A couple of weeks ago, Fred and I took the Lakeshore Limited Amtrak train to Chicago for a few days of vacation. The train ride is a long one—about 13 hours going and 16 hours (because of delays) coming home. But it’s doable, and much cheaper than flying, so off we went.
Once we got settled in at the Palmer House (excellent hotel!!), we walked to the Willis Tower and purchased City Pass booklets which save you money on a number of attractions and give you access to the “fast lane” for getting into the more crowded venues. In just three days, we stepped out into the dizzying Sky Deck at the Willis Tower…
visited the Shedd Aquarium…
spent hours in the Art Institute of Chicago…
TILTED out over the city at the top of the John Hancock tower…
and went to a White Sox vs. NY Yankees game.
Our hotel was close to Millennium Park so we spent time there taking in the gardens and the public art, like Cloud Gate (“the Bean”) and this “Faces of Chicago” water fountain installation.
We jammed a lot of stuff into three days and walked our heads off—about 10 miles per day. I actually lost weight on this vacation from all of the walking.
When I’m on vacation, I’m always on the lookout for souvenirs, but over the years that’s come to mean different things. With two dresser drawers stuffed with t-shirts, I really don’t need anymore, though it’s always tempting to add to that stash.
It will come as no surprise that I keep my eyes open for fun or interesting stationery-related items. Even though I have a whopping supply of pens, pencils, journals, ink, and paper at home, picking up a few new items while I’m in a different place feels okay. Why? Because these are things that you use and use up. So I did a little shopping.
Decent souvenir pencils were surprisingly hard to come by, but I finally found these in the gift shop at the top of the John Hancock Tower. They feature the name of the city, a Chicago-style hotdog, a tour boat ride, skyscrapers and Michigan Avenue in fun graphics and eye-catching colors. I picked up four for $2.00. (Otherwise, they were $0.99 each.)
Dick Blick was just a stone’s throw from our hotel so I had to explore ALL OF THE ART SUPPLIES there, even though I’m nothing more than a wannabe artist. Though I was tempted by so much—Rhodia and Leuchtturm notebooks, gel pens galore, colored pencils, notecards, and novelties, I purchased just a few simple items. These Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Graphite pencils were a “must buy.” I resisted the urge to buy the full-range of lead grades and picked up the two that I’m most likely to use for plain old writing and maybe a little sketching (still trying to get over my art fear). They feel really cool in hand and write beautifully. I also picked up an M+R brass bullet pencil sharpener, perfect for pocket carry. For under ten bucks, I came away with some interesting goodies that I’ll definitely use.
I’ve visited the Mont Blanc Boutique on Michigan Avenue in the past—to gawk at and handle the Limited Edition Jonathan Swift and Alfred Hitchcock fountain pens. This time I was on an ink quest. We walked block after city block to the Michigan Avenue location (with Fred mincing along in pain as his plantar fasciitis decided to flare up). I always feel like a sweaty under-dressed mess when I walk into the store, but despite this, have always been treated graciously by the salespeople. I took a quick glance at a few pens, but left with only the ink that I came for—Montblanc UNICEF 2017 Turquoise ink (50 mL, $39).
Are there are other turquoise inks that cost less? Of course. But it’s a color I enjoy and since I rarely get the chance to visit a Montblanc boutique, I decided to splurge a little.
And then there’s the souvenir that I did not buy, though it tugged at my heart ever so strongly. God, I was tempted. It’s SO ME. But it was about $20 and I DO NOT NEED another journal (Fred kept reminding me of this) so I walked away. That was tough, and I may still try to track it down online. I probably should’ve just bought it. Ah, regrets.
So this is my little haul of Chicago souvenirs. All usable. All carefully selected. All easy to pack and transport.
And of course I kept the Palmer House disposable pen from our room.
You’d do the same, right?!