We left after 5 days in Montana, our lungs filled with Big Sky air and our hearts content in the way only friends gathering could fulfill. Our next stop on what I like to call our ‘Repatriation Tour’ was Chicago. We planned 4 days full of sights to see as bona fide tourists. The city certainly welcomed us warmly as such. It was mid-August, typically horrendous travel season up in the Windy City. Luckily, we were spared a break, and temperatures hovered in the 80’s and 90’s, with the humidity sparing us for the week. Or maybe, we just got used to the horrible hellish humidity of Guangzhou’s summers?
For those of you that don’t know, although I profess to be a Californian tried and true, my truest of roots in these states happen to be from Chicago. It’s the city where my parents first set foot in the U.S., it’s the city where they met, and most importantly (to me), it’s the city where I made my way into the world. I was born on the University of Chicago campus (in their hospital, not on a random university park bench), so I like to think that comes with some sort of distinction.
When I was younger, my family visited Chicago a few times. I have memories of eating the most delicious corn to date and scarfing down my first gyro. Does it come as a surprise to you that my memories happen to center around food? I also have a memory of being deathly mortified while staring down from the deck of Sears Tower, and being dragged around a humidity that my self had never experienced. But those sorts of memories clearly pale in comparison to delicious Greek food.
I was so excited to explore my ‘hometown’, this time with the DiploMan. We rented an apartment in the middle of Lincoln Park on Airbnb– the best choice we could have made on the trip. We rented bikes for three days, and did our fair share of exploration on bike, checking out posh neighborhoods like ours and like Wicker Park, and making sure to take my mom’s recommendations and cruise through Polish Town and Greek Town- a couple of places where my parents spent a great deal of time and what money they had when they were my age.
We took an architectural boat tour, and listened to the history of Chicago unfold before our eyes. A must in a grand city such as Chicago. It, strangely, invigorated in me a sort of patriotism I hadn’t known I had. To see so many amazing skyscrapers and office buildings, one after another, each designed with their own flair, was truly awe-inspiring.
We rode up and down Lake Michigan, for which Chicago boasts the longest and finest preserved riverside in the nation. We went atop John Hancock Center- opting that over the Sears/Willis Tower for the better view. We visited Navy Pier, which the DiploMan and I both thought was a tad kitchy and certainly not worth a recommendation. We strolled through Millenium Park, marveling at the public works, and had a seat in Pritzker Pavillion to cool off while listening to a free “show”: Chicago Symphony’s afternoon practice session.
We learned about Genghis Khan at the Field Natural History Museum. For a man who supposedly raped and pillaged and ruled for the greater part of his life, he is also credited with some ingenious innovations: spectacles, the postal system, and diplomatic passports, to name a few. We also both excitedly sat down to watch a 3D IMAX film about ancient Egypt, only to both fall asleep for the entire half hour of it.
We bought tickets to a Cubs game, only to have it on the brink of cancellation due to rain. Luckily, the baseball gods (and twitter) corroborated, and the game was on. Wrigley Field was a sight to see.
We ate deep dish, sausage dogs, solid American breakfasts, and wished many times I could have gotten a gyro as good as my memory served. We ate at two restaurants that I had booked two months prior: The Girl & The Goat, and The Publican. Both highly acclaimed restaurants, both living up to their claims. Unfortunately after two nights of dining out, we also learned what it cost to eat like kings back in the states again.
By Friday, our bellies were full from exploring Chicago’s Eats and our legs were sore from visiting Chicago’s sights. Would I recommend a trip to Chi-town? ABsolutely.
PS: Does anyone from Chicago actually call the city Chi-town? Or is that something only annoying out-of-towners do? Sort of like how no one from San Francisco calls their city Frisco…?