Chicago - Friday 11th May 2012

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May 14th 2012
Published: May 14th 2012
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Friday 11th May

We awake at around 05:00 we were passing through Indiana.

I think the word “Sleeper” is a bit of a misnomer. Although you can lay down horizontal as if in a bed – the chances of getting a good night sleep are minimal. You get flung about as the train trundles along, and the train driver insists on tooting his horn every 30 seconds – I felt like putting his horn where the sun does not shine!! It also felt a bit cold in the night – must ask for an extra blanket on the next overnight sleeper!

We put the beds away and get dressed and showered in time for breakfast at 06:00. Getting ready in these sleeper cars is always a bit of a challenge with the limited space available –showering is even more of a challenge!

We share the breakfast table with a couple of Americans, a Civil Engineer from Pennsylvania and a lady who is a retired Telephone Company employee of 30 years. This lady has a son of 69 who has just retired, so she must be around 90? She stays in Florida in winter and makes her way north in summer catching a number of overnight trains. She still plays golf and tells us that when a golf cub official offered to give her a flag to indicate old person and possibly slow player, she was so annoyed that she actually swore at him. This was one feisty lady, I only hope that we can get 30 years of retirement, with the same quality of life that she has!!

Arrived in Chicago at 08:45, we have passed through a time zone in the night so our watches go back another hour, so we are now 6 hours behind the UK. Our guide Ed, who will take us around Chicago, meets us. We meet up with the bus and our suitcases are loaded on board by “Red Caps” – the train station porters. (One of the good things about the tour is the transfer of our luggage is all taken care of by hotel porters and the red caps – we only need to handle it at the hotel).

We have a 3-hour tour of Chicago taking in all the main sites and including some the famous sites from Chicago’s gangster era, including the site of the Valentines Day Massacre and where John Dillinger was shot and killed

We are transferred to the Affinia Hotel that we find has changed its name to the Mile North Hotel! This is the nicest hotel we have stayed in to date; it is split level with the bathroom on the upper level and the bedroom on the lower level.

We get changed and head of out to Millennium Park. This is an outside auditorium and Arts Park in the middle of Chicago. It should have been open in 200, but was eventually opened in 2004. It has a number of art exhibits with which the public can get involved. One of the most popular is nicknamed “the bean” this is a bean-shaped sculpture of polished stainless steel that reflects the Chicago skyline and the people that stand around it. Though a simple concept, it seems to provide enormous fun to the public. We spend some time wandering around Millennium Park then head off to find some place where we can have dinner before the boat trip that re have planned for the evening.

There is a lot of indecisiveness as to where we should eat dinner. Eventually we end up eating in the Elephant and Castle, which believe it or not is a British theme pub!

We then go back to the hotel and get ready for the boat trip se head downtown to catch the 19:00 sailing, The boat trip accompanied by a commentary on the architecture of Chicago. The boat goes through a lock and heads out in the Lake Michigan, affording some good photo opportunities of the Chicago skyline. Lake Michigan is fresh water and supplies the drinking water to Chicago. It is hard to imagine that it is a lake, you keep thinking it must be the sea, as it stretches for over 300 miles and you obviously can not see the far bank of the lake

We are both very tired due to the shortage of sleep on the “sleeper”. Though when we have walked back to the hotel, we decide to go for a drink on the roof of the hotel, the 29th floor. Although this sounds fairly high, when we get up there on the open-air floor, there are still surrounding buildings towering way above us. Di has a Gin & Tonic and I have a cocktail – a “Pink Pig”, I first check that the cocktail does not contain any sparklers, as I do not want to sit there looking like “Del-Boy”! After a couple of drinks we are both flagging, and call it a night.

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