Although I have lived 1 hour from Chicago my entire life, I usually have only done the normal touristy stuff. Sears Tower and Water Tower as a kid, Wrigley and old Comiskey as a teen, musicals and plays as a young married, museums as a new parent and Michigan Ave and restaurants as a …what am I now? not sure…dare I say it…middle aged? I even recently went to the Lyric for 2 seasons. I was not middle aged there. I felt YOUNG! We have been to Venetian Night, 4th of July Fireworks, Air and Water Show, etc…but I have never really known the REAL city of Chicago. So when we moved close to the Metra I was excited to get to know the city. Chicago ~ Maureen, Maureen ~ Chicago.
I found the Chicago Greeter website and did a little research about which tour would fit me. Some tours require a 7-10 day window to match you with a greeter, but InstaGreeter is a lot more flexible and I just didn’t want to commit unless the weather was good. (Yes, I am a fair weather fan for sports and everything else.) This was how pretty the day was…
So I hopped on the UP-W line and headed in on the first nice day that was also a Friday, because Instagreeters only do weekends. I arrived at the Chicago Cultural Center building on the corner of Michigan and Randolph in the late morning and found the counter inside easily enough.
The note on the counter said they would be back at 11:30. The tours take a little over an hour so I had time to spare before and roamed around the building. It really is a cool place. (More on that later.) There is a giant map on the wall and I decided to take the LOOP tour.
When the tour guide came back ready to give another tour, we had to fill out a short form to say where we were from. There was only 1 other woman waiting with me for the tour. She wrote down Vancouver, Canada. I wrote Wheaton, IL. The greeter raised her eyebrows, tipped her chin down and said…”You’re from Wheaton?”
Have you ever had an imaginary conversation in a matter of a second? In the time it took her to raise her eyebrows and tip her chin, here is what we said…in my imagination, that is…
Her: You’re from Wheaton?
Me: Yes, why?
Her: Why do you need a tour? You’re from Wheaton.
Me: Because I’ve only lived there 2 months. And before that I lived in Morris…you’re right, I probably should have written Morris, since that is south of the Mason Dixon Line. One hour is muuuuch different that 45 minutes. And actually the story is complicated and I kind of still live in both…
Her: I guess you can walk along, but I probably won’t address you . I will only talk to this worthy tourist from Canada.
Me: But …but I’ve never seen the REAL Chicago. The real working Loop. I still get lost sometimes on the one-way streets. I am worthy…I am worthy…I am worthy…
Her: Well OK, whatever…
I know that seemed like a lot of silent communicating in one second, but that really is what the brain is capable of when someone raises their eyebrows and lowers their chin. She did chill out after I proved myself to be a good listener and question asker. Next time I am going to say I am from Canada.
So we headed toward the Thompson Center. I have never been inside before…
It is surprising to think that the inside looks like this,
when the outside looks like this.
We hit lots of landmarks and just regular office buildings and banks. Here is one that the inside looks like this…
The whole ceiling is lined in gold foiling…really gorgeous.
We visited City Hall and the County Building (same building – different entrances).
We walked to the Board of Trade (that building right at the end of the street…See? I can be a real tourist?? I can stand in the street while a taxi is coming right at me and take a picture….worthy, I tell you.)
and the Rookery…
This was all remodeled because it was so dark at one time, but they left one column open on one side to see the original intricate wood work from yester-year. The remodel was a Frank Lloyd Wright creation.
We saw a church I had never noticed before…Yes, that is a church on top of that skyscraper.
This is the beautiful entrance.
…and the Chicago Loop Synagogue, which after going to their website, I wish I had seen the stained glass after dark. Chicago seems to have been built as a very religious city. There are lots of evidence of faith in the obvious and not so obvious places.
And also lots of beautiful artwork where you least expect it.
I loved seeing the part of the city, known as The Financial District, which doesn’t technically serve as a tourist destination, (There was no cotton candy or lemon shake-ups to be found.) but more of a work destination. The architecture is beautiful and the interior details had to cost a fortune at the time. To replace any of it today would be a Bill Gates’ fortune.
I have never worked in the city so I had no real reason for going to this area to explore. My brother was at the Board of Trade for a while, but I have no idea how we got there. Now I know. You will, too, if you take a tour with an Instagreeter. So be brave, be proud…explore the city and write down where you are really from……Canada.