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Alana’s Travel Diary

Monday, 09 Apr 2012

Location: Chicago, USA

Good food last night – shrimp starter (prawns to me) & steak – and even managed to get a Peroni beer. Hair-raising getting across the freeway & back for the restaurant but worth it as went to bed tired but replete.
Didn’t realise how hot it actually was yesterday – might have been something to do with being on the top deck of an open air tour bus for 2 hours. Woke this morning with a perfect replica of the necklace I was wearing picked out in relief by a not too fetching lobster red. Must remember how easily I burn & will have to find a round necked tee shirt to cover up today as the weather gloriously sunny again. Discovered an evening Blues trip on line last night so went into the Culture Centre to book – foiled again !! Only runs certain times of year in peak tourist season (not April apparently) so dipped out again !! Sigh………… ok…… art instead.
Achievement – got a burger & a pint after bumping into an Irish bar when looking for breakfast / coffee. Nice people & enjoyed chatting before venturing into the Art world.
Fascinating time in the Art Institute of Chicago which is a quite amazing place. However there are a few things that would enhance the experience for donuts like me:
• Checking your bags in is a great idea so you are not lumbered whilst enjoying the art experience but:
1. Give people the map / guide beforehand so that people like me will realise that they need they need their reading glasses for the tiny print before the bag is checked in
2. Take pity on those who are not skilled map readers / have no sense of direction & can’t see the damn small print anyway
3. Carefully explain why certain parts can only be accessed from Floor 1 due to elevator renovation & point out exactly where Floor 3 is i.e. in a different building
4. Tell us that Chicago is laid back about its art (not snobby like us Brits) & that it’s cool to take a camera round & photograph your favourite for posterity
5. Again, do the above before people like me have checked the bag in that contains both the camera & the reading glasses
• Your guides are great - very patient when the same person appears several times & explains the above & that they are lost – however their explanations for where to find things are a puzzle in themselves……….. NO…….I am not “good to go” and don’t understand when something “looks like an exit but isn’t really”.
I’m sure I missed out on a few things but did get to see what I had intended to e.g. “Nighthawks”, “American Gothic”, lots of Impressionist stuff & a Picasso or two. However, was delighted to also find Turner, Georgia O’Keefe & jazz related paintings as well as Japanese art & Chegall “stained glass”. Optimum ambient temperature for paintings etc was a bit warm for me – maybe because it was inclemently warm outside & glad to leave to rest aching feet (again) in a pleasant garden housing a Henry Moore sculpture. Surprises round every corner in this place !!
Spent the rest of the afternoon in Millenium Park checking out the various random sculptures – do a lot of artists donate to Chicago? Checked out the coffee bean (properly known as “Cloud Gate”) & was amused by the antics of people wanting to get a particular photo shot. So many people jumping / standing on their hands / taking photos of themselves taking photos etc etc. Mind you – the mirrored surface reflecting skyscrapers, clouds & people at funny angles is fascinating. Impressive arrays of tulips in bloom everywhere (early because of the inclement warm weather apparently) & was fascinated by a bird flitting around that looked like a blackbird but had a distinctive red strip on its wings – must find out what it is. Pity none of the fountains / water sculptures are working at the moment – apparently a fear of a late frost !! Ended up at the magnificent Jay Pritzker Pavilion with its state of the art sound system & incredible architecture for an outdoor music venue. Pity nothing is happening yet but, apparently, in summer the venue for free early evening concerts.
Wending my weary way back to the Blue Line train for returning to my hotel I came across one last thing to amuse me for the day. Young black guy (looking a bit too well turned out for a beggar) was propped against a lamppost wielding a handwritten tatty bit of cardboard stating:
Couldn’t help but commenting “Well two out of three aint bad” – congratulated him on his accurate spelling & gave him $5 – sucker as always for humour !!
Back at my hotel & knackered – probably will sample the delights of “Hooters” this evening !!