Travel Tuesdays | 48 Hours in Chicago

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Having traveled a lot over the past few years, I like to consider myself a good traveler: super patient, extrememly accomodating to the others in my aisle, prompt and perfectly packed so that I can speed through security and try to relax before every flight. The one thing I haven’t mastered is flying itself because it still terrifies me and the anxiety is often so extreme that it makes me nauseous (TMI, sorry). I was really proud of myself when a month ago, as I was getting ready to board two flights to make it to London for the start of term, my first plane was delayed and caused me to miss my connecting flight in Chicago. I knew I was going to miss it so rather than freak out and cause a big scene or let out the most audible sighs and grunts of disapproval, I phoned a friend and turned it into a Chicago day trip. Prepare for more photos of the Bean than you’d think possible for the few hours I spent in the Windy City.

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Firstly want to start by thanking my bff Amanda and her roommate for letting me crash at theirs and for playing tour guides. I didn’t realize until my Uber ride to theirs that I had no plans and about 45 hours to fill, but they definitely helped. I got to their apartment and recounted the struggle of waiting in line to change my flight and figure out where my bags were because my flight was meant to leave at 8:45 and I didn’t get off the plane until 8:40, so I knew the two giant pieces of luggage I’d stuffed were floating around somewhere O’Hare. I didn’t get any assistance from the airline for about two and a half hours thanks to a long line of angry flyers and a limited staff that was just reacting to weather problems, nothing on their end. When I finally made it to the counter, I was one of the last in line and the American Airlines rep was amazing. She was honestly so calm and helpful and when I asked about switching the automatic re-booking British Airways had done for me for the next day, she didn’t even hesitate to accommodate. The other customers who didn’t get to speak to a representative were furious and rowdy, and the AA lady wanted to make sure I had somewhere safe to stay. I got to Amanda’s about 40 minutes later and was EXHAUSTED and so happy to get some sleep.

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The next day started off quite slowly because I slept in until 11 and then showered and took my time getting ready. It was breezy but humid in Chicago and I was living out of a carry-on with mostly workout clothes. Amanda’s roommate showed me how to navigate the metro and I was on my way downtown. As soon as I got off, I popped into the largest Wal-greens I’ve ever seen and bought myself an eyeliner, a concealer and a mascara to help me look alive. I asked my cashier where he liked to eat deep dish pizza and he pointed me to Lou Malnati’s. Now, I love thin crust margheritas or really meaty thin crust cheap pizzas, so a Chicago-style deep dish probably isn’t for me, but I went for a personal classic to get the full experience. It was okay, nothing to write home about, and definitely tasted better the warmer it was because once it started to cool, the cheese and sauce portions were too much to deal with. I then decided to explore and find Crown Fountain, a fountain structure I had learned about in an architecture and society course five years ago. In doing so, I was led to Millennium Park and found Wrigley Square (above), a sweet, serene part of the massive park that seems dominated by stainless steel structures. I exited the square and looked to my left ONLY TO FIND THE BEAN. While excited, I decided to keep walking and stumbled upon the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which was prepping to show the Dark Knight and had people setting up blankets on the lawn. Can you tell it was designed by Frank Gehry??

Now it was the Bean’s time! I got there and just stared in awe because it’s so simple and beautiful! Truly an architecture dream. I took photos from all angles and went beneath it before sitting on a bench to literally stare at the Bean and people-watch. I was there for about an hour before Amanda met up with me and it started to rain. Luckily, she had an umbrella, but the other admirers were not so lucky and they all ran to the Bean for shelter. It was quite a funny sight. I know the Bean just seems like this strange, shiny thing in the middle of a park, but it’s honestly so breathtakingly beautiful.

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Cloud Gate

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Beneath the Bean

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Bean or umbrella?

Next we walked over to Crown Fountain and while it wasn’t what I expected, it was still really cool! I thought it was going to be an entire plaza full of these structures, but it was only two. The faces didn’t disappoint and each formed an ‘O’ to spew out water as kids ran around. It was super cool and I’m glad I finally got to see it IRL.

We then found some random artistic structures made out of old tires. Below is a picture frame? Idk exactly, but I took a photo inside it and didn’t love it, so you get this empty one instead.

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Amanda then wanted to show me Buckingham Fountain, which I was down for because Buckingham Palace, and we saw Lake Michigan on the way. Chicago is weird because you turn the corner and there’s just a lake hanging out. I’ve seen lakes before, but Lake Michigan looked super active with all these boats and people in the water. I waved to my cousins in Michigan and I think they waved back.

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To the right of that was Buckingham Fountain and wow! I was just expecting this small, basic fountain, but it’s massive! And very French in appearance. Amanda said the fountain was broken becasue it was shooting up higher than it usually did and if you look at the photo below, you’ll see it surpases the skyscrapers behind it.

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We then walked over to Eataly for gelato (#blessed) before getting on a sunset/nighttime architecture boat tour. The best thing about Chicago is definitely the architecture and if given the chance, go on the architecture boat tour!!! It was over an hour and full of a lot of facts and interesting little tid bits, but the best thing was sitting back and watching the magical lights of the skyline glistening before you and reflecting in the water.

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These were described as the “corn cobs” of Chicago and I almost fell off my chair and into the water, laughing.

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The building on the right was created by the same guy who did the “corn cobs” above. Can you see the resemblence?

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We then had a Chinese food FEAST at Lao Sze Chuan and while it was a bit spicier than I had anticipated, it was sooo good. I could have eaten there forever. We went back to Amanda’s and went to bed. I packed up and Amanda’s roommate and I headed back towards Millennium Park to meet Amanda for brunch at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe and OMG IT WAS THE BRUNCHIEST BRUNCH I’VE EVER HAD. They had these massive skillets that you can definitely share between two, even three people and they’re just LOADED with eggs and whatever else you could think to throw in there. Amanda and I literally got the same thing and regretted not sharing immediately because we were full after our pancakes and a couple skillet bites. We ordered the Mexican skillet and short stack of cinnamon roll pancakes. I think her roommate got the same skillet and a short stack of Oreo s’mores pancakes. Yes, it was magical and an other-worldly experience. We then walked back to the Bean for a final photo shoot before Amanda headed back to work and her roommate walked me to the metro again. I got to the airport like, five hours early, but I was super anxious and would have spent too much time traveling back and forth from their apartment to downtown to enjoy any last few moments in the city. Once in the airport I felt calmer than expected and luckily left on time!

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And here I leave you with the best photo that makes any trip to Chicago worthwhile: the Butt of the Bean! Ta! – S.

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