8/06/13. It was a loonngg drive up from Lexington, about five hours gripping the wheel, which when your driving on the wrong side of the road can be a bit of a head spin. We're staying in a suburb of Chicago called Wicker Park, a great part of town only 100 metres from a very funky restaurant and shopping strip. Our apartment is enormous.
|We had the top two floors.|
|Huge, there are rooms off to the side then there's upstairs as well.|
Two stories and 2400 sq feet of space. Most hotel rooms we have stayed in would fit into the master bedroom. What's amazing is the spread of our "belongings" is always in direct proportion to the size of the place we're staying in. Shoe box or palace, give us two days and we'll have our crap spread to every nook, cranny and hidey hole. There won't be a lamp shade with out a pair of undies on it, a cushion without a shoe or a shirt on it and an inch of floor space without a charger cable, adaptor or I device on it. And don't get me started on the bathrooms.
9/06/13 Just settling into the neighbourhood today. Went and did some shopping and sorted out the perfect Birthday Cake for the Birthday Girl's Birthday tomorrow. Bottle of French bubbles and some candles.
I'm sure it was supposed to be her 43rd.
Not sure if you've ever tried to transform a big wax candle three into a big wax candle two but I'm here to tell you, it can be done. It was a good day to just hang and catch up a little and have some pre birthday French bubbles.
10/06/13 The Big Day, Christina's Birthday. Yummy Red Velvet birthday cake, cards and pressie, yes only the singular version I'm afraid, and lots of lovely wishes from friends far afield. What a great day.
|By the look on her face I think she was expecting Channing Tatum. Sorry!|
|Happy ..err. 42nd sweetie|
Caught the train into Chicago and went straight to Millennium Park. This is a stunning place. Twenty four acres of well planned, manicured and very functional public space. The primo attraction is Cloud Gate or "The Bean", as it is affectionately known. One hundred and ten tons of meticulously placed stainless steel plates, so highly polished it looks like a seamless gigantic blob of Mercury just sitting in the shape of an enormous... bean.
The Frank Geary designed Jay Pritzger Pavilion is an amazing 4,000 seat amphitheater with a series of interlocking criss crossing steel pipes all lashed together by enormous polished metal ribbons. It looks like something of the set of a Transformers movie. Most nights you'll find a free concert of some description being played there. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra practises there every lunch time,Tuesday to Thursday, and the public are invited along to listen.
|The Chicago Symphony Orchestra entertaining the lunch time crowd|
|You almost expect the whole thing to come alive|
The Lurie Gardens are a lush and colourful diversion from all the monuments of concrete, steel and glass that surround it.
|An oasis in the concrete jungle.|
|The Lurie Gardens|
The Crown Fountain is...well, quite interesting. It's a massive LCD screen displaying the staring faces of members of the general public who, at intermittent intervals will purse their lips and through the wonder of CGI and modern plumbing techniques, squirt a firehose spray of water onto the expectant young public waiting in the water park below.
|She's about to purse her lips send and these guys a big wet raspberry|
There was also an interesting exhibition of very phallic looking statues by a guy called Kenyo Gyozu Saki San, or something very similar to that. What's a trip to Chicago without...Pizza Pie. Never had it before and having had it, probably wouldn't bother again. But, if I was, I'd go back to Pizano's. Just had that quintessential Chicago feel to it and there were so many other tasty looking things on that menu I have liked to have tried.
|Pizza Pie, Chicago style.|
After lunch we decided to walk The Magnificent Mile. Talk about over promise and under deliver. More like the Mundane Mile.
|Not so magnificent|
If you like leaving shoe leather on the pavement outside expensive retail outlets and dodging buskers and beggars, go for it. There's nothing here you wouldn't see in any major city in the world.
It was home after all that, some very tasty Thai from the local and a nice bottle of Californian chardy.
11/06/13 Another trip into the city for a 90 minute boat tour that takes you down the river and out into Lake Michigan where you get the full panoramic view of this magnificent city.
|"The" Chicago Theatre|
The guide was a walking encyclopedia on the architecture of the city. He knew the when, how, who and why of every building we passed. How many floors, how many elevators, how much money. I was impressed by the architecture of Dallas and San Francisco but Chicago is hands down the better.
|The start of our river cruise|
From the Neo Gothic towers of the Chicago Tribune to the Post Modernist lines of the Boeing building, this town has it all. It even has it's own lock, that lifts and lowers the boats from the river when ever they enter the water of the lake. Dozens of times a day boats enter and leave the lake and each time eight million gallons of water leave the lake and get washed down the river, eventually finding it's way down the Mississippi and out into the Atlantic.
|What a beautiful city|
It was a wonderful experience that even getting pelted on the walk back to the train by the sudden downpour of the fattest, wettest rain drops Iv'e ever seen, could not dampen.
12/06/13 Chicago Cubs vs The Cincinnati Reds. Our first Major League baseball game and at none other than the famous Wrigley Field. Built in 1914 it is the second oldest Major League Stadium in the US, beaten only by Fenway Park in Massachusetts which was built in 1912.
|The old Wrigley scoreboard|
|Aahh, ya can smell the history|
Before the game started there was an announcement I didn't hear and every body starting standing up. So not wanting to be miss out on anything we stood up and were looking around for a streaker when all off a sudden this booming voice came over the speakers and we had launched into a rousing version of the Stars and Stripes. What fun it was, I didn't put my hand on my heart but I did sing it with vigour.
Some venerated older member of the Cubs wandered out to the pitchers mount, threw a ball to the catcher then wandered off to a loud applause. The players rushed to their positions in the field, the batter strides to the plate swinging his bat like he's tryin to swat a fly. He taps the base, taps his left foot, taps his right foot, taps the plate again,then finally faces the pitcher. A slave to his superstitions and rituals, he does this every time he faces a new ball.
We watch enthralled, as one after another, brave batsmen put themselves in front of these human catapults standing on the pitchers mound throwing 90mph + lightening bolts one after the other.
|A rare hit and a run to base|
|Away she goes..|
On the very rare occasion some lucky bugger actually got to make contact it either shot like a rocket up into the stands causing a small riot as people flung themselves out of their seats like soccer goallies saving a penalty, scrambling, snatching and snarling then holding the prized ball aloft to the crowd like it was the FA Cup. If it was fortunate enough to head in the right direction, more often than not one of the outfielders would stroll underneath it, casually catch it and sent the batter, head down, scuffling back to the dug out. At the mid point of the seventh innings, which is the baseball equivalent of half time, the crowd again moved as one to their feet and this time we got to belt out a rendition of that old baseball chestnut, Take Me Out To the Ball Game. We didn't know the words but it sure as hell didn't stop us having a go. We were root, root, rootin along with the best of them.
|People have built stands on the top of the buildings looking into the stadium|
Now that wind coming off Lake Michigan could freeze the nuts off an eskimo and as much as we were enjoying the game we had to leave at the top of the 8th innings due to impending frost bite. It was a low scoring game when we left and it stayed that way. The Reds beat The Cubs 2 - 1.
Wrigley Field is an old field and oozes that old field character and charm. We were sitting back in the nose bleed section but the place is not that big so not only did we have a great view of the whole park but we still felt close enough to be a part of it. And, even though it was a 1.20pm game on a Wednesday, and there was a 70 percent chance of thunderstorms, there were still about 20,000 fans. It was a great thrill to be there and I'm sure this won't be our last ball game.
13/06/13. Well time to pack up and head of to the airport for our flight to New York. We say this about just about every place we've been, and we mean it because we haven"t been disappointed yet and every place has it's own magic. But, we have loved Chicago and could happily spend more time here, we will be back.