It’s getting chilly, and winter is most assuredly on its way. I will soon be donning my warm and waterproof Austrian Frauenschuh coat and dreaming of springtime, though it is the vision of tulips dancing in my head now that remind me of the magical trip I took to Chicago earlier this year.
The Windy City was in all its glory. No hint of snowdrifts or bone chilling temperatures. Dull grey skies gave way to intense blue and tropical pops of color via the thousands of dancing tulip bulbs blooming everywhere.
Not wanting to waste a minute, I dropped my bags off with the affable doorman of The Peninsula Chicago and ambled off in search of “The Bean” with an old (as in young, but long time) friend from college. The reflective stainless steel sculpture in Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St. between Michigan Ave. & Columbus Ave.) is actually named Cloud Gate, but its vegetable nickname comes from the shape it resembles. Pre-school kids frolicked to and fro in the water-view playground that would make Peter Pan jealous. Pasty professionals rolled up their sleeves to soak up the rays during the lunch hour on the emerald grass in front of the replica peristyle (semi circle Doric-style columns) monument. We perched ourselves on a bench by Lake Michigan, captivated by a graceful sailboat’s gleaming white sails against the backdrop of aqua marine water and caught up in earnest.
We walked and talked for miles, intermittently window-shopping at the high and low stores until it was five o’clock “somewhere” and could justify a drink before dark. Where else would we go on such a splendid day but The Signature Lounge at the 96th, high above the Gold Coast’s Magnificent Mile. Moscow Mules in hand we took in the breathtaking views while enjoying a strong libation (or two). Insider’s tip: the best view is actually from inside the ladies’ restroom!
Famished, we headed for dinner en plein air at the beautiful Peninsula’s Shanghi Terrace for a gal’s night out. We let the chef decide our culinary fate and enjoyed Asian inspired courses for an unforgettable epicurean feast. Well fed, it was time to check out my suite, and for her to catch an “L” train back to her home in Oak Park, home to Frank Lloyd Wright and one of Chicago’s best places to visit – The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest.
As expected, the room décor was exquisite and the bathroom simply luxurious. What was unexpected and a completely thrilling surprise for a techy like me were the state-of-the-art amenities and common sense aids. Where shall I begin? Lights, temperature, blinds and more all controlled by the multiple iPads… that’s a good start. Bedside drawers with electronic receptacles AND cords… brilliant. No need to use my own and risk leaving yet another expensive cord behind. Fully integrated A/V ports with Bluetooth connections meant that instead of squinting at photos taken during the day on my WiFi camera, I could choose to view them on the massive multimedia screens in either the bedroom or living room… relaxing. No hunting for the blow dryer or coffee maker, drawers are discreetly labeled. My elderly father would appreciate this level of organization and efficiency immensely!
After a luxurious sleep on high thread count sheets and a pillow of my choice, I enjoyed a delightful breakfast, delivered on time via the room service app on the iPad. I hesitated eating too much knowing the afternoon would be spent enjoying the Peninsula Academy Tea Ceremony and Cooking Class. My sister joined me for the master cooking class where we learned how to make dim sum. Our favorite was the truffle dumpling stuffed with lobster and chicken. While it took a few tries before our skills were up to par, Chef Elmo was extremely patient and we were thrilled to dine on our awkward looking dumplings, though they were surprisingly delicious. The fine art of drinking tea was taught to us in an elaborate ceremony where we learned that the first pour is traditionally served to your enemies. Very interesting!
Almost replete, but willing to press on to dessert, we moved to the elegant lobby for afternoon pastries and a bit of champagne to celebrate our new found skills. While we were relishing in a full-on family gossip session, seated next to us was a young grandmother with her granddaughter having a sweet afternoon (pun intended). The darling girl squealed with delight when presented with the signature plush Peter Bear teddy bear. I don’t know what she adored more, the petit pastries on her plate or her dining companions. It was a precious scene indeed.
Granted, the superb weather predisposed me to rave about my visit to Chicago, but the fond memories and high level of hospitality at The Peninsula Chicago left me with a good taste in my mouth, both literally and figuratively. Though I am sure that I will be soon planning my own Chicago getaway this next spring, The Peninsula Chicago also has a lot to offer during the winter months with their Sky Rink above the crowds on Michigan Avenue on The Terrace and endless amounts of food and beverage events throughout the entire year.