First visit to the Second City

I can’t believe it has been 2 months since I first arrived here in Minnesota. One of the reasons I haven’t posted anything in a while is that I have slowly, but steadily acclimatised to life here and gotten used to everyday life. Whether I’m driving, shopping, going to the park with the kids or hanging out with friends and my host family, this has become my new normal.

The reason I am writing now is to tell you about my new love: CHICAGO! This beautiful yet underrated city managed to capture my heart despite the rain, snow and windy weather this past weekend. That’s right. I get to check off another state I have been to on my list. As Au Pairs we have to earn a certain number of credits in order to get our certificate of completion at the end of our stay. A great way to get those credits is to do a weekend course at participating universities across the country. California, Florida and Illinois are just a few states on that list. As I’ve never been to Chicago and flights are as cheap as $120 from Minneapolis, I decided to see what Chicago has to offer. And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot. Here are a few fun facts I learned about the Windy City over the weekend.

The Skyline

  1. Contrary to popular belief, Chicago is not called the Windy City due to weather conditions, but rather because of corrupt politicians blowing “bad wind” across the country; and not the kind of bad wind that comes from the onions on the Chicago style hotdog 😉 . Anyway, back to the weather; it’s not even in the top 20.

    Still windy :)

    Still windy 🙂

  2. According to the trolly driver, Chicago has more bridges than any other city in the world (yes, including Venice, Italy).
  3. Chicago was built on a perfect grid after the Great Fire in 1871 which makes getting around super easy. There are rumours the fire was started by Mrs O’Leary’s cow that kicked over an oil lamp. Funnily enough, there are also pictures of the O’Leary barn that survived the fire. I’ll let your figure that one out.
  4. Chicago is the third largest city in the US. NYC and LA are the top two. Now having been to all three of them, I can definitely say that Chicago is cleaner and less crowded and certainly more underrated than the top two. NYC most certainly met all my expectations, while LA is still the most overrated city I have been to so far. Apparently, the two “San”s in California (San Diego and San Fransisco) are better alternatives. I’ll let you know when I’ve done both 🙂
  5. The lakefront of Chicago is foreshore way nicer than many other cities (Did you get the little pun I put in there? 😀 ). With its shore front paths, beaches, and parks it makes Chicago the perfect all round city. That’s because a large space of lakefront is public property and can’t be built on, preserving the trees and plants that make Chicago one of the greenest cities in the US. Even Donald Trump couldn’t get the city of Chicago to change its mind and his tower is now in the midst of many other towers and not on the lakefront of the city, as he had planned. There is hope, people.
Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Along with the other Au Pairs that came along from Minnesota we stayed at the HI Chicago Hostel right by Michigan Avenue, about a 10 minute walk away from the Art Institute and Cloud Gate, which I have now BEAN to (Thanks, Dad. You brighten my days with your hilarious and original jokes.) Although staying in a room with 7 other girls doesn’t exactly give me the good night’s sleep I need for the adventurous weekend I had, they do give you breakfast and free DIY Chicago Style hotdogs on Saturday afternoons. You pay about $40 a night, and considering you are in The Loop (downtown Chicago), it really is an amazing alternative to other options. Sadly, it is also very popular and fully booked on weekends that 280 Au Pairs attend classes at the nearby university. I’ll let you know what alternative we’ll find for our June trip.

The Bean

The Bean

To sum up this amazing weekend, here are my “top five” from our short trip to Chicago:

  1. The Bean – yes if you’re a tourist, you will want a picture of your reflection in this giant donut resembling piece of art (Thanks for that comment, Louise). Also, it’s the place Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams kissed for “The Vow”, one of my favourite movies.
  2. The Tilt – a crazy attraction at the top of the Hancock Tower, Chicago’s second highest skyscraper. Although you have to pay an additional $7 for this experience, it is worth it. You lean on the glass window that tilts out over the city 1000 feet above the ground. Need I say more?

    The Tilt

    The Tilt

  3. The Pizza – according to my host dad, Gino’s East is one of the best places in town. Fortunately, it’s a five minute walk away from the hostel. If you can, go deep dish, which originated from Chicago.
  4. The Skyline – head out to the planetarium, which is on its own semi island and gives you an amazing view of the beautiful skyline and Lake Michigan. If you have time, actually go inside the planetarium. That’s on my to-do list for the future.
  5. The coffee – after walking around the city in the rain and snow, you’ll want to warm up. Much to the dismay of many, I am a total Starbucks addict. We decided to try something different and ended up next door at Peet’s Coffee, another less-known franchise from California. The best coffee I have had in a looong, looooong time. If you ever see one near you, go for it. Their hot chocolate and tea is also highly recommendable for those of you weirdos out there who don’t run on coffee 😉

Along with a deep dish pizza, a visit to the Art Institute, the Willis Tower, and the Navy Pier, I’d also love to spend a day at the beach and take a boat ride on the lake, when I go back in June. I can’t wait! Hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you think.

Love, Sophie x

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