The first sight of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) on the way to Chicago downtown
Chicago is not a very vibrant city. In fact, it is the ultimate version of what a cold-hearted, materialistic, gritty, ugly American city could be. It seemed to be a city without a soul. At any one moment, you could imagine Al Capone and his gang bursting out of the shadows in a gang encounter.
Driving downtown, Chicago was Manhattan, New York minus the glamour
Chicago is famous for its architecture, which was evident throughout the diverse designs of the buildings downtown. Each building was different from the next. It is not the cookie-cutter glass box design you see downtown Toronto, for example.
Check out the cars being parked at the base of this building!
We only had one full day (Sunday) to spend in the city, having reached there Saturday night and returning Monday morning. So on Saturday night, after relaxing for a bit at our hotel, we drove to Devon Avenue. This is a big street that has a lot of desi shops. It's a bit like Toronto's Gerrard Street but only bigger. Much bigger.
The next day, after an early breakfast, we drove to the Shedd Aquarium. The main purpose was not to see the aquarium and the fishes, but to capture the magnificent skyline of Chicago from the lake shore.
Then, it was on to the Willis Tower (although everyone still keeps referring to it as the Sears Tower).
Driving downtown Chicago, again it seemed to be a post-apocalyptic city with everyone going to work like bees and concrete everywhere one could see
The Willis Tower was tall, very tall - it didn't seem to be that big from the distance!
Inside the tower, as you buy your ticket and make your way to the elevator that takes you to the top, there's a comparison wall with various other structures.
A comparison of the Willis Tower and Burj Khalifa
You can imagine just how big (gigantic) the Burj Khalifa is! It leaves everyone gasping for breath. The views of Chicago from the viewing deck is similar to views from up any other tall building.
Chicago is on the shore of Lake Michigan and the lake was a brilliant blue
On a clear day you can see up to four states and up to 50 miles away - when we went it was hot, very hot and so a bit smoggy
Concrete, concrete and more concrete
The Willis Tower had something rather new. It was a glass box, placed outside the building! It's like the glass floor on the CN tower, but this is a whole area, a whole section, placed in the air! It's merged with the viewing deck.
Do you dare?
You look straight down 600 metres!
Surprisingly it wasn't that scary - I wonder if that's because it felt like part of the viewing deck, only with a glass floor!
Ever heard of Fazlur Khan? He is the chief architect behind the Willis Tower as well as various other skyscrapers. And he is a Bangladeshi!
After all this, it was time for lunch. And what better way to spend lunch than to try Chicago's famous deep dish pizza. We went to Giordano's - one of the pioneers of stuffed pizza and tried their veg-spinach pizza. It was delicious! You get filled after one slice - each slice is like having two pizzas!
One last item was left on our agenda. Millennium Park, featuring the Cloud Gate. This is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, and is the centerpiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park.
(Sidenote: so, the two famous Chicago landmarks are desi-designed?)
We had a lot of fun at Cloud Gate, where we took various pictures in all types of poses (and everyone was doing the same). I wish, ever since visiting Europe and New York, we had more famous public squares and parks and famous huge sculptures in Toronto. Instead, we have Yonge-Dundas Square.
So, all things combined, it was a fun trip, and one day was more than enough for Chicago. We had a great time and it was a nice trip. However, it's not a city that holds any special attraction and one you can easily skip from your US itinerary without missing a thing. Except, perhaps, the pizza.