Sunday, July 19, 2009

Our 'Staycation'!

Not unlike a lot of Americans, the current economy has affected our lifestyle of late! While we both seem to be 'safely' employed the workplaces are operating on bare minimum including hours/overtime. The genius billionaires on Wall Street have successfully squandered a good portion of our investments while the local medical professionals rightfully are collecting a chunk of each paycheck for the services rendered in Patrick's cancer treatment and Julia's asthma/allergy/tonsillectomy event. Bambi didn't exactly change our financial status for the better either! So being the responsible adults, that the financial industry seems to be devoid of, we are cutting out the big luxuries from our past life style. In, what I'm told is a growing trend, we are spending our holidays being tourists in our own backyard! The hip new name for this is a 'staycation'!! I cannot tell you how many people upon hearing that Patrick is from Ireland will ask him (or tell him) about their favorite tourist destination on that gorgeous island. Often he smiles pleasantly and politely makes a non-committal response because it's highly likely he has NEVER been to the spot of which they gush. Come on, really folks! Besides being too poor to do anything but work the farm, it's his homeland not a vacation location. As a native Chicagoan, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've been to the top of the Sears Tower....oh yeah, they renamed it didn't they?!?!? In the nearly half century that I have tramped around the city this past Palm Sunday was the first time I had ever been to Chinatown!! Auntie Peggy admitted the same thing recently so when she spotted the Dragon Festival listed on the schedule for today she 'booked' us on today's staycation! At 9am we were up, dressed, and waiting on the train platform for the ride from suburbia into THE if there are any others?!?! I do not know how the economy has not ended the practice but during the summer children ride for FREE! If you are ever coming to Chicago please do consider using the public transportation options we have to offer. The parking downtown is limited and therefore EXPENSIVE...not even taking into account the congested streets you must navigate. Not only do we have commuter trains, the El (city train system), and buses but the summer brings out the WATER TAXIS!!
Chicago has a high tech engineered river connecting the lake to the inland waterways. Our river is the only river that goes opposite to the 'continental divide' rule you learned in school!! Since we lie to the east of the continental divide our river should by right travel eastbound INTO the lake. For a multitude of reasons it was deemed necessary to reverse the flow and generations later we reap the benefits.
You have no doubt as the water taxi pulls up to this stop as to where you have arrived! Only a short two block walk later and you enter the heart of Chinatown!
How fitting that we entered through the DRAGON's gate!!
We admired the unique architecture and.....
quenched our thirst in a stereotypical city fashion...the local fire station had opened this 'fountain' from a fire hydrant!!
Checked out the local fire house with their multilingual markings.....
and learned about cultural customs! This shrine in the business's vestibule featured an orange, a cup of tea, and burning incense for good fortune.
Walked around a park with the Chinese zodiac signs presented on statues with plaques describing the sign's traits. Auntie Peggy and Mari discovered they shared the sign of the Bull....which described Auntie Peggy to a tee but was not at all Mari...hmmm wonder if her December birth date was accurate...maybe they were off a month or two??
This woman was writing your name out in Chinese calligraphy for a donation to help rebuild their recently burned church. Not only does she share Mari's first name but a face as well!!! People used to always comment that they thought Mari looked more like she came from China than Guatemala when she was a toddler!!! Hmmmm......
My chef in training had a blast 'training her palate'!! Here she was getting a taste of a dried scallop which she loved. She also tasted candied ginger which got a thumbs down but it was followed by some yummy dried mango. We couldn't bring ourselves to try the $80/lb deer antler or the $90/lb dried seahorses...even if the sample was free!!!!
Our travel companions couldn't wait to put their souvenirs to use!!
We were front and center when the Dragon Parade came down the street...
and my princess joined the royal court for a Kodak moment!
Auntie Peggy put her many years of travel savvy to the test and sure enough landed us a 'to die for' lunch!! Always look for the place with the most locals sitting at their table and you are sure to get the best tasting meal for the most reasonable price!!
So since the locals had filled the tables we took our 'to go' and ate al fresco. Could have hoped for a more appetising back drop but the Beef Fried Rice and Sesame Chicken drew crowds of passerbys asking where we had gotten such wonderfully authentic fare. The festival tents were pretty limited to egg rolls and beef on a stick so many were hoping to find more filling plates of food in one of the countless restaurants located in Chinatown.
A fantastically racially diverse crowd joined us in admiring the traditional architecture with the city skyline as a back drop!! We walked, and walked, and walked all over the neighborhood and this is what the gentle rocking of the water taxi on our return did to the little travelers....
There are still a few more weekends left to our summer vacation and we are determined to 'book' at least one more staycation in this fabulous city located in our own backyard!!


  1. Sounds like a ton of fun!! Maybe I need to pitch a tent in your backyard for my own "staycation" since we have so little to offer tourist around here:( Still debating on MOGUATE!! Megan is not going either:(

  2. Well i live 6 hours from Chicago and HAVE NEVER see i dont travel far either AND IM OK WITH THAT! lol

    These are great pics and WHAT FUN!


  3. Wow!!! Great "staycation"!!!! It really sounded like so much fun!!!
    I would of been in heaven with the chinese food! I LOVE it!!!!

  4. That was awesome (well until you came to the antler food and the poor dried seahorses, booohooooo)! What a great time. Loved seeing the pictures. We've been doing this type of home vacation this summer too since I haven't been given the ok to travel by my Dr. No No (since that is all he seems able to say every time I ask about things I want to do), and it is really amazing how much you can find to do. VA is so full of historical info and we so love it but unfortunately being age 2 and 4 doesn't bode well or long in that area!!! That truly looks like just a ton of fun and loved the pictures of those gorgeous girlies of yours :-)