Chicago

After a 57 hour train journey, a mile and half long walk, and a trapped nerve in the neck, there is no better sight than a posh, swanky hostel. And Chicago did not disappoint. The hostel was potentially the nicest place we have stayed, including the hotel in Vegas (actually maybe not, I’m not sure). The free WiFi, free pool and Table Tennis, free breakfast, free tea and coffee all day, free events that result in meeting some cool musicians and bloggers. Chicago, you were pretty awesome!

As you are probably guessing by now, the 57 hour train journey is now well and truly over. As much as I liked the train and everything, I am glad to have a bed and not have to constantly wait for announcements on how many freight trains are coing through ahead of us. And as I have said, the hostel was seriously nice. It was really nice to find such a homely place, where we could cook something proper to eat and stop in our own room, clean after a shower.

We had grand plans for Chicago, and for the most part, we carried them out. The first problem: The Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks won this year’s Stanley Cup, and if it’s one thing you can guarantee, it is that the Chicago locals will celebrate their hockey success. We started the day with the full intention of dodging the parade all together, but as we got onto the streets with 2 million avid fans, we quickly realised that it was not possible. They were everywhere, they were loud, they were very red, and it was actually fairly awesome to witness. I’m not sure if anyone was actually in work, but it was a cool thing to say that we were a part of while we were in Chicago itself, even if we aren’t big hockey fans.

The parade did hold us back from our big plans for our first day in Chicago. The hostel provided single day walking tours around the city, which we abandoned after the madness. We started in Millenium Park after escaping the clutches of the masses, before walking along the edge of the lake (via a fire station) to the Navy Pier. It was one of the stops on the walk we actually made it to, and it was pretty nice. Lots of little shops, stalls, restaurants, and statues along a pier that stuck out into the lake. It was strange to see the city scape from a pier and beach on the edge of a lake. The lake is too big to be a lake really, let’s be honest.

We walked back in the direction of the hostel via Cloud Gate. More commonly known as the Bean, it is a mirrored sculpture shaped like a large kidney bean that sits on one side of Millenium Park. It is pretty cool to see. Lots of people were lying below it taking photos of their reflection, and you can get some impressive pictures with the city skyline reflected in it. Good mention there Cath!!

That evening, we had signed up (hesitantly) for an event hosted by Pola Henderson of JAMedia and Jetting Around fame. It was free and offered a free meal, so we thought we would give it a go. The Travel stories, sit in a circle, and acoustic music side was what we weren’t sure about, as that sort of event is not our kind of thing, but we were pleasantly surprised. We met lots of people from different backgrounds and walks of life who had been to some far flung places. And we met, and listened to Mike Mentz, whose brand of Travel Pop was actually really really good and well worth listening to. You should all check him out!!

The next morning, we over stocked on the breakfast to the max. It was so good, and I finally got to have a proper amount of granola and yoghurt. It was literally the best thing we have had in a long time! We checked out and left our bags, and set straight out to see a show at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. The fountain was really nice, but the show didn’t seem to be on (we later discovered it is only on at night) so we set out for Lincoln Park and the free zoo. It was a lot windier and colder, unlike at the parade, of course it would be freezing on the day we walked.

We’re very much on a not eating save money kind of trip now, so we stopped at Giordano’s to get a lunch offer meal, between us. The deep dish pizza they are renowned for was nice and everything, but I don’t think either of us got it. Just give me a normal, thin crust pizza any day.

We carried on to the park, and had a wander through past the Lincoln monument to the free zoo. It was much better than in Rockhampton, with Lions, and Giraffes, and Bears, and a Gorilla. Well you get the picture, there was a lot of animals and a lot of them were actual proper zoo animals. It was a pretty cool way to spend our afternoon before our long bus to Toronto, and then onto the falls.

We managed to squirm our way upstairs in the hostel and utilise the plugs/WiFi/free coffee for a few hours before our bus. It was much better to wait up there than in Union Station anyway, and I managed to catch up on my blog posts. Finally!! We made our way to the station after a bit of a detour, and were taken to the bus station by a kind Greyhound driver. They had Amish people in the station that we couldn’t stop staring at. I felt bad, but I just couldn’t stop! We didn’t ralise that we were stopping in Detroit, which was a bonus, before crossing the border into Canada. Boy was the officer perfect with his stamping skills!

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