Friday, October 31, 2014


checking out 'the bean' my first night in town.

I spent 3 glorious days hanging around a part of Chicago called "The Loop." I arrived mid-afternoon and checked-in to my my free (comped) room. One of the perks of having worked for Hostelling International is that I can stay in any HI hostel for free, for a maximum of 3 nights. I think I really lucked out, because I wound up having a private room! The room was roughly 8x10 with a big window and a queen bed, with a twin bunk on top. In the suite where my room was located, there was a private (one-person) bathroom and a kitchenette with good-sized fridge.

Great reflection pattern
I decided to walk around the area, and headed in the direction of Lake Michigan. I made a quick pit-stop to grab some food at this small Italian place. I really, really enjoyed the walk through the Loop area. The buildings were beautiful, the high-rise apartment complexes were attractive, and I eventually found myself about 5 blocks from Navy Pier. I hadn't realized how far I had walked, and I wanted to see the pier at night anyway, so I made a detour to check it out.
Navy Pier

By the time I got to Navy Pier it was almost dark. I had a really nice view of the lake at dusk and made it out to a distance on the pier from which I had a great view of the city skyline. I walked around until it was dark and could only imagine how packed and fun that place would be in the warmer months.

City view from the pier
The Cloud Gate
When I arrived at the hostel, I was exhausted. I had doubled my 10,000-step goal for the day! Thankfully, I was able to sleep pretty easily in my huge bed.

Chagall piece in the city
Day 2 was really informative. I went on an architecture tour. The guide was a hostel volunteer and had some great information about the history of the buildings. There is even a building in Chicago named after a mountain in New Hampshire; a little weird, but still cool. He pointed out two interesting art installations from famous artists:a Chagall and a Picaso.

Cool building
Post Office dwarfed by buildings

After the tour, I stopped for coffee at a highly-recommended spot, and went back to the hostel a bit early to participate in an activity called Culture Kitchen.

Students from Chicago-area high schools come in and do presentations on whatever country and culture they are currently learning about in school. They prepare a meal from that country and then go over a few facts. It was fantastic. They highlighted Argentina and it just so happened that one of the other hostelers who was participating was from Argentina. There were about 15 students and 5 or 6 hostel guests. I was the only person from the US and there was a Polish man, the aforementioned Argentinian, and a young twenty-something from Colombia,

After the presentations, we all decided to go out for a drink. One drink turned into a drink, then each one of the four of us buying a round of shots. Thankfully, I remembered to keep up with the water. Before bed, we made a tentative plan to go to the Museum of Science and Industry the next morning.

German U-boat
Tornado-y thing!
The next morning, two of the four of us showed up to go, and the other two...? I'm assuming they were devastatingly hungover. It was a pretty easy ride from the hostel to the museum. I'm glad I got a little bit of another part of the city.

The museum was much cooler than I expected. We saw an exhibit of a WW2 U-boat, a Walt Disney exhibit, and a ton of other really cool permanent exhibits. I think my favorites were the U-boat, the slices of human body, and the cool vapor wind tornado thing. The planes suspended from the ceiling were pretty trippy... and we were able to see chicks hatching!

Painted boat displayed in the alley
When we got back to the Loop, we walked around for a long time. It was so cold! We grabbed dinner #1 at Al's Italian Beef and walked back towards the hostel. On the way, we ran into this really cool art exhibit. According to the guy we spoke to, there is a movement to "reclaim Chicago's alleyways" through turning them into temporary galleries. This gallery had cool stuff and an interesting Halloween-themed party going on. By 7pm I was hungry again, and the guy I had gone to the museum with (Michal) was hanging around in the common area playing pool with another guy. We all hopped out to grab something to eat. We stopped by the alleyway again to check out the art... and maybe get another cup of wine (yes, I said cup).

At 10pm, I forced myself to go back to the hostel and go to bed because of this early hop over to San Fran!

My flight is delayed, but the reason is so absurd that I think I'll save it for the next post!

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