What a journey so far. I began to get a little anxious for the journey abroad in Chicago – I’ve decided since that Chi Town just isn’t Matt’s Town. I’m sitting in Bethesda, MD right now and decided that DC beats Chicago in my opinion, hands down. Chicago, though, was a great place to start my journey abroad.
Friday, Brian and I arrived in Chicago in his Edy’s Ice Cream Van. After dropping it off at the Edy’s Warehouse, we were picked up by his good friend Little House (Suellen). We found ourselves out in Wrigleyville on Friday night at a Irish Pub called The Irish Oak. The manager was a Galway, Ireland, native and was intrigued to here our plan of relocating to Ireland. I was pleased to see a “I Heart Galway” sticker on the beer fridge.
Saturday we made our way from Suellen’s apartment in a north Chicago suburb to the game at Soldier field. Thousands of Hawkeyes made their way from Iowa City and the greater Chicago area to tailgate and bring in the college football season in the parking lots of Soldier Field. Soldier Field prepared with a total of about twelve Porta Johns. While I’m over reacting, finding a bathroom was a difficult experience to say the least. I didn’t have tickets so ended up making my way to a bar with Suellen and my friend Zach just off of Michigan Avenue. Millers Pub was the name. Nice place with overpriced beers.
Sunday, I decided to celebrate my second to last full day in the states with America’s favorite past-time. A day at Wrigley Field watching the Chicago cubs. My first experience at Wrigley proved to be a good one. Brian’s dad was kind enough to secure myself and Brian’s family tickets to a Cubs vs Astros ballgame (thanks, Mr. Wolken!). The cubs were victorious, 5 – 4 (I think, either way, they won).
I spent Monday night before our 6:20am flight from Midway to Reagan at Brian’s folks’ hotel in downtown Chicago. We set our alarm at 3:30 and were leaving the hotel by 4am – we surely thought that two and a half hours would be enough to get us to Midway. Our hotel concierge let us know that we would be able to make it to Midway via the L in no more than 45 minutes. How wrong he was. We found our way to the Grand L station and were at our transfer spot by 4:45. We expected to transfer to the brown (or orange, I forget). As we made our way off the train, a guy asked us if we were headed to Midway …
(I’ve found in a short day of traveling with the packs that we stand out as travelers. Our fifty plus pound packs clearly shout to anyone viewing that we are off on the trip of our lifetimes. “Where you heading?” “Heading to Europe?” “Where are you guys off too?” They’re really invigorating questions. It is great to be able to say, “Well, we’re on our way to Ireland. We have a work permit, a one-way ticket, and hope to find a job.” Nearly one hundred percent of the time, I’m faced with – “wow, that is awesome.” I love the support from mere strangers on the street.”)
… this friendly soul let us know that in fact our transferring train doesn’t run prior to 6:30am on Holidays. A fact the paid concierge failed to let us know. This resulted in Brian and I catching a Harlem bound train for about 35 minutes. We ended up getting off on a street that headed towards Midway. After realizing we wouldn’t be able to catch a bus, we hailed a cab for the short trip to Midway. We arrived with less than 35 minutes before our plane departed. After waiting in line for at the Southwest ticket counter, we found that what while I booked our plane through Southwest, it was in fact operated by ATA. Quickly, we made our way to the ATA booth – our bags booked, we literally sprinted our way across Midway’s terminal. Amazingly, we made our way through security in less than five minutes. After another short sprint, we were on our plane with a mere ten minutes to spare. Nothing like starting the journey off prepared and relaxed.
My arrival in DC was a great feeling. After getting off the plane, I remembered how much I loved this city. Perhaps an odd choice, as opposed to heading off to do the typical tourist events, Brian and I headed back to my old watering hole in Bethesda, MD – the area I lived while interning here last fall. We arrived at the Rock Bottom Brewery just off Cordell in Bethesda. I had many a pint there on my way home from work when I was in DC last fall. We went to open the door at 10:45 … only to find the bar didn’t open until 11am (surprise!).
Shortly after we ordered our first pint, we were introduced to Gerry Lee, a native Irishman (again, the bar workers soon found we were en route to Ireland – the packs continue to provide talking points!). Gerry Lee was born and raised Irish, from Galway. He drank and told stories like I expect the Irish to. Once he started talking (and drinking), he didn’t stop. We learned much about the country and had many of our previous thoughts reaffirmed. Dublin is great, yet far to overpopulated and overpriced. Cork is great, yet everyone from Cork places Cork on a pedestal. Galway, though, Galway is where it is at. A melting pot of tourists from all over the world who came, fell in love, and never left. An area that illustrates a cheaper cost of living and a more centrally located bar scene. In the end, Gerry was a great guy to meet who in fact set us up with a job opportunity in the Galway area. He actually got on his cell phone and gave Ciaran Murphy a call. Ciaran, he claims, will set us up with jobs tending bar at events throughout the Galway area. Also, Gerry insisted on buying us beers and picking up our bar tab.
What a deal. Who would have thought the 50 minute trip to Bethesda would have done more than satisfy my desire to be reconnected with my Bethesda neighborhood a year before.
Tonight, we hopefully meet our couchsurfing host Lori Lewis. More on that to come.