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A Windy Week and Many Streets

I spent a week in Chicago for work and in between meetings and conferences I had a chance to take in the sights –and there were a lot! Those sights are massive in dimension –be it Lake Michigan or any of the many (many) skyscrapers. I took the liberty of going on the “Wandella River Architecture Tour,” which was led by a local architecture student. Her breadth of knowledge showed the real love that “Chicagoans” have for their city. Looking at the buildings from the river put the entire city into perspective.

There wasn’t a street that did not provide some amazing piece of history, art, and architecture to appreciate and admire, which made walking in that cold windy weather almost enjoyable. At every turn, I was left amazed, from Millennium Park and the “Magnificent Mile” to the Northside (Wrigley Field) and the Southside (Pullman National Historic District).

Like any tourist I had to try the “El” (for elevated) and later ventured onto the “Metra” (train) and in both cases I was amazed by the cleanliness of the system (given the age) and the helpfulness of the clerks, conductors, and staff –all of whom patiently helped as I asked how to “go here” and “get there.” Once figured out, getting around town was easy, but looking at those charts the first time was intimidating.

As a word to the wise, take a rideshare (Uber/Lyft) out to Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and studio –it is a long trek! Once done with the house, slowly and carefully meander through the neighborhood and notice that just about every house was designed by FLW. Keep on heading towards the main boulevard (Lake Street) and go marvel at Unity Church –spectacular!!!

However, walking is just as well –everything is compact and walk-able. I relied on the “El” and “Metra to get into the North, and later the Southside’s, and even then they were short 10-15 minutes’ jaunts. Millennium Park was a sight to see. Beyond all the beautiful sculpture and art, including the very famous “Cloud Burst” (the “bean”) there are the museums and wonderful vistas of Michigan Ave. Located in Millennium Park is the Art Institute of Chicago and as an 80’s kid I went ahead and replayed the scene in Ferris Buller’s Day Off looking at Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon…” I was later introduced to “Whistler’s Mother” (lovely lady) and a myriad of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Let me put it this way: if you took Art History in High School or College, many of the paintings at the museum where the examples in your book.

What Chicago tour would be complete without visits to Mafia/Bootlegger history. The best way to enjoy it was at some of the older dinner establishments in the city. Although there are many, I left my heart at the Italian Village and later at Berghoffs –one is Italian fare and the other German. Having grown up with both styles of cooking I can safely tell you that the food is as authentic as it can be. The atmospheres where equally grand and spending time inside, watching everyone come and go, was a pleasure.

The Pullman Historic District pertains to the Pullman Cars (trains, trolleys) and the once Utopian ideal/vision and town that Mr. Pullman built for his workers.

I also visited the (ahem) “Willis Tower” (aka/formerly known as the “Sears Tower”). Once at the top the vistas are unforgettable –you could see for miles and miles in every direction. It is from this vantage point that you first start to realize the immensity of Lake Michigan (300 miles long, 100 miles wide –and it is not the biggest). At first sight you think you are looking at an ocean.

Three are too many great things to be said about all the buildings, the history and the architecture. So, I leave you with this morsel: visit (if nothing else) the Tribune Tower and walk all around the outside of the building. Placed into its façade are pieces from national monuments and treasures from around the world. I will not spoil it, but it feels like visiting the world as you marvel (and touch!) those materials. As you start to think about where they came from you are instantly transported there. Places like the pyramids of Egypt, Santa Sophia (Turkey), Edinburgh Castle, etc.

A week was not enough (not nearly enough) but the taste I got ensures that I will visit again.

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