Chi- Cha- Chicago (Part 2)

We bypassed ice-skaters who performed pirouettes on the McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. Another factor of interest in Millennium Park are two large screens which were built up at the time we were there. In these, two women were each virtually interacting with each other from one side to another.
During the summer, I heard, many concerts and other cultural events are going on throughout the entire park.

From here, our tour took us to the Navy Pier, which is an amusement center right on Lake Michigan. It has stores and souvenir shops inside and several rides and a Ferris Wheel outside. The aunt and cousin were brave enough to resist the drizzling rain outside while we walked from one end to another. The others stayed inside, all warm and cozy at an exotic green house. All around the upstairs and downstairs area several sculptures bearing flowers could be found. A possible predecessor of the annual Chicago Flower and Garden Show in March?

The Navy Pier is almost 100 years old (I am sure their anniversary is coming up within the next five years) and it is an absolute must-go in the summer. There is not too much to do in the winter, unfortunately, but kids will always be entertained, due to the Children’s Museum inside.

From then on, we had enough of trotting around in the meanwhile pouring rain. We took a cab to Cousin # 3, who lives in an apartment situated in a tall building in the midst of downtown Chicago. He has a great food store just outside of the building and has possible the best walk ever just to get his grocery shopping done. After catching up with everyone and eating out at a typical American restaurant, we started making our way home to where the cousins and aunt lives. This is indeed in the Suburbs, about 40 mins from the city.

At night, I went to my first Blues bar ever. Buddy Guy’s Legends in the South Loop offered a night with Zac Harmon and his band from Tennessee. We spent a good 4 and a half hours of listening to the some great blues while watching the girls and boys getting crazy in front of the band. Then jetlag/tiredness kicked in and there was no way I could have possibly staid up for much longer.

What I noticed more during night then at day was indeed what Chicago is known for: Its wind! Icy, freezing gusts blowing our hoodies from our head and making my face feel numb after only a few minutes outside. If this is how it had been at the end of the winter, then I dare not think about what the previous arctic months had felt like. Or rather: What they usually felt like, as this city had also experienced a relatively mild winter in 2011-12.

The second day was spent in the S’burbs. Catching up with Aunt # 2. Snatching some fine Pizza at an Italian restaurant. Even though the city still stands for good pizza, most of the locations have moved out to the ‘Burbs, offering fine culinary experiences in more down-to-earth spots than ever.

Visiting a huge shopping mall I hadn’t seen in ages. Finding an even finer store called Carson’s, which offered better deals and sassier clothing than Macy’s ever could. What a surprise this was indeed for me, and I am all in for stealing this store and setting it up in Midtown Manhattan.

Then a night out at a delicious Tex-Mex restaurant. Getting to know the cousins’ friends better, since they invited a bunch over to celebrate both of their (close) birthdays at the bar next door.

What was left was one fine Sunday. A sleep-deprived but nevertheless fun-filled day. The relatives wanted to show the girlfriend and me one last thing. So we went to Lincoln Park: A park filled with a zoo, a conservatory, and lots of space to walk. First we did indeed check out the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Albeit small in size, it had every color imaginable. A humidity and heat only known in tropical areas inundated us as soon as we stepped in. We were surrounded by exotic plants and flowers and I couldn’t help it but take the following picture(s).

Surrounded by a true jungle feeling and green heaps of lianas, we made our way out to the next attraction: The Lincoln Park Zoo. Despite the wintry temperatures outside, we still found a good amount of animals. The giraffe and monkeys inside being among the cutest. When bypassing the feeding of the seals and going straight to the big cats, we saw a lonely lioness excitedly jumping around in her isolated area. Then, all of a sudden, a crazy dash all across the stone. Her keeper was arriving and the lion knew she was being feed. The Girlfriend shot a great picture of the yellow fellow crashing towards us and jumping at us, only being stopped by the glass protection.
Overall, we spent some great two hours in both the zoo and the flower power house. The best part about it is that they are for free and always worth checking out – either for a family trip or when you feel like dipping into a different world.

From there on we were just exploring the neighborhood a bit. Walking around the blocks, where I found a quaint store offering bathtub foam in the form of a lollipop. Then we took in a late lunch at the Austrian Café, where they indeed did not speak much Austrian. The girlfriend claims she suspected one employee to have a German accent but that was of course when we were long-gone and standing outside. A fail to discover from my side, I agree.

Lincoln Park is in the up and coming, as far as I can tell. High loft buildings are built around churches, and older houses are bought up from the bourgeoisie of the city. Maybe comparable to the people you find in the Upper West side. An older crowd, with a lot of money who have been living the neighborhood for a very long time. Because Chicago is so very young indeed, I believe the people of the neighborhood are not as rigidly defined as in other cities. As far as I can tell, the hoods have changed quite a big deal from the 60ies to the 80ies, and from then to now.
Next, it was time to say goodbye. I got to meet more friends from Cousin # 2, as we made a brief stint at a local bar in the ‘Burbs. Then it was time to drive back to O’hare airport, from which I had a sleepy flight back home and an awfully sleep-deprived time in New York the other day.

There is still so much to see in the City of High Winds. The Buckingham Fountain, for example. We had only briefly driven past it. The Water Tower. Other quaint neighborhoods the Cousin and the Girlfriend had the chance to experience the week before. I am glad I finally made it out there but I also realize that Chicago is always worth another trip. If not now then most likely in the summer. After all, those high-praised festivals and high-class music shows might always be worth checking out, don’t you think?

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