This weekend Matt and I took part in an important parenting ritual: our first trip without our adorable boys. They headed off to Bucks County, PA, to stay with my parents. The boys love it there, so we were able to enjoy our quick trip and not worry about the little guys.

Joining us on our journey was Matt’s dad. Our destination: Chicago, where my brother-in-law, Zak, is attending Northwestern University’s graduate program for journalism.

Our flight left at 6am. Which meant we were up at about 4:15am. Ouch. At least that meant we had this beautiful light as we flew up into the clouds.

We had plenty of time to wander around. I’m easily amused, so I laughed at this sign. If you want to park here, odds are, you’re out of luck.Matt with his trusty companion. Not me, silly, his iPhone. I can’t knock it, the iPhone was invaluable during the trip. And prompted lots of discussion about how we managed back in the dark ages before cell phones and interwebs.After walking around for a few hours in a variety of rain, humidity and heat while we waited for Zak to be done with class, we stopped to cool off in the stunning lobby of the Palmer House Hilton. And I had a basil lemonade. Different, delicious and refreshing.

We stayed at the Hyatt right on the Chicago River, a block from Michigan Avenue.

The view from our room on the 21st floor.

Across the river and just a few blocks down from our hotel is the Melas Plaza and Fountain. It celebrates Chicago’s incredible feat of engineering – about 60 years ago, to combat issues of pollution, the flow of the Chicago river was reversed.

Every hour on the hour, a water cannon shoots a huge jet of water out across the river. If you are on a boat and try to go through, you will get wet!

For Thursday dinner, we split up so Matt and I could have dinner by ourselves while Zak and Gary ate elsewhere. We got lucky with our restaurant choice. The hotel concierge recommended Vermilion, a Latin-Indian fusion restaurant a short walk from the hotel. We had delicious selections like blue corn crusted scallops on a kali mirch latin calabasa goat cheese puree and “pindi” butter chicken. So good!

The decor was red and black. When I looked at what the people at the neighboring tables were wearing, they blended right in.

Friday morning I got up before the crack of dawn to shoot some photos in the morning light. I believe it was about 5:45 when I left the hotel. I’d say that my consciousness was somewhere between asleep and zombie.

I made another stop down at The Bean, aka Cloudgate, of course.

Love this building! We heard a little about it on the architectural boat tour. It’s the only one designed by a woman.

A little inlet off the Chicago river.

We headed up to Zak’s and had lunch at this amazing North African crepe restaurant, Icosium Kafe,¬† in Lincoln Park.

Zak’s one of the few people I know that’s happy to be photographed. Lucky for both of us, really. This is the entryway to his apartment¬† building.

In the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond in Lincoln Park.

And in Lincoln Park at the edge of Lake Michigan.

Finally two views of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, right next to Millennium Park.

After all that walking, we were exhausted! But very, very happy to fly back to Pittsburgh, drive across Pennsylvania and see our boys. Jonas came flying across the driveway, leapt into my arms, and dazzled me with a frenzy of smooches. Leo was more excited to show us a toy that Pop Tony bought him.

Up next: getting to meet my sister’s baby!