Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Chicago chakkar :)

The laziness bug bit me and I was sick for 2 weeks ;-). Have been trying to write this particular post for days now. This is regarding the Labour day long weekend. Yup, a long weekend = a trip. Well, most of the times anyways :). So this time it was Chicago's turn.

1st September 2006:

As usual, since this was a driving trip, we left home on Friday. Chicago is about 5-6 hours drive away from Lexington. And its in the Central Timezone, so we actually gained one hour :). Yet, we left Lexington at around 2:30 EST PM and reached Chicago only at around 9:30 PM central what with traffic and stuff.

Two stunt planes welcomed us as we were in the outskirts of Chicago. That was really an amazing sight to see. They went around in vertical circles, dived suddenly and leapt back into the sky. We didn't really stop and watch them as we were on a free way. But it was fun nevertheless.

We had to cross downtown Chicago as our hotel was in Wheeling which is north of Chicago. One of the things I noticed were the bad roads. This despite having tolls for the same!! I have almost come to expect good roads no matter where I go in US, so a major city like Chicago having road constructions all over the place was kind of an unpleasant surprise. But Chicago downtown with the Sears tower was a nice sight :).

2nd September 2006:

Early Saturday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and drove to a place called Linden. Thats where we caught the train to Chicago. Most of the major cities in US have fantastic transportation facilities and Chicago is no exception (well, with the bad roads, they really do need alternative modes :-p). The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) has several lines of trains connecting most of the places in Chicago outskirts to Chicago downtown. Each line of train is represented by a colour. The CTA also has buses connecting every part of Chicago and has amazing pass facilities. But sadly for us, Linden didn't have the Pass-vending machine, so we bought tickets.

We caught the purple line from Linden to Howard. From Howard, we transferred to the red line to get down at another place called Jackson. Why Jackson? Thats the closest station to Sears Tower ;-). We then walked to the Sears tower.

The Sears tower is right now the tallest building in the US. It was actually the tallest in the world from 1973 to 2004, but now its the third highest (well this post might not hold true tomorrow :-p :-D). Whats interesting is the way its built. To support its height, the base is huge and it gradually tapers up in a series of setbacks :). Its kind of built in 9 blocks - 3 terminate at 49th floor, 2 more opposite corner blocks terminate at a slightly higher floor, 2 more end with the 91st floor, and 2 tubes extend to the full height of 110 floors. The pic below gives a basic idea:

As soon as we entered the lobby, we were warned of an hour wait to reach the sky-deck, which is on the 103rd floor. Thankfully, the day was bright and sunny, otherwise the location of the sky-deck changes drastically to lower floors depending on how bad the weather conditions are :-p. There were queues, queues and did I mention queues? Somehow we managed to get to the sky-deck within an hour :-p.

The view on the sky-deck was beautiful. The Lake Michigan, the buildings of downtown and wow, the freeways, they all looked so good :). Hmmm the cracks on the roads were not visible :-p ;-). After taking in the views from all sides, we left the Sears tower.

Our next destination was the Navy Pier. We caught a CTA bus to the same. The first thing that needed to be done was to buy tickets for an architectural boat tour of the Chicago river. Since we got tickets only for the 3:30 PM and it was still about 1:30 PM, we decided to roam around the Navy Pier for some time. The Navy Pier is a water front entertainment site next to the Lake Michigan.

We had lunch and roamed around looking at boats and taking in the sights. They even had a band playing in one of the malls. There were loads of people, but it was all still very nice.

Next came the architectural boat tour. We climbed on to this boat and we set off. The tour is for one hour and the boat takes the people on the Chicago river while a guide explains the architecture of various buildings around. Believe me, there are a lot of buildings..

Other than the Sears tower, we saw several buildings including the Boeing building, the Wrigleys building, the Citibank building, the NBC building etcetera. Also most of these are on the banks of the Chicago river. Though the sun was a bit hot and we were in the absolute front of the boat without any shelter, the breeze was cool and it was a really relaxing boat ride. Here's another view of the Sears tower:

After the boat ride, we headed to the Millenium Park. The Millenium park is supposedly a celebration of all that Chicago stands for and has some objects of modern (More like "weird" :-D) architecture. The first one is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion:

Though this is an outdoor auditorium, it is designed in such a way that it gives all effects of an indoor one. Sadly, there was no concert going on, so there was no way we could experience the effects..

The next point of interest is the Cloud Gate. Its 12 foot in height and completely made of stainless steel. It reflects the Chicago sky-line and every one standing it front of it :-D. It was loads of fun as people were taking all sorts of photos of their reflections on the monument :-p. Vain, we are!

Lastly (though there were many more in the park), we saw the Crown Fountain. It consists of 2 50-foot glass (!!) towers and these towers project video images of Chicago citizens! When I first saw it, I really didn't know what to think of it. I simply stared at it for a long time trying to figure out why the artist had designed it the way it was. Well, no answers here :-p.

What was really nice about the fountain is that its not covered by any compounds, so there were kids bathing there and playing in water which was really a pretty sight :).

We were done with downtown for the day. But it doesn't mean that we were finished with our roaming. Next, we set off to Devon Avenue. This avenue is the desi-locality of Chicago. Yup, Indians. In this case, there were Pakisthanis too. We took the red line to a station called Loyola and caught a bus to Devon from there. It was kind of neat, as if I was back in India again, but somehow I kept comparing it to Edison in New Jersey. Edison, I felt was a bit better. Devon had lots of crowds and it is a bit shabby compared to Edison. Nevertheless we barged into a chat shop for bhel puri. It was so crowded that a single bhel puri we ordered took hours!! The taste wasn't very impressive either :-p.

Anyways after bhel and roaming around, we decided to have dinner in Mysore Woodlands, a south Indian veggie (surprise! surprise!) restaurant. We had a feast of Bonda, Masala Dosa, Pulav and curd rice. The food was pretty good, but it was a bit too much. We walked a bit, then caught a bus to Loyola and again caught the red line to Howard. From Howard we transferred to the Purple line to land in Linden. Then drove back to the hotel. What was really nice was that we had no problems at all though it was about 10 PM in the night :).

3rd September 2006:

Early Sunday morning, repeated the steps -> drive to Linden; Catch the purple line to Howard; Transfer to Red line train. Only the last step differed -> Get down at Roosevelt station. We then caught a bus to the Field Museum. This particular museum is famous for its Egyptian artifacts. We actually went there to see the mummy of King Tutankhamun, but the tickets were booked for the day (!). Though disappointed, we were not really keen to come back the next day. So we decided to make do with the other mummy exhibitions :).

The above is the mummy casket. None of the mummies were very good-looking, so I'm not putting up any pictures of them :-p. The tomb is which the mummy casket is placed is this:

We also saw the usual museum stuff like animals, dinosaur sections etc. After that we headed to the Adler planetarium thats next to the museum. But sadly most of the next shows were booked and there were huge queues. So we decided to give it a miss and went roaming around the outside of the planetarium. The planetarium is again on the banks of Lake Michigan, so we had a beautiful view of the lake and the skyline of the Chicago again.

Next we went to another place Chicago is famous for. Thats the Magnificient Mile.

The magnificient mile stretches for 1 mile (obviously :-p) in the heart of downtown Chicago and is the home to many shops exclusively for the rich :-p. There are fashion shops of famous fashion designers (Georgio Armani, Gucci, Ralph Lauren), huge dress stores like Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Nordstorm's. We went into these stores only to see and had a nice time gasping at the price tags :-D. And you know what? I even touched a dress that cost $1200!!! I consider myself blessed :-p :-D.

But the most fun were 3 things. One the Ghirardelli chocolate store where we ate chocolates. I also had an icecream whereas Sri settled for a latte. Second was the Cheesecake factory store. I had never been to one though its famous for its cakes all over US. We just bought a single piece of Swiss almond cheesecake and shared it. Man!! It was the yummiest thing I ever had :). The third is my favourite of them all and no, its not another eatery :-p. It was a Lego store in Nordstorm mall. I've seen lego sold in the various supermarkets, but had never been to an exclusive Lego store before. The store not only sells the standard toys, but has Lego bricks which kids can use to build stuff in the store itself. And a kid I am when it comes to building bricks :-D. Despite Sri's protests, I had a wonderful time building 2 different houses, one of which is this:

Not bad eh? ;-) :-D Hehehee. Had a really nice time. Enjoyed it so much that I am actually planning to buy one of their packages :-D.

We really got tired after all the walking we did. But no siree, we didn't give up. Next we headed towards the Buckingham Fountain and garden.

The fountain is huge and beautiful :). Moreover there was a jazz festival going on right next to it. We enjoyed some 2 melodious songs and then we were off to Navy pier again. This time we had an appointment with a night speedboat ride with a view of fireworks included :).

The ride on a speedboat in almost total darkness is one unforgettable experience. We both loved it!! The wind on my hair and the thrill was really something! After 2 incredible long rounds on Lake Michigan, we stopped at a point to watch the fireworks. The fireworks were being executed from a boat and on occasion of Labour day weekend :).

After the really enjoyable speedboat ride, we went around seeing the night lights from the Navy Pier :).

That was it. We again caught the red line back to Howard and then the Purple line to Linden. Later drove back to the hotel :).

4th September 2006:

Since we were tired from the loads of walking we did on the previous day, we woke up late on Monday morning. Checked out of the hotel and headed back. We did think of visiting downtown again, but later decided to skip it and headed back as we had a pretty long drive ahead + were going to lose an hour because of the timezone difference. Anyways were back in Lexington by evening.

So that was it. Another tick mark :-D. We have covered most places on the east coast by now. Still so many to go. As long as there are many, there will be more travelogues coming up :). So long.......


Thanu retorted...

looked liked u had loads and loads of fun... was it cold there?

Deeps retorted...

Thanu, it was not really cold though Chicago is known as the windy city :).

wise donkey retorted...

gosh the things u did, only oprah was left out:D
and u found a woodlands!

Deeps retorted...

Gayathri, there was even an Arya bhavan there and several other restaurants. And woodlands was our choice :). And one major thing we did miss out on, that was the Broadway. Sadly there were no shows going on :(.

Suds retorted...

Great photos...:):):)

Soumya retorted...

He!He! I had a better tour of Chicago reading ur post than when I actually visited there...Sadly, both times I went there it was winter-time and didn't get to see much...
Great pictures yaar and a great account too as usual...Ur travelogues are wonderful...Keep them coming...

Deeps retorted...

Suds, Thanks :).

Soum, Hehehe :). I am really proud of the way the pictures came out. But yeah, it was mainly because it was a very clear and bright day :).