Happy Birthday, and a Merry Christmas to you all!

Trip Start Mar 12, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
Econolodge, Harvey, Chicago

Flag of United States  , Illinois
Saturday, November 5, 2011

Martin's exhaused after today's activities, so I'll let him go first!

Martin's Millenium Moment:
Actually I am not exhausted after today's activities - but after an early morning I usually am by the time Roger has gassed his way through his blog and spent the next two hours in touch with his virtual side.
So I will let birthday boy walk you through the day but generally we had rather a surprising one.Out of the saddle for the first time, left Stanley looking somewhat forlorn in the car park of probably our worst motel of the trip thus far and took the train in to town.A couple of grizzly Caucasians (?) might look out of place in a carriage of black and Hispanic early Saturday commuters but if so we were treated with the disdain we have earned.
I think I had been a bit reluctant to embrace the city from early reading and certainly the folk we met along the way seemed to rate it low on their list of favourites.I loved it.Maybe because it was Saturday but the whole place was jumping.A glorious autumn day and streetscapes you could stand back from and get a sense of scale.I had not appreciated Chicago's rich heritage of  architecture and its place in the rankings of the world's tallest/largest etc. We had been warned that the overhead rail that runs above certain street levels like New York spoiled the place but again for me it just added to the excitement.Sadly the structure supporting the rail links was in serious need of repair but generally the city is extremely tidy.As recommended to us the river trip was a not - to -be -missed outing. The visit to the Millenium Park and of course Annish Kapoor's sculpture were also great highlights.Evening meal at Macy's in the Walnut room was topped off by a table visit from a real fairy and so back to the Motel we call home.Sadly no police activity tonight - we're getting sick of that old deer routine
So Chicago I would say would be an essential American city to visit and probably one in the height of an arts season - I did not learn enough about the jazz scene but certainly the arts are to the fore.Without Stanley it would probably be possible to stay near the centre of town at a reasonable price but otherwise there seemd to be plenty of high class hotels that looked rather daunting.

The morning started well, with skype calls to all my immediate family, good way to start. However, breakfast wasnt up to much, and as the toilet didnt work properly, we mentioned it to reception. Little response other than disinterest and being given the equipment to fix it ourselves. Howevr, we soon managed to start the journey back into central Chicago.

When we arrived we found ourselves in the midst of the Chocolate 5/15km run. Thousands of entries, but then 5k runbs usually attract many. Nice to see the activities from the other side for a change, although we didnt stick around as long as I usuallyy make Jesmary do! We did  manage to avail ourselves of a cup of hot chocolate, and very nice too, with cream on top and marshmallows inside!
However, sightseeing called and we went to see the Buckingham Fountain (turned off and drained for the winter), the BP bridge, the Great Lawn, and of course the Bean. The latter would have been a lot better if there hadnt been quite so many darn tourists there, but perhaps they thought the same?In all our discussions about art, Martin and I agreed that the unspoken heroes were the guys who made and welded the bean - an amazing engineering feat.

We then made our way to the start of the river tour - its actually an architectural tour. Many thanks to Debbie who recommended it to us. We followed the river (in the boat) looking at all the buildings and getting a detailed commentary by the guide, who spke fast and almost non stop for 75 minutes. Unfortunately, with my hearing and her accent and all the other noise, a lot of it went over my head, and after all, how much can you remember about 200 buildings described non stop?? But fascinating all the same.

Went up to the old water tower, which was one of the few buildings to survive the Chicago Fire. Then walked back, looking at more buildings and sights along the way.
Eventually got back to Macy's on State St, where we went to the Walnut Room for dinner. Very pleasant meal, with a bottle of wine. Our first wine since leaving Shelagh and karl north of LA - wine is so expensive here! The meal was enhanced by a young lady, Nimbus, who was a fairy and because it was my birthday promised to grant me any wish I cared. Thanks Nimbus!

Caught the train back to oour stop, with some really odd people on the train with us. But I guess they thoughht the same. Walked home safely, not accosted by the police.

And that's it for today. Clocks go back an hour tonight, a week later than UK. So we get an extra hour's sleep.

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Polly on

I love the photos, in particular the reflection in the bean. The arty culture is obviously rubbing off. I'm not too sure about the fairy, does she give refunds for wishes that are not granted?

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