When the moon hits your eye...

Trip Start Jun 24, 2012
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74
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Trip End Sep 21, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We woke up on the train after a dodgy night's sleep (still not used to sleeping on trains yet!) at around 5.45am, before Lonnie had a chance to wake us up himself. We popped down to the breakfast car and grabbed a quick coffee/juice and a breakfast bun, and sat in the viewing car watching the sun rise outside whilst we ate. 

The train stopped off for a bit in a town called Champaign, Illinois (home of a number of Fortune 500 companies and a hub for business in what is referred to as Silicone Prairie - the 'rural' version of Silicone Valley in California) and then we headed onwards to our destination. 

We pulled into Chicago's union station at around 9am and ended up waiting nearly an hour until our bags turned up. While we were in the waiting room a group of Amish people came in...and Laura was captivated! They attracted a lot of attention the poor things, and they looked a little bewildered by everything. There were two boys and two girls, probably around our age, and they reminded me of a TV program I'd watched back in the UK where a group of Amish kids went over to Britain and lived a 'regular life' for a little while. In the waiting room there was also a man who looked like he'd died in his chair waiting for his bag; however it turned out he was just really tired haha.

Eventually our bags trundled out of the chute - I'm still amazed one of them hasn't gone missing yet! - and we headed off to find our hostel. Union station is massive, and by the time we'd figured out where to go to get out, we realised we were pretty wiped, so hailed a taxi to get to the hostel which was a couple blocks away. In one respect we're doing really well with being frugal backpackers, but in another way, we're really lazy and we keep getting cabs everywhere haha. 

We got to the YHA hostel, which is awesome (it's done out like a hotel more than a hostel) and we were let straight into the room to dump our bags. There was a bit of a kerfuffle in that our beds were dirty as apparently some of the night watchmen from the hostel had sneakily kipped in them the night before, but that was easily sorted by a woman who told us she wanted to move to her ancestors home of Africa and live in a straw house so she didn't have to talk to people as she was ashamed of them?! We've met some...interesting...people haha. 

Laura and I popped to the CVS across the road and grabbed some lunch of lean pockets and microwave macaroni and cheese (frugal, and disgusting), then put some laundry on and somehow ended up napping in our newly cleaned beds - we were very tired. 

After our nana-naps we had showers and then decided to head out into the city to explore for the afternoon. We walked up to Millennium Park, which is a large green space which borders Lake Michigan and contains lots of public art. We first went up to investigate the huge Buckingham fountain bordered by derpy-looking seahorses and then passed through a flower garden. The weather was lovely; bright shining sun and it was nice and warm, and it was lovely to be in the park with the water at our backs and the skyscrapers in front of us. Our first impression of the city was that it was bustling and beautiful - the buildings were very pretty. 

We decided that we wanted to see Cloud Gate this afternoon, and as we were in the park, we headed there next. Along the way, we passed the old Chicago Stock Exchange Arch, which is a intricately carved piece of the old building which is really beautiful. Right next to it, Laura found a monstrously huge green cricket with only one antenna which she proceeded to stare at and photograph for ages. I didn't...I creeped away as the cricket freaked me out! 

I eventually pried her away from the bug and we found our way to Cloud Gate. I was really looking forward to seeing it, as it's a famous symbol of Chicago, and to our delight, it wasn't really busy in the late afternoon. Most pictures you see have hundreds of people milling around. Cloud Gate is by Anish Kapoor (the same guy who's doing the giant twisty red thing for the London Olympics) and it's also called 'the bean' because of how it looks. It actually looks like a blob of mercury, and distorts the reflection of the skyline, and it's really pretty :) 

We spent some time playing with it, Laura took some lovely photos, and then we decided to walk up the 'magnificent mile' shopping street to go and get some dinner. To get there, we had to walk over the Chicago river - which the citizens dye completely green for St. Patricks day...crazy - and we passed the Chicago Tribune building. We'd been wanting to see this ever since we watched Billy Connelly's Route 66 show last year, when he explained that the building contains pieces of other famous buildings. Sure enough, we walked the outside of the impressive Gothic building and saw hundreds of bricks and stones from all over the world - including China's Forbidden City, the Sydney Opera House, the World Trade Centre and Edinburgh Castle. I don't think Laura was convinced that all the building pieces were legit but it turns out that they are - although I'm still not sure how they got some of them over without them being noticed! 

As we walked through Chicago proper, we kept commenting to each other how beautiful the architecture was. Most of the buildings look quite modern, but then you get the occasional older style building and the clash between them is really lovely. Chicago also has an elevated rapid-transit system which is really distinctive and reminds me of the setting of old school Spiderman comics - in essence, Chicago is a really cool city. 

We walked past all the upmarket shops, not going into any of course, and started searching for a deep dish pizza place. This was one of Laura's musts for coming to the city - many episodes of Man Vs Food definitely convinced her that she needed to try one. We'd done a bit of research into popular pizza restaurants and found one called Giordanos, which we came across pretty quickly. We ordered just a small pizza, and were told that it was going to take 45 minutes to cook. The reason for this, is that the cheese and the sauce are the wrong way round and the 'pizza pie' is so thick that it takes that long to cook through! When it arrived, it was the heaviest pizza I have ever seen in my life. The dough was brick-like, especially as the cheese was baked into this, and the sauce was piled on top. Even delicious olives didn't really redeem the pie unfortunately. Laura really enjoyed it but we didn't eat much as it was so filling - in fact less than half - and ended up taking the rest of it home in a carry box haha. 

After we'd stuffed ourselves as much as we were able, we rolled back home to the hostel as the sun started to set on Chicago. I really like the city so far; it's got a really nice vibe and I think we're going to have a nice time here. Tomorrow we're going to the Field Museum which looks amazing, and we might head to a funfair on the pier....fun!!

Deej x

 
 
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