The Writing Traveler: Retracing Old Footsteps by Debbie De Louise
November 4, 2021
The first trip my husband and I took together was to Chicago in March of 1992 for my Public Library Association Conference. We returned.
In Chicago, we stayed at the Palmer House Hilton, a historic downtown hotel.
When I found out that my husband was going to attend a conference for his employer in Chicago this July, I asked to go along with him. I thought it would be fun to see the city after twenty-six years.
I dug out our old photo album and some of the scanned photos I’d kept and planned to try to locate some of the sights and exhibits he and I had posed by on our first trip. I knew that some of them would be gone and replaced by new attractions and places, and I hoped to include some of those, too, for making our new memories.
It was nice that I was able to book the same hotel, the Palmer House, that we’d stayed in on our first visit. While the rooms were different, the main lobby and the gold elevator doors were the same.
When we visited the Museum of Science and Industry, most of the exhibits had changed. However, the Main Street area featured two spots I’d posed by in the past. Although we couldn’t reach the top of the museum’s entrance, Anthony posed in front of the stairs where he’d stood twenty-six years ago.
A mystery site that I identified by accident was a golden peacock door. When I posed by it in ’92, it was inside the Palmer House. When we found it in 2018, it was outside a few buildings before the hotel.
While on our trip, we also visited the Willis Tower which was called the Sears Tower in ’92. We were told that residents still refer to it by its original name. The tower has added some new attractions to the 103rd-floor Skydeck. In addition to an incredible view of several states, there is now an opportunity to stand on a glass-enclosed ledge if you dare. We did and got some great photos.
Something new (but not new in Chicago) that we tried was a dinner theater called Tommy Gun’s Garage where we had a great meal and were treated to an entertaining musical show with flappers and gangsters. We also had the chance to pose with a gangster.
While Anthony was in his conference, I took a minibus tour led by See It All Tours that was a great introduction to the various parts of the city. The tour made stops at the Rookery Building, The Chicago Cultural Center that was once the main public library, and a perfect spot for a photo op of the skyline on Lakewood Drive. As part of an add-on to this tour, I was able to take an architectural cruise led by Shoreline Sightseeing that was a great way to view Chicago’s buildings.
Of course, a trip to Chicago isn’t complete without seeing Millennium Park. It wasn’t there in ’92, and my husband both enjoyed strolling through it after dinner one night. Someone offered to take our photo near the famous Cloud Gate or “Bean,” and it was delightful walking through the flowered paths and seeing the kids playing in the water near Crown Fountain. I even took a photo of the lips opening to spray water.
Another attraction that wasn’t around when we visited twenty-six years ago was the American Writers Museum. As a librarian and author, I knew I had to check it out and wasn’t disappointed. The exhibits were wonderful and very interactive. I even had a chance to type on an “antique” typewriter.
Last but not least on our city agenda was dining. Chicago is famous for its great food, and I had to forget about my diet while I indulged in some special meals and desserts.
At The Berghoff, a popular and historic German restaurant, I was able to have my favorite cake — Black Forest. At the Palmer House Lockwood Restaurant, I sampled Bertha’s Brownies (the Brownie was created in the Palmer House kitchen at the direction of Bertha Palmer to be served at the Columbian Exposition World Fair in 1893). After visiting the Art Institute, I also had a nice lunch at the Russian Tea Room across from the museum. And, because you can’t leave Chicago without deep dish pizza, I picked up one at O’Hare’s Pizzeria Unocounter along with a Chicago-style hot dog for my husband before we boarded our flight home.
Debbie De Louise is the author of A Stone’s Throw, the first novel in her Cobble Cove Mysteries. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.