We had booked the architectural boat tour for 10:00 am. The forecast was for showers but it seemed like we might be OK for the hour and a half duration of the tour. We found the tour office and boarded the boat when they opened the gangplank. We chose seats on the upper deck, one row back from the edge of the canopy, in case it did rain on us.
The tour guide was a professor of architecture. She talked about the styles of architecture and then told us the name or address of each building and which style it was as we progressed up the river. The difficulty for us was that she was at the front of the boat describing buildings as they came into her view but they had already passed out of our view due to the canopy. So it was necessary to move closer to her to see what she was talking about. She also told us what each building was used for – offices, condos, etc., who owned it and any colourful history attached to it. Chicago seems to have a lot of colourful history.
As we cruised up the river, we were excited to see that one of the bridges had been raised to allow sailboats to move through. Our guide explained that in the spring and the fall, the bridges are raised twice a week to allow sailboats to move to and from the lake for the season.
We were only a few minutes into the tour when the showers started. Initially, they were light and didn’t cause us any concern. By about the halfway point, however, the showers had become torrential downpours and we were getting drenched. The guide moved under the canopy and many of the people moved downstairs to the enclosed portion. The information and sights were so interesting, we stayed put, even though we were soaking wet and feeling quite cold. When the tour ended, we went into the tour office for some hot coffee to keep our hands warm on the walk back to the hotel.
We had to completely change clothing when we got back. We decided we needed an indoor activity for the afternoon, so we went across the street for lunch then walked up the Magnificent Mile to the Water Tower Place shopping mall. It’s anchored by Macy’s and has eight floors of shopping. We browsed a bit but not very enthusiastically. The only thing I ended up buying were some gloves to keep my hands warm.
For the evening, we took a cab to Kingston Mines, the number two blues club in Chicago. It was an interesting drive through some residential streets north of the downtown area. The club was much more like a bar. We were seated at a long table that was only about 10” wide and had four chairs along each side. The club had two stages in separate rooms which were side by side, with the bar in between. For food, we had to go to the back of the club to the kitchen to place our order. They told us the pickup time and we had to go back to get it. The narrow table forced us to set our plates side by side. Fortunately we had gone early, so there were no people beside us and we could spread out. The place was definitely designed for booze and snacks.
The two groups playing were Duke Tumatoe and Joanna Connor. They alternated sets, so there was continuous music. The announcer informed us that the music would continue until 4:00 in the morning! As the evening wore on, a lot of the crowd would move from one stage to the other, so that those of us who stayed sitting at our tables were surrounded by those who were standing around the perimeter of the room. It was a real challenge to find our way to the restrooms and back. The music was good however and we stayed until near midnight.
We slept in for a change, then went walking to find breakfast. The obvious breakfast places were lined up outside the doors, so we kept walking until we found an Irish Pub that had a suitable breakfast menu. Halfway through our walk the showers began and intensified until we were drenched again. We had a wonderful breakfast though and the rain had lightened a bit before we went outside again. We walked over to the Dominick’s store to pick up some fresh fruit and noticed that they were carrying Safeway brands. At the register I asked if they were affiliated and the cashier confirmed they had been bought by Safeway and my card would work there, so we could get the card prices.
By this time, it appeared to be clearing up a bit as we could see some blue sky through holes in the clouds. We dropped our shopping off at the hotel and set out to walk down the other end of the magnificent mile and take pictures of more of the city sights.
Chicago is a surprisingly beautiful city. There are a lot of skyscrapers but they are mostly quite unique and, like those in New York, have very interesting details. The Magnificent Mile is lined with trees and planters with flowers, which were still blooming. The Chicago River flows in from the lake and separates into two branches. Unlike Edmonton, there are lots of bridges, so getting across the river isn’t a big problem. The downtown hugs the edge of Lake Michigan, where there are huge expanses of sandy beaches. We walked through the Millenium Park where the Art Institute of Chicago is located . The Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry is on the way to it and has a huge stage with outdoor seating and a large lawn area where concert goers can spread out their blankets. The stage structure is topped by metal pieces that are reminiscent of the new Edmonton Art Gallery.
In the trees past the Art Institute are three large metal sculptures that are generally ball-shaped and painted in bright colours. As we were walking beside them, I noticed something odd through the trees, so we went to check it out. It was a huge jelly bean shaped thing that was curved and set on its ends, so you could walk underneath it. The entire surface was a mirror-like substance, so it reflected the surroundings but distorted them due to the curves of the surface. Underneath, it curved inwards, so it was like looking into a black hole. It was about 70 feet long, 25 feet high in the middle and 25 feet wide. It was very amazing to look at and attracted a lot of attention. The locals call it “The Bean”.
Close by was another amazing piece of art. There was a fountain with two huge rectangular structures set upright on their small ends. Water poured out of the rectangles all over the surface and spread out over the slate-like surface around them. They had a framework on all sides that looked like it was a brick surface. On the two surfaces that faced each other were two faces, but only the middle parts of the faces, so you could only see the foreheads, eyes, noses, mouths and chins. The images were live so you could see them blink, smile, raise their eyebrows, etc. When they both closed their eyes, water spouted out of their mouths. When the water spout stopped, the images changed and new faces appeared. At night the rectangles are illuminated and are very eye-catching.
By this time, we needed a break so crossed the street and went into Starbucks. Our timing was perfect. By the time we sat down with our drinks, it was once again pouring outside. We took our time sipping our coffees but eventually decided to brave the elements so we could go back to the hotel. We arrived soaking wet once again.
After a short rest, we got ready to go to Tommy Gun’s Garage for the show called “Gangsters and Flappers”. It’s very similar to Jubilations Dinner Theatre. The staff participate in the show and stay in character while they serve dinner. We were greeted at the door by a gangster with a tommy gun and had to say a password to get in. We got the password when we reserved the dinner – “I need an oil change”. The presentation was based on the premise that it was prohibition and we were at an illegal speakeasy. When the cops arrived to raid the place blue lights would flash and we had to hide our drinks. Of course, they got people from the audience to participate from time to time and Murray was one of their choices. He got to impersonate James Cagney with a one-liner “You dirty rat”, which he executed very well. It was a lot of fun!