We spend a bit
of time this morning working out the best way to get into the city centre.
After looking through as many local maps as we can find we ascertain that the
airport is very close by, and that there is a train link into the city from
threre. We don't find any parking at the airport itself, but just over the
road is a private car park that offers a days parking for reasonable rates.
The car park is a very long thin rectangle, and they have put on a bus to take
you from your car back to the gate. I don't envy the driver of that bus: going
round and round the whole day through.
take the orange line of the elevated train, or 'El' as it's commonly known,
into the city centre. The most obvious point to head towards is the Sears
Towers. My personal plan of leaning my head against the glass and uttering the
words 'Anything is peaceful from 1,353 feet' (Ferris Buellers Day Off if
you're wondering) are scuppered but the winds that the city is known for. Some
similarly scuppered Americans chat with us for a while "Well, I guess that's
why they call it the windy city". In fact, we later learn that the nickname
came from a rather mouthy journalist who kept yakking on about how Chicago was
better than New York. In retort the New York DJs proclaimed him to be 'full of
wind' - and the nickname stuck. The American couple do offer us the tidbit of
information that the wind here has a name - 'The Hawk'
The wind is
astonishingly strong today. It's one of those winds you can lean at 45 degrees
into and not fall over. We drop a few postcards into the Post Office in the
base of the Sears Tower so we can at least say we've been there and wander
east out towards the intriguing Millennium Park.
bought some really weird works of art at the millennium. Chicago opted for two
giant rectangles covered in LED lights that show two kids making faces at each
other. I later learn that the faces usualy 'spit' water into the area below
that makes up a huge fountain - it was switched off whilst we were there. I
would guess for winter.
The other big
work of millennium art here is the fabulous 'Cloud Gate'. It is a giant bean
shaped work of art with a perfect reflective surface. The clouds and buildings
are beautifully reflected in its surface - hence the name. Whilst we are they
they are putting the finishing touches to the underside of the gate so sadly
we are unable to walk through the gate. But it's a brilliant idea and looks
The park itself
is very pleasant. The centrepiece is an outdoor auditorium which no doubt will
play host to all manner of concerts and plays and events. There are several
smaller walled off sub parks for a bit of privacy. It's very nicely done. A
long curving bridge lined with shining panels crosses the busy road out to the
water. Every now and again a policeman shoots by on a Segway, a two wheeled
personal transport system. I suppose it saves on shoes.
We wander to the
tourist office and find out about the city guides. There are people in Chicago
who have lived here all their lives and will show you 'their' Chicago. Sadly
we won't be here on the dates when these no doubt interesting tours take
Pip's mum has
asked us if we can get her one of the jackets that we've both been wearing on
our travels. We find the address of the local North Face store and walk the
streets hunting for it. Chicago has some very nice architecture and is a very
pleasant city to wander around. After half an hour of backtracking along the
strange streets we are happened upon by 'Pop'. Pop is a homeless guy who has
taken it upon himself to guide lost tourists to the location of their choice
for a small donation. He's a really nice guy. Well spoken and seemingly
intelligent. You have to wonder why someone like him ended up on the streets
in the first place.
wander through various shopping centres and eventually find ourselves outside
an empty store front - North Face has gone, and so we wander north looking in
the shops as we go. Eventually we stumble on, wouldn't you know it, a North
Face store. The jackets are out of season however and unlikely to make a
reappearance. We promise ourselves to keep an eye out for a similar jacket.
There are other
great examples of architecture along this route. The water tower particularly
is of note, and as night falls, these buildings are all warmly lit. It's a
very amiable city.
We have dinner
at the Cheesecake Factory under the second tallest building in Chicago before
finding our way back to our motel with tired feet.