Saturday, June 21, 2014

California to Chicago and Michigan by Rail - Chicago Day 1

We awoke on Wednesday to fog and rain, quite a change from last night.  The weather forecast says it is supposed to clear after lunch, which we hope is true as we have tickets for the Architectural Boat Cruise on the Chicago River.  After waiting awhile for the rain to stop and the fog to lift we finally gave up and decided to walk over to Millennium Park.  The fog had lifted somewhat and the rain had turned into a sporadic drizzle so we had no problems.  One of the centerpieces of the park is called Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean", which is a silver giant bean shaped sculpture that reflects the Chicago skyline and everything around it... very interesting.

A view of the Aqua Building as we walk to Millennium Park.
Judy and I at the park entrance.

The Bean
Judy, Val and I in front of The Bean.
We also visited the Crown Fountains which are two flat fountains with a shallow reflecting pool between them.  The fountains are made of large LED screens and show videos of the faces of a cross section of Chicago’s citizens.  

The Crown Fountains.

Periodically water squirts from the person's mouth.

After the fountains we were hungry so we decided to try one of the famous Chicago Style Hot Dogs, we weren’t disappointed, they were very good. 

Judy and I enjoying our Chicago Style Hot Dogs.
We had tickets for the Architectural Boat Tour at 3:00 so we headed back to our condo to get ready for that.

Unfortunately for us, the weather prediction was wrong and it was still foggy, but at least it was no longer raining.  We got to the boat tour a little early so we walked along the river which was really nice.  The Chicago Riverwalk was started in 2001 and runs on both sides of the Chicago River from Lake Michigan into the downtown area.  Along the walk are restaurants, boat concessions, kayak rentals, small park areas and plenty of places to just sit and watch the river or the people passing by.  It is still being added to and we were told that it is mandated that any new development along the river must add the Riverwalk.

The Chicago River
One of the access points to the Riverwalk.

Judy and Val on the Riverwalk.

Soon it was time to get on the boat and we were off on our tour.  A docent from the Chicago Architectural Foundation narrated our trip and it was very interesting.  He was very knowledgeable and gave us a detailed look at the history and style of the Chicago architecture.  If we come back to Chicago for another visit, I would definitely take that tour again.

Judy and I on the boat.

Judy and Val.

This huge building is the old Montgomery Ward warehouse
where they used to fill mail orders using roller skates
to get around the enormous building.

After the boat tour we walked back to the condo to rest for a bit before dinner.  Amy Jo, a second cousin of mine who lives in Chicago was going to come by and visit tonight, but she called and said she was sick so we had a free evening.  We decided to eat at Mezcalina, which is a Mexican restaurant near the Aqua Building.  The food was excellent and I would highly recommend it.  After dinner it was back to the condo for the evening.  Every Wednesday evening during the summer they shoot fireworks off the Navy Pier so we were looking forward to watching that from our balcony.  The fog had lifted, but as the time for the fireworks drew nearer some fog moved in so we weren’t sure they would still have them, but they did.  It was great watching the fireworks from the comfort of our condo and even though they were somewhat shrouded in fog they were still entertaining to watch.  That was the end of our first full day in Chicago and we are all pretty tired so I think it will be an early bedtime.

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