Well, it certainly has been a busy week! Jordan and I headed to Chicago to enjoy a belated honeymoon and observe our 3rd wedding anniversary. I was really excited about Chicago, and was not let down by any means. Here is a day by day run down.
We left Sunday morning at 9am via Amtrak. Surprisingly, the train was only 15 minutes late, and we actually arrived almost on-time in Union Station. We wanted to take things pretty easy Sunday, so we booked it straight to our lodgings, the Whitehall Hotel, former glorious hotel of the stars (sort of) I think it was actually host to the B-list stars, especially considering the famous Drake Hotel was just up the street a bit. I am not complaining however, the hotel was quaint, and the location was superb! It was on the north end of the Magnificent Mile (Mag Mile), the ultra shopping, uh, extravaganza? that is apparently world famous (I wouldn’t know, being a guy and all…). The hotel was a quick walk to the Red Line into the heart of downtown (The Loop) and was in the middle of some incredible shops and restaurants. We did a little shopping, had a little grub at the hotel restaurant, and people/car watched before turning it in for the night.
On Monday, we hit the town running. The first thing we did was the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) historical skyscraper walking tour. This was awesome. The tour was lead by an educated volunteer docent with a wireless mic. A small group of us (mostly local Chicagoans I might add) wore a little RX receiver and earpiece, such that we could hear the docent clearly even in the heat of city bustle throughout the tour. Clever. Then we set out for a two hour brisk guided walk through the Loop’s famous older building. We were taught about the Chicago School, the birth of the skyscraper, and several very interesting tidbits about technological developments in buildings from about 1872 (just after the Fire) to a 193x. We got a grand look into the lobbies of buildings like the MarQuette, the Rookery, and the Board of Trade. It was probably the highlight of the week. And what more, it was awesome to have learned a bit about the styles as we went through the week. We could look at other buildings and say something about them. Cool.
After the tour we took the 500 yard walk from the CAF HQ in the Santa Fe Building (part of the Michigan Ave. Clif) into Millennium Park. It was busy, but manageable, and we managed to catch part of a show in front of the Cloud Gate, a big shiny Kidney bean that is cool to stand under. It was fun to watch kids going wild playing in the water of Crown Fountain, which has two monoliths (douliths?) with computer controlled LED back lighting which show faces of ordinary Chicagoans. This was a nice park, the Pritzker Auditorium was stark, to put it nicely, but was also a nice respite for us to rest our feet on a grassy lawn before continuing out of the park and up the Mag Mile. The Mag Mile is a little over the top, but it was cool to be immersed in the din of thousands of people. There is a nice fluidity in large cities that is organic and dynamic. I had been trying to explain it to Jordan before, and finally in the Mag Mile, I think she got to see it first hand.
From the Mag Mile we walked to the Oak Park Beach and did a little people watching. The lake is incredibly blue! I was surprised to see that several people we indeed swimming despite the frigid water (honestly I would have too if not for no swimsuit). From there we took a walk through adjacent Gold Coast, a cute upper class neighborhood that reminded me a lot of Back Bay in Boston. After making our way to Rush and Division, we came back south towards the Hancock Tower (Big John).
For $18 we got a 48 hour two trip pass to the observatory on the 94th floor overlooking the city. The view was of course stellar. I particularly like how the building casts shadow over the lake (see below) At the time I thought it was way too touristy, but after doing the Sears Tower later in the week, I found a place in my heart for Big John.
We ended up doing dinner at an interesting place called Foodlife in the Water Tower plaza. The place is sort of like a fancy food court. They give you a little ‘passport’ credit card thing after showing you to your table. Then you get up alla Panchos and go to any of the food kiosks in the restaurant. You order, and they swipe your card when you get your food. You pay when you leave. I liked it. The food was decent and cheap (especially for Chicago), and unlike a typical food court the atmosphere had a swanky and trendy feel. More to come soon!