Chicago, Chicago, that toddling town

Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Where I stayed
Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago-Downtown
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Illinois
Sunday, September 30, 2012

The taxi takes us to our new home for a week and looking up at the first street name we notice it is Wacker Drive, so appropriate for a speak-easy city where mobsters once both called and fired the shots and John Dillinger died in an alley. But our priority is laundry and the sightseeing waits while we master top loading machines and the necessity to gather fistfuls of quarters to make them work. Our little apartment is dated but it’s good enough and we eat in for a couple of nights to top up our veggie intake and to recover from our sleepless night on the train.
It takes a while to visually settle into a high rise city. At first downtown Chicago seemed a mess, as if Heath Robinson tried to make a giant church organ from ugly scrap. But thanks to the bay-side setting on the lake and plenty of rivers it is possible to put space between yourself and the canyons and before you know it you are hooked on the towering beauty of all that high rise metal and glass. Chicago lays claim to the birth of the steel-framed skyscraper in 1869 and there are many fine art deco towers and also the tallest tower in the US, formerly in the world – the Willis, locked in a permanent face off with the Hancock Building that used to be the tallest in the world outside of New York.
Downtown. Did you know that the Americans don’t agree on what downtown is? How come an uptown girl might live downtown which is upscale, how can two ends of a town 2 miles apart both be downtown? It doesn’t matter, Chicago is our kind of town and we wonder if we are going to have to break it gently to DC that our roving eye has been caught again. The high rise part of Chicago is not so very big and quickly gives ways to ‘neigborhoods’, too close to be suburbs but far enough away to be self-contained communities. We buy a condo in Old Town and one on the Gold Coast for when we need a lake view. And of course one on Michigan Avenue where the shopping is frenetic.
This story could have started with Chuck, and maybe should have, for Chuck gave us such a good time and got us doing things very much against our instincts. Chuck is a long time, though never met colleague of Tony’s, though Jean met him in the 80’s. He’s one of Chicago’s own and drove us around for hours showing us his city his way, first this way and then that way. He did it by night, he did it by day and in between he took us for Pizza and then he took us for… steak. And damn it was delicious. We shared the meal with his welcoming young looking wife and their bubbly youngest daughter Erica – a lovely evening topped off by a strange happy birthday ritual performed by the waiters for Tony. Gathering in a group around us the waiters grunt-shouted an Haka-esque cocophony that we think started ‘Birthday, dude… and there after was unintelligible.
Chuck’s other trick was to take us the top of the Willis (or Sears as most still call it) and encourage us to go on the sky deck – a glass bottomed view of the world 103 floors up and only an inch of glass between us and the pavement 1353 feet down. We were both very proud of ourselves and the video is here to prove it. Thanks Chuck for all your generosity and kindness.
The thing about Chicago is that it is makes sense, it’s clean, it’s buzzy and cultured it’s interesting and its beautifully located. It’s discoverable and its friendly and everything you want from a city is here. We liked it and like leaving DC we are sorry to see it behind us but our journey must go. Tomorrow we leave for a long zig zag down to New Orleans, or Norleens as they say around here.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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Harry Key on

I am envious.The very name Chicago conjures up so many images.Yes Chicago is one place in America that I would love to see and hear--(real Chicago Blues)

Chuck Cwiakala on

Hi, Guys ...

It was great having the two of you in my fair city, and the both of you were great sports about everything, as pushy as I may have been (imagine ... Jean & Tony dining and actually enjoying those Chicago steaks! ... the only disappointment being that I was unable to talk the both of you into sampling one of our famous ingredients-unknown 'Chicago Hot Dogs'! --- next time ...).

Have a great continuing trip in our Wild West. I believe that today you're in San Francisco, my second favorite city after Chicago (I'll be there in a couple of weeks). Its a great walking city, but I forgot to mention those hills which, by now, you've probably and gaspingly discovered.

Debbie Suenson-Taylor on

hit the road jack and don't you say no more, no more, no more, no more!!!!
no reflection on your writings and observations I was just trying to keep the music theme going for your West Coast trip! Have fun on the PCH!!! you'll love it. take care, Debbie

Pat McKay on

Just catching up on the blog. Chicago sounds great - and would love to have seen Tony's birthday celebration!

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