Highlights from my first visit to Chicago, IL in October 2009.
– For photographs of Chicago visit my websites, listed at the end of this post.
As odd as it might be, after visiting Chicago, these were the two highlights of my trip:
The train is referred to as the Metra (note the “a” at the end). The train schedule is set at bizarre times that would make sense if the train showed up at the allotted time of 12:50 but often came late. The actual train ride was most enjoyable (I am a fan of trains as they do not make one as motion sick as cars or planes). The Chicago commuter train has an air of 1950’s time warp – the seats are covered in a aqua leather-vinyl with sets of two on the bottom floor and of course the occasional four seats with about one foot of leg room in-between which only makes for an incredibly squishy and uncomfortable ride if all four seats are occupied.
But the most interesting part is the upper level of the train; yes these are double-decker trains, which make them even more interesting. At one end of the train car is a very narrow spiral stair case on both sides leading to a platform of single chairs, some of which can be changed with a strong hand on the small handle of the chair and a yank that brings the seat back to the desired position (a boon of an invention that is entertaining and a wonderful way to again avoid motion sickness, by facing forward in either direction). There is also a row of seats facing the aisle and the gap between the two upper decks, you see the upper decks are not connected but rather simply balconies with a view of the lower floor, an ingenious design to provide endless entertainment as one can observe the activities of the entire car from a seat on the upper tier. As the conductor passes through to check tickets, rather then climbing up the stairs he simply raps the metal bar at the foot of the second level, you then lean down and give him your ticket.
If every passenger was dressed in suits, fedoras, and dresses it would be an ideal spot for a movie scene. The middle section has luggage space; one side has a flat rack that holds suitcases. The other side has access to a rack closer to the ceiling for smaller bags or skateboards (I saw a group of teenage boys put their skateboards flat on the rack for safe keeping). Overall, the commuter train is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Practical information: the cost from Winnetka into the city is $3.80 for a one-way ticket (you can only buy one way tickets on the train). And a weekend pass is only five dollars!
THE SILVER BEAN
In Millennium Park we gathered around the British artist Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture, which I have dubbed “The Silver Bean” as I believe other people have as well. Half of the amusement of the sculpture, other then seeing the warped city landscape reflected on the silver surface, is watching what people do in front of it. Some people walk slowing up to the Silver Bean and stare, others circle the bean with their mouths open in utter wonder, others make faces while standing a foot away from the bean and bringing their face closer then further away from the silver surface. The most amusing of all is under the bean where people get trapped in a never-ending photo fest in order to capture the shiny contorted reflection of a warped reality.
Overall the trip was success. Chicago was not entirely what I expected but it was interesting nonetheless.
** And for posters of Chicago visit my store site: The Monica Store.