Episode Six – More from the Windy City

Comparatively, Sunday was much more low-key than Saturday had been. We slept in, took our time getting ready, and dawdled downtown with Elizabeth to the Art Institute. They had a Matisse exhibition going on, which I really enjoyed, and a lot of other cool stuff which I loved at the time but really don’t remember much about… I was comforted by how often I managed to identify the artist of paintings I didn’t recognise, though! I didn’t realise I knew so much about art. We’d also booked an architectural tour of Chicago at 3:30 though, so we legged it out of the Art Institute and had a quick lunch (chicken pot pie, nom nom nom) before heading down to the river for our boat tour.

Chicago is a really fascinating city – some of the most stunning buildings in the world and some really inspiring history. As I mentioned, there are a few very specific kinds of history that appeal to me, and this was one of them. A third of the city was destroyed in the fire of 1871, but it came back bigger and better, with huge plans for what Chicago was supposed to be. The “world’s first skyscraper” was built in 1885. I put it in inverted commas because we all know that Edinburgh had the first skyscrapers, in the 17th century, some of which were 14 storeys tall while Chicago’s Home Insurance building of 1885 was only ten storeys – but in architectural terms, in order to qualify as a skyscraper, a building has to have like a  steel skeleton or something, so Edinburgh’s tenements don’t count. Anyway, that’s still pretty impressive for a city that’s just recovering from losing a third of its infrastructure, and is also battling with disease from the sewage-ridden Lake Michigan. But this was nothing a little reversing-the-flow-of-the-river couldn’t fix. The river that supplied the lake was being polluted upstream and carrying bacteria into the city’s main water source, so in 1900 they just switched it around by digging a canal. Simples! Then there was the World’s Fair, an incredible success which drew over 27 million visitors from all over the nation and the world, proving that Chicago had risen from the ashes of the fire thirty years before. The fair also inspired the growth that followed… oh, just Google it, I could go on for hours. The last thing I will say is that the city planning is super-cool – there are laws that dictate that no buildings are allowed to be constructed between Lake Shore Drive and the coast, and there are tons of public green spaces and beaches which can never be privatised, so Chicago can remain for everyone. Same goes for the Riverwalk – every site on the river must allow for public access to the path along the side of the river.

The Chicago River

ANYWAY, so I guess I don’t need to tell you that I really enjoyed the historical/architectural boat tour of Chicago. It was super-interesting. But after that we didn’t really have a whole lot else to see, as we’d asked locals about the Navy Pier and they’d said it was very missable. So we trained it out to Lincoln Park and visited the zoo, which was pretty good considering it was free to get in, but had to leave pretty quickly in order to get back on time for our second attempt of dinner at Giuliano’s.

In Chicago, pizza is upside-down. They put the toppings on the bottom, then cheese on top and then the pizza sauce. It works! Giuliano’s pizza was awesome, and very, very filling. We ordered the smallest stuffed pizza they had, which was supposed to serve 1-2 people – but I don’t believe that even America’s most unusually-proportioned individual could have managed a whole one. Grant and I barely managed two thirds of it between us – and we were HUNGY.

Pizza in Chicago is upside-down.

That was pretty much our finale as far as Chicago goes. The drive home was to take eight hours so we left early the next day and drove around the city for a while before heading back to Ohio. Somehow, the drive didn’t seem quite so long after my eighteen-hour journey to the States in the first place! But it was still nice to be back at base in Z-ville. It would’ve been great to spend a bit more time in the city, as there was a lot more to see, but I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on anything really important, so two days was just about enough. I definitely, definitely want to go back to Chicago at some point – it’s clean, it’s classy, it’s fascinating… it’s phenomenal! Seriously though, my last words on the subject are: Go. To. Chicago. You won’t regret it.

Over and out.




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