Let me begin by saying I have not visited many large cities. I currently live near Charlotte and lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area when I was younger. I traveled to Hong Kong and Washington, DC during my junior year of college. I spent a quick afternoon in Baltimore for an Orioles game while visiting a college friend. I have also driven through/visited Atlanta numerous times on my trips home to Alabama – and that sums up my almost 25 years of experience with large metropolises.
With that in mind, I hope you can understand why I am absolutely smitten with Chicago and that you will not mock me too much as I express my utter fascination with “city life”.
Our hotel was in Waukegan, IL so we could be close to Paxston’s base. As I said previously, we spent Friday in the Great Lakes area for Paxston’s graduation and waiting for him to receive liberty so he could spend time with us. The goal for Saturday was to spend the entire day in Chicago sight seeing and finding the best pizza in town.
After consulting numerous taxi drivers and the concierge, we determine the best way to get to downtown Chicago would be by train. We agreed to take the 9am train into the city so we would have a full day for sightseeing. On Saturday morning, we found ourselves in need of transportation to the train station. (Remember – had a 5 person sedan and 7 people needing transportation!) It was only about a mile drive so instead of taking a taxi, we opted to just cram into the Infiniti and drive. There we were - mom and dad sat comfortably in the spacious front compartment while Paxston, Crickette, Ethan, Jordan and I crammed into the itty bitty back seat. Jordan sat in Paxston’s lap and Ethan sat across Crickette and me. It didn’t help matters any that we were running behind and were afraid we were going to miss the train. Needless to say, by the time we reached the train station, we were all slightly on edge and just ready to get the show on the road. (Again – we are from the South – worrying about train schedules isn’t exactly something we were accustomed to!) (And yes – I use a capital “S” for “South” because it is a place…it’s my home…it deserves capitalization.)
I was mesmerized by the small towns as we rode the train. I called Steven and said, “OMG – this place looks just like Scranton on The Office!” It really did – old style neighborhoods with dated architecture. Hundreds of older, tightly spaced row homes sprawled as far as I could see. Plants and factories were spread haphazardly with smoke and fumes billowing into the sky. Honestly – I haven’t seen anything like it. There aren’t many old school communities like this in the South. We have country areas with older homes or new construction areas where most homes are less than twenty years old. Yes, many towns have “historic districts” with refurbished shop fronts – but these are meant to give the town a sense of heritage, of past. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the differences, but it was just incredibly different.
If I was impressed with the small towns from the window of the train, I was blown away by the city of Chicago. It is a perfect blend of beautifully preserved historic architecture and newly built modern buildings. Gorgeous churches and cathedrals stand amidst throngs of skyscrapers as if the city were meant to be a tribute to the past and present simultaneously. I swear I could walk around for hours taking in the architecture and monuments. I love the fact that it’s a city on the water – the lake adds an element of natural beauty that only amplifies Chicago’s charm.
Total tourists in front of "God Bless America"
Views from Michigan Avenue
We took a taxi to Michigan Avenue and did some shopping. We walked a few blocks to a highly recommended pizza parlor – Giordano's. Oh wow – never having experienced Chicago style pizza – this was a huge treat. The pizza slices are HUGE and the cheese is so gooey…yum! *YUM!!*