Wednesday, August 04, 2010


It was long weekend in Ontario, and we drove to Chicago with another friend and his wife for a "short short vacation", which is how we described our trip to the border officer. It was all last minute, and sometimes those are the best.

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.


shaz said...

i loved chicago! i didn't really see much more than the lake, but i loved the lake and whatever the name of the area we stayed at. :)

mezba said...

Shaz, it's not as expensive as New York, I will give that, but while I enjoyed my time there I really don't feel any need or attraction to visit again. And it didn't offer me anything new.

Other than the pizza! Yum! Not to mention the pancakes at Ihop and cheesecake on sale!

Muslim Girl said...

The pizza looks so good! Haha I like how you described it as a "short short trip" to the border officer.

But yeah I don't think I really have that need to visit Chicago.

Farah said...

The glass box on the tower looks scary and amazing at the same time! I could never dare step in that!

Most American cities seem to be the same.

Organica said...

I think a lot of foodies like Chicago because it's a major hub in the culinary arts.

I have no desire to visit Chicago :)

But hey? It was worth the pizza, eh?

'liya said...

V and I are heading to Chicago very soon (because I want to go to the art museum) so this post came at the perfect time :D

youngMuslimah said...

my dad went there last month. In fact his pics and videos are almost similar to yours lol the pizza looks delicious!

Work in Progress said...

I LOVE CHICAGO! Was there exactly a year ago and maybe it was the company but I had an awesome trip. Giordano's pizza is sooo good! U didn't take a trip down Michigan avenue? Very much like NY's 5th avenue but it has a really great atmosphere over the weekends.

Lat said...

Loved all your pics! The carpark looks huge and wonder how often drivers get the fainting spell :)

I've got phobia of heights so definitely the glass box is out but Ican take a peek :)
It's amazing that one could see up to 4 states! That's way too cool!
If the Burj is so much higher than that I wonder if one can see India! hahaha!

It'll be wonderful if they could add in a garden here and there,it will look more beautiful.Man-made creations are nowhere near compared to nature.
Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed your photo tour of Chicago!

mezba said...

Muslim Girl, yes it was a very short trip. Less days = less night at hotel = trip under budget! ;-)

Farah, I agree, most American cities seem the same. You have to visit San Francisco though - a very unique and possibly the most scenic city in North America!

Organica, definitely the pizza was a highlight of the trip! It's a, er, cheesy thing to say but I really loved the pizza! Got to make it here.

Liya, definitely try Giordano's stuffed pizza when you go - it's a must-do thing at the city. They have a few other art pieces in public other than Cloud Gate - and Shedd's Aquarium's water show isn't bad either, although it's not Sea World.

Young Muslimah, lol we took pics of the same things probably! and yep, the pizza was amazing!

Work In Progress, we drove down Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) but didn't get the time to get out and explore. I loved NYC (it was a very walkable city) so perhaps Chicago didn't feel close to the real thing, to me it was always coming up short to NYC!

Lat, surprisingly the glass floor at the CN tower is more scary. I guess it's because it seems so out of place. Here it's glass walls all around (unlike the Empire State) so it blends in seamlessly. Only when you look down ...

Azra S. said...

Oh geez, I think I would have died up there in that building, especially out on that glass box!

Fantastic Pics!!
Incidentally, my best friend lives in Chicago... Aurora, IL to be exact. She immigrated 12 years ago.

And now you have me starving thanks to that pizza :D

Abu Pokemon said...

I have to go to Chicago every other month or so,us I know a lot of people who would take issue with these statements. :) However I will refrain from commenting about that. I am now curious about your sentiments about New York.

Specs said...

We just had an impromptu trip to Scotland so I agree - last minute, quick and exhausting trips are the best :-D

LOL@ you comparing the High Street to Toronto, haha :-P

The glass floor pictures are quite scary *dizzy*

Musa said...

Chicago is the quintessential American city.

Houston is too soulless, Atlanta is too "90's", Miami is too Latin, Phoenix is too hot, SF is too liberal, NYC is.....NYC, Boston is too "Harvard".

However, Chicago is an American city as it should be (try to describe Chicago in one word as I did with the other cities and you will know what I mean)

As such, it is probably a much better place to live in than to visit .

mezba said...

Azra, thanks - most of the pics were taken by my point-and-shoot that I thought had been damaged, ironically!

I did go to Aurora (close to where we stayed) - they have an outlet mall where we did most of our shopping. Being over-taxed Canadians, we reserve our shopping for US trips!

Abu Pokemon, wish we had coordinated our times, would have loved to have met up. I did a post about NYC sometime ago.

Specs, I always wanted to visit Scotland, especially the locales where they shot KKHH.

The Willis Tower is quite high, though not as high as CN Tower's Skypod observatory (which, coincidentally, is higher than the Burj Khalifa's observatory).

Musa, interesting. I too thought Chicago is the typical American big city.

Anonymous said..., I finished touring many countries just by reading your "travelling" posts and looking at the pics..
which country next, inshaAllah? :P

mezba said...

@Nasmirah, have to devote some time to explore Toronto! Far cheaper ....