Chicago: The Windy City

Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 07, 2012

Flag of United States  , Illinois
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sunday 9/16/12:

It was time to regretfully say goodbye to Nashville – what a special place! The last few days in Nashville flew by far too quickly and we enjoyed it immensely. We decided to schlep all the way to Chicago, which would put us a day ahead of our original schedule to give us time to head to the New England area before New York.

We covered four states in just over seven hours. After leaving the country behind in Tennessee we entered into Kentucky. This state is the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln and the 'Bourbon Capital of the World'. The scenery in Kentucky amazed us, as it was picturesque, green and lush. Matt thought it would be unkind not to sample the delicacies of KFC while in this state, so we hauled into a very busy KFC to order some of the Colonel’s secret herbs and spices. Different menu to home, but still tasty – FYI their popcorn chicken is better.

We later drove into Indiana, home of the Indy 500 race, cornfields and Amish Country. Driving through this state and along by Indianapolis we noticed huge country homesteads, no shortage of dollars here on these ranches. As soon as we moved into Illinois, we were in the Chicago city limits.

We were greeted by the most astonishing sunset with a deep red/orange sun in the distance not like a sunset we had witnessed before. Chicago is home of President Obama, the White Sox (baseball), the Bulls (basketball) and of course the 'Big O' – Oprah. Driving into the city of Chicago, its beauty is obvious.  Huge skyscrapers dominate the skyline and the architecture is unique, it is by Lake Michigan and it is very, very clean.

We checked into our hotel for the next two nights in the city loop, the business and financial district, which would give us, close walking distance to the sights and public transport. During our trip we had heard about the famous deep-dish pizza specialty born out of Chicago. This pizza has a hulking mass crust that rises 2-3 inches above the plate with gooey toppings and cheese piled on top.

We walked about a mile or so with a Chicago map in hand to locate Pizzeria Uno. Uno is where the deep-dish concept originated in 1943. Between the two of us we ordered a small pizza and the waitress informed us there would be a 45 minute wait to cook it. So we pulled up at our table, sampled some local beers and chatted to our waitress Margie who looked like she had been at Uno’s since it opened. When the pizza arrived it was certainly a large small pizza! There were four slices and we only got through two and a half slices, before we asked for a doggy bag to take the rest home. It was enjoyable and flavoursome but the dough was quite heavy.

The walk home would do us good and as we embarked on the journey back we came across a car stopped in the middle of a busy intersection. We pushed it off the road for the local lass with the assistance of some homeless folk. We gave our left over pizza to one hungry looking lady, while another man abused Matt for a lack of hospitality, as he would not give him any money – can’t win them all. Chicago at night is gorgeous – the buildings, water, gardens and lights make a pretty landscape. The amount of homeless people on the streets floored us both. There are many people sleeping out and they approach anyone walking by for money and beg in a competitive manner for spare change. This was a sad sight to see. We walked back through the theatre district and retired for the evening.

Monday 9/17/12:

We began the day early as we had many sights and activities to accomplish by the end of the day. After a nice breakfast at a local bakery we took a stroll to Millennium Park, which lies adjacent to Lake Michigan. On the way, we took note of the unique architecturally designed buildings. We were also impressed by the local council who obviously do a wonderful job at keeping the streets clean and have gardens placed on sides of road and hanging from buildings throughout the city, with sprouts of colourful flowers smiling at passersby. There are also pieces of art and sculptures sprinkled along the sidewalk.

Millennium Park sits between the ‘City Loop’ and Lake Michigan. The major attraction is the ‘Bean’, designed by Anish Kapoor, it is 110 tonnes, and is a smooth and silver-drop sculpture. It is also known as ‘Cloud Gate’ and is an impressive outdoor and modern piece of art. We could not resist trying to get pics of our reflections in the art, which proved harder than we expected. It still provided stunning reflective views of the city landscape. Further into the park, where it becomes Grant Park, we admired Buckingham Fountain. This forms the centerpiece of the park with massive water squirters and holds a capacity of 1.5million gallons.

We moved over to the edge Lake Michigan to gaze at the boats and million dollar water views. It is so enormous it looks like an ocean and the water is very choppy! It was relaxing to walk along the water and look back at the city and its parklands. As we passed the yacht club we kept and eye out for Oprah but we could not find her, until we eventually saw her in the park (see photo of the 'Big O') on the way back towards the city.

Willis Tower is the tallest building in the USA – 103 floors. It is just one of many tall buildings in Chicago. We decided against doing the skywalk due to the long wait time and just immersed ourselves and got lost in the city before we had to catch the tube to the White Sox baseball game.

The tube ride to the game was very hot and stuffy with all the Sox supporters (and some Detroit Tigers) crammed in like sardines on the red line subway. We arrived at US Cellular Field for the game. We couldn’t believe there was a game on Monday afternoon at 1:10pm? Apparently it was a makeup game for another that was cancelled earlier in the season. So a lot of people must have taken the day off work, as the stadium was quite full of parochial Sox supporters eager to cheer their team to victory. We had the time of our life at this game. Americans LOVE sport, particularly American football and baseball. The atmosphere was incredible and that we had a basic understanding of the rules helped. Sitting in the stands we could not believe the amount of and different types of food available – hot dogs, polish sausage, pizza, all kinds of burgers, popcorn, salads, grilled food, Mexican including nachos served in a plastic Sox hat (to take home after the game) and sandwiches. They also have men dressed in fluro yellow walking up and down the stands selling beer and more food. After nine innings the Sox got up 5-4. Have a look at the photos below and click on the video above in this paragraph to get a feeling for the game.

We got the subway back to the Magnificent Mile – a mile of shops (Mum would love this). We walked the street and stopped off for some refreshing lemonade before continuing the walk back to the hotel.

We had planned to go to a local seafood restaurant for dinner but the rain was torrential so we ate at the hotel. The waitress said the hotel was once a gangsters hotel and that on the second basement were a series of tunnels leading to city hall and other notable places in town. These tunnels have now been boarded up and Chicago does not seem overly keen on celebrating their gangster history. Interestingly Chad had mentioned the day before that this hotel looked like it would have some stories to share from the years gone by.

Tuesday 9/18/12:

We had a couple of hours left in Chicago before we had to move on. We took in a drive along Lake Shore Drive, beside the lake with the Navy Pier. It took our GPS some time to get us there due to the built up nature of Chicago city she had trouble getting a signal. We drove through Lincoln Park and by the zoo before stopping into Portillo’s for the famed Italian beef sandwich. Portillo’s is a Chicagoland tradition since 1963 and came highly recommended by a local. We enjoyed the sandwich on a fresh roll with shredded beef and sweet peppers. Yummo!

Aussie Rampage Chevy Rating:

We give Chicago 4.5 Chevys out of 5 (we got the idea of half Chevys when in Amarillo, cars are planted halfway into the ground). Our favourite things about Chicago would be the architecture, parklands, lake, food and the Sox game! We would have loved more time to go to see a museum as we hear they are some of the best in the world. They lost half a mark because of the beggars on every street badgering us.

Next stop – More of the Great Lakes: Sandusky and Niagara Falls

Aussie Rampage Mantra:

"And that's good, isn't it grand, isn't it great, isn't it swell, isn't it fun, isn't it?" - Roxie Hart, Chicago

Aussie Rampage Playlist: 

All That Jazz - Chicago (Catherine Zeta Jones)
Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins
This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race - Fall Out Boy
Stronger - Kanye West
Battle Scars - Guy Sebastian and Lupe Fiasco

NB: Smashing Pumpkins, Fall Out Boy, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco are all from Chicago.


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Kel on

Out of the places you have been this is one that I would like to visit. It's looking great and like you said clean. I would hate to see it in the winter, though. Very very cold . Have fun and keep enjoying yourself.
PS. Scoot thinks that he would have to give that steak a go.
The kids are following you and love it all.

aussierampage on

Kel - it is all of that and like you said it gets very, very cold in winter. This morning a change had arrived and it was very chilly. I know that Scoot could give that steak a shot. Hi to the kids, happy they are enjoying it. Hope the snow trip went well.
- Matt

Richard and Chiis on

Chicago certainly is a beautiful and clean city, loved the big silver dome the reflections of the city are amazing. The photos of the baseball were great, that pizza sure looked very filling, what a terrific time you are both having.

Mum & Dad on

What a beautiful city chicago is! Food glorious food! So much to choose from.Your trip has been so amazing so far. Great blog and great pics! Love those water fountains!

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