Our first time in Chicago, and while Brendan had to go into his office for the day, I did all I could to take in the city.
We started the day by taking advantage of another perk of this Airbnb - not only did we have our own kitchen, but breakfast groceries were included! Coffee, OJ, eggs, English muffins, and bananas. After umpteen meals on the road, this was quite a treat.
From there, Brendan needed to get to his company's office in West Loop. We Google mapped it and finally settled on Uber as our best bet. The nearest L stop was a bit of a hike, and from there, you'd have to go all the way into downtown, switch trains, and head back out again. The Uber dropped us off at Brendan's office, and I started off for the nearest L stop to head into downtown.
The L proved easy to navigate, and the tickets you get from the machines are far nicer than I have seen in any other city - you just tap them at the turnstile to enter.
Off the train in downtown, I grabbed some coffee at the highly-rated, and rather crowded, Intelligentsia Coffee and headed for Millennium Park.
View from the edge of Millenium Park
There I found the Bean, aka Cloud Gate!
Also, this awesome thing, which was clearly designed by Frank Gehry:
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Great Lawn
And finally, I stopped to enjoy the flowers and birds in the Lurie Garden:
The definite highlight of my day was up next - The Art Institute of Chicago. This is a truly awesome museum and worth a whole day to take it all in. I spent 2 1/2 hours there and barely left the American Art before 1900 section.
Some highlights of what I saw: furniture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Tiffany stained glass windows and lamps, Monet's Haystacks and Water Lilies, Degas’s Little Dancer of 14 Years statue (actually one of 28 replicas of the original that were cast after the artist’s death), Van Gogh's Self-Portrait and The Bedroom, and Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
This painting is huge!
In addition to all these well-known works, I really enjoyed spending time in the quieter American Art section, viewing the beautiful Impressionist works there. Here is one of my favorites - Lotus Lilies by Charles Courtney Curran:
They also have American Gothic, a section dedicated to Picasso, and much more, including ancient and non-Western art that I wish I had had time to see.
Sadly, I had to cut my time short to meet Brendan and his coworkers for lunch. We met up at Greek Islands, rated one of the best Greek restaurants in Chicago, where we did, in fact, get flaming cheese just like this:
Photo credit: Chicagomag.com
I tried octopus for the second time in my life, and once again was pleasantly surprised by it. The rest of the food wasn't amazing, but the coworkers were interesting and friendly people, so it was a good meal.
A side note on Brendan's job. He had been working for this company, Startup Foundry, since January, but had yet to actually meet any of his coworkers in person. Like an increasing number of tech startups, the company is composed almost entirely of remote developers, but it also had a handful of employees who worked from a central office in Chicago. Since we were passing through the area, we figured we would stop in and actually meet them, and give Brendan a day to meet with the company leadership in person.
After lunch, I was TIRED but determined to keep exploring. I headed for River North via the L with the intention of making my way to the Navy Pier by bus from there. The area was cool to walk around - all tall, old buildings built up along the canal that surrounds downtown Chicago.
Here's the Chicago Tribune building:
The canal was a beautiful aqua color, and there were lots of boat tours and kayakers taking advantage of this way of viewing the downtown.
What this area also is, though, is confusing. The streets are at different levels and cross over each other so that I never managed to find the place to catch the bus. Instead, I wandered on foot all the way down to the pier.
It was a nice walk, but by this point I was near the end of my rope with exhaustion. My phone was rapidly dying and I had no way to charge it, and no real backup option, so I made plans with Brendan to meet him after he left work (by 4:00, he said) near the start of the pier.
The pier turned out to be rather boring, and the view of Lake Michigan nothing special. Before the fog rolled in, though, there was this nice view of the city:
Long story short, my phone died and I nearly went into full panic mode waiting for Brendan, who was in a meeting, lost track of time and was maybe an hour late. After trying to reach him by using a pay phone and borrowing cell phones from strangers, I finally discovered that I could buy a phone charger from a store inside the pier mall, plug in at the McDonald's, wait for it to charge up enough, go back outside (no reception inside), and text him. The lesson: next time, look for a place to buy a phone charger first.
After that ordeal, I was too tired for a full evening on the town with Brendan's friend Ryan King as we had planned. Instead we grabbed a tiny dinner and a glass of wine at the Purple Pig, a hopping classy-hipster joint, then Ubered back to our Airbnb home.
Netflix and an early bedtime made a perfect evening for me, while Brendan met up with Ryan and friends. They went to the Girl and the Goat, another classy-hipster joint, and ate crazy but amazing foods like pig’s face.
Overall, Chicago was a lot like New York, just smaller, which is also a point in its favor. I think we're done with living in big cities, but I'd love to visit again in the future.