Following another jet lag-induced early night night I was wide awake at 4am. As I was flying back to the UK on Thursday I wasn’t not too bothered about adapting to Chicago time.
The West Loop Area used to be described as a bit of a gritty neighbourhood following the demise of its traditional industries. Nowadays many of the warehouses have been converted into trendy apartments and businesses, with a lot of hip young people now residing here. Not much seemed to be happening around here on a Monday morning. A few places were serving breakfast, avocado on wholewheat the bread or free-range Eggs Benedict and the like. I found Sawada Coffee. This was no mean feat as it neither looks much like a coffee shop nor appears to be open. Inside it looks great though with amazing warehouse brickwork and features on display, as Sarah Beeny would undoubtedly point out on one of those property shows. You can get a small coffee for $2 or a large one for $3. While I was pondering this decision, the server pointed out that refills are free. I questioned the logic of why anyone would buy a large coffee but he didn’t seem to have a clue what I was talking about!
Later in the afternoon I joined yet another free walking tour, along the Chicago Riverwalk. A lot more people turned up compared to yesterday’s walking tour, at least 20. There were two guides, Mel and Emir. Both were loud and they certainly needed to be in order to make themselves heard over the Chicago traffic.
The Chicago Riverwalk has been a work in progress during my previous visits to the city but it’s now complete. It comprises of a lovely landscaped path that will take you from Lake Michigan to the opposite side of the Loop. This afternoon’s walking tour encapsulated some of this route, although we veered off the path to have a loser look at a few other architectural gems. As I probably mentioned yesterday, Chicago has some extremely photogenic buildings. Today’s highlights included the Wrigley Building, Chicago Tribune Tower, Marina City and Merchandise Mart. Mel and Emir told us plenty of interesting facts about these sights. For instance the Merchandise Mart was the largest building (by surface area, not height) in the world upon completion in 1930. The beautiful Chicago Tribune Tower was designed in a gothic style despite being built during the 1920’s. I’ve walked past this building lots of times and never noticed, until it was pointed out today, that the brickwork encompasses small samples of other significant structures. You can see bits of the Berlin Wall, Angkor Wat, Notre Dame de Paris, Taj Mahal and The Alamo. The tour finished alongside the Chicago River where we were told about a fairly amazing civil engineering project. Chicago’s source of drinking water has always been Lake Michigan. During the 1880’s there were concerns about sewage being washed into the lake from the Chicago River. An ingenious system of canals were therefore devised to effectively reverse the flow of the Chicago River away from the lake. Apparently St Louis weren’t happy about this as a lot of sewage was sent their way. And as the old joke goes, they eventually got their own back on Chicago by bottling the piss and selling it back in the form of Budweiser!
Despite the neon thermometers displaying today’s temperature as 50F (10C), it was quite sunny and I still managed to get a red face. More so than after three months in Asia where the average temperature was more like 90F, albeit with large quantities of sun cream used there. To paraphrase (or maybe quote) Chris Kamara, unbelievable!