Monday, November 9, 2009

CHICAGO: Ritz-Carlton on the Magnificent Mile

One up side of the down economy is that savvy travelers can enjoy some real bargains. My wife and I recently took advantage of a significant deal offered by The Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

My recent bout with wanderlust must have been contagious: last week my wife announced the need for a weekend in the Windy City. A little research on my part uncovered a fabulous deal: the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago was offering a credit (read: discount!) of $100 per night for guests who stayed a minimum of two nights. Because we planned to drive from Indianapolis after work on Friday anyway, it was perfect: the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton for a room rate of about $25 a night more than we would have spent on a much more modest hotel at the other end of the Magnificent Mile.

As with the Ritz-Carlton in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC where I stayed earlier this year, the service was impeccable. From the bellman who greeted us and took our luggage to our room to the desk clerks, the concierge, and room service attendants, everything was top-flight.

The hotel is located in Water Tower Place, kitty-corner from the famous Chicago water tower, across from the John Hancock Building, and adjacent to a shopping mall with the store my wife refers to as her “mother ship”: Macy’s. (Try the Frango mints; they’re a true Chicago treat!)

Our room, 2222, was a Deluxe room and included a king bed, easy chair, desk, big-screen TV, huge closet, and a minibar. The room faced south with what real estate agents would describe as a “peek view” of Lake Michigan and Navy Pier, but had shades and curtains that kept the morning sun at bay until we were ready to greet it.

The bath was quite large with double sinks; a separate tub and toilet area; generous, fluffy towels; a hair dryer; lighted makeup mirror; robes and slippers; and high-end L’Occitane en Provence amenities.

Lounging about in bathrobes, reading the paper, and sipping coffee is a great way to start the day so, on Saturday morning, we decided to treat ourselves to room service. The French Country breakfast consisted of assorted, cured meats and cheeses, artisan bread, a croissant, citrus mostarda, café au lait, and brewed coffee. It was delivered within 1/2 hour of our call and was delicious!

Thus fortified, we got ready to head out onto the Magnificent Mile and enjoy some surprisingly glorious November weather.

Celebrity Spotting

Getting off the elevator at the 12th floor lobby, we (almost literally) bumped into Gene Simmons. He was apparently doing some taping in the area and folks (OK, women) were flocking around him, asking to have their photographs taken with him. To his credit, he was gracious and gave big smiles for all those snapping photos.

Dining (Fine and otherwise)

After a day spent doing a little shopping and a lot of wandering through art galleries along the Mag Mile and in the city’s River North neighborhood, we were ready for a nice dinner.

Chicago is also home to a number of wonderful dining spots, many are within easy walking distance of the Ritz-Carlton. Among the “hot spots” is Restaurant TRU, which is run by Chef Rick Tramonto and is renowned among foodies. TRU offers a three-course, prix fixe menu for $95 per person exclusive of wine, and the prices go up from there. While my wife and I thoroughly enjoy fine food and aren’t hesitant about paying for it, this seemed to smack of a “popularity premium,” so we asked one of the concierge staff for other recommendations.

The concierge, a member of Les Clef d’Or, recommended the Mercadito (“Little Market”), a new Mexican restaurant that opened on Kinzie Street in September. More on that in a separate posting; for now, suffice to say it was loud in a cheerful sort of way and the food was good…but bring friends!

For Sunday brunch, we met a dear friend at a restaurant in the Fulton Market called The Publican. It’s done in the style of a colonial public house with communal seating, individual tables, and private booths. The bar offers both stool seating and stand-up tables. The food was interesting and well prepared but parking, even on a Sunday morning, was difficult. Again, I’ll have more in a separate post.

There’s a lot to do in Chicago, from shopping and sightseeing when the weather is good to a broad range of museums, theatres, and other indoor attractions when the weather is bad. I highly recommend considering The Ritz-Carlton as your base of operations, no matter what the weather!

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

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