Day Forty One, Chicago

It took a while to motivate myself this morning to get up and shower. Thankfully, the bathroom was empty so I could have the big stall. I appreciated that these ones had doors with locks compared to just curtains in other places. I’m starting to enjoy showers, they’re a different kind of comforting compared to baths. I missed breakfast due to getting up later; they were very strict so I wasn’t allowed to take a bagel. There were a few coffee shops nearby so I knew I could get something cheap. I chose to go to Dunkin Donuts, they were cheap only $1.09 each but they tasted decent. I had a double chocolate glaze and a glazed blueberry. The latter tasted just like a muffin in a donut shape, I’m not sure if that was intentional. I saw I could shave ten minutes off my journey to the 360 Tower if I got a train instead of walking but I wanted to see the city and was curious about what I might come across. 

I noticed the Chicago Art Institute a few blocks to my right, it was surrounded by a park and I felt like I had to walk through it.  I came across the Crown Fountain, which is a pair of glass fountains with LED faces on them. Water then spouts out of the mouths on the fountains.  Children were running and screaming amongst in the water.  I have never seen something so untraditional in park; it was fantastic art and really captured my imagination.

I walked further on and there it was ‘Cloudgate’ or the ‘Millennium Bean’, and it was beautiful. I have watched Kanye West’s Homecoming video countless times and to finally see it now felt dreamlike.  

The clear blue sky and the cities towers reflected back onto itself.  I spent too much time walking around it, taking in every curve of its silvery body. I was amazed that I had just come across it by chance, just by walking where I wanted and not getting a train to the 360 tower. I have included a few photos to try to give you a taste of its beauty. I was reluctant to leave it but I was a little worried about how busy the queues might be for the 360 Tower.

I had to cross one of the cities many bridges on my journey, I felt like I was on a romantic stroll with myself through this city.  My experiences of visiting significant buildings in cities made me think that there would be multiple long, dull queues to go up the 360 Tower. It was far quieter than I’d anticipated, there were maybe only half a dozen people ahead of me when I first entered the queue system.  I was able to ascend the tower quickly. I paced around the room, eager to look out of the windows, to see the city all around me. The ‘Tilt’ was an additional $7, as I hadn’t paid for my entry pass I thought why not look upon Chicago at a 45-degree angle.  I barely had to queue as it was so quiet, three others did it at the same time as me.  We were told to hold onto the black handles next to the window and to expect the window to lower in two stages.  As soon as it started to move, I felt the beautiful exhilaration you do when a rollercoaster hurdles down the track.  I tuned out the people around me who jumped off, I was too focussed on enjoying this moment.  It went lower still and I could see the blue of Lake Michigan to my left and the busy city to my right.  I posed for a souvenir photo and I was brought back up again.

I talked to family from Indiana as I’d asked them to take a photo of me up in the tower.  They were shocked to discover I was travelling by myself but, also supportive and impressed. I don’t think I used to notice people who were travelling or visiting places by themselves as I have only ever been abroad with other people.  Now, I feel like I can spot a fellow solo traveller with ease and am confident enough to strike up a conversation or ask a stranger to take a photo of me.

I was beginning to get hungry, using the free Wi-Fi inside the tower I was able to find somewhere tasty for tacos! It was a bit of a walk away but that just meant I’d get to experience more of the city.  It seemed to be in a nice neighbourhood, there were trees lining the streets and high-end stores around us. I arrived at Velvet Taco, the interior was cool with wooden tables and white tiles.  The vegetarian tacos all sounded delicious, I opted for a paneer and a falafel taco.  

The paneer was battered and fried; it came with a tikka sauce, raita and Thai basil.  The falafel taco also had avocado, pea shoots, pickled red onion, and tahini crema.  Both were messy and incredible, the battered paneer was my favourite. Neither were traditionally Mexican but both were delicious.

There was a bus that I could get to the neighbourhood of the McCallister House aka the Home Alone House, therefore, on I went to explore the suburbs of Chicago.  The house is hidden on google maps so I’d found its location on a movie locations site.  

Despite the gate around the garden I was able to recognise the house straight away. The distinctive driveway was so much smaller than I thought it would be, movie magic making the curve appear larger. I saw two children chased away from the gate by someone within the house. I took some photos at a distance and went to a nearby Starbucks to figure out what to do next. I was glad to have seen the house in real life, the tangibility of seeing the home from a film.

I decided to Uber to the high school from ‘The Breakfast Club’ as I had wanted to visit it for over ten years. The actual high school it was filmed in doesn’t exist anymore but the field that Bender raises his arm in proud defiance is still there. My Uber driver was really friendly and spoke about his grandchildren; when I explained what I was doing by going to the high school, he didn’t judge me and was encouraging about my nerdy tendencies. He accidentally drove me to the wrong school and was so apologetic; I think he had forgotten that I was on a fixed cost journey of $11. He drove me to the actual school and said he would wait for me to finish looking around to make up for his mistake. 

There were people training in the football stadium as I walked around the fields, it felt surreal being immersed in this part of American culture that tourists never usually get to see. 

My Uber drove me to the train station for free, I could get a train downtown from that station. There was a long wait as there had been an accident on the tracks. I could see the Ferris Bueller water tank nearby; it sadly does not say ‘Save Ferris’ anymore but I still felt nostalgic for it. The train had two levels, I was sat on a single seat looking out of a blue tinted window as I watched the scenery get busier and built up. I was hungry when I arrived back into the city and decided to try Chicago deep-dish pizza, my Uber driver from earlier had recommended Giordano’s. 

I arrived at the restaurant and as I was by myself I just sat at the bar, I ordered the vegetarian pizza and was slightly dismayed at the price and the forty-five minute wait. It is a big pizza, when it arrived; I was slightly taken back by just how deep dish a pizza could go. I usually go for a thin and crispy pizza and this pizza was easily three inches tall. It was an overwhelming experience as I was so hungry; I only managed two slices of my deep-dish pizza.  The cheese and the vegetables were delicious as there were artichokes, black olives, peppers, mushrooms and onions.  There was just too much food for one, I took it away with me to eat tomorrow. I walked back to the hostel, pizza box held like a baby. I couldn’t be bothered to go out after everything I did today, I climbed into my bunk and went to sleep.


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