Everyone should go to Chicago at least once in a lifetime. It's taken us a long time, but finally the opportunity came along and we seized it. I looked at accommodation on-line and was daunted by the prices of hotels right downtown. There were a few bed-and-breakfasts that looked attractive, but those I checked were fully booked already.
Our fallback strategy was to stay outside the city and use public transit to go in and out. We discovered the Margarita European Inn in Evanston, and it turned out to be a good choice.
Evanston itself is an attractive university town (Northwestern University is there) with wide tree-lined streets, and has access to downtown by the famous Chicago EL as well as the faster Metra. We sampled both during the week; the Metra is more comfortable, but the EL runs much more often.
The Margarita is a former women's residence with an assortment of rooms to suit all budgets, from self-contained suites to simple rooms which share the communal bathrooms on each floor. We had a mini-suite that was quiet, spacious and exceptionally comfortable. This is not a place for those who want the typical sterile U.S.chain hotel room, but anyone who has enjoyed the atmosphere and character of old buildings in, say, Paris would appreciate it. The hotel is furnished with an assortment of vintage and faux-antique pieces; the management is friendly and helpful; the guests are everything from charming, young would-be students to eccentric, elderly midwesterners.
I took one photo of our very pretty room:
More are on their website:<www.margaritainn.com>
Michael was delayed in Quebec so on my first day, I stayed with Carol, our neighbour's sister, who took me to the Chicago Botanic Garden not far away. It's a large garden, in the grand park style with long vistas and beautiful trees.
I was impressed by the Belgian fence at the entrance...
... and the green roof on their new ecology centre.
That grey area around the perimeter is a band of solar panels that supply the buildings electricity needs.