by Janie Blank
I have two girlfriends I worked with when we were all just starting our careers and we have remained friends over the years. One way we have found to stay in touch is to go on what we call our Ya-Ya trip to Chicago to do Holiday shopping each year. We set the dates for next year before we leave this year. These dates go in the Palm Pilot or Blackberry and are in stone. By setting our trip so far in advance no meetings get scheduled for those dates. Another added protection is that the trip is always Sunday to Wednesday so family and social obligations do not interfere.
This will be our tenth year for the annual Ya-Ya event in Chicago. For the first eight years we stayed at the Lenox Suites. We loved the location at Rush and Ontario. It was just a short block off Michigan Avenue and a good place to start the mile. We always had a large suite on the northeast corner, only the floor varied. The room was always the same. It had a kitchenette and a bedroom with enough room for rollaway bed, as well as a pullout in the living room. The first year one of the Ya-Yas, as we call ourselves, had a weekend business conference that delayed her by a day so she got stuck on the rollaway. The other Ya-Ya did so much shopping the first afternoon before the other two arrived that she had already surrounded the hideabed with shopping bags so that became her bed of choice. So the tradition started. I am the lucky one who got the real bed but I am also the oldest, if not by too many years. I always tried to take my turn on the rollaway but no amount of insistence on my part ever changed it.
Before last years trip I got ready to book our suite and found that the hotel would be closed all of December for remodeling! Oh my! I did some online research and came up with the Omni at Michigan and Ohio. If a location could be more perfect than what we had before this would be it. The room description was even better with a hideabed in one room and TWO double beds in the other. No more rollaway. No more guilt for me. The price seemed right as well. The reservation clerk assured me we would NEVER go back to our old hotel. This I doubted but thought I would wait to reserve judgment.
When we got to the room we were pleasantly surprised. The countertops were granite. The linens were downright luxurious. The TV was a flat screen. Believe me there was nothing not to like. The bathroom in the old hotel could only be reached by walking through the bedroom. This one was larger and nicer and had an entrance from both rooms.
The shopping habits of the three Ya-Yas vary quite a bit. I do a lot of my shopping as the year goes by so that by the time I get to Chicago I only have a few people left to worry about. I like to walk in the morning, and go to the museum and see my two daughters and another girlfriend who live there. The second Ya-Ya is usually in the same mode I am so we hang out together, do a little shopping now and then, meet our friend for lunch and finally drag her off to dinner in the evening. She has a very high-powered job and just leaves no time for Holiday shopping but this trip. We always say she is on a mission.
As our Ya-Ya friend ran from one store to the next, shopping bags overflowing, she would need to come back to the hotel periodically to unload. In the process of this she discovered that the Omni has a limousine that will run you to, for instance, the old Marshall Fields or down to the Watertower at no charge! This is just part of their service! I doubt wild horses could move her back to the old hotel but being the one who always does the booking, I called the Lenox Suites this year and found out they have a new name! They also have a new, much higher room rate of over $100 more per night! It is amazing how quickly we were able to start a new tradition. Needless to say, we are booked into the Omni again this year.