I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago. Why? Well the two associations I made are its namesake musical, and a reference in Guys and Dolls. So women on death row and gambling were my main attractions…
Despite those pull factors, I left loving Chicago for many other reasons (you are perhaps relieved to hear, mum!) I believe it is my favourite city so far and one I could really see myself living in if I were ever to live in the US. Known as a city that’s surrounded by…well, not much else, (so argument goes- sorry Ohio and Indiana) Chicago brings all its own city vibes and a whole lot of personality to the state of Illinois in the mid-mid of the US. It seemed to me to be quite a young city (and not just by UK standards!), particularly as many of the people we met at the hostel were staying there until they could find a house to rent. There’s a lot of movement to Chicago at the moment, and I could definitely understand why. We met some (very lovely) Irish guys at the hostel who are living and working in Chicago “just cause” for three months. I was quite envious leaving them: didn’t sound half bad. The tips one would get at a pub with an English accent …
Chicago really is a city that has it all.
1) Great entertainment scene with music, theatre and, unique to the Windy City, improv shows, which are where many SNL (Saturday Night Live) comedians begin their careers.
2)Plenty of parks and green spaces between Millennium Park and Lincoln Park.
3)Good food and restaurants open till late in the evening (unlike Boston’s 9pm bedtime).
4) Plenty of water for my water and sky Instagram to really benefit from the new material (yeah..i went there: finsta, eat your heart out) with Lake Michigan, the harbours, the River.
5) and a lake that even acts as a sea
We arrived at the hostel after our overnight train (story pending approval: there’s gonna be a bonus transport blog and I know- I can sense your anticipation..) and after dropping off our bags headed straight back out into Lincoln Park area to find lunch. My bagel craving (I know-never had them before coming to the US) was satiated at ‘The Bagelers’, a cute cafe where I got much joy from my hot chocolate and chatting to the hot guy behind the counter.
We then met Charlotte’s best friend at BC, Natalie from Minnesota, who came to join us in Chicago and help show us around ,so with her assistance we headed straight to Millennium Park and Cloud Gate aka the Bean.
The poor artist: “Here I have designed a sculpture made out of reflective mirror like material shaped in a geometrically designed way to specifically capture the clouds and surrounding buildings and present them in an artistic way. It shall be known as Cloud Gate to reflect the way it acts as a passage for the sky and…”
Stranger walking by: “Hey! It looks like a Bean”
Artist: “Well it’s actually called Cloud…”
Stranger: “The Bean! Love it!”
The name stuck.
After some classic touristy shots, we went to a rather fancy restaurant (Cafe Luxe) with a lovely view of Chicago streets, the loveliest waitress I have ever known (she had to be well tipped!) and delicious looking desserts that unfortunately I was too full for 😦
The next day we got straight into the city to the shopping centre where I was fascinated by the American Girl Doll store. The politics and social studies behind THAT- fascinating. There was a whole area for American Girl Dolls to eat with their “Mom’s”, get a pet, go shopping for clothes, have a hair cut… I overheard one mum say to her real life walking and talking daughter “no she can’t have a hair cut today cause we didn’t make an appointment- just for her nails”. W O W. SHOOK
That morning at breakfast I met a guy from Barcelona who joined us for our day in Chicago, and a little tired of shopping we walked out to the beach. “But Chicago is landlocked” I hear you cry! The lake really is a sea and apart from salt water, you still get the coastline feel, the wind on the face and spray of water. I guess there’s also not a tide. But the beach has sand, and a few guys walking up and down swinging a life belt in their hands, looking like college students regretting their choice of summer job. It was very grey that morning, but when we walked back there in the afternoon to then walk right round to Navy Pier and Millennium Park, the sun had really come out to shine.
In the evening we tried some deep dish pizza which was the most filling thing ever and to be perfectly honest, I’m not really a fan. But it was good to try for sure! We also went to Ghirardelli’s chocolate store where I bought a wonderful bar of dark chocolate salted caramel- absolute favourite, and it’s proper chocolate for this proper chocolate snob.
The next day I was feeling most unwell with stomach pain that made me want to double over. I didn’t have much of an appetite and just kept drinking lots of water. Went for a wander round the park with Natalie before all heading out together to the Zoo, where we all realised how much we hate zoos that are more of an attraction than for conservation purposes, so we quickly left the screaming children to get on with it and went and got some frozen yoghurt. Natalie was leaving in the afternoon to go back to Minnesota so we all headed back to the hostel and I went straight to bed to sleep. Actually did manage a nap, and woke up feeling a little better. Chatted to the guy sleeping opposite me in the room from Nigeria, whose nephew just “graduated” Bristol school and is off to Oxford next! Love small world coincidences like that, especially in hostels! Charlotte came in suggesting a run and I decided that could be good for me too so together we had the wonderful run along the water. Half marathon training here I come…! (Actually very nervous – really need to get training once back home!) The lake really creates a coastline with beaches full of people playing volleyball and running or cycling along the coast path: it was pretty intense with so many runners and so few walking! We enjoyed a run along the coastline from our hostel to Navy Pier one evening, which was beautiful and really made us feel part of the community of fellow runners treating the coastal sidewalk as a runners’ motorway.
We got a little lost so got back to the hostel a little late, but managed to shower and turn around to go to the IO Theatre to see an improv show, or two.. They were fantastic and the whole vibe of the place is so fun and cool! Many young people and older people full of youth, the theatre was so full of life and improv was very funny. Also got chatting to two other travelers from Texas which was cool!
The next morning I still wasn’t feeling 100% so we wandered to the park and back, enjoyed a light bite and iced tea in a beautiful cafe, where I called Izz Vivs for a boost, and I sat and read, collecting the energy I needed for our travel and flight that evening. It is crazy how relaxed I can be in an airport now, very much just seeing it as another mode of transportation and able to get through smoothly. Maybe I could become an air hostess after all..?! Charlotte is brilliant to go through with as well, and after Chicago public transport with our huge big backpacks, an airport is much easier!
Overall a successful trip in a brilliant city.
P.S.- Not for the fainthearted
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to do quite as much in Chicago as I would have liked because I wasn’t feeling very well. I had a cold, although that alone wouldn’t have stopped me: it was the tummy pain I was experiencing that really held me back. It lasted 2 days in Chicago and carried on in my next trip (next blog!) so I went to good old CVS to find out what it was all about at a consultation. Their verdict: trapped wind. From the Windy City, this ailment seems quite apt. The sad irony.
Will keep you updated on my progress of releasing this trapped being. Poor Charlotte is on tenterhooks…scared of being blown off the face of the earth in anticipation of me releasing this wind.
And the cause? That water bottle that I was drinking 10 litres of water a day from…