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January, Romance and Adventure Ahead

January - January

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Brr, it’s cold, brr, it’s cloudy, brr, it’s sunny, brr it’s snowing.  Another Chicago January is upon us, but, my friends, we’ve been through this before and we’ll get through this one, while having even more fun and adventure than ever!

We’ve only been back to work a few days and it seems like we need a weekend already.  Thank goodness, here it is, Friday, January 4th, already. Let’s all meet for dinner after work, shall we?  Zad, a pleasant, warmly decorated place, serves truly exciting Mediterranean food that’s very tasty, very fresh, served counter-style.  The Mujadara and Falafal Platter are excellent, but this time I’m having Lamb.     3924 Dempster St., Skokiehttps://www.zadbypitainn.com/

We’ll converse leisurely, catch up on things, but leave early and get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow we are hitting the trails at the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, 12545 West 111th St., Lemont, IL. It’s time to learn to ski, cross-counrty style! http://fpdcc.com/nature-centers/sagawau-environmental-learning-center/

All rested up?  Great! Meet us at the Center, let’s say about 9am.  We’ll rent skis and boots, right here, then take a much needed lesson in cross-country basics, before we head out to “skate” or “slide” (styles of cross-country skiing) over several miles of groomed trails.  It’s exciting and exhilarating; we’ll work our arms, legs, and pretty much every other muscle as well. But see how smooth, steady and fast we get after only a short time?   This is FUN.  After a few hours, we can stop at the lodge for a needed break and refreshments before heading back out.  I really want to try the intermediate level route (it’s quite short) while we’re here.  Care to join me? Isn’t it amazing how warm we’ve stayed while out here in the cold and snow?

Just as valuable as the exercise and sharing in this effort with you, my friends, is this place.  Look around while we travel along, see the different kinds of trees, green pines and firs, slender birches and poplars, thick and tall oaks and maples. Be watchful, and we’ll share our details back at the lodge.  Whew, I’m tired.  Good-bye, be careful driving home.

On Friday, January, 11, remember to rent your skis for the weekend, because the Chicago Park District does not rent skis at any location. Viking Ski Shop, 3422 W. Fullerton, Chicago https://www.vikingskishop.com/ has a great rental program and very knowledgeable staff to fit us up properly.

Saturday, January 12th, right on the shores of mighty Lake Michigan we can ski at Northerly Island.  If you’re not familiar, the Island connects directly to the Museum Campus, in fact, the amazing Adler Planetarium is on the very north end of the island.  Just before the Planetarium, turn right on Linn White Dr., and we’ll find parking at the field house.  There are a few miles of trails, open for skiing, the ground is flat, and the views, looking out over the vast, frozen expanse of the Lake, will take your breath away.  This is a good place to polish up our basic skills we learned last week, get into that smooth steady body stretch, and I, at least, will continue to work off all that excess holiday fare I gobbled up just a short time ago.  While we’re here, be sure to take in the other-worldliness of winter on the Lake, and we’ll see a very different Chicago from here when we’re looking west.  Beautiful, austere, yet all lit up and lively, and the trip to the Island is worth it just for these views.

Shall we head for dinner?  Let’s try Pompei, 1531 W Taylor St, for a fabulous, low-key, properly prepared Italian dinner in a 4th generation, family owned restaurant that’s been serving Chicagoans since 1909.  I just love their gnocchi, but today I think I want the eggplant parmegiana.  After some antipasti, and garlic bread, of course.

I know, it’s only Thursday, January 17th, but hey, that’s the day that the world-famous Art Institute is free all evening from 5pm until 8pm, and there is always inspiration adventure and a bit of romance to be had within the many galleries and exhibits within.  I always want to gaze at Monet’s many paintings, and examine closely the ancient Greek and Roman statues.  How did ancient sculptors, working only with hand tools that must have been crude by today’s standards, create such beautiful works, capturing movement, grace, and muscular details showing through clothing?   I’m always stunned.  The Art Institute of Chicago, 111S. Michigan Ave., https://www.artic.edu/visit

Friday, January 18th, be sure to go online and purchase a CityPASS.  It’s a highly discounted ticket that will get us into 5 of Chicago’s best places, for only one price (over half off!) and it will be good for the next two weekends, HURRAH!  www.citypass.com

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So Saturday we’ll meet early at Willis Tower, home of Skydeck Chicago, because our CityPASS gets us in early, and the skies above Chicago are almost always clear in the morning, before the clouds and mists start rising out of the Lake. Yes, this is the place where we’ll stand on the glass floor “Ledge” and look straight down at the ant-sized people on the ground, 103 floors below. Photo op!

Whew, wow, that was thrilling, yes? We’re all bundled up, right?  Let’s walk (yes, walk) to the very end of the Museum Campus and use our pass for the VIP entry into the Adler, America’s first Planetarium. There is so much to discover here- ancient astronomy instruments, modern telescopes, two domed theaters wherein we learn ever more about this amazing Universe.  Let there be light, indeed. www.adlerplanetarium.org

On Sunday, January 20, we’ll meet you at the Shedd Aquarium, where our pass gets us the VIP treatment once more. We must take in the Oceanarium, where we can meet “beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, sea lions and sea otters.” Other displays include sharks, yes, real, carnivorous sharks, rays, fishes, and some of my favorites, jellyfishes.  The Great Lakes exhibit brings much of it home, sitting as we are on the shores of the mighty Lake Michigan.  Wonderful, thrilling, educational, amazing; the Shedd always faithfully displays the amazing diversity in the seas. It’s on the Museum Campus, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive,  www.sheddaquarium.org

This Thursday, January 25th, please take a few minutes to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember, as a child, seeing the peaceful marchers being harassed, beaten, and blasted with fire hoses, just because they wanted the same justice that was given so freely to other Americans.  Where are we today, in light of those days, and in light of the resurgent acceptance of hate as acceptable behavior?

Gentlemen, listen up, please.  It’s time, I think, to truly romance the love of your life.  Surprise her now, to let her know just how much you really care, in the middle of winter, not just on Valentine’s Day.   Start today, Friday, January 25th, after work, with a quiet, delicious meal at Trysub Ukrainian Kitchen, 2201 W. Chicago Ave., where you’ll make reservations in advance, take your place at a small booth, and enjoy a few unique, delicious presentations of hearty, tasty, and visually beautiful meals in a delightfully decorated restaurant that strives to serve “Ukrainian culture and culinary tradition in a pleasing sophisticated modern way”. They succeed marvelously.  You will both be happy. http://tryzubchicago.com

This is a romantic weekend we have planned, and we’re going full speed.  Today, Saturday, January 26th, you’ll want to dress up a bit, while still in comfortable (but not athletic) footware.  Trust me, and read on.  Meet your date, have a light breakfast, then use the last two stops on your city passes from last week and, first, spend the day at the Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., (on the Museum Campus, of course) because- your passes are for VIP entry, “Sue” is a giant, complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, the Egypt gallery has sarcophagi on display, and there is always more to learn about this magnificent, delicate, beautiful planet we live on.

Walk slowly, hold hands, and smile as you take it all in.  Then, this evening, your last destination is the 360 Chicago Observation Deck, 875 N. Michigan Ave., (AKA: the Hancock building), where, get this- you’ll “speed 94 floors, straight up, in one of the fastest elevators in North America, see 360-degrees views of Lake Michigan, four neighboring states, and Chicago’s dazzling downtown, and explore the interactive and multimedia technologies, available in 7 different languages.” Isn’t that cool?

This is your amazingly romantic weekend, remember?  An admittedly expensive, but SO worth it, dinner is in order, and you don’t even leave the building. Head up stairs to The Signature Room at The 95th, a restaurant where the spectacular views continue; you’ll be glad you dressed for the occasion, Get a window booth and just continue to stare at the view, and into her eyes, while you eat from a surprisingly diverse menu of wonderfully cooked-to-perfection main courses, appetizers and sides.

If you’re both in the mood, after this dinner you can head up yet another floor (you’re now 96 stories above the ground, is that not totally amazing?) to the Signature Lounge.  You’re holding hands, right?  Finish your drinks, head for home, and sleep in late tomorrow.

I truly hope that this cold and blustery January was filled with adventure, fun and a genuine sense of joy.  Until next month, my fellow adventurers, stay warm and happy.