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Chicago, United States

  • Photo of Chicago, United States
  • Photo of Chicago, United States
  • Photo of Chicago, United States
  • Photo of Chicago, United States
  • Photo of Chicago, United States
  • Photo of Chicago, United States
  • Photo of Chicago, United States
  • Photo of Chicago, United States
Photo of Chicago, United States
Photo by flickr user dok1

It’s feeding time at the Chicago Aquarium and in the circular tank of fish, sharks, and other sea creatures a diver floats through the water dropping pieces of food. For some marine life it’s a frenzy but the sea turtle, travelling in circles through the tank with only one good fin, moves slowly, yet gracefully: mesmerizing. Grab seats for the dolphin show next and make sure you’re in the middle because the first rows get splashed! The water cascades over a cliff in front of a wall of glass, giving the appearance it’s coming from Lake Michigan, not an extra large swimming pool housing dolphins flying through the air, squeaking as they dive into the water.

After a morning of sea horses and seals, head out into the sunshine. Stroll along Lake Michigan, and end up at Navy Pier for a hot dog, loaded with sauerkraut, onions, mustard, ketchup, and relish on a poppy seed bun, from one of the world famous Chicago hot dog stands, then take a seat on a bench and watch the sail boats drifting away from the city towards the horizon. Finished chowing down? – take a ride of the Ferris wheel, then head off to buy tickets for Second City – a night filled with live comedy in the establishment that produced the likes of Joan Rivers, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Andy Dick, and Tina Fey.

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As Friday drew closer I started to get excited, nervous and curious. I was smiling all the time. Couldn’t keep my mind steady. Is it love?! Nah, just my very first trip to Chicago :)

So I packed my bags, hailed a Greyhound and reached Chicago.

At first the city did not seems that different from hometown Mumbai; lotsa traffic to get in and crowded but definitely cleaner and a little less polluted. That’s the FIRST impression. The second and the more impressive and lasting one will come tomorrow.

I woke up pretty early the next day. Not because I was excited about exploring the windy city (which is the most favorite city to a lot of people I know). But because the place I slept at night was in front of a cemetery. Right in the heart of Forest Park was a cemetery so big, the entire community was nick named, “more dead than alive”!

So we took off at 7.30 in the morning, waded our way through the fog, caught the Blue line train (which starts at Forest Park) and reached the Green City Farmers Market. Lotsa greens everywhere; flowers, herbs, fresh bread, fruits, a crepe stall. Seemed like the old days when I was in school and used to accompany dad to the local market in Sundays, ah!

The Chicago Green City Market outdoor season runs May 6 through October 31, 2009, on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

By the way, it’s all organic.

After having a crepe and buying some organic hot salsa sauce we boarded a bus to the beach near Drake Hotel. It’s a nice beach line with palm trees, makes you wonder if you are in Miami. But you’re not; the wind won’t allow you to forget!

After a quick swim it was time for the Hancock Tower. But alas! It doesn’t open till 11 a.m.

We decided to walk around the block. Once in a while we used to stop and gawk at pre-great fire buildings like the water tower, the fire station, take some pictures and move on. Finally we find some place to spend time, the Museum of Contemporary Art

Fortunately for us there was a very interesting show on display. By a Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The MCA website describes his work thus, “His constructions, at once eccentric and highly geometric, use multicolored washes, focused projections of light, mirrors, and natural elements such as water, stone, and moss to shift the viewer's perception of place and self, foregrounding the sensory experience of each work. By transforming the gallery into a hybrid space of nature and culture, Eliasson prompts an intense engagement with the world and offers a fresh consideration of everyday life.”

A thought provoking experience. Do not miss his exhibitions if they’re in your town or the town you are visiting.

Museum visiting tip: If the price of an admission ticket is marked as “suggested” on the website or the brochure, then you can go in for free! Yes the word suggested means that the management suggests the patrons to pay that much amount but you have no obligation to pay. We paid $5 for both of us!

It’s 11.30 and it’s time for the Hancock tower, yay! But the skies were cloudy and we started debating the worth of going now vis-à-vis going later. So we roamed around a little bit more, had some coffee and doughnuts and waited for the skies to clear out. They did and we went up. Now remember there is an observatory which charges $15 but you don’t have to go there. There’s a coffee shop/lounge on the 96th floor. Go there, get a bottle of water or coke for $5 + taxes and enjoy the view, as loooong as you like ;)

Travel Tip: If you would like a view of the city skyline, Hancock tower is probably a much better choice than the Sears tower (now Willis tower). The Sears Tower will bore you with a movie on Chicago/Sears Tower. And moreover it will be very crowded since it’s very touristy. Go there only for the transparent observation deck.

Off to Navy Pier and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. There is a permanent display of 150 stained glass windows housed in an 800-ft.-long series of galleries along the lower level terraces of Festival Hall. Really worth it. Must go.

So what do you need on a hot summer day after a walking tour of the city? Yes, you have a beer, or two ;) at the Navy Pier Beer Garden. And then head on to Millennium Park for some recreation.

Some brilliant sculptures and photo ops near the Cloud Gate, watching the kids enjoy at the Crown Fountain, visiting the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Lurie Garden (The garden is a combination of perennials, bulbs, grasses, shrubs and trees that are local to that part of the country.).

It is said that the Millennium park and Grant Park area was reclaimed by depositing the debris from the great fire into the lake.

We has a great finish to the tiring day by listening to the some really good Celtic Music played with a Harp at the Celtic fest followed by dinner at Star of Siam Thai restaurant

Such a young city! Everywhere you look there is someone with all their life ahead of them, waiting for their big chance or waiting to fall in love. Waiting for a job, for a pay check, for the bus, for a beer. Waiting to grow up, for the weekend, for the morning, for the night... Full of comedy clubs and jazz bars, it's definitely a place for life to go and thrive.

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