Published in Weekend Argus 7/ 8 April 2012
“Don’t look to the right until I tell you to.”
I can still hear my friend’s voice in my ears every time I think of Chicago. He picked me up at the airport and we were driving down Lake Shore drive. It was just after sunset and the sky was still a dusky blue-pink hue. I was looking towards Lake Michigan, since the city to my right side was “off-limits” for now.
“Okay. Look. Now!”
I still don’t know what I was expecting but I will never forget the sight that greeted my eyes. As I looked to my right we were right across the bridge over the Chicago river that flows into the city from Lake Michigan. It was as if I was looking straight into the heart of Chicago city.
The amazing skyscrapers’ dark silhouettes edged against the purple sky, their light-filled structures hugging the river flowing at their feet. Towering over and almost engulfing me, I felt like I was in a real life picture with an added bonus of 3D features without the glasses! (Does this make sense?)
It’s probably the hardest thing for me to describe how I feel about Chicago to someone else… Why? Some things in life you just have to experience for yourself.
To me, Chicago is synonymous with friendly, blue and light. Yes, actually no wind. I think I was in Chicago the only weekend without wind. Ever.
A lot of the beautiful skyscrapers in the city were built in the 60’s. If you look at them today you will struggle to distinguish between the modern and the old buildings. Most of these buildings have huge glass façades and it reflects the blue sky right down to the enclosed streets and walkways next to the river snaking through the city. The architecture in the city is any architect`s dream. This was also the home town to the well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his very famous design, Fallinghwater, is still there to go and photograph, which I did on my last day.
Early the next morning, after my first encounter with the city of my dreams, I was out walking the streets.
Chicago is a city filled to the brim with world-class museums and cultural attractions. You can feel the energy as you walk down the streets. It’s a big city to explore for just one weekend, but I am not afraid of a challenge so I hit the streets running.
The best way to explore the city is with a City Pass. It gives you access to five of the top attractions in the city at half the price. What a bargain. With museums and art galleries galore you have to pace yourself or you might get lost in time and miss something.
The Pass allows access to the following: The Shedd Aquarium (the biggest aquarium in the world), the Skydeck Chicago, the Field Museum and then two tickets with a choice between the John Hancock Observatory or the Museum of Science and the Adler Planetarium or the Art Institute of Chicago.
Seeing the city from the Wallis Tower’s (formerly known as Sears Tower) Skydeck either in 360 degrees view or standing on a glass ledge, 412m in the air, is absolutely breathtaking. I am not a huge science fan and rather decided on another city viewing from the sky at the John Hancock Observatory. Maybe it also has something to do with my architectural interest in the beautiful old buildings or the fastest (I love how everything in America is the best, fastest, tallest, biggest) elevator in North America—to the 94th floor in just 40 seconds. Here you can take a Multimedia tour, overlooking the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) with all it’s famous restaurants, shops and museums.
For me the difficult decision was between the Planetarium and the Art Institute. Worrying that I might have to share a queue with school children, my choice fell on the Art Institute, which I was very glad for. What an honour to walk past these well-known paintings like “A Sunday on la Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. Do remember to have enough time to be able to take your time. I had to rush through, which was a pity.
No trip to Chicago is complete before walking a mile—the Magnificent Mile. Doing some shopping and having a coffee at the street café’s is addictive. We swung by the famous Millennium Park which really takes the city’s motto: “Urbs in Horto”—City in a Garden” to a new level. Unfortunately I didn’t have time for a Broadway show, but I did get to ride on the legendary Chicago “L” (elevated trains).
For a grand finale at sunset, we went for a walk along the Michigan Lake and ended it off with a lovely dinner at one of the restaurants close to the Navy Pier, with a jazz band playing in the background. I start humming to myself…
“My kind of town, Chicago is, my kind of town, Chicago is,
my kind of razzmatazz and it has all that jazz…”
Frank Sinatra knew it…
Now, I definitely know it’s my kind of town too…
Come and decide if it’s yours…