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Trip Report A long weekend in Oak Park, IL

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Who we were: Friends of many years standing.

Why we went: One friend's son, who is also my godson, was getting married.

Where we stayed: Under the Ginko Tree Bed and Breakfast, 300 N. Kenilworth Ave, Oak Park. http://www.undertheginkgotreebb.com/ I am not always enthusiastic about bed and breakfasts; but, I really loved this one. I have posted a review of the property on Trip Advisor but the basics are:

a. Price $75 for shared bathroom rooms, $90 for ensuite rooms. This price includes all taxes and breakfast.

b. Location: The house is located about two blocks from Lake Ave, Oak Park Blvd, or Chicago St. We were able to walk everywhere and never needed a car. It is a thirty minute cab ride from O'Hare or Midway. The Chicago metro is within four blocks of the house. The house is included in the Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour. Although it is not a Wright house it was singled out as a great example of the Queen Anne style in the neighborhood. The Wright house and studio are located two blocks away. The walking tours and the house/studio tours are must dos. The total cost for me (yay senior rates) was $19. The walking tour is done over headsets; but the house/studio tour is done by a guide. Ours was excellent. I consider this a must do if in Oak Park.

c. The rooms are large and well furnished. The house was extremely quiet and we were not disturbed by outside noise or other guests. There is no shampoo or lotion provided. The shared bathrooms were well equipped for multiple users and kept, as was the rest of the house, very clean.

d. Cold bottled water available all day. Cookies and nuts are offered in the afternoons. Breakfast was a Continental, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, sweet breads, bagels, cream cheese/jellies, and hard boiled eggs. Plenty of coffee.

e. Common areas were lovely. The house itself is just a beautiful place. The owners have had it for 35 years and their care and love of the house shows. One day we visited at the hotel where most of the wedding guests were staying. The common area was reception with registering and departing guests moving through. There were maybe five chairs and a sofa for conversation. Not so at Under the Ginko Tree. We had two beautiful porches which were wide and very comfortable. We had a choice of probably five or six separate seating areas. Perfect for breakfast and afternoon visits. We loved sitting out there and just watching the passersby. Oak Park is very dog friendly so we met quite a few of the neighborhood dogs on their walks. Maybe not an attraction for everyone, but I loved it. Although it was a relatively hot weekend, we stayed very cool on the big porches.

f. I almost hesitate to mention this, but a real reason to stay here is the innkeeper, Gloria. She is the liveliest and most interesting person I have met in some time. We often stopped off in the kitchen just to visit with her. She is not at all intrusive, but she is quite accessible to those who are charmed by her as we all were. She is a long term resident of Oak Park and seems to know everyone there and most of the area history. She is a terrific resource.

Where we ate:

Most of our meals were at wedding events. The rehearsal dinner was catered by Two Tomatoes and was very good. The morning after the wedding we had one last group meal which was catered in part by a Pancake Truck. This idea is such fun. Like the ice cream trucks of my youth, it was pulled up on the street in front of the bride's family home. They offered six or seven choices of "baby" pancakes and virtually everyone tried two types. The reception was held at the Nineteenth Century Club on Forest Drive. It is a gorgeous place and perfect for a reception. Located just across the street from a beautiful park where the wedding party went for photographs. One little thing I loved was a sign in the ladies room which named some of the famous women who had also been there, Amelia Earheart, Indira Ghandi, Edna St. Vincent Millay among them. A fun idea!

We did try a few restaurants (full reviews on Trip Advisor):

a. Lake St. Kitchen- excellent sandwiches, paninnis, salads and a good wine list. Service was slow and not very engaged with the customers. (corner of Lake and Marion)
b. Sugar Fixe-five stars for this patissiere (Marion St) the almond croissant alone was worth the plane fare out there.
c. Marion St. Cheese and Wine Shop-rave review for the cauliflower sandwich. Never even contemplated a cauliflower sandwich so this menu option couldn't be ignored. WOW. I loved it. The sides were also very good. (Marion St)
I did not go to Hemingways Bistro but it was recommended to us by several people.
d. Peterson's Ice Cream on Chicago St. Oddly this is not even listed on TA and it should be. This ice cream parlor is a gem. It is seventy five years old and apparently they have managed to keep some of the original recipes. I haven't had hot butterscotch sauce that good in a very long time. Because I am prone to excess and love ice cream beyond reason, I was here a bit more than the others. The absolute favorite was the turtle sundae with hot fudge and hot caramel sauces on praline ice cream. Food of the gods!

Random notes-When I am not eating I am often shopping. Oak Park has a relatively small selection of shops, but there were some really good ones .

Muse-ladies clothing and accessories. One of my group bought four dresses there. Two of the others got gorgeous necklaces.

Careful Peach-One of my friends bought some beautiful English silver pieces here, egg servers and canape forks. (yeah, I was somewhere else eating ice cream at the time, but she showed me).

Nora's- we all left with a new pair of shoes. Cute.

There was one other shop on Lake St. I don't have the name but we bought two dresses, one skirt and a jacket there. It is at 128 N. Oak Park .

We also went to the Saturday Farmer's Market. Apparently the must do there is the fresh donuts, but the line was extremely long and we knew there was going to be a stop at the Sugar Fixe again, so no personal recommendations on that. Otherwise it was a very nice market, well set up and with a great choice of beautiful fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers.

I enjoyed my stay in Oak Park. It is quite convenient to Chicago for outings, but it is very nice to come home to such a quiet and charming town.

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