Story by Carol Stigger
Photography courtesy Park Hyatt Chicago
Park Hyatt Chicago
800 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois, USA, 60611
Tel: +1 312 335 1234
Chicago’s Park Hyatt Hotel is elegant and homey.
The padded window seat in my 12th floor room at Chicago’s Park Hyatt Hotel settled a friendly controversy with friends from Switzerland – but not right away. Leon and Zoe always stay at a legendary Chicago hotel known for its five star service and amenities. They were skeptical of my claim that there is always something new in Chicago and new is sometimes better. What could be better, they thought, than their decades-long romance with another centrally located hotel?
My window seat comfortably held the three of us as we looked down on the greenery of Water Tower Park and the historic Water Tower with a slice of Lake Michigan beyond. Leon moved to the Eames lounge chair and rested his feet on the ottoman. “Always wanted one of these,” he said
“Leon?” I asked.
“Hum?” Leon does not like to be wrong.
I told them about the early morning scene from my window of people rushing to work, but slowing to stroll through the park and elderly people reading newspapers and feeding pigeons. Now close to noon, we watched shoppers rest on benches with their bags from designer stores at Water Tower Place just across the street: Michigan Avenue’s crown jewel of upscale retail. A little girl seized her American Girl doll from her mother’s bag and kissed her curly haired treasure.
“I am sure that doll already has a name,” Zoe said. “Leon, are you going to get out of that chair before ski season?”
“How’s the bed?” Leon asked, then answered his question by lying on it and tossing around. He suppressed a sigh.
“And the toiletries?” Zoe asked as if by rote. No stranger to five-star hotels of the world, it would take gold flecks in the shower gel to surprise her.
But I had done my homework. “Each Park Hyatt hotel around the world has its own specially selected scent.” I passed the shampoo, shower gel, and body lotion around, all labeled “Neroli 36—for Park Hyatt Chicago by Le Labo.” The scent is a brilliant blend of floral and citrus. Leon got out his Smart Phone and googled. “Essence of orange blossom,” he explained. “Not too girly thanks to the citrus – and I don’t know about you girls, but this man is starving.
I know that on vacation Leon does not like to work for his lunch -- work being leafing through guide books, memories, and suggestions; settling on a place everyone agrees to; and then figuring out how to get there. I suggested Park Hyatt’s NoMI just five flights down. Not even hunger prevented Leon from stopping to admire black and white photos displayed along a corridor. These photos that capture the essence of Chicago were selected by David Travis, Curator of Photography, of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Local photographers,” Leon noted, “not what I expected.”
“He is weary of reproductions of European masterpieces and fake Greek statues,” Zoe explained.
“Every city has its stories,” he said, “and this hall shows Chicago today.”
He lingered, an encouraging sign.
“Leon?” I asked. “Are you convinced?”
“Shh,” Zoe said. “So much depends on the chef.”
NoMI is a relaxed open-kitchen restaurant with a contemporary atmosphere and panoramic views. The outdoor section includes table seating, lounge chairs and a bar with potted plants placed so casually it obviously had been thoughtfully planned by a talented designer. We opted for an outdoor table shaded by an umbrella. “Now I know why Chicago is called the Windy City,” Zoe said as she gathered her hair into a pony tail. I did not tell her that to Chicagoans it was merely breezy. Windy means menus fly off tables along with business cards and small pieces of fruit.
We started with English cucumber gazpacho with yogurt and pita. Leon was so pleased with the spicy flavor, he ordered another bowl. “It tastes like Spain,” he said. Zoe and I each ordered a goat cheese panini with peppadew peppers, cucumber, and rocket served on ciabatta with just the right amount of crunch. Leon opted for NoMI’s signature sushi platter and was surprised that the Midwest offers such a variety of fresh seafood. We finished with mango sorbet and sent our compliments to the chef for a perfect summer lunch.
We descended to the ground floor lobby and entered the library right next to it. Comfortable chairs were grouped for conversation with tables for complimentary drinks and snacks. Newspapers, magazines and books were placed around the room; wide windows looked out to the park. Masterpieces of modern sculpture were placed on shelves. Leon struck up a conversation with a couple from Texas. The gentleman was celebrating his 90th birthday with his spritely sweetheart who assured us a lady never discloses her age. Both were enthusiastic about the hotel’s service and friendliness. Soon we were friends, almost to the point of exchanging phone numbers. “This is truly a library,” Zoe said. “One doesn’t make friends in a lobby.”
“Their joy is infectious,” Leon added.
Zoe rolled her eyes. Leon is an epidemiologist. “He means in a good way,” she explained.
We decided to spend the afternoon at the Art Institute. Zoe, an Alpine hiker, was eager to walk; Leon consulted a bus schedule; I suggested a taxi. While we strove to reach a consensus, the concierge called for the house car and offered us a complimentary ride. Leon conceded that this had never happened at “his” hotel. Riding down the Magnificent Mile, he also admitted that their hotel did not have Eames chairs or a library, but at least he knew what to expect.
“Breakfast is predictable,” Zoe said. “Global McFood with American coffee.
“Brown water,” Leon said.
“If the Park Hyatt doesn’t have an espresso machine, I promise you I will stand on one of the Art Institute’s lions and yodel,” I said. The driver made a quick call on his mobile and assured us that yodeling would not be one of the afternoon’s attractions.
“Smoked salmon tartine anyone?” I asked.
“She checked out the breakfast menu,” the driver explained.
We parted after an early dinner because fierce thunderstorms were predicted. I would have felt the first raindrops right before I entered the Park Hyatt, but the doorman met my taxi with an umbrella. After a bath in the deep soaking tub, I wrapped up in the complimentary robe, opened the blinds, and settled into the window seat to watch one of nature’s most spectacular dramas: a Midwest thunderstorm. Lightning struck buildings like a scene from a horror movie, and a monsoon blew sideways shrouding the Water Tower in a gauzy veil. It was so beautiful, I felt sorry for Leon and Zoe. Their view was of a tight row of buildings and the street below. I snapped a photo with my phone and sent it to Zoe.
A minute later, Zoe sent me a photo. I thought she was returning mine, but the lightening pattern was different. Her message read, “We’re one floor below you, but don’t tell Leon you know. He wants to surprise you in the morning over smoked salmon tartine and espresso.
I had only one question for Leon. Did he watch the storm from his window seat or the Eames chair?
If you go:
The Park Hyatt Chicago http://parkchicago.hyatt.com has 198 guest rooms including 13 suites.
With thanks to the Park Hyatt for their gracious hospitality.
© August 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.