Christkindlmarkets

I was so excited when Belleville finally opened a Christmas market. For years, I had said that it would be the perfect way to honor the city’s German heritage, and add a little extra Christmas fun to the town square. And we’ve enjoyed visiting it in the five seasons it has been open.

But now I think I’ve ruined it for myself. I already mentioned that one of my top priorities when we went to Chicago was taking the Fab Five downtown to the Christkindlmarket. I was a little worried that I would be disappointed, because I thought that over the years, I had built it up in my head, and it wouldn’t be what I remembered. But it actually turned out to be so much more…more stalls, more food choices, more crowds, more everything. Sure, the rain was a downer, but the market itself was beautiful and huge and exactly what I wanted it to be.

And then we stopped at the satellite location in Naperville the next day on the way home, to make up for the rainy experience the day before. I had looked at the map ahead of time, so I should have anticipated what it would be like, but for some reason, I was expecting it to be small and disappointing after Chicago. But it wasn’t at all. Maybe not quite as big (or maybe it was!), but still plenty of options for shopping and food and photos:

And now I realize just how small Belleville’s market is. I know it can never be the same as the Chicago version, but I really thought the Naperville market would be more similar to what we’ve become used to, and it’s not. I know I’ll still visit the Belleville Christkindlmarkt every December, probably more than once, but it will never really be the same to me, after seeing just how German the markets up north are!

Markel Family Christmas Getaway–Day Two

Day two of our Christmas Getaway was a BIG DAY. A day I’ve been planning and hoping for for years…the day where I would show the Fab Five Christmas in Chicago!

But first, a look at the view from our 11th floor room in the tower at Pheasant Run. We’ve never had a north facing view before, and while we missed being able to see the skyscrapers in Chicago that we’ve been accustomed to (with the way the weather was in Chicago last weekend, there’s no way we would have been able to see them anyway!), it was fun to see something different. It was also nice of Chicago to hang onto the snow until we had a chance to really see it, because it was pretty much gone by the end of the day!

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Pheasant Run’s Jambalaya restaurant, compliments of the resort. It was a great meal…I especially enjoyed my eggs Benedict, a rare treat for a person like me who doesn’t usually eat breakfast!

And then we headed out. Our first stop was the Museum of Science and Industry, using the reciprocity that comes with our St. Louis Science Center membership to get in for free! We were there to see only one thing…the “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” display, something I enjoyed as a child who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. It’s much bigger than I remember it being, and we were definitely not disappointed…I think it took us over an hour to see all of the trees and other displays!

After the museum, we stopped briefly to take a look a Lake Michigan, which was wild…way wilder than the children have ever seen it, and possibly more so than I ever have! We really enjoyed watching the waves crash against the shore! It was a grander display of wind and waves than we even saw the two times we’ve visited the ocean!

We then headed into the heart of downtown, a harrowing experience that involved a crowded parking garage with narrow spiral ramps that terrify me, and no spaces available until we hit the 10th floor. I can’t tell you how glad I was that Ryan was driving! Despite my terror, it was a good place to park, and fairly close to everything I hoped to see. It was only a short few blocks’ walk to Millennium Park, where we saw the city Christmas tree:

And the “Bean.” Since Ryan hasn’t had the opportunity to see it with us the last few years we’ve visited the city in May, I made sure to get a picture of him with the children in front of it:

Of course I had to show the children the Art Institute lions with their wreath manes:

The number one thing I wanted to share with the children was the Chicago Christkindlmarket. I have happy memories of going downtown with Ryan when we were in college and having lunch and shopping at the stalls, and I really wanted the Fab Five to have that experience, too. It was so rainy and windy when we were there, though, that we didn’t spend much time at the market. We had a snack (not a full meal), and didn’t get to do any browsing. I didn’t even get a picture of the children there, although I did get a few shots of the market:

We then went to Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory, where I wanted the children to see the Christmas decorations, especially the tree in the Walnut Room. And that’s when the second disappointment of the day occurred, because I discovered that apparently, you can no longer go up to the eighth floor and view the Walnut Room and its tree from above. I was not happy about that, but we did still buy a tin of Frango mints, so it wasn’t a wasted trip. And by the time we had purchased our treat to take home, the rain had stopped, so we could admire the Christmas windows outside:

After we finally made it back to the car (the garage was right across from Macy’s, but I was over using my knee scooter, especially with all the standing water that had collected everywhere, so I wasn’t moving too fast), we drove over to the Adler Planetarium so the Fab Five could see the city at night. Due to the weather, they really only saw the lower third of the city, but at least they got an idea of what Chicago’s night skyline looks like:

We decided to take the long way back to the resort, so we got on North Avenue basically where it begins in the city, and drove…and drove…and drove some more. There was traffic and construction and too many potholes to count. But it was still kind of fun (other than the potholes), and we stopped for a favorite treat from our college days on the way…Italian ice from Johnnie’s. This was a first for the Fab Five, and they really enjoyed it.

When we got back to Pheasant Run, we headed back down to Bourbon Street to see the light show again…this time, we caught it in its entirety, and then saw it again!

When we got back to our room, we indulged in one of favorite hotel activities…watching the Food Network on cable TV. It was hard to believe our second night at the hotel was also our last, but we still had a day of fun to look forward to on Sunday!

Christmas in Chicago

The Fab Five and I have become pretty accustomed to exploring Chicago when we’re in the area in May for Combo Breaker. Once I knew we were going to be staying at Pheasant Run in December, I planned a special Christmas-themed trip into the city, because I really wanted to show the children all of my favorite things about Christmas in the city.

We started at the Museum of Science and Industry, to see the Christmas Around the World exhibit (free for us, using the reciprocity that comes with our St. Louis Science Center membership!). The grand tree was quite a sight!

Speaking of big trees, we also stopped by Millennium Park to see the City of Chicago tree, a 60-foot Norway spruce, and the ice skating rink:

We are used to walking “mile after magnificent mile” in May. When the weather is nice. And my ankle isn’t broken. Imagine if you will, the seven of us parading down the streets of downtown, with me on my knee scooter, and all of us in our winter jackets, dodging raindrops, and occasionally getting caught in sudden downpours. It was definitely a different experience! But we still managed to see one of our favorites…the Art Institute lions, this time bedecked for Christmas!

There was one good thing about the rain…even before it started to get dark, we were able to see all the bright lights of the city:

The biggest thing I wanted to show the children was Chicago’s Christkindlmarket. Unfortunately, that was also the part of our trip downtown that involved the most rain. We still explored a bit, and had a bite to eat, but it wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for.

The good news was that Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory (Macy’s, whatever), was just a few blocks away, so we headed there to warm up and dry off…and see the decorations (plus buy Frango mints). I was disappointed to learn that you apparently can no longer view the Walnut Room and its glorious Christmas tree from above on the eighth floor, but we still enjoyed seeing the Tiffany ceiling. Once the rain stopped, we walked around the building to explore the windows and see the iconic horns:

One last look at the lights of the city before it was time to head back to the hotel:

I love Chicago, and Christmas is an extra special time to visit. I’m so glad I finally got to share all of this with the Fab Five!

Strassenfest

Ryan got called into work this afternoon, so I gathered my courage and took all four children out to Chesterfield for Strassenfest. I’ve been wanting to attend this festival pretty much ever since we moved down here, but we never managed to get it together enough to go.

We had a fun time. I will say, it pales in comparison to my favorite German-American celebration, the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, but Strassenfest *did* serve to remind me of how much I love all things German, and I guess that really is the point.

There were German bands, each featuring an accordion player. I love accordion music–that has got to be the German in me!

There were people in traditional German dress.

There was strudel to be enjoyed by four hungry children.

There were German dancers.

There was Gluhwein (sadly, I didn’t get a picture of that, but I did enjoy it!).

There were people dancing in the street.

There was also a Purina dog show, which had nothing to do with Germany, but was still entertaining.

I think the children got a bit of appreciation for German culture, which is what I was going for. I hope we *all* get to go back next year, and I really hope they have the big Strassenfest steins again. I didn’t have enough money to buy one this time, but now that I know they exist, I’ll be sure to get one the second time around!