Allow me to share with you the 40 hours I spent this weekend in Hyde Park, Chicago, with a nod to The New York Times’s “36 Hours” travel pieces for the inspiration.
6 p.m. Chicago time: Husband and I arrive at Midway to visit to our son Joe, whom we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving weekend. I’m excited to see him, but I’m determined to play it cool.
6:01 p.m. – 6:40 p.m.: Text Joe with vital tracking information:
Text 1: In the airport and heading to get to a taxi.
Text 2: In taxi! (with smiley face)
Text 3: We’re in our room!! (Yes, double exclamation points.)
Text 4: Room 208. Let me know you got this
Text 5: Hello?
6:45 p.m. Joe knocks and Jim opens the door as I nonchalantly peruse The New Yorker in our room at the new Hyatt Place in Hyde Park, a lovely enclave about eight miles south of downtown and home of the University of Chicago, where he is earning a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience. Hugs!!!!
7:30 p.m. Show up 15 minutes early for dinner at A10 Hyde Park Eatery and Bar, which is about 10 steps from our hotel. There is no room at the bar so we take a walk around the block. Joe points out his locked-up bike that he rode over from his apartment and I play it cool by refraining (until the next day) from commenting on the absence of a helmet.
7:45 p.m. Return to A10 where the hostess profusely apologizes because our table is not ready, perhaps suspecting that at least one of the older members of our party is on Eastern Standard Time and should be in her jammies. The wait was no big deal, really (stifle yawn). Of our three dinners, I hit the jackpot with a bone-in pork chop, polenta and grilled knob onion and a seat facing Joe (and Jim).
9 a.m. Joe joins us and we head around the corner to the cafeteria-style, cash-only Valois Restaurant, where I am tempted to order a favorite breakfast of former Hyde Park resident Barack Obama but opt instead for one of mine, a veggie omelet with home fries and coffee.
11 a.m. Catch the breezy and informative one-hour tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic, contemporary Robie House, built more than 100 years ago and now a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Like much of Chicago built after the terrible 1871 fire, the exterior of the Robie House is brick — but the similarity to other structures of its time (and now) ends there.
1 p.m. Stroll the campus of University of Chicago, where people seem pretty happy despite the undergraduate slogan of this being the place “where fun comes to die.” See the Cadillac encased in concrete. Swing through the free Smart Museum of Art. Then cross the courtyard to catch a matinee of the Chicago premiere of Tom Stoppard’s thought-provoking play “The Hard Problem” at the Court Theatre. Aside from a handful of students discussing “duality” as they left the packed theater, the audience overwhelmingly qualified for senior discounts, and I don’t mean college senior.
6:45 Dinner at La Petit Folie, in an unassuming space near the Treasure Island supermarket; a chocolate-coated super-size scoop of hazelnut-chocolate ice cream was, literally, “la bombe” of le meal.
10 a.m. Joe leads us on a walk around the neighborhood, dotted with parks and playgrounds and noticeably more dense with shops, restaurants and apartments since he moved there in the fall of 2012. New U of Chicago dorms and Hyde Park apartments replicate the unique wavy look of the architects’ Aqua Tower (which we’d admired on riverboat architectural tours during past visits to Chicago).
11:30 a.m. A cab awaits our return to Midway. One more hug. Make that two, to tide me over until next time. A mother can play it just so cool.