Escape to Chicago!!
We all know the phrase "When life hands you lemons...." Well, last week when faced with a full week without electricity and water, my husband and I decided to try to turn "Super Storm Sandy" into an opportunity. Most people affected by the storm did not have the luxury of doing what we did - as much as I bemoan my recent empty nest, it also can be much easier in a crisis to only have to worry about the two of us.
There were basically no hotel rooms available within a 100 mile radius of here. Armed with only my iPhone's 3G service, I searched over and over again using the apps Room 77 and Orbitz and we called every hotel chain we could think of - when one or two rooms finally did become available the hotels were price gouging like crazy. We spent one night at a Hampton Inn one town away and they charged three times their normal rate! Our house was safe and secure so there was no reason NOT to head out of town.
We had been planning a trip to Chicago for later in the month, so we decided that as long as we were paying for a hotel room during the power outage anyway, why not change our plans and go early. I felt like it was meant to be when I discovered Jetsetter.com had an amazing deal at our favorite hotel, the Park Hyatt, for less than the price of the Hampton Inn near our home. After an hour on the phone with a VERY helpful American Airlines agent we were able to use frequent flier miles to book a flight out of White Plains, New York for last Sunday. When we arrived the morning for our flight, the airport didn't even have power - they were operating with an emergency generator, but on limited power.
When our plane landed in Chicago, we felt like we were in a different country - after the long gas lines, darkened homes and numerous downed trees, Chicago felt like paradise. Every single person we encountered, from the taxi drivers to the waiters to the housekeepers at the hotel, was genuinely friendly and kind. We left every restaurant on a first name basis and having shaken hands with our waiter or waitress. I fell in love with Chicago and Midwestern hospitality!
Our plan was to spend three nights so we would be able to watch Election Night coverage on TV, knowing that even if we had power at home, it was unlikely we would have cable. The snow storm forced us to stay an extra night after our flight home was cancelled. As we no longer had the great Jetsetter deal available at the Park Hyatt, we moved over to the Fairmont Hotel instead - the very same Fairmont Hotel where President Obama had watched the election results the night before. We even saw the Secret Service dismantling a telephone bank in the room adjacent to ours - pretty cool!!
I feel guilty talking about our trip while so many people were suffering with flooding, property damaged by downed trees, lack of electricity and heat, but we did have a very enjoyable time. I am going to write a separate post on Chicago later in the week with reviews of the hotels, some great restaurant picks and some of our favorite things to do.