This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to get away with my lovely bride of 14 years to escape the chains of reality and instead to simply let go and have fun without the kids! I have to be honest and say that we have not been the best examples of balance when it comes to finding our own time as parents, so this was a lucky treat and after spending the time with her I have to say that it was something that we should have done a long time ago! We decided to spend our 14th anniversary in the town where we had our first trip as a couple some 16 years ago, the windy city, Chicago. I had had some CityPASS tickets that were provided to me in the past so we were planning to try and use some of them so that we could go and see some of the local museums as well as take in the sights, sounds and tastes of Chicago.
We decided to take the South Shore Line of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District into the town as we had found out that it would cost us about $49/night to park the car in town, so we wanted to save a bit of money. For both of us it cost about $30 roundtrip from Chesterton, Indiana and the parking was secure and the ride was pleasant and comfortable without any noticeable delays or issues. The train brought us to Millenium Station and from there is was only about a 3 block walk to where we were staying.
I was so excited to try out Hotel 71 as I had heard some amazing things about it, as well as seeing it in movies like “The Dark Knight” and “Transformers” Located directly in the heart of Chicago, it is so well situated between the Magnificent Mile and things like Grant Park and Navy Pier that you cannot go wrong. The other great thing was that it was located right on the Chicago River (or at least right across the street) and with views of this as well as the Trump Tower, Wrigley and Tribune buildings, you cannot get much better!
In walking into the building you are introduced to a modern looking hotel with a pleasant feel. The first thing that I noticed was the smiles on the faces of the front desk staff. I was immediately welcomed by Jessica, an employee who had recently graduated from College and was a transplant from Michigan. Jessica was easy to talk to and made me feel like I was the only customer that she had to work with all day (talk about feeling welcomed). What particularly was nice was the fact that every time that I saw her she remembered who I was and used my name to greet me and to ask how she could continue being of service which was amazing.
The check-in process was simple and we even could check into our room early (which was a pleasant surprise).
When we got to the room and opened the door we were very pleased at what we encountered. The room was very like luxurious, with a king sized bed desk and then tables as well as a minibar, microwave and safe. The bathroom provided his and her sinks as well as a separate restroom with soaking tub and disconnected shower. Inside the restroom was an additional television for you to be able to watch something on television while soaking in the tub. The linens on the bed were of high quality and the pillows were such that you simply sank into them and did not want to get up (or at least I didn’t). Everything in the room was pristine and the housing staff did a wonderful job at keeping the room looking the way that the hotel wished it to be. The view from the room was wonderful and spotlighted the Chicago River,TrumpTower, Wrigley and Tribune buildings. As a photographer I love to be able to take pictures of the river and the individual bridges that you typically do not get to view from the angle of a hotel room.
I explored the hotel and decided to work out and was pleased to find a fully stocked workout room with three rooms filled with equipment ranging from cardio too weights, there was a little bit of everything for everyone.
My wife and I decided to explore the city a little bit on the first day and went to the Shedd Aquarium in 14 years. Thanks to CityPass we bypassed a long line and found that the pass itself that we had provided us with complete access to all of the aquarium, and instead of having to pay for extra exhibits and shows we were provided full access without additional charge. The aquarium was amazing and offers so many varieties of aquatic life. The shows and additional exhibits are worth the extra money as the staff of the aquarium have done a remarkable job of working with the animals and the habitats of the animals to make your experience as real as can be without being in the water yourself.
The only downside to the day was public transportation, as we had purchased one day passes to save some money in regards to transporting ourselves to and from our hotel. While the transportation was less expensive it didn’t take but a bit longer and we found that by staying until after the aquarium had closed, it was also a bit unreliable. We ended up walking back to the hotel from the aquarium which was about a 25 to 30 minute walk on a warm day.
By the time that we returned to our hotel we were pleased to find that the staff had provided us with bottled water and fruit to accompany our stay (I am guessing this may have something to do with my review of the hotel, but it was a very nice gesture nonetheless).
Our stay at Hotel 71 continued to be a great one over the two full days and two nights that we were guests. On the second night of our stay we also ate at the restaurant which is a part of the hotel called Hoyt’s Chicago. The restaurant was elegant and provided an urban feel to one’s dining experience. For both my wife and I loved about the restaurant at first was the laid-back dining atmosphere that was provided to us. We had the opportunity to sit and eat outside (though it was too warm for us) or inside.
We actually had a table sitting overlooking theChicago River (which we both loved). Our server was friendly and talkative (not overly so) and was ever-eager to assist and please. My wife and I got to know him a little bit better in about what brought him to the city, and he was comfortable in sharing his life with us which is something we always enjoy.
The restaurant knew that it was our anniversary, so they surprised us with a bottle of sparkling wine which was a nice surprise! We ended up deciding to try out the homemade pretzel appetizer first. When this came out, it came with both a chorizo cheese sauce as well as a stone ground Dijon mustard, both of which were very good. I even tried mixing the two and found that they went well together. After this my wife ordered the hanger steak and I the skirt steak.
When the meals arrived I have to say that the kitchen had done a fine job at displaying the meal. We each tried each other and I have to say that though both were mouth watering, we both preferred the hanger steak as it had more flavor overall and the mix of caramelized onions brought forth an addition complex component of flavors which the skirt steak was lacking.
This is not to say that the skirt steak was bad, far from it, but it was simply lacking a bit of flavor that a sauce would have helped (as the horseradish cream was a bit mild for my taste.
After our main course we ordered the Oatmeal and Nuts Apple Crumble and it was definitely worth it. Talk about a delicious way to end our meal.
All-in-all the meal at Hoyt’s Chicago was a very pleasant one and I would say that if you are looking for fine dining in a urban feeling, semi-casual atmosphere, you too should go and try the wonderful food and service that they provide.
Everyone that we met at Hotel 71 made the experience both special and memorable and from what I could see, they treated every one of their guests with the same respect and professionalism. I would definitely satay at this hotel again if given the chance and I would highly recommend that you too consider the same if you are looking for a fun way to reconnect with a loved one, or if you are simply trying to get away for a weekend!
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It looks like you had a wonderful time and even though I am a regular reader I dont get to see ment pics of you and your wife together- she is lovely and you make a sweet couple. You should get away more often!
Hubby is always wanting to go to Chicago I am going to have to ask you about the city pass thing- we have been married 26 years and dont get away much either! This looks like it was so fun!