Chicago is a city I stopped into handfuls of times but never really visited until recently. In for an evening, out by morning–I danced that dance around the More Than Just Windy City for years. I’d stop in for a show, or to see an old friend, and I’d be on my way without venturing further than the coolest corner bar–or so it seems. Somewhere in that stupor, I managed to visit Millennium Park, the record shop High Fidelity was filmed in, and feed the homeless on an ambitious afternoon. Nowhere in that stupor did I actually stop to spend some quality time with the city. Maybe I was assuming New York was better. And for as many redeeming qualities as I can count for the city of New York, definitively, I liked NYC more back then than I do now.
On this grand road trip of summer 2010 I’ve been on, I’ve had one major advantage I didn’t have on almost all of the road trips previous: no scheduled shows. This has left my plate wide open for exploring places–and exploring them for as long as I want to. I spent five days in Chicago. The first two were on behalf of Gold Coast Guest House Bed and Breakfast.
Gold Coast Inn is a wonderfully posh and prim b&b/guest house you might have never heard of if you weren’t specifically looking to stay in a small inn in Chicago. With only four bedrooms at the inn’s main location, the townhouse builds vertically and it builds quickly. A steep spiraling staircase brings the front entrance way to the mouth of the skinny, long, and fully modernized kitchen. It’s filled with treats you can take any time and amenities for even the pickiest of eaters–including gluten-free cereal and soy milk. With plenty of hot water sources, coffee and tea are always available. Properly billed as a bed and breakfast, Gold Coast offers no cooked breakfast, but a farmer’s market fresh selection of berries, other fruits, cereals, and other easy-and-delicious-to-eat breakfast items–the kinds that we wish were available at continental breakfasts everywhere… but they aren’t.
As you dine in the morning, you’re looking out onto a floor to ceiling pane of glass–a window that frames the ivy-covered, butterfly-infused garden. It’s a sight you’re lucky to find in this section of Chicago. Although Old Town/Gold Coast have some pretty famous gardens, the area is more or less developed and inns like Gold Coast Inn act as an eagerly sought after oasis in the thick of the city.
Just a few blocks walk away from the inn is the beach–and I don’t just mean grass leading up to concrete as beach is defined in much of Chicago. Oak Street Beach is the beach I’m referring to. Not only is it nice and nearby, but Sally, the amazingly knowledgeable innkeeper, has a stash of beach chairs and umbrellas ready to go at the inn’s front door. Convenience at its finest.
Sally’s the kind of innkeeper who will take care of you. She’ll tell you exactly where to go to eat, sight see, dance–you name it. She’s well-read in the listings of Time Out Chicago and doesn’t let any guest check into their room without a map of Chicago, personalized with pen marks indicating all the places you’ll want to see. I liked this about her. She greeted Ben Britz and I with ice cream sandwiches, lime/pineapple frozen fruit bars, and ice cold water on the smoldering afternoon we pulled up in front of her inn. I liked this about her, too.
Although we partook in being guests of the inn, we also explored one of the three condos Sally owns and rents out as part of the inn. Only officially available for month-long rentals, the condos make for the perfect go-to place if you need to be in Chicago and want to rent month to month. The studio condo we checked out was not only adorable and located in a building filled with the kinds of people who talk to you, across the board, while in the elevator, but it, of course, included a full kitchen and Sally has the kitchen furnished with basic cooking ware, dish ware, etc. After weeks and weeks of being on the road without a kitchen to use, I was embarrassingly excited to be able to finally cook again. The grocery store is just around the corner from the condo(s) and believe me, there’s something interestingly relaxing about spreading out a few bags’ worth of fresh ingredients across the kitchen counter and cooking (with fire!) when you have been traveling for a long time.
Thank you, Gold Coast, for that. And everything else.
That’s the view of the garden from the top floor. I swear, there were no fewer than 200 butterflies in that garden at the exact moment this photo was taken.
By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos By: Ben Britz