Monday, July 16, 2012

Storms, sunshine and fire.

Day three in Chicago – sore feet and all, I’m still going out to see what is left to see in this fine city...

Well, the answer to that question is ‘A lot’.

After getting some blister plasters (band aids for all you North American and Canadians!) and sorting out my feet – its ok they will be fine! I jumped onto the ‘L’ for a ride around the loop and down towards Roosevelt Station, where I jumped off and took a look around the south end of Grant Park and the Museum Campus. Chicago is a very lucky city. Not, because everyone wins the lottery (they dont), but because when it was just a small place, the town planners and people who lived here, wanted to save the best bits for the people, so that waterfront area, the parks and especially the lake were all made into places for the people to use. Chicago has never had any factories or industrial areas blighting the lake front (apart from the water treatment plant, for obvious reasons) and they even built three superb museums here in stunning buildings for the people to visit on their days out. The aquarium, planetarium and Natural History museum are all housed here at the south end of Grant Park and are all superb. I just had a look around the outside today but even that was worth the visit- plus there is a dinosaur overlooking the car park too which is cool. I also walked a little further south to the home of the Chicago Bears NFL team. Soldier Field, which is actually so named to honour the servicemen of the USA.   It’s a weird stadium – what looks like a spaceship crash landed into Rome – with a huge disk shaped stadium over Romanesque columns. I’m not sure whether to like it or not, but it is spectacular in one way or another.
Some more cool stuff in Chicago

Look out - Dinosaur

Memorial to the workers at Soldier Field

Cool stadium or not? I cant decide

The weather changed as I headed back into the park and I could hear the start of a thunder storm, so I hunkered down by a tree and set my camera to video the storm. I was joined by a dude named Johnny and we chatted for a while about the weather, travelling, and his divorce, a trip he made to Arkansas when he was the only black guy in the town and all the white women loved him – literally! He was a good guy and when he upped and left I went to shake his hand as he went to bump fists! We laughed and did both whilst making quips about English and Americans. I hope he finds a job, as he is a great bloke.

After the storm I ventured into the dark alleyways that you find behind every building – I wanted to see something that tourists don’t normally consider and it was fun – I was surprised at how clean they were and how the back of the buildings are even more interesting than the fronts sometimes. 
My mate Johnny enjoying the rain

the rain

cool storm

this one was close!


Also in the afternoon I visited the Washington Library, which is an amazing huge 9 floor building next door to the hostel. Moving north I made my way to Daley Plaza, where there is an Unnamed Picasso statue that stands 50 feet over the square. Its impressive and a really cool place to mellow out on a hot day. Behind that is ‘Thompson Centre’. This looks like any normal glass fronted building on the outside, but inside is hollow. You can see up about 20 stories at the glass roof that towers above you. It’s no wonder that people describe it like being in an alien space ship. I watched as other people came in and exclaimed ‘Wow’, as they saw the roof. (I said ‘Fucking hell’, as I came in) It immediately jumped to the top of my favourite Chicago buildings list. Outside is a weird sculpture that looked like nothing you can describe, but the locals know it as ‘Snoopy in a blender’. Enough said. 

Snoopy in a blender??

The awesome Thompson building interior

I finally gave in and went to see the Sears (Willis) tower. After paying to get in, getting through security, and queuing about 5 times to get lifts and stuff, I finally made it to floor 103. The observatory floor. I was disappointed. Apart from the glass cubes hanging over the side of the building, there is not a lot up there. The views from Hancock are better and with the audio tour you get to know a lot about the city. Here in Willis, there was none of that. Just a whole load of people and not enough space. After a few minutes I joined the huge queue to get back down and headed back to the hostel for a beer and a rest.

It was a brilliant day though – with a great thunderstorm, shared with Johnny and seeing some other parts of Chicago. I still have tomorrow here and a huge list of things to see!

Well, I have done a lot more and still have too much to see before I leave. A stroll along the riverside walk this morning, taking in some of the history of the river and the cool bridges and buildings brought me out at Trump International. A stunning building which boasts it looks different from every angle – It does. It very cleverly designed, so that at each side the height of the building matches those around it, so even though it bigger than them all, on all sides it doesn’t quite appear like that. A cool building though and close by is another one - Tribune Tower.

Unnamed Picasso

The glass ledge103 floors up

The views were good


Zoom in if you can...bits if buildings from everywhere at Tribune Tower

I passed by this the other day but didn’t stop to look closer. It actually has lots of parts of other famous buildings from around the world, embedded into the stone work – so there bits of The Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China and Cologne Cathedral amongst many others. I like that, but wonder if they should be left where they are instead of being taken away for tourists to see elsewhere. If you want to see The Great Wall of China – Go to China!! I did!

Further along the river I came across Navy Pier. This used to belong to the Navy as the name suggests, but is now a centre for families to visit and enjoy – especially on a hot summers day. There are gardens, rides, boat trips and a famous Ferris Wheel, that says it is designed just like the original Ferris wheel (Aren’t they all!?!) It’s a good walk out to the end of the pier and when I was there, a sailing competition was taking place, so I watched for a while before the impending storm hit the city again. By the time the rain started I was back in Millennium Park and so I hid in the Cultural Centre, where there is a tourist information booth as well as a wonderful building to look around. Huge windows overlook the park and I sat for a while waiting for the downpour to stop, with a great view of everyone outside getting wet.

Navy Pier

The sailing competition

Monument to canoes!?

Rain...lots of it

After mellowing out for an hour back at the hostel, I rode the ‘L’ out to Midway airport, where I changed to a local bus and finally found myself at ‘Toyota Park’, home of Chicago Fire Soccer team. (Football, I know.) Tonight they were playing Vancouver Whitecaps and I was amongst a crown of nearly 17,000 to watch it.

At Toyota Park
The game wasn’t the best I have ever seen, but Fire won 1-0 even though they had a goal disallowed and were down to 10 men for most of the 2nd half. The crowd was a bit strange. In the first half, I sat in my allotted seat, which was right next to the away fans from Vancouver – all 40 of them. All around me the home fans seemed more interested in chatting to each other and hardly watched the game unless Fire were attacking. I moved in the 3nd half though to ‘The Harlem End’, where the diehard home support is. There, led by two maniacs stood on a metal frame leading the chants, we stood on the seats and sang throughout the whole of the 2nd half. I joined in when I could understand what they were singing and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It wasn’t the Stretford End, but with about 300 fans going mental, it gave it a good shot and succeeded at feeling like a football match. At the end, fireworks went off over the stadium to mark the victory.

The Fire supporters - comlete with Fire Engine noise!

                                                    From inside with the supporters...

...and inside

In with the die hard supporters!

It was great!!

It was a good night out and well worth the entrance fee of about $25. I now have a football team (United of course – as well as Bournemouth) hockey team (Jets), NFL team (Bears), MLS team (Fire) and if I really need to- an MLB team (Nuggets). No way will I ever stoop so low as to watch rounders though (Baseball).

So that was Chicago – a great city and somewhere I fully intend to re-visit sometime...maybe when the Bears are playing.....

Its now 6pm and after an easy Greyhound trip, I am in Indianapolis! I arrived at the hostel to find about 20 people in the back garden enjoying what they call 'A festival', loud music is blaring out on what is the 3rd day of a weekend of it. Im so glad I only got here today. I will tell you more about the arrival in Indy later, but for now, I am off out to explore and get some peace and quiet!

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