Thursday, November 5, 2009
Day 4 - October 10, CHICAGO, The Windy City!
CHICAGO! Never thought I'd get here. But I did. Barry bought tickets on AMTRAK for my birthday, so at about 8 AM, we
boarded the train in Milwaukee at the airport for the 2 hour trip to Chicago. I had been on the "Downeaster" from Portland to Boston with Maureen in June 2007, but other than that, had not been on a train since 1954. Barry hadn't been on one since maybe 1956. So just the fact that we were taking the train was a thrill.
We pulled into Union Station, right downtown, along the south branch of the Chicago River. When we exited, our first goal was the Sears Tower (not called that any more, but it'll take years before Chicagoans get used to the new name, if ever. It's the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
We waited in line to take the elevator up 1300 feet to the Skydeck, from which vantage point we could see Illinois, Indiana and part of Wisconsin. The weather was chilly (about 42 degrees) and windy -- well it WAS Chicago, the "Windy City" and now we knew why it was called that.
The elevator went up nearly 100 floors in less than a minute, yet we barely felt we were moving. Our ears popped, and when we got out of the elevator, the view was totally fantastic. To the south, we could see to Gary, Indiana; to the north, we could nearly see all the way to Milwaukee. But the highlight for me was looking DOWN on the very tall John Hancock Tower -- the black building in the center of the photo.
After we left the Sears Tower, we walked east then north toward the Hard Rock Café which was one of our goals. On the way we passed
(1) "The El", the elevated railroad which goes in a rounded square around downtown -- hence downtown is nicknamed "The Loop";
(2) the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (no samples of money given out -- darn);
(3) the Chicago Board of Trade (where commodity prices from pork bellies to oil are set, and whose actions have an effect on every single person in the country who buys anything at any time;
(4) an outdoor stabile (as opposed to mobile) by Alexander Calder called The Flamingo;
(5) another outdoor sculpture simply called The Picasso;
(6) the Chicago River looking toward Lake Michigan.
When we arrived at the Hard Rock, it was lunch time, but we were planning to have Chicago Deep Dish Pizza shortly, so we only had a local ale there. Of course, we bought the Hard Rock T-shirts (got a closet full of those now but STILL don't have Indianapolis).
While there, we got a call from Barry's son. Seems one of his friends was in Chicago, only a few blocks from us, so we went over to the ESPN restaurant, and enjoyed his company for awhile, before we walked to Lou Malnati's Pizza Shop for what was billed as the best Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.
It was very good, thick crust, deep dish, loads of topping, and quite a treat.
On the way back to Union Station, we flew through the Merchandise Mart (formerly Marshall-Fields Department Store), the largest store in the world in terms of floor space. It's 25 stories tall, and has been a fixture in Chicago since the 1930s.
Many people in Chicago, in addition to taking "The Loop" also take the Chicago Water Taxi -- probably quite unique in American cities. Wish we had the time to try that, but that's for another, warmer, day.
We arrived back in Milwaukee shortly after sunset, having had a great day in the US's third largest city, and a relaxing train ride, with no parking or traffic hassles. What a way to travel!