I originally wanted to travel from Boston to Chicago by rail. I realise that would have been a very long journey but we would have gotten ourselves a sleeper car. I think it would have been a very nice, relaxing experience. Sitting on a train watching the world go by while reading a book, listening to podcasts or playing a game really appeals to me. Alas, a few things conspired against the idea. Firstly, the holiday was going to be slightly shorter than planned so spending an extra day travelling didn't make sense and then there was the cost. It would have been four times more expensive to go with Amtrak than it was to fly with US Airways. Those reasons and I didn't fully commit to the idea in the first place, it was something I would have liked to do but I never actually made the decision to go and do it. So in the end we flew to Chicago.
There isn't really much to report about the plane trip to Chicago other than it was a little bumpy. I've recently read that a plane is like a see-saw. The front and the back tend to rock the most so if you sit in the middle it will move a lot less. We were sitting at the very back of the plane to Chicago and my wife was feeling a little unwell and to be fair the plane was rocking a bit. I know in future to try to sit in the middle. After collecting our luggage we got a taxi into the city, it was a pretty long drive because of the heavy traffic. We did spot an awesome Jeep on the freeway that had a very authentic looking Autobot insignia on the back. It is about the only thing on the holiday that I didn't manage to get a photo of. Arriving at the Affinia Hotel it is hard not to be impressed. The building looks brand new, people were on hand to take your luggage and check-in was very efficient. It got even better when we walked into our room. It was a very spacious and modern room. As you enter the room the bathroom was to the right and then you had steps down into the bedroom area. The bed was very large and we had a nice big window, although the view was nothing spectacular as the Affinia building is dwarfed by neighbouring buildings. The only downside to the room was the lack of free wi-fi, something I had become very accustomed to by that stage.
We arrived mid-afternoon and after settling into the room we went for a walk to get our bearings. The hotel is on E. Superior Street which runs perpendicular to the famous North Michigan Avenue and is right on the Magnificient Mile. I was now three for three with good hotels in great locations after NY and Boston. We had missed lunch so we went to a diner and both opted for a nice Italian sausage sandwich. The rest of the afternoon was spent looking around the Magnificient Mile, spotting things that we would head back to over the next few days. Of course I also spotted the local Apple Store that as luck would have it was right around the corner from our hotel. Unfortunately, they had no iPad cases either but they were sold out of iPads too, which made me feel better for buying mine in Boston. I got my picture taken outside the store to complete the set for this holiday. We also went over to the Hershey's Store to see what it was like. Even when those Hershey's Kisses are free I still wouldn't eat them. We kept an eye out for somewhere to go for dinner that night and settled on The Grill on the Alley, by the Westin Hotel on Migichan Avenue. When we got there that night we thought at first that it seemed a little fancy but it actually had a nice laid back atmosphere. I remember that we both really enjoyed our meal there but I can't quite remember what I had. It was some kind of chicken dish with mash that was delicious.
|View from the John Hancock Observatory|
The next day we went to get the tour bus for a day of proper sightseeing. As we passed the John Hancock Building and got the history of it the guide told us an interesting story. There is a small one-storey building at the back of the Hancock Building, that is used by very, very rich people who meet up and play poker. When the Hancock Building was relatively new they wanted to expand its grounds and so made an offer to buy the small building. They were refused, so they tried again. Once more they were refused and the owners of the Hancock Building got more aggressive in their attempts to buy. Finally, the lawyers for the Hancock Building got a phone call from one of the regulars at the poker games in the building they were trying to buy. He told the lawyer in no uncertain terms that if they contacted them again with another offer to buy, they would counter the offer and buy the John Hancock Building for themselves and firing the management while they were at it. No further attempts to buy the small building were made.
|The Silver Bean|
When we got back on the bus we had a new tour guide, who was friendly, funny and pretty darn hot. The plan was to head over the University campus but President Obama was in the city at the time causing chaos with the city's traffic. We had to take a detour on the way and were diverted onto the freeway. It was pretty exhilarating racing along the freeway on the upper deck of the open top bus. After that we found our way to Navy Pier but by this time it was getting late so we decided to return there the next day. As we made our way back to Migichan Avenue our tour guide was pointing out many locations used in the filming of The Dark Knight. I'm pretty sure I spotted the street that they filmed the truck flipping scene but she didn't mention it. I'm going to assume that I'm right though. That night we went to the Grand Lux Café on Migichan Avenue. It is a very busy place and they gave us a beeper to notify us when our table was ready. We weren't waiting that long and when we got into the dinning area we were up on the second floor. We had a friendly waiter, almost overly so but it was a very enjoyable meal. I went for the chicken and prawn jambalaya and to say it was delicious is to do it a mis-service. During our mains the waiter asked if we would like them to start baking us some desserts, as all the desserts are freshly baked. We were tempted but in the end settled for tea and coffee.
|Site of the worlds first Ferris Wheel|
|Monument with Standing Beast|
Other random memories from Chicago include a visit to the local Lego megastore where I met such famous characters as Darth Vader, Harry Potter and R2-D2. I'm not sure which night it was but we also ate out at a sports bar, we had had our fill of fancy restaurants. We both got a plate of ribs and they were delicious. Our final day in Chicago was a bit awkward because we had to check-out at noon but the flight home wasn't till around four I think. So we left our bags in the hotel and went out to kill a bit of time. I went to the Apple Store because I still needed to find a case to bring home my iPad. They were still out of stock on the official case so I had to settle for a purple, yes purple carry case. I had planned on replacing it when I got home but I still have it and use it so it wasn't a bad purchase in the end. For lunch that day we went to Gino's East, next door to our hotel. We had very high expectations for this meal because every night we had passed this restaurant the queue to get in stretched down the block. Disappointingly it didn't live up to our expectations. We can't honestly see why so many people would be queueing up to get in. Neither of us ordered the pizza, or the deep-dish pizza that Chicago is so famous for so perhaps we missed out. After lunch we got a taxi out to the airport to take the curtain down on our latest trip to the US.
Apart from the slight disappointment with NY this was a thoroughly enjoyable holiday. Boston is now one of my favourite places in the world and I'd heartly recommend Chicago to anybody. We got to take in some real Americana with the baseball game, saw many famous landmarks, ate some great steak, took some wonderful pictures and have many, many great memories. What more can you ask of a holiday?