Friday, 12 December 2014

Chicago for Beginners: the basics

I have a thing for telling stories, haven't I? Okay, okay, I know I do. But this one will be short, I promise. I will share with you what I have learned about Chicago by walking its streets ... so hop on with me towards the Loop (Downtown Chicago) to find out why the Windy City has totally blown me away...

After my weekend of countryside landscapes and calm, Monday was a little more adventurous and cosmopolitan. The El (elevated train – in the UK we called it ‘over ground’) is the easiest way to get to know Chicago and it is quite easy, too. We got off at Rudolph and Wabash Station and walked to North State Street so Abby could stay at a coffee shop and do some work - after all, it was Monday - while I would go and wander the streets.

The Chicago Theatre was the first iconic landmark of Chicago that I bumped into. Just so you know, the grand opening was in 1921 and after several years of financial ups and downs, the theatre is still running, thank God!

North State Street is parallel to Michigan Avenue. The most basic thing you will do if you ever visit Chicago is to walk there; it’s where all the (nice) shops are, loads of tourist attractions are around 10 - 20 minutes from there, too.

Wanna know the first thing I saw at Michigan Avenue? It was this very patriotic life-sized horse. A bit too cowboy for Chicago – I should add - but original and somehow appropriate, after all we are talking about the country of Law & amp; Order - (listen the special effect specially added - doink - doink).

On the opposite side of the road, is the Chicago Tribune. This beautiful marble-like building was erected in 1925; my little guidebook, however, told me that the first paper was issued in June 1847. (The wall confirmed my source was telling me truth!) I hope it stays around for another 167 years.   

All is quite tall and majestic, don't you think? Walking north towards the Magnificent Mile I found Chicago's Pumping Station and Chicago Water Tower, which are historic landmarks, the station was built in 1869... Useful, I guess, but not enough to stop the Chicago Fire of 1871, which devastated the city and prompted the construction of the Chicago I was seeing that day ...

On my way back, I was reminded that it was Fall (not Autumn cause I was in the US and that’s what they call it). Even managed to take a picture of a guy with a “BRAZIL” jumper. Can you believe that? I didn't notice until I was selecting the pictures for this post. I think that’s totally unbelievable. I think that’s my cue to trying the lottery today!

So there I was walking in the land of Oprah, Chicago Bulls, deep-dish pizza, home of current Mr President in the state of Illinois, Land of Lincoln - my favourite Mr. President, even if he was never my president. I don't care, we share the same birthday; we have at least one thing in common.

The day was so great...and everything looked so new, fresh and American to me. The flags! The first interesting (slash slightly bizarre) thing I noticed there. US flags are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e! In every building, corner, bus, pram! Fab! It’s as if their national anthem is permanently on: 

“O'er the land of the freeeeeeeeeeeeeee
And the home of the brave!”

American people: what a unique bunch. I didn’t know what the flags of the state of Illinois or Chicago looked like before, but there you go…now I know and even took a little one (Chicago) home.

Sky scrappers…Donald Trump – I don’t think locals like him but hey, I was not a local. I was in fact 100% tourist; you know the type that takes picture of everything all the time? Yes, that’s me.

And all of a sudden...I had to go...I walked all day; my feet were killing me...was so tired! So I went back to North Street to meet Abby... I think that was the only night we cooked.. and that's how my first day in Chicago ended. 



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