Travelling isn’t all about climbing tall towers or taking ridiculously long train journeys you know, it’s really about the quiet moments you never expected and especially about the people you meet. Sorry if I bang on about this every time but you know I’m right don’t you?
Who on earth is Carol Stream?
Well she isn’t actually anyone but she used to be. Got it? There is a little village in DuPage county in Illinois, just outside Chicago, called Carol Stream. It was named after the daughter of the villages founder, Jay Stream. Apparently in the late 1940s he tried to get permission to build some houses but got fed up with all of the red tape and when one of the city hall clerks suggested that he might be better to ‘build his own town’ that’s what he did. In 1957 his daughter was seriously injured in a car accident and Jay Stream decided to name the village in her honour. Luckily Carol recovered and is today living in Arizona although she does occasionally return for celebrations and parades. Must be really odd having a place named after you.
Anyway, that’s where our new Airbnb home was. Right on the outskirts of Chicago in a really quiet relaxing neighbourhood. We were picked up at Wheaton station by the lovely Chris who gave us a guided tour of her village on the way back where we met her husband Ray and the boss of the house, Fatty. More about Fatty later.
We’d specifically planned to have a quiet relaxing week between our trips to Chicago and New York as we knew they would be full on visits and Chris and Rays fabulous home was more than perfect. Tucked away in a quiet street with trees all around, a beautiful garden, a deck to sit out on, and one of Jo’s all-time favourite things ‘a hammock’, it couldn’t have been better.
Settling in to a New Place
We’re obviously experienced movers and settlers-in by now but every place we stay is different and it’s always exciting being shown around the house and seeing your room for the first time. Chris and Ray made us feel so welcome that we felt at home immediately and it wasn’t too long before Jo was safely ensconced in the hammock taking it easy and taking the art of relaxation to new levels.
Ok, she wasn’t the only one.
We’d only been there for a couple of days when Chris and Ray left us to go away for a long weekend in their RV, apparently we were responsible enough to be left on our own to look after the house (and Fatty). I’m pretty sure they meant that Jo was responsible enough to be left but can’t be sure.
The next few days were spent walking in the sunshine, exploring the Community and Weeks parks, watching The Untouchables, hammocking, reading, and most excitingly getting our hair cut by lovely chatty Mexican hairdressers. Fantastic.
Caputo’s and the Red Apple
Before she left Chris had mentioned a couple of places that we needed to visit. Angelo Caputo’s is a huge fresh grocery market in Carol Stream that seemed to be the size of an aircraft hangar. What set it apart though was the unbelievable selection of hot food to eat in the ‘cafe’ section. No wonder some of the customers were a little on the large side! The other recommendation was a restaurant called the Red Apple Pancake House that specialised in breakfasts. We had lunch but would be back for breakfast in a few days.
Both Ray and Chris do weekly volunteer work at Cantigny Park, a 500 acre park near Wheaton. It contains two museums, fabulous gardens, walking trails, a golf course, and much much more. Ray kindly offered us a lift so we spent the day discovering what it was all about. The whole site was left by a Colonel McCormick to the public in 1955. He had been the editor of the famous Chicago Tribune newspaper but had named the park after returning from France in 1918 having fought in the Battle of Cantigny. His country house on the estate is now a museum.
All around the beautiful gardens are different chairs and sofas painted yellow and designed to be photo opportunities for vain selfie-obsessed visitors. So we obviously couldn’t resist could we?
Also in the park is the 1st Division Army museum. Colonel McCormick served in the 1st so the museum was a personal tribute to the bravery of the men he fought alongside at the Battle of Cantigny. Amazingly, the battle in May 1918 was the first American battle of the First World War. Fascinating museum all about the history of the division from that time through to the modern day. Unfortunately, just as we reached the section on D-Day Ray appeared and informed us that a huge storm had started outside and we should get going. Could have spent another couple of hours there at least but made our way out where unbelievably heavy rain and thunder ravaged the park all around. Just running from the door to Ray’s train outside got us completely soaked.
After the excitement of ‘Storm Cantigny’ we stuck to chilling out but did get down to the North Side Park in Wheaton for the day. Lots of walking and talking and general messing around (and that was just Jo).
It isn’t a traditional name for a pet I agree but Chris and Rays cat is called Fatty. We didn’t believe it at first either but it’s true. You all know that I’m not a massive lover of cats, slight understatement, but Fatty appeared to be more dog than cat. Follows people around the house, doesn’t like being left alone, begs for food constantly, and seems to be the most un-catlike cat that we’ve ever seen. Because of that we loved her, even me.
The Pheasant Run
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post travelling is all about the people you meet and the new friends you make and in Ray and Chris we truly felt we had made a couple of real friends. As you all know we pledged at the start of our little trip to never turn down any invitations or say No to anything, so when Chris asked if we fancied an afternoon out to go swimming we jumped at the chance.
What we didn’t know was that they were members of the Pheasant Run Resort in Wheaton, a fabulous hotel and leaisure complex. We couldn’t strip off quickly enough, and change into swimming gear of course. Chris’s sister Roxanne had joined us and the next few hours were spent swimming in the outdoor and indoor pools and sunbathing in the glorious Illinois sunshine. So relaxing and sociable, just like being on holiday.
Just when we thought the day couldn’t be bettered Roxanne asked if we fancied popping back to her place for a drink and something to eat. Well, her pad was amazingly impressive. A great big traditional wooden house with a fabulous raised wooden deck at the back and huge lawns dotted with mature trees. Roxanne and her husband Don made us more than welcome as the six of us enjoyed pizza, cold drinks and sparkling conversation before they offered to show us their ‘little motorhome’. Our tour around the luxurious and utterly massive RV took our breath away, we’ve never ever seen anything like it. Fantastic. It was several hours later that we left after a few beers and more chat inside. A brilliant afternoon and evening.
Breakfast at the Red Apple
The socialising didn’t stop there. Chris and Ray invited us out to breakfast the following day at the previously mentioned Red Apple Pancake House. Every week they meet friends for breakfast so we had a major culinary blow-out with them and their friends Sheila, Bob, Katie and little Hayley. Once again we were overwhelmed at everyones friendliness and welcoming nature. Plus the food was excellent, not sure I should have eaten all those eggs though!
Tubbing in Carol Stream
Last days anywhere are always spent packing, finishing up food and drink supplies, and checking onward travel plans. No change here as we got everything done and dusted and sat back with our hosts to enjoy a quiet last evening. Just as it got dark and we prepared to go inside Chris quietly asked ‘Do you wanna go in the tub?’. Did we? Minutes later all four of us were relaxing in their enormous hot tub looking up at the stars and trying not to laugh too much at Rays terrible jokes. A lovely final evening with some lovely people that we hope we can stay in touch with.
24.5 – 4.6.2016