Posted by: TheAuthor | 28/10/2011

Days 43 and 44 – Chicago For Real

Day 43: Leaving the house at 9 A.M. we walked to the train station to catch the subway into the city. Unable to buy a day pass at the station we were bizarrely directed to a Walgreen’s to get them there, doesn’t make sense that you can’t buy a day pass at a station.

Our first port of call was at the Lincoln Park, north of downtown. Here we visited the free zoo, housing a great variety of animals. I felt this was a brilliant place, especially for the children as they could see al the wild and wacky animals from across the globe. I really felt sorry for the animals however, because their cages were tiny and as you saw them moving around inside you could note them pacing back and forth – not a good sight to behold. I also felt let down by the way they were fed, nothing to preserve their natural habits or hunting simply dishes placed down heaped with whatever that species ate.

Beside the Zoo was another free attraction, a Victorian conservatory. Inside you can explore a wide variety of plants grown in tropical conditions, a fun walk throughout the building. If you visit Chicago, it is definitely worth visiting these locations.

Another place to visit is the Jack Hancock observatory. Much less busy than the Sears (or Skydeck) tower, free if you have a drink in the restaurant or around $15 per person otherwise to ascend the 92 floors. A free audio tour narrated by local man David Schwimmer is available for use, guiding you around the views offered by the open glass panelled walls. Unlike the CN tower in Toronto, we were not there for sunset.

One thing you ‘must try’ in Chicago is authentic deep-dish pizza. Invented in Chicago, I won’t go into by whom because it will cause a dispute, the pizza is essentially a pie without pastry topping and packed full of vibrant flavourful ingredients. A small, four slices, is enough for two people to share. Well, enough for Shell and myself that is especially after our amazing Parmesan garlic sticks. We chose to go to one of the founding locations, Gino’s East. The décor is quite simple and reminiscent of the bar we saw in Montreal, patrons had drawn their names and/or comments into every inch of wall space (not to mention pillars, mirrors and pictures). Incredibly delicious and certain to give you heart burn; get one when you visit Chicago without a second thought. You won’t be sorry you did.

Day 44: With a lot to see on our final day in Chicago, now Shell’s favourite city, we set off with a mission early in the morning. Our objective; Dim Sum in Chinatown. A general rule of thumb for any restaurant is that, if it is empty then it is probably no good. We walked along Chinatown’s streets searching for ‘where the locals go’ and found a number of locations. In the end, we went for the cheapest option and as we rose the stairs inside the restaurant we heard nothing. Not a single other patron was inside, we were the only ones who had braved enter. Our waitress was rather abrupt, even removing her pen from the table so we couldn’t steal it (as well as order more food) after she left – this was a cheap bic pen by the way. Chopsticks provided were seemingly made from toothpicks and the green tea was cool rather than hot. Regardless, when the food came out it was very good indeed. As an added bonus, as we were finishing up rather pleased with our choice a further four people joined us in the restaurant. A good deal in our opinion; half the price of the competitors and just as good quality as we have had elsewhere.

After our Chinatown excursion we went for a tour around Chicago’s different districts. Next on our list was Pilsen, a Latin quarter with murals painted on walls and less hustle and bustle than downtown. On our way out, towards Greek town, we stumbled upon a petting zoo with a variety of goats, hens, sheep and pigs for you to feed and stroke – or chase around the pen as children seem to enjoy. A wonderfully novel event, obviously there for children but who is to stop you as an adult joining in on the fun.

Greek town, after Little Italy that was practically non-existent, was closer to the downtown area of Chicago and was a bit busier. The buildings here are architecturally the same as everywhere but have Greek inspired art, signage as well as numerous flags lining the streets of foods from the ancient country.

Our epic walk now led us to Millennium Park and had incurred a casualty; Shell had an incredibly painful foot to walk on and was limping. An artist had recently produced what is now known as the ‘Chicago Bean’ and had it placed here. It is essentially an extremely popular jellybean shaped mirror, drawing in crowds of people who want to place their feet on a wall and have a picture taken with them and the reflection. It was while we were here that we discovered that Shell’s shoe had practically become a sandal, a tear had formed around the heel and sides.

Our treat to ourselves ($70 each) in Chicago was to visit the home of the Blue Man Group, where it all started and where their roots still lay. Hopping on the metro to the Theatre District at Belmont, we were a little early so we headed out for a drink at a local bar – 10 minutes walk away of agony for Shell. Eventually we came across a tiny place called ‘The Closet’ which was, as the name suggests, small. Inside we sat down and learnt that the bar was originally set up by two lesbians (gazing across the bar would tell you the same clientele were regulars) and also, more interesting, that Jane Lynch from Glee had worked here as a barmaid.

As we ordered our delicious whisky infused cider we enjoyed the place we were in and the night ahead watching the Blue Man Group. From across the bar we heard ‘Happy Birthday’ being sung and were offered a fresh cupcake each in celebration of a patron’s birthday, further to this we were also offered a free drink on the celebrating group. What a brilliant time to enter the bar and choice of places to go, made the walk worth it!

Before long we had to walk back to the theatre used solely by the Blue Man Group. Now, it is hard to describe in words how awesome the show was or even what went on onstage. As part of the mystery you are not allowed to take pictures inside the seating area before, during or after the performance – inside the foyer only. I will however say this; for a 2-hour show prepare to be blown away, laugh and bob your head to the incredible beats produced by the group. If you are on the fence, deciding whether to go or not then hear this, go and see it – it is worth the effort.

Trip Statistics:

Tim Horton’s Stops – 16

Alternate Coffee Stops – 4

States Driven Through – Illinois

Kilometres driven – 0km

Total Canadian Kilometres driven – 11,499km

Total distance driven – 14,570km

Car faults – Found out Speedometer is inaccurate by 10kph

– Speakers starting to refuse to operate

– Tail Light Casing Broken

– Console Handbrake light always ‘on’

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