Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn and being tired all day, I ended up booking a mid-morning flight with a nice, long layover in Chicago to do some sightseeing.
Also, with the advice of some of my friends and coworkers, I tried to figure out the most ridiculous thing to check as luggage and borrowed a bowling pin that my boss keeps on his desk and took it along for the journey.
Headed to Chicago
As I was traveling on a business class ticket, I was entitled to two 70-pound pieces of luggage, and since I only needed to send one bag to Budapest, I elected to bring the bowling pin as my second “bag”.
By some stroke of luck, the agent actually gave the bowling pin a pass and put a luggage tag on it!
After a quick walk through TSA PreCheck, I was at the gate and ready to board.
ORF [Norfolk] to ORD [Chicago]
October 17, 2017
Depart: 10:15 AM
Arrive: 11:35 AM
After getting off the ground, I ordered myself a Bloody Mary. Although they usually aren’t my first choice on the ground, they’re one of the few things you can drink at 30,000 feet that still have flavor with the drop in cabin pressure. Plus all the nutrients in the part that’s not vodka are probably good for your health when traveling.
Shortly after drinks were served, the flight attendant brought the snack basket by, as our flight was too short for a full meal service.
After a beautiful descent through Chicago, I was finally at O’Hare.
Checking out Chicago
With almost six hours before my next flight, I had plenty of time to head into the city to take in some of the sights.
A quick walk downstairs got me to the Chicago El train for a $5 ride into the city.
The train dropped me off a couple blocks from the Willis Tower, and I made my way to the foot of the massive skyscraper to head inside.
Inside, there was absolutely no line for the Skydeck, as it was midday on a Tuesday. I redeemed my ticket and quickly made my way towards the elevator to catch a ride to the 103rd floor.
Upstairs, I was able to catch a sight of the breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.
I then waited in line for a few minutes and walked out on The Ledge. With a glass floor, it extends 1353 feet over Whacker avenue. It’s one heck of a rush to step out onto the floor and look down at the street. Definitely not for the faint of heart!
After checking out the observation deck, I made my way back down to street level to check out the Chicago River before taking the El back to the airport.
The Polaris Lounge
After arriving back at the airport and spending a few minutes heading through security, I headed inside the Polaris Lounge for lunch.
Unlike most US-based airport lounges, this one has a complimentary sit-down dining service along with an extensive drink list at the bar.
I wanted to sample some new things this time around, so I went with an Aperol Orange Spritz, followed by the fontina meatball, seared ribeye, and buttermilk fried chicken. The menu is done in a tapas style, so you can try multiple items without getting too stuffed.
All the food was impeccable. The meatball was flavorful and filling, the steak and vegetables perfectly cooked, and the fried chicken was crispy and tasty.
As I was still hankering for some more steak, I went ahead and made another order, this time, opting for no sauce for comparison.
Immediately after ordering my steak, the fire alarm began going off. Looking around at the staff, I quickly determined there was no reason for alarm, as apparently someone had inadvertently opened an emergency door and they just had to wait for someone to silence the alarm. After a couple minutes, the staff came around with a silver platter of earplugs, which I found to be a very nice touch.
Fortunately the tortuous noise ended after a few minutes.
For dessert, I went with a Guinness and the Decadence by Chocolate, which was simply to die for!
After lunch, I went ahead and grabbed a quick shower in one of the shower suites to freshen up before my overnight flight to Brussels.
By far the best shower experience at any airport, the suites are stocked with warmed Saks Fifth Avenue towels along with any toiletries you request.
After freshening up, it was about time to make the hundred-or-so-foot walk to the gate.