CRUISING THE GREAT LAKES #11: CAPTIVATING CHICAGO, PART 1

“Be careful in Chicago; there is so much crime!”  “Don’t go out at night in Chicago, even in the tourist areas!”  These were the warnings I received from a couple of acquaintances who used to live in Chicago.  I had heard it all before.  Chicago’s crime was all over the news, and it had gotten much worse since I visited the city with my best friend, in 2012.  Those warnings, however, weren’t going to stop me and Bruce from seeing U.S.A.’s third largest city together, and this was the perfect opportunity—at the end of our cruise, before flying home. 

During our three days in downtown, we took the necessary common-sense precautions, walked all over downtown, and thoroughly enjoyed it!

For a good overview to begin our stay, we used our on-board credit and took a city tour that was offered through American Queen Voyages, the company we had cruised the Great Lakes with during the previous two weeks.  On our final day, we did an architecture river cruise to learn about the skyscrapers that lined the Chicago River.  Both tours were excellent!

What most impressed us about Chicago was how clean and beautiful the downtown city center was everywhere we walked.  The city is situated along Lake Michigan, and the city planners did a fabulous job lining the waterfront with attractive parks that offered great vantage points of the amazing skyline.

There is so much I could write about Chicago, but I will let my pictures tell the story instead. (To view them larger, click on the photos.)  Here, then is Part 1:

Navy Pier
View from the end of Navy Pier
Buckingham Fountain

Scenes from Millenium Park:

Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean”
That’s us at the bottom, center, looking up at the sculpture

It was fun watching the faces change on Crown Fountain, and then “spit” water every ten minutes. The kids loved it! What a great way to cool off during the hot, humid summers.

Chicago hosts the Millenium Park Summer Music Series at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for free!

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

We stayed on the 14th floor at the Warwick Allerton Hotel, on North Michigan Avenue. This (right) was our (zoomed in) view of Michigan Avenue from our room, including this gorgeous bird! Yes, it was real! I was able to photograph it by sticking my camera out the window that opened up just enough to fit my hand and camera through. Our room was on a corner, so it required a bit of maneuvering and guess work to angle my camera, hold it steady, and snap these shots!

The largest Starbucks in the world was located a block away. People actually line up around the corner to get in! We don’t drink coffee, and we aren’t Starbucks fans, but we thought it was worth a look inside when we happened to walk by when there was no line.

The planters along Michigan Avenue and neighboring streets were fabulous! They added such a beautiful element to soften the appearance of all the steel and concrete of the city.

Some of the buildings featured interesting artwork on their exteriors:

Although we thoroughly enjoyed our vegetarian deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s during our pre-cruise Chicago visit, we decided to try Giordano’s stuffed vegetarian deep dish pizza for comparison (see below). Lou Malnati’s crust wins the contest; however, Giordano’s wins for everything else! We loved their sauce and stuffed pizza! Want to make your mouth water? Click on the pizza photo to see it larger!

Now, for dessert. Kind Snacks is on their “Frozen Summer Tour,” and we were lucky enough to see them– twice! First, we saw the truck at the park at the foot of Navy Pier, and they were handing out free samples of their DELICIOUS frozen bars. They were eager to give you as many as you wanted, so we went back for seconds. 😀 The next day, they were on Michigan Avenue near the Chicago River! They would have given us an entire box if we wanted! The sample lady was eager to empty their coolers and call it a day. We ended up tasting one each of three different flavors and made pigs of ourselves. Damn, those things are good!

A window display on Michigan Avenue, better known as the “Magnificent Mile.”

Next up: Cruising the Great Lakes #12: Captivating Chicago, Part 2

Striking Gold in the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast Historic District, where our B&B was located, is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country.  So, rather than take the most direct route to visit the Saturday organic farmers market, we opted for the more scenic route along Deerborn Ave.  Wow; what a gorgeous leafy residential street of mansions, row houses, and pricey apartment buildings.

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Green City Market’s  ( www.greencitymarket.org ) mission is one that Laura and I could really get behind, “Green City Market’s mission is to improve the availability of a diverse range of high quality foods by providing a marketplace for purchasing sustainably grown food and to educate, promote, and connect farmers and local producers directly to chefs, restaurateurs and the greater Chicago community. We also support small family farms and promote a healthier society through education and appreciation for local, fresh, sustainably-raised products.”

This market was perfect; outstanding organic produce, wonderful cheese, beautifully baked breads, tempting freshly prepared crepes and dishes, gorgeous flowers- everything; even plenty of cute dogs to pet! 

 

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The quality was outstanding, so it was unfortunate our travels prevented us from buying a bag of produce to take home.  Instead, I opted for a pretzel roll, just like the ones I bought at bakeries in Germany, during my river cruise.  It was perfect match for the Goose Island Matilda Belgian Pale Ale that I sipped at Old Town Social (www.OldTownSocial.com), while cooling off with Laura.

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Before we continued on to Old Town Social, though, I couldn’t resist a quick stop at my coffee shop (But, I don’t even drink coffee!):

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Saturday in Chicago was another burner, so the crowds were large down at the shore; our final stop before throwing in the towel and heading back to the B&B to cool off.

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For our final dinner in Chicago, we landed at the India House ( http://www.indiahousechicago.com/ ), where we enjoyed outstanding Indian cuisine, before heading to the Navy Pier for a spectacular firework (and lightening!) show.  We had noticed (very) dark clouds off in the distance, while we were at the beach; the same clouds, I would assume, that erupted during the fireworks display.  It was quite a sight!  And, wouldn’t you know it?  As soon as the fireworks ended, the clouds burst open above us.  Thankfully, I had decided to bring my umbrella at the last minute…

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So, that is where the Chicago leg of our Illinois journey ends.  The following day, we were off to Crystal Lake aboard the Metra train.  Standby; the train will be departing soon!