Day 1

Travelling to Chicago

From Washington DC onwards we used Southwest Airlines for our entire domestic travel in USA.

We found them to be the only local airline allowing 2 check in baggages per person. All others allow only 1 and since we were doing a long trip, we found this very convenient.They usually fly to the smaller airports which are close to the cities and so reaching the hotel from the airport becomes easy.

Their seat allotment is also different. 24 hours prior to your flight departure, you need to log in to their site. A number is assigned to you…like a queue system. Depending on your number in the queue you are also assigned an alphabet. At the boarding area, you are allowed to board only as per your order in the queue and you are free to choose the seats of your choice. I found this unique.

They are also little unconventional in their announcements etc. The crew often indulge in small acts of mimicry to add some fun…

We boarded from Ronald Reagan National Airport which was easily accessible by metro and had a comfortable flight.Landed at Midway Airport Chicago. Our hotel…Sleep Inn Midway Airport was very close to the airport and we took their shuttle. Reached the hotel late evening and had an easy check in . Nice comfortable room and close to good eateries.

After some rest, we ventured out on to the streets of Chicago. We got to see aircraft landing at low altitude…you almost feel as if the aircraft is going to hit the buildings!!!

A short video of aircraft landing at low altitude

After a short walk around, we returned to the hotel for the night.

Day 2

Took the airport shuttle to the airport and from there took the metro to downtown.

The metro passes through some congested areas with the tracks running very close to balconies of houses…similar to Mumbai or Bangalore

The Chicago Metro….. and observe……. how close the apartments are to the station

We had planned to do a city tour on Big Bus but unfortunately it was cancelled due to The Chicago Marathon

We were in for a real surprise as the entire area was flooded with people and security personnel. Most people had colourful banners and other graffiti to cheer the participants. The whole downtown area wore a colourful look…almost like a fair.

Ofcourse there were traffic restrictions too and everyone were on their feet!!

Some pictures of the Chicago Marathon

We walked alongside the marathoners to reach the Millenium park which is a public park near the Lake Michigan shoreline. This park houses the Cloud gate, Jay Priztker pavilion and Crown fountain….some of the important tourist spots in Chicago.

Our first stop was at Cloud Gate the bean shaped steel sculpture. One of the celebrated works of the Indian born sculptor,Anish Kapur; it is also called The Bean.This outdoor sculpture reflects the sky for the most part and bridges the gap between the viewer and the sky….this is the concept and hence the name cloud gate.It reflects the skyscrapers around it and one can easily stand underneath this giant steel bean.You can see your own reflection against the background of the skyscrapers. We clicked a couple of pictures here.

Exploring Millenium park further, we reached the Crown Fountain

Crown Fountain is an example of Video sculpture. Consists of two 50 feet glass towers on either side of a reflecting pool. Video images of some citizens of Chicago are projected on the screen and gives an illusion of water spouting from their mouths.

The Crown Fountain

Next we were at The Jay Pritzker Pavilion

This huge outdoor pavilion hosts a variety of music and performing art events

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion

From Millenium park, we walked towards the Lakefront and reached the Lakefront trail.The Lakefront Trail is a beautiful path along the western shores of Lake Michigan.This trail lies between beautifully landscaped parks and the lake. It is used for walking, jogging, cycling and other outdoor activities.

Lake Michigan and Lakefront Trail

Walking along the trail, we reached

Shedd Aquarium..a very famous aquarium with plenty of exhibits; we spent about an hour there.

The Adler Planetarium, close by is another of chicago’s tourist spots.

From this end of the trail, we got a good view of the Chicago skyline

The Chicago Skyline

The Willis Tower

Another landmark of Chicago;this was originally called Sears tower. It was once the tallest tower but was soon overtaken by others. It has a viewing platform and a skydeck. Unfortunately , due to marathon restrictions we could not visit it.

The Willis Tower in the background

After the long walk around the city, we headed to a coffee shop nearby and soaked in the scenes of the marathon returnees.Most of them were tired but seemed to enjoy the festive spirit around.

As we were there, I did notice something unexpected…..someone scanning the garbage bins for something to eat!! What a paradox… a sad part of life in all parts of the world amidst so much fun and frolic around !!!

After that we headed to the metro station and headed back to the hotel.We were to leave for our next destination Portland the next day.