Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chicago = "meh"

Due to the facts that I love planning things, enjoy urban travel, have friends who are game and have a name that lends itself so wonderfully to a pun, Melebration is my birthday tradition that took us to Chicago this year.

I have been to Chicago once before, but it was for a winter church missions trip that was full of soup kitchens and painting apartments in the projects.  This time the trip would be extremely different.  Besides the obvious lack of tenements, it was summer, I am no longer 16 and my main goal was to experience the best of the city with fewer guilty pangs.

Ryan, Julie, Elo, and Paul joined me on the adventure and we spent 4 days in what I was expecting to be "New York City Lite".  Not so much.

We did all the expected touristy things - ate at the Cheesecake Factory, went up the Hancock Building, took the highly recommended architechture boat tour, shopped the Magnificent Mile, toured around Navy Pier and eventually made it to the beach.  But somehow, for me, Chicago just fell a little flat.

Once I realized that Chicago wasn't really doing it for me, I purposely struck out on my own to find the cool pockets and interesting neighbourhoods I had heard so much about.  Little did I know that to get to supposedly eclectic Wicker Park, I had to take a long taxi ride along underpasses and highways and was very disappointed to find nothing of note there.

We had extraordinarily bad food luck and never really found an amazing restaurant, the weather was kinda of crummy all weekend and I can only do so much shopping, so I didn't fly away thinking that Chicago was anything special.

In talking to people afterwards, it seems to be a city where you need to visit someone who lives there and who can direct you to (and make advance reservations for) great restaurants and who can show you amazing neighbourhoods.  It's not like New York where you can spend an entire weekend walking around and hit a dozen different neighbourhoods and countless magnificent places.

Chicago is not "New York City Lite".  It's it not even in the same realm as NYC.  It's very "meh".  I'm sure that I will give it another try and some point and maybe see a completely different side of the city - it's got such a great reputation! - but for now, while being with my friends was, of course, the most fun, Chicago is not for me.

But, now, enough belly-aching (that was reserved for the deep dish pizza) - onto the pictures!

 On my last day, I got up very early in one last attempt to find redeeming qualities about Chicago.  I went to Lincoln Park, the zoo and the beach.  The beach was glorious and I concede that this is one thing Manhattan does not have.  I wish it had been a warmer weekend and that I had discovered it sooner.

 Cloud Gate (aka The Bean)
 Finally a genius answer to the table waiting game.  Sure, it will be a 45 minute wait, but you place your order ahead of time and when your name is called, your pizza is ready.  Why hasn't everyone thought of this?
 The pizza was quite good and the drinks even better.
 Ok, whoa, it looks like my right cheek is about to burst off my face.  It's like a tumour!  Given my plate, it's probably filled with pizza.
 A girl and her boy friends.
 Taxicab confessions: we're all hungry.
 We had a surprisingly sweet hotel room that was huge!
 Aw, our cute and small friend Julie.  She's so wee!  With 5'10" and 6'4" tall dinner companions, she wasn't even given a chance.
 Finally, sunshine!  At the Lincoln Park Zoo and Observatory.
 You'll notice 6 tickets in my hand (and a bald creeper) and yet one of us slept through it.  Guesses?

 ...and Ryan's interpretation of art.

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