Last week my wandering boot heels took me to Chicago. The city is situated on the banks of Lake Michigan in the midwestern state of Illinois. Aquamarine water laps Chicago’s skyscrapered flank and flows beneath its many bridges. Chicago is the third most populated US city after New York and Los Angeles. However, its location amid flat farmland far from the coasts, makes it an unpretentious and enjoyable city to frequent. The sidewalks are broad and there are restaurants and bars on every block. The locals clearly like to have a good time and this rubs off on visitors.
The city has so many attractions a single trip is nowhere near enough time to absorb them all. The Art Institute of Chicago houses a stunning collection, from Picasso’s ‘The Old Guitarist’ to Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece ‘La Grande Jatte’ by way of Van Gogh, Chagall, Lichtenstein and countless others. Another place of interest, slightly off the beaten track but absolutely worth visiting, is the site of what used to be the legendary Blues label, Chess Records, on 2120 South Michigan Avenue. Chess Records was the reason Chicago became a haven for Blues musicians, having discovered the likes of Muddy Waters, Willy Dixon and Chuck Berry.
One thing I particularly enjoyed in Chicago (apart from an epic breakfast at The Sweet Maple Café) was the architectural boat tour. The city stretches upwards into the vast prairie heavens through its myriad of skyscrapers, each a fusion of engineering and design genius and all complete with fascinating back stories. Observing feats of architectural beauty while floating is a great way to appreciate their immensity and marvel at the fact that these buildings exist at all.
I could write on and on about Chicago. Sadly, space and time are my enemies in this instance. Other pursuits worth embarking on are walking up North Milwaukee from Damen and browsing through vintage clothing, record stores and book shops (Myopic Books is vast, labyrinthine and utterly wonderful). At the end of the road, but not for the faint-hearted, is Kuma’s Corner, a smoke filled eatery frequented by diehard rock n’ rollers. It dishes up mammoth burgers named after metal bands.
Chicago is brilliant and relaxed compared to its coastal sisters. The people are friendly and there is so much food and craft beer to be consumed that belts are forever being loosened. Try deep dish pizza for kicks and definitely make time to head out to the suburbs to partake of a more local atmosphere. It is a city of intense architectural beauty, a jewel that glitters enticingly on the midwestern plains.