Craig and I have had a lovely couple of days in Champaign and Clinton, Illinois. While we have loved checking out the big cities that we’ve heard so much about, it’s really nice to get out into smaller towns. It’s not too busy and people are generally friendlier. And we always seem to stumble across cool things to do and look at.
On Saturday we headed over to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana for a college football game. I’d heard that college football was pretty crazy, but I still wasn’t expecting just how huge it was. Craig estimates that there were about 55,000 people there (imagine that - 55,000 for a COLLEGE game!). As the main colour of the University of Illinois is orange, the stands were just a sea of orange (with a small spattering of red, the colour of Northern Illinois, the opposing team). We had seats first row from the front which we initially thought was awesome, but later realised that the best seats for football are probably further back where you can see the game unfold. Ah well.
While I found the actual game to be really, really boring, I enjoyed all the other
entertainment. Each team had a marching band that played throughout the match, and they had a competition on the field with each other at half time. The University of Illinois marching band had at least 100 members, and they were marching into perfect formations of big I’s and other shapes on the field while they were playing. They had these really elaborate costumes, too. There were also cheerleaders and ribbon twirlers and flag bearers for each team, too. And when the home team got a touchdown or field goal, fireworks went off. (Was so awesome to get to a college game, am glad that things worked out & we were able to make it to a game, especially to see my favourite college team compete - Craig)
They had a stand that was just for students of the University of Illinois, and at half time after the marching band competition they started holding up different cardboard squares to make pictures. They even had a picture of a mug with beer in it, which gradually emptied as the students chanted “Chug chug chug!” It was all very cool.
After the game Craig took me on a drive around the
places that he remembered from living in Urbana when he was 14. We went to the first place he lived at for a couple of weeks when they first arrived, and then a more permanent residence at the university housing. He had a great time showing me the baseball diamond behind his house where he used to play, and recalling stories about his time there. He also showed me a few other places that he remembered around the area, including the high school that he went to for 6 weeks.
That night we went to Clinton (about 50 minutes from Champaign), where we were staying at a fantasy suite. The fantasy suite that we stayed in that night was the Rainforest Room. I’d seen photos on the internet prior to arriving and had been worried that it would look crappy and tacky in real life, but it was awesome! It’s hard to describe, so you’ll have to check out our photos. There were trees everywhere, along the walls and on the ceiling. There was a rainforest soundtrack playing all around us (which could be turned off which was good, we didn’t want to sleep with it!). Our bed was
round and had a ceiling of twinkling lights, meant to be the night sky with all the stars. In our bathroom we had a huge shower that also doubled as a steam room and so had seats in there, and outside in the main room there was a huge spa bath. There were two recliner chairs in front of a big screen TV which could also be swivelled to face the spa. Craig and I jumped in the spa that night and he had the baseball on TV, I think it was heaven for him. (This room was simply amazing, I didn’t want to leave in the end, it was just so cool! Baseball while in the spa was awesome too, very much enjoyed the time here! - Craig)
The next night we swapped over to the Pearl Under the Sea room. In this room we slept in a giant clamshell, and our TV was hidden away in a treasure chest and popped out with the press of a button. We had a spa just like the other room, but this spa had a fish tank next to it. On the other side of the fish tank was the
shower (which again could be turned into a steam room). And ocean sounds this time, instead of a rainforest soundtrack. Very very cool.
The hotel also had a big swimming pool with lots of equipment to play with and water coming down from the ceiling, along with a spa and sauna. We were very pleased about our stay there!
Yesterday Craig took me to a couple of places that he went to when he lived in Champaign. We first went to an apple orchard where we got to pick our own apples (which were delicious!) and buy some apple cider. They also had a pumpkin patch with people buying Halloween pumpkins. I’m getting very excited for Halloween, I’m glad we get to be here for that.
Then we went to a reindeer ranch. We did a tour with a lovely guide who told us lots about the domestic reindeer and gave us leaves and crackers to feed to them. The reindeer were very friendly and loving the food, climbing on top of the fence to reach over for the food. The males’ antlers were so big, it’s hard to believe that they shed them each year and
it only takes them three months to grow them back!
At the reindeer ranch they also had a corn maze. Each year the people who own the farm make the maze into a different picture, and this year it was two skeletons sitting on a couple of pumpkins. We had to go around the maze and find eight different stations with hole punches to punch a hole in our cards. We found seven of them easily enough but couldn’t find the eighth. We were both getting very hot and bothered and Craig wanted to leave without finding the eighth but I was determined to find it. But the more I walked around the maze the more spiders in webs between the corn stalks that I nearly ran into, and the more grasshoppers and huge moths jumping into me and I’d had enough! So we never did find that last station. Ah well.
And now we’re in Chicago! Craig is so excited, I think Chicago is the place he’s been looking forward to going to the most. Our hostel is in this beautiful tree-lined street with big brick houses and apartments. We have a basic room, but it’s all
we really need (although Craig is devastated that we don’t have a TV to watch sport - never mind that he’s pretty much going to every sports game that he’d want to be watching on the telly!). Looking forward to starting the exploring of Chicago tomorrow. (And the first game of baseball tomorrow night at Wrigley Field, boo yeah! - Craig)
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