Well, technically I LEFT on a jet plane... this time last week, I was halfway across the country! Brian & I went to Chicago, Illinois for 5 days to visit his family and to attend the wedding of one of his friends from college. We left BWI on Wednesday evening, around 8:30pm (EST) and arrived at Chicago Midway around 10:30 (EST). Brian's mom (Serita) and the oldest of his younger sisters (Kelly) picked us up from the airport. After dropping Kelly off at home but before heading to Brian's parents' house for the night, we had a very important stop to make... the drive-thru at White Castle! I'd been hearing alot about these little burgers that White Castle is famous for and since we don't have them in Maryland, I was excited to try them! Brian ordered a "Crave Case" which is a 30-pack box of mini-cheeseburgers that are steam grilled on a bed of onions. The burgers were good... I definitely didn't think they were worth the 170 calories and 9 grams of fat for EACH burger (that's 4 WW points for EACH burger!) but atleast now I can say I tried them! We hung out with Brian's mom, another of his sisters (Erin) and the dogs (Rocky & Maggie) for a little while before we headed to bed.
Thursday: Brian's mom drove us back to Chicago Midway to meet Brian's best friend Padma and her boyfriend Ravi who were flying in from Los Angeles, California to attend the wedding as well. Padma had pre-arranged for a Hertz rental car so after we picked that up, the 4 of us headed downtown to experience a little bit of Chicago! We ate at an authentic mexican restaurant called "Taco Erendira" - yummy!! We drove past the college that Brian & Padma went to, so Ravi & I could see the campus. Then we headed to Chicago's Historic Navy Pier... Navy Pier is the place where all of Chicagoland and tourists from around the world have come together since 1995 to enjoy the beauty and the thrills of a day on Lake Michigan. From rides to restaurants, exhibitions to entertainment, shopping to dining cruises and tour boats, Navy Pier has it all! Unfortunately, the weather was pretty yucky so we only went outside for a quick photo op... I can't wait to go back another time when, hopefully, the weather is a little more cooperative! Later that afternoon, Brian & I went to his old high school to watch his little sister Natalie's water polo game... sadly, the Bulldogs lost! =( After the game, we (me, Brian, Padma, Ravi, and Brian's sisters Kelly & Natalie) went to a local pizza joint called Palermos's for dinner. I was disappointed that we didn't order any of the deep dish (a.k.a. "stuffed pizza") that Chicago is famous for, but Brian assured me that we would try it before our visit was over! That night, we had a gathering at Brian's parents' house... joining Brian, his parents, his sisters & I, were: Padma & Ravi, Jith & Christine, Caranto & Jessica, Sara Zamatala, and Chris (the groom!)... I think that's all! We hung out until the wee hours of the morning before we finally crashed!
Friday: For lunch, Brian & I went to a restaurant called "Al's #1 Italian Beef" that I had seen featured on Food Wars and Man vs. Food. Italian Beef is to Chicago what cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia, so I was very excited to give it a try! Brian & I each ordered a "Big Al" and we shared an order of french fries. In the words of Rachael Ray... Yum-O!!! After lunch, we parked Padma's rental car in the commuter lot at Chicago Midway and Brian drove us back downtown in his mom's car for day #2 of sightseeing. We had to drive separately because Brian was going to the rehearsal dinner for his friend's wedding later that afternoon but Padma, Ravi & I were not going so we'd need a way to get back after he left. We walked along Michigan Ave on The Magnificent Mile and saw lots of neat stores... we went to the Hershey's Chocolate Store and to the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company, where Brian & I and Padma & Ravi each shared a delicious ice cream sundae. Afterwards, Brian had to leave for the wedding rehearsal so Padma, Ravi & I took the subway back to the commuter lot to pick up the rental car. Padma & Ravi had dinner plans with some old friends of Padma's and I wanted to hang out with Brian's mom and his sisters, so Padma & Ravi dropped me off at Brian's sister Kelly's house and I got to hang out with her, her fiance (Stan), their dog (Charlie), and their cats (Peppi, Lucy & Rambo) for a little while. Kelly drove me over to her parents house and I had a most delicious dinner with Brian's whole family... minus Brian, of course. Several hours later, Brian's friends Kathy & Sagris came to pick me up and drive me downtown where we would be meeting up with Brian, Padma, Ravi, and some of Padma's friends at The Signature Lounge, which is a cocktail bar on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building (next to the Sears tower) and has floor-to-ceiling windows that exhibit the stunning Chicago skyline and 360° degree views of the entire city. It was SO neat!
Saturday: Padma & Ravi were meeting some friends for breakfast, so Brian & I had breakfast at home with his parents. Then it was time to get ready for the wedding! The wedding was in a town called Highland Park, which is about an hour away from Brian's parents' house. Since Brian was in the wedding party, he needed to be at the church about an hour before the wedding was scheduled to start at 3pm, so we needed to leave around 1pm. After some quick pictures in front of his parents house, we were on our way! The wedding was not too short and not too long... it was just right! The only bad thing was the 3 hour period between the wedding and the reception! Since Brian was busy taking wedding pictures, I hung out with Padma & Ravi and Jith & Christine. We went to a microbrewery called RAM to have some drinks and appetizers while we killed some time. The wedding reception was at a place called the Chevy Chase Country Club. There was a cocktail hour starting at 6:30 and the reception followed. I had a pretty good time but I really missed Brian while he was busy doing wedding stuff. I was glad when the formal part of the reception was over and the dancing began... Brian & I were some dancing fools! One pretty exciting thing that happened during the reception was that I caught the bride's bouquet!!! The reception lasted until almost 1am and by the time we got back to Brian's parents' house, I was pooped!
Sunday: Padma & Ravi left early that morning to fly back to Los Angeles. Brian & I slept in and then had breakfast with his parents' and his sister Natalie. Brian's dad (Dennis) made a delicious breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, toast and english muffins... yum!!! Later that morning, Brian & I took all three of his sisters (Kelly, Erin & Natalie) to lunch at Giordano's for some of that Chicago style pizza I'd been wanting to try. Mmm... it was SO good! After lunch, we headed back to Brian's parents' house to see some more friends and family. Brian's Aunt Mary came over and brought his cousin Brenna, who was visiting from Montana. Brian's dad made some steaks on the grill and we hung out in the garage for awhile... Brian's friends Rick & Angela, Sammy & Sagris also came over to visit.
Monday: After Brian & I organized our luggage and took showers, his mom took us out to look for some souveniers for my family. We went to the Chicago Ridge Mall and picked up some t-shirts and keychains for my mom, grandma, sister, nieces & nephew. We hung out for awhile before it was time to go to the airport. Brian's sister Erin drove us to the airport because his mom had to go to work. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone but I'm glad we'll be seeing them soon... we're going back again in a few months when Kelly & Stan get married!
What a busy week!! I loved my first visit to Chicago! I really enjoyed seeing where Brian grew up and meeting the people who mean so much to him. I got to hear lots of stories about Brian when he was a little boy and thanks to his mom, I got to see lots of adorable baby pictures! Brian's friends and family are wonderful and seeing how much they love him made me realize just how lucky I really am to have him around all the time, instead of the once-in-awhile that they get to see him. I can't wait to go back again this summer! Here are some pictures I snapped during my trip!
Welcome to Chicago!
White Castle... what you crave!
Brian & I at the end of Navy Pier
Brian's little sister Natalie
me, Brian's dad & Brian =)
Kelly, Sara, Padma, me & Jith
Al's #1 Italian Beef... mmm!!!
Brian and his ginormous chocolate bar!
Ghiradelli Chocolate Company!!
The Signature Lounge... 96th floor
Brian & I at Chris & Karen's wedding
Padma + Ravi and Nikki + Brian = couples pic =)