2016 Chicago Trip: Our First Day

I like to leave for our destination as early as possible when I travel. When driving, that generally means leaving the night before the trip, particularly if the trip will take us up the Interstate 35 corridor. Interstate 35 is kind of a nightmare at the best of times, and morning rush hour is not the best of times. It’s nice to leave San Antonio at around 10:30 p.m., though. By the time you’re through Dallas, it’s just about sunrise and you’re on your way to Texarkana.

For flying, this generally means a flight sometime between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. For this trip, we ended up with a 6:30 a.m. flight, which, with picking up our luggage and riding on the Blue Line subway, had us in the Loop by 11:00. We emerged from the tunnel beneath Daley Plaza and walked to our hotel to check in. As luck would have it, our room was ready by then, so we dropped off our bags and headed out for the day.

Our first stop was the department store formerly known as Marshall Field’s. We admired the Tiffany ceiling and then went down to the food court in the basement. They seem to have remodeled since my last visit, but the food was excellent. I got roasted chicken with green beans and rice. Alex got just the chicken and a smoothie.¬† He helped me finish the rice.

I then dragged Alex up to the 7th floor, where we peeked in at the Walnut Room and then looked down one of the atria to the first floor. We left the department store and then walked to the Chicago Cultural Center.

The Chicago Cultural Center is the original building for the Chicago Public Library. After the Great Chicago Fire, the citizens of London donated thousands of books to the city. The city government, understanding that this gift deserved a suitable building, built a five-story building, with mosaics and what is one of the largest Tiffany domes in the world, to house the collection.

Tiffany Dome, Chicago Cultural Center
The dome of the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois

We actually entered through the “wrong” side of the building (on Randolph Street), which is the side that the Grand Army of the Republic rotunda is on. The Grand Army of the Republic was an organization for veterans of the Union Army during the Civil War. The entrance isn’t quite as grand as the Washington Street side and the dome (by Healy and Millet) is lovely, but less impressive than the dome on the library side.

We explored some of the art exhibits in the center, including Paul Catanese’s Visible from Space.

After we left the Cultural Center, we went to Millennium Park and stood in the mist from the Crown Fountain (which seems to be showing its age a bit) and admired the Bean (more formally known as the Cloud Gate). We then walked from there to the Art Institute of Chicago, where we wandered around for a while. I made sure we caught most of the really notable works including A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Nighthawks, At the Moulin Rouge, and America Windows. American Gothic was in a for-pay exhibit but was put near a glass window so that we could see it from the outside of the exhibit. We also went into the recreation of the trading room from the Chicago Stock Exchange building and then after we left the museum went around to the back to admire the arch that once stood over the door of the exchange.

We returned to our hotel room and ordered a pizza. Alex fell asleep literally while eating, so I ate most of the pizza myself. Then, while he was still asleep, I went out onto the street in front of our hotel and checked out some of the places I remembered visiting from my days working in the Loop. One of the restaurants I used to visit is now a falafel place. I also caught a Magmar and a Jynx while I was out there.

After that, it was too dark outside for me to feel perfectly comfortable walking around by myself, so I went back to the room myself to get some rest for our next, even more exhausting, day.

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