Blown away by the Windy City
Trip Start Feb 11, 2010
26Trip End Dec 11, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Our accommodation was just a stones throw away from Grant Park and Chicago harbour; so we took a walk along the shore of Lake Michigan. I say Lake, but sea would be more fitting. It is gargantuan, with over 1,600 miles of shoreline (and nearly 3 times the area of Wales). We stopped by a sushi joint right opposite the harbour for a spot of al fresco raw fish. Without a doubt the (second) best sushi I've ever had – plus the view of the lake just feet away – made it a perfect tonic to a, hitherto, stressful day. After sinking a few Tsingtao beers (fortunately not lite like every other beer out here), we pressed on to the Navy Pier. The pier is the self-proclaimed Lakeshore Playground of Chicago – consisting of shops, restaurants, bars, theatres, boat rides and even a big wheel. Imagine where a young buck may take a girl on a date in 1950’s America – that’s Navy Pier; and it certainly has its charms. We simply admired the stunning Chicago skyline looming over Millennium Park and the lake – with the obligatory beers.
The following day we acted on a taxi driver’s tip off and checked out a rumour that Transformers 3 was being filmed opposite Michigan Avenue. True enough, the train line running parallel with Michigan was strewn with upturned cars and burning wreckages. I was left dejected, when neither Megan Fox nor Bumblebee came running towards me down the train track. I could not disguise my feelings – so a gluttonous lunch was in order. I remembered a vow I made to a good friend; and so bee-lined straight for Al’s #1 Italian Beef sandwich joint. Esquire magazine named this 1938-founded Chicago favorite as home of one of the best sandwiches in America. The double feature for me is it is also a Route 66 icon. I opted for a large “Al’s dipped-beef and grilled sausage combo sandwich”, with hot home-made giardiniera (hot and sweet pepper salsa). Genuinely the best thing I’ve eaten between two pieces of bread. I wish my stomach had more flexibility, as I’d have polished another off in a flash. In hindsight, I should have taken more time over eating it, but just couldn’t stop munching. All washed down with a freshly-squeezed, iced lemonade from Mario’s Italian Lemonade; from directly across the street.
Having stuffed myself silly, I rolled back towards town for an explore around downtown and the art-fest in Millennium Park. Did the mandatory photo frenzy of the Cloud Gate sculpture. No, this isn’t something controversial to do with a cloud, but Anish kapoor’s 110-ton polished kidney bean (see photo). We picked up our tickets for the nighttime riverboat tour of Chicago’s architecture. After sampling the fabled Chicago pizza (can’t get too excited – I’m a thin ‘n’ crispy fan) it was time to don our sailing gear and weave through the city on the Chicago River. The first – and so far only – moment of panic came when some fireworks went off on some nearby skyscrapers. If you check my photos at the bottom of the blog, you may see why. Anyway, the boat trip. For me, this was the highlight of Chicago (just, over Al’s sarnie!). Cruising through the staggering array of buildings that Chicago boasts, seeing their various lights reflecting off the river around us – it was both strikingly attractive and educational. For example, the Metra train company legally couldn’t sell the land its rail lay on, but could sell the air above it – so architects designed buildings that didn’t need conventional foundations. Only in America. A nice touch by the tour operator was a firework display in the harbour at the end of our trip. Due to the layout of Chicago’s cityscape, the acoustic result was an astounding echo on every bang that resonated down every aisle of the city.
The night ended with a relaxed visit to the riverside bar – Dick’s last Resort (fitting we thought, for our final night here). After quaffing some local ales and a couple of daiquiris, we retreated to the hotel in the knowledge that tomorrow we would have to bid farewell to this wonderful city and begin our Route 66 adventure. I went to bed digesting both sorrow and excitement (and Al’s beef). My next entry will herald the beginning of me blogging my way across the States along Route 66. Stay tuned….