Saturday, October 13, 2007

Photo Catch-Up: Chicago (Day 1)

Being free-spirited, open to adventure, and, most importantly, cheap!, I jumped at the chance, back in late August, to spend a few days in Chicago with my friend Julia who was attending a conference there. I decided that I would try megabus as my means of transportation. Don't get me wrong, I really like both the romance and reality of train travel, but the prices just could not compete, and, well, the frugal German in me won out again (ach Du lieber!).

Photo from megabus website.

The bus was fine, only I didn't realize it made a stop in Detroit first, which meant that the bus was almost full when the folks boarded in Ann Arbor, so I had to sit next to another person. This is, of course, entirely reasonable and expected, it's just that, um, the garden faerie is not as svelte as she never was, and felt just an eeny bit crowded in her seat. Which is of course entirely her own fault and her own problem.

The bus stopped in Marshall (I'm really glad I know Marshall is a lovely small town, having attended a historic home and garden tour there years back, because the rest stop would not have given that impression!) for a break and then rolled into Chicago more or less near the scheduled time.

Now, I've been to Chicago several times before, and I've visited other large cities. I even lived for a time in Stuttgart, which is indeed much smaller than Chicago, but has a similar population density and urban feel. So I should, really, have been prepared for the hustle and bustle and urban hipness of the Windy City. But I was not. I'm afraid I felt very much like the proverbial country bumpkin straight off the turnip cart when I alighted from the bus outside of Union Station. Wow! Chicago is a real city! It's big! Like, really big. With tall buildings that you have to bend your neck way, way back to see all the way up.

Now, we just don't have skyscrapers in Ann Arbor, or Detroit for that matter. We have tall buildings, yes, thank you very much, but not as many, as close together, as tall. We do not have hustle bustle on the streets with cars honking and throngs of people who cross the street well after you yourself would dare only you can't stop because you're part of the mob!

And people dress very nicely. Granted, this was all in The Loop, the business district, during work hours on a week day. Women were wearing high heels and walking at a pace that I was hard-pressed keeping up with in my Clarks. Men wore suits and ties. Fortunately, I had thought to wear skirts and bring my nicest practical outfits, so I didn't feel as out of place as I might have, but I'm sure I still looked like a washed up middle age Hausfrau trying to look like a 30-year-old washed up Hausfrau! Which I'm really about 90 percent fine with, 85 percent of the time!

Fortunately, my spirits were buoyed by a walk through Millennium Park on my way from Union Station to the hotel. (I also congratulated myself four times over for packing lightly so all I had to lug/maneuver was my college-sized backpack.)

Right there, tucked in the middle of the concrete city, is a green oasis! Bless you, designers of Millennium Park (there should be a Real Men of Genius commercial made for you!). There's really cool architecture and art in the park, like the BP Bridge which winds in sloping steel, the Pritzker Pavilion whose crazy cool roofline looks like an onion blossom exploded in a UFO (this is a good thing; trust me), and the mirrored jelly bean Cloud Gate, which reflects the skyline and which you can walk under. And, best of all, there's a flower garden, Lurie Garden, tucked behind a wall of Arborvitae.

And you know what? A floppy skirt, sun hat, and Clarks sandals, along with their wearer, fit right in in a garden! Revived, I was ready for all Chicago had in store for me.