Thursday, January 26, 2017

More Chicago: Art Institute and the Navy Pier

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For our next day in the Windy City we had one mission: to get to the Art Institute of Chicago.  I get really excited for art museums. No matter where I go, I always try to check one out. Being in a larger city I was looking forward to something on the scale of the MET or the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We took another quick stroll around The Bean and through Millennium Park on the way to the museum.


The interior was decorated in preparation for the holiday. You know those rare occasions where you go into something with really high expectations and somehow you're still blown away? That was our experience that day. The scale of it was everything I'd hoped for and more. Collection after collection, floor after floor, piece after piece. We wandered for hours through the ancient art to the modern, through the household names to the underrated to the unknown, and it never got tiring.

A lot of people had the same idea as us that day. It was a day off work for many. There were plenty of families going in and out of the exhibits. It's great to see children in art museums. As a child I didn't have much of an appreciation of art. I still don't fully grasp all the different genres or understand the various movements. I'm not familiar with many artists that aren't ones that society has deemed the main players. I just like how it makes me feel to be around beautiful things.

By the time we left it was early afternoon and our next goal was to go to the Navy Pier, another iconic Chicago destination that we decided we couldn't miss. It was cold, quite cold, though not too windy. The grey skies also persisted. Not many people were there with us. The slight wind coming in from the lake made it even colder. It was easy to imagine it being full and alive with people during the spring or summer. The water is a really pretty bluish green, and it has great views of the city behind it.

We made it all the way around before warming up inside as it got dark outside, before we headed out to a tour we'd scheduled for the evening. That's not all for our whirlwind introduction to Chicago!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Giving Thanks in Chicago

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I'm more than a little late sharing this trip. We were in Chicago over Thanksgiving, nearly two months ago. Chicago was the second stop on the road trip after Cincinnati. We got into the city rather late and had somewhat of a parking ordeal, because big city.  So we were a bit cranky the next morning as we took the bus downtown. It was also Thanksgiving Day and we were expecting a lot of things to be closed. The plan was to watch the parade and do the touristy stuff.

Within a few blocks the city starting coming into view. The crankiness began to dissipate as excitement took over.  As we got out onto the streets the energy from the parade took was all we could feel. People were everywhere, celebrating the day. Drums and music filled the air. The parade was mostly high school bands and a lot of Cubs pride. It was only a few weeks after they'd won the World Series.

We stayed for a couple hours, watching and moving our way through the streets. Once it came to an end we walked to Millennium Park, since most of the other sites were closed for the holiday. Of course we had to go the Bean, or was it the Cloud? We debated, we googled. The iconic sculpture is named Cloud Gate and is called The Bean by many since it resembles one. We were both right!

The area around the sculpture has to be one of the best people-watching spots I've ever been. There's an infinite number of creative ways folks from around the world will get their snap with the famous metallic piece of art. It also overlooks an ice rink. We contemplated ice skating but I have notoriously bad balance. Instead we just took in the view.

The rest of the park wasn't as crowded. After finding an open Starbucks, which surprisingly wasn't difficult, we wandered around the Pavilion area and walked down the serpentine bridge. Both have some really good skyline perspectives, though almost anywhere in the park has a good view. Chicago is a beautiful city, even on a grey day. The clouds just gave it a moody feel.

By that time we were ready for our Thanksgiving meal. While my family was back home eating turkey and stuffing, we found a place around the park that was playing the football games and ordered a Chicago Dog. Which is basically all my favorite toppings, with a hot dog on a poppy seed bun.

Hanging out while watching the games gave us some time to plan the evening. Again, we were surprised that both of the observation towers were open that evening. We decided to do 360 Chicago, and even though it was still early evening we got night views since the sun set before 5pm. The fog had settled in over the city for the evening.

What meal do you choose to end Thanksgiving Day the right way? Chinese from Chinatown of course! A lot of people had the same idea as us, many of the restaurants were fairly crowded. We chose takeout and took it back to the apartment, so we could binge-watch The Crown on Netflix.

It was an unconventional Thanksgiving that I couldn't be more thankful for!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cincy: Not Knowing What to Expect

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Not too long ago, one of my best friends and I set off on a road trip to Chicago. With that city being more than 11 hours away we decided to stop somewhere on the way there to break up the trip.  Looking at a map we weren't too excited about our options, but a couple friends recommended Cincinnat,i so for the first leg of the trip we headed to Ohio. We're glad we did, because the city really blew us away.

Cincinnati sits on the border between Ohio and Kentucky, with the Ohio River in between. From downtown you can walk across the Roebling Suspension Bridge to Covington, Kentucky to get views of both cities and step foot in another state.

The bridge itself is beautiful and offers so many photo-ops of the Cincinnati skyline. On one side the Cincinnati Reds' stadium is visible. Green space lines the river area so you can stroll along the water, navigate a maze, relax in a swing or entertain yourself on the fitness obstacles. On the Kentucky side they've lined the park with murals depicting scenes from history.

Another gem of the trip was the Cincinnati Art Museum. When we were there they had a Van Gogh exhibit focusing on his landscapes, specifically forest interiors. Their permanent collection spans all the genres and we were more than entertained for a couple hours. The building itself is expansive and an architectural delight. Plus, regular admission is free!

The quirkiest part of our time in Ohio was spent at the American Sign Museum. It takes you into the history of advertisement and storefront signs that lined downtown areas and main streets across the country. There's also an artist workshop where you can observe how the neon tubing is manipulated by the artists when making the signage. It's art, it's history, it's definitely unique!

Both of us really wanted to do a mural tour of the downtown area, but we were there around a holiday and couldn't book one. Many of the buildings and walls around the city are decorated in graffiti and murals. I would have loved to get more in depth with them as so many seemed to speak to the history of the city. Maybe next time, because I know I'd jump at the chance to go back!