Trip Start Oct 08, 2005
Trip End Oct 06, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I thought I would start off with some facts about Chicago:
1. The name Chicago means something about stinking wild onions. Nice.
2. The average wind speed in `The Windy City´is only 16mph.
3. The landscaping budget of the city is $168m per year. Parking fines pay for it all.
4. It has 5 out of the 50 tallest buildings in the world.
5. Oprah Winfrey used to own two floors of one of the highest buildings, and lived in both. She wanted a spiral staircase put between the two floors, threw a hissy fit when she was told she couldn´t have one, then moved out. I guess money can´t buy you everything.
6. Its one of my five favourite cities in the world (the others if you´re interested are Hanoi, Birmingham, Melbourne, and Vancouver)
7. The humidity makes my hair look like it did in the 80s, ie badly permed.

I absolutely loved it here. It didn´t have the most auspicious start, it was over 100 degrees when I landed, the guy at the hostel told me the wrong directions to get there so I walked for 20 blocks the wrong way with all my bags, then the hostel was pretty grim with no aircon or fans. The first night I was sweating out everything in my body, thinking how quickly could I change my flight out of there. But the next day I went out to Lake Michigan through Lincoln Park, just a short walk from the hostel, and everything was right again. Frank Sinatra once sang `Bet your bottom dollar you lose the blues in Chicago´ and he was spot on. It was hot still, I mean totally roasting, but down by the lake it was gorgeous. The water is blue as anything, there is a huge wide beach where lots of people go to sunbathe, play volleyball, cycle, run, skate, whatever, and Lincoln Park that backs on to it is beautiful - big landscaped areas, playing fields, city views and best of all a zoo which is really good and totally free. I spent the whole day just wandering round there and Old Town, which has some great examples of classic brownstone houses (I want one). The neighbourhood of Lincoln Park itself (where the hostel was) is also really nice - full of young trendies in nice bars and cafes, cute boutiques and possibly the best ice cream parlour in the world on North Broadway. Go there.

I also spent a day downtown, which is just as gorgeous. The architecture is amazing, lots of interesting buildings to look at, and there are two fantastic parks in the city - Millenium Park and Grant Park. Looking at the skyline downtown is quite weird actually because its more familiar from films and tv than you think it would be. I did one of the city tours on a trolley, which I´m not usually a fan of, but it was too damn hot to walk far, and the tour was really good. It included a trip out to the `Ethnic´areas - Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown - and gave a good history of the city, immigration and current living practices. And thats where I learned most of the facts above! In the evening I went out with some people in the hostel to a live blues bar - now I´m not usually into blues at all, but this place - Kingston Mines it was called - was fantastic. The acts they had on were superb, apparently its quite famous in the US for the quality of the acts that play there, and people come from all over to hear blues there. So I was there til 4am, got Mexican food and then went back to Lincoln Park to watch the sun come up and the lights turn off downtown. Awesome. And there aren´t many parks in the world you can go to in the dark and not expect to find a big bunch of freaks hanging out, but there was no one about, and I felt perfectly safe. Chicago is actually a really friendly city, not like New York.

My dad once had the chance to take a job in Chicago, and so it could have been my home had things been different. Wouldn´t have been such a bad thing I don´t think. Although the weather is pretty extreme (too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter), and I would be have grown up to be an American. But to quote Frank again, in a ridiculously cheesy way to end a travelogue about Chicago, ´Its my kinda town!`.

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ktsmith on

Honestly, it would have been but I had to narrow it down to 5! I´m already getting gyp for putting Birmingham in the list, but its my home, I have to! Sheffield is my second home, so its definitely in my top 10! (The others are Sydney, Bangkok, San Diego and Kuala Lumpur in case you´re interested)

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