Father’s Day: remembering my Dad

My beloved and I have been trying to sort the best moments from our 40 years of marriage and I’ve turned them into posts called “40 years of Memorable Moments.” Many of these moments have included trips with my parents, some of them on Father’s Day. However, this is one moment my beloved missed out on due to the pressures of work.

To celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday, we went en famille to Chicago for a long week-end in October 2001. My Dad’s birthday was in November, but we wanted to go before it was too cold and he chose the first week-end in October. Before we’d booked and paid for the flights, my beloved said that week-end was no longer possible because he had to attend an exhibition. We took an executive decision to go without him as the dates suited everyone else.

My parents wanted to stay in The Drake hotel, a Chicago institution, which overlooks the lake at the far end of Michigan Ave. I would’ve stayed there too but my youngest sister was on a limited budget so I agreed to share with her. A huge sacrifice as I hate sharing with anyone other than my beloved though she’s infinitely tidier than my other sister, who came with her husband. The four of us stayed in a less expensive hotel opposite The Drake.

Travelling by taxi with six of us would have meant using two taxis every time. I had however thought of this and contacted a limo service so that when we needed a taxi, we could take one all together. I’m not sure it was any cheaper but it was certainly more fun!

The limo picked us up from the airport and dropped us off at our hotels mid-afternoon. We agreed to unpack, freshen up and meet in the bar of The Drake for cocktails and plan what we were going to do. We had no intention of spending the entire time in one another’s pockets. My two sisters were intent on shopping ’til they dropped. My brother-in-law, who hates shopping, preferred to do some sightseeing, as did I and my parents.

We had pre-organised several things for my parents, including a boat trip around the lake, a guided tour of Oak Park and, for Dad’s birthday dinner, I had booked a table at Charlie Trotter’s. My beloved and I had eaten there on a number of occasions during the Chicago mid-winter dental meetings and knew he’d enjoy it.

Again, we went there and back by limo. I had advised the restaurant we were celebrating my Dad’s 70th but he didn’t want any fuss – no desserts with candles or waiters singing “Happy Birthday.” We had a simply wonderful meal and Charlie dropped by with an autographed copy of the menu for my Dad and gave him a personal tour of the kitchens and wine cellar which certainly made his evening all the more special.

Of course, my Dad loved celebrating en famille but my parents found the trip quite tiring. Indeed, they’d only recovered from jet lag by going home time. Now that my parents are no longer with us, we look back on occasions such as these and appreciate the time we spent with them.

Postcard from Chicago

I’ve recently returned from the Windy City, my first visit there since February 2007. You’re probably thinking, hmm not the best time to visit Chicago. I agree, but I was with my beloved who was attending a Dental Congress while I played hooky at a number of art and architectural museums.

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I love the architectural melange in Chicago, not as built up as New York, with plenty of old buildings in the centre interspersed with skyscrapers. It’s a town you can “see” in a week-end providing, like me, you’re prepared to pound its pavements – or should that be sidewalks?

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The Chicago skyline owes much to Daniel Burnham, architect of the Flatiron building – one of my faves – in New York, who sought to create Paris on the Prairie in Chicago, and Mies van der Rohe whose buildings are all over Chicago, if you know where to look.

My first port of call was a bookshop. I knew I had plenty of room in my suitcase for at least three more books. I’m rapidly building my collection of vegan cookery books. After my breakfast of avocado on toast at a nearby restaurant, I spent much of the morning in the bookshop before heading up the Magnificent Mile to The Art Institute of Chicago. I visited The Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art on subsequent days.

My beloved was busy with meetings all day long but free in the evenings leaving us to explore Chicago’s excellent restaurant scene on our own. Lest I get homesick, we stayed at the Sofitel, where I got a great deal on booking.com. Over the years we’ve stayed in a variety of hotels in Chicago but the advantage of working for yourself means you get to pick where you stay.

We’ve eaten at a number of Chicago’s long-standing restaurants such as Morton’s – where I once tussled with and defeated a 3lb lobster – and more upscale establishments such as Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s, the latter sadly closed after the chef’s demise. There are plenty of fish and Mexican restaurants where I could feed my love of shellfish and spices – just hold the butter, mayo, sour cream and cheese!

We arrived in a snowstorm but thereafter the weather was unseasonably mild. I still recall my first trip to Chicago, back in the early 90s. It was so cold I felt as if my sinuses were freezing. At times, the cold wind whips off Lake Michigan making it feel so much colder than the numbers on the mercury. Even so, on that trip I spent a very pleasant Sunday in Oak Park, exploring historic homes, including those of Frank Lloyd Wright.

I also found time to feed my beloved’s new found addiction to lululemon sportswear, adding to the collection we started for him in Australia. That man has so much sportswear – swimming, golf, tennis, cycling, gym – he could open his own sport shop!

I’m not normally much of a shopper. Twice a season, I’ll go through my wardrobe, toss out the overworn, unworn and unloved and make a list – what else? – of what needs replacing. I’ll then go out and buy them, preferably in one fell swoop.

I have been searching for a new pair of jeans for some time. My problem in France is that they love the extra skinny legs which don’t fit my arms, let alone my legs. I favour what they call the “boyfriend” style but don’t want them pre-ripped, overlong or over wide. I tend to find the US, where I’m miraculously two sizes smaller than in France, and Germany, fertile hunting ground, though I had struck out last year in New York.

In Chicago, I chanced upon a pair which fit perfectly and indeed a few pairs of other trousers which also fitted the bill. Add in a couple of jackets and tops and that was my summer wardrobe sorted in a couple of hours – perfect!