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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 26 Dec 2006

Location: Chicago, USA

MapOkay, moving on to Friday - and slowly catching up to present day!

Friday was a pretty quiet day. We didn't get up to much, but finally headed out around 230pm to go to the local gym at the small university up the road. Unfortunately we realised it was shut for the Christmas holidays once we arrived and had to give it a miss. We drove to my uncle's place and finally found a pump to allow us to blow up the AFL football that has been sitting over here for who knows how long. It was the first time I was able to kick a footy in over 9 months and it was good fun - even if it was about 2 degrees outside!

That night Richie and I headed to my cousins Mark & Tracy's place and went out for dinner at some flash looking restaurant with a bunch of Tracy's friends. The food was incredibly tasty, and some of the dishes even lacked cheese content - like my Atlantic Salmon.

After dinner, Richie, Mark, Tracy, Tracy's friend Chris and I went to the Hancock Tower in Chicago, the second tallest building in the city, and went to the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Tower. It was an incredible view, and I only wish I'd brought my camera. Bets bit though had to be that it cost nothing to get up there. The drinks on the other hand weren't cheap, but in no way were they rediculous. After each of us nursed a cocktail, we left just after midnight and headed to Rush Street, the party block of Chicago.

First we went to a bar called Shenanigans, which was pretty crowded and downed a number of drinks there pretty quickly. As a whole, I think none of us were really 'feeling' that place and we headed across the road to Bar Chicago. Bar Chicago was right next to what appeared to be a strip joint that had three girls out the front in bikini's and a santa hat. In that weather, where it must have been below zero, they must have been getting paid a fortune to be standing out there.

Anyway, we climb the stairs to Bar Chicago and handed over $6 to get in, so it meant that we'd be there for a little bit. Well, pretty quickly we realised that scantily clad Ms. Claus was the order of the day with bar tenders dancing on the bar in Christmas themed lingerie between serving drinks. Damn, why didn't I have my camera?

We ended up having a few drinks there, and enjoyed the scenery. On a couple of occasions they tried to get basically every girl in the place to climb up on the bar for free shots, threatening to play some awful music (Nick Lahey and The Hoff) if they didn't get enough people on the bar. The highlight though had to be the midget bloke bar tender up on the bar dancing with the Ms. Claus's - Milo, you would have loved it. At that point I had to pull out the camera phone and take a couple snaps!

Finally, we bailed at around 330am, after I got to select a song for being the first person to purchase a shot off the shot chick - it helped I was standing next to her at the time. I selected the new Snoop and Akon song (I Wanna F&#k You) and pretty much we left after the song was played - little were we to know that we'd hear the song the next day a dozen times, at least.

After a crappy sleep on the couch and floor at my cousins place, we got up the next morning (just...) and headed out to the shops. After some last minute shopping (Richie getting some Christmas gifts, me getting myself clothes and sorting out requests from back in England - thanks for dragging us round Tracy) we made it home round 5pm on Saturday.

That night we headed out to a restaurant in Crete (where Dad grew up) with Mum and Dad, and my Uncle Tom and Aunt Paula, and had our second awesome meal in two nights - this time I opted for the New York Italian Steak... ohh yeah! After dinner we headed to Dad's 'favorite' bar, The Red Room, and had a night cap. Richie and I polished 18 hole son Golden tee (he won) and then we headed home... still needed to catch up on sleep from the previous night.

Sunday - Christmas Day (In Melbourne anyway...) and Dad and I continued the Christmas tradition of playing golf on Christmas Day. It was an 1130 start time, so about 430am on the 25th in Melbourne, so 'The Tradition Continues...'. This time we dragged Richie, and my cousins Jon and Matt out as well. As we drove to the course, we passed a sign saying it was 32 degrees - or 0 in Aussie language. Luckily for the golf side of things, there was no snow, but not for my wishes of a white Christmas.

Anyway, after discussion, it was decided that the golf would be limited to 3 holes - as it was a busy day for everyone, it was freezing, we were jumping onto a course without paying, and the course was WET. From the start it showed I hadn't swung a club since the last Christmas Challenge, and hadn't played in the wet in years. I made one good hit, a pitching wedge from about 90 meters that landed 7 feet from the hole. I then three putted! Oh well. We think that either Richie or Jon won, but the real winner had to be me who collected 14 balls in the space of just three holes. That golf course was a gold mine!

After golf we crossed the State Line and headed to Matt and Tina's (my cousin who married Matt back in '92, the last time my sister was here) in Indiana and watched the second half of the Chicago Bears game. Another less than convincing performance - but they got up in the end. Afterwards we threw the football around the street for a bit and then headed back to Grandma's house.

There we started the great Christmas give away, and presents were exchanged amongst everyone. Some phone calls back to Australia, and we found out that whilst we were becoming resigned in the fact that we would be without a white Christmas, there was snow falling in the mountains, as low as Mt Dandenong - I flew to Chicago for a white Christmas, and I could have had one at home... this sucks! But I'm glad they got the snow and rain - they need it.

On Monday - Christmas - I experienced my first ever (aside from when I was 2 and can't remember) Christmas day where I had more than just Mum, Dad and my sister to deal with. What a hoot. Driving from one house to another, everyone flustered, worried we're gonna be late. Young kids tearing paper off of presents like there was no time to waste, and if they didn't get the present open quick enough, the contents of the package might disapear. It was cool. And all the while, the Lakers vs. Heat game was on in the background. What more could you want? Haha. It was a great day.

So it started early afternoon around at my Uncle Tom's, where all Dad's side of the family was. We only had 'snacks', because we knew the size of the dinner feast back at grams was going to be a monster. After a few hours there, a couple beers, countless presents opened, 4 quarters of basketball and a half of football, we headed back to grams and had the monster feast. There was 13 of us, and enough food to feed a Seven Nation Army. We will be eating left overs for weeks, maybe months! We did the whole secret Santa thing and passed round the presents. Again the football was a centre of attention, as were the occasional words streaming from my newly acquired for Christmas Boony and Botham dolls! Though, Silent Night being sung at 4am is a bit creepy in my book!

Anyway, was a great day, and thanks to everyone for all of the great presents - now I have to figure out how to get it all back to the UK!

Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and a great year in general. Miss you all more than you can imagine.