North America 2013: Chicago

I was quite excited about visiting Chicago, and it was fun to wander around, but ultimately I felt rather underwhelmed. I definitely feel that I missed out though; sometimes a city simply fails to inspire, but in this case I think I just failed to find the fun bits. Notably, I completely failed to go to any Jazz or Blues clubs. I’m definitely keen to return (will any show me around?)

Millennium Park and Willis Tower

The weather was already looking glorious, and I headed into town to hunt down, first and foremost, the “bean”! (Its actual title is the cloud gate). This surprisingly-funky sculpture is just one of many in Millennium Park, and on a sunny Saturday I was not the only one enjoying it.

The bean was definitely a highlight, and I couldn’t help giggling when I realised you could also stand underneath it. Afro beats at a near-by sound stage provided a backdrop for the rest of my exploration.

That afternoon I yet-again braved the crowds end endless queuing for Willis Tower, still the second-tallest building in the United States. It was a pretty familiar story for me by this stage however: great views, but by the time we got up there I was more or less done.

To unwind I wandered the streets a little, although on a Saturday evening in the business area the streets were pretty quiet. There is a collection of sculptures by famous artists, all roughly on the same intersection, and I hunted those down. My favourite was undoubtedly a horse by Picasso, a 3-dimensional instantiation of his minimalist line-drawing style, but up close rather massive and physical. I even watched some cyclists using it as a ramp at one point! Apparently this is a bit of a mascot of the city and they even dress it up in team colours for sports events at times. Close by was a Miro, and around the corner one by Dubuffet, known colloquially and for obvious reasons as “Snoopy in a blender”.

Rain and Architecture

The following day the weather gods had deserted me, and I had to run for the train downtown. After grabbing a coffee I found a river architecture cruise—for those unaware, Chicago is renowned for its architecture (and in particular as a pioneer of the skyscraper age). The old city was razed almost completely by a fire in 1871, followed by architects flocking from all around lured by the blank slate offered and the promise of modern building materials (steel and concrete instead of wood).

The tour was impeccably run by a volunteer guide (a river docent), although I was less impressed having to buy a poncho!

The rain only got heavier, and I splashed out on a spectacular lunch at a gastro-pub. The rain eased slightly so I had a bit of an explore around the hipster area of Logan Square.

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