A diversion for the RVers

Trip Start Sep 27, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2011

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Where I stayed
Felix Hotel

Flag of United States  , Illinois
Saturday, October 9, 2010


If truth be told I have always shied away from the large cities, partly because of the crowds (we have decided we are tree and mountain people, with a bit of a liking for lakes and rivers) but also because of the traffic and navigating issues. But having been intrigued by Leo & Nat's pictures from their last visit to Chicago we had already decided that it was definitely worth a visit. The impetus came when they said they would be there over a w/e in Oct. We were to camp nearby and then drive in and leave the car parked up over the weekend, there are plenty of parking lots close to the hotel L&N had booked.

As we arrived at the campground I noticed a sign for a railway station, so we went to investigate, only to find the place deserted but plenty of info about timetables and fares. Great - we could get a train right into the city centre, it would take about an hour and a quarter, not so great was the fact that over a holiday w/e trains were less frequent and in order to meet the others for breakfast as per the plan, we would need to get the 5.40am train – ouch! But we bit the bullet and by 7am on Sat morning we were walking up an almost deserted 'Magnificent mile’. Super time to take photos and even saw the sun come up over the river …bit of a theme going on here with the sun don’t you think? Impressed by the cleaners, who were pressure washing the sidewalks (pavements) and the wide open streets that give a much more open feeling than being in New York for example. Impressed too by the joggers…checking out the route for tomorrow’s marathon maybe?

And so to breakfast, Leo and Pete had done a reccy and we all trooped off to take our fill of Chicago fayre; OK so I didn’t realize that Duck Eggs Benedict didn’t mean duck eggs, but Eggs Benedict topped with shredded duck and off course I should have known that it would come with sautéed potatoes!! Anyway we were all set up for the day and as the streets began to fill we wandered back down the ‘Magnificent Mile’ Nat & I taking in the shops while Malc & Leo stood outside talking boy stuff I imagine. Pete & Myrna had taken the more intellectual option and gone in search of the Art district.

We now hand over to our; Chicago guest blog
October 8th 2010
The Chicago weekend adventure with me and the wife Natalie and friends, Myrna and Peter, by Leo Thornley:

What great weekend! We arrived from Halifax Nova Scotia on Friday to a beautiful sunny afternoon and made a quick beeline for the "Rock Bottom" brewery pub for a great beer. This location proved to be so good that three other visits were made before the weekend was done. We highly recommend the onion rings and the terminal stout.

The three main highlights of our weekend were without a doubt the architectural boat
tour, the bike ride along the beaches, and Millennium Park. On Saturday morning Peter and I set out early to go and get tickets for the boat tour. It was Chicago marathon weekend and therefore pretty darn busy. At 7:15, just as were about to leave the hotel, the folks arrived! Having caught the early train in from the campground where they left Bree parked. It was great to see them and we were all full of energy and ready to explore what the day had in store. We nipped off for a quick breakfast which was bountiful enough to keep us going (Mum’s alone would have kept us all going
J) for some serious shopping and walking around downtown.

The magnificent mile is the main shopping strip in Chicago and while the girls nipped
in and out of the shops the guys hung outside admiring the buildings and catching up. We were amazed with so many things in Chicago including how clean the streets were, how well the flowers and trees on the sidewalk were cared for, and how much space and sky there seems to be in this city of skyscrapers. As it turns out that is part of a great plan for the city; making sure that the streets were wide and people did not feel like they were in big canyons (like you sometimes feel in New York).
After a little time doing our own things we all met up and went up the John Hancock tower. This gave us some fantastic views of the city and the lake from the 94th floor. The audio tour certainly was enlightening too; did you know that it is called the windy city because of the politicians. It has nothing to do with the weather at all!

Dinner was an Irish Pub, The Kerryman Bar and Restaurant, as it turns out, 1.7 million visitors for the marathon makes the restaurants a little busy. To our pleasant surprise the food at the  Kerryman was great. After filling up we quickly walked back to the Hancock for another trip to the top to check out the city and the fireworks at night, quite strange to watch fireworks from above. Following that it was back to the hotel Felix for some much needed sleep.
Sunday was hot at 26degrees and we awoke to the sound of some 38 thousand people running the 26.2 miles around the city. All shapes and sizes were running and for a slim moment I was almost enticed to train for one, then I remembered it would be well in excess of 3 hours of running and my common sense got the better of me.

We started the day on a boat ride down the river that flows through the city ( it flows away from the lake since they changed it's course for sanitation reasons!) This boat tour was hosted by, Barry, a volunteer guide from the Chicago architectural foundation who was fantastic, so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We learned all about the buildings in Chicago from some of the earliest skyscrapers in the 1930's to the more recent Trump tower. Check out some of the cool pictures of the buildings. The nice part is that the city insists that any developer put in a public river walk so that pedestrians can walk along the river (an idea inspired by the San Antonio riverwalk in Texas). Then it was a quick bite of lunch before heading to Millennium Park to rent some bikes. Now, knowing how apprehensive mum was about riding bikes, the decision was made to get a tandem for mum and dad this turned out to work just fine. The six of us went off along the multi use path along the lakeshore past some of the great beaches. There were lots of people running and biking up and down this evidently very well used path. I was very impressed how well mum did, not only on a bike but also in amongst all the people whizzing by, well done mum!
We returned the bikes back to Millennium Park after a quick look at the amazing Buckingham Fountain, a huge pink marble fountain in downtown. The Millennium Park is a great public space. What a cool and well used idea with some great public art; from the big glass block, featuring faces of the people from Chicago, to the giant silver bean (officially called the cloud gate).

Dinner on Sunday was an average steak at the Weber Grill (we certainly agreed we have all had better steaks and service) but the conversation and company could not be
Monday morning we decided to divide and conquer; Peter and Myrna went to the Old Town area of Chicago, which looking at the photos looked really cool, the folks headed down the Millennium Park for a better look at the art, Natalie and I headed off to check out a couple more shops, the Burton snowboard shop in particular.

Having spent more than enough we met back up at the good ol’ Rock Bottom brewery for more beer and a turkey dinner, it being Canadian thanksgiving weekend we had to
have some turkey. We then headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags and say good bye to the folks as we headed to the airport.
All in all it was a fantastic whirlwind four days in a really cool city which has a great appreciation for public art, architecture, sport and culture, one thing is for sure Halifax, Nova Scotia, can learn a few things!

The opportunity to spend the weekend with the folks was fantastic if only it were longer!
What we also learned is that Chicago still has much to offer.  We'll need to go back to take in some Blues, some deep dish pizza, Dawgs, the Shedd Aquarium, the Frank Lloyd Wright Architectural tour, and the Art Institute to mention a few things.  With any luck we'll be writing about that sooner than later.

Wholeheartedly endorsing all of the above, I would just like to point out that it was my first time on a tandem, so after being given the beast at the hire station I went for a little ride on my own first – gosh, aren’t they long? I decided to allow Betsy to share the peddling and on she got. Well, she was brilliant – great balance and she peddled too, so anytime…

After saying our farewells we decided to head off for the old town district as it had sounded quite different to the rest of the city. It turned out to be quite interesting with a far more homely feel to it, smaller shops (even a bead shop for Betsy). As we wandered back to the hotel to collect our bags, a chill to the air brought in a fog/low cloud so that the tops of those skyscrapers soon became lost. We found out later that the kids flight home had been delayed because of this…

We headed back for an evening train ride back to Indiana Dunes by which time it was dark – Scoobie waited for us in the car park and it was only another few minutes before we were back in Bree – our home on wheels. Nice to have a break in a hotel (thank you L&N for including me in Betsy’s early birthday treat) but as always, it’s good to get “home” too.
For the brave amongst you there are even more pictures be found here: http://picasaweb.google.com/on.travels
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