles. Yum yum yum. And the music was fun too! Fiona kindly dropped up downtown afterwards - right to the door of Tiffany's - where again we had a few deep breath moments as we asked prices on the sparklers that the recently engaged Karen is eyeing up. Honestly Tim, we didn't encourage her. Well, not too much.

And then back to the airport. Whereupon my flight was delayed for 2 hours zzzzz didn't get home until 11pm. Still, it was well worth it after the fun weekend we had!