Having spent most of the preceding day in New Orleans Airport with a delay and a transfer to a later flight I arrived very late at night to my new Lodgings "The Getaway Hostel" and pleased to say it is clean and quiet and a good night sleep was had.
My first full day in Chicago was started with a decent gratis breakfast after which a short train ride to downtown is where I met a friend I made during my time in Madrid with Vaughan Town, Alan Ayers, who not only lives in Chicago but is a City Guide so happy days.
After reacquainting ourselves Alan set about educating me about his home town and we then spent the rest of the day travelling around the Loop Area downtown for a very interesting first day
The Chicago Cultural Centre was built in 1893 as the Library and used as such until the new one was built in 1991 the inside is amazing for the time it was built with electric lights even back then and still houses The largest Tiffany Dome in the world - pretty neat eh!
Inside there are many free concerts given as well as rooms and indeed floors offered for exhibitions. There were three current exhibits of a local artist and Art students are allowed to sit in and do work.
After leaving the culture Centre I had to try my hand at bareback cattle riding before crossing the road to The Millennium Park, an area by the side of the lake and part of which is the state of the art outside concert park where concerts are regular features when the weather is fine.
The streets are free for families to bring a picnic and enjoy the music from the grass area and as you can see the sound system covers the whole area
In the first picture Alan & John with The Bean and beyond the mix of old and new architecture this city is famous for. I'm not sure of the official name (you can look it up) affectionately know by the locals as "The Bean" Geometrically designed if you stand under it on the footsteps in the cement then try and count the number of reflections (Good Luck).
Our next stop was at The Red Bull Exhibition in the park - all figures are made from recycled Red Bull cans. Red Bull on the moon one day?
Meanwhile Alan was in training for his next time he visits Madrid when he says he will take on the real thing and I was asking this Red Bull Gal if she could see us as a couple? No she said, "I have too much energy for you" !!!!!!
The skyline of Chicago really stands out with it's variety in Architecture and the old and the new fit seamlessly together take the female Hatter as apposed to a female milliner who makes ladies Hats. Something you don't see too often anywhere these days just around the corner from the Chicago Jail.
Continuing on the loop Alan pointed out this sculpture by Picasso and you are meant to guess what it represents and I thought my guess an Elephant was not going to be far off - see the trunk and the ears yeah you can see that can't you - not even close it's his wife and as he had 5 I think I'm still none the wiser.
Next two pictures show City Hall and the Cook County building built 1906 - compare them to the other two pictures of the all glass structure of the new Thompson Centre (State of Illinois building)
Now those of you that know me well, know I am a great film Buff, and in Chicago I had to see the stairway in Union Station where that great scene where Kevin Costner & Andy Garcia in a shoot out with the mob around a baby in a pram is played out in "The Untouchables"
In the third picture is The Grand Hall of Union Station. It is so big they do have musical concerts in here and behind the black drapes on the right is their Christmas tree decorated and ready for the lights - how do I know - I am nosy — Ha Ha.
Ok, so I am going to call this building The Sears Tower as it was always known, although now it has a different name, The Willis Building - if you look up towards the top you can see the glass bottom platforms you can step out onto and confirm your vertigo, cost $19-00.
Alternatively come with me and Alan and later he will show you the view from another building close by, no entry fee + a beer from the bar.
As night falls the city takes on a different feel and as we continue on in downtown Chicago you can see how Donald, Trumped everyone by being the only modern skyscraper in the city with his name on it - If you have the front which Alan has you can bluff your way up to the 16th floor bar for a good view of the city but no that's not the secret spot.
Next picture shows the Chicago night Skyline with the Wrigley Building in the centre. And I had never heard of Nik Wallenda before but I certainly looked him up after I was told he walked BLINDFOLDED between the top of the two circular buildings and made it !!!!
When I saw this building that called itself "All Saints - Spitalfields London I thought I was lost again and all those ancient singer sowing machines and not just the windows - Awesome
Inspiration for the store’s design comes from Isambard kingdom Brunel designs, which can be seen in London’s Paddington and Victoria railway stations.
Sarah Lawrence, public relations and marketing manager for All Saints, explained that the store is a globally conscious one. Sixty percent of the Chicago store is reclaimed artefacts – for example, four massive cashmere looms from Turkey hold clothing and accessories. Hundreds of other cast iron, vintage industrial machines, like printing presses and Singer sewing machines, are transformed into shelves and railings to display apparel. There are 800 sewing machines, an All Saints signature design, in the front windows and throughout the store.
Between October 8th and 10th in 1871 Chicago was burnt to the ground by the great fire and what you are looking at is one of the very few buildings that survived, the aptly named "Water Tower" - The New Water Tower Building is also a place for Tourist information and cheap theatre tickets.
If you look between the old and new water tower in the third picture you will see a building with a tower sticking out of the top of the building both lit up and that is The "John Hancock Centre" where I am heading with Alan to rest our feet and enjoy a cold drink.
Alan & I enjoy a window seat and a drink at the end of an informative day as we look out towards Navy Pier and Lake Michigan one way and Lake Michigan shoreline with The Loop in the other I believe this is a view to sup ale to and I did just that from the 96th Floor - No entry fee and $8.50 for the beer $12 for a glass of wine.
As my first full day comes to an end I have just two things to say -
1) It has been really good to meet up again after our time in Madrid so A BIG THANK YOU to Alan
2) I'm glad it's not my electric bill but an awesome sight non the less
On my way back to the Hostel I was to encounter two firsts - My first Pint of Green King Real Ale in USA and my first snow fall
Well the snow on Thursday night failed to settle and the next day although bitterly cold was free from snow and so I decided that I would firstly visit the home of the famous Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field
Although not a great Baseball fan this is home to one of the great American Baseball teams and I couldn't visit Chicago and not pay homage to the "Cubs" although at the moment the place is closed up with major alterations going on all around the ground. I was amazed to see that houses overlooking the stadium had built stands on the roofs of their houses and sold tickets to fans to watch from there. Couldn't see any British Football teams standing for that under any circumstances.
I know you will recognise this as the location of the blindfolded tightrope walk from yesterday but did any of you recognise it from the Scene in the film "The Hunter" where Steve McQueen drives a truck off the car park from 15 floors up into the river.
And this is the river boat that does the architecture tour which I would have gone on if it had been warmer but instead I put the $40-00 to the ticket for the Blue Man show in the warm later tonight.
The Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio Building on the way to Navy Pier. The doorway to the Chicago Tribune Tower outside which stands the bust of Jack Brickhouse, of which many of you will instantly say - Who - He was the only non player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for his contribution to broadcasting and has pride of place outside The Tribune have a read over the next 3 photos and you will see he earned it.
The writing in the plaque below is relating to his fight with a Brain Tumour and his work for the association which as you know is something close to my own heart.
If the Lone Ranger can have Silver why can't there be a Golden One in Chicago - with wings?
This is the entrance to Navy Pier which is longer and bigger than Southend - on - Sea and unlike Southend they don't charge you to walk down it. There is a Building on the pier which will be a concert Hall and a Ferris wheel and fun-fare where the ride costs $7.00 - useless info the record for the longest Ferris Wheel ride was done here and lasted over 2 days - personally once round and you would have been frozen to the seat for the rest of it.
Through the gardens you will find a restaurant / Bar and this is where I had my lunch and to be honest I thought Harry Caray was a form of Japanese Suicide but he was a top sportsman and makes pretty good burgers as well. And lets be honest anybody who has Whiskey as their soup of the day is OK in my books.
From the end of the Pier you can get either a view of a liner heading towards Chicago or a view of the Chicago skyline and although the work on the Pier will not be finished for a year it is still worth a visit in the interim.
I rounded off my day with a visit to The Briar Theatre, Briar Street, to see The Blue Man Group which has been running for 17 years in Chicago and easy to see why, unfortunately no pics allowed.Chicago until the next time