Chicago – ‘That Toddlin Town’


Chicago definitely lives up to its name ‘The Windy City’. Well, it certainly did for the couple of days that I spent there during the beginning of October, although I am reliably informed that it was unseasonably chillier than normal and the temperatures were set to rise after my visit.

However it is a great city, full of life, friendly people and great architecture, where a nod to its rich history can be found around every street corner. The Chicago River winds its way through the heart of the city, guarded over by soaring skyscrapers jostling for prime position before entering Lake Michigan. One of the best ways to get a sense of these towering giants is to take a boat tour with a guide who explains the architectural lineage of the buildings that range from pre-depression to present day, and explains through informative snippets delivered with wit about some of the architects who shaped these urban monoliths.

For a dazzling skyline view of the city there are two places that definitely warrant a trip. The Willis Tower (still known by its former name, Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Building both offer unparalleled panoramas. However, a great tip if you don’t want to spend time waiting in queues is to try the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock which is free to enter (there may be a small time waiting to take the lift up to the 96th floor), but it is a good alternative for the price of a cocktail, and even the toilets have a scenic outlook!

This modern city certainly embraces the arts in all forms. Contemporary artworks sit juxtaposed against the skyscrapers with the Millennium Park lending itself well to an open-air gallery for Cloud Gate, the interactive sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor and the Crown Fountain, the 50 foot towering glass towers that project video images of local children, by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa. The beautiful Jay Pritzker Pavilion with its billowing stainless steel panels that look like ribbons in the wind, designed by Frank Gehry, is a stunning open-air concert venue that houses the most sophisticated state-of-the-art sound system in the country.

Chicago is the home of the deep-dish pizza, although not the sort of deep-pan that I have encountered before. Chicago’s  signature deep dish pizza can only be described as similar in depth and consistency to quiche or a stuffed pie, where the cheese sits on top of the crunchy crust, followed by the toppings and finally the bubbling sauce. Warning: ask the waiting staff about the quantity needed if you are in a group. 3 deep-dish pizzas for our group of 6 meant that there was plenty left to ‘box’ and take home! Don’t forget there are many other  great restaurants and bars in Chicago; in fact you are spoilt for choice.

Chicago has certainly come a long way since the days of Al Capone and prohibition. Why it was dubbed ‘That toddlin’ town’ in the song made famous by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett is anybody’s guess. I recommend that you ‘toddle’ around Chicago, an awe-inspiring but windy city! ‘Bet your bottom dollar you’ll lose the blues in Chicago’ (Lyrics by Fred Fisher).

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