Saturday, 9 November 2013

Our much-needed break!

Today we flew back to UK after a great week in Chicago.  Incase you are as clueless as I was prior to this trip, Chicago is the third largest city in USA after New York and LA and sits on the edge of Lake Michigan (one of the Great Lakes) with the Chicago river running through it.  I had no idea!!  I now have slightly more idea having explored a lot on foot and taken 2 tours: a ghost bus tour and a boat tour about the architecture up and down the river, each giving a different insight into the city past and present.

I remember enough from my geography lessons to know it was unusual when they said Lake Michigan was the source of the Chicago river.  Rivers flow into lakes and have sources up a hill somewhere, right?!  Turns out, the Chicago river got hazardously filthy after decades of human and industrial waste being emptied into it.  Not only giving off a horrendous stench, it flowed into and therefore polluted Lake Michigan, the drinking water supply for the city.  They started to have real problems with water-based diseases and death so clearly something had to be done.  They decided, not to find an alternative way to dispose of their waste or clean the water, but to stop it being their problem by reversing the river to flow the other way so the fresh lake water now flushed their stinking river waste away!  Charming!

I've never been taken by city architecture before so it was all new when it came to the names of the different architectural styles (e.g. European, Minimalist, European Minimalist... best of all: Brutalist!) and I'd never considered the supreme significance of corner offices but they lead to a Japanese designed skyscraper with no windows on the 4 corners so no-one could be given a sense of superiority and an American design with a concertina design on its corners allowing it to fit in 16 corner offices per floor!

Mr RR organised the best evening of all for my birthday: an incredible restaurant where I had steak and lobster (and for the first time ever in a fancy restaurant, was steered away from one choice by the waiter who actually screwed his nose up and shook his head when I asked if a specific appetizer was good!) followed by the most fantastic comedy night.  We were sat in the front row and were the focus of a couple of jokes after they had asked all the usual questions about where we were from, how we met, how Mr RR proposed!  It was actually pretty weird as their main joke about us focussed on the same quote that is on the front of the card my mum gave me for my birthday!  "To the world you are just one person... but to one person you are the world" = spookier than the ghost tour!

So I don't hold this up as a travel blog but here's my top tips if you're coming to Chicago:

  • Wendella Architecture Boat Tour - great introduction to the city and opened my eyes to the interest and beauty of skyscrapers.  
  • The Second City Comedy Night - perhaps the funniest comedy we have ever seen and all sorts of comedians such as Bill Murray, Steve Carell and Tina Fey performed here before they were famous in shows similar to the one we saw, so you know the pedigree's good.
  • Joe's Seafood, Steak and Stone Crab restaurant - pricey but classy without being stuffy.  Incredible food, great portions and fantastically personal service.  

Last day was a quick visit to the outlet mall on the way to the airport to pick up some new clothes (a tradition I associate with coming to America since I worked out here every summer as a university student!) and one last round of soft shell tacos at a Mexican eatery!

As I said, I'm not a city person but I have really liked Chicago.  The river, the sense of space and friendly people make a big difference here.  What great memories!  Here's some photos from our trip:

Being British is still super-trendy

Fun way to update an old-fashioned fountain!

These little guys get everywhere!

Maple Pecan? Traditional English? I think not!

Reminder of our new home

How do they have stones from our abbey and castle?!

"Stood almost on this spot"!! Wow!

Fanta fountain?

No end of tacky souvenirs on offer!

Afternoon tea at super-swish The Drake

Loved the Gothic architecture

Hated the faux castles!

The river makes this city so beautiful

Bright but deceptively chilly!

Skyscrapers line the river

Funky honeycomb style skyscraper car park

Favourite skyscraper: Trump Tower

Trump Tower at night

Stunning skyline at night

Colours of fall

Loved the Cloud Gate sculpture

aka The Bean

Can you find me?

Beautiful beach

And the city is right there!

And because I just can't help myself (and this is meant to be a property blog!) to finish, here are some lovely homes from the Gold Coast area where we were staying.  Apparently it's not just a clever name, but one of the priciest areas of Chicago, presumably due to its proximity to both the city and the beach and the character buildings, so each of these will cost $millions!



Gorgeous bay windows

Did I learn anything?  European style?!

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