It’s always fun to return to a city you enjoyed visiting in the past.  It’s also fun to explore a new place.  When you get to do both in the same weekend, it’s double the excitement.  After all, travelers often operate in a dichotomy–at times craving the familiarity of a place we know well, other times wanting to check out a place completely foreign to us.

This weekend, if all travel plans go accordingly, Leon and I are looking forward to a “double the excitement” kind of trip.  We’re heading out to Chicago and will then drive on to South Bend, Indiana, to visit with some of his buddies from Notre Dame and watch the Fighting Irish play some football on Saturday.

The familiar aspect of this trip, for me, is Chicago.  I first visited Chicago last year to reunite with my good friend Esther, who I met in a Bible study group at our church in London while we were both in graduate school.  She moved back to Chicago shortly after our year in the UK, and I had been hoping to explore her hometown at some point.  When a weekend visit worked out for us, it was fantastic.  Well, minus a couple of bumps in the road upon arrival.

I landed in Chicago with my little backpack as my luggage, and since it was light I carried it around with me that evening so we wouldn’t have to run back to Esther’s apartment before going to an international ice cream festival at a local museum (there was no way I wanted to delay sampling different ice creams from around the world).  We had such a wonderful time and were in such a sugar coma afterwards that, upon arriving to her apartment, I realized that I had left my backpack in the taxi cab.  I sprinted outside and tried in vain to catch up with the cab, but it was too late (and I was a little out of shape).

After an emergency trip to Target for me to get some clothes, we resumed our fun weekend hanging out in Chicago.  Esther and I went up the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower and took pictures of each other on the “invisible” ledge that makes you look like you’re suspended above the city, walked around downtown admiring the interesting architecture, and of course enjoyed true Chicago deep dish pizza and drank loads of good coffee (Chicago was ranked recently as the nation’s most highly caffeinated city, as I wrote about in a previous post).  I really enjoyed soaking up the laid back yet vibrant culture of Chicago, made even more enjoyable by sharing it with a friend.

The “new” aspect of this weekend will involve South Bend, Indiana.  I’ve never been to Indiana, for starters, but I’m looking forward to going–after all, my fiance did spend four years there and loved his time at Notre Dame.  Leon showed me pictures of the campus, and it looks beautiful.  Plus, it will be fun to catch up with his friends and enjoy some fall football.  I’m also curious to see what Indiana looks like; right now I’m picturing cows and cornfields, and that’s about it.  Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

This weekend will involve the dichotomy of new versus familiar, as well as contrast the dynamics of a big city versus a smaller city.  It’s always fun to mix dynamics, in my opinion.  I’m looking forward to enjoying some deep dish pizza at Giordano’s (with Esther, of course–we’re going to meet up with her) amidst the hustle and bustle of the Windy City and then check out the (supposedly) slower pace of South Bend.

Overall, I’m looking forward to experiencing both places this weekend.  It’s something to keep in mind as a traveler–mixing dynamics on a trip can make you feel like you’re getting two for the price of one!