Monday, October 16, 2017

Weekend in Chicago

October is a good time to visit Chicago, especially if your daughter lives there. Tom and I hadn't seen Alicia since Christmas 2016 and decided to take a weekend trip to Chicago and see her in her new city. We'd been to Chicago before, but not since 2012.

We took a food tour together in order to taste the local specialties. Alicia had tasted some of them, but not from these locations so she could give us a comparison. 

The tour started with a taste of deep dish pizza. There is some cornmeal in the crust which gives it a bit of crunch. Also, the cheese is under the sauce! Yum!

Next taste: an Italian beef sandwich.

We had ours wet. I can't imagine ordering it dipped. The bread was very crumbly - I think it would have disintegrated if dipped and no longer been edible with hands. 

messy, but tasty
We were able to find stools to sit on and therefore did not have to follow the steps for the Italian Stance. Still amuses me anyway.

Next up, the Chicago hot dog. Our guide recommended we taste it with all seven toppings. After the first bite, we could scrape off anything we didn't like. I was careful to remove most of the sport peppers (spicy), but not all. It was actually quite a challenge to get all the flavors into one bite! I was glad to be able to order a half hotdog - I needed to pace myself.

seven toppings: onion, pickle, mustard, tomato, sport peppers, relish, celery salt

Remember prohibition? Chicago's answer (other than bootleg) was root beer. Ours was served with a large Bavarian pretzel for the sweet salty contrast. We also had three dipping sauces for the pretzel: spicy mustard (like Dijon), honey mustard and cheese.

I liked the spicy mustard best

I am NOT a fan of popcorn and could easily have skipped the next stop. 

Garrett popcorn shop

Thankfully, the shop did not smell like the plain popcorn available at a movie theater or Target. Phew. What they were offering was caramel corn and cheese popcorn. Our guide told us the traditional way to eat them is together - a salty/sweet combo. I tasted it, but didn't finish my serving. Definitely not worth the calories!

Last stop, dessert at the cafe of the Art Institute of Chicago, and one last taste of a sweet and salty combination. Brownies are said to have been invented in Chicago (for the purpose of transporting chocolate cake with fewer crumbs) which is the base of this dessert. If I remember correctly, it also had toasted marshmallow, chopped pretzels, small dots of chocolate mousse and butterscotch ice cream. Not the best brownie I've every had, but good flavors. 

You may wonder how it was possible to eat all of that....well, we managed, but in our defense, the tour was spread over three hours. There was some walking between stops where we learned about landmarks of the city. Here are some sights along our way that did not involve food.

Our guide pointed out several pieces of public art such as Chagall's mosaic representing the four seasons.

Alicia and Tom
Picasso was commissioned to create a sculpture for the city. This is it. What do you think it is supposed to be? Some people said a lion, but I think it looks like the baboon from the Lion King. Picasso left his piece untitled. The mayor named it for him:  "The Picasso."

this is called "the clown"

Across from "The Picasso" is another example of public art:  a sculpture by Miro.

sculpture is 39 feet tall

I love how the buildings reflect the others across the way. The red sculpture is called "the flamingo."
We made a quick stop inside the Chicago Cultural Center lobby to view the Tiffany mosaics and skylight. 

Tiffany skylight
looks awesome with or without the chandelier!

 Cloud Gate which is affectionately called "The Bean."

underneath side of the Bean

clown with his apprentice

The food tour ended in the Art Institute and by the time we were done with our dessert, it was raining. We planned to explore a bit, but stayed longer because of the rain. In Zurich, most visitors want to see the Chagall stained glass windows in the Fraumunster. Here in Chicago, there is also Chagall stained glass! 

The apprentice is learning the craft very well!

Alicia and Tom have been posing like this in cities around the world. Here they found art with the same pose. It was a must photo-op!

just a few of the many

The museum has a room with a huge display of paperweights. I felt compelled to go in and take a peek. The main question is "why?" The display became a joke of the weekend!

On our ride back to our airbnb location, we were rewarded with lovely rainbow views. It's not often that I've seen the rainbow coming down on both ends. I couldn't see either pot of gold, though.

double rainbow!

Lots of other people came to Chicago the same weekend, but they had greatly different plans: to run the Chicago marathon! We had no idea when we chose the weekend. Since Alicia was working on Sunday, I contacted a friend from FUMC, Westfield. We haven't lived near each other in many years (25?), but have kept in contact with Christmas cards and an occasional visit. Her husband was registered to run in the marathon. We met Penny on the route and joined in cheering for him! 

Go Steve!
Heightened security was very evident because of bombing at the Boston Marathon, but it was still fun to be part of the cheering crowd. We saw people in fun costumes or their national colors. There was even someone in a wheelchair and another woman running while pushing a stroller! I never realized there were so many crazy people! They all chose this - no one forced them to run! 

I wonder if the dog made it all 26 miles

runners cross the bridge

 Hula skirt or tutu? What a tough choice!

inspirational: blind runner with a guide on either side

As visible in the pictures, it was a clear, sunny day. It was warmer than the runners would have preferred (Steve said the conditions were "brutal"), but it was a perfect day to be outside in the city. We took advantage of the weather and joined an architectural boat tour on the river. I'd attempted this once before in 2012, but it rained. It was too wet to stay outside, but the views from below and through the glass were definitely not ideal!
same building in 2017
Our guide was fantastic - very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about her subject. I can't repeat all the information she gave us, but it was very interesting. I understand why the city is so proud of their architecture. It is varied and amazing. She used the terms contextual and adaptive reuse repeatedly. In other words, buildings were designed for the context of where they would be built. Also, when a building outlived its original purpose they were refashioned for another use and not just torn down. Cool! I like that.

Marina City

I remember the tour guide in 2012 called these buildings corn cobs, but this guide specifically said they are NOT corn cobs! The lower levels are parking and you have to back into your spot with only a small rail behind your car. I don't think I'd like that very much! The upper levels are apartments with lots of amenities, too. 
lots of glass on the newer buildings
curved building is an example of contextualism reflecting the curving and shimmering river

amazing base of this building - complete with train in foreground

very cool, but also very expensive condos

tallest building is the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower

selfie on the boat

Sadly, we were only able to see the heads from the back. Our guide quoted David Letterman as naming this "The Pez Hall of Fame". Good name!

Lake Point Tower rocks its curves
I would highly recommend a tour run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation - it's pricey, but worth it.  

what an amazing skyline!
Believe it or not, I took many more pictures. Maybe I got a little carried away.

after the tour

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is huge although not the biggest great lake. Sure doesn't look like an ocean since it's so calm. 
it was a nice day, but not warm enough that I would've gone in the water
After our short, but sweet visit with Alicia, we went our separate ways. Tom continued his travels east and Alicia went to work. I had some time before heading to the airport for my flight back to LA. I asked Alicia if there was somewhere close by where I could find more street art. She knew exactly where to send me.


This mosaic mural was actually on the same street as our airbnb. 

Once I started consciously looking, I found these gems right at the closest station, Thorndale.

city skyline in mosaic
 I rode the train (the "L") to the end of the red line and found these:

Following Alicia's instructions, I got off at the Morse Station and followed the tracks. Wow. So much art. This is a sampling, maybe a rather large sampling, but certainly not everything. 

There was even a small sculpture garden on someone's property. I definitely was not expecting that.


Love it!

This area is called Rogers Park and is where Alicia lived her first year in Chicago. Fitting!

ballet meets concrete

yes, please

The Bean and the famous Seurat from the Art Institute

nice to feel welcome

How is that I never noticed the mosaics on the wall in the Thorndale station until now? Once you're specifically looking for public art, it's easier to find.

And right outside Whole's a good thing Tom wasn't with me or that giant bee might have been a problem!

It was short, but a thoroughly enjoyable jaunt to Chicago. I guarantee I'll be back.