We enter Chicago, the windy city, a place I have longed to see ever since I fell in love with the show ER, my desire to visit grew when I became fully engrossed in the show Chicago Fire. So there was no better place to start in this city than going to fire house 51 before we get rid of the car.
It doesn’t disappoint. It is a crisp day with blue skies, the warmth of the sun is attempting to reach the pavement but not quite achieving its aim. I pull over and jump out the car, walk across the road and there it is, just like on T.V. It is a working firehouse and I read online that sometimes they invite fans inside, so I walk past slowly several times, no one beckons me in so I take a minute and fully appreciate how real this place is. There are fire trucks on the street, ambulances too; the driveway is the scene of many a great episode yet looks perfect and new, like it hadn’t seen any of the traumas that have been told to the viewers. The trucks are spectacular, almost antique looking in their old fashion design. Conscious that Mr.C is in the car and I had parked on a yellow line I take one last look and run back to exude my joy.
We decide to drop the car back, a rather smooth affair, no paperwork like in the UK just hand the keys over and go. From there we make it to our hotel on Wacker Drive, our room has a view of the river and the circular parking lot that I later find out features in Chicago Fire. Desperate to explore we rush to shower and go, making our way to the Willis tower. It is only a few blocks from the hotel so the walk is nice, the ice cold hits you as you turn a corner yet the sun is bright. Willis tower has incredible views and I would honestly recommend going and queuing to stand on a ledge. The staff were more than happy to take photos for you. Mr.C is a touch apprehensive of the glass floor but he also admits it is a stunning scene that you are able to observe below your feet. We spend maybe 30-40 minutes here and truly work up an appetite. Being that we are in Chicago there is a must eat on the list, deep dish Chicago style pizza pie. We head to the famous Giordano’s pizzeria just across the road from the tower.
The deep dish takes 45 minutes to make but don’t let that put you off. Order it, build an appetite and behold the beauty of it when it arrives. We order a medium, rather reserved by our standards but it was a great choice. They are packed layer by layer of meat and cheese and after just two slices of this marvellous creation we are done, completely full so get the other half of the pizza to go. We make a mental calculation that after a few drinks tonight we will definitely want more of this.
We walk back past Macy’s and take a look in some of the shops, the temperature has really dropped so any stop in a shop is a good excuse to get warm. We make it back to by our hotel and the Michigan Bridge, the ever popular location for ER scenes. I’m in my element and request Mr.C to take pictures of me every few minutes. Back at the hotel we rest before changing for the evening and enjoy a few drinks at the hotel first, the bar has a wonderful view of the Chicago theatre all lit up. We then head to the Hancock centre for a drink in their rooftop bar. Now this is by no means cheap, but it is cheaper than buying tickets to the observation deck they have and the night sky views are epic. You can see every block and it is truly breath-taking. We use our time here to reminisce on the long journey that brought us to this destination, whilst enjoying the splendours of Chicago.
We decide to take a taxi to the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. I had heard that it had good live bands and was also Al Capone’s favourite bar. I later watch a documentary on the place and find out it was the location of many underworld deals that happended in Chicago. The area where it is located is quite far from where we are staying and it doesn’t look as friendly as Wacker Drive, if anything this cocktail club sticks out like a sore thumb, not at all inconspicuous like you would assume a mob gangster would need. We pay $7 each to get in, are explained the rules, strictly no talking when the bands playing and it is cash only. This is awkward as we have just used the last of our cash to get in! Luckily we spy a cash machine in the corner and after several attempts it works and we perch ourselves at the bar, with a good view of the band. The place is dark, an old fashion western style cash register sits on the bar, the bar tenders are in waistcoats and there’s a general sense of vintage opulence echoing through the place. The band play swing music and it proves to be rather relaxing and happy to listen to. Me and Mr.C note that this trip has been a rather musical one and this feels like a completely new genre to add to the list. We stay for a few hours before getting a taxi back to nearer our hotel.
With several bars in the area we don’t struggle to find a new place to drink. We settle on the one called Bub City. Quite apt as that’s our nicknames for each other, ironically it is a Nashville themed bar and has a duet singing country songs and they are great! The music is fun and they even do a few renditions of hip hop songs but with a country twang. Suitably drunk we head back to the hotel and enjoy left-over Giordano’s pizza pie, a great way to end our first night in Chicago.
We wake late the following day and miss breakfast so just grab a coffee to go from the lounge. We have decided in order to see the entire city we are going to take a trolley tour. It is freezing outside, the sun is out but it is still -16 degrees but feels like -26. The trolley is a great shout, it offers warmth and is cute, as well as this the driver is friendly and informative. We learn that most of the shops on the ‘Magnificent Mile’ don’t actually make enough money to pay the rent, but are there for advertisement, we also find out that ‘Home Alone 2’ whilst set in New York is filmed partly in Chicago. The sights are great as are the stories of the river and then we make it to the millennium park and I insist on getting off. Prior to our trip I had expelled stories about the mirror bean to Mr.C. He couldn’t quite grasp it or it’s purpose and didn’t like the explanation that it is art. As we approach I think he gets that this mirrored bean is beautiful, it is creative, fun and almost interactive in the sense that you attempt to take so many pictures of yourself in it. To remove a glove to take a picture is painful and I instantly regret not getting those gloves with the special material on the index finger. A few pictures later we decide to warm up with coffee and some mac ‘n’ cheese while waiting for the next trolley.
We stay on the trolley all the way to Lake Michigan. The view from here is breath-taking, city landscape mixed with the lake and park in between. The lake has frozen over, actual ice blocks float on top. We hop back on the trolley until we reach Navy Pier. You can see the ice forming on the tethered boats here. We spend an hour strolling through the pier and enjoy some popcorn before catching the last trolley back to our hotel.
Tonight we have tickets for the Black Hawks ice hockey game!! I am super excited, a few years ago Mr.C vowed to take me to see a new sport each year in person and so for me this ice hockey game is a first. Everyone has jerseys on so I check out how much they are, $275, what the f**k. That is crazy money, even the sale ones are $150. We decide a program will be sufficient and head off to grab some beers and nachos. The nachos were my choice, they get served in a helmet and that swung it for me, while Mr.C is loving the ice cold Coors light. The game is 2-3 hours long but it goes by quickly and it is super fun. There is lots of cheering and when a goal happens everyone erupts. I feel like I’m in ‘The Mighty Ducks’ and secretly wish that the Black Hawks do the ‘V’ sign like they do in the film, but sadly they don’t. They do however steal a last minute deciding goal, the whole place goes mental. There’s music, cheering dancing, hugging, it’s just an amazingly electrifying atmosphere and I tell Mr.C that if Watford games were like this I would go with him all the time, I am pretty sure he muttered ‘thank god they are not’ but I can’t be sure.
Due to the secret info about a free trolley being at the game tonight we manage to escape the crowds and gain warmth. The trolley takes us to Greek Town. This is where ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ was filmed, but we just take a short walk around before heading back to our hotel. We are a touch tipsy it’s freezing cold and late, at this point we are both ready for a night cap and bed.
It is our last morning in Chicago so we take a few more pictures on the bridges before jumping in a taxi to the airport. We are in a lift heading to the BA lounge when the door is held and in walks Cookie from Empire. At this point I am nudging and poking Mr.C but he is just giving me that, ‘what you doing’ look. She turns and says hi to me and I act all casual, ‘oh, hey’, then proceed to poke Mr.C harder. We exit the lift and I tell him who she was. He has no clue. Everyone has seen that scene from friends when Rachel says to Joey, ‘you need to watch a little less ESPN and a little more E!’ well this statement applies to Mr.C. I mean Empire series 1 went crazy in the UK, people were talking about it all the time but never mind. Turns out she is also on our plane to London.
So that is it, the adventure is over and it was superb. Tiring what with the drinking every night and all the driving but it was the best trip, so many memories have been made and so much fun stuff has happened that we will remember forever. People told us this was a long journey and they were right, but it was a varied journey and such a great route to take.
For me personally I would urge everyone to go to Chicago we loved it here and I can say we will definitely be back, next up I would say go to Nashville & Roanoke, those two place were great surprises.
The beauty of America is that even though we have travelled over 2,000 miles there’s still so much out there to see, I now understand why some Americans don’t have passports, there may never be a need.
THE BIG AMERICAN ROAD TRIP COMPLETE