In Part 2 of Toiner and Stronge's American tour, Toiner and Stronge do Chicago!
How much fun can you have with 72 hours in Chicago? I'm about to show you...
Even though the weather was pretty cold and wet (we were travelling a whole month later then when we visited New York), we still had a great time. I think the secret to a successful and fun filled weekend break is to pre book a few activities beforehand, so you know you have stuff going on and you just have to fill in the gaps once you're there. Having some things prepared means you know you've got stuff to look forward to, but there's still room for spontaneity. The pressure of having to be on your game the minute you land turns to anticipation.
So anyhoo, that's how we roll...
It was the week leading up to Thanksgiving, so the minute we arrived at our hotel on the Magnificent Mile, people were lining the street for the Festival of Lights parade. COOL. We didn't have time to waste though, as we had to check in and then immediately grab a taxi to take us to the Blue Man Group at Briar Street Theatre. I'd pre booked our tickets on Ticketmaster before leaving the UK. It was a wacky, bizarre, hilarious show and without giving too much away, my highlights were definitely the GiPad sketch, the singing llamas and the giant spheres dropped on the audience right at the end.
The next day, we took an early morning walk on Navy Pier. It was wet, windy and freezing but that didn't deter us! We ate brekky and warmed up at Billy Goats and then jumped in a taxi to Soldier Field stadium to watch the Chicago Bears play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL. Wendy had also booked this with Ticketmaster before we left the UK. We were right up in the Gods and the sheer size of the place took my breath away. In hindsight, we should have bought ponchos and blankets with us because as the game wore on, the weather worsened. Annoyingly, there had been plenty of stalls selling these on the walk up to the stadium, but stupid us we thought we'd be ok!! By the end, we were soaked right through and chilled to the bone. Not even the bravado, beer and street meat could save us. Walking back along the Magnificent Mile in the pouring rain was no fun either. By the time we got home, we were beyond drenched. We warmed up at the hotel and then braved the rain again to try deep dish pizza at Gino's East. The mozzarella overload was a bit too much for me (wasted calories), but the well known restaurant had a great vibe and the tipex grafitti thing was interesting. They put pots on the tables and you leave your mark / signature / logo / name / autograph on the wall, chair or table.
The final activity we'd pre booked was to take a segway tour of Chicago, but the rain turned into snow on our third day and we postponed. Luckily the weather was going to clear and leave us with a sunny, clear, cold and frosty day on our last one in the city. Perfect-ish for segwayyyyying. We had meant to go South down Michigan Avenue to the segway place, but our taxi had taken us North by mistake. Also lucky that we postponed! Outside Bloomingdales we planned our now free day. It went a little something like this... shopping at Macy's, soaking up the lovely Christmas atmosphere (such a magical time), Maccy Ds for lunch, then a Wendella boat trip on the Chicago river, through the harbour lock and up around Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. It was so cold, but so much fun. Afterwards we stopped by WGN radio and Wend dared me to walk up to the window and wave - and I did! They have big windows facing out onto the street so you can see them broadcasting and hear them talking through the speakers attached to the outside of the building. We popped back to the hotel to drop off our shopping and then it was back out to try and get to Oak Beach, but by now it was dark and the pedestrian tunnels were either closed for the season, flooded, or we were warned off as too dangerous by a very helpful chap. So that was that. Next on the agenda was going up the John Hancock tower to do the 360 Observatory and the chilly Skywalk brrrrrrrr, then we grabbed a taxi across town and did the Willis (Sears) tower and the Sky ledge. Both were amazing seeing the city flooded with lights - oh, and the beach we were after did look pretty remote, so good call not to attempt a visit. The night wearing on, we jumped in a taxi (so easy to hail one in this city compared to New York) back to our hotel and went to dinner in the Michael Jordan's restaurant at our hotel.
The next day (our final day), we took a taxi the right way this time to the segway place. The sun was finally out and the clear, crisp weather was perfect for our city tour, which ended up being a private tour on the segways with our lovely guide Chris. Despite suffering with Vertigo, my balance was excellent and we came off Turtle Mode pretty quickly. The max speed was 10mph. We drove all the way to Soldier Field, did some of the "sightseeing loop", past the aquarium and down to the lake shore where we finally got our beach fix on 12th street. Simply a wonderful experience and well worth waiting an extra day for!
President Obama was landing at O'Hare airport at 3pm, so we were advised to get a taxi pronto. We checked in 4 hours before scheduled take off, but better to be safe than sorry and it enabled us to get help with finding seats close to each other. Although this was a BA holiday, we flew out with BA but were coming back with AA and hadn't been able to choose our seats prior to leaving the UK. It all worked out in the end. We spent the remainder of our time in Chicago looking out for the President and drinking cocktails. I was pleasantly surprised with AA; our bags were already waiting for us when we arrived in London and the staff on the flight had been super organised and efficient. ePassport was also a breeze, which took the edge off being home.
For more info on my trip, check out these blog posts, pics, videos and reviews:
First ever NFL game. Go Bears!
Check out my Segway video
Chicago - City Segway Tours review
Chicago - Blue Man Group review
Chicago - Intercontinental Magnificent Mile hotel review
As always, we have a list of things to do in Chicago on our return - whenever that may be... These include: a mob tour, visit a jazz club, hang out on the beach, visit the aquarium and do TILT at 360 Chicago.
This is a poem I wrote to capture the AWESOME 3 days Wendy and I had in Chicago.
Every line hides a story (all hilarious) and I've included some pics as well.
So in 47 (!) stanzas, here's "Toiner & Stronge do Chicago"
Are you staff?
Delicious brekky in Giraffe
Toiner’s passport piccie
Looks like Linda LaHughs from Gimme Gimme Gimme
BA staff chosen ones
Have giant clip on buns
Tug stuck on the plane delay
But the movies work, hooray!
Quizzed by US Security re. job
More thoroughly than the Chicago Mob
And travel movements too…
Do I look dodgy to Ground Crew?
Checked into our hotel finally
The porter is hmmmm too smiley
We tip him for rather a lot
For just telling us a good taxi spot
Because, you see, there’s a special thing
The Festival of Lights parade is in full swing
But but but there’s no time to lose
Blue Man Group awaits to amuse
Singing llamas and the GiPad
Ready. Go. Crazy and rad
This show is getting stranger and stranger
We even feel in bemused danger!
Trying to stay awake and alert
So we don’t get covered in dessert
Then come the giant spheres
And lots and lots of cheers
We find out a few days before
A pipe burst on the 26th floor
Loud humidifiers outside our room
For the duration of our stay we presume…
Time to bed down for the night
Some shuteye sounds about right
Toiner fights with her duvet until she’s comfy
While I fall asleep rather snugly
Early am walk on Navy Pier
Freezing cold, it’s that time of year
Brekky at Billy Goats
And drying out our wet hats and our coats
Epic fail in hindsight
The weather really was shite
Up in the Gods and windblown
We got soaked right through to the bone
American football is fun
And totally totally ran-dom
Tampa fans sit amongst the home side
‘Bravado, beer and street meat’ preoccupied
Now time to hit the deep-dish pizza scene
Gino’s East and the Tipex thing going on
Mozzarella overload is so very, very wrong
All the walking has made us knackered
We start watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
But Toiner crashes into the ‘stay awake’ hurdles
Toiner’s sandwich duvet is hilarious
‘Chicago’ in Chicago for the gregarious
Mike and Molly, my fave show, on a billboard
We like Starbucks as our morning ‘springboard’
The porter scores
When we give him a tenner
Just for telling us the weather
He puts us in a cab
And we add to his tab
The taxi goes north
And so on and so forth
And the weather is really coming down
Windy with horizontal rain and sleet
There’s no way we’re heading south on the street
They understand and overrule
And we decide to try again tomorrow
No time for any upset or sorrow
Because we were really excited about
Riding the segways with clout
So… to keep the excitement going
Let’s go hit Macy’s whilst it’s snowing!
Such a magical feel
To be in Chicago, unreal!
All of our dreams coming true
And so close to Christmas too
Through the harbor lock
We walk on the boat and we rock
It takes us across the wavy sea
Attempting photos is really gutsy
Our feet once again on concrete
We spot WGN radio studio up the street
Toiner dares me to run past and wave
And I do for a funny close shave
Sailing around Navy Pier
Inside it’s a cosy atmosphere
Now we’re on Lake Mich-i-gan
Then we’ll be heading back to where we began
So we try to find Oak Beach despite
Not knowing where even to begin
Finding this place in the city within
The pedestrian tunnels are flooded or closed
And then, when a man is so opposed
To letting us venture any further
We take his advice as a precursor
“Have eyes in the back of your head,
Unless you want to end up sprawled out and dead”
He says in that soft Chicago gangster drawl
We listen and decide to take his advice after all
It really is such a beautiful night
Toiner’s fur is on fire in the photies
I start singing Alicia Keys as a song tease
Onwards and upwards to 360 Chicago
And across town to Willis Tower, pronto
The windy Skywalk takes our breath away
The Skydeck ledge I could stand on all day
A city that dazzles and shines
Laid out in blocks and straight lines
We even spot our Oak beach
And it does look isolated to reach
With us wrapping up all of our parts
It’s lovely and sunny out there
But well and truly chilly to be fair
And we wait for the CTS guys to “OK”
The start of our Segway fun
After the scary 5000 dollar stun
That’s the price we might have to pay
Should we lose or damage a Segway today
But Chris put us straight at ease
By being so cool and easy to please
Toiner was the buck-a-roo rodeo show
She called me the Chicago Segway Mafia to go
We stay on Turtle mode for a while
It’s probably best for our style
“1,2,3 Chicago” pic by the fountain
Riding a Segway is like climbing a mountain
Technique, determination and skill
So you don’t end up ruining the thrill
Halfway in I can’t feel my toes
I make a strangled sound through my nose
Toiner totally cracks up
And I pretend like nothings happened “Wassup!”
We finally see a beach on 12th street
This really is a fab treat
But later we’re on a steep hill
And Toiner does a funny kitten squeal!
We wait to see if President Obama will grace our zone
Great meal and giant cocktails in Chillies resto
Even an American Johnny Vegas hey presto!
At BMG we were out by one row
We got drenched at Soldier Field
But on the segways the sun was revealed
Walgreens for American snacks
“Windy” politics and wise cracks
Taxis so easy to hail
Definitely no ugly shoe sale!
This has been a fabulous trip
AA definitely runs a tight ship
Extra speedy flight and food service
Joy, the hostess, didn’t have time to be nervous
About whipping our plates in mid bite
So you needed an immediate appetite
I think they were trained with Lufthansa
It was quite an efficient extravaganza
So “Bye Bye Chicago” we say
You were one heck of a hol-i-day
No amber in traffic lights or in speech
But you’re a city that has plenty within reach!
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.
Things you need to know about me: I love music. I love books. I love laughter. I love comedy, theatre and the opera. And mixed with all of that, I LOVE to travel, write and take photos.
And, as of the 3rd April 2017, I'm on another journey, very different to my travel adventures. This is a journey of recovery. From grief, from depression and from Fibromyalgia. I will also be sharing the impacts these things have on my life now; how I don't want them to change me, but they will, and already have, and yes, it's a rollercoaster.
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