Christmas in Chicago - Part 1

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Where I stayed
Wyndham Blake

Flag of United States  , Illinois
Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Roundup. I haven't been a good boy these last couple of days as I haven't been doing my blog but as I know Santa isn't visiting us (he probably hasn't been reading the blog as he's been so busy) I don't feel too bad about it.

It's Christmas morning, Kates asleep and I am sitting watching traditional TV fare in terms of Star Trek. The last couple of days have been a Christmassy blur, blending in to the rest of our trip and sapping some more time from our 5 months. Chicago has nearly past us by and for the first time except maybe Auckland, we have barely scratched the surface.

The flight was much better than our last experience and not only left on time (a first for our 11 flights to date) but arrived early. We watched a touching movie onboard called 'The Way' which helped the time fly but the journey was pleasantly uneventful. I find looking out of the window helps me with the turbulence, if I can see the wings; generally it helps me more.

We took the CTA train from the airport to the city centre at a cost of only a couple of dollars when a taxi would have been sat in traffic and would have cost us nearly $40. Public transport is so much better than private, it's so much cheaper, just as likely to arrive on time.

Chicago's famed chill bit into us immediately as soon as we came up from the subway. It was freezing cold. No snow on the floor, but a bit of ice and the winds just take the temperature down a further notch. Our hotel, the Wyndham Blake, was only a few short minutes from the subway though which made everything ok. The hearty doorman greeted us in his christmas hat and offered to inform us of places to eat but we just wanted to settle in. We took the elevator to the 10th floor and checked into our lovely room, filled with a 40+inch TV, sofa and fine furnishings. It would be a comfortable home for christmas at least.

With our free AMC cinema tickets we thought we could do something cheap for the evening. The christmas market was on the way and so we stopped by, enjoyed some Gluhwein (the Chicago'ans are completely unaware of this christmassy spiced drink and seem in complete excitement at it's revelation) and had a quick browse round. Kate and I just wanted to warm up; and standing in the crowds of people around Daley Square to get our mulled wine certainly helped. An expensive couple of drinks at $7 each, and even more expensive when I was singled out for not tipping the woman serving the drinks and felt the need to have to add another dolllar. I stand by that it's not a tip if you have to give it - kind of defies the point.

We enjoyed our first McDonalds for a good month and then shuffled along to the cinema. AMC are our favourite cinemas I think. They are an American brand that have a couple of cinemas in the UK, but only a couple but the screens are always big and the seats always comfortable. We watched Mission Impossible 4, another relatively decent addition to the series and then started out. I looked at Kate who stood by one of the screens with a cheeky grin on her face just as I was doing up my jacket to leave. I walked over to her and she looked up to the screen title. 10.45 screening for "I bought a zoo".

Two hours later we walked out of the cinema, half expecting a crowd of armed officers ready to arrest us for cinema theft. They didn't. The screen was entirely empty except for us, which is what put me at unease (as surely they wouldn't show a whole film if they didn't sell any tickets) at first; but once the lights had gone down we both enjoyed a great 'family' film with Matt Damon looking a little podgy but seemingly getting some better acting parts.

Back to back movies - first time I've done that since living in Manchester and using the AMC on a quiet afternoon at university, those were the days.

Christmas Eve was an even quieter affair which included lunch at a cafe/bistro, a short walk around a park with some time to stand in the cold watching ice skaters fall over on the packed but free Millenium Park Ice Rink and a further mulled wine before the market and everything else closed for the Christmas period.

We watched Independance Day in our room and then headed out to the most unexpected place on Christmas Eve, the most unlikely place for two English in Chicago. Who would have thought - a church open on Christmas?! What would be the chance?!

In 'true' christmas spirit we attended a candlelight service. I thought it was one of the best services I had ever been to, Kate thought it was a little rehearsed and slick for her liking. Either way, it had a wonderfully talented choir, a harp and organ, three Rev's, a packed crowd of families, a church with a long history right in the centre of Loop and something that makes a church service; a well written, thoughtful yet humorous, well spoken sermon. I was touched by what was spoken, and for someone that has struggled with faith for just over three years now, it was my first service where I have listened to anything said in that time. Thinking back, it is probably only the second or third time I have been to church in that time. I would not say I am suddenly reformed or anything quite so drastic, but it helped - it brought me back to thinking about it all again at least. My faith is a very confused one that has been fighting a losing battle recently; and the packed church of the faithful at least gave me a slight kick in another direction.
The service certainly made being away at Christmas a little easier, for me at least but Kate on the other hand is a different matter entirely with Family being by far the biggest thing about her Christmases, I expect it will be a difficult day for that reason.

Anyway - we're both up now. I'm watching Indiana Jones, Kates having a shower and we're going for dinner at the Lockwood Restaurant quite soon. Hopefully it will be a ncie day.
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