Monday, November 3, 2008

Chicago Wildlife

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Finally, we reach day 2 of the Chicago trip! This day Michael and I started off trying to walk to a local tea place, Argo, but unfortunately he had the wrong location, so after we walked a big loop we were very nearly late to meet his parents for our bus tour of architecture. Ten minutes and some hastily scarfed Corner Bakery breakfast panini later (dang, those eggs were GOOD!), we dashed to the bus, and I managed to only spill a few drops of my precious, precious caffeine on the way, LOL! It was Mighty Leaf tea, so I was in heaven! This tour was also done by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and was also excellent. Our docent gave a running commentary of places we were driving by, while bus driver extraordinaire, Derek, navigated us around high school pep rallies, construction traffic, and Chicago's Finest protecting Senator Obama's estate. We had a few stops along the way as well, which broke things up nicely. One stop was outside the Rookery (le sigh, Wikipedia's picture is better than mine...). From the outside of this 12-story building, you'd never guess the influx of light to the center court: rookery I dearly wish that current-day architects would "waste" many stories of space to bring real sunlight into buildings! I am very blessed that the atrium of my current office building extends the height of the building (11 stories), and the front is all windows!

My other favorite stop was at Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. Unfortunately, we were only allowed to take pictures of the outside: robie This was one of my favorites, because having only really seen his prairie windows, I wondered what the big deal was. Having seen this house, and heard its stories from our fabulous house docent, I finally "get" it. He was all about architecting the complete living experience, from mortaring the bricks so you only see horizontal lines, to making sure the roof design allowed direct sunlight in during most of the winter day, but not most of the summer day, to designing an intimate dining area that "forced" diners to concentrate on each others' faces. Those windows that show up in museums...well, they were just that: windows. Things to look through to appreciate the natural surroundings of the house, not to be stared at as isolated art pieces.

After the tour, we hopped on the subway and went out to see the three hotels that Michael's great uncle owned before the Great Depression. Yup, if it hadn't been for his poor buying choices, as well as a nasty divorce ("He slapped her!" wrote the outraged Tribune), I might have been the wife of a hotel magnate. LOL! But seriously, it was kind of fun to see the progression...the first hotel cost about $1 million, the second about $2 million, and the third about $3.5 million. The first two have been converted into rather dingy apartment buildings, but the third still retains some of its initial glory:
lott 3
lott interior

The hotels were down by the Zoo and the mini-but-enjoyable botanical garden. It was a simply beautiful day for enjoying the lawn in front of the garden. skyline from zoo But we were running so short on time! dashing through We thoroughly enjoyed the garden, and, once again, someone's quirky sense of humor... MOTHRA!

We literally ran through the Zoo also (this is by far the best free zoo I've been to), but I couldn't help snapping a picture of the lionnesses playing. just a big kitty

Hey, look out there, little buddy! That's a big predator mere feet from you! look out! Mr. Squirrel was very thankful for our help chasing away Mr. Hawk. whew! Actually, it was kind of astonishing how many squirrels were romping around. It seemed like there were more and more as it got closer to closing time. I'm pretty sure that the Zoo is taken over by squirrels after closing, though I don't have any good theories as to what they do with all that power...anyone??

We ended our day by using our first CityPass ticket to ride to the top of the Hancock Tower. It may not be the tallest, but I think the views were excellent... skyline ...I especially enjoyed looking out over the Lake.

Wandering back from the Tower, we needed sustenance. And, as the day before we'd already discovered that all eating places close at 8pm, forget about the fact that it's Free Target Thursday at the Museum and hundreds of starved people are streaming out of its doors in search of food, food, ANY FOOD AT ALL...we were worried about finding dinner. Then, we arrived at what may be the most beautiful intersection anywhere... chocolately Uh-hunh. That's my kind of restaurant row. The baked goods at Hershey's would have sold me instantly, but as the Lott family proper runs more on ice cream than heaps-o-icing like me, we ordered at the Ghirardelli cafe. I got the drinking chocolate, which I expected to be like the drinking chocolate I'd had at Maison du Chocolat in Paris and New York, or like the "discount" version that Starbucks had a couple years ago. Instead, I got a cup of melted chocolate bars. Now, that sounds great, but not so much to drink. It was kind of...chunky. After passing the cup around and getting through about 3 oz., I admitted defeat. Fortunately, the nice guy at the counter filled the cup with steamed milk. Then, it was perfect!

On the way back to the hotel, we did a little nighttime sight seeing. Ever since our Hancock Tower audio tour guide David Schwimmer mentioned that whenever a Chicago Tribune journalist goes somewhere no one else at the paper has been, he or she always brings a rock back...and sticks them in the wall of the building (!), I'd wanted to see them. To fulfill my hours-long dream, we walked by the building (it's one of Michael's favorites, so we were going there anyway). Every US state, St. Paul's in London, the Houses of Parliament and Lords, Notre Dame de Paris, the Forbidden City!!! I was thinking, you know, regular rocks, but no! These guys ripped off the good stuff. Come on, you would think somewhere with "Forbidden" in its name would be safe... stolen history ...nope. But then, what do you expect from people working in a building where the architecture quite literally thumbs its nose at you?? jerks!

To close this post, here's a shot of one of my favorite buildings in Chicago...I like to think of it as "double your tower, double your fun"...I give you the Wrigley Building. double your building

More architecture, Lott family history, cavorting squirrels, and chocolate that defeated even me....


Shanta Hayes said...

OMG! Now I'm really looking forward to our family trip to Chicago next summer. I don't know if the girls will be that interested in the architecture, but I sure am.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures, Heather!

I've never taken any of the architectural tours, but I love Chicago's architecture, and could probably tell you without a problem who designed most of the buildings in Chicago. My friends love having me for a tour guide when they come to Chicago - I guess it helps that I love this city so much!

Lelia said...

loved seeing your pictures. I was hoping to get into the big city NEXT week to see the Tapestry exhibit at the Art Museum.

I am usually frustrated that the textiles are only on display a couple months. But understand why.

Thx for stopping by my blog & leaving a comment. The book I'm reading is wonderful. (no spoilers by me) Each chapter is rich & interesting. I only have one or two chapters left to read. And, you SAW the real painting??? Lucky Duck. I'm jealous.

Old Geek-outs