Chicago Friday

I'm sure you thought this day would never come.  The final Chicago post.  I'd think about writing other blog posts, but I just didn't feel like I should until these were done.  Hopefully I can get back to regular blogging soon.  But I'm glad I was so detailed because details are what makes the memories.  Here we go with Chicago Friday.

This was my last day and I wanted to make the most of my time so I got up early.  I had a hard time deciding what to do this last day because of the hotel check out and the time I needed to leave for the airport. Next time I will know to schedule my flight, if possible, a few hours after hotel check out so I don't have to overlap anything.

This morning is when it finally dawned on me that yes, when I was getting up at seven and thinking somewhere in the back of my mind that it sure seemed bright outside for seven in the morning, it was because it really WAS very bright in the morning.  The sun rises an hour earlier in Chicago than it does in Houston, at least in the summer.  I find this fascinating since both cities are in the Central Time Zone.  When you hear about the midwestern farmer being such a hard worker and getting up early in the morning, well of course he's up. The sun is up at six a.m.! Honestly I would love for the sun to be up at six a.m. here.  Psychologically it is easier to get moving when it is light outside.

My original plan was to go to the Field Museum, but not long after I arrived in Chicago I realized that I just was not going to have enough time. That's ironic because the Field Museum was one of the very first places I mentioned when I said I wanted to go to Chicago.  I wanted to see Sue, but I just didn't feel it would be right to run through for just an hour.  I waffled around most of the trip trying to plan what to do with my Friday morning and I finally decided to go eat breakfast at Lou Mitchell's and then go see Buckingham Fountain.  Lou Mitchell's had been on my agenda for earlier in the trip, but with the clouds and rain it got lost in my reshuffle.  I headed out of my hotel before 8 a.m. on my way to the rail station that would take me to breakfast.

I stepped outside of my hotel to a beautiful morning.  Blue skies, no clouds and cool fresh air. This is what it is like in Houston in March.  This is what it was like during my miserable Spring Break when I was sick the entire time.  These are the very few days that Houstonians live for. As I was walking down the street, making my way to the rail station, I could see the very top of Pritzker Pavilion peeking over the buildings.   I changed all my plans right there on the spot. Blue skies, no clouds, beautiful morning.  Finally a chance to really photograph Millennium Park.  It was one of the best spontaneous decisions I made the whole trip (the other was the pizza).  It was the perfect morning to walk around the park and since it was a Friday at 7:30 in the morning the tourists weren't there yet and the Chicagoans were at work.  In fact nobody was there except the groundskeepers.  I was in heaven.  I still needed to get to Buckingham Fountain so I didn't linger, but I had a chance to get some of the blue sky photos that I had been longing for.  The only bummer was that the Lurie gardens were closed for maintenance, but I got more shots of the two most photographed things on this trip, the Pritzker Pavilion and grounds and Cloudgate.  

From here I decided to walk to Buckingham Fountain through Grant Park so over the BP Bridge I went and arrived into another beautiful garden area.  I was most impressed with the landscaping and variety of the flower beds in Chicago.  They were everywhere and they were a riot of color.  I'm sure it is because of the time of year that I was there and because I was in tourist locations. Nevertheless they were beautiful to look at especially because there were so many varieties of flowers that I am not used to seeing down south. I could have spent a very long time photographing the flowers, but I had to keep moving as my time slowly ticked away.  

After a block or so in Grant Park I noticed that I could cross the street and walk on the lake front.  Since I hadn't really been by the lake at all I decided to do that and walk on the lake towards the Field Museum. I always say that I love water and being by the water, and I do, but I think I will now have to say I like being by the ocean more than a lake.  There is something so soothing about the sound of the waves crashing onto shore and here I noticed the water was completely still and silent. If someone wants to give me a lake house I'm not going to turn it down and I still find water extremely soothing and relaxing, but the constant sound of the crashing waves is my happiest place.  The walk started out well, but the further I went the more I noticed that the sun was rising, there was no shade and it was getting hot.  I walked all the way to the Field Museum and turned back into Grant Park.  

Here was yet another beautiful park.  It hit me at this moment how much I like landscaped, manicured parks.  I will remember that for future trip planning.  As I started making my way towards Buckingham Fountain I started feeling a twinge of regret for all the things for all the things I wasn't going to get to see and all the things I was hurrying past on my final morning. My time was running out.  This walk was bittersweet. 

I finally arrived at Buckingham Fountain.  I had not planned on visiting  the fountain on this trip, but I saw it on my way in from the airport when my taxi whizzed by and it was so beautiful that I kept trying to think of a way to fit it in. Thankfully it fit perfectly into this impromptu Friday morning schedule.  At night it has a sequenced water and light show set to music every hour that I wish I could have seen.  I sat in the shade on some benches by the fountain and soaked in the view of the city skyline, the sound of the fountain and the beautiful morning.  Soaking in my last moments in Chicagoland. 

While I was sitting there a man came up to me asked me to take a picture of him with his camera.  He was very specific about how he wanted the photo framed which included him hanging off a light post with a gleeful smile on his face.  So funny.  After I took the picture we talked for a few minutes about photography and travel.  His name was Lars and he was from Denmark but currently lives in Thailand.  He is a journalist and a teacher and most amazingly he escorts Burmese refugees to the United States on a regular basis.  He talked about how the US pays to move these people and helps them set up new lives.  He helps them on their journey to do things they have never done before like fly on a plane or stay in a hotel or use an indoor toilet and gets to travel and see his destination city each times he does it.  In Denmark you are expected to travel the world before you head to university, which I totally wish we did here because the young people here need to grow up a little before heading to college.  (I think I have officially crossed over into old fogey land).  It was refreshing to talk to someone who had such a different view of the United States and the world in general.   He was really an amazing person.  You hear stories about people doing these incredible things, but it seems like fairy tales and so impossible yet there he was in front of me telling me all about it. He told me that I should move to Thailand and teach English.  Ha!  He said that I could live like a queen on what I would make over there.  Part of me wishes that I could be adventurous and do something completely crazy like that.  Completely take my life off the rail it is on right now and be bold.  I doubt that will ever happen, but it was so much fun to talk to someone who is living so outside of my every day norm.

After I said goodbye to Lars I knew I needed to head back to the nearest rail station and get back to my hotel.  There was more lovely architecture along the way.  I felt that same twinge of sadness as I was nearing my final moments in Chicago, but it was like the city was trying to cram as many interesting things for me to look at in the final few blocks.  The nearest rail station was Library which is next to the, you guessed it, library.  This beautiful building dwarfed the rail station and was the final architectural wow of my trip.  I wasn't coming from the right direction to get a good shot of it, but wow what a beautiful building.  And then back on the train, back to the Randolph/Wabash station which was my home station and back to the hotel to get ready to leave.

When I got back to my hotel I had everything packed, I just needed to change clothes.  I've never been able to wear casual clothes on a plane.  Growing up going on an airplane was always a big deals. We were always meeting relatives at the other end who hadn't seen us in a while so we always wanted to look nice so no jeans for me on airplanes even today.  I wasn't sure how long it was going to take to check out of the hotel, but I can tell you that I did not have "one minute" in my betting pool.  The clerk took my key, looked up my name and said thank you for staying with us.  That was it.  It is wonderful to pay ahead of time with Priceline. One thing that I took a total gamble on was that there would be some kind of transportation for me from the hotel to the airport.  I really should not have left this to chance.  Luckily the Hyatt is the largest hotel in Chicago so there are airport shuttles to Midway every 30 minutes. Within 15 minutes of checking out I was in the airport shuttle and on my way.

Once I got to Midway I finally got something to eat since I skipped breakfast.  Actually I had the biggest burger I have ever had in my life from Illinois Bar & Grill.  It covered the whole plate.  After I ate, as I sat in the boarding area waiting for the plane, the pace of the last four days finally started to hit me.  It came on like a wave and crashed over me.  I was exhausted and I wanted to go to sleep right there in the waiting area.  I said this already, but I am still amazed at the way that I will push myself in certain situations.  I had pushed and pushed and pushed for four days and now I had finally stopped and it had caught up with me.  The flight back was fine, but I was a little more nervous with things like the turbulence.  I think being tired and spent put my nerves more on edge.

So that was it.  My first, big, by myself, travel trip.  I loved it.  I love Chicago.  I'm not sure if it is because it was the first big trip in this new travel era of my life or if it is because it is just my most recent trip so it is fresh in my mind or if Chicago really is just that cool.  People that I have talked to that have been there and elsewhere say it is because Chicago is just that cool and I don't have any problem believing that.  I can't say enough nice things about the city.  I know all large cities have their problems that are mostly shielded from the tourists, but I think the city has a great personality.  I would live there in a heart beat if it weren't for the frigid winters, the high cost of living and the lack of good music teaching jobs outside the state of Texas.  If I ever win the mega jackpot you can bet I will buy a summer home there.  I can't wait to explore more of the US, but part of me is ready to go right back to Chicago.  And I will.

A** Kicking

Chicago Thursday