Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day 2: I should stop listening to NPR ...

Riverwalk along the Chicago River

Breakfast at LM French Gastro Bistro,  a French style bistro, which is adjacent to the hotel ... wonderful meal and great service. We will need all the nourishment we can get as it will be a long hot day with a great deal of sightseeing. We walk along West Huron to the Magnificent Mile ... Am I surprised that it is grander than Fifth Ave. and much cleaner than Toronto? Yes I am ... it goes from the high end (Neiman Marcus, Cartier) to the hipster (All Saints) to the relatively low end (Banana Republic) but is beautifully maintained with gorgeous flower beds on every block across from the retail outlets.  

Tribune Tower
 We make our way to the Riverwalk, a path along the Chicago River lined with restaurants, boat launches and small, chic shops, and we are overwhelmed by the beautiful architecture of the last century - Wrigley Building, the Civic Opera Building, Tribune Tower (above), etc ... - but also the assortment of the new buildings like Marina City (which resembles a giant corn cob), Lake Point Tower (a giant flask of whiskey), Swissotel, Aon Center. It may seem an odd mishmash of the old and the new but it works, incredibly well.

Portrait of the Marquis & Marchioness of 
Miramon and their children (1865) James Tissot
We make our way to the Art Institute Chicago through Millennium Park ($23 admission). I am most anxious  to see the "Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity" exhibit with its original Manets, Renoirs, Degases, Monets, Tissots. Accompanying the paintings are dresses and shoes from this period - mid to late 19th c. - these tiny, exquisite slippers and dresses with bustles, gorgeous flowered hats, opera gloves, bags. The husband departs ... there are only so many exquisite slippers and frou frou hats he can admire. He wants to see the modern art and photography. So be it.

Quickly, quickly we must leave to make the 3 o'clock Architectural & Historical Boat Cruise along the Chicago River through the Chicago Line Cruises Ltd. where we can view the architectural highlights of the city. We do, arriving by cab at 465 N. McClurg. It's not cheap ... $40 for 90 minutes but I think well worth it. Our guide, a crusty septuagenarian named Ed is knowledgeable and articulate. The ride is pleasant, the day sunny and hot. A series of photos I took follow below ...

Civic Opera Building, 1927-29 completed 
a few nights before the 1929 crash
Marina City, 1959-1964

After the cruise, we walk along the Navy Pier which has a CNE feel (but cleaner, much cleaner). The kids want to ride the giant Ferris Wheel and I agree to accompany them and the other adults even though the height terrifies me. For half of the ride (going up) I close my eyes, the other half is more manageable for me and I permit myself a peek. It's ten minutes long and $6.00 worth of me gripping the sides of the small red car we sit in covering my eyes and saying, "Don't tell me when we reach the top!"

The kids are anxious to escape us ... can they wander freely for a little bit away from the parents? Armed with a few dollars for cab fare we let them loose in the city which does not mean that A (the other mom) and myself are not biting our nails for a good part of this. Before the kids depart, a lovely young man who is giving out free ice cream hands us three small tubs of delicious ice cream. Score!

To allay our anxiety as parents we stop at Emilio's Tapas,
215 East Ohio St., for rejuvenating alcohol and tidbits. The offspring have strict instructions to return by 7.30 at the hotel. They do. They are good kids, actually beating us back to the hotel to arrive on time.

I should stop listening to NPR, specifically This American Life, a wonderful radio show based in Chicago, which tends to showcase the problems of big city life in Chicago particularly the South Side. Hence, I have had a very skewed impression of life (and crime) in the city. I was nervous before we left. Will we be safe? Should the kids wander on their own? Is there a great deal of racial strife? Thus far, I have seen nothing untoward or experienced any anxiety whatsoever here. I know it's there but in my little tourist bubble in a well-appointed neighbourhood we are sheltered from the real problems of the city.  
Dinner under the stars ... as well as under the EL
For dinner, we wander a bit trying to find a family friendly restaurant. It's a challenge as many of them seem to be filled with cruising young adults in various states of undress (the women that is). We finally settle on the Kinzie Chophouse, 400 North Wells St. We eat outside, under trees with tiny lights that look like stars - this romantic setting is offset by the roar of the nearby El that is literally like sitting beside a freight train. The food however is fresh even though my Cobb salad is not a real Cobb salad. The wait staff was great! The company wonderful ... another great day in Chicago!

Boat Cruising

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