Before I travel, I do a lot of research on my destination; because it is something I really enjoy doing as part of the entire travel experience. But, this time, I chose a different approach, because I was traveling with Laura. She had been to Chicago before and had ideas in mind about what she wanted to see, this time around. I was excited about going along for the ride! And, we were meeting up in Chicago more to celebrate her upcoming 50th birthday, rather than mine, which had already been celebrated in California. So, aside from finding our accommodations on Trip Advisor, I had only glanced a time or two at Chicago’s tourism website and quickly checked out “Things To Do” in Chicago, on Trip Advisor.
There were only a few things I knew I really wanted to do in Chicago; my must-see, must-do list. Otherwise, I figured I would enjoy anything Laura would want to see and do; after all, she has been my best friend for 42 years! So, what topped my list? First of all, “Cloud Gate”, the huge sculpture in Millennium Park affectionately known as “The Bean”, because of its bean-like shape. I knew it would be a hoot to photograph, so I had my heart set on it. Meanwhile, I had my stomach set on sinking my teeth into a Chicago-style deep dish pizza. In my mind, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. In Chicago, it’s deep dish pizza! And, speaking of food, which Laura and I do frequently, I wanted to treat Laura to dinner at Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, for her birthday ( http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/grill.html ). Finally, I was sure Laura and I would agree on this one: An architectural boat tour to learn about downtown Chicago’s varied architecture. (And, if we made it to the Art Institute, it would be a bonus!)
Thanks to Laura scoring a Groupon, we got a great deal on that architectural boat tour that we were both really looking forward to doing. So, we set out on foot after enjoying our first night and breakfast at our B&B, heading down Michigan Ave. (“Magnificent Mile”) towards the river.
Wow! What a gorgeous avenue; the most beautiful I have ever seen in a large U.S. city. Gorgeously planted and maintained mini gardens surrounded each tree, along each side of the street, and there was no litter or graffiti to be found. Chicagoans sure take pride in their city; at least in that part! (We never ventured out to the south side…) But, the Magnificent Mile is also one of the wealthiest miles anywhere. Sak’s, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s; the list goes on. It it’s not there, it doesn’t exist. Needless to say, my wallet stayed firmly in waist pack as we soldiered on (with blinders).
We arrived at the Wrigley Building early for our boat tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to take a stroll along the river and take in the sites of downtown. What a fabulous surprise! There was a point to me explaining my lack of research preparation for this trip, detailed previously; I had no idea Chicago had a river located right in between the skyscrapers of downtown! Having skipped over any of the photos posted on the tourism website or Trip Advisor, I had no idea what to expect. And, honestly, what I thought I might expect was something more like Manhattan, in New York City. I figured downtown to be located on Lake Michigan and our boat tour cruising along the shore, to take in the sites of the skyscrapers. After all, that is what our N.Y. boat tour was like. Reasonable, right? Noooo; it wasn’t like that at all! A river runs right through downtown Chicago with skyscrapers and cafes lining each side of it. And, beautiful bridges (all unique) cross the river at each block. WoooHoooo! It was love at first site. And, at the very moment I laid eyes on this scene, I declared Chicago my favorite large city in the U.S.A ; other than San Diego, that is!)
The twin towers above are “Marina City” (aka “Corn Cobs”); a mixed-use residential/ commercial building. It was designed in 1959 by Bertrand Goldberg; an architect who seemed to have an aversion to right angles. When it was completed in 1964, they were the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world.
The tallest building in Chicago, at 108 stories, is the Willis Tower, formerly known as the “Sears Tower”. At completion, in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world. Today, it is ranked 7th.
See you next at “The Bean”!