The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day Two

The second day of our trip was the one I was most looking forward to, because after three long years, we were finally going to go back to Chicago! The weather forecast wasn’t promising, but in the end, although it was quite cool, the rain lifted, and that was good enough for us. We got to leave from a new-to-us Metra station (Palatine), so we saw a bunch of different suburbs on our way downtown.

The sights that greeted us were just like I remembered:

It was so good to be back!

Bunny took some time to feed some pigeons:

And one even photobombed her!

Mostly, we just walked around and took it all in. It was so much fun to see all of our favorite places (and some new ones), and we even stopped to listen to a street musician (who was very talented!) for a bit. The only thing we didn’t get to do that I would have liked was see Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan, but it was very windy, and that was in the opposite direction of the other stuff we had planned, so I settled on seeing a sliver of my lake from a distance.

We walked up the Magnificent Mile to Water Tower Place, something new for us. We stopped in to see the big American Girl store and the Lego Store (two of our favorite places):

We also spent some time in Jane Byrn Park by the historic Water Tower:

After that, we made our way to the Plaza of the Americas so we could visit the “Wings of Mexico” art installation, which is “a symbol of the immigrant journey and celebrates Chicago as a sanctuary city.” Moose didn’t care to have his picture taken, but us gals couldn’t resist!

No visit to Chicago would be complete without a stop at the former Marshall Field’s on State Street to buy a box of Frango Mints!

And then we made our way back to the train and said goodbye to my favorite city. The last time I said goodbye, I assumed I’d be back “soon.” Three years later, and without Turkey joining us because he was working Combo Breaker the whole day, I finally made it back. I really hated to leave, and I’ll never take it for granted again.

Back at the hotel, Combo Breaker had begun, so we spent some time on the floor, taking in all those sights, too.

We also enjoyed playing some of the arcade games they had set up, including Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong.

We couldn’t resist another walk outside, where the evening light was perfect. Also, we enjoyed watching muskrats swim in the hotel ponds…who knew?!?

We also found time for one more evening swim…it wasn’t quite the same as swimming under the stars at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool, but it was still fun!

One last look before bed:

Up next…a full day of Combo Breaker!

Chickadee Thursday

Last week, we finally made it back to Chicago! Chickadee was excited to ride the train in the city again:

We visited the big American Girl store at Water Tower Place:

She got a picture with the statue of “Mr. Chicago,” Irv Kupcinet:

And she had fun playing Pac-Man at Combo Breaker:

It was so much fun to travel up north again!

The American Girl Store

On Wednesday, we made the long-awaited trip to the brand new American Girl Store at Chesterfield Mall, in Chesterfield, MO. (The store’s “soft opening” began Wednesday; the Grand Opening is this weekend.) Of course, the girls were very excited about going, but I have to admit, I was pretty excited myself. I’ve had an American Girl doll for over 20 years, now, but had never actually been to one of the stores, so I had no idea what to expect. Even if I had had an idea in my head, I’m sure it wouldn’t have come to close to what the store actually is, from the sheer vastness of it and the way the displays are arranged to the “Doll Salon” and the charming little Bistro.

When we first walked in, we were greeted by a (somewhat overly) enthusiastic saleswoman.Her knowledge of the products and the history of the company was commendable, and she was very good at talking with the girls, (not to mention listening to them!), and directing them toward the things that would interest them the most. She also gave us a brief tour of the store, and explained how the different areas were set up. One thing that surprised me was that the “salon” was right in the middle of the store, and the dolls that were being “styled” were on full view for anyone who wanted to watch. For some reason, I thought that this would have been done in the back, out of sight.

From the center, the store was divided into a few main sections. On one side, were the dolls we were there to look at–the historical collection. The displays were very eye-catching, and set up in many different and interesting ways. There was, of course, a display for each  doll, to showcase her entire collection. There were also smaller vignettes set up here and there, to showcase something in particular…for example, new items in a collection, like Cécile’s and Marie-Grace’s new summer items, (what we were looking for), or a particular theme, like the bedtime collections for each doll.

Another side of the store was dedicated to the “My American Girl” collection–the line of modern dolls which are offered in a variety of hair colors and styles, and skin and eye colors, so that they can be customized to look like any girl.

And let’s not forget the Bitty Baby section in the back–that was Ladybug’s favorite part of our shopping trip!

The Bistro was also adorable…we didn’t go on Wednesday, but we did have a fun time peeking inside!

My only real complaint about the store was the way the check-out line was organized. It seems like there could have been a more efficient way to have people get through the line, because if you had a lot of items on the way to the register, or a large bag on the way out, you were certain to bump into somebody else in line, or knock over a display, or both.

It was a fun shopping trip. Because of the distance, (not to mention the cost!), it’s not a place we’ll be going often, but I’m sure we’ll go once or twice a year, to check out new items, or to go to the Bistro. Plus, I can’t wait to see what the store looks like at Christmas. I’m also looking forward to the day when we can go back and I can take the girls to have tea (or hot chocolate) in the Bistro!