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Published: October 8th 2010
The Sears Tower
Looking up at the Sears Tower in the mist
The Sears tower previously held the record for the highest building in the world, so we had to go to the top of that. To get to the top, you had no choice but to go on "the tour". First of all we had to sit down and watch a video about the tower as "it's part of the tour". It was actually quite an interesting video, but I'm going to moan about it as I don't like being told that I have to do things. Next the queues were awful - not helped by the fact that we all came out from the video together, which meant that everyone crowded to the lifts in batches. Then, when we got to the top, it was seriously over crowded and there was another massive queue to come back down again.
Another annoyance was queuing for photos at the bottom. Again we had no choice and were told quite vigorously that "it's part of the tour". These photos were a running theme in most places we went in both Canada and America. They take your photo in front of a screen and then try to sell you a picture with the relevant
Sears Tower View
The view towards the Magnificent Mile from the top of the Sears Tower
background superimposed. Maybe we just didn’t get it, but why would we want to return home with a whole pile of false photos? They may look good, but they are not real.
Something we saw near the Sears Tower on Jackson Boulevard was the start of Route 66. To be honest it was all a bit low-key - surprising for what is effectively the start of the most famous road in America.
As well as the towers, there's loads to do and see in Chicago. We used this day to do some shopping and the Trolley Tour which covered an extensive loop round the city.
Chicago was a shopping paradise. I spent most of my time drooling over the Apple iPhone, which was new and infuriatingly wasn’t available in the UK at the time. Even more annoying is the fact that they’re locked to some US network, so it wasn’t even as if I could buy one and bring it home. I WANT ONE, but standing in the middle of the Apple Store and stamping my feet didn’t help.
For Freya we were recommended a shop called American Girl Place. This is a doll shop where
The start of Route 66 on Jackson Boulevard
you can pick your doll from the thousands available and then pick accessories and clothes for your doll. The girls can also buy clothes for themselves to match the doll’s - although we drew the line at that. She was in heaven, but it’s phenomenally expensive.
Apart from American Girl Place everything seemed very cheap and in many cases the dollar price was the same as the pound price back in rip-off Britain. What is irritating however is that all the prices exclude tax, so state tax and federal tax is added on afterwards. Tipping was also doing our heads in, as that is a constant additional cost for almost everything. Both of these are also the case in Canada. In fact, in Canada, we also had a Hospitality Tax added onto a hotel bill, unless that hotel was lying.
We had been recommended loads of places to eat in Chicago, but one of our favourites is the Cheesecake Factory. Despite the name, this does not only serve cheesecake - you can have a proper meal there - but it’s the range of cheesecakes where it comes into its own. There must be about 20 different kinds on offer. The portions were massive, but in America they’ll offer you a box to take home what you don’t want. What a fantastic idea. Our friends who live in Milwaukee were telling us about when they went back to the UK and asked for a box to take their leftovers home in. It goes without saying that they didn’t get one and were treated like they were insane.
Another place where you could eat, if you're that way inclined, is the Rock and Roll McDonalds. Yeh, very happening. This is apparently where the first ever McDonalds was founded, but there was nothing there to indicate that this was the case. We're probably completely wrong on that, as I wouldn't expect McDonalds to be discrete about anything, let alone their first outlet.
You may think that McDonalds is taking over, but in the US and Canada it's Starbuck's coffee that is wining any race for total world domination. I can tell why it featured in the Austin Powers movie. They’re everywhere - it became a running joke as to how far we would have to walk until we saw the next one.
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