While the girls were enjoying their final days in New York, wifey and I ceased the long-weekend opportunity to take a last minute trip of town. And when I say, “last minute”, I really mean it – we only booked the trip at about 2PM on Thursday afternoon! Our destination – Chicago!
So why Chicago? There’s not a great deal that makes it a stand out for tourists; however, it’s still a really, really cool city – we had a fantastic time there, and we took some great photos. It was the perfect spot for our weekend getaway!
There’s a few bad things to travelling last minute. Firstly, you don’t get very long to prepare, so on Thursday night we packed frantically, and rushed to bed for an early start. And though we thought that the warning of “extra attention from security due to the last minute nature of our purchase” was merely a perfunctory clause, it turned out to be dead accurate. On both our flights, TSA gave us both thorough pat downs, and took extensive swabs from our carry on items. Lucky we were clean!
Anyway, after our early flight, a sleep on the plane, and a very dodgy train ride into the city (I’m amazed that thing stays on the tracks), we checked into our hotel, grabbed a quick bite, then headed out to explore the city!
Naturally, we found ourselves making a lot of comparisons against places that we’d been before. One of the first (and most obvious) things is that the skyline of Chicago provides good rivalry to New York’s. Though it’s not as famous, the water in Lake Michigan is certainly bluer and cleaner than New York’s Hudson or East Rivers; plus, Chicago has beaches along its shores, which makes the city seem more “people friendly” to the eye. Our trip up to the John Hancock tower observatory on Friday afternoon gave us a great appreciation for the Chicago skyline.
Secondly, Chicago seems to spend pat loads of cash on their public spaces. For example, on the city’s north is the enormous Lincoln Park – complete with a free zoo (with penguins!). To the south, there’s Millennium/Grant Park, containing interactive displays of public art. Funny story, both parks were supposed to have a statue of the historical figure they’re named after (Ulysses Grant and Abraham Lincoln). However, the statues were delivered to the city on the same day, and somehow they got mixed up – so the statue of Grant ended up in Lincoln park, and Lincoln’s statue got put in Grant park!
Thirdly, eating in Chicago is cheap, and food is plentiful. This was reflected in many ways, from the gigantic servings at all the places we dined, the lower than expected bills at the end of the meals, and the average weight of the local folk. Sorry to say it, but we saw a lot more jelly-bellys while we were there. Hard to blame them though, the food is exquisite! We especially loved the Pizza Pot Pie’s that we got from the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company – just across the road from where the St Valentine’s day massacre took place in 1929!
Lastly, we thought Chicago was a beautiful, clean city. There was hardly any trash on the streets, and the water in the river and especially the lake was a beautiful shade of blue. This wasn’t always the case; the disgustingly polluted river used to carry waste out into the lake, and into the town’s fresh water supply. After numerous deaths from water-borne viruses, the city cleaned up their act, and in 1900, engineers actually reversed the river’s flow, to force fresh water in from the lake!
We really enjoyed Chicago. If you were moving to the USA, and looking for a beautiful, affordable city to live in, I think it would be very hard to pass up. It probably won’t make it to too many people’s “must see before you die” lists, but if you ever get the chance, I’d strongly recommend you take it. Even if it’s just to get yourself a pizza pot pie!