Thursday, August 25, 2016


Entertaining a guest from Holland on his first trip to America required a lot of mini-trips to places you had to put on the list even if it meant you were only going to get a taste of what that place is about. Since we were based in Madison, not a first choice on many first trips to America to-do lists, a trip to Chicago with its big city awe seemed essential to countering the small town appeal of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, we'd have to accomplish the trip in a day which was all we could squeeze in and that had to include travel.
Having driven to Chicago on many an occasion we were unwilling to tackle the drive all the way in to the city center. Chicago traffic no matter the time of day is always horrendous. Our option was to drive to Milwaukee and take Amtrak from there right into Union Station. I'm not sure how much time this saved us but even if it didn't save us actual time it saved us our sanity and the possibility of our guest learning a whole new set of curse words reserved for my fellow travelers in fits of road rage.
I'd never taken the train before and I have to say it was a much more civilized way of getting into the Chi-town.
On arriving, Union Station was a bit of a disappointment and this was mostly our fault. The way we exited was a series of escalators with brightly lit acoustical ceilings. It had none of the feel of Grand Central Terminal, or Newark's Penn Station. Had we found the main lobby it would have been a totally different experience. The grand lobby holds all the lush history of other major U.S. train stations.
Once out we started heading toward the Art Institute and Millennium Park but got stopped by the skyboxes hanging out of Willis Tower. Rick and I weren't fans of high places with glass floors but Emmy and Victor, our Dutch guest, were. The lines for access to the skyboxes were edging over the two-hour wait time frame. Since our train didn't get us into Chicago until almost noon and our return trip was scheduled for eight that evening we were a little reluctant to encourage them to make this the only adventure of the trip.
Granted from the skybox they could literally see all of Chicago we could turn around and leave having shown them "all" of Chicago but that would have been a bit of a cheat. We were going to try and talk them out of it until we saw the sign for the miracle pass. For an exorbitant amount of money you could bypass the line and get right in. What the heck, we'd splurge. Turns out when you're twenty scaring yourself to death can be the highlight of any trip. It was money well spent.
We'd hoped for hitting two museums but once we added in time for lunch it became clear that wasn't going to happen. So we decided to head to Millennium Park so that we could at least touch the Art Institute and say we'd been there.
It was a relatively hot day for Chicago so being outside had its negatives. Yet there was sufficient shade to find ways to enjoy Millennium Park watching the local kids playing in the new water feature and then taking in the "Bean".
The Bean, designed by Anish Kapoor, has become an icon for Chicago. Its simple shape but seamless reflective surface astounds every time I see it.
If you don't take a picture at the Bean then you haven't done Chicago.
As cheap as I am I was willing to try to figure out the El and how we could get to the Museum of Science and Industry but everyone else said I was crazy. So we hopped a cab and headed south past Soldiers Field to the Museum of Science and Industry. We got there an hour before it was to close so it was a race to see what we could. My memory of the museum was from my childhood with the eyes of kid. The museum has its draw but it does fair better with a family with kids under the age of twelve. We watched how a tornado forms and saw some chicks hatch but the Art Institute might have been the better choice.
Once the museum closed at five we got in a cab and headed back up north to Navy Pier. The Pier is always crowded with tourists from every part of the world.
It's lined with dinner cruise ships making it seem almost tropical if you're looking out over Lake Michigan.
We grabbed a quick dinner at a Mexican restaurant, sat down and had a chat with Bob Newhart (you can actually talk to him form an app on your phone) and then realized we'd need to head back to Union Station to make sure we were on time for our train back to Milwaukee.
I don't recommend trying to do a city like Chicago in eight hours. There was plenty we missed but the purpose was to give our Dutch guest enough of a taste of the city to want to come back. In that I think we succeeded.
Welcoming Democrats to Chicago Convention, 1968
Art Shay, photographer
Represented by Ann Nathan Gallery

No comments:

Post a Comment