My Visit To Chicago… So Far

Travel to an unfamiliar place is one of my favorite things! But travel for work never feels like an adventure – instead, it seems like forced isolation, and I always feel quite lonely when the corporate overlords send me to another office for a few days.

But so far, this trip has been pretty low impact, and I get to head home late this afternoon, so I’ve been trying to be (mostly) positive. Here’s quick recap of my experience so far.

Airport/Airplane: The breakfast snack I packed hit the spot: ground lamb with ras el hanout, a sliced cucumber, and a handful of Paleonola. On the plane, I read every word of the new US Weekly fashion issue, then took a nap. On my way out of the airport I bought a salad for lunch, just in case the project mania at the office made people forget to eat, then I walked out the door right to a cab. Thirty minutes later, I was at the Chicago office. Score: Plus (+)

The Chicago Office: I was assigned to a desk by the window – and everyone I met was friendly and grateful I’d come to help with the project. Meetings happened on time, and the work I have to do is totally manageable, not the CrazyTown frenzy I was expecting. Score: Plus (+)

The Hotel: My hotel is just a mile from the office, so when I was free from corporate straits, I walked in the just-sunny-enough mild temperatures. It was fun to be in a city where lots of people are commuting on foot (unlike Austin where almost everyone is in a car. Talking on their mobile.). I saw the Chicago Sun-Times building, which made my hat patter. It’s been heartbreaking to watch newspapers around the country fold, and as much as I love the immediacy of blog publishing, I’ll always be a sucker for the romantic stereotype of a newsroom, buzzing with big headlines and wise-cracking editors. Score: Plus (+)

Dinner: My plan for the evening was this: pajamas, cookbook writing, room service, bed. I was excited to find that the room service at the hotel is supplied by Harry Caray’s Steakhouse. I ordered Italian pork chops. salad with vinaigrette, and spinach with oil and garlic. Score! But when my meal showed up an hour later, I had regular pork chops with applesauce. Disappointed! But the order of pork chops was THREE big chops and the pile of spinach would have fed three people. I washed the containers from my airport breakfast, threw the leftovers in the containers, then packed them with ice in the hotel room ice bucket. Lunch today is solved. (I saw people at the office eating Subway takeout at their desks yesterday, so bringing my packed lunch makes me happy.) Score: Minus(-) that turned into Plus (+)

Sleep: I’ve been underestimating the positive power of my blacked-out bedroom windows at home. I think the average person would say my hotel room was dark, but I was half-awake/half-asleep all night, thanks to the little glowing lights on electronics and street lamps sneaking around the edge of the drapes. In the middle of the night, I put a towel over the clock, but it was too late. My sleep sucked, and I skipped my workout to steal some extra pillow time. Score: Minus (-)

The Shower: It looked promising: one of those dual-head, massaging things, but the water never really got hot enough. Then out of the shower, after I’d dried off, I reached for the itty-bitty, complimentary bottle of moisturizer to soothe my post-flight Sahara-like skin. I blobbed out the creamy stuff, rubbed my hands together, and slapped in all over both of my arms… then I realized it was body wash, not moisturizer. Back into the shower to rinse, dry off, repeat, repeat. Score: Minus (-)

Breakfast: “A complimentary continental breakfast is served on each floor until 9:00 a.m.” according to the brochure in my room. Sadly, it consists of limp-looking fresh fruit, bagels, very fresh-looking pastries (donuts, chocolate croissants), tiny boxes of cereal, and miniature cartons of yogurt.

I can’t bear to go in search of breakfast just now, so I snagged a sad orange that I’m supplementing with pistachios from the hotel room mini bar and one of the pieces of pork chop from last night. This is killin’ me because I know there are amazing restaurants in Chicago, but my in-and-out trip doesn’t allow for culinary adventuring. Score: Minus (-) (Although I just cracked open the orange, and it’s really sweet and juicy, so the minus is a little less negative.)

The Weather for my walk: The predicted high today is 75 – positively chilly compare to Austin’s 101. I’m wearing a sweater for my walk to the Chicago office (!) along with my newly-soled favorite boots and new fuchsia fishnet tights. Score: Plus (+)

So there you have it: overall score is a Minus (-), but that’s mostly because I’m being pouty this morning. The salted pistachios taste pretty good! Hope you the score for your day is mostly Plus(+).

UPDATE 9:45 a.m.: The walk was as pleasant as predicted. Halfway to the office, I thought, “Something smells like cookies…” It’s the Blommer Chocolate Company, making the air outside smell like the inside of a bakery.

UPDATE 12:19 p.m.: I’m on my third and final serving of pork chops and spinach from Harry Caray’s. Enthusiasm for this food is completely gone. Some of my Chicago co-workers went out for food and promised to bring a salad back for me, as I an quasi-chained to my desk until my 3:30 p.m. departure. It is entirely possible eat paleo while traveling, but it’s not always the best dining experience nor is it always what I want to eat. No matter how many times I examine the stuff in the office vending machine, nothing edible appears. I’m really looking forward to my own bed and my own fridge tonight.


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  • Shelly says:

    When I was last in Chicago I ate at the Purple Pig and it was wonderful! Hard to get a seat, though. Will you have time for dining adventures?

  • That sounds like quite an adventure. I love Chicago. I missed you at strength today AND Kid Rock came on the radio! I said, out loud, “Awww. Mel’s not here.” Have a save trip home!

  • Emilie says:

    Glad to have you in the area. Hope you enjoy your stay. If you get the chance, hop on the Metra and head over to the downtown Libertyville station. Come see us at CrossFit Freedom. It’s a short walk from the station–10-15 minutes tops. Check out class times, etc. at 🙂

    • Mel says:

      I would have LOVED to do that! This is fast trip, but next time, I’ll definitely come to play at CrossFit Freedom!

      • Emilie says:

        Yes, please come see us next time around. Anytime we have any sort of potluck thing I make your cauliflower fous cous. Everyone LOVES it! Can’t tell you how many times I’ve pointed people to your blog for recipes, etc.

  • Brian Collins says:

    If you can get to Avec on W. Randolph, I would recommend it especially for the chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in Bacon. absolute heaven

    • Mel says:

      I can’t get to the restaurant, but I am TOTALLY making chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates for Thanksgiving nibbles this year. Thanks for the idea!

  • Walker says:

    Fishnet tights, yes! bonus points if you wear these for the next strength wod.

  • Lauren says:

    Next time you’re heading to Chicago, give me a shout! I’d love to meet up and show you around!

  • Tom R. says:

    You’ll need to schedule a vaca up to Chicago. I went for the CF Regional Memorial Day weekend and was reminded what a great city Chicago is. It had been years since I had gotten up that way. It’s on my agenda for a really long weekend in the very near future.

  • Mary says:

    Mel, I feel like you are a Paleo superhero. By day, mild-mannered office worker, complying with the corporate overlords requests. By evening and weekend, Paleo warrior, lifting heavy things and providing recipes to your legions of eager readers.

    Keep it up!

  • fiatluxury says:

    ach, Mel – am new to reading this so late on the commentary, but there are SO MANY decent restaurants with local/sustainable meats and excellent cooking here – if you’re planning a trip out this way ever again, solicit restaurant suggestions from your readers and you will have a slew of places to try (harry carey’s! eek!): Longman & Eagle, Lula, Rootstock, Green Zebra (okay, they’re vegetarian, but still)… and of course now I can’t think of the other ones but they are out there. In any event, am a newbie to paleo and yours is the most sensible and useful site i’ve located so far – thank you!

  • Brandy says:

    Im heading to Chicago for a couple of weeks for work. Much colder this time if year, but that made for a good excuse for buying new boots. The Purple Pig sounds good. I actually get to stay over a weekend so I get to do some fun stuff.