When you start something new there is always a little bit of anxiety mixed in with the thrill of the new, the unexplored, the possibility. Maybe that’s just me. Coincidentally, when planning a new adventure, I also go through waves of melancholy and exhilaration; sad about what I’ll never have time to experience and simultaneously over the moon about what I will be able to see and do.

My brain is a living, spinning contradiction in almost every way. It’s exhausting.

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Chicago: Art and Museums

I know there are a lot of competing schools of thought on museums, some people find them stuffy and full of crumbly, boring antiques. Others are fascinated and inspired by them. I certainly fall into the latter camp, especially when we are talking about art museums. For me, a trip to Chicago is not complete without a few hours spent wandering around the Art Institute. Their Asian art wing is amazing, their Islamic textiles are gorgeous, and their ancient world exhibits are near perfection. I appreciate their religious art and icons from the middle ages, but what I love the most is the contemporary and impressionist wings.

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Georgia O’Keeffe spent some of her early life in Chicago as a commercial artist and took classes at the Art Institute as well. She donated a large chunk of her work to the museum and they have it mixed in with contemporaries of O’Keeffe, artists who were just beginning to break the mold of realism in the United States (the Impressionists in Europe had a head start, for sure, but they also mostly painted recognizable objects where the “modernists” in the United States in the 20’s and 30’s painted abstract shapes and forms, using color and line to convey emotion instead of familiar objects.) This is O’Keeffe’s largest painting, inspired by the clouds she saw from the window of an airplane. I love this painting and the way she uses almost Pop Art techniques to simplify the shapes down to their very basic form: white ovals = clouds.

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Ah, Piet Mondrian, you sure know how to populate a square and make a girl swoon! The contemporary wing of the museum has some beautiful pieces in it, some resonate with me quite strongly, others I don’t even respond to at all. And that’s okay. This is a public art museum, not my living room. I don’t have to love everything on display. But the handful of Mondrian’s? Oh yes, I love those.

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May I introduce Vincent Van Gogh’s palette. There was a huge Van Gogh exhibit going on while I was there, they had imported pieces from around the world and had ROOMS full of Van Gogh paintings, highlighting the similarities and evolution in his style, as well as the themes he painted over and over.

There were so many people packed into those rooms that I began to panic and get a little claustrophobic. Hundreds and hundreds turned out to see these masterpieces, which is fantastic, but is not really my ideal setting for viewing art. I did squeeze through the crowds to peek at all the Van Gogh goodness, but after about 30 minutes I snuck out to other areas of the museum that were nearly empty.

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The grand staircase at the entrance. I had to wait a very long time for a clear shot, people are up and down those stairs constantly in search of something inspiring.

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I love this Seurat painting, I can stare at it for hours, kind of like people watching. It’s easy to zone out and let my own thoughts take over (a much needed relief after the intensity of the crowds hovering around the Van Gogh paintings), and imagining George as he painted, dots and more dots and more dots, tiny little components that, at a distance, create this jaw-dropping masterpiece. That is probably why I love the Impressionists, they seem to turn unrelated chaos into art. Life is–or should be–like that a little bit, I think.

Chicago 14_Agora_feistyharriet_April 2016Agora, by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. These enormous metal legs and torsos populate a sizable swath of Grant Park, on the south end, near the skate park. My nieces call this section the Pants Park, and love running through those legs, playing tag and hide and seek. I love that their everyday lives have such richness, so much culture and art that, for them, is just part of the backdrop of being little kids in the heart of a city.

I’ll be back, Chicago. I’ll always come back.

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Chicago: a love story

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I was fourteen years old the first time I visited a major city, and within hours I fell hard and fast for Chicago. That week is when I began a life-long relationship with urban architecture, my heart beat with the thrum of an enormous city, and a love of travel lodged in my bones. They say you never truly get over your first love, and for me that seems to be true.

A few years ago my sister moved to downtown Chicago (the Loop and now the South Loop), and the combination of two darling nieces and my first urban crush is too much to resist; I cannot stay away. Every time I visit the Windy City I fall in love all over again. I love the soaring buildings, the glass and steel, the streets and trains, the river through her heart, lake at her back, constant movement on her streets. I seem to soak it up and store it for later.

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I spent almost an entire day wandering the city, logging mile after mile, meandering through city blocks and around the parks, the biting wind and gray skies didn’t deter me, I knew my love would keep me warm.

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Walking on and on seemed to clear my head, the cold brought me clarity, and the sense of being anonymous in a place so crowded helped me remember parts of myself I had forgotten.

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In the almost twenty years (!!!) since my first visit I have continued to fiercely love Chicago, while the outlying neighborhoods are nice and all, I am completely smitten with her core. The architecture, the food (THE FOOD!), the art, the urban-ness and the hustle combined with this Midwestern sensibility and down-to-earth-ness that makes me completely knock-kneed.

Chicago, my love, I’ll never quit you.

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Chicago: The Windy City


In September I took a long weekend to go visit my younger-but-taller sister in downtown Chicago. I haven’t spent more than a few hours at a time with her in  years, and it’s been almost a decade since we had a couple of days together. The weather in Chicago was gorgeous, sunny and warm, and I spent hours wandering the streets and museums during the day, followed by sunset gawking out her apartment window and quiet dinners at home with lots of conversation and laughter.



It was perfect, basically. And here I am, months later, finally getting around to posting a few pics. We spent our last morning together on the architecture cruise on both branches of the Chicago River, and I think it is safe to say that 90 minutes is one of the best tourist activities in the entire country.






Not pictured, was almost a full day spent wandering around the Art Institute studying paintings and brush strokes and swooning over the Impressionists. This was the perfect vacation for me, and I can’t wait to go back this spring! (And this time I will make sure to give you Chicagoans a little heads up, I’d love to meet up with you for lunch or drinks or whatever!) More photos here.

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