“I just flew in from the windy city. The windy city is mighty pretty…….”
I had always thought the name ‘Windy City’, a tag used to describe Chicago, was due to the bleak and frigid gusts which must come off Lake Michigan during Winter. According to the Chicago Historical Society however, that now famous moniker came about from an observation made in the late 19th century of windbag politicians blustering hot air! Hmmmm, I guess not a lot has changed since those days but one thing I will say is this! Chicago is one hell of town!
I love cities. I love being in them and I love living in them. For me, cities hold extraordinary beauty and a thrum of inexplicable energy which almost feels like a heart beat. I am however, very mindful of the fact that cities, for all their allure can be as fickle and as harsh as a foe and for some, and this is particularly true of the homeless, they can be a cold, unforgiving and often brutal place. No doubt some big cities are difficult locations for one to find their feet or their rightful place in life and everyone, no matter their circumstance, are deserving of that one small mercy………
The city of Chicago is world class and well set out. And the best way to appreciate it! Well that would be on foot. Chicago really is the perfect city for walkers. There are a couple of very good designated walks to take including the ‘Magnificent Mile’ and ‘The Loop’. The ‘Magnificent Mile’ is an easy walk beginning at the Michigan Avenue Bridge then encompassing the Chicago River, towers and buildings, retailers, landmarks, restaurants, the famous Billy Goat Tavern (more on that little gem later), the John Hancock Center and it ends at the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
‘The Loop’ runs through the heart of Chicago’s downtown financial hub. This walk begins on Jackson Boulevard and takes you through the labyrinth of densely packed commercial buildings, skyscrapers and architectural history and ends in the theatre district near Washington Street.
The people of Chicago are easy to like. They are friendly, generous and very proud of their city and rightly so. They have a nice blend of non-arrogant swagger, a grounding of blue-collar edginess and a little uber cool white-collar hustle. The real draw-card however, are those towering skyscrapers.
These massive structures punctuate the skyline with their steel, glass and granite. There is a mix of stunning Art Deco exteriors, modern and post modern facades, Gothic splendor and iconic and elegant structures. Some buildings, including their stair-cases, elevators and fire-escapes are graced with the most beautifully ornamental ironwork. It is timeless, elegant and very intricate and these buildings alone are well worth seeking out.
These massive silhouettes cast an impressive shadowy gloom and this is especially true on very cold days but almost all of the buildings are floodlit in a perfect golden glow from dusk until dawn. One building in particular, the Art Deco inspired Merchandise Mart, with its 372,000 squares of interior space was so large when first built in the 1930’s it even had its own postcode (zip code).
This city is architectural splendor at its very best and although you can appreciate it all from the relative safety of the pavement you really do need to go up. And when I say up, I mean nothing under 90 floors. Up in the clouds you not only get a birds eye view but you will also get up close and very personal with Chicago. Most skyscrapers have offered to open their top floors to the public and from these vantage points there is no better way to see this city.
Frank Sinatra said it best when he sang ‘My kind of town. Chicago is, my kind of town…….’ so grab an Old Fashion (or seven), sit back and enjoy the view. The sky really is the limit in this stunning city……. xx