If you follow me on Twitter (you DID know that I’m on Twitter, right? It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from where your eyes are right now. Look at the left-hand column of this page. NO: Your other left! Ah, there it is.), you had an inkling yesterday that I was in the city. I have so much to share that I’m going to have to split it up into 3 posts! And by the way, I really want to put mass quantities of hyperlinks into these posts so you can do some more reading, but I’m not going to because it takes lots of time to type in the extra code for the links to open in new windows (I don’t want you little darlings leaving me!). Naturally, all of the things I will describe can be easily Googled if you want more information. There are one or two links that I will NEED to put in though; humor me and click those.

First, the pre-trip facts that you’ll be very interested in knowing:

1. I went BY MYSELF. Can I get a Woot Woot? (Not because I was able to “handle it” alone, like a Big Girl or something, but because I was ALONE. Okay, now you can Woot again.

2. I had a plan, some goals if you will. I wanted to do a couple of the things that my kids never want to do.

3. I LOVE this city. But if you’re a reader of mine, you already know that.

4. I have been looking forward to this day for a long time. I am very attached to the City of Chicago; just the sight of the skyline as I approach the area gets my heart pumping a little faster. I love the sights and sounds of the city, and of course all it has to offer as far as entertainment and attractions. I really love to go and take advantage of all that good stuff. Today, I felt a little like Mary (especially the hat-throwing at the end):

Before going anywhere, I had to prepare. That meant switching out the ole’ purse. I have a special backpacky-ish purse that I use for day trips and whenever I travel to Europe. (Okay, that one time I traveled to Europe.) It’s a great bag:

Once I dug that out of the closet, I had to pack it with the necessary items for a day trip to Chi-town:

I took Roxie to Day Camp as soon as they were open (7 a.m.!), drove my car back home, walked to the train station (about a mile or so) and jumped on the express train to the city. The express train is great because it only takes about 35 minutes to get there. If you get on a train that makes all the stops, it is about an hour and ten minutes! That’s why I avoid those.

I ate my yogurt while I was waiting for the train: wouldn’t want that to get warm! It was already quite sticky outside; the forecast was for scattered thunderstorms (hence the umbrella in my purse) and it was humid as all get-out, first thing in the morning.

On the train, I listened to my iPod and wrote up an outline for a magazine article in my little notebook. Upon arriving at Union Station, I chuckled to myself as I made my way off the train platform among the other hundreds of people. Why did I chuckle? Because, even alone, I said the same thing I say everytime I’m getting off the train platform among the other hundreds of people: “Moooooo….Moooooooo! Moooooo!” (Get it? It feels like a herd of cattle? Get it?) Of course, I didn’t say it too loud because I wasn’t actually saying it TO anyone except for myself. I didn’t want to be labeled as a Crazy before setting foot outside the train station.

Number one on the agenda? I had a ticket for the 10:00 Architectural River Cruise. As I stepped out of Union Station into the bright sunlight, I headed down Canal Street towards Washington. Or so I thought. I was two blocks away from Union Station when I stopped for a minute and looked around. Getting my bearings, I realized without looking at the map that I was headed in the wrong direction, so I turned around and everything felt right. (Yes, I checked my map just to make sure!)

I headed down Washington to Wacker, where I walked along the river to get to the correct dock. On the way, I discovered the recently-installed Chicago Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, so I checked it out. It’s quite beautiful and a great tribute.

After that, I arrived at the dock for my cruise. Along the way and in line, I spoke with an older couple from Cincinnati who came into town on something called a Mega Bus (they said it’s online…), and two women from Los Angeles who were here alone (without their families) for a girl’s trip. We boarded our boat:


…and I sat next to a lovely woman, an interior designer from Oregon who was in town to tour all of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings. I loved being the Local Yokel; it was fun to give them little travel hints about the city.

I am trying not to go into too much detail because I’ll be here for weeks, but this cruise is something I should have done years ago. I did the one that is put on by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (it has the reputation of being the best river tour), and I learned so much about my hometown that I didn’t know, it’s sort of embarrassing. I highly recommend the CAF river cruise to anyone who comes to town, but ESPECIALLY locals.

Some of the buildings we got up close and personal with were the Wrigley Building (my fave)…

…the new Trump International Hotel and Tower (still under construction!)…

…the Chicago Sun Times building…

…can’t remember what these are called but the one on the left echoes the bridge houses with a bridge in between (at the top of the building) and the one on the right curves with the river. Pretty cool.

…my other favorite, Marina City (this is only one tower)…

If you are unfamiliar with the Chicago River, know this: there are many, many bridges over it. That means we had to go under many, many bridges on this cruise. I was worried a little bit and hoping the Dave Matthews Band wasn’t in town this week:

By the way, the cruise was 90 minutes long. And, oh yeah, did you notice that something was missing from my purse?

I’ll give you a minute.

Sunscreen.

By the way, at the end of Part 3, I’m havin’ a contest! Woo Hoo! But before you get there, you have to read Part 2, HERE.