Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Spring has sprung... Summer too

Before I get roused on for not submitting a blog entry, let me say that summer has arrived! Well, not the official summer (this starts on June 21st), but a very good sample of what summer will be. The locals here say that there are two seasons in Chicago: Hot and Cold. We have been told that Spring and Fall (Autumn) seasons, last for approximately 15 minutes each. 

What a fantastic 15 minutes Spring has been. It did appear to take only minutes for the trees to transform from a lifeless and barren grey to a soft green fuzz, through to full lush green full leaf. Yellow bursting from the ground in the form of daffodils was followed by the whites, yellows, pinks and deep reds of tulips. Azaleas bloomed, and in the blink of an eye, there was lawn. Lifeless gardens soon became green with bursts of colour with a abundance of leaves and prolific flowers. Simply beautiful. 

The people also seem to bloom. All of a sudden, there is a profusion of people out walking, running and riding bikes. People amble and are all-akimbo instead of rushing with purpose with arms folded and shoulders hunched to avoid cold draughts. People now get up early and stay out late. Families pushing strollers are abundant on weekends. Dark colours and long coats have been replaced by bright shorts and t-shirts. Everyone is wearing trainers. Chairs and tables have spilled out of restaurants and cafes onto the pavement. Chicago has become al fresco. We love it. 

Having lived in sub-tropical Brisbane for 10 years, I had lost touch with seasonal differences. Melbourne’s changes in season are more drawn out and not so ‘instant’. Even in England, I don’t remember the onslaught of spring to be quite as dramatic. 

All this change occurred in time for a visit from Rowan and Shirley. Rowan (Paul’s brother) and his wife Shirley, live in Houston, Texas. They decided they would visit us over the Memorial Day weekend. Paul took Friday off, and we had a public holiday on Monday to provide a really long weekend. 

After several delays to flight times, Rowan and Shirley arrived late on Thursday night. We took them out to breakfast at Toast on Friday morning to avoid the impossibly long waits for tables on weekends. After a very full breakfast of omelette, eggs benedict and coffee, we caught the El from Fullerton to the Loop. We walked past Paul’s office and headed towards the Sears Tower with a coffee break on the way (as the boys were sleeping). The views were a little limited as ‘fog’ was about. Off to Millenium Park after a lunch of sushi (Luc’s favourite) at Marshall Fields. It was great to see this park in warm-weather. The Crown Fountain is very popular with the kids as it is now in ‘fountain’ mode, with a shallow layer of water over the pavement surface and gushing mouths spurting streams of water at regular intervals (see photo above). The ice skating rink is now an alfresco bar area. We had to experience it in this guise. Very civilised indeed. We then walked up Michigan Ave to have a look at Paul’s downtown gym and its amazing climbing wall before heading back home to bathe and feed children before our sitter Lisa arrived. Out for dinner on our local stretch of a very lively Clark Street. 

Saturday saw us chill out at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is a weekly destination with the boys as it is less than 10 minutes walk from home… and it is free! We had some lunch here and rides on the lovely old carousel before checking out some of the animals. In the evening, we went out to see Baby Wants Candy, an improvised comedy routine in the form of a musical based entirely around a title suggested by an audience member. This was hilarious. We ended up having dinner in a bikers bar. 

Sunday, Rowan and Shirley checked into a downtown hotel and we went for a trek down Michigan Avenue (sans boys), after a visit to the Billy Goat Tavern – the original seedy hamburger joint. Back to feed and bathe the boys before meeting them once more at the Hancock Tower for cocktails as the was sun setting. Then to the bustling Rush Street for dinner at around 11pm. 

Monday, we met Rowan and Shirley downtown to take an architectural boat cruise along the Chicago River. It was then that the perfect weather had a momentary aberration. We had some brief showers while sitting on the boat deck (only not enough to make us seek cover). We stopped into Wholefoods on the way home to buy some provisions for dinner, and arrived home for Nic and Luc (in particular) to have a bit more uncle and aunt bonding time. 

We ended the weekend by paying a fortune in baby sitters fees, but had a sensational weekend-away-at-home as a result. Great company, great weather, great outings… this is partly why I have not written more! 

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