Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 USA Tour : April 13th, Chicago Day

ChicagotourMorning

I had plans to get into exploring early, but Claire was desperate for a sleep in and I had a lot of online work to do.

Then a radio station called to ask for an interview with us at 3:30 pm.

The sun outside was getting warmer and warmer, and I was getting cabin fever, and wanted out around town. Claire was keen to honour the radio interview and have a bit more resting before. So I sorted out the cameras, on with the hat and off I went …

Exploring I Go

First, I headed for the beach near where we are staying. Chicago has beautiful beaches beside the very blue Lake Michigan. I was surprised to find the beach empty as well as mainly clean from litter and abuse. A bigger surprise was how people dressed on what I thought was a very warm day. It was almost 70 degrees F and I was in t-shirt and light pants but everyone seemed to be wrapped up in overcoats, scarves, hats and gloves. I suppose that’s why the beach was empty.

After quiet time on the beautiful beach I cut across from the beach to the Navy Pier through a park. The park was empty and out of the bushes I was confronted with a couple of “hoodlums” pleading they had no money to go home and needed my money. Rather than fear I was angry, knowing that the RV rental had just taken our loot from us, so I shouted back “F*** Off, I’ve got to get money to get back home to Ireland ….. and you are on my patch!”. Looking back, a weird thing to say, but it worked, the two “hoodlums” said “sorry man”, and went back into the bushes area. Luckily, I do not think they noticed my cameras to make another assumption

CopNavy Pier

Navy Pier was fun, looking at the different boats and the different sailing services they offer, such as guided tours of the coastline on speedboats, a tall ship that folks could go out on and learn rigging, and a luxury boat that headed out in evenings with a dinner, champagne and dance combo for $99 a head.

Add to that the various bicycle tours on offer. I was awed by the 4 person bikes, imported from Italy, that seated 2 at the front and 2 at the back, all 4 peddling and one steering. I did not see any of these out and about in Chicago, though.

The pier had various small cafes and bars and I walked to the end past the old ballroom at the end and pondered awhile. There, it was much cooler and windy, but I was amazed at how many land birds were still present as cherry and other trees are planted on the pier.

I was also amused by seeing a city copy patrolling on one of those nerdy two wheel battery powered transporters.

Along the shore

I enjoyed walking the shoreline park from Navy Pier to the Museums Campus peninsula, over a mile away. Lots of seabirds on the harbour walls and the geese loved to be on the park grass resting with very little fear of passers by.

When I reached the aquarium, the John G Shedd aquarium, I walked in curious as it was on my list as places to visit. When I saw the admission price, I realised “not this time”, as I just did not have the funds, even though there was no line, and there is often a line here.

Also I wondered why go into the aquarium on a gorgeous day like today.

In this area is also the Planetarium, the main museum with exhibitions on Mammoths and Masterdons, and another beautiful beach.

I headed across Grant Park and into Downtown.

Downtown1Downtown Chicago

I started walking through Downtown from the Southside. A little rough but fascinating. It did not take me long to realise parking was less than half price of Northside where we were.

A major fascination of here was the CTA overhead metro rail service. This and its roadways underneath are a feature in many car chases in movies with Bruce Willis, Al Pacino and others having a go. On the southside these roads are like rough back alleys, and I do remember chase scenes in these.

Soon I was into “the Loop” where the CTA rail goes around in a loop in downtown to connect with CTA rail services heading off in different directions. The main CTA building is an outstanding piece of architecture. The CTA overhead rail then hovers over a wide main road that many will be familiar with from the movies.

Downtown2“The Loop” also features building associated with Al Capone days gangsterism, and I did see some folks having a shot at that to keep it alive. With one fellow, two cops leapt out of a car they left in the middle of the road with lights flashing, a pedestrian woman cop looking like she was wearing four bullet proof vests and not one of them was fitting properly as she ran forward, and another cop dashed out of a cafe. I looked around for movie filming cameras, but this was the real thing .

Chicago is always full of action in the day. It seems like a fire truck is roaring, flashing and alarming every couple of minutes and I started wondering if that was a tourist attraction as I rarely saw this from police and ambulance.

I then saw a “Soul Food” cafe and I had not eaten awhile and know these places serve great food at low prices from my Florida experiences. I walked in, the only white guy there, maybe the first this year or longer, to a call from one of the “bitches” .. “What ya doin’ here boy?” to which I swiftly responded “same as ya doin’ here girl!”. It seemed to break the ice and humour. For $5 I was expecting to get a couple of pieces of fish and some fries. I got what seemed like 20 pieces of fish, real hand cut potato fries and some rye bread. Not the healthiest of foods, but darned good!

Once out of “The Loop” crossed the river, with Venice like scenes, into the Northside and back to the hotel, after being very satisfied with my taste of Chicago.

Pizza3the search for the Deep Dish Pizza

When I returned, Claire was finishing off the radio interview and soon we were to go off with a son of a school friend of her’s who is a professor lecturer in Chicago.

One of my personal quests of this tour was a real Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.

Claire was not interested in this at all, and our guest even less interested. However, we did all end up in Cue’s and i did have my Deep Dish Pizza, which i have since learned online from friends that this was one of the best in town.


Pizza4The night before, when parking the car opposite, I saw this old worlde Chicago town house serving amazing pizzas …. and my choice was based just on that. Claire and our guest chose salads while I gorged on a wonderful spinach and veg deep dish pizza. There was enough to bring home to the hotel.

After a wonderful closing night out, back to the hotel and we treated ourselves to the Sherlock Holmes movie, which we had not seen yet.

I was a bit disappointed with it. Well written and clever script, photography that moved from awful to brilliant, acting that seemed like dress rehearsal and what seemed like messy direction. Overall I was quite bored with the first two thirds of the movie, but the last third was excellent and riveting.

Finally some attempt at packing to go home, but soon gave that up. Leaving that until morning.


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