27.05.2013 23 °C
After the excitement of our arrival, we woke up in Chicago ready to take on the town. We'd chosen not to do any of the optional excursions, which covered things like a boat-ride on the river and Sear's Tower. Instead we wanted to explore the city and it's shopping at our own pace. Which I might add, is usually pretty fast. It's very important to get a good breakfast, so we headed down the road to nearby Yokes. After coming to terms with the delicious looking options in the menu, we were amazed at the size of our plates. I ordered what I thought was a large breakfast anyway, only to find it came with a side order of pancakes that was larger than any breakfast main I'd ever seen at home. We shook our heads at the impact that this much food must be having on the health of the nation, then dug in and ate the lot, only just managing not to lick the plate. Bellies full, we made our way directly along Michigan Avenue from our hotel, into the heart of the city. One of the things that impressed me most about Chicago (and there were many) was the amount of city art on display and the fabulous public spaces. We were staying fairly close to this one, mainly funded by comedian and actor Robin Williams. Very haunting, even then.
In the hotel foyer in the morning, we'd seen a few of our fellow travelers, and word on the street was that there had been some ridiculous number of people shot at various incidents in the city over night. So, with that fresh on our minds, when we were in a shop and a heated argument broke out between the retailer and a man who wandered in off the street, our imaginations went into overdrive and our heart rates went sky high. We got out of there as quickly as we could, and were a little bit jumpy for a while. When we came into the vicinity of The Bean, I insisted on stopping there again, to my daughter's slight annoyance. But I couldn't miss the opportunity of seeing it again. It really is the coolest piece of public art you could ever hope to see. It's a reflection of the city and it's people, including a couple of wide-eyed tourists from the antipodes.
If that alone doesn't satisfy your craving for clever sculptures, there's plenty more that will. I also love this one, with two water fountains shooting out of the mouths of images of local people relaxing and smiling. It's hard to cover a lot of ground in Chicago when you keep stumbling upon sites like this.
Once we'd had our fix of art, we made our way to that other bastion of Chicago culture, the wonderful world of shopping that is the Magnificent Mile. Fore-armed with the knowledge that we were soon to visit the biggest shopping mall in America, we managed to be moderately restrained. I have a hankering to own a pair of Louboutin shoes but rarely see them in the flesh. So when we found a pair of black pumps in a mall, I had to try them on. I didn't have $1000 to spend on them, but we did manage to sneak a photo for Facebook and I came away knowing what it will feel like when I own a pair myself (not that comfy, actually). For lunch, we dined at the Corner Bakery Cafe, nicely perched on the riverside. I don't remember the food but I'll always remember the view of the skyscrapers towering over us. Next up, it was time to walk off lunch (and probably still some breakfast) with a stroll through more parks, past fabulous fountains and sculptures, and along Lake Michigan to the Navy Pier.
We hung out at the Pier for a while, laughing at all the weird and wonderful trinkets on sale in the tourist shops (and bought a few), before heading back to our hotel. Just as we were doing so, we saw a rather large helicopter flying in, accompanied by two other helicopters. I remarked how it must be someone important. Turned out, it was. President Obama had popped back into town, for an appearance at the Hilton, practically nextdoor to where we were staying. We'd left a quiet street in the morning, only to return to blocked off roads, sit-in street protests, police everywhere, and we saw the famous convey as the president's limousine pulled up outside the hotel. We never actually saw the man, but it was excitement enough for us anyway. It was certainly something unexpected! To finish the day off, we walked back around to the point where we'd learned was a great spot to watch the city lights come on at night. Sure enough, as the sun slowly faded, the city started to sparkle right before our eyes. We stayed, merrily snapping away on our cameras, until it was completely dark. Then, we scrambled back to our hotel sticking to paths well lit and filled with people, having had quite enough excitement for one day.