Wild times in Windy City!

Trip Start Aug 17, 2009
Trip End Jun 30, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Monday, January 18, 2010

It had always been in our mind that this would be the coldest place we would visit on our trip, as this was the worst time of the year to be in Chicago, the windy city!  As it turned out the snow had stopped falling, and although it was cold it was not as cold as Boston, so we were ready to get out there and see as much of the city as it had to offer.

We arrived late on a Thursday night at the downtown Greyhound station, and as we walked out into the street it hit me that the skyline and architecture of the city reminded me of Gotham City in the recent Batman films.  We made our way to the Uptown neighbourhood, where we would be hosted for two nights by Mox, our latest couchsurfer.  Mox made us feel at home straight away, we drank a few beers, we met Patty the evil cat and got settled into Mox's front room.

The next day we took a chilly walk through Lincoln Park, where we watched brave folk cut holes in the harbour ice, and sit there fishing on the frozen waters!  We found a great falafel place for lunch in the Belmont area, then made our way to the Lincoln Park Zoo, where we spent the whole of the afternoon.  It took about 30 seconds in the Lion House to remind me why I find zoos hard to visit, as the sight of a majestic creature like a tiger pacing up and down a small cage with dull eyes broke my heart.  I know that they have more space outside normally, and that the snow was keeping them in, and that they were probably raised in captivity, but it is just not right that they are there for our entertainment.

That Friday night Mox took us to sample some authentic Chicago blues music at a great bar in the heart of the city.  Here at B.L.U.E.S we were given the pleasure of Lurrie Bell and his band performing, along with guest vocalists "Bigtime" Sarah & Mary Laine.  The music was gutsy and amazing, whilst the performances were full of energy and fun and improvised lyrics hilarious at times!  Plenty of beer was drank and we had a really great night!

As Mox had family coming into town to stay we were moving on Saturday morning, across town to meet Will our next host.  This would not be goodbye to Mox though, as he had arranged us free entry to the Shedd Aquarium where he is a volunteer diver, and we had promised to met him for some drinks again before we left town.

Will is one of the coolest, most chilled out yet energetic people we have met on our trip.  The moment we walked though his door we were met by his tiny pet kitten, Miss Charles!  She is mental!  Maybe the gender confusion of her name has sent her a little scatty, but she is hilariously nuts!  Will was off out but we made plans to hang out over the next 3 days, and we were thrilled that again we had met a really amazing host through couchsurfing.

We jumped on the subway and went to explore the Loop downtown, and most importantly we saw the Bean!  The Bean is a unique piece of modern art that sits pride-of-place in Millennium Park.  It is basically a giant stainless steel clad kidney bean.  For some reason the sight of the crazy reflections of this lump of polished metal just draw your eyes into it, and you find yourself staring at it for ages, open mouthed.  It is also a great place for amateur photographers to play about with the optical tricks it plays!

That night we just stayed in at Will's place whilst he was out and entertained Miss Charles, or was it the other way round?

We spent all of Sunday at the Shedd Aquarium, where Mox had given us free access due to his role as a volunteer diver there.  We felt like kids again exploring all the cool exhibits!  Although Kristina was very disappointed that her favourite animal, the river otters, were being very shy.

That night Will took us to a great Chicago pizza joint, where we filled our faces on an individual deep dish pizza each, washed down with pitchers of beer!  Will is really easy to chat to, and we had great fun sharing tales between stuffing pizza into our faces and downing beers.

Monday was a federal holiday, Martin Luther King Jr day, so as Will is a teacher he was free to come out with us all day.  Mox was diving at the aquarium at 11am, so he arranged for us three and Will's friend Maureen to get in free to see him dive and feed the sharks.  This was really cool, especially as Mox was rigged up to a microphone so he could answer questions from the audience. 

Maureen was able to blag us all into the Field Museum next, as she works at the zoo she is entitled to such perks apparently!  This was awesome, but far to vast to explore all of it in a day, but we had fun learning about how Inuit tribes imitate seals to hunt them, amongst other cool things.  All that learning is very tiring though, so we decided that a sugar rush was needed and Will & Maureen knew just the place to take us.

Margie's ice cream parlor was AMAZING!  We ate sundaes that a child could drown in for only $4!!  Diabetes is now a certainty for me!  We said goodbye to the guys and set off downtown to meet Mox in a cool downtown bar, nice authentic blue collar drinking joint where a beer was only $3 (1.80). It was good to get a chance to say farewell properly, and I hope to see Mox again someplace soon.

That night back at Will's we cooked a nice spicy Thai curry for our host before two more couchsurfers arrived for the night.  Katie & Holly were students from St Louis on their way to South America, flying out of O'Hare airport early the next day.  We sat up with them and Will until 1am, talking about travel and a whole raft of other subjects.  I was amazed the next day when Kristina told me they were only 21, as they were so well informed of things in the world, full of funny stories and fluent in Spanish too!  Puts me to shame!!

The next morning we said goodbye to Will, Miss Charles & Chicago, which was sad as this had been one of the best few days on our trip.  Will is a really sound guy, and I just wish all our future hosts are as awesome as all those that have gone so far.

Back on the bus, next stop St Louis, Missouri. 

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