Lately, I’ve done a lot of flying. From Knoxville to Vegas to Michigan to Maryland. A lot of flying. I may even be identifying with George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham in the 2009 hit movie Up in the Air — almost comfy in the confines of an airport.
Not only that, I really love grazing and shopping while waiting for yet another take-off.
Today’s airports are different. Long gone are stark terminals lined with boring rows of seats and filled with the sounds of those blaring Charlie Brown-type announcements. (Well, mostly.)
Airports today — at least the big ones — are havens for gourmet foods in take-home packages, upscale restaurants bearing the names of chefs we’ve seen on TV, and power-up centers for tech-hungry travelers. Case in point: Chicago’s O’Hare International.
I’m actually happy when I change planes in O’Hare (Crazy me.)
But long layovers mean more time to watch people sprinting (roller bags in tow) to their next departure point. And more time to admire the art. And sample the food!
O’Hare International was named in honor of Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare, a Medal of Honor WWII fighter pilot whose Black Panthers fearlessly stormed the skies. In 1949, the field and airport known as Orchard Depot was renamed O’Hare International Airport.
But not even O’Hare could imagine what the terminals of this second busiest airport in the U. S. and the world would look like today.
Passing through the domed glass corridor leading to Terminal 1, you can delight in the art of teens engaged in a program called After School Matters. Teens paired with professional artists have created art — benches, murals, painted windows and walls, glass sculptures, etc. — that deserves a closer look.
But from there, the shopping begins in Terminal 1. On this cold, cold Friday, lines at Starbucks meandered through the corridor. Patrons craving something hot to sip checked emails while waiting for lattes, talls, or the new Blonde Roast.
I passed by Vosges and kept my chocolate passion in check since it’s still January and you know how those resolutions are! Begun in the kitchen of her Chicago apartment, owner and chocolatier Katrina Markoff relied on her training at El Bulli restaurant and her international travels to launch a “veritable chocolate revolution,” according to the website. I can give it this: simply divine packaging and product, if you can judge just by looking!
If an ordinary Montblanc writing instrument won’t satisfy your desires, check out the Writers Edition Carlo Collodi limited edition. Honoring the creator of The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi, the pens are a tribute to the author’s creativity. A dark brown cap bears pictures of animals like the loyal cricket and the shady fox while the cone resembles Pinnochio’s legendary growing nose. It can be yours for approximately $1000.00. So? It’s a limited edition, after all.
Diners at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant have front row seats where layover travelers can watch the on-the-move travelers go by. Well, some of them watch, I guess. Mostly, though, people that day were focused on their smart phones, or that’s what it looked like to me.
Garrett popcorn, to my delight, also had a presence at O’Hare. They sell my favorite freshly popped corn by the bag or by the tin. If you’ve never had Chicago Mix (a blend of CaramelCrisp® and CheeseCorn®), you’re missing out. Order online if you have to, but there’s nothing like getting it fresh, even at 8:00 AM!!!! (http://www.garrettpopcorn.com/tin-builder/)
My picture of the Field Museum Store doesn’t do it justice. Loaded with little take-home gifts, especially for children, the store is neat and engaging, even if it is overshadowed by the ceiling-tall replica of a dinosaur skeleton. And if you weren’t traveling, you could go to the real museum to check the rest of ’em out!
Oakley was busy selling sunglasses the morning I was there — maybe to travelers needing eye protection at the ski resorts or in the Midwest where looking at snow can make you squint, for sure!
As if the Vosges chocolates and Garrett popcorn weren’t enough temptation, there was always Eli’s Cheesecake, recently famous for creating the celebration cheesecake for President Obama’s Inauguration! What’s not to like about that?
Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera lured travelers with the sight of freshly baked loaves of bread stacked up in the window and the smell of tortas — griddle-baked Mexican sandwiches filled with chipotle chicken!
Posted on the website is a quote from the Chicago Tribune: “Finally, a reason to get delayed at O’Hare”! I agree.
But movement and tech were as important as food and art that day. Lined up at charging/working stations were travelers catching up and powering up. . .
while outside, taxis lined up to move people — wherever they needed to go.
At the end of the terminal, however, it was hurry up and wait. And talk. And check that email one more time.
After all, that’s what travel is today!
See you in the terminals!