After two short days at home from Jekyll Island, Steve (DOS) and I flew up to Chicago yesterday for the start of our cross-country train trip on the California Zephyr. We postponed this train trip from last January 2021 due to COVID, and are really looking forward to it, even though the COVID virus and it’s variants are still causing scare and panic worldwide. I think we are both at the point since we are fully vaccinated and have gotten the booster shot as well, we just want to get on with our lives, and hopefully will only have a mild case of COVID if we do get it. Meanwhile, lots of hand washing and sanitizer!
We flew on an American Airlines 737, First Class (seats 2A and C), and as it was a Tuesday amid the pandemic, the airport was fairly scarce with people both in Orlando and Chicago on arrival.
Masks are still required on the planes and in the airport, due to these pandemic COVID times. We’re used to masking up by now, although the masks are a bit uncomfortable for hours on end.
Our flight was uneventful, on-time, and smooth, and we even had lunch on the plane. DOS had bought me a new pair of Sony wireless headphones for Christmas, and I used them for the first time on this flight. I much preferred these wireless Sony headphones over the former Bose (corded) headphones I had. American lets you stream movies to you iPad or phone for free, and now that a bluetooth connection is required for iPad Pro, the headphones worked great!
After we landed, we gathered our checked luggage and took a pre-arranged SUV service to our hotel.
We had a super friendly driver from Pakistan, and he kept us entertained on the 35 minute drive to our hotel in downtown Chicago, as he navigated the roads in the rainy/slushy weather. We landed around 2pm local time, so the traffic wasn’t too bad, as he said it usually takes close to an hour to get from the airport to our hotel. Still as it was raining (later turning to snow in the evening), we didn’t get any clear photos of the skyline as we approached downtown.
We stayed at the Thompson Hotel in the Golden Mile area of Chicago, a wealthy and suburban-type area, that is near the Chicago Loop, and lakefront as well. We have never stayed at a Thompson Hotel, but they are now part of the Hyatt Chain, and this upscale hotel offers all of the benefits we have become used to as Globalist Hyatt members. The Thompson Hotel, in fact, was rated #6 of all hotels in Chicago; pretty impressive!
We had a spacious Junior Suite on the 10th floor (out of 20 floors total) and had a terrific view of the immediate area, which changed over our quick two day stay based on the weather and snowfall!
As the bellman assisted us with our luggage (7 pieces overall), he asked us out of curiosity how long we were staying? DOS, without missing a beat said, “Just two nights as we travel light!” LOL!
Our 2 1/2 week trip is actually like 3 trips in one, as we are staying in Chicago two nights, then taking the California Zephyr for 52 hours (a bit more than two nights), and finally staying a couple nights in Emeryville CA, before heading up to Napa/Sonoma are for 10 nights, before flying home from Sacramento. Hence lots of clothes for different climates and suitcases for different modes of travel.
After relaxing a bit and showering from the plane ride, we headed down to the lobby lounge around 7pm for a quick brewski.
We then headed across the street to Gibson’s Restaurant for a wonderful steak dinner. While there are dozens of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, Gibson’s is a classic and upscale (but reasonably priced) steakhouse, where you can comfortably go wearing jeans (like us) or a suit like the working folks getting off from work.
We were warmly greeting at the door for our 7:30pm reservation, although per Chicago rules at this time, we did have to present a photo ID, and vaccine card showing we were vaccinated against COVID upon check-in at the restaurant.
Judging by the several walls of celebrity photos, Gibson’s has had it’s share of celebrity’s that’s for sure! We spotted Jim Ross (J.R.) with his cowboy hat from WCW/WWE dining across the room from us, and he unassumingly said bye to the staff on the way out, with the staff saying “welcome back J.R.”!
We had a wonderful AHI Tuna appetizer, followed by salad, and then the ultimate Bone-in Ribeye, which DOS and I shared (way to big for one person!)
Paired with a bottle of Mount Veeder Cabernet, it was a wonderful meal, which we actually repeated the next night as well, due to the snowfall that fell overnight.
For breakfast we ate at the hotel, and were delightfully pleased that the manager told us as Globalist Hyatt members, to “get whatever you want for breakfast; it’s on us!” Wow, is that terrific Hyatt customer service! We did have a full breakfast, as shown by these photos!
On our second and last day in Chicago was like a rainy day for us, but it was snowy instead of rainy. After our breakfast, it was quite a lazy but wonderful day that allowed us to rest up from our recent Jekyll Island trip, and for me to catch up on this blog. Watching the snow fall all day from the floor to ceiling windows was wonderful, especially since we didn’t have to go out in it! OMG – retirement is wonderful! I remember coming to Chicago, Wisconsin, Michigan, et al, in the winter for work and it was much less fun than coming for a cross-country leisure train trip! LOL!
Tomorrow we head on the California Zephyr to California!