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Our Chicago Babymoon

May 5, 2011

babymoon, n. a last vacation for expecting parents before baby arrives.

Last week we took a quick little vacation, or babymoon if you will, up to The Windy City. Jeff was already in the Chicago area for work last Monday thru Wednesday, and I drove up Thursday morning. We met up downtown in the Loop just after lunch and settled into our gorgeous hotel, The Palmer House Hilton.

We’d Hotwired a room (aka found a sweet, cheap deal from four days earlier and were very pleased to end up at The Palmer House. The lobby ceiling is supposedly one of the most photographed ceilings in the country. Of course, I did my part.

Our room was small, but comfortable; I loved all the modern decor.

After settling in, we finalized our plans for the evening, headed out to get our 24-hour CTA passes, and walked to the nearest ‘L’ station where we caught the brown line train to Lincoln Park for dinner. I need to pause here and give major props to my friends and resident Chicago experts, Karrie and Kate. I asked them for restaurant recommendations for our trip and they came through like I knew they would.

Jeff had eaten tapas before, but I had not had this delightful experience yet. When K&K raved about Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, I knew we had to try it.

We got to the restaurant before the main dinner rush and enjoyed (and I mean really enjoyed) a variety of dishes: goat cheese croqueta; spicy potatoes with tomato alioli; braised lamb with spinach, couscous, and almonds; and a special that consisted of mild peppers stuffed with zucchini and topped with a hard cheese on a bed of arugula.

We would have had more except Jeff was still a little full from a large, late lunch and we had to get back to the Loop for our main event of the evening: attending the live taping of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.

Waiting for the train back into the Loop:

This is me, a little freakishly and very nerdily, excited to be waiting in line to get into the Chase Bank auditorium for the taping:

I’m planning a whole in-depth, behind-the-scenes post of the taping (probably next week) for those fellow NPR nerds who’d actually be interested in all the gory, hilarious details. 99% of you can just skip that post. :) For now, I’ll try to be brief.

Jeff bought our tickets 6 weeks ago and I’ve been pumped ever since. You see, tickets sell out online in a matter of minutes so I felt very lucky that he clicked in time to secure our spots. We picked up our actual tickets (aka programs) at will call and got in line with our “NPR neighbors” as the house manager said. While waiting in line, we had one those “you’ve got to be kidding me” moments. I had already begun bonding with the lady behind me as we both quickly discovered that our favorite panelist, comedian Paula Poundstone, was taping the show that night. (I had not dared to hope! See giddy picture above.) Then Jeff took off his jacket, revealing his Cedarville University sweatshirt.

My new friend and fellow Paula fan says, “Did you go to Cedarville?”
“No way! Me, too!”

Seriously, what are the odds? And her husband went to Taylor, the other small school I was seriously considering.

We continued to chat and bond, finding more shared interests, including Tina Fey. So weird, but so cool. Anyway…

Before my excited, fan-girl personality totally hijacks this post, I’ll speed right along. The show was absolutely hilarious and I laughed so hard I cried more than once. My abs even hurt! I’m soooo glad we were able to go. Jeff listens to the show occasionally, while not being a fan-boy, and he also really enjoyed the experience.

In our seats, waiting for the taping to begin:

Host Peter Sagal:

Peter and public radio icon Carl Kasell kicking off the taping:

Panelists Paula Poundstone, Roy Blount, Jr., and Faith Salie:

Paula getting a little into things. She does that. :)

The recording took just over 90 minutes (for a just under an hour show), and afterwards Peter and the gang took questions from the crowd and hung around for autographs and pictures. The shy part of me kicked in and I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand in line, but after perusing the merchandise table outside (and buying my very own Wait Wait static cling sticker — I told you I was a nerd!) I decided to go for it. I met Peter, Carl, and, of course, Paula.

Look! It’s me with Paula Poundstone! Eek!

I made a mini-fool of myself when I met Peter, but I’ll save that story for my in-depth post.

Sigh. It was such a wonderful, fun night! Big thanks to my rockin’ husband for making sure it happened.

We walked the few blocks back to the hotel before going out again looking for more food. (Insert pregnant stereotype here.) We couldn’t believe that almost everything was closed at 10pm in the big city, but we must have been looking in the wrong places. We ended up getting smoothies at McDonald’s… really exciting I know, but at least it was food.

We woke late the next morning, refreshed and ready for a big breakfast (can you tell we like food?). We took our time getting packed up and checked out, dropped off our bags, and headed out toward another K&K recomendation: Lou Mitchell’s.

By the time we got there, it was more like brunch and we were ready for the best diner-style breakfast in America. No seriously, the sign says so:

Lou Mitchell’s used to mark the beginning of Route 66 before Jackson changed to a one-way street going in the wrong direction.

Lou’s has some fun traditions like donut holes while you wait and boxes of Milk Duds to all ladies and children.

Jeff ordered an apple and cheese omelette with hash browns and freshly squeezed orange juice. I went with french toast with cooked fruit of the day (blueberries!) and whipped cream. Prepare to drool.

Everything was so fresh and delicious!

We’d intended to also go to the Art Institute, but there just wasn’t time Thursday afternoon or Friday. After our late breakfast, we walked back toward the lake for those quintessential Chicago experiences: the Bean and the lakeshore. Having just entered the third trimester, my energy and stamina were waning already so we took it slow and easy.

The words are beginning to add up so I’ll just let the pictures tell this part of the story.

Just over 24 hours after I arrived, it was time to get on the road back home. However, I’d stupidly left the dome light on in my car so the battery was completely dead. Oops. Fortunately, a helpful stranger pointed us in the direction of the garage office and we had the car jumped and running after only a slight delay. We made it home sweet home by about 10pm, ready for our own bed and a full weekend ahead. But that’s another story for another day.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2011 4:15 pm

    Sarah! I am a total NPR junky! I even hosted Morning Edition in North Florida hahah! I’m so jealous you were able to go see them. Congrats on the pregnancy, you look amazing and I love that you stay true to your love for argyle socks ;)

    • May 5, 2011 4:35 pm

      That’s so awesome! And, yes, I’m still rockin’ the argyle socks. Good eye! ;)

  2. May 5, 2011 4:45 pm

    For Christmas several years ago, I bought tickets for my brother and me to go to Prairie Home Companion at the Civic Center. Enjoyed it!

    K&K certainly do know the food in Chicago. Next time, have them tell you about Coobah’s! Loved it!

    Can’t believe you are in trimester 3! You look great. When does the episode you saw air?

    • May 5, 2011 5:08 pm

      It’s so fun to have the peak behind the curtain, isn’t it?

      Karrie did tell me about Coobah’s, but our time was unfortunately limited. I also wanted cinnamon rolls from Ann Sathers. Just means we have to go back sometime!

      The episode aired this past Saturday. One of the interesting things was that they talked generally about the royal wedding as if it had already happened. I’d always wondered how they handled the taping-on-Thursday to airing-on-Saturday delay being a current events/news show!

  3. May 5, 2011 5:26 pm

    That’s my city! Great photos and stories. My Jr. year JSB was that the Palmer House banquet room. And the many eating stories…. maybe they’re partly because you’re preggo, but there’s mostly because you were in Chicago, and the food options are amazing. :)

  4. May 5, 2011 5:41 pm

    As a semi NPR nerd, I look forward to your NPR post.

  5. Rae permalink
    May 6, 2011 9:28 am

    What a fun trip! That hotel is beautiful and all your food pictures looked amazing. Especially that french toast with blueberries!

  6. May 6, 2011 2:33 pm

    Too cool! I love your photos, especially all the food shots (yum!) — it’s like we got to go on the trip with you! Chicago is such a cool town; would love to get back there someday. Thanks for sharing . . . and I think I need to find some good tapas myself!

  7. May 6, 2011 3:54 pm

    We’re taking a babymoon in a few weeks too! You are so adorable.

  8. Gigi Neff permalink
    May 7, 2011 7:15 am

    I am just so curious….how much did you get the Palmer House room for??

    • May 13, 2011 12:25 pm

      Oops – sorry, Gigi, I forgot to reply! It was just shy of $100. Normally the room would have been about $250 + tax!

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