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(c) 2014 Kathryn Pharr

There’s nothing quite like making your first trip into the Midwest in the middle of winter. I headed off to the Windy City just before D.C. got 8 inches of snow in early February. Being the crazy snow-lover that I am, I was relieved to see that Chicago was saving
some snow up just for me.  I was in Chicago to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which looks at science broadly. I ended up in countless sessions discussing how to promote diversity and women in the science fields. But outside of interesting panels and presentations and great side conversations, I did manage to see just a bit of Chicago.

Of note, do not attend a conference in Chicago on Valentine’s Day without booking an evening dinner reservation when you set up your hotel room. There was something deeply depressing about being in a city with incredible food and having to order room service on a Friday night. We literally could not find a pizza joint with an opening. But, never fear: I did experience Giordano’s Chicago style pizza with sauce on TOP–that was definitely a surprise. I never would have thought to put the toppings on the inside, but it was nothing short of amazing. Naturally, I had to get some Chicago beef, and I have to say that Chicago Cut was truly fabulous, especially with a glass of red Zinfandel. Of course I might be saying all this because we were brought free chocolate cake at the end of the meal; they know how to make a gal’s heart skip a beat. 😉 I will also recommend Fannie May chocolates and Oberweis ice cream.

Naturally, there is more to Chicago than marvelous food (or my friends’ new baby…well, that’s debatable). I loved the Art Institute of Chicago, which was just around the corner from the conference. I was mesmerized by the Thorne Miniature Rooms that can take over 800 hours to create. I did not make it to all the galleries that I was interested in, but I will say that some of their Impressionism paintings are truly stunning. I can’t imagine why this is not the most famous version of Monet’s bridge at Giverny and I love this one of his entitled “Bordighera.” I was excited they had some Alfred Sisley too.

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While the Art Institute was the only museum I was able to go to, I got to experience the music scene of Chicago, which is nothing short of amazing! A bunch of us went to Kingston Mines for good blues unrivaled since my work trips to Memphis and New Orleans. The Mines has two rooms with bands taking turns in each, so that most people are migrating between rooms throughout the night. Upon smelling what the kitchen was making, I was very sorry to have eaten before arriving. It’s not a fancy place, it’s down-home and just as comforting.

For jazz other night, we headed to the Green Mill, which opened in 1907 as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse and later was frequented by Al Capone. The space is still splendidly art deco and so focused on its incredible musicians that other customers shushed those daring to talk. On a Saturday night, people covered ever free space in between tables making waiters ask people to move just to get back to the bar. It was truly a stepping-back-time experience. While we’d been freezing outside, now we were warmed not just by the jazz but also by the crowded space. It is a must for jazz lovers visiting Chicago.

In fact, I just hope I get to go back sooner rather than later to explore further!

With Ava Grace MargolisOf course, a day in Wheaton to see good friends who moved away from D.C. and their lovely daughter was the focus of the trip for me personally though I recognize hundred of people might not find Wheaton quite so significant. Here’s a photo of me and the baby. She was so good and enjoyed watching the ice dancing for the Olympics! I had fun with her parents too.

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