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krisek Chicago - A travel report by Krys
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Chicago,  United States - flag United States -  Illinois
16745 readers

krisek's travel reports

What is it all about the Windy City?

  9 votes
Page: 11 12 13 14 15 16
Chicago is rather small. Everything worth seeing is almost walking distance from the Water Tower, in the centre. A good hike apart, though. It is tidy, well organised, and its city beach by the lake in the centre is a bliss in the summer.

Chicago skyline
Chicago skyline
I went to Chicago, for the first time on 20 July 2002. I immediately loved it! The quality and the location of my hotel might have contributed to my loving of it, though. Chicago was great. I think it is said to be the third largest, or rather most populous, city in the United States, after New York and Los Angeles. However, the city centre of Chicago is remarkably compact with all necessities close one to another.

Chicago is easy to navigate and apart from blues, it offers great pizza and boat tours along the rivers and canals in the centre. Its skyline seen from the lake is perhaps the most attractive of all US cities.

When I arrived it was seriously hot. And bright! And I forgot to take my sun glasses from home! I could not see anything and I did not enjoy myself for the first hour in the city. I had to buy shades. I went to one of the department stores looking for appropriate shop and I could only find very expensive ones. I was desperate and I had to choose. Later, I could not believe that I had spent over 250 US dollars on a pair of sun glasses! Well, I was happy that I could actually see the world. My contact lenses did bother me too much when I had to squint all the time.

I went to Chicago a couple more times. This report is not going to be exhaustive about the city, it is just a collection of a few memories from my visits. I will not name all sights that one may visit in Chicago - there is enough literature around to provide information on those. I am just going to report what I was doing in Chicago on a number of weekends (luckily each time in the summer) I spent there, and what I liked most. Really, just a few reflections, thoughts and memories.

Favourite spots:
Chicago pier
Chicago pier
I spent a lot of time on the pier. I was lucky with weather, which was superb and a slight breeze from the lake was a bliss. There were a few interesting pieces of action going on on the pier and since a large of group Navy privates were on leave, it was also very animated. They were wandering around in their white uniforms hoping to fish up some ladies as they were out for a weekend. And they were doing pretty good. Some of them hired stretched limousines and cruised about the city screaming and enjoying themselves. Many people were happy to see them enjoying themselves like that. Numerous pedestrians shouted at them ‘enjoy yourselves lads and thank you for defending our country!’. This is what I really like about the US - the genuine patriotism. Apart from Cuba, Iran, China and probably Russia, I have not seen it much.

The pier boasted a number of nice restaurants and bars, which served ice-cold beer! And benches to watch the waves on the lake.

What's really great:
The Water Tower
The Water Tower
In Chicago I realised, and was told a few times, that my British accent was very sexy. People reckoned that I was very lucky because of that. I have to say I turned a few heads in bars while ordering drinks. This phenomenon was used in one of the greatest British comedies "Love Actually", where one of the young male characters decides to go to America to find a girl-friend, believing that it is going to be much easier there, as the American girls apparently loved British guys. And in fact it turns out to be true, as three gorgeous girls at a regular American bar immediately lurched at him.

These Americans in Chicago, actually, had no idea that my accent was not British at all, but I was not rushing to correct them. I was in fact travelling on my own and talking to strangers is my speciality, so I just used the opportunity to chat with people. They enjoyed it and I had a laugh or two. I did use this trick in other places in the US on many occasions subsequently. It was so cool.

The Sears Tower at night
The Sears Tower at night
Obligatorily, I went up the tallest, at that time, building on the planet, the Sears Tower. I cannot remember how long it took to the top of it, but I think I expected faster lifts (elevators). I went at night. The view from the top was more than spectacular. It was breathtaking and I could not believe that I could actually see the very ends of the city.

I also went on a boat ride on the lake for the sunset, which, despite wonderful day all day, was well below average. It was actually bad. Clouds came and obscured the sun. The haze did not help either. The famous skyline was hardly visible. I almost blamed myself that I waited too long for the ride. I was actually snoozing for about an hour on the pier, and should have gone earlier for the short cruise, perhaps. If I had gone later, I would have missed everything. This is how bad it was. The actual sunset was not due for another couple of hours.

I wandered around the centre and only went to see the famous Polish Quarter uptown.

City skyline from the pier
City skyline from the pier
I stayed at a number of hotels in Chicago. But I remember two of them the most - both on the South Michigan Avenue. The first one was the Best Western Grand Park Hotel, and the other one the Hilton Hotel, Hilton Chicago. Both were comfortable business hotels with all the amenities one would expect from four star establishments, including the services, cleanliness, restaurants, bars, in-room entertainment, etc. The beds in the Best Western were particularly comfortable and the bed linen were fantastic. Hilton Hotel had a great club bar with free booze, snacks and breakfast. Both hotels offered great views of the lake and the park below, including the flamboyant fountain, and the Soldier Field. The Sears Tower was just a short half a mile walk away, but as I said, Chicago was delightfully compact and everywhere 'worth seeing' was actually a walking distance away. Sometimes a good walk, but nothing too overstretching.

City at night from the Sears Tower
City at night from the Sears Tower
I loved Chicago for the fact that downtown, the main business area, was not dying after 5 o’clock each night. The city continued with its business and the nightlife. I liked it so much that I would actually consider living there. The only thing that was putting me off was the cold winter. I did not experience it myself but I know it gets very cold and snow always falls. I hate snow in cities! It ruins everything - the spirit, the transportation, the fun, and first of all, the footwear. There was another thing actually that put me off Chicago. It was the racism. Unfortunately or rather sadly, it was visible everywhere. And it was both ways. My friends, who have lived in the Chicago area told me terrible stories, too. They told me about how much whites hated blacks and how much blacks hated whites, and how other races did not mix either. It was so sad to me, as my best friends are black and love them to bits. And strangely, in the northern city of blues, how was it happening?

One of Chicago’s best features is its beach. It is located right in the city centre, at the shore of the huge lake Michigan. It is so convenient and very civilised. And a deliverance in scorching 105F degrees weather. It really felt like tropics there. The beach with so many stripped bodies dipping in the water resembled hot California and not Illinois. Definitely one of my favourite hangout spots in the Windy City.

Chicago is famous for its blues bars. There are very many of them. I liked those at North Halsted Avenue. Probably the most famous one and amongst the most rewarded, at number 2548, was the Kingston Mines. Not only did they play incredibly, but the food and the overall ambiance were superb. The seating was not that comfortable (the coffee tables a little too low to my liking) but who'd care, when there was enough room on the dancefloor.

In Chinatown
In Chinatown
I discovered in Chicago what a good value for money the US is, as far as housing, land and dining out are concerned. When I was travelling in the West in 1997, I stayed in motels, except in San Francisco, Las Vegas,

and New York City, and ate cheap junk food once a day (except Las Vegas, of course). So, I had not gone to posh-y restaurants. When I went to Chicago, I had had a chance to grove, and could afford a little more.

In a Greek District, I went to (surprise, surprise) a Greek restaurant with a few people I knew in the area. There were seven of us and we had three dishes each, wine, etc. It all cost almost a hundred dollars! I could not believe it! In London, I could easily pay so much for just a couple of us. Plus the service was polite, excellent and the portions were huge.

Another district I wanted to see in Chicago was Chinatown. I had seen the big Chinatowns before, but I wanted to go to see the Sears Tower from there...

Other recommendations:
Chicago downtown
Chicago downtown
On the day I went there, a colourful market spread itself along the streets. The stalls sold everything - the dodgy Chinese sweets, items made of paper, traditional food, packaged food and items, which I could not recognise. I saw that a couple of stages were raised for performances. Some of the groups were getting ready and this is when I snapped a photograph of this red dragon. A few short Chinese men kept adding tails to it to make it long. Actually, I think that ‘long’ in Chinese or Vietnamese language means dragon. I had no idea what was going to happen there. I did not wait though. The town was so overcrowded that I decided to escape quickly.

By the way, Chicago is called the Windy City, not because of the breeze blowing from the lake, but because of the unstable politicians, who changed their views depending ever which way the wind of opportunity blew. Well, that was in the past! Barack Obama, the current US President is from Chicago, which is not wind-related, I trust.

Published on Sunday January 3th, 2010

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Wed, Jan 06 2010 - 01:37 PM rating by bootlegga

An interesting read as always!

Tue, Jan 05 2010 - 07:27 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Another of your 5 stars reports. Good info and more pleasant to read than a tourist guide.

Mon, Jan 04 2010 - 09:12 PM rating by eirekay

Chicago is one of my very favorite cities and you have captured it nicely! I love walking down by the River and Greek Town is a favorite!

Sun, Jan 03 2010 - 06:13 PM rating by jacko1

Great Report Krys, once again 5 stars from me!.

Sun, Jan 03 2010 - 11:14 AM rating by porto

Excellent reading again Krys. 250 dollars for a pair of shades, I would want a lifetime guarantee with them!

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