My Chicago Story…
I know several have commented that they are awaiting my personal Chicago review – I’m so flattered! So, here goes…
Part II of my Detroit Notte Magica adventure continues on Friday, March 17. A few of our group, Chris, Lorna, Betty, and I, booked the train from Dearborn to Chicago. Although through a few mishaps in the morning, we made it to the train station on time about 11am. At first the train was on time, then it was delayed a few times, but we finally left just about 12:00pm. I waved to my friends at Ford as the train headed west for Chicago!
It seemed a long train ride, just about 4 hours 45 minutes. It was also a bit chilly and rocky. When trying to get to the food car, it reminded me of our water taxi in Venice. Luckily, I didn’t have to engage my sea legs for long! We were actually about 5 – 10 minutes early, as we just passed through a few cities with no drop-offs or pick-ups. The one picture you see above is Kalamazoo station. It’s about mid-way between Chicago and Dearborn.
We arrived and called Uber and were at our hotel shortly after 4p. We checked in at our hotel and after we fixed a slight mix-up in our rooms, we headed off for dinner. We were going to do Navy Pier, but decided it was too cold. It was a chilly 40 or so degrees and little sun. The hotel recommended Giordano’s for authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. The restaurant was about 3 – 4 blocks away, so we braved the wind and walked. It felt good to walk after being cooped up on that train for nearly 5 hours!
After we settled on our table, we all ordered pizza, a salad, and shared some fried mozzarella. They told us the wait for the pizza was 45 minutes, it was also stated in the menu. Chris and I shared a deep dish, while Lorna got an individual, and Betty got a thin crust. I love a lot of sauce on my pizza, so I was in pizza heaven! The salad was also awesome with this lemon vinaigrette dressing. To celebrate, I ordered a split of prosecco. Everything was delicious, but we couldn’t hold another bite, so we skipped dessert for the moment…
Lorna was tired, so she went back to the room. The three of us thought for sure the guys might be staying at the Hyatt Place, on the next corner from our hotel, based on the picture Leonora posted. It was about 8p or so by then, so we walked on over to the Hyatt. We could see from the window they had a nice lobby with bar area and desserts! Our tummies had made a little more room by then, so we each had a drink and some dessert. I had a piece of turtle cheesecake, one of my favorite things, and a mock version of a chocolate martini, which was very good. The bar was limited in its liquors and did not have amaretto or Kahlua! We took a seat in hopes of a glimpse of the boys. However, by 11p or so, we were pretty sure they were not there, or at least we did not see them. Of course, later, we find they were at a bowling alley! Now, why didn’t we think of that?
It was the evening of St. Patrick’s day, however, the part of the city we were in was completely dead! We were in the financial/theatre district, but there were no bars, no parties, etc. We expected lots of people roaming the streets, but maybe they were all at Navy Pier? So, we strolled back to our hotel. We think it was getting warmer and after checking my phone, it was now nearly 47 degrees!
The next morning we met up with Pat Ward and her friends. Coincidentally, we were staying at the same hotel, La Quinta. We all enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at the hotel and were excited that we were going to the show that evening. Since we were there, we got first dibs on her nice bracelets she had made up for the crew members!
We went our separate ways and made plans to be sure to meet at the concert.
I had planned for us to visit the art museum for the day and catch lunch somewhere. We Ubered to the art museum and were dropped off right at the front. I bought the special passes and tickets, so we breezed on through ahead of everyone at 10:35a. We walked and walked and saw some beautiful art. They actually encouraged you to take pictures, unless it was posted you could not. So we took pictures of some of our favorites. By about 12p, we were getting hungry and thirsty, so we found the little café and had some sodas and snacks. We’d decided we’d seen as much as we could, so went in search of the museum shop. I love to shop and this was my only opportunity! I bought a few things and satisfied my spending habit! Ok, time to head back to the hotel.
We got back and had enough time to quickly freshen up before we had to get to dinner. I had made reservations at the Italian Village, recommended by Ann Cruise. It is the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago. There are actually 3 restaurants in one, and due to our tight schedule, I chose The Village restaurant. We had reservations for 4p. Three of us ordered on the “prix-theatre” menu, which was awesome. For dessert we had this Italian rum cake, which was more like a lemon crème torte. It just melted in your mouth! We were out of there by 5:30p and back to the hotel to really get ready.
This was it, our last show, we wanted to make it special. On with the make-up and hair. We called Uber for a 6:30p or so pick up. Show was at 8p in Chicago. We did not realize how close we were to the theatre, however our driver got turned around, so we went around the block a few times. Lots of one-way streets in Chicago! We did see the sleepy buses parked outside the theatre, so I snapped a few shots. We weren’t really sure where to go, but followed the crowd. Tickets, again, were at will-call. Chris and Lorna pushed their way through the crowds to get the tickets. Betty and I hung back and talked to a few persons in line. We were speaking to this nice guy and his wife. We met up with the other girls, and Betty said the guy’s name was, get this, “Ignazio, and he was from Sicily!” He did not look much like our Ignazio, but did have dark hair and eyes.
The lobby was very crowded and we made our way to the VIP area. We got our stuff, and went in search of our seats. Since I screwed up on the tickets, I made sure Lorna and Chris had the front row seats. Betty and I were right behind them. They were dead center and just perfect. We were quickly disappointed when security came around and said we could not take pictures. We went back to the lobby for a group picture.
The boys were quite a bit farther back from the edge of the stage than they were in Detroit, but certainly still close enough for us to see their faces. I cannot add too much to the beautiful account by Pat, but there are a few things….one is that the audience seemed a bit more rude. Lots of shouts of interruptions of “we love you….” and “we love you Piero…” At one point, you can tell Ignazio was getting annoyed and he mimics the girls in a high voice to Piero and says “we love you Piero!” Then they got serious and sang. One thing I didn’t remember at the Fox, was that the conductor actually went and got them each time it was time for them to sing after the orchestra was finished. It was also nice that they came out after most songs to center stage to bow and Lorna was even able to shake hands with Piero! They were that close!
Since we could not take pictures, it really made you try to concentrate on their performance. I will recount Ignazio’s solo of Una Furtiva…. Ignazio walked out to thunderous applause. He began to sing. The stage lighting was this beautiful teal on the background curtain with this magenta purple shining on the draped curtains at the front. At times, the teal changed to a deeper blue. His eyes were closed, and then open. His eyebrows rising and falling with the emotion in the song. His hands, gently out in front of him, rose with power, as if holding the world in his hands at the climax of the song. As always, his voice, was loud and powerful, lifting you from your seat with each gorgeous note. His chest rose and fell, with his hands. At the end, the anguish on his face was felt and you could almost see the tear in his eye. Again, all too soon, it was over. The crowd, immediately on its feet. I, and the first 5 or 6 rows stood after every song. However, I looked behind me several times, and just a smattering of others were standing when we were. At their reprise of Nessun Dorma everyone was on their feet. Comically, myself included, we forgot they sing the mighty “ending” chorus in O Sole Mio twice, so they got TWO standing ovations for that song! After about 4 songs, Ignazio also commented that this was the best orchestra they’d had so far. After they sung Grande Amore, I had to agree, as the orchestra finally kept up with them.
For the first time, in a concert I had attended, they took a 20 minute break, so the concert was not over until 10:30pm.
Ok, on to the Meet/Greet!
Again, they were quick to direct us to the 2nd floor. We could not quite understand what room it was, but we just followed the crowd. Figured we had lots of time, so took a quick stop in the bathroom, which was luckily, right across from the meet/greet area. They checked our credentials (good they are doing that this time) and we were instructed to go into the room and wait. I must say, it was a most beautiful room. Kind of antique in its décor with rose-colored couches and chairs and other antique looking furniture. We mingled a bit and it was announced that the PBS ticket holders were to go first. Ok by us, as we wanted to watch everyone anyway. Again, I thought the OMG personnel were very nice. Of course security was there, herding us along, but you could certainly tell a difference from the ones I was at last year. Atlhough, Vegas was pretty casual… Chris, Betty, and I decided to hang out this time a bit, so we found a seat right across from the mg area and we watched most people go by. Lorna decided she wanted to get in line, so she left us. Finally about 11:30p or so, the guard made all of the rest of us stragglers get in line. We weren’t quite at the end and there were probably about 20 persons behind us.
Lorna was all done and waiting on the couch, next to Gaetano and we were awaiting our turn. It was my turn and I was, let’s say, tickled pink, that each of them held out their arms for a hug this time – no coaching needed! Gian always says they hope to sing the Ave Maria for the Pope. I told him to just send him a ticket! Lol! For Emilia, I asked Piero if he liked her pastries, and he said, “Yes!” When I got to Ignazio, I looked up at him, and then down at his sweater for some reason. I put my finger on his chest and told him he was incredible. Not sure what he said, I think he said thank you. Then, as we were turning for our picture, I told him that the next time he makes chicken Marsala, to put cocoa in the flour mixture. He said, “Ok, I will!” Then it was snap, snap, snap, and we were done.
We did not know this til afterward, but Lorna was in a slight daze. Ignazio remembered her from the Detroit meet/greet and told her what she was wearing! I don’t think she heard anything after that and started to walk away. The photographer had to call her back and ask if she wanted her picture taken! Later, Chris said she asked if they remembered us, and they said they did because we were in a group. Yea! They finally remembered us – of course, not by name and I’m sure they do remember a lot of our faces, but that made our evening!