12/09/06-12/10/06 A quick visit to Chicago. I've visited before on business but never got to see anything besides airport, hotel and convention center so I couldn't really say I'd been here. This was more of a chance to see the city, albeit a brief one. On the way in the sunset provided a neat view out the window...
With the hotel being right downtown it was easy to walk around. The city impressed me with how clean it is (at least the parts I saw). The sheer size of it is overwhelming though and the streets feel like canyons between the towering skyscrapers. Intimidating, in a way, and although it is clear that some effort is being made to give the place a more comfortable feel, to me it still comes across as a bit cold and impersonal. And speaking of cold, with the low temperatures and pervasive wind, staying warm was at times quite a challenge. And supposedly it was unusually mild for the time of year. This is when the famous Chicago 'stuffed pizza' really hits the spot. Other places what passes for 'Chicago-style' pizza is just something with 3x the bread and same amount of ingredients as the regular fare. Done the right way, the crust is still very thin but shaped into a dish, then filled with about a 1/2" layer of cheese and then toppings and sauce on top. Awesome. In general, the food was excellent - from the pizza to the various restaurants and cafes. Even the restaurant at the hotel was great.
The first place I visited was the Sears tower, it being only five blocks from the hotel. Both the size of the structure and the view from it really bring home the scale of the city. It's immense.
Beyond the skyscraper forest the flat, featureless landscape stretches forever.... Then it's back down to roam the streets with no particular destination or agenda. Just to see what's there. The elevated railway has a very industrial look to it, with the riveted trusses and worn out paint. The trains occasionally rumble overhead, throwing off sparks as they go.
Millenium Park on the lakeshore is an interesting place. There are two towers on which people's faces are projected. The faces change expressions every now and then. I'm told in the summer it's a fountain, with water coming out the face's mouths at various times. Cute.
The really neat thing though is the sculpture that is officially called 'Cloud Gate' or something like that, but is generally referred to as 'The Bean' - for obvious reasons. The various reflections from it are very cool. Especially standing underneath it.
About the only other touristy thing I did was take a long and chilly stroll along the lakeshore to the aquarium. Lots of neat critters there, including a Komodo Dragon (unfortunately the beast spent the entire time I was there snoozing behind a rock so I didn't get any good shots of it).
Overall, like all big cities, Chicago is a bit much for me. Definitely a worthwhile visit and I'm certain the city has infinitely more to offer than what I've seen. Perhaps I will return to see more of it but for the moment this snapshot at least finally lets me say I've been there.