Wondering Where the Lions Are?

Firstly, I should tell you that I am not in the Swissotel anymore.? I got kicked out for stealing the shower curtains and trying to eat the concierge’s whistle (I thought it was made of Swiss chocolate).? Neutral my butt, those Swiss people really don’t have a sense of humour.

Actually, the truth is that I could only book into the Swissotel for one night as I am booking hotels through a deep discount web site and it would only give me one night at the cheap rate I was paying.? So, I left the “Toblerone Inn” and tonight I am in the Conrad Chicago.? This place is even swankier than the Swissotel and it is right in the middle of the “Magnificent Mile” shopping district here in downtown Chicago.

Here at the Conrad there is a light that goes on when you open the hall closet (yes, just like the fridge).? The washroom has a huge bathtub AND a shower, plus there is an extra little room off the main washroom just for the toilet.? In the washroom they have a little covered glass jar with cotton swabs and another with make-up removal pads… at least that’s what I think they are (I originally thought they were were pads for foot corns/bunions but now I am rethinking that).? Also, the room has a big screen TV with a full surround-sound system.? There is a mini-bar and I am not touching that with a ten-foot pole.? The bottled water alone is 5 bucks.? It’s pretty nice here, but it’s an older hotel and I just hope that it isn’t haunted.

The Magnificent Mile

The “Magnificent Mile” is the nickname that Chicagoans give to a long stretch of Michigan Avenue that is home to many, many high-end stores and boutiques.? I have not spent much time shopping today; however I did duck into a few places to take a look.

The one place that really got me going was the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue.? When you walk into the store the first thing you notice is that it is packed with people from all walks of life.? At the front is a DJ spinning ?Electronica at a very high volume.? The store really only consists of a large brightly lit room with bright white pedestals holding Apple products that you can test out.? That is it, that’s all there is.? What more do you need?

While I was at the store I was standing next to an elderly lady who was testing out an IPod!? ?She turned to me and said “Does he have to be so loud?”, referring to the DJ.? I did not know what to say to this, it was too crazy a situation and I was at a loss for words.

I went to the ESPNZONE here just off the Magnificent Mile for a supper of wings and beer.? The big draw tonight was the “Frozen Four” hockey game between Notre Dame and Boston College.? The place was wild for that game.? Meanwhile, the Boston/Montreal NHL playoff game was on and nobody really cared.

Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium

Earlier in the day I visited the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.? Both are situated about a mile south of the downtown core near the newly renovated Soldier Field (Chicago Bears football stadium).

The best thing about the Field Museum of Natural History is the building.? It is amazing.? The museum also contains a huge collection of taxidermy.? Actually I got a little weary of seeing showcase after showcase of stuffed animals.? It got to be a little depressing, until I saw a sign that said, “These animals were collected in the days before television when people needed to put examples of animals on display so we could learn more about them.”? That made me chuckle.

Mama Lion and Cubs

Caption: Sorry Mama lion and Babies.? The world does not have TV yet, so you are going to be stuffed and put under glass for all to learn about you.

The Shedd Aquarium was nice.? However the amount of kids there was a little off-putting for me.? I guess I shouldn’t have gone on a Saturday.

The aquarium has some really cool underwater viewing ?rooms.? The Beluga Whales were the big attraction as they were quite eager to put on a show for the crowd.

If you ever go to Chicago and you have kids take them to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.? They will not be disappointed.? However, you won’t like the price for admission as it is very steep at over $50 dollars for an adult for both attractions.? The children’s admission is about 2/3 that price.? Also, I should tell you that parking is an additional $18.00.

Horn Honking, Sirens and Whistles

It is loud here in Chicago.? Everybody honks their horns over the smallest problem.? The Hotel concierge’s all blow their whistles to hail taxis for hotel patrons.? Also, there seems to be an ambulance or police siren going off about some sort of emergency nearly every hour.? The horn honking has got me peeved.? Most of the time they are stuck in some sort of grid-lock, so they all honk their horns, as if everybody honking is going to solve the gridlocked traffic.

What’s Next?

Tomorrow I am leaving the hustle and bustle of Chicago for St. Louis.? On Monday, I am travelling to Memphis, where I will sight-see for two days before starting to head back to Canada.? I hope that the weather is nicer down south as it is very miserable weather here in Chicago.

The Windy City

I finally finished my course, and headed downtown to the heart of Chicago. The good news is that I am getting accustomed to travelling in this city, and the trip into ?The Loop? was done without difficulty.

I am staying at a the Swissotel Chicago, which is on Wacker Drive right next to the Chicago River. I am on the 35th floor and the view is spectacular. The hotel building is quite unique; It is triangular and actually shaped like a giant Toblerone bar.

The view is spectacular.

View from the Swisotel

Millennium Park

My hotel is just three blocks away from Chicago?s Millennium Park. It was an easy walk over to the park; however it was windy and a little rainy at times, but it was worth the trip. The park, which stretches along Michigan Avenue here in the Loop, contains some interesting structures, modern art and a cool looking amphitheatre.

The Bean

One of the structures is a reflecting sculpture which the locals call the ?Bean?. It is a blob shaped shiny object. When you approach it you can see your distorted reflection in the surface. You see a lot of people just taking photos of themselves as they stand in front of the sculpture. When you are under the sculpture you can look up and see a kaleidoscope illusion as your image is reflected many times over. It is very cool.

Another feature is the ?Crown Fountain?. The fountain features two 50-foot high glass block towers at each end of a plaza. The towers are activated with changing video images of people?s faces. The faces are images of thousands of Chicagoans. Water cascades over the towers and every five minutes the faces on the towers will purse their lips and spew water from their mouths. However, when I was there they faces were appearing, however the water portion of the fountain was not occurring as they were repairing the fountain. Maybe I should stop by there today and see of the water is turned on.

Here is a video I took of the Crown Fountain. If you look further at youtube.com you can see other videos that show the effect when the water is running.

The Architecture

The buildings in this area are remarkable. Around every corner is another cool sight. Surely I must look too much like a tourist as I walk through the Loop gawking upwards at the skyscrapers on every street corner. Last night, as the lights came on, the Chicago skyline was even more remarkable as each building seems to have a different personality after dark.

The People in the Loop

The people of Chicago are polite and relaxed. People seem to walk through the Loop at a casual pace, they occasionally will smile at you and make eye contact. So far, I can report that this is a friendly and interesting place to visit.

Here is a short video clip of the magnificent vista at East Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue here in the Loop.