Yes. Yes they did. I saw it with my own eyes.

Today we topped off the trip with a much-anticipated architecture tour down the Chicago River. Ever since reading The Devil in the White City, I’ve been eager to learn more about this city’s architectural history. The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river cruise did not disappoint. Our delightfully snarky docent exuded true Chicagoanness, and his passion for the city provided an engaging and entertaining history lesson aboard Chicago’s Leading Lady. I do wish we had time to take a walking tour of the Loop’s architecture. It is the birthplace of the skyscraper, the area in which many of Burnham and Root’s buildings, including the Rookery, are located. Next time I’m making it a priority.

Tonight’s our last night in Chicago. For the tail end of our trip we’re staying downtown at the Allerton Hotel. It’s a lovely place right on the Magnificent Mile. Last night we walked up to Tim’s parents’ old neighborhood, the Gold Coast, and had ourselves the ultimate deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. I’d had deep dish in Chicago before, and it was nothing to write home about. In fact, the stuff they served up at Uno’s was pretty terrible. But if you’re looking for that perfect pie – thick buttery crust that  holds up honorably to layers of fresh mozzarella, peppery homemade sausage and tangy-not-sweet sauce thick with tomato chunks – Lou Malnati’s is your place.

Tonight we realized that our destination for tomorrow still had a question mark next to it. We’d entered the unplanned chapter of the Walkabout. It felt kind of odd, but liberating. This is the freedom of the Great American Roadtrip! The plan now is to drive back up north through Wisconsin (apparently we can’t get enough of America’s Dairyland) and explore Kettle Moraine State Forest. Totally new and mysterious territory for both of us. Glacier land here we come!


Chicago and the 3rd of July

View from the John Hancock building

There’s something in the air here. Something that makes Chicago feel like home. Indeed, after spending the better part of a week riding the “L” and walking miles and miles of its perfect grid, I feel as though I’ve reacquainted myself with an old friend. We’re staying in the cutest little apartment too in the neighborhood of Norwood, northwest of downtown along the Blue Line.

Home Away from Home
Wednesday was by far the highlight of the week, it being the day we chose to celebrate the holiday. I spent the morning gallivanting around the Loop, watching the Grant Park Orchestra rehearse in Millennium Park and spending a good three hours at the Art Institute of Chicago (not nearly enough time). I’ve got to hand it to the city when it comes to accesible arts and culture events. All summer long, the Grant Park Music Festival showcases a variety of artists in concerts that are free and open to the public. Even the venue’s architecture is a spectacular experience, with its beautiful thick ribbons of brushed steel.
Concert Hall Quality in a Public Park
With a wee bit of symphony as the soundtrack for my morning, I caught the Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity exhibit at the Art Institute. It was a trifecta of Drea-tuned interests, impossible to resist! I could have spent the entire three hours just on this exhibit alone, but was surprised and delighted by every other turn I took through the seemingly endless galleries. Perhaps the biggest highlights for me – in addition to 19th century fashion plates and garments – were Van Gogh’s The Old Guitarist and The Bedroom. Seeing such monumental, iconic works in person was pretty jaw-dropping.
On the deck of the Odyssey
That same evening Tim took me on a fancy pants dinner cruise aboard The Odyssey on Lake Michigan.  It was incredible! Leaving from Navy Pier, the ship slowly wound its way up and down the Chicago shoreline, providing enchanting views of the city skyline. Cloudy as it was when we embarked, the skies cleared up well in time for the holiday fireworks show. Surrounded by a motley crue of sailboats, yachts and other vessels, multicolored lights shining all around, countless faces aimed in the direction of the fireworks barge, dance music blaring in the distance, and the air thick with anticipation, it felt kind of like Burning Man. Imagine my disappointment when no 40-foot-tall effigy was burned to a fine crisp for the finale! Still, a very special time.
As for the actual Fourth of July, Tim and I celebrated with one of the finest of American traditions: lazing about. Yes! We stayed in, had ourselves a lazy day, watched Django Unchained and made Filipino food. We even enjoyed hours of fireworks, as viewed from our cozy little apartment in Norwood. Being in a place with far fewer fire concerns than California is pretty damn exciting on Independence Day.