et another adventure to add to the memory box is CHICAGO! It was quite awesome. For the Thanksgiving long weekend Mark and I got a group of exchangers and a token Canadian together and went to Chicago. It was so lucky that our Canadian friend, Mark, could drive and had an awesome car that fit 7 people, because we got to make it a road trip. We left at 6.30am Saturday morning and drove toward the U.S. We reached the border after about 3 or 4 hours… and as you can imagine, that was an experience.
We were 7 people from 4 different countries jam-packed into a car. If that wasn’t bad enough we realised we had 3 apples! Well we had to get out of the car and answer lots of questions, but it actually wasn’t that bad. When we all stepped out the Homeland security officer asked if it was some sort of clown car… Once of U.S. soil we noticed it looked remarkably like Canadian soil, except the roads were better in Canada. I maintain that hings were bigger as soon as we got into the states… but that may just be a distorted perception.
We drove through 3 states in America. We entered through Michigan, went through Indiana and stopped in Illinois. I have now been to 5 U.S states (I’ve also been to California and Colorado)! We drove a bit more and after about 10 hours we finally got to Chicago. Our apartment was so nice. It was in a very ritzy neighbourhood with beautiful Fall trees and Chicago-style townhouses. We found the apartment online and were staying with the 3 guys who live there, renting out their common area filled with air mattresses. Because there were so many of us we only had to pay about $25 each to stay there.
For dinner we headed into downtown via the very noisy train that ran right by people’s houses. Mark got suckered into getting a shoe-shine from a strange man who picked him out as a tourist.
Downtown Chicago was really beautiful – the architecture was amazing and there were lots of beautiful trees. Some thing we did learn about Chicago was that there are A LOT of lines. It seems if you want anything good – there is a 45 minute wait. We wanted t eat the famous deep dish pizza that we had heard so much about – ut the line was quite ridiculous. We instead opted for a line-less Mexican place that was quite delicious.
Oh, and one more thing… Chicago is expensive. I was expecting food to be cheap because it was America, but I forgot that it is a famous city… hence some pricey eats. But dinner was good and we explored the city a bit more.
The next day we headed out for bagels – which were quite excellent – before crossing a marathon and catching a train packed so tightly you couldn’t actually fall over.
We were so lucky with weather for this trip. Every single day was perfect sunshine and about 26 degrees. I mean seriously, it doesn’t get better than that. We went to the Chicago River and looked up Marylin Monroe’s skirt before getting on a River and Lake cruise. We enjoyed lots of stories about the amazing architecture and city in general. There are a lot of rich people in the world, some of whom build opera theatres for their not-so-talented girlfriends and get bankrupted by the Great Depression. There also seems to be a lot of competition in Chicago to be the tallest building, or the biggest. One building had its own ZIP code up until a few years ago.
Our tour guide told us that the river never used to be such a pretty colour (caused by the clay or algae or something) but instead was incredibly polluted as people used to throw all of their garbage and dead animals in it. People were dying from waterborne diseases, and so the city reversed the flow of the river by making it drain into the largest body of water around – the Atlantic ocean. It’s pretty amazing hat humans can do to nature. Actually, it’s a bit frightening if you ask me, humans keep fighting against nature. Maybe if I try to be optimistic I can see that the people used gravity (nature) to reverse the river simply by making a link to another body of water, so it is sort of working with nature. I feel like being optimistic so I am going to stick with that one.
Once out on Lake Michigan I had the hardest time trying to comprehend that it was a lake. You could not even nearly see the other side, and there were waves. The water is a beautiful blue-green colour and fresh! Just amazing!
After the cruise we were pretty damn hungry, and decided to try Gino’s East again for lunch in hope that there might not be a line. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to ever be the case in Chicago and there was a 45min wait. We all agreed though that if we went home without trying the famous deep dish pizza, every time we told someone we went to Chicago and they inevitably asked ‘Did you try deep dish pizza?’ and we said no… It would be a lifelong disappointment. So we stood in that line with our bellies grumbling and then finally got a table. The walls were covered in graffiti and the place had a great atmosphere. Once our waiter came oer to the table we were ready to order, when he then informed us that deep-dish pizzas took (you guess it) 45 minutes to cook! We’d come this far and ordered anyway. The waiter told us we had over ordered a bit but we didn’t care… we were hungry.
Turns out we had been a bit ambitious with out order as the pizzas were thick with cheese, sauce, pastry and veggies. But damn it was good. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it! Thankfully we could take our leftovers with us and so ate them as the evening progressed.
Lunch had taken us about 3 hours – so we raced over to ‘The Bean’ in the hope that we coud see it quickly and then race back to the Hancock tower to watch the sunset. And that we did. I had very low expectations of the bean… I mean seriously, what’s that about? But it was really fun.
We then raced over to the Hancock tower. As with any city trip there wa a lot of walking, and as usual – it was worth it.
I mentioned that we were lucky with weather, and it was the same for timing. We got to the Hancock tower just before sunset, so we saw the ity in the day, then the sunset and then the city at night. It was so spectacular. The lights were all twinkling – it’s the first good thing I’ve seen pollution do. Actually Chicago is quite clean – barely any rubbish, but it is a huge city so has a bit of a haze. We walked on down to Navy Pier and had a good look at the beautiful lights reflected on the river. I forgot to buy postcards but took some pictures that could be worthy.
It got a little late and we headed back to our apartment via some ice cream and drunk people. Tired again we all slept like logs even though the city lights never went off. The next morning it was time to drive back to Hamilton. First we stopped at Ihop to fill up on pancakes, and fill up we did! Apparently when you get full and sleep in Canada you get the idis… and man did I get some serious idis.
The drive home was LONG. I think it took about 11 hours in total. Our driver did an amazing job considering none of us were allowed to drive in Canada. We kept each other awake with strange games and attempts at speaking Danish. We went via Detroit, because well, we could. We stopped for ‘gas’ (no they don’t call it petrol) in a slighty dodgy area of Detroit where the service staff were behind bullet proof glass. It was interesting and a bit scary… I was even refered to as a ‘white girl’… interesting.
Getting through the border to Canada was a bit of a worry too. There was a lot of traffic and when we finally got there the woman took a little while to believe we didn’t need study permits because we were only in Canada for 4 months and that we hadn’t bought more souvenirs (I explained that the attractions and food were so expensive we didn’t really budget for souvenirs). But she let us through… and it was strange that Canada felt so homely after being in the states. I felt a sense of familiarity when I got out a loonie to buy some peanuts and felt an un-warranted loyalty to Tim Hortons. The other internationals said they felt the same. It was nice. We made it home before midnight and enjoyed a good stretch. So I had never really considered Chicago as a place to visit… but I would recommend it to anyone. Seriously guys, go to Chicago – it is awesome.