Scenic suburbs rebut gloomy take

The tweet by @samwightt gave me pause: “Chicago’s suburbs are an infinite purgatory of farmland and decrepit downtowns networked together by boring county roads.”

Really, Sam? You want “boring county roads”? Pick a day in late winter and drive 400 miles southwest down I-57 to the flat, open farmland of southeast Missouri, where I grew up.

At any other time I probably would have scrolled past this diss against the suburbs, which I know have issues. But “decrepit downtowns?” Also: I was in the middle of touring with and then hosting — in the suburbs — four sophisticated world travelers: my English cousin Jason, his husband, John, and two of their friends, Edmund and Tomas.

The touring started in mid-May, when we met up in the Smoky Mountains for hiking. And, I quickly learned, tea at 3:30 p.m. followed by Tomas’ gin and tonics at 4.

By May 31, we were in the Chicago area, hitting what I consider the usual high spots: dinner atop the John Hancock Center (or whatever it’s called now), an Architecture Center river cruise, the Cultural Center, the Art Institute and lunch at Cindy’s Rooftop, which overlooks Millennium Park.

We took too many pictures at Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean,” strolled the park and circled Buckingham Fountain as our newsfeeds filled with reports on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and who was on — and off — the Buckingham Palace balcony. Note: I did explain that Chicago’s fountain has no connection to Liz or any of her ancestors.

There were drinks at a pop-up cafe on the lakefront, dinner at Shaw’s Crab House and strolls on the riverwalk.

And we toured the suburbs. A drive down shady Sheridan Road took us through ritzy neighborhoods and on to the stunning Baha’i Temple in Wilmette. As Google maps directed us home via the lakefront, I queued up Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah’s “Lake Shore Drive” on Spotify.

In Naperville, we climbed to the scenic overlook in Greene Valley Forest Preserve and drove west to the Fox River Valley, where we visited the Fabyan Villa Museum. The villa is the former home of the decidedly quirky Col. George and Nelle Fabyan. In addition to lush gardens, the couple also had a private zoo and a still-standing Instagram-worthy Dutch windmill.

My guests enjoyed it all, including a stroll through Fullersburg Woods and several hours at the Hinsdale Fine Arts Festival, where they bought unique souvenirs to take back to London.

And there was family time, as the Londoners were entertained by my adult children, now settled into west suburban homes. There was great food (smoked brisket!), lots of laughter and the right amount of goofiness from the grandchildren.

“An infinite purgatory,” Sam? More like a piece of heaven.

— Denise Joyce of Hinsdale is a guest columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].