Northern East USA 2012
Thursday May 9th
I won't try and be all fancy and travel-writer witty, not because I can't but because I am jet lagged and time restricted. Besides, there is opera playing on the radio here at the B&B and I dislike opera so need to get this done before my head bursts.
We arrived at the B&B last night around 8pm. The flights were all without incident or crying babies. I even managed some "sleep". We had hot chocolate at Ghiradelli's last night. It was very nice to do that, get out and see something and warm up a bit. It's a bit chilly.
The B&B is in an affluent area of Chicago called Gold Coast, so it's absolutely top notch. After breakfast we set off walking down the Magnificent Mile. If you don't know this place, it's chockablock with all those big name boutiques (that I am not interested in): Prada, Sak's, Armani, Bloomingdales, ra ra ra).
We enjoyed a visit to the Cultural Centre to see the Tiffany glass dome and wonderful ceilings. There was a curious exhibition called "Morbid Curiosities" which was a private collection of some most bizarre and grotesque death-related art.... mmmm
We met up with our friend Brooke (from last year's Balkan's Adventure) at the canal where we then took the 90min architectural tour on a boat. The commentary was very good. None of those terrible cringy things. It's run by the architectural foundation, people who know their stuff. We learnt about 6 different styles of architecture and shown examples. All the buildings are fascinating and seem to change depending on the angle you view them from.... Trump Tower is not as bad as I thought it would be. How can a gothic skyscraper exist? It does. Just like the Tiffany glass done, there are elements of grandeur and awe usually only seen in European cathedrals. It's like a homage to money and power?
After this tour, lunch. The ubiquitous unctuous waitress.... Hi my name is Angelique and I'll be looking after you today. <sigh>
A walk through Millennium Park and we found that amazing Bean Sculpture (proper name is Cloud Gate). A kidney shaped seamless metal shiny sculpture with a mirror surface that reflects the skyline and people around. Viewed from beneath it's like looking up from a tunnel. Lots of good public art in this park. Waterfalls with LED bricks underneath. I love public art. It's such a shame Perth can't have these things. They'd get graffitied, stolen or otherwise vandalised.
We walked back in the afternoon. I had to lie with my legs up the wall. TIRED.
Tonight we are going tot he John Hancock Observation Deck for a drink with Brooke.
I'd love to write more, but must go.
11.05.12 - FLW
To complete yesterday's big day out, at twilight (8pm) we went to the 96th floor of the John Hancock building (Signature Lounge) for cocktails and snacks with Brooke. This floor is free entry as long as you buy something. The disadvantage is not having the ability to walk around or access a window. However, the ladies restrooms have the best views: full floor to ceiling windows. Perhaps I should have had more cocktails to legitimise my need to visit the loo. Anyway, just awesome views of a beautiful city at dusk whichever window you can look out of.
Now to today.
We took the train from Clark/Division (local station) to change at the Loop to go to Oak Park. Trains are the favoured mode of transport for us. We passed through some less than pretty outer 'burbs. Even so, there is not a lot of graffiti around here, just a lot of backyard "crap" like rusty pipes and junk.... Many of the black population live in the suburbs we passed through. Actually a couple of African American women were sitting next to us and talking away. It was unintelligible English. If you watched "The Wire" you might be in with a chance understanding these ladies. Saywha? Mosdef. Mahersbunds dawta, ya'll heeye. One of those moments to smile internally and store away in the memory.
So we arrive in Oak Park 45 mins later. The birthplace of Ernest Hemingway. That house he was born in, it still stands. There is a museum dedicated to him, but our interest was in Frank Lloyd Wright. Those amazing prairie style houses and the Unity Temple. The tour through his house and studio was very good (I've been impressed at the quality of these tours so far). The downside was there was far too much to see and we were rushed through a bit too fast. Pictures do not do justice to this house. To stand inside and have the 360 degree vision and smell the wood is the way to go. This man was pure genius. It's very hard to imagine living in this house 100 years ago. It is so modern and unique even in today's standards. Certainly a highlight for me. Art in a functional form.
The Unity Temple was a similar experience but different in the way that I've never been inside a Unitarian Universalist Temple before, so naturally I was curious about this "religion" too. I love the way travel broadens your mind and makes you ask questions. It was a weird place, aside from the signature FLW elements, I found it hard to muster up any spiritual feelings. Odd to be in a place of worship so lacking any religious features. I did like!
Paul says when he shuts his eyes now, all he can see are horizontal lines and glass stained windows with geometric patterns.... me too.
So tonight, we plan on having the famous deep dish pizza at a nearby place. I am not sure my stomach is going to thank me for this but all in the name of immersion into the cultural experience, I must do it. It will be countered by healthier options tomorrow because the B&B host has convinced me to visit the Protein Bar, her favourite wholefoods cafe, by giving me her a taste of her quinoa salad. I must admit, this is more my style and cannot wait.
Weather was warm today 74F (mid 20C). Stumbled upon a fab consignment boutique in Oak Park and got myself 2 tops for $15. Shame mahersbund was waiting outside otherwise I would have looked a lot longer....bought more, had more to carry and pack. Mmm, maybe it was a good thing after all! Hoping there's more opportunities ahead like that.
- x -
I am not sure about access to computers in Boston, so bear with me if I need to use the iPad.
12.05.12 - Art Institute
12.05.2012 18 °C
Last night, Brooke, Paul and I had a fantastic deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's on Rush Street. OMG how good was this crust? Then a mini choc chip cookie pizza to share (how is this possible?) YUM.
Whoosh - There goes my healthy diet.
This morning the weather changed to rainy and windy (it is the windy city after all). Never mind, still we headed off on the train to the Chicago Art Institute. We were amongst the first in at 10.30 - just as well, there is a level of security necessary in these places that must be endured. This art gallery is full of awesome art and objets d'arts. I am in heaven in an art gallery and this one succeeded in raising my happiness levels. I have found a new artist to be interested in (Charles Sheeler) and revived my love affair with Edward Hopper (Nighthawks). Saw the American Gothic which revealed more to me in real life than prints or copies. Some more Georgia O'Keeffe. The usual Impressionists and the like, which draw so much public attention (Monet, Manet, Gaugin, Degas, Seurat etc). I especially enjoyed looking at American art since I am currently in America!
There was a lot of everything and I shouldn't bore those who are not as art fanatical as me. It is hard for me to stop raving about art.
An unexpected highlight was these miniature rooms. You peek through holes in the wall and inside there are vistas of little historical rooms (e.g. Salon, Virginia 1781). They are so realistic that a photo of them makes them look like a full scale room. My breath was temporarily removed from my body. The furniture and furnishings, ceilings , everything made by hand! You can even peer around the corner and see part of another room or a garden. Light comes through windows.... This delights people of any age. I felt childish all over again, looking into my dolls house or the huge doll's house in Bethnall Green's Museum of Childhood in London which I visited often as a child.
I get a tug of sadness, thinking about the pitiful Art Gallery in Perth and how bereft we are of this kind of thing. But I am also SO grateful that I have the opportunity to travel and see fine and real art.
End of art raving.
To counteract the art and culture bouffe, we headed off to Macy's to get some good 21st century retail therapy.
Ladies in Perth/Brisbane, read this and weep - I bought a Perfectly Fitting Pair of Jeans for $19.80. benefit cosmetics are Half-Price! Travellers get a 10% discount card to boot! She who detests shopping (particularly for clothes) has had a small window of opportunity to enjoy shopping which I hope can continue in NYC.
The B&B here has been so homely and convenient. Tomorrow, we fly to Boston to another B&B which I hope will be just as nice.
Chicago is wonderful, even when you are woken at 6pm by some drunk dude singing the blues outside your building. Even when it's raining and the wind means using an umbrella is futile. I love the architecture, the peoples' pride in their city, music, history and culture. I love that shopping in the department stores, they play Frankie or some gorgeous blues artist in the background while you shop and try on clothes.
It was easy to feel comfortable here. Thank you Chicago, I think I love you.
13.05.2012 18 °C
Oops. Thought we were going to Boston, but turns out we had another day here. Luckily we found out last night after saying farewell to Brooke.
So what to do with another full day in Chicago?
We took the bus to Wicker Park but we were they way too early. Things start up much later than in Australia, much more European style over here. So we had a wander around looking at the shop fronts: Recycling boutiques, record and book shops, lots of cafes. It was Mother's day today. Seems that a mother is identified as being the one carrying a foil helium balloon or of course beautiful flowers.
Since there was not a lot of action, we got back on the bus and went to Lincoln Park which is on the north side. I really liked the stretch of beach and the open public space there. Unfortunately, just like town planning in Perth, there is a ruddy great freeway separating the park from the beach. The skyline from here is quite specky. It was so nie to see so many people taking the air: Frisbee, baseball, cycling, jogging, walking. It had a family friendly atmosphere.
After this, another bus trip to Downtown where we chanced out luck at getting tickets to see "The Jersey Boys". And we got excellent seats, 8 rows from the stage. This musical was good, I love this music (Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons). Production and the theatre were tops. It was in a lovely ornate 1909 theatre.
After this a lot of misguided walking around, not sure what to do, not wanting to go back to the B&B yet, a bit of shopping but then hey let's go to the Navy Pier see what that's like.
Another train ride and a LOT of walking. The 3 day pass has been a great buy for riding on trains and buses $14 for 72h.
I'm sorry to say, that I really didn't like the Navy Pier at all. For some reason it is featured in tour books, my advise is to avoid it. It's got a Ferris wheel, funpark style rides, chain food places and lots of people just walking about. Nothing to see unless you look back at the skyline. The boats leave for lake cruises from here. By the way, Lake Michigan is freshwater. I didn't know this until I dipped my finger in it and tasted. It looks so much like the sea but without salt, sea gulls, seaweed, shells (only a few piddly clam things)!!
OMG the bus back to the B&B..... it took ages and was getting more and more crammed with bodies. Had to get out. Preferred to walk the rest of the distance.
And so it will be bye-bye Chicago and hello Boston tomorrow. Plane leaves at 10am so we will encounter Monday peak hour traffic on the trip to O'Hare.