My husband and I recently decided that we should take the girls away from the city for the weekend. Our key requirements were that it be a fairly short drive, be something to amuse the kids and that there be some option to get them out in the fresh air. On paper (or to be exact the internet) our destination looked perfect. A resort with a small waterpark, a forest preserve near by and only an hour and a half out of the city.
Let me start by saying that even though I’m not a true city girl (I grew up 100 miles south of London) I am most definitely a townie, meaning I don’t do well anywhere that doesn’t have a Starbucks within walking distance, is relatively bug free and offers an assortment of good eateries. That said we thought we’d pretty much prepared ourselves for what to expect. A resort with a waterpark was going to be, hmmm let’s go for “commercially aware” and “catering to the average family needs.” However, I don’t think we realized just how much fish out of water we would be.
Let’s start with the amenities in our living area. We were actually pleasantly surprised when we entered our cabin/villa. Rustically and comfortably decorated, very spacious and very clean. And being warned that the kitchen contained only basic necessities we had the forethought to bring a wine bottle opener. But there were no wine glasses! The shock of this discovery should have been our first clue of just how screwed we were. Let me be clear here, this is no rant about how terrible our destination was, merely an acknowledgement that my husband and I are so ill equipped for anywhere greener or more rural than our own backyard, it is quite frankly ridiculous.
Figuring we could live off chain restaurant food for one weekend, we only brought snacks and breakfast supplies. Hey, I love calorie-laden junk food every now and again, in fact it would be quite nice for once to be given no option. Newsflash, there is no Chili’s with it’s beautiful 10 page menu, in the wilderness. What we did have was a one page menu of assorted fried foods and sandwiches in the middle of an indoor amusement arcade. Think flashing lights, loud music, screaming kids! So we ordered a couple of large margaritas and smiled through our rising panic.
But wait, we still had our walk through the forest preserve to look forward to, the great outdoors, fresh air and exercise. Actually not so fresh. Again, we thought we were well prepared. We left early, doused ourselves in insect repellent and brought large bottles of water. Still, it was hot, humid and airless. The kids were bored and miserable, especially my eldest who had expected to see baby bears, deer and other cute woodland creatures, (even she can only enjoy a Technicolor Disney version of the countryside). All we saw were mosquitoes, lots of them and I got eaten alive. It was almost like the mosquitoes recognized us as city folk who would offer them new heights of culinary delight. We were Chili’s for mosquitoes, or at least my face was, the only place I didn’t have repellant. Perhaps I should have left the repellant alone altogether, frankly red blotchy legs would have been far better than the swollen, black eye I went home with on Sunday. Never has the Chicago skyline been more glorious to me than it was that afternoon, even through the thunderstorm that greeted us and my partially closed eye.
There was one member of our family however that felt right at home in the wilderness. When we arrived back in Chicago we discovered that my daughter’s toy polar bear was not among our belongings. Apparently, enchanted by her stories of other cute fluffy animals and singing birds, he had decided to make his escape whilst we were otherwise occupied and I can only assume he is now living the bear highlife among the trees with his brown bear cousins.